Sunday, January 31, 2010

More snow pictures.

It's 30 degrees and sunny. Taken before work this morning when it was still 19 degrees.

One more day.

I think I can handle one more day of tundra like conditions. Oh, that MORE freezing rain in the forecast? Crap.

That's it. I am over it. OVER IT. I know we still have February. At least it's the shortest month. Come on March.

It's 19 degrees and sunny.

RIP Etta.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Winter Garden.

No, this is not about snow. It's about all the things I have growing under lights in the basement. Outside, it's 25 degrees and cold. On my little rack of sunshine, it's a balmy 76 degrees. When the wood heater gets back up to speed, it can reach 90 in the basement quickly.

Brugmansia seedlings.

I pruned a few of my yellow orange brugs. The leaves were getting in the way of the lights. They were looking sort of tortured. I didn't take cuttings of these since I already have too many.

It's hard to tell unless you know what to look for, but my black mission figs are beginning to push out roots. I've been keeping them on top of the uppermost fluorescent light. It's very warm up there. I need to keep an eye out for any mold that might develop. I did clean these with a 10% bleach solution, but you can never be too safe.

The weeping willow cuttings are pushing out tiny roots too. I'll be planting a clump on the other side of the stream in the gully. I'd love to hide some of the houses I can now see on Brown Ave.

Of course, I fed the birds today. With so many waiting to take turns at the feeders, I thought I would scatter some seeds on the ground. Juncos, Eastern Bluebirds, cardinals, and what I think is a sparrow have all shown up to eat. There are more Juncos than anything else in this photo.

I can't wait for spring. Next week, I'll be able to check on my wintersown seedlings. The tiny sprouts should survive this cold spell just fine, but I can tell from just looking that the bottles are frozen solid out there.

It continues.

It's been mostly sleet falling this morning with a little snow mixed in. The roads are not great. I was at work by 6am, home for breakfast and refilling the wood heater now. It's 28 degrees.

Friday, January 29, 2010

It begins.

Shortly after 7pm, it started as an icy drizzle.

It's all downhill from here.

Salt trucks were spraying the roads yesterday. The squirrels seem to be more chattery than normal. Birds have been taking turns filling up on the fresh seeds I put out in the feeders and saucers scattered around the yard. They know it's coming.

It's clear and cool this morning as the sun rises above the trees outback. It's 37 degrees.

By 6pm, we should be in the mid 40s. Within an hour, the temperature is forecast to fall to near or below freezing as the rain starts. By midnight, the ice and/or snow will be coming down. We're supposed to get about 1/2" of something. If it's ice, that's a big problem. If it's snow, I suspect there will be more than 1/2". This will continue through midnight on Saturday.

I was planning to work on the kitchen today. When I went to bed, I made a promise that I would get up and start painting after the first cup of coffee. I'm just not in the mood. I might be later on, but I'm thinking I may just take the day off. I do need to bring in the rest of the split firewood. I'll need it come Sunday night when the lows will dip into the very low double digits and possible into the 8-9 degree range. I'm hoping it snows. That will add a little protection to the plants already pushing up new spring growth thanks to some warmer weather over the past two weeks.

The chili is gone. It was delicious. I think today I will make a pot of butterbeans. I need some fatback.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hunkering Down

Today, 62 and sunny. Tomorrow, ice and snow. Welcome to North Carolina. The weathermen are predicting all sorts of nasty stuff for Friday and Saturday. It should start about 3pm tomorrow afternoon and continue through the night and into Saturday evening. My parents will not be coming up to bring me the 2-liter containers they've collected. Maybe they can make it the next weekend. I need more soil anyway.

Carla came by this morning to drop off two pots of brugmansias from her yard. She had rooted them in water, but had some problems once they were moved to soil. I'm going to babysit them for a couple months until they can be moved outside. Hers are pink. Once they settle in, I might have to "prune" them a bit and stick the cuttings in the cloner to make more. She also helped split a week's worth of firewood. It only took us just over an hour. I'll spend some time today moving it into the basement.

The compost is coming along nicely. A few weeks ago I took Janie's advice and tossed a half bag of 34-0-0 fertilizer into the bin. It seems that jumpstarted the decomposition process. I need to stir it. I want to move it. When I placed the bin here, you couldn't see it from the house. Now it's in plain view thanks to a crape myrtle that's gone dormant for the winter. I should know these simple things. Funny how I forget about deciduous trees and shrubs when placing things in the yard in summer.

Down the street, a cherry tree in front of the old stone church is in full bloom. My peach tree is threatening to start soon. Hopefully I won't lose these buds with the low teen temperatures in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday nights.

The rest of the day is mine. No real plans aside from a trip to the grocery store and another errand or three. I do intend to spend most of the day outside. It's 46 degrees and sunny. It's going to be strange waking up to cold and miserable conditions tomorrow.

- Back from my errands. On the way home, I saw a landscape company committing crape murder on a beautiful dark red specimen that blooms fantastically all summer. I had to stop. I brought back a few limbs. Some have seed in the seed pods still.

I moved 4 barrows of wood inside. I'll do 4 more before dark. I'm heading outside now to play with my crape myrtles. I believe they're Dynamite.

2:00pm - Before and after.

I love my truck.

Simmering on the stove is a pot of black bean chili. I take 1lb of ground beef, browned and drained. I sautee half an onion, finely chopped. Drop the beef, two cans of black beans, and a large can of whole tomatoes that have been chopped and squished into a pot and let simmer for at least an hour, probably two. Salt and pepper to taste. Chili powder for flavor. Red pepper flakes for heat. Quick and dirty.

I'm going to relax a bit.

4:33pm - Done relaxing, I hauled another load of wood into the basement. I'd like to have enough to last through Sunday. I'll probably do another two in the morning.

It's 63 degrees with a touch of chill in the air.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


In the fridge, I have four 8" cuttings of Marseilles fig sent to me by a GardenWeb member. Shortly after receiving them, I washed them with antibacterial dish soap, dipped them in a 10% bleach solution, and allowed them to air dry. Then I wrapped them in damp newspaper and placed them in a ziplock bag. I tried rooting this fig last year, but lost all 6 of my cuttings to mold and rot shortly after the first roots formed. I'm doing a couple of tests to determine the best method for rooting them this year.

In a ziplock bag, I have Black Mission cuttings from Carla. They were cleaned in the same manner and wrapped in moist paper. From what I've read, it should take 2-6 weeks to see the first roots develop. Nothing so far, not even a bump. It's only been a few days though.

I also stuck a cutting in the cloner. I've never had success rooting dormant, hardwood cuttings with this thing. So I'm hoping that figs will be the first successful attempt. If it works, I'll use the baggie method on two of the Marseilles and stick the other two is a very clean cloner. I've been told they will also root in water. That's something else I've never had luck with. The one cutting has developed a single white initial root. I'm waiting to see if it creates others before I call it a success.

I also have cuttings in soil in the hoophouse. I doubt I will use that method for the Marseilles. Too many things can go wrong and I tend not to pay a lot of attention to the innards of the hoophouse for days on end.

I picked up a few new seeds yesterday from the store. The Four O'clocks will be planted on the north side of the house where they can reseed with abandon. The others, I'm not sure about. I love the Pink Pop agastache. I wonder if Cameron has grown this one.

This morning, it's 25 degrees. The wind died down overnight so a heavy frost settled on everything. It should be a sunny day with a mid 50s high. I'm off tomorrow, so the new coffee maker will get a work out. I've got firewood to cut and split and a few other things to get done from my weekly to-do list. I'd like to get enough stone to finish the edging around the shrub border. I just have to uncover it and move it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Met Someone Today.

He's shiny, my favorite color.

Here's to a long lasting relationship.

The long view.

The weather forecast has become a special thing for me over the past year. Everyday, I like to record the temperature and conditions. It's been a great tool for looking back to remind myself what January last year was like. With spring on the horizon, I'm looking forward today.

The 10 day forecast from

Not bad, but what about February? Will it be warm and seasonable? Or cold (as is typical) and blustery? The Farmers Almanac has a little to say about that. I'm in the Southeast zone.

temperature 46.5° (0.5° above avg.);
precipitation 4.5" (2" above avg. east, 1" below west);
Feb 1-4: Sunny, warm;
Feb 5-8: T-storms, then sunny, cold;
Feb 9-11: Showers, seasonable;
Feb 12-15: Sunny, chilly;
Feb 16-21: Rain and snow, then sunny, chilly;
Feb 22-24: Heavy rain, seasonable;
Feb 25-28: Snow showers, then sunny, cold.

So it looks like a repeat of last year. Warm days scattered among snow and rain. This weekend, we've got winter weather in the forecast again. My parents are supposed to be visiting again on Saturday. I'm hoping they can make it. They've got several large bags of 2-liter containers for me.

This morning, it's 32. Only 15 minutes ago, the thermometer read 30. Should be a nice day with sunshine and little wind. I'm going to bring some more firewood into the basement and spend an hour or two cleaning up from the flood I found yesterday.

11:02am - 43 degrees.



Cabbage, carrots.



A few stones around the shrub island. Many more to go.

Monday, January 25, 2010

After it rained...

Gorgeous day. Simply stunning. It's still windy, but it's 61 degrees and sunny. All this week, we'll be tempting frost with near freezing lows and 50-60 degree highs. More rain at the end of the week. I can live with this.


The tea olives are blooming again by the front door.

Even the heucheras are putting out new growth.

And it rained.

Two inches of rain overnight. The basement floor is flooded. The drain, apparently clogged, has been plunged and the waters are receding slowly. The wind is still howling. The plants by the garage door made it through the night. I'll bring them back inside when I come home today for lunch. It's 55 degrees and cloudy. Tonight, 33.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


That's what it feels like outside tonight. This morning, it was cool and brisk. I wore my hat to work and removed several layers of clothing throughout the day. By the time I had lunch, we were in the 50s. Tonight, it's 63 and, breezy would be an understatement. It's windy. The hurricane chime on the perennial bed arbor has been sounding steadily since sunset. It's made from long pieces of chainlink fence posts and requires a decent amount of air movement to make it sing.

Before I headed back to work this afternoon, I moved all the indoor cuttings outside. I know. Brugmansia and pineapple sage outside in January. The nighttime temperature is supposed to fall to 51 with a 64 degree high tomorrow. I'm contemplating leaving them out there all night. They could use the rain. By now, the soil is stagnant and needs to be refreshed. Rainfall nutrients can't do much harm. However, the wind might. I pulled the rack up close to the house. I can always wheel it into the garage door if I need to, and in a hurry.

I haven't really been paying much attention to these plants lately. They've just been doing their own thing. Lights come on at 7am, go off at 7pm. They get watered when I think about it (or notice a crunchy leaf). I guess I hadn't realized there was so much sage in bloom.

I'll have to pull them back inside tomorrow if the sun threatens to show its face. But for tonight, they can dream about warmer days. The rain has started already. It's blowing fierce against the bedroom windows. I'm thinking about calling it a night and turning in early.


Under the lights in the basement, I've got a jar of water rooting pussywillow and redtwig dogwood. In the kitchen window, cuttings from a weeping willow have been given the same treatment.

All of these will be planted where water is still flowing from neighboring parcels into the gully. Already sopping wet, more rain is in the forecast today. Flash flood watches were issued last night for our area. Heavy rain and possibly thunderstorms will pass through sometime after noon. Behind it, a cold front will bring cooler temperatures including a few nights of freezing weather.

After a couple years of drought, it's hard to complain about rain. Unfortunately, it's coming at the wrong time of the year. The ground is already soggy. Unless the forecast changes, it will be weeks before I can get out and actually dig in the soil.

This afternoon, I need to water all of my indoor plants again. Some of the pineapple sage decided to curl up and turn crispy overnight. I need to pot some of the rooted cuttings in the cloner, and take more pineapple sage cuttings from the remaining plants. I do want a lot of this wonderful fall bloomer this year. I plan to put a little everywhere.

It's 43 degrees. The high today should reach 60. Overnight, the temperature in the house fell from 71 degrees to 67. I woke up sweating.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Promises, promises.

It's 45 degrees and sunny.

2:33pm - It's 52 and still sunny. Rain moving in tonight. More promises. Darla made me do it.


Anise hyssop "Golden Jubilee"

Rudbeckia fulgida


Larkspur (or poppies or maybe nigella?)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Things to do.

Nell Jean mentioned my to-do list yesterday in a comment on her blog. I removed mine a few months ago. It was turning into after thoughts rather than an actual to-do list. So now I have a list of intentions. These are ideas that have occurred to me while in the yard or looking back at photos from the past season. I still have a long list of things that I want to complete, but I've been keeping that in my head rather than in bits and bytes.

The kitchen. I need to finish painting. All the beadboard and trim needs a couple coats of glossy white paint. The countertops need to be installed and laminated. Everything needs a thorough cleaning once that's done. I need to choose hardware and install that too. I haven't found anything that jumps out at me yet.

The oak tree.
I've still got a lot of wood that needs to be cut and split. If I don't use it all this winter, I'll have it for next year. Two more trees are on the list to be cut down for longer sun exposure in the backyard. Both are elms. They produce thousands of tiny seedlings each spring and summer. I may not get to them this year.

The bathroom. A water leak sprang up behind the toilet just before we replaced all the supply lines this summer. It ruined the baseboard and buckled a couple of the peel and stick tiles I used on the floor. I need to replace all of that. A doorknob needs to be installed on the door. A small area of peeling paint and plaster on the ceiling needs to be filled, sanded, and painted. I'll probably repaint the entire ceiling as I want to add the 2" border of white around the top of the room like I have in all the others.

The hallway. Paint and doors. I don't have the new doors. I have the paint. I'll get to it eventually.

The front steps. The bricks are cracked. The mortar is chipped and missing in between many of the bricks. Settling over the years has produced some ugly crevices where spiders and other creepy things live. I've got an idea that includes using small stones from the property to cover the vertical parts of the steps. I'm not sure when or how to go about doing this just yet. I need to rebuild the roof first. The wood is rotting. Long ago, someone covered it with vinyl and metal to hide the problem. That only made it worse. I really hope I can get to that this summer.

The front walk. It slopes towards the stairs that lead from the driveway to the front door. When it's raining or (rarely) icy, it can be a real hazard. I want to level this area when I rebuild the steps from the driveway. I have ideas, just need to get lots of concrete and lumber for the forms. I should start investing in broken bags soon. I figure I need about 50 80lb bags. I'm probably way off. It will take twice as much as usual.

The arbor, fence, and swing.
These all need to be painted soon. Winter or early spring is best for painting since the vegetation that I'm growing on or near them are dormant or have disappeared for the season. I'm still thinking about colors.

Raised beds. One of the raised beds needs rebar drilled and hammered into place. I keep thinking I'll do it tomorrow. Then it rains. The wood is hard to drill when wet. I have to get it done soon. I also need a couple loads of composted manure from Jamie's horses at work. If it ever stops raining for a week, I'll get that done.

I want to move the vitex. It's going to need a lot more room than I gave it. It will be moved to the area just behind the swing, in front of the dead oak tree. I've got a lot of ivy and periwinkle to remove from that space first. Maybe I'll work on that next week if it doesn't rain. Other plants that need to be moved include the althea growing along the backside of the perennial bed. I'm not sure where they'll go, but I no longer want them as the backdrop to my flowers. The camellias there are returning nicely after being hacked to the ground a couple years ago. I want to uproot some of the nandinas that are growing in the wild space behind the house. These will go into the front bed along the sidewalk. They'll be the understory planting for the Japanese Maple that is growing very slowly. Gardenias and tea olives are already in place. One of the gardenias will be moved about 3' from it's current location. I need to find a spot for the 6 rooted cuttings in the hoophouse too. Maybe I'll put them along the back of the house. The idea of a patio back there is still appealing. I'm waiting until some of my shrubs get some size to them for the final decision. It might be years.

Shrubs. I really want to add some small evergreen shrubs to the perennial bed. I have a few wigela in there now. They disappear in the winter since they are deciduous. I'm still toying with the varieties. I need things that stay somewhat small and compact without a massive root system. The only evergreen in there now is a tiny leatherleaf mahonia I found in the gully last spring. I know of at least two others I could put there. I'll be on the lookout for things to take cuttings of this summer. I want to add winter interest.

Grasses. I also need grasses for the perennial bed. I'll divide a couple of things I already have in another month or two. I've got to make room for the wintersown perennials too.

Trees. This fall, I marked some maples that had nice coloring in the wild. The tallest one is around 4'. They'll go into the hole created by the dead oak tree on the other side of the gully. I've already moved the magnolia and planted a sweet gum. I can see the pink tape on the tiny trees I want to move. Soon. They need to be in place before they leaf out.

The North Bed. I planted some hardy ferns and hosta last year. I've got wintersown containers with shade plants that should be germinating in the next couple of months. I've been scattering wood ashes all winter to deter slugs and snails. I hope it works. The wood ashes also raise the pH of the soil. Maybe I can get something to grow besides moss on that side of the house this year.

The dining room window.
Below the window, there's a camellia, a couple of nandinas, two gardenias, and an aucuba shrub. They need to be fertilized this spring. It just takes time.

Yes. That's a long list of things I want to do this year and beyond. Some are more important than others. I'll get to them all in their own time. I suppose when I finally get everything just the way I want it, I'll have to sell the house. Laura wrote me the other day and mentioned that I'm running out of land. She's right. I should have bought a larger yard. I wonder if the nice neighbors behind the wild would enjoy some flowers along their side of the woods. I know they want brugmansias already. I should start some datura seeds for them soon too.

It's 37 degrees and still drizzly. I've just about finished my first cup of coffee. I have all intentions of working in the kitchen today, but that may change once I get up and get moving. There's just so much to do. I'm still in my pajamas.

11:52am - Two cups of coffee down. I've put some paint on a small area of the kitchen where I don't have to clean off countertops or do much masking. I like it. I'm glad I kept the green, just toned down with a bit of gray to get rid of the yellow. Pepsi bottles are best for wintersowing. Coke changed theirs and the sides are no longer straight.

Going to try to finish the beadboard under the cabinets at the stove today too. I may not do more than that. I need to bring firewood into the basement to dry.

1:33pm - I'm going to call it a day in the kitchen. I don't want to stay inside all day. I managed to get two coats on everything I did today. Need a third coat on the bare wood items. Maybe next week. I have three days off in a row. I also put a coat on the old door that will someday be replaced. I just couldn't stand it any longer.