Saturday, February 23, 2008

And now for something completely different

My friend Carole has spent most of the month in Kentucky assisting her son and daughter-in-law with their new-born and 2-year-old sons. I've really missed her and wanted to welcome her back home on Sunday with some kind of enthusiasm.

Last night, while at my friend Pete's house, using his binding machine to make more copies of Fun with Winter Seed Sowing, it dawned on me. Pete is a composer and musician who often performs in filk circles. While he has produced traditional and epic scores, he also enjoys a good horrible song, so I knew he was just the person with whom I could create a little ditty to leave on Carole's answering machine.

Thus was born, Carole's Song.

If you have 31 seconds and a high tolerance for off-key singing (mine, not his), check it out! I always hate my voice in that it sounds high-pitched and nasal-y to me. I was glad the recorder did not capture that, only my being off-tune. What can I say--it's a gift! But I am enthusiastic! Until the recording was played back, I also didn't realize I had a southern twang, which was not intentional. Also, the final strumming of the guitar (a C-sharp, thank you very much) is me (now that sounded great!). The other instrument is Pete's banjo ukelele.

I have to say, it's quite humbling, very daunting, and a heck of a lot of fun to create music with, in fact, no actual musical ability!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Winter Sowing!

One of the nice things about being an instructor is that I can pass on handy tips I've learned over the years so others can save time and trouble (and often money). One of the things about being human is, I don't always follow my own tips!

So I spent several hours on Sunday cleaning out containers from last spring's winter sowing. (I use nine parts hot water to one part bleach, with a few dollops of antibacterial soap for good measure (but any soap or cleanser would do). And a scrub brush.) Might I just mention that it takes a long time to clean out nine seed tray bottoms and lids, plus all the cell packs that go therein. Whew! Of course, I recommend cleaning the containers on a onesy-twosy basis right after transplanting the seedlings. (Because plants all sprout on different schedules, they are ready at different times. This is handy because it makes it easier to keep up with transplanting. But not, as it turns out, with cleaning containers!)

So yesterday afternoon, under grey skies in balmy 40-degree weather, I filled my trays with pre-moistened soil mix and got to plantin'. I sowed a ginormous amount of morning glories (in purple, blue, fuchsia, and white), more than my privacy screen will need. But since my rotund sciuridean backyard dwellers made a quick meal of the morning glories I planted last year (apparently, they taste just like French fries and you can't eat just one), I want to have reserves. I will also put up some chicken wire. The morning glories did bloom last year as the groundhog ate the leaves, but not the stems, but not in their full glory. They were more like morning ho-hums!

I also sowed some lupins (which Carole brought back for me from a trip to Nova Scotia), sea holly (whose seeds I may or may not have procured at a garden in the land of Sparty and which I hope make it as it's a notoriously persnickety plant to start), Maltese crosses (which I've been wanting to grow ever since I saw a stunning display in one of the gardens I visited in Saskatoon in, er, 2005), and nasturtiums (which I haven't traditionally been wild about but which have really grown on me over the last few years, much like zinnias).

I got a cool resin potting cart the day before off Craigslist (from, as it turns out, someone who works at Old House Gardens and who had donated surplus bulbs both to the garden I manage at Cobblestone Farm and as door prizes for a Matthaei's volunteer recognition event) and used that as my working surface, though it will eventually be needed as flat surfaces for seed trays as well.

I managed to sow (yes sir, yes sir) four flats full before darkness fell and just after clearing the last seed packet away, it started raining. Timing is not usually a strong suit of mine, so I felt snug and smug inside, I can tell you.

Now you very may well ask, "Oh,sure, that reads OK, Monica, but where the *bleep* are some photos?" Or perhaps you're more polite and not in the habit of swearing, which is commendable. And of course I do love sharing photos, and just this afternoon braved falling snow the size of saucers to attempt to capture said seed trays, when the camera refused to cooperate, telling me to change the batteries. Fair enough. I even miraculously had four of the correct configuration on hand. With the fresh batteries snug in the camera casing, I eagerly traipsed outside again and... the camera is still telling me to change the batteries. Which I'm pretty darn sure were all fresh. Ahem.

I also order heirloom seeds for Cobblestone Farm from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, some of which arrived today. (I love their seeds, and the packets are pretty and have decent plant descriptions and histories, but for some reason they ship UPS in a cardboard box way too large for the few seed packets instead of regular mail in a padded envelope. And, invariably, the seeds arrive in two different shipments of said larger cardboard boxes, even though I order maybe 6 packets total. They're always shipped on the same day and I can never figure this out.) Most of the plants in that garden are perennials but I like to add some annuals each year. I ordered Joseph's coat (Amaranthus tricolor), pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), painted lady sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus cv.), 'Empress of India' nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus cv.), and Canterbury bells (noog! noog! so cute! (and yes I do realize they're biennials, not annuals), Campanula medium). I'll be winter sowing those this weekend. And hopefully my camera will be fixed or replaced by then, as well.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Photo Catch-Up: OSU Short Course

Two weekends ago, I ventured to Columbus for a three-day Ohio State University Nursery Short Course. I received comp attendance as a member of the Garden Writer's Association, and, well, I'm all about free. Unfortunately, I got the flu and had to come home a day early, but I still heard eight great speakers.

In the trade show portion of the event, I captured these two photos:

An oh-so-cute witch hazel, and...

a harrrr auger for tree planting (note dude for size comparison, and the Norway spruce is 20 feet tall). Whee!