The Garden Begins!

The magic date for planting in my zone usually falls on Memorial Day. The forecast has been cooperative lately, so I started quite a bit already. I’m waiting a few more days with the tomatoes and peppers; they didn’t start well from seed this year. Better soil or better starter pots might be the answer – next year. For now, they get a little more time in pots on the deck before I measure the grid and insert the seedlings into the soil.

Square foot gardening gives me a lot of food in a relatively small space. So far, I’ve planted lettuces, spinach, parsley, peas, broccoli, and root crops: carrots, parsnips, radishes, turnips. It sounds like a lot – and if all of it comes up, there will be a lot of fresh vegetables around the O.K. Chorale.

The plot behind the new garage is restarting, really. I have a small parsley bed back there (bunny food!), and the raspberries are coming back nicely. In a year or two, I’ll have a significant raspberry patch again. I(hopefully!) protect the seedlings from the wild bunnies.

The onions and garlic that I planted last fall are coming up well. I finally figured out which was which, too. The garlic is almost ready to harvest. I’ll definitely do this again next fall: plant the bulbs, and then let them lie dormant during the winter and grow as soon as the ground thaws in the spring.

I just heard a grizzled old off-grid guy on television say, “When you live this isolated and off grid, there are two seasons: winter and getting ready for winter.” Here in the city neighborhoods, we do some of that preparation. I don’t need to chop wood, but I do grow and can and freeze a lot of goodies during the “Getting ready for winter” season. The big difference here is how relaxing and enjoyable the prep time can be.

Pictures, you ask? Later. I promise.

The Great Bunny Rescue – encore

A Facebook friend posted this warning: Live Easter bunnies are not a good idea. It reminded me of spring 2011 and the night La Petite got a phone call from a friend’s mother. The point of the call: five domestic rabbits needed help.

When La Petite’s phone rang, it was the mother of a friend. She and her youngest two children had come across five domestic bunnies that had been abandoned at a construction site near a local bike trail. They went back with lettuce and a large box, lured the furry ones, brought them home, and called The Bunny Whisperer, a.k.a. La Petite.
We knew what to do, so Chuck and I joined her. We gathered two cages from our basement with litter, hay, and pellets for each. La Petite knew where we were going, so she drove. When we pulled into the driveway, Friend’s Mom and two kids in pajamas led us into the garage where she’d set the box.
Five full grown domestic rabbits were in the box. Two were harassing the others, so Chuck picked up those two first and looked them over closely. “Yep. Boy bunnies. Let’s separate these from the others.” We put the two males in one cage and the three females in the other, and they calmed down significantly. All five started to nibble on the hay and pellets, and they even found the corner with litter and used it appropriately.
Four looked like they may have been related or from the same litter; the other was a lop-eared character who didn’t resemble any of the others. He was either a major case of recessive genes or was unrelated. Cute, though. They were all cute, even though they were incredibly dirty and smelly from their adventure and trauma.
We left them settled for the night, and La Petite made arrangements to help Friend’s Mom take all five to the Humane Society the next day. When they delivered the bunnies, La Petite reported to me that all five looked cleaner and they were eating well and (are you sitting down?) at least two of the three females were pregnant. We were further appalled.
We’ll never know why the owners dumped the bunnies. Maybe realizing the males were mature was too much to handle. Getting them neutered could have been too expensive. Maybe the owners realized that not only were the males mature, but the females were expecting. If five bunnies are too many, five plus two litters of babies would be overwhelming.
The girls, getting a little attention
I still don’t fully understand, though. La Petite and Friend’s Mom brought the rabbits to the shelter. The previous owners could have done that instead of dumping them. Pet rabbits are not equipped to survive in the wild. They don’t know what to eat, and they’ll be eaten soon because of their lack of camouflage. With their domestic coloring, they’d be hawk bait before long. The little albino in particular would be easy prey for eagle-eyed predators – and I do mean eagles.
La Petite was pleased with the people and the set-up at the shelter. Rabbits and other small animals were kept a significant distance away from dogs and cats and in a separate room. She said they looked clean and well cared for. We wished we could have done more. When cash flow is a little easier, maybe we’ll make a donation. We’re grateful to have a Humane Society in town. We’re also grateful to know people like Friend’s Mom who thought it was important to rescue these animals when they were homeless and in danger.
The Boy Bunnies

We’re grateful we’re able to make a good home for our pet rabbits: Buttercup at our home; Krumpet, Biscuit, and Sadie at La Petite’s apartment. We love them dearly.

 

Where’s the Bunny? Encore.

Here’s an oldie but a goodie. The room looks totally different now, many years later. Amigo no longer plays host to a bunny. If he did, we’d have electrical cords galore to hide. This small bunny was very special; here’s one part of his story.

This little bunny moved into Amigo’s room from his outdoor hutch when winter hit. Chuck has been working in Amigo’s room, remodeling and repainting, and the small rabbit has found new places to hide and hang out and do rabbit things, like bathe and nap. Can you find him?

Okay, I give in. Here he is. He has taken this shelf, temporarily stashed in the middle of the room and currently empty of Braille books, as his own.

Cute, huh?

The Harvest

We had three rabbits visiting all weekend because La Petite was here. You know what that means: lettuce!

Fresh as it gets!

Fresh as it gets!

It’s been the strangest season for lettuce. Normally, the second batch of lettuce is done by mi-July, if not sooner. I’m harvesting the first crop of lettuces right now.

Still waiting!

Still waiting!

Even after harvest, there’s more to be had. I predict a lot of salads and BLTs this week.

Meanwhile, “Chuck” was busy relocating a peony that we’ve had in the backyard since we moved in. It meant a lot of digging on a hot and muggy day, and thirst quenching with strawberry lemonade.

Dig. Dig. Dig.

Dig. Dig. Dig.

The large peony is now beside the northwest corner of the house. It’ll get enough sun, and we’ll enjoy it more.

The new home!

The new home!

If you look closely, you’ll also see the sod from the peony’s new spot. It’s filling an area that had been weeds. If you look even more closely, you’ll see the little black dress, er, fence. I picked those up at a rummage sale a while back, and I knew we’d use them eventually. Chuck’s research (a la Google) told him that tomato cages would be good, but I haven’t used traditional tomato cages for years.

My harvest wasn’t big this week, but you can see other gardeners’ bounty at Daphne’s Dandelions.

Harvest Monday – cilantro

It’s June, folks, still June. I have a lot of sprouts growing, but not much to harvest except the ubiquitous rhubarb. The cilantro, though, is reaching for the sky.

cilantro

I planted small amounts a few weeks apart so it wouldn’t ripen all at once. The batch on the right is past its prime, if I’m honest. I might let it go to seed. On the left, that might be ready just in time for tacos. In the middle, it’ll join me for salsa. I planted in sections because we don’t use a lot of cilantro at any one time. The flavor is quite strong, especially when it’s fresh.

If I have too much, I can always feed it to the pet rabbit.

For more Harvest Monday, visit Daphne’s Dandelions. I wonder if she makes dandelion pesto? I should ask.

Dandelions? Just a flower out of place.

This encore comes from a pre-rock garden era. The rock garden took the place of the mint pictured here. If I ever plant mint, I’ll do it in a container so it doesn’t take over the world, er, yard. Here you go, folks, an encore presentation: Dandelions.

Have you seen the commercials? The ones that imply that dandelions are evil, nasty, even toxic creatures that intentionally invade your (gulp) Lovely Lawn. The commercials want you to buy their product, of course: the Chemical Killer of Evil Dandelions. Here’s one fighting for its life in the middle of the mint. I predict the mint will win. Mint is a very aggressive plant that doesn’t give up easily.

But chemicals? Expense aside, I don’t need them. I don’t want them on the mint; I might use it in cooking or to mix a mojito. I don’t sweat the dandelions; I use them to offset the high cost of lettuce.

Buttercup loves them.

Bunnies! Spring decor

I’m not a designer or a decorator. I’m content if the Christmas decoration are put away by the time the snow melts. So putting away the snowmen and snowflakes during Spring Break was a reasonable goal.

The next set of decorations featured – do you want to guess? Oh, I gave it away already. Bunnies. Spring means rabbits.

La Petite's collection

La Petite’s collection

This set of (mostly) bunnies was in La Petite’s old room. In the process of turning that into an office-slash-guest room, I’m taking down some of the decorations. These will do a little time in the den, and then I’ll pack them up with bubble wrap and bring them to the bunny whisperer herself, La Petite.  Here, take a closer look.

Kids with bunnies

Kids with bunnies

Oops - This one doesn't belong.

Oops – This one doesn’t belong.

Okay, readers, it’s time to share. What are the signs of spring in your humble homes?

Krumpet and Biscuit

La Petite sent me a text message with a photo of a cute little lion head bunny that wasn’t her little lionhead bunny. The series of texts went something like this.

LP: It’s a male bunny up for adoption at a small animal sanctuary someone I know runs. And part of me wants it to be Krumpet’s husband.

Me:  Cute. Possibilities.

Me (a few seconds later): Oh, dear. Did I really say that?

LP: Well, Krumpet has seemed lonely and a bit mischievous lately.

LP: She’s great and clingy when I get home, but when I’m gone she gets into things.

Me: When we got Sadie, Peanut gnawed a lot less. He just needed company.

LP: I’d have to meet the little guy, probably even schedule a greeting with Krumpet.

Me: Sounds promising.

LP: They just called. He’s still available.

Me: Is he fixed?

LP: Neutered and litter trained.

Me: Do it!

She did it. She introduced her own little bunny to the potential “mate” on Saturday morning.

bunnies bonding

Almost an encore

The cold weather and snow storms got me thinking about spring. Of course I thought about planting. Doesn’t everybody?

I had some help preparing the garden plot last year. Here’s one of my helpers with her pink shovel, a shovel that belonged to La Petite when she was about this size.

Have shovel, will travel!

Have shovel, will travel!

We put her in charge of uprooting the dandelions and feeding some of them to Buttercup. Bunny was very happy.

Shopping in non-traditional places

An encore presentation: it’s all still true. I just got back from a short shopping trip that included Half Price Books and a local dollar store. I can finish the wrapping now. 

Folks, you know me. You know I gave up buying wrapping paper several years ago. You know I plan ahead for gift shopping because of all the birthdays that mingle with Christmas. You know I love Christmas music and listen to it – well, I love to listen to holiday music, new or classic.

But do you recall – of course you do. Creative wrapping, frugal gift planning, and finally, the shopping, take a little thought. And then, with a little thought and planning, the fun begins.

Thrift stores! By carefully perusing the racks, I have often found good buys on brand name and quality clothing. Lands’ End, GAP, Old Navy, and my favorite jeans just take a quick cycle through the wash and then look good as new – or better. Better how? Because they’re already worn in, but not worn out.

Thrift stores again – baskets. I enjoy filling baskets with my own canned goods for special people like extended family. My favorite place to find baskets? Goodwill and other thrift stores.

Stores that specialize in vintage. This angle requires good knowledge of the gift recipient. If you’re considering that rabbit fur coat that’s marked 20% off, you’d better avoid buying it for me or for La Petite. But if you see a lovely scarf or classic cameo pendant, go for it.

Stores full of repurposed and crafty pieces. There’s a shop near my workplace that sells wonderful creative and useful household pieces. I look at their wine cork frames and trivets and think “I could make these.” Then I realize no, I don’t have the time or the talent. I’ll buy it from someone who does have the time and talent.

And finally, last but never least, I thoroughly enjoy shopping at Fleet Farm. Don’t bother with Toyland; just stick to my standard departments. Friends and family know that they can buy anything for canning and preserving and I’ll be thrilled. They might even find gardening tools and toys there, despite the weather outside being frightful. We’ve also discovered that the foodstuffs designed for hunting or camping are also good pantry staples. Bear Creek soup mixes, anyone? Yum.