Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunshine, Then Chill and Rain

Buds on the crabapple tree.

Leaf suckers on the grey trunk of the crabapple--this tree seems to be purely ornamental--its spring beauty earns it an on-going place in the back yard.

Crabapple and redbud against a clear blue sky.

Walking along the edge of the lower perennial bed during the warm spell, I thought I detected very tiny seedlings of the heirloom papaver somniferum which I scattered on a warm day in February.
Mind you, its been a few years since I watched poppy seedlings emerge.
Today I confirmed that some of the poppies have germinated.  They like cool damp weather.
Beside the poppies you can see wild onion which is one of the invasive weeds on this small farm.
A pink-flowered form of dead nettle is another undesirable that must be battled.
I weeded in the lower garden and scratched about with my hand-held digger, sprinkled a few more poppy seeds here and there.
The sun hid behind grey clouds and a cold wind whisked in from the north, sending me inside.
We had invited neighbors out to eat.  A drizzle began as we left for the restaurant; when we came out a very cold rain was sluicing down.
I was in such a mood to get the 40 asparagus roots planted and to continue with the herb garden by the side door.
All must wait again for dry weather.
Meantime--I have a fat new garden encyclopedia purchased with a birthday certificate from amazon.
I'm off to the big chair by the fireplace!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Work Week

From left to right: Jim, Andy, Les and Steve made up the crew.

I tackled the branches.  When I finished on Wednesday afternoon the edge of the yard looked as if
a family of beavers had created a compound.

J. limbing one of the maples.

A load of wood behind Snort'n Nort'n.

My heaps of branches.

Some months ago a friend [who is also veterinarian to our cats] mentioned to J. that he was anxious to have three maples in his front yard removed. [These are "water maples" which I have mentioned before--known for having shallow and invasive root systems.]
J. was cautious enough to state that he didn't really want the liability for bringing down several large trees so close to power lines and in a residential neighborhood.
Even with skill and experience there is the off chance of a tree falling other than its designated spot.
The matter rested over the winter months, then last weekend, Les contacted J. to announce that his son was visiting and had declared that with suitable help the trees could be brought down.

I'm not quite sure why I was invited along---maybe to help Les' wife serve lunch to the workers [?]
When the first and largest of the trees was successfully toppled, I found I could be of use in collecting the top branches into heaps for two of the men to load and haul away.
When lunch was served on the sunny back patio my eye was caught by an oddly shaped bush with tight pink buds all along the stems. The structure of the branches resembled a small fruit tree that had been espaliered.
Les explained that it is a "patio peach."  It was given to him as a nursery reject, spindly and sparse.
He planted it at the edge of his compost pile and saw that it had water. It took two seasons for the little shrub to perk up and grow. When it had proved itself to be thrifty, it was moved to a bed at the edge of the patio.
When J. and I returned on Wednesday for him to work up the remaining two fallen maples, Les poked his head out of the clinic and told me to be sure and have another look at the patio peach.  The photos below show it in all its blooming radiance.

J. continued to whack up tree trunks with the chainsaw.  I continued dragging top branches into piles and raking smaller bits from the lawn.
We returned home with a load of wood about an hour ahead of the hail and T-storm.
Another load of wood remains to be fetched when the showers have ceased and Les's front yard dried out.
I also spent hours earlier in the week on my knees weeding in the perennial bed before the rains.  So much remains to be done.
I've been reading my favorite blogs as an after-supper treat, but have been too sleepy and fuzzy-minded by then to post comments and responses.
All of you who garden know this feeling--that raking, pruning, tidying, planting all want doing in a narrow wedge of springtime fair weather.
The cats have felt neglected during this week of hard labor, mewing plaintively that they would like a warm body to plop in an easy chair and provide a comfortable lap.
That too, shall hopefully come to pass!

Photos reloaded on Monday.  They were in place when I checked the blog after creating the post on Sunday. Strange things happen.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Season By Season

At top left in the photo collage of the pussywillow tree [goat willow] is the silky grey kittens as they appeared
on March 22, 2010, a photo taken the day after our arrival in Kentucky a year ago.
The other photos were all taken March 22, 2011.
Note that the early spring has fast-forwarded the goat willow  to fully developed catkins.
The whole tree has a fuzzy yellow haze.

Top left is the clump of peonies--my delighted discovery made on March 22, 2010.
Like the goat willow tree, the peonies are far ahead of last spring in emerging.
From my photo archives I learned that it was April 1st in 2010 before the peonies shoots were as tall as they are now.
At bottom left is the tree peony which I planted a year ago.

Photos of the vintage Kieffer pear tree, all taken  March 22, 2011.
Last year my first photo of pear blossom is dated April 3rd.
It seems incredible that the century old tree survived another winter of harsh winds and heavier than usual snow.
It is even more crone-like in appearance having lost heavily fruit-laden branches last summer and autumn.
As you can see, part of the trunk is hollow. Daylight can be seen from one side to the other.
There is another open wound nearer the top of the tree.
During the winter I created a photo story of the venerable pear tree which was featured in our local online publication, Columbia Magazine.
I researched the "old-timey pear" which is the name locally given to trees of this variety.
I was able to determine that the pear is more correctly labeled Kieffer pear.
Several southern nurseries offer this hardy, blight and heat resistant pear.
I have ordered two on semi-dwarf stock.
I began preparing this post on March 23rd.
Our weather turned that evening with a thunderstorm, wind and hail.  It has since  been chilly with intermittant showers. Leaves are emerging on the old pear tree although the blossoming seems to have been halted, whether by the cooler weather or because the tree is stressed, I don't know.

I grew up in a family for whom seasons and weather were vital matters.
This is hardly unusual since country people have always been keen observers of weather as it affects seedtime, cultivation and harvest.
Folks didn't hesitate to prophesy regarding imminent weather patterns; they had, after all, been observing the signs for years. 
My father, who relied on "The Old Farmer's Almanac" as well as his common sense, prefaced many of his weather predictions with----"I'm afraid we're in for a_____"--fill in the blank with storm; dry spell;
an early winter.
My maternal grandfather kept diaries for many years. There was nothing literary or elaborate about his entries.  He recorded the weather, the amount of milk produced by the cows.  He noted when potatoes were planted, when wild berries ripened, when mud season turned the country dirt roads to a sticky rutted mess.
Sometimes I would comment that the weather seemed too cold for spring break from school--or that snow had come early, the lilacs were late in blooming.
Grampa's response was to take down half a dozen or so of the diaries from the cupboard and we would compare the weather for a random assortment of years.
We noted that indeed there were seasons when temperatures were out of kilter or storms came unexpectedly, but taken as a whole, the turn of the seasons from year to year was reassuringly predictable.
Spring always arrived, no matter how long the winter.

The photo folders on my PC, automatically dated, serve much the same purpose as my grandfather's diaries, noting the weather and the small details and interests of our days--projects, pets,
scenes from home or travel.
My blog expands  this process and I'm already finding that it serves as a helpful journal recording our first year of gardening in a new home.
In the past I have started many a garden with the good intentions of keeping a garden plan or chart.
Somehow the roll of paper was unwittingly left outside in the rain or blown away across the field.  Other times I just didn't stay organized and complete the chart with notes on harvest dates or which varities of tomatoes or corn gave the best yields.
As we pondered aloud last week over the forward season it was gratifying to refer to the photo archives and
verify that the first flush of spring did indeed come early.

Pellets of hail rattled down as wind and thunder ushered in the Wednesday evening storm.

Within moments the hail gave way to rain and an eerie dark green dusk enveloped the dooryard.

Pebbles galloped dementedly about in her pasture during the hail and rain while J. with his head out the window urged her to "go to the barn."
Here she is, wet and indignant in the pale evening sunlight which followed the storm.

The temperature dropped about 20 degrees during the hour of the storm.
When the rain ceased and the thunder had rolled off, I walked in a shimmering golden sunset, barn kittens skittering at my heels.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Full Circle; Second Spring

It is not often I notice the moon setting even as dawn flushes the eastern sky and the sun rises.
Taken this morning a bit after 7 a.m.

The early peonies.

Redbud tree, also know as the Judas Tree.
I didn't notice a  visible tinge of pink yesterday, surely there was none on Saturday.
This was taken late on Monday afternoon.

The venerable century old pear coming into bloom.
There are more dead appearing branches than last spring, several stubby limbs that were broken by winter winds.

Part of the tree trunk is hollow.
From this deep cleft one can see daylight out the other side of the tree.
Having determined that this locally called "old-timey" pear is the Kieffer pear, an old variety resistant to fire blight and able to withstand the heat of southern summers, I found that several nurseries offer the Kieffer.
I have ordered two, on semi-dwarf rootstock.
We think that we will remove the two oldest apple trees at the north side of the yard and situate the pears in their place.
The old apple trees are badly overgrown and have not been pruned in many years.
Although they blossomed and set fruit last year,  fire blight ruined the crop.
Cutting a tree, especially something as homey and friendly as an apple tree, is a difficult decision.

The old pear tree, though battered and mis-shapen, blossoms for another spring.

A clump of violets near the clothesline.

Double daffodils.

The Charles Albanel rugosa came through a daunting and puny first season.
Hopefully with a little coaxing it will flourish this year.

The tardy tomato seedlings soaking up light and warmth in the south window of the garage.

A glowing sunset after a warm and lovely day.
Sally the tortoiseshell cat strolls along the driveway.
I had been weeding perennials on my creaky old knees for about an hour when I looked up and saw the beautiful colors.
Today marks a year since our arrival in Kentucky.
The trip had been a grueling three days from Wyoming through a blizzard of sleet and snow, over  roadways caked with ice.
We came in convoy: J. and I with the cats in the motor home, towing Pebbles in her horse trailer behind.
Our son drove the red Dodge diesel truck, pulling his big trailer loaded down with J.'s construction tools and oddments.  His cousin steered old Snort'n Nort'n through the storm, hauling the van which contained our household goods.
I still don't like to recall that trip.
We were tired before we left Wyoming on that Thursday afternoon and the storm gained on us by the hour.
We crossed the border into Kentucky late on Sunday morning and our weary spirits began to climb.
A gentle rain fell on green fields. Swaths of yellow daffodils spilled down  roadside ditches and bloomed against the edges of rain-darkened hardwoods.
One by one our bulky vehicles eased into the tight turn of the driveway, rolled under the sentinel redbud trees and lumbered into the back dooryard.
It felt like we had come home.
Pebbles was led out of her trailer first thing and tethered  to a crabapple tree while an electric fenced enclosure was set up.
I carried the cats, one by one, into the house, crooning to them, holding them close inside my jacket.
The men uncoupled the red Dodge from the trailer and roared off to retrieve our car which we had left three weeks earlier in the dooryard of the man, J.M. from whom we bought our little farm.
He had been out to turn up the heat, so we entered a warm house.
As I ferried belongings from the motorhome to the house, a truck pulled in.
The man who stepped out and offered a firm handshake introduced himself and explained, "J.M. told me you all should be in sometime today, so I've kept a lookout for you. If you need he'p, I'm right next door."
J. returned with the car; our son and nephew followed with armloads of grocery bags from the nearby
Wal Mart: a rotisserie chicken, piping hot; tomatoes; bread; milk, eggs and fruit.  My son produced a box and presented it with a flourish.
"Here, Mom, a few days late for your birthday, you can call it a house-warming present."
A shiny red teakettle
Tea, my cats, a safe ending to a hard journey, a snug little house.
Finally home.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kentucky Folk Art

Jim was on one of his wheeling/dealing runs this morning [a congenital weakness inherited from his NC paternal line ] and I've learned when invited along to take a supply of books and my camera.
We've noted the popularity of metal stars in various sizes and colors as decoratively applied to local houses.
These cut-out stars on these barns appear to be an older form of folk art.

The current owner of the property told us this is the old Garrett farmstead, located on the Garrett Creek Rd. Another old barn in a nearby pasture wears the same decorative effect.

I'd love to know if the stars were cut free hand or a template was used. It must have been a fussy job balanced on a ladder and using a slender-bladed handsaw.

A close-up of the stars on the main barn.
A horse and two large black and white goats shared this space.

Here is a view of the farmhouse, currently unoccupied.
Daffodils are in bloom below the rough curbing that runs in front of the house.
Note the rather Gothic trim which crowns several of the windows.

                            I think there must have been an inventive carpenter involved in this feature
as well as the star patterns on the barns.
Perhaps a woman with artistic sensibilities inspired her good man to such detail.
Daffodils in bloom.

In our drives around Adair and surrounding counties we spy colorful painted quilt blocks adorning
barns and other out-buildings.
This brilliant green barn faced the junction of the side road as we left the old farm.
A perfect color to display on St. Patrick's Day.
If you would care to learn more about the Kentucky Quilt Trail Project, here is one of several links.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Goat Willow

[photo taken 3-22-10, the week after we moved in.]

This slender dooryard tree has intrigued us ever since our arrival.
J.M. was able to name the shrubs and plants unfamiliar to us, all but this one.
As it produced these silky grey "kittens" followed by yellow-furred catkins, we have referred to it as the pussy willow tree.
Today the grey pusskins were again in evidence against the blue sky.
On a whim, as I do like to know the proper names for plants, I typed "pussy willow tree" into the google search engine.
J. is quite pleased to learn that he has been calling it by its familiar name.
The proper name is salix caprea or goat willow.
In Europe the plant is known as "sallow."

This is not the common pussywillow which is naturalized at the edges of marsh land or low wet places in New England.  That familiar shrub is salix discolor.
My father knew where the pussywillows grew and brought home the first of them, still in their tight red-brown scaly buds.  Put in a vase without water they stood on the dining room buffet for weeks, until displaced by summer flowers.
Placed in water the grey pussies quickly became catlets shedding their yellow pollen.

[Tree swallow in residence in salix caprea, May 21, 2010.]

Here is our goat willow--probably planted by the late Mrs. Rogers as an ornamental.
I enjoyed the time spent in learning more about this tree and its relatives....more tidbits of information to tumble into the rag-bag mind.

It Rained....And Rained; Now, Finally, Some Sun!

It has been a week of rainy weather--spring rain.
Sometimes a mist, deepening to steady rain, sometimes accompanied by wind and thunder.
There have been wet chilly days when the sun made no appearance.
This field of daffodils [photo taken March 9] stands slightly battered, but lovely, on the banks of Big Creek.
This is the area locally called "The Island"--a pasture with the creek looping through it and bounding it also at the edge of the road. Prior to the great flood of 1907, several homes stood in the area; homes [and lives] that were lost when the flash flood boiled over the creek banks.
A close-up of the daffs.  J. was waiting for me with the car and rain was drizzling icily down my neck, so I didn't linger.
The sun peeked out this morning, retreated shyly behind a bank of grey clouds to the north, then came out in full force.
J. is trying out the vintage "crawler" which he has been restoring.

Delila phoned me to come and photograph the finished quilt which has been our combined effort.
Her hand quilting is beautiful and precise.
Sadly, whatever the quilt brings at auction it will not be enough to repay the hours of labor.
Delila seemed down-hearted, said that she didn't recall having a quilt 'in the frame" this long during the 11 years of her marriage. Her young children need more of her attention, there is the housework--all done without electricity, a husband, the cow, the little store.
She feels that if I were to advertise her work and she found herself having to stitch to a deadline, she might be over-whelmed.
Delila and Joseph are planning a 3 day trip to friends in one of the Ohio Amish communities. The children will stay with an Amish neighbor, but they have been unable to draft anyone to milk the cow, so J. will have to go up the road to tend Dory. I think we will be having a surplus of milk!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Capricious Spring Weather

Warm and windy days dried the ground quickly after Monday's torrents of rain.
On Thursday afternoon J. decided the garden was dry enough for a first "turning" of the soil.

Branches from recent prunings, dried stalks from perennials
and other spring clean-up refuse made a crackling bonfire.

J. takes time-out with friends in the spring sunshine.

This little area is at the right side of the carport as one heads into the back yard.
The soil is very shallow there and the roots of the invasive but beautiful "water maple" run close to the surface of the ground.  I cleared weeds last spring and sowed a variety of annual flower seeds.
The only things to flourish here other than a resurgence of weeds, were the catnip and some basil. The catnip is flourishing around the barrel planter. The narcissis bulbs which were disappointing as winter house bloomers have been plopped here with a grim "last chance" warning.
On Thursday the soil was just right for some serious digging. I took up sod and weeds, clipped the most unruly of the slender tree roots--far enough from the maple that it surely will not be compromised.
My plan is to remove the top layer of soil, put down a weed barrier fabric.
Behind the garage Mr. Rogers created a raised bed for his wife, using what appears to be large flat rocks that were part of the old house foundation. These rocks of various sizes and shapes are about 1 1/2-2 1/2 inches thick and lightweight enough that I can move them one at a time. [Groan!]
I will settle carefully chosen rocks in the replaced soil and tuck in herb plants.
Various gardening  aches and pains kept me awake most of Thursday night and before J. was out of bed I was headed to Wal Mart up at the junction.
They did not have landscaping fabric--a frustration, since I was rearing to go with my project.
[If ones back is already protesting might as well finish the task and then collapse!]
Completion of my scheme will now have to wait on finding the weed barrier fabric which will be the only cost outlay involved.  I have two varieties of thyme which spread thriftily over the past season.  They can be divided and put in place. I also have marjoram, hoarhound, lemon balm and some low-growing clove pinks for color.
I may splurge on a lavender since this soil is gritty and should please lavender's need for good drainage.
The soil in this little space is very different to the soil of the nearby gardens.  I suspect that the coarser texture is a result of the demolition of the older house and perhaps some fine gravel spread in the area before the foundation for the 1980 construction began.

By Friday afternoon the temperature was on the decline and the wind was a very real force.
It rained in the night and there were grey and sulky skies all day on Saturday.
We woke to a cold blustery Sunday--the sort of day my Dad would have called
"wild and wooly."  Even the noisy "peepers" have ceased their mating songs and taken refuge where -ever such creatures lurk when it is cold.
I pulled on my wellies and tugged a fleecy hat low on my brow before going down the road to find the daffodils which J. noticed on our way home from church.
These are naturalized in pastures, roadside ditches and in abandoned yards.
The ones above were bowed by the searing wind but still a brilliant patch of color.

This is the abandoned house just down the road.  There is a gate and a wire fence which I wasn't inclined to clamber over. The pasture is tenanted by a few dozen beef cattle. Last spring we noticed them resting among the daffodils.

Here the dooryard of the empty house slopes down into pasture. Daffodils have spread around the tree and across the shallow ditch into wilder ground.

I came home facing the bitter wind with a few daffs clutched in a cold paw.
The catkins are from the still unidentified tree in our front yard, with a few snips of dogwood--not an artistic arrangement, but so good to have something fresh. The cats, especially Teasel and Charlie, were anxious to help as I clipped stems and poked them into the pitcher.
{The beautiful pitcher was a gift years ago from my dear friend, CWT--who posts here as zephyr}
She has just started a blog http://zephyr-lifeinvermont.blogspot.com/  which I think many of you will enjoy as it develops.  C. is a gifted poet, artist, and gardener, now retired in Maine.  I look forward to the treasures she will be sharing.