The Eastern NC Spring Yellow Peril

This time of year here in Eastern NC there is a toxic feel in the air, Pine Pollen.  We are surrounded by millions of Pine trees and right now they are in “flower”, if you can call it that, Pine trees flowers are sort of a cluster of yellow fists of pollen bombs, which, of course, will eventually turn into pine cones, but right now they are just a pollen delivery device which allows the trees to deliver the pollen to unsuspecting peoples noses in the most efficient way possible.

In the morning I wander out to my car and it is yellow, having been covered overnight with a thick film of the pollen.   For the most part the majority of people around here who are not normally bothered by allergies are basically felled by Pine pollen.  I just cannot imagine people who suffer from regular allergies feel at this time of year.

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I am one of the biggest tree huggers on the planet, but Pine Pollen is the devil.

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Sabotage

Last week I planted bunches and bunches of green onions that had been reduced by Piggly Wiggly to 79cents for three bunches.  I bought them, not for consumption but for the sole purpose of planting them and having them snuggle into the soil and send down new roots and to grow and prosper.  This week (Thursday) while visiting my veggie garden to close the greenhouse door due to the impending frost, I noticed that one of the cats (no idea which) had decided to use the raised bed as a litter box and had dug up all of the onions in an attempt to cover up some poo.

I realized that if I am going to be able to grow anything this year then I am going to have to keep the cats off the raised beds.  I came up with a brilliant (we shall see) idea.  I have rolls and rolls of green plastic trellis which in years past I have used to protect my seed beds from the animals and secondly allow my peas and beans a structure to climb up.  I cut the pieces of plastic trellis to size and laid it down on the raised beds and stapled it to the wood on the side of the beds to ensure it was taut.  My theory (soon to be tested) was that if the cats cannot scratch, then they are more than likely not going to use the beds as a litter box.

I gathered up all my displaced onions, stapled down the trellis, dug out all the cat poo, and replaced the onions.  I then planted the 18 broccoli plants that my husband came home with on Friday thanks to the FFA program in his school, and transplanted all of my lettuce seedlings into the bed.  My only problem was that the FFA broccoli plants were just a tad too big to stuff into the hole in the trellis so I had to smoosh them to get them in the ground.

I transplanted 80 lettuce seedlings, approximately 15 Arugula and 15 Spinach seedlings.  With regards to the lettuce I calculated that I had an 80% germination rate with them.  I am extremely stingy with my seeds, usually (unless I am clumsy) only planting one seed per cell.  I HATE thinning seedlings (I have a totally irrational hatred of “killing” a living lettuce plant, it deserves to live after all).  So after transplanting all of the peat pot cells that had a growing seedling in it,  I had 20 left over that had never germinated.  I think that is a pretty good rate.

I immediately used those empty cells to plant more lettuce as well as sowing some bird house gourd seeds, I am really interested in growing my own bird houses.

It rained steadily all day but I didn’t mind, once I was wet, I was wet, once my jeans had muddy knees it didn’t really bother me,  and the time spent in my greenhouse was dry time.  I didn’t think of anything at that time, no work, no housework, nothing, just counting out seeds, stuffing them into the moist earth and looking forward to the plants to come.   Gardening is such a Zen activity, it is meditation at its finest, nothing going through your mind other than the well being of the seeds you are planting and the joy of the plant’s fruits to come.  It is the essence of calm.  It is exactly what I needed right now.

Easter Lily Rescue Week Is Here

Many of you who know me know that I have a personal crusade every Easter to rescue poor forelorn Easter Lilies in pots that will be discarded this Easter Season.

I know all of you go to the grocery store at this time of year and see “Easter Lilies” in pots for sale.  Many of them are in full bloom or at least in bud and will be purchased by people who have been invited to an Easter Dinner.  Just like a leg of lamb loses it’s appeal after Easter, so does an Easter Lily after it has bloomed when it basically becomes a stick of leaves with a dead flower atop its stalk.   The great part about this is that the grocery store (or the garden center) will attempt to recover their cost of buying the lilies by slashing the price of the now “dead” potted plants.   It is at this point that you can buy a healthy, hearty Easter Lily which has great things in its future for pennies.  Stores generally sell the “dead” sticks of leaves for 50 cents, just to get them out of the door, and this is when you can cash in on people who do not understand the worth of bulbs. So there she is, stuffed into a shopping cart, with a “clearance, 50 cents” sign on the cart at the front of the store the green shiny paper surrounding the pot torn and tattered and the leaves beginning to yellow and fall off.  She looks for all the world like the prom queen on the High School steps with mascara streaming down her tear sodden face and her shoes in her hands after she has found her date in the hallway making out with another girl.  Rescue her!

The majority of “Easter Lilies” are actually “Oriental Lilies” and for the most part “Casablanca” which can grow to be a huge plant that smells like absolute heaven when it is in bloom.  A tiny investment in a discount plant that will cost you pennies will result in years of absolute joy in the future if you just take it home and plant it somewhere in your yard.

Save an Easter Lily after Easter, not only will they thank you but they will reward you for years to come.

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My Little Acre

I sometimes think, as I peruse various political sites that we tree huggers (or hippies as they like to call us) are simply losing the messaging war when it comes to climate change and it depresses me to no end.  When it snowed here recently I just knew that my local AM radio host would be gloating and sure enough as his show started on my drive home the first thing out of his mouth was “Did you enjoy the snow?  (chuckle chuckle) how’s that global warming thing going for you! (chuckle chuckle)”  He continued to chuckle to himself, no doubt imagining himself to be funny, but I shook my head and resisted the urge to call in and remind him that only the previous week he had someone on from a coastal protection organization and they were discussing “sea level rise”, which somehow in his mind has absolutely nothing to do with climate change or global warming, and the effect that sea level rise will have on insurance rates here in Eastern North Carolina.    Indeed I live in a State where the State legislature voted not only to ignore the effects of sea level rise but voted to specifically exclude the science from all debate.   As one local put it

“First there was the embarrassment of North Carolina’s sea-level rise law, which called for ignoring scientific studies when considering coastal development. Now we learn that John Skvarla, newly appointed head of the state’s environment protection agency, is apparently a climate-change denier”

This week we learned that up in DC a climate change denying congressman will be heading the sub committee on climate change.

“As the new chairman of a key House subcommittee on the environment, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) will be one of the GOP’s leading actors when it comes to the Environmental Protection Agency and the growing threats from climate change. So with his first hearing as chairman on tap for Wednesday, what does the freshman Republican—and end times novelist—think about anthropogenic global warming? He’s not sure.”

Today we got the news that the droughts which devastated many of the crops in the US last year will more than likely be worse this year, which will again not only devastate the farmers but will also damage consumers who will have to pay much higher prices for food.    Another report announced that the chances of stronger and stronger hurricanes occurring as a result of climate change could mean the equivalent of five Katrinas per year.

I like to grow my own food, when I can, but here in NC it has got to the point that come July and August it is so hot that nothing will grow, even tomato plants shut down production due to the heat and the window of opportunity for growing cool season crops is becoming shorter and shorter.

I don’t know what the solution is.  We may as well howl at the moon for all the good our protestations do, and I simply despair that some of our fellow occupants of this big blue marble will not accept the damage we are doing to this planet until it is too late and they, and we, find ourselves in permanent deserts where nothing will flourish and clean water is non existent.

Still, when it all seems hopeless I take solace in my garden, in my little acre of this vast planet, and do my best to keep its flora and fauna safe for another year.  Perhaps that is all we can do, take care of our little corner of the world and hope, for the sake of all of us, that there are enough of us in the world to make a difference.   We shall see.

Making the Most of It

When I walked out of the back door of the office this afternoon to go to lunch I noticed this little fella making the most of the rays of sun warming the concrete sidewalk.

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He totally ignored me, probably because he was sluggish, it really wasn’t all that warm outside and I am sure that he was just enjoying what warmth he could find in the concrete.  He let me take his picture with my phone and then scuttled under the trash can as I began to walk away.  It is supposed to get down to 28 degrees tonight so I hope he has a good spot picked out to hunker down and keep warm.

 

Happy Vernal Equinox

Spring has sprung, the grass is ris, I wonder where the birdies is? The bird is on the wing, how absurd, the bird’s not on the wing, the wing is on the bird.

As many people are realizing Spring can be a fickle beast, while many of us here in Eastern NC seemed to think that it was already upon us as usual it taught us a lesson.  It was 70 degrees one day and the following day it snowed, heavily.  As it is this week, today it has been balmy and in the 60s, tomorrow night the overnight temperatures are going to get down to 28 which means I have to go out and close the door of my greenhouse lest my overwintering plants freeze.  Never mind, my peas have sprouted (although it would appear that some critter has been nibbling off the tops of some of the seedlings) my carrots have sprouted (and provided that I can keep Flossie from trampling them down should do well).

In the greenhouse my lettuce seedlings are doing wonderful.  SONY DSC

The hyacinths are still blooming although they are past their best and will soon be replaced by other spring flowers.

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The Forcythia and Carolina Jessamine are right now flooding the yard with yellow and filling the air with fragrance.  The birds are checking out nesting spots, the neighborhood lawn mowers are coughing into life and the Mocking Birds are finding the highest spot in the trees and screaming out a song to stake out their territory.

I have been invaded by flocks of Grackles and Cowbirds on my feeders as they stop by for a reststop on their way up North, thank goodness that they will be gone soon leaving the food for my regulars.

It is ever thus and yet come Spring every year I am filled with hope and anticipation, scanning flower beds for signs of life as I hope that my perennials are returning to me, looking puzzled as something sprouts that I truly do not remember planting, and smiling with delight as I greet each morning with a new anticipation of Mother Nature lifting herself from her winter slumber, shaking the fallen leaves from her hair, stretching her arms, and dressing herself in the gold that is Spring.