Now we’re cooking!

And we mean “cooking” in the figurative sense. We will certainly be cooking, literally, later on in the summer once all of our lovely vegetables appear, which we’ve now fully planted! Well…almost. Though we still have at least one plot to plant, over the weekend, we met our goal to have the majority of the rest of the garden planted. This included our tomato and pepper seedlings, along with cucumbers, squash, and beans.

While we didn’t need to get everything in the ground this past weekend — our planting calendar’s last viable day for planting is May 31 — we didn’t want to miss out on the perfectly perfect weather. Okay, so it was a little on the cooler side generally, but we’d much rather be working outside when it’s in the breezy 70s than in the heat of the 90s.  Plus, a big rainy storm just passed, and we wanted to get things in the ground before any more mudiness ensued. So we set to work last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And it paid off!

First off, we planted our cucumber bed. And though you can’t really tell from the picture, there are little mounds all around the edges from which cucumbers will soon sprout! We also uncovered a couple volunteer cucumbers that you can see at the bottom and right-hand edges.

Then, we seeded the entire bean bed. In the horizontal rows are all of our bush beans, and then pole beans will eventually take over the cages in the middle.  At the far end of the bed, we ended up planted more peas. That particular spot is very shady thanks to a neighboring tree, and nothing we’re ever put there has seemed to do well. In the past, we’ve tried beans and cucumbers, and their yields were mediocre. This year, we decided on peas. If nothing else, they might just save the beans! We know from past experience that rabbits really like bean shoots, but they really, really like pea shoots. So if any peas do come up, we’ll happily sacrifice them as long as they distract the rabbits from the beans.

Moving on, we planted eight groupings of tomato seedlings along the edge of our first stone bed. There’s still asparagus coming up on the other side, so we’re avoiding planting there for the moment. (That may change as we have lots of tomato seedlings.) (Also, sorry for the sideways picture. A couple others are probably coming up. We were a little tired at this point.)

In the second stone bed are all our squashes. After getting way too many traditionally large zucchini a couple years back, we didn’t plant any zucchini seeds this year, save for a small golden zucchini variety. The volunteer squash at the end of the bed is still a question mark, but hopefully we’ll get some nice variety this year — acorn, butternut, pattypan, long pie, and so on.

And along the back, our barrels contain an array of peppers and tomatoes.

(Seriously, the sideways pictures are bit much. Going to have to look at these camera settings!)

All in all, we had a great weekend of planting, and it’s a relief to have just about everything in the ground now. As we mentioned, we still have at least one more bed to plant – not sure yet what’s going to go in it. Probably more tomatoes and peppers, somehow. But that decision will have to wait until next weekend. Also, it looks like we may be harvesting strawberries soon! Probably not within the rest of the month, but hopefully next month. They’ve been a little slow to grow and ripen, but it looks like some warm weather is once again on it’s way, which will really help them along.

And finally, check out what else we found growing:

This is a tall red poppy that we found growing in our yet-to-be flower beds at the edge of front yard. (By “yet-to-be” it means that the beds need to be weeded and planted. More tasks for Memorial Day weekend!) The funny thing is that we’ve never specifically planted any poppies in these beds, ever. However, last year we got some free wildflower seeds from our of our seed companies, and we scattered them in these flower beds. Nothing came of them last year, but we think this poppy was part of the mix, and somehow the seeds survived the winter. It’s a very pretty flower, and the plant looks like it contains a few more buds, so maybe we’ll see a few more flowers show up before its demise.

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Summer Approaches; How the Garden Turns

Before the lovely Memorial Day weekend even started, we knew that whatever we did in the garden would likely be washed out by Tropical Storm Bonnie. Still, we really had to get stuff in the ground, so we went ahead with two major rounds of prepping and planting on Saturday and Sunday. Come Sunday night, Bonnie hit with enough rain to completely fill one of our once-empty 55-gallon rain barrels! To say that the garden beds turned into mud puddles is an understatement. With the warm weather ahead, we’re hopeful that things will dry out before another possible storm arrives in a few days.

And…we still haven’t transplanted the tomato and teensy pepper seedlings yet! Blergh. Of course, if we had done so this past weekend, they would have been washed away, no doubt. Fingers crossed that this weekend will be decent enough that we can put them out, because we’re really at the eleventh hour with them.

So before the rains came, things outside were actually looking pretty good.

You wouldn’t know it yet, but we planted the cucumbers in their normal bed. Since we had previously planted greens in the center of this bed, some of which are actually growing, we kept the cucumbers to the perimeter of the bed.

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Then, we got all the squash and melons planted in the second stone bed. (Last year we put squash, melons, and tomatoes in here together — it was too much. We’ll see how things go this year without the tomatoes.)

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Curious about our “crop circles?” (Haha.) This a new technique we’re trying this year with seeds that we’ve placed in hills — mainly squash, melons, and pole beans. Around each hill we dig out a small trench and then fill it with grass clippings. The idea is that the grass clippings will help keep the soil around each hill and eventually the plants’ roots moist, as well as somewhat free from weeds. We want to see if this will help cut down on how much we have to water, as well as blight and rotting plant stems. Plus, it looks kind of cool. 🙂

Speaking of which, we also got the long bed planted — all beans this year. No soybeans, sunflowers, or corn. All we have right now are pictures of rows and dirt…but eventually, this side of the bed will be filled with shelling bush beans, like Pinto beans.

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And then in the middle, we planted all the pole beans, which we’ll eventually trellis using extra tomato cages because they need to climb. And at the very front of the bed, we planted an extra row of bush beans — Jacob’s Cattle.017longbed2

We used the same trench and grass clippings technique around each hill o’ beans. (And hopefully they’ll amount to something!)

And on the far side of the bed, we planted our string bean varieties. Doesn’t look like much yet, but it will!

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All that we enough work for one weekend! And we did take advantage of being out on the warm sun, which was nice after a cloudy few weeks. Our over-wintered peppers and blueberry definitely enjoyed the change of scenery, as well.

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And it looks like we’ll be in for a strawberry harvest soon. Yummy!

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In other, non-garden news, this past weekend we also discovered (or caught up with the rest of the world) that Memorial Day weekend is the BEST time of year to have a major appliance conk out! Our refrigerator went on the fritz last week — it seemed whatever kept the chiller going stopped going, so we ended up with a leaky machine and a freezer that no longer froze things. After looking online and through a number of store circulars, and coming up with a budget, we decided to go appliance shopping.

Fun? Erm…well…

Turns out that things didn’t go as drearily as we thought it could have. The first store that we went to had tons of stuff on sale. And we, of course, immediately fell in love with a fancy fridge that was well out of our price range. The items in our price range were okay, but most too large for two people. (Do we need a fridge that can hold 25 bags of groceries??! Certainly not!) But we took some notes and decided to head to the next store. But then, on our way out of the first store, we saw it — the perfect fridge! And it was on sale for an unbelievable low price, way less than we figured we would need to spend. And it wasn’t a scratch-and-dent or floor model or anything!

While we searched for a salesperson, something else caught our attention — a lovely new stove also at a phenomenal price. But since it wasn’t on our list, we just took note of it and ordered the fridge.

During the drive home, we talked about that stove. Since we’ve been working slowly on a kitchen remodel, we knew we would have to replace the old stove at some point. So we decided that if the new stove that we saw fit into the space of our old stove and if it rated well, we would go back to the store the next day and order it.

In short, we have a new fridge and stove coming soon! And we got both within the budget that we had originally set for the fridge alone. And now we have new motivation to get some more work done in the kitchen. Good thing we’re not in a hurry. 🙂

 

Thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with further updates, hopefully with less rain!

 

A Beautiful Weekend Full of Chores (and That’s a Good Thing!)

Being outside this past weekend one would never know that the place was soggy from rain and snow a mere 7+ days before! As they say, what a difference a week makes. We had two gorgeous days in the 60s and 70s (almost reached 80 on Sunday!). And it was with the sun in mind that we packed our schedule full of outdoors chores. This included everything from mowing the grass to planting some early seeds.

It also included the requisite bout of resulting allergies. Ick. They aren’t too bad yet, but based on the light sneezing and wheezing in our household over the past couple days, it’s a good sign that Spring allergies are certainly on their way.

But enough about silly things like allergies — we had a garden that needed some more TLC!

After mowing and completing some additional clearing of random leaves and branches, the bulk of Saturday was spent weeding. It turned out that the little green seedlings scattered about that we initially thought might be tomatoes…

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…had really just blossomed into weeds. So they had to go.

However, most surprisingly, we did find a couple of carrots growing!

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No plans to plant carrots this year, but we’ll see if these guys make it.

And then, we had to deal with this stuff.

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This ivy-like weed is called many things — we had been calling it “dollar weed” — but we like the term “Creeping Charlie” better. Not that it’s better; in fact, it’s is highly annoying, and it has all but taken over the backyard. And before we got to weeding, it has started to creep into most of the garden bed. We pulled out as much as we could stand. After awhile its “minty” scent that it produced upon being yanked up proved to be too much, and we had to call it a day. Hopefully it’ll start to die back once the weather gets warmer and less damp.

But as much as we got done well into the evening hours of Saturday (this included digging up and resetting a number of stones out in our front beds, as well. Oh! And moving/transplanting some lilies. Boy, we were busy!), it was nothing compared to the banner day we had Sunday. It was time to start some early seeds — mostly lettuce, greens, radishes, and we took a risk with peas and a couple peppers — which meant that we had to re-assemble our net cages.

Last year we made four square-ish net cages to go over our raised bed. We made them in a way that they could be taken apart and rolled up over the winter. It was all quite grand until it came time to put them back together, which we couldn’t quite remember how to do, at first. As we hadn’t labeled which pieces when together to form which cage — we had two small ones, one large one, and one with a “door” to lift for easy access — getting them back together was puzzling at first. We eventually decided to simply lay all the pieces out in the yard to figure things out.

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So many pieces!
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And more pieces, still.

Once we remembered how to put one cage together properly, the rest were a snap. The only issue we faced were repairs, as a number of zip ties used to hold the net to the PVC pipe had cracked. So each cage had to be moved to the driveway for inspection.

First cage in line ready for inspection.
First cage in line ready for inspection.
We removed any cracked zip ties...
We removed any cracked zip ties…
...and replaced them with new ones. Simple but a little time consuimng.
…and replaced them with new ones. Simple if a little time consuming.

Once all the cages had been checked and fixed, we placed them over their proper beds.

Good to see the gang back together!
Good to see the gang back together!

We have a couple things of note here. First is this raised bed:

Notice anything funny?
Notice anything funny?

Over the winter, the wood boards bordering the bed picture above collapsed and rotted. Rather than replace the boards, we decided to continue our “design” scheme that we had applied to our stone beds and picked up some landscaping stones to make a new border. The layout right now as seen in the image is rough. They might stay like that, we might dig them out a little to set them straighter, or might turn them up on their edges so that the cage fits better. Not sure yet what will happen, but the idea is that we’ll replace each raised bed with a stone border once the current wood borders deteriorate. The rest of the beds are fine for now.

The other new “addition” are some small, makeshift trellises that we added to the bed in which we grow peas.

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These were made using a set of old wire shelves, some zip ties, and some metal poles. Nothing special but it works! And it means that we can now fill the bed with different peas rather than only planted the peas along the edges. And despite the fact that the nights will be a little on the cool side for a couple more weeks, at least, we went ahead with planting out the bed.

And that brought the busy weekend to a close. Interestingly, on Sunday we were joined in the backyard by this guy:

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Hello, Mr. Robin.

While we think this Robin stuck around because he knew we were digging up the yard, and hence, digging up grubs and bugs and worms, it was nice to have to company. For much of the day he just stood around in the background watching us. But during one brave moment he got up close to our work area and got himself “stuck” in one of the net cages. (The cage was on its end with the open side out. He flew in and insisted on trying to fly up, only to meet with the netting. He eventually solved the “puzzle” and flew out instead of up.)

All in all, it was an excellent weekend, even if it resulted in muscle pain and allergies. And there’s plenty yet to be done!

 

The Garden Race Starts Slow and Steady with Indoor Seed Starting

No matter the strange weather that may be happening outside, this past weekend, we got ourselves up and running and ready to plant! Seeds, that it. It’s never quite as exciting as it sounds in practice, but knowing what’s coming — now there’s the excitement!

We covered our seed planting process a couple years back. And last year we upgraded to using a sturdy, industrial set of shelves for our seed trays, outfitted with long plant lights. So we’re not going to rehash things here. In sum, we gathered together all our supplies — seed trays, coconut coir, the seeds themselves, and water. After hydrating the coir, filling the trays, and setting out the seeds in the order in which they would be planted, it was time to plant!

As usual, and as per our planting calendar of those items that can be started early and indoors, we planted mostly peppers, tomatoes, greens, and lettuces. We also started a few of our oddballs, like ground cherries, huckleberries, tomatillos, brussel sprouts, and broccoli. (We know we’ve had no luck with broccoli in the past couple years, but we’ve got to keep trying!) The big change in our seeds from last year to this year is the number of different seeds we planted. Because we’re crazy, the number has gone up. As we have four seed trays each containing 12 rows each containing 6 cups…um…well, forget the math. Here’s what’s in the trays!

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04tray2

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In total, that’s 72 different plants, provided they all germinate. And we’re pretty sure that most of them will. We know that the greens will make the first showing and peppers the last. We’re not sure what will come of either brussel sprouts or huckleberries, but the big question marks are those Planet Hybrid peppers, the parthenocarpic ones that don’t need pollination. Many fingers crossed there.

04seed set up

So are seed trays are stacked, watered, heated, and ready to go! Perhaps next week we’ll have some “baby” pictures to share! 😀

2015’s First Update in Pictures

Between a few days before our last post and today, things have been hustling and bustling in the garden! (Well…when we’re not at work, that is.) We’ve managed to get everything in the ground that needs to be there, whether seed or seedling, and that means it’s time for this year’s first update in pictures! Granted, you’re just going to see a lot of dirt below as we’re still very much in that nervous phase of wondering if the new seedlings will take and/or if the new seeds will germinate. Some things are coming in all fine and dandy! While some things are taking their sweet, ol’ time with the growing. And some things…well…let’s just say that the squirrels and birds are already making their presence in the garden known, and unhappily so. But, we shall persevere, as we always have, and so to shall the plants that don’t get end up being pawed or chomped out of existence. (Good thing we have plenty of extra seeds and some seedlings!) Without further ado, it’s on with the update!

Starting off, we have the strawberries. which are flowering quite nicely. In year's past we've placed cherry tomatoes in this bed, but not this year. This year we're just letting the strawberry do its thing.
Starting off, we have the strawberries. which are flowering quite nicely. In years past we’ve placed cherry tomatoes in this bed, but not this year. This year we’re just letting the strawberry do its thing.
Next, on the side of the house, we have the "side bed." More strawberries, tomatillos, cabbage, and endive are all going. Excpet that a few of the tomatillo and cabbage seedlings  already died off. In their place are several varieties of peppers.
Next, on the side of the house, we have the “side bed.” More strawberries, tomatillos, cabbage, and endive are all here…almost. A few of the tomatillo and cabbage seedlings died off after just a couple days. 😦 In their places are several varieties of peppers.
In the first stone bed, we've got tomatoes, peppers, asparagus (the bushy stalks off to the right) and TONS of marigolds that are coming up from last year. We're letting them go for now with plans to thin them in a couple weeks.
In the first stone bed, we’ve got tomatoes, peppers, asparagus (the bushy stalks surrounded by bricks off to the right) and TONS of marigolds (all those random green clumps) that are coming up from last year. We’re letting them go for now with plans to thin them in a couple weeks.
In the second stone bed, all is quiet with tomatoes, carrots, and monds holding zuchinni and other squash seeds. No signs of green here yet, except from the tomatoes.
In the second stone bed, all is quiet with tomatoes, carrots, and mounds holding zucchini and other squash seeds. No signs of green here yet, except from the tomatoes.
At the back of the house are our plastic barrels, each with alternative peppers and tomatoes.
At the back of the yard are our plastic barrels, each with alternative peppers and tomatoes.
Coming back round, we have the wood barels at the heads of the stone beds, replete with teensy ground cherries surrounded by a ring of radishes (we hope!)
Coming back round, we have the wood barrels at the heads of the stone beds, replete with teensy ground cherries in the centers surrounded by a ring of radishes (we hope!)
Bush beans and a lone row of cucumbers (far left) take up the far side of our longest garden bed.
Bush beans and a lone row of cucumbers (far left) take up the far side of our longest garden bed. And that lovely hole dead center? We can “thank” the squirrels for that. Grrrrr….
In the center of the long bed we have mounds of pole beans at the front with rows of sunflowers and corn at the back.
In the center of the long bed we have mounds of pole beans at the front with rows of sunflowers and corn at the back.
More bush beans take up the other side of the stone bed.
More bush beans take up the other side of the long bed. The row that you see with plants — pinto beans! We can’t believe how soon they made a showing.  Actually, we have the promise of several bean varieties over here.
What's in raised bed #1? More beans and peas, along with a small section of broccoli bottom right. (The jury's out on whether or not the seedlings will survive.)
What’s in raised bed #1? More beans and peas, along with a small section of broccoli bottom right. (The jury’s out on whether or not the seedlings will survive.)
In raised bed #2, we have so many greens! They bulk of these reseeded from last year and we've been enjoying the lovely spinach (2 plants, center) that came back.
In raised bed #2, we have so many greens! They bulk of these reseeded from last year and we’ve been enjoying the lovely spinach (2 plants, center) that came back.
In raised bed #3 are two rows of peas and two rows of cucumbers. No signs of life yet.
In raised bed #3 are two rows of peas and two rows of cucumbers. No signs of life yet.
In raised bed #4 is okra, kale, and arugula. Again, were' on seedling watch here. If things don't make it, we'll be planting new seeds soon.
In raised bed #4 is okra, kale, and arugula. Again, we’re on seedling watch here. If things don’t make it, we’ll be planting new seeds soon.
And finally, moving to the porch, we have our planter beds with herbs. In this one is cilantro and stevia.
And finally, moving to the porch, we have our planter beds with herbs. In this one is cilantro (left) and stevia (right).
And finally, taking up the other planters is basil. Lots and LOTS o' basil!
And finally, taking up the other planters is basil. Lots and LOTS o’ basil for lots and LOTS o’ pizza!

Tis enough pictures for one day, no? Now it’s onto watering and waiting!

The garden is going, and here’s what’s going in it.

Note: As of this week, we’re officially moving our posting day to a weekday – Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, depending on when we can get to the computer. It’s been a struggle to even think about blogging on an exhausted Sunday evening of late. Plus, it allows a little more time to reflect on all the goings-on.


This past weekend felt like the weekend we had been waiting for all winter — 75-80 degrees and plenty of sun! It was pretty spectacular, and it allowed us to get tons more done. Unfortunately, the amount we had to get done precluded the taking of photographs (read: we were too busy to remember the camera), so instead this week we’re going to offer up what’s going in the garden this year with all the amazing non-MS Paint skills we can muster! Yep, we put together a new set of garden maps, some of which look remarkably the same from the ones we made last year, at least in terms of layout. In fact, besides the new stone bed, all the other beds, raised or not, remain the same.

We should point out that none of the upcoming layouts are set in stone, and we’ve made at least one change since we made these (noted in the accompanying caption). The more time we spend outside, the more memories are coming back to us in terms of which part of the yard gets the best sun and where we had some of our best harvests. That said, we have moved certain plants around based on how things went in the past. Hopefully they’ll lead to some good things in the coming months. So here’s where things mostly stand for now. (And, with a big planting party planned for this coming weekend, we’ll be back next week with what we hope is our first update in pictures of the year!)

Starting on the side of the yard, we have our largest bed. We're making a second (futile?) attempt with corn here. But mostly this bed is housing a multitude of beans.
Starting on the side of the yard, we have our largest bed. We’re making a second (futile?) attempt with corn here. But mostly this bed is housing a multitude of beans.
Moving onto the first stone bed, like last year, this one will contain only tomatoes and peppers.
Moving onto the first stone bed, like last year, this one will contain only tomatoes and peppers. And we’re keeping an eye on the few moments of asparagus that have made a showing this year.
In the second (new) stone bed, we're trying something new by putting here zucchini, carrots, melons, and tomatoes. Quite the melange.
In the second (new) stone bed, we’re trying something new by putting here zucchini, carrots, melons, and tomatoes. Quite the melange.
Ground cherries are going back in the wood barrels that sits at the heds of the stone beds, along with the new additions of radishes.
Ground cherries are going back in the wood barrels that sit at the heads of the stone beds, along with the new additions of radishes.
At the back of the yard are our plastic barrel planters, each of which will hold either peppers or tomatoes.
At the back of the yard are our plastic barrel planters, each of which will hold either peppers or tomatoes.
Back at the front of the yard, the little side bed is getting all new stuff. No tomatoes here this year.
Back at the front of the yard, the little side bed is getting all new stuff. No tomatoes here this year.
Planting map 2015 - raised beds 1 and 2
Our first two raised beds are remaining mostly the same from last year. This year we’re trying broccoli instead of romanesco in bed #1. Here’s hoping. Some spinach and lettuce from last year has popped up already in bed #2.
And finally, the last two raised beds are also similar from last year. The big change is that we're adding a couple rows of peas in with the cucumbers in bed #4, and okra is going in bed #4.
And finally, the last two raised beds are also similar from last year. The big change is that we’re adding a couple rows of peas in with the cucumbers in bed #4, and okra is going in bed #4. We also decided against putting peppers in bed #4 – arugula is going in its place instead.

 

It’s go time, for real! (Part 2)

Last weekend we really got into planting, and what an exciting venture it was! This weekend we took things a little bit easier, though we did manage to plant everything in our very largest of garden beds — sunflowers, corn, melons, zucchini, beans, pumpkin.

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Never mind the garden “octupus.” That’s the irrigation system we’ve yet to set up. Also, on this end of the bed we plant
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From back to front, we have sunflowers, corns, zucchini, and beans. (Or, we will soon!)
More of the same.
More of the same.
And over here we have melons.
And over here we have melons.

In addition to getting the long bed planted, we had to figure out what to do with our many, many, many tomato and peppers seedling that were still in their starter trays. Some of them had been used to replace early transplants that didn’t survive the process, but we had lots left over. So…necessity became the mother of invention (and re-purposing)! We procured several large plastic drums, cut them in half, filled them with soil, and…voila!

More raised planters!
More raised planters!

These tomatoes and peppers are in the far, back corner of the yard. It’s not ideal since they’ll only get morning sun, but it was the best we could do for the moment. They weathered some significant rain, and so far, so good!

To help us keep track of everything, we created a few planting maps. Our skills using MS Paint aside, here’s what our garden looks like on “paper.”

Garden planner 2014(1) Garden planner 2014(2) Garden planner 2014(3) Garden planner 2014(4) Garden planner 2014(5)

In addition, here’s what’s in the marigold beds in the front yard:

garden planner 2014(6)

We’ve got plenty to watch over the summer! With everything now in the ground, it’s onto several weeks of maintenance, weeding, varmint control, etc., as everything starts to take root. We leave you this week with a few more images of things happening in the yard. Happy Spring!

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One of our sadder azalea bushes out front is being overtaken by Bittersweet Nightshade. The flowers look pretty now, but its berries (that come later) are poisonous. So it’ll be cut away soon.
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A Eight-Spotted Forester moth caught in the netting. Don’t worry, we freed it. 🙂
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Adding to our “visitors” list are two ducks that stop by our yard every now and again. We’ve named them Harold and Maude.
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In a couple weeks, we hope to have some strawberries! (As long as the birds don’t get them first.)
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The lilac bush was here when we moved in, and we love seeing to come to life each Spring!