Our Wonderful Daylily Mystery

My husband says I planted these and forgot that I did it. Nope. I forget some things, but I’d remember planting flowers. I think. Really, these I would remember.

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

I’d also remember the location, right by the mailbox near the street, because when we went to Kelowna, BC, last year, I was so impressed with all the beautiful yards that it made me want to do more to mine. So far, I’ve basically pulled weeds and cut things back which is a constant thing around here. Haven’t got to the planting part yet. During one of those weed pulling sessions, I noticed some long grassy blades that looked different. When I see something coming up that I can’t identify right off, I usually leave it so that when it grows up I can see what it is and whether or not I want it to stay. I’ve regretted that a time or two, but it’s also how I got my mock orange and Turk’s cap. (Turk’s cap is a great flower for attracting hummingbirds, by the way!)

We really don’t know how these got here unless we have a neighbor or friend who is planting things surreptitiously in folks’ yards. I have some pretty cool family and friends, so that is a possibility. Actually, I think it’s probable because after reading a bit, it looks like daylilies won’t just pop up in a clump like this.  They will spread, but that’s only after being planted by a human. Another thing I learned is that hummingbirds and orioles are both attracted to daylilies. Wow! That just adds some excitement to this whole mystery!

Another good thing is that they can be expected to hang around here for a long time. I still have some yellow ones growing by the water faucet that my Aunt Myrtle planted when she lived here back in the 1960’s. My mom has always said that Aunt Myrtle could plant a dead stick and it’d come back to life and grow. I’m not like her. These babies are tough, and that’s just the kind of plant I need. The fussy ones can’t survive my sporadic care. Daylilies can handle drought and are pest resistant and they crowd out the weeds. Yea, for fewer weeds!

Well, we don’t know how these flowers ended up in our yard, but we sure are glad to have them. May God bless our mystery gardener!

I sure do wonder who…?

 

So pretty!

So pretty!

Ya’ Reckon These Eggs Belong To Our Rat Snake?

A few months ago, I was getting the concrete blocks around the garden all in order, and preparing to put up a fence. We had expanded the garden and I needed to fill in some space with blocks, and also there were weeds to pull. We have some of those concrete block with holes in them laying on their sides, with the holes up, but with some concrete scallop edging laying on top of them. It covers the holes and I like the little scalloped edges.

Why keep the concrete when we’re putting up a fence? Because an armadillo won’t dig under it if there’s concrete there. Well, maybe not just one armadillo. Sometimes in the morning, my yard looks like there was a whole group of drunken golfers out there all night.

Anyway, the edging wasn’t all lined up perfectly, and a snake found a way into the hole. “What a nice protected place to lay my eggs,” she thought. I’m sure she thought that, and also, thanked me.

 

Snake Eggs

Snake Eggs

 

Since finding the eggs, we’ve seen a huge rat snake at least three times in our garden. (I don’t know where the babies went; haven’t seen a single young one.) She’s (I just know it’s a she and she’s the momma of those eggs) almost as long as my broom handle. I figured that out by seeing where her head was and where her tail was at the same time and putting the broom on the ground where she had been. I speak to her every time I see her. I’ve tried to work along side of her. She’s just not friendly. She runs from me. Which is why I tell folks not to run from snakes. Why run from something that’s already running from you?

The Little Snakes Are Awake

Things are blooming early this year. I’d say spring has sprung. More than just the flora, the fauna are awake, too.

Last week, I was getting weeds out of the garden and I found a little brown snake. He’s the one we were told was a ‘Ground Rattler’ when we were kids. I think everyone told us that so we wouldn’t pick them up. Like this:

He’s really a Rough Earth Snake and he probably wouldn’t bite if he could. Which he can’t. See how tiny his mouth is? He couldn’t get a human finger to fit between those tiny jaws if he wanted to, and I don’t think he does.

This fellow also can’t bite, but I do think he wanted to. He was so mad at me for picking him up he pee’d on my thumbnail. See?

I guess I wrecked the beginning of his day. He’s a Texas Brown Snake and he was trying to scrunch himself up so I wouldn’t see him when I was sweeping the walkway. Here he is trying to scrunch himself up in my hand. Too late, Dude (or Dude-ess, as the case may be). I see you!

It was easy to get lots of photos of him even after I put him down, because he was still trying to hide. Not the smartest of creatures. Or else, so angry he couldn’t think straight. I’m not sure how snakes think, but he was mad. Kept sticking his tongue out at me. Really, he was smelling something – probably his pee on my thumbnail. I think he’s pretty. See the black mark under his eye? That’s how I know, along with the black marks on his lips, that he is a Texas Brown Snake and not a Marsh Brown Snake.

See the big scale right behind his eye? A Marsh Brown Snake would have a vertical black line on that scale and not a dark spot below the eye. Also, he would have no markings on the scales by his lips. (If you are finding it hard to see these marks, click on the photo and it will enlarge it. Then click the Back Arrow to get back here.) Oh, and I didn’t just have all this scale marking info in my head. It’s in my great Field Guide to Texas Snakes, published by Texas Monthly.

I’m glad to see some snakes this year. Last year’s drought was rough on everything that doesn’t have a faucet in their house with a ready supply of water. We all need to watch for the Big Bad Boy Snakes. I’m sure they’re out, too, now. Oh! I hope there are some Louisiana Milk Snakes around. I used to have several of them before I moved a brick pile. They are so pretty.

Well, y’all be careful, and enjoy nature.

Working in the Garden Yesterday

I am thrilled to say that I was able to go outside and work for a while yesterday without mosquitoes constantly swarming all over me. The recent cooler weather seems to have put a small dent in the population, if only for a day or so.

I’ve had a few pots of herbs that I need to put in the ground, but haven’t done it yet since I have been redoing my whole garden, including the herbs. I know it’s fall, but this is Southeast Texas, and some herbs do well here at this time of year. I have parsley, rosemary, sweet basil and oregano that I bought a few weeks ago. I also have my spearmint that I dug up so I can move it. I’ve been stuck with all of them dug up and all of the bricks that I had in place – just for looks because I like bricks – taken out of the garden. It’s just been a huge mess. Finally, now the old herb garden spot and the part where I’m expanding herbs into is all dug up and smoothed out. I put some vinegar on weeds near the very edge where I have concrete blocks. After I got that much done the mosquitoes found me. One flew into my mouth and I decided to do something else.

It was Saturday afternoon, and also the day after Veteran’s Day. The sales were on. I wasn’t interested in the sales. I figured that earlier in the day, the ladies in the part of town that has curbs and not ditches out front, went shopping and their men raked leaves. By afternoon, I should be able to find a truck load of bagged leaves in just a little bit of time. So, I got my son to help me. He’s young and tall and I’m old and short; he can lift big heavy bags and throw them in the back of the truck like they are nothing. I pointed at what I wanted and he tossed it in the truck.

It didn’t take long even though I got side-tracked. We saw a huge pile of stuff in front of a house that some men were remodeling. I need to learn how to ask in Spanish if it’s OK for me to go through the trash pile. The third man I asked spoke English and he said I could. I found a big mirror! It’s 34×38 and I can use it with a six-pane window frame that I picked up when I was curb-crawling a few weeks ago. Anyway, now I’m side-tracked from gardening, so back to the garden.

When we got home with the leaves, my son unloaded them (and the mirror) while I laid cardboard and newspaper on the ground around the satsuma tree. I wet it down really good then spread leaves on it. This will help the tree not to have to compete with grass for nutrients. Not only that, it will help to feed the tree as it all breaks down. Mulch means less grass to mow, which saves gas. I figure all that adds up to a good reason to mulch under the satsuma tree.

That is about all I got done. I quit when a mosquito flew into my nose. They are horrible today; it’s warm and raining, so here we go again. Next week I want to try out a natural mosquito repellent that I ran across in a magazine. It’s made from 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup of witch hazel and 5 drops of citronella. If the mosquitoes will stay away from my skin, maybe they will stay out of my mouth and nose and I can get some work done. In the meantime, I’m enjoying looking out my back door at the progress I’ve made so far.

How the Garden Went This Year

Well, all in all, my garden was pretty much a bust. The cat ate the pepper and eggplant seedlings and gnawed away on my peanut plants, too. I put what was left of the peanut plants outside where some pesky pest finished them off. I only got a handful of Kentucky Wonder beans. Don’t know why. The vines are very lush. Same thing happened with the tomatoes. And the weird thing is, I didn’t fertilize them. I know if you over do it with fertilizer, you get lots of beautiful green growth and no veggies. Maybe they did need fertilizer. I’m reading up on organic feeding. The cucumbers and the bush beans I planted were lost in the drought. The one thing that has done OK is the purple hull peas. The ones that survived the dry spring, that is.

Most of what I planted were heirloom seeds. I have learned that you have to experiment with different varieties of them to find what will work in your area. Like most gardeners, I won’t give up. I’d even like to try the same ones again in part of the garden. I need to go with something I know will work and let my new ones be my trial area, instead of putting in a whole trial garden. Can’t believe that didn’t occur to me before I did it with tomatoes.  And I’ll try these again because I still have seeds and because each year growing conditions are a bit different.

I did some reading and found several things I need to do to improve my garden. My walkways and beds need to be permanent. I need to fence in the garden. I’ll probably go ahead and do the whole back yard. My father-in-law has offered chickens to me twice but I need to be able to keep roaming dogs out of the yard. Also, we need to install a drip irrigation system. When I tried to water the garden in the spring the ground was so dry it washed the dirt away instead of soaking in. The remedy for that was to water twice a day so the ground didn’t get so dry between watering. And I never knew if I was watering enough. Probably not.

By late spring I didn’t have a whole lot of time for the garden. I had to get my shed painted before it got too hot for the paint. And for me. The temperature and humidity info is on the can for a reason, and I only wanted to do this once. Well, eventually it will have to be done again but maybe by then my new grandson will be old enough to help. (Had to work that in, didn’t I?)

So, I’m ready to tear out the tomato plants and the weeds and get the whole bed and pathway plan in place. And I need to keep taking notes on feeding organically. I’m making a garden notebook so I can gather everything I need to know and do into one place. That way, I can make a plan and also keep a record of what I’ve planted and all I’ve done to care for it. And maybe next time I’ll have oodles and oodles of tomatoes and can make salsa and tomato sauce and can some of them and there will be lots of cucumbers and I can make pickles and lots of beans to can and peppers to pickle and…

Armadillos, Dogs and Garden & Yard Mishaps

Yesterday morning when I opened the back door I saw my neighbor’s two dogs in my yard. That’s really unusual. I told my husband so he could go tell the neighbor so he could put them back in their pen before he left for work.  My husband thought maybe the dogs took care of the armadillo problem while they were out.

Oh, the armadillo problem. I thought if we put some concrete block things around the garden, the armadillo that has been tearing things up would just sort of nose around the edges and not bother to climb over. HA! I did a bit of reading on Texas A&M’s horticulture site and found out those critters can climb fences! The fellow who wrote the article said they were tearing up his yard and he thought they looked like possum on the half shell. He found out his neighbors didn’t appreciate the gunshots they heard in the night while he gathered his main stew ingredient. I decided if the armadillo doesn’t go away soon (had this problem off and on over the years) I’ll just put up a little electric fence outfit and that will keep him out.

So, yesterday afternoon our neighbor whose dogs were out knocked on our back door. He was holding a pair of tennis shoes in one hand, a single tennis shoe and a single garden glove in the other. “Are any of these yours?” he asked. I looked at the glove because we have some that are similar, but none of it was ours. I said something about his dogs bringing treasure home to him last night and he said he didn’t know who to return all this stuff to.

Then he noticed our garden and told me it was looking good. I told him how my cat ate the tops off my pepper and eggplant seedlings before I even got them ready to go outside and the armadillo has been tearing up the rest. It’s a wonder I have anything left. He said he put some mulch out in a flower bed and the next day there was a big hole and mulch piled up next to it. He said he was going to kill that armadillo and make chicharrones. (I knew I was familiar with that word but couldn’t place it. My son’s girlfriend said it’s fried pork skins. Oh, yeah. I’ve been eating that all my life.) My husband had come outside by this time and we told him that sounded good to us. And if I hear a gunshot from my neighbor’s house, I’ll head over there the next day and see if I can try his armadillo dish.

Had a couple of mishaps yesterday. I read in a magazine that an inexpensive bird bath can be rigged up with a 14″ round wire plant support and a 14″ plastic tray that goes under a potted plant. You know those plant supports that have three legs and a circle for the plant to stick out of? All you do, according the the article, is put the three support legs in the ground and put the tray on the top. I got these things and tried it. I’m glad I only bought enough to do one. When I put the water in the tray it fell through to the ground. So much for that. I just set the tray on the ground with some water in it. I do wonder sometimes if the folks who talk about all these great ideas in magazine articles ever actually try any of them before they tell millions of people to do these great things. Maybe they had a bigger lip on the tray and a stiffer tray than I had but mine didn’t work. I still want two bird baths – one for the front yard and one for the back.

Now, this mishap…oh, boy. We have expanded our garden this year and I decided if we move one more plant (it’s a Texas Star) we can take in another 10′ x 4′ area of what is now yard. I decided where to move the plant and it was only about 20 feet away. Yesterday after my husband got off work I asked him if he wanted to move the Texas Star and he said sure, so we did. Our garden is in our back yard. We put the Texas Star in the front yard.

Later, when I was thinking about some bricks I have stacked near the garden and the next project I have planned that I will use some of them for, I thought about the plant we moved and how I wanted to put that plant close to where those bricks are. Uh, oh. I had my husband put the Texas Star where I wanted to put the butterfly weed! (The only thing worse than being confused and knowing you are confused, is being confused and not finding out till later.) You know, this isn’t like saying, “Oh, honey, I think I might like that chair better over here. Can we try this spot?” He had to dig holes in the ground to move that thing. You guys reading this might suggest that next time I move it myself. My answer to you is that we have not had any decent amount of rain since I don’t know when. My yard is hard as a brick. I could put the shovel to the ground and jump up and down on it and it might break the grass but I don’t think it will break the ground. I haven’t told my husband yet.

Final note on the armadillo – My garden looks undisturbed this morning! There is only one freshly dug hole under the bird feeder. I wonder if there were two armadillos and the dogs got rid of one of them?

Well, I’m looking at hungry house finches, sparrows and doves, and have had a red-bellied woodpecker trying to drill holes (banging on the table is more like it!) on the wooden platform so I guess it’s time to take their breakfast out to them. Then I guess I’ll see what I’m going to do in the yard today.

Great Birding While Gardening

Wow. I’m really late getting my garden in this year. I’ve expanded it and we – my husband, son, my dad and myself – had to move some heavy things and cut through some clay that had my dad’s cultivator bouncing. It has been a lot of work but I like being outside, so that’s OK.

About all I have left of the many different seeds I started back during the winter is tomatoes. My cat didn’t like the tomato plants and that’s why. I’ve also planted beans and cucumbers. I sure hope this stuff comes up. An armadillo did a bit of his own digging in my garden and I hope I didn’t replant any sprouted beans too deeply.

Yesterday afternoon while I was planting tomatoes I was listening to a pileated woodpecker who sounded like he was laughing as he flew from tree to tree in the woods. Then I heard a single sound, “Peek!’, then in a minute I heard it again, and then once more. I wondered who that was and looked up at the mulberry tree and there was a rose-breasted grosbeak! Man, I wish there was a way to rig up binocular lenses that I could flip down over my glasses! I was pretty close, but binoculars would have been wonderful.

As I was watching him, I noticed another bird moving around in trees and brush near the mulberry. I knew that wasn’t one that I usually see but couldn’t identify it. Last night I looked in my book and I think it was a female summer tanager, but I’m not positive. I’ll have to watch for more of them.

At my feeders, I’ve had a female red-bellied woodpecker, two female house finches and one male, and yesterday evening an indigo bunting flew (probably from the feeder) into the window and knocked himself a bit silly. He sat on the fence awhile and waited for the stars he must have been seeing to go away. A couple weeks or so ago, I had a painted bunting on the feeder. Along with those birds, we have also had plenty of mourning doves, white-winged doves, sparrows of various types, cardinals, blue jays and chickadees.

I’ve been inside today catching up on things in here while I give my foot and knee a little time to rest. I flipped a heavy concrete thing over on my foot yesterday and really didn’t feel like using a shovel or standing a whole lot today. And my knee is just old and is complaining about all the bending. I may still get out there this evening a do just a little more. I have six more tomato plants that need to go into the ground.

Birds, Yard and Garden

Last time I wrote I was hoping I’d be able to move my arms and back after all the yard work I’d done. I was able and got a lot done last week. I worked outside six days in a row, followed by a day of rest on Sunday. I’ve worked out there a little this week and still have plenty to do. I want to get as much done as I can before I hear our weather man say the temperature will be 80 by 8:00 and 90 by noon!

A minute ago I watched a pair of cardinals on my feeder. I guess they just got married. (God marries the animals. My mom told me so when I was three years old.) I think when he feeds sunflower seeds to her, that is how they get married. I expect to see the young ‘uns on the feeder in a few weeks. They are always funny. They look like eight-year-old boys whose hair is never combed.

I have at least one blue jay (I can’t tell one from another so I don’t know if it’s the same bird each time or not.) who comes up to the feeder and picks up a peanut, puts it down, picks up a different peanut, puts it down…he does this several times before taking one and flying away. I don’t know if he is testing the weight to see which one is best, or if he’s trying to carry more than one and can’t fit them in his beak. I bet he’s testing weight. I think blue jays are too smart to keep doing the same dumb thing over and over and expecting different results. (Unlike some humans.)

I found out that the goldfinch that I thought was a straggler was part of a different bunch of birds. The ones we had this winter left, but about two weeks later a whole bunch more showed up. Now they are turning yellow. I had two of them on my window while ago. The seed had run out and they were looking inside the house. The only time birds ever cling to my screen or perch on my windowsill and look inside is when I’ve let the seed run out.

The other evening I saw three indigo buntings in my next door neighbor’s yard. I’d sure like to see a lot of those. I saw two or three last year, but we used to see them in flocks of 20-something.

I’m waiting for an orchard oriole. I forgot I was supposed to take the bee guards off the hummingbird feeder so they can drink from it. I learned that from a friend who says the orioles like her hummingbird feeder (the kind with the pretend flowers) better than her oriole feeder, but you have to take the guards off. I took them off yesterday.

The azaleas have finally bloomed! They were several weeks late. The man at the nursery where I got my milkweed the other day told us they had an Azalea Trail Tour in Houston at the usual time for seeing them loaded with blooms, but there wasn’t a bloom to be seen. I imagine that was a bust. I watched a swallowtail butterfly yesterday who was taking his own tour of my azalea flowers. I hope the swallowtails find the parsley I planted for them.

Lat year we thought my husband’s Texas Star was dead, but it has a bit of new growth on it this year. It always dies back and new shoots come up from the ground each year. There was no new growth last year. Weird. We still think the freeze got the lipstick plant and it may have wiped out my Lantana. I’ll give it a little more time just to make sure before I yank those out and put something else in their places. Also, a rosebush that I was ready to toss down the hill and into the woods must have heard me say I was going to do that. It’s looking great now. I’m glad because it’s a Seven Sister’s Rose and it’s pretty neat.

My beans are coming up. Something is munching on the leaves. I wonder if turtles eat bean plants? Oh, but it’s not time for turtles to be in the yard yet. They come up here in the spring to lay eggs but it’s too early. I think if it was a rabbit they would just gnaw them down to nubs. The leaves look like they’ve had a bite taken out here and bite out there. I need to put a small fence around my garden.

My cat – who at times like this reminds me of what a cute little black and white rug he’d make – has eaten most of my pepper plants. He got a few bites of the peanut plants, too. I put the peanut plants outside. I’m still working on getting the ground ready; we’ve been moving some bricks so the garden can be expanded.

Well, the work goes on. I sure have a lot of plans for my yard and I’m glad it’s staying cool longer than usual so I can get these things done.

Birds and Garden News

Here’s a little report on the goings on in my yard. The weather was beautiful today and I was able to go outside and get a few things done. Between the rake and the shovel – and the stooping and pulling – I ought to be on my way to becoming buff. Of course, it will take more than one day of hard work to get the chores done and to get myself in shape. I hope I can still move my back and arms tomorrow.

Got my Kentucky Wonder pole beans planted. I still have some mighty healthy weeds to remove so I can get the rest of the garden in. The herbs are doing great. The marjoram survived the winter along with dill, parsley, coriander, rosemary, spearmint and garlic chives. The green onions are looking good. Tomorrow I hope to deal with the weeds so I can get the vegetables and peanuts planted pretty soon. Peanuts are a new adventure for me. I do hope to get the other two parsley plants that I just bought in the ground tomorrow. Can’t have too much parsley if I hope to have swallowtail butterflies again this year. Something I still need is milkweed for the monarchs. I was told their numbers are down due to weather and loss of habitat, so I sure want to be able to feed any monarch caterpillars that may show up.

I saw a gold finch today at my feeder. I guess he’s a straggler. The rest of them left 2 or 3 weeks ago. My buff-bellied hummingbird left the second week of March. We hope he comes back next winter. I won’t let my husband mow the part of the yard that I call our “meadow” until after the wildflowers bloom, but there are a few things that come up that we don’t want growing out there. So, today I was pulling them and I saw the first ruby-throated hummingbird for this year. Well, the first one for my yard. I have a friend who had her first – two in one day! – on March 15. We put a hummingbird feeder out near the back of the yard hoping for a visit from the orchard oriole. He was in the woods behind our house last year, so we hope to entice him to come a bit closer. Anyway, that’s where I saw the hummingbird. It may be my imagination but he looked pretty worn out and hungry to me. I need to get some food in the other two feeders tomorrow so I’ll be ready for the rest of them.

I sure hope I can move my back and arms tomorrow.

Yard, Gardening and Bird Adventures

Well, here’s a bit of an update on the yard, gardening activities and birds. You know a while back we had a pretty deep freeze for this part of the country and a bit of snow, too. Right now the only green on the lawn is clover (love it!) and weeds (got work to do there). The grass is still brown. My freesias are blooming but they are surrounded by brown fern, so they could be looking better. I managed to get some of the damage out of the flower bed but I didn’t quite make it over that far.

My husband’s used to be really tall cactus that we cut damage off of after the freeze flopped over a couple days ago. Well, part of it flopped over. The part that is still standing is just as dead as the part that fell though. I told him the Portulaca seedlings I have going will look really nice in place of that cactus.

We’re not sure about the satsuma tree. It has no buds on it at all. Neither does my father in law’s.

The other day I transplanted – up to bigger containers – 32 tomato plants. I put them deeper in the soil than what they were growing so they can develop more roots. I want to plant them the week after Easter and I want some good roots going first. Our average last frost date here is March 15th but I don’t trust it this year, so I’m giving it a couple more weeks just to be safe.

Gotta’ tell you the other day when I went out to the garden shed to transplant the tomatoes I put my hand up inside of some brown paper that my dill is wrapped in. It’s hanging to dry and when I did that, I thought it’s probably getting a bit late in the winter to be doing that – putting my hand where I can’t see what might be there – so I better not do that again. Might be a wasp in there before too long. Then I looked over at the window and saw a snake skin looped over a fishing rod that is stored horizontally above the window. I don’t reckon I will put my hand where I can’t see – probably ever again. Oh, it looks like it might be a baby rat snake’s skin. It looked pretty cool just like it was so I didn’t want to take it down and count scales and all that to try to identify it.

I have bell pepper seedlings and eggplant seedlings to put in bigger containers in a day or two. And, the coolest thing! A friend gave me some peanuts to plant. It was a little kit thing with a pot and the planting medium and the peanuts. I have a sprout! I can hardly wait to see how this little adventure goes. I’ve never grown my own peanuts. (I can see my grandpa smiling. He grew up on a peanut farm in Mississippi.)

I ran across an old email the other day where I was telling a friend about some baby hummingbirds on our Lantana. That was in June of 2006. Sure would be cool to see that again. Right now the goldfinches are on their way to their summer home. I haven’t see one in a couple days. Yesterday five of them were spotted at a feeder down the street but only two of them were there today. I haven’t seen the little buff-bellied hummingbird today, but I was gone most of the morning. I only saw him once or twice yesterday. I’ve learned that blue jays have a really pretty sound they make. It sounds downright melodious. I thought they only squawked, so this is a neat discovery. I wonder if it’s their spring song, to attract a mate? Oh, I’ve started putting crushed shells from boiled eggs out on the feeder so the birds can get some calcium. They need it so their eggs will have good strong shells.

Well, that’s my report for this time. And it’s time that I get outside in this sunshine and get the rest of the weeds out of the flower bed so the freesias can shine. I hope things are going well in your garden and yard.