Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Home after this beautiful snowstorm, I decide to hike up to the waterfall. In winters past it has created a dramatic sight, entirely frozen into a giant ice sculpture. Today it drips in the warm snowy weather surrounded by a world of white.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
In town an "urban farm" project was begun last summer. It is a community garden built on some vacant land near a housing project downtown. The folks sponsoring the project are expert gardeners so I went by yesterday to see how the Friendship Urban Garden fared in midwinter. Very encouraged to see how these gardeners are having success at growing cold weather crops such as kale and other brassicas.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The honey locust, Gleditsia triacanthos, is a completely different tree than the black locust. The honey locust produces long brown pods which can be found among the leaf litter this time of year. If you crack them open you can find the sweet "honey" from which the tree derives its name and which make them so tasty to cattle.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
One of my favorite sights in the winter around here is blue sky! Having visited areas of the United States with very gray winters, I appreciate my good fortune to live in these mountains. But even better is to see the beautiful mottled bark of a sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, warmed by the low angled sun and set against the deep deep sky blue.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
The dry remains of the milkweed plant, Asclepias syriaca, take on a particularly tortured appearance this time of year. They have shared their beautiful purple flowers and then entertained with the hundreds of silky parachuted seeds they release on the breeze. Now their empty pods and sturdy stalks stand sentinel through the winter storms. A plant with virtues we all might hope to emulate.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
We have burnt up almost all of our stored firewood. Last night we had a huge windstorm as bitter cold air moved into the area. We lost power and I burned the last sticks of our supply of wood to keep the house warm. I kept myself warm today by splitting up some of the black locust, Robinia psuedoacacia, I had recently cut out of the woods behind the vegetable garden. Black locust is an extremely hard and heavy wood, but one of the best for burning in the woodstove, its heat content has been compared to that of anthracite coal. But this wood's density had made the cutting job even more difficult as it is extremely hard on the chainsaw's teeth. Minute crystals of mineral deposits, called rhaphides, are woven throughout the wood grain. Gave me a chance to learn how to sharpen a chain saw!
I like to celebrate the New Year by hiking to the overlook which gives a tremendous view of our hollow. It is about a seven-mile round trip but I always enjoy the opportunity to let my mind roam and stretch my aging leg muscles.
All the folks in the hollow were watching the sky as a small red helicopter buzzed overhead, slowly settling lower over our homes and gardens. One of the neighbor's sons is learning to be a helicopter pilot. He thought he would fly over and give all of the visiting holiday family and friends a ride on the beautiful warm afternoon.
Looking out the bathroom window this morning I see a friendly flash of feathers. One of the neighborhood phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) is still here. One of the last birds to migrate to warmer climes, I hope this one leaves soon, cold weather is on the way. This illustration of the phoebe is by Louis Agassiz Fuertes and was published in Birds of America in 1917.