Garden Year 2013 in Review- Part I

As the seed and bulb catalogues start piling up in the basket, it seems that this is a good time to review the ups and downs, successes and failures of our gardens in 2013. Where to begin? Well, it wasn’t the best gardening year, nor was it the worst.  Just different. One of the main differences was the absence of a cutting garden. In the past, we’ve had a separate, fenced garden, approximately 65′ long by 25’wide, that was largely dedicated to annually planted cut flowers; dahlias, sunflowers, cosmos, china asters, gladioli, zinnias, larkspur, Bells of Ireland, tall marigolds, nicotiana, and the like. This space was shared by espaliered apples, which line the fence, a fanned peach tree, asparagus, and vegetables that we couldn’t fit into themain kitchen garden. Last year, we rooted cuttings of red, white and black currants, blueberries, wine grapes, raspberries, black berries and gooseberries and these were all planted in that garden, and which we now refer to as the Fruit Garden, along with space-consuming strawberries. This was a great success. We produced loads of delicious jams and jellies, stuffed the freezer with raspberries,strawberries and blueberries, and are now enjoying muffins and ice cream in the dead of winter. This left us with no choice but to plant the ‘cut flowers’ into the borders and in a small, 20′ x 20′ un-fenced annex garden and the results were a dire failure. DEER! They ate everything in sight, all of the annual flowers were chomped down to nothing and many, if not all of the perennials. Deer pressure is reaching epidemic proportions in our neck of the woods and even at 20 feet away, they are fearless. They watch me feed the chickens, turkeys and ducks, they chomp away at the apples in the orchard, maintaining eye contact with me as if I were their friend, and now they’ve discovered the poultry feeders and learned to share! Yes! While the chickens and ducks and turkeys are snacking at the feeders, the deer are right there with them, nibbling away as if they were all one big happy family. The birds appear to have embraced them. The fowl seem perfectly fine with these cloven hoofed behemoths nuzzling their beaks at the feed source. (It’s almost as if they LIKE them, or worse, ADMIRE them)!!!! They gaze up at their eyes, and carefully, nimbly, negotiate around and between their legs with a generous sense of plurality and the cloven-hooved ones respond with gentle, careful movements. Not a peep or cluck or quack of alarm or concern. “Excuse me, but you don’t mind if I just grab this bit of cracked corn, do you”? “Certainly not, please, help yourself, and I hope you won’t mind my having a few of these delicious and nutritious layer pellets”.  ” Oh, not at all, help yourself, there’s plenty where that came from….the bipeds with the opposible thumbs always keep it full and fresh. Oh no, no need to go down that slope to the pond, the fresh water is over here, just follow me”.

Geez! What’s next? Fine, we’re accustomed to the chickens pecking at the front door asking for their treats of Cheerios or Carr’s crackers, but shall I now expect to hear hooves tapping at the threshhold demanding tortilla chips?

So, in short, there were no cut flowers for us this year, and very few roses, for that matter. More in the next post.

Letter to my husband ( who is in the UK for a month)

Lala and Lalita

Andrew,

A most shocking and upsetting thing happened this evening. Lala and Lalita disappeared at bedtime. They were nowhere to be found. Curly, alone, and in the usual place, where the stream cascades over the log and flows into the wetlands, looked stressed and upset. Where were the girls? Nevertheless, through habit or self-preservation, I cannot say, he followed protocol and (dutifully?) went into the henhouse on his own without his girls, squeaking more loudly than usual. I called and called forever and  ever and searched high and low (even beneath the boxwoods, where Lala used to lay her eggs, thinking that maybe she was conducting some kind of training program for Lalita regarding family traditions ) but no sign of them and it was now dark at 6:00pm. I gave up and was about to e-mail you about their demise when I heard the familiar, usually irritating, but now, longed for, quacking about 20 minutes later. In the pitch dark, illuminated by your little flashlight (one of the more useful purchases you’ve made) I followed the panicky noise. Lala and Lalita were stood at the base of the peach tree, disoriented and trying to get into the henhouse through the chicken wire. Weirdly enough, considering their pea sized brains, I herded them, shining the torch across the Herb Garden down Rhubarb Alley, and they actually scurried along, with agility, speed, and a sense of direction that would put Mapquest to shame, directly into the pen. Moreover, contrary to the usual cajoling and herding efforts required, they couldn’t wait for me to open the door to let them in, and, when I did, there was Curly; waiting and as  eager and agitated as a nervous bridegroom. He did the head bobbing thing and ushered them to what I suppose to be their favorite corner. I felt great relief and satisfaction that all was was as it ought to be and, I believe, that even the Senator ( the giant ‘boss-man’ Muscovy alpha male) seemed to express satisfaction over their reappearance and gave a  very wide berth to Curly & Company. I shall sleep easier tonight.
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