Thursday, September 7, 2017

Groundhogs Need Not Apply

I had no idea, when we bought this place in 2002, about the destructive potential of groundhogs.  One determined groundhog can tunnel and undermine just about anything.  The damage can be catastrophic.  The old well in our backyard is a good example.

The stone part of the well is from the 1960s renovation of our house.  The brick-lined hand-dug well underneath this is original.

The upper stone part of the well is at this cock-eyed angle because former owners of our property allowed a groundhog to burrow and live underneath it.  Over time, the ground shifted because of the voids of the tunnels and den spaces, and this was the result.  We filled the burrow to the best of our ability, and the well is mostly stable now, but it will never be right again.

Because of the potential for destruction of structures, I do not allow groundhogs to set up housekeeping on our property.  When I see one, I catch it with my trusty live-capture trap (baited with apple), then I give the trap to my neighbor and I don't ask questions.

Representative groundhog photo.

Every year, an enterprising groundhog tries to live under our pavilion.  I trap the groundhogs when I see them, and do what I can to refill in the hole.  Because of its awkward location, complete abatement has been difficult.  (The pavilion is only about one to two feet off the ground, on its sloping site.  Not enough space to get underneath to work, and can't completely reach the groundhog hole to fill it.)  It's not long before another groundhog comes along, does the necessary renovations, and moves on in.

Ruby keeps watch.  See the groundhog?

Last week, my husband and I began a project to (hopefully) get rid the pavilion of the groundhog excavations forever.  It's a multi-stage plan, all of which was difficult and dirty work.

Step One:  Trap current groundhog.  Done.

Step Two:  Fill in the groundhog crater.  This particular spot under the pavilion is where there was once a brick-lined septic tank.  It was filled by prior owners, and topped by this handy make-shift cover.  We filled again when we built the pavilion, and put the cover back into place.

Photo of the septic tank from 2008, during pavilion construction.

This was covering the septic tank hole when we moved here.   

See how the groundhogs dug underneath the sign and into the septic tank space?

Here is a 'before' photo from my files, showing what the pavilion looks like with its steps.  The groundhog hole is to the left of the steps, about three feet in.


I had hoped that we could remove some of the pavilion floor to access this spot.  This proved to be pretty impossible because the deck boards are screwed down, and at least half of the screws are rounded out and won't budge.  Next idea was to remove part of the steps.  Not great access, but it's more than we had before.

We shoveled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow load of fill dirt, by hand, into the hole.

Progress photo.

When the hole was filled, we scattered broken concrete chunks over the area, pushing them into place with a rake.  Keep in mind, all of this is being done while we are laying on our bellies in the dirt.  Definitely not glamorous work.

Step Three:  Keep the groundhogs out of this space forever!  

The part of the plan was to lay welded wire fencing over the entire 12 x 24-foot area underneath the pavilion.  A quick trip to a local fencing company yielded a big roll of used 4-foot fence that was perfect for the job.  We cut three 24-foot lengths and attached them together to make one piece that was the right size.

It took forever to pull the fencing under the pavilion.  We used rope attached to the corners of the fencing, and a lot of fiddling and cursing, to tug and fiddle to and get it laid into place.  Then, we did our best to weight the wire down with larger chunks of broken concrete.

The edges of the wire are held down with concrete blocks.

Step Four:  (Day Two)  More wire and a new lattice skirt.

Since groundhogs tend to start their excavations beside structures, then tunnel underneath, we added some extra protection by covering the ground around the pavilion with more wire. 

The lattice we chose to cover all of this is pressure-treated "Severe Weather Privacy Lattice" with 3/4" openings.  I am very thankful for my pneumatic stapler, which made short work of securing the lattice to the pavilion. 

South side, finished!

Here is the Before and After of the right half of the west side.  

Here is the entire west side, all finished:

The east side was difficult, because it's really low and I had to carefully maneuver around the plantings there.  Hostas, Hydrangeas, Hellebores, etc., are thickly planted on that side.  It was like working in a jungle.

Only about 18" of clear space to work in between the Hydrangeas and the pavilion.

Day Two ended with three of the four sides of the pavilion all buttoned up with wire and lattice.  The north side, the most difficult one because it's (a) incredibly low to the ground and (b) more heavily planted than the east side, is all that we still have  left to do.  I plan to do this early next week. (Too much to do till then to even think of it now.)

View of the pavilion from the deck, as I grilled salmon for supper at the end of Day Two.  Look carefully and you can see the shiny new lattice skirt on the east side.

I liked the original lattice with larger openings, installed behind the posts, a lot more than the new lattice.  Perhaps it's bothering me because the new lattice is so new and sparkly.  Once it weathers a bit, I know I'll like it better.  I have to keep remembering that this new lattice is a contributing feature to the groundhog deterrent system ... that's the most important thing.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Roses on September 1

Yesterday afternoon, in between rain showers, the light was perfect for me to take my camera outside and capture images of some of the roses.  Come on ... let's take a look.  (Highlighted names under the photos are links to further information about that rose on Help Me Find, the best site on the web for roses.)

'Champneys' Pink Cluster' and a little friend.

"Sacramento Cemetery Musk Seedling"  aka, "Jim Henley"

It's been a while since I did any photography with something other than my iPhone 6s.  My phone takes decent photos, but my trusty, ancient Nikon D70 is much better at accurately capturing close-up images in the garden.

"Bryan Freidel Pink Tea" and a tiny spider

It's been a hard summer in the garden.  Weather was the main culprit.  It wasn't as hot as usual, but June and July were incredibly dry.  Japanese Beetles arrived on schedule in early June, in lower numbers than last year, but they stayed around for a few weeks longer then normal.  (There are still a few stragglers out there.)  Curly Rose Slugs are a big pest right now.  I pick them off when I see them, but it's a challenge.

Through it all, the garden persists.  Some roses are struggling ... others shake off the challenges and soldier on.  One of the best of the latter is my Yellow Seedling, which I grew in 2009 from a seed in an open-pollinated hip on 'Peace'.  This rose blooms and grows, despite heat and drought, almost immune to blackspot.  It's a star!

Unregistered yellow seedling.

Unregistered yellow seedling.

It's delightful to wander the property to see the roses that are already putting on a lovely show for fall.  As I was finishing up in the front yard, the battery on my camera died.  I will have to wait for another day to show you the rest of the garden.  (The English Roses and Noisettes in the Barn Garden are particularly nice.)  

Friday, August 25, 2017

Tag, You're It

I have been tagged by Sharon, the lovely Goth Gardener, to play a game of Darkling Tag.  I'm not Goth, but I can totally can dig the lifestyle and the wardrobe.  Plus, I love making lists and answering questionnaires.  (Warning:  the photos in this post have nothing to do with the content.)

My fig trees have started producing!  It's going to be a great year.

What is your favorite candle scent?  I love Yankee Candle's 'Clean Cotton'.

Do you have a favorite book?  "The Wizard of Oz".

Are you a tea or coffee person?  Coffee!!

What is your favorite perfume/cologne?  Chanel No. 5

Do you have a celebrity crush?  Nicholas Cage.

If you could change your name to a stereotypical 90s/2000s gothy name, what would it be?  I had to look this one up to see what my choices are.  There is an interesting list on THIS web site.  I chose Luna Wren.  Now that I think of it, this would be a good cat name.

What are your top three tips for surviving hot weather while wearing black?  By hiding in the air conditioning as much as possible.  As a general rule, I do my best to stay out of hot weather.  When it's unavoidable, I try to stay in the shade.

What song makes you happy?  I thought about this one for a while, and I realize that there's not one particular song that I can think of.  I love hard rock and metal mostly, but Motown and 70's Disco is also on my list of favorites.  Pretty much anything that gets me dancing in the car makes me happy.

Are you active in the arts?  I make a LOT of stuff, does that count? 

What is your number one hobby?  Gardening, knitting, and crocheting.  (That's three.  Whatever)

There were enough figs to make a quick batch of jam!

Thought Provokers:

If you could be a supernatural creature, what would it be and why?  A fairy, because they can fly.

What horror monster-based super power would you have?  Time travel.  

Do you feel confident or uncomfortable interacting with other Goths or gothy people (online or in real life)?  People are people, no matter what group they belong to.  I get along with just about everyone.  

Is there something you wish there was more of in your subculture?  I'm not sure that I have a subculture.  I'm a history geek, rose lover, carpenter/remodeler ... so many interests and tendencies.  I follow my own instincts.  

Care to share an embarrassing story related to your "darkliness"?  I don't really get embarrassed.  I usually hear  "You don't look anything like I thought you would" when I meet people for the first time.  I like that.

How are you at DIY?  I can DIY just about anything.  Small crafty projects, or a whole-house renovation ... if I can see it, I can probably do it.  (You already knew this, tho.)

Finished!  (Recipe is HERE.)

Confessional (aka, True or False):

I love watching cheesy romance films.  False.  I don't watch many movies.  My favorite TV time is spent watching programs that teach me something.  "Modern Marvels", "Antiques Roadshow", "Barnwood Builders", etc.  I loved "This Old House" in the early years.

I ALWAYS remember to wash off my makeup at night.  False.  There are many mornings when I wake up looking like a raccoon, with mascara and eye liner smeared all over the place.

I sleep with plushies.  Nope. 

I wear non-black pajamas most nights.  True.  Colorful nightshirts.  The one I'm wearing now is pink. 

I think Andrew Eldrich is overrated.  I don't know who this is.

I don't like vampires.  False.  I love the romantic idea of vampires.  

I don't like clubs.  True.  I had a brief period in my late teens when I went to clubs.  I'd rather spend evenings with friends, with food and beer/wine and conversation.  

I don't enjoy graveyards.  FALSE!!!  A trip to a new city isn't complete for me until I have searched out and explored the cemetery.

Blood makes me queasy.  False.  I'm not squeamish.  This trait comes in really handy in emergencies, or when watching "Bones" on TV.  (My favorite show, BTW.)

I'd sooner faint than pet a spider.  False.  I like spiders.  Jumping Spiders are especially cute and interesting.

I don't like haunted houses.  False.  I live in one ... according to other people   I have never heard or experienced anything here, but others have.

I've never read Dracula.  False.  I love "Dracula".

I think "Bela Lugosi's Dead" is a long and boring song.  I don't know this song.  I'm going to have to look it up and give it a listen.

I'm supposed to tag three people to continue the game, but I'm gonna skip that part.  If you feel inclined, copy the questions and do your own list.  Let me know if you do, because I would love to see your answers.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kindness and Respect

The negative events in the news reinforce my resolve to keep a positive attitude.  We are what we think and say ... therefore, I will think encouraging thoughts and do my best to spread as much kindness as I can.  I encourage all of you to do the same.

We can condemn violence and hate, without participating in it.  

Love to you all!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Finding Myself ... As a Doll

I never know exactly what I'll find when doing an Internet search.  Earlier this summer, I was looking for a sweater pattern to knit ... and, in the search results, I found this image:

Blythe doll

It was like coming face-to-face with myself in doll form.  Long dark hair, big brown eyes ... she's even wearing an over-sized bulky sweater.  She looks an awful lot like Wednesday Addams, who was my second favorite character on The Addams Family.  (It will be no surprise to you that I adored her mother Morticia above all other characters.)

See what I mean?  Look at that resemblance.  (Forgive the grainy photo-of-a-photo.  I stole it from my mom's FB page.)


(After I found the photo of the doll, I went hunting for more info on Blythe dolls.  One article that I read said that Blythe dolls were originally thought to be too scary-looking for children.  That would not have been the case with this girl when she was a child, I assure you.)  

Even though I got distracted during my search for a sweater pattern, I eventually did find one that I could work with ... a bulky, basic, knit-in-the-round-from-the-top-down turtleneck.  I improvised the seed stitch and cables to make it more interesting.  The yarn came from a yummy soft wool sweater that I bought at Goodwill.  (Original pattern is HERE.)

Here are instructions for unraveling a sweater to harvest the yarn.

Anyway ..... this post went completely off track ..... kind of like my original search for the elusive sweater pattern.  I will leave it this way, though, because it totally represents who I am.

So, let me ask ... Do you stay on track when you hunt for something, or do you veer off course, too?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia

Last month, my friend Sharon, the Goth Gardener, sent me a link to an article about a program at Woodlands, a garden cemetery in West Philadelphia.  (more about this in a minute)  Later that week, I came across another mention of Woodlands as I was reading a fascinating article in the Southern Garden History Society Newsletter.  That article referenced another article about Woodlands ... this definitely appeared to be a very significant place, and in all of my research about garden cemeteries I had NEVER before come across any mention of Woodlands.

Entrance to Woodlands Cemetery

William Hamilton (1745-1813) inherited 300 acres of land near on the Schuylkill River west of Philadelphia.  The Woodlands was recognized throughout post-revolutionary America as a leading example of English taste in architecture and landscape gardening. (source)  Hamilton created a landscape full of rare plants and trees, gathered from plant explorers and through his network of significant botanical associates (Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Bartram, etc.)  "There was not a rare plant in Europe, Asia, Africa, from China and the islands in the South Sea, of which has had any account, which he had not procured."  His 1813 obituary noted, "The study of botany was the principal amusement of his life."  (source)

"In 1840, local investors bought the intact core of the estate to transform the grounds into a rural cemetery.  Still active today, Woodlands Cemetery retains two of Hamilton's 18th-century buildings, elaborate Victorian funerary monuments, curving green contours and majestic trees."  (source)

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to visit Woodlands for a couple of hours, while I was near Philadelphia on my way to the National Clean Plant Network-Roses annual meeting at Longwood Gardens.  (More about what I learned at this meeting in a future post.)  I went there specifically to see the results of the Grave Gardener project, where gardeners adopt, plant, and tend cradle graves in the cemetery.  (A cradle grave has a large headstone and footstone, connected by curbing to create a space that is perfect for use as a planting enclosure.  For more about cradle graves, click HERE.)

The Grave Gardener program at Woodlands is in its second year, and it has proved to be very popular.  (150 gardeners were chosen for 2017, from a pool of 250 applications.)  There is a list of approved plants that can be used, most of which have historical significance.  Grave Gardeners are encouraged to research the people in the graves that they tend, which can create a true relationship between the gardener and the "residents". 

"There's two groups of people," says the executive director of the cemetery.  "There are the ones that think this is the coolest thing ever, like when you tell them you do this, and there's the ones that think it's the weirdest thing ever."  (source)   (All of you already know which group I belong to.)

The monuments and the landscape at Woodlands are spectacular.  Located in West Philadelphia, surrounded on all sides by modern buildings, Woodlands' 54 acres is an quiet place of beauty and calm.  The cemetery founders were keenly aware that their enterprise saved this unique place from industrial and residential development in what was then a streetcar suburb.  (source)

While Woodlands has an amazing collection of trees in its landscape, fifteen of which qualify as state champion trees, it doesn't have much else.  There is grass, a lot of grass ... no shrubs or perennials to speak of ... and only one rose that I could find, located in a landscaped area near the mansion.  No telling exactly how old the rose is, but it appears to be an old once-bloomer.  (and I totally forgot to snap a photo of it.)

Every time I go to a new town and visit their cemetery, I see things that I have never seen before.  At Woodlands, I found unique monuments and at least one cast iron fence that was new to me.

I wanted to stay at Woodlands for a while longer, because there was still so much to see, but it was getting late, we were hot and thirsty, and we had to get on the road to meet friends for dinner.

I will conclude this post with my favorite images from Woodlands.  These three mausoleums were in the farthest corner of the cemetery, built into a hill, on a footpath away from the road, tucked in the shade of enormous trees.  It was an incredibly peaceful spot!

I thought of Goth Gardener when I saw this, and I know that she will agree that it is a perfect place for one's eternal rest.

If you have time to get sucked into a wonderful, enlightening Internet rabbit hole, click on the links in this post to read the articles.  I was amazed at the significance of William Hamilton, and you probably will be, too. 

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