Halloween Left-overs

This year I was optimistic about the number of kids that would come trick or treating. After all, COVID has quieted down in our area and everybody is anxious to get out. A month before the event my grocery store ran a sale of Halloween candy. I bit and bought a bag of 250 pieces of Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Twix, and M&Ms. Guess what? The crowd was minimal. I don’t think we had fifty kids come to the door. Of course it helped when my neighbor two doors down set up a giant air slide that he uses for his grand kids and I saw several kids pass by my house and make a b-line to the slide. Thank you Sue, but next time give me a warning. Now I’m stuck with all my favorite candies tempting me to kiss KETO goodbye. The system doesn’t work if I eat KETO breakfast, lunch, and supper, but snack on candies in between.

I worked a couple of hours this afternoon troubleshooting my pond pump which mysteriously stopped pushing water to my water fall. I pulled it out a couple of days ago when the temperature was in the low sixties, today it is in the thirties and a few hours ago it was snowing. Not very good weather to be playing outside in water, but it was a great day to play inside with water. I disassembled the pump and found nothing that would stop the impeller. I plugged it in on the bench and the impeller spun. After putting it back together I had two bolts left over and no nuts. I searched for a few minutes and thought maybe I have some of these nuts in my cache. I have hundreds of nuts, but not the kind I needed. I moved every tool, and part I had on the bench but found nothing. I scanned the floor around my bench with a spot light, nothing. Then the brain kicked in and started retracing my steps, I did walk the parts to the slop sink to clean them, so I scanned the sink, nothing. Then the light went on above my mind, look in the drain. Yep that’s where they were.

A second assembly later I declared the pump ready for a test, indoors that is. I left off the 90 degree elbow with the check valve, and put the pump in a five gallon bucket with water to test in my basement slop sink. The water shot up and gushed forth. Next, I thought why not see if the valve is the problem. I reassembled the elbow with the valve, and then thought long and hard about plugging it in. Do I venture ahead and test with the possibility of having to clean up four gallons of water, or do I drag the thing up the stairs to test it on the patio. I chose the patio. It took a few minutes to get it in place, but that was easier than mopping the basement from a man-made flood. I plugged it in, and water gushed out of the elbow, Great, I thought then it turned off. What? Why did that happen? My mind raced through a checklist of possibilities and then it dawned on me the bucket was empty. In that instant of turning the pump on it emptied the bucket. Whew! Problem solved.

I carried the bucket and the pump back to the basement and refilled the bucket with water. The manufacturer recommends storing the unit submerged in water to keep the seals from drying out and causing the oil to leak. Even though I am satisfied that the pump is healthy I still have a problem. The water fall no longer works, The next step will be to look for things that may be plugging the plumbing. If I live until April and I remember where I left off I’ll tackle it then. Right now I’m dreaming about wintering in Arizona where the only way I know if it snows is when the mountain tops above 7000 feet turn white.

Lake View-Monet Vision-Durango Gold

It is pouring rain today, as it has been doing on and off for the past week. My wife called me to fix a TV which did not have a signal. I was pushing buttons to get the signal back when a very loud bang on top of a flash occurred right outside our window. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I thought the TV blew up, but it was thunder and lightening. It must have struck the trees behind our house. Being startled like that certainly woke me up.

I spent two and a half hours in the yard today pulling weeds and trimming shrubs. I came in soaking wet from sweat. The house was cool and I was cold. I like working in humidity but it wears me down quickly. After a shower and some clean clothes I’ve been spending time at my desk processing raffle ticket returns. My annual appeal letter is working and I am at ten percent of my goal to sell 200 tickets.

Why is it that gardeners must have flower beds that are as neat as a pin? We must attack any natural horticultural matter that we didn’t plant. Natives just don’t belong in a cultured garden. I must be careful for I will raise the ire of some radical group like Green Weeds Matter (GWM) who will demonstrate in front of my house carrying signs that say Stop Killing Natives, or Native Perennials are Flowers Too! I would love to dump the contents of my 90 cubic foot container of garden waste on them, but It won’t happen because I’m too weak to lift it.

I keep staring into the water of my pond searching for a glimpse of any of the twenty-five fish I dumped in there last week. To date, I have only spotted one small school of four cruising along the shore. I did spot a very large frog right under my nose as I savagely yanked the out of place natives from the ground. Froggy was out of the water and migrating into the Hosta bed to hunt for some delicious critter to eat. I slowly moved my gloved hand toward him to see if he would jump, he dd not. I had to gently touch his hind leg to get a reaction, and then he only moved about a foot before resuming his motionless posture. He does move fast when he moves, but mostly he plays dead until it is time to strike.

There is something soothing about a garden that has a manicured look, and neat flower beds surrounding a freshly mowed lawn, and a patio overlook from which to admire it all. I love summer! My garden does not look like that vision I just described. I have a scenic pond surrounded by flashy flowers backed up by a wall of fancy shrubs to add a colorful backdrop, and fresh cut lawns on either side. I sit on the patio and spend time thinking about how good life is as I listen to the birds singing from yard to yard. I have discovered that the loudest bird is one of the tiniest, a wren. If he sang in a choir he would be the one voice that rises above all the others. This is the fifth year the wren family has rented the middle bird house in the Bird-Tower apartments. The view from the entrance is Lake Joe. A low hanging branch from the huge poplar tree at the back of the yard affords them a hidden approach to the front door.

First Cattail

Today, I sweat my formerly large body working in the garden. It is a fact, weeds grow faster then pretty flowers. I’m back to where I started six weeks ago, round two of weeding. The first plot was to transplant some pachysandra to a dead spot under my windows. The new plants are doing well, but in the past weeks the chick weed, purslane, wild strawberries, and thistle have grown up to hide the newly planted ground cover. So why do I want ground cover over a thick mass of weeds? Ground cover looks better when it is established. Thick masses of weeds look just like that, thick masses of weeds.

After the first hour, I took a rest to hydrate and cool down. I found myself staring at the beds and imagining how to make them better. I was thinking that the pond looks much better now that I thinned the cattails and the irises. Something looked different about the cattails. Yes, by God it flowered, I have a genuine cattail. Why am I so excited? Because this is the first time in ten years that this plant has flowered. I remember when I got the darn thing. I went on a pond-plant hunt out in the countryside. I stopped at ditches and dug lilies, and at another ditch I spotted the cattails and dug out a clump for my pond. Why pay for horticultural materials that grow wild in streams and lakes? I got my water lilies the same way. When I thinned the cattails this spring I was on the verge of gutting them completely, but to be honest I didn’t have the strength to yank them all out. I only got the easy ones. They must have gotten the message.

After five minutes of day dreaming about all the new work I conjured up it was time attack the weeds again. Tomorrow it’ll be a new bed that I haven’t touched yet this year.

I learned one thing from this exercise i.e. never, never, never give the garden a year off. Last year I made Peggy my excuse for not working the yard, and the native perennials established a strong hold that is killing me this year. If only I can find someone who will do the work to my satisfaction, I will gladly pay to have it done.

Cause For Celebration

As my body ages my goals change to things that do not involve physical effort. There was a time when I exercised not for health but for the challenge of pushing my body to the limits. Now, I tend to remain seated. Is sitting an exercise? For twenty years my single biggest physical activity has been gardening followed by bicycling. If I could be biking while working the garden I’d be supremely happy. I have mentioned this many times, my garden has a name, “The Monet Vision”. To make it interesting I’ve added the theme after the name because I try to make it different every year, like Monet Vision-Golden Glow. This year I’ve decided to name it Monet Vision-Retired. Each year the theme depicts a color scheme or a specific floral planting. Because I am in the process of downsizing and will be giving up the castle sometime soon, I thought it necessary to redesign the garden to eliminate some maintenance. The problem is that I don’t quite know how to do that. I do, but the perfect scheme would cause me great amounts of energy expenditure and a large cash outlay. There was a time when the cash outlay would have been the greatest deterrent, but today it is the energy, both physical and mental, that challenges me.

One focal highlight of the garden is a water feature which I call the pond.  The pond gave me a new dimensions of plant life to exploit and enjoy. Even Monet needed water to grow his infamous water lilies. Water in the garden breeds mosquitoes and the pesky creatures defy enjoyment. To ward off the blood sucking pests a new element is introduced to the pond, i.e. mosquito eating fish. Ponds requires the movement of water to be effective in keeping fish. Fish require oxygen and moving water via water falls, and rapids add the oxygen, as well as soft sounds and contemplative visual scenes to sooth the soul. Last January, the mechanism for creating this water movement, i.e.the pump, died, and so did my fish. When water reaches thirty-two degrees F it changes phase and turns into ice. The water below the ice is probably at thirty-three degrees. I have worked with my hands and arms up to my elbows in such water and can testify that it is not pleasant, nor smart to do so.

During the winter I contemplated the maintenance needed to restart the water flowing again. The dead pump allowed the stream that connects the water fall to the pond to dry up. This enabled me to get into the stream and to rip out the pond grass from either side of the water fall. It sounded easy, but in reality it took me three weeks of intense labor to cut the roots of the grass and to lever the system out of the river bed with a crow bar. All of this was done while in a crouch with my knees on a pad and my toes crunched up under my weight. At my age, getting up from this position requires considerable energy and time for my joints to relax back into their normal position. Anyway, I opened up the stream from the grasses that were choking the water and forcing it to overflow the banks. This backup caused me to lose a lot of water every day and water although plentiful does not come free where I live. By the time the grasses were gone, the remainder of the weeds in the garden took off like one of Elon Musk’s rockets to the Space Station. Another six weeks later I had completed a 360 degree tour of weeding and shrub trimming around the house. It was now time to install the pump, but I hadn’t bought it yet. I went into COVID-19 shock when I learned the cost to replace the pump from the original Japanese manufacturer had risen to five hundred and fifty dollars a full 25% more than previous. Another week of research on the internet and I finally hit the check out button on a replacement for less than three hundred dollars.  Take a guess where it is made, yep you guessed it, Taiwan, ROC (Republic of China). It will be hard to swear off buying from China when it affects the pocket book so drastically. If my plan works, this will be the last pond pump that I will buy in my lifetime.

By the time, the pump arrived, the stream bed which had been dry all spring was now full of weeds again. Another two hours on my knees with my toes crunched under were needed to clear the stream bed before I could wrestle the pump into place and hooked up. The final step was to plug it in and pray it worked, it did, and that is cause to celebrate!

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One of My Best

Day 58-SIP-Mystery Hatch

It all happened under my nose. Some wonderful creature of nature decided to use the decorative pine tree under my office window as a maternity ward. I never saw a thing, even though I pass by the tree to get into and out of my house everyday. It wasn’t until two days ago that I found some egg shells on the front lawn. At first I thought someone’s garbage got blown away and I happened to catch it. Then I looked more carefully at the broken eggs, there were six of them, scattered about. I cook with eggs everyday and I could not have broken an egg like these were broken. Duh! The light went on. Something broke these eggs from the inside. It had to be a chick of some kind, but what? Snakes lay eggs, and I have a rather large garter snake that shows up very year about this time, but these eggs were too large even for the big reptile, and garter snakes have their young live. No one in my neighborhood raises chickens, so I figured that is out, and these were much too large to be a song birds eggs. Maybe a turtle? Nah, I’ve uncovered turtle eggs before and they were not even half of these. That left me wondering if the two mallards that have been lolling about my pond for the past few days are it.

A little more probing and I found the nest under the decorative pine. There are the remnants of at least four more eggs in there all with openings. The eggs are about the same as a large chicken egg, but the color is just a tad different. Only the ducks and the geese are left. I truly believe that these eggs are a mite too small for a goose. So again the finger of suspicion points at the mallards.

This Is What I wish I Will Soon See in My Yard

A couple of days ago, when I reported that the mallards were hanging around I expressed a wish that they would have a family in my yard and use the pond as their training ground for the babies. A wish come true perhaps? Except there is no sign of babies anywhere. Could it be they were discovered by a raccoon who had a feast and left his mess for me to clean? Only the mallards know for sure. I will have to keep my eyes open for them to see where they hide when not in my yard. I’ve counted nine to ten eggs shells, so that would be about the right size brood for a duck. What a joy it will be to discover mama and papa feeding and nurturing the family for me to watch.