Sunday, March 10, 2013

March Madness & Daylight Savings Time

Texas Redbud  photo by Phyzome
Is it just me, or has March come listlessly in like a lamb on Librium? These past few days have been like moving through cold molasses both mentally and physically.

The month started off fine. Lord, was it really just over a week ago! If spring wasn't exactly bursting out all over, the signs certainly were closing in all around. Henbit was up and growing. Dandelions were in bloom, and the more adventurous among 'em had put on seed heads.

Even our Texas redbud trees were showing pink flower buds by the second day, and green tips were showing from leaf buds a couple of days later. Seems to me this is a touch early. I always have the best of intentions to faithfully record the dates of first budding, or bud burst, for the various trees and bushes in our immediate area, yet somehow I never do it.

A north wind, crossing the lingering snow field of Oklahoma, carried a chilling breath, but the sun pushed afternoon temperatures near 60F the first several days. In fact, clearing the dried St. Augustine grass from the south-facing beds fronting our house was down right warm work. No doubt that's why we did not persist at it for long.

Down and dirty. The trick is getting up again.
 Working in our front yard drives Beano, our boglen terrier, bonkers. He perches on the back of the sofa, barking and whining behind the window, but he is not to be trusted outside unrestrained.

I swear, Jewish mothers have nothing on this damned dog when it comes to throwing a guilt trip!

A stretch, a yawn and time for a walk!

All things considered, we decided degrassing the front garden plots could wait another day. We would go a wandering.

Ever since we first took up residence in Brook Village, I had my eye on a purple sage bush that lives on a small city-owned plot about a quarter mile from our house. And ever since we first spotted this particular specimen, we have had designs on taking a cutting.

Well, Beano agreed we had put this foraging mission off way too long. I suspect his motivation had more to do with leaving peemail on the neighbors' mulberry tree than with scoring a free sprig of sage.
Sage cutting

Much needed exercise aside, the great benefit of a half-mile hike is that it wipes Beano out for the next few hours. We returned with enough purloined sage to make three good cutting starts. Beano immediately hit his water dish and proceeded to collapse on the cold tile floor of our utility room. He would nap away the remainder of the afternoon, keeping him from under foot.

My theory of March's initial doldrums seems to be supported somewhat by the Farmer's Almanac. Save for a couple or three days when the almanac claimed it would be okay to plant root crops, the bulk of the first half of the month are reportedly the pits for putting seed in the ground.

Now, I'm not sold entirely on planting by the moon. Virtually every old person I knew in my youth swore by it, particularly my old-school farming Aunt Kitty and my Grandma, the witch. Regrettably, when these living libraries of gardening lore were alive and available to me, I had other priorities and failed to avail myself of their considerable wisdom in matters of the Earth.

So we have refrained from further planting, spending these sluggish days in lackluster spurts of preparing beds for seeds to come. A couple of rain days allowed us to build our supply of captured rain water to near 30 gallons, and we at long last installed a flagstone footpath across the breadth of our western plot to allow better access to the back side along the fence.
A stone path will aid access to this plot. The repurposed cat liter buckets contain collected rain water.
Finally, hawk-eyed, unemployed English majors and other perfectionists will note the erroneous 's' on Daylight Savings Time in the title above. The majority of Americans believe the 's' to be the proper pronunciation, and the majority of Americans are dead wrong.

So why use an error on purpose? Daylight Savings Time scores higher in keyword searches than does the proper form.

Today is the first day of the so-called daylight saving time. As we are no longer among the ranks of wage slaves, we join Arizona and others in refusing to participate. So for about the next nine months we will be behind the times, and we are perfectly fine with that.

Y'all come back, now. Hear?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

SIG: When Redbuds Bud

Squint your eyes and maybe you will see buds?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

 We apologize for the focal quality of the photo (right), but we wanted to document that our redbud trees' buds have opened. Let the record show the fuzzy buds were shot on March 2.

Going into our third spring here, I'm still surprised to find these buds. When I do, I make that mental note to mark the date, but of course, I never have. Until now.

The literature--that is, the handful of site hits from GOOGLE that I actually opened--says redbuds bloom in April. I've got a feeling ours will not wait that long. My TV weather wizard informs me we have a good shot at hitting 80F this afternoon with highs the remainder of the week safely in the upper 60s.

We will further note in passing that the henbit and dandelions are coming on strong with this recent spate of mild weather. Did I say mild? It's downright springlike. All that's missing are the thunderstorms which we dearly could use!

Jus' sayin', Lord.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Square Inch Gardening: In the beginning...

"Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
Gonna mulch it deep and low
Gonna make it fertile ground"
David Mallett, The Garden Song 1978

Walk with me. We will take a quick tour around the grounds to get our bearings. You may want to grab a hoodie or sweater as the temperature lately has hovered in the low to mid 50s (that's Fahrenheit as we are located in Texas, and I do not do conversions unless asked nicely) with a stiff northerly breeze straight off the Oklahoma snow field.

 Here in North Texas we are some 27 days out from our average frost-free date. Temperature wise, we've had a mild winter so far, and the drought continues. We're currently under water use restrictions here in River City, so that outside faucet there doesn't look to get much, if any, use this season.
The sorry state of the "South Garden" on Feb. 28, 2013
 The South Garden (above), so-called because the plot faces south, is where we left off yesterday evening, the last day of February. It's every bit the mess it looks. We began clearing out the dead St. Augustine grass along the front edge to better reveal the shrubs we transplanted about a year ago. Damned now if I can remember what they are, but I believe I was told they are hawthorn.

The green along the back next to the house is a volunteer immigrant that may be primrose. I did not plant it, nor was it in the bed prior to introducing the alleged hawthorn. Alleged primrose has one bloom open (not visible from this shot) and a tangle of dried stems bearing seed pods. We collected several of the pods yesterday and will be playing with them later.

Part of our plan of the day is to continue clean-up here and in the east bed on the other side of the front stoop. No, it doesn't look any better than this. In fact, it's worse.

The seed germ for Square Inch Gardening was planted by a TED Talk I watched back the beginning of the week. No, I don't recall the title nor the presenter's name at the moment, but I will look it up later...if I remember to do so. Anyway, this youngish woman, I think it was, was going on about innovations that will help us through the trials and tribulations to come as a result of climatic change and population pressure. One notion that struck a chord was the idea of window farming. 

A vertical window farm is born!
 The main idea behind window farming is growing edible plants hydroponically in vertical columns in windows. Such a system allows virtually anyone to grow a portion of their own food no matter how restricted their personal space may be.

Through the website you can get detailed plans for building your own system or buy a system. Both options are too rich for our fixed income, however, so I decided to ease my way into window farming by improvising (right).

These two plots are hanging in our north-facing bedroom window, a less than ideal location for maximum solar gain. The plus side is that AnniePie can interact with them daily and I'm less likely to forget to tend to them. The yellow plot is a commercial primrose I picked up at the grocery store several weeks back. The other plot is an experiment with Bloomsdale spinach.

Think maybe I'll put some of those spinach seeds in the ground out back today.

Now, the Farmers' Almanac has it that the next "good" dates for planting above ground crops are the 11th--12th. However, their "best" window this month is the 20th through the 22nd. Well, maybe we will start some indoor seed pots today and put some "control" seeds in the ground outside to test this planting by the moon business.

My late aunt Kitty was a master gardener if ever there was one. I'm sure she had lunar cycle farming in her bones, but foolish pup that I was, I never took the opportunity to learn from her when I had the chance. Now were faced with having to read up on it and play with it on our own. If anyone has any thoughts to offer on the subject, I'd be proud to hear 'em. My "comments" section is open to all, so keep it clean, please,

Follow the link in the text for the back story of grandma's pot.
 That's my Grandma Saunders' cast iron wash pot there on the left with Stinky, our yard cat. This is about midway down our westside patio garden under an old Texas native pecan tree. We're undecided as yet what to do with this plot, but there is sufficient maintenance chores here to keep us occupied for awhile.

Speaking of which, I've done run fifteen minutes over my time, so that is going to be our tour for today. 

Y'all come back now. Hear? 

 UPDATE: March 3

We found that TED Talk on window farming; A Garden in my Apartment presented by Britta Riley.


A New Year Begins

Square Inch Gardening
One plant at a time

By Jim Miller

Today is Friday, March 1, 2013. A new beginning. A new year.

Today begins a new year of paying attention, of reflection, of learning. This journal is to be a report of our discoveries, our progress, and what we have collected along the way.

On this launch date, I am reminded of the young Charles Darwin as the HMS Beagle slipped from the dock at Devonport two days past Christmas, 1831, embarked on its second voyage to map the coastline of South America.

My great grandfather John Sanford Saunders somewhere near Knoxville, Georgia, was 18 months old that late December morning.


MARCH ONE awoke suddenly at 6am with a mandate to start a new season of gardening and to record the progress of that year. Before the coffee had done dripping I suspected we were witnessing the launch of an ebook. We further suspected the scope would grow beyond the gardening theme to embrace any number of themes related to being a 65 (almost)-year-old couple on Social Security caught between climatic change and rampant right-wing Christian conservatism.

As it happens, any number of momentous projects have launched on March One through the years. York, Maine, formerly known as Georgeana, Mass., became the first incorporated city in the United States in 1642. Fifty years on in Salem Village, Mass., three young women went on trial on this date, accused of practicing witchcraft.
The Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation in 1781, and nine years later the first census of the United States of America was authorized. The count was taken the following August 2 with 3.9 million souls tallied.
Ohio became the 17th state to join the United States on March 1, 1803.
In 1836 representatives from 57 settlements in what would become Texas met at Washington-on-the-Brazos to consider declaring independence from Mexico. We have reason to believe at least one member of the Saunders clan, perhaps an uncle to John Sanford, was in the territory by this time. President John Tyler would sign the bill officially annexing Texas a U.S. territory on March 1, 1845.
Yellowstone National Park, a grand piece of real estate I've yet to see, became the world's first national park on this date in 1872. Exactly one year later E. Remington & Sons of Ilion, New York, launched production of the first practical typewriter.