Monday, August 22, 2016

Two Sides of Clouds

Weather: Rain after dark most night.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, buddleia, Russian sage, trumpet creeper, silver lace vine, rose of Sharon, David and purple garden phlox, zinnia.

Beyond the walls and fences: Scarlet bee blossom, white prairie and yellow evening primroses, velvet weed, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, yellow purslane, goat’s heads, alfalfa, Queen Anne’s lace, horseweed, golden hairy asters, goldenrod.

In my yard: Caryopteris, garlic chives, hostas, large leafed soapwort, leadplant, larkspur, blue flax, catmints, calamintha, hollyhocks, sidalcea, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, white spurge, Mönch asters, cutleaf coneflower, Mexican hats, chocolate flowers, coreopsis, blanket flower.

Bedding plants: Wax begonias, snapdragons, sweet alyssum, French marigolds, gazania.

Inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, hummingbirds and other small birds, geckoes, bumble and small bees, ants, grasshoppers.

Weekly update: I tend to hibernate in summer, and nature exploits my lassitude. For years, I thought the reason was the heat, since my body has a low tolerance for high temperatures. That was a useful explanation when I was working, and could only work outside when I got home.

When I retired, I thought, now I can spend as much time as I like outside in the early morning hours before the sun becomes too high. The problem with that vision was that it was formed when I was younger. I’ve discovered I now can work outside for several hours, and then nurse sore muscles for several days, or I can limit myself to an hour and go out every day.

With new resolve, I set the timer and went out each day. Then, a couple years ago I cut my hand in July, and couldn’t do anything. Last summer, as I was cleaning some of the messes that developed, I vowed to find a way to work in the winter and not let the elms get away from me again.

All went well this year until it started to rain the end of July. I discovered it’s impossible to cut plant stems when they’re wet. If I waited until things dried a little, the sun was beating down. Since the Los Conchos fire, the rains have been carrying something from the canyons into the valley. When I go out in the morning, my nose shuts down. I begin breathing through my mouth, which diverts the toxins from the lungs into my stomach, which starts to complain.

So, just as I needed to be out, I’m finding new excuses to stay in. As I mentioned in last week’s post, this is the time when the ants multiply. So far, there hasn’t been a new crop of Russian thistles or pigweed, but the goat’s heads are back, and the weeds I hadn’t yet pulled jumped in size. I’ll have horseweed and white sweet clover and wild lettuce again next year.

It becomes a matter of setting priorities. I decided it was more important to spray and crop the elms, locusts and Russian olives that keep coming back than it was to cut the nuisance weeds. I thought it more important to cut back and weed the ditches that carry water from the house than it was to prune dead wood from the Russian sage and caryopteris. I just look at the powdery mildew on the neighboring lilac and think, maybe I’ll remember to spray it next year.

When it starts raining, I stop running water even though I have no idea how much actually lands in the night. I wondered if some trees that had yellowing leaves were getting too much water. Then, I checked the one on the back porch. Its soil was dry.

So I ran a sprinkler on those plants that aren’t getting enough, but don’t water others areas. I hope they like alkalinity. When I looked at a pool of water this morning by the house, it had that telltale white scum that water company I hired can’t explain.

Life is a paradox. All summer I fretted about lack of water, and now that the monsoons have arrived I complain.

Photographs: All pictures taken the morning of 22 August 2016.

1. Russian sage. Last winter when I lined the eroding path with bricks, I cut the stems that lay outside. I cut them again a month ago. Some are back.

2. Caryopteris. I haven’t trimmed the dead wood on this or other shrubs in more than three years. The last time was before I cut my hand.

3. Ditch that takes water away from the house. I’ve cleaned it twice this year, and started again this week.

4. Wild lettuce buds towering above the garlic chives.

5. Yellow leaves on the weeping cherry where the hummingbirds nested. They left last weekend, but I had gotten out of the habit of watering it every day.

6. Water just out of my hose. I assume what looks like soap scum is something alkaline. Every year after there’s been a lot of rain, my well pulls this up from the aquifer.

7. Powdery mildew on lilac leaves nibbled by grasshoppers.

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