Friday, November 28, 2008

Now the Ginger Looks Better!

This ginger was outside all summer. It pretty much just sat there. Now that it is in the house it is doing much better. I checked one of my books to see why. Being from Asia ginger likes very hot, humid weather and plenty of rain. It grows to six feet, spreads like crazy and has white flowers. It's supposed to keep the tigers away. This plant does get watered but I'm afraid the rest of its requirements are out of reach. The thermostat is set in the sixties, and it won't be going higher. No worries about tigers here anyway.

I use fresh ginger regularly in the kitchen. Sometimes when a root has been around for awhile it begins to sprout. I always feel compelled to plant it. My pot of ginger is the result. The ginger caught my attention today because it is doing better, but also because it had (Wait for it!) weeds. Can you believe it's only the end of November and I miss weeding? So here is the ginger all of 18" tall, weeded for its picture.

In case you are missing weeds too, here is the before picture. Hmm... woody nightshade, bedstraw, grass, garlic mustard, (Or is that ground ivy?) and some tiny ones I can't identify. What a pleasure it was to pull them out and drop them in the compost pail. I'll just do the one plant today. I'll be wanting to pull weeds again soon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Remember Rosemary

Rosemary is the herb of memory. This rosemary blooming today is a lovely reminder to stop and be thankful. In the garden as in life, things are never perfect, but if you look, there is always something beautiful, something miraculous every single day.

Here the rosemary lives in a clay pot. It spends the growing season outside on the stone patio and the winter inside as a house plant. Right now my hands have that wonderful aroma from having touched the leaves. Rosemary releases its scent whenever it is touched and as a thank you for being watered. Everyone should have a rosemary plant. It has lovely dark green leaves, beautiful flowers, a fabulous aroma, and is delicious besides. What more could one ask of a plant?

Oh! I just remembered one more thing. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Don't Adjust Your Set, We Control the Picture

An unbelievable saga has been unfolding surrounding my dial up, the only choice available in this valley, and placing photos on the blog. It has truly sent me to the outer limits of my patience, perhaps my sanity. It started with the sad slow demise of my old computer. So I bit the bullet and got a new computer. However, my old beloved camera would not work with the new Windows Vista.
@!#*...HP...@#!*... ( Trust me.You don't want to read this part!)

Today Ed came home with a memory card reader and voila an uploaded photo using the new computer.

The tuberose, lemon grass, and society garlic are lucky to be inside looking out. It's been getting colder at night. The still parts of the river are frozen. In the morning we have new snow. Then some of it melts during the day. I just hope we can save the big storms for later.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Meet Stefan

At twenty years, Stefan is the senior member of our houseplant family. He started out as a small plant on the window sill of Amy's college dorm room. Stefan did well in college, but had to drop out when he became too tall to fit in the car. The house where we used to live had ten foot ceilings and Stefan rose to the challenge. When he reached the ceiling , after much discussion I attempted air layering. The top died, but the bottom sprouted the two trunks that you see today.

Not long ago Stefan reached the ceiling here. With some considerable effort I moved him from the bedroom to the stairwell. I thought it would give him more height to grow taller. Of course instead of that, like any plant, he chose to grow toward the sunlight. Soon we will need a machete to get down the stairs to the basement. I'm afraid I need to sharpen up the loppers and cut him off at the base again. I do not find this kind of operation easy or pleasant. Now I ponder the question. Should I do it now while the strong winter sun streams in the south facing window or should I give Stefan a reprieve and wait until spring?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sparkling Snow

The sun is shining and the snow is falling. The sun hitting the snow flakes looks like diamonds falling from the sky. It's one of those incredible, magical light effects that the camera or at least my camera doesn't capture. There are small hints of the effect in the glints of light that show in the snow on the ground, but the falling snow leaves its sparkling impression only on me. Not unlike a rainbow, as the sun moves higher in the sky the magic will be gone even if the flakes continue to fall. It's a Monet thing. A change in light alters everything. So many beautiful sights in nature are transitory and easily missed. Even if the picture isn't perfect, the memory is there. Who knows tomorrow the magic may be back!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winter Warmth

Now the sun is low enough in the sky to stream in our south facing bedroom windows. It's rather pleasant to awaken because the bright sun warms your face. We had a dusting of snow overnight, but now the sun is out and the air feels warm. Where the sun hits directly the snow is already gone. It the shaded places it may stay all day or even longer.

As I walked around the garden looking at the plants peeking out from under the snow, it was the snow on the top of the stone wall that caught my camera's eye. It's an amazingly beautiful picture!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Warm Stew for a Cold Day

It's getting cold here. Ice is forming on the ponds. I took the camera outside with me to cut the kale for a nice warming dinner. My hands were hurting by the time I got back in the house. This kale might be the last thing I harvest directly from the garden. Other garden ingredients for my stew are already in the basement or in the freezer.

I chose West African Groundnut Stew from Vegetarian Soup Cuisine by Jay Solomon. What follows has a few changes from the original recipe.

West African Groundnut Stew

1 T oil
1 med. onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 c. water
2 c. tomato juice
1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes
2 c. diced butternut squash
1 T dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 c chunky peanut butter
4 c, shredded kale, stems removed

In a large saucepan heat the oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, ginger and cayenne. Saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the water, tomato juice, tomatoes, squash, and seasonings. Cook for 25 minutes over med-low heat , stirring occasionally until the squash is tender.

Aggressively stir in the peanut butter. Stir in the kale and return to a gentle simmer. Remove the stew from the heat and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped peanuts. Serves 6.

It's too bad you can't smell the aroma coming from the kitchen!

Monday, November 17, 2008

What a Difference A Day Makes

Ed spent yesterday mixing garden soil for the finished part of the shade garden. It was cold out there, but he dressed properly and made great progress on his project. He's the hardy gardener. I'm only half-hardy, so I went out only to get some peppermint to make tea.

This morning the scene has changed. Snow is falling and the garden is going from green to white. This will make the deer hunters happy since tracking the deer is so much easier in the snow. I've heard several gun retorts already this morning. Time will tell if this is the final white curtain on real garden work. Sometimes here the November snow lasts. Ed is hoping for encore and a chance to continue his project. Either way it's been a great gardening season!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Planting Stone

As promised my fascinating stone has found its place in the shade garden wall.The weather was beautiful today and Ed was working on the wall. When I brought the stone to him he just placed it in the wall where he was working. Today was one of those magical days when the stones just fit together. It looks like mortar squeezing out between some stones. That is actually wet sand. Bedding the stones in a thin layer of wet sand fills the final voids and keeps the stones from rocking. Rain and time will erase the visible sand leaving us a solid place to sit.

This is the "ugly" side of the wall. Since these stones will not show when the planting soil is added to the shade garden, irregular stones have been used on the inside of the wall. The only issue here is structural integrity. It is also a place to bury the stones unsuited for the visible side of the wall. I've always been amazed watching Ed build a wall using the varied stone. The well placed stone stays where it is put.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Time to Burn

Yesterday was cold and rainy and an easy day to stay inside. Today is a beautiful day and perfect for working outside. Since everything is wet it is a perfect time to build a fire, but since everything is wet it's a smoky business. This particular fire is not a happy bonfire but a final farewell to our thrip infested gladiola bulbs. Having read the soak in disinfectant, spread out to dry, and repeat in the spring treatment for thrip infested bulbs, we decided to do the more final but perhaps more sensible thing and burn them. We will have a glad free garden next year.

I never had thrips before and I don't know where they came from. One has to wonder if it was the weather or if they came in on a new bulb purchase? Three of the most infested varieties came from one nursery. I'm sad about the bulbs, but for the thrips I say "Burn baby burn"!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stone Fascination

Both Ed and I have a real fascination with stones. It's not just the walls and paths he builds, but the interesting qualities of the stones themselves. This stone is a gorgeous wall stone. It has two parallel sides , but the shape is nicely off square. The color, texture and density are a little different from most stones we find here. Its present location is the temporary stone pile. A place in the shade garden wall is its likely destination. Because our stone here was dropped by the glacier we have a great diversity of stones. Fossils, flint, flat stones, round get the idea.

This stone is a top stone on the shade garden wall. I have no idea how the interesting pattern was formed, but it's fun to look at and so it gets a spot on the top of the wall. The sand in the three holes around the tinted area is a consequence of wall building. How the holes were formed is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Finally Some Foxgloves

I've bought foxgloves from nurseries several times, and I've had flowers here and there. This year I was on the lookout for small foxglove plants. All summer when I was weeding and I came upon a tiny foxglove plant, Ed would come and carefully move it to this spot by the stone wall. Now I have a foxglove patch. The plants are looking good and they should have the necessary roots to get through the winter and produce their a beautiful display next year.

The low rosettes will reman under the snow like Sleeping Beauty requireing the kiss of the warm spring sun to awaken and bloom. It's a good thing they are ready. We have snow in the air and the garden soil is cooling down. It's time for a nice long nap!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hollyhock Skyscraper Demolition

It's cold and cloudy outside and a bit damp after yesterday's all-day rain. That doesn't keep Ed out of the garden. The broccoli got composted. Time is not going to make it smell any better. Next he decided to cut off the flower stalk of our garden skyscraper.This demolition was scheduled weeks ago, but the plant continued to flower. With growth at the base there is a good chance it will return next year. After considering the chainsaw, the big loppers were chosen for the job.

So how big is this hollyhock? Let me see, if Ed is 6' 3", and the hollyhock is more than twice his height then...

There's nothing quite like a tape measure to answer these difficult math problems. No cheating, I promise!  I saved a few more seeds, but most of the seeds have been scattered in the garden. Ed went off toward the compost with the hollyhock and his loppers. He'll be cutting it up into shorter lengths to fit it in the compost bin. I headed back in the house, stopping just long enough to watch a crow harassing a beautiful red tail hawk in the sky over the garden. I know why the crows hate hawks, but I can't help wondering why the hawks put up with such abuse.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Creeping Lemon Thyme

I love lemon thyme. I can't say how many of the upright plants I have lost to winter kill over the years. Let's just say I finally gave up and now stick to the creeping variety. It does well for me. The taste and the lemon scent are delicious. More than that, see how great it looks creeping across the stones! Not bad for November in zone 4.

When we were having furry mole and vole trouble, the crocuses growing through or near the lemon thyme were spared and bloomed while the others became lunch.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Garden Tribbles?

Forgive the Star Trek reference, but these clove pinks are so cute and round and fuzzy looking, I just couldn't resist. I love Dianthus even though they usually make you wait to see flowers until the year after you buy them. The cage you see around the plant is to discourage the deer who find the fragrant plant yummy.

Now to the trouble with my Tribbles. I went to the garden to find my stone label that identifies this plant. I'm afraid this time there was no stone. The stone in the picture is for the mahogany Monarda next door. This plant is a clove pink, but it could be 'Pheasants Eye' or ' Old Vermont'. I won't know until next year when I see the flowers. My permanent marker on flat stones system works great, when I do it. It's a habit that needs some cultivation.

The plan is to write the name of the plant on a flat stone with a permanent marker.If I received the plant from a friend, I add that name too. Next turn the stone over and repeat the process on the other side. Place the stone next to the plant and you are done. The sun does fade permanent marker so if you write the information on both sides, you can just turn the stone over and your label is still there. It's really a perfect system. It's easy, it's cheap and it works IF YOU DO IT!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Premature Pink Poppies

These adorable little pink poppy seedlings are in big trouble. Perhaps the spell of cold weather followed by warm weather fooled them into sprouting. Usually they don't come up until the soil warms in the spring. Global warming aside, they will get frozen before they get far.

The weather has been delightfully warm in the sixties. It's really enough to confuse anyone,but it's a wonderful chance to be outside in November. Today were lucky enough to see a bald eagle soaring over the Unadilla River. It's always a thrilling sight, and thankfully one we see more and more often. This particular bird was a immature probably about four years old. The white head was not completely white and the tail was still rather dark, but there can be no mistaking the majestic bird even without the adult's white head and tail. I'd like to think this eagle was born right here in upstate New York.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shade Garden Wall

The locust tree marks the location of our first pile of leaf mold. Loads of well rotted leaves were lifted from a village site and brought here. The locust tree grew from seed. Soon its roots claimed the compost pile. This is the only tree in our lawn. Finally it occurred to us that we could have a shade garden. The stone wall will allow us to fill to the level of the old compost pile. It will also give us a place to sit in the shade.

The tan colored stones in the wall were just removed from the ground. Ed found them while digging the ditch next to the driveway. Rain will wash these stones clean. Then they will match the rest of the wall.

Each wall is actually two walls. The stones are placed so that they are falling toward the center. Its the same principle that allows two drunks to hold each other up. The voids between the two walls are filled with screened fines from the gravel bank and small broken pieces of stone. If these spaces are carefully filled, there is no place for the wall stones to fall. Their only choice is to stay where placed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Boys and Their Toys

The work here is in response to the localized heavy rains that been moving the lane surface down the hill. Ditches are needed to keep the runoff away from the driveway. Ed's tools of choice have always been a shovel, pry-bar and stone fork. The wheel barrow has been replaced by the John Deere and wagon. This in response to changes in age and health. A checkbook and backhoe would finish the job quickly. The manual labor has measurable health benefits. It can also be pleasant.

The stones in the picture were found here. They have been judged suitable for wall building. The last task each day is to move this treasure to the current wall site.

An unrealized fear is finding a stone that is too big to move. This monster could cause injury. It has been raised to the surface using only the pry-bar. Splitting the stone resulted in pieces that were safely moved. In the recent past a wheelbarrow would have been placed on its side next to the stone. The stone would have been rolled into the wheelbarrow. Pulling on the high side of the tray would right the wheelbarrow and the stone would have been walked away. Now the stone is rolled into the dump cart and John Deere hauls the stone away.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's a Good Sign

One might wonder how scat on top of a stone wall can be a good sign. For me it is! I have an interesting book called "Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks & Sign" by Paul Rezendes.It's very helpful for the garden detective in the winter.

This sign says that the foxes are back. The berries and the placement of this scat are a giveaway. Odor and size are clues as well, but I don't get close enough to measure or compare scents where scat is concerned. The fox likes to leave his little present up at nose level to mark his territory. In the past we have had gray foxes here, but they could be red. It all comes down to white or black on the tip of their tail. I can't wait to see them! Rabbits, squirrels , voles, and field mice beware! You are on the menu. I'm sure you'll be delicious after eating my lovely garden plants!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Late Late Bloomers

I took this photo yesterday on my walk. It's witch hazel. Witch hazel blossoms late, really late. The plants here are the wild native variety. I can't see witch hazel in bloom without thinking of a wonderful trip I took with Amy. We went to Central Park in 2005 to see Christo's "The Gates". It was interesting to walk around inside an art installation. Christo said the gates were in contrast to the stark reality of winter in the park with no color.

This picture was taken in 2005. Christo's gates are in the background. Amy and I were delighted to find witch hazel in bloom in the Shakespere garden. I don't know if Christo would approve, but we were thrilled. The blooms on that witch hazel were not yellow, but orange, the same color as "The Gates". Curious,I looked for an orange witch hazel and found Hamamelis x intermedia "Jelena". Just imagine, it flowers in January or February. It also says zone 5 and I'm really should stick with zone 4. Still there's no harm is looking for it is there?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Off the Beaten Path

Yesterday was a perfect fall day. It was cold and frosty in the morning, but the sun warmed things up to make being outside a real pleasure. Ed got out his tractor and wagon and went to play in the stones and dirt. I took a walk off the beaten path.

One nice thing about an early fall snow is that it compresses the vegetation making a little off trail walking possible. The bed straw that was up to my waist before is now a spongy carpet under foot. The goldenrod is no longer up to my shoulders making walking much easier. I headed over to one of our wild unspoiled areas. The picture is lichen and moss. The lichen is fascinating in that it is hard and brittle when dry, but soft when wet. The moss is soft and green, one of many kinds that grow here. I would be the first to admit that I know very little about these plants. They grow all over the gravel bank hill.

I trudged on and discovered a bluebird box that had fallen. It has been rescued and is now sitting atop a stone wall to dry out. Bluebird nest renovations will have to go on the list of things to do.

Over close to the fence line is the balsam fir we planted when we first bought this land. Ed dug a gigantic hole and we planted the tree next to a path. Ed carried water to this one too. We had little experience planting trees. It soon became apparent that a path means deer walk by. Unfortunately Bucky found our beautiful balsam perfect to rub the velvet off his antlers.Perhaps he thought balsam scented antlers are a turn on. We were sure the tree would die, but it recovered and there it still stands. It's hardly ready to be pictured in the nursery catalog, but it's alive and it's fragrant needles are a delight. I broke off a small piece and put it in my pocket to take back to the house. I love the aroma.

As I headed back to the house, I stopped by an old pile of stones made years ago when the farmer piled them up to clear his field. I chose a stone I liked from this treasure trove and carried it back to the area where Ed was working. Perhaps it will find a place in the wall.