Sunday, June 29, 2014

Knits Done

Well, the Frankenstein socks are finally done. Yep, I finished them Saturday night. The gardens had been tended to and I needed a bit of a relax after all the classwork this week. Months ago I started these socks and that second sock sort of languished post heel turn; instep completion is soooo boring!

 I named them Frankenstein not just for the green in the Patons Kroy Jacquard sock yarn, but for the cobbling together of several patterns to get the finished product. I found a free rib & cables download on Ravelry, used a 1974 Coats & Clark Learn How to book for a nifty "box pattern" heel flap, followed with Ann Budd's gusset and heel turn, then finally back to Coats & Clark for their toe decrease to gathered tip. I am not a Kitchener stitch fan and much prefer the old fashioned gathered toe, it wears well for me and I can reliably remember how to do it. This toe decrease was much pointier than I have done in the past, but I loved the heel flap. I have to admit I really learned about sock construction having to fit together these separate pattern pieces and as a result I am a much more confident sock knitter. Well, given our current heat, I'll be putting away these beauties for much later in the year.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Watchin' & Learnin'

Since I am overwhelmed with school work for my current online class, I can finally squeak out a mini post today. This week has been full of online assignments: 2 papers & 2 responses written, 1 test taken and 4 chapters of text read. Whew!

I have made a fascinating garden/nature observation here in the yard... I have three perennial sedum plants that for some reason this year are being seriously nibbled. I thought deer were the culprits for a while, but the more I looked at the plants it was only the edges of the leaves that were chewed on, not a complete nipping off off plant growth, which is a pattern more common to deer.

Anyway, in the midst of a homework stint, I was taking a break & doing some stretching out of my desk chair; gosh, sitting is surprisingly tiring! Easily distracted as I am, I was also looking out the window at the blooming daylilies when I saw a Red-Headed Finch perch on the sedum clump and start pecking at the leaves! The only reason I can come up with for this bird behavior, is that the finch was sipping moisture/nectar from the succulent-like sedum leaves. This finch activity surely explains the the ragged leaf edges and the reason the most brutally attacked sedum happens to be located between the two thistleseed finch feeding socks.

I have never seen the finches do this before. There are two full watery birdbaths present in the front yard currently. Is this a response to climate change or an adaptation I've not noticed before? I have to admit I had a bit of a Thoreau glow, feelin' all naturalist-like since I've seen this finch behavior, but it's definitely an interesting observation. Wish I had gotten a picture, but it was over in a few seconds. So everyone be sure and spend some time quietly sitting and observing your yard, nature is in action out there.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dallying with Daylilies

Here's a montage of what's blooming in the yard now... They are lovely rain or shine and are reliable bloomers no matter what the level of humidity. Daylilies (hemerocallis) are very hardy, prefer full sun for the best bloom, but are definitely showy in part shade. They are called daylilies as the flowers only last one day. A little fish emulsion and water and you have years of beauty. I do not have all the hybrid strain names for these beauties, as the tags have been lost in the garden, but I look for colors I like. They are excellent garden space filler and I have used them extensively to anchor the slope beyond my patio. 

Monday, June 23, 2014


Blazing hot 90-100F/32-37C with so much humidity my glasses steam up leaving the house! The porch orchids are living in simulated Amazonian conditions and blooming beautifully. I finally emptied one rain barrel and almost the second one keeping the raised beds and front yard gardens moist; so far nothing has died. This past Saturday & Sunday we were finally blessed with some heavy rain that re-filled the rain barrels, gave all the plants a good drink but the humidity is staying at 87%. NOAA weather says thunderstorms will continue all week with temps around 87F during the day. Guess we will see...

Happy bean plants
The raised veg beds are all planted. The heirloom tomatoes from last year reseeded, so there is 1 Mortgage Lifter, plenty of Romas and hopefully, some German Pinks. I rotated the beans into the middle bed and planted Spartan Arrow bush beans, a change from the usual Blue Lake bush. We're growing 4 sweet peppers, called Carmen and one Jalapeno pepper. I purchased all the peppers in six inch pots from Wmart. The Black Hungarian pepper seeds I was starting got toasted one hot, sunny day, so I went with what I planted last year. Next year I will start the seed germination process a few weeks earlier.
Baby Roma tomatoes

It has gotten cloudy with thunderheads moving in, and the light has changed. So I ran out an got a few garden pix before the storm. I am onto my next online class at University, so I am unable to post as often. So my apologies in advance. I'm hoping to do some photo logs for posts and have taken some pictures of the currently blooming daylilies.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Difficult plantings

Do you have a difficult planting area in your yard? Some place where the light is variable, it's either too dry or too wet or if you leave this green-space alone it just looks bad? I do. Oddly enough my challenging space was originally built as a stone planter box at the front of the house! Every year I dig in different plants and they just don't do well...  All that silver brocade I posted about  previously, see here, has died out, as well as two lavender plants. When I pulled out their remnants this season, I discovered lots of tiny brown ants. I'm pretty sure all those ant nests didn't do much to promote root growth, so combined with our harsh winter this planter box was really a giant plant coffin.

A couple of years ago, when I was desperate for color (flowers never bloom reliably here either) I had tried caladiums with their brightly colored leaves, they did well, so I thought I'd give them another shot. Anyway, I turned over all the dirt in this planter, added a bag of topsoil and some manure fertilizer. Then I headed to Lowe's garden center to look for caladiums. Well, fortunately they had four plants left, while none of my usual garden centers had any, so I purchased the most colorful three.

The scoop on caladiums is that they are tropical plants in the Arum family; they are grown from bulbs with light preference ranging from bright shade to part shade or filtered sun, they thrive in temps over 70F and love high humidity. Perfect for most Missouri summers and the odd light requirement works for this funky planter location too. The only downside here is that I've got a 12 foot planter and 3 smallish pots of caladiums, definitely more plant mass is needed.

I found a couple of quart sized Gryphon begonias, another interesting primarily foliage plant. These begonia leaves are maple leaf size & shape, but have a reddish underside and a dark green topside with silvery spots. Their light requirement goes from part shade to shade and they don't need much watering. Sounds perfect, since half the planter gets variable sun with partial shade and the final 6 feet are mostly shady.

For the far end of the planter with least sun exposure, I though I'd try a Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), a Missouri native plant which grows in part to full shade and producing yellow flowers. This is a new plant for me, other varieties of poppies have not done well  in my yard, so this is a completely experimental planting. This plant likes moisture, so being closest to the rain barrel is a plus.

The plantings have been in for about two weeks and they look like they are thriving. I really like the foliage variety. I've got my candles on Pennsylvania blue stone slabs between the plants. I'll be monitoring how well these plants handle our 100 degree summer, but so far they look like good choices for this challenging spot.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rainforest conditions!

Missouri weather is never boring! Lately, it has been raining a lot, not sprinkles but thundering downpours. There was even a small tornado touchdown in St. Peters on Sunday. When it is not raining, its hot and humid, although the nights cool down to the 60's. Crazy weather for June, much more like early Spring.... Lawn mowing continues to be a challenge and I missed my single, afternoon window of opportunity last Friday. Instead, I was weeding the raised beds,  planting the beans and deadheading the rose bushes between storms; vegetables are going to be late season producers this year. Our cactus & orchids are thriving though in the steaminess and blooming!

The rain barrels are working wonderfully, in fact are overflowing, since I'm not needing to water with all this rain. I am definitely appreciative of the rain though, droughts are terrible. Strange how we can have so much precipitation here in the landlocked Midwest, yet ocean bordering California is in the midst of a severe drought...   Anyway, the Missouri River is on the rise again but we are no where near flood stage yet.

I'm in the final week of my online university class and hope to do well on the final paper. Happily, I am on vacation this week so I can devote more time to writing. Online class #2 starts June 16th and finishes in July. I'll take a four week break and start the Fall semester with two more online classes and one heatin' the seat class. I am really motivated, feeling like I'm finally making some significant forward motion in my life plans.