Signs of Fall

We got out early this morning to water the baby trees, and found cottonwood tree leaves in the lawn. Okay–let’s call it what passes for lawn at my house.

The cottonwoods lose about half their leaves between mid-July and mid-August. Maybe more if it’s been a dry year. For me, it’s the start of Autumn.

According to the “old” calendar, Autumn begins on August 2, cross-quarter between the Solstice (June 21) and the Equinox (September 21), when the days shorten perceptibly. Just as February 2 is the start of Spring, when the days lengthen perceptibly.

Of course, it depends on where you live.

And here, thriving in the ashes of the burn pile, are morning glories. Glorious this morning.

If you’re gardening today, I hope the weeds are few and the rain is just right.

Sunny Sunday

Hot and humid–just the way it’s supposed to be. This is Kansas in July. Hard to believe we have only two-and-a-half months left of summer.

Tomatoes are starting to ripen on the vine. Eggplants are fruiting. I have a baby pepper and a baby cucumber. And–so exciting–I’ve fenced a baby watermelon to keep the bunnies and deer and coyotes away.

Hope your Sunday is filled with peace, fruit and vegetables.

Twelve-Thousand Words

When Anna Yeatts suggested I cut 12,000 words from my completed, edited 87,000 paranormal romance novel, I was a bit skeptical.

Her reasoning was perfectly sound. The shorter paranormal romance would be more marketable.

But sheesh. 12,000 words, or just a bit less than 14 percent of the book. Was it possible? Could I do it? Did I even want to do it?

But okay, I’d try.

I’m now on Chapter 23 (of 39) and have cut 8,000 words. That’s about 350 words per chapter. With 16 chapters to go and only 4,000 words to cut, I’ll probably make it.

The process has taught me three things:

  1. This story needed to get “colder” before marketing. The line edits were completed in January, and it would’ve make a huge difference to let it sit until at least March, and then giving it that final once-over.
  2. Cutting extraneous details makes for a stronger story.
  3. “Kill your darlings” (Faulkner) is good advice. I noticed that this month’s Writer’s Digest included an article on overwriting.

So where am I, and where do I want to be?

I’ll finish up the word-cut this week. A final read before restarting the query process and thinking about #PitchWars this coming fall. And I’ll go back to writing the first draft of the next in the series–which is one-fourth completed.

Whew.

Apple Rust

This year, for the first time, we decided to spray our apple trees for fungus and insects. Hope triumphing over experience, we wanted to bite into a worm-free apple of our own.

So, really ironic, this is the first year we’ve had apple leaf rust.

Rust has affected all varieties of apples except the honey crisps–which are supposed to be difficult to grow. Go figure.

Thinking about my apple orchard led me to remember my mom’s orchard in New Jersey. There, a sapling in the ground grows into a tree, no muss, no fuss. At least it used to be that way. Here in Kansas, everything, and especially fruit trees, need a lot of tender loving care.

Even then, it’s a crap shoot.

Looking for information on leaf rust led me to the University of Illinois Extension. There I learned that the problem probably had to do with my red cedars, scientific name Juniperus virginiana, The cedars have galls, especially during rainy weather. The galls swell up and produce telial horns (nasty description including the word gelatinous). These release spores that attack susceptible trees. Rainy weather seems to be the key, and we’ve had twice as much rain as average.

This little lovely is a red cedar. It volunteered several years ago, and grows within feet of my apple trees, forming part of the apple allee. My first thought, after reading the University of Illinois article was to cut this tree down. But no, it won’t make a difference. Looks like those spores can travel up to fourteen miles. Our area is loaded with Juniperus virginiana.

Spraying for fungus, evidently, offers only partial success. On a year like the one we’re having, leaf rust is the guarantee.

Maybe next year will be better.

Hot and Humid Sunday

Walking out this morning to deadhead the daylilies was like walking into a sauna. Hot, wet, and airless. There’s not a lick of wind and I don’t like it. But the flowers love it.

Here’s what my hibiscus did this morning–three amazing blooms.

The blackberries are coming along–from green to this posy pink, soon to be black. I cut them back severely last fall, so I wonder if the berries will taste funny. That’s what happened to my Top Hat blueberries, which are as sour as lemons this year. Might be a fertilizer issue.

The Mauna Loa daylilies are out in force for just another week or two. Gorgeous while they last.

And now, I’m getting out of the heat. I have some writing to do.

Stay

I have no news on the query front, and maybe no news really is good news. Meanwhile, I’ve improved on my #Learning2bLucky skills, using a command I give the dogs.

Stay. Persist. Persevere. Prevail. Given that I’ve honed my craft, learned what I can, paid my dues, and so forth, I’ll eventually find a home for my paranormal romance. And the second in the series, and the third.

That’s my message for this fourth of July. Happy Independence Day.

Daylilies

A few years back, I discovered Smokey’s Gardens and went a little nuts buying different daylilies. My favorite is the one in the photo–Mauna Loa–a bright orange. Sadly, it isn’t an ever-bloomer or even a rebloomer. I get to see this splash of tangerine for about three weeks, and then it’s gone till next year.

When we moved here, our front garden included five Stella De Oro lilies–and I hated them. I didn’t like the way the flowers died and dropped off the plant. The dead leaves were plain nasty. Anyway, I didn’t much care for the dandelion-yellow color, and maybe should’ve cheered when, after about three years, the plants stopped blooming. Instead, it made me mad. Just a bunch of uninspiring green spikey leaves. Yuck.

I knew nothing about the care and feeding of daylilies, and yes, they take a bit of work. After yanking those poor Stella’s out of the ground and donating them to a sister-in-law, I spent about five years planting a variety of things in that space. All did well in year one and died by year two.

“Plant daylilies,” said a master gardener friend. My response was to grumble about the Stella’s. But then, out and about, I saw some amazing red and yellow spider daylilies. Had to have them. That’s when I took the time to learn about daylily care and feeding.

They need daily deadheading while blooming. The name says it all. DAY LILY, meaning the flower blooms and dies within about 24 hours. Every morning, I walk around the yard with a bucket and pick off dead lilies. Sometimes I have to fight the bees for them.

The spikey leaves turn a nasty brown as the plant begins to die back. Keeping the plant free of dead leaves is also a daily chore.

Finally, about every three years, the plants need to be dug up and divided. If the daylily gets too big, it will stop blooming.

The good news about daylilies? They grow in just about any soil, can take quite a bit of drought without watering, they’re difficult to kill, and way low on the deer’s list of favorite munchies. They come in a variety of colors, bloom times, and sizes. Usually hardy in planting zones 4 through 9, Latin name Hemerocallis.

Try one.

Heat Wave Sunday

We’re having a heat wave with a heat index at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. My plants are loving this weather–all except the cool weather crops that have given up the ghost.

Speaking of ghosts, my new Ms. Wilmot’s Ghost is kaput. In its place, I found this variegated liriope, which should tolerate both wet and drought. We’ll see how it does.

And here, believe it or not, is the start of my water lily. I did not at all believe I’d get a flower. I’m waiting for frogs to show up and sit on the leaves.

The ruby slipper hydrangeas are starting to turn pink. Last year, they went from white to brown, making this the very first year we might see red flowers.

And now for the first sign of fall. A red zinnia, the first of what looks like many from the gazillion seed packets I spread over all the beds.

And wow, I got through all that without a single daylily. But here is one. They are loving the heat and the bees.