A Little Moment of Joy & Beauty

Swallowtail enjoying the tithonia

Some weeks I really, really need to look at flowers and butterflies and even the deer. Good grief, what is WRONG with some people????? There is so much happening with the renovation, which is very good news. But I’m sitting here listening to the new floor being installed upstairs. There is crashing and banging that happens after long interludes of quiet or fairly ‘gentle’ installation sounds. I don’t know what he is doing up there to make the house shake, but each time it happens I cringe. He’s working right over my head at the moment. You may remember the HVAC team was working in that room and stepped through the dining room ceiling. I hope my ceiling and my nerves survive today.

They have no fear. I walked out on my front porch and all they did was look at me. I am standing perhaps 10 yards from them at most, and they kept munching away. Nothing too precious growing there at this time.

AhuvaNet 2.0

After my first attempt at netting my garden seemed to have holes in it *giggle*, I decide to up my game. 🙂 I wanted to move the nets up and out from the plants, so that nothing could nibble through the netting. My neighbor mentioned that the deer had totally stripped her mandevilla plant, although to date they’d not touched mine. They (or the groundhogs) had consumed nearly all of the potato vine in the base of that pot, but not the mandevilla itself. I decided that as long as I was going to re-work the netting along the front walk, I’d do “something” about protecting the plants in front of the hedge – which is where there is no longer a pale orange gladiola.

if you are walking by on the sidewalk, you still see flowers first, and then the netting

I stared at all the different net and screen material in the store, some nylon/plastic, some wire. I chose nylon netting for 2 reasons: easier to handle and a little less obvious. I stayed with the chicken wire (as opposed to screen material) because I think that webbing is sufficient to deter the deer but still let the insects move about, and let the flowers be seen.

the green plant stakes do a decent job of keeping the netting off of the plants themselves

I wanted to drape the net over all the pots along the front walk, but not on the plants directly. I realized that I could use the plant stakes I had already to lift the net up above the plants and out to the sides of the pots. That worked quite nicely. I’ve anchored the bottom under various pots and so far it appears to be stable. It’s only been 3 nights but no obvious damage in those 3 nights.

the front netting wraps about the side of the gladiola

Protecting the front garden was going to be a bit more tricky. I wanted it protected but not obscured. I needed a fence stretching across the whole front, and hope that the deer would not be smart enough to figure out they could go around the side of the house and come in through the back. 🙂 The only draw-back to the netting that I’ve noticed so far is that I’ve made it difficult for butterflies to get to the flowers. 😦 I realized this when I saw a huge beautiful butterfly on my zinnias. I’m not sure I can have it both ways – No to Deer, Yes to Butterflies – but I’ll give it more thought.

there’s easily 2 feet between the hedge and the netting, and the stupid gladiolas INSIST on poking through, no matter how I try to rearrange them

I Need A Better Net

Let’s see you get through this bamboo cloche!!!!

Something nibbled off the top of one of my grape tomato plants. I understand that hibiscus is to deer as dark chocolate is to Ahuva, but do NOT touch my grape tomatoes!!!! I have a lot of old netting and screen material in the garage from other projects so I decided it was time to be creative.

I had a very long piece of nylon netting that I strung over the potted plants along the front walk. Then I sprayed the netting with Repel-All. I’d like to think it worked but if you look closely at the photos you can see that there IS a big red hibiscus flower under the netting, but that flower is NOT there now. I’m going to guess that means the gaps were large enough for someone to reach in and snag the flower.

I took the screen material and draped it about the tomato cages. I used binder clips to hold it in place. It was actually quite easy to cut and attach, despite the fact that I was attempting this after returning from cocktails with my sister. 🙂 I had one little piece of leftover screen that I draped over the small hibiscus plant and anchored that by tucking it against other pots.

Maybe it’s working, maybe not. What DID happen last night was a savage attack on my gladiolas. 😦 I noticed yesterday that I had a gorgeous pale orange gladiola in full bloom. I didn’t have my camera with me at that moment and then forgot to go back and take a picture. She who hesitates is lost. There is NO beautiful gladiola this morning. There IS a bitten stalk. Sigh.

I think I’ll head out and look for some light-weight netting this weekend. I’ll drive stakes into the grass so I can raise the netting up off of the plants but still protect them. Not quite sure how to raise/anchor the side that is next to the walk. Maybe if I put stakes in the pots to lift the net UP, and then anchor the material under the pots that will be effective. I’d worry about watering through the netting but we’ve been placed under voluntary water restrictions. I’m not going to be doing that much watering anyway. *snort* I’ll be ‘watering’ with Repel-All and Critter Ridder.

Losing Battle

Denuded Hibiscus 😦

We went to dinner at friends’ house last night. Before I got in the car I sprayed all the tasty plants with Repel-all. Truth to tell, I don’t know if the plants were okay when we got home again – we were both tired and went inside and to bed. It rained last night/early this morning. We’ve needed the rain. It’s been 3 or 4 weeks since it rained last. I went out this morning and the hibiscus plants are denuded. It really is a bit discouraging. I don’t want to live in drought conditions but I have to believe that the deer came by for a post-rain snack. So in that respect the rain is NOT my friend. 😦 If they’d only stick to the flowers and not eat the leaves, the plants would regenerate so much faster. 😦

Bounteous crop

On the plus side I DO have a crop of grape tomatoes! AND I took the hedge trimmer into my own hands and dealt with the hedge. I’ve hired someone to come dig up and grind 3 bushes on the side of the house for the planned central air unit. Randy came by to give the quote either the week I had Covid or the 2nd week when I no longer tested positive but was still completely wiped out. I asked him to add trimming the front hedge to the quote. I had an email from him last Friday that said they’d be here this past week, weather permitting. Let me remind you: no rain for 3-4 weeks now. They never came, they never called, they never wrote. Yesterday morning I got out my ladders and hedge clippers, dealt with the hedge, and sent an email to Randy asking for a revised quote – no hedge trimming. I guess that would count as a winning battle, right? 🙂

“I’ll do it myself” said the Little Red Hen. And she did.

A Monday Living Up To Its Reputation

Momma checking out the buffet table

Some mornings you wake up and you just KNOW that it won’t be your favorite day of the week. I had to change sleeping locations twice during the night because my husband was incredibly restless. Even though *I* relocated to another room he followed me there a few hours later. That sent me back up to our bed.

Wait for me, Momma! I don’t LIKE that woman in the car!!!! She LOOKED at me!!

I already knew I’d not be doing my morning walk because the forecast was for rain in the hour when I’d be walking. Indeed, when I woke up it WAS gray. But not raining. It didn’t rain for another few hours, which meant I COULD have walked. And I NEEDED to walk because the bathroom scale – that treacherous, cruel, soul-crushing instrument of torture – read 2.5 pounds heavier than yesterday morning. Gray skies. weight gain, broken sleep. Not great. Came up from swapping loads of laundry about and my husband was awake. He looked wretched. He confirmed he felt wretched. I asked for symptoms. Uh oh. Yep. He tested positive for Covid. Sigh. At least I’m still showing negative on the tests and NOT feeling sick. But we’re both quarantined now for 5 days. 😦

Off for fine dining elsewhere this morning

Keeping the Hibiscus Growing

Apparently it’s going to take daily applications of Repel-All and hot chili powder to get my hibiscus and other plants to flower. I’ve had to add the zinnia to the daily treatments because I came out yesterday morning to discover the zinnia had served as a midnight snack – leaves & buds gone, just the stems left. I hate the smell of the Repel-All but hey – if this is what it takes to have flowers, stink-city it is!

Morning Deer

NOT a lawn ornament

We have a lot of deer in our neighborhood. There are those that love ’em, those that loathe ’em, and those of us who are conflicted. The truth is that I DO feel pleasure as I walk about town and see the deer. I feel the same way about all the “wild” animals I might see: opossum, raccoon, hawks, the very occasional fox. There is something very joyful about nature despite “civilization”.

On the other hand, as a gardener, I would really prefer NOT to have to deal with the deer. There has been so much edifice development in this area that the pockets of greenery are becoming more and more scarce. The deerhave become incredibly bold, strolling down the streets even in the middle of the day. Several times we’ve pulled up to our house in our cars, whether daytime or night, and there are deer on the lawn, and the deer don’t move. They have become totally blase about cars and people. They look at us as if to say “Hey there, how are YOU today?”

Hmmm. Let’s see what’s on the menu today

I don’t know any good solutions. Hunting? Poison? Co-existence? Barbed wire enclosures? What I DO know is that I want to have a garden and I want my plants to have flowers. I do NOT enjoy plants that consist of bitten stems and branches. There’s not much color in a bitten stem, nor does it attract pollinators, butterflies, or hummingbirds.

Yesterday’s breakfast

This morning when I walked out after waking, I was looking at my rudbeckia in the front garden. I heard my neighbor calling to me from across the street. “There’s a deer in your garden!” she called. “It’s been there for hours!” I edged cautiously down the sidewalk and indeed – there was deer sitting in a nice shady spot in the lawn. Of course I took pictures. 🙂 You can see it was unconcerned with me playing paparazzi.

How’s the Starwort this morning?

I went inside to take care of the cats. I could see the deer from the dining room window. It didn’t flinch as I opened the window to let in air. As I moved about inside I noticed that the deer had gotten up and was moving around the house. I grabbed my camera and went out to observe.

Oh garcon!!! A little fresh water please!

The good news is that it seemed to ignore most of my plants. It did take a bite of the False Starwort, but only one bite. The evergreen hedge got a few nibbles, but everything else was ignored. Thank goodness, since it (or a friend) had already done a number on the hibiscus plants in the pots. The deer meandered across my lawn, across my neighbor’s lawn, and then headed back behind that house.

Loving me some evergreens

It was a lovely interlude in my morning but it was a reminder as well. I got the “repel all” spray from the porch and doused the False Starwort and the hibiscus. 🙂 Co-existence but do NOT eat my flowers!!!!

The mandevilla does NOT look fresh today

I wish I could blame the deer for the dying mandevilla – all I can think is too much water, even though that pot is open on the bottom. 😦

Breakfast buffet

Very Unexpected Visitor

Fairly certain this is a Black Swallowtail

Well. This was a surprise. I sat down to eat my lunch when a movement caught my eye. It was a butterfly. A live butterfly. Inside my house. On my grow light. 3 feet away. I did what any right-thinking person would do: called to my husband as I raced for my camera. Because after all, we know, if there isn’t a photo, it never happened.

I’m saying “what do we do with it?” since it’s going down to single digits again tonight. Obviously we can’t put it outside. My husband is saying “the cat will get it”. I’m thinking no way am I letting the cats get it. It didn’t look great – either it was starving or burned itself on the grow light or a cat had already gotten it. It didn’t look very stable once it tried to move. It moved off the grow light at some point and was between the planters. Maybe dragging a wing? a foot? NOT flying.

first round of feeding the butterfly, when I began to worry it was drowning, not drinking

So of course we tried to feed it. 🙂 I feed everyone and everything, even unexpected butterflies. Unfortunately I had no rotting food (that’s what my search turned up for ‘what do butterflies eat?’ but I did have a pear with a little brown spot. We put some sugar water, small pieces of the pear, and ultimately, some pomegranate nectar in a plate. The butterfly was still staggering, now back behind the planter. I pushed the plate near it, locked BC in the basement, and went back to my lunch

I got up to check on it and couldn’t tell if it was drowning in the sugar water or drinking it ecstatically (watch the video – you’ll see what I mean). In case it was drowning, I put a bit of paper towel near it so it could get its footing. I know NOTHING about butterflies other than that they are pretty and I like them. 🙂 It didn’t seem impressed by the paper towel…

having dined, returned to the grow light (see the added nectar in the dish)

After lunch I checked again. The butterfly was out of the dish (so it didn’t drown) and back on the grow light. I grabbed some catnip-flavored greenies, put them down in front of the basement door, and released the kracken! I mean BC. 🙂 Who devoured the greenies. I fed BC some wet cat food while I worked the daily crossword puzzle, then grabbed more greenies and BC. While BC protested vociferously (apparently she does not like being carried about) I took us both upstairs, where I strewed a trail of greenies from the top of the stairs to my office. 🙂 I’m hoping the butterfly decides/is able to fly higher. If so, I can move the plate of nectar out of cat-reach. (Although I’m not really sure where such a place might be.) Because I’m going to be very sad if my husband proves correct in this instance.

yay for the distraction power of greenies!!! and the lure of my desk

Actually – it was my day for visitors. It was raining/snowing this morning so I did not go out for my morning walk. When I pulled up the shade downstairs, I discovered my frequent morning walk companions had NOT been deterred by the weather!

I know they do a lot of damage, but I still feel delight seeing them

Find A Better Way

I get it – I have a garden too. I don’t want the hibiscus flowers bitten off my plants. I’m not fond of deer poop in my front yard.

Mama and babies

But let’s be real for a moment. Whose fault is it that the deer have no place to live anymore? Who has insisted on developing just about every little wooded nook and cranny? Our local roads are already over-crowded. We’re driving out ALL the wildlife.

We used to have raccoons, deer, possums, ground hogs, skunks and the occasional fox. Admittedly I’m not fond of some of those, but they are nature, and I DO love that even here in suburbia wild animals can survive. Then we began overdeveloping, using lawn services with their poisons, trapping animals because they are inconvenient for our gardens. Some of us admitted defeat and changed what we planted. Also an option, right? In any case, it’s been years since I last saw a fox or a skunk. I haven’t seen ground hogs in quite awhile either. The last possum I saw I think might have been injured. Deer, we have lots of deer. So I plant a lot of deer-resistant perennials and annuals, and make sure that my tasty treats are surrounded by such things as marigolds and peppermint. I use hot chili powder as my animal deterrent.

Took this through my front door – do you see Mama? Just right of the blur.

Now there are many people in the town who claim the deer are a nuisance. The deer are raiding our gardens and spreading disease. Oh, and we humans aren’t spreading disease like crazy (ahem – covid19? remember? and I’d be willing to bet that the people complaining about the deer could be the same population that refuse to wear masks). There was a town meeting. The decision? Shoot the deer.

Walking down the driveway on the neighbors’ property (lots of weeds there)

You have GOT to be out of your minds. This is the most left-leaning town in the state, I swear that must be true. Green green green. KILLING defenseless animals is your solution? Who ARE you??? How about some non-violent tactics? The deer are all over town because they are HUNGRY. FEED THEM!! Feed them with birth control in the food. I checked. That is a solution that does produce results. Or perhaps it is better to call it a solution that leads to NO results.

Saying hello when I pulled up in my car across the street.

There is a mother with 2 fawns. I know her well. They are hanging out when I pull up in my car. They nibble the bushes along my driveway. I see them cruising down the street when I am driving. Yesterday I was on my way home and I saw one of the fawns at the side of the road, hesitating. I waited. It crossed. I waited some more. Sure enough, Mama came across. I waited and there came Fawn 2, hustling to catch up. I LIKE seeing them. I get the downside of too many deer. But these days – omg – do we REALLY need MORE violence? Can we not just stop and enjoy for a few minutes, the beauty of nature and wildlife?

What is Mama hurting by eating some leaves?

I was, I am, Naive

Spur of the moment berry pie
Spur of the moment berry pie – yes, I cheated on the lattice because I didn’t have much crust available and I was lazy

Silly me. I thought we were actually moving forward. I thought that living here, I was free from the fear of being burned in ovens, free from the fear of being killed for expressing my religious beliefs. I thought that we were finally moving past the racial hatred. We’d elected a black president – didn’t that show that the majority of us were finally not letting skin color determine what people could or couldn’t do? I thought that all of the anthems of the 60s had grown into our psyches, that we wanted peaceful coexistence. Well, I was wrong, wasn’t I? I am in agony watching my country self-destruct, crash and burn. What’s covid19 compared to what we can do on our own? I escape where and when I can. Because human beings need to find hope, need to find life, need to find the positive no matter how dark the sky. So I cook and bake and garden.

snowing cherry blossoms
Snowing Cherry Blossoms in April

Ahhh, my garden. I relieve my stress in my garden. The weather wasn’t being very kind. We had such a mild winter, and an easy April, that I was lulled into believing I could plant seeds and get things in the ground before May 15, the “official” last frost date. Son-of-a-gun if we weren’t having frost warnings on May 13th or whenever it was. Seriously???? I had to cover my tropicals, tarp the plants in pots, tarp whatever I could cover. Even so, the cover blew off one of my mandevillas. It is only just now beginning to recover. I’ve been spraying the roses and clematis with Neem oil, because the roses have black spot and they are interwoven with the clematis. I’ve been spraying the walk and the pots with that disgusting “repel all” to keep the deer and squirrels away. OMG, that stuff is vile. It had better repel those dratted squirrels because it certainly repels ME. Ugh. I was so proud of my radishes and then discovered the dratted squirrels digging in that pot. I don’t know how I’ll know when my radishes are ready for eating. I have lovely green leaves above, but when do they indicate lovely red radishes below??? I need to do more reading.

our local 'gang' of 4
The local Gang of 4 and I exchanging stares

I’ve been cooking and baking. You know how I love the 90-minute French bread recipe? I think I found one I love even more. The 40-minute hamburger roll recipe. I found this just about 2 weeks ago. The first time I made hot dog rolls. SO GOOD!!!! Yesterday I just casually whipped up a batch of hamburger rolls. We ended up having sandwiches for dinner instead of salad. You absolutely MUST try this recipe – fantastically easy and wonderfully delicious!!!

40 minute hamburger rolls
40 minute hamburger rolls – so easy and SO GOOD!!!!

I’ve also made wheat berry salad and cold sesame noodles, a berry pie, and a chocolate chip loaf cake. The loaf cake was a new recipe for me. I needed to make a quick, easy dessert for dinner, plus I needed to make it sugar-free. I’d made one several weeks ago but, as many people noted in the comments, my chips all sank to the bottom of the pan/cake. This new recipe is so rich and moist that the chips do NOT sink. Definitely a keeper/repeater recipe. I need to tinker a little bit more with the sweetness because I use Allulose instead of sugar, and add in a very generous tablespoon of Truvia as well. I thought there were almost too many chips (I used sugar-free chips) but when I said that my sister looked at me as if I was crazy :). One night my husband made an incredible Chinese food meal – home made wontons. So good!

homemade chicken wontons
homemade chicken wontons (not shown – the chicken fried rice and the beef and broccoli)

The garden is starting to bloom, and I did massive weeding this past weekend. Many of my perennials ARE returning and I added more this year as well. I’ll try to focus on the garden, and not share my darker thoughts with you. Working in the garden IS how I deal with stress, so trust me when I say that I’ve been super-vigilant – even dead-heading flowers and digging out the weeds from the cracks in the sidewalk. 🙂 Soon there should even be flowers to share.

cold sesame noodle
cold sesame noodle

40 minute hot dog rolls
40 minute hot dog rolls – look how well they came out even though this was the first time I tried this recipe

The Gang of 4 in action
The Gang of 4 in action