Sunday, April 3, 2011

weekend activities

After being absent for the two weeks the dogs and g'kids were here and me doing cold work in the garage, the wrens are back. They started showing up again last week. I think they are getting used to us a bit as they don't always bolt out of the garage whenever one of us passes through. In fact yesterday, one of them was perched on the wire next to the nest screeching it's little heart out. At me maybe as I was standing just inside the screen door to the garage getting ready to go out.

I'm hoping maybe this nest was more successful than the one last year in the rag bag. Just a minute ago both wrens flew in and perched on the wire just outside the nest. One of them had something in it's beak. It hopped in and chirped a bit then flew off and then the second one hopped in. Dare I climb up on the stool with a flashlight and look?

I've been working out in the yard all weekend building a new bed for the azaleas that are planted around one of the oak trees. They are scraggly and barely bloom as it is impossible to keep them watered where they are, on a slope snugged up against the trunk of the oak.

Actually I started last Sunday and this was how it looked at the end of the day. I set out the stones, took out the grass and hauled a load of dirt.

I'm hauling dirt from my sister's house. She's still in the process of transforming her house and yard into something she can take care of herself, as one person. So the raised bed garden she and her husband put in last spring is being dismantled and that dirt has to go somewhere. As much of it as I can transport is coming home with me. I have 6 five gallon buckets and three large lightweight plastic planters. So I go over to her house and shovel it into the containers and then I drive to my house and dump it out.

Yesterday I took out the rest of the grass and got the second load of dirt.

And I also hauled those landscaping stones I love my garden cart and got the second layer in place, dug up and replanted some of the 'shrubs'.

Today, I hauled dirt twice. Got a little help from the spouse with the stones and emptying those buckets. And got the rest of the azaleas moved. They're a little droopy right now but I keep telling them that they will like this spot much better.

Did I mention how tired I am?

So on Saturday, Marc comes out and we're talking and he says

'oh, weird, look at this'.

'This' turns out to be a large mass of tent caterpillars, 5 or 6 inches by about 10 or so on the trunk of the tree around which this new azalea bed is going. I've seen plenty of tent caterpillars but they've always been up in the trees in their webs. I've never seen them congregate on a tree trunk like that.

Tent caterpillars make an insignificant small moth but the larvae are pretty nice.

They weren't moving except for once in a while one of them would jerk. I kinda poked at them. At the end of the day nothing had changed. I couldn't tell if they were alive or dead or what was going on. So I scraped them off into a bucket and threw them on the burn pile. They're in no danger of being incinerated however since we are under a burn ban.


  1. Wow, you did a great job. The new azalea set-up looks pretty. I like the shape of the landscape wall too. Just add two adirondack chairs and coffee, and you'll be good to go :)

  2. You are really working hard and it looks fabulous.

    You just thrilled my daughter and husband to no end when I said "Wanna see something gross?" And they both came running to exclaim "Cool!!" on your catapillar colony. They find that kind of stuff fascinating.

    Then they read the part about the burn pile and Pooldad said "Hey..I bet they pop!" [ewwwww] Yep, kids.


    Can't wait to see all the blooms.

    Please give your sister my best when you see her next. I hope she is doing okay.

  3. Ellen, I bet you are tired, it looks awesome..I have never seen a catterpillar colony, weird it is on a tree, thanks for sharing it though. take a soak to help sore muscles. take care.

  4. I'm ashamed! I took my compost bin down to the garden - but couldn't unlock the gate, so left the bucket by the gate (thinking my son would see it and do it for me) and then went out. I noticed this morning it was still where I had left it.

    The new beds look great - and I agree with Marc, those caterpillars like that are very weird

  5. lotsa hard work ellen. i've not seen tent caterpilars do that either. so cool. i'll be showing my two urchins the cool shots when they wake up later on. steven

  6. Your gardening looks like so much fun, it makes me want to go out and play in the dirt. I will wait and the mood will pass :-) I don't know if it is a blessing or a curse, but instead of tent caterpillars, we have deer that eat everything we try to grow. Maybe a yard of gravel and rocks is in our future.

  7. If you weren't tired, it would be pretty weird. I would worry you were a speed freak or meth addict.

    As it is, you are a force of nature! The garden is fantastic.

    I, too, hope the wrens are successfully nesting this year.

    Man - that's a LOT of caterpillars. Yikes.

  8. Love the caterpillar pix! Can't wait to see pix of the azaleas in full bloom...

  9. Love the caterpillar pix! Can't wait to see pix of the azaleas in full bloom...

  10. The caterpillars are unique, but I think I may have phased out their existence.All the blooms are spectacular. I laughed at the mock orange, I trimmed one back when I planted my garden and used the trim for markers. All seemed to grow for me,but never ever again.

  11. You are hearty! The new bed looks most inviting. I would flourish there- anything would..tent catapillars are not welcome here- they are quite annoying and deadly to the fruit trees- Birds like to eat them before they get all webby,catapillar pie?
    I hope you have recovered from all of that lifting and moving and digging and and and...whew.

  12. Wow that looks great! I'm glad all that activity that had me exhausted resulted in something beautiful :)

    I would probably FREAK OUT at the caterpillars - are they planning to take over the planet? I'm prone to hyperbole. I'm sure you hadn't noticed.

  13. If you want the wrens to stay DO NOT poke at them or on them with a flashlight. Leave them alone. If you are a good little Ellen they'll reward you by gracing your garden.

    Your beds look like they've been a lot of work; they'll look very pretty once the shrubs grow and flower. Do remember to water them extra well, transplanted shrubs need even more that new ones. And definitely when they are close to an oak which will fight them for every drop of moisture and win.

  14. I am longing to get started on my gardens. It was almost 90 yesterday and today the temp has dropped steadily, supposed to get down to 32. I love that you are using what you have at hand. I am lucky that we have a bucket on the front of the tractor and he who can bring me big scoops of dirt!

  15. Love your landscaping progress! Going be so pretty!
    The caterpillars? Caterpillar Orgy! lol

  16. I love what you are doing... or have done. What are the red leafed trees you have planted? We want to replace a dead one that we planted last year. I'm not sure what happened to it... maybe the cold weather.

    Friday I mulched & planted a few things & Saturday I bought a beautiful Knockout Rose & put in the front. It is so pretty... hope I can make it live. Azaleas don't do well here so the G-man says.

  17. Great landscaping project with azaleas enjoying the shade of the oak tree. As an avid landscaper myself, I wish I would have known 30 years ago about which trees send deep roots and which shallow. I have several areas with shallow roots unfortunately which choke out a lot of potential.

  18. Your yard is looking nice! The bugs were very strange - all grouped together on the tree trunk. I wonder if it is one more instance of nature taking a freaky turn?


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