Friday, May 22, 2009

Shovel Fever

The blue tarp was supposed to suppress growth and set us up for a clean, blank slate for planting a new shade garden.

For future reference, multiple weeks under a blue tarp = the most lush grass in the yard with minimal dandelion growth. Don't be fooled, this patch under the oak is little but dirt and the most hearty crabgrass, creeping charlie and other miscellaneous weeds by mid June.

Time to alter the shade garden preparation plans. Deep tillage became sod relocation. We love you sparrows but we're not so down with moonscaping the yard. This spring there are a number of other fine places to get a dust bath.

Their fun was happening here:

Our fun was happening here:

A portion of the turf crumbled during transplantation but even 1% success beats the erosion that was occurring before.

Thanks to friends, family and the st. paul farmer's market, we had built up a nice stockpile of plants waiting to move in. Finishing the path and mulching the garden had to wait. There wasn't much motivation left in the evening after this citycabin project.

During the fun this guy showed up over our heads. This is the first sighting of a scarlet tanager around citycabin. They are apparently often overlooked given their propensity for remaining high in the tree canopy.

And the bubbling pond sounds have brought a few new friends this spring. I'm a dolt, so this intially looked like a gigantic strange-acting wren that really liked falling water. Instead, "books" and my resident bird expert tell me this is an American Redstart, it prefers to breed in moist mixed and deciduous woods with undergrowth and in swamp woods (we fooled you with our that-day purchased dwarf cattails, sucker!). It droops its wings and fans its tail with bright plumage to flush insect dinner.

Update from an earlier posting: Our mallard buds have dropped by every day or three since the initial visit. Before this cat was brought in from the mean streets of South Turtle Lake I once watched her stalk wild geese, outweighing her 5x at least. It's good to see that she hasn't lost her sense of adventure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


a yard of soil is 4x4x4.

a yard of soil is 2,000 lbs (1 ton).

a yard of soil carried up several steps to the top of the garage using 5 gallon pails helps one to recognize how much 2,000 lbs is (roughly the weight of a blue whale's heart).

here's 1/2 of the soil:

and most of it ended up in the new raised garden beds:

(no wonder he carried the buckets so quickly--they were empty.)

we also used some of the soil to re-fill all of the pots. he isn't a big fan of annuals. and i understand why. but for some reason, he's a fan of thompson nursery. i think this might have something to do with my favorite mother-in-law having a seasonal position there, leading to 50% discounts. thanks, nepotism!

here are some of those great plants:

(p.s. to the lady responsible for these nice annuals--i read the card for the goldilocks pictured above, and the tag said the plant is actually a perennial friendly from zone 3...)

the crabapple tree is in full bloom, doing much better than last year. however, wind as i type this probably means our enjoyment of the blooms is nearly over:

and, as always, hot bird action.

harris sparrow:

(they won't be here long--they're headed up to northern canada, Furthest-North-Nesting-Sparrow--one really needs all caps for that).

we've a pair of mourning doves:

and the orioles are back:

and busily maintaining the status quo, the cats thus remain unimpressed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring MEGA Update

One better take advantage of spring in the week that it's here. April/May tends to be when most of the year's action takes place at citycabin.

First, a last act of winter involved covering a few bare walls.

Somebody had this tattooed:

From a soon-to-be-sister-in-law (you're going to have to get used to the sound of that, A.T.):

because I get my way once in awhile:

in remembrance of the former home:

and in honor of our new home, but an homage to an older one. My grandmother moved out of her childhood home this past summer. In addition to a number of wonderful home furnishings
and tools proudly displayed and utilized at citycabin

were some great postcards copyright, 1908.

Changing gears, the spring work has been advanced by the addition of a handy trailer. Gone are the days of folding down the backseat to push in 8' sections of lumber from trunk to dashboard.

1. desire, at least by 1/2 of the household, to grow stuff other than flowers
2. lots of rabbits, squirrels and shade

solution: the sunny, heat island, impervious surface of a garage top

Above are two 4'x6'x12" planter boxes. They should be the right height to be easy on one's back and also rabbit proof. The floors were tipped up and in soon after the photos were taken. Now all that's left is to do some strategic hole drilling for drainage and add soil. As soon as the temps are more consistent and the st. paul farmer's market rolls out more of the goods there will ideally be some veggie growth to photograph. Instead, it's time to be satisfied trying to grow grass over a season's worth of birdseed winterkill.

The trouble's mostly worth it. After a slow spring the past few days have offered a few never before seen visitors:

evolved, modestly-dressed squirrel

yellow-rumped warbler (which we didn't know until birdchick kindly helped with identification)

blackburnian warbler. Click on pick and zoom in to see a great Riddler's mask.

And, I know they're common and I came within six inches of hitting one with a golf ball on Sunday, but to wake up to a drake mallard swimming in your little backyard urban pond was much too fun.

He and his girlfriend took off before there was time for a nice photo.

It was before 7am today and the greater birdwatcher in the house excitedly pulled me out of bed. It was worth it.

Lastly, it's been awhile. Another jailbird sighting: