Saturday, August 31, 2013

County Extensions

gardening in the suburbs....

When we bought our first house in the mid-west  it came with a fairly substantial backyard.  A yard that we quickly realized would consume the better part of a weekend with mowing, weeding and trimming.  So we started turning sections of the yard into garden space.  The rationale being that if it was going to take up our time, then it had better be contributing to the family's welfare.

We gradually turned ourselves into quite the little "suburban" farmers.  I say "we" loosely, since my husband and kids did most of the work.  I was just in charge of making sure the mint plants didn't get out of control and that the basil got processed into enough pesto to get us through the winter.

The rest of the family however, managed to produce the following over a 3 year period:
potatoes, corn, squash, okra, eggplant, kohlrabi, okra, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, okra, spinach, brussel sprouts, okra, broccoli, cucumbers, raspberries, okra, watermelon, pumpkins...and did I mention? ...okra...

Seems that okra loves heat.....and Kansas....
Two years and a new state later and I think we STILL have jars of pickled okra around somewhere.

Now we have a different house, in a different mid-west state with a different yard and a different schedule.   If we were going to have a garden this year, I was going to have to be the one to get it done.       Out of the four of us I had the most time, but the least amount of experience.   Last year my total yield was: basil...and some dill....which basically grows itself.  So there you are.
I at least knew enough to NOT plant okra.

Did you know that there is a weed called "Stinging Nettle" that stings?

Did you know that there is such a thing as overwatering?

Did you know that you can plant seeds too deep?

Did you know that there is such a thing as under watering?

Did you know that there are 92 different insects that wait until just before your plants are ready to produce food before they decide to devour all the foliage?

Did you know that when a seed package says "full sun" they don't really mean "Iowa full sun"?

Did you know that there are 64 different kinds of mold/mildew that can infect your plants and that all 64 have a different cause and a different treatment?

Did you know that $2.98 of my annual property tax bill goes to the state agricultural extension phone line?  And that you can call that number to get answers to your pest/mildew/gardening questions?  And that I didn't find that out until AFTER the summer was almost over?????

So my beans were semi-successful

My basil is OK

My cilantro, peas, raspberries, lettuce and rhubarb all seem to be surviving my bumbling attempts at being semi self-sufficient this summer.

The one thing that seems to have escaped my grasp this gardening season are the sunflowers.  I had pictured tall yellow flowers following the sun with their bright cheery faces throughout the day.  These bits of joy in my garden were to be the final incentive to continue with the weeding, feeding and watering through the hot weeks of August.  They were to be some of the last color lingering in the backyard as we head into fall.

It is true that they are tall and yellow.

It is even true that they have bright cheery faces.

It is NOT true that they follow the sun.

Not MY sunflowers.
MY sunflowers face east.  All Day.  Every Day.
So that I can't see them.

So while I can figure out the herbs, fruits and veggies, I guess I can't grow their native habitat....

Next year I may just go back to okra.

'Cause according to the jars sitting in my kitchen cabinet, I didn't miss the class on that!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bats in the Belfry

......getting along with nature....

I like nature.

Most of the time.

When  I am in control of the encounter.

I prefer observing nature as opposed to experiencing nature.   For example:
...sitting on a porch gazing at the ocean, instead of swimming in the ocean with who knows what lurking beneath you, just beyond your sight.
...bird watching with binoculars from your living room window rather than walking down the street wondering what is going to fall on your head.

...standing in your backyard watching the neighborhood bats swoop through the evening sky eating all the nasty insects rather than running, screaming from your house  mid-afternoon because a neighborhood bat was swooping through your front parlor.

yeah....about that......

You see, the reason why we pay a mortgage, is because I prefer having four walls and a roof between my personal space and the rest of nature.  I tend to get upset when nature doesn't co-operate with that plan.
So there we were Monday afternoon.   The kids and I were getting ready to go run some errands and meet someone to exchange some papers for a class. I had a limited time frame to work with before the meeting, but I could get it done, assuming there were no major interruptions.

We all know what happens when we assume....

All of a sudden I hear my son announce from the front room, "Uhhhhh, Mom?"..."There's a bat in the house..."

Here is how I wish I had handled the situation:

Calmly step to the front door, open the door, and let the panicked little flying mammal back into the great out doors.
Calmly proceed with the rest of the day.

Here is how I really handled the situation:

Reallly loudly....
More than once.....
With all the windows open for the whole neighborhood to hear....

There may or may not have been a broom involved......

I may or may not have run out of the house....without my kids..... while screaming.....

My dear daughter somehow managed to get into my room, snag the phone, and toss it out her window  to me in the front yard (where I may or may not have been standing, screaming, swinging a broom....)

I managed to call my husband to tell him what was happening.   He managed to not laugh. Or at least managed to hit the mute button on his phone...

He then googled the phrase....How to get a bat out of your house... and proceeded to tell me
"Here's a website, it says, "10 Steps to remove a bat"

WHAT???   10!!!  Steps!!!
Who has time to perform a 10 step function while being dive bombed by nature???
Let's not forget that most of these 10 steps involved getting close enough to the creature to throw a towel on it, and then picking the towel up....with the live bat still in it.....

What happened to "2 steps to remove a bat"?
1) Scream
2) Swing the broom

Much easier to remember.
But not a productive option either ....sigh....

It turns out that the bat wanted to get outside just as much as I wanted to be back inside. So we came to an agreement.
I would open my front door to let it out, and it would LEAVE. Then I would run to my back door to get back in the house.  As soon as I was back in the house I would use my broom handle to push the front door shut....firmly...and then lock it...just in case.....
There may or may not have been screaming .....from the creature... and the lady with with broom....and the kids....and the dog.....

And then I  calmly proceeded to go about the rest of my day.

Good thing for the bat I had already had one cup of coffee.   After the bat I didn't need a second cup.

It has been a few days and we have not been visited by any more confused flying mammals.  We still check the corners of all the rooms and duck when we come in the house...just in case......

Cause while I hate mosquitoes more than bats, I like my un-natured house even better....and I can swing a pretty mean broom...

'cause this city girl didn't miss the class on that :)