Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Lakeside living has been like a wildlife safari lately.

After walking in the door one afternoon, I looked toward the lake and saw something in the yard that seemed out of place. When I looked out again, I saw a very large raccoon standing there with an arched back, looking like it was in attack mode. I ran to grab my camera, and in seconds the raccoon had disappeared from view. Of course my first thoughts were that it was a rabid raccoon, arched back, Snidely Whiplash face, visible in the mid-afternoon. After a search on raccoon behavior, I learned that it is normal for them to come out during the day at this time of year in search of food for their young. So even though rabies likely isn’t an issue, I still don’t plan much gardening activity in that area of the lawn for a while.

Another day there was a deer near the water (look at its sweet face in this picture below).

A couple days later, there were 2 different deer whose intentions were obvious…get water and get out. I guess I’ve hit on a good mix of plants that they don’t like to eat in the garden beds since they always head to the water and then leave after quenching their thirst. We’ll see if that holds up when the vegetable plants get bigger.

Not long ago there was a muskrat swimming along the edge of the lake. Just his snout was visible until he slid under water, when you could see the outline of his body. Of course we’ve also seen trout and bass from our dock, which folks who are fishing in the lake would like to see more of.

And as I was working in the yard one day, I heard the frantic cackling and squawking of close to a dozen crows as they chased and hit a red-tailed hawk that had somehow wreaked havoc with something precious. To the left is a picture of some of the crows attacking the hawk. They were moving so fast that it was hard to get many of them into the frame.

Shortly after, there was silence, and the crows dispersed as quickly as they had assembled. Below is a picture of the crows zooming back to their home base.

I’m zooming back to my original home base for a couple of weeks, back to the old stomping grounds on the east coast. During that time, I won’t have regular access to the Internet. So look for replies to any comments, and a new post sometime before the end of June.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I have a couple more notes to add regarding the ‘Tomatoes!’ post.

I want to pass along a link to Master Gardener Fact Sheet # 38: Tomato Problems. This article is tailored specifically to the Pacific Northwest, however many of the problems aren’t exclusive to this region. So if you’re from another part of the country, you will still find this fact sheet informative.
Tomato problems:

A fantastic source of information for anyone anywhere in the country that has (or wants) healthy plants growing on their property will find the fact sheet on ‘Soil Testing and Soil Improvement’ extremely informative. This fact sheet lists places to get soil testing done, and includes my alma mater, University of Massachusetts (yea!), as a great resource.
Soil Testing:

There are plenty of other great fact sheets at this link:

On a random note, here are two pictures I took last year of a leafcutter bee going into its nest in a railroad tie.

A shot of the bee going into the nest, circled above. Close-up of the bee below.

Leafcutter bees are native to the western US, important pollinators, and don’t do significant damage to plants so there is no need to treat for that. Read some fascinating facts about these important insects at:

Happy birding, gardening, and reading!


Monday, June 2, 2008


Memorial Day weekend was perfect weather for planting a vegetable garden.

Here’s a sample of last year’s harvest, except for the tomatoes. The tomatoes never made it into the house for the picture—but they tasted great!

Unfortunately, my veggie patch will be fairly sparse this year, but you bet that I have some tomato plants from the King County Master Gardener Plant Sale in May. And I finally got them planted during Memorial Day weekend.

A few years ago I learned to plant my tomatoes by pretty much burying them up to the top leaves. I don’t even prune the lower ones off before covering them with soil. All of the plant that is covered with soil will sprout more root growth, which will help nourish and strengthen the plant. Stronger plant, better produce. Yum.

This year I’m trying a few different types that I hope will do well. The only repeat is the ‘sungold’ cherry tomato. They are incredibly sweet, juicy, and such a pretty golden orange when they are ripe. We liked them so much that I’ve got 2 plants so that some of the fruit that is harvested actually makes it to the salad this year!

Here is a picture of a sungold tomato plant with some fruit on it.
(Do you call it a ‘fruit’ or a ‘vegetable’? That is another topic for another time!)

Another type of indeterminate tomato I’ve chosen to grow this year is the ‘green zebra’. I’m told it has a nice sweet-tart taste, and is a lovely green with yellow stripes when it ripens.

Of course I had to plant a ‘big beef’, a winner when it comes to size and taste. It’s an indeterminate plant that produces a tomato that can’t be beat.

The last type of tomato I’ve planted is ‘northern exposure’. It is a determinate tomato, which ripens in less than 70 days. It is perfect for the short growing season in the PNW.

All of these tomatoes are disease resistant, an important quality for any grown in this cool, damp climate. I’ve planted them in containers (cages will go up later) so I will have added flexibility for changing their location. Right now they are on the south side of the house under the eaves, so they will have the benefit of the warmest spot, most sun, and least moisture on their foliage.

And now, we wait, as Dr Frank-N-Furter/Tim Curry would say, with...
‘antici-PA-tion’ …