I've been absent for too long and must admit, I was a little out of sorts with all the current events happening here and in the world right now. I suspect I'm not the only one. But it's time to take back our lives and get back to doing what we do! Thankfully, warm days arrived, igniting my fondness of being in the garden. I feel blessed that I can walk around freely on our property and enjoy nature. Mother Nature hasn't stopped for a moment while all the lock downs and stay in place orders have been restricting our lives.
Spring actually came a little early and everything is now green and lush. We had more than our share of rain over the past couple of months. The ground has stayed saturated but is finally drying out. Yay, we can cut the grass! Hopefully all those April showers will bring an abundance of May flowers.
The pond is full due to all the rain. There's some kind of white pollen swirling around the top. Poppies and other wildflowers are blooming along the edge.
Hummingbirds are beginning to show up. I'm pretty sure many of them will return from last year and some from years before. They are such amazingly tiny creatures. I'm in awe of them.
This extra tiny male was the first to show up. I put up a feeder as soon as I spotted him. Actually, he found us, I think. We were sitting out on the back porch when he appeared and hovered over us for a brief hello.
Two days ago the first brood of Phoebes fledged. This picture was taken three days ago. Mom has a meal ready.
There's another nest of Phoebes on the door of the chicken house. lol. The chicken house is still under construction so it doesn't matter that we can't open the door. I'm starting to think construction might go on indefinitely! HA! Oh well. The hens seem content with their little coop. These little Phoebes fledged yesterday. So for now, there are no more nesting Phoebes.
Speaking of hens! They're fighting over a planter I recently brought home. Apparently it's now the preferred place to lay eggs. So funny!
We have had the extra time to do some much needed cleaning around the property, clearing out some dead trees, limbs and other debris. Hubby tried burning a couple of large stumps. It worked pretty well. This one ended up looking rather interesting.
Today I spent some time down at my daughter's memory garden. The Live Oak tree has really grown since we planted it in 2010. I love this spot. I think my daughter would have loved it too.
Just for comparison, this was right after we planted the tree almost ten years ago.
Knock Out Roses are a knock out in my book. Simple, prolific and easy to care for!
I call this Japanese Spirea eye candy since it has nothing to offer the hummingbirds or pollinators.
I'm a big fan of herbs and oregano is one of my favorites. It's probably the most used herb in my garden; the herb I can always count on for making delicious food and healing broths. Oregano has a long list of known benefits including minerals, vitamins and various medicinal properties. All varieties of oregano have powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties with a high percentage of carvacrol and thymol, good medicine when someone is feeling under the weather. From the information I've read, it appears that all varieties of oregano are also good for respiratory ailments.
Origanum spp. will happily grow indoors year around. Even if you only grow oregano outdoors during the summer, you can bring it inside to keep flourishing all winter long. Growing oregano indoors will surely come in handy as you prepare many favorite recipes during the winter months. It'll provide you with fresh herb as it enjoys being trimmed, regrowing thicker.
This particular oregano (pictured below) is probably the most used and my go-to for most Italian, Mediterranean and Mexican dishes, that I have growing. Sauces, it's really good in sauces! It's been sitting in a south facing window for years but sadly, I can't remember for sure which variety. I think it's Greek Oregano, Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtu. Please let me know if you recognize it and can give it a positive ID.
It's definitely delicious on pizza.
Another variety I like is one I don't think is used near as often. It's called Cuban Oregano, Coleus amboinicus or Plectranthus amboinicus. I've only grown this variety indoors and don't think it would survive our winters. The leaves of Cuban Oregano are tender and fleshy with a velvety texture and, boy is it pungent! Just touch the plant and you will come away smelling like oregano. Because it seems to have such a high amount of carvacrol and thymol, I like to add it to my nourishing soups when anyone is sick. It's also said to be especially good for coughs, bronchitis, asthma or any other respiratory problems. The flavor is great and we always feel better after having some. I also like including a few finely chopped leaves of this oregano to my minestrone soup. It seems to add just the right flavor.
Mexican Oregano, Lippia graveolens grows as a deciduous perennial here in my zone. I've had the same plant for many years now. It goes dormant over winter, growing new leaves in late spring. I love the peppery oregano flavor of this plant! The unique peppery flavor is perfect for Mexican dishes but I really enjoy it on pizza too, maybe even more than Italian or Greek oregano. I like to harvest the branches and hang them to dry for use all year around.
February flew by and here it is already the 29th, the last day of February. Leap year has some interesting folklore about farming. Supposedly, you should not plant beans or peas today or they will grow the wrong way. Broad beans will grow upside down and peas will grow the wrong way in the pod. Interesting but I think I'll just leave it to wondering if it's true and not plant any today. Haha!
It does look like spring is getting closer. I've noticed many of the birds chasing each other. And saw two Phoebes sitting on the eave at the back porch. One Phoebe has been roosting up there for awhile so it was nice to see her mate showed up.
Spring is definitely my favorite season, when everything starts fresh and new. There's a few bright splashes of color where the Spring Beauties are starting to bloom. The Trout Lilies are in full bloom near the forest. Trout Lilies are harbingers of spring! If you look close, you will find the bees buzzing around and in the flowers.
Chickweed, Stellaria media is one of my favorite spring "weeds". Chickweed makes a great spring tonic. It's full of nutrients and is said to help stimulate your lymphatic system. You can make a tea with it or add it to your salad. There are a few "look-alikes" out there such as spurge and Scarlet Pimpernel but I find it easy to identify by the leaves and it has hairs going along one side of the stem. Here's some pictures of chickweed. Notice the leaves have a central vein and small veins coming off either side. Notice also, the way the leaf comes to a point. It's not blooming yet but it has five petal, deeply lobed white flowers.
Scarlet Pimpernel leaves will have all the veins coming from the stem. Common purge often grows near chickweed but it grows erect and has a white milk in the stems.
Well, my little girly-girl doggy is pawing at me so that's my cue, it's time to go outside.
Here it is the last day of January, 2020 already! This winter has been quite mild so far but still waiting to do much since February can bring some of the coldest days.
What's growing ~
Tomato & Pepper seeds sown on January 27th:
Brandy Sweet Plum, compact
Floradade - good for hot and humid
KBX - the potato leaf version of Kellogg's Breakfast
Rutgers (good for this area & said to be better than Celebrity)
Aleppo (I last grew this variety in 2016)
Anaheim College 64
Santa Fe Grande hot
Sweet peppers: Aji Dulce; Jolene's Red Italian & Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes
Plus - A favorite unknown variety from France that I haven't grown in years.
Others recently sown (outdoors):
Sugar Snap Peas - Sugar Daddy and Dukat Dill
Looking forward to spring.
In the meantime, the birds have been enjoying the suet and seeds and I've been enjoying watching them. Here's a few.
Female Cardinal ~
Male Cardinal ~
Dark Eyed Junco
Rudbeckia hirta is one of my favorite cheery flowers. They stick around all summer long and they always have an interesting selection of various looks, even in a small patch. Here are some ~
The roots of Rudbeckia hirta were once used medicinally. Native American Indians used the roots for snake bites and ear aches, among other uses such as treating colds and worms. I enjoy learning the medicinal virtues of plants.
The flowers attract many butterflies and are a larva host for Checkerspot, Bordered Patch and I think I read Snout butterfly as well. We get Snouts here but I don't remember seeing the other two. I'll have to look out for them and their larva.
This is a Synchlora caterpillar. Can you see it? It adorns itself with the flower it feeds on as camouflage. How funny! If I look close, there always seems to be some of these around.