Monday, November 30, 2009

Leftover Turkeys

The last day of November is dreary, rainy and cold . Perfect weather for sitting in the house and gazing out at the garden. I was doing just that when I noticed movement in the tall grass on the far hill. I recognized the movement as wild turkeys, so I got the binoculars for a closer look. This was a large group, perhaps the biggest one I have seen all year. I tried to count heads, but in the tall grass where they blend in and disappear at a moments notice, I kept coming up with a different number every time. I counted 18, then 16, then 19. When the turkey's reached Ed's path over the hill they started single file up the path. I've seen groups of wild turkeys do this before. It's quite fascinating to watch. When the last of the turkeys was in the path I counted again. This time I got 22. That's quite a flock!

As the turkeys reached the ridge, they had a choice to make. The path diverges there. One path goes straight ahead and down into the dead ice sink we call the meditation spot. The other path makes a left turn and goes up the hill along the ridge. That first turkey turned left, and went up along the ridge. The rest dutifully followed, and I watched them until they disappeared out of sight. Catching glimpses of animals is one of the great things about living where we do. But when those turkeys chose to head up the path instead of into the garden, we had something else to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lichen Stones

This lichen covered stone rests atop one of Ed's stone walls. Stones seem so hard, so permanent. Water wears away stones over time, I realize that. This makes sense, but it's hard to imagine that lichens are eating the stones, slowly digesting them into soil. It's a funny idea plants eating stones. It seems like something out of Star Trek. Even if that is what is going on, I love the frosted effect they add to the top of a wall.

I don't know much about lichens. I look at this stone with wonder. There's so much going on here. Overall black coloring, round dark gray spots, tiny little white spots, and lacy lichens cover the surface of this stone. Perhaps I will be able to just enjoy the textural beauty of this stone, or maybe curiosity will send me searching for a book to find out more.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Darwin's Choice

According to the laws of natural selection, the best of the species will survive. Well this little buck has the right idea. He spent much of today grazing and wandering within sight of the house and garden. While I am confident that he's not smart enough to have read the rules for hunters that forbid shooting this close to a house, he seems to have the right idea anyway. I would guess that he is last year's fawn. He appears to be all by himself. The ladies have all gone after the big buck that we've seen on the ridge. Perhaps he remembers with fondness the Spring mornings when Mom brought her spotted fawn by to run and play on the short grass around the garden. Maybe he remembers this as his favorite gourmet take out eatery. As long as he stays on the other side of the wall, I'll just watch through the binoculars. This time of year if I see a deer in the garden I usually open the living room window and yell really loud. In the warmer weather I go outside, get closer and yell really loud. I'm not very intimidating so the deer usually leave but slowly. The smart ones know when they are safe and when to run away.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holiday Color

From a distance the garden is beginning to look kind of dead. Shades of black, brown and gray seem to predominate. Many plants are waiting to be cut back after the ground freezes. Dead stalks and seed heads abound. But this year Thanksgiving Day is warm and sunny. It's perfect weather to be outside taking close-ups in the garden. Amy's photo of this pink and purple catnip plant with its soft textured leaves surrounded by other green plants, shows that the November garden isn't drab at all. It all depends on what you choose to focus on. Those catnip leaves almost beg to be touched. If you could do that, you would find their pungent aroma is still present. All of these plants with their ground hugging habit, are waiting for the cold and snow. These green and pink plants all plan to be back in the spring. It will be great to see them then, but it's especially nice to see them now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Green Patch On The Sod Pile

Ed and I were standing inside the kitchen door looking outside, when a beautiful green patch of plants caught my eye. They were some distance away, growing on top of Ed's sod pile. We had a discussion about just what the gorgeous green patch might be. Back when bees were discovered to be nesting near the compost pile, I placed some seed pods and seeds on the top of Ed's sod instead of getting close to the compost pile. I avoid bees in any kind of numbers because I seem to have an invisible sign on me that says STING ME. Some would say it happens because I'm afraid of being stung , and I am, but I get stung when I don't even see or hear a bee. I just don't push it. Based on what I had left there, I thought the green patch might be arugula. Ed though it might be flax. The arugula seeds were from the garden. The flax seeds came from cleaning out the chest freezer. They were old, purchased from the health food store several years ago. The green patch turned out to be arugula. It's a nice surprise and will make a delightful if unexpected November salad.

But when I got close enough to take a picture , I discovered that Ed was also right. I'm pretty sure that the pale green plants next to the clover and grass are indeed annual flax. Of course it's doubtful these particular plants will survive for long, but perhaps more of those seeds will wait till spring and come up then. One should never underestimate the power of a seed. I would be very happy with a patch of arugula and beautiful blue flax on the top of the sod pile in the spring.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


This weekend really marks the beginning of deer season here. Bow season has been going on, but that's quiet whereas gun season starts with a BANG! Hunters are serious about it here. In years past, before someone got smart enough to start the season on Saturday, students skipped school, teachers, factory workers, executives... took the day off to be out there on the first day of hunting season . Some men stop shaving, vowing to wear a beard until they get that buck.

There are good reasons for lowering the deer population. Both my husband and my daughter have hit a deer with their car. It's a common occurrence, and it causes injuries and incredible expense . Lyme disease is another consideration. The damage deer do to crops and garden plants is both infuriating and expensive. In this area families actually depend on the venison that hunting supplies. Provisions have been made so that the meat can be donated to food pantries in the area. I thought I had come to accept deer hunting as a good thing.

But this morning as I drank my coffee gazing out the window at the scene you see here, a magnificent buck and doe bounded across the ridge into my sight. They were panic stricken and terrified, unsure where to go to escape their tormentors. It was hard to watch. They soon ran off in the direction of the neighbor's farm. So I remain conflicted about the deer. On the one hand I see them as beautiful wild animals who deserve to be left alone. On the other I see the problems they cause.

After the first few days the number of hunters in the woods drops dramatically. For now, work done outside in the garden will be done close to the house dressed in fluorescent orange "I am not a deer" clothing. It's not so safe to venture far afield. As infuriated as I get when they eat my favorite plants, I have to admit that in November I still side with the deer. Perhaps I always will.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Path Growth

Overnight heavy rain limited the plausible choices for outside activity today. Moving stone is a good choice when the garden soil is too wet to work. In my haste to get this path started I violated Rule 1 and left a pile of scrap stone nearby. Today some of that stone was moved to its final position. Some of it was added to the path. Some of it was moved to the gravel bank. The path has grown to a configuration where walking on it is possible.

The area between the path and the lawn will change into a planting bed. More bed , less lawn and more plants and stones in the garden is the plan. Squares of sod will be cut, removed and stacked. Given time to work, sod changes into the best soil here. Stone will be raked out and planting holes will be filled with screened soil. One lesson learned is to leave unamended soil for native plants. New England Asters that were placed in richly amended soil grew to freakish proportions this year. Huge flower heads sat atop stalks devoid of green leaves. This was definitely not the effect we were hoping for. Next spring, divisions will be placed in poor soil. We hope this will result in more normal appearing plants.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What A Great Surprise!

Yesterday I discovered that Plants and Stones was one of
Horticulture magazine's top 20 favorite garden blogs. With all of the terrific blogs they had to choose from, I was surprised, no shocked to be selected! What a thrill it was for me. There's no question about that. My smile was so broad that Ed was afraid I might swallow my ears. I really need to say thank you to Patty Craft , managing editor of Horticulture. I did buy a brand new subscription to the magazine, but that hardly seems adequate.

Red creeping thyme is what we planted in the area photographed. It's there, but Catchfly is the larger plant. This is how we garden. Ed moved the catchfly into the garden from the gravel bank because he liked the bright pink of its tiny flowers. Brown sticky sections on the plant's stem added to its appeal. Butterflies and hummingbirds feed on these flowers, and that sealed the deal. So now we have a strongly growing "weed" in our stone garden square . Some will go to the compost, but some will be allowed to stay. Catchfly plants itself and we work around its chosen spot. Allowing plants to self seed is what we do best.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sparkling Frost

This morning is sunny and crisp. As I look out my bedroom window, the landscape is glittering with light reflected off the frost on the stones, grass, plants, and trees. It's a spectacular scene, but my camera doesn't quite convey the splendor. The view that I can see is magical! This will be one of those lovely November days when it is perfect for being outside in the middle of the day. One can't help but notice that it is staying cold later in the morning, and getting cold earlier in the afternoon. It's only a short time now before the cold meets in the middle of the day for good. But that's not today.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

History In A Stone

It's a beautiful November day and Ed has been playing with stones. When he found this one, it won a place on top of one of the walls. I think the hole in the rock sort of looks like an eye staring back at you. What could have made this interesting hole?

Jane's stones occasionally show similar holes. Jane lives along a stream, and has given us many beautiful water worn stones. They add something special to Ed's walls when he uses them. Many years past, there was a paint pigment operation upstream from where Jane lives. In those days paint pigments were obtained by chipping the colored deposits out of stones. The stones were then discarded by the stream. High water washes these stones downstream to Jane's.

Ed found this stone at our gravel bank. Although the stone was placed on the wall today, it looks like it could have been there for some time. If left in this position, water may fill the hole and freeze breaking the stone. Now we have a dilemma. If we leave the stone where we can see it, it may be broken. We could put it someplace safe. Wait a minute, it's a rock.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November Harvest

Today was a typical November day. Freezing temperatures overnight were followed by moderate temperatures during the day. It was day for layers not just shirtsleeves in the garden. Kale is at its best right now, so making Portuguese kale soup seemed perfect for this weather. The onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes and kale all came from our garden. Only the veggie Italian sausage, tomatoes and kidney beans came from the store.

The lettuce that remains in the garden has turned bitter from the repeated freezing. I'm still too cheap to buy poor quality lettuce from the store, but some arugula that came up from self seeding was terrific on our lunchtime sandwiches.

Ed spent the afternoon preparing more of the garden beds for spring. Tiny weed removal and another top dressing of compost has the beds ready for winter. Many of the areas he worked on yesterday showed lots of critter activity. Footprints and places where digging had been done just add more evidence to the faint aroma in the air last night that skunks were out looking for a midnight snack in the soft garden soil. Ed put the fences back up on the beds he worked on today in the hope that they will still be intact in the morning.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bufo A. Americanus

Today was another perfect November day. Overnight frost was followed by bright sun light and warm late morning temperatures. Two consecutive rainless days meant everything was right for outside work. As I walked across the meadow that is our yard, something caught my eye. Seeing what looked like fresh wet scat, I deftly danced to the right missing soiling my boot. The scat was in fact a rather large toad. What it was doing in the lawn is a mystery to me. I thought that these guys spent the winter in a shallow burrow under leaves and such. We try to limit our interference with the natural order but Mr. Toad was in my path. A gloved hand moved the toad inside the wall of the shade garden. If it finds the new digs unsatisfactory, a long first hop will take it to freedom.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

And They Came

2005 was the date on this jar of honey. A molasses like liquid floated on top of the crystalized honey. Becky wanted it out of the cupboard. To the compost bin it went. Our days have been cold and there have been few insects working. Today was different. The sun was strong and I was working in shirtsleeves by 10am. Bees were working also. By afternoon the compost bin sounded like a hive. Bees of various types were gorging themselves on the honey. Their mood was docile, I am not sure that they can deliver a sting when they are full of honey, and I stood nearby and watched them feed.

Bees normally work short hours. They start late and quit early. Free honey held bees there until sunset. With the sun gone the temperature dropped quickly. Many bees remained feeding on the honey. Tomorrow I will check to see if any lingered too long.

Monday:After a cold night just one bee remained too long in the honey jar. Another sunny day warmed things up , and again the jar is buzzing with activity.

How About A Little Help?

You are looking at Madonna lilies in zone 4 in November. They look so promising, but so far for several seasons, we have had no luck in getting these to bloom for us here. Frustration has long since set in. If you have had success with these in zone 4, and have any secrets you are willing to share, I really would appreciate some help. A link to a post would be great,a comment, a Blotanical message, or if you prefer you can send an email to . You don't have to do it for me, do it for the plants!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Starry Night, Frosty Morning, Blue Sky Day

When the night is clear, and you wake up to all white world outside the window, you know it's not snow. This morning the garden was covered in frost, the hard killing kind. Our first sunny day in ages started off cold, but Ed wasted little time in getting out there. One of the garden tasks that has been waiting a long time for a nice day, is the burning of the tomato, potato and squash vines along with the garlic stalks and any garlic with visible mold. Hardly a chore, tending this kind of a fire is fun. Any boy will tell you that. So Ed has been out there enjoying the sunshine and tending his fire. When he came in for lunch he carried the aroma of an over smoked salami.Wow!

These Emperor of China chrysanthemums , tucked tightly against the stone wall escaped last night's frost. The warmth retained by the stones was just enough to keep them safe.

Blossoms on the same plant just a short distance away got burned with the cold frost's touch. Now the temperature is beginning to drop, and another sunny day is promised tomorrow. Two sunny days in a row for this year is a real garden event.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Snow On The Go

This morning while it was still dark, the world outside our bedroom window was white. Once it became light out,the temperature rose and the snow very quickly disappeared leaving us with yet another rainy day. In the spring we would call this a sap snow, now it's a reminder of the days soon to come when the garden will be covered with that white blanket. But the grass is back to green, the Emperor of China Chrysanthemums are still blooming and the snow is gone for now. Perhaps tomorrow the sun will peek through the clouds, and some pleasant time can be spent outside. It could happen!

Monday, November 2, 2009


It's sunny and a perfect November day for being outside. Ed is out there working on the ditch alongside the driveway. It's time for that here. We often stop on our way when we are going somewhere to wait for the county crews of 4 or 5 men with their big machines. We wait our turn and then drive on the shoulder to get by their huge equipment. They too are making the ditches ready for the snow that is on the horizon. If the current moisture pattern continues, it's hard to imagine how much snow they need to make room for.

Here at the Stone Wall Garden , Ed works alone with only his John Deere and hand tools. The truth is Ed loves to dig. He always has. He likes the physical effort, and thrill of changing the landscape. Sometimes he unearths a nice wall stone . It's not gold perhaps, but it's treasure to him just the same. The goal of all this effort is to have the water run alongside, instead of washing down, the driveway. He'll come in tired but happy when it starts to get dark, which is now well before 6:00. What a gorgeous day!