Yesterday in the Garden

Garden with some tulips and narcissus
Daffodils, narcissus and tulips

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I spent most of yesterday working in the garden. The air had a bit of a chill in it but as long as I stayed busy, I was not cold.

It was great to be out there enjoying the mild weather. Here in Central Texas, we have not had anything of a winter at all. We have had three maybe four slight freezes, enough to knock everything down to give Nature a fresh start for the Spring. I had already cleared out most of the dead stuff early in the month.

As I walked around, the narcissus and daffodils were in full bloom along with the pretty yellow flowers of the Primrose Jasmine which had to all intents and purposes, died off in the drought but has come back stronger than ever. The plants have more blooms on them this year than I have ever seen before.

I have one patch of grass in my yard. It’s hardly a lawn as it is located in the dry creek bed. Again, with the recent rains, the grass has grown back thick and green along with an abundance of spiny sow thistle and other “weeds”. I decided that the grass has grown tall enough and needed some attention but first I had to make a trip to the local gas station to fill up my 5 gallon can. I guess if it’s made of plastic, it is hardly a “can”, container maybe? Fresh gas for a fresh start to the new season.

I think I have explained in an earlier blog that I like “things”. Mechanical things, electronic things, all kind of tool things, you know, the stuff I can’t seem to live without nowadays. Anyway, my garden things take the form of lawn mowers, weed wackers, gas-powered tree pruners with extended handles, chain saw and even a hedge trimmer. I have a garden tractor with a mower  attachment that last year, was used just once and then the drought took care of any chance of the grass growing. The only place I can use this is to mow the strip of land between the road and my fence line which in my case is about 50 yards long and maybe 25 feet wide.

In my defence, I bought this tractor before I filled the yard up with ponds when for several years, I was attempting to grow grass which was always a losing battle as there are too many trees and not enough sunlight comes through. Then I moved my old horse into the yard  and he spent several years living there before I had to put him to sleep. The tractor, in the meantime, sat in the shed…

The tractor actually came in very handy as I was building the ponds as I used it to transport dirt and rocks and even used it to pull rail ties down to the end of the garden. But now, I ride it on the small patch of grass outside of my fence, once maybe twice a year and wave at all of the passing cars as if to say, “Look at me, riding my tractor. Ennit Great“.

I also have a small cultivator that I bought when I was trying to put in a garden. It actually more than earned it’s keep as I was digging the holes for the ponds as I used it to loosen up the dirt before shovelling it out. I worked great for that. Alas, no more ponds to build so it just sits in the shed…

I should explain that the creek bed is very uneven and rocky and the tractor, even if I could get it down to the end of the garden, which I can’t as I never built the paths wide enough, is difficult to manage so I use yet a different toy, a string mower, which actually is one of the smarter things that I bought. This is like a weed wacker on wheels and uses much thicker cutting line. It is easy to manoeuvre and is not affected by the rough terrain except that I have to change the lines out more frequently as they break against the rocks.

Anyway, the start of each season is usually a bit trying as some of the mechanical toys tend to get real ornery and won’t start resulting lots of pulls on the rope followed by an equal amount of bad language after each pull. I had already topped up the gas tank and braced myself for a long starting session. I took a deep breath and gave the starting rope and firm pull and lo and behold, the mower fired right up the first time. It just sat there with the motor purring so nicely that I could not believe my ears. How lucky is that.

Anyway, I mowed down the area and considered if I should actually rake up the grass that I had cut down but the lazy side of me kicked in so I left it for another day which probably means never and moved on to other things.

I was getting ready to put the mower back in the shed but decided that I needed to clean the shed out first. The rats had been very busy over the winter as had I trying to trap them. I had four traps in that shed and after I first set them, caught many rats which had been living under the shed. I haven’t caught anything for the past month and moved the traps up off the floor away from the dogs and proceeded to clean and sweep out the shed. and generally tidied it up ready for the spring season.

Talking of rats, I have had a lot of them this past year and although I get no pleasure from killing any animal, I could not let them continue as they  were getting very destructive. The had taken over the toolshed and greenhouse and had moved into the workshop. They had even built nests in the walls surrounding the ponds and I was afraid they would chew through the liner, a problem I did not want to have to repair. They had even chewed the rubber stop on the bottom of the garage door enough for them to get into the garage.

I set traps and from that point on, had to be careful that the dogs did not get at the traps as they would have tried to eat the bait and set the traps off maybe injuring themselves. I did NOT use any poison for fear of the dogs either getting into it or even chewing on any rat that had died out in the open. Over the winter, with traps set in all four places, I caught well over 50 rats. Like I said, I haven’t caught any for about a month. Whether they are all gone or just lying low, I will soon find out as the weather warms up.

My regular weed wacker quit working last year and I could not get it to start. The repair shop I took it to wanted more to repair than it cost to buy a new one so that is what I opted to do except this time, I bought a battery operated machine. This works just fine as I use it mostly to trim under the electric fences that surround my property and ponds to stop the dogs from digging out and a few of the hard to reach spots that I can’t get the string mower into.

When I was chatting to the mechanic who works on these sort of machines, he mentioned that it is always a good idea to keep gas in the tanks over the winter so that the seals don’t dry out on the carburetors which is usually what needs repair.He suggested emptying out the old gas and starting with a clean tank of gas to start each season, hence my trip to the gas station with my 5 gallon “can”.

My next big project is to mulch everything in the garden and I plan to start that next week. If I can get it done while the new growth is still small, it is so much easier. I have finished planting the new stuff to replace that which the frost and the drought cleaned out and unless I see something really eye-catching am trying to restrict my plants to mostly native varieties.

While I was out there, I replaced the batteries in the solar lights that I have around the yard as some of them were no longer working then turned my attention to refilling the bird feeders of which there are many spread throughout the yard. I go through 30 lb of seed and 20 lb of sunflower seeds every week and attract a large variety of birds. My favorites are the goldfinches, they are so pretty. I have a lot of ring neck doves but I don’t mind them as they tend to eat the seed that is spilled on the floor. Of course, I have the noisy squirrels which drive my little dachshund Richie, absolutely nuts. He chases them from tree to tree barking his fool head off. It’s even funnier to watch him when the buzzards are circling overhead as he tears around like a crazy dog running from one place to another.

Well, it’s time for me to try to start the garden tractor so that I can play at farmer in full view of the passing cars. Wish me luck…

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