01/28/2023 purple cliffbrake fern spores

Mom gave me some native Great Plains fern spores recently and on Saturday, Paula and I sort of followed these online directions to start our attempt at germination.

The containers have all been run through the dishwasher at some point. Then I stirred up potting soil (“seed starting mix” chosen because someone gave me a bag of it and I wanted to use it up) with water to create the sloppy mud the above webpage describes.
Microwaving the sloppy soil to sterilize it, sort of.
We did reach temperatures higher than the instructions suggested for sterilization,but didn’t microwave for a long time. So I’m going to say “we’ll see” and move on.
While the soil cooled (Paula set it outside to help it along), I started trying to coax spores from the undersides of the fern leaves using the dissecting scope at 1x and very fine forceps. Turns out there’s a lot of stuff in the big brown spots. I didn’t do the 10% bleach wash suggested in the directions.
I suspect these round spots (circled in red) are the spores and the other little bits are debris from the brown sporangia.
I had to go but Paula kindly finished the process by dusting all the spore containing dust onto the very wet soil surface and sealing it up. It’s now sitting in the guest room with the baby peppers and patient basil. The light there is on and off 12 hrs a day.

01/24/2023 unauthorized entry

I was putting some books on my desk shelf this evening when in my peripheral vision I noticed more purple plant growing light visible than should be. I keep a towel over it to protect our eyes.
I examined the gap in the cover more closely and realized Shackleton was curled up contentedly on the heating pad, which is set to a cozy 85 degrees F. There’s even a bit of dust (spilled potting soil).
Shackleton napping peacefully with the last unsprouted pepper pot, bathed in a purple glow.
Busted, buddy. The nice thing about this tray is that I can slide it out to check on seedlings AND clever cats.
He did a big back arching stretch of casual innocence.
Shackleton emerges from his vacation tray, complete with unnecessary UV exposure. 🙄
Paula moved Shacks back to his actual cat heating pad on the couch. I put a bunch of empty pots in the tray with the one seedling pot and put more up in front of the towel-curtain, as well as a series of inconvenient containers. Hopefully this will persuade Shacks to stick to his heated bed or at least clogging up our amplifier with his hair.

01/16/2023 creating a special caliche/barrens habitat in containers

Visited home last weekend and Mom and Dad kindly let us take home some calcareous soil from an already disturbed area – the “lake”.
I had planned to shovel the soil but they kindly offered the much easier method of front-end loader. 🙂 We did scrape in a few small little bluestems and other plants that I have kept!
Since the soil was heavy, I carefully moved it into a bucket I could lift, and also searched for those little plants I mentioned got scraped in.
Paula and I put careful layers of soil and water to get it compact in the planters by the front door.
Paula smoothed them nicely and added water.
You can see the plants I found in the background, sitting on the porch. This is the final picture with a dusting of cactus/succulent/citrus potting soil on top.
Shackleton helped me sort the calcareous soil/barrens specialist seeds that Mom gave me.
Here are all the seeds in place with little markers! I also put one each little bluestem in the pot, a possible Oldplainsman in each, and a mystery round-leafed green plant. We’ll see what they become!
I did the two planters symmetrical but mirror images since they are on either side of the porch. Fingers crossed we get some sprouts in the spring!

01/17/2023 first peppers up!

Shackleton and Tuqu are eager to assist in examination of seedlings.
Tuqu the tortie cat sticks her whole head in a  recycled yogurt container used as a pot, while Shackleton the gray and white very puffy but still short haired cat looks on.
Three varieties of peppers have sprouted! This kind of help is why they (the plants, not the cats) are going immediately to the cat free guest room.
The Chimayó seedling has extremely fuzzy roots! Maybe because there was humidity trapped by the yogurt container lids? I have removed the lids now so they can get air flow to prevent damping off.

01/09/2023 indoor lights for basil and seedlings

I got tired of competing with cats for limited shelf space with still-insufficient sunlight. So I got a plant growing light from online! I’m hoping it will perk up the sad basils which have been spending too much time in the garage and are a pain for us to tote in and out of the garage and house for sunny afternoons. This is safely away from cats in the guest room. Once the peppers and other seedlings are up, they will also get this good strong light.

01/02/2023 pots and pets outdoors

After last year’s failed veggie seedlings due to root rot and damping off fungus, I drilled 4-5 big holes in all the pots.
I am hoping to start a lot in the yogurt containers and build up the soil around the stems, reducing the amount of repotting for the plants that can root from the stem like peppers and tomatoes and their relatives.
Briar was bored while we did the annual pruning of the dwarf fruit trees.
Shackleton got a leash walk all around the backyard (he’s exploring the prairie here) AND the front yard. Wow!

12/2022 heavy duty garden cart!!

New boxes. Gram stands on the cart box while Tuqu investigates some pet toys.
Briar discovers some assembly required.
Briar lets humans assemble the cart. Humans have thumbs.
The Chef alarms Shackleton by cruising by. Zoom in on his eyes.
Shackleton actually liked his cart ride once he settled in. He got to look at things and the dog didn’t get near.
Gram was nervous about his ride and left his tail hanging out the whole time.
First test of cart! We moved this rock from the irises to the rainbow garden.
Briar says boring. But leaves are nice to sit in.
Current state of the side yard. Lots of good sticks and leafy habitat for insects.
The front door/garage nook keeps sinking in as the tree roots decay. We moved soil from the backyard mystery berms (a later post will feature this progress) to fill this in.
Needs one more load for this year probably. You can see I raked the top layer of soil that probably had most of the Euphorbia maculata and Melothria pendula vine seeds to the side so I can put that layer back over the top once we have filled it back in. anyway, an excellent test of the cart! A big success!

12/2022 backlog of infrastructure and little babies

Yesterday, 12/31, I finally glued on the rain barrel cap holders that the Chef 3D printed for me! I used epoxy after cleaning both surfaces with ethanol.
Paula got solar powered outdoor lights for Christmas and has used them to make the path to the compost visible! Edit: thanks to Mom for inquiring if we can turn the lights out. Yes we can! It’s important not to pollute the dark with more light than we use at any given moment.
I am hoping these tiny seedlings are the annual bluets that sometimes grow in this part of the yard. Keeping an eye on them.
A tinier potential annual bluet seedling next to the comparatively large wild geraniums. These two pictures were 12/31/2022.
12/28/2022, the Ratibida columnifera rosettes survived the big cold!
Two Verbena halei rosettes also exist and made it!
Finally, and very thrilling, two potential Penstemon oklahomensis seedlings! They don’t appear to be hairy leaves like some other common seedling volunteers. Stay tuned.
Shackleton enjoyed a leashed walk in the same excellent 12/28 weather.
Jeanne kindly sent us some Salaginella riddellii- Riddell’s Spike-Moss. We put the biggest chunk in the rainbow garden (in green of course) on 12/25.
We put a smaller piece of the spike moss in the cactus planter.
12/25 was so nice we also moved some volunteers. This is the big root of a poke berry! We moved those along the back fence where another pokeberry lives. We also moved several ampelopsis from random spots in the yard to along the south fence trellis.
A blackjack oak acorn with a sprout on it! We planted this exciting find (12/24) into a pot on 12/25. Fingers crossed for a spring sprout.
Judy gave us an adorable toad house! I have placed it near the veggie beds. Please come eat our earwigs, toad friends.
12/24 checking the pot containing Sedum nutallii from Jeanne. The sedums seem to have made it along with Verbena rosettes (V. Halei??) and other intriguing volunteers.
Going somewhere! Wow!! Happy briar in the car.
On 12/24 we visited the lake at Lexington WMA. This seasonal creek was frozen solid! The lake was too. Briar wears her hunter orange.
After the deep freeze, only the top tips of the recently transplanted rosemary got frozen. They were pressed down by the sheets. But the sheets protected the rest of the plant!

12/31/2022 turning compost, turning new year

It was a beautiful day yesterday so Paula wanted to turn the compost! I fetched our pitchfork which is from Mom and Dad. The Chef created a new handle and stick for it.
The back, older pile may be ready by spring! Weirdly it was drier, though. We set up some hoses to direct water from the closest rain barrels to both piles now, since it’s not good to leave water in the barrels when it might freeze.
A very fast rollypolley!
Paula adeptly captured this woodroach. It’s a North American native genus! For those worried about roaches in the house, I’ve never seen one in the house. This is an outside only friend, doing its ecological role of nutrient cycling by munching on detritus (here, in the compost- just what we need for veggie waste to be turned into good rich soil!). It’s the invasive and introduced-by-European-settlers (presumably accidentally) roaches that are human-associated, such as the German Cockroach.
The tragic face of a dog not allowed in the compost area. She likes to eat eggshells. There’s also a great stash of feral cat poop down behind the house in the leaves. For Briar’s sake, please keep your cats indoors. She might be allowed a chance at the eggshells if there wasn’t cat poop!!

12/22/2022 definitely no birds only leaves

I put out bird seed since it’s so cold and a flock of a dozen or so juncos visited. They never came when we first moved here- they needed the cover of the wood pile and later the brush pile.
I put the seeds on the stepping stones and by the brush pile especially to make it easier and safer.
Shackleton might have noticed the birds. The birds say any and all movement was leaves! Definitely no birds!! Fortunately for them, this polar explorer is indoors only except on a leash. Much safer for birds and warmer for Shacks.