Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rocks in the Snow

This is our snake-habitat rock wall at the edge of the woods.


As a child, I never lived anywhere colder than Virginia. It snows in Virginia, occasionally, but the snowflakes usually came down in melted-together clumps. So, I didn't know until recently that the pretty six-sided snowflakes could actually be seen by the naked eye.

These accumulated on a snow-shovel while I took a break from clearing the driveway.

Evergreens in the Snow

Deciduous Plants in the Snow

Witchhazel blossom remnants.

Sedum, "Autumn Joy".

Evening Primrose seed pods, chewed open by birds.

Bee balm seed pod.

This photo was taken on January 1, of mustard growing in the cracks right in front of the garage. The micro-climate in that spot kept it growing long after the other mustard volunteers had died off. It was the last deciduous plant in the yard to stay green. Now it is beneath a layer of ice.

Perhaps in the future we can use the location to our advantage.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Deep Winter

Softly I drift down
To lie in velvety beds
Pure tranquility

The calm after a snow storm is amazing. The world is so bright that you have to squint. The air smells pure and sound is deadened to the point where you can hear the wind in ways you'd normally miss. Then you hear a snow-blower start up and the scrape of a shovel on cement and the moment is gone. Still, it was nice for a moment.

Michelle sent me on a guerrilla mission to quickly snap some pictures before we headed off to work this morning. It was a welcome change of pace from all the shoveling we both had to do to clear out the driveway and mailbox. The piles of snow are getting pretty big as you can see by the entrapped mailbox.

It is amazing to see something you remember as so green turn into a giant mound of snow.

The reason the front of the mound is so flat is we have to dig out our mailbox after each snow so the mailman can get to it from his truck. The plow always dumps a block of snow in front of it, so we're always carving it back out.

The garden beds are sitting pretty under their blanket of snow. The work I did to raise them showing clearly with each row a nice bump.

Since we shovel half the driveway onto the raspberry and strawberry bed they are just barely poking through the top now. While I worry a little about the weight of the snow compacting the soil, I also know it will act as an insulator against the below zero weather we have from time to time in January/February.

The house covered in snow. With all the snow on the roof we can't quite tell if the sky-light in our room is leaking slowly or if the humidifier I've been running every night has been causing condensation to make everything wet. I've stopped the humidifier for now to see if it dries out. My fingers are crossed.

Gabe is going to have so much fun playing in the huge pile of snow that ends up on our lawn thanks to the snow plow. It is taller than I am at this point and will continue to grow if we don't get some hot weather soon. I can only imagine a nor'easter giving us another 2 to 3 feet on top of this base. I love winter for the contrast it gives and for its unique qualities. The spring will be so sweet when it comes this year.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Toxicodendron Vernix, a.k.a. Poison Sumac

In posting about poison sumac elsewhere, I realized that I had some photos of our sumac on my hard drive which I had never posted here.

These photos were taken in the summer.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter is for Planning

Okay, so planting bamboo in the front yard was a bad idea. It had the potential to go terribly wrong in a highly visible way, and the damage would have been very difficult to reverse. So, no bamboo.

Which leaves me with a big hole in the front yard.

But in afrghtenly timely manner, I stumbled across this site: a playground blog!

It would make so much more sense to build a play-space for Gabe!

The plan so far is to make a ring of mulched, open space, surrounded by beds of kid-safe plants.

Here is the current layout of our front yard:

And here is roughly what I would like to do:

More later! Gabe is in my lap and is getting impatient with me. Little does he know!

A Forum for Us Crazy Gardeners

Out of the blue I recieved an invitation to join the Wildlife Gardeners forums. The forum's emphasis is on (of course) wildlife, but also organic and native gardeneing. There is even a section on permaculture, and another on nature photography!

There isn't much traffic there yet, but it has great potential. And it beats the pants off of the previous gardening forums I had spent some time in. The biggest difference? The folks at Wildlife Gardeners actually do research. What a nice change from old-lady gardening, where you get wonderful assumptions such as "it grew in my yard, so it must be native!"

For giggles, I drew up a diagram of how to braid onions to share in their "Preserving the Harvest" section.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Return of the Ugly Bucket!

I love my new macro lens!

Hungry Deer

With all the snow on the ground, we can see what plants the deer have been visiting. I already knew that they liked an unidentified shrub in front of the house, a yew in back, and that they had sampled my saffron crocuses (which had never bloomed anyway, so no loss there.) But there were some other surprises, too.

The evergreen azalea was thoroughly nibbled on the sheltered side. Last year the deer didn’t touch it.

The deciduous azalea had been so thoroughly eaten last year that I was surprised when it recovered over the summer. So I’m not surprised that it was munched again. What surprises me is that the deer didn’t wait for it to put out leaves in the Spring.

This was the real surprise. The deer ate my holly bushes! Spines and all! I thought that evergreen holly was deer-proof. After all, holly is one of the few plants at my parents’ house that don’t get eaten by deer. Are we having a tough winter for deer here in New England?

I suppose if the deer are overpopulated this winter, it will be a good year for the coyotes.

It looks as if the deer also rang our doorbell while we were away.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Michelle's Snow-Day Photos

I took the new camera out for a try in the snowstorm. It was much more difficult than I expected. I'll need some practice in warmer, drier weather before I'll be really ready for the challenge of photographing snow.

Poison sumac berries:

The remnants of the witchhazel blossoms:

Sunset, the day after the storm, seen over an old bird's nest:

Learning in the Snow

The new camera is incredibly fun to play with, but at the same time it is also rather unforgiving. With the little Sony camera you pretty much know you're going to get something decent so long as you have good light. With the new Canon camera if you mess up your various settings you can totally botch a picture that should turn out beautifully. Michelle and I took yesterday's snow storm as a learning opportunity, and both went out and played around with the Macro lens.

This picture is of a door handle with snow piled up on top of it. All of the photos have been shrunk down to 25% of their original size to make them web friendly.

This picture is of some dead vines wrapped around a narrow bamboo stake.

The snow was rather heavy and wet so it stuck to even these thin thorny bush branches.

It is a little hard to see in this photo, but the two bottom panes of the windows on the shed have fallen out. I'm not sure exactly when it happened but I think the cold finally did in the edging. If we get some warmer weather I'll try and get them back in.

We couldn't stay out for very long even with the camera covered in a plastic bag as the snow was coming down really heavy. One of the lessons I learned from this set of pictures is that I need to f-stop up with the Macro lens or to much of the photo will be blurry. I look forward to many more pictures in the new year!

On a sour note I've been doing a lot of research into the Orphan Works Bill that is currently before Congress and already passed in the Senate. In all reality every photo on our blogs would be up for grabs by anyone who wanted to use them, or any of the text for that matter if this Bill should pass. While I can understand that it could have some positive applications by those that wouldn't abuse it, it is incredibly ripe for abuse. In reality it means anyone could use any photo on our blog for any purpose they want with some paperwork saying they couldn't find the owner of the photos or text for that matter. I really truly hope this bill doesn't pass in its current form.

I've read both versions in their entirety and it is no different than requiring all property owners to register every plant and tree on their property and every possession in their homes and offices at their own expense. Failing registration, they could all be taken freely so long as the thief checked to make sure the object wasn't registered, reported they took an un-registered item with documentation on their search, and labeled it as such in the pawn shop. These rules being followed the owner can of course sue the thief in order to recover the fair value of the taken item if they should find out about the theft, but the thief would not have to stop using the item or give it back. More importantly you could only file a lawsuit in federal court against the thief, which would cost at least several thousand dollars and you could not recover court costs from the thief making the lawsuit pointless. Truly disgusting.