Friday, April 17, 2009

It looks like Perlite Beach...

Tiny hailstones

..but if you know your precipitation, then you'll already know that it's more like hailstone bitch. Yes I said it, having spent the better part of the day replanting yet more seed containers and cleaning up the mess from last night's mayhem. A lot of shredded leaves and dispirited peach blossoms [cue Chopin's Funeral March]. I'm surprised that the tulips were only slightly bruised, because the sky simply opened up around 11:15 Thursday night and unburdened itself of gazillions of tiny frozen pebbles (a mere 1/4 inch in diameter) along with the pouring rain. My husband and I have never seen anything like this so early in the season; it was such that the lawn and terrace looked to be covered in snow! My dragon tongue bean plants, a single red kuri and all of my shishigatani squashes pounded to the ground. Even a couple of very young tomato plants, the black krims, had nothing left of themselves except a pathetic wisp of a main stem.

Reality check...if it were hailing down minuscule alien embryos then we'd really be in trouble, now wouldn't we?

Average daytime temperature: 11°C / 52°F

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The first mow of the season

First mow of the season

Can you believe it? This is the first time where we eagerly looked forward to the grass getting tall enough to cut. Sure we wanted the tulips to bloom before Easter (won't happen this time), but there are far more important things concerning the garden. What a victorious moment when the clippings went straight into the compost bin; it's just a pity that the margherita flowers get mixed in too.

Average daytime temperature: 18°C / 64°F

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sticky fly strips to thwart ants and their aphids

Sticky fly strip on tree trunk

This may be the oddest post yet to the problem of ants farming aphids on fruit trees. Has anyone ever considered sticky fly strips? The idea randomly popped into my head when I was taking stock of our insect-control stash. One strippy thing left. Hmm... Google turned up zero results on anyone trying this method, but the logic is that nobody ever likes stepping on gum, or anything that'll stick to the soles of their feet, so why not apply that to ants?

So far what few that have tried to go up are stopped in their tracks, and those that wanted to come down are caught at a dead end. The one or two that managed to crawl under and escape (the tape is a dual-sided sticker) were either trapped in the middle or caught at the second road block. The good thing about this is that I'm not using chemical sprays, and the tape is pretty effective as long as it doesn't rain. I'm not an expert on insects but it also makes sense that I only have to use the strips during the period in which ants are most likely to farm the aphids (spring/summer). If I can thwart them, and give the tree and potential peaches a chance, that's a better outlook on harvesting fruit, right? We have one each of peach, plum, persimmon, pear and cherry, so it isn't impractical to tape them all.

The one downside is if ladybugs get stuck, but up here at this altitude we don't see much of them around. The bees I'm not worrying about because all they want to do is buzz about and get drunk on the flowers. This morning I checked the trees and the only ants visible are caught on tape.

Nastri adesivi per le mosche contro le formiche e i loro afidi
Questo potrebbe essere il post piu' strano nella guerra contro le formiche che allevano gli afidi sugli alberi da frutta. Nessuno ha mai pensato ai nastri adesivi per le mosche? L'idea mi e' saltata in testa quando stavo controllando la roba per il controllo degli insetti. La logica e' che a nessuno piace camminare sulla gomma da masticare, oppure sulle cose che si appiccicano alle piante dei piedi, quindi, perche' non applicare questo metodo alle formiche?

Average daytime temperature: 19°C / 66°F

Friday, April 3, 2009

Where there be water, there be life

Fog in the chestnut forest

After 4 days of monochrome tones like this...well, we practically fell over ourselves doing the happy dance when blue skies greeted us today. I told dog #1 "Let's go for a walk!" and she gladly obliged with a fierce wagging of her tail. I like living here in the mountains, and just had to photograph the obligatory margherita and whatever else. We also chanced upon some of our hardworking neighbors, who were, as usual, involved in heavy labor.


White forest flowers
I don't know what type of flowers these are.

The margheritas.

Shishigatani pumpkin seedlings
Shishigatani pumpkin seedlings - 4 weeks. I don't know what gave me the idea to plant more than 1 type of pumpkin this year, but after reading phrases like "delicious nutty flavor" and "famous vegetable in Kyoto cuisine" in Baker Creek's catalog, how was I supposed to say no? Red Kuri (Hokkaido) rounds out the bunch with Yellow Scallop squash bringing up the rear.

Rattail seedlings
These poked out of the dirt within a few days. Let's hope the "tails" are as tasty as they are reported to be.

Average daytime temperature: 16°C / 61°F