Summer’s Cast of Characters

This past weekend ushered in the first cool weather of the approaching Fall season. The temperatures brought 75 degree days and 55 degree nights, which means that Autumn is definitely on its way. How exciting! Ms. Jeannie just loves this time of year between September and Christmas.

In an effort, not to rush the season, nor lose sight of any end of summer magic, Ms. Jeannie has been compiling a little nature journal for you, of all the creatures she’s encountered in these past few weeks. They have all made her summer so memorable!

The goldfinches have been hard at work collecting seeds from the coneflowers in the garden…


It’s precarious business – getting all the seeds while still keeping your balance!




Boy-O is still looking for just the right nanny job.  This is still his favorite way to spend the day…


Tomorrow morning he goes in for a little “procedure” so he doesn’t populate the world with his own little nursery full of kittens.  As cute as those little legacies would have been, Ms. Jeannie explained to him that all of tomorrow’s events were really for the best.  He seemed pretty thoughtful about the whole thing during the conversation…


And then went right back to napping. “Piece of cake, Ms. Jeannie,” he meowed as he closed his eyes.


The little fig that Boy-O was looking after, unfortunately has not faired so well. It got caught up in a dramatic bird rescue (see hummer story below), which cost it it’s two little leaves. So we are back again, watering and waiting!


A hummingbird got caught in a spider web inside Ms. Jeannie’s screened in porch last week. Luckily, with the help of a step ladder and an umbrella he was freed before he really started to panic.  This incident really caught Ms. Jeannie off-guard – imagine how fragile a creature these hummers really are, and how strong spider webs are. This was just a regular web – nothing gigantic about it.  And webs are everywhere in nature. Could they really be such a peril to light little birds?

After some research, Ms. Jeannie learned that hummingbirds actually use cobwebs as a binder when making their nests, so eventually this little bird would most likely have worked himself free. But Ms. Jeannie was thankful anyway for Mr. Jeannie’s quick abilities in rescuing this little flyer…


Billy Bob and Betty Boop have moved onto greener pastures. Apparently, Ms. Jeannie’s neighborhood didn’t really take too well to all of Billy Bob’s antics. He was constantly getting his head stuck in the fence, head butting just about everything, and  climbing all over the feed bucket at dinner time.  Ms. Jeannie thought these were supposed to be the fun things about having goats – their comical personalities and theatrical displays – but Ms. Jeannie’s neighbor was looking for less dramatics.

The day before they left for their new home, Ms. Jeannie filled them full of Saltine crackers – their most favorite snack.



Billy Bob most appreciated it!


Due to all of our rain this summer, giant mushrooms are growing out of the trees down by the creek, which really has turned it into a magical forest. Ms. Jeannie is half expecting to see little gnomes or fairies pop out from behind those umbrellas!


They really are quite pretty when you look at them up close!


Right on schedule and just in time for fall, a new zig-zag spider, also  has built a web in a bush along the driveway.


She’s about as big as an egg from leg to leg. Hopefully those hummers will stay clear of her area!


The resident red-tailed hawks have been on the hunt a lot lately.


One of them landed in the yard just as Ms. Jeannie was pulling in the driveway. Oh how she wished she had her camera with her on that day!  The hawk was about 2′ tall and just stood in the yard for a few minutes watching Ms. Jeannie watch him. It was a marvelous moment.

A blue tailed lizard, also known as a skink, emerges every evening now from its home underneath the porch steps and hangs out on the brick window ledge for a few hours.


If you’ve never seen of these guys before – they are really colorful. Their tails are a bright, bright blue and their bodies are black with yellow stripes. Interesting enough – if under attack from a predator, they can voluntarily pop-off their own tails, which will still wiggle about and deter whatever it was that was chasing them so that they can get away and hide. Eventually their tales will grow back – although their new tails will no longer be blue but instead match the color of their body.  The ones with blue tails are the babies of the bunch.

These little guys have been jumping around the garden for weeks now. They are also the dinnertime band when Mr. & Mrs. Jeannie eat outside on the patio. In this picture, they are rehearsing in Ms. Jeannie’s wax bean garden.  It’s good to know Ms. Jeannie’s twig supports are coming in handy for other activities too!


The scuppernong grapes are just starting to ripen on the vines. A few more days of warm sunshine and Ms. Jeannie will be inundated!


Which is exciting, because it turned out to be a dud year for the figs.  With all the rain and humidity, 90% of the figs just molded in all the moisture.  Most of them wound up looking like this…


Which of course was a little disappointing because Mr. Jeannie really hoped to perfect his fig barbeque sauce this year. But Ms. Jeannie’s holding out hope – there is a second batch of figs which, now that our sunshine to rainfall ratio has balanced out, might just turn out a good batch of figs yet. Here’s the ones that are still growing…


Of course, the construction site hasn’t been affected by the weather whatsoever. Those bald-faced hornets keep going and going and going.  Now their nest has taken on the look of a pig snout when viewed from below and a horn of plenty (no pun intended!) when viewed from the side. Maybe they are getting into the Thanksgiving mood:)




As you can tell in this picture below – they have completely sandwiched themselves against the gutter now. It will be interesting to see in which direction they go next!


And last, but not least, a little concrete flower greeted Ms. Jeannie this morning when she went she out to water. This was a marvelous surprise, especially because Ms. Jeannie did not plant any impatiens this year – only last year.  And yet, here this little beauty is – growing out of a crack in the concrete right under the garden hose. Imagine such a feat!  This little seed must have overwintered and waited all summer to grow, grow, grow.  She is like a little last gift of summer before the Autumn settles in.



Ms. Jeannie can hardly wait to see what the next season has in store in the nature department!


The Little Fig That Could: An Update and a Nanny

The cutest little thing greeted Ms. Jeannie on the screen porch this morning…


It’s a fig leaf, dear readers! And can you guess where it came from?


That’s right! It came from our very own fig clipping water method! It’s hard to believe that this was the easiest most uncomplicated way to grow a fig tree. And yet, here our little dazzler is – her own version of jazz hands greeting the day.


If you recall from previous posts, Ms. Jeannie tried two different ways to grow a fig tree from a clipping.  There was the newspaper method and the water method. After trial and error, which you can catch up on here, the clear winner was the water method. In a nutshell… cut a fig clipping in winter, stick it in a jar of water for several months and watch the roots grow.


Then transfer the rooty clipping to a pot filled with potting soil. Ms. Jeannie at this point still kept the clipping indoors for a couple of weeks, but placed it next to a window that receives indirect sunlight. Then, on a bit of a whim one gorgeous afternoon, she moved the pot to the screened-in porch. That side of the house gets late afternoon sun for a few hours and apparently that was the ticket for this little one to sprout!

And so here we are, in newborn fig heaven.


When this little darling sprouts a few more leaves, she’ll transfer it to a bigger pot. In the meantime, she’ll just watch it grow.

Another little delight that greeted Ms. Jeannie recently, was this fellow…


Just like the kitty that surprised Ms. Jeannie in the fig bush last year – this visitor also found his way into the yard from the fig bushes. Perhaps there is some sort of trap door in those fig bushes! A little underground network of tunnels for stray cats, with a special sign at Ms. Jeannie’s fig roots that reads REST STOP – THIS WAY!

Whatever the case – it seems Ms. Jeannie is on some sort of list now to receive a new cat every summer. This one she has named Boy-O because he’s very clearly a chap, and he’s got green eyes and that handsome black and white coat which favors the Irish complexion.  Ms. Jeannie actually went through a whole roster of names beginning in Italy (since he was in the figs on a hot summer afternoon of course!) … there was Paolo, Giuseppe, Jono. He was completely indifferent to those names so Ms. Jeannie changed directions… Adolph, George (this was long before the royal baby!), Leo, Sam, Charlie. No interest again. Then she said in exasperation – “Boy Cat what is your name?!”  And he turned his head and looked at her. Aha! Something was ringing a bell. “Boy. Boy Cat. Boy-O? Could that be it? Boy-O?” Immediately right after she posed this question, he meowed.  Clearly there was  a winner in the name department!

So it’s been about a month now that Boy-O has visited here with Ms. Jeannie. He loves to eat and he loves to pal around with Ms. Jeannie’s two cats.  He enjoys walking around the garden, licking fallen figs and drinking out of the bird bath.   But perhaps his most favorite thing to do is nap. He loves the side porch, more than anything,  just like the little fig sprout does. Most afternoons, Ms. Jeannie sees him sprawled out like this…


All this afternoon bonding time with the fig sprout has led Ms. Jeannie to think that perhaps Boy-O is a fig nanny. Maybe that sign in the underground tunnel reads FIG NANNIES – APPLY HERE, and Boy-O just showed up because he needed a job.

Whatever the circumstance, Ms. Jeannie is working with her local vet to try and find a home for him. It’s a daunting task as  they have their own giant book of Boy-Os that also need homes. “But mine comes with a skill,” Ms. Jeannie told them. “And he’s dedicated!” The proof is in the pictures…








Fig nannies just don’t come along every day, dear readers, so if you know of anyone – who might need such a talent, than Boy-O is their man(cat).


Garden Update! Notes from an Experimentalist…

Oh, dear readers, the great big fig tree experiment has just gotten a little more interesting. It’s been a little over two months since Ms. Jeannie last reported on the status of the fig tree that she’s trying to grow from a clipping.

To refresh, this is where we left off…

Fig clipping sprouts as they looked on March 9, 2013.
After 2 months in plastic bag hibernation, the  fig clipping sprouts! Here is how it looked on March 9, 2013.
Clipping then incorporated into a potting soil, peanut shell mixture.
The clipping was then incorporated that same day into a potting soil/peanut shell mixture.

Since early March, Ms. Jeannie has been watering it and keeping her eye on the progress. Only it’s been difficult to see what’s going on in there, even though the cup is clear.  The peanut shells have little threads on them which can look like roots if you are an optimist like Ms. Jeannie! So yesterday, Ms. Jeannie decided to dump out (carefully) the contents of the cup to check on the status of her little sprouts.

This is what she found…

Before the dump.
Before the dump.

And after the dump…


Not a sprout in sight! Where oh where have they all gone? Now the only thing in their place is a mysterious white powdery fungus, and shriveled, wrinkly bark.

what happened?
what happened?

The little sprouts had been doing so good in the newspaper and plastic bag leg of the journey. But once they made the big leap to the cup, it seems things went awry. Hmmm…

After some discussion with Mr. Jeannie Ology, it was discovered that the peanut shells may have been the culprit. They were whole roasted peanut shells, lightly salted. Ohhh. Ms. Jeannie hadn’t even considered that aspect before she added the shells into her soil mixture. Oops. Essentially, she “salt cured” her fig clipping. Which evidently, newly formed sprouts do not favor.

Too much salt in soil causes water to move outside of plant cells, so even though Ms. Jeannie was watering her clipping occasionally – the plant cells weren’t getting the proper amount of hydration causing the sprouts to shrivel up and fall off. This also explains why the stem looks dry and wrinkly.

As for the fungus, Ms. Jeannie could have removed it with a little toothbrush cleaning – but she felt awful about the salting, and the clipping looked pretty much done in, so off it went to the great garbage can graveyard. Sorry clipping – we’ll do better next time.

But funny enough, do you remember the other fig experiment? The one where she was trying to root the clipping in water? In March this is how it looked…

Method 2: Rooting a fig twig in a container of water.
Method 2: Rooting a fig twig in a container of water.

And now in May…this is how it looks…

On top it still looks exactly the same but...
On top it still looks exactly the same but…

Look at the underwater view…

And not just one or two - but many many roots!
And not just one or two – but many, many roots!

So many roots and so little effort!

This is by far the easiest way to grow a fig clipping. No maintenance involved here – just clip and store in water for about three months. Now all Ms. Jeannie has to do is figure out how to handle these sprouts best. Should she pull it out of the jar and plant it in plain potting soil? Or should she leave it to linger in the water longer?

She could also dig up a few scoopfuls of dirt from underneath her well established big fig bushes in the yard. Clearly they are happy with that type of soil, so that could be the base for her potting soil mixture.  Common sense tells her that in the wild, these fig bushes would not have been coddled so much! It’s not rocket science after all, but Ms. Jeannie would hate to lose two fig clippings to carelessness. Such decisions!

While she decides what to do about the figs, let’s look and see how the homemade newspaper seed pots are holding up. Six weeks ago, they looked like this in all their brand new beauty…

Aerial view!
Aerial view!
Side view!
Side view!

And here they are now, after surviving out of doors, for 40+ days including 7 days of continuous rain…

Aerial view!
Aerial view!
Side view!
Side view!
Close-up with spinach sprouts.
Close-up with spinach sprouts.


A little more crinkly, but other than that practically as good as new! Ms. Jeannie really thought that after that week-long rain event last week that they were going to be a soggy mess! But they weren’t at all. These newspaper pots held up beautifully. Ms. Jeannie speculates it is because she double wrapped them using two sections of newspaper instead of one. If you’d like  simple step by step instruction on how to make these budget friendly seed pots, click here.

Now all we have to do is wait for the spinach to grow, grow, grow. Ms. Jeannie planted some seeds directly in two of her flower pots as well. The pots were supposed to be spinach, parsley and basil but, the Gerber daisies from last year over-wintered and now decided they were ready for round two!

Parsley, spinach and gerbers!
Parsley, spinach and gerbers!

Ms. Jeannie’s hoping that there is room underneath the soil for all three! The parsley is taking off like wildfire and the gerber daisies are an inch taller every time Ms. Jeannie looks at them! To encourage her vegetable – Ms. Jeannie painted a sign and stuck it in the pot. Maybe it will help inspire the seedlings:)


So there you have it, two garden experiments  both turning out differently then expected.  That is sort of the thrill of gardening though, isn’t it?

When you are playing games with Mother Nature, you just never know exactly what could happen.  You may have a general idea, or a general course of action, but Mother Nature  likes to play her own hand from time to time as well. She’s quite a card shark that one. And talk about a poker face? She’ll bluff with the best of them:)

Vintage Floral playing cards from 2BlueDogsDesign
Vintage Floral Playing Cards from 2BlueDogsDesign

Are you experimenting with (or gambling on!) anything in your garden this year? If so, please share your adventure in the comments section!