Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye to the Garden, 2010

At 7:00 AM it was  a beautiful dawn on the last day of  December, 2010. Clouds , cold, and lake effect snow flurries have been the norm this month. I think just three days got above freezing. Two of them featured rain and lots of it. The other one was today. Of course red sky in the morning... , but Ed didn't want to go sailing. He just wanted to spend some time working outside in relative comfort. As it turned out we both spent some time outside. It was sunny with blue sky for the early part of the day. It must have been pretty close to freezing, because although the snow pack did some melting, it was in the areas touched by the sunlight. By late afternoon the clouds were back and things cooled down in a hurry.

The Stone Wall Garden is such a peaceful setting. One would hardly guess that a garden could be as exciting as a roller coaster. This year we've had the high of   beautiful flowers, delicious meals of fresh produce and herbs, a small article in 'Horticulture' , and the Garden Bloggers' Convention in Buffalo. But we have also had the lows of frosted lilies, rodents in the beets, and tomato blight. It has been an eventful year and  tomorrow we begin again. 2011 brings a new garden journal and a new beginning! Best wishes for a Happy New Gardening Year! I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Great Garden Gifts

I have to say I was tickled "pink" when I opened this Christmas gift from Helen. Even though the garden is covered with snow and it will be months before I can put this house in the garden, I couldn't have been more delighted. Every time I look
at this brightly colored bird house it will remind me of the dear friend who gave it to me and it will make me smile.

The new pruners were a gift from Ed. Every year, he gives me a new pair with nice sharp blades. One would think that we have scads of pruners lying about, but somehow they seem to disappear, not unlike socks in the dryer. I will put them in my garden cart in anticipation if spring.

The somewhat feminine eye protection was also a gift from Ed. He's not fooling me one bit. I know he figures I will wear these and not borrow his. He may be right. I like these so much. They have good eye coverage and look oh so cool on me!

Of all the gifts I received , Amy gave me the one that excited me most.It still does . She downloaded "Plants and Stones " on a portable disk drive. Now I can read the blog even when I can't get online . Sad to say with my Frontier dial-up service, that is becoming a very frequent occurrence. It's the price we pay for living where we do .

Monday, December 27, 2010

Almost Dead, Sort of Dead, Dead as a Doornail

With all the snow in the outside garden, my attention became focused on those plants that I have in the house. This rosemary plant is in the sort of dead category. The leaves have not yet dropped making a mess all over, but they are crisp and dried . The stems snap when broken. Ed asked me if we can save the leaves to use for cooking. I'm not sure as under normal circumstances healthy leaves are harvested from a live plant, dried and then used for cooking. Perhaps being dead first would make no difference or would it? This is not my only rosemary so the decision has been made . This sort of dead plant is headed to the compost.

That brings us to the patchouli plants. The plant on the left is almost dead. It's leaves and stems give a whole new meaning to the word limp. I could try cutting it back, but I did that with the plant on the right, and it is now in the dead as a doornail category. Keeping plants around that look like this does nothing to improve my winter mood. Time for these plants to make their trip to the compost. As far as next year goes, I will always try to winter over rosemary. I'm not sure about the patchouli. Perhaps I should say enough is enough. But I'm an optimistic gardener so probably I'll try just one more time!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cold Caterpillar

I suppose not everyone would stop and take a picture of a frozen bilious green caterpillar, but I do that sort of thing. All sorts of questions come to my mind. What kind of caterpillar is this? It appears to be frozen, so is it alive or is it dead? I think I've read that if you are lost in the woods, caterpillars can be eaten, but one would think that applies only to some kinds. If they are frozen they are supposed to have a sweeter taste. Like that matters, I can't imagine being hungry enough to try this yucky looking specimen . With the temperature in the twenties, I quickly moved on down the path leaving this " juicy " morsel for the birds. Perhaps they will find him tasty. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Very Special Winter Solstice

This year the Winter Solstice included once in a lifetime celestial events. A total  lunar eclipse with a full moon happened here tonight. Add to that the Ursids meteor shower peak and you have an incredible show. The darkness during the eclipse would have made the meteors visible.   All this on the longest night of the year. In times past people would stare in disbelief. We would have done some staring ourselves except for the fact that we had thick cloud cover. The sun couldn't break through, so what chance did the moon or meteors have. Of course a few clouds cannot diminish our excitement over the change in the path of the sun. No longer will it drop down in the southern sky. Starting tomorrow the sun will begin to climb in the sky. Tomorrow daylight will be just a littler longer. How can a cold climate gardener resist the chance to celebrate? Once winter arrives spring follows.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Almost Winter Beauty

What could be more beautiful than the sun reflecting off the snow dusted landscape? The hills, trees, wire fences, and weeds all look lovely with their frosting of white.  Minuscule snowflakes floating in the air sparkle like tiny diamonds. 

We are some distance from the Great Lakes.  Cold dry Artic air draws moisture from the still warm lakes.  That moisture becomes a unique type of fluffy snow.  Areas closer to the lakes have five feet or more of snow on the ground.  People there likely find less beauty in this snow.  For us the ever present snowfall amounts to little accumulation.  Its surface stays clean and sparkly.

The long shadow of the locust tree will not fit in the photograph.  The sun is still dropping lower in the southern sky every day, and our daylight hours are still getting shorter. But in 3 more days, all that will change. Time to begin gathering wood for our bonfire.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Interest

After a one day warm up, and snow melt, we are back to snow and cold weather. There are still lots of things to notice in the garden if one is easily amused like I am. Here a nice set of rodent tracks caught my attention.

I couldn't say if he was grey or brown, but with that long tail he's definitely not one of my favorite garden residents! EEK!

The  temperature is  in the teens and  this was a day for us to travel to the Y for our exercise in the pool. The roads were fine, but the river is already  getting lumpy with ice. Our trip was the usual until we headed for home. When we left the Y , there right next to the wall of pool was a Peregrine Falcon lunching on a grey pigeon. He was so close to the street that we got a fantastic look at this gorgeous bird. Ed turned around and did several drive-bys so I could get a really good look.  His head and beak shape, black cap and moustache, rufus and white chest, and sleek body, added to the fact that he was lunching on a pigeon, made his identification pretty certain. I checked my books when I returned home just to be sure. Part of me wished that I had the camera, but I'm sure if I did I would have just made him fly away and ruined his lunch. It was enough just to get such a close up look at this magnificent bird!

The big redtail hawk that I often see in the garden is bulky when compared to this sleek Peregrine Falcon. It's like the difference between a 747 and a fighter jet. I'm so glad I was fortunate enough to spot the bird. It made an ordinary trip something special to remember.
Just 7 days left!!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Today Was for the Birds!

It all started early this morning. I was enjoying my first cup of coffee when I spotted a big hawk in that small tree, to the far left, in front of the notch. The sun had not yet risen above the ridge so the light was subdued. I got the binoculars to get a better look. What I saw was the back of large hawk with a brown head, speckled back, and a sharp white edge on its tail. The light  was growing steadily stronger and fortunately for me he decided to turn around . I got a great view of his front. Even more beautiful than the back, the chest of this bird was snowy white, with streaks of brown that looked like a necklace on an Egyptian princess. I was awestruck, and then the bird flew. In the few seconds I had as he streaked  past the window, I could see that this was a magnificent redtail hawk. Later around lunchtime I saw him again sitting in the highest tree atop the gravel bank hill. Sights like that are one of the advantages to the winter loss of leaves on the trees. The last time I saw this bird today he was flying high above the garden and flew over the house toward the pines.  All this was just was just the early show.

With today being the first sunny day in what seems like forever, birds of all kinds visited the feeders in the garden. Usually I can manage pictures of Black-capped Chickadees, and I took some of those, but today I actually caught this Red-breasted Nuthatch. 

This White-breasted Nuthatch was hungry enough to ignore me and give me a chance to get his picture. The noise of the camera startled him and so he left.

It was a sweet surprise to see this picture of the nuthatch in flight. This sort of picture usually eludes me completely.

I watched the birds some more after I came back in the house. Mourning Doves, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers and Dark-eyed Juncos joined the others.
Two red squirrels caused a bit of commotion this afternoon. It looks like we have a pair, but that's a story for another day.

There's just 10 days left!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Plants and Snow

A look out the window reveals what is going on in our garden . Mother Nature has covered the garden with snow. For now, any ideas we might have had  about working in the garden have been put on hold. Perhaps the weather will change, and it will warm up and melt this snow, but then again perhaps not. Around here they say a snow fall like this makes people get in the mood for Christmas shopping. For gardeners like us , it puts us in the mood for catalogs. The seed catalogs have been coming  for a few weeks. It's way too early to start seeds. They can be put off till later, but the first "exotic" plant catalog has arrived, and from one of our  favorite companies. Please note this is not an ad. We have received nothing from this company except excellent service, and the most carefully packed plants that we ever received through the mail.

High Country Gardens "Collector's Edition 2011

With all that snow outside, how is a gardener supposed to resist paging through this catalog of gorgeous plants. Just in case our sales resistance is strong, a free shipping good through 1/2/11 adds an extra little push. Even passing by all the plants that are not hardy in zone 4, a plant order that qualifies for that clever free shipping deal was a cinch. Once the plants have been ordered, we have all winter to leaf through the pages of the catalog admiring the pictures of Western Wood Lilies, Pineleaf Garden Pinks, Hula Dancer, Mexican Hat, Ozark Coneflower, Sunset Hyssop, Sweet Iris, Prarie Fire and Prarie Smoke knowing that in the spring our plants will arrive in a well packed box, ready to be tucked into their own special spot in the garden.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Up Ramp, Down Ramp

When Ed and I retired and moved to the Stone Wall Garden, we tried to plan ahead. The house was built with everything on one floor, with wide doors for easy handicap accessibility. All of that was for later. We have lived here for 11 years and later is creeping up on us a bit. It is because I have been told to avoid stairs when possible that Ed is working on a ramp to the kitchen door. Fantastic progress is being made, and the end of the project is in sight, but the cold weather has slowed things. This morning it was cold enough that a thin layer of snow was easily swept from the ramp.
Just a few more sunny days warm enough  for outdoor construction  and the ramp will be ready for code enforcement inspection.  Perhaps if the code officer is here on a cold wintery day he will not linger.

As I stood and focused to get the picture of the ramp, I saw movement in the shade garden. I turned and walked in the direction of the locust tree. Believe it or not I shot the red squirrel with my camera! It's hard to imagine he let me get so close. Obviously he knows I am totally harmless. He takes off like a bolt of red lightening as soon as Ed opens the basement door. I just hope that he sticks to eating  the suet and bird seed and leaves my bulbs alone.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cold and Frosty...Warm, Wet, and Wild...Cold and Frosty

I was just two days ago that I took this picture of frost on the foxglove. The garden and its plants have been on a wild ride the last couple of days.  We had wind and rain on Tuesday, but yesterday the day started out with the temperature in the sixties. Much of the day our view of the garden from inside  was obliterated by sheets of rain. You would think nothing would be going on in the garden on such a day, but the red squirrel still made his visit to the bird feeders.  The chickadees didn't let the heavy rain stop them from visiting either. They have to eat to stay alive. Getting drenched doesn't seem to be an issue.

 Later in the day the  I saw  a very wet hawk sitting in the locust tree,  watching the bird feeder, and hoping for  a quick meal. But service was slow, no birds ventured near . As the water soaked bird left to look elsewhere for his dinner, I got a glimpse of his white rump patch. That means it was  a Marsh hawk also known as a Northern Harrier. They are famous for preying on smaller birds. In our garden, it pays to be wary. There's no such thing as a free lunch.

By late afternoon the temperature dropped below freezing and snow began to fall. For a long time it didn't stick, but in the end the plants  returned to a light  coat of  frosty white. We are back to cold!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Stopped Cold?

Ed has been working feverishly to finish the new stair less entry to the house, but the cold weather has been closing in a little more with each passing day.  Fortunately the digging part of the project is finished. Now the ground stays frozen hard except for places where the ground slopes to the south. Just a few more sunny days should give him the chance to finish this job.


But it looks like this walkway will be waiting for a spring thaw before it gets any longer. It is, after all, the end of November. We have been lucky to get this far.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Beautiful Bluets

Now that typical November weather has arrived at the Stonewall Garden, finding a flower in bloom is an exciting event. The bluets have been blooming ever since they were transplanted here in the beginning of May. Most of the flowers have been blue with yellow centers, but some have been white with a yellow center like this one. Anything that will flower here for seven months deserves some attention. It caused me to surround myself with wildflower books to read more about these tiny gems.

In my treasured 1897 copy of How to know the Wildflowers, by Mrs. William Starr
Dana, I learned that bluets are dimorphous. Some flowers have long pistols and short stamens and some have long stamens and short pistols. Both kinds are needed for pollination to occur. Ed remembered this, so when he saw blue flowers and white flowers, he made sure to bring home some of each.

In Growing and Propagating Wildflowers,  by William Cullina, I discovered that the color variation could mean that both Houstonia caerulea and Houstonia longifolia might be planted here in my shade garden.


Whichever they are, these little mounds of green leaves seem to be doing very well. I will look forward to their cheery little flowers early in May. Perhaps they will bloom all summer again next year. I just hope they  become well established here.

In the past I've tried buying bluets without  success. These plants from a friend definitely seem to be the answer. We will know more in the spring.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Can Be For The Birds!

Ed and I stood in the store and had quite the lengthy discussion this year about whether or not we would feed the birds. I don't think it was the cost of the seed that was the issue, although that is something to consider. Birds can be very messy eaters leaving seed on the ground that draws critters.  When a gardener puts out feed for the birds, they also feed red squirrels and  gray ones. The little brown furry rodents that scurry around and make me squeal get their share as well. Bird feeders also attract  predators like  hawks, and the fox. But I think it was the missing purple dogtooth violet bulbs that was the big issue. In the end we came home from the store with mixed seed, sunflower seed and suet cakes. The sunflower seed feeder, a present from Amy, is placed in a garden bed so that it can be easily seen from the living room window.

Ed searched the basement  for some time for the suet feeder. Finally he discovered it hanging in plain sight out in the locust tree in the middle of the shade garden. It had been there all summer. Nuthatches, chickadees and woodpeckers are drawn to the suet. Woodpeckers also spend time drilling holes in the tree, making us wonder if that is a problem.  We decided that the enjoyment of watching the birds in the winter garden outweighs any possible damage they might do to the tree. Now we just have to wait for the birds to discover the free eats. So far I've seen one nuthatch and a bluejay. Yesterday there was also a hawk sitting in a tree intently watching for new bird arrivals. Happy Thanksgiving to all my garden friends. They won this one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Our First Snow Day

Up until now we have had frosty mornings with cold clear nights. Today snow flakes were falling, and the ground was cold enough for the snow to stick. Later in the day things warmed up enough for the snow to be gone, but the time between  when the ground thaws in the late morning and when early darkness brings the return of the cold is getting very short indeed. Ed continues digging while he can, but his window of opportunity is closing fast. It's past the middle of November. We have been so  lucky, but still hope for just a little more time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November In The Garden

In November, when you have outside work you want to do, the first morning light reveals how your day will progress. If the night has been clear and cold you are greeted with a beautiful, but frosty morning.  It means that after the sun comes up things will warm enough to work outside in the middle of the day. If you go out too early the ground will be frozen. Digging will require breaking through the dirt's frozen crust . Later on, the sun will warm whatever it touches. For a few hours if you are dressed properly, it's great to be out there.
Last night was warmer and with hard rain during the night the garden has a very different look. Today looks like it might be a great day to work outside if the rain has finished, but everything is wet.

Now is the time to harvest the kale. The cold nights actually improve the flavor of these ruffled green leaves. My favorite Portuguese kale soup hits the spot in this weather. You just have to wait until the leaves are completely thawed before you pick them.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gone To Seed

Blue sky days this time of year mean cold nights, even into the teens, but for a short time in the middle of the day, it is gorgeous in the garden. Most of the pink poppy seeds are gone. Even the few seed  heads that remain are probably empty.

The meadow is filled with fuzzy goldenrod seed heads. From a distance they look a dull brown, a perfect hiding place for the deer. Close up, against the blue sky, I find them quite beautiful.

The bed of Gloriosa Daisies is loaded with seed heads.

This red sumac will be an attraction for the birds all winter .

In the late evenng , seeds dance in the sunlight. It's is an amazing sight. If only my camera would capture the golden color of the light, and the way the light glints off the seeds that float before my eyes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

24 Cubic Yards In 24 Hours

Passable driveway has replaced the mounds of gravel that were dumped here yesterday. Wheelbarrow and shovel were used to move the side of the pile so that the tractor could pick away at the edge. It soon became apparent that more gravel was in the pile than could be spread here. That gravel was needed up hill and the tool that could move it was again the wheelbarrow. As the picture shows both machines are still working.

Our car had spent the night at the base of the hill since the driveway was blocked. We expected that it might be stranded there for several days. Here is its return the very next day.

Don, the man wearing the cap, is the proud owner of the tractor. He was not certain that his machine would be able to handle the size of our job. By pushing small amounts of gravel at a time, the task was completed without once getting the tractor stuck. Ed was the shovel man on this day. By lifting small amounts of gravel at a time, the task was completed without once getting chest pain.

Slow and steady wins the race. The improbable is possible. Both workers will go to bed tonight tired, but happy, having acomplished so much on this gorgeous fall day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gravel Happens!

All Ed wanted to do was put a ramp on the kitchen entrance to the house.  Then while digging, he discovered that the line from the house to the septic tank had been broken ever since it was installed. That added to an already large undertaking. He has been digging, removing stones, and refilling holes for some time now. As a result of this work, he had stones that would not be used to cover the sewer line. He used them to make a place to park his red truck. He decided to have some fine gravel delivered to cover his truck pad, and to use to fill the remaining hole over the septic pipe.  The young trucker, filling in for our usual highly skilled teamster, seemed not up to the task. I watched as he backed over the pile of gravel with one set of wheels spinning.  A smooth rolling dump became a truck trapping heap. Finally the  rear wheels met the grass and the truck spun free. Ed should have called the job finished with one load.

But for some time Ed has wanted to spread gravel in the driveway, especially under the huge cherry tree. This smaller truck seemed like a perfect opportunity to do that,  so more gravel was ordered.  Fortunately  Ed thought to park the car at he bottom of the hill near the road so that I can get out tomorrow.

After just one afternoon, 24 yards of gravel are piled in the driveway waiting to be spread by hand. It's interesting that days and sometimes weeks go by and no one comes up our drive. As soon as it was blocked with gravel, the propane delivery truck turned into the driveway. He'll be back next week. A friend called asking if today was convenient to return a borrowed tool. I explained our situation and tomorrow he and his tractor will join Ed moving gravel. With any kind of luck I'll be able to drive up the hill to the house when I get home. It really was a cute little red dump truck and gravel happens.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pretty Cold Garden Pictures

The all male asparagus that we purchased a decade ago from Miller nurseries  looks so beautiful. It's such a nice shade of gold with lots of red berries. Of course the berries are female fruits. Just like the Chinese discovered, the all male thing doesn't work out.

My tricolor sage is still looking beautiful. The cold we have been experiencing has not yet had its effect on all of the plants. Many of the annuals are now dead. Some perenniels are beginning to get that blackened dead look. The big difference being that the perenniels may be back next year.

I saw my friend Susan today. She said, "I'm so thrilled with the "King Of Prussia" chrysanthemums you gave me." I can only imagine the look on my face as I searched my brain for the plant she was talking about. "What do they look like ?" I asked. "They are a beautiful, pink, and blooming now." she replied. " Finally I got it. "Those are 'Emperor of China' chrysanthemums". When we finished laughing Susan said, " Well, I knew they came from royalty. Where did I get the name 'King Of Prussia.' " We agreed it was obvious, that's a town in Pennsylvania. I've got to wonder why I didn't give her a proper label with the plant. It's not like I don't have plenty of stones to write on. I plan to do better. Of course including the Latin name would be nice, but change comes in small steps.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Not Even Half Dead

Now that it is  November just one lemon verbena lives on the  south facing windowsill in the basement. Part of the plant is doing its dead stick thing, but so far most of the plant has green leaves.  Perhaps a fruit salad with lemon verbena leaves chopped in it is a possibility for Thanksgiving this year.

When the Richters' catalog arrives, 3 lemon verbenas will start off the order. If this plant makes it till warm weather , it will get a chance to spend one summer as a fragrant bush in the garden. Every winter I wonder why I deal with all this drama. Who knows maybe this is the year I will consider lemon verbena an annual.

My Horticulture magazine just came . I sat down to read it cover to cover like I usually do, and was surprised to discover that the article about lemon verbena we had submitted in July was actually in the magazine. We had given up any idea of having anything published because we included the necessary photograph using our 3.2MP camera not realizing how inadequate it was. Once we discovered the truth , we forgot all about our submission. They used Celeste Clockhard's great photograph. I have to say there's nothing quite like seeing something you have written printed in a real magazine. It is quite a thrill. 

But does make me realize how much I love my blog.
The unbridled freedom to write without limitations or deadlines, coupled with the ability to  correct mistakes even years later is wonderful. That being said, if you get a chance to look at the Dec/Jan Horticulture please don't miss our little article printed on page 70. It's a first for us!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In Search Of Hardy Chrysanthemums

This "Emperor of China" chrysanthemum is quite remarkable. Even with nights in the twenties, heavy morning frosts and no covering at night, it continues to produce its pretty pink blooms. It seems that a hard frost is necessary before these flowers will open. Each fall we impatiently watch, hoping that these flowers will have their chance to bloom while the buds remain tightly closed. Each year, with the rest of the garden mostly brown, the "Emperor of China" chrysanthemum produces its dazzling display after the frost.

A closer look at the mostly brown garden reveals that all is not dead. These "Clara Curtis" chrysanthemums have started next year's growth. The dried stalks from this year will be cut and placed over the new growth after the ground has frozen hard. We can never decide when to cut the dead stalks. Sometimes they are cut early and set close aside to use as winter mulch. Other times they are left in place to be cut later.

Having long ago given up on the root bound cupcake mums that never winter over for us here, we search for hardy mums and plant them in the spring. Next year we hope to have these two, as well as "Mammoth pink" and "Mary Stoker" return . In the meantime the hardy mum search continues .

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How Not To Photograph A Wild Mink.

Ed  came to the door and called, "Quick, come out here and bring your camera." I joined him as fast as I could. He was hiding behind the generator shed. He explained that he had seen some kind of black weasel. It had walked right up the stone path next to where he was digging. He spoke to it, and it ran toward the shed.  It quickly moved in random circles disappearing behind the plants that border the shed.

I readied the camera while Ed circled around  to get behind the big mound, hoping to send the animal in my direction. A rabbit burst out of the cover of the grass with the sleek black weasel on its heels. Both animals ran right by me. The weasel was incredibly fast, but that rabbit was even faster escaping into the garden. For several minutes we watched the weasel streak around before he disappeared into the tall grass north of the house. Even given all those chances, I got so flustered that this is the best picture I got. As far as I can tell there is no sign of the weasel in this picture. I also got a blurry picture of  grass, and worst of all, a  picture of the palm of my hand.

We wondered just what kind of weasel we had seen. I have seen an ermine here in the past, but this animal was was too big. We thought of an escaped pet ferret, but this animal was totally black. A little research would seem to indicate that this weasel was likely a wild mink. I'm disappointed that I didn't get a picture, but I am thrilled to have had the chance to watch this long, sleek, black animal. Honestly, a mink that is free to catch rodents in our garden is the only kind I'm interested in having.

We have had occasional glimpses of an animal like this moving near the edge of the mown field.  One spring Ed found, lightly buried in a planting bed, half of a rabbit and a headless crow.  We suspected that a fox had cached extra food but the headless bird is characteristic behavior for a weasel.  Perhaps this mink calls our garden part of his home range.  We hope we get to see him again!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Watching The West Wind

We still have a few magnificently colored leaves in the Stone Wall Garden. These happen to be the leaves of this year's growth on the smokebush. Today is a beautiful day with blue sky and white clouds, but the west wind is blowing. The colored leaves are losing their grip on the trees.

 It's mesmerizing to watch the milkweed seeds with their fluffy parachutes dancing on the wind. Often  they cross the entire garden space from west to east without touching the ground. Occasionally they catch an updraft and fly  high in the air.  A late Monarch butterfly fluttered by on the wind. The chrysalis on the lily cage is gone. The temperatures have moderated , but there almost no flowers left where a butterfly might find nectar.

Later as Ed and I sat on the bench, we saw a hawk kiting on the wind. How amazing it must be to hang there motionless in one spot with the wind holding you high above the garden. As we watched, the hawk made a fast dive into the wind, landing in the pines. We barely got a look at the bird's beautiful, brown- speckled feathers, glowing in the sun, before the crows cawed. Crows consider the pines theirs, and waste no time chasing off intruders, no matter how big they are. The gang of noisy black birds chased the hawk, squawking, flapping, and diving as close as possible, to intimidate the larger bird. They are no match for a hawk when it comes to flying on a windy day. That hawk caught the air current and soared high on the wind leaving the noisy flapping crows to return to their piny woods. We watched for some time as the hawk continued to kite over the garden . Eventually he caught the wind and soared  along the ridge until he was out of sight.

Now the garden is cooling off. The wind has died down.The fluffy milkweed dancers are resting on the grass. The air show is over, but today watching the wind blow in the garden was exciting!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Creepy Crawler

Ed stopped digging long enough to show me this caterpillar that he had captured in a bucket.  We turned him loose on the top of the stone wall for his photo op.  I'm generally pretty brave about picking up caterpillars, but this one is big, over three inches, and that red horn on his butt is intimidating. It never ceases to amaze me how many interesting animals live in our garden. This one is Hyles gallii, Galium sphinx. It likes bedstraw and we have an acre or two of bedstraw here. I have to wonder if this is one of the sphinx moths that I sometimes see on the lavender bee balm in the summer. Now that I know what to look for, I will try to be more observant.

Monday, October 25, 2010

October Tricks And Treats

The weather here in October always runs hot and cold. This year it has been so changeable that the plants are confused. These two bunchberry plants are the same age, planted right next to each other, but one is still green and the other has turned red.  It's the same with the trees. Some still have green leaves, some are beautiful fall colors and many are naked having completely dropped their leaves.

The day that our bulbs arrived in the mail the weather here was frigid. All morning we watched the white wall of snow squalls blow across the valley from the north .  So far at least, the ground was warm enough to melt it.  Finally in the afternoon the snow stopped. Ed braved the cold to plant some of the bulbs. Here he is planting purple dog toothed violets. We tried these before, but something ate the bulbs. There are several suspects to choose from including mice, chipmunks and a particularly guilty looking red squirrel. This time the bulbs are protected in a wire cage with a top buried just under the surface of the dirt. 

Most of the annuals in the garden are dead from the cold. There's lots of cleaning up to do in the garden. Sometimes though, other things push themselves to the top on our to do list. Ed loves to dig in the garden, but digging to expose a broken septic line on our 6 year old house doesn't hold quite the same appeal. Today was a beautiful day for digging. He will need more just like it to finish this job.