Musta been about twenty years ago I realized that I had not seen honey bees in the perennial section for a VERY LONG TIME. I knew that it was because I did due diligence to our customers by spraying orthene systemic insecticide on everything preventatively so our customers got "CLEAN" plants.
It occurred to me that I wanted to see honey bees more than I cared about having 100% insect-free plants, so I stopped spraying, and haven't since. Now I look back at those days and realize how stupid and thoughtless I was spraying like that.
The very first year of insecticide-free lifestyle for us resulted in DOZENS of honey bees happily pollinating willy-nilly. There were butterflies all over the place, and life abounded in our perennial section. The BIGGEST reward, however, was the monarch butterfly larvae. I had never seen them ever before in my life.
The ones I found on the Asclepias tuberosa flowers were huge, almost the size of my pinky. Multi-colored, zebra-striped, and very strong-willed as a caterpillar.
This is how it all starts folks! Lucky butterflies! First, though, you gotta attract them to your property. This is done with two very different types of plants:
1. The flowering plants that the adult butterfly sucks on to get loads of energy.
2. The milkweed family of plants in nature that are like neon signs flashing the message:
"LAY YOUR BUTTERFLY EGGS ON ME, ON ME, ON ME!!!"
The eggs are laid on the weedy milkyweedy plants- I know of five plants they lay their eggs upon. Eggs hatch and the almost invisible babies start to feed immediately, molting five times before pupating. Mommy only apparently lays only one egg per plant so there's enough food for it's voracious appetite.
They are very interesting insects with extremely complex life cycles that we humans know actually very little about.
Wanna attract monarch butterflies? Try planting tree hydrangeas. They feed on the high energy nectar in preparation for their long flight back to Mexico. Seeing monarchs on tree hydrangea flowers is stunning due to the color contrasts.
I unloaded a much sought after delivery this am of weeping redbuds and three different types of tree hydrangeas
Limelight hydrangea trees about to flower. Low growing trees with spectacularly incredible white-chartreuse flowers in summer. Everyone’s grandma had these trees way back when.
Full sun to part sun
Then there’s the shorter pinky winky tree hydrangea. Bottoms of the blossoms turn bright pink as they age. Cool!!!
The brightest flowers seem to belong to the quick fire tree hydrangea. The entire blossom turns pinky/reddish/maroon as it ages
Heart-shaped glossy foliage of the awesome redbud trees stun passers-by in the early morning sun.
Great replacement for the crummy purple leaf plum tree which seems to die or get sick pretty early in life. Redbuds live forever and ever.
It’s true, and liability laws need to be changed.
This tree lives on my neighbor’s property. I correct myself- it’s DYING on my neighbors property.
I warned the young couple a few times over the last few years that the leaning portion is EXTREMELY dangerous and is going to crush their house when it breaks free. The house recently underwent a complete makeover and after the tree crushes the house, it will need to be done again.
Sad part of this story, though, is their newborn infant lives under that tree also. The tree will crush the house- hopefully not his bedroom.
The psycology of homeowners like this is perplexing. Do they leave loaded guns on the floor for their children to play with? Do they allow the brakes on their cars to become worn out and then not fix them? You get my point.
So why on earth leave a tree about to fall over on your property?
Just goes to to show how oblivious humans are about their surroundings and about nature itself.
In college, trees like this were called “man killers” because they fall with no warning on nice windless days- no high winds needed to topple them. They just rot and rot and rot till there’s nothing left to hold them up.
Now is the time (before winter storms) to walk around your property to check for bad trees. Got Qs? Call a tree guy.
We are splitting wood today- it’s our last day after three weeks.
I came across some particularly awesome white and red oak- straight logs perfectly huge with no knots. I took eight or nine cords home and stacked it. Glad that’s over because each row took 90 minutes over the course of a week. Even just taking up the debris took an hour... BUT ITS DONE. For the entire heating season.
Its going to take two months for this stack to season enough to burn, perfect timing for heating season.
Notice the nicely stacked ends that hold the rest of the row in place? Takes careful work to do this so it does not cave in, fall over... hurt someone.
When you have a wood pile outside, DO NOT COVER IT! Insects, mold, rot decay the wood.
Buy firewood NOW. In the summertime. That way you know that by the time you need it, the wood is thoroughly dry and ready to burn.
Well maintained American lawns are an environmentalist's nightmare! Water, fertilizer, herbicides, constant mowing (unregulated carbon monoxide pollution). insecticides... the carbon footprint of American lawns is worse than coal burning power plants, seriously.
Between the electrical energy (most polluting energy sector) required to produce these toxins that do not degrade in the environment (like they want you to think), the diesel fuel needed to bring them to market, the plastic bags that contain them, the unintended insect and plant deaths from applications, the toxic runoffs poisoning our waters... as well as the homeowner mismanagement of these poisons-Nice Lawns are toxic wastelands and a monocultural desert, devoid of diversity. and the typical American dream of having a "NICE LAWN," I think, dates back to the 1950's, moment in time better forgotten.
I see homeowners walking behind their chemical spreaders and I pity them, that's not something that I will EVER do EVER again, thanks to white clover.
Just to let you know, I am on my fifth decade in this industry, and have a four year BS in ornamental horticulture. I have a supervisor's license in chemical applications, but after mulling over how dessicated lawns get in the increasing summer desertification events like this weekend's, I totally reject the conventional American lawn- a concept originating in the post-war chemical companies' proliferation.
In the pre-war years, clover was added to grass seed as an essential ingredient for a healthy lawn. The symbiotic bacterial relationship clover has fed the turf so homeowners did not need to (there was no synthetic fertilizer at that time). The clover blended nicely with the turf grasses and looked nice, controlled weeds on it's own with out any herbicides.
Over the years, I have invested THOUSANDS of dollars in my lawn, doing battle with the realities of yearly droughts, thin soils, full sun, no irrigation systems. It seemed that every fall it looked like I had never spent one minute and no dollars on my lawn- it was all for nothing! I would do my methodical American duty and fix it, again and again and again.
As the dim-wit light bulb above my head grew bigger and brighter, I looked for suggestions from my "thinking outside the box mentality." Sometimes, whilst mowing the lawn with earbuds cranking to drown out the noise and a beer squeezed between my thighs, I enter an alternative world in an altered state. I notice things not many other people see. I notice how the lightning bugs rise up out of the grass when I mow the lawn in certain areas. Altered mowing states conjured up visions of the lightning bugs possessing spiritual personalities like the beings in the movie "AVATAR." Since then, I do not mow those areas at dusk when they rise up out of the grass.
I notice also that where the clover is, there are NO WEEDS. The lawn is darker green, and there are honey bees and bumble bees, butterflies flitting about.
White clover out competes weeds, and seems to be a hormonal growth suppressor, keeping the height of turfgrass short like clover is. Clover is ALWAYS well-fed, and ALWAYS dark green.
You can see the patch of clover/turf in the middle of this picture. Turf and clover, nothing else. Where clover/turf is, there are no other weeds.
Clover slugging it out with some sort of weedy grass. Where clover is, no weeds.
The temp is 95f with a heat index of 105 and climbing. I'm going home from work now and will finish this dissertation later.
In order to have fresh picked blueberries that nobody else has ever touched, you need to put just a little work into it.
Find a spot, plant the blueberry plants, feed em, water em, cover em, weed em...
Filthy disgusting Japanese beetles ruin the fruit with their multiple partner orgies on the berry clusters- chewing/pooping on/ having sex on the fruit. I smoosh them angrily inbetween my fingernails and get a sadistic thrill as the crunching sound indicates that their lives are over.
I learned with two other fields to plant blueberries in rows of ripening time. Berries ripen from June to September, and there must be two hundred cultivars. I pick cultivars according to fruit development time (you need production the entire season to ensure all season long berries).
I also like the medium to larger fruit size because they are easier to pick. After all the work setting it up, I really like to pick each and every berry. People ask me which taste better, the smaller or larger ones, and to that I really have to say that I care not. I don’t eat blueberries politely. I scoop ‘em up by the handful, tilt my open mouth skyward and drop ‘em in then chew and swallow.
Chandler blueberry is by far the biggest blueberry in zee world. The tiny ones are from plants I planted before I became wise to the blueberry way of life. Now these plants are family, but I would never plant them again. Too much work picking them.
The whole reason I have blueberry fields to begin with is because I went to bishops farm over ten years ago with a woman and my child who was three or four at the time.
We got our metal buckets and cardboard trays and entered the blueberry house- a screened in field. I looked up at movement my eyes detected and saw my very first Baltimore oriole- so damn cool!!! It was trapped inside.
Picking blueberries is really easy if you are the first person in the field. That’s when all the berries are easy to pick. The ones on the top and outsides of the plant are within reach. No stooping/bending over/yoga positions required to get at the blue ones.
We would pick the berries and plunk them into our buckets. They would clink onto the bottom of the metal bucket with a “tink” sound. Every now and then one could hear a squishing swallowing sound only to find out it was my son reaching into the bucket to stealthily remove a handful to eat. Tink tink tink chew swallow gulp.
Clink tink gulp.
Frustrated that the only thing we would be leaving with full would be kyle’s stomach, I said “I heard that” loudly when I heard him chew.
Pick/tink/plunk/chew/swallow- “I heard that!”
“I heard that”
”I heard that!”
”I heard that” was the refrain over and over until we picked our way across the field in search of greener pastures and easier picking.
Finding easy picking is easier said than done. At some point I just gave up and resorted to yoga. Bend, twist, contort into inhuman positions in order to pick the berries nobody else wanted to bother with. The ones not worth it. Difficult to see and even harder to reach. Everyone was doing the same thing in order to make all this effort worthwhile.
At one point after an hour or so I looked up and saw that the woman I went with was a row above me and my kid was about ten feet away from me and a few other people near by. I continued picking for a while and all of the sudden I heard a really loud wet juicy and did I say LOUD???
Of course, the only thing In my mind was the fact that that sound must have wafted my way from the woman I came with, so I pretty much yelled so she could hear me:
”I HEARD THAT!!!!!”
Thinking it really funny (though juvenile), I looked up desiring mutual approval and appreciation for my awesome sense of humor, and saw not the face of the woman I went there with but the face of a different woman- a total stranger. Eye contact was made, and we were both extremely embarrassed at our actions, and that there was zero anonymity between us- we each knew each other’s crime! BUSTED!
I felt like shit for totally embarrassing her, but there’s nothing that can nor should be said by the offender in a circumstance such as that. “Let bygones be bygones” someone once said.
The offending flatulent-contortionist picked her way rapidly to the exit, paid for her berries and skedaddled her way to her car parked in the grassy field, never to be seen ever again. The woman I went with left my life also- some crimes unforgivable...good riddance!
But what I’m left with from that interesting experience is this-
You never quite know when life-long stories will pop into your life. Could be when you are doing something important or it could happen when you are doing something totally mundane and ridiculous!
Pick pick pick plunk tink clunk chew smoosh swallow swallow gulp!
I heard that.
Pandora/earbuds/alone time/sad+happy memories...Jack Johnson belongs in our lives. There is something about his voice and his words that stirs the soul and allows the mind to wander back in time to events described in this blog. Ohhh, what I would give to go back in time to that memorable day, scoop up my son and hug him, smell him, look into that child's eyes for just one last time. He is in high school now, and if I tried to do that to him now he would politely hug me back, not at all what hugging one's young child is like.
Soulful song of the incredible “cat bird” keeping me company one summer night whilst I toiled in my veggie garden. Do not think for one millisecond that I take these birds for granted- I don’t. Their songs are much much better than this impromptu recording of mine. You can zoom in on him sitting on the very top of this mountain laurel. The simple fact that I will never see that bird ever again sitting atop this plant singing his chitter-chatter-gossiping song antagonizes my soul to my core. Pretty much my fault these birds died.
I have not heard him sing for a week- my goddamn cat killed him- of that I am sure, and I’m extremely angry about it. No more going outside for meow meow!
Two weeks ago I bought him a collar with a bell- cheap thing did not work, and now I’m in the process of converting meow meow into an indoor cat- wish me luck because he meows every five seconds begging to go outside- ain’t gonna happen meow meow, so settle in for your conversion therapy.
Villain of the bird world- meet “Meow-Meow,” my cat. I counted two dead cat birds under a bench of mine- all that’s left is a pile of feathers. Two chipmunks also- I hate chipmunks- eat as many as you want, meow meow. But birds- as if they don’t have a hard enough life!
Yesterday, meow meow dragged one catbird still barely alive into my house. I held it for a very long time, feeling sorrow and responsibility for its impending death. I found a teacup to put it in hoping it could recover, which it did-kinda.
The catbird recovered a bit- enough to get out of the cup. He stood there for a long while then the last time I looked he was gone. I haven’t looked under the hydrangea for its body because the simpleton in me wants to visualize him flying away to eternal happiness, but the realist in me knows he is dead- because of my cat.
I looked into the the tea cup and saw bird poop mixed with blood. Part of me wishes to think that it’s blue/red from the blueberries he was stealing from me, but I know blood when I see it.
Goddamn cats, killing such wonderful additions to our lives. If you have one, think at least about getting it a bell-ringing collar, for all the good that will do.
I think I read this past winter about bird deaths from cats- about a billion each year in the US.
Care about wildlife? Think about your cat and how many animals it kills every year.
Meow meow’s default position these days... I feel sorry for him but the birds come FIRST!
It’s nice to have a little help when you need it.
Some things you just cannot do by yourself- takes ungodly amounts of time doing certain things alone (like I used to).
Long projects well done look good, feel good- especially when it’s a little unique/strange/unconventional.
The finished product, if done properly can be impressive-looking even though it’s really not that impressive at all! What else you gonna do when you have a big property??? Lawn? HELL NO- might as well put your land to good use. Lawns are stupid!
When it’s time to pick, I’m ALWAYS thinking of all the stuff I could/should be doing. In the pre-earbud days, it was just me and my thoughts.
Now-a-days, it’s me, the berries I never ever eat whilst picking for some reason... and slightly stoopid, Jack Johnson, tribal seeds, acoustic guitar music, rebelution, the movement, iration, etc., keeping my thoughts company.
The mind wanders when doing menial work. Interesting where my thoughts go when I’m harvesting blueberries.
Always, inevitably, my mind always thinks of just a few concepts:
1. What a stupid waste of time!
2. How great it is to have my own blueberry field.
3. My relationship with my son- how to raise him as well as I can so when it comes time to put him into his own canoe and give him a gentle push, he is empowered to thrive in the world that is to be.
4. Work- the economy
5. Other things I should be doing
One year pandora tapped me on the shoulder whilst picking. In my mental haze, I became aware the song playing had really great talented whistling. My consciousness awoke and I realized I had to snap a screenshot so I could remember the song.
Here it is:
A few years ago when I was on the north shore of Oahu with my son on a surf trip, we were driving up the road just in front of pipeline and a guy on a bike was biking from a side street onto the road. It looked like he was going fast and might not make the turn onto the road safely.
For a second, I was worried, then the guy turned well, and everything was A-OK. As we drove past the biker, I looked over and saw that it was YOU-KNOW-WHO.
I shouted HOLY SHIT, Kyle, That was Jack JOHNSON!!! What the hell do we do!?
I pulled over on the side of the road and thought about it for a second. Autograph? Conversation? Leave him alone? Kyle was of no help at all. Then Jack biked past us and waved at us.
HOLY SHIT, what a nice guy!
I'll never forget that incident, and when I heard this song about an "accident on a country road," it is the theme song for the brief relationship that Jack, Kyle, and I had for just a moment a few winters ago.
The other part of the song I love is the last part, when it says "be careful how you act in life, because your behavior will always come back to you, good or bad."
Good advice in an era of despicable behavior in our country, ohhhh how I long for the days of relatively polite discourse in our country... probably as extinct as the dodo bird.
A "lady" brought back a Japanese maple tree that she had not watered during the scalding hot week last week and wanted her cash back. We are familiar with the look of the desicated, ignored plants, and told her that all she needed to do was plant the tree and start watering it.
That prudent horticultural advice fell on deaf ears, and she insisted that she wanted her cash back, and if she did not get it, there would be hell to pay. Funny how she expected us to pay for her neglect.
The staff, feeling threatened by her loud yelling and threatening, took her phone number and asked her to leave, which she did.
I called her the next day and was met by the same threatening interruptions and berating comments, certainly did not appreciate it at all.
All I have to say is that all we do all day long when it gets hot, windy, and sunny, is water. All day long, every day.
If people want to buy a live tree, take it home and ignore it during a heat wave then take it back to the place of purchase and expect to get their money back after threatening college girls with unspecified harm, they will be disappointed with the reception they get from people like us.
Difference of six lbs between the two trees, the difference being almost the exact weight of one gallon of water/the volume of the container the tree roots are in.
This tree was on the cliff of death from neglect because of the angry lady’s not watering it- lesson for all potential summer plant buyers!
Plants are designed by nature to survive all kinds of abuse by Mother Nature- all kinds of abuse except man-made abuse. When a plant is in an above ground plastic pot, every single thing required by the plant must be provided by humans. Lacking that attention, plants suffer, give warning symptoms, then if not helped out in time, they die- plain and simple, easy to understand.
I pulled this disgusting fully engorged tick off my cat’s eyelid the other day.
It is really important to be aware of these life-changing, disease-spreading pathogens.
Read up on precautionary advice for minimizing exposure to them, it’s really good mportant for your well being.