Monthly Archives: February 2008

A sign of Spring

Spring Beauty, the first wildflower of the year, has just started blooming. I’ve been seeing green sprouting here and there, but this is the first flower. Bluets, henbit and pucoons shouldn’t be too far behind. I’ve been seeing geese heading North, Greater White-fronted not Canada, but the first flower to me is a definite sign of Spring. Spring Beauties have tiny bulbs, so it’s no surprise that they would bloom early, much like a crocus. I haven’t seen any sign of my new daffodils yet, but I’m relatively patient. There have been some dreary days, I must admit, when I’ve been sorely tempted to dig a bulb up to see if it had started sprouting, just for some kind of sign that Spring was on the way. Spring is subtle in Oklahoma, it creeps up on you.

In the spirit of Spring’s approach, I put up my new nest platforms. I got two of these for volunteering in the birding booth at the annual Wildlife Expo. We were giving them away and the fellow in charge made sure that the volunteers took home as many as they wanted before they were all gone. I’m hoping a Phoebe will choose to nest on one of them. Maybe it’ll have more success this year than last.

I’m not trying to make our Northern readers jealous, but we hit 77 degrees today. Of course it just happened to be when I was clearing storm debris from our fence line, so I rapidly overheated. Strange to say in February, but there it is. It won’t last, we’ll be in the 40’s by tomorrow, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.


Gardens, gardens, and more gardens to come

It seems strange to talk about gardening when most of my family and friends are still in the depths of winter but here in Oklahoma, although not much can grow in the winter, the ground doesn’t freeze more than an inch or two (and not at all this winter), and we don’t get much accumulating precipitation. So, it’s an ideal time to get gardens ready for Spring planting. The soil has already warmed enough for the cold hardy veggies like lettuce, beets, peas, which I will plant this weekend or early next week.

My old gardens didn’t need much work, a little weeding, a little cleaning, some protection from browsing, and a fresh layer of compost. The soil on the wall side is 10 degrees warmer than the soil across the path, so it’s ready for planting sweet peas.

To my surprise, gophers eat rosemary. Before I knew what was happening, one had eaten all the roots off one plant and was slowly pulling the rest into it’s maw. I snatched the rest away from the greedy gut and dried it. Now I have half a relish jar of dried rosemary. I’ll be getting a replacement plant from one of the local growers sometime this Spring and I’ll experiment with castor oil to repel the munchers.

The gardens (Peter calls them the graves) over the geothermal wells and were built using the sheet mulching technique. They’ll be used for various vegetables. I had enough material and space for 3 of them between the Bradford pear and the peach tree. I’ll gradually build more beyond the Bradford pear, but three is plenty to start.

These are my three sisters gardens. I’m experimenting with a method used by Native Americans, except that instead of burying a dead animal in the bottom of these four foot diameter mounds, I buried raw kitchen scraps. In these I’ll be growing corn, squash and pole beans, known as the three sisters. The corn grows in the middle of the mound, the beans grow up the corn, and the squash shades the soil. Sometimes a fourth plant is added, usually a flowering plant to attract more pollinators.

This is the rhubarb garden. I picked up ten roots while in Texas, and they’re evenly spaced along this thirty foot garden. The garden serves a couple of purposes. One is obviously a place to plant rhubarb, but it’s also a swale berm, which will help protect the house from any future floods.

The last garden, finished yesterday, contains the new fig tree. I reused edging tiles rescued from other locations around the house, threw on 2.2 cubic feet of peat moss to lighten the clay soil, then top dressed it with an inch of compost. I left one rose bush there, but moved the bigger one to the north end of the rhubarb garden. I’m hoping to add some strawberry plants around the base of the fig and maybe, if the fig grows well, replace the other rose with a dwarfing variety of fig at some later date.

So, after a busy winter, I have eight new garden to work with, and at least one more garden is planned to stabilize to the slope above the well gardens with more strawberries. Only time will tell what I reap from all this sowing, but to have fresh, uncontaminated, fruits and vegetables, straight from the garden, is worth any effort.

Nothing wasted, a lot gained

You may recall that our back patio had a trellised wooden railing around it, as seen in this photo taken at the back of the house.

Well, no more! The railing was deteriorating rather quickly after many years of neglect and the posts were rotting in the soil. So, I removed it. With the railing gone it affords a much better view of the yard from either the patio or the kitchen table. Now we can see the birds foraging along the edge. (This photo was taken before we installed the rain barrel.)

But I was left with a pile of debris, and it goes against my grain to send to the landfill. So in my never ending quest to reduce, reuse and recycle, I took the railing apart piece by piece, saving any good screws and stacked all the salvaged material in separate piles. The trellising will be reused as trellising, probably as a screen for the pipe stack on the east side of the house. With careful cutting, I was able to salvage just enough of the lumber for a lovely garden bench (I’ll post a picture of it as I progress). In the end I was left with just a small pile of scraps, which we’ll probably burn sometime when we’ve built our outdoor fire pit. Nothing wasted, and we gained a better view, a garden bench, trellising for plants, and some firewood.

On the road to sustainable living

We took another step in our long road towards sustainable living by installing our first rain barrel. The barrel will hold over 60 gallons of water, has a screen in the top to keep out debris and mosquitoes, is made from recycled olive oil barrels and is itself recyclable. It has three overflow connectors at the top so I could connect several in series and the brass faucet can be set where I have it or lower down if the barrel is raised (which I will do with the second barrel I’ve purchased). The color, terra cotta, fits in with our brick red soil and, to us, looks just fine in that unused corner of the patio. It’ll be perfectly situated to provide water for the fig tree I just purchased which will snuggle up against our south facing wall.

Even as I write this, the winter rain is trickling into the barrel to save for dryer times.