Sunday, May 27, 2018

A May update, Alaska style

Projects awaiting my deck stain drying
The snow is gone, the moose are giving birth (and charging people who get too close to mom/baby), the pollen and dust are in the air: must be summer. A note to new visitors, we Alaskans call summer the season when the snow is gone, whether it’s technically summer or not.
Springtime in Alaska, or is it summer?
This year looks to be a doozy with dry, cold, windy weather. But I won’t complain because:
1. the species tulips are blooming
2. the planted trees are breaking wood (the native birches are ahead of the garden game and leafing out now)
3. I have removed approximately 1/2 of the billion spruce cones littered around the yard. Yay for progress. I have a particular spruce tree I dump them all under as a sort of funky ground cover. My children have been recruited for many years now to fill a bucket with cones from the lawn every spring and dump it in their special place. Some years I pay.
4. The deck has been re-stained and will be ready for pots of plants and the old teak furniture set as soon as it is dry. I keep having to go over it “one more time” with the espresso colored stain every year. It beats the awful orange color and cheap look it used to have. Now it looks terrific (from a distance) and we don’t have to contemplate a new deck quite as soon as we thought.
5. I haven’t had to mow the lawn yet.
Just add pots
6. Being without a potting table for 8 years has been a trial. But no longer, court adjourned! My table is nothing grand, but it does the trick. It has the admirable characteristic of showing off just how many rusty garden hand tools I own. Too many. Where did they all come from? Now I can pot up those cute little things growing in the gravel walkway: a fern, a few Elymus magellanicus, and a Penstemon pinifolius.
What's this one doing growing in dry, full sun?
What’s on your May to-do list?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Hare-pocalypse and other calamities of spring

Snowshoe hare prints

Ah, springtime, when a gardener’s fancy turns to 10 ways to trap snowshoe hares, or Best Crockpot Ideas for Rabbit. For Alaskans it’s often the moose that cause carnage, busted trees, trampled shrubs, and a gaping hole where that $25 perennial  was planted. But 2018 seems to be the year of Peter Rabbit. I suppose that makes me Mr. MacGregor.

Nothing but crummy grasses to eat, moving on!

blatant fellasad face, most of the perennials under snow

But Christine, you’re wondering, how could you tell that this spring was the year to beat all for bunnies? Well, I’d say, it all started with the daily sightings of Mr. Bun. Then advanced to his two or three best chums hanging out on the snowy lawn. Now we’ve reached the point that the poor 6-foot tall blue spruce in the back yard has been grazed from the ground up to the height of, I’ve got it…a bunny’s reach! My rugosa roses (nothing is in leaf yet in my yard) have been nibbled back to their 5 stoutest stems. And I really lost my temper as I drove up my driveway recently and observed Mr. Bun calmly chewing the bark from the trunk of my ($27) crabapple ‘Prairiefire’ that I took great care to encase in moose-high fencing, but neglected to encase in rabbit-low fencing. Drat!

go ahead, get comfortable

at the site of the mauling

If the hares aren’t horrible enough, I’ve had the remnants of the long winter’s nap of a goodly portion of the vole kingdom to deal with. They must have sent out favorable word after the winter of 2016-2017 (wherein I saw evidence of a few nests) so that by the winter of 2017-2018, a veritable horde did a long term air bnb in all (I repeat, all) of my Deschampsia. Which was no small feat, I have around 30 specimens of a few different types. They left the Calamagrostis and Festuca alone. I guess those grasses must have had bad reviews.

custom cut by volesvole road to my garden

Now I have no problem with the vole squatting situation, but for the unfortunate tendency to chomp back the grasses a wee too short over the winter. After exhausting this supply, they raid the next door pantry (via vole trails under the snow, see pic above) and on and on through the garden. The grasses seem to be bouncing back after this rough treatment, but the neighboring Penstemon pinifolius was grazed a little too low and has died.

I’ve determined by the end of the summer, my yard is going to resemble a maximum security prison with multiple rows of fencing if I hope to save my favorites. That, or if my wild game hunting spouse has his way, we will be having a five star recipe I found for rabbit stew with mushrooms. Quick math question: three rabbits in the spring means how many rabbits by the summer? I dread the answer to this.

I can only hope this pair of bald eagles will visit my yard again soon and take Peter and Company with them.

just stay away from my chickens

What eats your garden?


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