Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tools of the Trade

I have a couple of items I use in the garden that are of great help.  The first is my "rocker" stool.

Notice how the seat part is shaped like a "tractor" seat and is very comfortable.  Then the part that sits on the ground is rounded.  This allows the stool to rock with you as you reach left or right or forward. 

Another tool that I really like is this pair of spring-loaded scissors.  When they are closed, they look like this.  There is a little red tab that locks them closed.

When you flip the tab up, the spring pops the scissors open.  Then they look like this.

I have some arthritis in my hands and these scissors make harvesting herbs so much easier.   My hand only has to squeeze them closed.  The spring opens them back up and saves some  stress on my hand.

I found them at Target.  Tom liked them so well that I bought him a pair too.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Birdhouse Gourds

I don't remember the first year that I grew birdhouse gourds.  It has been many years ago.  When we lived in town, we made several into birdhouses by drilling holes in them, removing the seed and hanging them in trees around our yard.  They were very popular with little house wrens.  These small boisterous, noisy birds usually raised at least 2 broods a summer!  The gourds lasted several years with just a light coat of clear lacquer.

It has taken 2 years, but we finally got around to making one to hang here.  Here is a picture of it.

As it turns out, the kind of birds that will take up residence is determined by the size of the hole.  Wrens like holes that are about an inch in diameter. 

There are many kinds of gourds.  The one shown here is called a "dipper" gourd because it was used by the pioneers as a water dipper.  You can visualize how if you made the hole much larger so that it took up all of one side of the gourd then you could use the top part as a handle and use it to dip water with.   Last year, Tom raised some that were called "apple" gourds because they were shaped like apples, although they were a lot bigger than apples.

They also come in all sizes as shown below.

There is a lot of preparation that goes into getting a gourd ready, either for a bird house or to paint.  They have a tough skin that must be removed.  To remove the skin, you need to let them dry.  During the drying process, they normally become moldy.  Don't worry; this is not the kind of mold that you worry about in your house.  The mold that grows on the gourds creates patterns that give each gourd a unique look.  Below, you can see the gourd on the left has white moldy spots.   And, you can see the skin I mentioned coming off the one on the right.

After they have dried, then you soak them in a bucket of water to soften the skin.  Since they are hollow inside, they will float to the top.  So, you must weight them down with a brick or something heavy to keep them underwater.  After the skin is soft, then you scrape it off.  I usually use a dull knife for this.  Then, you let them dry and you will have a gourd that looks like this:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mystery Lights

In the late afternoon, a phenomenon happens that causes the scene below.

The picture was taken toward the creek that is across our fence on our neighbors' property.  There are a lot of large trees on the creek bank and then there is an open field beyond.  If you notice there are a bunch of green objects hovering just above the ground that look somewhat like Christmas tree lights.

The first time I noticed this I wondered what the heck was going on and why our neighbors were stringing Christmas lights up in their field!  I decided to drive around over there and check it out.
Turns out they had used some green plastic flagging tape to tie up their grape vines and when the sunlight hits it just right (like in the late afternoon) then it causes the tape to "shine" like Christmas tree lights! 

You see our neighbor, Janette Hane, owns Woodland Park Vineyards and Winery. 

We sometimes walk over there for a "wine tasting" and to enjoy her herb and rose garden.  People can rent the winery for outside weddings and receptions.  I remember one night last summer Tom and I sat on our deck and enjoyed music being played for one of these.  Johnny Cash was singing Ring of Fire and we were having great fun singing along.  Just hope they couldn't hear us!