Archive | May 2014

The Roller Coaster

Bloody Mary with a lovage straw. This huge tropical-looking herb grows well in wet soil north of the pond, and its aromatic stalks are hollow, the perfect garnish.

Bloody Mary with a lovage straw. This huge tropical-looking herb grows well in wet soil north of the pond, and its aromatic stalks are hollow, the perfect garnish.

This Memorial Day Sunday, a week early if you ask me, has truly signaled the beginning of the roller coaster that is the summer season. Despite last night’s fresh snow on the mountains. We got half an inch of rain! It was great to wake up and not have to water anything; I had a pie to bake. After a kickoff brunch with Bloody Marys, arugula-ricotta-wild mushroom tart, veggie and homegrown-beef kebabs and venison ribs, fresh-picked wild asparagus, garden salad, and a homegrown-rhubarb pie with whipped cream, I returned home to my desk, and looked out the window to see a Bullock’s Oriole peering in at me. They winter in Central America and summer here; ergo, it must be summer! It’s a rare sighting, I’m lucky if I see one in a year. I hope he’ll stay around. I’ll buy an orange tomorrow, as incentive.

I’ve spent the past two weeks managing out-of-control weeds. Mustards, cheatgrass, and Poa bulbosa, my new nemesis, and many more, are rampaging through the yard sucking spring moisture from the ground, growing as fast as I can get them cut. But they tend to stay gone when they’re pulled by hand. Some zones in the garden get this special attention, while the farther edges of the yard get weed-whacked by Chris now and then. I have surrendered to the Bad Grass. All of it. I will never win. The bumper crop of Bulbosa this year finally made me throw in the towel. The best I can hope for, I’ve concluded, is to carve my paths through the bad grasses. Maybe a good approach to life in general. Live and learn. Never let someone else spread grass seed in your yard. Also, be careful of planting a perennial that someone tells you “can spread.”

“They love to look like each other,” said Katrina yesterday morning as she was pulling dwarf goldenrod shoots from among the Penstemon strictus shoots. I’m sure these two plants resemble each other even when they’re not mingled in the same bed, but the ones you want to get rid of seem to be able to look more like the ones you want to keep the more you try to get rid of them. Bindweed, for example. And these intransigent goldenrods: At the time I planted a one-gallon pot of this ornamental goldenrod I didn’t really understand the concept of “can spread.” Like many ornamentals they are just an attractive exotic invasive. I bought a grass the other day in a small pot, thinking it was a bunch grass. When I looked it up, sweet vernal grass, it turns out to be a problem weed in some parts of the country; it “can spread.” So that one will go in a pot for the summer and probably die next winter.

The past two weeks, days have either been cold and grey or been crazy with bees.

Nepeta everywhere is covered with bees of all kinds.

Nepeta everywhere is covered with bees of all kinds.

At least five kinds of bumblebees are feeding in the garden. When I get time, when the roller coaster slows a bit, I'll turn to the Bumblebee Guide and find all their names.

At least five kinds of bumblebees are feeding in the garden. When I get time, when the roller coaster slows a bit, I’ll sit down with my bumblebee images and the Western Bumblebee Guide and find all their names.

The sphinx moth is also attracted to Nepeta, and sometimes out in the morning.

The sphinx moth is also attracted to Nepeta, and sometimes out in the morning.

The Little Red Bumblebee, I call it...

The Little Red Bumblebee, I call it…

 

May 9, the bee tree was briefly the crabapple down by the pond.

May 9, the bee tree was briefly the crabapple down by the pond.

Honeybee on Fuji.

Honeybee on Fuji.

May 17, these caterpillars are crawling the walls all over Crawford. Covering the walkways, on every living thing, looking for a place to pupate. We hope they are innocuous salt-marsh caterpillars and will turn into benign white moths. We'll know more later!

May 17, these caterpillars are crawling the walls all over Crawford. Covering the walkways, on every living thing, looking for a place to pupate. We hope they are innocuous salt-marsh caterpillars and will turn into benign white moths. We’ll know more later!

Even Marrubium, the silver-leaf horehound, is covered with tiny flowers and intermittent bees.

Even Marrubium, the silver-leaf horehound, is covered with tiny flowers and intermittent bees.

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I let the dandelions grow on the fringes of the garden beds, on the edges of paths. They're an important early source for all the species of bees.

I let the dandelions grow on the fringes of the garden beds, on the edges of paths. They’re an important early source for all the species of bees.

I've only seen a hummingbird once at this scarlet gilia that sprang up in the spring border. I sometimes sit nearby and wait with the camera. One of these days...

I’ve only seen a hummingbird once at this scarlet gilia that sprang up in the spring border. I sometimes sit nearby and wait with the camera. One of these days…

Little mat daisies spread readily, beautiful and benign. I don't mind.

Little mat daisies spread readily, beautiful and benign. I don’t mind.

Their little white petals have pink candy-stripes on their undersides, making little red buds.

Their little white petals have pink candy-stripes on their undersides, making little red buds.

This little red fly also enjoys the mat daisies.

This little red fly also enjoys the mat daisies.

The first big iris opened a week ago. Two days ago this one popped and the little red bumblebees love it.

The first big iris opened a week ago. Two days ago this one popped and the little red bumblebees love it.

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Friday night's rain.

Friday night’s rain.

The bee tree yesterday was the Amur maple.

The bee tree yesterday was the Amur maple, which came as a surprise…

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I expected it would be the lilac, but it took me three days to get three good shots of a bee on the lilacs, and three minutes to get three good shots of bees on the maple.

I expected it would be the lilac, but it took me three days to get three good shots of bees on the lilacs, and three minutes to get three good shots of bees on the maple.

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The first blue flax opened just a week ago, and now waves of this delicate flower flow through the garden feeding bees big and small.

The first blue flax opened just a week ago, and now waves of this delicate flower flow through the garden feeding bees big and small.

Mixed in with the flax and also in waves here and there through the garden, I let the native plains mustard grow where it will.

Mixed in with the flax and also in waves here and there through the garden, I let the native plains mustard grow where it will.

Pink chintz creeping thyme flowers between flagstones.

Pink chintz creeping thyme flowers between flagstones.

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All the bumblebees are all over the Ajuga blooms.

All the bumblebees are all over the Ajuga blooms.

This giant yellow bumblebee is twice the size of the little red one. Probably Bombus nevadensis, or morrisoni, but I'll have to study on that, compare things like tongue length and facial structure, count colored bands, all with the guide and images before me.

This giant yellow bumblebee is twice the size of the little red one. Probably Bombus nevadensis, or morrisoni, but I’ll have to study on that, compare things like tongue length and facial structure, count colored bands, all with the guide and images before me. Maybe I’ll print it and take it outside with the Papilio binoculars.

Unsettled weather. The days are a riot of ups and downs. Five days in a row of clouds and rain, then eighty degrees and shining sun for a week bake the ground. Carrots and beets emerged two days ago, and transplanted tomatoes and peppers hang on despite cold nights, while melons, zucchini, and more peppers and tomatoes in pots continue to come in at night. Arugula, parsley, lettuce and kale are popping up, and peas are two inches tall. I cling to the illusion of control in the wild ride of the summer garden. Soon the weeds will be tamed for the season, and before you know it harvest madness will be upon us. Let the party begin!

 

the Merry Month of May

Before.

Before.

One thing Katrina taught me last year is that no matter how hard it is, it’s essential to cut back your flowers early so they’ll double and triple their blooms as they grow. It’s so hard to snip those little blips of color when you pot up the annuals, but trust me ~ trust Katrina ~ you’ll be glad you did.

After. The same pot trimmed of flowers, with an Early Girl tomato behind it in a wall-of-water; again, hedging my bets.

After. The same pot trimmed of flowers, with an Early Girl tomato behind it in a wall-of-water; hedging my bets.

After After. Don't despair. Clipping back the blossoms isn't a total loss.

After After. Don’t despair. Clipping back the blossoms isn’t a total loss.

Another pot whose blossoms contributed to the vase. After a feeding and a few weeks its flowers will be spilling over.

Another pot whose blossoms contributed to the vase. After a feeding and a few weeks its flowers will flourish.

The Fuji apple. All the apples are in bloom except the wild one, which has finished and is already leafing out. Tomorrow's predicted snow and two sub-freezing nights may do them in. I've got my fingers crossed.

The Fuji apple. All the apples are in bloom except the wild one, which has finished and is already leafing out. Tomorrow’s predicted snow and two sub-freezing nights may do them in. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

I bought a little blue tractor from Gardeners' Supply for a well-spent ninety dollars. No motor, but I can scoot along the paths sideways, sitting and weeding. After two years of consideration I finally ordered it, and assembled it, when I was hobbled a few weeks ago by plantar fasciitis.

I bought a little blue tractor from Gardeners’ Supply for a well-spent ninety dollars. No motor, but I can scoot along the paths sideways, sitting and weeding. After two years of consideration I finally ordered it, and assembled it, when I was hobbled a few weeks ago by plantar fasciitis.

The Bombay Wall and the crabapple in glorious bloom.

The Bombay Wall and the crabapple in glorious bloom.

The birch tree leafing out to shade the beehive, with grape hyacinths still in full bloom. Joseph left a message yesterday telling me he just caught a swarm, suggesting my hive could swarm any minute, wondering if I was out catching one right now. Such a thoughtful call; I wasn't, but I think the bees have been out scouting for awhile now. If in fact they did choose me this is why: I am going to let them fly.

The birch tree leafing out to shade the beehive, with grape hyacinths still in full bloom. Joseph left a message yesterday telling me he just caught a swarm, suggesting my hive could swarm any minute, wondering if I was out catching one right now. Such a thoughtful call; I wasn’t, but I think the bees have been out scouting for awhile now. If in fact they did choose me this is why: I am going to let them fly.

The delicate scent of lilacs held in limbo ~ they started to open in last week's warm weather, and seem to have stopped themselves the past few days of lingering winter.

The delicate scent of lilacs held in limbo ~ they started to open in last week’s warm weather, and seem to have stopped themselves the past few days of lingering winter.

Last year's self-sown lettuce (clipped back yesterday) spilled over the corner of the bed where yesterday I planted two types of carrots.

Last year’s self-sown lettuce (clipped back yesterday) spilled over the corner of the bed where yesterday I planted two types of carrots.

Fall-planted spinach and cilantro interspersed with feral garlic and two winter squashes I put in the tunnel a few days ago, hoping they'll withstand the next few freezing nights and get a good head start for summer.

Fall-planted spinach and cilantro interspersed with feral garlic and two winter squashes I put in the tunnel a few days ago, hoping they’ll withstand the next few freezing nights and get a good head start for summer.

Digging into the south border to plant a new little silver thyme I uncovered this chrysalis. Or casement. Bigger than my pinkie finger. So huge and unexpected I thought it might have been a stray seashell accidentally buried in the garden, I gently squeezed it. When it gave slightly, I dropped it back into the dirt. I hope it's not a giant green tomato worm waiting to hatch.

Digging into the south border to plant a new little silver thyme I uncovered this chrysalis. Or casement. Bigger than my pinkie finger. So huge and unexpected I thought it might have been a stray seashell accidentally buried in the garden, I gently squeezed it. When it gave slightly, I dropped it back into the dirt. I hope it’s not a giant green tomato worm waiting to hatch.

Mountains shrouded in winter mist and freshly weeded flagstone, with the sweet young aspen sapling in spring green.

Mountains shrouded in winter mist and freshly weeded flagstone, with the sweet young aspen sapling in spring green.

Dog and hose.

Dog and hose.

Stellar the Stardog is a hopeless lounge lizard. Seriously.

Stellar the Stardog is a hopeless lounge lizard. Seriously.

Bling on my big toe.

Big toe bling. Fresh happy nails for summer.

“How many cats do you have?” asked Andy, the young Vietnamese man massaging my calf before polishing my toenails. He was looking at the various hairs on my pants. Deb treated me to a mani-pedi when I accompanied her to Montrose for a dentist appointment.

“Just one,” I said, “and two dogs.” I realized with a slight shock as we waited our turn and I observed the shining shins of the women already underway that I hadn’t shaved my legs since last summer. “All this,” I added, sweeping my hand up my calf, “is also hair from the cat, all stuck on my legs.” I shrieked as he cleaned one of my nails. “Baby guts,” said Deb. I doubt she’ll ever take me out for a spa day again.

“You want cheese grater?” he asked, and scraped and scraped at my calloused heels. “I’m a gardener,” I explained. “You want flower?” he said, after he’d painted my nails red. I have only had a few pedicures in my life, and never a professional manicure, and never ever painted flowers on my nails. “Sure,” I said. You can’t have too many flowers. A tiny work of art is what he did, with a drop of white polish, a toothpick, and a little bead.

With all I’ve had on my mind lately ~ this inexplicable dizziness, a new foot pain, the flush of lush spring weeds and bad grasses, and peer pressure to exterminate prairie dogs ~ this little indulgence brings a jolt of joy each time I look down in bare feet.

 

“Beauty is not optional. Art is not something peripheral, but literally a strategy for survival.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams

 

My Fleeting Infatuation with iPhone 5

The first cactus blossom on a walk to the canyon.

The first cactus blossoms on a walk to the canyon.

I thought I’d upgrade my phone, so shopped around for the best deal on phone and server, and chose to switch to Virgin Mobile from AT&T for a couple of reasons: Over the course of two years, I’d save a bunch of money, and the service is better in the remote valley where I live. I could even use my cell phone inside my home, instead of having to step outside and angle for decent reception. I was thrilled to open my new iPhone 5. There’s no denying I’m an Apple fan; the products are elegant in every sense of the word, and customer service is beyond reproach.

The first wallflowers bloomed a week ago, early according to my records.

The first wallflowers bloomed a week ago, early according to my records.

After a great setup experience at the small local cellular store, I returned home to find that the sleek, sexy phone would not sync with my computer. Every time I tried to open iTunes with the phone plugged in, iTunes “quit unexpectedly.” After five hours of troubleshooting on the phone with a total of five Apple techs, the last one patched me in to Virgin Mobile support, and my wasted afternoon turned into a customer service nightmare. The upshot of it all is, in order to get another brand new phone from them rather than a refurbished phone I have to mail them back the phone at my expense, and only then will they credit my card. Then I can buy another new phone from them. They refused to email or text me return instructions and transaction numbers, which feels shady to me, insisting I copy them down over the phone; I wonder if I’ll get my not insignificant amount of money back at all.

I kept my cool the whole five hours with Apple tech support. I lost my temper pretty quickly with the two Virgin Mobile reps I spoke with. For one thing, their Hold Music, of which I heard a lot, was so jarring, a repetitive jangle of a few bars of hard music interspersed with various bands announcing with commercial radio enthusiasm “Hi! We’re some band you never heard of! You’re listening to Virgin Mobile Live! Stay tuned!” on a staticky connection. The main guy I talked with, Paolo, was the most obsequious long-winded person I’ve ever encountered on a service call. I can’t even repeat his redundant blather. And I have to ask myself the difficult question, did their challenging accents contribute to my frustration with them? Am I biased in favor of native-English-speaking customer support?

The wild pink phlox opened a few days before the wallflowers. Most of the May flowers started to open in April this year. Not really a surprise given the mostly mild wet winter.

The wild pink phlox opened a few days before the wallflowers. Most of the May flowers started to open in April this year. Not really a surprise given the mostly mild wet winter.

So knowing that today I would erase the little I had added to the new phone and send it back, I took it out for a walk last evening to check out the camera. One reason I wanted this new phone, after almost four years of immense satisfaction with iPhone 4, is that the camera is supposedly significantly improved. I also needed more memory, because I became a fan of apps like the Audubon Field Guide to Butterflies, and Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds of North America. They take a lot of space, and I need more than most people for photos and videos, too.

Ice Canyon shot with iPhone 5 on the Square setting. I guess these images are better quality than with iPhone 4, but not as dramatically different as I had hoped. But at least I've captured the last little bits of ice remaining at the base of the cliff.

Ice Canyon shot with iPhone 5 on the new Square setting. I guess these images are better quality than with iPhone 4, but not as dramatically different as I had hoped. But at least I’ve captured the last little bits of ice remaining at the base of the cliff. And that’s a good sign of the warming season.

I liked using the phone. The camera has some nice features like a Square setting. I became enamored of square shots using the Hipstamatic app on my trusty iPhone 4 (my “girlfriend camera” because of her pink case and flirty form), and took to cropping many of the shots I take with my “husband camera” as squares also. I like the perspective. It also has a panorama setting with which I had no success, not too surprising since I didn’t bother with instructions. And it offers slow-motion video, which holds promise for a lot of fun. The rest of the phone also has some enticing new features, like voice texting, and many more I haven’t taken time to explore.

The West Elk Mountains with plenty of snow for summer's irrigation. Not as crisp an image as I expected from the new phone.

Beyond Buck Canyon, the West Elk Mountains with plenty of snow for summer’s irrigation. Not as crisp an image as I expected from the new phone. Imagine! Expecting any kind of image from a phone…

I guess I got all I could expect from any kind of fling. A fleeting infatuation and some deep disappointment. Today I break up with iPhone 5 and return to my sweet, dependable 4. Will I switch carriers back to spotty but professional AT&T? Will I try again with another and more compatible iPhone 5? Will Virgin Mobile come through despite their questionable protocol and actually return my money? And how many more precious hours of this beautiful spring season will I waste trying to find the perfect cellular plan with the right carrier? Meanwhile, as soon as it warms up a little, I’ll take that phone out for one last walk on this gorgeous morning, and see what other wildflowers I can find in the right light. In fact, I’ll try hard to see everything in the right light today.

Without my botanist friend Gretchen to remind me on our annual spring walks, I have forgotten the names of many of the native plants that adorn the forest floor. Or maybe it's just age, or the continuing effects of whatever is going on in my brain that's causing the dizzies. Anyway, here's something lovely blooming out of sheer rock on the rim.

Without my botanist friend Gretchen to remind me on our annual spring walks, I have forgotten the names of many of the native plants that adorn the forest floor. Or maybe it’s just age, or another effect of whatever is going on in my brain that’s causing the continuing dizzies. Anyway, here’s something lovely blooming out of sheer rock on the rim. 

Screaming Orange Globemallow, Sphaeralcia, one of my favorites, took me quite by surprise when I noticed the first open bloom next to the snake den on the rim.

Screaming Orange Globemallow, Sphaeralcea, one of my favorites, took me quite by surprise when I noticed the first open bloom next to the snake den on the rim.

Again whose name I forget, in a perfect circle amid cryptobiotic soil beside the trail home.

Again whose name I forget, in a perfect circle amid cryptobiotic soil beside the trail home.

Claret cup buds already forming

Claret cup buds already forming on the largest consistently blooming cluster in the woods.

A rare native plant which hasn't come up for the past three years, Thelypodiopsis juniperorum; I've found five individuals in the past week, just one of the many reasons this habitat is so special. This image and the next were shot with Hipstamatic on iPhone 4; all the previous images were taken with the new, faulty, disappointing iPhone 5. I may just stick with my girlfriend camera after all...

A rare native plant which hasn’t come up for the past three years, Thelypodiopsis juniperorum; I’ve found five individuals in the past week, just one of the many reasons this habitat is so special.

The juniper tumblemustard above and the next image were shot with Hipstamatic on iPhone 4; all the previous images were taken with the standard camera on the new, faulty, disappointing iPhone 5. Is it really that much better? I may just stick with my girlfriend camera after all…

Snowmelt roaring down the North Fork River with

Snowmelt roaring down the North Fork River at the Hotchkiss bridge, with Mt. Lamborn and Lands End beyond.