Wednesday, November 30, 2016

End of November Green

On occasion our gardening blunders can be attributed to ignorance.  In this instance, the choice to cultivate an invasive nonnative was made with full understanding of both the plants history and nature.  Sweet Rocket is a common roadside weed in our area.  It grew here prior to our ownership of this land and it will continue to call here home long after we are gone.  Its pleasantly scented flowers are also frequently colored an attractive purple.  Color and scent make this plant a sure winner.  It is easy to understand why early European settlers brought seeds of this attractive plant with them.

A biennial habit and a stout tap root present problems when trying to transplant Dame's Rocket.  These three plants were moved early in the year while they were still small.  Their color is unknown but we would like to see purple and perhaps a single white.  If these plants please us and if we cut them back after they flower, a second year of flowers might happen.  Cutting the immature seeds heads is prudent in one wishes to avoid weeding out many deeply rooted seedlings.

This area is our spearmint patch.  Three clove currants were also planted here.  Since the roots of the clove currants run deep and mint's roots hold the upper ground, we planted them together.  A couple of Dame's Rocket transplants were thrown in for good measure.  They dropped a carpet of seed so we will be weeding here.  Five minutes of timely pruning would have saved us much difficult weeding.

The low meadow in the back has been given over to goldenrod and milkweed.  Our considerate neighbors have two horses and little land that is suitable for grazing.  Last season some mowing was done here to discourage the weeds and favor the grass.  The first step in the process is to slowly drive my truck across the area searching out mower killing rocks and leg breaking woodchuck dens.  Next spring we will mow here with the blades set high.  When the growth is more suitable to the horses taste perhaps they can keep the grass short and the weeds gone.

Becky spotted this wintergreen berry from the truck.  It looks like there were several fruits on a single stem earlier in the year.  Neither of us recall seeing multiple fruits.  That will give us something to look for next year.  When there are more berries, we have been known to eat a few.  We are both  old Teaberry gum fans.  The reddish pink new spring growth is tasty as well, but we do not harvest them unless the patch is well established.

All of our attempts to cultivate wintergreen have failed.  Clearing the briers away from a wild patch made it easy for the deer to graze the plants into oblivion.  I throw light brush over the wintergreen to make it difficult for the deer to eat here.  The neighbor's dogs also help to protect these plants.  The wisest course of action would be to enjoy wintergreen as a naturally wild plant.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bright Red In The Garden. Photo By Amy

Most of the recent snow is now gone.  Amy managed to find some bright red Jack-in-the-pulpit berries to photograph.  A person might think that these berries belong to the green  Lungwort plant with the white speckles, but they actually belong to the brownish black dead leaves in the foreground. I see a couple of  columbine seed heads in the foreground as well.  We have been having gray skies and welcome rain.  Now that the snow is gone the deer blend right into the background.  They can disappear right before your eyes.  We did see a wet ruffled grouse that we could identify with the binoculars while he was on the grass, but he flew up into the woods and we lost him as we approached.  I guess a garden in Upstate New York becomes boring in the winter but not to me.  I still watch every morning for something to capture my interest.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Perilous Widow Maker

Our three day lake effect snow event has finally ended and today's clear skies drew me outside for a walkabout.  This nearly inverted snapped off tree trunk is a new feature likely the result of the recent fierce weather.  At first I had no luck finding the original location of the newly fallen tree branch.  Looking up it was impossible to find its former home.

The original farm included the field in the foreground and the one that extends to a distant tree line.  Fields beyond the tree line lie on the opposite side of the Unadilla River and are part of another old farm.  Our land consists entirely of ground now found unsuited for cultivation and occupies glacial deposits that are higher than the river.

This view shows that the hanging wood was actually the entire trunk.  How this happened is a bit of a puzzle.  The fallen trunk above the supporting crotch is more massive than the remains below it.  Only the steepness of the angle allows the fallen tree to remain where it is.  This system is not stable.  The supporting tree is far too small to bear this load for long.  We will check in to see what happens next but only from a safe distance.

The high ground that provided these safe views are at the end of a fill that was made to bury the remains of the barn that was struck by lightning in the early 1960's.

This snapped off tree could hardly be classified as a widow maker.  It does have the potential to be a leg breaker.  For that reason I have chosen to simply leave it alone.  My walking path did pass under where the tree fell and I could duck and scoot under it but my path simply took a new route.  Walking about in the woods does require a measure of common sense.

Field workers do pass under the first tree shown to dump stone removed from the adjacent field.  It is likely that the tree will have completed its journey to ground before that work resumes.  That is also a spot where I find great wall stones but that work is also suspended until spring.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Snow Bother

Yesterday when the lake effect snow began to fall the ground was warm.  The snow only stuck on the grass and the trees.  The driveway and the stone walls pretty much melted the snow as it fell.  It was my idea of a perfect storm.  It was incredibly beautiful and we could stay inside where it was warm and watch snow fall on the garden.   A peaceful stillness comes with a blanket of new snow.

This morning heavy wet snow was falling.  Those big clumps of snowflakes add up fast. Throughout the day, the snow danced on the wind sometimes looking like it was going horizontal and not falling at all.

It became obvious the the let-it-melt method was not going to cut it this time.  It took considerable time for us to get together the long underwear, winter hat, snow pants, insulated gloves and waterproof jacket necessary for comfortable snow removal.  It has been a long time since I have seen Ed head outside wearing that many layers of clothing.  He reminded me of the kid in A Christmas Story!  Ed enjoys being out there moving the snow where he wants it to be.  Today he plowed some leaves and mud as well since the driveway is not yet frozen.  He only appears in one picture because by the time I saw him coming and got the camera, he was already headed out of sight.

Ed is back inside where it is warm and cozy.  The shoveling, sweeping and plowing are finished for now.  The snow is letting up, but it has not stopped.  Every now and then the wind whirls the snow past the window completely blocking the view.

I guess it seems like we are back at the beginning, but the snow no longer obscures the ridge in the distance.  The snow is  once again building up on the ramp.  It will be dark soon.  Tomorrow we hope to go out.  It could be a bit of an adventure!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Helen's Leaves

Last fall Ed, my friend Jan and I spent some wonderful time raking and bagging leaves with Helen.  Helen was in the middle of chemotherapy treatment then but that didn't stop her from doing what needed to be done. " Many hands make light work," and working together made for a very pleasant experience for all of us.  This year Helen is in the hospital with her family by her side.  So here we are on this beautiful day in November collecting Helen's leaves again.  It is something we can do.  The tree behind me is the  gorgeous maple that is dropping all these leaves.  Far from naked it will be dropping even more. I raked the leaves away from the tree roots so that Ed can use his mulching mower.

That big maple drops its leaves over a large area.  This is the view to the south showing Helen's gardens and the fascinating remains of a Camperdown elm that has been there for more than a hundred years.  Perhaps Helen's grandparents planted it.  The back yard goes all the way back to just beyond the spruce tree on the right.  I walked to the back with a couple of branches that had fallen and needed to be moved.

 On my return I was struck by the silhouette of the Camperdown Elm and the still colorful maple.  Ed and his mower seems so tiny compared to these venerable old trees.  It's easy to see why Helen has  always loved living here.  It is a beautiful place to be.

As long as I have known Helen I have been fascinated with this  now dead tree.  Since I had the camera I had to take a close - up of its gnarled trunk.  All Camperdown elms came from one.  Named  Ulmus 'Camperdownii', it was discovered on the estate of the Earl of Camperdown in Scotland in 1872.  That tree never produced seed.  Grafted cuttings were the method of making more of these trees.

Sometimes it is hard to accept things as they are.  I look at this amazing long dead tree against the blue sky and consider the beauty that still exists there.  Perhaps raking leaves is a small gesture, but Helen has taught me that it is up to each of us to something positive with our day.  It is not always easy but we must do our best!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Use What You Are Given

When we found this land twenty-two years ago, it seemed like the perfect place to retire.  Near a river but well above it, floods were highly unlikely to reach us.  Even with the aftermath of global warming we should then have beachfront property.  Since the land had been farmed for many generations, we felt that gardens could be easily established here.  Only after the land was ours did we try to insert a spading fork into the ground.  Broken stones were everywhere so that it was impossible to turn a single spadeful of soil.

Our method of dealing with the mess that the last glacier left behind can be seen in the above photo.  First, the plant growth needed to be removed.  That in itself was no easy task.  Undercutting the sod from the side with a maddock allowed clumps to be removed.  These sod blocks were inverted and piled.  After several years of composting, that topsoil became a vital ingredient in our planting beds.  Of course the stones still needed to be removed.

This coarse screen with one square inch holes separates out the larger stones left behind after hand picking the big ones.  What passes through the screen will serve as subsoil in a planting bed.  Topsoil will be forced through a screen with one half inch square holes.  If I am really feeling fussy, there is another screen with even smaller holes.

At this time the large waste stone is being used to bring the lawn up to grade at the west end of the house.  When we first came here this type of stone was used to build the driveway in a manner similar to that used by the Romans.  This area by the house remained unfinished because I did not want to bury the edge of the stone patio.  If we are going to be able to use this feature, one must be able to simply make one step up to its surface.

Here one can see the other results of today's work.  The foreground stone path was previously built using select waste stone.  Dark hardwood bark mulch covers the finished planting soil.  Our planting soil consists of equal parts of screened compost and screened material from the sod pile.  Under that is the soil that passed through the inch square screen.  At the very bottom of the hole is the yellowish dirt never enriched by rotting plant material.

Everything in this patch of ground found a useful location nearby.  Nothing was thrown over the bank,  The physical exertion necessary to move the raw material about has many positive benefits if it is carefully done.  Given a few more days like today, we should reach the end of this planting bed.  We will spend some of the next season planning how to plant this new ground.  This will be a new experience for us since our habit has been to try and find a hole for all of the plants ordered in the dead of winter.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Perfect November Day

The weather forecast for today predicted a fantastic day.  A hard overnight frost was followed by clear skies and temperatures that reached well into the 50's.  This glorious afternoon was spent running fallen maple leaves through the lawn mower creating perfect garden mulch.  The bags of shredded leaves will be piled and covered with a tarp.  If all goes as planned, we will find fine, dry, aged, ph proper mulch for our basil planting next June.  How much better than that does it ever get?

Our original Gloriosa daisies were given to us many years ago by Elle, an elderly gardener that took us under her wing.  Many of her plants still grow in our gardens so we remember her fondly and often.  This last of the season flower looks rather stunning dressed with frost.

Foxglove has found many locations around the garden to send down roots.  We prefer to have it grow at the base of stone walls.  That type of location seems satisfactory to the plant as it reseeds wildly there.  A generous coating of frost highlights the texture of these leaves.

Cone flower has been a favorite of the lady of the garden forever.  It now grows here in unmanageable numbers.  We hate to discard living plants but a run through the compost pile happens to this plant rarely.  An end of the season flower still holding petals and a perfect seed head looks lovely with its frost overcoat beginning to melt in the morning sun.

If our overnight freeze was harsh enough to end nearly all of the tiny biting black bugs, this will have been a truly perfect  day.