Sunday, March 31, 2019

Finally Seeing What Has Always Been There

This last day of March has been a disappointment.  With rain in the cold air, we have largely resisted the temptation to work in the garden. While we were out there, protective cages were placed over emerging plants to keep the deer away.  Because we hunger for early color in the garden, these Winter Aconites hold a prominent spot in our shade garden despite their nonnative origin.  So far our deer have shown no interest in these early plants.  Cold rain is pulling many plants to finally appear above the soil.

This Hemlock tree fell across the lane two decades ago.  Our neighbor at the time had a camping trailer where a house now stands.  He also had a chain saw and removed the fallen tree.  The pieces of tree were thrown on my side of the right-of-way regardless of the tree's original position.  Now this rotting wood supports a generous growth of moss.  For the past twenty years I have failed to see the beauty that was directly in front of me.  I feel fortunate to have finally really seen these amazing plants.  Soon this rotten wood will be carefully moved to our developing woodland garden.  There it will edge a path intending to keep careless feet from walking on native plants.

A careful look at any of the dead leaves will reveal tiny dark dots.  These are Springtails so named after their means of moving about.  Their rear mounted appendage snaps sending them airborne with absolutely no control over direction.  An enlargement of the photo will reveal their presence everywhere.  They live in moss and can be seen there but they also are on every pictured surface.  We have known about Springtails for many years since their newly emerged bodies fill every foot print left in warming late winter snow with black wiggling specks.

We did drive to the garden near the forest to repair the ties fastening the protective fence to the posts.  The garlic is emerging and fortunately no animals entered the garden through the opening.  While we were back there we did take a drive to have a look around.  A huge section of the meadow adjacent to the bedrock ridge was flooded.  This water does not travel to nearby lower ground but slowly disappears into the thawing deep gravel deposit left by the last glacier.  We found this stone higher up in the woods and moved it to the garden down by the road.  We are finally seeing the beauty on moss and lichen covered rocks.  Previously, I have only seen stones that could be used to build solid walls.  I cannot be bothered with finding their proper moss and lichen names but have become aware of their diversity and tenacious growth habits.  Fortunately we did not miss getting to know and appreciate these ancient life forms.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Today was another day sending mixed signals.  The sky was clear and the sunlight appeared strong but the overnight temperature fell into the low 20's.  Frozen ground was everywhere and we simply had to find something to do outside.  Periwinkle is a nonnative ground cover that has a certain appeal.  Amy and I have encountered it while hiking in the forest.  Its presence there marks the former location of an early settlers cabin since it was common for them to bring along something from their former homeland.  Ours lies between the border marking stone wall and the driveway.  Briers have invaded and some were cut away today.  More remain for another day.

Only the moss covered surface marked the location of this stone.  Exposed to sunlight it had warmed the surrounding soil and it did wiggle a bit in response to my prodding.  The maddock and my hands were able to coax it out of a fairly deep hole.  The wheelbarrow was placed on its side and the stone was rolled in.  That move sent the wheelbarrow falling toward my legs but once again luck kept me from being injured.  The down hill move to the shade garden was incident free.  Before we started down the hill, I planned to simply release the wheelbarrow if it started to move too fast.

Two other moss covered stones were also discovered and a second trip brought them easily down the hill.  We are trying to copy the look that the glacier left behind where numerous forest stones are surrounded by wild flowers.  Ten thousand years of rotting plant growth has nearly buried those stones and duplicating that look is a problem.  These shade providing trees have roots that extend outward just below the soil surface.  Cutting the roots might kill the trees so we fill around the stones with forest soil and ground tree leaves burying part of the stone.  A close look at the monster stone will reveal the presence of cracks.  This stone was formed from layers of sediment and will likely split nicely into pieces.  If all goes well, the two pieces will be placed with the newly exposed surface down leaving only weathered worn surfaces exposed.  The thinner profile will improve look that we are trying to duplicate.  For now these three new stones are in storage awaiting their final placement later.

A position close to the ground was necessary to capture the above photo.  Kneeling now comes with its own challenges and I sat before any thought was given to what had to come next.  Fortunately Becky does not use the video capability of her camera.  I know that my move to a standing position was anything but graceful.  Once I managed to get upright, the wheelbarrow, tools and I completed the move back up the hill.  Next will come some heat applied to angry muscles followed by some stretches.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Ticked Off Again!

Honestly all I did yesterday was put on my coat and hat and gloves and walk around taking a few pictures.  It was pretty cold out.  There is still lots of snow to be found.  Very few plants are showing growth.  My pink Trout Lilies and a chickweed shown above are definitely the exception to the rule.

I stopped and took a few moss pictures.  The one above is called Moss Falls and Sumac Balls.  Poetic isn't it?  I'm a poet and don't know it.  I rhyme all the time.

I snapped this cool lichen picture too.  When I started to  get cold I came inside.  It was all so much fun who would have thought that I would be so ticked off this morning?  Certainly not I!  When I got up and looked in the mirror I couldn't believe my eyes.  Right there where I could see it, just about where you put your hand to say the Pledge of Allegiance was a tick.  Now I am careful about wearing light colors, tucking my pants into my socks and using some kind of repellent when I walk in the garden.   I thought it was too early and too cold.  Duh!  Now the tick is gone, removed, annihilated but my disgust lingers on.  I'l be watching that sore spot for any signs of trouble.  I'll be going back out there, but today I am so ticked off again!

Monday, March 25, 2019

First Day Truly Outside

This winter has not been thought of kindly in very many circles.  It just will not quit and make room for some warmer days.  Last night the temperature fell below freezing again and this ground remains hard despite clear skies and warm sunshine now.  Careful persistence did allow for some progress in creating a path for the water that is certain to come that does not include removing some of the driveway.

The pictured combination of a supporting pole and bent knees would make it appear that I read and understood points made in the stretching book that daughter Amy presented to me this weekend.  Actually this is the only way that I can reach the ground.  The ditch always fills with plowed snow and ice since no plow can clear the depression.  Recently, a maddock was used to pry away thick ice where some melt water had opened a channel under it.  Today's goal was to deepen the channel in an attempt to contain the runoff that is certain to come.  Two wheelbarrow loads of sod were removed and wheeled downhill.  An old guy must work smart.

These Snowdrops have been watched daily longing to see an open flower.  Transplanted just last Fall, the spectacular display will be seen next year.  That they are alive and trying is all that was hoped for.
Nonnative, they were knowingly placed in our wild plant garden since we need an early flower.

What is it ? is the obvious question here.  The red fuzzy spheres are sumac seed berries that the robins eat.  Near the top of the photo are two globs that feature fuzzy tops and three stem pieces form last year's leaves.  Round Lobed Hepatica is the name of this native wildflower that was transplanted here one year ago.  It has survived and has begun to grow with early Spring flowers promised.  It appears that we actually have two plants here and if that is the case they will be separated this Fall.  Soon we will see pale purple colored flowers appearing ahead of the new leaves.  Yes, these fuzzy lumps have us excited.

Royal Catchfly has proven difficult for us to grow.  A small fortune has been spent buying new plants year after year but it appears that one of last year's plants intends to grow here for another year.  The bright red flowers still seen on the plant tag should make the appeal of this plant obvious.  Cleaning up spent Siberian Iris leaves will happen when both the ground and the plants are no longer frozen.  At that time the desired plant will be gently pushed just a little deeper into the soil.

Daffodils are well under way here.  For some reason our attempts to give these plants growing room usually sets them back for two or three years but these really need to be divided.  That task will properly wait until Fall while the huge Siberian Iris in the foreground is scheduled for removal and division soon.  We have no idea just where all of these reasonably sized plants will go but space must be found.  We have not got what it takes to trash plants that will grow beautiful flowers.  That iris is huge and we are not certain that we can remove it in one piece.  Breaking off pieces is the more likely method.  Soon we will have more to do than we can possibly get done.  We have dealt with that reality many times in the recent past.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


During the snowstorm yesterday, Amy and Ed saw a large group of robins at the bottom of the driveway near the sumac trees.  Today Amy and I went for a walk to try to locate some feathers that I saw down at the gravel bank. On the way, there were lots of tracks in the snow.  When I declared the above tracks in the snow robin tracks, it was easy for Amy to believe.  The sumac berries depicted are a favored food before the ground thaws.

I thought these tracks were made by a fox due to the double register.  Amy was not certain so Tracking and the art of seeing was consulted.  She still had some doubts.

Outside the living room window later in the morning, I actually spotted a fox.  We all watched as it walked, trotted, sat, scratched, licked and then got up and walked down into the notch and out of sight.  We caught a quick glimpse of her/him heading up the hill in the woods, but then s/he was gone.

Certainty is a wonderful thing so Amy and I headed back out in the cold to look at fresh tracks that were made by a red fox.  We saw it, so we were absolutely sure that the tracks were made by a fox. These were the only tracks in the fresh snow when we visited the location of the sighting.  They do resemble the older tracks spotted earlier.

This is definitely known to be a place where s/he sat.  This isn't the first time we've seen fox taking a moment to create comfort before going on its way.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Snow Is Going

It seems that snow has covered the ground continuously here for far too many weeks.  Those of us that have lived in the Southern Tier of New York State for even a short period of time know that some snow will return but its time with us will be brief.  Today is special because we are able to see evergreen plants or new growth for the first time this year.  These Arbutus plants were transplanted so long ago that they could now pass for a natural occurrence of a native plant.  Of course, the wire covering cage that keeps the hungry rabbits from eating these tasty green leaves tells another story.

Early flowers form their buds at the end of the previous years growth cycle.  That these buds spent the winter under the snow never ceases to amaze me.  Very soon we will bury our faces close to the ground to drink in the incredibly sweet fragrance of these flowers.

Snowdrops are native to the area that includes Iran.  Their first white flowers boost the spirits so we have knowingly included then along the edge of our native plants garden.  These flowers will likely be open tomorrow.  Seeds will follow and very soon this area will be thick with  new plants.  These bulbs were moved here just last Fall.

Growing the elusive native plant Cardinal Flower has been a passion for us for years.  A goal is to have these plants reproduce naturally from seed with no help from us.  These new plants are tucked under a west facing stone wall.  Heat stored in the stones may help these plants escape death from late frosts.  Foxglove still locked in ice may also offer protection as it grows in front of the wall.  We shall see.

Many other perennial plants are showing early signs of life.  These next few relatively warm days shall prove exciting.  We will be outdoors breathing in fresh air while moving about to see what new growth has pushed above the recently frozen ground.  It is becoming safe to walk on ice free ground so there is no telling just how far we will roam tomorrow.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Truly No Care Gardening

My standard gardening fantasy involves no work required to have beautiful plants.  Many books have been written and perhaps small fortunes made describing how to grow flowers with little effort expended.  For years we have been growing way more plants than we can respectfully care for and have just now discovered green beauty growing and reproducing here without any help from us.

This wall cap stone has both lichens and moss growing on it.  Names have been assigned to these natural wonders but the labels have altogether way too many letters and microscopic examination is needed to correctly make identifications.  We have settled on two names.  Lichens in this photo are flat whitish gray objects.  Mosses have thickness and are green.  Some of these pictured mosses are visually different from the others and likely have individual proper names.

Despite just having been released from the snow cover, this moss has sent up the structures that conventional gardeners would call seed heads.  Mossers, properly labeled bryologists,  call them capsules and more words are added to describe their unique forms.  These are clearly not droopers but here is where the microscope is needed.  Seed is not the proper name for the reproductive  part but spore might be correct.  This moss was recently covered with snow but  some liquid moisture and daylight have moved this moss to procreate now.

This moss resembles our native giant salamander known locally as Hellbender.  The white beads to the right may be this mosses fruiting body.  We will look here again tomorrow to see any changes that might follow.

This clump is a total mystery.  What looks like a group of dead sticks reveals individual depressed tip circles that certainly look like they served some useful purpose.  We cannot be certain that these are growing from moss.  The nearby out of focus red moss certainly catches the eye.

We are quite sure that this multicolored growth on a dead stick is neither moss nor lichen.  It may be a mushroom.  We have no plans to explore the effects following drying and smoking this little beauty.  We prefer functioning kidneys.

This destroys our claim of having discovered no effort gardening.  Weeds and desired flowering plants are growing with this moss.  The flat green blades belong to Blue Eyed Grass, a wonderful plant in its own right.  The oval leaves mark an unknown weed that will require the use of tweezers for its removal.  Clearly we have been denied entrance to our gardens for far too long.  We really need to place our gloved hands into some thawed ground soon.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Fourteen Deer

Strong March sunshine seems to have drawn the deer out as can be seen by the mass of deer tracks directly in front of the house.  Sharp eyes may be able to find an impressively large group at the edge of the snow line backed by trees.  When we first noticed them they were much closer to the house.  We were standing motionless some distance back from the windows.  Still we were spotted almost as soon as we first saw them and they moved away.

Deer seem more active now.  Yesterday while I was returning from an errand run, three deer were spotted approaching the road.  I braked and one deer safely crossed in front of me.  Despite the fact that the two remaining were looking directly at me one decided to cross in front of me.  Hard braking avoided contact but the groceries on the front seat were thrown to the floor.  The third deer was the brightest in the bunch and waited on the roadside while I passed.  None of the juice bottles that went airborne were broken so no harm was done.

Here is another view of deer tracks directly in front of the house.  Three deer can be seen just inside of the tree line.  One is easily seen standing in line with the garden path that passes close by the end of the tumbled down stone wall.  Looking to the left the second one stands out just above a jumble of untrimmed apple branches.  The third one is well hidden behind bushes.  The entire herd scattered in all directions when the window was opened to take these pictures.

Later in the day only two deer were seen and opening the partially hidden basement door did not instantly spook them.  Very soon both disappeared over the hill.  Three more inches of snow are forecast for tomorrow night but daytime temperatures in the mid to high thirties and bright sunlight may make quick work of erasing the new snow.  We all need some time walking on snow free ground.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Snow Sculptures

Hanging Ten

Say Aah

Cool Cat

On Edge

Saturday, March 2, 2019

My Moss And Lichen Pet

You can have your Chia pets and pet rocks.  I have discovered the perfect personal companion, The Moss and Lichen Pet.  You don't have to buy it you can find it.  I found my Moss and Lichen Pet when I was walking up the driveway hill.  It is easy to notice small objects when you walk up a fairly steep hill.  You don't have to look down to see them or stoop way over to pick them up.  My Moss  and Lichen Pet is a small piece of bark that fell from the huge wild cherry tree.

My Moss and Lichen Pet still looks pretty good when it is dry.  The beautiful part of it is that it will sit there and wait for me looking all dried up and brittle.  However, when I mist it or even dunk it in water and it comes back very quickly.  It softens, grows, changes color slightly and if you have a loupe you can see it all.  It is wonderful entertainment for cold days when the garden outside is covered with snow.

I have a favorite, wild, outdoor, Moss and Lichen Pet. I like this one so much that I left it where I found it.  I would hate to take away its natural home so I  visit it there.  Ed and I tramped through the snow to get this photo.  Only the top two thirds of my Moss and Lichen Pet is showing.  I first found this in December 2017.  After just two years the the moss and lichen growth has changed. It looks like the snow on the top of the mountain is melting.  Could it be global warming?

Friday, March 1, 2019

Finally March

For reasons that are not completely clear to me, February seems to be a brutal month.  One of its many storms featured fine dry snow and lots of it.  My lawn tractor mounted snow blower performed admirably but when it was allowed to cool down before refueling something went wrong and it would not restart.  A more than three hundred dollar service call revealed that the air intake for combustion had consumed large quantities of that fine snow.  When it froze the carburetor could not function.  Time with a heat gun solved the problem and taught me how to handle a problem that I had never encountered before.

For days NOAA  held to their forecast of five inches of new snow for us.  Based on that forecast, I contracted for professional snow removal.  The storm began on time and consisted of more of that super fine dry snow.  A professional plow is much less expensive than a service call.  The following day we discovered less than two inches of new snow on the ground.  I could have cleared that with a hand pusher but would not back away from the planned plow.  Now the driveway is clear in many spots with bright sunlight working to finish that job.

We simply felt compelled to get outside.  Except for the lane, everything was buried under new snow.  We walked through the snow to the site of a pending project.  The wire cage marks the location of two transplanted Arbutus plants placed near an old white pine tree.  The fallen down stone wall straddles the property line.  As the pine tree grew it pushed the stone wall aside.  The plan is to restore the straight line edge of the wall on my side while preserving the curved wall across the property line.  A neatly stacked pile of stones stands ready to help build new wall.  Many more stones will be needed but at least we have a start.  In time Arbutus growing against a stone wall should be beautiful but we need to get started on this project.  At this time of year sunlight warms the ground here and it usually clears before the garden thaws.  Perhaps this will be the year when restoring the original southern line of the wall actually happens.