Photo Friday: follow me!

You’ve been here many times before, but I had so much fun discovering what’s been happening behind the scenes that I just had to share with you dear reader.

First, thing you’ll notice is that my sunflowers are now about 12 feet tall! Walking in the garden with these behemoths towering overhead makes me feel like a child again…

But now I turn your attention to looking closer, underneath the leaves here, where you will find squash blossoms and immature fruits awaiting pollination. 

What’s that you say?

You spy bugs in the blossoms?

Not to worry.  Keep up with me now.

Here’s a surprise!  Naked Ladies bounding up from the ground where I was sure they would be never seen again!   You see there was in incident with that rototiller earlier in the season…  Yet there were survivors and…


Oh, yes I saw it too, another little bug in the flower, and it’s eating the pollen you say?  Don’t worry, just follow me…

 Having never grown cotton before I was enchanted with how the flower buds reminded me of ceremonial Thai hats.

We had a couple of 2 X 4 Tarter tank water troughs hanging about, left over from brooding chicks and geese.  So we moved one into the garden and attached a lovely faucet handle (brought all the way from the house in California) into the drain hole.  Now I fill it from the well and it gently soaks the garden on days with no rain.  I think it looks lovely and it is definitely practical don’t you agree?

I thought these were stunning so I captured them for you too...

 I’ve entitled it: 

A Mother’s Adoration

So as you have noticed I have bugs.  I chose not to spray and that’s what you get when you don’t use chemicals.  Lots of bugs!  Instead I planted flowers in the midst of the garden and that, my friends, brought in more bugs.

the reinforcements!

So, allow me to introduce you to my equalizers…

The Fairy Lacewing

A Dragonfly

(He must have flown in from my last post! 😉 )

Looking closely we see evidence that parasitic wasps have taken up residence amongst the tomatoes…  I know it offends your sensibilities, and for that I am sorry, but it is a bug eat bug world out there and without the beneficials we would go wanting!

And now finally…


OK, you’ve been officially warned.

(Please do click on her for a closer look, and if you can stand it, click on her again to really see her in detail.)

I found this beautiful lady!  She’s one and one half inches long (including legs)!  Do you see her suitor in the background?

For those bugs who would seek to destroy my garden by their sheer numbers, Japanese beetles and squash bugs, well there is the bucket of water for them…  I gather them up every morning and take them over to my chickens and the WeeChoo.  The chickens make short work of the Japanese beetles, and My guinea hen “WeeChoo” eats the squash/stink bugs!

Yes, my garden is full of insects.  Some of my plants have holes in the leaves and I lose a few to the bad guys now and again.  However, as time goes by the good should outweigh the bad.

In the end, I have the confidence of knowing that I can eat what I grow without fear.   It also makes me glad that I have not added anything to the environment that would do harm.

It is a great feeling.

Photo Friday: here and there, then and now

When we first moved here I was so exited about how green and lush everything is.  I was also excited to have so much room to plant in and couldn’t wait to get started.  HA!  The first time I tried to put the garden fork into the soil it bounced back and almost knocked me out!  We tried to use the Mantis to till out a garden spot and it just bounced along on the surface while the weeds and grass laughed at our folly…  So we went out and bought a BIG BOY Cub Cadet garden tiller.

I am afraid to use it. 

It is a seriously big and powerful machine.  When cranked up it sounds like a tractor and puffs huge blasts of air out of the front exhaust.  It reminds me of a bull getting ready to charge… I envision that the mighty beast will knock me to the ground,  sit on me, all the while huffing and snorting in victorious laughter.

If you like this and need one, you can click the picture to be taken to their site… (and NO, I am not being sponsored nor receiving any monetary compensation for this.)

For this reason Bob preps the areas I want to garden with the Cadet, and then I come in with the little Mantis to wage war on all the weeds.

Sometimes I get frustrated by the way, seemingly overnight,  the weeds come and take over my garden.  I think about my gardens in California and I get melancholy…  seems that with less water there was more control.  However, there was a cost too.    Water restrictions and the expense of watering the portions of the garden that needed it (my herbs and roses) made the price of gardening high!  Water rates were hiked 40% over a span of 4 years!!!  Hence we hired someone to design a native garden for us.  One that could live off of the average rainfall in Southern California.  We, of course, did all the work to save money!

It looked like this before…

Needless to say, this is not practical in an area that was desert before it was irrigated and overpopulated!

Enter Brian Swope from Tierra Seca Landscape Design who did some wonderful planning for us.    So, when we got done planting the yard looked like this!

Once established we never had to water it!  There are more pictures HERE

By the way, you can see more of his finished projects HERE!  He has since moved to the vicinity of San Francisco, if you live up there I strongly urge you to contact him.  You will not be disappointed!


And so it is, bit by bit, I have been trying to work a miracle.  Trying to turn all the weeds and wild grasses into gardens.  It is a slow and labor intensive process with nearly 6 times the area to cover.  Seems I start at one end, turn around to look back and…

More weeds!

Sigh.  I look for the day when the weeds have given up and the gardens have taken over.

In the meantime, I pick away at it…

Weeds and grass out!  Some new plantings in.

From back to front:  the sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers are done, but the bush beans are still waiting!

A neighbor came by and bulldozed the giant, grass-covered, red clay mountain behind the vegetable patch for us early this morning (red area in photo above)!  Now we will begin the process of sheet mulching to make it healthy, plantable soil!

With the exception of the rock drive, I have stuck to my plan of no chemical agents (Roundup).  I wonder if I will I ever gain control.

How do you conquer your garden nemeses?

NOTE:  Strictly speaking, if you sheet mulch you should not be rototilling.  However, with our hard-packed, concrete, red clay soil we feel the need to get things softened up before we turn 90.  Hence, we sheet mulched for two years, then rototilled, then planted.  The soil is now very friable, allows better drainage, and good deep root structure on the plants.  Over the winter months, we will sheet mulch again and then, hopefully, we will not need the rototill in the areas that have been worked over the three-year improvement time!

My Summary of Summer…

We are having the most perfect fall morning.  You know…  the one where the sky is just the right shade of blue, the sun makes everything shine, and the air is cool and clear.   I open the windows and breathe in deeply…  Thinking of Summer’s demise and the official start of fall the Equinox that will not arrive until “…03:09 (or 3:09am) Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on September 23, 2010…” officially speaking.  And that brings me to…

My Summary of Summer: or how I learned to survive and enjoy it in spite of the drought.

Yee-gads, what a summer it has been!  With fall preparations right around the corner I take these few moments to share with you.  So here it is.  The truth of it.

We’ve lost, gained, learned and grown, in our knowledge of gardening, critters and bees.  However, we found out essential things along the way.  For this is the importance of our lessons after all… that we have indeed learned from them.

Lessons such as:

  1. Hawks gotta eat.  We lost one Buff Polish rooster and a Guinea Hen to the hawks this summer.  We were very sad about it but out of 35 beaks we consider the losses minimal.
  2. Chickens don’t like snakes.  Well really, we knew that, but what we didn’t know was that they would actually chase them off the property!  Amazing to see!
  3. When vegetable gardening you need to plant about four times as much as you think you will need.  Why?  Because you need enough for you and the little squirrels and voles that love to nibble the bottoms off of every tomato, pepper, and bean within their reach.  You also need enough to feed all the squash bugs and tomato horn worms, and any other insect that comes by to dine!  And this is important… you need enough to share with the neighbors who graciously put up with the noise and flies that your menagerie will produce (no matter what you do to combat them)!  Although a dozen eggs now and again goes a long way to keeping them from complaining!  ;D
  4. Murphy’s Law – If there is a draught and you fix the pump and get it going, then the rain will come… in buckets and torrents!  AND  If stops raining again, then you will surely dig up the electric line that was buried shallowly in the soil and end up running a very long extension cord out to make it run again… yes REALLY!
  5. Bees, if properly housed and protected, can be quite self-sufficient and really need little else from me.  I pretty much leave them alone, they have plenty of their own stores to eat, are healthy, and show little evidence of dreaded intruders such as hive beetle, veroa mites and wax moths.  In fact, it would seem that my chickens do a very good job of breaking the cycle of the hive beetles, and I have seen no evidence of mites or wax moths.  Bees are very impressive little critters!

All in all I feel that difficulties we faced were minor, the knowledge we have gained was invaluable, and this winter will allow us to do quite a bit to be more prepared for next spring and summer!

Things we need to do between now and next spring are:

  1. Build the geese an outside hut for sleeping in.  Right now they are being shepherded into the barn each night.  They need a little home of their own!
  2. Build a cold frame for starting seeds.
  3. Build a potting table (done!!!) with an old kitchen sink in it.  It will be useful for transplanting seedlings into newspaper cups and placing picked fruits and vegetables up off the ground so the chickens can’t peck them.  Oh the sink?  Well that will be a good place to wash the soil off of everything before I bring it into the house.
  4. Build a garden bench to sit and rest a spell while I contemplate work that needs doin’,  to look at all I have accomplished, and to take  a moment now and again to be grateful for all I have been blessed with!

Were you blessed this summer?  Perhaps you might take a moment to write a comment and share your blessings with other readers?

I hope so!


P.S.  I’ve a bit of humor to share with you before I close.



Why, its Lil’ Bit on the prowl!

Now…  how could you possibly be afraid of that?