Saturday, March 31, 2007

04.01.07 PEACH BLOOM

Luck is with me Friday. Driving through orchard country I am blessed with a view of peach tree bloom. Will definitely be back in July to taste the harvest.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Watching the green crawl up the mountain ravines, I know that I am looking at the poplars along the mountain streams. It is the magnificent tulip poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera, which sends out the most leaves first. The other major population in these forests is the oak tribe. They are a bit more reluctant to leaf, not wanting to risk the loss of all of their foliage to frosts. They are tentatively hanging out their "flowers" adding more pollen to the sex-filled air.


While planting the broccoli it started to rain. And rained a good hard rain all night long. Wonderful to have moisture return to our mountains. Everything responds quickly. By the next morning we have evidence that the greening has begun.


Yesterday I worked in the home studio. This gave me time to retire to the garden after work instead of spending my time commuting to town and back. I planted out all of the broccoli seedlings, 74 plants! Last year I only planted 36 which, after packing away in the freezer, only lasted us until December. This year I hope to have enough broccoli to crunch all winter long!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

03.28.07 FREEDOM

The amphibian eggs I collected just over a week ago hatched and are growing faster than I could have predicted. All the tadpoles swim with fish-like tails and have started growing little stubs of legs! There are so many that I have decided rather than risk crowding them I will release them back to the stream in the pasture across the road. I imagine most will end up feeding the other creatures one step above them on the food chain.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


I played catch up in the garden yesterday. Making up for lots of lost time while I was trapped in the back brace. I had plenty of cleaning and tidying to do in the vegetable garden. First and most importantly, get those fruit trees pruned! The espaliered trees have swelling buds, I don't want to prune them in bloom. They stretch dozens of long watersprouts to the clouds. I trim these to save and weave hurdles for fencing.

Then to the beds! All of my beds are fifty square feet each. Five by ten feet. It is a convenient size. It is about as much as I want to dig or work on at a time, so when I finish one I feel like I have accomplished something and quit. But today I turn another bed over, and then mulch four more with hay (two of these with feedbags underneath the hay). I am hoping the heavy mulch will keep the spring weeds down and then allow me to just punch through with tomato seedlings. No dig gardening!

Make time to clean out the asparagus bed, fertilize and mulch it. And give the berry canes and grape vines a good pruning.

The garden is looking good! Now it can really start growing.


The amphibian eggs have hatched! They love to hang upside down, especially from the surface of the water. This may be a sort of camoflage, since they look like plant litter in a pond so perfectly still. Haven't yet identified them, but I am hoping maybe they are baby leopard or pickerel frogs. Maybe even wood frogs which would be very cool. A wood frog is one of the most northern frogs and is capable of actually freezing solid during hibernation! Now that is a trick that is way ahead of us two-legged folk.


The spinach I planted February 24 is up and growing well. Looks like we'll have a good crop. Needs water!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Growing since January under lights. Hoping to make the move out to the garden later this week if the weather holds and I have time to dig the beds. I have collected dozens of milk jugs to use as cloches.


I have been examining the water in the ditches along the road daily hoping to see some eggs of our neighbor frogs, toads, and salamanders. After several days of freezing weather, we have a day of warm sunshine. The first day of SPRING! And there they are, a huge mass of eggs. The entire group is the size of a large grapefruit. Could these have all come out of one individual? Perhaps they were much smaller when they were originally laid? I place a couple of spoonfuls in a jar hoping to watch the appearance of tadpoles.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

03.18.07 NOT A ROBIN

Yesterday morning I watch the robins searching for seeds among the straw near the dog pen. They hop back and forth to kick up the litter and then poke their heads down for a prize. This time I saw a strange "robin." It has a bright red vest but is wearing a white shirt front. The bird guide helps us recognize an old and usually shy friend, the eastern towhee.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

03.17.07 THE SWELL

After a day of rain and a night of snow the streams surge up to the edge of their banks. Hunting for more signs of spring I find the spicebush blossoms ready to burst. Just a little more warmth will paint the forest of the stream banks yellow with their bloom.

Friday, March 16, 2007

03.14.07 REPRIEVE

Consolidating my two small flocks of chickens into one, I am faced with the universal problem: too many males. Looks like "Big Daddy" is headed for the stew pot or maybe coq au vin. But at the last minute he is saved. A neighbor needs a Buff Orpington rooster for his small flock of Buff hens. All parties satisfied!

Sunday, March 11, 2007


No doubts now. Spring is officially here. The red maples are blooming. Perhaps you didn't know that red maples have flowers? Well here they are...tiny beautiful red flowers. In a short time they will have been pollinated by all of the emerging insects and then turn into the first "helicopter" seeds of the year. The air fills with the tiny red toys in celebration.

Postscript: I am happy to report that on a drive this afternoon I finally hear spring's peepers! The tiny frogs of spring. Often in the past I have heard them in February. Late this year or have I just been in the wrong places?

Friday, March 9, 2007

03.09.07 GET OUTSIDE

Richard Louv's recent book, Last Child in the Woods, has become a manifesto of the growing "No Child Left Inside" movement. This month he writes in Orion magazine, "As one suburban fifth grader put it to me, in what has become the signature epigram of the children-and-nature movement: 'I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.'"

On my short walk to work this morning through downtown I made the acquaintance of this beautiful resident, a cedar waxwing. A very gregarious bird in dapper gray and brown plumage with a distinctive cap and a bright yellow tip on his tail bounces across the sidewalk in front of me, twists his head up at me and gives me a wink. According to Cornell University large flocks of waxwings live in our southern cities during the winter thriving on the berries on the many ornamental plants which have appeared in the improved landscaping of built up areas. The birds are thriving, according to one study, from 1965 to 1979 the waxwing population doubled.

A neighbor we see but never notice, a friend many children would love to make.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


Coming out into the cold air this morning I look up and see a cloud frozen to the top of the mountain behind the house. It won't stay stuck long. The sun will warm the trees and they will shake loose from the air’s icy hold.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

3.6.07 WHO WON?

Walking in morning sunlight I find evidence of last night’s brawl. The beautiful barred feathers in the quiet air give no indication of the moment of violence which produced them. Who won? The cat? The owl or hawk? Maybe the rat they were fighting over?

Monday, March 5, 2007


A bitter cold night drops its gems from the tiny branches overhanging the stream. This pendant pearl reminds me of the earring in one of Rembrandt's self portraits (1650?).

Sunday, March 4, 2007


Winter cold has returned. The mountains roar with the sound of the March wind through the trees. We have had a night of heavy rains this week and the streams sing with the energy of water falling. But the spring sap is still, inhaling, as it waits ready to fill the forest with life.

Saturday, March 3, 2007


Suddenly the catkins on the small brushy colonies of birch put on growth. Going from less than an inch long to two or more inches. For several days these "male" flowers will give off pollen some of which will find its way to the "female" birch flowers.

Inspiring to suddenly see real vegetative growth on trees at this tail end of winter.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


Blossoms inside and out! The last of the paperwhite narcissus bulbs planted during the big freeze last month and put in front of the window begin to open. And on my walk across the park to the studio I spy the first blossoms of the early cherry tree. Last year I got a photo of it with snow on the blossoms. This is a tree which would definitely bring to mind feelings of wabi sabi in the Japanese Zen Buddhist.

For more evidence of hope check out my other set of occasional notes at