Friday, June 25, 2010

Of coyotes and weeds and grapes, oh my

Summer has finally - it seems - arrived. We have had sun and blue skies for the last few days so that we can, at long last, open the windows without first putting on coats. The peacock was calling a few days ago and at the moment the bunny room window is open and I can hear the coyotes calling over in the forest. I love to hear the peacock and don't even mind the coyotes, really, as long as they aren't eating my cats. Or anyone else's, for that matter. They generally aren't a problem during the day - or even during the night, as long as the cats are brought in. And the fact that we have three big dogs patrolling the yard probably tends to discourage the coyotes from coming too close at any time, day or night.

At any rate - coyotes or no - there is other news on the Unfarm. The garden, which is usually the picture of health, is suffering. The roses have developed powdery mildew and black spot, my honeysuckle is looking less than perfect, my anemone is falling over, the columbine are half their usual size, and my hostas are in the worst shape I've ever seen them in, with wilted, beaten up leaves. I can only hope that this strange affliction of my garden is due to the extremely cold, wet spring we've had, and that there will be no lasting damage. Sure, I could replace them, but any of the plants dying off sends me into a fit of anxiety that eats at me for days. So I am doing the only thing I know to do, and running around the yard frantically spraying the plants with compost tea and watering them with organic fertilizer when they seem to need it.

The only thing not suffering in the yard is the weeds. Some kind of plantain weed has sprouted up all over my garden, wild daisies are appearing in every corner of the yard - although I let them stay because I can't bear to take out anything with flowers, the thistles are three feet high, and the horseradish is getting so big that I think next week I will be able to build a tree house in them. On the plus side, I have always wanted a tree house - I just never thought I would build it in a stand of horseradish.

On top of all the other problems in the garden, the grape arbor is falling down. I thought I had built a fairly sturdy support for the four grape vines that surround the rabbit run, but apparently I underestimated the exuberance of the grapes. They've grown so much and so fast that the once upright arbor is now leaning at a 45 degree angle. I think the only reason it hasn't already fallen down is that the rabbit run is in the way. This failure of the grape arbor means that I will have to now perform the worrisome procedure of building a new, stronger (read 4x4's and 80 pound bags of cement) arbor around the original structure, and then carefully dismantle the old structure while simultaneously moving the grapes from the original support to the new arbor. All this is made even more complicated by the fact that each grape plant has approximately ten thousand new vines sprouting from each of it's branches. It will not be a pleasant experience, but I am looking forward to the day when the project is finished and I no longer have to worry about thirty tons of grape plants coming crashing down into my garden. So that is the goal for this weekend, and I have been doing the painstaking prep work of digging out all of the plants that are in the way and moving them to an area out of the way, where they will - I hope and pray - be safe until I can put them back in the ground later this weekend. And if I am to have any hope of completing this massive project by the end of the weekend, I should probably get off the computer and go to bed so I'm not waking up at noon... wish me luck.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Death of a diaper

There are several things a duck diaper must have: snaps, velcro, reinforced flannel, straps and elastic. A giant gaping hole is not one of those things but upon taking the diapers out of the dryer today I discovered that, alas, one of Minna's diapers has suffered a fatal wound and will have to be retired. It will first be stripped for usable parts - the snaps and velcro can be salvaged and put to use on another diaper - and then given a proper burial, or perhaps a cremation. The loss of this diaper means, of course, that I must now get to work again on making more diapers - a somewhat tedious process that I had been hoping to put off for a little while longer, having just recently finished another rather long sewing project. But apparently the diaper waits for no man - or duck mother - as the case may be.

More updates from the Unfarm:
This spring we had a robin family build a nest under our back deck and the mother laid, and hatched, two little babies. For the last couple of weeks we have been watching both parents fly around the yard gathering worms for the little ones and today, finally, the nest is empty. Judging from the size of the babies a couple days ago (the nest could barely hold both of them) I figured that they would have to leave the nest soon, either that or the parents would be looking at adding a room or two onto the nest. Apparently they went with the more economical option of kicking out the kids.

Kita is finally sporting his new summer haircut. It took several days of cutting, and it looks far from professional, but I managed to get his hair to a more comfortable length for the summer. As a malamute mix he has a thick undercoat that tends to make him overheat a bit in the hotter weather (not that we've seen any so far), so a shorter cut lets him get more air flow through his fur, and makes it easier for me to get his medicated shampoo down to his skin when he starts itching.

Minna is still sitting on her nest of eggs - four of them, hidden in the daylily - and refuses to get off the nest for anything less than a chicken wandering too close. Because she is considerably smaller than Maggie, and is still walking with a limp, she is quite wary of the chickens proximity. And with Minna on her nest, Maggie is left to wander the yard on her own. Whenever I go out into the garden Maggie comes running up behind me, as fast as her little duck legs can go - which is surprisingly fast, I almost can't outrun her - and, after she greets me, she mostly just wants me to sit nearby while she nibbles on plants and digs around in the dirt.

The grass I planted in the rabbit run has finally come in - not quite as thick as I would have liked it, but that is my fault for not putting down a thick enough layer of seeds to begin with. But nevertheless, the grass came in thick enough to suffice for now and the rabbits have had a couple of days to enjoy it between downpours. I thought that they would spend all their time grazing and would have the grass clipped down to nothing in no time but so far they haven't so much eaten the grass as sat on it and mashed it into the ground...

Weather wise there is little change - I am beginning to doubt that summer will ever arrive. No, seriously - I am actually worried that it will never warm up. On the plus side, if this is global warming I don't think we have much to worry about.

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's beginning to feel a lot like... winter

I am considering going into hibernation as it is apparently still winter, and it will remain so until... who knows - forever? It has rained every day, or nearly every day, for the last few weeks. There are gray clouds from here to the end of the sky, and at this point I doubt that the ground will ever dry out. There is probably water seeping out of the ground at the other side of the planet from all the rain we've gotten here. It is the beginning of June but the air smells like woodsmoke from the chimneys that are still going. It feels like we should be out gathering pumpkins instead of strawberries. Spring? I wish.

On the plus side, however, I am finally done with my ethics class. Add another check to the endless list of classes I need to take to finish my degree - one more down, somewhere around one hundred left to go. And we have had some more newcomers here on the Unfarm, as well. A pair of robins have made a nest under the back deck and their eggs have recently hatched. I haven't actually seen the baby birds, as I do not want to disturb the parents by going so close to the nest, but both robins have been busily flying around the yard gathering worms to take back to the nest. So the rain is, I suppose, beneficial in that it has been keeping the worms near the surface and the parents are easily able to keep their little ones fed.

The dogs, however, are a bit out of sorts as all this rain has had me in such a mood to hibernate that I have tended to neglect their walks. I am aware that this makes me a somewhat terrible mother, but all I've felt like doing lately is sleeping. Perhaps I'll take the dogs up to our family's cabin on Puget Sound for a couple of days to make it up to them. If it ever stops raining - I find that the beach is little fun when you're as wet out of the water as you would be in it.