Got the too-tall mimosa below the deck pruned down yesterday...ended up having to saw out a huge branch high up the tree to lower the height of the tree without hacking at it. My arms still ache from all that sawing... Got a good start at pruning/cleaning up the red raspberry patch yesterday afternoon (Friday).
Today (Saturday) I worked like a mad thing...got the rest of the red raspberry patch pruned and cleaned up, then did a quick cleanup of the henhouse and hen run and put the detritus on the berry patch as feed/mulch. Then into the veg and got the entire black raspberry patch pruned and tied, got the posts straightened out. Writing it down seems like nothing much, but working both those berry patches took just about all day!
It's always surprising how fast one can get out of condition from inactivity. We've had long stretches of really bitter cold this winter when I haven't been able to be outside doing my usual gardening. Two days of pretty average work in the garden and I'm sitting here feeling like my arms and legs are overcooked noodles!
Starting to warm up a bit after another spell of very cold weather. It should get to 40F today and I am determined to get out and do some pruning. The first job is to lower the top of the mimosa in the Jungle Cliff. For myself, it's fine the way it is, but R is complaining that the taller branches will block the satellite dish reception, so I'll give in and lop those out. I really REALLY need to get my blackberries and raspberries pruned too....I had been meaning to do that at the end of November, but got sidetracked. So that's on the list too...the black raspberries are especially tedious...tying in all those long whippy canes...but hopefully I can do this in one day.
I've put closing off the gable ends of the greenhouse onto the to-do list for this weekend as well. Depending on how warm it gets and how sustained that warmth is, I may even be able to get some edging work done along the newly cut areas. I had a good idea for using the sod removed from those new areas: instead of hauling it all over the place, I'm going to dump it and spread it out at the end of the driveway. We have a paved drive and it drops off sort of steeply at the end, into the lawn. R's been saying for a couple of years about bringing in fill and leveling that out so I decided that laying these chunks of discarded sod in there and then smoothing it over with a few bags of topsoil from Lowe's will be a good idea...and I don't have to push a wheelbarrow load of dirt up a hill! While I'm at it, I may just cut a bed around the old crabapple tree too....I'm tired of having to mow under it, and the roots have gotten so big they are pushing up from the soil. I think a nice oval mulched bed would be just the ticket.
The last couple of days have been very cold, too cold to be outside doing anything. And I've been chafing to do SOMETHING. "I wish I could...If only I could... I really wish I could..." Then this morning it struck me....this enforced idleness (in all things gardening at least) is a good thing. By the end of September, I have to admit, I'm pretty well "gardened out." It's been a long, hot summer...I've worn myself to a thread with weeding, mowing, etc. etc. By the end of September, I'm more than happy to say "I think I'll spend the day inside." The gardening bug sort of goes into remission. But then, when the weather gets truly awful like it has been all this winter, gradually, there's a relapse....I start to itch to get back out there and do things. It's like the gardening batteries are recharged by being forced to stand inside and look out at the garden thru the windows.
I have been spending the past few days trawling YouTube for any sorts of educational/gardening videos. Also, I've recently discovered Pinterest and that's a great site for new ideas. There's such a lot to see/learn. I'm really anxious to get my garden expanded this year; I've been making pretty good progress the past 2-3 years, and this year I'd like to finalize the areas of the Dark Garden and the Asian Garden-... just get them demarcated and cleared off to the point where they are clearly "garden" and not "empty ground." I don't care if I don't get much planted in those areas, but I'd like to at least get them to the point where I feel like I'm walking in garden. I'd also like to simply expand the existing beds that I have that surround the lawn area in the back. I made a start at that a few weeks ago, cutting in the new outline for a big continuous line that will make mowing so much easier. Having a couple of weeks to just look at that and think about it has decided me: I'm definitely going to bring the edge of the south border way out in places to sort of even it up, take out some of the curves. Doing that, and the fact that I've already expanded the edge of the Below the Deck garden will bring those two areas closer together, narrow the grassy area between them. Ultimately, I'd like to have nothing but wide grass paths through the back yard.
For certain, this spring I've got to get the second half of the Folly Wall under way. Now that I know what I'm doing (sort of !) I really don't have any excuse for putting it off. Getting the second half of the Wall built will also take me a big step toward getting the Dark Garden better established too. The Folly Wall marks the entrance to the Dark Garden, and the spill from digging out the footer for the wall will help to build up the raised beds in there as well.
I'm really really eager to put my new dog kennel greenhouse to work too. I was in there the other day when the temps were in the teens and although it's by no means toasty, I could detect a definitely warmer temperature in there. And this is with the gable ends of the greenhouse still open! (Which reminds me that I need to think about getting them closed off next week...the temps here are supposed to go into the 40sF so that will probably be warm enough to work with plastic sheeting and tape.)
We're forecast to get some snow today/tomorrow, but nothing too drastic.
Brought in some potting media to thaw out...going to try to start some seeds next week.
Yesterday and today (11 and 12 January) have been like a benediction...days straight out of April, warm, overcast, intermittent rain. Such a relief after that long terrible spell of extremely cold and dry weather. It's not going to last; we're supposed to have a deep dip in the temperatures overnight and back into the deep freeze by later tomorrow. THat's ok; it's mid-January and that's normal. And so is this unexpected warmth: this is the traditional "January thaw" that we USED to get every winter. With climate change, everybody's forgotten what normal winters are actually like.
I took advantage of the mild weather yesterday morning to get out with the loppers, saw and secateurs and start "lifting up" the massive juniper bushes that form a sort of wall at the base of the hill below the deck. I wanted to remove some of the wodgy lower branches to reveal the intricate main trunks underneath. It took a couple of hours and a lot of crawling around but I'm very pleased with the result. It's amazing how this has made the area look so much bigger, even though I did not actually cut back the diameter of the junipers at all. It's just visually so much bigger because now the eye is drawn under and back through the junipers, instead of being stopped by the ground level foliage. I think it also balances much better with the big semi-cloud pruned mugho pine that sits opposite. I'm trying for an overall effect like a sort of big bonsai/miniature forest. I think I'll go ahead and repeat the process a bit lower down the slope as well, to open up the side of the juniper mass as well.
Today was a write-off: I had a doctor's appointment and then grocery shopping all morning and by the time I got home and got chores done, the rain had started and I had run out of steam. I did check out an antique/secondhand/junque shop in Waynesboro and they have some really interesting stuff that I'd love to have in the garden...I especially liked the "cathedral windows" they had (small, gothic shaped frames with a sort of tracery inside, but no glass). I would love to incorporate one of them into the second part of the Folly Wall, and I'm also thinking that the small tool shed that I am thinking of incorporating into the Folly Wall would look amazing with one of those windows in it too! They also had wire "cloches" like old fashioned bird cages and I would love to get a couple of those too! Hmm...this may be my birthday present to myself later in the spring.
After a week of truly brutal weather, with temperatures in the single digits and even below zero one night, we are warmed up into the low 40sF today. It is such a relief to actually see liquid water again. The scant snow that we received yesterday is nearly gone where the sun hits it, but still a dusting in the shady spots.
I turned the hens loose this morning and they are acting like mad things, running up and down the hill, wings flapping, rolling in the dust under the arborvitae, just wild with joy at being free. During this past terribly cold week, I kept them confined to their henhouse and hen run, but most of the time they wouldn't even come out of the hen house into the run except to eat and drink.
The most noteworthy thing that's happened over the past week is that I saved a poor cat from freezing to death. One afternoon, when the temperatures were in the teens and a stiff wind blowing, I saw an unfamiliar gray cat with white face and paws huddled under the junipers below the deck. When I opened the patio door, it disappeared under the shrubs. The next morning, the poor thing was huddled on one of the chairs on the deck. I offered it food and it ate, but I could see it was very very weak. I made up a big dog carrier with blankets, rugs, etc. and carried it down to the garden shed (in a brainwave, I heated up an old iron skillet on the stove and slipped it into the carpets in the box...like a bed warming pan). I wasn't sure if I could handle a stray cat, but I went up to it, wrapped it in an old jacket and carried it down to the shed. The poor thing was so cold it could barely move. I got it into the warm box and gave it some warm broth of mixed cat food and hot water. It ate that, then curled up into the box. I closed up the shed to keep the cat in there during the night and next morning it looked a little better...it was badly dehydrated as well, so I gave it another bowl of broth. Long story short, I think I saved its life because the next night we had temperatures below zero and I don't think it would have survived that. Yesterday, the cat was out in the back yard moving around normally and last night it (she) slipped into the house with our regular contingent to get water to drink. I think that not only did I save its life, I've saved the life of some kittens...I think the poor thing is carrying. Hopefully, she'll stay in the shed and have her babies in there. I just hope the weather stays mildish for the next few weeks.