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.