Wednesday, March 31, 2010


It has been ten years since I planted my orchard of espaliered fruit trees. Having no experience in an orchard, I expected a harsh learning experience. The peach and plum quickly died. The cherry has not prospered. The two apples and two pears have grown fabulously. I have not paid any attention to the HOW of pruning them other than creating a basic fan shape. So this year I read up on the business of training a tree as an espalier and found that it requires much more attention than my one late winter pruning each year! Apparently, after the structure has been created I need to keep after all the new growth throughout the summer and restrict it to short branchlets. Here you see the before and after photos of one of the apple's after this week's fascist pruning. I will see how the tree fares this summer under the new regimen. Someday, with some appropriate deer protection, I might even harvest some fruit!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Charging their batteries after a cold night, the appearance of these big buzzards intimidates the residents of a Charlottesville apartment complex.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

03.18.10 PORCH WREN

Investigating loud noises on the back porch, I discover a pair of Carolina Wrens are busy building their spring nest in the clothes pin holder! These wrens often suffer from severe winters and it is reassuring to see them again. Their song is always a great encouragement: a loud, energetic, "tea kettle, tea kettle, tea kettle, HOT."

Monday, March 15, 2010


The melting snow revealed a myriad of tunnels in the garden, just on the surface of the ground below the snow. Several days later I found one of the builders had met his match when poking about in the chicken house. I believe our visitor is a short-tailed shrew and not a mole.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I took advantage of the amazing spring-like weather yesterday to plant out 18 of my little broccoli seedlings and tuck them in snug with plastic milk jug cloches and plenty of straw mulch. I also fed them each a small handful of rotted chicken manure. Hoping for big things...

Which got me thinking about "confidence." I have confidence in my garden. Something which is often misplaced given the vagaries of weather, pests, and disease in my small enterprise. But it is based on my confidence in the natural world. I know with certainty, as I believe in the birth of a new generation, that the seasons will turn, the sun will continue to rise and the birds offer a springtime song...regardless of the actions of man.

But confidence can be such an ephemeral feeling ... especially among masses of people. Humans are so susceptible to whims and sudden pursuits of the fanciful, we have history to teach us this. Yet, our society is built upon the notion of "confidence." The economies of the world operate based upon the confidence that the citizens of each state have in their government's paper currency...confidence that it will maintain "value." And the capitalist's stock exchange is all about confidence. It has been commodified so that an emotion can be bought, sold, and traded. Yet it can never be really "seen" or "measured" in a physical concrete fashion.

Here is my "confidence in the Cruciferae." Even sharing a photo of broccoli in bloom many weeks before my little crop will blossom.

NB: In the "cross shape" of these tiny four-petalled yellow flowers is the clue to the name "Cruciferae."

Monday, March 8, 2010


At last! Warm days. Someone has outfitted a tree AND the trashcan in Charlottesville's Lee Park for the weather!

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Thrilled, yesterday, to get out in the balmy weather...the first warm afternoon we have really had since last fall...and plant that apple tree that came last week. It is a variety which is supposed to be disease resistant. It will need to be considering how this over-orcharded countryside is plagued with apple disease.

Friday, March 5, 2010


As the snow finally disappears the winter damage in the garden is revealed. Massive flooding before the first big snow in December turned our country road into a river and left a gravel bank for us to remove. The high winds of the snow storms did an amazing job of pruning and removing dead limbs. The wind actually knocked a huge portion of the dieing willow tree down.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I ordered an apple tree and two blueberry bushes to fill in gaps in the garden's fruit growing beds. What a surprise for the box from Stark's to come so early. We still have snow on the ground! I am hoping for some warm weather this week to thaw things out a bit so I can plant these guys. In the meantime, I will keep them damp, dark, and cool in our cellar.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Looking out my studio window the other day I caught sight of a beautiful pileated woodpecker landing in the tree just by the house. I have a feeling it was enjoying the smorgasbord of bittersweet berries with the other birds. The lower part of this tree is well engulfed with the vines.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

02.21.10 SNOW HOLES

Melting...finally. I can't remember a winter in my 35 years in Virginia with snow on the ground for this long! But new obstacles are revealed with the snow's disappearance which are unfortunately not quite as ephemeral.

Friday, February 19, 2010

02.19.10 SNOW EGGS

It is always a thrill when the chickens start laying again! I think it must correlate to the lengthening period of daylight (and the approach of spring!). Here I have collected some of the first eggs in months from their snowy laying boxes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

02.18.10 ICE THUNDER

The return of the sun brings danger around the house. Zippy our Border Collie is reluctant to use the dog door to her pen. Over a foot of snow and ice covers the roof of the house and our several porches. Enormous crashes are heard as the snow and ice begin to release their frozen grip.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


What a surprise to look out the window on Valentine's night to see a message from my sweet wife in the snow. Repurposed Christmas lights glowing in more fresh fallen snow! My son shot a genuine arrow into the center.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The snow weighs heavy upon the garden. But below the deep snow life sleeps. The blanket of white actually insulates the garden below, protecting it from icy blasts of wind and the bitter night time lows. I know the chickens in their houses appreciate the extra layer on the outside of their houses as they cuddle in the corner with their down coats fluffed out. This cardoon seed head bends below the weight of new snow, but studying its gentle curves and the contrast of soft seed filaments with icy crystals warms my being.

Monday, February 15, 2010

02.15.10 RECONNECT

I have been away from the blog for two years now. This snowy, snowy winter has given me the opportunity to spend more time at home with family. And time to walk and think. I miss this blog and the chance it gives me to organize my thoughts through writing as well as the possibility of having the occasional conversation with virtual visitors to our home. With this post I hope to return to the Book of Days.