Newly acquainted pest patrol team

I made a few friends last few weekend!

First is the elusive “Eastern Pretzel Snake”:

In all seriousness, it is an Eastern Milk snake on the verge of shedding its skin. I find milk snakes to be especially pretty but I realize I am in a minority, possibly due to 40+ million years of evolution.

Whether humans are instinctively fearful of of creepy crawlies is an area of active research that has been finding some conflicting results!

Regardless, milk snakes are in the king snake genus meaning their diet includes other snakes, even venomous ones. Logic indicates that those who fear snakes should be internally conflicted at that fact, but phobias rarely allow rational thought; especially if it is literally in our DNA.

Acquaintance 2:

There used to be a large, white and orange-tabby cat that patrolled the barn and surrounding area. I have not seen that individual in some time but now there is this white cat. It appears even larger, but it has fluffier fur so a true size comparison is hard to make.

I’m conflicted about outdoor cats, both domestic and feral. One study estimates 1.4 to 6.9 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals are killed by cats just in the US. Additionally, an increasing amount of video documentation is capturing a sport hunting behavior where cats kill other animals for amusement rather than sustenance.

While I assume feral and strays are most responsible, there are products available to keep domestic pets from contributing to the statistics. Although the product basically makes your cat look like a clown, it is affordable ($10) and fairly effective. This study found effectiveness at reducing bird kills, but not mammals.


Mostly because I anticipate lacking the fortitude to address the moral hazard presented by the cat but also because I have no scientific way to measure the effect it has on local wildlife, the cat will remain unmolested and considered a pest suppressant with full awareness that the latter point is likely delusional.


Forgotten Garlic Mystery

Has anyone ever planted garlic and left it for 2.5 years?

I actually entirely forgot they existed until the weed whacker emitted the distinct aroma.

I’m going to harvest them like normal but the subterranean growth is a complete mystery. Hopefully if not in an edible state, the bulbs will be viable for planting next year!


Current Currant Hormonal Situation

The roots are sending out new leaves which is not a good sign for the existing stems. It indicates a hormone imbalance of cytokinin over auxin. Auxin is greatest at the tips of woody-stemmed plants and travels from top to bottom. Its relationship with healthy buds prevents dormant buds from activating in the stem as well as the roots.

Cyokinin originates in the roots and is the hormone responsible for telling the undifferentiated cells in buds to start dividing. I’m not sure what mechanism is responsible for differentiating what those cells become. The process occurs when cyokinin from the roots is not kept in check by auxin: when plants are young or when the auxin flow is broken in the instance of a damaged stem.

Basically, new growth from the roots indicates that the stems are not producing auxin which in turn shows that they are dead (or at least extremely stressed) 😦

Non-herbaceous plants fascinate me in that regard. Hormones act like logical conditions in artificial intelligence programming!

Well, except for the artificial part.


They survived…kinda

All of my non-herbaceous perennials dropped their leaves during a poorly timed dry spell last summer. Of course the first weekend that I could get out there, the rain clouds opened up while I was en route. Last year was a terribly executed attempt at absentee gardening.

At least the goosberries survived fully which may have something to do with their location receiving the most shade:

One of the raspberries survived as well. Nothing from the blackberries so far.

The hops are sprouting out of the soil like the most vigorous asparagus I have ever seen. I’ve read the tender shoots can be harvested and prepared exactly like asparagus:

Asparagus itself shows no sign of life.

The currants clung to life:

The current currant situation is a great opportunity to nerd out in plant biology in the next post.

Mulberries, filberts, blackberries and grapes are all lifeless currently. The blueberries are in the same state. A thick mat of an unknown, lush sedge (maybe a grass?) that I could not find them until after multiple winter weeding sessions. I believe that lush, unknown sedge has me eating the words published in this exuberant post.

To end on a positive note- Constant winter skirmishes in the war to regain territory lost to the occupant weeds in the previous year of neglect has made the garden beds visible at last:


First visit of the year summary

On my first visit of the year, I made 2 new friends and knocked out a slew of tasks:

  • Replaced failed and failing segments of garden bed walls.
  • Made the acquaintance of two volunteers of the pest patrol team.
  • Cleaned up the residual hops from last year.
  • Installed ~ 20 hops trellises.
  • Sprayed all garden beds with an herbicide that targets foliage
    • Just diluted vinegar
    • I avoided spraying the hops, currants and gooseberries as they were flushing leaves.
    • My strategy is spray everything else indiscriminately since the herbicide works by desiccating foliage without harming the stems of perennials, the soil or roots.
    • Next weekend will be followed up with a planting of buckwheat and clover to outcompete anything that tries to come back

Then turkey season will keep me occupied until my next visit in May. Until then, I have plenty to keep me busy posting in the meantime!


Turning the tide of the battle

En route to the farm, I drive (literally) through the of the Field of the Lost Shoes where a battle took place in 1864.

My garden is the Shenandoah Valley in the dramatized day dream resulting from the long drive.

The weeds are Sigel’s army moving in to disrupt agricultural production.

Intensive mowing efforts at the end of last year pushed Moor’s weed brigade back. Offensive efforts were subsequently launched and repulsed by both sides.

Now I am deploying my untested reserves in the form of vinegar herbicide to march through the mucky orchard and will be reinforcing them with a supply line of buckwheat and clover.


Getting back into it!

The bad news: neglect left the garden indistinguishable from the surrounding pasture. Varying shades from the asparagus and hops were the only discerning features in the mass of green.

Extensive mowing efforts over the winter have revealed the garden beds! Unfortunately it was too cold, too wet or I did not have the mindset to take any pictures during each of my winter work days.

Except for this one:

I picked up a new companion since my last regular updates!