Well, I thought I was ready to do a little yard work today, but I didn’t realize how literally true that would turn out to be. A little was all I could handle after blobbing out on the recliner all winter.

My Darling B wanted the leaves from the front yard to turn them into mulch for her garden, so I thought I’d be a gent and rake them up for her. Turns out raking is hard work. I don’t know how other people make it look so easy. I was popping a sweat in five minutes, but kept at it for another fifteen before I had to take a break to catch my breath and drink a tall glass of cold water. Then I went back out to collect all the leaves I’d raked into a bushel basket and transfer them to the back yard. That was about all I was good for today. Got the leaves from almost half the front yard raked up. Also got a blister on my thumb. Boo-hoo.


wormsThe worms are here! The worms are here!

Ew. The worms are here.

But the instructions that came with the worms say that these little guys will stay in the composter if I keep a light on, because electricity is magic. Also, warm. The blob of worms I got came rolled up in some peat moss that was tossed in a bag, and the bag was boxed without any insulation. The post office left it on my doorstep on the one day this week that the high temp was in the mid-thirties, so I lucked out there. If they’d come a day later, they would’ve been a solid block of worms by the time I got home; the temp today isn’t expected to get any higher than the teens.

Even though they weren’t frozen solid, I still had the sneaking suspicion they were dead. They sure looked dead, and I have no idea how cold worms can get before they throw in the towel. Colder than thirty-five degrees, it turns out, and it may not even have been the cold that made them look so lifeless. The worm farm I bought them from packs them in peat moss to dehydrate them. They say the worms travel better when they’re dried out. Seems kinds mean, but okay.

After bedding them down in the composter, we sprayed them with water every hour or so. They began to wiggle and show other signs of life after just an hour, and were crawling through the kitchen scraps and leaf litter when I checked on them after dinner, so I guess they’re feeling better. They’d better get to work, because we’ve got a huge backlog of kitchen scraps for them to chew through.

late christmas

There was a big pile of boxes on the front stoop when we got home yesterday after work. It’s Late Christmas! The postman is Santa Claus!

The biggest box was for both of us. It was, believe it or not, a worm farm. We compost most of our kitchen scraps so that My Darling B can grow yummy veggies in her garden, but the problem with that is that, for six months out of the year very little composting takes place, for two reasons: (1) Frozen kitchen scraps do not compost, and (2) I’m too big a wuss to march across a back yard knee-deep in snow to dump the kitchen scraps in the composter every night after dinner.

We don’t want to throw the scraps out, though, so when cold weather sets in we dump them in a trash can strategically located outside the back door for just that purpose. It seems like an elegant solution until it’s full and someone – that would be me – has to haul it out to the composter and empty it. Then it doesn’t seem so elegant any more.

It doesn’t solve the problem of the scraps not composting because they’re frozen solid, either. In fact, it kind of makes the problem worse, a problem that becomes most apparent when several solidly-frozen trashcan-shaped blocks are sitting on the top of each compost heap, not composting. The problem eventually takes care of itself when warm weather returns in the spring to thaw them out and wake up all the little bugs and worms that do the hard work of turning kitchen scraps into the rich, dark stuff that makes for such tasty garden veggies. You can probably see, though, that there will be a delay of several months before the scraps that were frozen all winter can be turned into usable compost.

As it turns out, someone else not only had the same problem, they were also clever enough to think of a solution for it: Year-round composting. Or, depending on how you look at it, adopting worms as pets. Red Wigglers, to be specific. It’s important that they’re Red Wigglers because, apparently, other worms don’t like to be confined and will leave the worm farm to look for more room. If you can tell the difference between a Red Wiggler and any other worm, go ahead and pick them out of your garden yourself. I can’t, so ordered them from Jim’s Worm Farm. Really.

I was hoping the wigglers would be waiting on the doorstep this evening but, alas, they weren’t. I probably won’t be worm farming until this weekend.


There are going to be so many raspberries in the back yard this summer! I went back to pull some weeds in the back corner of the yard where there used to be a stand of lilac bushes until I cut them all to the ground so My Darling B could enlarge her garden. There’s one little strip outside the fence, though, where I couldn’t dig out all the stumps, so I just left them to rot, but until they do I can’t mow back there, so I have to clear the weeds out by hand.

One of our neighbors has a big raspberry patch in the corner of her yard that’s right up against the corner of our yard where the lilacs used to be. She told us she’s been growing raspberries in that patch for something like 47 years. Shortly after B put her garden in, the raspberries began to pop up all along the fence line, so she encouraged them a little and they pretty much took over half of the back fence. Last year we brought in quite an impressively large crop of raspberries from those few canes.

And I noticed that the raspberries were volunteering in the corner of the yard where the lilacs used to be, so I kept it weeded by pulling up the garlic mustard and covering the ground with lots of straw. This year there are even more raspberry canes popping up, and they’re marching up the lot line toward the house. In a couple more years, if we keep encouraging them, we ought to preserve enough raspberries to have jam on toast every morning all winter long.


image of garden fenceThe garden fence is done.

Well, mostly. I still want to replace the chicken wire on the gates, but the hard part’s done. No more bunnies eating up all our delicious yummy greens.


Here’s how you make it rain: You dig up all the onions in your garden and lay them out to dry in the sun for a day or two.

The amount of rain you get will be inversely proportional to how much tender loving care you have bestown upon your garden. When growing onions in a window box on a lark, you might bring on a brief shower, or perhaps a cloudburst. A decent crop of onions that have received middling care might bring on a day or so of moderate rain. More heartbreak equals more rain.

Bringing down rain in this manner requires some preparation: Plant a garden, spend every spare moment of your free time pulling weeds and squashing bugs, wait until just the right time to pull them up. If you put your heart and soul into raising a bumper crop of several varieties of big, beautiful onions, then the very night that you pull them out of the ground and lay them proudly on a bed of straw to dry out before putting them up in the cellar, that very night you are so very certain to get rain that it would be a guarantee if only someone would issue the certificates.

So remember: If the weather in your part of the country is trending toward drought and you want relief, don’t go looking for a rain man – befriend a gardener instead.


I just finished disposing of the Christmas tree. Yes, I know that Christmas was six months ago. No, it’s not a point of pride. I’m lazy, and I admit it.

After the holidays were over and we all went back to our jobs, I threw the Christmas tree into a corner of the garden because My Darling B asked me to. She said it attracted birds and bunnies and all kinds of other creatures she not only liked but wanted to give shelter to during the winter months. It sat in the garden until mid-May, when B began clearing out the garden in preparation for planting.

That’s about when the tree ended up just outside the garden fence on the lawn, where it languished for another several weeks. I mowed around it a couple times, each time wincing a bit for not taking care of it sooner. I moved it out of the way once to mow the grass that was growing tall through its branches. But I didn’t get rid of it then. Well, I said I was lazy.

This afternoon, when I was done with my other chores, I offered to help B weed and she suggested I dispose of the tree instead. Oh, hey! Good idea! Dashing to the garden shed, I came trotting back with a bow saw and a pair of gloves and started to work hacking the branches off, but not before stopping to admire the biggest damn jumping spider I’ve ever seen, hunkered down on the trunk between the branches. It wasn’t an especially large spider, as spiders go. Jumping spiders are usually pretty small, though, and this was about the size of my thumbnail, so I had to stop and try to get a good look. He kept scooting around to the underside of the trunk as I turned the tree over, but the few times I spotted him he looked like a daring jumping spider, not that I know one spider from another. The google knows, though, and I trust the google.

When I was no longer distracted by the spider, I cut the tree up into individual branches that I could feed to the wood chipper and reduced it to a half-bushel of chips and needles. “Is that all?” My Darling B asked, when she saw it. She was expecting bushels and bushels, but Christmas trees are like cotton candy: Big and bushy, but they don’t have much of substance to them.


A passing thunderstorm chased us all into the basement – me, My Darling B, and both cats – and though I made sure we had flashlights and candles down there with us, we didn’t have to use them. The lights flickered once or twice, but the power stayed on in spite of howling winds and ping pong-sized hail. Ping pong-sized? Yes. That’s the technical term now. Hail the size of all ping-pong.

On the up side, My Darling B’s garden badly needed the rain, and all of us needed a break from the heat, especially the cats, their being covered in fur and all. With temps hitting the high nineties this week, I programmed the central air here in Our Humble O’Bode to keep running through the day at a reduced setting, then kick in full-blast at four o’clock, an hour or so before we came home, to chill things the heck down so we wouldn’t be walking into a sweat lodge, whatever that is. I’ve never been in one before but it sounds hot, doesn’t it?

And the storm brought some relief from the heat wave. I could open the front door for the cats this morning, something I couldn’t do earlier this week because of the waves of steamy heat that would come surging through the door. The cats love to sit behind the screen and glare at the chipmunk who lives under the stoop and comes out in the morning to mess with them, but I just couldn’t do it until this morning. The storm has air-conditioned the whole neighborhood so it finally feels good again to open the door.


Earlier this week, the weather forecast called for rain, rain and more rain starting on Wednesday night and continuing through the weekend. I am pleased to tell you that they were wrong, wrong and are still wrong. More to the point, nobody is more pleased than My Darling B, who takes vacation time from work to expand this from a standard, regulation two-day weekend into a giant, economy-sized four-day weekend so she can get her garden planted, and for the past couple years that she’s tried this tactic, she’s almost always been stymied by rain. This year, though, she’s had almost entirely sunny days, except for yesterday when the tiniest bit of rain came spitting down now and again. She didn’t care, though. She kept working through it. She’s determined to get as much planting done as she possibly can, and to that end she was out there again this morning at eight o’clock, the time when she is normally sitting on the sofa with me, a cup of coffee in one hand and an ear on the radio as we listen to the weekly broadcast of Says You.