I just realized while looking through the list of posts that I started writing Belle of Dirt in May of 2010. THAT’S FREAKING CRAZY.
11 YEARS people. 11 DAMN YEARS. I honestly can’t believe that I’ve stuck with it this long. I think it’s only because I’ve allowed it to morph and change and grow along with me. Some of these articles were on my original website, Dear-Me.com, back before I decided to scrap most of the personal posts and just go with a gardening theme. I’ve since directed all the personal stuff into a work of fiction, although it has yet to see the light of day outside of my computer. Maybe some day I’ll finally get it around to doing more with it. For now, it’s a work in progress.
Anyway, nothing new to report, other than it’s getting freaking cold outside, which means I’ll be painting, sewing and maybe doing a little writing because the older I get, the less I like the cold. I just wanted to share the revelation that I’ve been rambling away about plants and such for over a decade now and people are still reading this stuff. Which is kind of awesome. THANK YOU. You guys are the best. 🙂
I’m hoping I don’t get hate mail from this post, but I guess if I do, I’ll look at it as a new and interesting experience.
I’m not sure who started the Leave the Leaves campaign, as there are several groups out there collecting funds and trying to educate the public to their point if view. If you are in ANY sort of gardening forum on social media, I’m sure you’ve come across this discussion- sometimes even heated enough that the admins have to get involved and pry people apart.
Here’s one of the posters that was being passed around just the other day. Several members commented that they were no longer removing leaves from their yards, that they were doing their part to, “Save the pollinators!” and “Grow native!” Two mantras that are VERY popular among the gardening community right now. They were taking turns contrariamente congratulating each other on their efforts and declaring their righteousness when a man commented, “I’m not leaving my leaves. I like my yard and my grass.”
You would have thought from the responses that he’d declared he eats children and fertilizes his grass with the blood of cute puppies. They flat out attacked him. They told him he was a fool for maintaining a grass lawn, a bigger fool for cleaning up his leaves and those were some of the nicer comments.
This is now the world we live in though, where those with an unpopular opinion are bullied, belittled, shamed or even downright threatened. You’d think gardeners are peaceful people, but it can be a real passion and anything people are passionate about, they are willing to fight over.
I’m not condemning the Leave the Leaves campaign entirely. It’s based in truth, it makes some really good points and leaves can prove very beneficial in gardening. BUT (you knew it was coming) a few of the ads or information I’ve seen passed around about leaving leaves has been a bit deceptive.
I’ve seen claims that it will not harm your lawn, that it actually feeds it, because the leaves break down into soil. Let the leaves pile up in an inconspicuous area if you want to test this and see what happens to the lawn underneath. My oak leaves lock together nicely, especially when wet, forming a dense, impenetrable mat that will not allow light or air to pass through. It will suffocate and destroy any vegetation growing underneath. This is a great environment for supporting slugs, salamanders and roly polys, but not such a great environment for supporting grass or plants. Too many leaves will suffocate plants and kill a lawn, not feed it. I neglected to clean the leaves from this front bed (below) last year and I lost several of my bulbs- of the purple clover I had planted, only one came back up, the crocus did not do as well and the violets absolutely took over. The roses also have fungal issues this year, which may also be because of the heavy leaves under and around them. Leaves are a great space for fungus of all sorts to thrive.
I don’t “Leave the Leaves” here. It’s damaging to my landscape plants. it causes drainage issues, I will now have to treat roses with fungicide because of it and I really dislike using chemicals in our yard or garden.
Maybe my biggest reason for not leaving the leaves around our house is it draws insects, which is exactly what the poster above is telling folks to save. We had an infestation of brown recluse on this property when we moved in. The exterminator had to come out several times and spray and put sticky powder in the attic before we stopped seeing them in the house. If I let leaf debris sit around the house, they still come inside in the fall, looking for someplace warm to spend the winter. When we first moved, I was cleaning the garage, which was also infested with recluse and got bit on my bicep. It was painful and itched like mad around the bite; a couple days later I had a hole in my arm about a quarter inch deep where the venom ate the flesh away. Recluse normally stay hidden in walls and ceilings where you don’t ever see them (hence their name) but there was a lot of clutter in the garage and a lot of paper and boxes. They love any sort of leaves, decaying wood, paper, cardboard that they can hide in. 6 months later, I was trimming dead wood out of walnut tree in the backyard, a spider fell out of the tree and into the back of my sports bra. As soon as I moved and the bra tightened against the spider, it bit. That one felt like I’d been stung by a wasp. I had my daughter hold the bra out so the “wasp” could escape and a huge recluse fell out instead.
This time the pain wasn’t just bad, it was excruciating. I ran a fever, I felt sick and dizzy for days. I treated the wound with activated charcoal and Prid drawing salve (how I wish I’d had my dead nettle salve then!) to pull as much venom from the wound as possible. I kept it very clean, even though it hurt like hell to clean it after it opened up. In spite of no infection directly in the wound, I developed cellulitis in the surrounding tissue and had to go to the doctor for antibiotics and steroids about a week in. This bit went deep, you could have put a quarter halfway into my shoulder. It also spread to an area over the size of a half dollar. I still have a nasty scar on my shoulder blade to show for it.
All spiders love leaves, not just recluse and I’ve noticed a rise in the population of wolf spiders here since we knocked the recluse population down greatly. (thank goodness! they will kill recluse.) I spotted at least 3 recluse running for cover as I was clearing the leaves around the foundation of our house this past week. That’s 3 that ran for the yard and will hopefully go find another place to inhabit besides our siding. Which brings me to my last point.
Piles of leaves, especially wet leaves built up over time can destroy wooden house siding, even hardybacker will succumb to it if left long enough. They will also permanently stain concrete porches and patios or exposed foundation walls. As the leaves break down, the leach out tannin oils that stain brown and yellow, which is nearly impossible to remove from grey stone or concrete. Imagine leaving a sopping wet blanket on your beautiful wood kitchen table for 3 months straight. You wouldn’t do that, nor should you leave piles of wet leaves against wooden siding or decks if you don’t want the wood to rot and be destroyed.
So as with all gardening advice, I would encourage you to read into the SCIENCE behind what you’re being told to do and not just jump on the latest viral post or fad (I’m looking at YOU EPSOM SALT). Also use a little common sense, if you’re gifted in that area. Leaves aren’t doing any organic good on your hardscapes or clogging up the gutters on your house. If you live in town and the city takes leaves, find out where they take them. Many cities now haul them to a composting facility where they are broken down and sent back out as beneficial compost for lawns and gardens. As for me, I have a yard that is close to 5 acres, full of huge, mature oak trees and that’s JUST the yard. In total, we have 40 acres and another 30 that is family land of fields, woods and yard. I’ve never raked or burned leaves here. I wait for the bulk of them to fall, then run the mower one last time in November, chopping them into small pieces and blowing the bulk of them into the edges of the woods and the hay fields. Fireflies lay their eggs in those areas, the mice, turtles and all those other small creatures on the poster above like to hang out there, so THAT IS WHERE I leave the leaves. They aren’t damaging my house and drawing recluse, they are in the edges of the woods where they give all those little critters a place to hide that isn’t in my front door. If you can have undisturbed areas like that, I see no issue at all with tidying up your hardscape or chopping up the leaves to mulch trees instead of letting them lie on the lawn, where you don’t have to share your space with creeping crawling things. Regardless of what the article in Woman’s Day Magazine may be telling you is the RIGHT THING to do. (Personally I can’t trust a magazine that gives diet advice and cupcake recipes on the same cover anyway)
If you don’t have woods or an “edge” to send your leaves to, maybe chop them up and use to mulch perennial garden beds. Chopped up, they don’t form those thick, dense, air blocking mats I was talking about. Once mulched, they break down in a season into compost. I’ve also used them as a layer in my Hugelkulture beds or lasagna gardening. They are a great brown layer to fill in around larger sticks and branches. Earthworms adore a layer of chopped up leaves.
Just stop the “Leave the Leaves!” shaming folks. Everyone’s yard is different, every garden is different and there isn’t a one method fits all that works for any situation. Gardening is one of those things that is as individual as the person doing it and that’s one of the really great things about it. Suggestions are helpful, education is helpful, yelling at someone that they are horrible destroyers of the environment because they didn’t want piles of leaves around their house or haven’t cut down their Bradford Pear yet is ridiculous. We want to ENCOURAGE people to love gardening and be drawn to it, not scare them away forever because we let our passion or dedication to the latest fad override our basic human decency. There is too much of that in the world today and gardening is supposed to draw people back to nature, not make them run screaming in the other direction from angry keyboard warriors.
Finally finished up that TV tray I started a few weeks back. We have four of these, I’m planning on putting scenes on each and sealing them in epoxy when finished.
I originally bought these little TV tables on Amazon, they were decently framed, but the finish on them started chipping off only a few months into using them. 3 years later, they had paint on them (oops), glue (also my oops), scratches, chips… they looked ready for the dump.
My daughter helped me razor blade the finish off. I gave them all a thick coat of bonding primer and using acrylic to paint the scenes on them. The epoxy we’ll use is a marine quality that I used on the sink top in our utility room. It’s been in there over a year and it seems to be able to handle tons of abuse. So far it’s been impervious to water, soaps, cardboard stuck to it and scraped off. A damp rag and it’s beautiful again. I’m hoping it does as well on these table tops.
These four aren’t for sale, but if they turn out really well, I may do others and offer those. I’m thinking some kind of water scene and maybe a woodland thing with deer or turkey on another. I’m trying to keep them all farm/local themed.
I’m taking a break from tables to work on a gourd or two. I’ll post those as they’re finished.
Our cow’s “date with destiny” (as my DH calls it) is almost here. Next week Tom and our wonderful neighbor, Jim are taking one next door to our other neighbor and the other will be going to the processor in Cuba.
I’ve never owned livestock before. (Been with a jackass or two of the two-legged variety) I did my best not to get attached or have feelings for these cows, but it’s hard impossible to spend time tending to an animal and not feel anything about it’s demise. Since March, I’ve fed these ladies grain every day, changed out their water while they eat and sprayed them with essential oils to keep the flues and ticks at bay. I’ve watched them grow from 300lbs to something roughly the weight of our car. I didn’t name them. We called them whiteface and blackface only out of necessity, it was confusing to remember which cow was Cow1 or Cow2. Despite not really naming them, they still learned their “names.”
They chase the lawnmower when I mow to get the cut grass blown in from the other side of the fence. Whiteface is the more cautious of the two, but also less skittish once she decides it’s safe. She’ll let you pat her neck and scratch her ears, which I’ve only done once at my daughter’s urging. No matter how fuzzy her ears are, I can’t pet something we plan to murder.
My daughter has no such qualms- she will hang over the fence, scratch the cow’s ears and pet her, then tell her, “You’re looking mighty tasty today!” I asked if this doesn’t bother her that we’re going to eat them, she just shrugs and says she’s looking forward to a good steak. My kid will make a farmer. I watched my great grandma once- walk out in the yard, pick up a chicken, talk to it and wring its neck. She then plucked it, cleaned it and put it in salt water to make fried chicken for dinner the next day. My daughter must take after her.
Yesterday our neighbor backed this trailer up to where I grain feed. The plan is to get them used to going inside the trailer to eat, so that we can get them in there on Tuesday, shut the door and that’s that.
Next year we may fence the field closest to the house and get two new cows and maybe a horse or two as well. I CAN be friends with the horse, so I’m looking forward to that almost as much as my daughter is. Maybe a little donkey to keep the horse company. Hopefully that takes some of the sting out of letting go our next pair of cows.
I’m afraid I’ll always be better with the garden and orchard. You would think I’d be great at compartmentalizing after almost 20 years in nursing and surviving multiple narcissists; but like it or not, I’m going to miss my cows. 😦
Our washer broke almost 3 weeks ago. Being the handy little DIYers that we are, we didn’t call the repairman- but went to YouTube, diagnosed the issue and ordered parts. It took about a week to get the parts, because Covid probably. Isn’t that what everything is blamed on these days? It took a 4×8 and a ratchet strap to get the old part off, which broke we had to put so much pressure on it. More than one video claims this is normal?!
So we got the new part, put it on, washer still broke. I was able to wash stuff, but it wouldn’t spin out. So we replaced the belt. Still broke. By now we were running out of everything- like drying off with handtowels after showers and turning underwear wrong side out to wear again kind of situation. So I had to go brave the laundromat. Our neighbor and a friend offered the use of their washer, but I figured rather than impose on either for hours, I’d just run 6 or so loads up to town, drop them all in at once and be finished in 1/2 hour.
It kind of went like that, except I forgot that laundromats are one of those places where you are trapped until your laundry is done, so you are therefore forced to interact with other people because you can’t leave your stuff unattended. Most of the folks just nodded or said hi and went about their business, but then a lady comes in with her husband. He plops 3 stuffed trash bags full of laundry on the counter next to me then leaves to go wait in the truck. That’s because he KNEW.
He KNEW she was a chatty Kathy. Normally my single word non-committal responses are enough to make most people realize I’d rather chat with a tree than a stranger, but this lady was not deterred in the least. She wanted to converse about everything… the puddle on the floor, the noise one of my washers was making while spinning out (which she decided to shout for the manager on my behalf in case he hadn’t been listening to it all day), she talked about how you had to forcefully put the quarters in the machines, how she liked to try and get machines all in a row but it didn’t always work out because sometimes one was broken and she’d have to skip that one… I was considering jamming a plastic hangar through my eardrums to drown her out when my last load finally finished and I was delivered from evil.
My husband talks to everybody y’all. My daughter and I joke that we can’t leave him alone in public for 2 minutes, without coming back to find he’s made a friend. Me, I could not converse with another human outside of my family for months and be perfectly happy. I like quiet and the non-stop movie reel that runs in my head. It drains my energy to socialize, I NEED alone time to recharge and not feel like I want to crawl out of my own skin to escape. I cherish this hour that I spend watching my kid go round a pen on a horse once a week. It is the best $35 I spend all week.
I suppose that’s why I take so well to gardening, art and writing. They’re all solitary activities for the most part and I can share them with others without having to be especially social. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll talk your freaking ear off about a particular kind if heirloom tomato, but if you want to chat about the weather or what’s for dinner I’d rather just dig in my dirt and let you be on your way. If you want to chat about the book you’re reading, how you’re learning to speak Gaelic or that you’re researching the effects of daylight savings time on mice- I’ll hand you a trowel and we can hang for a while. Just save the small talk for your pharmacist. PLEASE.
This is why I don’t thrive at parties. People at parties or social gatherings want pleasant conversation- ie boring, tedious, ram a plastic hangar through my eardrum so I don’t have to listen to you conversation.
So that is my exciting tale of woe for the week. I’m also very happy that Mercury retrograde is finally over and that after this weekend I don’t have to wake up in the dark. It will be dark at 5pm though. 😦
Might mean I can stand outside before bed and listen to the owls. 🙂
It is a very cold and rainy day, I’m sitting at the stables in Rolla while the kid does her riding lesson. If I didn’t have to pee, I’d probably just take a nap.
We’ve all been binging Outlander this past couple weeks and the stenosis/arthritis/whateveritis in my neck has been giving me hell, so I haven’t been doing much art. Working on the building up front also came to a grinding halt, turns out my head is heavy and my neck does not want to support it while I look up to paint the ceiling.
So I’ve spent almost 2 weeks REALLY REALLY bored, watching reruns of American Horror story and doing random house chores while Tom goes to meetings. We are living on the edge folks.
I no longer felt like I was being stabbed in the back yesterday as long as I didn’t get too ambitious, so I started a sewing project. I will finish and post that table as soon as Outlander is over, I promise. It’s one of the few shows I watch that I will not paint through.
Pink Floyd’s Young Lust is on the radio and suddenly I’m transported back to a time when I was dancing to that in the back of someone’s pickup in the middle of a field. Music is funny like that, isn’t it? Can be the like a mental time machine… which is exactly why I normally avoid the Classic Rewind station, but Lithium was playing weird crap- probably because Morelo was on.
Hubby went and got his Covid shot today, I’m hoping he doesn’t feel so crappy this weekend that he has to skip Halloween. I didn’t even get decorations out this year, not sure why not, time just seemed to slip away and it was this weekend before I realized. Plus it’s been raining a lot, which = constant pain.
Sorry I have nothing of real artistic or yard interest to report. I told myself I’d start making an effort to get on here and AT LEAST make a post once in a while, especially since I’m spending less and less time on (anti) social media. Even if that post is just random ramblings.
We may finish Outlander this weekend if we binge diligently, maybe I’ll get back to painting by Monday night. 🙂
Though sometimes I wish it was. I see pictures of other people’s beautifully decorated homes with everything in its place, fall themed table runners and centerpieces… I wish sometimes I were one of those people.
Alas, I am more the scramble around the living room making sure no dirty underwear are lying on the couch because someone showed up without 3 days advance notice.
We don’t even HAVE a dining room table. We don’t have a dining room. The kitchen island I occasionally try to decorate, but mostly it’s just a catch-all for everybody’s crap. Like right now, I have the pumpkins from our garden displayed for fall. They looked nice, but slowly became surrounded by some library books, and inhaler, random vitamins, deodorant, a lighter, a can of Dr Pepper from yesterday, a random spoon I don’t know if it’s clean or dirty, a lint roller, dog meds… it is NOT elegant. It’s functional, lived in and messy like my life.
We have no dining table, we eat on TV trays, watching HULU at dinner against all parenting and family advice. I am at least, currently working on our TV tables. They were pretty when we got them 3 years ago, but the finish had chipped on several and some of the edges were peeling. My daughter helped me chip all the formica coating off with a razor blade.
I painted the tops with a heavy bonding primer and now I’m sketching scenes to paint on each one. We’re going to epoxy the tops when I’m finished, to make them durable. I have the first sketched out and ready to start painting.
I’m not nearly as brilliant an artist as my friend Jennie, who can sit down and while looking at nothing but the image in her head, make things just come alive from 2D white nothingness.
I have to do some planning first. I go look at my photos, outside, browse the web a bit. My kid even screen captured a bunch of stills from Red Dead Redemption II (they are really quite gorgeous!). I gather stuff I like, then start sketching out individual elements. Those I lay out on the table like a puzzle In putting together, so I can try the dog in different places, or move the cows to a different position on the fence. Once I’m happy with layout, I do a very quick drawing of the basic shapes or outlines to show them in their proper place. THEN I actually start re-drawing them on the table top.
Lol… I approach art like I’m writing a novel.
After I sketch everything, I take pictures of the sketch, in case I lose my bearings by painting over something. After all this, I finally start to paint. The painting part I think I actually approach like most painters- background, lights and shadows placement, layer details over all that.
Once paint is finished, I’ll let it cure for two weeks. Then it will go to my new She-shed and get a flood coat of epoxy over the top to protect the painting while we’re eating on it.
I don’t expect they’ll be all finished until next year, since this is more or less my nighttime TV watching project. I’ll try to remember to post pictures as I make progress.
When you’re hard gardening, you’re too busy to blog and when you aren’t, there’s not much gardening to blog about.
Again I haven’t posted anything in ages, which means I’m pretty much a fail as bloggers go. Thank the gods I don’t do this for money, all my sponsors would desert me.
My original idea for Dirt was to share projects I’m working on in the yard or garden. I was pretty good for a couple years about taking pictures and even writing down brief notes on what I was doing or how I did it so I could share later. We had 40 acres, but I only actually paid attention to about 3-5 of it, because the rest was steep wooded hills and valleys only accessible by hiking. My vegetable garden was the size of a postage stamp, our functional yard was not much bigger.
… then we moved HERE. Suddenly I have 40 acres that is almost all accessible by ATV, if not my regular vehicle. The garden is now “holy hell what do I fill all this space with sized”, there are hayfields, a pond and 5? outbuildings that all need some sort of attention. And ya’ll, I have freaking COWS. And we’re talking about getting MORE.
So in the 4 years we’ve been here, I’ve done a TON of stuff, but not much of it is all that garden blog worthy. And when there is something blog worthy, I’m often too busy doing the thing to consider blogging about it.
This is why I started adding crafting and painting projects- so my poor, neglected site isn’t just left to die.
I did take a picture of the pumpkins I grew this year and our dogs finding the only bit of shade in the garden while they waited on me to finish picking tomatoes.
Maybe when my daughter is grown, the outbuildings are finally organized and I’ve turned the front trailer into a She-shed- I’ll have time to really dedicate to blog. That’s probably a well intentioned lie though. By then, we may have decided we need to go off grid and have a full on hobby farm or something. I’ll be building windmills and not posting about how I built them.
At least you know I’m living my best life. 🙂
I’ll get something on here this fall/winter, even if it’s just remodels and painting projects. Until then. 🙂
Ok… I’ll give you two minutes for jokes in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….
Are you quite finished? Good. I had been paying for a the business add ons to Dirt and decided that it’s not really worth what WordPress is charging, so I had them revert things back a freebie site. Perhaps it is not quite as elegant as the previous version, but it’s $300 a year cheaper and I can’t say as I was getting anywhere NEAR that kind of value out of having it. So it’s gone the way of our cable TV. Poof. I don’t miss that either. Especially the news being on half the day. Ignorance is bliss this past year and a half.
I have noticed since the switch that some of the pictures on posts have broken, I’ll eventually try to find time to fix those, but there is a decades worth of posts here, so I may just get to it when I get to it (meaning possibly never). If you find a page that’s broken and it’s annoying you, then message me on FB and I’ll make fixing that one a priority.
That’s my exciting news for the week. I’m currently procrastinating cleaning house for the weekend. It’s going to be a very people-y weekend, with friends and family coming Saturday and then fireworks with the neighbors on Sunday. I will be completely exhausted and want to find myself a cave by Monday. I may need to go check trees or something random that requires wandering acres away from the house on Saturday. 🙂 I’ll just need a little alone time to recharge my batteries.
Haven’t done much yard except watering this past couple weeks, then it started raining and hasn’t stopped. My daughter blames the abundance spell I may or may not have cast while doing dishes. I should have been holding $20 bills or something instead. Yard is really just in maintenance mode from now until fall. I’m working on some crafts projects and trying to shuffle around things in the garage. Hopefully will have some paintings or something to post soon.
I did a really cool farm painting on a gourd for our neighbor on his birthday, I’m a goose and didn’t even get pictures of it before giving it away. It had cows and a barn and everything. I sketched out one last night, will maybe start painting on it this evening.
Ok… fine. Back to house cleaning. I’ll stop procrastinating.
Been a while since I’ve posted any kind of an update. I’m s-l-o-w-l-y trying to get gourds painted and I’ve got some new nettle salve in the crock pot as I write this, but it’s been months now since I’ve felt like doing much of anything.
Early March I landed myself in the Emergency Room twice in one week. Blood pressure sky high, having arm/shoulder/chest pain. Found out (after spending $6000 plus and going through many tests) that my heart was not the problem at all. I have degenerative disc disease in my neck, which was causing pain in my shoulders, down my arm, headaches, stiffness I didn’t even realize I had, oh yeah- and chest pain. Blood pressure is better now.
I spent a month doing therapy twice a week at Sullivan hospital. I didn’t have a great attitude going in to this- I’ve always thought therapy was just what the insurance company forced you to do so they could put off paying for surgery. First couple sessions were rough. I didn’t realize how weak my muscles had gotten from sitting around in chronic pain and not doing much unless it was from the couch. I’m back in the garden now, I’m digging and planting and doing all those things I love and it’s thanks to the Physical Therapists at Sullivan Hospital.
I couldn’t even turn my head all the way to the right when I went in there. My arm woke me up nightly, feeling like someone was stabbing me with a thousand little needles at once. I’d put ice on it ( the only thing that helped at all ) and try to fall back to sleep. Sometimes it worked, sometimes I didn’t. I haven’t had that since my 2nd week of therapy. My strength is starting to come back. I still have headaches, but not 24/7. I went in there feeling like it was hopeless. (My previous doctor had told me I was getting older and it was just to be expected, I needed to learn to live with it) Two weeks before I started therapy, I was writing letters to my daughter, telling her what I thought I’d like her know before I died. Yes, I felt THAT bad.
These girls gave me my life back. Now I’m not saying I still won’t have issues in the future- this is a degenerative condition and I expect time will not improve it, no matter how many stretches or exercises I do. But they gave me perhaps years before I reach the point of having to turn to surgery. They helped stop the chronic pain and the debilitating headaches.
It’s very hard to be creative or care about being creative when you are in constant pain. I feel like they de-aged me by years! And if any of you read this, I’m sorry I doubted you. I’ve never been to therapy. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve just heard people grumble about having to do it before surgery. I’m hoping to avoid surgery for as long as possible and I don’t function at all on pain meds, so this was my best alternative.
SO>>>> I’ll have new stuff coming out on the shop soon and new art to share and hopefully some more snazzy pictures of our new cows that I am not allowed to be friends with. 😉 I’m very glad to feel a bit more myself again.