Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ruthless Pruner?

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. . . I would love to be a ruthless pruner. I'm not. I hate cutting new growth back, and I really hate thinning beautiful, tiny, little, innocent, baby plants. But it was time. My tray of basil plants needed me to be strong. So I screwed up my courage, got the small shears and thinned the plants to two plants in each square. A truly ruthless pruner would go for one in a square, but I'm working on it. I'll toss the losers in a salad for tonight's dinner.

I know you must be thinking that I have a lot of basil plants when you can buy them at any nursery, but I have to have some red. I have a recipe that just wouldn't be the same without it. I have to plant spicy globe. I would miss the cute round bush that smells so delightful when you pet it. Lemon basil is a favorite, and you can't always find that. Truth be told I'll still be looking for cinnamon and licorice basil when I shop for plants in May. I think of those fragrant flowers and leaves that you can put in your fruit salad to add that burst of flavor. Wow, I love basil plants!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Today It's Stones

Yesterday afternoon, when the sun came out after the snow, everywhere the snow had been removed from the lawn was covered with robins, starlings, tricolor blackbirds and juncos. There were more birds than I could count. I tried for a photo, but they all flew away as soon as I approached to snap a picture. Today the birds are elsewhere. The worms they were after are gone, I guess. It is much colder today. Only the south side of the house is dripping. The north side is not.

My plants are all covered with snow, so today it's stones. The edge of the wall that is melting faces south near the house (I'm taking this photo out a window.) and curves around to west. It's a perfect example of what a difference a southern exposure can make. The snow always retreats on the south side first. The direct rays of the sun make a difference.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Deja Vu

It's deja vu all over again. I've been thinking about changing the opening photograph for the blog. Obviously this thinking is premature. Fortunately we had not yet taken the plow off the tractor. My husband is out there now, working on the driveway with the snow still falling.

It's beautiful out there. The feel of the air is not the same as a winter storm. This is a spring storm, and the way the air feels, you know this snow will have a brief stay. That doesn't change the fact that for me, it's a fabulous day to stay home and stare out the window. What a great view!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bugs vs Elmer

You know, I’m a really nonviolent person with vegetarian tendencies. I love animals. I like rabbits. I had a pet one as a kid. But honestly, sometimes a rabbit’s behavior can turn the meekest gardener into Elmer Fudd.

My lovely coral bells made it through the winter, and now, mama rabbit is digging a nest among it’s roots for her babies. I object! The battle lines have been drawn. I filled in the hole, and will put down some wire as a barrier. I hope she wises up and moves on. This could get ugly. I could never harm a rabbit myself, but I’m already rooting for the coyotes, and I do have an Elmer Fudd acquaintance.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Cleaning

This is another guest photo taken by my daughter. (We had a wonderful visit!) I guess it's not a pretty picture. Some parts of gardening are not too pretty. The spring garden is frequently about clearing away the remains of the past (last year) to make room for the new growth of the present.

Obviously, I have some work to do here. It's a beautiful day today, and things have dried out a bit. I really can't face it while the plants are still slimy. I think this bed just might get my attention this afternoon. It's time to pull on those gloves, get my 5 gallon bucket, and collect all that dead plant material for the compost. After all, one of those dwarf iris that I am waiting impatiently for is in the neighborhood, and it deserves a nice clean background for it's photo op.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter flowers

I have a guest photographer on the blog today. My daughter is visiting and took this terrific shot of snow drop buds, and snow. It's chilly out there on this earliest of Easters. These brave little snow drops are still tight buds. But look at those snow crystals sparkling in the sun! Sometimes we get so impatient to move on to the next thing, we miss the exquisite beauty that is right in front of us.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First Spring Snow

I know, the first spring flower would be more exciting. However, what you see is what we are getting. The snow is swirling all around almost like it wants to avoid hitting the ground. The flakes are those huge ones that we all tried to catch on our tongues when we were kids.

The truth cannot be denied, however, this is the first day of spring. The birds know it. I saw a pair of hawks flying together this morning, and their intentions are obvious. I believe twitterpated is the technical term. The seeds that have been started indoors are coming up, except the parsley of course.

Outside our garden beds are waiting. The beds are 32' long and 5' wide with stone paths between them. The tan rectangles with the cages around them are my husband's garlic beds. So far the deer around here don't seem to care for garlic, but they do walk through the beds leaving footprints. Like the daffodils, the garlic will be up soon.

But look, the sky is not so dark and the grass is starting to turn green. Winter is officially gone. It's a beginning!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Lamb 's Ear

Lamb's ear is a lovely plant. Its leaves are gray and softly fuzzy, a real delight to the senses. The flowers are nice too, lavender, borne on fuzzy square stems. Bees love it, it smells nice, and it's very nice as a dried flower. However, this adorable little plant is growing in a patio that is planned to be planted with red creeping thyme.

That changes everything. Any plant growing where it does not belong is a weed! Now I have a bit of trouble sticking to this conviction, but if one wants a neat, well tended garden it's a necessary attitude to cultivate. So when I get out there with my tools, the lamb's ear will have to go.

It may go to into a pot for a friend, or it may get planted elsewhere, or it could end up in the compost to be recycled into something else. But right now, it's cute isn't it?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On the North Side

They say if you are lost in the woods you should look for moss on the north side of the trees. Well, today you can look for snow on the north side of everything. It lingers there on the north side of the stone wall, the north side of the hill, and the house, and the shed, and anything that gets between the sun and the earth. It's there like cold white shadows instead of ordinary dark ones.

It's supposed to warm up, and rain tonight in which case maybe the snow will all leave. But it feels pretty cold out there. There's always the chance that more snow will arrive to join the white shadows. I love a white Christmas, but a white Easter, not so much!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wearin' of the Green

Happy St. Patrick's Day. I went out to search for something nice and green to take a picture of in honor of the day. I know there's something called Irish moss, and we have lots of moss, but I don't know its nationality. I thought of the wood sorrel that grows in the back woods. It could pass for a sort of shamrock, but it is still under the snow and unavailable for a photo op.

The winner is the periwinkle against the stone wall along the driveway. It's a lovely dark green even though March winds are still blowing a bit cold here. Later it will have beautiful dark blue flowers, but today the shiny green leaves are enough. It's a lovely blue sky day. Who could ask for more?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Strawberries and Chamomile

It never ceases to amaze me how new plants seem so impervious to the winter. Really small plants seem to have the ability to thrive under the snow. These German chamomile plants were tiny in the fall. The strawberries were starts from runners in the bed next door. There they are green and beautiful while the older more established strawberry plants need trimming and tending.

If you have never had chamomile tea from fresh flowers or from newly dried ones, you are missing out. The flower heads have a wonderful aroma, and the tea is very relaxing. German chamomile is my favorite. It can be distinguished from the others by its hollow receptacle. Since it is a self seeding annual, it comes up where it was planted the year before. If I want to relocate it, I cut some of the plants with seed heads, and lay them on ground that has been prepared so that they will self seed there. The seeds are like dust. I still remember my first packet of chamomile seeds. At first I thought the packet was empty. This is one of those plants that start most easily with fresh seed heads from a friend.

Friday, March 14, 2008

New Growth

Now is the time to walk around the garden and look for the new shoots of perennial plants that are beginning to show. It's the tough ones that are sending up their new growth now. The plants are smart enough to know that the cold weather is not over yet. The fragile types will wait until the soil temperature is warmer before they stick their noses out.

This one is valerian. The lovely red leaves will turn green when they get some sun. The roots of this plant are used to make a medicinal tea. Medicine is right! I've read that the roots are liked by cats, and disliked by rats. I agree with the rats; to me the smell is unpleasant and the taste just as bad. Even in my most fervent years of interest in herbs, I could never bring myself to dig up my beautiful plants to use the roots. I grow valerian because I like the white fragrant flowers that will come later.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Path in Progress

We are making progress. Today I saw a big flock of robins. The snow is melting, and the garden is there pretty much the way we left it in the fall. Plants still need to be cut back, all of the weedy bad guys are lurking waiting for a new season's tug of war. Soon that battle will begin. Right now it's too cold and wet.

But today I stopped to notice the newest stone path. Winter halted construction, but there it is, just waiting to begin again. The process of sifting the stones from the beds and placing them in a path or a wall, or the muddy driveway is something my husband loves to do. It's really a delight to watch him work with stone. He has a magical way of using a potato rake to sort the stones by size. It looks so easy. You would think anyone can do it, but I've tried, and he does something imperceptible, and special.

Every stone has its place. The big flat one are put aside for a wall, oddly shaped and round ones are used somewhere for fill, the smaller stones go into the paths. Flat ones are laid up along the edge to keep the dirt in its place. The rest are dumped in the center and raked to the make the surface smooth. I delight in these stone paths. You can go out and pick strawberries in the rain, and never get your feet muddy. Mmm... strawberries!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Rivers Up, the Rivers Down

It's spring along the Unadilla River. The temperature was warm, and we had rain which added to the snow melt that brought the river up. Then the winds came, the temperature dropped, and it got cold. The river went back inside its banks. The river normally flows along the tree line at the top of the picture.

The ice that formed gets left hanging there, on the plants in the fields all along the river. Where the plants don't hold it up there are ice puddles with air trapped underneath them. They break with the most satisfying sound when stepped on. Today I acted my age and refrained from tramping all around to break them. Fine, I admit it, I did crunch a few.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Faded Rainbow

Yesterday was really something here as far as the weather is concerned. In the morning it was fog and rain. Later in the day, we had more rain, and thunder. The weather reports were worse. They talked of flooding, sleet, icing, snow and wind. In the late afternoon, the rain tapered off and we had a little blue sky, and when the sun came out, a rainbow.

I'm not a person who always has her camera ready. By the time I got the camera, the beautiful full rainbow was faded, but not completely gone. I took the picture anyway. I wasn't expecting much, but it's a rainbow in March so here it is.

We did get some wind overnight and a bit of snow. It's cold today, but the river is receding and the blue sky is back. The garden is waiting patiently, and I'm trying to do the same.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Watching the Garlic Grow

The other day when it was so very dreary, I planted a clove of garlic. I had this burning need to watch something grow, and I wanted it fast. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon when I stuck the clove in water. By evening the roots had visible growth. It was sunny yesterday so that gave my project a boost. Today we are back to rain, but check out my garlic. Why I could have fresh garlic greens in my salad by tomorrow.

I did see a big flock of red wing blackbirds today, and one robin. It was really pretty nice out this morning. Now it is rainy and foggy and may slip into sleet. Beware the ides of March! Actually when it comes to the weather here, beware the beginning of March too!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Blueberry Buds

What a difference a day makes, twenty-four little hours. . . . The sun is out and things are melting. There are little signs of growth here and there wherever the snow is gone. I'm itching to get started but the ground is still too wet and frozen in most places. The buds on the blueberries are still pretty tight, but they are there. We have high hopes for them this year since last year was a crop failure for us.

I scared a rabbit out from under the porch this morning. I think he jumped higher than I did, but it was close. I hope he was alone under there. I don't do Mr. McGregor very well.

So I'm back in the house and will content myself with digging in my potted plants.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dreary Day ?

I guess this picture could go next to the word dreary in the dictionary. It's raining and puddling all over. The snow underneath makes walking around outside treacherous. You can see there's big puddle out in the garden. We had to go out this morning and safely crossed the pond down at the end of the driveway. I'm glad to be back home as it seems to be growing.

While we were out I saw a killdeer. Now that has to be a sign of spring! We passed a large flock of wild turkeys. We were lucky! They decided to fly. They are easily confused by cars, and sometimes you have to wait quite awhile for them to get out of the road. The most magnificent sight for today was definitely the large group of snow geese flying over the river. We are positioned up the hill from the river so the birds fly almost at eye level. You can hear them squawk and sometimes hear their wing beats.

The high bush blueberries are beginning to get their spring red color. I swear it seems like it happened overnight. I know everyone talks about the beauty of the fall colors here, but to me the pinks, reds and different shades of green in the spring are just as gorgeous and perhaps more inspiring.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Snow Imprints

I was out in the garden looking for something photogenic. I took several shots of the snow retreating on the south side of the stone walls, but then I saw the imprint of my Russian Sage in the snow. I'm not exactly clear on how this happened, but I love the effect.

The Russian Sage is currently the centerpiece of the stone square. It has lovely gray foliage and lavender flowers in the summer. It looks fabulous in the moonlight, and stays pretty through the winter. Just look at it today! In the spring I will cut it back to promote the new growth.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

March At Last

The last bird nest is a wren nest on top of a bluebird nest. The size the nest and number of sticks used is amazing, especially when you think that those little birds have to carry every stick in their beaks. Then they have to get the long stick through that round hole. Wrens usually nest in bluebird boxes where there is more brush or trees close by.

I can't say March came in like a lion, maybe more like a polar bear. We have more snow and colder weather then we have had for awhile. Here it's nice if we get sunny days and cold nights in March. It makes the maple syrup producers happy. The sun streaming in the windows makes me happy too.