Apr 27, 2010

Mystery Problem

4/27/2010 — cori
The problem is not a mystery...it's what's causing the problem that remains a mystery. See these bushes:They have been decimated by the mystery azalea bush eating monster - the tree too. These bushes used to be twice their size. They used to have such thick foliage. The promise of lots of blooms during spring and summer was eminent. And then this carnage. I was devastated. I asked everyone what we could do. What type of creature eats innocent azalea bushes? The poor things look like someone went crazy with the pruners and then ripped off all the leaves. But I can promise you I (nor did any of my people) commit such an act.

We were beside ourselves. We wanted to set up a video camera and get proof. But it only happens at night. We're not the high tech kind of people. We don't have the proper lighting to illuminate the area in order to see what we're recording during the pitch black of night. So that option was out.

Then we (I) had a most genius plan. I've seen/heard of instances where you put a garden gnome or ceramic animal out in the garden and it tricks the unwanted invaders into thinking something bigger than them is already in the garden and therefore they're not welcome or wanted. So...there I am playing a psychology game on our 'monster' - they're probably just bunnies, but the vicious type.

I chose this adorable little puppy dog to place in the garden. A LOT of thought went into choosing just the right type of lawn ornament. I knew it would be a reflection of us and didn't want to freak the neighbors out or anything. There were too many options of what to choose truth be told. So in the end I ended up picking out the cute puppy. I guess gullible, naive and 'walk all over me' is the message we wanted to send out instead of threatening, treacherous and mean. The monster scoffed at the sweet puppy. Our ceramic (actually resin) dog did nothing to curb his midnight appetite for our shrubberies.

A sweet friend, who is experienced in all matters of gardening, suggested something so atrocious I actually laughed out loud when she mentioned it. She said that she knew that fox urine worked to keep critters away. Hmmmmm. My first question was, "who in the world goes around collecting all this urine?" I guess the answer wasn't important. The fact is that it works and now we can fix our problem.

So...we go to Lowes and ask for fox urine. Of course they don't carry that, but some young, hip dude who worked there said he heard that human pee did the trick just as good, so don't go waste your money on all that expensive fox urine when you've got plenty of human pee-ers in your house. I'm thinking maybe he was playing us.

But of course we tried it. Being the ever cost efficient one that I am, I'm also going to opt for the free option of any variety. If that means my boys must pee in a jar so that we can be rid of the monster bunny, so be it. I will spare you the picture of the pee jar. I left in the garage with strict instructions to all boys in my house that they MUST pee in that jar if they love their mother and want to see her happy because her azalea bushes are blooming again. They must take one for the team. It's not that hard anyways - it was actually probably very convenient for them.

So, once a week, me and my magic formula in a yellow container, march around the house making a bee-line for my left-for-dead bushes. I pour the scary human pee all around the bushes and lift up a quick prayer for results.

I kid you not...human pee IS just as effective as fox pee. And I have proof! Look at this, people:

It lives!! It grows!! It makes me (and ceramic puppy) happy! Granted, there are only 4 blooms on it - but look at the life it exudes! It has leaves. Just in case you can't see well enough, let me give you a close up picture of my pride and joy:

A lot of blood, sweat and tears (and other bodily fluids) went into this beloved flower. I want to savor this moment. Hard work and a little intimidation pays off in the end. Mystery critter - beware. We are armed, waiting and ready!

Green Thumb Woes

4/27/2010 — cori
I decided this year to try to channel some "Little House In The Prairie" pioneer gumption and make my own garden. Unbelievable, yet true. Have I mentioned that I'm horribly idealistic? That is paramount to this story. I had visions of becoming self-sufficient, at least in the vegetable department. We were going to become a family that ate off the land from things we grew with our own two hands.

Since Chloe was my only homeschooler this year, I had tons of plans for fun things to do and plenty of time to do them in. We've done most of them but had put off one big one - the garden. I decided to not do a fall garden for two reasons: 1. I was very intimidated by the whole concept and 2. it was going to be hard! Why start something hard when it's destined to fail with the winter weather looming so close at hand. I need a much larger bell curve. So, I decided to put it off until Spring. A Spring garden seemed a lot easier (I have no idea why, probably just because it was some futuristic time frame).

I did some preliminary research (I use that term very lightly). I talked to two friends who were/are successful gardeners. I even looked at the books they recommended, but didn't actually read them. I did however, read all the type in bold print - just to hit the highlights. And last but not least, I found a gardening book at Half-Price Books that was on clearance for a dollar that seemed right up my alley titled, "A Victory Garden for Kids". I know we no-longer live in the WWII era, but I loved the idea. I again, scanned thru that book just enough to pick up a few key points like what to plant when. I learned about fish juice and when to use it.

I also like to count my time talking with the cashier and bag-boy at the grocery store as part of my research phase. When anyone who gardens finds out someone new is about to start, they feel compelled to give you a plethora of information that you'll never remember because you don't have anything to write it down with but you sit there shaking your head and smiling acting like the novice you know you are just to be polite. I remembered a few things from this exciting encounter: plant marigolds to keep the insects off your plants (did I? no) and tie ribbon on sticks to keep the birds out of your garden (yes, sort of). All that advice and I can't believe those are the only two things that stuck!

Come late winter I was on Chuck like white on rice to get him to dig me out a 'plot'. He of course, has to calculate and do everything just so and correctly, whereas I prefer to wing it most of the time. Figure it out as you go along. Let me just say, his way is better.

After several weeks, Chuck finally accomplished his portion of the task. Now it was my turn. I had already planted all my seeds in one of those little greenhouse containers you get at Lowes. It's called 'seeding the plant' for those of you other novice gardeners. Boy, those seeds were doing a great job. I felt my thumb getting greener by the minute. Now, even though I didn't thoroughly read one gardening book, I did read the entire back of each seed packet. I knew exactly what was expected of me and my seeds.

As those little seeds were growing, my job was to put all the soil and mulch in the plot out back. I was also to build a little fence because I am not growing a garden to feed bunnies. I have never in my life built a fence and I am proud to say I finally 'figured it out' and made me a fence, all in one afternoon. And I didn't even have a staple gun, I used all nails and some mesh like material. Hard to do!!! But I felt invigorated after accomplishing what I previously thought impossible. If I can build a fence, I can definitely plant and grow a garden. Look at my lovely handiwork:

Only, too bad for me, because the little seedlings I had so professionally grown died. And it wasn't even my fault. I had to put the whole little greenhouse thingy outside one day (while the granite people were making a huge mess of my house) and the wind and elements killed every chance at life those little guys had. I mourned my seeds. That meant I would have to actually plant the seeds in the dirt of my plot by myself. I know plot sounds more graveyardish and sadly enough, that is what my garden was turning out to be.

Three weeks elapsed and still no sign of life. I faithfully watered my garden daily. Every two weeks I put fish juice on it. I started thinking to my self, maybe I should have actually read a book on how to do this properly. But then I also thought to my self, did the pioneers have books about how to grow a garden? Nooo! They learned by trial and error just like me. That's as far as my conversation with myself progressed. Then I decided to take drastic action. I was actually going to dig up one of those seeds and see if it was doing anything. I couldn't even find one of my seeds.

Actually, I take that back, my watermelon seed grew two baby leaves. We all rejoiced. But one little watermelon does not a garden grow. I had to resort to buying plants that were already alive and growing. Thus, my new and improved garden:

This leaves me in a state of consternation though. What in the world did Pa do (remember, "Little House" is my mentor here) when he couldn't grow his crop? He couldn't go to the Olsen's and just go buy a new one? Oh how far we (me) have fallen as a society that we cannot be self-sufficient for our own food. All my ideals have taken a beating. My optimism is crushed. Yet, in the midst of all that, I thank God I'm not (nor was I ever) a pioneer! There is something to be thankful for afterall.

And another thing...this was supposed to be a 'homeschool project'. The only one I see getting homeschooled here is me! I guess that's another good example of how learning never stops. I might fail (or semi-cheat) this go around, but I'll have learned something and be better the next time I try (please!).

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