Saturday, August 26, 2017

Tough Year for Gardening

I love gardening, and harvesting the bounty of fruit, lavender, mint and other beauties from the garden.  But I'm always humbled by how unpredictable the outcomes can be, and glad that my livelihood does not depend on the harvest.

Last year I had such a huge harvest of apples from our regular (not espalier) apple tree, that I was drying apple chips continually for weeks and weeks.  This year it had so few that we didn't even pull out the ladder to pick them, I just picked up the apples as they fell, and used them for making juice.  Nearly every one had a worm in it.

Two years ago, our Japanese plum tree bore hundreds of pounds of plums, and again, I had to make an effort to give them away to friends and family, and find uses for them.  This year, it had maybe 50 or 60 plums, and one ripe one fell, I ate it, and I tested a few others on the tree, and they seemed almost ripe also.  So I was planning to go out on the weekend to pick them, but when I arrived, the tree had been stripped clean.  Likely our local squirrels, who were also noticing that they were ripe.

Similarly, we often get a huge haul of grapes (this post shows only half the 2014 harvest), and I make juice, usually a combination of grape (which is quite tangy) and apple (which is mild) - see this post from 2014.  Today I discovered the vines quite battered and pulled from the shed, as it seems the squirrels have been climbing the vines, and some of the bunches were already stripped clean.  So I picked the remainder today, even though they are not as ripe as I would like :
That one basket, and not even very full, was the complete harvest.  So I've been making juice all morning, combining the grapes, and the apples (from both the upright tree as well as the espaliers, both of which were full of worms) :
I also went out and picked more blackberries, and added those too, so the juice is coming out quite pink :
As I'm feeling lazy, and we already have lots of jars of homemade juice in the pantry, I'll only seal into jars the juice which I don't think we can drink in the next week or so.

I have been canning quite a few times this year already.  We had a huge haul of red currants earlier this summer :
...and we came to the end of our mint syrup (it is great on ice cream, in lemonade, and even just mixed with water to make a minty drink).  So I made quite a few batches of mint syrup, as well as the currant juice, and some lavender syrup too:
On the gardening side, I had too many run-ins with wasps this year.  First I discovered the hard way (as I was stung in the hand) an in-ground nest near our Italian plum tree, and managed to kill off that colony, after unleashing a full can of wasp killer into their nest, and then following it up with a few hours of drowning the following day (as the poison alone didn't seem to do the trick).

Then I was stung in the back as I stood at my Japanese plum, not even doing anything.  And chased several times by what seemed to be a black wasp, who buzzed around my head, and didn't hesitate to follow me all the way across the yard, as I ran away.  Then I stepped into the crocosmia at the base of our butterfly bush, behind our Japanese plum and cherry trees, and was viciously attacked by a wasp who chased and stung me in the back, the arm, and the back of the head.  I waited a few minutes and tried to go back for my tools, and he stung me in the hand and chased me across the yard again.

This time, I decided not to be a hero, and called a pest control company, and they sent out their expert in wasp suit, who located a nest of the black wasps behind the fence, hidden in some bushes.  He neutralized and removed it, and sprayed the area with poison powder, to kill off any lingering wasps.

About a week later, I was lopping branches from our cherry tree in that same corner, and suddenly was surrounded by black wasps.  Then I saw the nest, which was up in a branch of the cherry tree, about 7' off the ground, about the size of coconut (without husk).  So I called the same pest control company, and they removed it also.  This removal was free, as it was in the same area where I was reported that I was stung.

Today I noticed lots of yellow wasps hovering over the ground.  It is a common practice this time of year.  But a few took interest in me as I walked by, so I was cautious and retreated each time.  I've been stung far too many times for my comfort.

Anyhow, such is gardening and life.  Unpredictable, and we take the bad with the good, and hope for better next year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Still Gardening, Mixed with Pottery

I may not be blogging much about my garden lately, especially since I started my pottery blog, but I am still gardening (except now while there is snow on the ground).  And adding pottery to my garden.  And using plants from my garden as inspiration and impressions in my pottery.

I have two ceramic totems in my garden, and quite a number of pieces waiting for me to create another totem this summer.  These two serve dual purpose of decorating the garden, and protecting my dear Davidii involucrata (dove tree) when I drag the hose around the garden :

This little face planter rests in a shady spot in my garden :

This lantern was originally planned for the garden, but after so many hours creating it, and a number of people warning me not to take a chance leaving it out in my garden, I still have it inside the kitchen.  But I am still considering finding it a place in the garden one day.  At least for a party.

I have made a number of ceramic vessels and plates decorated with leaf imprints.  I love the textures.  This one is decorated in maple leaves :

This soda fired jug was also decorated in maple leaves.

These oakleaf hydrangea leaves were not from my garden, but made a beautiful platter.

This piece was decorated with leaves from my garden, and eventually will go back out into the garden, as part of a future totem :

I made two large ceramic masks - "tree men" - who adorn the inside of the post on my back deck.  I wish I had photos to share, but am too lazy to download/email them from my phone to my computer.  But here is one of the masks.

I still love gardening.  And I am very much enjoying pottery.  And where both pottery and gardening collide, it is about as close to heaven as I'll enjoy in this life.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Snow Canyon and Bryce Canyon Memories

Earlier this month, my husband and I enjoyed a trip to Bryce Canyon.  On the way (from Vegas), we stopped in for a couple of days in St. George Utah, and enjoyed the Snow Canyon State Park, and the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.  What a beautiful area.  Coming from the rainy and lush Pacific Northwest, I can never get enough of those red rocks, and the blue skies.

We have been to Bryce Canyon probably 4 times now, and I am always impressed by how spectacular it is.  Unfortunately, photos don't do it justice, you need to visit to truly enjoy it.  But here is my attempt to share some of the beauty of that amazing place :

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Natural Stone Arch in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

I have also been to Grand Canyon twice, and to me, Bryce Canyon is more beautiful.  In terms of its vivid colours and God-created sculptures (hoodoos and arches and other funky rock formations), and Bryce feels so personal and accessible.  The U.S. National Park Service has done a great job at making so much of it accessible by paved roads and lookout points.  But there are also a number of trails down into the heart of the canyon.  In an hour or less, you can be down at the floor of the canyon, with hoodoos surrounding and towering over you.

You pass through magical archways...
Archway in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

...and see beauty all around.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

I am fascinated by the trees there, how they survive under what seems to be very harsh conditions:
Tree on Cliff Side in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

I am also amused by the rock formations, some which look to be stone carvings, this one of a large hawk, overlooking the path through the canyon (do you see him, looking to the left?):
Rock Formations Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

This one looked strikingly like Joseph, holding the Christ Child, being visited by the Wise Men:
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Just in case you haven't spotted them, here they are :
Joseph and the Wisemen in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

And there's always cute wildlife to spot along the way :
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
I hope to visit Bryce Canyon and that surrounding area many more times in my lifetime.

The Snow Canyon State Park (Utah) and the adjacent Red Cliffs National Conservation Area was also very beautiful, and offered up some surprises, too, such as these dinosaur tracks which we were fortunate to spot along on of the hikes :
Dinosaur Tracks in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah.

Dinosaur Tracks in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah.

The scenery there was also very photogenic, and as I am a plant-lover, many of my photos also showcase the beautiful plants surviving and blooming in what is fairly desert-like conditions:
Yucca Blooming in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah.

Cactus Blooming in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah.

Purple Bush in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah.

Yucca and Cactus in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah.

Purple Flower Blooming in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah.

Flower Blooming in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah.
If you haven't visited this area, it is worth checking out, along with the amazing Arches, Canyonlands, and Zion National Parks, as well as the funky Goblin Valley State Park.  Oh, and Grand Canyon, too, while you're in the area.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Long Awaited Blooming of the Dove Tree (Davidii Involucrata)

I love how my garden surprises me.  Almost every time I go into the yard, I make a new discovery.  This morning was no exception.  My beloved young dove tree (Davidii involucrata) has started blooming.

When I bought the small tree (really a twig, when I first bought it) in May 2011 (5 years ago), I was told it could take up to 10 years to bloom.  I've read 15 years from seed, and 20 years from seed.  From what I had seen of this wonderful tree, it would be worth the wait.  See this post of my Davidii tree when first planted.

Here it is today, under overcast skies :
Young Davidii involucrata (dove tree or handkerchief tree) in bloom for the first time.

And here is a closeup of one of the "doves", which is actually a cluster of flowers surrounded by two long creamy-white bracts (similar in structure to a dogwood flower) :
Bloom of the dove tree or handkerchief tree (Davidii involucrata)

For some more background about this remarkable tree, which is described as a "rare tree in the nursery trade and the gardens of North America", read this post called "The Legend of the Dove Tree".

My discovery this morning almost overshadowed all the beautiful blooms out in the garden at this time of year, but I did pause to take a few photos of those also.

The apple blossoms are at their peak now, in early April.  The espalier in particular is noteworthy, as the restriction in its vertical growth translates to loads of flowers and eventually fruit :
Espalier apple tree blossoms / blooms.

Espalier apple tree blossoms / blooms.

Espalier apple tree blossoms / blooms.

On the non-blooming side, I am very pleased with these new geckos for my fence, which I bought from an artisan market in Costa Rica last month.  I sprayed them with several coats of acrylic sealer before taking them outside, since it would be a shame to lose those beautiful colours too soon :
Decorative metal gecko sculptures on the fence.

When I hung those, it inspired me to revive this set which had been faded by years of being exposed to the weather.  I only had red and orange exterior paint, so I sprayed the top one for now.  I was too lazy to remove it, so had my son hold some paper behind it while I just sprayed it directly in place.  I'll need to get some green or blue paint, and maybe some black, to revive the other one.
Decorative metal gecko sculptures on the fence.

Speaking of needing work, these poor frogs are always losing their eyes.  I've bought dollar store marbles a couple of times, and exterior glue, to give them sight again, but they keep falling out and disappearing into the yard.  They could use some re-painting also.
Decorative metal frog sculptures on the fence.

What a wonderful morning.  I didn't end up doing much work in the garden, but I sure have been more than rewarded for any work I have put in previously!
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