In what may prove to be a huge mistake, I have allowed Oscar Wilde to move onto the shelf with American Maid and Edgar. There is almost certainly going to be a personality clash, possibly some terrible fights. However, Oscar is charming and persuasive and I just couldn't resist him, and I feel that at the very least, he will be comfortable annoying the others. I rather doubt he will improve the quality of their lives.
In honor of his arrival here are some of my favorite Oscar Wilde quotes:
One should play fair when one has the winning cards.
Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that it is impossible to count them correctly.
The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
I sometimes think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.
A true friend stabs you in the front.
There are two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.
Look carefully at the picture. If you are quite young and you have very good eyesight you will see a tiny patch of green in the upper portion of the garden bed, a little toward the right hand side. That tiny patch of green is lettuce. Why did I plant my lettuce seeds in one tiny bunch in one tiny section of a large raised bed, you may ask? I did not plant my lettuce in one tiny bunch in one tiny section of the large raised bed.
I had a helper, or rather an unhelper. My elderly German Shepherd decided to take a leisurely stroll through the lettuce bed after I had planted it. So here's your garden tip for the day. Don't hire elderly German Shepherds to help you in the garden, even though they will offer to work for dog food.
Actually dogs can help with the garden by chasing rabbits and other pests away. My old German shepherd also helps protect my chickens when they are free ranging (no, really it's true....although I wouldn't trust the younger one with them for one second). But they are no help at all when they are allowed anywhere near the garden beds because they don't quite get that some beds are beds for vegetables and not for dogs. Who wouldn't want a nice bed made entirely of dirt? Imagine the possibilities right after a bath!
Dogs can equally be helpers or unhelpers in the garden but you have to give them specific jobs and keep them exactly where you want them. Some gardeners put a little bit of electric wire around their garden beds or find some other way to separate the dogs from the garden beds. Small fences or edging will deter some dogs, but most dogs will be deterred by 3 or 4 foot chicken wire or livestock wire. (If you can't teach your dog not to jump over a 4 foot fence then perhaps you have dog training issues and not garden issues.) Dogs should remain fairly close to the garden without being able to go Godzilla on it, so they can still manage to take care of a lot of the garden pests that eat your vegetables, either by eating them or simply scaring them.
Cats can also fall into either category. I had a terrible problem with voles when I did not have an outside cat. I went out to the garden one morning to admire my David Austin rose, The Prince, a lovely full, dark red rose; it looked stunning with two full roses and one dark blood red bud, a prince indeed. It set my heart aflutter, but when I touched it, it toppled to the ground, rootless. That dear friends is work of the devil's little helpers, the voles. It's a dreadful thing to discover that your seemingly healthy plant is a mere corpse. However, now that I have outside cats, voles find themselves to be the eatees not the eaters. (I occasionally find a the dead body of a vole in an inappropriate place, like under the buffet or stuffed in a box to rot...but I suppose that falls under a different category of unhelping.)
So cats too have their place in the garden. My biggest problem with cats is the fact that when they smell the composted manure, they think "litter box." I believe they really appreciate the fact that I go to so much work to provide them with enormous outdoor toilets. Right now, for reasons comprehensible only to the minds of cats, they only use two of my flower beds as litter boxes and they leave the vegetables unmolested. I don't understand, but I am grateful. I don't have any helpful hints on preventing cats from doing anything that cats want to do. If anyone has any tips for that...then perhaps you should be using your super powers to do something more important than keeping cats out of my garden.
We will cover the garden helpers/unhelpers known as chickens later as they rate their own page and finally discuss the biggest helpers/unhelpers of all family members.
Pictured below: the culprit. Do not let this dog near your lettuce bed! You can imagine what those feet would do to your poor little seeds.
Here is a picture from behind the front lines at the battle for the vegetable garden. This is a tea plant (Camellia Sinensis). I was talked into said tea plant during my visit to the Callaway Garden plant sale.
Each year I resolve to go to the plant sale and sensibly buy the things I actually need; plants for which I have a spot that needs to be filled. Plants which help me fulfill my garden plan. Each year, I come back with all sorts of oddities that I somehow decided I must have after being talked into them by excited vendors...people who LOVE these plants and assure me I can't live without them. I always buy at least two or three of these totally unnecessary, can't live without them, fantasy plants. And are they miniatures? Of course not.
This year I bought the tea plant ( a small shrub or tree really) and a fig tree that needs a twelve foot spread. I then came home and wandered about the yard holding my plastic pots with gangly plants, looking for any place they might actually fit. Should I put the fig in by the house? No, I think the Oak Leaf hydrangea will just swallow it...it's well on it's way to swallowing the house. Down by the cherry tree? Nope...too big. Behind the barn? Blake will just complain about mowing around it. At the back of the field? Nope...don't want to fight the blackberries and Lord knows I would never water it. This is the little game I play after the plant sale. Buy first, think about whether you need it second! Like any good American, this is my motto.
Anyway, back to the camellia sinensis: when asked, the vendor told me that tea plants can grow quite tall, around 10 feet or so, but could be kept pruned to a smaller height if desired. He forgot to mention that in addition to desire, time and energy would be required. Of course, what am I worried about....have I ever let a plant escape my control? (Does this picture of the tea plant hide the raspberries?)
Anyway, since it is a food plant, I decided to put it in the vegetable garden on the corner, in the hopes that I can and will keep it pruned to the correct size for its spot. You may be wondering whether this is a good idea since the tea plant may get quite large and might overshadow the vegetables. But have no fear. I put it in a corner of the garden so the sun will pass in front of it all day and it won't shade the other plants. I think along with a few other vertical accents, it will anchor the garden and make it aesthetically pleasing as well as hopefully producing some tea.
Now all I have to worry about is the deer. They seemed to really enjoy the last camellia I bought. I assume so anyway since they ate it to the ground. I put cedar branches around the tea plant every night to keep them from destroying it. Will that work? I don't know. I can't imagine it would be fun to try to eat a cedar branch.
Anyway, I hope it keeps the whole thing from playing out like does in my mind. (See Below for one of my Morbid Gardening Fantasies.)
First Deer: Oh, I say Reginald, is that tea I spy? Right there, in the vegetable garden old chap.
Second Deer: Why Archibald, I believe it is tea.
First Deer: Reginald, wouldn't you say it was about tea time?
Second Deer: Archibald, that's the very thing! Let's have a spot of tea, shall we?
First Deer: Indubitably.
Watch this space to see if my morbid gardening fantasies come true or if I manage to outsmart the deer.