Sunday, November 29, 2020

Mud Bubbles

Last night the sky was clear, the moon was bright and a heavy frost covered everything.  Morning's bright sun pulled Amy and Becky outside for a walk about.  They found themselves down by the road.  Our driveway there catches moisture from both directions.  Rain water washes down the driveway picking up and carrying the clay fines that are intended to cement the surface in place.  These fines are  trapped between the road and the higher driveway creating a muddy mess when wet.

There is a thin layer of water covering this ground  and sharp eyed Becky spotted tiny bubbles.  I have never seen anything like this and considerable time was spent peering into the mud and exploding bubbles with finger tips.  This type of activity may explain why few people make the trip up our hill.  Just how crazy we are is an obvious but unanswered question.

This close up is intended to show a bubble coated with fine clay.  If you click on a picture it will be enlarged. 

A careful look will reveal floating fines that coated a now popped bubble.  We watched in wonder as the breeze moved these masses about without breaking them up.  It reminded us that wet clay sticks to both shoes and shovels as well as itself.  The pink color is the reflection of Amy's "I am not a deer" hat on the surface of the shallow water.

This photo shows both a cluster of bubbles and the reflected color of Amy's hat.

 This magic soon disappeared as the sun warmed everything and the breeze stiffened at times.  In my seventy-six years of tramping about outside, I have never before seen anything like these mud bubbles.  Had I been here alone, I would have never seen them.  Becky has always had an eye for seeing the unusual even if it is small and easily overlooked.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Home For Thanksgiving

If the first three pictures look familiar, it is because they were previously posted in July of this year.  At that time three mature hens brought their chicks close to the house where the meadow grass was short.  The young were within mother's sight and food was easy to find.  The pictured group were taking dust baths at the end of a path under construction.  They were very close to the house.

Here mom and the babies are moving away from the house while still finding food to eat.

One of the hens used our stone wall still under construction to give her chicks flying lessons.  They would walk up the wall to the highest point, flap their wings as instructed and launch themselves into the air.

This picture was taken this morning.  Recently the turkeys have been seldom seen here, but this morning a group numbering more than thirty returned for a visit.  It was a genuine mood booster to see these resident birds gathered together.  

 Now I realize that thirty is much too large a group for a Thanksgiving get together this year.  Clearly these turkeys did not read the governor's memo.  For them there is safety in grouping together and this place is their home.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Promise For Spring

Trailing Arbutus has been at the top of our "It's Special" list for many years.  Becky still remembers a childhood experience with the scent of its flowers.  Everyone has written that Trailing Arbutus is impossible to transplant but in this picture you can see the current status of four plants that we moved here years ago.  Evergreen plants face increased risks at snow melt as there are few green plants for wild animals to eat them.  The dry stone short wall surrounding these plants is part of our system to keep the rabbits and woodchucks on the outside.  To date it has been completely effective.

We have found that the ground under White Pine trees supports impressive Arbutus growth.  In this location several young Oak trees grew close by.  With the passage of many years, these Oaks are now quite sizeable as is the depth of their fallen leaves.  These Arbutus leaves were hidden from view by the fallen leaves before we cleared the area.  We believe that Arbutus leaves need light even in the dead of winter so the blanket of Oak leaves was carefully removed by hand.


It came as a surprise to us that many plants form their flower buds during the Fall season.  Here again protection is needed to keep the animals away.  This photograph reveals the location of at least six bud clusters.  Spring will find two supposedly rational adults well into their seventh decade on hands and knees so that their noses can be brought close to these unbelievably sweet scented flowers.  Getting down to the ground is handled with some ease but returning to a standing position is increasingly more difficult each year.  So far it has been unnecessary to bring lunch to a stranded sniffer.

This rather huge bud cluster clearly deserves a photograph.  Its location is well within the range of our noses.  Finding a clear spot to place a supporting hand is becoming increasingly difficult but to date no one has fallen forward into the jumble of plants.

With the protective wire cage in place, these plants are safe from foragers.  The wall stones prevent a persistent snout from simply pushing the cage aside.  When we built the cage we knew that someday the treasured plants would reach the edge of protection.  Our plans remain to try to root cuttings taken from the edge of protection.  There is nothing to lose since those newly exposed plant parts are sure to be nibbled away.  This is the time of year when I steel my resolve to survive yet another winter so that I can once again drink in the unforgettably sweet scent of Trailing Arbutus flowers.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Morning Inspection

November days that begin with hard frost covered ground and feature lunchtime temperatures above 70 are rare.  We have experienced several consecutive days like that.  Going into the garden to rescue planting beds seemed like appropriate use of these days.  This wall is facing south and the bed in front of it was a mess.  Our Clara Curtis chrysanthemums had a spectacular year and now seemed like a good time to cut them back.  They prefer to grow on the stone path side of the walkway for reasons that escape us.  Garden soil washes into the stone path supporting the formation of a rich compost filled mixture that many plants prefer.  This path was almost completely blocked when work began.  Many Goldenrod plants still remain with our goal of their complete removal still ahead of us.

Looking in the other direction points out the need for additional work on the other side of the path.  Fuzzy topped Goldenrod plants are numerous.  Complete removal requires a fair amount of force on the spade.  Our goal is to totally remove the wandering root mass of each plant.  Time spent here now will put us in good shape when winter ends.

 Yesterday Ed, Amy and I spent a couple of hours  together happily working to clear goldenrod and other unwanted growth to reveal the planting bed and path on the west and south side of the stone square. 

It was early this morning when I stood in the doorway to the bedroom to admire our work and noticed two female deer in the garden. The smallest of the does  was slowly checking out the newly cleared area on the far side of the stone square.  The large doe was on the grassy area between the house and the garden.  I watched as they inspected everywhere we had working in the garden yesterday.  I don't think they missed a spot.

 The best part was when the large deer stepped up onto the patio and sniffed all around. I have seen a buck sniff the ground, but we all know what he is looking for. I have never seen a doe sniff the ground like this.  The big doe sniffed  every stone. Then I watched her sniff the chair.  She sniffed the legs of the chair and the seat where Amy had been sitting.  I don't know how long she did this but it seemed like a very long time.   Amy did a little smudging with juniper and lavender while sitting in that chair.  I have to wonder if the deer was attracted to that lingering scent or if the scent that the three of us left behind was what she found so captivating.  Perhaps she was just checking out the renovations on the most popular deer dining area in the valley!

Friday, November 6, 2020

Fantastic November Days

Cold wet days have kept me inside for weeks.  Twice snow covered the ground and that is no longer seen as a reason to play outside.  These clear warm days pulled me outside to tend to necessary road work.  Traffic on the path to the mail box created a shallow ditch that drained road runoff following rain.  If left as it was, the channel would be filled with solid ice for most of the winter presenting challenges to both mail pickup and snow removal.  The past three days saw wagon loads of wet fine gravel filling in the waterway.

Any country boy knows that dry sand cannot be packed firm.  Adding water to a load of fine gravel has two benefits.  With the consistency of mortar, it is easy to work the fill into a smooth neat surface.  Driving on the patch packs it down as hard as cement.  Today's fill is in the foreground still holding considerable water.  Given a little time and wheel traffic, it will look as smooth as the previously placed fill.

The last glacier formed interesting features on our acres that were largely useless for farming.  This area is shaped like a cone.  Observation of the mixed deposits here suggests that a stream of water poured over the high edge of the ice and fell into a pool of standing water.  Various visually different deposits lie on a slope rather than in a horizontal bed.  This spot is largely clear of huge rocks but a good sized one can be seen to the left of the tractor.

I have been removing material from here for years.  This area has been a favorite digging spot because its slope is manageable.  Fallen leaves hide the enormity of the hole created here by shoveling by hand.  A substantial slide moved a sizeable chunk held together by small tree roots.  Fortunately this occurred in my absence.  I will remove its edges to reveal the fine deposits now hidden from my shovel.

Becky took this sunset picture.  It captures the remote and private nature of our land.  A careful look will reveal three deer eating close to the house.  They are here much of the time.  This morning one slept close to the kitchen window enabling me to see its frosty breath as it exhaled.  We really enjoy our peaceful existence here living in a nature preserve.