Six on Saturday, 2020-05-30

We’re writing this sitting outside, listening to a whippoorwill and various frogs, drinking a Wicked Weed Pernicious IPA, smiling at fireflies.

1. Dramatic elder shot

Nascent Sambucus nigra (elder) flowers against the sky

2. Asclepius syriaca (common milkweed)

I swear I saw a monarch butterfly fluttering around these today.

Asclepius syriaca (common milkweed) in flower

3. Papaver somniferum

Everything about the form of this plant is gorgeous. The way the bud nestles into the frilling leaves makes my heart sing.

Papaver somniferum preparing a flower

4. Cherries

Two cherry trees were here when I bought the place. I’ve recently discovered they were planted without un-balling the roots. In previous years, I’ve gotten two or three cherries from one of the trees. This year that tree is covered in fruits. These are the first to start ripening.

Cherries are ripening

5. What is that??

The question every guest asks. The answer: Magnolia macrophylla (bigleaf magnolia). Purchased at NC Botanical Garden’s fall plant sale.

If it does well, I won’t have a front yard any more, which is fine with me.

Magnolia macrophylla with adult legs for scale

6. Perfect curl

This is the happiest of the pumpkin plants I randomly planted in various spots.

Happy, tendrilly pumpkin plant

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator. Roundup of all participants here.

Not quite catch-up

Tuesday 2020-05-26

  • Planted 28 Eryngium yuccafolium (rattlesnake master) seedlings from one wintersowing container in the new bed I finished Monday
Some of 28 Eryngium yuccafolium seedlings and the container they were wintersown in
  • Also planted in the same bed the two Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’ that came up from seed
  • Dreamed of a whole garden section full of different Eryngium and Echinops species
  • Did not realize I should have cut the grass while I had a chance. I still thought the ground was too soggy

Wednesday 2020-05-27

  • Inexplicably awake at 4:45am (well, the pain flare-up that started Tuesday probably helps explain it). By then I knew days of rain would be starting again by mid-morning, so I planned to get up and cut the grass after animal care. But it was already starting to drizzle while I did animal care.
  • I ran around and got my last four tomato plants, one pepper plant, and three butternut squash plants in the ground and mulched things before the full deluge started
  • Day 7 of nine guinea eggs in incubator. Candled them and eight of them were fertile and developing!

Thursday 2020-05-28

  • Rain
  • Rain
  • Rain
  • Lurkey spent the day in the neighbors’ yard instead of mine
  • Rain
  • Worked too long and got slightly ill in the evening

Friday 2020-05-29

  • Lurkey was back in the neighbors’ yard in the first part of the day. I tried to coax him back to his normal area on my lunch break, but he was having none of it.
  • However, at the end of my work day, he was roaming my yard, the goat pasture, and down the road a bit. I am now remembering that around this time last year is when he started to not be quite so aggressive and focused on the neighbors’ chicken run, and began exploring the surrounding areas.
Lurkey perched on the goat pasture fence. Gimlet and Toddy in the background.
  • Pulled three cement-mixing-trays full of weeds and grass
  • Pruned back seeding heads of Lunaria annua in northeast corner of house bed area
  • Got excited about more henbane flowers:
Another Hyoscyamus niger (henbane) plant is flowering
  • Enjoyed this area:
Purple-themed perennial area at corner of driveway and roadside ditch. Hibiscus ‘Holy Grail’, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ (bronze fennel), Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’ (Diabolo ninebark), Salvia ‘Amistad’, and a Forsythia
Hibiscus ‘Holy Grail’
Flowers of Salvia ‘Amistad’ pleasing my eye against the Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’ (ninebark)

Technical difficulties and other crap

And so we disappeared for several days due to silly technical crap related to domain registration. Now that that’s sorted, we should be good going forward.
It’s unlikely I’ll go back and fill in those Daily Log posts, but I will use this post to highlight some other crap.
Let’s start literally…
One of the chickens lodged a complaint about my next batch of chicken sticks.

Sticks laying on a tarp to dry. A chicken has pooped on them.
Chicken’s way of saying: “Here’s what I think of your ‘chicken sticks'”

Last weekend I staked up the Ruta graveolens that had collapsed in the rain. It was a very sunny day, and I was aware that rue+sun can be problematic, because I’d read:
Eickhorst K, DeLeo V, Csaposs J. Rue the herb: Ruta graveolens–associated phytophototoxicity. Dermatitis. 2007;18(1):52‐55. doi:10.2310/6620.2007.06033
We describe an unusual case of phytophototoxicity induced by an herbal plant, Ruta graveolens, from the Rutaceae family. This common herb, also called rue, can be found throughout rural settings in the United States. When psoralens from rue come in contact with human skin that is subsequently exposed to ultraviolet A light, an impressive photoirritant reaction can occur. This report both clarifies the distinguishing features of photoirritant reactions versus photoallergic reactions and reviews the pathophysiology and clinical presentation of phytophotodermatitis. R. graveolens can be associated with an impressive photoirritant reaction and should not be used as an insect repellent.
I washed my arms off with Joy dish liquid just after finishing the staking. But this was still the result:

Skin blisters from exposure to Ruta graveolens
Blisters on my forearms from exposure to Ruta graveolens (rue)

Dark red non-blistered areas also formed on my forearms. The good news is this didn’t itch or hurt. It was only uncomfortable if I directly poked a blister, but— you know— don’t DO that.
Lessons learned: wear long sleeves when dealing with rue and/or wait until it isn’t sunny.

Here is why I have to put up ~6″ mulch containment fences:

All the mulch on the tarp… used to be on the bed to the right of the tarp. Thanks, chickens.

And, we’ll wrap up with some more literal crap and some of the wonderous things that like to grow in it.

Some kind of ink cap mushroom oozing away before my eyes in the goat-poop-straw

2020-05-25 log

The big job of the day was converting this full-sun area that had been under occultation for a long time (not sure when I put the tarp down!).

It had been long enough that I found basically no viable Cynodon dactylon rhizomes further than a foot in from the edges—they were all brown and rotting. I did find a lot of rocks, though:

I planted and staked four more tomatoes (Green Vernissage and Juliet) and made cages to keep the chickens off the little plants. Then I partly mulched the area.

Still need to install ~6″ mulch containment fence around the bed areas, thanks to the chickens. Then I will also mulch the paths. I also have some native perennials to plant in the other ends of the bed spaces from the tomatoes.

A couple of shots from the bed out of frame to the left of the previous photo:

Silene undulata (African dream root), started from seed in winter of 2018/2019

Eryngium species started from seed in winter 2018/2019. I need to look up what species/variety this is.

And that was enough for the day…

Cinnamon Chicken feet

2020-05-24 log

Started the day removing Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda grass) from a to-be bed that was in semi-shade. Worked there while talking on the phone with my cousin, and it became quite sunny within an hour and I was already filthy when I stopped for a slightly early lunch.

Forearm after removing gloves for lunch. This is not a suntan.

Switched to a guinea coop renovation project after lunch.

Guinea coop before

Before, there was one long roost parallel to coop length up at the top, and a number of roosts perpendicular to coop length at varying heights. The problem with the cross-roosts is I never found a good, secure way to attach them to the hardware cloth sides of the coop without movement. Whatever I tried, the force of birds landing on and taking off from the roosts eventually tore them loose. Plus, when a bird landed on or took off from a roost, it made a very loud sound that made me duck and cringe.

Guinea coop after

After: three roosts, all parallel to length of coop. There was some confusion (and grumbling from the chickens) about how to roost with the new arrangement, but I expect they will get into a routine soon. I did find one guinea hen sleeping on the floor of the coop at 2:55am when I went out to do rounds after that grey-and-white cat who has been hanging around woke me up yowling outside (which was driving Hermes nuts).

We’ll see if I got the spacing right this morning, by seeing how many birds got pooped on in the night. Adjustments may be in order.

Anyway, this whole project took four times longer than expected (as usual) and wore me out more than seems reasonable.

Cinnamon Chicken was definitely a bird-about-the-yard.

Cinnamon Chicken helpfully perches on the wheelbarrow

Cinnamon Chicken is queen of the mulch pile

In the evening, I moved to another bed to continue Cynodon dactylon removal, pulling back the tarp to reveal a very large spider, which Cinnamon Chicken ate, and a toad, which Cinnamon Chicken excitedly ran toward, but which I was happily able to capture and save from a terribly brutal end.

And there was another snake friend near the guinea coop. As long as they are not eating keets, I’m happy to have them around.

Today’s black snake encounter

And finally, after dinner I found a tick on the outside of my left thigh. This is a weird place for a tick because I tuck my pants into my socks, tuck my shirt into my pants, and wear a belt. I will be checking my pants for a hole, I guess.

Six on Saturday

I’m posting this Sunday morning, because I fell asleep while uploading the photos last night.

1. Morus rubra ‘Silk Hope’

I do not know for sure that this is the ‘Silk Hope’ variety but given that it is growing in Silk Hope and is known for ‘weedy’ qualities, I assume so. I have been enjoying snacking on these berries, regardless.

Morus rubra ‘Silk Hope’ (with Cinnamon Chicken butt)

2. Lilium ‘Merlot’ petal

A sort of homage to Georgia O’Keefe

A petal fallen from the glorious Lilium ‘Merlot’

3. Leonurus cardiaca (motherwort) in the golden hour

Leonurus cardiaca (motherwort) at the golden hour

4. A lot going on

Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ planted this year, and given a new, real, stake today instead of the long stick I’d been using.

Asparagus flowering.

Messy, over-heaped burn pile, because after a while, I worry someone has taken up residence in the pile and don’t want to set it on fire. Also, I now worry this pile is too close to some plants and will scorch them if I light it. Also, I put fresh stuff on the pile that won’t burn; then, it rains. So this really isn’t an optimal way to deal with this material. Another thing to think through…

Lurkey lurking in the background. I think perhaps I did not see him puffed up and strutting at all yesterday, and he didn’t approach me aggressively. Perhaps we have turned a seasonal corner, and he’ll go back to being my distant gardening companion now?

Newly staked Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’, flowering asparagus, Guardian Rabbit, messy burn pile, and Lurkey lurking

5. Verbascum ‘Dark Eyes’

I had no idea tiny, decorative Verbascums existed, so I impulse-purchased this at Big Bloomers last year. Every time I think it has reached peak flower density, it proves me wrong.

Verbascum ‘Dark Eyes’

6. Snakes mating on self-heal

This was the most amazing thing… Friday afternoon I coaxed a sunning black snake out of the road in front of my house. Yesterday morning, I had a visit from a black snake in the south side yard. Yesterday evening I noticed a very strange sort of thrashing sound and movement and discovered two snakes twining together at the southeast corner of my house. Their mating lasted over an hour, and took place over and around a patch of Prunella vulgaris (self-heal), my Hamamelis vernalis (vernal witch hazel), and a young Aruncus dioica (goat’s beard) just about to flower. I basically stopped in my tracks and watched until night was falling and I needed to coop the guineas, because it was mesmerizing and something I’d never seen. I came back with a couple of guinea eggs for the pair after cooping the birds, but they were gone.

Black rat snakes mating in Prunella vulgaris (self-heal)

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator, and other entries can be viewed at the weekly post there.

2020-05-23 log

  • Light weeding/neatening up
  • Cut back Artemisia absinthium yet again, this time more emphatically
  • Staked lily bed and Ruta graveolens flopped over from the rain
  • Pruned Lurkey’s flight path
    • He’d been roosting across the street for a few nights, and I thought it was because the leafed-out trees had closed up his usual flight path. He was back in the huge sugar maple next door last nightm so I might have right. The goats appreciated having a bunch of mulberry branches
  • Planted out seedlings: cucumbers, sour gherkins, and some tomatoes, peppers, and squash
  • Staked Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ with real stake
    • I do not, as a general practice, stake young trees, but this is for training this weeping-form tree to grow taller
  • Gathered and moved rocks unearthed by the fiber-installation process, so they don’t kill my lawnmower blade