Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lichens And Stones

When the family was here for Thanksgiving, Amy and I took a walk as we often do.  It was sunny and beautiful, but chilly.  Usually we take the camera, but this time it was left behind.  I've always thought that she has a very special eye when it comes to finding interesting nature subjects to photograph.  We found some fantastic lichens on some of the stones on the top of  Ed's wall.  I went back with the camera today.  Mother Nature did a great job on this stone.  In a way it reminds me of cedar leaves.  I think the black is a lichen too.  This stone is so pretty the temptation is to take it inside to enjoy, but I know that would ruin it.  I know where it is and if I want to see it when it is covered with snow I can visit it here.  I can even click on the picture and get a closer look.

This stone is frosted with lichens. One is the same as before, but the brown is new and unfamiliar to me.  My curious mind wants to know more about these interesting plants.

Here is an even closer look.  I would love to find a great field guide about lichens with great pictures and descriptions that I might understand.  If you are into lichens and can help me with my curiosity, I would love to hear from you!  On the other hand, if you have never noticed what grows on a stone wall you are missing some cool stuff!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Yet Another Arbutus Post

Our unusually warm November days have drawn us outside focusing on cleanup to get a jump on next year's garden.  Daily walks always include a visit to the arbutus plantings.  Transplanted last year, these plants are closely watched.  Their new flower buds seemed smaller and less healthy than the buds on our older plants.  These pictures were expected to reveal dead flower buds since I was unable to carry water to them during the dry months of August and September.  Once again the camera sees more detail than our old eyes.  These buds may be smaller than the others but they are alive and healthy.  The possibility of a generous flower display here has us looking forward to the end of winter.

Another situation sets these plants apart from our other three plantings.  Numerous chewed leaves here show that many creatures are feeding on these plants.  The leaf that still displays its skeletal structure and lower leaf surface is particularly interesting.  What is the identity of the delicate feeder that left this behind?  These meals were taken earlier in the year when we were not making daily visits.   We did not see the feeders and have no clue as to their identity.  No action will be taken to limit the foraging since this is a wild plant that is supposed to survive on its own.  We do screen out the rabbits and the woodchucks but their numbers are excessive here as this former farm reverts to woodland.

These six plants have had two summers here.  Their close spacing will soon make it impossible to tell where one plant ends and another begins.  As the plants grow across each other, male flowers and female flowers will appear in close proximity to each other.  This was not the plan but it might just work in producing viable seeds.

The mostly mossy patch to the right is the location of a transplant that endured a continuous drip of pine pitch last year.  Leaves coated with the sticky white stuff could not function to support new growth.  This plant remains alive and should in time catch up with the others.  Now the pine drippings are falling on the plant at the top of the photo.  With numerous larger leaves it continues to prosper despite the hardship.

One of our goals is to understand the habits of this plant.  A recent revelation is that flower buds appear at the ends of stems newly grown this year.  We cannot say for certain that buds only form on new growth  but that seems likely.  Roots form at junctions in older stems so we do not disturb the plants by poking around looking for answers to questions that are of no real consequence.  We do enjoy this plant and are eager for the sweet scent that will fill spring air.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Late November, Still Looking Good

This afternoon was way to gorgeous not to take the camera out to the garden.  If you think these new Johnny-Jump-Up plants will wait for spring to bloom, think again.  Come cold wind even snow, they  still do their thing.

This is our first year with Ice Plant. When the sun comes out, this plant flowers.  Being frozen for awhile doesn't seem to change that.  I wonder if these will peek out from beneath the snow in the spring?

This Sedum  was planted this year too.  We were late getting it planted, but it looks terrific today.  I feel great about its chance to winter over till spring.

I wanted to take a picture of my rosemary and scented geraniums from outside.  Straight on all I could see was my reflection.  I thought I was so darn smart taking this picture from way off to the side.  Not only is my reflection still there, but it is there twice. Please just ignore that blurry woman in the picture!  Don't my plants look good?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More Dead Wood

My medical treatment team, in consideration of my preferences, has outlined a program that includes two miles of walking each day and sitting in a firm chair whenever back pain presents itself.  I was skeptical at first but can report that either activity lessens the pain.  This plan is truly affordable health care with no down side.  When slippery snow or ice are present underfoot, we will walk inside of a superstore or in the field house of the local YMCA.

Today's walk found me on the kame terrace that defines our high meadow.  The sharp drop to the valley floor is hidden by trees in the foreground but can be discerned by looking at the green fields at the base of the bed rock ridge at the other side of the valley.  This tree has been dead for several years and I am watching it to see how it finds ground.  Small upper branches have fallen away causing no real problem unless you happen to be standing beneath them when they drop.  Most times it is very windy and often wet when they do fall.  This massive trunk may remain standing longer than I do.  The ground here is steep, and littered with slippery leaves and fallen sticks.   I do my walking and watching from a  distance.

Bringing starting soil into the basement was today's gardening activity.  A custom mix that included the nearly spent remains of a bag of Miracle Gro potting soil and a partial bag of peat moss as well as our compost will spent the winter in the warm basement.  Plants that are for sale must be grown in a soil-less mix but our experience is that the root mass of such plants is reluctant to spread into the garden soil.  By including real soil in the starting mix we hope to lessen that problem.  The pail of usable soil will be most welcome when I feel the need to start plants when the garden is still frozen.
That makes it sound like time spent with seed catalogs and placing orders will once again carry us through winter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My A-Maze-ing Garden

When the sun finally climbed above the ridge in the east, the frost glittered in the garden in an amazing way.  I'm always just a little disappointed that I can't capture the sparking frost that I  see with the camera.  Without the frost our garden maze is almost invisible.  Not the usual maze found in a garden, ours is meant to confuse the deer and contain the leaf mulch.  Because we keep changing where we plant things and where the fences are located it works pretty well.  Sometimes I take the wrong path and get a little confused myself.  The frost will be gone from the garden soon and the maze will blend in again. Right now it is truly a-Maze-ing!

We were able to work in the garden after the bright sunlight warmed the air.  These mild November days have been truly remarkable.  An early sunset ushered in the chill once more and we headed inside.  The area beyond the right side of the photo remained in shadow for the entire day.  Despite the warmed daytime air this ground held sufficient chill to be still coated in frosty white at day's end.  The cold will prevail and soon the ground will be frozen.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Evening-Scented Stock Indoors

Becky has been growing evening-scented stock for more than the twenty-one years that we have owned our retirement land.  When garden space first became available here, she sprinkled seed taken from our village garden.  Over most of the two past decades these plants would reliably return year after year.  Their recent disappearance was likely the result of an ignorant early weeder clearing a spot that also contained bulbs.  In retrospect, the bulbs and the stocks would have grown together quite nicely.

New seed was purchased but nothing grew.  These seeds must not be allowed to dry out after they are sown.  Our recurring early spring drought probably ended them.  For whatever reason nothing but weeds grew where the stock seeds were sown.  Never known to be one that gives up, Becky scattered stock seeds when a pea bed was cleared.  Three plants appeared but there was insufficient time for masses of flowers to appear.

When frost warnings were broadcast, the decision was made to try and pot up the stock plants.  Two of the plants had grown impressive tap roots.  They did not respond well to the move to a pot.  The third plant had only a shallow but extensive root mass and it took the move in stride.  Flowers have finally appeared indoors.

The flowers open after dark at this time of year.  Attempts to capture an image with our simple camera were a total disaster.  This morning we tried again in daylight.  The upper photo shows several green buds that will open soon.  One partially open bud will flower and scent tonight.  The lowest flower was open last night.  Lacking both wind and pollinators, seed from these flowers is unlikely.

The second picture was taken after the plant was moved outside in the relatively warm morning air.  Natural light allowed a usable photo capture.  Here again, the promise of future flowers appears in tiny buds.  From their position on a table in our bedroom, no breeze stirs to fill the air with their captivating fragrance.  One must bring their nose close to the flower to enjoy this seasonally incorrect but delightful scent.  If this plant lives through the winter we will plant it out in the garden after  spring frosts are past.  We will also be looking for a place to buy new seed to begin again!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Autumn Leaves And Bluebirds

November's weather has given us a chance to spend some time catching up outside.  It has been wonderful!  This morning, November 7, I noticed bird movement around the bluebird houses.  After not seeing bluebirds here since the pea ending spring drought, I was delighted to see them  checking  the houses.  I have never seen slate gray juncos chasing other birds before, but they were definitely annoyed by the bluebird's presence.  Everything about November 2015 has been a little weird so far.  Some of it has been in a very good way.  There is no bluebird in the photo.  Our simple point and shoot camera has no chance of capturing a usable bird closeup.

Ed and I spent the morning bagging leaves at a friend's house in Unadilla.  They still bag up leaves for pickup there and Ed is mulching the garden with leaves as we get it cleared .  We turned it into a bit of a lawn party.  It was fun to spend the morning  working together.  The leaves are all cleaned up at Helen's.  Ed got bags and bags of leaves for his garden beds.  Working together saved time and energy for everyone.  What could be better than that?

  • Sunset comes early these days before 5:00 pm. Days continue to get shorter until the winter solstice but progress continues in the garden.  Today was a wonderful warm November day.  We made the most of it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Incredible November Day

Having missed ten consecutive weeks of being able to work in the garden since August first, now four hours of outside work in a day is possible.  The weeds enjoyed my absence and they took giant steps toward reclaiming my planting beds as their own.  With a beautiful day today, steps were taken to reclaim what I view as mine.  We are working toward the mess in the right foreground.  If we are given a few more days like today, order will be restored to more garden beds.

Peas were planted here this spring.  As has been the case for the past several years, an early season hot and dry spell ended the tender young plants.  Spinach and beet plants were also hammered. We tried to carry enough water to these plants to keep them alive but no usable crop was seen this year.  Neglect following the crop failure produced this mess.  We  did not work here today but this bed should be cleared soon.  The weeds can be pulled and the chicken wire can be taken down but the countless number of new weed seeds will remain.  This season's neglect will bring an impressive weed crop next year.

The center bed also held peas this year.  These suffered the same fate as those in the upper photo.  All of the weeds here have been cleared.  We are trying something new.  Usually the cleared beds are left bare for the winter.  Exposed to sunlight, disease and pests would face unfavorable conditions resulting in a decline in their numbers.  Our experience has been that many weeds start to grow before the snow clears.  With the huge number of fresh seeds dropped this year, we had to try something different.  Nearby leaves have been gathered and placed on the freshly weeded planting soil.  We hope the leaf cover will prevent weed seeds from germinating.  In the spring, these leaves will be close at hand to be used as mulch during the next growing season.  Now the inverted wire cages will prevent the leaves from simply blowing away.  Some decomposition may occur before planting time and that will enrich the soil.  We shall see what these leaf covered beds look like at winter's end.  For now the bed in the background has been weeded and is awaiting its leaf blanket.

We go to bed tonight tired and a little sore, but happy.  It is exciting to see things headed in the right direction!