Leaping Lizards–it’s a Skink!

Eumeces fasciatus -- A Juvenile American Five-Lined Skink

Eumeces fasciatus — A Juvenile American Five-Lined Skink

From time to time I find animals in the garden.  To date, they’ve all been harmless little creatures, and Sunday was no exception.  The animal pictured is called a Skink.  They have a very funny name, and dine on live insects.

I am certainly more than happy to have them hanging about in the garden.   The juveniles sport blue tails, and the adults have pretty red markings on their heads just below the throat.

Depending on the laws of your locality, you may be able to keep them as pets, however my garden is large–and I’d rather not use chemicals.  So come one come all, small predators (Cottonmouths, Copperheads, and Rattlesnakes excluded).  Make yourselves at home in my garden.  Massacre those grasshoppers.

 

On the sublime joy of gardening

DSCF1392I don’t necessarily like eating fresh vegetables.  I don’t necessarily love saving money with a garden.  I don’t love eating local.  I don’t believe that organic agriculture can save the world, much less feed it.

My creative urges are what drive me to garden.  Some paint.  Others sing.  I mess around with plants.

To me, placing seeds in the ground, and exercising mind and body to conjure a harvest from the earth, represents a sort of semi-divine alchemy.  I find that a sublime joy accompanies every tomato picked, every melon sliced, and every leaf of lettuce snipped.  To some, I might just be growing vegetables, or flowers, or shrubs–but I always find myself planting in creativity, cultivating wonder,  and harvesting joy.

Can you really get that at a supermarket?

Gallery

Aftermath — Oh deer

I was on edge all night, and could hardly sleep due to the young, tender corn & beans that recently sprouted.  Luckily I hadn’t put any of the expensive solanaceous crops in the ground.  They sit comfortably in my greenhouse-turned-shelving … Continue reading

Winter’s Revenge

wstorm

If there is a unique disadvantage to growing well, anything at all in the state of Oklahoma, it is our extremely variable climate.

As Wikipedia would say, we’re prone to extremely schizophrenic weather because of our place at the crossroads of many different prevailing weather patterns.  The line of storms in the image, usually represents a blast of cold air sweeping in from the rocky mountains at high speed.  How fast you might ask?  Some of these storms move at 100 kilometers per hour, and 160 kph straight line winds are not unheard of.  Our rainfall varies from apocalyptic flooding, to apocalyptic droughts (175-50 cm/year).

But what does any of this have to do with gardening?  For those poor unfortunate souls who live here, it means that Spring Planting is a continual exercise in gambling if you can’t cover or otherwise protect your crops.

With temperatures projected to drop down into the 30-40F range tonight–two weeks after our normal “last frost”, I expect that I shall lose all of my green beans and some of the corn (barring extraordinary luck). Although I have additional seed, lost growing days can’t be easily recovered.  On the other hand, my cool season lettuces ought to do just fine

It also means that the planting of this years courgettes, melons, and other tender plants will be delayed.  Fortunately I haven’t placed any Solanums in the ground yet and they remain indoors, the Tomatillos and Tomatoes safely hidden.

The greatest water gardener

They emptied it and put in a drain

They emptied it and put in a drain

Walking in some local woodlands the other evening, or what’s left of them after years of tasteless home-building, I discovered that the old spring fed farm ponds (probably a century old) have a new resident.

In my childhood, there were two ponds here, an upper pond, and a lower pond.  You can still find the last vestiges of a spring-house, or brick and mortar dam at the upper pond as one of my older photographs shows.  Not too long ago, humans tried to turn the area around them into a sort of park, putting in footbridges which have since fallen into disrepair.

Anyhow, time marched on, and developers decided that this wonderful hundred acre section of woodland, was a prime spot for some ridiculously overpriced homes on tiny lots.  The median household income for my metropolitan statistical area is US $33,000.  These homes start at US $250,000.   This is ridiculous.   They drained the lower of the two ponds, and put in a concrete pipe to channel all the water directly into the creek.

Enter the North American Beaver.  This furry little guy saw all this water draining away into the stupid thing that humans had put there.  He saw the young and invasive pear trees littering the landscape, and realized something.  This would be the perfect neighborhood.  So he began to make improvement.  Small diameter trees were cut down.  Overflow drains were dug.  Dams were built.   Slowly, but surely, he has begun to undo the bloody stupid mistake that the humans made–building a three-tiered system of dams that keeps material out of the drain, doesn’t damage the newly built home foundations, and gives him a place to live.

The Beaver's handiwork

 

And now for something, completely different–Gardening at scale

DSCF1323

Sometimes in life, opportunity knocks hard.  This is exactly what happened this year around December as  I found myself stuck in the doldrums of Winter.

 

Like many people in the world, I make a habit of attending a Church.  I shan’t apologize for it, nor shall I deign to beat you over the head with too much religious thought, but it’s relevant to the story here.  Due to an infestation of a particularly pernicious & evil weed known as sandbur, the leadership decided that the playground–situated down a small steep slope & behind the building, would be better relocated to a place that was more easily mowed and maintained.

Being an opportunist, and facing a change in my living situation, I politely asked if I could use the former playground area to plant a garden.  My imagination ran wild.  33o square meters/3550 square feet of garden space was a garden on a scale I had only been involved in once before.  Indeed, this meant I could try crops that my small home gardens had been unsuited for such as corn or large watermelons.

And so it was in March, that they moved the playground, and a friend drove his double-bottomed plow back and forth over the plot.  After some tilling to smash up the larger clumps of dirt, all that was left to do was wait.

So what does this mean for the blog?  Well dear readers, it means that topics are going to shift, methods are going to change, and I’m going to have a good time experimenting with market gardening.

I love it when a plan comes together

Apologies all for not updating for a while, but it was finals week, and then I got a job working for a landscaping company.  Can you imagine that?  I’m paid to mess about in other people’s gardens!  Couldn’t be happier.

As part of my plan to win Instructables’ “Get in the Garden Contest”, I am training these vines to reach the roof. Only about 1.5 feet to go.

May is Marching on, and my pumpkin vines continue their relentless march to the roof of our shed.  Remember how in the last post, I  feared that I had killed a Courgette/Zucchini plant by transplanting it?

After about two weeks of careful watering, it looks as healthy as any of the other Zucchini plants.  A few days ago  I tried my hand at pollinating my plants.  Sticking a slightly bent piece of wire in a drill and making a soft  tip for it with some hot glue, I then played matchmaker, matching pollens to female flowers.  Hopefully this works out.

With temperatures from 70-80F in the day and 60-70F at night, this May has been absolutely perfect for good fruit set in tomatoes.

Speaking of female flowers, check out this big, healthy cluster of tomatoes I have.  It’s not the only cluster, by far.  My garden is seeing absolutely explosive growth, and I fear I have several trellises to build this weekend.