Thursday, December 29, 2005

List Day

Well, this isn't a very exciting post. I need to think over what I didn't get for Christmas that I really need to get myself.

1) A spading fork -- for compost pile turning and for mixing good soil into the clay in my yard.

2) A sifter -- well, basically some chicken wire on a square frame, something to help separate big clunky peices of mulch or compost or dirt from the nice fine stuff.

3) Garden gloves -- okay, these weren't on my list because I know my size, but I still need a good durable pair for winter and wet spring work.

4) Over the railing planters -- to give me something to see when I look out the window because the deck is just too barren and these won't blow around.

5) Foam kneeling pad -- for the times when I really should be on my knees instead of my butt, I'll probably just pick up a chunk of foam at a craft store.

6) Hose attachment -- I got the hose, I didn't get the sprayer for the end.

7) Muscles -- um, I guess this really should go under resolutions...

8) Garden cart/wagon -- for if I don't manage to build muscles.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lucky Bugs

I have a ladybug hibernating in my house. I think it's just one, and I think it's still here. I saw it a couple weeks ago. I don't have a problem with it being here.

I like ladybugs. I grew up during the first Strawberry Shortcake craze and adored her companion Lucky. As a result, I've always seen ladybugs as a lucky symbol and liked it when I found them. I especially liked it when I found out that they ate aphids. That feeling swelled after I had the misfortune of having to park my car next to a bush infested with aphids. The "honey dew" was annoying and didn't come off.

The site Luring Ladybugs to Your Garden has several good tips on ladybugs. Everyone knows they eat aphids, but who knew that they needed pollen too! And finally, dandelions have a purpose -- feeding ladybugs! They like the pollen of dandelions, along with cosmos (especially the white ones), coreopsis, and scented geraniums. They are also attracted to umbrella shaped flowers such as fennel, dill, cilantro, caraway, angelica, tansy, wild carrot and yarrow.

Now, my little ladybug is one of the Asian varieties, since it is orange and in the house. The native ladybugs are well behaved and go find a nice spot in the forest to hibernate. The Asian ladybugs like to congregate in huge swarms and hibernate in light colored cliffs. Now, Maryland lacks light colored cliffs, so Asian ladybugs make due with the next best thing, light colored houses. There were a few swarming around the house this fall, but not a mulititude. When I was in college, I saw a whole lot more on red brick buildings, and some anecdotes tell of not being able to see the house for the ladybugs! That is a bit excessive. The Ohio State University has a fact sheet on Asian ladybugs. Including pictures, so you can see what ladybug larva look like. It also tells of how to eliminate a ladybug infestation.

But I think I'll let my ladybug alone. "She" seemed quite friendly and didn't squirt red "blood" when I handled her. Although, she didn't seem inclined to fly away, I had to place her on my snake plant, so I could get back to quilting.

Edit to add this link to an article about British ladybugs in danger.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Garden Gifts

I had a wonderful holiday with my family, and I hope everyone else who celebrates the Season did likewise. This year, the theme of the list was garden supplies. I didn't get nearly everything on my list, because my dad decided the theme this year was going to be antiques. I got this:

Now, my dad's new thing is visiting thrift stores and antique markets. The story behind the sewing machine is that my grandmother used to have one of these, and the base made it into our house. For the longest time, my dad hauled it around. Then, the move right before I got interested in quilting, he put it out for the collectors. D'oh! Well, after years of saying he should have kept that and made a table or sewing machine cabinet out of it for me, he bought me a complete sewing machine! Complete with bobbins! And an antique shuttle for a loom.

But don't despair! I did get gardening gifts! I got a hose caddy and 100 feet of garden hose and two lawn ornaments. As well as a bird identifying book and one for wildflowers. I also got a toad abode! My dad likes making toad abodes, or turtle hide boxes. He finds nice bowls and inserts a hole in it so critters can get in. So, Aggie has a swank new home. I hope she likes it!

Image hosted by

My snow is almost all melted, except for where there were piles. And I ran out of bird seed again. I think I went through that a little fast. Even supplementing it with bread heels.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Most Wonderful Tree of Them All

The trees I really, really enjoyed at Christmas when I was a kid, is when we at the tippy top of New York state. The road we lived on terminated after our property and turned into a logging road. Not that we saw any logging trucks coming out of there. Just a few rangers. The soil was sand and pine needles and our house was surrounded by gigantic pine trees. My dad had a "native" shade garden. Mainly populated with plants he transplanted from the forest. Basically mosses.

At Christmas, we would wax the runners on the sled and hitch the dog up to it. Then, the family would hike through the drifts of snow back through the park/logging lands. We (my dad) would look for a spruce of about the right size to take back home. When we found it, he would use the saw he brought with him to cut it down while we kids goofed around with the dog. Then, we would put the tree on the sled and the dog and my dad would drag it back home.

It was only two Christmases, but it was a wonderful experience.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Trees of the Past

My parents have always had a real tree for Christmas. Several stand out in my memory.

At the first house, there was a line of evergreens screening the house from the road. The top of one split. So, my dad cut one of the tops off for a Christmas tree. It was a typical seven foot tree. And the tree it came from had to have been at least twenty feet tall.

That was not the only time my dad turned to the yard for a Christmas tree. He's done it at least once in the house they live in now. And possibly during the house in Connecticut, but that one doesn't stand out. But why not? My dad likes having spruces in the yard, and sometimes the tops just need removed.

Generally my dad gets a tree from a road side stand, or the fire department. They don't put it up right after Thanksgiving, but not the weekend before, either. And the tree is usually up until after New Years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More Christmas Trees

My brother, bless him, adores Christmas and winter. He used to play Christmas carols all summer through. Unlike me, his first Christmas, he went out and bought a tree. And artificial tree, mind you. I don't quite remember why he went artificial. Unless it had something to do with keeping it up a significant portion of the year. He alternates now between putting up his artificial tree, and buying a real one.

Artificial trees are nothing new in my family. My uncle has one. Although, his reasons were more about timing. When I was a kid, we moved to the tippy top of New York state. Between the day long drive to get to my uncle's house and the sheer amounts of snow up there, we didn't get down for Christmas. We did get down for Thanksgiving though. And in those ancient days, you couldn't find a tree before Thanksgiving. And trees generally don't last that long anyway.

So, in order to have a Christmas tree for the kids, my uncle got an artificial one. It's a nice tree. Although, he keeps joking that he'd rather have a closet that he could slide it into, so he doesn't have to keep setting it up and tearing it apart each year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Remembrances of Christmas Trees Past

Despite years of living on my own, last year was the first year I got a Christmas tree. When I lived near my parents, there was no need, I was over enough that I enjoyed their tree. The first year down here was in the Dungeon, so I wasn't very inspired to put up a tree. And I missed my family terribly. The second year, I was in the nice Townhouse and just didn't feel motivated. Then, last year, I felt the need to have a little tree. (I also felt the need to bake a Christmas turkey and have a dinner for my friends, but that's neither here nor there.) So, I headed over to Home Depot, which had little three foot trees nailed to a base with a saucer attached. Then I bought some garland and an ornament to go on the tree.

Pretty little tree. Just don't look at the mess behind it. *wink*

I have to admit, that the house felt better with a tree in it. And I didn't get my usual post-Christmas letdown as strongly. Although, the tree did not appreciate my holiday travel resulting in a lack of watering. I gotta admit, it was a little sad to haul it off to the dumpster after Christmas. I should have at least put some of the boughs into the turtle aquarium. This year will be different!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Tree

Friday night I picked up my Christmas tree. This is only the second Christmas tree I've had. So, I didn't have a stand. I've got to admit, that the urn worked better than I expected. Sure, the tree is a little crooked, but I'll figure out a better way of supporting it next year. The lower branches just aren't even enough.

I'm a bit of a minimalist when it comes to decorating. One reason is that I'm cheap and don't want to buy lots of decorations. Another reason is that all of the "family" decorations still go on my parents' tree. Those that my brother hasn't already swiped that is. But really, I'm bringing in the tree for the scent of pine and the tree itself. So, I want to see the tree. That and I'm paranoid about the fire hazard with lights.

Although, I should get more garlands of tinsel to go on the tree. And figure out some sort of tree topper. The bow just doesn't make enough of a statement.

The pictures are a bit dark, but I do love the way the sunlight made the garlands sparkle all over.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Black Ice

Fear not, I have not been done in by temperatures in the teens or a blizzard converting into a rain storm. More being too tired after a day without internet.

But first, the weather. This week the temperatures dipped into the teens for two days. That was enough to make everything super cold. Then the snow/winter mix storm rolled in yesterday. The half inch of snow gave way to sleet, then to just rain. About another half inch. Black ice coated the region this morning, along with icy bridges.

This evening I got my Christmas tree. Home Depot didn't have my cute little 3 footer this year, so I made do with a four footer from a roadside stand. While I was there, a lady was making a fuss about not getting a refund for a dead tree. Umm, last I checked, they were all dead. Cruely lopped off of their nice root systems. But it makes you wonder who would buy a tree in the middle of a snow storm, since she was ranting about it being dead after 24 hours. Second, what did she do to it to "kill" it so quickly? Unlike Home Depot that had trees with brown leaves, this lot had all green trees. Silly lady.

I've got the tree set up. I had intended to get one with a stand and saucer attached, but this worked better. I took my cement urn, and hauled it in off of the back deck. Then I set my rain guage trash can inside that. And the tree rests in that. Which means gallons of water for my thirsty tree!

I'll post pictures after I decorate.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Drip, drip

Friday morning saw three inches of snow with some sleet, freezing rain and rain mixed in. All before morning rush. Thankfully, it was topped off with powdery snow, which covered the ice nicely. It just seems like it is going to be one of those winters. The next chance of snow is next Thursday.

And is warm enough out that the snow is melting. It melted a fair bit yesterday, and the trend is continuing today. My poor holly bush was encased in ice last night. It probably will be again tonight. The melt off from the porch hits it squarely. Although, enough did find my front stoop to turn my welcome matt into an ice hazard.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Holiday Slump

Well, getting up at dawn and getting home well after dark isn't working very well. All I want to do after work is hibernate. Or curl up with Harry Potter. I'm rereading the series and it's just as addictive as the first time.

I did recieve the first shipment from the first order of seeds this week. Two packets. They're currently residing in one of my M&M's collectable tins, waiting for the rest to arrive and spring to get here.

I did start a little holiday cheer. I wait till closer to the holiday to get a tree, that way it's still fresh at New Year's. But I got a wreath for my door. Okay, so it's more like a candle holder, but that didn't stop me from hanging it. I did give a couple spritzes of water, and will keep it fresh. It even has blueberries on it to match my blue door. And it smells nice.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Clowning Around

This morning I woke up to 3.5-3.75 inches of powdery snow, depending which drift I measured. The only annoying part is the walk that I shoveled is all icy from melting in the sun, then refreezing tonight.

My deck didn't get cleared. However, I did clear off a bit of the railing and put two helpings of bird seed on it. There was this one little dark charcoal colored bird that was very funny to watch. The doves led the way and settled down to eat. Then two little birds followed. The little charcoal clown, missed the railing and plopped down in the snow on the deck. Granted, he was parked near, if not on the feed plate. He sat there for about a minute in snow up to his beak looking around. Then, he flew up and landed in a drift on the railing that hadn't been cleared. He sat there, then tried to hop to the seed on the cleared railing. However, there was a dove in the way. And the dove was not about to move. The charcoal colored bird got chased a couple times, before the dove decided to stand sideways, with a little bit of seed available.

Sadly, at that point, I had to go to work. But I did have a smile on my face.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Well, the snow has arrived. It was a bit late. And all that is falling is nice fluffy powder. Powder happens to be my favorite type of snow. It just wooshes away when you run the brush over the car. Not like that heavy wet stuff that weighs a ton. And you can clear it with a broom! No miserable shoveling! Not that it really laying.

Other than that, the hydrangea has completely died back. The leaves are really forelorn looking. I don't know when I'll see daylight to take a picture. Working closer is good, but the hours are much later. Ce la vie.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


I had meant to post pretty pictures of a dusting of snow. However, between the time I was up in the middle of the night, and I crawled out of bed this morning, snow had turned to rain and it was all melted. Which I think is pretty cool.

Tomorrow might be a different story. The weathermen are using terms like "snow event" and "beginning of the season". Not cheery terms. Thankfully, I will not have to share the highways tomorrow afternoon with people who don't know how to drive in snow, or worse don't know how to drive huge 4x4 vehicles in the snow. I think I can do without internet at work for that little blessing.

See, despite the fact that this is Maryland and is techincally in the South, it's not that far south. It's zone 6 (7 in some areas depending on the map), which means the ground still freezes for most of the winter and it snows. The snow just generally doesn't last out the week. But since it is DC, we have a constant in flux of people from all parts of the country and the world, so there's always a new crop of drivers who have never experienced snow. Much less the 4-6 inches that it takes to shut down the city.

I will appreciate the snow for what it will do for my gardens and my currently unraked lawns, but I will not appreciate shoveling my front walk and my parking spaces. I just hope people don't take my shoveled parking spaces. Mine, all mine.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Flood Planes

Flood planes are areas surrounding rivers and creeks where occasional flooding occurs. In forethinking areas, this plane is surrounded by grassy, parklike areas. So that when the creek or river inevitably overflows its banks, there is no harm, no foul. While greedy idiots that build in the banks end up with nasty water in their houses and businesses all of the time.

When I was looking at this house, I realized there was a creek in the back. I made sure there were no signs of water damage to the walk-out basement, and the fence timbers didn't show signs of rot. And the creeks is beyond the grassy verge, so there is a lot of distance to the house.

Not to mention, the creek bank is fairly high, when I got around to wandering over there. I just figured that the trickle moved fairly well.

However, this idea was shattered last week, right as I was getting ready to leave the house to travel to my parents. There had been a lot of rain the day before, and there were lots of leaves in the creek. I looked out and saw a thin ribbon of standing water in the middle of the grassy verge. Which really did not look right. So, I got out my binoculars. The creek was swollen and ugly at the top of the creekbed! Eeek! And it was not sluggish water either. Not a good sign at all. I wish I had been able to get a picture, but I needed to be on the road. It also makes me wish I had gone out and checked the creek on the day that we had 8 inches of rain. Worried now.

Although, forecasts for snow on Saturday night and Monday morning also have me worried. Thankfully the other office is fairly close to my house, and I have to go in later for the next two weeks. Hate snow on roads.