Sunday, February 28, 2010

Death of a Hand Pruner. (Nah, going to ressurect it!)


(a)  Some how, I have murdered my pruners
(b)  The pruners, uh, had an "accident"
(c)  I like my metal with ketchup.  Delicious!

Just kidding.  Last year I got my fancy schmancy expensive Felco pruners during a New Orleans trip that was garden glorious and the next week I ended up using them, accidentally put them down on the grass, got distracted and realized later that night I had forgotten to put them back.

For 2 DAYS/NIGHTS I scoured the yard, with flashlight, literally going every square foot with my feet and eyes (so I thought) looking for the blasted BRIGHT RED handles of my new pruners.  But alas, they were: THE RUSTED.

I kept blaming myself and haranguing my stupidity as I had formed a budget of sorts/worrying about money as usual that I didn't go out to buy a sharpener.   So I set the pruners aside in a DRY place and figured I'd get back to them.

Now it's nearly spring and things are just waiting to get snipped/pruned/cut.  I want to get snippy!

I have other pruners, some plastic, some lame, but I really want to use my Felcos and also this is a good opportunity to learn how to sharpen them.

Oh, quick explanation about the photo above too:  I was trying to get rust off initially with straight vinegar and out of respect for my poor husband's nose (he's very sensitive) I decided to switch to ketchup (I've heard it works well on rust) and figure that reminders of hotdogs and tomato-y summer would be much more pleasant.

Later I wiped off the ketchup, ran some water over it and dipped it in rubbing alcohol to completely dry out the metal so no nasty water is available to rust them.

Then scrubbed away rust with different coarseness sandpapers to shine it up as I didn't have steel wool on hand.

On to the sharpening:
I used a sharpie permanent marker to mark the edge of the blades so when I sharpen, if the mark goes away, I know I'm going at the correct angle with my sharpening stone.  I didn't want to spend the $40 on a sharpener felco offers online or the money to send my pruners to Felco to sharpen.

Sadly there is no local store here that has good small  diamond file sharpeners of varying grades that I needed, so I had to use this huge stone (about 2"x5") making it somewhat difficult to get the inside well.  It was only about $5-$6 though and has a coarse and fine side, so I figure it will have to do and will work well on all the other larger tools making it versatile.

Here and there I greased the pruners with with vegetable oil (as it's non-toxic) though motor oil is acceptable I know, but I'd rather not deal with that stuff.  I also had to oil the stone to keep dust from flying everywhere and keep the stone in shape and not become ineffective (is what it said on the package).  The stone soaked up oil like nothing else and I think the entire thing took up a FULL CUP of vegetable oil before it started looking even remotely greasy.  Next time I might just dunk it in a cup of oil rather than attempting to slather it on.

If I am smart, I take into account advice I've heard where it's recommended to fill a bucket with sand and motor oil (though I really really wonder if I could just use vegetable, if it didn't go rancid... and even if it did, it's not as though I'm eating it...) so that the sand will clean off your tools and the oil will lubricate them every time you place your tools in the bucket, making tool maintenance infinitely simpler than how I've been going about it.

Here we are, shiny and sharp!

Clean, sharp(er) cuts now.
 (top stick is of prior to sharpening, bottom stick is post sharpening)

I should have taken a pic of the originally terrible state that they were in but I was too ashamed! (and forgot to)

I love the sound of sharp hand pruners, a "sh-wish-sh-wish!" 

More pruner cleaning/sharpening info:
Sharpening Pruners - Fine Gardening Article

Friday, February 26, 2010

Still waiting for spring to bust out all over

Here and there I find some signs that things are warming up and I can enjoy my garden once again:

Lemon flowers trying to completely unfurl:

The temptation to try to pry open the flowers/buds is great as I want to smell them and get to pollinating them for fruit production!  *Poke poke*

Maybe there are a few lemons that will develop! (I've had a few of these swollen looking like they're going to become lemon things before only for them to not become lemons and die, so I don't want to keep my hopes up).

Outside things are stretchin' out:

Columbine leaves unfurling from a cute ball!

Cheap anemones that I never thought would make it having survived the crazy cold and frost and snow, showing a bud! (pardon the terrible pics, things focus when I adjust on my camera screen but then look terrible on the computer.  Bad camera or glasses... Too much light too, I need to get out that shade thing for pics like this)

I also have Bells of Ireland seedlings still making it after all the nasty weather.  I hope that they'll flower, nifty looking blossoms and spicy scent!

Some goals I realized I wanted to accomplish beyond vegetable gardening this year:

(1) More bird houses-  I'd like more birds to eat any nasties in the garden and after having some indian strawberries take over as ground cover, I had some great entertainment last year watching them fight over the berries

(2) Get that bat house up (again) (maybe to the roof?)-  I've had this blasted bat house for 2 years only to have poles that I made to put it up on fall down and too much tree cover in the way for (supposed appropriate placement is clear of trees) them to be attracted to the house.  I want bats!  I want fewer mosquitoes biting me and turning me into nasty walking bumpy itchy human this summer! We'll see....

(3) More flower flowers- for attracting pollinators and hummingbirds (and because it does look nice).  I have this ajuga and heuchera  and mondo grass that I actually tried to kill (turn over a million times) that were here at the house when we got here and won't die, so since I am starting to appreciate stubborn plants to fill in spaces, I think I'll move them to somewhere a little more prominent other than under my feet.  I've acquired a fair amount of perennials that need to be divided and seeds that I've saved for a while, so perhaps it's a good time to get those going for flowers for next year.  Darn slow growing perennials :)

(4)  Make a cold frame (FINALLY)- before this winter.  It's rather depressing to not have any fresh vegetables (other than leafy greens) from the garden over the winter.  As I am being gifted with some window panes this year, Iwant to feel like a real pro by growing something special in the winter this year.  Any ideas?  I know I can grow mustards, chards and pak choi w/o a cold frame outside.  So, while I can technically grow nearly anything, except tomatoes perhaps (not tall enough... unless I get a miniature variety hmmm)  in the frame I could use some ideas.

Hope you all are prepped/prepping that preparing at a faster rate than me and that you haven't felt like this was the longest winter of your life like I have!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Signs of Spring...(until it hits 22 degrees F later...)

This weekend was pleasant and I saw the sign (it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign!) of spring:

The bleeding heart plants are starting to emerge!

Gorgeous, mauve tinged things.  (Usually I don't like mauve, like my bathroom for example which came that way, but when in nature, it's quite tolerable, even nice).

Last year my bleeding hearts were massive, so perhaps I will divide them in one of my few shady spots.  Their atypical flowers/petals make them one of the few flowers I really admire.  I have lilies of the valley planted near them for a couple of years, but apparently those needed dry shade and I may have rotted them.  Fan of bell shaped droopy/head nodding flowers too.  No idea why, just got a thing for them.  This was earlier on in my quest to fill up my shady area (under some permanent landscaping bush/trees) with groundcover rather than the weeds that seemed to proliferate there.

Strawberry begonia, aka Mother of Thousands or another million names this plant can be given has been an excellent solution as was the addition of Creeping Jenny and shade sedum, but I think the begonia got hungry and swallowed those up a bit.  How to curb her appetite... probably just continual redistribution to other spots in the non-edible garden areas that I don't want to mulch!  (The leaves naturally die down and will "mulch itself," making me a happy gardener and I can focus more on the good stuff.)

 Speaking of groundcovers, the chickweed has taken over! Run! Or do as the Aussies do.  Just eat it.
I finally got around to making that chickweed chimichurri that I've been talking about and in addition, as I was going all Japanese I made a chickweed/tatsoi mustard/siberian kale chirashi salad.  Lots of chickweed that night.  I found it to be excellent and I felt healthy for sure afterwards:

Unless I am vigilant about yanking up the chickweed (more so inside the garden beds than outside them) the chickweed is allowed to go crazy and I've become ZEN with it.  Plus it's a pot herb I don't have to take care of that thrives perfectly fine on its own without any input on my end.  Sometimes I wish I was a goat and could just nosh right down on my lush bed of chickweed.  Instead I feel the need to wash it and pull off the little brown leaves that aren't so fresh.  Darn standards :)

In other news, garden cleanup still in progress prior to doing any outdoor exposed seed sowing.  The compost bin hasn't been turned in months and doesn't close w/o the aid of a heavy brick and one corner is popping open.  The compost/non-composted material has sunk though, and I can just say that the popped open corner is more ventilation?  The lack of compost breakdown can be said to be, uh, slow or cold composting?  Lots of beneficial microorganisms are staying alive in there!

Until then, just waiting for these gray skies to turn sunny and blue for an extended period.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Ooh.  Today was beautiful.  Tee-hee.

So, oh was I tempted to say (like I do every year), "Whatever to you, Mr. Frost-Date!  I can plant!"

But being a good gardener  (for once) I looked up the weather forecast and got my head straight:


But good to know.  I know they say that the last frost date isn't until near the end of March, and there are a few things like some lettuces (and maybe peas) that I think can tough it out with this upcoming hissy-fit of winter refusing to die, but I know it's only smart of me to wait.  Until the next pretty bit of weather after this next week and then I'll just probably go on a planting spree and await with my plethora of sheets to cover things up at a moments notice.

ALL winter I planned to, well plan, my garden for this spring and as usual got caught up in the ridiculous.  I was going to profile ALL my seeds too with descriptions and etc.  Maybe I'll just do that with each thing that actually comes up so that we can see its progression?  Like a real garden log instead of my faux log.  (Makes me think of gas fire place logs that don't burn  :P)

Anyways, my seeds haven't shown a sprout yet (because it's only been 5 days... and I'm impatient).  Maybe tomorrow....

Either way, here is a pic of my plan or map for this early spring garden before I yank some things (like the peas) out for other vegetables to replace them  (like beans, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes).

Click to make bigger (those in yellow highlighted are permanent fixture plants):

Anyways, before I plant I should do some garden tidy up work and get some things put together before the garden is really good for planting.  Here's my list:

-put up new re-used metal gazebo frame as trellis to replace handmade wooden one
-turnover garden paths to get rid of grass and lay down newspaper for smothering weeds/grass
-create extra drainage to barrels
-add more soil to half barrels
-turn and add compost to garden
-shred leaves? (should've done it earlier >_<)

Here's a list of the vegetables for a quick peek.  I decided to plant lettuce this year despite the husband not eating it because he'll probably find a way to eat it with mustard greens (which he will like) or I might actually eat lunches for once, albeit light ones if lettuce is around.  They're just so simple, easy and grow fast to fill in spaces. They make me feel abundant?

Asian Vegetables:
-2 mystery veg from mom. look like lettuce seeds
-Chinese Kale (White Flower)
-Shanghai Pai-Tsai (Chinese Cabbage)
-Korean hybrid mini white radish
-Chinese Cabbage (Asian Mini)

Detroit beets

Cabbage (Early market)

Carrot (Scarlet Nantes)


Collards (Georgia)

Kale (Siberian)

Kohlrabi white vienna

-Red Salad Bowl
-Black simpson

-Southern Giant

Onions (Evergreen long white Bunching)

Garden Pea
-Green Arrow

Sugar Snap Pea
-Sugar Ann

Snow Pea
-Oregon Sugar Pod II

Exciting, eh?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Seeds in the Greenhaus!

(cute mini greenhouse from Ikea my husband purchased and assembled for me years ago as a gift.  A little broken up panels, but still lovely and useable)

Now, it's just time for the waiting. 

I say this every year to my husband, "It's only a week of actually real hard work each season, prepping it all and planting seeds..." then it's all just maintenance from there on out.

"Uh huh," he replies tactfully.

I like being outside though, and need to be outside when it gets warmer 1) because I need the vitamin D as I don't drink real milk any more  2) it keeps me sane and 3) it's really my only form of exercise.

Once I start being unable to heave 50lb bags of soil over my shoulder I know I'll need to hit a gym (or a trainer, sorry, I hate gyms to be honest).  If it wasn't for the garden or walking the dog (or hiking when possible), I would never be outside sadly as wifi at the house doesn't extend 2 feet from the walls of the house, if I'm even that lucky.  Granted I don't need internet all the time, and this year, my netbook has an average battery life of 4 hours vs the 20 minutes of my old clunker, hurrah!

But back to seeds/seed starting:
-I have planted 2 cells of each kind of tomato seed I have/saved/been given: Amish paste, Stupice, Italian Heirloom, Tiny Tom, Brandywine, Nebraska Wedding, and Green Zebra striped.

-2 cells each of 4 different types of bell peppers (unfortunately no official names... but as I received so many seeds, I decided to plant them despite my poor luck in the past with peppers): purple, red, green thick walled and tiny orange ones.

-1 cells of tomatillos that I recently saved and am super excited about.  Oddly delicious, bust your mouth open with green apple taste.

-I can't not plant hot peppers, love them so, so I used some leftover seed w/one pot each of: Chinese Ornamental, calico/tricolore garda (I had an extra pod lying around and I can't tell which), cubanelle and serrano!

In the mail today came SIX more tomato varieties that my Mother in Law had extras lying around and I had professed interest in, so now when I have time (and can buy/eat/finish a plastic dozen grocery store bakery container of donuts to make a greenhouse from) I will plant those lovelies and round out my tomato plan to THIRTEEN varieties of tomatoes this year!   It's a little overwhelming, but exciting.  I need to note which are determinate and indeterminate though before I plant them out or it'll be the mess of last year's "Gurney's Oop's we dropped a pile of tomato seeds, let's sell them as a set!" incident.

I tended to put 3-4 seeds/cell or pot, though sometimes more got in.  I'll just thin them out later if they go crazy before transplanting to bigger pots.  Some of the seeds we're the plumpest, so I wasn't sure if they'd be healthy enough to germinate. 

I was thinking of one variety of tomato plant apiece in my backyard garden... maybe trellis a few along the fence if  I need room, but I think I may need to grow tomatoes in the front yard this year!   Ooh, DRAPED over my brick mailbox... I think it might like that.  I think it would be nice to also give the mail man a treat whenever he likes too.  He always puts candy in our mailboxes too as odd as it is and milkbones for the dog.  Am I supposed to tip him?

The weather is supposed to warm up in the low 50s this weekend, but then goes down to lows in the freezings.  Dagnabbit! (sp?)  I want to plant some seeds outside! I know that some of my peas and other kales and things can germinate at low temps (I actually have some peas that have hung on/sprouted despite the weather that I planted earlier this winter outside!)... I just hate working out in the cold and worry worry worry about screwing up germination still.  Cold wet soil, never good.  But some plants can handle it. 

March is coming along soon, and if the past is of any worth, I can ignore "proper" planting time and just get seeds in and put milk jug cloches on top if I'm really worried.

I'm going to watch my seeds now, k'thanx, bye ;)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Prepping for massive soil attack

I have SOIL (and humus)!

I have SEEDS!  

Let's get this thing rolling.

Seed starting tomatoes,peppers, newly grocery store harvested tomatillo seeds and maybe a few herbs tomorrow.

I had bought a few horseradish roots on the cheap from the a grocery store some months back and had stored them in the refrigerator only to find some lovely shoots beginning (even when wrapped in plastic wrap!)

So I'll be planting that in a barrel relatively soon while I let the wound scar up so it doesn't rot when I plant it.   Hopefully horseradish galore this year!

 The seeds will be planted in saved cardboard egg cartons (for the sake of room until I can move other houseplants around) and then transferred them to handmade newspaper pots.  Nice to replant/repot the tomatoes anyways and get those roots strong and deep.

As stated previously, only some super cheap local mom and pop store seeds would be purchased along with the necessary soil needed.  The kindness of strangers, gardening family members and past saved seed has filled out my other seed needs with no seeds purchased online/via catalog this year which will hopefully save on costs.

Many things will be direct sown later such as okra, peas, beans, kohlrabi (new one for me, but as I can eat it ALL, I thought it was a good choice), cabbage,  basils, and etc.

I'm pretty excited as I think I gain more life seeing seeds sprouting and growing.  There's just that excitement of seeing things developing that is motivating... hmmm... that's a good analogy I should use for writing.  As with many things in life for me, I need momentum and if I get on a roll, I can keep that energy up.  If I start slacking or give myself a break then it's all down hill from there and then I get annoyed at myself and yada yada, so growth and spring=good.

I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day at all, and am happy to say that my husband and I have never celebrated it.  Every end of January/beginning of February when I walk into a store I say, "Why are there giant stuffed animals on sale?"  then it's "OH... Valentine's Day."  I'm just not a fan of one holiday meant to "truly express your love" or whotnot.  Make it everyday.  Going all out on one day does not make it special, showing your love a little each day, that does it (for me at least).  Maybe it's just my middle school/high school angst showing, but it seemed like an impractical holiday to me.

BUT, as there's some softies out there and my begonia's blooming some conveniently shaped heart like flowers, I will indulge:

Thanks for sticking with me!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Not dead... yet! (evading blog death yet again)

Alright, all major volunteering projects/commitments out of the way...  a little collapse and breather time (if lag and lack of posting is truly an annoyance to you, just holler! I swear to you, spring and summer is much more interesting on PIB blog, updates nearly every day or every other day)!

While puttering around the house when I was conscious for short amounts of time, my keen sense of observation took note of a change in my most beloved and prized Haight-Ashbury hibiscus cuttings:

BUDS!  Well, er, bud, SINGULAR.

I found it to be quite a lovely surprise especially as it was a cutting and noted no buds on the potted up hibiscus.

It was almost as though the shock of it still sitting in water and being a "cutting" still rather than have graduated to potted plant status (due to my lazy self not having potted it up sooner...there's a good amount of roots floating around in its water jar :\ ) caused it to either be like (uh oh, I'm anthropomorphizing plants again...):

(1) Plant: "Oh, please, please, PLEASE, can I be potted up now and be a big plant now?  Here's a bud to convince you!"


(2) Plant: "You snipped me!  Please, don't hurt me any further! Look, here's a bud, keep your filthy gardener propagating fingers away from me!"

Oh silly little cutting, potting plants are for non-lazy gardeners!  (Really, I'm getting to you, right after I buy those bags of potting soil for seed starting!)

It's been ice storm, snow storm, and now snow storm again here, which has been melting and will freeze to ice this afternoon/evening.  Hurray.  As I hate driving in weather like this, I am in hunker down mode (we'll call it human "sleep mode") and will continue to ride this all out until I venture out to prepare for spring, sweet spring.

*sigh* Not even the flowering kohleria, my blooming begonia:

or the fuzziness of my gifted selaginella (no matter how much I've been petting it!) has
been making me any less gloomy.

I even noshed on a petal of my lemon tree in flower (sweet with obvious bitter citrus oil taste) and that didn't even lift me.

The orchids are in bud, but they are tiny things and won't even be close to blooming for another month I can tell.

CRIKEY. (Always wanted to use that)  I really need to stop being so "Wah-wah." I have plants! MANY plants! Indoors, blooming (and going to bloom)!  I've got my health (mostly, with a little cabin syndrome + SAD on the side) and I'm not in the financial pits!  I get to do what I mostly love (even what you love can become work and stressful) and I have a dog and loving husband.

OFFICIALLY, bucking up here.  Only another month or so to get through of crummy weather, I can make it, despite late seed starting and cold and snow and lack of sunshine.  Bear with me?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I am the WORST vs Ali's "The Greatest" (Ali wins hands and feet down)

Ice storms, writing deadlines, volunteering commitments, a lack of seed starting (surprise), and generally gloomy weather have kind of made my brain flat-line.

I suck at blog updates in the winter and am seriously wondering if I've got SAD or something because lack of warm sunlight and I feel like a puddle of mush.  A puddle of mush that just wants to hide under blankets.  Reminds me of genteel times when gentlemen would put coats over puddles for women to step on top of to cross a street or something. 

Except I'm the puddle and not the lady. 

Had a plan to write for the longest time about cold damage and with recent snows and ice storms sort of nudging me at that/poking me in the eye to say, "'Bout that time you planned to write a great blog article about terrible cold weather conditions, how to handle and prepare for them and repair damage... eh?"

So, I am sure that you all have seen a plethora of icy pictures as of late, and as I am late, maybe these icy pictures will still be fresh for you?
(PS click on any of the pics to make them bigger, some of them are quite nice that way)

(hurray, good to know, Bok choy is super hardy har har in the winter!)

(spiffy generic spirea, I think!)

(oak limbs with dripping icicle/stalagmites)

 (saffron leaves all individually iced over, click on it! Might make a nice desktop pic)

(The colors Duke!  Nandina with ice drops on the EDGES)

(Poor under-going vernalization rose... new shoots starting only to be greeted by the icy touch of winter)

 (Even the gnome/gremlins could not escape... it looks like the frogs have a freezing stare power!)

(more colors!  Fall/dying azalea leaves colors being magnified by the ice)

(same deal, less color, still pretty)

(Bad news, I'm a terrible gardener and left my hose AND wheelbarrow AND various door mats outside in the weather... just testing the durability of this hose's material... yes.)

(sugar gum maple ball!)

Hope this was a decent update and until then, I am giving my brain some serious CPR and getting my butt into the local seed shop to pick up good potting soil for seeds.  Alas, no soil blocker this year for seed starting, but yes... I'll get you my pretty!