Wednesday, October 31, 2007

10.31.07 FALL FIGS

We have tried several times to grow figs out here in the mountains with no luck. But in town my wife has a garden outside the door of her catering kitchen and has no problem getting a huge crop of figs every year. This gem-like harvest, picked just before the frost, was turned into an incredibly delicious clafouti for last night's supper.


Years ago I bought a packet of tomatillo seed and grew a couple of plants with the tomatoes and peppers. I have never had to plant them again. They self sow easily and appear throughout the garden. We rarely seem to get around to harvesting them, so each year even more seedlings appear. I took this picture a couple of days before the frosty cold arrived.

10.29.07 FIRST FROST

Cold last night! We get out the blankets and turn the heat on downstairs. We awake in the morning to a frost covered world. Frost is a bit late this year, I would have expected it more toward the middle of the month. I can remember that in 1979 we even had a snow in October!


Our Japanese persimmon tree fruited for the first time in the garden this summer. Fall turns both fruit and leaves an amazing color. My wife, the chef, tells me we must wait until the fruit has been tempered by frost before eating them.


Pokeweed leaves, Phytolacca americana, decant sunlight into a blaze of color. The berries are filled with a deep magenta colored juice which makes a fine ink, but unfortunately will eventually fade to brown. Poisonous.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Time to dig out the coats, but the honeysuckle still offers fresh blooms and we haven't had a frost yet.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


It poured all night. The mountains sing again with the sound of flowing water. The creeks are running again. The rivers fill to their banks. And this morning the clouds lift briefly to reveal an autumn world here in the high land.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

10.24.07 SWEET RAIN

The fall drought has continued for weeks. Last night the dry dusty air was washed clean by several hard rains. Peering through the windshield of the car this morning I see how each tiny drop of water acts as a different lens for viewing the landscape and warps the light in wierdly wonderful ways.

Monday, October 22, 2007

10.22.07 ICONIC TREE

When we think of an image of a tree, we very often think of this one, the white oak, Quercus alba. And justly so since it is one of the most common trees of the eastern forest in the United States. Superlative as well in longevity, a white oak can live to be eight hundred years old. Here it is loaded with acorns ready to feed all sorts of wildlife. The fallen acorns, or mast, are an essential part of the forest ecology. The Smithsonian recently reported that white oak seedlings, despite all of the frenzied planting by squirrels, are taking a hit. The huge increase in the herds of deer in our eastern forests are making it very difficult for white oak seedlings to survive. They are commonly browsed by hungry deer. Researchers note that we won't see it for many years, but the lack of juvenile oaks will have a dramatic effect on our future forest.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


It has happened, and literally overnight. The maples and the tulip poplars have burst into color adding a raucous visual noise to the landscape. The blazing oranges reveal that there are more sugar maples, Acer saccharum, around here than I thought. Deep reds from red maples, Acer rubrum, and brilliant yellows from the tulip poplars, Liriodendron tulipifera.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Walking across town this morning, I decided to check on the progress of the fall crops at the Friendship Urban Garden. This locally organized community vegetable garden has been built in an empty lot behind a downtown low income housing complex. I know the "farmer" directing the garden is using the latest innovations in vegetable gardening such as row irrigation, cover cloth, green manure crops, etc. But my hat is off to their spinach crop. This single plant was more than a foot in diameter!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


The native Virginia persimmon, Diospyros virginia, is now large and showing its beautiful fall/winter color. It's name, persimmon, is an Algonquin Indian word; while its Latin genus name, Diospyros, means "food for the gods." Tricky to eat, being quite astringent until fully ripe, they are a favorite food of North America's only marsupial, the opossum.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

10.14.07 POTATO GOLD

Underneath all that dill mentioned yesterday lay a bed full of gold. Yukon Gold potatoes!

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Sometimes the gardener has little to do beyond watching the garden grow. A year ago we grew some dill in this vegetable bed, but this year it was potatoes. After the potatoes were finished a dill plant sprouted up by itself as a volunteer in the garden. It has finished its season but self-seeded an entire bed now flourishing as a carpet of beautiful young dill plants. The miraculous tenacity of the seed.

Friday, October 12, 2007


The dawn breaks as the sun climbs over the ridge. Color in the sky announces the break in the weather with cooler less humid air at last. And, of course, I return inside to a bowl of cereal to break the fast.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

10.09.07 CAMOMOTH

"Hiding" on the bathroom wall, a moth perfectly camouflaged as a leaf! Out of its element the beauty of its form revealed down to the elegantly curved wingtips.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Wild burdock, Arctium minus, has gone to seed and is having no difficulty finding new locations to grow in our yard. Our little border collie runs through the weeds and then pulls them out one by one and leaves them in fresh sites. Burdock seed really sticks tight, something you won't forget if you find some on your clothing after hiking. It is not a coincidence that burdock seed heads have little prongs that look exactly like Velcro.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

10.06.07 PIED PAWPAW

As in “the pied piper” and “magpie.” Irregularly changing colors give the pawpaw a harlequin effect.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


A friend pointed out in a comment on yesterday's journal entry that my understanding of the lunar cycle was completely off. He is quite correct. The shadow of the earth DOES NOT create the phases of the moon. The phases are created by the position of the moon relative to the earth as it revolves around the earth. Half of the moon's surface is lit by the sun and each day as the moon revolves a bit further around the earth we see the size of the illuminated surface change. This photo of the moon was taken by the spacecraft Galileo on December 7, 1992 on its trip to Jupiter. We thank NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab for sharing this photo.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

10.03.07 THE WANING

Our October moon is waning. It will have completely disappeared behind the shadow of the earth by the tenth of this month. The foliage of the black walnut, Juglans nigra, is also on the wane. It seems to be the first tree around here to completely give up its leaves. By the new moon it will probably be just a skeleton in the forest. All its leaves safely discarded before the frost has made its first nip.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


The bright red of cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis, catches my eye in a drainage ditch along the trail. Its color assures its pollination by hummingbirds who are also rather partial to the color red.

Monday, October 1, 2007


The sugar maples, Acer saccharum, in town are beginning to reveal splashes of the color they are so famous for. This tree does not grow as well in our forest as other maples, so it is more often seen as an ornamental planted in lawns and gardens.


A moment's bouquet to calm the nerves.

09.29.07 APPLE OF MY EYE

The deer have finished most of the apples from our tree. The fruit that remains are high up in the branches beyond the reach of the deer standing on their hind legs. This morning I decided to harvest a few for a family apple crisp. Shaking the branches to get the apples to fall I got beaned in the eye by one of Sir Isaac's orbs. Knocked my glasses off and punched a nice hole in the apple. A black eye from a sweet fruit.