Friday, September 30, 2011

Wild Asters and Butterflies

All we need is a little sun and newly hatched Monarchs head for the asters as soon as they can fly.
These white asters are wild and self seeded in the garden. We did not plant them.

The New England asters are wild too, but we did plant these. The bright purple flowers  are a favorite and we encourage them by placing them in the planting beds.

We were very close to home when we drove by patches of New England asters that were covered with bright yellow butterflies. Even on a fast drive by the sight was impressive. It made such an impact on us that Becky grabbed the camera and drove back to try for a picture. Just stopping the car made some of the butterflies leave, but she managed to capture seven.

Here just two butterflies remain and they left right after the camera snapped. You can tell this picture was not taken at the Stone Wall Garden. Becky would never allow a ragweed plant to reach that size at home.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Unusual Sights in the Stone Wall Garden

This is not a place where mushrooms and fungi usually flourish. Normally it's too dry and well drained. The bright orange  texture of this unknown fungus really got my attention.

I thought for sure by this time the nasturtiums would have turned to slime. They  look and taste fantastic right now. Perhaps the slime will come on the weekend. Today it is warm and we are expecting, what else but rain.

Early this morning Canada geese flew low over the high meadow. They are working on their formations. This afternoon a dark phase marsh hawk flew by my living room window low enough so that I could clearly see its distinctive white rump patch . The cinnamon colored bird was either a female or an immature.  Most of the time we only get to see the underside of these birds.

We planted filberts in 1998. Finally this year, it has quite a few of these . Now  rain and lightning has started up. There's nothing unusual about that, but three moon flowers are opening in the rain. The big white flowers can be seen from inside the house even on this dark rainy night.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Potted Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena, Aloysia triphylla is a favorite here.  Chopped leaves added to fresh fruit salad create a flavor that is special beyond description.  Tea made with lemon verbena, lemon grass and lemon balm leaves is also excellent.  For several years we had difficulty finding plants at local nurseries as friends that had eaten our fruit salad depleted the limited supply.  Our only plants those years were ones that we had wintered over.  Now we buy three plants mail order from Richters each spring.  Still we must try to carry lemon verbenas through the winter someplace inside of the house.

Zones 8 to 10 are the natural range of lemon verbena.  There it grows to a good sized shrub and produces many tiny white sweet lemon scented blossoms.  To say that this plant resents root disturbance is a wild understatement.  This year the first plant potted lost all of the dirt around the root ball when it was removed from the garden.  Potting up continued anyway and the plants were thoroughly  soaked and placed in the basement.  All of the leaves withered and the stem tips drooped.  The plants remained in that wilted condition for days. It did not look promising.  The threat of frost passed and the plants were moved outside.  Then the rains came.  Several days of rain brought these plants back to life.  These three are the best that we have ever had at this point.  White flies and suddenly dropped leaves are likely in their future but for now things are looking good.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Maybe A Nice Hard Freeze Would Be A Good Thing!

Here we are at the end of September and a sunny day with a hard frost seems far off. Ordinarily I would be thrilled. It means more time to enjoy the flowers and vegetables in the garden, but we keep getting more rain and we don't need more rain! I took the chance when the rain subsided to take some pictures of asters in the garden. They are so pretty and a fall favorite of mine. I started with a purple New England aster . These grow wild here and we encourage them. We love them as do the deer in the neighborhood.

 Next I stopped by a big clump of white asters. These are wild too, but I don't know their name. There are so many kinds of wild white asters here.

By the time I got to the "Lady in Black" asters that Ed planted in the garden, I had completely lost my focus. A big cloud of mosquitoes surrounded me. No more standing still to focus the camera. I needed to be a moving target.

 I did get just two more shots. One of this mosquito that landed on my hand and a second one taken after I squashed him flat. He was just one of the horde but it felt so good to put him out of my misery!

A nice thin layer of ice on all the standing water everywhere would take care of these nasty little buggers, but it looks like more rain and warm temperatures  for awhile. Isn't it amazing that something I usually want to avoid can seem so appealing under different circumstances?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chrysanthemums, Moon flowers and Monarchs

Fall is arriving with great splendor. Yesterday was gorgeous! The Clara Curtis mums are magnificent and buzzing with activity. Atop the stone wall is a moon flower.

Rain  the evening before left the blossom  a little floppy, but a moon flower is a moon flower and here in zone 4 a cause for celebration.

The chrysanthemums, asters and goldenrod are here just waiting for the newly hatched monarchs.  It's a real pleasure to watch them glide over the house to make a brief stop in the garden before they make their way south. It's a delightful scene repeated over and over again. The garden is a beautiful place to be. The only fly in the ointment is mosquitoes. Unimpressed by repellents they are really out for blood. I so hate being on the bottom of the food chain. I'll cover every bit of skin I can, but It's too beautiful to stay out of the garden.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

After The Storm, Photos by Amy

Long after Hurricane Irene visited here,  Amy and I walked on closed roads to see the local impact of this storm.  Prentice Gorge Road climbs from the river valley to a century old farm.  For the first mile the road climbs the ridge following the stream.  The road is steep and the gorge is narrow.  Our first picture was taken near the bottom of the hill where the vertical separation between the stream and the road is small.  This washout is repairable.

The next two pictures were taken farther up the hill.  Here the distance from the road to the stream bed is great and the gorge is very narrow.  Some might question why a road was ever built here.  Repairing this washout will certainly present challenges.  For now the Town Highway Department plans to leave this section of Prentice Gorge Road closed.

County Route 3 climbs the same ridge as Prentice Gorge Road some three miles away.  It follows Shaw Brook.  The stream bed was at the far side of the new gravel deposit along the tree line.  An earlier locally heavy storm moved the stream bed to the middle of the gravel deposit.  Since the culvert handled the earlier storm water, nothing was done to move the stream back to its former location.

Hurricane Irene dropped enough water here to move the stream to the road.  Again the culvert handled the volume of water but the roaring stream undercut the road fill.  There may be another washout uphill from here.  The road is closed in both directions and the walk to the second site is longer than we are willing to tackle.

By comparison, our driveway that also makes a short climb out of the river valley required no repair after the storm.  The main difference is that our lane was not placed next to a stream.  It will be interesting to watch how the road repair unfolds.  County Route 3 carries substantial traffic and provides access to many homes.  It should be repaired soon.  Prentice Gorge Road is precariously perched and is lightly traveled.  It may be closed for good.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Critter Clues

Ed has been using grass clippings to make new garden space back in the wilderness garden. It works really well although there is a slight aroma while the grass clippings dry out. The other day Ed drove his tractor back to the wilderness garden and discovered interesting holes in the  somewhat firm surface.

Divots were scattered in the grass. It made Ed think back to the day last fall when  he came eye to eye with a coyote. He thought perhaps  coyote or even fox  pups  were having fun tossing the clumps of grass in the air in harmless play. Several days went by and both of us forgot about these clues left by  our wild visitors.

Once again it's time to ready the wilderness garden to plant next year's garlic. Ed arrived at the wilderness garden to find it had been disturbed again.  This time the clues of wild visitors were a little more grizzly. Pieces of meat were found hidden in the grass mulch. Clearly we have a dispute about just who the owner of this space is. Ed moved the  meat cache out of the way. As far as he is concerned that garden space is reserved for his garlic. As Ed spends more time preparing the soil to plant his garlic in the garden, I expect the critters will back away. It's not because of the garlic, although it is supposed to keep werewolves at bay. I think Ed's presence will be enough to send our visitors to another part of their range.

These fresh footprints in the recently turned soil look large enough to have been made by a coyote.  Clumps of sod were strewn about as the animal retrieved its stored meat.   Ed usually leaves a kill site as the coyotes may be near by and ownership of the kill is clear.  But this is his garden.  A meeting of the minds will be reached and the fence will keep the coyotes out.  Coyotes may be clever but Ed is stubborn.  He will stay out of the woods near their den in case coyotes are vindictive.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

No Overnight Frost

Our favorite local weatherman has been warning all week of an overnight low temperature for last night in the high twenties.  Yesterday he softened his prediction and we awoke this morning to find no white grass anywhere in sight.  As we were sitting looking out on our still alive garden, a large hawk approached the lawn.  With every wing and tail feather spread and erect, the majestic bird silently and rapidly fell toward the ground.  Light from the low rising sun illuminated the underside of the hawk.  This light phase red tail displayed a golden glow in the morning light.  Our motion inside the window might have spooked the hawk as it shifted from its motionless descent to active flight and flew to a perch in a nearby tree.

Seeing a hawk in its dive for prey is something I have always wanted to see.  I imagined the bird diving like a bullet with its wings tucked tightly by its side snatching prey as it opened its wings and rocketed skyward.  What we saw this morning was nothing like what I expected to see.  Wings and tail were motionless but fully spread as the hawk quickly dropped toward the ground.  Prey snatch did not happen since we distracted the hawk.  We did get to see details in color and markings illuminated by long low morning light.   This was likely the best hawk sighting that we will ever experience.

Trying to grow moon flowers, Ipomoea alba, here in zone 4 is a piece of gardening foolishness that we try year after year.  Had last night's predicted frost occurred we would have had nothing but dead vine.  As it is, our first moon flower buds will likely open.  A noisy, to alert feeding skunks of our presence, trip into the garden long after dark will be rewarded with the sight and scent of a newly opened moon flower blossom.  Near full moon light tonight will add greatly to this experience.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Growing Plants Outside Their Comfort Zone

What is it about a gardener that makes them push that zone envelope? Today we savored the sweet success that such behavior can bring. Yes, this Sugar Baby watermelon is tiny, about the size of a softball. We enjoyed it with a relish that only another gardener would understand. Buying a shipped in watermelon would make more sense. Sense has nothing to do with it.

 In all we had a total of three small watermelons. Amy got to have the pleasure of eating the first one. The third one is still in the garden. Its stem is not yet brown. We will snatch it from the garden at the very last minute before it gets frosted.

The potting of the tender plants has begun. Even if the forecast of frost proves to be wrong, it gave us the necessary motivation to get these plants into pots. Plants like lemon grass, stevia, lemon verbena, patchouli,tuberose, sweet bay, rosemary and scented geraniums all need to be moved inside before the cold hits. Room in the house for plants is at a premium so hard choices have to be made. The chosen will find a place in the house. The others  will have to take their chances with the cold.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Sea of Goldenrod

 We have been so intent on the rain and the river, along with our loss of electricity, that we hardly noticed the meadow turning the brilliant yellow of fall. With all the rain the golden rod is tall and spilling over into Ed's walking paths. The beautiful fields of yellow are misunderstood by some. They think the goldenrod is the source of their allergy problems. Goldenrod pollen is heavy and  not easily blown by the wind. Ragweed is the real culprit. Ever since I have lived here I have made it a goal of mine to eliminate ragweed . This fall I haven't seen one around  anywhere to use for a photo op. I'm sure it's not gone for good.  I'll still yank it out by its roots whenever I see it.

We have several varieties of goldenrod growing here. Today I managed to find three.

Each one has beautiful yellow flowers loved by the bees and butterflies.

But their shape and growth habit are different. In 1993 using an article from The Herb Companion, I found five different types of goldenrod growing here. I have forgotten their names, but they combine to make a beautiful yellow tapestry. I love fall. I just can't believe that it is goldenrod and aster season already. Worse I actually saw the f_ _ _ _ word in Thursday's weather forecast!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sun Follows Lee

Wisdom is reported to accompany age.  Perhaps age forces us to work smarter because we have a new found difficulty working harder.  Developing planting areas in our former pasture used to start with cutting out and removing sod blocks.  That is strenuous work.  We have recently discovered that grass clippings and time will kill the sod in place.  Raking grass clippings is also hard work.  Today brought the arrival here of a lawn sweeper.  Sweeping clippings is more like play than work.  With all of the recent rains the grass is growing at an alarming rate making abundant hay.  Today also featured brief periods of sunshine.  Storm aftermath makes travel impossible in three directions as the roads are simply gone in places.  We are here, so we might as well rake hay.

Cardinal flower, lobelia cardinalis, is a favorite here.  This plant survived without our intervention.  Its four stalks show that we did not divide this second year plant.  Now each stalk is making up to six daughter plants.  Crowded does not begin to describe the situation here.  Experience has taught us that none of these plants will survive winter if we divide them now.  As winter approaches we will loosely cover this cluster with the dead stalks.  Division will wait until early spring.  Without intervention these daughter plants will crowd each other out with none surviving.

Hardy chrysanthemum, Clara Curtis, looks great next to the stone wall.  Its appearance now is a not so subtle announcement that we are in the third season of the year.  A single purchased plant has undergone countless divisions.  We have them widely planted hoping that some will see spring.  These are indeed a treasure.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Leeve Us Please

We don't have a high tech rain gauge in the garden. There were a few assorted containers left outside collecting water from all this rain. All of the others  including a ten quart bucket overflowed, but this five gallon bucket still had room for a little bit more. I stuck a yardstick in the bucket and the water measured just over eleven inches. That's too much rain!

See what happens to red tomatoes when they get too much water. Their skins crack open . They can't take the pressure. The garden is drenched. Roads in the area are closed to all except emergency vehicles. We are for the moment stuck at home.

With the garden way too wet to work in, Ed chose today to put  wet gravel from the gravel bank down at the end of the driveway. He will pack it down while it is wet and it will make a hard surface to drive on.  The driveway needs more gravel in numerous places but remains passable.  Considering the volume of water that ran down the lane, it is in excellent condition.

This is the scene just a short walk down River Road from our driveway. The Unadilla River is still rising. When the river is in its banks, it flows unseen on the other side of the far treeline. Now its fast current can be seen in the distance, and the water is rising moving in our direction. Areas that are usually dry when the river floods are now underwater. The muddy water is menacing and it has an aroma best described as a stench. In one spot it smells like you could light it with a match. It's times like this that we are grateful we chose to place our house and garden up the hill.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Interesting When Wet , Photos by Amy

This Mammoth Pink Chrysanthemum looks fresh as a daisy!

Asparagus Berries hold on to those water droplets.

The end of the pink poppies and the beginning flowering 'Autumn Joy' sedum are a sure sign of fall.

Our new great  lobelia flowers are a beautiful shade of blue except for the plant that turned out to be white.

The red hibiscus may be blown over, but it still blooms on.

'Stardust' chrysanthemum's fluted petals hold many water droplets.

 A fossil on top of the wall shines neatly when wet.

Could be lichens or perhaps some fungus, but this stone is almost completely covered with growth.

No wet garden post is complete without a picture of lady's mantle.

A bumblebee takes advantage of the lull in the rain to visit mullein flowers.  It's good Amy went out to visit the garden when she did. We are back to rain again.