Sunday, April 29, 2007

Perfect Planting Weather

Friday Karen and I, aka the Sturdy Farmer Girls, drove up to the Bellsqueeze Road in Clinton to pick up our Fedco Tree order. As always, the Fedco warehouse was a busy place, but well organized, and we managed to pick up our large order, add lots of additional items to the order, and be on our way home in about 2 hours.

had a big order in:
2 Bluecrop Blueberries

2 Elliott Blueberries
2 Earliblue Blueberries
1 Jersey Blueberry
1 Lonicera x brownii (native hybrid) Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle
1 Buddleia x weyeriana Honeycomb Butterfly Bush
1 Morden Sunrise rose
3 Cascade Hops
5 Thuja occidentalis American Arborvitae
5 Tsuga canadensis Hemlock

Everything came in with the exception of the hemlocks. I had hoped to add a "Blizzard" mock orange, and and an additional Ruby Spice Clethra. Well, upon examining the HUGE mock orange, supposedly at maturity 5-'6' by the same, I checked and sure enough, the catalog had a typo and the mockorange topped out at 10'x10' -- too big.

A helpful Fedco staffer pointed out instead a Joel Bush Cherry, maturing at about 4'x4' with edible cherry-like fruit in early autumn; I grabbed 2 excellent healthy plants. Of course that meant a few last minute plan changes, thus the measuring tape seen in the photo above.

Friday it was raining lightly, thus a perfect day to plant. I managed to get everything planted except the 5 Arborvitae, which are wrapped up in a cool spot in the barn.
I had drawn a plan and measured all the planting spots earlier. It helped hugely that all the planting sites were ready for plants with the exception of the Arborvitae, which no doubt, is why they await planting.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how our new bed looks like as it matures. I still have a LOT of herbaceous perennials to transplant into the bed, and I need to add some kind of support for the honeysuckle vine to climb up the grapevine arbor, but the woody backbone is planted.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An Intrepid Titmouse

The other day while Karen and Bill were here visiting, we were sitting out on the deck enjoying the late day sunshine and we saw a tufted titmouse land on the ground near Fisher. The bird hopped closer, and then hopped onto the dog. Fishy moved, and the bird flew off.

Late this afternoon, the titmouse pair was back, and as Fisher lay on the deck, one of them made repeated landings. Eventually, Fishy ignored the bird, which then proceeded to pull out a big beakful of dog hair. Fortunately, I was able to get close enough to take photos through the shed door. It was amazing!

Look at the beakful of hair! Less to vacuum :-)

Off to make the nest cozy.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Peep Too Far

Thanks to blogger Renee for sharing this "Peep Show" contest in the Washington Post, featuring those love 'em or hate 'em Eastertime treats, Marshmallow Peeps.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Alas, vacation draws to a close

I'm sure you'll be surprised to learn we spent the last day of the vacation outside, working on the new arbor garden bed, and gathering the prunings from the blackberries (ouch!) and transporting them the the town transfer station.

I also took advantage of the weather again to hang out the laundry --as of today I'm almost caught up with the laundry backlog.

We had covered the future garden bed site with
cardboard last fall to kill the sod over the winter, holding it down with stones. This morning we picked up the cardboard, then Dan used the broadfork to turn the soil, while I followed behind and broke up the clumps with a cultivator. After letting it dry out a bit more, I added some Fertrel organic fertilizer, then went over the bed with the cultivator again.

Friday I pick up my FEDCO order. I planned a lot of fragrant flowering shrubs for this bed. I've ordered a Honeycomb butterfly bush, a Morden's Sunrise rose, and a native-hybrid Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle to climb up the arbor to meet the grapevine. I hope to include another Ruby Spires Clethra on Friday. I'd like to include a dwarf fothergillia and a dwarf mock orange

In inventory, I have a flowering almond, a beach plum, 3 Golden Mop chamaecyparis pisifera, and 2 Rocky Mountain junipers, and a good selection of herbaceous perennials to divide and plant in front of the shrubs.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Constructing the Grape Arbor, part 2

Three or 4 years ago we built a twig arbor for the grapevine, training the vine across the living room picture window. It made a huge difference in comfort, shading much of the summer sun from streaming in that southwestern facing window, but allowing lots of sun in the winter, and creating a great spot for birds to perch. This winter, the twig arbor broke, and we knew we needed to construct a more permanent one early in the spring before the vine leafed out.

While we wanted shade, we didn't want to impede the view in any way, so we carefully planned to keep the arbor posts in between the picture window and the two flanking windows. We left about 10 inches between the house and the arbor, room enough to get in there and paint, etc. We made the arbor 30" wide at the posts, with the slats at the top 42".

The most challenging part of the job was leveling the posts and then and squaring them to the house --not difficult, just very fiddly. We attached the 2 beams to the back posts before setting the posts in the ground; in retrospect, we should have set all four posts first. Once we set the posts, attaching the brackets, beams and slats was not too difficult, mostly just awkward.

When we were looking at lumber, Dan's keen eye spotted deck railing balusters, all cut to 42" long with an angled end --perfect. That saved us lots of work, ripping pieces of 2"x4" into 1"x2"slats. All told, we probably could have built it in a day, but we had a few other chores to squeeze in, too, there are just so many sunny hours after all!

I begrudged the hours this project demanded during our first spring-like weather, but now that it's done I'm glad to have it, and it looks great. With the grapevine up and out of the way, the Golden Glow in front of the window air conditioner will effectively screen that until the shrubs I'll be planting become tall enough. The arbor will really make this area look better in addition to cooling the house; it will look even better when we stain it next year, maybe purple??

Constructing the Grape Arbor

Thursday, the clouds parted and the sun began to dry things out. With that, the construction of the grapevine arbor commenced. I'll write in more detail soon, but for now, a pictorial essay.


Day 1
Getting lumber, measuring, checking the plans, making a few cuts, setting the back posts upright.

Day 2
Leveling the posts, tacking them temporarily to the house, installing the remaining 2 posts and cross beams

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Indoor Projects, part deux

Yesterday, we made a quick trip to the Fabric Warehouse in Auburn, looking for some upholstery fabric to make some footstools for the sewing room. We didn't find fabric for that, but we did find some gorgeous new fabric to recover the stained kitchen chair cushions.

I got these very comfortable Ikea chairs used from a colleague at my former employer about 8 years ago, and we recovered them upon purchasing the house with some fabric from Reny's. For $4.16 and a couple hours of not-too-difficult labor, and we have new glamour chairs, and while we were at it Dan re-tightened all the hardware holding the chairs together. They don't compliment the floor as much as the old covers, but I love the fabric which really compliments all the paint colors throughout the house. Time for a new floor I guess (I wish!).

Indoor Projects-- Removing Paint from Antique Hardware

Things are drying out here at Henbogle, and while they do, we found some indoor projects to work on. Ages ago, Dan had read a tip about removing paint from metal hardware by heating it overnight in a crock pot.

Recently at the recycling center's swap shop, we found a free
"Crockette," so yesterday seemed like a good time to test this theory. We have some hardware to the bathroom door. Someday we will re-hang the door and add the hardware so that it will close properly; we are now one step closer at least. Dan filled the Crockette with water, and 24 hours later, the old paint was easily removed, revealing lovely old brass hardware. A little polishing and it is beautiful!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Fen -- 1. low land covered wholly or partially with water; boggy land; a marsh.

We received another quarter inch of rain yesterday; today's forecast calls for a 60% chance of showers, with less than a tenth of an inch of rain. That's good news. Of course the forecast for tonight and tomorrow call for snow and sleet, but things appear to be looking up for the weekend, with sun and clouds Friday-Sunday. That would be a most welcome change of pace. Even if it is too wet to work in the garden, we'll be able to spend some time outside enjoying the sun, and it might make my seed starting efforts feel more likely to succeed. Right now, it's hard to imagine that the garden will be ready for seedlings in 4 weeks.

Dan and I slogged out to see the Girls last night, to visit and refresh their water and feed. We've confined them to Henbogle Coop for the last 2 days, to keep them out of the wet and muck. They were happy to see Dan; Poppy and Hyacinth got see the outside world for a bit before he gave them some scratch and closed up the coop for the night. I hope things dry up enough today to let them out for a bit. Even a palace like Henbogle Coop can get pretty boring.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Receding Waters....

The water in the basement receded overnight, the new pump works marvelously, and things look much the same down there as they did yesterday morning. The water did get into the oil burner, though, which we shut down yesterday. When we tried to start the furnace this morning it wasn't happy, cough cough. Dan drove over to our service company office to ask for a service call, as our phone service is also not working. His presence probably sped up the process, our house was their first call this morning. It also helps to be just a stone's throw from their office.

Oddly enough, our DSL line is fine, but no telephone --we have internet access but cannot talk to anyone. We tested the line according to Verizon's online instructions, and it is an outside problem, ruling out our phones having been fried when the power flicked on and off repeatedly yesterday. Dan then submitted an online work request, and Verizon checked the line automatically, then scheduled a repair call for tomorrow between 8 am and 5 pm. We'll see.... in the meantime, if you need to reach Henbogle, best to e-mail us or stop by the house.

Surely things will start to improve soon?

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Close Call....

At 9:30 this morning, all looked fine in the basement. At noon, we were a little concerned, as the pump was not quite keeping up with the water. You can see the support post and base is not underwater (9:30 am).

At 4:15, the power went out. Uh-oh. The power came back on almost exactly 2 hours later. The water was over the sump basin, and climbing up the furnace base. The same support post as seen above (6:15 pm). The water is over the basin by about a foot.

There's about a foot of water in the basement, but the pump is going and we are hoping for the best. For now we've left the furnace off, when the water level drops we'll try turning it on and see what happens.

The rain has let up, since noon, when Dan put out the rain gauge, we've only received an additional 1/2 inch. The wind, too, has calmed, I was surprised we lost our power so late in the day after the wind had lessened considerably.

A Sorry and Soggy Start

Our vacation is not off to an auspicious beginning here at Henbogle. It wasn't bad enough that I had to work on what portends to be the best day weather-wise of the week, but then upon arriving home, we discover Marigold had been murdered. This morning, we are awash in wind and rain, with the forecast calling for flood-producing rain and high winds with gusts up to 55 mph. Sigh.

The weeks' forecast does not appear to be conducive to our original plan, constructing a new grapevine arbor, with rain, and a mix of
snow and rain, through the end of the day on Thursday (those little snowflake symbols in the national weather service forecast are getting mighty irritating). Friday the sun might appear, but at this rate, I'll be a believer when I feel the sun's UV rays killing my skin cells. I guess we'll move on to another project, constructing a rustic cupboard for the dining room --although am I tempting fate?

One thing is working, though, knock on wood (and pray the electricity doesn't fail). The new sump pump basin and pump in the basement are performing perfectly. The new pump is virtually silent, and the gravel filtration in the sump basin is working great to direct the water and keep it clean to protect the sump pump. Hooray for something going right!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tragedy at Henbogle

Marigold was killed today, we think by a stray cat.

I had to be at work today for an event, and since Dan and I hadn't seen much of one another this week, he decided to come to campus with me and work on a project for his grad school class while I worked my event. We had seen a stray cat lurking by the birdfeeders, but we never worried about the hens, as we had in the past seen them scare off a cat foolish enough to jump into the fenced-in area. We never thought about one of the chickens escaping alone.

We left the house at about 10:30, and arrived home at about 4 pm.
Upon arriving home, we went out to see the Girls. Dan went ahead and worriedly called to me, "We're missing a chicken!" I hurried back with some spinach in hand, calling for the chickens. I gave the spinach to the Girls in their fence, calling for Marigold. Dan was headed for the tulip bed when I noticed some feathers.

Dan followed a trail of feathers onto the neighbors overgrown backyard, with me close behind. He found poor Marigold lying dead, eyes closed. She was missing a few feathers and had some gouges, but had no major visible injuries, so we can only surmise it was a broken neck. She must have flown over the fence and alone, was prey to the cat, where the Girls together are too much for a cat.
It is a very sad night here at Henbogle, Marigold was the prettiest of the chickens, with lovely orangey feathers and a beautiful comb. I hope she didn't suffer too much.

Friday, April 13, 2007

No Words Necessary

Especially considering the words perched on the tip of my tongue are not polite!
Friday, April 13, 2007