Tuesday, July 28, 2020

rudbeckia returns

For the first time, a rudbeckia plant has survived a winter and reappeared!
This is one of the four rudbeckia plants I ordered from a nursery last year. This year it has already struggled through insect attacks that left many leaves tattered and many petals half-eaten before the blooms had even opened. But, as you can see:
the overall effect is one of Triumph and Beauty!

Each of the four was planted in a different place, in hopes in increasing chances of survival. This one was planted in a small bed right by the gate to the barn paddock. Whenever I walk past, I check to see if there are insidious insects chewing on the flowers, and if so, I knock them off. But this past week, there have been tiny bees working away at pollen collection!

Every morning I've thought, "I must go back for the camera," but by the time I've done even the slightest task - such as turning on the hose and passively watching it fill the goats' water buckets - there is sweat literally dripping from my hair, and my clothes are sticking to my entire body. When I get back into the cooler house, the camera is no longer on my mind.

Until today! Today I chanted "camera, camera, camera," as I walked back to the house. Went in, pulled off the leather gloves that were sticking to my fingers, grabbed the camera and went right back out.

One of the little goat-combing folding chairs was conveniently at hand, as I had used it last night to avoid 20 minutes of leaning while doing barnyard macrame on the lower part of a stock panel. So this morning I pulled that little folding chair right up to the rudbeckia and started making bee portraits.

A nearby patch of bee balm was hosting a group of big furry bumblebees, but the rudbeckia was providing an exclusive pollen party for a number of tiny bees from what I think is the family Halictidae - and that, my friends, is as far as I am willing to go on the bee id's. I started to look into it, but it's a huge family, and I have to save some of my small memory bank for remembering whose hooves need to be trimmed and whether or not I've paid my bills this month.

Besides, no name is needed. I'm happy just to see these amazing little creatures.

And these amazing flowers.


Friday, July 24, 2020

the first salad


Cucumber, snow peas, and balsamic dressing.

This week I noticed two tiny Suyo Long cucumbers on the ground, right at the base of the two plants. I harvested them right away, in hopes this will allow the plants to devote more energy to growing up on their trellis - they were slow to start, possibly due to insect damage. There are several flowers on both plants now, and they are beginning to climb. I'm hoping for lots of cucumbers as the summer goes on. These are the only variety I planted this year, and I could happily eat Suyos every day.


Snow peas are a new venture for me, and these have been hit with constant very hot weather from the day they germinated. It seemed doubtful they would survive. The plants look very frail and some are already withering, but last week they began producing flowers and pods. So pretty! And tasty. Next year I will plant more, and try to start them earlier. I'd like to have enough to freeze, as they would be quite a delicate treat in the middle of Winter.

A request: do any of you gardeners have a tried-and-true recipe for a plant spray that will protect plants from destructive bugs without harming the good bugs? I've found many online recipes (of course) but there seem to be a lot of "I tried that and it killed all my plants!" stories also. And lots of people don't seem to realize that diatomaceous earth does not discriminate. I grow organically, and generally overplant to try to offset losses due to bugs and other problems, but many of my plants are struggling this year so I've got to try something. If you've had success with a homemade solution, please share in the comments or an email - thank you!

We had a huge downpour yesterday, really a series of downpours, with thunder that shook the house. The rainfall meant I didn't need to water the gardens last night. Thank goodness. I had an appointment in the morning which left me fairly dozy and fizzled out later in the day. In fact I was half asleep when I heard the first roll of thunder and had to hasten outside to get the hay covered just as the raindrops began to fall. Thank goodness again!

Here's to the weekend ahead - 
I hope we all have a good one.

Here's a little Hesperis matronalis to get us off to a good start:


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

roasters rising

One of my favorite things:

the 2020 Sculpture Garden has begun to create itself.

The Candy Roaster squash plants are just beginning to reach for the trellis.

How are everyone else's doing?


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

tuesday tints

Moxie would like to draw your attention to one of the new anemones.
She's staying in the background so her flower can have the spotlight.

This Spring I wanted to plant something special in a spot between the barns.

Remembering my wonderful experience with a Japanese anemone purchased on a whim at a local nursery last year, I decided to look for anemone bulbs.

But in a different color.

These anemone bulbs, ordered online, were advertised as "the deepest blue."

Not all the flowers are quite so deeply blue,

and even the darkest ones may gradually turn paler.

But they are all very pretty shades of blue, violet, and lavender.

If anyone knows anything about these plants, please share in the comments! I really didn't know what to expect apart from that "deepest blue" description, as I didn't buy the bulbs from a nursery. It was an experiment, and the plants are probably quite a different variety or even a different species of anemone, Some of the stems on the Japanese anemone of last year were waist-high, and the plant grew into a robust clump. The new ones are smaller - more like 12 inches tall - and less sturdy. I also remember the pink flowers lasting a remarkably long time, while the blue ones are gone in a few days. Of course the weather has been dreadfully hot, which may be a factor. I keep trimming off the spent flowers in hopes of encouraging more growth and blooms. And I'll try to protect the bulbs over the Winter, to return in the Spring.

We'll see!

Friday, July 17, 2020

from the vault: wreck of the hesperis

Dear Readers: I've been tidying up a folder of document files, and found this piece written for the blog last June but not posted. Since I haven't written about the goats for quite a while, I thought you might find it entertaining. I'll add a couple of pictures of Campion taken at about the same time.

Yesterday afternoon I was painting in my studio (formerly known as my tent) when I heard a goat shouting. The voice was that of Campion, who generally has a lot to say about everything and nothing, so I wasn't overly concerned. But the shouting continued.


Everyone had food and water, the weather was pleasant, and there was no sound of colliding horns. Without moving, I called out to Campion, asking what the problem could be. Sometimes just speaking to a goat by name is all they need to hear to settle down.


I put my brush and sketchpad aside, climbed out of my chaise, removed the icepack strapped to my back, and followed the sound down to the Upper West Side.

There was Campion, head high, excited, and yelling his head off at seeing me.

He had somehow gotten inside the vegetable garden fence, the naughty goat.

And once there, he apparently couldn't get back into the paddock.

Goats are sometimes determined to go where they know they shouldn't be, but soon become terribly upset when they can't get back to where they know they belong. It's actually a very useful trait, from a goatherd's perspective. I remember the time Betula somehow climbed over the six-foot perimeter fence onto the bank garden by the driveway, and then hollered at the top of his mighty voice until I looked out the window and saw him there. Like Campion, Betula was tremendously relieved to see me when I hastened to the "rescue."

I opened the garden gate and Campion came trotting right over, then, halfway through the gate, remembered that he is a goat and should be playing it cool. So he stopped. He looked all around as if deciding whether or not to do me the favor of coming out of the garden. I did the only thing that would not prolong the process: nothing at all. If I had tried to hurry him out, he would have backed right up and hoped I would chase him around the garden for light entertainment. So I did nothing at all - this is not my first Goat Rodeo, Campion! - and in a few seconds, he stepped out into the paddock and I went into the garden to find his entry route.

Unfortunately, I found nothing. I hope this means he squeezed through the gate, which can easily have another latch added. If, on the other hand, he climbed over the fence, it will be a major problem. I am not going to start replacing all my interior paddock fencing - that is simply not possible under current management. So let's hope it was the gate.

Campion didn't do much eating while in the garden, which is a shame because there is plenty of grass and plantain going to waste between the rows I'm preparing for the vegetables. He must have gotten nervous right away. I did find a trampled stalk of Hesperis matronalis - "dame's rocket" - with buds and flowers, which was sad. I picked it up to put in a jar of water in the hope the buds would continue to open.

Carrying that one flower stalk through a paddock full of goats was no small feat - I was mobbed. And Acer, who I can best compare to a colt in terms of size and assertiveness, was sure he could get it away from me. I finally stuck the flower in my hat like a feather and held up my empty hands, palms forward, in the universal gesture for "I have nothing for you!" and the goats immediately ambled away. Even Acer.

Back into the tent, with the flower in a jar, for Daily Markmaking:


Friday, July 3, 2020

five on friday

Five snaps taken today, after a rain. And a quick note:

If you are considering signing up for Disney+ for the sole purpose of seeing the Hamilton film - released today - I highly recommend it. Recorded during performances by the original Broadway cast in 2016.

It's an absolute gem.

Happy Independence Day.

Rise up!