Saturday, February 16, 2019

Locust Seeds

The recent unusual storm is now history with bright warm sunny days available to us.  Forecasts had called for possibly ten inches of snow.  Everything started on schedule with perhaps three inches of light dry snow covering the ground.  Then dry ice pellets began to fall.  The weight of the ice pellets compressed the powdery snow leaving us with about four inches of heavy accumulation on the ground that certainly held enough moisture to produce ten inches of snow.  My small plow was no match for the mess closing the driveway so help was called in.

The combination of ice pellets and wind removed some parts of the trees.  The purity of fresh snow was marred by black seed capsules that were everywhere.  Our locust trees were covered with more flowers than ever seen here.  Each pea like flower produced a long seed capsule most of which were still attached to the trees.  Now many of them litter the surface of the newly fallen snow.  The pictured seed pod is positioned to catch the morning sun straight on.  Resulting warmth has melted a snug cave that has pulled the seeds below the snow's surface.

Despite the severity of the storm, many seeds remain attached to the trees.  It may be that enough locust seeds were formed last year to plant our entire thirty-six acres.  We planted this line of trees intending that they fill nearby open ground.  Walking under a grove of these trees when they are in blossom is an unforgettable experience.  Their scent is intense but light.  Bees fill the trees happily gathering their food and pose no threat to those of us standing nearby.

These clear patches in our lawn resulted from the combined efforts of the deer and sunlight.  Narrow pointed hooves are not efficient snow removal tools but persistence exposes enough grass for a meal.  The deer also eat a great deal of snow left partially covering the grass.  That may be how the deer get their drinking water.  Our herd looked to be in great shape this late in the winter but having them feel comfortable feeding this close to our house indicates that  come Spring they will be feeding on our garden plants.  We wanted to live close to nature and we certainly are doing just that.  Soon enough we will be out there working and the deer will move only a short distance away and feed where we can see them.  Somehow they read us as presenting no real threat to them.  This is their home too.

Cold Silent And Grey? Take A Closer Look.

 I first  awoke this morning  to a cold grey and silent scene.  One of the really great things about where we live is that you can spend time looking out the window even before you crawl out of your nice warm bed.  I was trying to decide if I really wanted to get up when I saw  some color and movement.  A red squirrel streaked across the snow and then disappeared in the distance.  He was moving so fast I doubt if he left footprints.  I couldn't help but notice that the deer had been digging for food right outside my window.  I guess I was hungry too, because the thought of coffee and toast with strawberry jam got me motivated to get up.

It is my habit to view the garden from the living room window while I drink my coffee. The scene was still grey silent and cold.  But then I saw a bird land on top of the birdhouse in the garden.  With this much light I can't really see color in the distance any more so I put down my coffee and got the binoculars.  There were two birds in the garden and then to my surprise I discovered they were Bluebirds.  The birdhouse in the garden is a wren house so they looked it over, but the entrance hole is too small for them so they lost interest quickly.  They flew from post to post in the garden for awhile and then flew away.   I saw them again checking out the Bluebird nest boxes that I can see from my kitchen window.  Wow!  Feb. 16 marks the first Bluebird sighting of 2019 in the Stone Wall Garden.  They really do make me happy and if they can take the cold and snow, so can I. It is still February after all.

 Later, Ed and I walked down to the mailbox.  I hoped that we would see the  birds again.  After all we have Bluebird accommodations down by the road too, but they were nowhere to be seen.  Still that little spark of Bluebird happiness made my day. 

I got so excited by the prospect of spring and the garden that I watered  my pet moss.  This is how it looks dry.  Tomorrow when it is good and wet we will take a closer look!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Is Anybody Home?

After warm temperatures and last night's rain, much of our snow has melted.   It was so nice we just had to go outside in search of moss and adventure.   By tonight we will be back to winter weather.
What could be more fun to explore than the fallen remains of an ancient apple tree.  I could see moss from a distance so I climbed up the slight incline to take a closer look.

The base of the tree had lots of green moss, but I was immediately drawn to the moss surrounding this hole.   Anyone who has seen movies knows that it can be dangerous to stick an appendage into a dark hole.  These remains of a long ago broken branch might be similar to what inspired Disney artists.

I peered into the hole and could see that it was empty.  The opening was exactly the right size for my index finger.  I couldn't resist calling Ed over so I could show him the hole in the tree.  Of course I stuck my finger in the hole and pulled it out quickly as if I had been bitten just so that he could see it.  We really know how to have fun like a couple of kids in the woods!

Ed was able to get this photo taking advantage of his height. From that vantage point you can see the inside and outside of that hole.  Light entering the well rotted trunk from the end makes the interior visible.

Judging from the remnants of pine cones in the log, I think it's safe to say that sometimes a squirrel calls this old tree home.  Lucky for me he was out scampering about in the woods looking for  nuts elsewhere when my finger entered the nearby hole.  The wind picked up sending a chill down my spine and reminded me that it is still February. Ed and I  were ready to head for the warm house.  At our age it's best if we don't have too much fun in the woods.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

February Walkabout

Prior to the polar blast, large amounts of water were present in the soil or driveway.  Ice like never before seen here made walking dangerous.  My lawn tractor fitted with a snow plow could not make it back up the hill without moving back and forth across the slope plowing nothing.  The pros were summoned and opened a path to the road.  Unseasonably warm days finally cleared the ice from the gravel road and we can now safely walk on a squishy surface.

When daughter Amy first went to NYC to live and work, she spent considerable time in botanic gardens there.  One grassy slope was home to a large number of Magnolia trees.  When their flowers were open, Amy would stretch out on the lawn and look up at the flowers against a sky background.  We were able to keep a northern variety alive but few flowers were ever seen.  We knew that this tree formed its flower buds in the fall and that winter starved deer would feast on flower buds.  This year a longer fence was placed that has so far kept a large number of buds safe.  The worn fence is truly ugly but easily removed.  We are looking forward to a massive display of favorite flowers soon.

We knew little about moss before we were directed to Robin Wall Kimmerer's book about moss.  Now we know just enough to gaze in wonder at plants that quickly come back from appearing dead following exposure to some light and water.  This rock is about the size of a bowling ball and new moss is growing from numerous dings and cracks on the surface.  We do not know the names of any mosses but this growth resembles carpet in texture.  A book has been ordered that will assist in finding names for these plants.  Soon we will be able to attach names containing way too many letters to these wonderful plants.

Any winter walk near exposed ground must detour to an Arbutus planting.  These two plants are the last that we moved and their growth habit is somewhat sparse since they were planted in deep dirt free soil consisting of mostly rotted pine needles.  If these plants were not protected by wire, rabbits would have eaten them clear to the ground by now.  With our help flowers will appear in the not to distant future.  I can remember how they will smell.

This stone is smaller than a breadbox and was moved to our developing shade garden from the back woods.  We were fearful that the move might kill the moss.  Moss peels easily from stone so we were careful handling it.  We now know that moss will dry out and appear dead but quickly revive if watered.  Robin Wlll Kimmerer described taking a boxed specimen out of a closet.  After opening the box to allow light to strike the surface of the moss and a generous watering, the moss quickly turned green and resumed its life.  The lower left corner shows differently appearing growth which might mark the return of reproductive function following recent time locked in snow and ice.

I walked up the hill to a spot where Partridge Berry flourishes.  The moss covered rock was an unexpected bonus.  Partridge Berry will be moved to our developing shade garden.  It transplants easily and appears not to be on the rabbit's menu.  Initially it will receive a wire cage cover.

This flat rock appears to be home for several different mosses.  Time spent with a magnifying glass will aid in identification.  Four different mosses may call this stone home.  The really great news is that I was able to stand up after kneeling on the ground to snap this picture.  My move was not graceful nor did I cry out in pain.  Cannot wait for warmer weather.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

My Latest Obsession: Moss and Lichens

I can become incredibly absorbed in some things very easily.  Plants have been a fascination for me for  years.  Recently, while all of my garden plants were buried under the snow,  a  blogging friend suggested  I read Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  I did.  It captured my imagination and I have been impatiently waiting for the ice and snow to retreat and reveal some moss for me.  Finally the snow level dropped below the bottom rail on Ed's split rail Locust fence.  Here I think lichens outnumber mosses.  Still wet from snow melt the lichens expand to show their colors.

I leaned over the snow bank and got as close as I could.  I had been reading about the amazing tiny world of moss and I wanted to see it for myself but little was above the snow.   When the snow is gone I want to see if there are tiny little springtails living in the moss.  I wanted to see it now  but  there is still too much snow to kneel down and look at it with a loupe. 

Another spot to the East on that same rail has just a small lichen and lots of moss. Is it one kind of moss that has more than one growth habit or more than one kind?  It seems that there are at least two completely different types of stems and leaves.  In the moss world stems and leaves are not the correct words but they do describe where I am looking.

Here is a little closer look.  I might get closer still, but not until the ice and snow has receded.  Before I go down to the ground I like to be able to at least have some chance to get up by myself!  I wonder if the two stalks that resemble miniature cattails are actively producing reproductive cells at this time.  Who knew there was so much going on in the moss?