helianthus annuus

A Battle She Cannot Win

The weather is mild today, in between cold fronts, so the human female is going to do a little yard work. She lives in a state of perpetual delusion, thinking that her puny efforts are going to keep the place looking less derelict. Pfft! Pulling a weed or three is not going to make anyone think that tidy people live here.

The concrete driveway had some cracks when the humans moved in, and since my coming, I’ve made sure to deepen and widen the cracks, fill them with soil and humus, and introduce a charming variety of weed seeds. It is the results of my efforts that the human female intends to deal with today.

A recent cold snap took out a number of sunflower seedlings which had come up in the lawn, but I sowed some hardier sorts in the driveway.

I’ve heard that sunflower shoots are edible, human, so feel free to munch away if you don’t feel like pulling. Mind the spurge plants that are growing beneath them, though, because their sap is caustic.

I planted henbit in this crack.

The human female likes the purple flowers very much and leaves the plant on other parts of the property, but she is going to pull this poor, helpless plant out by its tender roots. Hypocrite.

Yank, yank, yank! The weeds are coming up in handfuls I don’t really mind. I’ll just plant more and she’ll have to do this again in a few weeks. Plants without seeds are going in the bucket, destined for the compost heap.

Beloved, take care not to fall in! I do not want you to end up in the compost heap with the fruit peels, wilted lettuce ends, old eggshells, and the occasional knife that gets swept up in the kitchen carnage.

The bits that might have seeds or which would take root and grow in the heap are going into a trash bag for pickup by the city.

Farewell, my little weedies! You have served your purpose admirably and deserve a rest.

Ehehehehe! The human female has discovered my other little bit of mischief! I invited some fire ants to nest in the cracks in the concrete! For those unfamiliar with this busy little Hymenopteran, they are small, active creatures, capable of delivering a very painful sting. The human female is quite sensitive to their venom, breaking out in angry pustules that itch for weeks. What?! Great Frigga’s Hairpins! The human female has found an old can of fire ant poison bait and is applying it liberally. Curses!

Never fear, my little myrmidons! I think the bait is old enough not to work, but if some of your number do succumb, I’ll be sure to rescue a few of you so that you can start another colony elsewhere.

(later)

The driveway being finished (for now), the human female has moved on to the front walkway. I’ve done some good work here. I planted Bermudagrass in all the spaces between paving blocks. I love this plant! Nothing can kill it; it thrives on neglect; it spreads by runners, rhizomes, and seed; and will take root again if you pull it up and simply cast it aside. Look at this!

Eighty percent of this population has been killed off by the cold (it’s originally from tropical Africa), but the remaining twenty percent is going to take her all afternoon to dig out with a screwdriver! She’ll probably even have to come back out tomorrow to finish the job!

At which time, she’ll discover I’ve planed some nut sedge in there too.

Why go to the trouble of working mischief with lowly weeds? I’ll tell you why: A busy human is one who’s not bugging me. Every hour she spends hunched over, grubbing herbage out of cracks, is an hour I can spend peacefully attending to other matters.

Like hiding socks or tipping over poorly-closed bottles and jars of sticky substances in the cold box…

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Signs of the Season

I really do believe we may actually experience autumn this year. The days are still warm, but we have had a cold front or two that have given us some good sleeping weather and some pleasantly cool mornings. As I look around, I can definitely see some signs of the season.

As I noted on Cinnamon Roll Day, the schoolhouse lilies have finally put in an appearance.

They’re several weeks late, but very, very cheerful and very, very RED. Sigyn is over the moon.

As they are coming in, other things are on their way out. The sunflowers, which have been so bright and boisterous all summer, have begun to die back, leaving a tangled brown mess.

I planted this area with wild morning glories, which are using the sunflowers as a living trellis. The human female can’t take down the sunflowers without ripping up the morning glories, which are beautiful and beloved by hummingbirds. The side of the driveway is both beautiful and hideous at the same time. Elegant and ratty. Magical and white trash. She his not particularly enjoying the dichotomy, but I sure am.

The tangle of sunflowers also has the added benefit of blocking easy access to the driver’s side of the human female’s car. She has to shimmy between the car and the compost heap/sunflower/hackberry tree combo that is just beside the driveway.

Speaking of the hackberry tree, I am more delighted year by year that I planted that thing. It’s growing into a fine young thing, tall and leafy—and a home for some cute, woolly hackberry aphids. These little bugs dribble a fine spray of honeydew mist round the clock, with the result that the treeward side of the human female’s car is very sticky indeed!

And, of course, that’s the driver’s side. The side mirror is disgusting.

The hood is all black, since sooty mold grows in the honeydew.

She even has to bring a wet rag out with her to wipe off the door handle before she can get in!

Bleargh! I hate sticky! It all washes off, though, so the paint and plastic will be okay, but the headlights? Not so much. The acrylic polishing kit the human male brought home barely made a dent. Last year, the car needed service about this time and the dealership washed it. I wonder what they thought of a half-filthy automobile? Maybe it’s time for something else on the car to break so it can get washed again. I mean, it is time for the “low tire pressure warning” light to come on, as it does with the first cold morning every year. The human male can reset the one in his car; the female’s car is too old to know how to do that.

Other signs that autumn is here are all around. The stores are full of pumpkin everything. The human female has a rooted-in-a-sugar-fueled-childhood fondness for these grinning pumpkin cookie/cake things:

She looked for them on her last trip to the market, but none were to be found—not in the snack cake aisle and not in a seasonal display near the checkout. She went home dejected. What she doesn’t know is that *I* bought every box they had. Some I mailed to Belgium; some I set out in the rain, whereupon they turned into orange mush; and some I hid in the furthest corner of the most remote stockroom of the store, where they will be found next April, wizened, hard, and no doubt frowning—and far too late to be either saleable or edible.

A very few of the pumpkin items are actual pumpkins. Sigyn likes the little round pie pumpkins.

Whereas I am more a green-and-lumpy man myself.

I know what you’re thinking. Don’t say it or there will be smiting.

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All Good Things Must Come To An End (A Mystery Solved)

Laundry day. The humans seem to do a lot of laundry. I’ve never decided whether that means they are incredibly clean or incredibly dirty. Having seen what a messy cook the female is, and how she plays in the dirt, I’m leaning toward the latter.

Great Frigga’s corset! There is something round, black, and sort of spike-y in the dryer with the dry clothes! What did you wash, woman? Is it some sort of spider? A discombobulated bee?

Ehehehehe! I know what it is! I remember now!

The sunflowers around the house have been more gargantuan than ever this year, with one of the plants surpassing even the roofline.

They have reached the end of their all-too-brief season of life, and the human female has been clearing away the dead stalks as they shuffle off their botanical coils. Despite their size, the plants are annuals and come right up, having very little by way of roots. Last week, her tugging dislodged a blossom from a still-surviving plant and she hung it out of her shirt pocket and kept going.

I said to myself at the time, “Loki, don’t you think you should remind her about that before she puts her work clothes in the laundry?” “Nope,” I replied, “More fun if she forgets.”

I was right. Definitely more fun to have a slightly-sinister something roll out of the dryer!

I can only hope some of the scratchy chaffy bits fell off and show up in her undies…

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Botany Lessons Before Breakfast

After a string of miserably warm and humid mornings on which NO ONE, myself least of all, wanted to get up and go for a walk that would have left the humans sweating* before we reached the end of the front walk, we have been graced by a slightly cooler dawn, so we are seizing the opportunity to get a little exercise.

We are making a short detour from the mile loop the humans call “The Long Block” and are exploring a little side street where the houses are still under construction.  Be careful, Sigyn!  There could be nails and bits of glass and broken masonry!

new lot

Odin’s eyepatch!  The side-yard-to-be is a veritable jungle of foliage and bloomery!

Most noticeable is something the human female says is called Johnsongrass.  It’s good for a dangle.

johnsongrass

See if you can shake some of that grass pollen over the human female.  She’s allergic and it’s fun to watch her eyes swell up.

There are sunflowers, though not so many nor so tall as the ones at the house.

sunflower

(The ones at the house are particularly hulking this year, and I took great pains to make sure they came up so close to the driveway that the human female has to choose between thrashing her way through them and becoming covered in pollen and chaffy bits or climbing in through the passenger side.   It never gets old.)

The black-eyed Susans are similar, but much more nearly Sigyn-sized.

rudbeckia2

Hmm.  Red, yellow, brown… Look, my love, they’re Sigyn-colored too!

As you might expect in a weedy patch, there are thistles.

thistle

Sigyn says the flower heads remind her of fireworks.  I suppose I can see that.

Let’s see what else is here.  False dandelion..

pyrrhopappus

More yellow.  This one’s partridge pea.

partridgepea

The human female says it used to bloom in late summer and early fall, but now it blooms beginning in June.  I am so weary of her whining about climate change.  Would you like me to call down Fimbulwinter, mortal?  Is that what you want?  Keep complaining and I just might.

Ehehehe!  Sigyn has discovered that partridge peas are a little too bendy to be good for dangles.

partridgepea2

But if I do a little spell that will hold the stem, they do just fine.

partridgepea3

Ah. Evening primroses.  Like the kind that were in the lawn at home.

oenothera

Sigyn and the human female are very excited.  Apparently there are some more unusual plants here too.

Yellow puff is a funny bean with poofy yellow flower clusters and leaves that close up if you touch them.

neptunia

Look, Sigyn, there it goes!  Do another one!  Do another one!

These white flowers belong to a sweet clover that should have finished flowering months ago.

melilotus

That’s Texas vervain (lavender) down below.

The little dark fruits don’t look like legumes, but technically, they are.

melilotus dangle

The human female has identified this scruffy, not-very-showy plant as goosefoot.

goosefoot

If I ever had a good with feet shaped like those leaves, I would take him to a veterinary podiatrist.

The plants are getting smaller and smaller.  This is my beloved in a patch of new western ragweed plants.

cyclospermum

And the little thread-leaved thing on the left enjoys the completely ridiculous moniker of slim-lobe celery.

This one little lot is quite the botanical bonanza.  I’m sure whatever the builder and eventual tenants plant won’t be half as interesting.

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*I don’t sweat.  Frost Giants just don’t, but heat does tend to make us testy.  Sigyn definitely doesn’t sweat.  Her hair may get just the teensiest bit frizzy in hot, humid weather, but otherwise she remains gorgeous and cheerful.  Seriously.  She is perfect.

My Favorite Fall Color, Part II: Mostly Yellow (Sigyn Speaks)

I know, I know!  I don’t usually post two days in a row, but I just love fall flowers so much!!

Yesterday I showed you the red ones, and they were beautiful, but fall is also the time for my second favorite color.  Yellow!

No one can be uncheered with sunflowers around.

sunflower

They followed the human female home from work as seeds in a bucket of  pressed-flower compost material.  Now they’re all over the lot, mostly because the human female leaves them up until the birds have nibbled out all of the seeds at the end of the season.  Those birds spill quite a few seeds (messy eaters!), so there are always more the next year.

She grew this senna from a tiny seed.  Well, a big-enough seed, I guess, because it makes beans, but tiny when compared with the overall size of the plant.

senna

The whole bush is about six feet tall now.  It’s not terribly cold hardy, but the flowers are such a nice color!

And the flowers of this tropical milkweed are double-extra pretty because they are red AND yellow.  The butterflies love them!   They have an icky-sticky sap, though, so I’m always careful touching them. 

milkweed

Don’t the flowers look like they’ve been made by a cake-decorating frosting tip?

In the front flower bed, the red and yellow lantanas are growing next to one another.  The “red” ones are such a nice color.  They start out nearly yellow and age through to red.

lantana

And look at the flower buds!  They’re rectangular, which is something I’ve always thought is really, really cool.

There is a lot of yellow going on outside the yard, too.

“Bitterweed” is such an ugly name for such beautiful flowers.  It’s called that because cows who have eaten it give bitter milk.  But there aren’t any cows in the neighborhood, so we don’t have to worry too much about that!

IMG_8915

I really like how the ray florets have scalloped tips.  Fun botany fact:  what looks like an individual flower is really a whole cluster of tinier flowers.  I love all the flowers!

Which is good, because the park on the corner…

helenium

is sort of awash with them!

: )

 

It Is Winter and the Garden is Very Confused

According to the Midgardian calendar, today is something called the “Winter Solstice,” the day when this mortal-infested rock does something in relation to its G-type main sequence primary involving synodic rotation and axial tilt and all manner of astronomical foolishness.  Long story short, it is now winter, but you couldn’t prove it by the state of the local flora.

The local elms are bright golden-orange, the ashes are yellow, and even some of the oaks are reddish.  In short, FALL COLOR.  In December.  Ridiculous.  We recently had snow–real, measurable snow, and it fell on blooming roses.  Preposterous!  

Listen, you silly plants, and repeat after me.  “It is WIN-TER and I am supposed to be asleep.”

Sigyn and I are making our way around the yard, exhorting the plants to get with the program.

Here are some little grassy asters, but they get a free pass.  They’re fall bloomers and frequently hunker down and hold over until spring.

dec-aster

This sunflower, however…  What is wrong with you?!  Your relatives finished blooming and died MONTHS ago!

dec-sunflower1

The whole thing is highly suspicious.

Likewise this thing that has sprouted in the compost heap?  I don’t recognize it.  Sigyn, do you know what it is?

dec-potato

What?!  Beloved, surely you are joking!  A potato plant that has come up, all on its own?  In December?!

Absurd.  It must have come up from some kitchen scraps.

But I suppose that also explains this onion, which has done the same thing.

dec-onion

This is just great.  If we can dig up a recipe for compost heap soupwe’ll be in business.

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