Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Days Before The Rain

Achillea in bud. This one has classic grey/green foliage and golden blooms.

Every season is different.  Last year by this time we were drowning in almost daily rainfall.
This has been a dry spring.
I spent much of Tuesday attempting to pry weeds from dry crumbly soil. My sturdy garden fork and my sharply pointed trowel were of little help. 
The weather was warm and breezy, warm enough to bring out some annoying deer flies.
I cleared weeds around the only surviving blueberry bush, and dug holes for planting three more.
I spent the evening chopping and tugging at weeds in the raised bed which is sheltered by the shop roof overhang. The best I could do was to clear the area so that sunlight and air could reach the peonies and iris there.  It will take another session to remove unwanted roots before I can layer on mulch.  It was easier to pull small weeds from the perennial strip that was mulched last fall.

Garden sage blossoming in the herb bed with the border of 'pinks' following the slope of side lawn.

The pinks are divisions from my Gradyville garden--moved to the Cane Valley house, divided yet again and planted here.
Their spicy sweet scent permeates the porch and side yard, especially in the warmth of mid-day.

My camera doesn't do justice to the intricate shading of the iris.
A few of these came from over-grown clumps at the Cane Valley property--others were salvaged from the area around a sagging barn next door to our daughter's home.

Pale and frilly.

Lavender silk!

Today the iris have been hammered by torrents of rain--moisture badly needed, but I begrudge the battering of my beautiful flowers.

Rugosa by the side porch.

Charlie putters about companionably while I admire the billow of a lavender which edges the walkway.

I can marvel endlessly over the intricacies of color and shape in flowers.
Looking at the iris buds I see the possible inspiration for the melting swirls of color in batik fabric.

Fleabane along the lane and at the edge of the corn ground.

Fresh crinkled leaves on a sycamore at the edge of the creek.

A few blackberry brambles have blossomed.

Willis has found a sunny spot against the concrete foundation of the house.
He enjoys this corner sheltering him on two sides from any wind.

We had a 'vacation' from the internet for several days.
I was frustrated last week with error messages, the inability to post comments on my favorite blogs, the length of time to connect with a website. 
My PC is more than due for servicing, so I blamed it for the various malfunctions.
By Sunday we had lost  connection to the internet.
I fiddled with all the plugs, reset the router, pulled my desk away from the wall to better check the power strip.
Of course I discovered dust and cat hair behind the desk which needed to be hoovered up.
With the feeling that I might as well be thorough, I sorted the tipple of papers, notes and projects that littered my desktop, gave everything a good dusting. 
Renewed attempts to get online produced a 'set up' wizard.
Belatedly I though to inquire of my neighbors if they had internet.
They did not, nor did my daughter and son-in-law's home at the other side of the county!
The internet provider's set up gave a help line number.  When reached, a recorded message informed of an area wide outage, expected to be repaired within 24 hours.
I attempted again next morning to work through the set-up.
After an irritating 20 minutes of being 'on-hold' with dreadful 'music' assaulting my eardrums, I was connected with a 'real' person who supplied the codes and passwords I didn't have.
With the internet restored, I am realizing afresh how much time we spend online! 
Odd that a technology we couldn't imagine a few decades ago, now holds a prominent place in our contacts with family and friends near and far, has revolutionized how we shop and sell, how we read and acquire news and information.
I am relieved to be re-connected, but must admit that I finished a number of tasks more efficiently without the temptation to 'take a break' and 'check in' with the rest of the world.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bright Warm Days and Moonlit Nights

The first rosebud opening on Thursday--never mind that it is one of the invasive rugosas!

Fully open in Friday's sunshine.  By Saturday afternoon the petals lay scattered on the walkway.

More pottering in the garden with ever-faithful Willis as attendant.

There are six of the youngest kids in this pen--nearly impossible to capture them all in one photo.

The baby goats are growing so fast!
Soon they will be too big to pick up--they won't want to cuddle or be held, although they will still enjoy attention.
I played with them Friday evening in their grassy pen as twilight deepened.
The small black doe fell asleep in my arms, sighing and relaxing into a boneless slumber--for about 10 minutes.
I put her on the ground when she woke and turned to another who was clamoring to be noticed.
I sat on the grass and was mobbed by nuzzling faces, poked at with small hooves, leaned against; my hair and my ears were nibbled as were the cuffs of my old jacket. 
When B. appeared with their milk bucket all attention was turned in that direction.

I climbed out of the pen and scuffed slowly up the lane, joined part way along by Willis who, predictably, popped out of the hedgerow where he had waited for me.
A three-quarter moon shed soft pale light on the grey crushed rock which surfaces the lane; branches were clearly etched against the night sky.
I walked through the coolness that always hangs over the slight bend in the track, where a small brook rushes through a culvert and into the pasture on the other side.

Our neighbor on the other side of the road keeps geese, guineas, ducks.
These three adults trundle across to the pond near our lower farmhouse--although they do have their own pond.
There are four goslings, the other two hidden in the already tall grass of the pasture.
This was a zoom shot--it doesn't do to aggravate geese, particularly those with offspring.

Mum-cat is shy--a barn cat, well cared for, but not a 'pet.'
I was not sure she would stay with her kittens when I hovered over their nest.
She was nervous, but I spoke softly to her, snapped my photo and moved quietly away.

On Friday I drove to the Mennonite community for the usual errands--a stop to see what was 'in' at the discount food store, then farther up the winding road to the whole foods market, a stop at the mercantile, the produce market--and then--the treat of wandering through one of the several greenhouse/nurseries in the area.

I've not seen gloxinias on offer before and was sorely tempted to bring one home.
I paused twice by the display bench as I pondered my selections, but concluded--with regret--that my funds and efforts need to focus on outdoor plants just now.

Years ago, in both Vermont and Massachusetts, I was a seasonal greenhouse worker, transplanting thousands of seedlings--tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, petunias [I developed a lack of admiration for petunias!]
Near Memorial Day I made up my quota of 'mixed planters' similar to these.

A decent selection of common herbs, but the only rosemary offered is the variety 'Arp'--a fairly recent hybrid. Arp was the last of my ill-fated rosemarys to succumb last fall to whatever ailed them--but it isn't one of my favorites and I didn't bring one home with me.
I did choose a clematis, Duchess of Edinburgh.

Web photo: Windy Ridge Garden Centre
The plant which came home with me is in a nursery pot and trained onto a slender wooden hoop.
I need to buy a metal trellis to match the two installed last autumn. 
I would like to find the heirloom variety clematis 'Candida'--my research suggested that was the one growing vigorously against the chimney wall at our Gradyville home.
I've not found it at any local nurseries, although 'Nellie Moser' the stripy pink/rose variety is available.
The two grew together at our former home and 'Nellie' had reached out to clamber 
up a nearby nandina shrub.

Each place I have lived and gardened has presented its rewards and its challenges.
Our present location has stony soil and fewer open sunny spots to situate gardens.
I crave flowering plants and shrubs as some women might covet jewels or fine clothes!
Frugal funding, dwindling reserves of stamina, as well as the need to haul in better 'dirt' will perhaps serve to keep me in check.

Today I have contented myself with pruning the over-wintered begonias, moving them out to the side porch. I topped up the soil in two large angel-wing begonias and lugged the pots from the basement laundry area to the back porch. 
I tidied up a clutter of plastic pots, swept away a winter's accumulation of dried leaves and 
wood pile debris. 
I transplanted two very feeble rosemary seedlings--all that germinated from a sowing of seed two months ago.
I tweaked weeds from the edges of the gravel-mulched herb bed, admired the first spicy blooms on the dianthus. 

At nightfall I walked into the edge of the woods behind the stable, trailing cats: Willis, Charlie, the tortie sisters.
My intent was to nab Nellie and bring him in for the night.
Nellie had other ideas and eluded me for half an hour, darting away whenever I reached for him.
Eventually he indulged in a happy roll-about and I swooped him up.

I lugged him home through the soft moonlight.
The air held the cool sweet scent of lively earth, of spring flowers.
The first fireflies danced among nearly bare branches of sweet gum and oak.

Inside I tipped Nellie onto the kitchen floor, switched on the kettle for a mug of tea.
I laid the makings of a morning fire--crumpled newspaper and dry twigs, for it will be chilly when I come downstairs. 
It is that time of year when we wish we could 'pause' the advance of spring--just long enough to savor it a while longer! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sunshine, All Day!

Morning dawned clear and bright, chilly enough to stoke the wood fire.
Jim was anxious to continue work tidying fallen trees and wash-outs along the creek bank, so I prepared a hearty breakfast. 
 Dishes washed and kitchen given a quick once over, I collected several clean glass jars to deliver down the lane to neighbor, B.
Her goats are producing more milk than the young ones need and she has run short of containers.

The three female barn cats have all produced kittens since the weekend. The calico and white 'sisters' have hidden their babies, but the tabby with marmalade colored patches has hers in a straw-lined bin in the alley of the stable. 
I had to use the flash to take photos, so not the clearest.
A beautiful dark tabby with white socks, an orange one with a white face splotch and a muted calico.
So tiny and squirmy!

I had intended walking directly home--but it is hard to by-pass the goat pasture without stopping.
I stepped over the low electric fence that surrounds the 'play pen' for the youngest kids and knelt on the green grass.
The babies had been fed moments before and their tummies bulged with their 
breakfast of warmed milk. 
The pen is on an east-facing slope of the side yard and has a large plastic bin propped on its side as a shelter.
The goatlets bounced around me wanting attention.  After a few minutes two of them curled up in the shelter for a nap, two more nibbled at the grass.  The smallest, a black doe with a roan frosting around her eyes, climbed into my lap, nibbled at my sleeve,  Sliding off, she skittered around to my side, braced her hooves against my shoulder and decided to chew my hair, lick my ears.
Perhaps half an hour passed, sitting with the sun warm on my back, stroking the goats, enjoying their friendliness and the feel of their clean sleek bodies as they crowded close.

I took my time ambling back up the lane, stopping to watch a chickadee bouncing about in the hedgerow.  I could hear the fluting sweet voice of a cardinal and finally located a female perched at the top of a sweet gum tree.
I paused later in the day in nearly the same place, amazed at a medley of bird song, beginning to suspect that it was coming from a mockingbird. 
A flash of grey and white swooped from the hedge to perch at the top of an oak across the brook.

Mockingbirds loved our dooryard at the Gradyville farm, and I missed their presence here last season.
Our surrounding wooded ridges aren't their favorite habitat, but I hope a few will stay with us and nest in the hedgerow or the roadside trees.
 I continued up the lane aware of a mourning dove calling somewhere on the side hill and the hammering of an unseen woodpecker or flicker.

Several of the iris hastily thrust into the rough patch of ground last summer have budded.
I can't think how I shall deal with the weedy growth which has taken over in this area.
I had hopes it could become a productive garden spot.
Once the trees leaf out it is too shady for berries or veg production.

My twice-transplanted clematis is finally thriving.
This one spent a transitory season in a large pot, was poked into the ground for a summer at the Bedford stone house--where it sulked, then yet another summer in a container and finally into the ground late last autumn. 
I think I transplanted some four-o'clocks in front of it, but apparently the upearthings of the cats for their own nefarious purposes, or even some injudicious digging I may have done must have 
dislodged them.

The cats take turns appearing to keep me company for a bit before wandering off again.
Bobby has designs on a butterfly innocently flitting about.

Creeping phlox carpets an area below the side porch walk.
Dandelions seed in and the ubiquitous wild onion pokes up slender green threads in the tightly packed plants.

The rugosas by the side porch walk are showing their first buds.

One of the yellow violas put in about 10 days ago between showers.
Walking to the creek this afternoon I noted that tiny wild violas tangle among the violets and the rank weeds which border the corn ground.

The season of dogwood and redbud is brief--when the blooms fade the slender trees melt almost anonymously into the surrounding woods.

These leggy pale blue flowers grow in wide swaths anywhere that is moist and shady.
I know that I identified them last season--the name is forgotten.
Time to locate the wildflower guide book and keep it on my desk.

The dogs seem to forget from one day to the next that I am not a threat to their charges.
They kept close watch on me as I puttered about the dooryard.
Often as I walk along the lane I am accompanied on the other side of the fence by a retinue of curious nannies and exuberantly barking dogs.

Willis doesn't like to be greeted with barking!
He refuses to relinquish ownership of the lane, preferring to park himself well within sight of the canines, but out of reach.
Jim has mowed the grassy verge on either side of the lane--reducing the weed clumps which provided camouflage for a tweedy cat.

I went out again after an early supper to plant my lilies in the corner where the wooden garden fence meets the railroad ties which form the retaining wall. 
Two pholx plants [Laura] joined the phlox established last year.
I'm debating where to locate four dianthus plants.

I must go out to coax Bobby and Nellie inside for the night.
Nellie is usually agreeable about this drill--Bobby dashes off into the dark at the split second when I reach for him.
The fire has gone out and it doesn't seem practical to make it up again this near bedtime.
Clouds are predicted for tomorrow--a new fire will be welcome.

Spring's Slow Progress

Days have passed since my last post with a very similar weather pattern which can be summed up with the word 'fickle.'
Nights have been close to the freezing mark, the sun has worn itself out with popping out for a few minutes only to dodge behind a billow of dark clouds.
We've had spatters of rain and wind that whips hair loose and bites through clothing.
I seem to have a knack for heading outside just as the sun disappears.
I've made a few attempts to tidy up my perennials, accomplishing only a bit of digging before a burst of rain has driven me inside.
I've been a passenger on some of Jim's errands, taking along magazines for the time I wait in the car.
On Sunday I managed to stitch down most of one side of a quilt binding while he was conducting some 'wheeling and dealing.'
Yesterday, while the wind whipped about outside I filled the kitchen with the scents of baking.
Molasses Spice Cookies with crinkly sugared tops are one of the homiest smells in the world.
I made a double batch to have some for sharing.

Bread was rising while the cookies occupied the oven.

A peek inside the oven to check on the browning loaves.
B. and I walked up the road through the lashing wind to visit our Amish neighbors at the 
end of the road.
Although Miss Mary bakes regularly, I wrapped a still warm loaf in a checked cloth and took it along; I know it is always a treat to enjoy someone else's baked goods.

Sister M. sent me a Lowes' gift certificate for my birthday last month. 
I was promised a few minutes to shop the garden center there if I kept Jim company on his excursion.
The day was drawing into a gloomy early evening when we stopped by and it was chilly in the plant display area.
Sparrows fly into the semi-enclosed space to chirp and flitter amongst potted shrubs, then dart up into the rafters. There was the smell of damp earth and plants just coming into bloom.
I wandered for a bit, unable to decide what would be best.
I was very tempted by a shrub rose called 'Summer Romance'--pale pink blossoms with that full 'quartered' look of an old rose and a delightful perfume. 
I lingered over it, then walked on--with regret--knowing that I don't presently have a spot prepared where it might thrive.
There was a display of hellebores, cool and elegant in their grey plastic pots.
I have coveted hellebores these many years.  I was working up the courage to try them in my VT gardens nearly two decades ago--having read that they are tempermental as to location.
Again I felt that I didn't have quite the best location and needed to learn more about them 
before venturing.
In the end, wanting to make best use of my funds, I chose three plants which I know will fit with my developing garden--and will thrive: an Oriental Lily [referred to here as 'tree lilies'] an achillia called 'Red Velvet'--because I can never have too many--and finally a dianthus in a rich shade of wine with a light picotee edge. Jim came into the garden area and found me hovering over the dianthus display--he liked the color of this one and reached far into the center of the bench to choose one that is tightly in bud.

Jim has finally finished work on his 'crawler' and rumbled down to the creek with it late this afternoon.

He is attempting to clean up the creek banks which were very heavily 'washed' during last season's nearly constant rains.
The swollen creek undercut the edges of the corn ground, making it unsafe to run machinery there as well as encroaching on the planting area.
I was asked to drive the van down at 6 to fetch him home.
Typically, I didn't think of driving along the road to our field boundary and following the track at the edge of the field.
I turned in at the old barn, wallowed through a muddy slough, gunning the motor, then trundled across the field following the path of the dozer.
Jim [of course!] drove us home when he finished working--and asked why on earth I hadn't taken the easier route along the hedgerow.
I had no response other than to state that I followed where the dozer had so obviously traveled.
'Wonder you didn't get the van stuck!' was the comment.
A very good thing that I didn't!

Weeds have flourished at the edge of the field enjoying the cool, damp weather.
It is nearly impossible to walk without stepping on violets.

I like this photo with the fresh green and the budding trees beyond the creek and the reflections in the clear water.

B.'s goats continue to delight me.
These are the youngest--twins and triplets.
They are experiencing their first outings of sun and grass, learning the perils of the electric fence, in a safe area in the side yard. B. leaves the kitchen window partly up when the babies are out, so that she will hear if they are startled.
In the moment captured above they were hoping that I might be approaching with their afternoon ration of warmed milk.

The three Pyrenees dogs take their commitment to the herd very seriously.
When we go outside our house--up the lane from the goat pasture--our presence is announced with loud barks.  When we walk or drive on the lane we have an escort along the fence.

Blue is the guardian of the small goats who have recently graduated to pasture.
Blue oversees her kingdom from the top of the hollow 'tower.'

The tower provides a place to play 'king of the mountain.'

The mature goats gather at the fence hoping for attention or perhaps a 'treat' of banana peels cut into shoestring slices.
They have been methodically browsing on the wild briars that grow against the east side of the stable.

Not a creature that I would normally investigate, let alone photograph!
Neighbor P. and I were walking along the lane Saturday afternoon when I spied the black snake curled in a chilly coil near the culvert.
P. had a closer look and declared it a 'good snake.'
I do not like snakes!
Snakes have a way of appearing where I least expect them, crossing my path when I am deep in thought, causing me to yelp and leap frantically out of their way.
This one was in the same place on Sunday morning, but unfolded to soak up what warmth was held in the concrete 'shelf' over the culvert.
I insisted that Jim view it--and take a photo.
He also identified it as a desirable resident.
The snake, perhaps disgruntled at being examined, slid into a crack in the cement.
I didn't see it on Monday or today.
Just as well--it can accomplish its 'good' without being overly in view!