Saturday, April 25, 2020

Mostly Photos

The sound of rain on the roof in the grey pre-dawn of Thursday was a welcome relief! 
It would be too wet to garden!
Much as I love gardening, as many ideas as I have for more plantings around the house, my labors have taken a toll.
Jim put together the raised bed I wanted by the front door.  I proceeded to remove several lavenders hastily stuck in last fall, stashed them in pots in the greenhouse and began digging over the hard-packed layer of red dirt that resulted from back filling when the house construction was finished. 

Jim has found a source of free compost which he brings home in large containers each day when he is done working on his spec property.  
The bags of top soil were worked in over the existing soil layer, then I lugged home several bags of a lighter soil mix from the garden center at South Fork.
A rainy day meant that I could postpone another job of hoicking heavy bags and spreading soil.

The rain was good for the potted pansies.

Left in place, but with fresh soil worked around them: a sage plant, oregano, two thymes;  the large one started life as a volunteer seedling growing at the Amish farmhouse.  

David Beachy arrived early in the week to make the first cutting of hay in the meadow.

He returned on Tuesday to 'crimp' the hay;  on Wednesday, ahead of the rain, the grass was raked and rolled into a bale.  This was a fairly light crop, producing only one bale.

Shriveled brown leaves where there should be green. 

This tree growing along the lane fence was beautiful a week ago.
I wonder if the the damaged trees can put out fresh growth.

I have more weeding to do in this perennial strip.  Jim has spread compost/mulch over the upper end and deposited more in heaps for me to spread as weather and energy allow me to finish rooting up weeds. 
Beyond is the vegetable garden.  We have planted green beans and beets, set out 8 broccoli plants raised in the greenhouse.

Flower buds are showing on the foxgloves raised from seed last year.

Red valerian, also raised from seed, was evergreen through the winter and is now blooming in the corner of the west retaining wall.

Willis, tired from supervising my gardening efforts, curls happily on the front porch bench, oblivious to the drizzle falling just beyond.

The weather has been fickle for three days now; bursts of chilly rain, skies clearing for an hour, then clouds and rain moving in again. 
I started a fire in the wood stove, retreated to a corner with a book and a lap full of cats. 
Almost immediately the house felt suffocatingly warm and stuffy.
So, fire going, windows open; cold wind blowing in, windows shut.
Can't change the weather, so we must garden when we can.
I have to say an enforced break is welcome.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


Clematis Candida--before the frost.
The wind that swept in from the north last week stayed with us.  It was the kind of wind that rushed across the meadow grass creating  constant waves of silvery shimmer. 
Although the sun shone and the sky was a bright blue background for puffy cloud pillows, there was a keen bite to the wind. By Saturday afternoon the sky was pewter tinged, tree branches tossing.
Sunday evening brought hazardous weather warnings. Jim as always, tracked incoming storms on the doplar weather site. 
We communicated with our son and his dear wife in Tennessee. They, in turn, were anxious for the cousins on the other side of the 'gap' in the greater Chattanooga area. 
We went to bed slightly before midnight, alert to the possibility of high winds.
I left my bedroom window slightly raised for fresh air and woke before six on Monday to the moaning of wind, rain pummeling the glass. I lay still, listening, reluctant to stir, but then rose to push the window down and trace the path of blown-in rain on the sill.

The households of our family in Tennessee were untouched, but whole sub-divisions near them had been flattened over night by tornadoes. 
It was a restless day here--sudden wild bursts of wind-driven rain; the cats dashed out, came back in, disgruntled, damp, obviously feeling that we should do something to provide them with more pleasant circumstances.

Wind has always unsettled me.
A gentle breeze is welcome; a howling, shrieking wind is too elemental, too much a harbinger of unrest or danger.
My bedroom in my girlhood home was in the south-east corner of the little house my parents built. When my Dad bought his first TV it was stationed in the corresponding corner of the dining room below.  Daddy installed a massive TV antenna on a metal bracket a few feet from my bedroom window. At the best of times the thing 'sang' with the slightest movement of air through its metal tubing.  When the wind rose, as it so often did during the night, the antenna seemed alive with howls, groans, shrieks at the head of my bed. Eventually moving the bed to the other side of the room did little to diminish the mournful wailing.
It was likely those disturbed night hours which established my skittishness regarding wind.

Salvia officinalis, growing near the front walk.

April most anywhere is a month of capricious weather. Plants rush into bloom, green leaves unfold, the sun shines and it seems spring is established.
Then come the cold nights, frost, freezing rain or snow.
For 10 days here we had no need of the wood fire.
Jim swept off the porch where he stacks a night's worth of wood; I dusted away the fine ash that settles on furniture or shelves. We opened windows to warmth and spring-fresh air.
In the greenhouse, seedlings emerged, flourished.
The electric heat was set to come on if the house grew chilly in the wee hours of the morning.
By Friday afternoon I again wanted the comfort of the wood stove.

Ephemeral drifts of redbud and dogwood on the slopes of the north ravine.

 With frost warnings posted for Tuesday night, I thought I had done what I could  to protect vulnerable plants. 
In the greenhouse I spread plastic sheeting over tomato plants, placed a strip of fleece over newly emerged herb and flower seedlings. I draped another piece of plastic over my pot of nasturtiums. 
Outside, my cherished clematis vine was covered with an old shower curtain clipped with clothespins to the edges of the trellis.
It was 27 F. this morning at 7 a.m.--as cold as many mornings during the winter. 
Frost lay thick on the grassy areas around the house.

As the sun came around the corner of the barn it struck sparkles from the frost.


A mound of nepeta silvered with ice.

In the greenhouse all was not well.  Cucumber seedlings, nearly ready for the garden,  had shriveled in their pots.

My pot of nasturtiums resembles steamed spinach.

The damage which most troubles me is the blighting of the clematis Candida, blossoms marred, edges tattered.
Trees along the lane which a few days ago were dressed in the tender green of emerging leaves, now have a faint brown cast, some of the fresh leaves frost-darkened.
New growth on the rose bushes will need to be trimmed.
Foxglove and lilies seem to have endured the cold.

Gardeners are always at the mercy of the weather!

Tonight is meant to be the last night of frost.  I have again swaddled plants in the greenhouse, wrapped the damaged clematis vines in old tablecloths and a flannel sheet.
Some of the plants will likely recover from the punishment of cold. 
Others may not.

It seems silly to fuss over frost-damaged plants when so much of greater seriousness is amiss in the world. 
Checking over the greenhouse seedlings I thought of Shakespeare's wry remark, "Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May." 
Morning will bring fresh concerns, hopefully reasons for thankfulness, a choice of tasks to be done.
The season will roll on regardless and we will stride--or stumble--along!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

April Thus Far

 Straddling the eastern/central timeline as we do, mornings at any time of year confound me. The curtains are pulled back and the blinds raised prior to the sun appearing.
The bedroom end of the house looks west, so I depend on the clock--and the cats--to launch me into the day.

Checking on the greenhouse is one of the first tasks of the morning.  The wet grass is cold through my garden clogs. Willis trails behind me, anxious to enjoy the warmth of the greenhouse. Sometimes he rolls onto his back, legs in the air in a corner beneath the 'L' of the benches. At other times he wedges himself amongst an array of pots and trays. A few times he has been turfed out for stomping through flats of delicate seedlings.
He always returns, basking in the heat.

The heirloom clematis, 'Candida' has settled in nicely along the wonky fence.
The original grew at our first Kentucky property; I've been able to move and nurture roots with our subsequent moves. 

Each year I take many photos of 'Candida'--I am intrigued from the moment the first tentative tendrils start to clamber up the trellis.  I watch as the buds plump, waiting for the morning that the first blooms slowly unfold.

Each detail of the flower is exquisite--even as recorded by my very simple camera.

 Temperatures tonight are predicted to be close to the frost mark--should I have attempted to rig a covering? 

The green shading is what makes this variety so lovely.

Capturing the dogwood blooms has been a frustrating exercise. 
It seems that the wind always stirs the branch just as I click the shutter.

Plantings above the east retaining wall are--for the moment--tidy. 
I expect that the landscape roses on either end will again frustrate me; marked as 'ground cover' they last summer reared thorny branches in all directions.

Seedlings of Clary Sage have been pricked out and potted on today.

 Lemon Balm was also transplanted today into plastic 'four-packs' such as commercial greenhouses use. I try to sow herb and flower seeds sparsely, but they seem to fall onto the soil like salt pouring from a shaker.  I can't bear to throw away even the smallest seedlings.

These miniature lilies spent last summer in a big tub, where they happily multiplied. I planted them last fall above the west retaining wall. I found several more little corms still in the tub and tucked them in with their mates.

Life has not changed greatly for us with the isolation orders. We don't go out to jobs, have no children home from school. Our church is closed and our young pastor has initiated 'Zoom' sermons and other meetings.  We miss the weekly gatherings. 
We continue to shop at the small stores in the nearby Amish/Mennonite community for such items as are needed to replenish our pantry.  As rural dwellers we have always bought many food items in bulk--flours, grains, beans, rice, all things necessary for baking. 

Jim goes most days to work at the property he is renovating.  I have been spending every possible hour outside.  I have dug over an extension to the perennial strip that edges the driveway, put in divisions of iris and lilies. 
During the past three days I have laboriously grubbed up the mat-like invasions of buttercup that threaten to swallow the garden.  It is heavy work!  I went out again last evening, laboring until the soft darkness came down and the moon began its climb from a nest of lavender-grey clouds.
Today although the sun has been bright there has been a sharp and chilly wind.  I couldn't bring myself to continue weeding; my aging bones raised a protest!
Instead I pegged sheets and towels on the line where they thrashed and flapped in the wind.
I was content to retreat to the sheltered warmth of the greenhouse, to lose myself in the quiet work of settling small seedlings into larger quarters where their roots can stretch and develop.

Strange times in which we are living.
So many confusing 'facts', scoldings, recriminations, warnings, dire predictions.
'Experts' disagree, conspiracy theories abound. 
It seems that usually sane individuals are obsessed with the need to frantically post and share their latest pet theories and sources.
We aren't ignoring the dangers and the seriousness of the pandemic.
Jim's maternal family is on their third generation of health care professionals--we talk with them, ponder their advice.
We live quietly, taking care, praying for wisdom.
The spring season unfolds as it always has.
We are still here.

Considering March [Belatedly]

March departed, with a day of weather which reflected nearly the entire month--grey skies and a chilly drizzle of rain.

Redbud trees--twiggy and ungainly--have their spring moments.

When the redbud blossoms fade, the spindly trees retreat into the larger landscape.

There are several of these trees along the east boundary fence that stretches along this bend of the lane and marks our eastern property line.

A graceful tree from early spring until winter removes all the leaves; I don't know the identity.

The flattened 'beds' where deer have rested--three, closely spaced.

First week of April and the garden has its first 'turning.'

Tiny wild violas.

Hybrid magnolia labeled as "Jane" but with consistently paler blossoms than her 'sister' planted a few yards farther down the slope.

Willis--always helpful.