Monday, September 30, 2013

Dear Mis-Canthus........

I hate you.  I have walked around you for two years until yesterday........ when I hacked you down and set you on fire.  

These are the plants newbie gardeners buy when we are young and stupid.  OR  We see a "specimen" at the local arboretum.  Usually planted in mass on the edge of a field...... a 125 acre field! You've seen them.  The setting sun hit's the panicles perfectly, setting them aglow in a wash of light, as their fronds gently wave in perfect rhythm.  Three deer stand off to one side quizzically looking at you with their big deer eyes.  Racing to the garden center, I burst through the automatic doors;  Where are they and how many can I load in my garden center cart!  Oh and excuse me garden center elf helper person,  where is the aisle with deer, I only need three.  OK, the one redeeming factor on ornamental grasses..... deer won't eat them, ever.

 This is a half acre, they will look spectacular, especially at the back of the garden!  
Back that wheel barrow up Penelope Hobbhouse! 
When installed in a small space, miscanthus sinensis zebrina needs to be cut down every year or it looks like I do at 4:30 a.m. streaking to the chicken coop.  Scary!  After the first big snow fall it will look like an elephant wandered through the garden and took a nap on the stuff.  Another note on this lovely ornamental grass nobody talks about, especially the helpful elf working at the local garden center.  Miscanthus sinensis has tiny hook like fibers on the underside of the leaves.  When you cut it back, it fights back by imbedding those little daggers into your flesh.  Even brushing against it can cause a rash...... Oh wait, let's talk garden placement.  Move it from the back of the garden to the front door!!  Hello Avon Lady ...... ding dong you have a rash!  And others who show up on my porch asking if I was lost and needed to be found.  

Last night, as I stood in the door of the newly cleaned studio, smelling the freshly painted, repurposed table and feeling smug with satisfaction of time well spent. 

  The sun was setting, I scanned the gardens and saw a poke berry bush starting to push through the garden horizon line.  WHAT!  How did you get in the garden?  Sneaky placement, thank you birds!  When I ran around behind the garden to pluck out the offending weed, Miss. Canthus met me head on with..... Where do you think you're going?  You have to get through me to get to my BFF, Ms. Poke Berry.  (whoa, are those stripper names or what?)   Standing next to Ms Berry was Ms Choke Cherry.... also sneaky placement thanks to the birds.  Dear God, it's a jungle back here!  After a few hours of hacking, huffing, puffing and sweating I found plants I forgot I had!  How are you Acanthus!  And look!  Cimicifuga brunette, how I've missed you too!  You could hear them sigh, breath deep and lift their heads to the sun!  Plants I love!  That's when I went for the bernzomatic propane torch, saw, shovels, rake.  After an hour, I was bleeding from the razor sharp old reeds, itchy and swearing.  The chickens were under the solomon seal watching the show.  You're next, I muttered through lips surrounded by itchy welts.

Even with burning and hacking it will be back in the spring unless I dig it out.  I do not have a back hoe at this time so it will remain to grow again next Spring.  The rabbits will move in next Spring, have new crop of bun-sters and the circle of life will go on.... pure madness in this gardeners opinion! 
I just called to rent a back hoe.....

The bean crop failed due to mildew but when I yanked the plants the dried beans rattled in protest.  Before the plants hit the compost pile I harvested the dried beans.  Can't wait to try these! 
Three short rows produced 2/3's qt.  At this rate, we will starve! 

Nasturtiums are still rock'n.  
I will be trying my hand at Nasturtium vinegar this year.  Takes 5 minutes.
1 cup of nasturtium leaves, flowers and buds, 1 pint of champagne or white vinegar.  Put all in a clear glass jar, seal tightly and let sit for 3 weeks or more before using.  Supposed to have the peppery flavor of the nasturtiums and the beautiful glow of fresh picked nasturtiums.  
I will report back later!

During the big studio clean out I realized I could not live with the left over sheets of wainscoting from the porch project.  I moved it three times while cleaning and finally moved it out to the chicken coop.  Dragging out the air compressor, saws and tools, by late Saturday night the coop was insulated and looking good.  Installed the heat lamp too.  Then cleaned out under the coop and wow do I hate that chore!  Four wheel barrows full of straw, wood chips, poop, dirt and feathers all dumped on the cleaned out gardens where it will leach out over winter.   Usually I do these projects when the snow is flying and my fingers are frozen, so I high five'd the chickens and went in the house to shower!  As I looked over my shoulder the chickens were picking out wallpaper..... 

We love it! 

And on that chicken note.  I had planned not to winter over the chickens! I had named them after Henry XIII's wives.  Ann Boleyn was going down first, Kathryn of Aragon would linger.  Winter is hard on the chickens, expensive and hard on the Mistress of the chickens.  My neighbor, 94 year old Lois, comes down for a dozen eggs every week.  Lois was born in the house she still lives in and her mother kept the same breed of chickens I have.  Lois is just delightful!  Last month while I was away, Butch got Lois her dozen eggs.  Returning home, my husband, who is not to keen on these chickens said:  You can't kill the chickens!  Really? I said.   Lois was here and told me she is having a rough patch every day or two.  She saves the really brown eggs for the rough days and eats the light colored eggs on her good days.  She just loves those eggs, you can't kill the chickens!  So the girls have been given a reprieve and will see another winter.  The Mistress of Chickens will spend another winter streaking through the backyard.  And Lois will have her dozen eggs, it's what neighbors are for.

The things that show up when you clean the studio!  A perfect little table for the new porch.  This held my Grandpa's old table saw in his workshop.  It has served many purposes while at my house.  A new coat of shiny black paint and it's off to the porch!  

All in all a great weekend.  I will save the fishing trip stories for a later post as it is not for the faint of heart!  


  1. Give miscanthus a miss!

    The studio looks downright inspiring!

    I grew nasturtiums this year (actually a flat I rescued from my garden center). I can't remember why I stopped growing them but! At any rate these are great, especially considering what they looked like when i got them. All this leads up to saying I'm looking forward to nasturtium vinegar!

  2. SC, if you make the vinegar I would love a report! Try it with rice wine as champagne vinegar is hard to find around this neck of the woods.

    Throwing jars in that clean studio..... Wasn't clean for long :)

  3. Wishing I was there! Wondering if this post will show up.