Category: Horticulture and Gardening

Pineaple sage 7:20:13

Pineapple sage

The sun rose today at 4:18 in the morning, and will set almost 19 hours 17 minutes later, at 11:34 this evening. We’re back to the rapid shortening of days, losing over 6 minutes a day—almost seven, by the start of next week. Solar elevation at the highest is barely below 45°, and the rains have finally arrived. For the moment, they’ve left again, but probably not for long.

Herb bed and bordering flowers

Herb bed and bordering flowers

Yes, it turned cool and wet. Last week, while I was feeling disinclined to do anything but spend 20 hours a day in bed, it was hot and dry, and by the time I managed to dredge up enough energy to water the pot plants on Wednesday, the pineapple sage looked as if it was on its last legs –

Salmon Lynchis

Salmon Lynchis

sticks and dead leaves. That is one tough plant, as well as one that smalls wonderful, because by Thursday you’d never know it was even wilted. Thursday Sheila came over and watered everything (as well as doing a lot of weeding) so of course it’s been raining since Thursday night. Then Friday she put down fresh weed-stop between the raised beds, as well as taking me to the cancer center for tests.Saturday we had a few brief peeks at the sun, and by Sunday it was peeking out often enough I could take some pictures.Today so far there’s hardly a cloud in the sky.

I’ve made some changes in the garden. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve planted the non-raised part, so I had the lawn service put it back to grass

Lantana edging raised bed

Lantana edging raised bed

this year. Right now it looks like a bed of chickweed, but there is grass growing, and I am assured that once it gets tall enough to mow, mowing and a little mild herbicide will take care of the weeds. (I normally avoid herbicides, but that particular area really needs something.) The raised beds are normally squash, beans and peas, but the only one I’ve been keeping up with on harvest the last couple of years is the squash. Two of the other three have been converted to mints and herbs, with flowers bordering them. The third is dirt now (it was chickweed) but will be getting transplants from the volunteer perennial seedlings. The white iris and delphinium seed like mad, as do some of the columbine and (most years) the lynchis. Might as well give them a home where they won’t be mowed.

We’re supposed to have sunshine again today, with temperatures in the 70’s. So far there’s not a cloud in the sky.

DeophiniumWe have two sunsets today! The sun set at 12:01 this morning, rose again at 3:54 and will set after 20 hours 3 minutes and 48 seconds at 11:57 this evening. Last weekend was hot and clear – in the 80’s and sunny, with some smoke. Some increase in clouds is forecast for today, but still warm.

ColumbineI am happy to report that the first round of chemo went well, aside from transportation problems and spending the entire lovely day indoors hooked up to medication. They Herb beddid insist on steroids to protect me from possible allergic reactions, and I was predictably a mess Saturday on blood sugar. Steroids are notorious for that. I was up to 200% of my normal basal Saturday crashed Sunday morning, and bounced up again Sunday night.  But the nausea and vomiting did not appear, though my appetite was pretty well gone by Sunday night. Other side effects (such as hair loss) take longer, but I read Saturday evening at the Alaska Writers’ group Saturday reading, and attended Community Writers’ Group Sunday.Unfortunately I think that was overdoing it — by evening Sunday the aches and pains started and I’d lost all appetite.

I also felt well enough to tackle the garden a little Saturday. We got the herb bed finished and the perennials tied up Thursday, and Saturday I did a little cleaning up between the raised beds and took some photos. The tall columbine is blooming, the delphiniums are just starting and so is the salmon lynchis. I was afraid I got started too late watering the area that was garden (not raised) and has now been seeded to lawn, but by Thursday a good crop of grass had appeared. I hope once mowing starts it will discourage the chickweed!

The sun rose this morning at 3:31 and will set 20 hours and 48 minutes later at 12:19 tomorrow morning. We’re losing 5 minutes a day, and a week from now the sun will be rising and setting on the same day. The sun is still high in the sky, though, more than 45° at noon.


Mints (no two are the same variety) with weed-stop fabric. I’m missing two I really like (lime and strawberry) as they weren’t available this year; banana and grapefruit are new.

The weather has remained dry with areas of smoke, but the forecast suggests increasing showers and even rain next week. I certainly hope so; there are evacuations strongly suggested within 20 miles of my house.

I’m trying to get weed-stop fabric around the mints and other herbs, and flowers planted in the hollows in the cement blocks making up the raised beds. I doubt I’ll feel like it once chemo starts, so I’m getting as much as I can done while I’m still feeling decent. At least the intense heat seems to have faded – forecast high temperatures for the next week are high 60’s to low 70’s.

I need to drag out the other hoses and water more than the vegetable beds and potted plants. The lilies are barely breaking the ground – probably lack of water. But I may not feel up to watering once I start chemo, and I don’t want to start if I’m not continuing.

June temperatures and departures,The sun rose this morning at 3:12, and will set 21 hours and 24 minutes later tomorrow morning at 12:36. The days are now shortening by about 4 minutes a day, though it still doesn’t get dark. Or very cold, either, though it does usually get down to around 60°F at night.

rose 6:30:13 The warm nights are a bit worrisome not only because it is hard to cool down the house at night but because some diseases cannot mature in mosquitoes subject to low overnight temperatures. Usually ours are low enough that mosquitoes are pests rather than transmitters of disease, but that’s not been the case this June.

zucchini flowerIt’s been dry, too. We’ve had a mere .43 inch of precipitation, less than a third of normal. (Surprise—this is a desert climate in terms of mean annual precipitation.) Fire danger is high to extreme, and temperatures have actually been lowered somewhat (and breathing made more difficult) by smoke.

DaylilyThe food garden this year consists of 4 zucchini plants (3 of which have already set female flowers in the heat) and two raised beds of herbs: mints, thymes, rosemaries, basil, lavenders, and a few extras like oregano and parsley. Chives are perennial and in bloom. The white iris, the dwarf delphinium and the roses are almost through for the year, but the daylilies have started to bloom and the tall columbines and the delphinium are in bud.

WildRose 6:23:13The longest day – and the shortest night – of the year are over. On June 21 the sun rose at 2:58 am and set at 12:47 the following morning, for a night just 2 hours 11 minutes long. It’s not much longer today – 2 hour and 13 minutes, with sunrise at 3 am. Between Cornell, Cambridge and Anchorage I haven’t been home much – but it’s been hot. Highs in the 80’s have not been uncommon, nor have daily temperatures 10°F above normal. It was so cold in May, however, that the wild roses are still blooming. (They hadn’t started when I went down to Anchorage June 11.)

TameRose 6:24:13As regular readers of this blog probably know, I’ve been in the hospital for unexpected abdominal surgery. I may say more after talking with the doctor here next week, but it looks like chemo is ahead. The pathology looks negative so far and the grade was low, but it seems I had a very aggressive type of cancer and they want to play it safe. I’m pretty short of energy now (they just took the staples out Friday), and I have a feeling that blogging during chemo is going to be way down the list of priorities. I’m going to do my best to finish the blogathon (my energy should still be on an uphill curve for that) but from then on I’ll be lucky to keep up with Monday weather updates, Wednesday quotes, and Weekend Writers.

I had to skip what would have been my first Kachemak Bay Writers’ conference, but the way the surgery turned out I’m glad I didn’t postpone it to July so I could attend. I’ll probably skip the creative writing at the Summer Arts Festival for the first time since it’s been offered, too, though I hope they’ll let me drop in if I have a good day. I hope I have energy enough to be able to work on the editing of Rescue Operation; I talked to my editor last week and I think I finally have the plot arc working.

Meanwhile, enjoy the roses, wild and domestic. It was 86° yesterday when I took the photos, and the mosquitoes were out in clouds.

front yard 5:18:13In Fairbanks, the sun rose this morning at 4:09 and will set 19 hours and 19 minutes later at 11:28 this evening. It won’t really get dark in North Pole, but I’m not in North Pole today. I’m in Ithaca, New York where the sun rose at 5:40 this morning and will set at 8:25 this evening. If it’s clear tonight (against the odds) I’ll be able to see the stars, because it gets dark at night while staying warm. After 50 years in the Fairbanks area, that’s a novelty.

Back home it’s still freezing nights, though it’s warming up quite a lot in the day time. I’d hoped to have the mints planted before I left, or at least leave them out hardening, which I’d certainly be doing most of the years I’ve been here. This year I decided to leave all of the herb plants indoors. I hope my plant sitter waters them correctly! It has finally warmed up. At not quite 8 am in North Pole, it’s 27 degrees F.

Here in Ithaca, it’s 72 degrees, trees are green, and flowers are blooming or even past. Some photos I took this morning:

Ithaca Falls closeup 52113

Lilacs toward the end of blooming, this morning in Ithaca

Lilacs toward the end of blooming, this morning in Ithaca

Normally, I’d have the mints, among the cold-hardiest of the annuals I grow, in the ground by now. This year I’ve barely been able to start hardening them, and the ground certainly is not diggable. Yes, that’s the remains of last October’s snow behind them. Yes, I know mints are perennials. Most aren’t here. The lone exception is what I call Alaskan mint (though it’s not native) which has flowers at the leaf axils instead of terminally. But I like to have as many kinds of mint as possible, and that means buy the plants early, while selections are good.

I miss the strawberry mint, though. It was my favorite last year, but this year it seems unavailable.

Mints hardening

Parking lotIt’s not been the coldest spring on record, but it’s about the coldest I remember. Yes, there is a little grass showing, where there are trees, shrubs or buildings to absorb the sunlight and radiate the heat back to the snow. Yes, the snow stake in the back yard says the snow pack is finally going down by several inches a day. It may even be bare by afternoon. (Vain hope. As of 11 pm it’s down to 3″ and the temperature’s 26°F.) The fact remains that in most years I would be raking leaves out of the perennial beds and hardening the mints by now, maybe even leaving them out at night. This year there’s still so much snow I only got to the tables I use for hardening yesterday!

It is still getting lighter. The days are increasing by 7 minutes a day, and by the middle of the week we will no longer have civil twilight – the sun will never go more than 6 ° below the horizon. Legally, we could drive all night without turning on our headlights. Not that night is very long. The sun rose this morning at 4:33, and it will set 18 hours and 30 minutes later at 11:04. By the end of the month it will be setting after midnight. (It already is, in Nome, thanks to the rather screwy definition of Alaska Standard Time.) But at least it’s warming up, though we had some snow flurries last night.

The Farmers’ Market isn’t actually open yet, but the vendors had a cleanup last Saturday. The picture is of the vendors’ parking lot. They are trying to pump out the water, but I suspect it will still be pretty wet when the market opens.

And if I needed any more doubts about my sanity, after just finishing the A to Z challenge I’ve signed up for the 2013 Blogathon. Expect some short bits about my experience with self publishing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Plans for 2013

Ever start a project you’ve been putting off and find it leading you in totally new directions?


This one was taken when I was a postdoc at NCAR in the early 70′s.

I did a lot of photography at one time. I have stacks of 35 mm slides taken with my old Nikon through-the-lens reflex and older 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ slides taken on 620 film. I’ve wished before I could use them on the blog, though sadly many were lost in the fire, as was the camera. I did get a batch of what I thought were wildflower photos converted to digital at Sam’s to see how good a job they did. (Some of the digitized photos from the first round are on this blog, and as you can see they weren’t all wildflowers, and included some I knew I’d taken but thought were lost.)

I decided to get the rest of the slides digitized. This has involved going through a number of poorly-labeled boxes, in the course of which I discovered that while none of my finished, spliced-together super 8 movies had survived the fire, a number of bits from the late 60’s and early 70’s have. I haven’t been able to view them yet (no projector) but I have some ideas on that.

(3 pm update: a friend loaned me a super 8 projector, which is currently warming up enough that the condensation on it evaporates. Also a screen. Remember those? I should know by this evening if I have anything left on the film.)

(Not quite 4 update: I definitely have content, and some looks good enough to put on YouTube–if I can just get it digitized!)

Derry and Bonny

Thought I’d lost this one. My first two Shelties, Derry and Bonny, with their obedience trophies from the 1978 National Specialty.

The first step is to see what’s there, and then I hope I can get the good ones digitized. And if I can, why not make them into videos and share them on YouTube? I have iMovie and GarageBand on my Mac, but I’ve never used them. So I fired them up a few days ago, and discovered that I had video clips on iPhoto. Mostly they’re accidents when I hit the video switch on my camera without realizing it, but a few with the iPhone were deliberate. I can’t seem to view them on iPhoto, but iMovie lets me go through them just fine. I also confirmed that iMovie will accept still pictures, even giving me a sort of movie when I put individual burst shots together.


Then there was the flower garden I planted while I was living at Wynfromere Farms in the early ’70′s. Again, I knew I’d taken pictures, but didn’t know where they were.

Then I started thinking. Didn’t I have a video camera somewhere? A Flip I got a couple of years ago, tried out on several subjects, and then put away when I couldn’t figure out how to do anything with the video? That was before I got iLife ’11 installed, and when I found the Flip and plugged it into the Mac to charge it, it proceeded to open iPhoto and download itself, giving me numerous clips I’d totally forgotten I had from the dog show a year and a half ago.

At the moment, I think I need something to bring me up to speed on iMovie and GarageBand, so I’ve ordered the iLife ’11 Portable Genius. Paper. I don’t really like manuals on-screen, particularly if I may need to be flipping back and forth between several pages. But I think I might be able to do something with snowflake images and “Six-Pointed Snowflakes,” just to get my feet wet. And learn how to post on YouTube, of course.

Alaskan winter

On internal evidence, this was taken in the ’70′s. Good example of the pink and blue effect I’ve been talking about. I think from the angle I probably took this from the back of my horse, Challenge.

Guess I know what I’m going to be doing new this year besides writing, editing, and uploading a short story to Amazon direct!

Summer Flowers

A last tribute to summer, 2012, in the Fairbanks area. News report this morning? Black ice warning, and a pileup between where I live and Fairbanks.

Ivy geranium

A hanging basket in my garden

We even have roses. This one, part of the east border to my yard, is not only hardy, it actually spreads.

A peony from the Georgeson Botanical Garden. Would you believe peonies are grown commercially up here, for the cut flower trade? The local blooming season is July, when peonies aren’t blooming anywhere else.

And to finish things off, a self-sown pansy from one of my raised beds. Those are mint and squash leaves behind it.


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