Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

You'd never know we're in the midst of winter by looking out the window.  The only snow left on the ground after last week's rainy days are a few stubborn spots where snow slipped into frozen clumps off the garage roof.  With the gusts of wind and naked grass, it feels more like March.  But spring is still 78 days away and the temperature dip over the last 48 hours has begun to refreeze the ground.  This morning the mulch I added to the path to the coop two days ago to help deal with the mud had frozen and it crunched as I made my way along it.  

Still, this respite from the typical days of winter offers the opportunity to walk around the garden and check on things that would normally be sound asleep beneath a foot of snow at this time of year.  The grassy leaves of the saffron crocus I planted earlier in the fall are clustered beneath a rhododendron covered in buds ready to bloom among its evergreen leaves once spring arrives.  And the lilacs, their branches bare, have formed buds that are waiting to swell and burst into leaves and fragrant blooms when the weather warms.

For now I'm enjoying the subtle lengthening of the days, that bit of daylight when I leave the office in the evening.  It doesn't last long, but it's there and it promises warmer days and time spent in the garden.

But everything in its time.  First, there is winter. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Just for Fun

Sometimes I garden with a purpose in mind such as planting veggies in the spring to have great food to eat in summer and fall or planting perennial edibles so I can enjoy them for years to come.  And then there are the plantings I add to stabilize a steep banking or for a bit of privacy.  Sometimes I plant flowers just because they’re pretty and they make me smile.  An added bonus: I can cut them to bring those smiles indoors with me.  Or give them to a friend.

And then there are the things I do in the garden because they’re fun.  This past weekend I built a tower from terra cotta pots.  I’ve seen these in photos on the web and in magazines and think the improbable stacking adds a bit of the unexpected. 

The secret?  A metal rod is inserted through the holes in the pots.  In my case, since the bottom pot sits directly on the ground, I inserted the rod through the bottom pot into the soil for added stability.  The bottom pot was filled with potting soil, pansies added, then the next, slightly smaller pot was threaded onto the metal rod, filled with soil and planted.  The weight of the soil holds the pot in place, the rod keeping it from falling over.  It didn’t take much time and I had most of the materials already on hand. 

I’m pretty pleased with my precariously perched pots of pansies.  They make me smile.  And isn’t that a great reason to garden?

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Dandy Lion

Take a moment to appreciate the humble dandelion.  Here’s a plant that is so much more than a pesky weed.  It is a plant to be enjoyed.  I was surprised to learn that every part of this nature’s powerhouse is edible, at the very least usable.  While I’m still not convinced about the stems getting anywhere near my kitchen table, I have sampled both the flowers and the leaves and won’t hesitate to again.   

I remember my mother each spring gathering dandelion greens and preparing them like spinach.  Since I was never a fan of cooked spinach, I crinkled my nose and never considered taking a bite.  Times have changed.  I stood in the middle of the lawn last spring after reading an article about the benefits of dandelions and all the wonderful things one could do with them.  I plucked a dandelion blossom and nibbled.  Not bad.  I gathered a handful and brought them indoors and brewed a cup of tea.  Pretty good.  I gathered dandelion greens and added them to my salads.  This spring when the flowers bloomed, I scoured the lawn picking blossoms and made dandelion jelly.  Yum.  I’m not a winemaker, so I haven’t attempted making wine, though I know a number of people who have done so. 

Dandelion recipes are readily available on the Internet, which is where I obtained both recipes and inspiration.  So nibble on a leaf or flower, try adding the leaves to recipes as you would other greens, make some jelly, brew a cup of tea, try dandelion blossom fritters or add the petals to a muffin recipe.  Ah, the possibilities. 

Just one word of caution:  Don’t pick dandelions on the roadside or any grassy area where chemicals might have been applied.  You want your weeds organic.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saving Daylight

There are those who complain about losing an hour’s sleep when the clocks spring ahead each March.  They would prefer to remain on standard time all year round.  I am not among them.  I gladly give up that hour on a Saturday night in March to gain an hour of daylight in the evening.  After a long winter of getting up in near darkness, driving to work only to drive home in the dark each evening, I crave daylight.  Once Daylight Savings Time kicks in, the days instantly seem longer, and I feel more productive.  The fact that Daylight Savings Time was moved several years ago so that we change the clocks earlier tells me I’m not alone. 

With the additional daylight each evening when I return home from work, I find myself ready to tackle even mundane indoor tasks.  Starting seeds on a table beside a window where the sun is still shining through is an excellent way to de-stress at the end of the day. 

Welcome, Daylight Savings Time!  Can spring be far away?

Monday, February 27, 2012

First Sign of Spring

Okay, so it isn’t spring. Yet. But the signs are appearing. Despite the snow on the ground and the cold in the air, winter is waning. 

My favorite addition to the garden – spring blooming witch hazel – has been in bloom for weeks. Its spidery yellow flowers with their splashes of red are in stark contrast to the mostly white landscape and the brown of the naked shrubs around it.

Witch hazel leaves will unfold after the flowers have faded, but for now this one plant holds the promise of the coming season, unphased by snowfall and cold winds, not caring that it’s still winter.  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

First Snow

So this is it. The season’s first snow. In a way I’m relieved because I didn’t get nearly as much done in the garden this year as I’d hoped, but at the same time my inner gardener is screaming “NOOOOO!” and wanting just a bit more time. From the look of things outside the window, it’s time to dust the snow off the garden cart and store it away for the winter. If this winter is anything like last year’s with no break until April (not even the usual January thaw), it’s going to be a long one. Keeping my fingers crossed for an early spring.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lucky, Lucky

That’s me after Hurricane Irene made her way up the east coast and passed through the Berkshires. I’m lucky because Irene had become a tropical storm by the time she reached us. I’m lucky because what Mother Nature unleashed on us was rain and little wind until Irene waved goodbye with enthusiastic gusts. I’m lucky because local authorities prepared for the possibilities of what might happen with Irene’s coming. I’m lucky because posted throughout the storm to keep us advised of just how bad it was out there and why it was a good thing that I stayed at home. I’m lucky because I live on a hill where the waters ran down and away from my house and didn’t flood my basement or cause anything other than minimal damage in my little part of the world. I’m lucky that while the incessant rain caused landslides – one of which blocked the only exit from the street I live on, by the end of the storm, local public works employees had cleared the mud out of the street. I’m lucky because I still have my home, which is something the residents of the Spruces mobile home park can’t say: Irene flooded the park and the jury is still out on whether any of the homes can be made habitable again and if residents will be able to return.

Part of the Mohawk Trail is closed due to damage caused by Irene: mudslides, washouts, flooding. Roads were closed during the storm due to flooding; basements were flooded causing damage that is still being assessed. Water, water, everywhere. Downed trees left countless people without power. Raging rivers washed away historic covered bridges, roads, homes and crops, and caused billions in property damage.

Among the pictures of Irene’s wrath I carry in my head from news reports, there are pictures of people frolicking (yes, frolicking) on beaches during the onset of the storm, despite the angry tide, when authorities advised them to evacuate the area. And then there are the vehicles plowing through deep water on roadways when their drivers didn’t have sense enough to find another way (or just stay home). I will never forget the video of the car careening down the wild waters of a normally mild-mannered river that had captured and pulled it along (thankfully its driver was not on board when the river grabbed it). And the local flood control chutes – ugly concrete waterways with no apparent purpose in most people’s memories – nearing capacity, water raging through the center of towns, barely contained. Thanks to those ugly concrete chutes built over half a century ago by the Army Corps of Engineers, homes and businesses adjacent to the river were spared its fury. Yes, there was much flooding in low lying areas due to the sheer volume of water, but it would have been so much worse without all that ugly concrete containing the river. In areas where the beautiful, untamed waterways flowed, flood waters covered main streets and businesses, wreaking havoc.

I will remember Irene and how she affected my friends and neighbors while I count my blessings and remember what a powerful force nature is.