Sunday, December 1, 2019

Missed Thanksgiving


Our home is placed between the glacial kame terrace visible in the background and the rather gentle final drop to the river.  Meltwater from the disappearing glacier cut a narrow ravine at the end of this field that we call our lawn.  Various wildlife use this gentler sloped valley to move from the river flat toward higher fields.  That is the path that these turkeys are using on their march to Hillman's manure coated fields.  Our resident deer also use this well traveled path heading in the same direction as the turkeys.  Just how these animals survive winter with both the cold and snow covered food is amazing.  That makes me feel rather pathetic by comparison.  I have to go now.  My hot tea is ready.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ready For Spring


Many of the early spring flowers head into winter with their flower buds already formed.  To me this seems to be a huge contradiction.  One quite naturally assumes that flowers are frail and tender so how can their buds endure an entire cold and snow filled season?  On the other hand open early blossoms need a head start to complete their development.

Arbutus has held me in its spell for years.  Writings far more than a century old proclaim this plant's absolute resistance to being transplanted but pictured is a moved plant that has lived here for many years.  Two different bud clusters are growing from the point where the stem end sends out leaves.  Also in plain sight is a nearly totally dead leaf.  Evergreen does not mean forever and the mystery of the life cycle of Arbutus leaves remains unknown.


Magnolia suggests a flowering tree that might be expected to grow in Georgia rather than New York.  Miller Nurseries, now gone, ran a great business that provided me with plants for a very long time.  This Magnolia is one of their special plants.  Those fuzzy gray buds will open into beautiful early white and pink flowers.  Here again the buds must survive winter.  They handle our cold but the deer eat them when most of their food is buried under snow.  A four foot high fence surrounds the tree but the deer simply eat higher buds.  Lower cages are spread out next to the fence to deny the deer a close approach.  We hope that this new twist will save more buds because the early blossoms are truly spirit lifting.


Pinxter is a native plant here as is Arbutus.  This bush has been here for many years but yearly trimming by the deer has kept it rather small.  Here again wire cages are piled to keep the deer away.  Some may find this combination of cold stone near mostly bare branches unworthy of a second look but it is one of our treasures.  When the air turns bitter cold and snow covers the ground, we will tramp about to check on our early flower buds.

Friday, November 22, 2019

More Abandonment Coming


With a lifetime of interest in New York State railroads, a model of the New York Ontario & Western became the one that I wanted to build.  The pictures on the wall show the actual bridge that crossed the valley approaching Sidney Center.  Maywood was the railroad name for this bustling  town to avoid shipping confusion with nearby Sidney.  Fourteen towers were needed to support the rails high above the valley floor.  My model had room for only seven towers.  This was the first part of the layout completed.  Even the dust of moving coal is part of this train.


This picture is included here because of the photograph of the actual Hawk Mountain tunnel.  Construction of the four lane route 17 obliterated all traces of this tunnel.  When I drive the highway the nearby bridge abutments used to cross the Delaware River can still be seen and the end of the short trestle that approached the tunnel are in view.  That is all that remains of this structure.


This model of the Hawk Mountain tunnel was the second section on the model to be completed.  No information can be found to identify which end of the tunnel was photographed making finding the precise location of the real tunnel more impossible.

The real fieldstone foundation near the box car is all that remains of a freight house.  There is also actual stone in two places at the tunnel entrance.  The other stone and the tunnel portal are castings although the keystone above the arch was carved by hand.  The trees were built using Autumn Joy sedum flowers grown on site.



The Lehigh Valley Railroad figured prominently in my youth.  A tale repeated many times describes my first exposure to railroads.  On the trip home from the hospital following my birth, we were stopped at a railroad crossing.  My Father held me up so that I could see my first train.  In later years  memories of my Father driving out of the usual way home so that he could race the Black Diamond to Newfield Station are easily remembered.


The caboose pictured is the best of the train cars that I built from scratch.  Plans taken from the prototype were drawn as the first step in building the model.  Milled basswood shapes and sheathing were custom cut to build the model.  Wire was bent to form handrails and bracing.  Tiny bolt heads secured the diagonal braces at each end.  Most of this stuff is being boxed and inventoried for the coming auction but this piece will stay with me after the rest is sold or trashed.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Fragrant Lady's Tresses Gone For ?




It has been awhile because the garden has turned frigid.  I have to wonder if I will see the lady's tresses again. Even if I don't   I have enjoyed them so much.  The last time I checked on them the cage had blown off and the flowers were gone, not gone to seed but gone, eaten, missing.  I replaced the cage but we have all heard that picking wild flowers can destroy plants. What if the animals eat them off?  What happens then?


 The plant has been happy here.  New growth shows at the base of the nipped off stems.  Perhaps it will make it through the Winter and  be back in the Spring.   Plants are amazing and I think there is a good chance it will  be back in spite of everything.  I will be very excited if it is!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Abandonment Approaching


Becky and I have owned our retirement land for more than twenty-five years.  In that time I have had three near death experiences.  In light of that reality, we hold the belief that we have enjoyed life in this isolated rural setting far longer than we had any right to expect.  Now we are facing the undeniable reality that the time to move to new housing is drawing close.

Model railroads have been a passion of mine since childhood.  Our new dry basement with a high ceiling looked perfect for a model railroad.  The New York & Ontario and Western was to hold a major portion of the model.  Some space was also planned for the Delaware & Hudson.  Both railroads operated in this area.

This long view features a bridge crossing the Delaware River in the foreground and the legendary steel trestle in Sidney Center.  The Lackawanna passenger train is totally out of place here but its picture was desired before the auction.


This view shows just how this layout was built.  Since this blog focuses on our gardens, mention must be made that Autumn Joy sedum stems from our garden were used to grow the model trees.


The Pennsylvania coal mine belongs here.  Pictures on the far wall show the real Sidney Center bridge.  The passenger train is totally out of place.


I find it hard to believe that this steam engine did the work that later used two diesel engines.  The cardboard guard rails were meant to prevent trains from falling to the floor should a derailment occur in the tunnels.  A cloth drape would have been hung from the edge framework but we never got that far.


This control panel was lettered by my older brother.  Directly above it is a Unadilla Valley Railroad passenger train similar to the real thing that ran just across the Unadilla River from our home.  The milk train crossing the bridge illustrates a major commodity moved initially by railroad in this section of New York State.  The Lackawanna train is totally out of place here but it sure looks good.


This view shows the river.  The sandy area near the bridge abutment was a popular location for wild beach parties.  Each of the milk cars were scratch built using basswood structural shapes following  plans that I drew.  The lettering on the prototype cars was yellow but no decals could be found in that color.  Part of today was spent placing the Lackawanna train in a box that is now ready to be sent to the auction house.  Perhaps by the end of winter all of these models will also be ready to go.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Stumped


For as long as I can remember, a stump seemed necessary for our woodland garden.  Several previous attempts to remove a stump have provided only education.  Anyone that has seen pictures of storm tossed trees should know the overwhelming size of their root mass.  This reality failed to fully register with me despite many wasted hours spent trying to dig up moderately sized tree stumps.  When this stump came into view, another attempt at extraction was undertaken.

This area of the former farm here has been used since colonial times as a stone dump while clearing the nearby field.  No new stone has been dumped here in many decades but the dead vegetation that fell on these stones already here became a dark rich soil that we call duff.  The combination of minerals from stone and developing leaf litter produces unusually rich soil.  When the seed that grew into this tree fell here, its roots could find no path down into the ground.  Instead a ninety degree turn to the west provided the roots with anchorage and nutrition.  My five foot pry bar quickly found a path under the main root and a totally intact stump became my prize.


The depth of the root mass on this stump would have required a deep hole.  Sumac roots form an impenetrable barrier to deep digging.  This woodland ground was recently dumped here so that desired plants could be placed in this new ground come spring.  That depth of new soil allowed a hole deep enough to receive the stump without damaging any sumac roots.  The north south orientation of the stump was preserved so that its new home has the moss growing on the north side.

Now we have all winter to decide just how to plant this new ground.  Wild ginger already here will advance toward the stump from the right.  With any luck we will be able to someday harvest ginger close to the stump thereby limiting its growth.  We believe that a slowly rotting stump will support natural growth for a Lady slipper plant.  A smaller stump close to the bench is home for a Yellow lady slipper.  This might be a suitable home for a truly expensive Lady slipper plant.  Hepaticas are already planned for the area next to the stone line that defines the path.


This is the root mass that was sawed from the stump.  It will find a home in the shade garden also.  To me it looks like a dinosaur skull.  We are excited at the prospect of what will grow on this root mass now that it above the ground in sunlight.  It will be placed near moss and we will watch its transformation.  Just how often does a seventy-five year old actually get something that he has wanted for a long time?  This stump is a truly impressive find.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Down To A Precious Few


Beautiful days spent in the garden are dwindling down to a precious few.  Mornings are cold and frosty.  Darkness comes earlier every single night,  But the hours in the middle of the day today were wonderful.  This year we have no shortage of big taller-than-me  weeds going to seed.  I get a great deal of personal satisfaction clearing a garden bed of weeds to rescue the plants intended to be there.  When I came in for a late lunch there was a huge pile of pulled weeds, a bed where you could see the soil, seeds in my hair dirt under my nails in spite of wearing gloves and pebbles in my garden shoes. It was fantastic!  After lunch I got the camera and went in search of flowers still blooming in the garden.  Flowers in the garden are also down to a precious few.  My Caprilands Sedum still had a couple of pink blossoms and the entire plant is turning pink from the cold.  It will die back to the ground and be return in the Spring.


My Butterfly bushes are all planted next to stone walls.  Insects are slow to leave the remaining flowers making a close-up photo a snap!


I am curious about this one.  I'm sure I have never seen this bug before.  It is big over an inch long.  It reminds me of ants, but it has a very long thin body  and antenna that makes me think of horns.  It certainly casts a big fat shadow.


This beautiful moss covered stone was under the hazelnut.  Now that the plants are dying back great stones become more noticeable.  I predict that this stone will be traveling very soon to a prominent spot in the wildflower garden down by the road.  Ed will see to that!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Darned Deer Defense


Amy's Magnolia still has most of its leaves, but next year's buds are already formed.  They will wait patiently through the ice and snow of winter to open in the Spring.  There are many buds this year but the persistent ever present deer that consider our garden to be home have already left their mark.


I admit I have a very soft spot in my heart for those doe-eyed creatures, but when they nip those brand new fuzzy Magnolia buds off it makes me lose it.  Something had to be done!  Ed worked on out defense against those darned deer this afternoon.


The first line of defense is a wire fence. Today snow fence was added to that.  It is my hope that it will be a bit more intimidating.  Some extra wire cages were added around the outside of that.  I don't know if the deer will be impressed, but when I check out the window on the West end of the house I feel better.  Maybe I can keep Magnolia buds off the menu.  I will be watching!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Sleeping In The Sunlight


Our weather has definitely taken a turn toward seasonal cold.  Overnight frost has become a common occurrence with chilly days frequent.  We can put on a extra layer of clothing but the animals have to seek a natural source of heat.  This milk snake was likely newly hatched here in late spring.  Larger milk snakes are frequently seen both in and on the dry stone walls leading down to the basement.  Shiny unblemished skin suggests that this little guy recently shed his skin.  Stones placed in bright sunlight quickly warm up.  This snake allowed me a close approach to get this picture but stayed put without moving a muscle.  Somehow it knew that we would not inflict any harm.


This fox is catching a midday nap very close to the house.  Its sleep is restless with frequent interruptions to raise his head looking for intruders.  Despite this wariness, I was able to open the window without disturbing the nap.  I needed him to raise his head for the photo.  My friendly soft verbal greeting resulted in an instant head raise followed by a quick run for the trees.  It did not take long for the fox to return to the warmth of the grass.  Both Becky and I are usually harmless and we enjoy the company of the animals as long as they are not eating our plants.  In that case we send them running with a sharp loud verbal commands until they disappear into the bushes.

Later in the day, time spent weeding in the garden seemed like a great way to use this sunny day.  Pulling my Ames Lawn Buddy cart, which serves both as a place to sit and a tool box, I noisily entered the garden.  The fox was again sleeping on the grass but initially had no reaction to me.  Eye contact was avoided thinking that the fox might remain.  A peek out of the corner of my eye sent him heading for the bushes.

Some time later it felt like someone was watching me.  A sideways glance revealed the fox on the grass peering down at me.  Again, eye contact sent him scurrying into the pines.  This day was made truly special by our numerous encounters with this beautiful animal.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Frost Caused Food Shortage


Several recent frosts have ended much of this year's growth of flowers.  Some still grow in sheltered locations and continue to produce pollen.  Insects of varying types find these flowers and some late food.  Clara Curtis chrysanthemums are quite hardy giving us flowers to look at and food for some bugs.


Goldenrod is highly invasive and has claimed many of our acres.  Exposed plants have been ended by hard frost while some take advantage of their sheltered location and continue to flower.  We have seen several different kinds of insects feeding on the same flower stem and even a fight between two wasps.  This fly gave us the best picture so it is included here.


Our asters have been widely placed in the gardens despite their common occurrence in roadside ditches.  Frost did not harm their leaves yet but most of the flowers are now dark masses with no pollen.  This bumblebee found one flower that remained intact.


Fragrant Lady Tresses flower late in the year.  Despite their southern native range, this plant continues on.  We have been trying to sample its scent by placing noses close to the flowers.  More than once bees like this one were working close to where we were sniffing.  No stings yet and the scent seems to be elusive.  We try to experience it at different times of the day under different weather conditions.  At best we have found only subtle samples of a very different but pleasing perfume.  This plant is well north of its natural home but we hope that it returns here  at winter's end.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Goodbye Good Friends


Earlier this week Elaine placed a phone call to us.  Her house had been sold and if we wanted to dig any more plants there, we had to get a move on.  All of our Arbutus plants were dug from her front lawn.  We thought about asking for more next spring so that we could have this wonderful plant in our new shade garden.  With the sale of their home we had to move now.  As has been our habit, we took a large patch of soil to lessen the transplanting shock.  Appropriate soil from under a white pine tree was taken since that has always resulted in a successful move.  We hope that this last chance ever will give us another Arbutus patch located where visitors can easily see it.


We knew absolutely nothing about this plant that grew at the end of Steve and Elaine's road.  Recent generous rainfall had pushed this Slime mold to sent up its fruiting bodies.  Contact with other bloggers indicated that this was a Slime mold.  We cannot say no to an interesting looking new to us plant.  We need to find a suitable location for this bizarre new arrival.  When the morning trip down the hill was made to water our new plants, this one looked quite sad.  It quickly responded to some water and puffed up its pink fruiting bodies.


Wintergreen has not been successfully moved here in the past.  Our last attempt is still alive but has not grown any new leaves.  We do not usually transplant this late in the year but it was now or never.  If the new plants do not survive their move, we will still have a chance for plants from seed.  Evergreen ground covers are frequently eaten as winter ends.  These plants have been placed under a hastily placed wire cage to protect against raids by hungry rabbits, deer or woodchucks.


All of these plants grow in acid soil.  These white pine needles will provide an appropriate acid mulch for all of these new arrivals.  They will be watered frequently until the ground freezes.  We do expect that not all of these plants will survive here but at least we tried.  Both Steve and Elaine have helped us on many occasions and we already have many of their plants growing here.  We will do our best to help these plants survive here.  This special couple will be missed and we wish them well at their new location.  Thanks to both of you for all that you have done for our family.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Fox In The Morning


 It was so easy to stay curled up in bed this morning.  When I did get up I looked out the bedroom window at the garden like I always do.   I saw the fox reclined on the top of the stone wall.  For a few seconds I got to admire his beautiful fur coat and bushy tail, but when our eyes met the fox disappeared in a flash.  I say disappeared but really the fox was not one bit rattled and simply kept hidden from my view using the garden as cover.  Ed grabbed the camera and we moved to the living room window.  Quick glimpses of fox were all we got to see for awhile, but then the fox came into view and hopped on top of  a bag of leaves.  First he dug in the top  to fluff up the leaves.  Then several circles were made before he settled down  just like the family dog would do.  Having flopped down in this comfortable spot it was time for a little wash up.  He licked his front paws like a cat.  The fox did not remain in that cozy spot for long.   Perhaps it was the noise of the camera or maybe he saw us move, but once again he disappeared  back into the safety of the garden..


We waited and watched, thinking our morning encounter was over, but to our delight he hopped up another stone wall where we could see him again.  For a time something up by the bluebird boxes held his attention.  At that distance he no  longer seemed a bit concerned about us.


 Foxes love to walk on the top of stone walls.  He stopped to sniff the stone wall next to the hazelnut.  Big fat chipmunks inhabit the stone wall there.  Maybe he will stop back at another time for a furry snack.


He made his way along the wall at a slow pace. We had time to take several really fuzzy pictures.


Once the fox ran out of wall  he took off streaking across the grass with his tail streaming behind him.  In seconds he was gone.  Even a brief glimpse of a fox makes my day.  This morning was beyond exciting,

Monday, October 7, 2019

Way Too Cool Fragrant Lady's Tresses


When Ed and I first moved here  after 30 years of living in the village, we explored every inch of the 36 acres that we could.  I spent a lot of time looking for wildflowers that grow here with my wildflower identification book in hand.  Once I found a type of lady tresses growing at the gravel bank.  I was never able to find it again.  When we went plant shopping at The Fernery this May, a pot of Fragrant Lady Tresses brought all that back.  Even though Ed had finished shopping, I couldn't resist digging in my purse to purchase one more plant.  It was not until later that I did some checking and discovered that New Jersey and Maryland are the Northern extent of the comfort range for this plant. It's bloom time is Sept. through Dec.  In spite of all that the plant seems to be fairly happy where we planted it.  This picture was taken early in September.


Just a little later in September the  stems were much taller and  it looked like maybe I would get  
to experience  the flowers of lady tresses again.  I am hoping that the new USDA 5A zone rating for this neck of the woods is right.  It helps to assuage my plant buyer's guilt.  I must say I have been watching this plant like a hawk. 


The green buds spread out in a spiral and began to show white.  It was after October 1 that the flowers began to open.  Ed and I took turns getting down on our knees to get a close look at these lovely little white orchids.   Both of us thought we could catch a whiff a pleasant fragrance.  Skies have been overcast and it has been cool during the day and cold at night.  We even had a frost.  When I went down to check on the plant after that I thought I might find a sorry looking sight.


I am delighted to report that the plant still looks great.  If we get some warm sunny fall days like we sometimes do, perhaps these flowers will enjoy them and fill the air with fragrance.  They already managed to bloom where they are planted.  Needless to say if the plant survives to come back in the Spring I will be thrilled.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Frost Warning


NOAA has warned of frost for tonight all week.  Their sensors for our area are located at the Binghamton airport with our temperatures usually running four degrees colder than forecast.  If that holds, we will see temperatures in the mid twenties tonight.  Cleaning up basil, pepper and tomato plants that been frozen and frosted is unpleasant.  We avoid handling that black slime by removing these plants before the cold hits them.

Our gardens will not be totally wiped out tonight.  Many of our plants will take the freeze without damage.  Fringed polygala is evergreen so it will take tonight's freeze in stride.  The pictured plant is among several transplanted from our woods earlier this year.  Its leaves will survive the winter and supply nourishment early next spring while the plant sends out new leaves.  This plant grows two types of flowers.  Beautiful purple butterfly like flowers float above the ground while the seed producing flower is active nearly underground.  That tiny green dot where the stem enters the ground may prove to be a new plant.  Polygala dies without warning so we are eagerly waiting to see if they will survive being moved and appear here next year.


Herb Robert, the H is silent, came here uninvited in with a potted plant of another variety purchased at Catskill Native Nursery.  Many of the early spring native woodland plants complete their above ground growing cycle before the trees leaf out.  That results in wide patches of barren ground for the remainder of the year.  We are considering allowing Herb Robert to widely spread across ground that will also send up Trillium, Bloodroot and Jack In The Pulpit.  It may be that the special plants can easily manage being inter planted with this lasting spot of green.  It is shallowly rooted and easy to remove.  We will watch and perhaps learn.


The tag identifies this Foamflower as a purchased plant.  It also grows in our back woods with several of our plants growing nearby.  Familiar weeds are also neighbors and that dandelion really needs to go.  One of our transplants has sent out impressively sized runners.  We will see just what spring will bring us with regard to these plants.  We do not expect that tonight's frost will end the growing season for Foamflower.


We moved Summersweet and Cardinal Flower to the western edge of the new shade garden this year.  The new rosettes of Cardinal Flower are evergreen and will continue to grow under the snow.  Each single stalked plant is producing several new plants around the base of the old soon to die stem.  We expect to see the brilliant red Cardinal Flowers growing among the white flowered Summersweet next summer.  If these plants survive next spring's fierce changeable weather, the combination of red and white flowers should be amazing.  It is interesting that the coming death by freezing tonight has us looking at plants that will take it without harm.  In some instances attitude is everything.