Thursday, September 30, 2021

One Bed Ready

It appears that we plan to garden here next year.  Some areas are not in horrible shape while others are nightmares.  The weed-free perfect looking bed  was a horrible mess just a few days ago.  Serious weed removal was followed by an application of screened aged Black Angus manure.  Well aged compost from the garden by the woods completed our preparation.  Soil near the woods contains a decent amount of clay so this compost will improve moisture retention here.  Of course several years of continued application would be needed to make a difference but all we can do is try now.

The iris at bed's end are a family treasure.  Becky's maternal grandmother grew these at her home in Gatchellville, Pa.  Every time Becky's mother moved, these plants went with her.  Time in Pennsylvania was followed by living in Georgia then New York.  The pictured plants were divided and replanted this summer.  They have sent out healthy new growth so we expect to see impressive flowers come summer.

This bed clearly needs attention.  Stone paths between planting beds clean up quickly but the beds will take longer.  Next year's growth will include many weeds since these were allowed to go to seed.  I can no longer work outside in the heat so little time was spent in the garden.  Recent temperatures have been more reasonable so time working in the garden is now possible.  Perhaps we will check back after this bed has received some attention.

On occasion help comes from unexpected sources.  This in-the-ground bee's nest is directly adjacent to where I mow but the bees' presence remained a secret.  The digging was done by a skunk in search of what must have been a tasty meal.  How they endure the stinging bees while eating both bees and their honey is completely unimaginable.  Some bees remained but they were in no mood to attack me when these pictures were snapped.  Sifting this compost will definitely wait for another day.  Hopefully I will remember then that bees may still live here.


This self planted Grandpa Ott's morning glory is beyond impressive.  The center of that flower looks like it contains an electric light.  We have grown this aggressive weed for years but these are self planted in a rich garden bed.  Never before have we seen such large flowers and leaves.  Our weed will hold this ground until frost ends its growth.  Here again the dropped seed load will be huge but if caught early new plants are easily removed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Bog Lives On

This pictured bog is part of the 130 acre farm that included our 36 acres.  We do not own this land where the bog is located but are on good terms with its current owner.  Just this week the Town Highway crew replaced an old rotted sluice pipe with a new and larger model.  Sometimes road crews are made uneasy by water close to their road and this spirit might have been intensified by the recent Gilbertsville flood where four huge beaver dams burst in response to local heavy rainfall inflicting heavy damage.  In this instance the new pipe was placed so that the bog could maintain its past water level.  This bog is not fed by any stream as its only source of water is rainfall  that makes its way down a small wooded slope in a subdued manner.

My first experience with this bog happened more than thirty years ago when I served as adult supervision for an outing of seventh grade students.  The owner of this land then, Ginny, felt that her daughter's classmates might enjoy a visit here.  We were accompanied by a retired science teacher with a long association with the great outdoors.  At that time the bog was more open with a natural walking  path along the edge of the woods opposite the road.  The teacher guide shared the names of a large number of native plants that grew here and all of us had a pleasant dry outdoor experience.

This picture is similar to the one above it but this view shows more water.  This farm was established more than 200 years ago and it is likely that gravel fill was dumped where the road is now lessening the severity of the natural dip in the road.  The last glacier dropped a great deal of sand below the present surface of the ground  allowing water to simply disappear into the ground.  The muck that formed here as plant material rotted slowed water seepage so this spot is never totally dry.  We have absolutely no desire to discover the depth of the muck.  Blue Flag is claiming more of this ground every year.  I would like to move a few but have not sought permission from the owners since I do not want to risk a closeup muck experience.

Becky captured this image of a Wild Cranberry bush that is doing extremely well in this location.

A number of years ago I was allowed to accompany the members of Becky's  herb group to an outing at the Bolster Hill Bog.  Our leader was a professor at a local community college.  This bog met all of the requirements necessary to be called a bog,  No stream delivered water there.  Rainfall was the only source of the impounded water.  The plants that grew there were not in contact with firm ground but grew as part of floating masses.  We were advised to simply remain calm if we fell in as a rescue would be attempted.  We were to take some comfort from the fact that if we slipped under and died our bodies would not rot because of the acidity of the water and lack of wildlife in the water.

The bog here is much smaller than the Bolster Hill bog and not likely as deep.  It deserves another visit from us.  Come Spring we will seek permission to venture around the dry side of this well hidden treasure.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Migration Food

Monarch butterflies and Milkweed plants have played an important role in our retirement lives focused on nature.  We allow the plants to grow mixed in with garden plants despite their deep extensive roots because food for the caterpillars is deemed to be an absolute necessity.  Many of the plants carry no leaves at this time of year and we interfere by mowing large areas of plants.  After July first we no longer mow and those plants still have the leaves necessary for butterfly production.  Butterflies have been numerous here this year but the ravages of age combined with hot days have limited our outdoor time.  We have yet to see a Milkweed leaf providing food for a growing caterpillars or a chrysalis containing a developing butterfly.  The process has continued without us and numerous new butterflies are feeding on our flowers.

Most of the time a feeding Monarch closes its wings above its body but this morning was different.  The overnight fog and dew had everything outside wet this morning.  The butterflies kept their wings flat and open while feeding to allow their wings to dry.  Great pictures seldom seen presented themselves.  If the approach was deemed too close, the butterfly simply flew away.


These two photos may be of the same male butterfly.  There is a black colored vein that connects the heavy black line at the edge of a wing with a similar line centered on the body.  The larger area of black on this line identifies this one as a male.  That feature is more clearly visible on the right wing in the first photo.

Butterflies were seen feeding on this native aster today but we have included this photo to accurately show the condition of our gardens this year.  We simply could not keep up and now the weeds are everywhere.  Their seed production continues uninterrupted so the problem will be more severe next year.  The pictured aster was moved into the garden recently and a wire cage has limited the deer feeding on this plant.  There is no growth beyond the top edge of the cage but we suspect that it would have grown much taller without the deer.  This one is late to open so the food it supplies will continue longer that the other flowers open now.  We wish that its name was known but for now we see it as Ed's Favorite.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Roadside Weeds

Many years ago when I knew little more than which end of a shovel went in my hand, I stopped at a roadside plant stand staffed by a mother and daughter team.  Across the road was a sizeable field of plant divisions while potted specimens were offered for sale.  An amazing amount of effort had been invested in these plants but at the time I knew nothing about asters and purchased nothing.

These first pictured plants are growing at the northern end of one of our first planting beds.  Notice that each flower petal looks like an extended heart with the point attached to the central disc.  Yellow pollen marks newly opened blossoms while the reddish ones are developing seed.  This plant was mail order purchased so many years ago that we have no memory or record of its varietal name.

October Sky is a named variety that was bred to cover a huge area while remaining rather close to the ground.  For some reason the deer do not feed on this plant and those two characteristics make this a must have plant.  Its dense foliage shades out the weeds making it as close to a no tending garden plant as exists anywhere.

This wild plant bears a strong resemblance to the plant in the first photo.  The mature blossom centers are a different color suggesting two different plants.  There is no Goldenrod in the first picture but that does not rule out a second occurrence of the same variety.

Perhaps three years ago several wild plants were moved into a garden bed near the house.  Our deer herd greatly appreciated our efforts to provide them with tasty treats.  This small purple flowered specimen was given  protective cage limiting the deer nibbles to that part of the plant that is above the cage.  Left alone this plant would likely reach three feet in height and purple is a favorite flower color here.  We are not finished with this one as it deserves a more spacious protected home.  We shall put that on the list for next year.

These two colors appear to be growing from the same root mass but excavation would be necessary to be certain.  New England asters are a named wild plant that appear in two different colors.  The blue colored flowers are recognized as native while the pinkish flowers are seen as a naturally occurring color sport.  Frequent divisions have provided us with an impressively sized collection of both plants but they only appear together here near the house and and in one place close to
 the road.

These are a wild occurrence of an attractively colored plant.  This one deserves a spot in a garden bed  but to date that has not happened.

This plant lives on the edge of a manure pile that was provided by a considerate neighbor.  Most asters do not have leaves this wide but the heart shaped petals are displayed by many asters.  This grows as a ground cover but that may be the result of careless foot traffic.

 This picture strongly resembles a plant shown above.  The numbers on the photos indicate that they are different plants but they may be the same variety.  We would welcome help from a reader that is more familiar with asters.