Wednesday, December 19, 2018

December Cleanup

Lasting snowfall found us early this year.  Tasks that are normally completed in early December were hidden beneath the snow.  When warm days and clear skies finally returned we had a chance to get some of the needed work done.  Arbutus is a native wildflower that might be expected to make it on its own.  These plants were moved here and placed in a location of my choosing.  That left me responsible for seeing to it that favorable conditions prevail.  This spot under a white pine tree seemed perfect.  Pine needles decay producing the very acid soil necessary for Arbutus growth and this ground was near the driveway.  Small detours when getting the mail allowed frequent visits to these plants.

Also nearby are several oak trees.  Oak leaves also decay into highly acid soil but they remain whole for a long period of time.  My concern is that oak leaves will totally block out sunlight denying Arbutus leaves the light that is necessary to keep the plants alive.  So on a pleasantly warm day, the protective wire cage was set aside and the oak leaves were singly picked up and moved away.

In a rather short time, a large number of evergreen leaves were exposed to light.  The fallen pine needles were left undisturbed since a pine needle cannot block out sunlight.  There may be some protection from severe cold by the layer of freshly fallen pine needles.  When the leaves were gone the wire cage was returned thereby keeping rabbits and others from feasting on our Arbutus leaves.

Arbutus is an evergreen plant but we had no knowledge about the expected lifespan of a single leaf.  Since nothing lives forever, we wondered how long it would be before we saw naturally dead leaves on out transplants.  We still do not know the expected lifespan of an Arbutus leaf since the pictured dead leaf did not die a natural death.  A thick mat of oak leaves covered the dead leaf.  The half dead leaf was partially trapped under the totally dead leaf.  It is quite possible that these leaves died as a result of being smothered.

Arbutus forms its flower buds late in the summer.  Being first to flower means the buds and the tender flower within must survive exposure to winter's worst.  Aside from removing fallen oak leaves, these buds were left alone.  Their location near the stone will likely produce an exceptional photo in just four months.  As the days grow shorter and the weather turns bitter, we need the promise of delightfully scented flowers in a relatively short period of time.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Upperville Falls

This natural treasure can be easily seen from the Quaker Settlement Road bridge near the intersection with NYS Route 80.  Finding a safe place to park at this time of year is another issue.  Driving into the plowed snowbank is not usually a smart move but the uphill climb going in made backing out easy.

Little remains of the early settlement here.  This part of New York State was settled by people moving southward from the Mohawk River Valley forming the L shaped lowland.  River transportation to this general area made the trip from New York City possible. Steep hills limited the potential of this specific area making travel in or out difficult.  This eight foot waterfall still shows signs of is use to power an early mill.  A channel was cut into the bedrock above the falls directing water flow toward the somewhat open area to the right.  Only occasional chunks of well rusted metal mark the likely location of the mill.

This highway bridge marks the limit of my exploration of this stream.  Pleasant Brook makes a long occasionally steep drop to the distant Chenango River  where wide flat valley farms still exist today.  More waterfalls are likely to exist near here but no safe legal access presents itself.  Falling down while trespassing is a totally no win situation but different seasonal pictures taken from this bridge still might be seen here in the future.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018


The railing outside the kitchen door was frosty this morning.  The chill outside in the garden made it a great day to stay inside and play around with photos of Fringed Polygalas.  We will not see the real thing until April or May but native wildflowers are our current obsession. These tiny pink orchid-like flowers make me smile every time I look at them!

Does it work for you?

Friday, November 23, 2018

Subzero Night

Our NOAA forecast called for an overnight low temperature below zero.  Early evening winds from the north filled depressions in the snow caused by animal footprints leaving a smooth surface.  As the temperature dropped, the wind died down and the sky became absolutely clear.  Clean air coming to us from the Arctic makes available sky views seldom seen here.  The moon was full casting enough light to suggest the possibility of a midnight hike.  When we were younger, and mostly free of pain and common sense, a hike would have likely happened.  In our past we were known to drive without headlights on nights like this one in the absence of any other cars on the road.  I did mention our previous lack of good judgement.

Cool moonlight lit up the landscape outshining most of the stars.  Diamond dust covered the snow twinkled in the bright moonlight.  No animals were seen at 4 AM.  Nothing moved.  A cold quiet stillness covered the frozen moonlit scene.  This night was truly special as these conditions are rather rare here.  A night like this one might be more common in January.  It was a spectacular sight, but it was good to get back to our warm bed!  Opening a window to try for pictures never crossed our minds.

Many new animal tracks marked the previously smooth snow by morning.  The temperature has climbed into the twenties so it is time for us to venture outside.  The mail must be collected and the garbage hauled down to the road.  We did not get a photo of the beautiful moonlit scene, but it will not be forgotten!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

This November has seen little outdoor activity from us.  The ground has been either frozen by unseasonable cold or drenched by seldom before seen quantities or rain.  So far the driveway has needed to be cleared of snow twice.  NOAA listed a wake up temperature for us of 7 degrees this morning.

Just across the Unadilla River a new foot bridge spans a short creek without a name.  Its shadow can be seen in the foreground of the photo.  High Bridge shows on the road map as a name for this area.  At one time long ago a single lane steel bridge was erected here and the road that crossed it was named High Bridge Road.  In my memory of this spot, only the stone abutments remained as the bridge was removed more than fifty years ago.  Why the footbridge was placed here now remains a mystery.  Parking is limited at best and the area contains only a few homes.  The secondary road sees little traffic.

This unnamed stream drains only a small area.  Rainfall runoff is not sufficient to have cut a gorge this deep.  Glacial melt-water was the force that cut this unusual feature.  To our west places like Watkins Glen or Enfield Glen were also formed by the retreating glacial melt-water.  There the gorges are huge and now hold state parks.  Here the geologic feature is rather small and is known to only a few.  A town road clings to the side of the hill for about one mile far above this stream bed.  The land is posted but the steepness of the decent would prevent anyone from safely scampering down to the stream.  The waterfall located here is largely hidden by the trees.  Near the top of this stream's plunge to river bottom land is another larger waterfall.  It too is on posted land but with permission of the landowner the water fall could be approached.  I have yet to see any human activity at the mobile home that is now likely to be a camp.  Without permission I will not get close enough to that waterfall for decent pictures.  If  I ever see people here and their dogs are without foam at the mouth, I will seek permission to approach and photograph their waterfall.

October presented this view of the stream and waterfall from the footbridge.  For me those totally unreachable water worn stones cry out for placement in a dry stone wall.

This is the base of the upper falls.  The stream bed is much closer to the level of the road.  Here fields and other signs of pioneer farming efforts can be seen.  More water than usual now fills the stream as a result of the recent heavy rainfall.  We let a couple of days pass following the rain so that the pictures would not show muddy water.

Monday, November 12, 2018

New Garden Bench

Our original garden bench can be seen over Becky's shoulder.  It must be more than thirty years old and needs to be rebuilt before it can safely support more than just some potted plants.  New oak slats were cut at a local mill several years ago.  Holes need to be precisely drilled near the ends for the bolts that fasten slats to cast iron frame.  That task is likely included in my operable skill set but so far it has been avoided.  As a result a new bench was needed.

Lowe's was the source of our last new bench.  A year end sale provided us with a great bench at a fine price. The shade garden near the road is the location of that bench. We looked again this year but benches are no longer stocked in their stores.  Benches can be ordered for shipment directly to our home but that seemed somewhat limited.  I like to see exactly what my money is to buy.  Finally, we surrendered to the way all business will soon be conducted and ordered our new bench online.

We expected the bench to be sent to us unassembled.  This is a photo of the entire directions.  The thorny issue is illustrated on the lower right corner of the instruction sheet.  A bolt is to be threaded into a nut that resembles a tiny soup can.  Both the bolt and the nut are to be inserted into their respective predrilled holes.  I found it impossible to find an alignment that would allow the bolt threads to mate with the nut.  I came dangerously close to torching the entire project. 

Following a good night's sleep, a plan hatched to solve this alignment problem.  A 20d common nail was long enough to be inserted into the bolt hole and thin enough to pass into the can shaped nut thereby placing the nut in its correct location.  Then the position of the allen wrench set into the end of the nut could be noted and held.  The nail was carefully removed and the bolt inserted in its place.  The bolt instantly found the threaded hole.  The bench was then easily assembled in less than fifteen minutes.

This tag identifies the American company that now manufactures its product in Vietnam.  The wood cut there is Balau hardwood, similar to teak with regard to its ability to survive life exposed to weather.  Our bench is well designed and carefully milled.  The parts fit tightly together and the bench looks and feels solid.  If only there was someone in either Texas or Vietnam that could write or draw instructions showing how to align the bolt and nut when both are out of sight deep in their respective holes.  Such instructions and a 20d common nail would make assembly a breeze.

Becky set the camera to take this picture on its own.  Clearly, we survived the ordeal of trying to mate bolt and nut when both were out of sight deep in their respective holes.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Morning Show, Afternoon Snow

This morning the ground was covered with a coat of white frost.  Before the sun came up it made it seem less dark outside.  Stars were still visible out the bathroom window.  The way the sun comes up behind the ridge sometimes makes for quite a light show.  This morning the color went from pale pink clouds to darker pink clouds and then to a deep, intense rosy color  that filled the sky.  Ed watched this exciting morning light show from bed.  I wanted a picture so I got up, grabbed the camera and opened the kitchen door long enough to snap this picture.  Since I was barefooted and wearing only my pajamas, the morning chill quickly sent me back to join Ed under the warm covers.  By the time I got back to bed  the fabulous light show was over.  Incredible beauty can be fleeting sometimes.   I'm glad I didn't miss it!

Later in the day predicted rain came down as snow.  The ridge in the distance that was highlighted so perfectly this morning is obliterated by the falling snow.   It is my habit to take note of the first snow here at the Stone Wall Garden.  Sometimes it comes as early as October.  Once it did not come until mid December.  The second week in November snow is to be expected.  I love the way the garden looks covered with snow.  For whatever reason I'm not quite as thrilled to see it this year.  Nonetheless it is a beautiful picture and the snow might be fleeting anyway. Who can say?

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Elusive Seeds

This photo from mid May is a flower that has captured our attention.  Six of its parts are getting ready to spread and capture pollen so that seeds will form.  The longest threadlike piece is the single female part.  Its  visibly moist end is ready to catch and hold pollen.  Two of the shorter male parts are displaying visible yellow pollen.  We have yet to see any insect activity around these Pinxter flowers so how the pollen is moved is not known.  Wind is a possible answer to that question.

For the past several weeks we have been making daily visits to these plants looking to see seeds.  This picture shows several open seed pods and one that remains tightly closed.  Next year's flower buds are also visible but that is another story.  The withered remains of the female part that captured and transported pollen can still be seen  protruding from some seed pods.

A tray of sterilized potting soil was set out to receive Pinxter seeds.  The hardware cloth cover is to keep the mice away.  This morning a branch tip that still held several unopened seed pods was cut and pushed into the ground.  One flower bud was inadvertently included.  Our wild imagination saw the possibility of this cutting sending down roots.  Our attempt to take stem cuttings earlier in the year was a dismal failure.  At that time the plant is growing vigorously and the tip with no roots simply died.  This is the time of year when hardwood plants send out new root growth so we see the possibility that we may have stumbled onto something.

We were able to shake out several seeds from an almost open seed pod.  Exactly how the seeds form could not be seen but we are now quite certain that the published report that described these seeds as sporting milkweed like fluff on both ends now appears false.  These seeds were placed on the surface of the sterilized soil since it appears that the plant simply lets the wind plant the seeds.  So now we wait.  It is somewhat bizarre that two people well into their seventh decade are so excited about  the possibility of a growing seed that will require many years of growth before its first flower is seen.  It is possible that an outlook like that is why we have reached the middle of our seventh decade.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Last Load ?

A basic requirement for a woodland garden is a thick cover of rotting hardwood leaves.  These sumac trees provide dappled shade but few leaves.  Nearby villages are the source of the bagged leaves.  After raking their lawns, residents drag their bags of leaves to the curb for the village crews to pick up.  Strangers are allowed to beat the village crews to the task and haul away the leaves themselves.  Experience identifies which residents have tidy lawns and therefore clean leaves.  There is some competition for the best leaves but so far no fights have broken out.  Leaves that have been chopped by the mowers before bagging are the real prize.  Nearly all of the bags in the photo contain chopped leaves.  It has been raining and they are wet and heavy!

Sunday, while returning home form the trip to Syracuse, leaves were picked up in Norwich.  A man that uses the locker near mine at the YMCA saves his chopped leaves for me.  Since my recent hamstring injury sustained while placing my groceries on the checkout conveyor, I have been largely inactive.   My truck was in Norwich anyway so I saw a chance to remove the leaves that he had saved for me.  More leaves were gathered at nearby homes.  That bag at the right end of the load caused a major problem.  A swinging heave up over the tailgate was attempted.  At the start of the upward move three crunching noises were heard coming from my right shoulder.  The accompanying pain doubled me over.  A trip to the ER resulted in a visit to an orthopedic clinic and rehabilitation starts next week.  That would be physical rehab since there is no known help for my system used to make decisions.  It may not sound like it but my luck continues to hold.  If I am smart about what I choose to do a full recovery is possible.  Somewhat slow to learn, today I removed the bags of leaves from the truck using primarily my left hand.

The brown dead grass in the foreground illustrates another method used to try and remove the quack grass.  Despite the thick layer of covering grass clippings, new quack grass is appearing.  That may look like a failed attempt to remove the pest but it was expected.  New quack grass roots have formed at the surface of the soil and will be easily removed.  Every trace of root must go or the pesky grass will reclaim this area.  We plan to place tall native meadow plants here since this area is in full sun.  This is planned to be a no care garden after the massive task of removing the quack grass is completed.  No care gardens are mostly an unfilled dream but we frequently attempt the unlikely.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Moving Snowdrops

Early April provides us with our first flowers.  Yellow Aconites are backed by Snowdrops in our oval shade garden near the house and under the locust tree.  This day was cold as is shown by the tightly closed buds.  Reproduction is the natural purpose of all flowers and these will not waste their pollen by opening on a day too cold for active pollinators to be out and about.  Perhaps the air warmed later in the day teasing these buds to open.

The long curved brown stems are what remains of the structure that supported the Locust leaves.  At first they were seen as an ugly intrusion but now they are treasured.  This garden is exposed to strong winds that would otherwise blow away all of the fallen leaves.  Natural woodland soil results from leaves rotting where they fell so we need these leaves to stay in place.  The messy brown stems hold the leaves and both will soon disappear under new green plant growth.  These early Spring bulbs had no trouble pushing their flowers and leaves above the litter.  The remains of Cardinal Flower seed pods fill the left foreground.

It is perhaps a little late to be planting bulbs but this day featured only a light but persistent drizzle so outside work was at least possible.  A sizable patch of snowdrops hold their own next to the memorial bench overlooking a favorite fishing spot in the Unadilla River.  Bulbs dug yesterday will not be missed when those left behind  flower.  Some open ground will likely be appreciated by the crowd that remains.

Indentations between the stones that mark the edge of the path seemed like a perfect place for snowdrops.  We try to plant native plants here but who could deny European beauties this perfect place to grow?  The small mower recently chopped a fair sized pile of newly fallen imported leaves as the gas was run out of the machine to prepare it for winter storage.  These were spread to cover the bare ground after the bulbs were planted.  Natural mulch will both build proper soil here and discourage the growth of nasty weeds.

A close look at the picture will reveal the tools frequently used for this type of work here.  Age makes it necessary to gently support weak knees on a thick forgiving foam pad.  The old dishpan held the freshly dug bulbs and will soon be filled with chopped leaves.  It also moved a bit of man made woodland soil from its nearby pile.  Also a three tined hand spade is visible between the right knee and elbow.

Despite the lateness of the move, we expect to see several clusters of bright green leaves and pure white flowers soon after spring snow melt.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Seasonal Change, From Hummingbirds And Butterflies To A Bald Eagle

Sometimes I wonder why we stay here in upstate New York.  The change from Autumn to Winter can be hard sometimes.  The flowers that we love are finished.  The hummingbirds and butterflies have flown South. The sky is gray and overcast.  Rain and chilly weather has dampened our enthusiasm.  Worst of all Ed is gimped up and is supposed to rest his left leg for several days.  Instead of walking down to the mailbox with the mail, he drove the car.  Once out of the house we decided to take a short drive up the road.  We were not quite to the neighbor's farm when I saw a Bald Eagle flying low alongside us over a field  between us and the ridge.  I don't know how fast Ed was going, but for a short while the eagle stayed even with us.  It was amazing to see an flying eagle from the side like that.  Of course Ed had to watch the road and the eagle was flying in a straight line.  I lost sight of the bird so we continued to the place where Ed had intended to turn around to head for home.

I was thrilled to have seen the Eagle, but disappointed that Ed had missed it.   Just after we turned around  the car was pointed toward the river.   It was then that the eagle flew over the road so that we could both see it.  For some unknown reason the eagle flew in several low circles over a field that sloped downhill between us and the river.   Usually when we see an eagle he is soaring, but this bird was so low he was flapping his wings.   Once it looked like something on the ground had caught its eye.  We expected to see the bird drop to the ground to feed on carrion but that did not happen. How rare it was to be able to look down from above and watch a magnificent full grown bald eagle in flight!  After several more low circles, the eagle flew to land in a tree near a small stream and the river.

Since the eagle seemed ready to hold its perch, we returned home.  Some time later we returned with camera in hand but the only birds seen were crows.  Watching this majestic bird fly so close to the ground for a rather lengthy period of time made this sighting something special to remember.  It also reminded me how often we see something wonderful and unexpected here.  This Winter it looks like we have Bald Eagles for neighbors. WOW!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Getting Ready For Winter

We usually post our first snowfall.  What happened last night might be too small to qualify but the ground was white this morning.  The YMCA finally decided that the time was right to replace the boiler that heats the building.  We did our hour of arthritis exercises in a properly heated pool but the air was cold.  The resulting chill is hard to shake so we were slow to crawl out from under the covers this morning.  By the time we were up the bright sunlight had melted the snow.  What little snow remained in the shade of a compost pile will have to do to support our claim of snow on the ground.

Our efforts have shifted from pulling weeds before they drop their seed load to preparations for winter.  Plants that form their flower buds in the fall continue to puzzle us.  How can it possibly be a sound survival strategy to expose next year's seed maker to bitter winter cold air?  We can do nothing about the temperature extremes but we can take action to deny the deer access to our flower buds.

When daughter Amy lived and worked in New York City, she took advantage of many of the remarkable places there.  The New York Botanical Gardens had a large grove of Magnolia trees growing on a rolling well manicured lawn.  When those trees were in bloom Amy would spend considerable time sitting under their blossoms.  She left the City after the Towers fell and we planted a Magnolia tree where it could be seen from her room here.  Our winters are much colder than those in Brooklyn but her tree manages at least a few blossoms each year.  The newly installed wire fence will protect some of the buds from the deer but others are just above the top of the fence.

Our day started under a cloudless blue sky.  Our house was designed so that a person  inside could see what was happening outside.  This morning we watched two mature bald eagles interaction with a common crow.  Rising air currents created by the warm sunlight made it possible for these three birds to fly in large lazy circles without beating a wing.  It is common here to see crows harassing eagles but the crows usually flap their wings furiously to keep up with the eagles.  This morning the crow copied the eagles flying style creating a never before seen show.  Slight trim changes in their flight feathers sent all three birds high into the sky.  The white heads and tails of the eagles glowed brilliantly in the bright sunlight.  It always puzzles me that the eagles tolerate the near attacks of the crows.  Their talons and beaks could easily snatch the crows from the air and absolutely shred them but they take no action other than an occasional change in their flight path.  After providing us with a great show, the eagles flew straight across the river disappearing from sight.  We feel extremely fortunate to live in the middle of this wilderness paradise.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Garlic To Ground

Mid October is the time to remember my Father's birthday and plant garlic.  The actual placement of the cloves into the ground is done on bent knees.  From this prayerful position, one can remember past pleasant moments and hope to be able to harvest yet another garlic crop come July. We are of an age where we no longer take future events for granted.

The planting holes have previously been punched using the wire fence pieces to establish a precise grid.  Since our ability to eat garlic has diminished, the distance between the rows has been increased by two inches.  Now we will have twenty-two rows rather than twenty seven.  Two hundred twenty garlic plants is still way more than we will use but garlic has been with us for decades.  At this point in my life the experience of planting next year's crop is more important than eating it.  This morning featured crisp cool air, bright sunshine and the promise of a tomorrow.

The smaller cloves on the left are a locally grown purple stripe variety.  Their growth habit is tall with widely spaced leaves.  They are used to mark the limits of the main crop.  Each bulb consists of eight cloves and doubles are common.  The larger cloves are a locally grown porcelain variety.  Here the number of cloves range from four to six.  Helen's is the name we assigned to this variety to remember Becky's dear friend Helen who is no longer with us.  This is our best variety since it remains free of rot spots that still linger in our other varieties.  Every clove peeled this morning was healthy.

These peeled skins resemble the remains of a shrimp meal.  Despite their overnight soak in baking soda and water, removing them is a hard job.  We carefully snip the top making sure to stay above the clove.  Loosening the outer skin requires carefully applied force since the clove must remain unmarked.  Sometimes a single layer of transparent skin remains on the clove.  It is both sticky and amazingly strong.  Once it is removed from the clove, it wants to remain attached to a finger.

Today is the second time we planted this year.  Two more days will finish the job.  The peeled cloves are given a brief vodka bath.  This method of preparing the cloves for planting has almost completely eliminated the nasty rot.  We also plant in new ground each year trying to avoid soil borne disease.  Space for two more new beds remain but then we will be forced to plant in ground that has previously grown garlic.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Patchy Frost

We were promised patchy frost for this morning.  When I checked outside there was frost on the car, frost on the porch railing and frost on the shed roof.  It was early and chilly.  I was cold and crawled back in bed for awhile.  Later after the sun had a chance to melt the frost,  I got the camera and took some pictures that show what patchy frost does at least here in our garden.  Being a tropical plant the basil turned black, gross and slimy, but the peppers came through unscathed.

The upper part of the Heliotrope got burned by the frost.  The flowers turned brown and the leaves dark, but down next to the stone path the leaves remain green.  The purple flowers still have their cherry pie aroma.

In another part of the garden these tropical Lemongrass plants are just fine.  October 13 is later than usual for our first frost.  This time Jack went easy on us.  He will be back very soon and perhaps snow will be with  him!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Two Late Monarchs, Part 3

Today was warm and when I saw the second chrysalis, I knew today was the day.  When I checked in the afternoon, this Monarch butterfly was nearly finished pumping up his wings.

This one is a male.  The black spots on his hind wings tell the tale.  It seems to me that the male Monarchs who migrate have a more narrow body and longer wings than those seen earlier in the season.  As far as I can tell he is a perfect specimen.  In the end my Too Late Butterflies turned out to be a pair.  Adious Amigos, we promise to have lots of fresh green milkweed waiting for the Monarchs that return in 2019!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Too Late Monarchs: Part Two

It was before September 25 when I started to watch this chrysalis hanging on Ed's Lime Green Daylily.  It is one of my Two Late Monarchs.  Now it is the end of the first week in October and it is still hanging out there.  We have not had a frost, but the weather has been wet and night temperatures have dropped out of the sixties.

The other of my Two Late Monarchs has spent the time in my kitchen where the temperatures never drop out of the sixties.  Even though this Monarch was still a caterpillar when I brought it in the house, it won the metamorphosis race with days to spare.  I knew as soon as the orange wings began to show and the shape of the chrysalis  began to change that a butterfly would emerge soon.

Here she is pumping up her wings.  To my delight the predicted rain held off and the temperature was predicted to stay in the sixties overnight.  It was great to watch this magical process so closely, but butterflies are meant to fly free.

I carried my Monarch out to the October Sky asters and set her free. 

When she began to flap her wings I left her there in the garden.  Just before dark Ed checked and found her on top of the October Sky asters.  We have since seen a newly emerged butterfly flitting past the windows as it moves from one clump of October Sky asters to the other plant. We would like to believe it is the one that spent days on the kitchen counter.  Now both the butterflies and the geese are now flying south so we expect this one to soon be gone.  There still remains one that we know of to emerge from its chrysalis. Flowers are becoming scare.  Even if it's too late to make it to Mexico, they will have their chance to fly and try!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Maidenhair Fern Finally Moved

Today was a glorious day to work outside.  Harvesting weeds has been our primary job of late and some of that work was done today.  During one trip up the drive a sizable pile of moss covered stones was spotted.  Two dump cart loads were brought close to yesterday's stone work.

When the tall stone was placed yesterday, it was rather obvious that a tall plant would be needed close by to hide the stone.  The plants should be what catches the eye and holds its attention.  Stones are intended to play only a supporting role.

Becky remained fond of her maidenhair ferns with their location in the shade garden at the top of the hill.  She made no secret about her desire to have some of this beautiful plant in the new shade garden.  No action followed since I had no idea of a suitable location for the treasured plants.  That tall stone resolved that problem.

The ferns do an impressive job of hiding the problem stone.  With the edge of the planting bed defined, the ferns should be fine here.  Given more space in view of their present size, these plants should grow together forming an attractive group.

Fallen tree leaves that had been run through the mower finished the job.  A partial bag of ground leaves remained unused after last spring's work was completed.  They add a look of long standing permanence to the newly planted transplants.  What is amazing is that both their existence and location was timely remembered.  Both the transplanted plants and the ones that remain in the old shade garden look better after the move!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Turned A Corner

Recently much of our time in the gardens has been spent removing weeds before their seed load was dropped on the planting beds.  That urgency has passed as most of the weeds seeds are now mature.  Additionally, heavy rain fell here overnight.  Garden soil that wet is best left alone.  So we turned to the shade garden down near the road.  Working from the hardwood bark mulch path, we were able to reach into the woods soil while doing no damage.

The last five stones at path's edge were placed today.  The moss covered stone near the tree trunk caught my eye some time ago.  It was nearly buried by the gravel fill that was used to bury the remains of the burned barn in the late 50's.  Moss stones appeal to me since they add a natural look to the woodland garden.  This stone was worked free of the fill and rolled into the trailer.  As luck would have it, the stone was easily rocked free and worked into the back edge of the dump cart.

The carefully tended lawn belongs to our neighbor.  We are trying to establish a garden that is worthy of space adjacent to their lawn.  Visible weeds show that we are still working on our part of the picture.  The path will continue on the narrow strip of ground between the tree trunks.  For now, we need to place the stones along the side of the path opposite today's work.

This is the view looking in the opposite direction.  The area opposite the bench has been partially planted with native woodland plants.  Moving in the opposite direction takes us out of the shaded canopy of the sumac trees.  Here we intend to plant asters and black-eyed Susans.  Both the jumble of rocks and the weeds show that this area still needs considerable work.  Another thick layer of grass clippings recently placed will make removal of the pasture grasses and their roots relatively easy if we get to it before snowfall.  Our time spent outside today was wonderful.  Any day that includes the safe placement of native stones is both pleasant and permanent.  These stones will stay where placed.  They have been carefully supported underneath so that any child walking on top of them will find solid footing.  In time in their new home, moss will spread giving these rocks the appearance of having been here for a long time.

Monday, October 1, 2018


Hazelnut bushes exist here because a naturalist friend recommended them to us. We planted them in 1998.   She advised us to allow the suckers to grow creating a bush rather than trying for a tree with a single trunk.  We followed her advice and now have the two bushes required for pollination.  Rock hard nuts and aged teeth do not seem like much of a match so no attempt is made to harvest these nuts.  They are finally doing well here and we do enjoy watching their natural cycle.

The fall appearing catkins appearing alongside of the mature fruit seem to be in contradiction.  Many plants form their flower buds in the fall then hold them over for spring function.  We will pay closer attention to the cycle of this bush.

The hull protecting each developing nut is nothing short of amazing.  This one has fallen from the tree, split open and still holds tightly to its fruit.

The largest chipmunk ever seen here claims ownership of this bounty.  The pile of discarded hull wrappers remains on the wall while the nuts have been secreted away.  Chipmunks tend to be sassy animals that are slow to flee from humans.  The monster claiming ownership of this wall will not be challenged.  It appears to be serious about protecting this wall and bush.