Monday, September 15, 2008

Detecting a Real Fall Trend Here ...

This past weekend certainly had all the harbingers of fall in sway ... with cool, rainy days and nights, and as we experienced today, some of the very windy, remnants of Ike blew through. I saw on the regional radar last night that a few former outer bands of Ike's stormy weather were actually passing through the SE corner of the state, into Illinois and beyond. I suspect that more than a few midwestern gardeners also noticed these effects as well... Indeed, Fall is creeping quickly on to the gardening scene around Casa IVG, as the rest of this post will show, I hope....

Anyway, as you can now see, the Chrysalis has now been officially vacated ... it must have been sometime Thursday (when last we checked it) overnight or during the day Friday, which was a very rainy day and night here ... in any case we wish her/him well on the journey ahead, and hope s/he comes back next year and brings friends! I guess I know instinctively what's coming ahead in the season, and with the imminent departure of the butterflies, it's near certain proof that it's time to quit boating in denial, and just accept it.

The Praying Mantises are still around and quite visible, especially on the aphid infested Heliopsis (aka: Yellow Rogue) out by the shed. Both Fernymoss and I got shots of this guy at work, but I liked this series that Fernymoss got, so his photos won out. Just a Saturday afternoon session at the Lunch Counter for this lucky Mantis pal of ours ... and most days if we take a good look around, we can usually see this or one of his friends hanging out as well. I hope they do realize that they are the only reason why these Heliopsis haven't been dug/ripped out of the ground by now. Fortunately those aphids don't migrate to our other plants, and we've decided that the Mantises definitely have had something to do with that. Anyway, as most now know, we're tickled to have these guys in the garden ... we think they may be here to stay now that we've two full years of Mantis Guard....

Out in the savage back veggie garden, Punkinstein is still running amok and now crawling over the fence we have up to keep the dogs out (it doesn't work well with Pepa!), and into the back yard. They're still blooming prolifically, and are producing a few pumpkins --unless there are some as yet undiscovered ones, which is possible-- but we're assured we'll have at least two small ones ... now the question is whether they will fully ripen to orange by Halloween. We went grocery shopping today and saw they already had pumpkins for sale, but I somehow suspect they came from another place, because I'd find it hard to believe Iowa grown pumpkins would be that ripe already ... anyway, time will tell. Now, what might Pepa be peering through the fencing to see?
Yep, it's one of Punkinstein's progeny lying just on the other side of the fence, and when I looked at this new one last time, I recall it was about baseball sized, and now look at it! I'm sure they appreciated all the cool, rainy weather we've had for the last week and have really been (literally) soaking it up. Even though the veggie garden has been a savage jungle the last month or so, we're really proud of two of our more unusual growing attempts ... we had several rows of our own, organic corn that gave us several good meals, and now we seem primed to have our own organic Halloween pumpkins as well! The corn stalks are starting to dry on their own, and the few tardive ears that have developed --since we stopped harvesting a week or so ago-- will be shucked and left to whatever critters in the yard may want them. I suspect the tree rats will likely be the recipients, but I wouldn't mind if a raccoon happened through and found them ... one of our mild concerns with the corn was that we'd lose it to raccoons, but if they've been around, they have either been very discreet in thievery or respectful ... in either case, we got a crop out of it, and have even more Halloween decorations drying out back...
Though this is anything but a 'fall' flower, the abundance of fiery orange certainly suggests (ok, it screams) autumn hues. Both 'Sun Showers' and 'Erin Rachel' (more on them in another post) were blooming abundantly this weekend, and both of us ended up taking very similar shots of them (though independently of each other!), and we both focused on getting close ups of this particular bud, with another open bloom in the background. Both sets turned out pretty well, but I selected this one from Fernymoss' because I liked the detail and the overall composition ... aren't those buds as delectable as the open flowers? I have to say, 'Sun Showers' is the most spectacular tropical hibiscus I've ever owned (even when pitted against the double blooming red Chinese one I had through college and grad school), and it was worth every bit of its high end price of $45! You can bet we'll be pampering these two more this winter to keep them happy, and even perhaps blooming! Anyway, such vibrant orange leads to thinking of Halloween, which then leads to thinking of Halloween themed colors, such as black....
While I was out looking for the Chrysalis yesterday, I spotted this spider working her web in the vicinity of the now-voided chrysalis ... I can't provide a positive ID on her, but she looks a lot like that one I posted a while back (the one who was carrying her little ones). In any case, when I shot her, she was pretty mellow (Fernymoss tried later and scared her a bit), so I was able to get up fairly close. Hmm, spiders, fall, black after orange ... there is definitely a fall trend going on here.

As the garden winds down, inevitably, there are still bright spots to be seen, mostly among the remaining annuals you'll see over the coming days ... some of the perennials (namely the Ligularia dentata) are still in full swing --yay Toad Lilies! Yay Queen Rudbeckia!-- but the general trend is definitely on the winding down side of the cycle. I picked a few tomatoes yesterday and they're ripening much too slowly with this recent cool weather, but are still tasting pretty good ... my miserable peppers are now rebounding (too little, too late), but I still hold out few hopes to see much from them. So we were blessed by the garden gods in some respects and eh, slighted in others? Such is the gardening cycle we play every year ... we play with what we're dealt, and given the unusual nature of this particular summer, I think we still came out pretty well, all things considered. At this point, we're still pretty pleased, despite the onslaught of weeds this wet summer brought upon us....

I'm sure no one saw this coming ... Halloween Full Bore is nearly upon us here at Casa IVG. As long time readers already know, this is our big decorating event of the year (aside from Christmas blogging). While we were out shopping today, we made one of our periodic trips to Big Lots, one of those stores we like to check out every couple of months or so, just to see what they have ... and where we can often pick up many grocery items we'd pay more for at the regular places.

Of course, they had all their Halloween regalia on display, but aside from the usual items astute Halloween shoppers see, this particular item, 'Mr. Foggy, Mist Making Skull,' caught my eye, imagination and $20. It's actually a quite fun --and different-- Halloween decoration that does something ... it produces ample water vapor illuminated by interior LEDs. So I thought I'd include this short video just for fun ... I think you'll get an idea of what it does, even from this rudimentary set up. What we really intend to do with it is a bit more thematic ... some gravel, rocks, bones and other items placed around it. But I couldn't resist showing it off as it gave one of its début performances. After a while, it actually makes a nice, quiet gurgling ambient sound, but what you'll hear most prominently is the sound of Rolly panting in the background ... this recent weather with so much humidity in the air hasn't been kind to either humans or animals, but it too will pass soon...

Update on other matters: In case anyone was wondering what I was up to this weekend, other than neglecting the blog, I was very much involved with searching out and testing various programs to produce the Urban Oasis Calendar 2009. After upgrading to the most recent version of my photo editing software, I realized that it really lacks the capabilities to produce the kind of calendar we want to do, so I went hunting on the tubes to see what I could find that would do what we want to do. After testing out about a dozen or so programs (all rejected for one reason or another), I've almost come to a decision, and it may be a somewhat costly one, but still ... We want to produce a quality product we can proudly give our friends and family.

At this point, I still have a couple of other programs I want to check out, but I'm tending toward the higher end (e.g. expensive) solution offered by SmartDraw. It has the kind of ultimate hands on control of all options of the calendar I want to be able to manipulate, but it comes at a price ($99.00 US) ... we'll see what wins out, but at any rate I wanted to say that we're working on the calendar in the background, and it's pretty certain that it will happen eventually (I'd like to have it wrapped by mid-November). Fernymoss has been busy of late compiling some really cool and helpful enviro-friendly tips about pest control and other topics ... we'll also be including all the usual (and unusual) holidays, as well as the moon phases, and even more that Fernymoss will probably contribute. We've got the basic layout (depending on the software I choose) established at this point, and some preliminary photos have been identified, so it's just a matter of time ... and software chosen to do the job! I'll keep you updated....

And, as I've said before, if anyone would like to nominate particular pictures they've liked over this year, feel free to point them out in the comments ... we've got each month mapped out provisionally, but are certainly still open to suggestions. Depending on what software I eventually choose, we can probably include multiple images on certain pages (cover, interior page, back cover), so if anyone has any favorites, let us know!


Roses and Lilacs said...

I love the smoking skull! Halloween has fallen out of favor lately, but I think it is a fun excuse to get dressed up (kids and grownups), decorate with weird stuff, and overindulge in candy;)

Shady Gardener said...

IVG, I'm sure I heard Pepa breathing. :-) I'm so glad your Monarch actually "hatched!" I was getting a bit worried. That's a great picture, right there! A little cropping to bring it in a little closer... Nice spider, too.

Good luck on your decision- and calendar-making! :-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
Glad you liked the skull! It was just too cool to pass up, and unlike those fog machines they sell, it doesn't use any chemicals, just tap water, so it's essentially like a cool mist vaporizer that produces mist that drifts around.

We really do it up here for Halloween and really reward the kids with candy and little toys ... we're one of the favorite destinations in the neighborhood, so we're told by parents!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Shady!
I have to get over to your place and spend a while ... I peeked there the other day but was so busy I have to make a return trip.

Actually that was Rolly you heard from across the room where he was panting in the humid air. Yeah, we're disappointed we didn't get to see the Monarch, but are glad it appears to have finished its transformation and (probably?) gone on its way.

Thanks ... I'm close to making a decision, but I fear it will be pricey! :-)

Althea said...

I like the smoking skull..! Well, I like the way you are thinking about Halloween.

Gail said...


Hey! Sorry I am so pokey about getting over here! I am still moving slow from the whatever ick I had for 10 days. Today I wanted to lie on the floor and go to sleep, not a good thing to do when clients are expected!

What other toys do you guys have for Halloween? I always wanted to dress up the front porch as a big scary something or other but we never, I mean never get trick or treaters, did I say never? Busy street and the yard is lined with hedges and you can't see in well so it has never said, "Come on in kids." Instead it says, "Oh my god, that is got to be a scary place behind the hedge and the dead garden!" Maybe we should dress it up, play eerie music over the loudspeaker and see if anyone stops by this year!

I love the idea of a calendar! Where are you in your decision making? Favorite photo, there are a fw of the Hibiscus that I especially like!


Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey Gail,
No problem...I've been behind in visiting lately too! And I can understand still feeling a bit wiped out, though now the weather is finally drier and warmer, I'm starting to get my energy back.

Oh lordy, what don't we have for Halloween?! LOL, it's our favorite decorating holiday (along w/Christmas) and we have so much at this point that we were vowing not to get anything new this year. Then I saw that misty skull!

Just search the blog for Halloween and you can see some of what we've done in the past, but usually we have a spooky ghost/witch tableau on the front porch lit with black lights and spooky lights. Maybe you should give it a shot this year and try spooking up the garden a bit(we put out bones and tombstones) and maybe you'll get some kids? Or just put up lights and play odd music ... there are so many possibilities!

Feel free to pass along photo picks if you want! I know that at least one will be some sort of hibiscus (but I still have the front/back cover and interior pages to design, and I could do multiple images there). I think I've pretty much decided to buy the SmartDraw calendar module (the pricey one) because it gives me the most flexibility and customizable stuff to play with. I have to order it by this weekend to get the special price ($99!) so I have to get moving on it!

Annie in Austin said...

Oooh, that hibiscus bud is a wonderful orange, IVG...very Halloween looking.

It's cooler here today - only low 80's, but the summer flowers haven't stopped and my Blue River II is finally budding again after taking the last 6 weeks off.

No buds on my one passalong toad lily plant...guess it's not going to bloom this year. I have no idea what the flower is supposed to look like, but bet it won't be a gorgeous curvy white one like your "Not-Miyazaki".

Glad you liked the DVD of the Fall almost as much as the theatrical version - I'm looking forward to seeing Lee Pace as the Pie Man again when Pushing Daisies starts up.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Annie!
Isn't that 'Sun Showers' something to behold? As a 'clumped Leo' of course I'm all about such fire colors, but still, it's an amazing hybrid.

We finally made it back up into the upper 70s today with more on the way, so am hoping the tomatoes will get with the program! Good to hear your Blue River is revving up ... I think mine is probably done unless it surprises me. This wasn't exactly a banner year for the hardy hibiscus (I blame the weird weather and the early wet times), but they're toughies and there's always next year!

Oh yeah, we loved The Fall even more! I have to find out about this Pushing Daisies show ... we never watch network TV anymore, but it seems like it should be something I might like. I try not to get hooked on too many series (with notable exceptions such as Six Feet Under and Sordid Lives), but I may have to check it out. I did see that the first season is now out on DVD, so should I catch up? (Remember, I value your opinions on such things!)


Annie in Austin said...

IVG, for some reason I thought you already watched Pushing Daisies...I have no idea if you'd like it so hesitate to recommend it, but I like it.

I missed the first couple of episodes, then an Austin blogger named Elizabeth talked about people like Kristen Chenowith (Wicked)and Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene (Little Shop of Horrors) being on the show so I started watching, even though the premise of Lee Pace's character being able to bring a dead person back to life for one minute seemed pretty silly.

So death and the discovery of who-dunnit is the engine for the plot, giving the show a basic core of sadness with quirky, hopeful overtones added by secret loves, grim humor, an intricate backstory, and people like Paul Reubens/PeeWee Herman in supporting roles. It's very visual and occasionally there are songs.


Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Annie,
After seeing this comment, I popped over to Amazon to check it out a bit, and ended up ordering the first season set (it was only $18.99). I based my decision not only on your recommendation, but also the rave reviews customers wrote at Amazon. I'm really psyched about it ... Paul Reubens and Swoosie were must watches as well. As for Lee Pace, the only things I've ever seen him in were Soldier's Girl and The Fall, so he's new to me.

It also didn't hurt that several reviewers compared the series favorably to Tim Burton!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Pepa has such a cute face, I just love seeing photos of her. You need to include at least one on your calender. I don't even bother buying Indian corn anymore, it's usually stripped in about 5 minutes. The greedy little bushy-tailed pigs also attack any pumpkins I put out. This year I'm spraying critter repellant on them. Our Big Lots closed a couple of years ago. I used to love that place. Great skull, looks like a lot of fun.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

I'll be sure to tell Pepa that she has a new fan ... she'll give you a nice wag and smile to return the favor. :-)

We don't bother with Indian corn either, at least outside, for the same reason, though yours must be really aggressive, because they never bother our pumpkins. This time of year they're much more interested in bringing black walnuts from across the street over to plant in our gardens! But now that we have that Roundup, we'll be dispatching those quickly next spring!

Too bad your Big Lots closed ... we love going to the one here every so often, and have gotten some really cool stuff there over the years. Plus we can often find grocery items there at ridiculous prices, though they haven't had that Grey Poupon for $1.50 in a long time. :-(