The Totally Real Dangers of Rural Living

Liv­ing here in a fairly rural part of Mary­land, I see things that the aver­age sub­ur­ban­ite wouldn’t encounter in a year liv­ing in a san­i­tized and man­i­cured neighborhood.

I can sit in my favorite chair and watch red foxes play fight in the back field. In spring, the tulip trees look like Christ­mas trees with twin­kling fire­flies in the night. I have stared in awe to see an eagle fly not 20 feet over where I was walk­ing my lit­tle dogs. I was tick­led when blue­birds col­o­nized my hugely expen­sive and unused pur­ple mar­tin gourds. And one mem­o­rable day I watched on as turkeys for­ni­cated on my front lawn.

live bunnies sm

Live baby bun­nies in a nest

On the other hand, I have had to boldly inter­vene when Tina Turner, a beau­ti­ful Pol­ish chicken, was chased down by a hawk who wasn’t at all impressed with my wind­mill arms and lunatic shriek­ing. I have stum­bled upon dead moles, dead snakes, dead wood­chucks and dead baby bun­nies, only to return a short time later to haul them off to the woods with a shovel to find that they had dis­ap­peared. And one time dur­ing an early morn­ing run, my hus­band encoun­tered a still­born deer in the mid­dle of our driveway.

Turkey Sex dm

Turkey sex

At 10 in the morn­ing this past Hal­loween Day a bloody-footed rac­coon walked across our front porch just between the door sill and the mat, leav­ing a pool of blood to one side and drip­ping blood down the side­walk before ambling across the lawn and into the woods.

bloody footprints 2 sm

Bloody rac­coon foot­prints by my front door

You don’t see that every day in the burbs.

Recently I was out for my run when I slammed into a force field of stench. It was just up the dri­ve­way from the house where an omi­nous band of silent black vul­tures had con­gre­gated. The odor was so over­pow­er­ing I was forced to sprint past hold­ing my nose and mouth breath­ing. My eyes were water­ing like a spigot. The smell attached itself to my clothes and fol­lowed me up the road.

No small corpse could be caus­ing such an impres­sive stink. Surely it was some­thing quite large. Maybe an ele­phant. Or a brontosaurus.

Maybe some ani­mal had taken the next step on the Cir­cle of Life ride.

Then my mind raced. What if it wasn’t a dead ani­mal? What if it was really human remains out there in the woods near my dri­ve­way? What should I do?  Should I investigate?

But maybe some­one had dumped a dead and putre­fy­ing body there and I would stum­ble across it, acci­den­tally plant­ing my DNA on the corpse and when I called the county sher­iff they would come out to inves­ti­gate and con­clude that I blud­geoned and dumped the body of a blog­ger who had writ­ten a mean review about my book and they would take me off to prison and I would be all like Orange is the New Black and have to get a gangsta nick­name like Ugly Stretch and have an inter­est­ing but diverse new group of friends and never put up another jar of jam, although maybe I could get a job in the prison kitchen if I was really nice to the ter­ri­fy­ing Russ­ian lady in charge, but really they would prob­a­bly make me work in the elec­tri­cal shop as part of my reha­bil­i­ta­tion but instead I would get elec­tro­cuted and die young because I’m not good at fix­ing things.

My hus­band could totally deal with prison bet­ter than me.

But he wasn’t home to go look instead of me, so I finally worked up my courage to inves­ti­gate. I put on my big rub­ber boots and gloves and tied a pretty scarf around my face bandito-style. Might as well go out in style, right?

I shoed away the black vul­tures (gosh, they’re scary) and care­fully tip­toed into the woods so I wouldn’t dis­turb any evi­dence. A cou­ple of feet past the tree line I spied the enor­mous, bloated dead deer that was caus­ing the stink.

I’m sorry, Bambi, but thank you, Jesus! I am not going to prison! I’m free! I went home to cel­e­brate my free­dom with a plate of cookies.

Boy howdy. That stench had stay­ing power. It took four days for nature’s cleanup crew to fin­ish their pic­nic and for the smell to dis­perse. In the mean­time the dri­ve­way to our home looked like a more Mafioso ver­sion of The Birds.

Since I’m not going to prison after all I’m enjoy­ing the fresh air of free­dom. It feels won­der­ful not to be behind bars, to savor the quiet and shower all by myself.

Ah, rural liv­ing! I think I would be bored liv­ing suburbs.

 

Robin


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Article source: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/2014/11/30/totally-real-dangers-rural-living/

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Announcing My Big New Plan to Make a Whole Lot of Money

Now that I have put the pack back on, so to speak, and am blog­ging again after my year-long blog vaca­tion, I decided I bet­ter check in on those clever blog gurus. You know who they are. They’re the pro­fes­sional blog­gers who tell us amateur-hour blog­gers all the things we need to do to become big-time blog­gers as clever, indus­tri­ous and remark­able as they are.

One of the first things I noticed is that the gurus are all talk­ing about how to mon­e­tize your blog. “Mon­e­tize your blog” is the fancy way of say­ing “mak­ing money from your blog.”

(*Head slap*)

Bril­liant! I’m going to make this lit­tle Word­Press baby into a money press so that I can sit back and watch that beau­ti­ful green stuff pile up in my check­ing account while I fid­dle with pretty tomato jam pho­tos and give updates from my incred­i­bly excit­ing and col­or­ful life. Why have I waited so long to get onboard with this wealth-generating phenomenon?

So, I did some surfing—I mean, I invested in the future of my blog by spend­ing an after­noon doing research—and read up all about how to make money blog­ging. There’s a lot out there. I mean—a LOT.

There’s just one prob­lem. From what I can tell, it involves a lot of work.

To make money blog­ging involves blog­ging at least once a day—but prefer­ably more. You have to have a really unique and clever niche about which you know more than any­one. Then you have to fig­ure out all sorts of soft­ware and plu­g­ins so you can mine infor­ma­tion you col­lect from peo­ple who visit your blog. Then you have to entice your blog vis­i­tors with offers so that they will divulge their email addresses. Then you have to pro­duce ebooks and white papers and pod­casts and Youtube videos and all sorts of other stuff so that you can offer it for free to the blog vis­i­tors so that they will love you and hang on your every word and will come back to visit your blog every sin­gle day so that you can then try to sell them other ebooks and white papers and pod­casts and Youtube videos. Then when you get a whole bunch of emails of peo­ple who love you and can’t get enough of your free stuff you can roll out your sub­scrip­tion prod­ucts so that all those peo­ple will pay you to write even more stuff to pro­mote other stuff that you will write to sell.

To quote the immor­tal words of that Youtube lady, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Besides, I came up with a bet­ter, brilliant-er plan.

Wait for it!

Instead of mon­e­tiz­ing my blog, I am going to mon­e­tize my dog!


Sophie on Sophie Chair sm

I am going to turn the Papillon-driven cash flow that’s been going on around here back in my direc­tion. I am going to put Sophie to work to pay for her expen­sive home­made roast chicken thigh din­ners, $300/year den­tal clean­ings, $50/month pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tions, $40 beauty shop appoint­ments, not to men­tion all the designer sweaters, neck ker­chiefs and bling she likes to wear when she lounges around the house on my furniture.

sophie on scarf sm

There­fore, I am announc­ing the fol­low­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to inter­act with Sophie.

Hire Sophie as Your Team Mas­cot – Sophie loves sports, espe­cially if she gets to dress as one of the play­ers. Sophie will show up at your games and bark her head off. She will allow peo­ple to pet and admire her.

linebacker sophie sm

She will hap­pily chow down with the play­ers at the team buf­fet table and prance down the field at parade time. Bet­ter yet, you can wheel her around in her own per­sonal conveyance.

sophie in garden cart

Book Sophie for a Per­sonal Appear­ance at Par­ties, Open­ings and Other Events (Just Like Paris Hilton!) – Sophie can be quite the party ani­mal. She has her own bling, but if Harry Win­ston wants to drape a few dia­monds around her neck, she will be happy to oblige.

sophie with goldfish

Buy Sophie’s Col­lectible, Lim­ited Edi­tion Paw Print – And you can pick a paw! She has four of them, so there are actu­ally four sets of lim­ited edi­tions. Col­lect all four!

Upcom­ing prod­ucts will include the inevitable t-shirts, ball caps, bumper stick­ers and more.

There will also be a Sophie iPhone and Adroid app. We are par­tic­u­larly excited about this one. The new Sophie app will wake you every sin­gle day, includ­ing Sat­ur­days and hol­i­days, at the crack of dawn with her unique musi­cal blend of snort­ing, sniff­ing and cough­ing. If you opt to pur­chase the iPhone scent-generator attach­ment, you can enjoy the unmis­tak­able eau de dog­gie fart.

But wait! There’s more!

The Sophie app will occasionally—but unpredictably—wake you at 3 a.m. to go out­side and look at the stars while it dis­plays an ani­mated Sophie wan­der­ing in cir­cles look­ing for just the right spot to poo.

You may be won­der­ing about how Sarah, Sophie’s best fren­emy, fits into this scheme. She doesn’t. Sarah hates to have her pic­ture taken. I’m not sure, but when I point the cam­era in her direc­tion she seems to think I’m try­ing to steal her soul.

Sarah Papillon

Until I get Sophie’s per­sonal web­site and toll-free num­ber set up, you can just con­tact me by email. Price list avail­able on request.

Go Sophie! Cha-ching!

 


Robin


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Article source: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/2014/10/15/announcing-big-new-plan-make-whole-lot-money/

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What I Did on My Vacation from Blogging

Well, hello there! Did you notice I was gone? Did you miss me? I missed you.

Truly, I didn’t set out to take nearly a full year off from blog­ging here at Bum­ble­bee. Some­times, life just gets in the way. Some­times you have to make a choice between liv­ing life or writ­ing about it. Not that liv­ing and writ­ing are mutu­ally exclu­sive, of course. I rec­og­nize that. Heck, all those Mount Ever­est climbers, round-the-world sailors, Appalachian Trail hik­ers, North Pole explor­ers and Eng­lish Chan­nel swim­mers are cer­tainly pro­lific about crank­ing out the books. I bet some of them even blog more than once a year.

It’s just that I was writ­ing other things, par­tic­u­larly for work. But I did write also write a book. Yes, it’s finally out! Wis­dom for Home Pre­servers was released at the begin­ning of this month.

I sneaked into Barnes Noble the other day and took a selfie with the only copy they had on their store shelf. I sup­pose they had sold the dozens of other copies they had stocked because they really did have only one copy. Just one!

wisdom in Barnes and Noble

Let that be a les­son to you. You must run right out and buy a copy before they are all gone!

The book includes 500 (500!) tips about can­ning, freez­ing, cur­ing, smok­ing, root cel­lar­ing and more. It’s an easy read and the spe­cially com­mis­sioned linocut prints by print­maker Melvyn Evans pro­vide a nice retro vibe to this tidy lit­tle hard­back book.

I’ll be back soon writ­ing about the life I’m liv­ing. It’s not Chan­nel swim­ming or polar explo­ration though. Just more coun­try life.

 


Robin


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Article source: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/2014/09/25/vacation-blogging/

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Pickled Red Onions

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, will be released later in 2014 from Taunton Press.

Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.

Article source: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/recipe/pickled-red-onions/

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A Pause in the Run/Walk Through Life

I went out this morn­ing for my daily run/walk. I say “run/walk.” I used to say “run.” Now I say “run/walk.” It’s really “walk.” I am still in denial about the whole knee pain situation.

Any­way, I digress.

I went out this morn­ing for my daily run/walk. Most days I lis­ten to books via Audi­ble on my iPhone while I run/walk because a good book with a com­pelling sto­ry­line and a tal­ented reader who keeps me hang­ing on every word makes me want to keep run/walking so I don’t have to go inside and work/work. It’s a fab­u­lous way to procrastinate/procrastinate and still feel a wee bit vir­tu­ous. I’m read­ing and exer­cis­ing! In fact, I am pretty much on track to fin­ish 100 Kin­dle, tra­di­tional and audio­books this year as part of my Goodreads goal.

Lemon grass and pineap­ple sage salvia in the potager — October

This morn­ing I had to fum­ble a bit before get­ting Audi­ble up and run­ning. (Thank you iOS 7 for mak­ing me add a pass­word.) While I was mash­ing vir­tual but­tons on the minus­cule screen with­out ben­e­fit of my read­ing glasses, I ran/walked sev­eral yards, not look­ing at the first thing except that tiny screen.

Sud­denly it hit me. Smoke. Specif­i­cally, wood smoke from someone’s fireplace.

Now, I’m not big into fire­places with smoke because of sen­si­tive sinuses and a strong ten­dency to get painful sinus infec­tions when exposed to smoke of any sort. But small doses of out­side smoke from some­one else’s fire­place a half mile away is rather nice. It says, “Fall!” It says, “Time to reflect and slow down.” It says, “Drink some hot choco­late and take a nap!”

It’s a smell with dozens of asso­ci­a­tions from child­hood and from the hap­pi­est (and a few sad) times of my life. That smell was accom­pa­nied by the nature music of my feet brush­ing aside the fallen leaves as I walked up the driveway.

Slow down!” I said to myself. (But don’t stop running/walking!)

I put away the iPhone and looked at the mosaic of colors—red, yel­low, brown, green and every color of fall, punc­tu­ated by the occa­sional, fear­less rose, salvia and celosia.

Celosia–commonly called cock’s comb–in the potager

If I could bot­tle up that fan­tas­ti­cal com­bi­na­tion of smell, sound, fresh air, color—and the rush of the run/walk—I would be richer than Oprah.

Alas, no one has fig­ured out how to cap­ture the magic of Mother Nature, although artists, pho­tog­ra­phers, musi­cians and per­fumers still try.

But I am still rich. I am rich because I can appre­ci­ate the gifts Mother Nature hands out for free to any­one will­ing to pause in their run/walk through life and appre­ci­ate it.

Namaste.

 

 


Robin
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Article source: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/2013/10/27/fall-in-the-potager/

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Panera Bread and My Garden Video Debut

I am in the movies! Okay, not the big screen. More like the lit­tle screen—say, the size of your com­puter mon­i­tor. I and my gar­den are the sub­jects of a  video and QA story for Pan­era Bread’s new web­site and to pro­mote their new “Live Con­sciously” campaign.

If you have one of those Pan­era guest cards that earns you dis­counts on sand­wiches and free cook­ies, you prob­a­bly received the same invi­ta­tion to be in the (lit­tle) movies that I did. I received the email last fall. “Tell us about your hobby!”

Well, it was evening when I opened the email. I maybe had a glass of wine. Maybe two. I fig­ured, “Hey, I’ll tell them I gar­den!” So I filled out their online form and rather than pro­vid­ing them with a bunch of answers to their open-ended ques­tions, I referred them right here—to my gar­den blog.

Months went by and I didn’t hear any­thing. Frankly, I for­got about it as soon as I hit send. After all, gar­den­ing isn’t exactly an unusual hobby. Surely tons of gar­den­ers wrote to tell the Pan­era folks about their rose gar­dens, their peren­nial gar­dens, their exotic gardens.

But then one day I received an email, “Hey, we want to come visit your veg­etable gar­den, talk with you and make a gar­den video!”

There was a bit of back-and-forth and a few weeks later two video­g­ra­phers, an art direc­tor and account exec­u­tive flew in from Boston and other parts north for a visit. They were at my house for nearly seven hours! For a two-minute video!

The older of my two Papil­lons, Sophie, was delighted at the oppor­tu­nity to be in the movies. Sophie is one smart dog. She’s not the kind of smart dog who will do tricks. She’s the kind of dog who knows exactly how to make you do tricks.

Dur­ing the inter­view por­tion of the shoot, which took about 20 min­utes, Sophie sat right next to me, ears up and with her best I’m-ready-for-my-closeup smile on her face. Sarah was busy sniff­ing cam­era  bags and cables.

Sophie, the elder Papil­lon, never made it into the video.

Nei­ther dog made it into a sin­gle shot!

The video­g­ra­phers were keen to see me work and move around, which was more than a lit­tle uncom­fort­able. The weed­ing was fine. I’m used to weed­ing. Sit­ting on my lit­tle stool and scratch­ing out the unwanted weeds is as nat­ural as breath­ing for me.

But hav­ing two guys with cam­eras fol­low me around as I walked in and out of the house, pot­ted up a lit­tle plant, pick let­tuce? Believe it or not, that’s not some­thing I do every day. It was a wee bit uncomfortable.

But it wasn’t until I watched the video that I real­ized my unfor­tu­nate wardrobe choice.

Mom jeans. I was wear­ing mom jeans. Seri­ously? I had to wear mom jeans when peo­ple came over with cam­eras? What was I think­ing? Ugh.

Watch­ing the video now I also see how bar­ren and new my first-week-in-June veg­etable gar­den looks. The cam­era dudes were unin­ter­ested in my hosta gar­den.  The wis­te­ria, peonies and roses had just fin­ished their big dis­play. But really, they were inter­ested in the fruits and veggies.

And the east­ern box turtle.

The east­ern box tur­tle is the res­i­dent tomato muncher—and run­away star of the gar­den video.

Actu­ally, the east­ern box tur­tle stole the video. That’s the first thing every­one com­ments about. Even my brother’s first com­ment was, “Cool! You have a turtle?”

Well, no. The tur­tle actu­ally has me. I am his per­sonal gardener.

I’m pretty sure this is the same box tur­tle who has lived in the gar­den for about three years now. I often stum­ble across him as I’m dig­ging and plant­ing, water­ing or weed­ing. I know he’s the one who takes bites from low-hanging toma­toes because I caught him red-handed one day, front legs on a big red tomato and mouth open. I’m sure he’s the guy who nib­bles at my straw­ber­ries too. That’s okay. I planted extra for him.

So, here’s the video. Watch for the shot of the turtle.

No com­ments on the mom jeans, please.

 

 


Robin
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Article source: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/2013/08/29/panera-bread-garden-video-debut/

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Pretty and Pink Pickled Red Onions

Solo lunches can be such deli­cious affairs. You can eat left­overs. (One of my all-time favorite foods.) You can eat stand­ing at the frig. (Not rec­om­mended.) Or you can build a gourmet sand­wich from fix­ins’ and condi­ments you have on-hand, such as these pretty and pink pick­led red onions.

The fact is, some of my favorite type of restau­rant menus to peruse are from sand­wich joints. It’s amaz­ing the wild and won­der­ful things hum­ble sand­wich restau­rants can come up with—usually for less than $10.

Years ago, one of my favorite lunchtime breaks from work was at a restau­rant that packed a pita with ched­dar cheese, black and green olives. That’s it. Four ingre­di­ents. But it was packed full and then fired in the wood oven and served with a sim­ple vinai­grette. Think­ing back on it, it’s a good thing my metab­o­lism was fir­ing high in those days because that sand­wich prob­a­bly had about 1,500 calories—before the french fries on the side!

These days I like to keep spe­cialty condi­ments in the frig for days when I have home­made bread and can jus­tify the calo­ries. Favorite ingre­di­ents include pick­les of all types, avo­ca­dos, hum­mus or other bean dip, arugula and any­thing cheese.

In my opin­ion, a food gets extra points if it’s pretty, so I wanted pretty pick­led onions for my condi­ment selec­tion. These onions fit the bill and make a per­fect addi­tion to the toasted Swiss, avo­cado and arugula sand­wich I’m crav­ing a lot these days. Total time is about an hour once you have assem­bled all your sup­plies and ingre­di­ents. You’ll take away about seven or eight lit­tle half-pint jars. You can give some as gifts or just hoard them all for your­self and those sand­wich days.

 



  • Pick­led Red Onions

    Ingre­di­ents

    Instruc­tions

    1. Ster­il­ize 7 to 8 half-pint can­ning jars and lids in a water bath can­ner. While jars process, slice onions.
    2. Com­bine vine­gar, sugar and salt in a dutch oven. Bring to a boil and sum­mer until sugar and salt are dis­solved. Add sliced onion to the vine­gar mix­ture and reduce heat. Sim­mer, uncov­ered, for about 5 min­utes. Do not let the onions get soft.
    3. Remove jars from water bath. Place 1/4 tea­spoon all­spice berries, 1/4 tea­spoon mus­tard seeds, one bay leaf and one sprig of thyme into each jar. Trans­fer onions to each jar and top with the hot vine­gar liq­uid, leav­ing 1/2 inch headspace.
    4. Fin­ger tighten lids on the jars to seal and process jars in the water bath can­ner for 10 min­utes. Remove jars from water and let stand, undis­turbed, at room tem­per­a­ture for 24 hours.
    5. Check the jars. Prop­erly sealed jars will make a POP sound as they cool and/or the metal lid will be slightly con­cave. If you can press the lid and make a pop­ping sound, the jar is not sealed. Store unsealed jars in the refrig­er­a­tor and use right away. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place and use within one year.

     

    Robin
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    Filed in: Canning and Preserving

    Article source: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/2013/08/20/pickled-red-onions/

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    Clever and Cheap Garden Solutions and Ideas

    As I was brows­ing around over on Pin­ter­est this morn­ing, I was impressed with some of the solu­tions gar­den­ers found to com­mon gar­den­ing problems—organizing gar­den tools and sup­plies, pro­tect­ing and sup­port­ing plants, label­ing plants, nur­tur­ing and dec­o­rat­ing. I have also seen some fab­u­lous, clever and cheap gar­den solu­tions from gar­den tours in recent years, so I thought I would pull them out of the archives and share.

    I have noticed that gar­den­ers are quite thrifty in uti­liz­ing and repur­pos­ing avail­able mate­ri­als. Twigs, sticks and vines can be used to sup­port plants, as trel­lises and even just for decor.

    Sticks and vines clus­tered and tied to a cen­ter bam­boo stake make a dec­o­ra­tive and func­tional plant support

    A series of larger sticks can be pushed into the ground for peas, sweet­peas and other plants that could use a bit of extra sup­port. One year we used branches from mimosa trees that had blown down in a storm to cre­ate a cucum­ber trellis.

    Sticks can also be pushed into the ground to cre­ate ver­ti­cal sup­ports for peas, sweet­peas and other plants that need support.

    Tree branches sal­vaged after a storm were used in our gar­den to cre­ate a rus­tic cucum­ber trellis.

    If you need to block off a path or area to dis­cour­age foot traf­fic, a col­lec­tion of sal­vaged branches can accom­plish the same thing.

    Sal­vaged branches assem­bled to block a pathway

    Unusual mate­ri­als can also be repur­posed in the gar­den for many pur­poses. I have often seen marine-grade rope draped to cre­ate attrac­tive sup­ports for trail­ing roses and vines.

    Marine-grade rope can be used to sup­port trail­ing roses and vines.

    How about repur­pos­ing sand­bags? They can be used to cre­ate tem­po­rary walls, gar­den seat­ing or raised beds.

    Sand­bags can be used to cre­ate tem­po­rary and mov­able raised beds.

    Tree stumps can be unsightly and expen­sive to remove. If it’s large enough, a tree stump can be repur­posed as a nov­elty gar­den seat, table or planter pedestal.

    A tree stump doesn’t have to be an unsightly eye­sore in the gar­den. Re-imagine it as a gar­den chair!

    Aren’t gar­den­ers won­der­fully cre­ative and clever?

    You can fol­low my board of gar­den solu­tions over on Pinterest.

     

     

    Robin
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    Article source: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/2013/08/14/clever-and-cheap-garden-solutions/

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    Cup and Saucer Vine is a Work Horse Vine

    One of the many joys of gardening is that you get to experiment, explore and take risks. Often the cost is no more than a couple of dollars—the price of a package of seeds. This is the frugal side of gardening. (I can also show you the exceptionally non-frugal side of gardening, but that, my friends, is a story for another blog post.) One of this year’s experiments in my garden was the cup and saucer vine (Cobea scandens).

    The flowers on the cup and saucer vine begin as pale green lanterns and open to ivory or deep purple flowers.

    I don’t recall if this is one of the seed packages I purchased or if it was included in a freebie package from Botanical Interests, one of my favorite seed companies. It seems like something I would order because the description promised this vine would 1) be a quick growing, 2) grow up to 25 feet in a single season 3) have flowers that open pale green and mature to ivory or deep purple and 4) have a sweet scent.

    Apparently the only thing this vine doesn’t do is grow hundred dollar bills on every other vine.

    Before the flowers open they resemble small, green lanterns.

    I like the idea of a quick-growing, decorative vine as part of creating summer shade over the chicken run. The chickens have a covered porch that allows them to get out of the rain or to shelter from the blazing sun. But in the summer some dappled shade over the rest of the run would improve the comfort factor in the rest of the run as well as shade their water cooler.

    So how did the cup and saucer vine perform?

    I’m thinking of starting my own rating system. For now, let’s base the rating system on stars. I’ll fancy up the idea later.

    What should my personal rating system include? An overall rating, certainly. Beauty? Yes, I do think beauty is important. Pest/disease resistance in my garden? Yes indeed, that seems like a good idea too. I am over having powdery mildew on lilacs and Japanese beetles on pole beans. Toxicity/safety? This might not be important to some gardeners, but it is important to me if I’m going to grow it over the chicken coop. I found a handy list of toxic/non-toxic plants assembled by the California Poison Control System. The cup and saucer vine is, apparently, non-toxic—at least to humans. I didn’t find it listed as toxic to chickens anywhere else on the Internet. And in my bold experiment here it is, apparently, non-toxic since the chickens have kept the lower parts of the vines pecked clean of leaves and flowers.

    What else? Scent? Usefulness? Edibility? Okay, we’ll go with that for now.

    The cup and saucer vine covers the left side of the outdoor run. The vine on the right climbing over the coop roof is a sweet autumn clematis, which will be covered in tiny white flowers in the fall.

    So, here is my rating for the cup and saucer plant on a four-star (for now) rating system.

    ***    Beauty – The flowers certainly are beautiful, although they are somewhat subtle. This is not a vine that will draw your eye from a distance as some clematis do, for example.
    **** Pest/disease resistance – No complaints here. The Japanese beetles are completely uninterested. The vine doesn’t show any signs of disease or other problems this year.
    **** Safety/non-toxicity – Courtesy of the California Poison Control System and my own bold experiment.
    **      Scent – The flowers do have a mildly sweet scent, but you need to stick your nose right into it to smell it.
    **** Usefulness – This is a work horse-type vine because it grows so quickly, providing a nice screen where needed in the summer heat.
    *        Edibility – You can’t eat it (I don’t think). Well, you can’t have everything.
    **** Overall – A grand four-star rating.

    The bigger question might be, would I grow the cup and saucer vine again? Yes! And I would also recommend it to other gardeners. It’s an easy, robust and pleasing vine. All for the cost of a package of seeds.

     

    Robin
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    Article source: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/2013/08/08/cup-and-saucer-vine/

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    Gardens at P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm

    We’re all at the mercy of the weather, especially gardeners. Even P. Allen Smith and his garden at Moss Mountain Farm is at the mercy of Mother Nature.

    Remember that beautiful film scene in the Keanu Reeves movie A Walk in the Clouds where all the workers frantically build fires and dance with fans between the grape vines? A killing frost has descended on the valley and they are trying to keep the vines and grapes from serious damage. They end up saving the crop and romance was born.

    Most of us don’t have dozens of dedicated field workers to battle the earth-cracking drought, biblical-proportioned floods or the weird, unseasonable weather that, strangely, seems to come about every other season. We just suffer along and accept that we are partners with nature in the creation of a garden. Sometimes our partner is our friend. Sometimes our partner is our enemy.

    Smith in his expansive vegetable garden at Moss Mountain Farm

    When 25 or so bloggers visited P. Allen Smith’s garden overlooking the Arkansas River Valley, it was during this year’s  unseasonably cool spring. Huge swaths of the South and Mid-Atlantic had been blanketed under some weird pressure system that fooled our flowers and vegetables into thinking it was March rather than May. As we were squired around the 650-acre estate, more than one of Moss Mountain Farm tour guides rushed to explain, “It’s been so cool, everything is behind in blooming!”

    The formal rose garden at Moss Mountain Farm features a symmetrical layout with a circular center lawn and brick folly.

    Of course, there was nothing to explain since most of us on the tour had gardens at home that were similarly tardy. But even more, everything was perfectly lovely and there were plenty of blooms to admire.

    Early spring in the rose garden at Moss Mountain Farm

    (Is it more appropriate to say there is a garden or there are gardens?)

    When you have 650 acres, there are many very separate and distinct areas.

    There is the vegetable garden, expansive enough to grow food for a small city. There are two rose gardens. There are perennial gardens and annuals and a daffodil field and pond gardens and terrace gardens.

    (Well, that settles it. Gardens.)

    Garden at P Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm

    Indeed, plants there in Arkansas did seem to be a bit behind what you might expect for May. Nevertheless, it was a lovely garden stroll and I expect it would also be lovely in the fall and even in the dead of winter—just a different kind of lovely.

     

    Robin
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    Article source: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/gardens-at-p-allen-smiths-moss-mountain-farm/

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