Sunday, December 30, 2012

So long, farewell...

Adieu to another year. Full of hopes and fears, trouble and turmoil, from small things that have shaken communities to larger events that have caused an entire nation to pause and pray. Each year passes a day at a time, yet memory creates a much shorter timeline. I hope that there has been a silver lining for most of the dark days we've all had. Maybe the celebrations have been sweeter knowing how fragile and fleeting life is. 
Like every year, I have planned a lot and done a lot. Some things were better than the planning and lots were worse, but what better way to learn? Our yard has had some pretty dramatic changes over the last year, but I think mostly for the best. 
Winter still has its iron grip over most of the country and will probably last until on or about March 20th. The fickle fancied weather gods may play along or keep us on our toes. Either way I hope your holidays have been good and your year better. 
When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But here among Garden Bloggers Anonymous and basking in the warmth of our hearths and hearts, I could cant imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter - unless it be an early, a very early spring. 
May blessings and your garden abound in 2013!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Weekend Expansion and a little sunshine...

It was a pleasant, brisk sunny day on Saturday. The kind that trick you into going outside with the sun shining and then a winter breeze comes up holds your hand and searches for a chink in your armor and attempts to chill you to the bone. (Good reasons to work hard to stay warm!)
As I had jobs I wanted to get done outside though, it the best day I was going to get for a while so into the cold sun I went. I had done some prep work last weekend for our garden expansion and today I finished the construction faze. I put some gravel for the paths around the raised beds (don't worry, you'll see pics below, and that will probably make it clearer) but as most people weren't open past 1:00 I will spend next week getting more gravel and lots of dirt. Then I'll have almost 2X the amount of planting space as last year. I seem to always pack things in no matter how much room, but I'll to make it a little more zen like and open and uncramped and stuff like that. 
I think someday I'll write a book. Something like "Laws of Gardening" and I'll go down into history as the father of modern gardening or some such. People will speak of the Phares Laws the same way - in the same hushed reverent tones - they speak of Newtons or Zeroth Laws. My first one will be something like "Gardening expands to 114% of the space allotted." Another one will be "For every 1 seed you plant, 17.34 weeds will grow." Fun laws like that. I'll have to come up with case studies and proofs, but for every fun job you must have a chore or two so I won't mind.
(just a tidbit for you to think of this next week or so)
On to more fun. My two dogs and big helper, Lucy, were out as usual, so there are a few pictures at the end. I think gardening (maybe my third law of Gardening) is increased 19.32% by every "helper" that comes out to join the fray. I will have to say that this grand total must be divided by the average age of the "help" or perhaps the subluniary total in conjunction with the temperature forms a basis for increase of enjoyment. Something to confuse anyone who is not an avid gardener. But proof or not, having children, grand children, or your neighbors children (provided no one gets hurt) makes it lots of fun.

So, in closing, I hope you all had a great year and next year is even better. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

snow day!

We woke up to a bit of snow on the ground this morning. We probably won't have a white christmas, but we can enjoy the snow for now!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Midweek post...

I know, you are saying to yourself, "what mischief are you up to now?" After months of no middle week posts, out of the blue comes one now.
Well, I like to keep my public guessing. You never know what madness will come out of this humble abode. This will make up for one of my missing weekend posts in the past or perhaps the future. Either way, it isn't out of the ordinary. It just doesn't happen very often.
So, on to the breaking news of the day.

With most people now a days speaking out on how the good old days were, it seemed time to speak well of modern conveniences. Take your mind back. Say we are in about 45 BC. Right about the time of cleopatra and marc anthony. Were I to send you a picture or even spread one about the merry old city, I'd have to see it, then get one of the great artists of the day to come and see it. Then a mason would chisel out a stone or two for sculpture. I may also fell a tree and make papyrus. Either way, the beauty would be etched or drawn (which would take a month or so). Then I'd call in one of my nubian slaves and send them off with the rock portrait or papyrus drawing. They would travel the deserts to your small hamlet and give it to you - if they did not drop it in the nile or throw it at a passing scorpion. All said, months may have elapsed before you were able to behold the sight I thought so beautiful.
Back here in modern days, all I do is take a picture and post it on my blog. Much simpler.

So weather you love or despise the computer, enjoy home remedies or go to the doctor, use a riding lawn mower or hand pick each leaf of grass, use synthetic or organic fertilizer, plant bioengineered seeds or sow by the light of the 3rd full moon you can still enjoy these birds.

I'm not sure what they were doing, but maybe it's a sign it will be an early spring and twitterpation is in the air. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012


About this time of year, the bird feeders are usually full of water which makes them no good for bird or man. The seed gets slimy and compacted and with that comes mold and grossness. 
However, this year I bought two of the finch feeders that only have the side ports and the water doesn't fill the lower basin causing wreck, ruin, and other havoc. (i'm probably explaining this poorly, but don't worry - I understand it completely!) Also to help explain, just look at the pictures below and you'll see the new feeders. 
All of this is good news because now we get to watch the birds eat their breakfast while we eat ours and they get food and that makes for a win-win situation. 
Below are a few pictures from this weekend's breakfast.

Also, I am beginning the construction of our expanded garden for next year. I dug the area up and put plastic down on Sunday. Now when I get time I'll construct the raised beds out of the old split rails from the fence we just took out. Then we'll fill them with good dirt and spread gravel around the beds. I should have more time for this over the christmas weekend, but will be slowly working on it when I get time between now and then. I'll post pictures as I go. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holidays bring...

As you all probably know, though if you've been anywhere shopping lately you will have observed as well, it is the holiday season. Johnnys and Susans and Burts are crowding every store in search of the perfect gift for that special someone which shows just how much he or she really cares, but costs only $19.99 or less.
Also, the holiday season bring people. This year is especially special for me because my mom and step dad are flying in from Minnesota. Yes, that marvelous, magical master gardener of a mother is coming. I've been telling the plants that it's time to shape up. It's time for all good plants to come to the aid of the party. "Cast off your gloom!" I say "I don't care if you've been freezing your tootsies off. Shine and shape like you've never done before." I am not sure how your motivational speeches go around your garden, but mine went over like a lead balloon. They cheered and what not, but no action. So now its up to me. I spent most of the weekend pruning, weeding, putting in a couple steps, planning (only 20 more days), and the like. Some seem to be getting into the holiday spirit, but like someone once said, "Where there is a whip, there's a way."
All that is left is lots, but in case I don't get around to all if it, I have a back up plan. If you read much in the gardening sector - blogs, magazines, books, etc - you start to pick up a few good one liners. I'll start off with a "We are letting that area grow a lot of the native plants. Really trying to bring out the true Washington unspoiled soul come forth." After that, I'll just stand in front of an area that isn't quite up to par and point out something in the middle distance. As a last resort, I will stand about 10 feet away and say, "This area you have to stand back a little to take in the whole landscape. It ruins the affect if you get up and close to each (here if I was truthful I'd say mostly dead, or sad looking) plant."
Between hard work and shaded true (or white lies) we shall be able to pull off a holiday spectacular!

I used flagstones to make a less muddy path for our neighbors to walk through

From inside the fence

Front wall

At least someone in trying to make things pretty 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

pictures... at long last

Good news! There was a problem with blogger, well not so much with blogger, but with too many pictures. Google (I am thankful they offer blogger with photo storage for free to all of us humble wannabe writers who couldn't hold down a true writers job with a hammer and nails) has prescribed a certain amount (1026 mb) of photo storage per blogger. This would be a very proper amount if you didn't want to post more than 1026 mb of pictures. However, the photo glutton that I am, I have already posted more than that. So I had to do the fun job of deleting pictures from old posts to clear up room for this and future posts. (not fence posts like you see below, but blog posts) You can also buy more storage, but since I would rather spend that money on a new fence or maybe plants that will look nice next to a new fence, I decided not to do this. 
Well, this is not my "lets all feel bad and tell our problems" time, I will tell you the good news. The photo storage locker it nearly empty and I have more photos to put in it. These are the latest pictures of our yard. The workmen will be back Monday morning and these will be out of date, but I'll put more on then. 
In other news, I filled in the large hole that had been a blotch on the landscape for about 3 months now. All that is left is a shallow area (why is that when putting the dirt back, there is never enough?) and three dead spots in the grass. Soon, well after spring anyway, this will all be right as rain and I'll forgive and forget that it was there. 
Last, but not least, I am planning some improvements to the back walkway. I used to have roses bordering the gravel walk, but as they died and turned wild, I am going to change it. My idea right now is to use clematis and climbing roses to form a tunnel over the walk. This is about a 4' or 5' wide and 9' long path and (unless I am mistaken, which happens quite a bit) should easily happen by building a structure with wire and pressure treated 4X4 posts to give the roses and clematis a framework to climb and cover with softly scented blooms. A place where as you stroll you can wander across the pale parabola of joy or perhaps to sniff the sibilant scented silence. In fact a 4' X 9' haven of happiness. Well, the project is already completed and beautiful in my minds eye, but I will now have to get down to the easy parts of clearing, buying, building, planting, fertilizing, watering, and watching.

Friday, November 23, 2012

post thanksgiving digestion...

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.” 
― Oscar WildeA Woman of No Importance

“If more of us valued food, [wine] and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook.” 
― Julia Child

Well, well, well...well, well, well, well, well... Post thanksgiving, post abismal black friday (you may not have noticed, but I am not a big fan of crowding into a store with 5 million other people at 5 am), and pre weekend chores leaves us all (hopefully) in that wonderful state of mind where peace reigns and happiness shines from every pore. Your nearest and dearest relatives that you don't see but once every year at holidays may even notice! You may say that God is in the heavens and all is best in this best of all worlds.
For those of you on a diet, I applaud you. If you can resist the moist, juicy turkey; sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, beets, honeyed ham, rolls, sweet rolls, wheat rolls, asparagus, stuffing, chicken, and salad your will is as of iron. Then to pass up the pumpkin pie, chocolate cake, cherry pie, apple pie and ice cream; well it is beyond me. For all of those people who can resist, I had two portions to make up for it. This is one day when we should all set aside our diferences to show that all men, regardless of race, color, gender, and creed love a good meal (with lots of calories!)
So now we get to enjoy leftover turkey, turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, and all of the myriad of turkey combinations until the corpse is picked clean. By monday I'll be ready to not have turkey for another year. Until then, I'll continue to gorge!

But, this a gardening blog, not a food one, so now for the yard update. Most of the winter plantings are slowly progressing. Someone planted them a month late so they are behind where I wanted them to be, but should be ready for eating by the end of December.
The fence and front yard are progressing, but due to very windy, rainy weather it is progressing a little slower than foretold. It should be wrapped up next weekish or there abouts. Every year I forget how little I enjoy looking out the window that the almost dead and leafless plants and rain and clouds and dreariness. Oh well, spring is coming!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another Wet Weekend...

There is not much to report from this end. It has been getting dark before I get home from work and raining pretty hard all weekend. This makes for an indoor gardener.
On the good side, our fencing plans are working out. The project begins tomorrow morning. I moved the pots and planters, fence posts and rocks. The rest of the destruction will be done by others with big equipment. Then we'll begin the rebuilding. I'l have something to post then!
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and our beets are ready. I am looking for a good beet green salad recipe if you have any ideas or else we may just settle for pickled and baked beets. Either way it will be delicious and I'll probably put on a few stone in weight.

Enjoy your week!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

another weekend gone by

 Well, another weekend has gone by. We are quickly closing in on the end of the year. Each day seems the normal length, but this year seems to have gone extra quick. (Possibly someone stole a couple days?) More projects are afoot here on the Phares Homestead. My wife has long plagued me to get the front yard fenced in and I’ve long thought our front yard needed a face-lift. So with tow hearts that beat as one, we are getting them both done.
In preparation for this, I had to take down our old split rail fence (which may be used to make more garden beds like the last ones - or perhaps not – only father time knows that one) and also to remove the flowers and shrubs and bulbs and roses that I thought were nice enough to spare from the wrath that is to come.
Most things that have been around for 20 odd years don’t like to be changed. Others just fall apart if you look at them the wrong way. This fence couldn’t decide which it was to be. Some parts looked like they were etched into the landscape for the rest of time and some was so rotted, that it sort of fell apart in your hands. All of it was removed though and is piled in a not so neat heap on the side of the yard.
Then I picked the plants that were removable and that I wanted to save. Some glads, some lilliums, some roses, some black eyed susans, some daisies, and a couple more. One hydrangea was acting rather difficult and it appeared that America was on the verge of being short one hydrangea, but time and patience prevailed and it is now residing in a large pot amidst the other refugees. As I was digging, a mole looked out of a hole and had a definite look of awe at how quickly I dug, but I hardly even noticed. There is still one rhododendron I am going to try to save, but it appears to have roots down to about the earths core. I will give it one shot and hopefully not kill it. I guess I can buy another if I really need another one.
Below are some pictures of the yard as is, and I’ll post more as the project begins to begin.

Radishes up front, beets and lettuce in the back

winter carrots (poor things were planted a little late and may not make it to fruition)

These were a small sucker early this summer, but now are taking over

Shasta Daisy
The seeds sprouted on the old flowers due to the nasty rainy weahter

Some one forgot to tell the honeysuckle that it's winter time

Sunday, October 28, 2012

a wet weekend

It seems like we've missed fall around here. It was a nice summer, then suddenly now it's winter. Some of the trees are still green leaved, some are changing and others have lost all of their leaves. It seems nature is a bit confused as well. 
Saturday was pretty wet, but it was a good test of the gutters and the sump pump under our house. One gutter was draining over the edge instead of the downspout, so I had to correct this idea. As one thing leads to another, this is how it went....
I went to the shed to get the ladder. While in the shed, I noticed that the bikes and mower were just thrown in there, not in order (now who did that?). So I organized the shed. Then I got the ladder out and cleaned the gutter. In order to do that, though I had to move the dogs pool. So I put both our dogs pool and our kids pool in the shed. On the way I noticed mole traps and summer lawn chairs that needed put away. So all of that got done and the gutter cleaned. While putting the ladder back, I noticed that the tomato plants were done and some were rotting, so I pulled them out and put them in the compost bin. This reminded me that some of the summer squash plants still needed harvested and pulled out. So while doing that, I noticed more bell peppers that were ready and some hot peppers were probably going to rot if I left them. After all of these were harvested, I remembered...... So, from sitting inside not getting wet, I ended up very wet, but with lots of projects done. Good times ;)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

wine country

This last weekend Mary, Paul, and I went to Oregon. We went to visit some of the vineyards around McMinneville. I made a list of the ones I wanted to visit. This came mostly from the Pinot Nior that I have tried (Shea, St. Innocent, Domaine Serene, and Eyrie). However, as you get there, there are many  many more just around the corner. We passed far more than we went to, but ended up adding stoller and Witness Tree. 
If you ever happen to get the chance to visit, I think it is well worth the time. Not just for the tasting, but also you may be fortunate enough to talk to some of the owners and wine makers. We were able to talk to Steve, the wine maker for Witness Tree and see him crushing the white grapes for Chardonnay. He also showed us the storage bins where the red wine grapes are fermenting. I'll post the pics later, but this will be all for now. Like most things, the process of wine making gets very interesting the more you get into it. Weather, soil, care, birds, and disease all play a huge factor in how each vintage or year tastes. Some years are far more acidic while others are very mild. I don't know very much, but its enough to make you want to learn more...well maybe next year anyway.

St. Innocent

White Wine Grapes

Witness Tree

Domaine Serene