Friday, October 30, 2009

Fresh Peppermint Tea

I'm still slipping outside to pick fresh mint for Ed's morning tea. This is Black Stem Peppermint, a favorite. I have dried some for the winter, but for as long as the plants are producing nice leaves, we will have the fresh. It's worth putting on a jacket to go out, and it gives me a chance to walk around and watch all the plants as they progress into their winter dormancy. The annuals are for the most part gone, by that I mean dead. The perennials slip into their hibernation at different rates. The kettle whistle blows. The tea is ready. A small bit of summer lingers still!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Butterfly Bath

This rock was specially chosen for the top of the shade garden wall. Ed sealed it so that it would hold water, and give the butterflies, and the birds for that matter a place to bathe on a nice hot summer day. It has water in it today. It is a beautiful day, and I did see one yellow butterfly. Still it's probably a little cool for bathing. Perhaps everyone had a sufficient shower yesterday with all the heavy rains that a bath is not high on their list of things to do. Next summer though, I hope the butterflies will flock to our nice puddle. It will wait there until then.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Late Bloomers

These Emperor of China chrysanthemums had nothing but buds when the weather turned cold. I was horribly disappointed. I simply gave up hope too soon. Now after multiple frosts and a little snow, with temperatures falling into the twenties at night, these chrysanthemums are just beginning to bloom. Foliage that was green has turned a beautiful burgundy. Buds that were tight are beginning to open.

With the rest of the garden going dead and dormant, these beautiful pink flowers are a real day brightener.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ladybug , Ladybug ...

The first thing I noticed was the sound of pinging on the windows. When I looked out the window , I noticed a great number of lady bugs on the glass. A walk around the house showed me that all the windows had ladybugs on them. When I looked out over the garden I could see even more. The air was filled with ladybugs like a school experiment on Brownian movement.

A trip outside showed that the lady bugs were all over the house, not just on the windows. These were on just one corner of the foundation.Now we have them inside the house too, since they land on you and catch a ride inside.

I wondered just what kind of lady bugs I had swarming all over, but they do not seem to be all the same. My book lists a two-spot, seven-spot, nine-spot and no-spot -nine-spot lady bug. Two of these have more than nine spots. The other one is almost spotless, but not quite. All of them are supposed to be aphid eaters. They all have the aroma that I remember as a kid. For now I think I'll leave the ones that came inside. They can check my indoor plants for their dinner.

Our guests are Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles. Read About them HERE

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Hole Has Closed

Ed finished the shade garden wall today. Now that the ends are joined, I can't tell where he started or where he finished. The amazing thing about one of these stone walls is that it immediately looks like it has been there for years. Part of the reason for that is that Ed builds with many stones that already have moss and lichens growing on them. These stones have that old natural look. Decades piled at fields edge work magic.

What remains is to finish filling in the rest of the garden with soil. Spring will be soon enough for this task. We have reshaped the locust tree's world. If it has the Winter to adjust to the new lay of the land, perhaps it will survive. How can we have a shade garden if we off the tree? Now we can spend the winter dreaming of the new shade plants we will get to fill in the new space.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Snow !

Ed got the last of his garlic planted yesterday. He wanted to get it in before the snow, and he just made it. I saw a bluebird on the fencepost yesterday. I guess he stopped by to visit and to say goodbye. I know I have to find the snow brush for the car and dig out my boots. That doesn't really make me happy. Still, the beauty of the garden with its coat of white gets me every time. It's gorgeous!

It's not a lot of snow, perhaps an inch, perhaps less. Certainly more than that fell. It started yesterday and continued through the night. With the ground still warm, it took some time to stick. As the day warms the snow will probably disappear very quickly.

Tomorrow is the first day of deer hunting for the bow hunters. This kind of snow is what they dream about having for that first morning in the woods. If you look you can see the tracks where the critters have been in the garden. Tracks in the snow add a special excitement for the stalker. In a way it's a bit cruel, like giving a child a special toy, and then telling them they can't play with it until tomorrow. For the bow hunter it's even worse, this gift could well disappear before their very eyes. That's fine with me and I'm sure for the deer as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hope In A Hole

With midday temperatures hanging in the mid 40's it was time to plant garlic. Yesterday's rain left the ground too wet to work, but snow was mentioned in the weather forecast. Conditions will likely not be right for the job so the time is now. Galvanized wire fence serves double duty. Upright tied to the posts it keeps the large critters out. Flat on the ground, it guides the dibble in parallel rows with uniform spacing. That seems fussy, but a quality job is quickly done. Each paper bag in the tray contains seed cloves for the eighteen remaining different varieties. Planting follows the written map.

This year was hard on many crops including garlic. We harvested slightly more than half of the garlic planted. Mold during dry down took even more. Despite careful inspection while separating the cloves for planting, I am confident that I planted some moldy seed. Now comes the hope. A long uniform Winter with lasting snow cover would give us a solid start. Spring with moderate temperatures would move the plants nicely. This year Spring was hot and dry. Last frost in late May would be favorable. 2009's June frost should be forgotten. Then there is the rain.

The pictured variety is White Bishop. You will not find it listed in any catalog. A local grower supplied the original seed. Over the years I have separated out seed by specific characteristics. White Bishop now grows true to type, and it is our most reliable variety. Here is hoping that July 2010 finds it growing strongly.

Monday, October 12, 2009

October Frost

We got our first October frost yesterday.It was relatively light. Just enough to make some of the plants limp and mushy. After planting the rest of our new bulbs, attention was turned to clearing beds. The compost pile is burgeoning with pepper plants,bean and watermelon vines, weeds, and the late pea vines that almost produced a late crop, but didn't quite make it.

This bed is ready for spring.It's all weeded except for a couple of hollyhock plants that might survive the winter and get to stay. The wire covers the newly prepared bed to discourage the critters from digging or rolling in the soft soil.

This morning's frost was the real thing. With the temperature well below freezing, the cold white curtain has fallen on the garden. Any tender plants are doomed. This year's garden is history. Time to look ahead to spring. The first planting of garlic will be made today.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ridge Lift

It's Autumn in New York and so much is going on. When Ed walked to the mailbox this morning a huge flock of geese lifted off the river, darkening the sky overhead, and honking up a storm. They headed off toward the Southwest still low , noisy and disorganized. It would have made a great picture, but all Ed had was the outgoing mail. Later when I went out, I did have the camera, but the V of geese that flew over me was so high that the birds were almost too tiny to see.

Hunting season is coming up and we always close the gate on the lane that leads to the back to cut down on uninvited visitors. We took the opportunity to drive around and gaze at the panorama of Autumn color. From the high meadow there is a three hundred sixty degree view, and today it was breathtaking. Heavy clouds cast wide shadows across the hills that line our valley. The combination of brightly colored trees in full sun and muted Fall colors in the shadows was memorable.

When we got to this view of the ridge we stopped in our tracks. A huge kettle of birds, perhaps 30, were circling above the ridge. As we stood and watched them, we never once saw a bird flap its wings. Minor trim changes to wing and tail feathers effortlessly moved the group along the ridge. Wind from the Northwest struck the ridge and shot up into the air. The hawks rode rising air currents allowing the wind to do the work necessary for flight. The entire group moved along above the ridge. As the birds looked for lift the circles changed in size from wide to narrow. When the circle was narrow the birds seemed to be moving incredibly fast and it was dizzying to watch . When the circle broadened the group separated. One hawk would find the lift and the others moved in its direction. We watched the circling hawks until they disappeared from view in the distance.

Curious, we checked some of our books to see if we could guess what kind of birds put on this fabulous show. After consulting the schedule for viewing hawks in Marie Winn's "Red Tails In Love", Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle,and Northern Harrier seemed to be possibilities.

Turkey vultures kettle too, but the rocking motion they usually display was totally absent from today's birds. The Osprey's wings bend down when they glide. Today's birds sometimes flew on plank like wings. No white heads or tails were noticed and I don't think I've ever heard of a kettle of Bald Eagles. My Peterson Field Guide for hawks lists the Northern Harrier as the only member of the genus Circus in North America. They are literally named for their habit of flying in circles. At a wing span of 43 to 48 inches the size seems about right.

In the end we don't have to know what kind of birds they were. It was the way the circle of birds soared on the wind so effortlessly that was so incredibly exciting. This afternoon the skies have cleared. The air mass that carried the birds is past. It's already chilly in the shade. Without the clouds the temperature will drop tonight.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Second Chance

This spring when I had Ed plant a poor pathetic looking cyclamen in the shade garden, I had every intention of being a hard hearted Hannah . I was going to just leave the plant outside and let nature take its course. Through the summer the plant began to look better. It really does have beautiful leaves. When the weather turned cool the plant loved it. Beautiful white flowers appeared. Of course the let nature take its course plan went right out the window. Ed repotted the plant and it has its place on the shelf in the basement. It seems happy there where it's cooler. If it makes the winter, we'll try this again. Maybe cyclamen aren't impossible for me after all.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Monarch Migration

Today was a classic Fall day. Crisp cool air caused us to wear a second shirt. No rain fell to dampen our spirits or end outside work. Monarch butterflies were frequently seen. Their migration is underway. Monarch migration is an easy event to miss. Single butterflies are all that we see, but they keep coming. "Look there goes another", is the call that identifies the event.

Butterfly bush flowers are still a source of nectar for butterflies. This one paused only briefly to feed then flew South. Wind from the Northwest made flight difficult. We saw mostly pumping wings with few glides. When the wind is from the North we see butterflies with some altitude gliding above our garden. Today they were down low and working hard. Some stopped for a drink, but the general direction always remained constant , South!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Late Monarch

This late Monarch had a very close call today. Ed was mowing and saw it just in time to mow around his milkweed leaf. It's so interesting the way Mother Nature hedges her bets. This caterpillar is late.The milkweed is yellowing. Horizontal stalks to hang a chrysalis on are few. Every year the weather patterns are slightly different. Some years the early butterflies succeed, some years the late ones do. They certainly hatch out over a long period of time. It's hard to imagine that this one will find enough to eat, then attach to a plant and have the two weeks or more as a chrysalis that are necessary to become a butterfly. Lately just a day with enough sun to dry off a butterfly's wings has been a rarity.

The same thing happens with plants. Dill seedlings are appearing now that have little chance of survival,but there are other dill seeds waiting that will wait until spring before taking their chances. It's this magnificent excess of seed and egg production that allows the system to work.

Just the same I can't help rooting for this late caterpillar. He avoided the mowing machine, maybe his luck will hold, or maybe he will just be too late.