Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lucky Thanksgiving

Our geographic location in New York State limits the severity of many winter storms here.  The great distance separating us from the Great Lakes usually spares us from heavy lake effect snow.  Those storms drop most of their snow load before they reach us.  Similarly, the coastal storms do not usually hammer us with large accumulations of fresh snow.  A possible 10 inches of snow was forecast from a storm that started yesterday.  That amount of new snow mandates that I plow twice or my machines will become mired with no easy way out.

Previous cold had frozen the surface of the lane solid making it perfect for plowing.  Warm air and rain preceded the storm and the driveway thawed.  Plowing was not a workable option so the snow blower was pressed into action.  Wider than stock skids kept the bottom bar of the blower above the soft wet gravel.  Wet snow does not make the high arching plume that looks so impressive and it did clog the auger but the lane was passable at the end of the day.

Plowing where the grass grows does no damage to the unfrozen surface.  Snow covered cars are blindly backed from the parking spots to open ground.  There the snow is simply brushed to the ground.  When the car is cleared of snow, it is returned to its now clear parking space and the snow that was on the car is plowed to the side.  In all things we try to work smart.

A wide combination of factors must remain in play if a person is to reach 70 years of age.  I have long recognized the degree to which pure luck has kept me in the game.  It was dark last night when the blower tractor was backed into the shed.  The tractor barely fits inside of the shed and the doors latch from the interior.  I was standing in the narrow gap with my back to the tractor while trying to latch the door in the dark.  Suddenly I was falling backwards over the blower into the small space between the mower deck and the tractor.  There was no skill or grace in play that sent the back of my head into the smooth green metal forming the foot rest rather than the various rods or brackets on the mower deck.  It was once again pure luck.  Did you ever have one of those moments when you can't decide if you are glad you fell when you were alone or wish someone was there in case you needed help?  The thought of Becky trudging through the snow to fine me draped  over the tractor like a deer on the hood of a pick up truck was  enough to help me get up and into the house.  In the daylight this morning the picture made it crystal clear  just how tight a spot I was in.  

We all recognize the degree to which I was lucky to have come out of this event largely unhurt.  A new law has been enacted that requires me to stand between the blower and the tractor while closing the doors.  It would have been better if I had seen that solution before I fell.  In this case my sometimes miraculous good luck kicked in  and we enjoyed a festive family Thanksgiving dinner in our home.  It's interesting the things that make us realize how thankful we should be!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

More Winter Ready Than Yesterday

Two issues demanded attention today with the sharp moderation in outside temperatures.  We usually head into winter with sixty gallons of road sand stored in two garbage pails in the basement.  One pail was only half full and that needed fixing.  Sifting cold wet sand is a rather unpleasant chore but just being able to work outside made the task almost pleasant.   While working at the gravel bank I did get to see two Great Blue Herons fly close by below the tree line.  They must have just taken flight from the nearby river.  One announced my presence with a honk as they flew towards the pines near the house.

Recent high winds had dropped a branch onto the lane near the arbutus wall.  I had moved it to the side but more wind rolled it back into the lane.  Today seemed like the time to move all of the fallen branches there to the brush pile at the gravel bank.  Continued attention here will at the very least make it so that I can mow down the goldenrod and the pricker bushes.  With a stone bench and arbutus plants already in place, this might be a good location for more of a wild flower garden.

Anytime that I pass by the transplanted arbutus plants, they get a close look.  Much to my surprise, I found a new seedling growing very close to one of the transplants.  There is no way to know if this plant is growing from seed dropped in the past or from this year's seed.  I placed no seed in this spot but ants could have dropped it here either this year or in the past.  The seeds I did plant have shown no growth to date.  It may be that they must pass through a cold period before sprouting.  In any event, it was a major thrill to find a new arbutus plant growing here.  My goal is to help establish naturally increasing plantings of this native treasure.

Chrysanthemums are another difficult plant that I insist on trying to grow here.  Our winters are harsher by one climate zone than these plants prefer.  This slip of a mail order plant required two growing seasons to make a decent showing and we would like to aid its return next year.

We intentionally left the dead growth in place until today.  Secured to the ground, it was where we needed it.  Cutting it back revealed a encouraging amount of new growth.

Placing the cut stems over the original plant creates an airy but protected spot for the new growth.  If our coming snow cover is more or less continuous and low temperatures are not extreme, we should have enough new plants for several impressive plantings.

Weather forecasts predict a return to unseasonably cold temperatures.  We may have one more day to continue work on next year's garden.  If rain spoils our fun, we can recall seeing both a new arbutus plant and the possible promise of many beautiful chrysanthemums.