30 May 2010

strawberries sing sometimes too, in their field spots.

for the second friday night in a row, i traveled to oley for more green of reasons, after work. last weekend involved my trip to glick's greenhouse. this friday's early evening episode claimed strawberry picking, as the seed-speckled red fruit began to pique during the week.

following handwritten signs has its charms, i believe, compared to trailing some more precisely made ones. there's something ultimately wholesome about the un-manufactured writing crafted by a brushstroke incorporating the hue of the almighty may-ready berry.

my eventual destination ended as 516 oyerstdale road at the beatiful property known as oley valley organics

i referenced the farm and barb dietich recently in a post about ladybugs. the farm not long ago earned a grant from the pennsylvania department of agriculture for its new path to organic program for 2010.

the time available for strawberry picking is short but sweet. at oley valley organics, you can buy already arranged quarts of strawberries, or you can take the time to pick your own among rows and rows of the luciously delightful and dainty treats.

while learning about organically versus non-organically raised food in the past, especially while researching stories on the subject for some past newspaper articles i wrote, i repeatedly heard that the naturally cared for style led to a better overall taste and more  flavor evident.

after popping a few of the freshly rinsed strawberries into my mouth, once i was home for the night, i suddenly understood how true that opinion-turned-seeming-fact is. maybe it's because i haven't had ripe, local fruit in so long, that it just tasted too perfect. but perhaps the lack of pesticides and chemicals used on the crop is why i swooned for the bites of wonderful flavor.

dietrich was considerate enough to let me come pick strawberries after regular business hours, since i can't leave my job until most 9-5 places are closed.

she also kindly took my fur child for a walk around the stretch of land, as i brought him along since he'd been cooped up all day in the house, and i figured he deserved some good, open air. unfortunately, he of course went wild nose-wise and wanted to trample the green-made patches but appeared to feel happily invigorated in puppy-speak by the trip around the yard with dietrich.

a friend had planned to accompany me for the berry picking, but after a rough day at her own job, she resorted to going home instead for some time away from the world. as a usually private type myself, i could relate. after leaving the farm, i dropped off a quart of strawberries at her house to cheer her up with the bright red food hype.

then last night, the tables turned, and i had a sour evening, a bad night of sorts. this afternoon, she left two containers of french vanilla ice cream at my doorstep, decorated the dulcet way with some of the strawberries i'd passed along to her. 

i didn't spoon up the dessert yet but fully intend to tomorrow on my first authentic day off in months, excluding the exception of last sunday. with the projected 90-some degree weather ahead and my new kiddie pool of today, along with that ice cream, tomorrow should be a delectable one. 

edit for monday, 31 may 2010-- i am downing the strawberry persuaded french vanilla ice cream ! 

holy yum to my morning ! ice cream is excusable for breakfast in my world.

and that little fur child is still trying to figure out how to get over his distaste of intimidating gathers of water for the sake of cooling off from this heat !

oh berries. they go better with the happy beats of vampire weekend.

and here is a small hint of the strawberries now ripe and bordering my tiny veggie garden. my friend evelyn picked them  while the sun was still baking down in late day. many of my strawberries are malformed (i should research why !), with still more knawed out by bugs. but i'm actually surprised about how many were untainted and ready to eat, compared to the pre-nibbled supply from last year.

i don't usually offer my dog much in the way of human food, but i did let him eat the first ripe strawberry of the garden this season. the little mass almost confused him, and he kept dropping it in the grass, but he finally gulped it down.

24 May 2010

ladybugs, menbugs.

several months ago, i conjured up hopes of writing about ladybugs, in gratitude of their peculiar late winter behavior. 

 ( all the visual compliments seen below 
are scenes from the office portion 
of the barn at my place of work. )

i researched very lightly about this topic but absorbed in only a few brain-swigs just how fascinating these polka-dotted types are.

with its title omitted, below are the bulk of lines to a poem i wrote a week or two before the season could claim march as its  month. 

in need of a good excuse to build up the bones of a poem (or something language-filled,  puffed with speech) during those blustery days, i took away some speaking-in-lines inspiration from my brevity-made education on the miniature legged ladies and gents.


around noon, he asks me if i know
anything about the winter nesting

habits of ladybugs. he suspects
that my brain is a search engine

about nature—about small creatures
that swarm in gardens in the warmer

months, but he notices their proclivity
for hiding near icy-feeling windowsills

in late february. i tell him that they
survive on their own body fat during

chilled times but that they will likely
dehydrate and spill as a quiet

and unmoving graveyard on cold-painted
wood before the heat of spring breaks

into song through dirty panes of glass.
i tell him not to shoo them away

because when frightened, they expel
their yellow-hued blood, which can

stain the walls they walk on, if the walls
are light-colored. the ladybugs, those

who are alive by march and april, will
dig or fly their way outdoors when

the confusion of this snow-stomped
season melts into only rain and scents

of new growth. 



much of the referencing work in the poem is from the ladybug lady, which i found to be a charming web-made resource.

an unfortunate but still visually curious eye-scoop is that of any ladybug graveyard. 

the information posted to the ladybug lady site made sense of so many factors behind the late winter tendencies of the wee ones.

back in the summer of 2008, i wrote a series on vendors at the local farmers market for the boyertown area times. i suddenly recalled the farmers of oley valley organics noting that they use ladybugs as beneficial insects to fight off the crop devestation of aspargus beetles. 

the original story introducing oley valley organics to the community's readers is still available here.

i soon contacted barb and mike dietrich to ask them for more insight about ladybugs in the role of beneficial insects with organic farming. 

barb responded with wonderfully helpful knowledge, first offering a bit of her own flavor to the concept of ladybugs harboring indoors each year.

"as a side note, we have always had ladybugs in our house even during the winter," dietrich said. "i enjoy seeing a few in the cold of winter-- to me, it means spring is just around the corner."

"i was told that the older generations think this is good luck,"dietrich added.

in terms of pestering away pesky critters in farm production, dietrich and her husband are happy to send ladybugs to their crops' rescue. 

"ladybug eggs are small, white,  and laid in clusters," dietrich conveyed, "probably about the size of  a pencil eraser."

they seem to favor laying their eggs in the dietrich's strawberry patch,  as nature would have it.

a few weeks ago, the dietrich family released 35,000 ladybugs to help battle the devastation possible by asparagus beetles. the masses of ladybugs, when tightly fit together, only took up the space of a half gallon container.

in a previous instance, the family released 75,000 ladybugs across the expanse of their two-acre field.

"the ladybugs did a great job, but once their food source was gone, a lot of them moved on to search for food elsewhere," dietrich said. "we were fortunate to find some of them in our other crops as well."

"we also saw lots of ladybug eggs on the farm, which was good to combat the next round of beetles and other non-beneficial  bugs," dietrich explained.


a few weeks ago, i noticed a lone ladybug perched on a pink petal in my garden, nibbling on an aphid among an overwhelmingly depressing amount of the damaging insects which were merrily devouring my goldflame honeysuckle. oh how i cheered the lone ladybug onward, bite by bite ! 

dietrich in response suggested spraying a soapy mixture onto the plant to help discourage the aphids. i still need to attack that task ! but my admiration for ladybugs' chomping skills have skyrocketed since my recent stint of education on the helpful not to mention eye-sweet, rotund creatures.

20 May 2010

a brief spin of a tour of the garden center: part 3.

at the suggestion of a haiku blogger, i am tossing in some short cuts of nature-made poems between my plant rantings. i do love this idea and have been pretty much having a ball with it.

stubby fork prongs gone
pink, dianthus, you tap your 
way toward sunlight

the pond by the barn is finally shoving some flowers upward from its lily pads. at the water level is duckweed, a viciously spreading groundcover for pond surfaces, and some hornwort, an oxygenator.

amethyst falls wisteria climbs up this miniature wooden trellis. wisteria has a vine habit but with much meticulous effort on the part of a gardener can be trained into a tree. i've seen one near steinmetz road and swamp pike in limerick, and it always looks like fluffy lilac-hued grapes are dangling from the shaped tree.

people often come in and ask me why their wisteria did not flower. usually the culprit is having pruned them back too hard. it's safer to wait until it blooms to then prune it instead of prior, or you might cut off the sections ready to bear the flowers. jeopardizing the blooms by early pruning just doesn't seem worth it ! patience and late pruning is more likely a helper. 

chionoides is a white-flowering rhododendron.

yellowed freckles in 
a powder crawl out of plush
shade-pulling moments

nova zembla is a deep&dark pink-flowering rhododendron, thriving vibrantly in acidic soil and limited shade exposure.

stoplight coral bells are a unique throw of color compared to the usual purple and bronze-y more common coral bells. they are tinier from the start with blood-like soaked-looking centeral veins, but bright and definitely a quick seller as yet another shade lover.

iris lately remind me of floppy, ephemeral drinking-ware.

these iris i deem as cupped with sunlight.

this is either coppertina or centerglow ninebark. i can't quite remember which. a spring flowering shrub, it spills bright brownish red foliage throughout the season in a nice, heaping mound that usally reaches 5-6 feet if not closer to 8 feet high.

some euonymus is perched around an abandoned mailbox by the front of the barn since a newer but still ancient mailbox sits across the street in regular usage. the barn is from 1811, so just think of how sturdy that stone has been since then. it's almost unreal pondering that those who made it have been gone from this earth for so long. picturing anyone crafting a building centuries ago just baffles me, but it draws my respect for the workers' efforts just as well.

here glows the underside of a copper beach tree.

mohave pyracantha, a firethorn shrub, thrusts out little white bubbles of blooms in spring and later produces bright orange berries that contrast suitably against the leaves later in the season. they are also fabulous for keeping children out of your yard, or out of certain areas, as they are full of pickery thorns. ouch ? firethorn, hm.

a red barberry (pickery as well) of some cultivar, but again, i'm not sure which. 

an opposing-hued yellow-y green barberry thrives on the more abandoned side of the barn cozied a few feet to the left of that stone-crawling euonymus . 

while pulling wild honeysuckle out of the low-running bamboo around the pond, one of our weekend workers discovered a robin's egg nest hidden in the mess of invasive plants. awh !

nest-nuzzled speckles 
soaked into bits of ciel-
shell-- salut, small eggs

i haven't seen the beautifully decorated shells of robin's eggs since i was a little kid. they are an eye-delight still.

until another installment ! 

15 May 2010

celebrating a feminine-whimmed language thrower a century and some coins later.

i am not one to give attention to days of birth, but for some reason, death dates seem to stick to my bones. a few months ago, i was reading up briefly on the life of emily dickinson. at that time, it provoked a poem out of me.

she died the 15th of may in 1886 after 55 years of skipping her toes across this earth.

this quaint little poem of hers has always kept its place in my shirt pocket (heart ?), as if i often had one stitched overtop of my daily apparel. not so, but i have always adored the poem and its simplicity nonetheless.

I hide myself within my flower,
That wearing on your breast,
You, unsuspecting, wear me too --
And angels know the rest.

I hide myself within my flower,
That, fading from your vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me
Almost a loneliness.


and then, in honor of the word-witted one, here is my late night penned poem about her from this past march in the hypothetical if-if-if styles of past u.s. poet laureates billy collins and ted kooser.

envy & emily dickinson

i would ask her what crumb of food
she first nibbled after greeting

the sun of morning through a bleary pane of glass framed
as her bedroom window on a certain thursday in july. so many

questions, i would  have for emily.
what profanity did she squeal

when her lips sunk down on the rim of a hand-fashioned mug
of tea boiled too hot, sipped too soon ? ms. dickinson, what

stood as her record for the longest
stretch of time without seeing

another human being ? days, weeks, more than that ? did she walk
around barefoot less than shoed ? funerals under her skull, did

they tell her the poems she wrote
would one day grace bookstore

shelves across an overpopulated country a century and some
coins later ? to air, i am always inquiring as to the specific kind

of flower she intended to have
hidden herself in, pinned to the fabric

of a nineteenth century, long ago disintegrated shirt, perhaps
fictionalized, this garment, its wearer too. during the grey dead

of earth in chilled winter
months, i suspect she tucked

her heart beneath uneven floorboards, dusty and creaking with
each footfall away from the probing of the outside world.

2010. jrh.

13 May 2010

planters, life therapy, the works.

my car is an all-wheel drive plant cart. the floor mats are always dotted with spilled soil from when plants fall over on my way home from work. but the more plants to take up space, the less to topple over. that must mean i should always buy enough plants to fill up the passenger's side floor ! or something like that, perhaps.

my mystery coreopsis, bright and sun-dipped, is still sitting in its pot, waiting to deserve a home tucked into my garden. behind it is a market pack of alyssum with its light yet sweet aroma.


the gerbera daisy is all too tempting each may. i purchased one pink, one orange, and one yellow.

a squiggly annual grass adds a great contrast in texture in planters with a mix of flower-sprawling persuasions. who can say no to the corkscrews that occur by default in nature ?

what's the visual metaphor here ? i'm not saying it !

the three gerbera daisy are nestled into three different planters i finished early this evening while multi-tasking thanks to a phone call. i also weeded a good amount of my flowerbeds while the phone stuck to my ear with my one taken hand.


and apparently, i am a messy gardener with a hazy set of plant-babies thrown around.

once the planters fill out and look a little more showy, i'll camera those up. the porch's planters still need to be done. 

working with the plant children is always so damn cathartic and riles the good feelings ! it seems trite, i've said it that much lately. but it's not. no matter what, it's always a complete charm juxtaposed with the lesser attractive details of life and work, the stress-soaked minutes away from letting fingers dance in wet soil.

the denim wave petunia and splotchy blotchy mimulus will find homes in those rectangles of soil. and of course, everything else around the yard is still a work in progress, but the lawn is freshly mowed. small successes each week are still successes.

12 May 2010

a brief spin of a tour of the garden center: part 2.

denim wave petunia, a new variety ? a bit like jeans, sure.

the fothergilla are well out of spiked blooms, but their unique texture was a pulling sight a few weeks ago.

pewter veil coral bells need a good bit of shade and are a nice white-dipped purple foliage compared to the usual bronze glazed palace purple corall bells. the fern is trying to sneak in some attention too.

this tinkerbell lilac is in terry schwenk's front yard. a more petite, pink lilac-- another charmer in late spring via shrub ways.

also close to the roadside thanks to terry's yard is an orange deciduous azalea, probably the gibraltar cultivar. it is still small and had just a few, blushing fire&flame blooms.

olga rhododendron, now just evergreen leaves.

and another annual after those denim petunia, seemingly slightly picky, is mimulus. these speckled petals reel me in every time ! they bring out my wow talkings.

ever so spotty, they gush of what i'll interpret as lovelove from nature's paintbrush strokes and splatterings.

a brief spin of a tour of the garden center: part 1.

next to the door at the garden center, on either side, a clematis crawls up the old wood of the barn. to the right is a dark purple, four or five petaled variety which is not yet beyond bud form. but to the right, this puffy light lavender clematis is poking the air with its beauty.

the vine has been growing in this location for many years. i searched for it online and concluded that it is probably the bell of woking clematis. many visitors have thrown around compliments about it, spilling their awe at the sight of it. 

i finally did take one request for it. so i'm waiting to hear back from our main grower to see if it's something we can get easily, locally.

most azalea have shed their blooms at this point. but some of my square-allured digital pieces of nature are from the past week or two. 

this deodar cedar is rooted to the left of the barn, toward the back. the top of it is missing, although that's probably not noticeable from this view. a few years ago, lighting struck it and knocked the top off. so it's kind of flat toward the top, but it's a charmer nonetheless, and ever so leggy.

 salut du matin, dahlia !