Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Snow Fun To Be Snowed In: Part 2

While Ed cleared the area where we park the car, I got the broom and began to clean the snow off the car.   I cleared the windows, but when I got to the top, I was only  able to clear the soft snow under the ice, the crust stayed put.

By the time I got to the back of the car I was becoming quite intrigued with the way the snow was just hanging there.  The defroster and heat in the car were beginning to make a difference.

I forgot how cold and tired I was and concentrated on my snow sculpture.  I thought it might fall apart at any moment!

I worked my way along the other side of the car.   I stopped for a few minutes and  sat in the car to warm my cold hands.  I didn't stay long since it was getting late and we were both ready to quit for the day.

When I finished  the hood I went in the house and got the camera.  By this time Ed had the cleared space ready for the car.   Being a tall person he had no trouble removing the ice from the top of the car.  He put the car back where it belongs, cleared up the rest of the plowed area and we went inside.  We were cold and we were tired, but now we could  go somewhere if we wanted to do it.  At this point we were happy to be back inside our warm home

Late at  night, just before bed I spent my time  downstairs with the cat.   I stepped outside the door for just a minute hoping to get a photo of the lunar eclipse.  Thin clouds obscured the view and only one star or planet shows in the picture,   I did not stay out long.  When I opened the door to go back inside Mithren came out but turned around immediately and went back inside.  He knew it was way too cold to be out there. When it is cold, snowing and blowing there is no place like home

Monday, January 21, 2019

Snow Fun To Be Snowed In: Part 1

We have been snowed in here before.  Last night when we went to bed we felt we were as ready as we would ever be and slept soundly in our warm cozy home.    We awoke to the sight  of white snow everywhere   The kitchen door would open only a few inches and then it was stuck.  The snow was a lot like a layer cake.  Fluffy white snow was the bottom layer.  Next came a hard crusty layer formed during the night when the snow changed to rain and sleet.  More light fluffy snow topped things off.  This was my place to start.

After breakfast Ed suited up and began to shovel his way out of the basement.  I took this picture with just my arm and the camera outside the kitchen door since that is all I could fit through the small opening.  I would be the first to admit that all that snow was a little daunting, but  Ed was determined to get to his snow equipment from the shed, and I was determined to get the kitchen door open.  At first I worked from inside digging at the base of the door with Mithren's kitty litter scoop. Then I could squeeze outside with a shovel. I found I had to break the crusty layer into pieces with the shovel.  I could lift the light snow, but the pieces of ice were heavy and I soon discovered it was easier and more fun to wing them over the railing like a Frisbee.

By the time Ed decided it was time to come inside to warm up I had barely cleared enough space to open the kitchen door and stand outside.  It was a start!

Our snow removal machines were never intended to be used on our terrain.  A level asphalt driveway would be perfect for our machines housed just inside of a garage door if the accumulated snowfall was limited.  The plow can push little more than one inch deep snow to the side.  More than that stays in front of the lawn tractor forming a growing ripple that extends for an amazing distance.  The blower always sends its rear wheels downhill into deep snow.  It becomes hopelessly stuck in the blink of a eye.

For this storm the first passes with the blower were made straight uphill moving out of the shed.  A careful move back into the shed was followed by another run up the hill.  In time enough snow had been cleared to begin moving across the slope towards the driveway.  Each short pass had to end with the rear wheels still on cleared ground.

Cleared ground is not an accurate description of what the blower leaves behind.  To avoid spending much of my time replacing broken shear pins because of my gravel road, high heeled skids were made to raise the scraper bar about one inch above the road surface.  The weight of the machine packs this snow left behind into a firm mass.  Spinning wheels quickly grind this snow into a wheel blocking raised mass.

The plow was needed to scrape the ground clean after the blower had done its work.  A good deal of shoveling was needed to free the plow for its short run onto the semi-cleared ground.

By making several short applications of each machines capabilities, a sizable patch of ground was cleared.  An obvious question of why presents itself.  Our propane truck driver is accustomed to finding enough clear ground to turn his truck around.  It is possible to back that truck up a nearly one quarter of a mile long driveway with an S curve and another curve but that is not the way we do it.  Besides it is an amazing sight to see that blower toss clear the piles that the plow leaves.

Ed had determined prior to the storm that his machines would be strictly limited to working the nearly level ground at the top of the hill.  Late in the afternoon the plow truck appeared and quickly finished the job that kept Ed busy for hours.

By this time I had finally cleared the deck.  Now the job of clearing the car and the truck needed attention.  I shoveled far enough to get the driver's side door on the Subaru open.  Ed backed the car out with his visibility limited to the driver's side window.  It had been steadily getting colder and so were we.  To be continued...

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Finally We Saw A Fox

I had hoped that the single register footprints in the snow belonged to a fox, but the truth is we have not seen a fox in the garden for a long time.  In fact the last time we posted a picture of a fox was in 2014.  I am including a link to the post here, but be warned it is not pretty and the fox is dead.

However, late this afternoon when the sun was setting behind the hill to the west and the blue cast returned to the snow,  Ed and I were thrilled to see a red fox streak across the garden.  It was a big good looking fox with a bushy white-tipped tail!  It was going fast but seemed to hesitate for a second and look back like something was chasing it.  It is nearly time for foxes to begin their mating behavior.  We hope this was the first fox sighting of many yet to come. We have enjoyed watching foxes in the garden before and the prospects of a repeat of those happy times for the foxes and for us are exciting!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Frozen Beauty

We located our home so that the distance ridge was between us and the rising sun or moon.  Their appearance here is delayed by 45 minutes at this time of the year.  When we want to see a full moon rising above a more distant horizon, a walk to the road is required.  There we can see the emerging moon against dark skies.  From the house the full moon appears in skies already fully illuminated by moon light.

Last night featured temperatures in the single digits under clear skies.  With those conditions frost forms everywhere.  Warming sunlight makes quick work of eliminating these strikingly sharp crystals but while they remain the trees glitter in the sunlight.  The distant trees look like they have been rolled in diamond dust.  A walk in the frigid air was required to reach some shade.  Low in the sky bright sunlight makes pictures impossible if the camera lens is hit by sunlight.  So I burned my airways a little to record this wonderful sight.

Recently we saw eight deer cavorting on our lawn.  They were here for more than a romp since they are well aware green grass lies hidden just under the new snow.  They look right at us but quickly return to feeding.  Somehow they know that we pose them no threat despite the fact that they regularly eat my lily buds.   Their favorite place to eat is on the slope just to the left of the house.  There the sunlight hits with force, thinning the snow cover.  The deer seem to be aware when we are watching them.  They look right at us but quickly return to feeding.  Once darkness falls on a frigid January night, the deer feed on the still green clover and grass.   They know we are snuggled inside the house for the night.  After sharing this space for two decades we know their habits and they know ours.  Watching the wildlife in the garden has added great joy to our life.  I can't help wonder if they enjoy watching us.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Indoor Railroading

March of 2007 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the demise of the New York Ontario and Western Railroad.  Since the railroad had a major impact on Sidney, I felt that the occasion needed to be observed.  A display featuring HO models, books and maps was placed in the Sidney Library.

Sidney was also served by the Delaware and Hudson railroad.  Few are aware that the transfer of coal from one railroad to another took place in Sidney.

The two models are not correct representations for 1890.  The coal cars in use then were longer and lower.  I intended to build some of those but never got around to it.  The unfinished model shows how these models were built using scribed sheathing and structural shapes.

The second major commodity shipped by the O & W was milk.  A look at a map showing the flow of milk to New York City would clearly show the area served by this railroad as the major supplier.  The car shown is a replica of the ones actually used.  The departure from accuracy is the color of the lettering.  The prototype featured yellow lettering that was unavailable in decal form.  The plans for this model were based on actual dimensions and photos for each numbered car.

The story of my trip as a newborn from the hospital to home has been told many times.  We stopped at a crossing and my father held me up so that I could see the passing Lehigh Valley train.  For a time I considered basing my model railroad on the Lehigh Valley and this model was built from scratch.  This is the most detailed model that I ever built.

Local exposure to what was the NYO&W prevailed and this is the model that was intended to fill one end of the basement.  The kit built bridge shows terrain along the Willowemoc, the coal mine represents Pennsylvania and the distant trestle Sidney Center.  Also in view are the supporting framework, plywood roadbed, cardboard webbing, construction paper and some finished scenery.

The wall pictures show the third bridge built on this spot in Sidney Center.  My model has half of the number of supporting towers since available space was limited.

This scene is based on the Hawk Mountain tunnel near Hancock.  Construction of the four lane highway totally destroyed this tunnel and no trace of it can be found today.  The tunnel portal is cast as are the retaining walls but I just had to add some real stone walls.

This section is nearly finished.  Water needs to be poured in the river and bathers need to be placed on the beach under the bridge.

The future of all of this is in question.  I never planned to live long enough to experience the ravages of arthritis in my fingers and cataracts on my eyes.  Models like these are no longer possible for me to build and second best holds no appeal.  The layout framework was constructed in short sections so that its removal will be simple and leave the basement walls undamaged.  The Sidney Center bridge was placed on a short section of plywood so that it too can be removed intact.  Perhaps an auction and garbage man will clear all of this out as we prepare for what is next.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Focus On Some Plants

Yes, it is only January 2nd and some of us are already raring to go.  This tiny little moss bump on an apple tree branch has a nice little start.  Despite the weather realities of January in New York, both the moss and the lichen are actively growing.  The moss ball is doing a nice job of covering evidence of a deer pruned branch.  The presence of the lichen may be a sign that the tree is under attack and will die.

Ingeborg is responsible for the existence of Hazelnuts in our garden.  Our first plant was a gift from her.  This second one was purchased to guarantee that two different plants were here so that pollination would occur.  When the gift tree was delivered, the suggested growth habit of an untrimmed bush rather than a tree with a single trunk was intended to increase the size of the harvest.   Additionally, just letting things grow suits the style of the workman here.

Our foray into gardening several decades ago drew several ladies of years to encourage our efforts with gifts of plants.  This yellow flowered sedum was a gift from Thelma H.  It grows here with weed like tenacity.  We try to limit its growth to the edges of the paths but buckets of it are weeded out every year.  Its yellow colored flowers are a welcome reminder of both Thelma and her impressive garden.  That it is evergreen is a huge bonus.

Coral Bells and Foamflower are related native plants.  Both of them are in the Saxifrage family. When these were purchased we were unaware that Foam flower grows freely in our back woods.   The reddish flowers appear on a thin tall stem providing easy access for hummingbirds.  Attracting hummingbirds and an evergreen growth habit make this plant a winner.  We divide the ever increasing clumps frequently since one can never have too many Coral Bells.

For years the plant Catchfly grew in limited numbers reseeding itself among carefully chosen plants.  It was a gift from Mary Jo and carried on with no help from us. Its flowers are a vibrant pink and a mass of these plants seemed to be in order.  Seed stalks were carefully cut and placed on prepared ground.  A mass of plants resulted.  This patch will provide many plants for placement in other spots.  In addition to the bright flowers, sticky brown rings appear on the stems.  We have no idea how captured flies benefit the plant but that is an interesting bonus.

Foxglove is another plant that makes its own way here.  They freely reseed themselves and some are moved to grow in specific locations.  Several different people provided gifts of this plant.  Its leaves were the original source of the drug digitalis and the leaves are widely recognized as poisonous.  The flowers are attractive and so far no leaves have accidentally appeared in my morning tea. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Another New Year For Plants And Stones

Today marks the beginning of the twelfth year of Plants and Stones, our garden blog.  I braved the wind, rain and falling temperatures to go out and look for something exciting to start off 2019 with a bang.  My hands were getting cold so I stopped by this stone wall.  Built circa 2008 it has  since become encrusted with all kinds of moss and lichens.  Ed will claim that this is not a picture of a failed stone wall that he built.  His walls are built from large scattered piles of stones that allow him to pick individual stones that will build a strong wall.  This was never intended to be more than a temporary stone pile.  As garden ground was cleared these stones were piled as they were found.  There was no choice available to pick stones that were right.  Ed thought for some time that this pile might fall.  I never thought it would happen but in 2016 strong north winds  pushed a section to a leaning overhanging position and eventually over it went.  Now this fallen pile provides raw material for new carefully constructed walls.

Stones that already have been decorated by Mother Nature with mosses and lichens are treasures to a stone wall builder.  The growth adds an additional consideration when placing the stone.  It must be solidly placed in the wall while preserving the exposure to sunlight and moisture.  Close to the ground seems like a good choice but just how these life forms grow remains a mystery.

This stone is interesting in a number of ways.  Round stones are difficult to place in a wall.  When one sets out to repair a section of an old wall that failed, a round rock is commonly found at the bottom of fallen section.  The top knob on this one wildly increases the likelihood of a failed wall.  This stone will better serve as a stone partially buried at the edge of a walking path in the new woodland garden.  Such a placement will also preserve the various life forms making their homes on this stone.

We have attempted to learn more about lichens and moss.  Articles that we find are filled with huge words whose meaning remains unknown.  Anyone that knows the meaning of such words already knows a great deal about these plants.  So we simply admire and speculate.  It seems likely that creating the next generation is what is going on here.  The bright colors are rarely seen but appear when the lichen is wet..

This view speaks volumes.  A large collection of small stones can be seen in one section of the fallen pile.  Placing these solidly in a wall would require a huge amount of time given the variation in thickness.  Their presence is likely the location of the part of the wall that first moved tiny amounts when hit by strong winds.  New paths will be edged with these stones.  They will be buried out of sight but will form a solid boundary for the path.  The end stones are the best ones placed in this pile.  They will be moved to the reconstruction project along the property line.  A properly built wall is planned to back the transplanted Arbutus already growing there.  We have never seen Arbutus in the wild growing against a stone wall but think that the two will look grand together.  The centuries old fallen wall presently there will be rebuilt with additional stones.  We expect that any visual difference between the stones will quickly disappear.  They are after all the same age.  The only difference is how they spent the last century.