Friday, October 31, 2008

Autumn Gold

The two groups of Larch trees were planted when we first acquired this land fourteen years ago. Their water was trucked in using covered five gallon pails. Ed was younger then and carried two pails at once across the meadow and up the hill. Now a rest is required to walk up the hill empty handed. Each planting had three trees at the start. One tree was lost in each group.

The field guide identifies the larch tree as deciduous since it drops its needles. This characteristic is why we planted them. A pine tree that is bare all winter just seemed like a must have. The fall yellow color is a plus also.

The trees have been producing cones only recently. With me education always follows acquisition. Now I know that the larch tree prefers a moist location. I carry cones to the area at the base of the ridge where water is abundant. The first trees from seed have yet to make their appearance. Another reason to look forward to next year.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plants in the Livingroom

It's white out there again today. Thank goodness I have some plants inside. I can rub my scented geraniums to bring back the summer garden. I can still snip a bit of spicy globe basil, parsley, rosemary or sweet marjoram to add to my cooking. I can cut a leaf of lemon grass for tea or chop a stalk in a stir fry. If I feel the need to pull a weed I can find some.

I will admit we bring in too much lemon grass. It was so hard to get the plant in the beginning. We don't want to lose it. There are 3 pots here, but I have more!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

October Snow

I was quite unprepared for this change of scene out the window this morning. Most years we at least make it to November before the snow sticks. Where did I put that snow brush for the car anyway? The forecast of 8 to 12 inches was surprising and a bit scary. Snow for Halloween... BOO!!!

It has warmed up a little, and right now we are getting mixed precipitation. The wind is howling. On the hills the roads are slushy and more of the snow is sticking there. As it gets colder tonight I guess we will be back to all snow. I had forgotten how pretty it is, but I definitely could have waited until November!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Change of Scene

Now when I look out at the garden, it's not the plants that catch my eye, but the stones. Like a beautiful woman with great cheek bones, it is Ed's stone walls and paths that provide structure for our garden. I love the plants, but now that the colder weather has arrived, I still gaze out the window at the changing scene. I love the view! Soon snow will change the scene again. For that I can wait!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Transplanted New England Aster

New England asters are a favorite wildflower of ours. They grow here, but are easily crowded out by the goldenrod in the abandoned fields. Their wild growth is usually limited to a single stalk. They are also on the list as deer candy so the young shoots get eaten on a regular basis. Because of this, we decided to move some small aster plants into one of Ed's new beds with his richly amended soil. We caged them to keep the deer from munching on them. The clumps got huge in a single year. They were taller than me and covered with flowers. They were absolutely gorgeous except for the fact that the lower leaves all turned brown. In one season they totally outgrew their space so this fall we transplanted them into a bed with unamended topsoil with only the stones removed. Of course this should have been done in the spring since the plant is a fall bloomer, but sometimes rules have to be broken. It doesn't seem to have slowed the clump down much. New growth is already started. In the spring this clump may be divided into twenty separate plants as indicated buy the number of dead stalks. This year we cautiously pinched back the new growth once. Next year we plan to do this early and often.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sometimes I Hate Surprises!

Here we have a nice big copra onion. So what's the big SURPRISE?

My beautiful onion looks like this in the middle. I checked the braids in the basement and sent some of the onions directly to the compost. Sigh! After that, I did what any gardener would do. I got out the Moosewood Cookbook and made onion soup.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wow, It Actually Works!

After watching the bumblebees struggle to get into the tightly closed flowers of closed gentian, the last thing I expected to find was viable seed. Here we have flowers that have produced seed. To me it's one of the real miracles of nature!

Many of the flowers didn't produce any seed. These dried flowers are empty with no sign of seed development. Getting some seed to plant is a wonderful surprise!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

Tuberose-Single RARE! Polianthes tuberosa. Wax-like flowers inspired Shelley to write "sweet tuberose, the sweetest flower for scent that blows."...Intoxicating! Late summer bloom. 3' tall Tender perennial zones 8-11

The Seeds of Change catalog pushed all my buttons last winter. Rare, intoxicating scent--these are words that make me weak in the knees. But really now , here I am in Upstate New York zone 4. What in the world made me think a late summer blooming plant zones 8-11 would be happy here? Before the frost Ed dug the bulbs and we put them in a pot in the house. They have grown more inside in a couple of weeks than they did all summer in the garden. Even now the plants are barely 12" tall. They are green and growing so they won a spot in a south facing window. As for those sweetest flowers, who knows?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What Is This Crud?

Now that I have more plants in the house, they have a bit more of my attention. I was tending the tuberose pot and looked up to see this on the underneath side of a bay leaf. Off the leaf came, but when I got it in the sunshine and noticed the gold flecks, I couldn't help wondering what this crud is. I suppose it doesn't matter. The surgery is complete. The leaf is in the compost, but I'll be watching for more trouble just the same!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Garlic, Tucked In For Winter

All the garlic is in the ground. The pasture grass mulch will remain in place until harvest. This year it helped to moderate soil temperature and it prevented the soil surface from drying out. The only down side to the mulch is that it can prevent the emerging garlic from finding daylight. Keep it loose. The fence serves two purposes now. First, it keeps the deer from walking across the planted bed. Second, it keeps the neighbor's cat from dropping logs in the inviting soil.

This planting will require no further work until June. Then the scapes will be removed. The buckwheat cover crop from this past summer and the mulch will keep the weeds to a minimum. When the rain is scant I will water the garlic. The work is basically done until harvest. The work may be done, but this bed will get plenty of attention. The progress of the plants will be monitored from the house windows. Every entry into the garden will pass by the garlic bed. The plants will be closely watched. For now the work is done.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Three Beds of Garlic

When people hear that I grow eighteen different named varieties of garlic their reactions are surprise and disbelief. Finding a garlic that will store for one full year is the primary goal. Since I lack a mature outlook, size also matters. The picture shows one representative from the three types grown here. On the left is a purple striped variety. Some have pliable stems that can be braided. The generous coloring makes them attractive. The squat plump cloves have a certain charm. In the center is a porcelain garlic. These store the longest. The huge cloves bake nicely. The cloves must be cut in pieces to fit in the press. On the right is a rocambole. These have the greatest number of cloves per bulb. Taste is best with these, but storage is the shortest.

Ground that is fit for planting is in limited supply here. Intensive planting is the rule. Garlic is allotted three areas each twelve feet long and five feet wide. The garlic goes in twenty-four by ten in each area. A more generous spacing would result in larger bulbs and fewer problems.

Fall planting a food crop in zone 4 is a rare treat. As Winter releases its grip on the garden, the garlic will be the first plant to show green growth. These are two reasons why I grow this crop. Today I am waiting for the frozen crust that formed last night to soften so that these old hands can plant the last garlic area. I hope for good snow cover and consistent cold temperatures. The garlic is put to bed waiting for the promise of spring.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Falling Temperatures, Falling Leaves

We've dropped through the thirties and into the twenties at night. Now it's freeze not frost! The trees are dropping their leaves. The temperature went up today, but now is dropping like a stone. I think it will be even colder tonight. Most of the fall color is gone, (Sigh...) but so are the bugs. (Yea...) It's time to dig up the browned glads, get the garlic planted and begin plans for next year.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fall Salad Greens

This is our fall planted bed of spinach. It gives us a few leaves for great salads now, but will winter over and produce spinach very early in the spring. The plants do bolt quickly, but it is so wonderful to have spinach so early. We have had considerable critter trouble with our salad crops. That is the reason for the cage and the metal border around the bed. Selfish as we are we want to eat these greens ourselves.

Here we have a nice lettuce mix. We are enjoying having lettuce for salads now, knowing we will be using our calculator to see if we can afford it in the grocery store very soon.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A New Bed for Spring Bulbs

New bulbs are safely tucked in their bed for the winter. After a nice long nap they will provide excitement in the spring. This bed has two Beau Regard alliums, Drumstick alliums, Firecracker in the sky mix and A. albopilosum bulbs.The cages are necessary here to keep the turkeys from rolling in the newly disturbed soil. It's comical to watch the large birds roll in the dirt, but the bed suffers. You can see the uncaged portion of the bed has had some digging going on. I suspect a skunk, but the evidence is circumstantial. At least there were no bulbs lying on the surface to be replanted. I hate that!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Bee...autiful Mum

Every night we cover this "Emperor of China" chrysanthemum. Finally the first flower is opening. The foliage is turning maroon just as advertised. We put this plant in this year and it is supposed to be a late season bloomer. I'm so glad it wasn't TOO late.

The plant is covered with buds. We will see just how long the "Emperor" can hang in there. It is my fervent hope that this plant will winter over for us. The catalog did say zone 4 - 9. It could happen!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Who Left the Corn?

Ed was mowing and came in the house to get me to take this picture. There in the grass is a neat little pile of field corn. We don't grow field corn. The nearest field corn belongs to the neighbors and is not within sight. It is within walking, no, hiking distance. Perhaps it was the crows. The corn not that far away as the crow flies. But why would a crow fly in field corn and pile it in the short crab grass and yarrow?

I know! Perhaps it was a squirrel. They collect acorns and bury them. I vaguely remember something about squirrel corn, but wait that's a wild flower. So if a squirrel took the trouble to bring the corn from so far away, why didn't he bury it? Maybe he hit a stone!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Autumn Campfire

Yesterday was a perfect fall day. After the morning chill was gone, Ed worked on preparing beds for his garlic. The garlic will be planted very soon. I arrived just in time to recognize a seedling from the hollyhock skyscraper. He stopped what he was doing to move it to a place where it could continue to grow. Nothing gets to stay in the garlic bed but garlic!

It was decided that we would have a campfire . A trip to the store was needed to purchase hot dogs and the makings for s'mores since I don't keep them in the house. Amy's new GPS took us on roads we had never been on before. The winding roads and gorgeous colored trees made the trip a very special treat.

The fire circle is up on Amy's meadow. The first photograph is taken looking south. The second photograph is taken facing east. We watched the moon come up behind the already glowing hill. The sun was still visible.Ed built the campfire and we absorbed the autumn colors, watched geese fly over, and relaxed. A murder of crows was making a huge racket coming from the woods. We were surprised to see just six crows fly away after the noise subsided. When the fire was ready we had our campfire dinner like we did when we were kids.

This sunset photo is taken from the same spot looking west. We stayed long enough for the fire to die down . After the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) and Cassiopeia appeared and it got really dark we doused the fire and headed back to the house. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sometimes It's Too Late

We have a lot of milkweed here and it follows that we get to see a lot of monarch butterflies. In the fall it's a joyful experience to see them fly over the house and then rise to clear Amy's meadow heading south to Mexico. The whole process is so amazing to me. Mother Nature hedges her bets and eggs laid over a period of weeks hatch out in their own time. But now the nights are cold and sometimes the butterflies get damaged before they hatch. This one hatched out, but couldn't pump up its wings.

This one has beautiful wings but has other parts damaged . We see him flying a little, but Mexico is not in the cards. Part of me wishes they could all make it, but I know that's not how it works. In nature the strong survive and the others usually become prey.

The milkweed seeds are flying on the wind too. Some of them will find a place to grow and some will not. One thing sure the milkweed and the monarch butterflies live and die together.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Autumn Leaves

Last night , just before dark Ed took this out the living room window. Even in the dwindling light the the leaves seemed to glow with color. Only the white 5 gallon buckets were more visible.

Today it is bright and sunny and the ridge is glorious in it's color. The white in this picture is the milkweed seeds that are getting ready to fly. It's a beautiful fall day. The trees are having their fancy dress party before their long winter rest. I'm so lucky to be here to see it!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Anyone Seen My Tuffet?

I've never seen a spider like this one before. It's a female Shamrock spider on top of a stone wall. I looked her up. The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects & Spiders says 3/4 of an inch, but she seemed much larger to me. Maybe they don't count the legs.Her days are numbered because only her offspring will make it through the winter. She's still moving pretty darn fast!

According to the book she could be a poster girl for recycling. She spins a new web every night, uses it to catch her food, then eats the web strand by strand. Apparently she uses the old web to spin the new one. For a spider, she's beautiful in a creepy sort of Halloween way.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Waiting For My Mum

It's been frost every night here and so I've been covering this Chinese chrysanthemum. Maybe that bud is getting bigger, but it's very slow going. Tonight it's warmer and rain is predicted so no cover will be needed. I also have a cut branch in a south facing window. One way or another I would like to see a flower.

The rest of the tender plants are on their own. Many of them are on the compost. More of them are headed there. The squash and tomato vines are awaiting their cremation. The moon flower vine is slimy. Getting it off the wire trellis is disgusting to the touch. Then there is the stench. Yuck! I wish I had just pulled it up before. I knew it would never flower. Oh well, that's what rubberized gloves are for.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Just One More

This view looks south. The small light dot at the edge of the mowed area near the tree line at the top of the picture was our first quarters here. It is a ancient camper that belonged to my parents. Had our pockets been deeper and our courage stronger we would have built our home in the back. We now have reservations about growing old off the grid. It is likely better that we built where we did.

The far line of trees grows on the bedrock ridge. There are year round springs all along the base of that ridge. The water finds no surface outlet since it soon disappears into the glacial gravel that fills our valley. The adjacent square miles are wild. Local legend describes wildcats that still live here. We have seen no wildcats. Bears never found our bee hives. Coyotes do inhabit this area. We have seen them up close. We hear them often. The presence of coyote scat in the walking trails indicates that we are not the only ones that walk there.

It was always Ed's dream to retire in the wilderness. When he found the wilds right next to the paved road, I was sold. He gets to stay on the hill. I get to go into town.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Slightly Different Point of View

Although you might think you are looking at some weird crop circles, those ribbons of green are really paths that Ed mows so that we can walk without wading through the tall meadow vegetation or stepping in woodchuck burrows. Amy's meadow is the large area in the foreground edged with a path. It is the highest point in this picture and has a 360 degree view of the surrounding area. It's a fabulous place for star gazing. Just to the right of that is a dead ice sink that we call the meditation spot. It's a quiet place isolated from noise except for planes overhead.

The slope from Amy's meadow down to the house and garden is quite steep. From there the slope down to the valley floor is more gentle. The driveway curves down from the house to the road. The river cuts diagonally across the upper left of the picture. The two stands of pine trees were 4H projects planted by the farmer's son in the 1960's.

We can take solitary nature hikes and never leave home. We really love it here!

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Bird's Eye View

When we are working in the garden we are sometimes distracted when a overflying plane starts to circle above us. Does the appearance of our garden catch their eye? Yesterday was a perfect autumn day, and the annual fly-in breakfast at a nearby airport featured plane rides. I pushed the strains of Buddy Holly out of my head, and ignored the butterflies in my stomach. I was going to see my garden from the air.

The ride turned out to be fun and the view spectacular. This time it was Ed in the garden planting bulbs with me circling overhead.

This was my first plane ride since 1971. Taking photographs from the air was totally new to me. There are already plans to do this again next year with a better camera and clear goals. Still I have spent much of the afternoon looking again and again at our garden. This land passed to us fourteen years ago. It was unused pasture then. Starting on the garden was our first task. Much remains to be done. We are amazed by what we have accomplished so far.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

WARNING: Thin Your Carrots.

If you don't thin your carrots, and they get to spend all summer right next to each other, this is the kind of weird unruly behavior that goes on. One never sees carrots in the store that look like this. I have to wonder if all the commercially grown carrots are straight. Perhaps not! Maybe the odd carrots like these end up in Dinty Moore's Beef Stew and we just never get to see how peculiar they really are. Once these carrots are sliced for tonight's stir fry, they will look perfectly normal and they will be sweet and delicious! I should say some of my carrots are long and straight, but you can see those anywhere.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Widespread Frost

Yesterday we left the garden and went to visit our daughter. The trees are coloring nicely although still a little subdued. Autumn in New York ... so appealing. It was a beautiful trip!

When we arrived home I checked the weather forecast. WIDESPREAD FROST was the headline. Ed and I walked around the garden and decided to cover only the chrysanthemums. For the rest of the tender plants it was a quick goodbye. It's time! This year's garden is over. Today marks the start of next year's garden.

Still, here I am like a kid on Christmas morning up at 4:45 a.m. turning on the porch light to see if Jack Frost actually made his appearance. I don't see frost close to the house, but it is still very dark.

When I switched off the light I couldn't help but notice the stars. We have big sky here and it is country dark. Orion is shining brightly to the south. The stars are brilliant against the dark sky. I'll get my coffee and watch the stars fade in the morning light. When the sun is up, I'll bundle up get the camera and go out for a picture. OK, I'll open the window and take one!

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's a Trap!

Don't you just love the way the dew lets you see spider webs? This web belongs to a yellow and black Arigiope. Unfortunately she dropped to the ground as Ed approached to take the picture, but the web is extraordinary! The sheer number of webs you can see when the dew is on the meadow is astounding. It's a good thing too. The more insects the spiders trap, the fewer there are to bite me!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Reality Bites!

Every gardener has his dreams and plans. Every once and awhile reality come up and smacks you in the face like a swinging door. So what's the problem? It's bulbs. Bulbs that were ordered in the spring when our garden dreams and ambitions were at their pinnacle. Now fall is here and so are the bulbs. Where are we going to plant them? We have planted some, but clearly we need some new space pronto.

In some people's gardens, one only needs to go out with one of those cute little diggers, make holes with a twist and drop in the bulb. I have one of those. It won't work here. This new bed that Ed is working on illustrates the difficulty. When the meadow sod is stripped, the right side of the picture shows what is just under the surface. Dibble through that !

So Ed will make some new space. The bulbs will be planted. Some of them may be put in temporary locations. We made the "Don't buy plants until you have a space for them rule.", but the reality is, when the bulb catalogs come, or a friend offers a new plant our resistance is weak.

Ours is not a formal well planned garden, it's more of a free spirit that grows in its own way and at its own pace. Actually the reality is we love the garden the way it is!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just A Little More Catnip

It's coming down to the wire and I always think I need to dry just a little more catnip. The plant you see is drying now, I cut it right after I took the picture. I've been knitting catnip mice and the level in the dried catnip container is down. I hate to disappoint all those cat owners who count on me for kitty's Christmas buzz. My knitted mice are a staple at the Christmas sale at the Shaker Heritage Society in Albany, NY. I'll check the garden, and if I find more catnip ready to cut, I'll get it dried, just in case. Besides, sometimes I like a cup of catnip tea myself!