Sunday, May 29, 2011

As seen from the windows. . .

See it?

Watch out for the hawks, snakey.

You aren't as hidden as you seem to think you are.

When Chris dived for the camera yelling what I though was a four-letter word. . .

. . .he was actually yelling "oh, FOX!"

One less bunny, too.

Other wildlife observed recently:

Salamanders under the log segments everywhere, even in Gabe's Garden.

A great horned owl hooting late one night.


A plague of squirrels, dining on nuts in the giant mulch mess.

A red tailed hawk eating a rabbit on a sidewalk on Martha's Vineyard.

The kik calls of a male Cooper's hawk letting his lady friend know his whereabouts.

Bunnies. In the yard. In Chris's garden. Chris is not pleased.

A black and white house cat in the yard, sauntering.

Crows, at the compost pile, as usual.

A snapping turtle at the side of the road, carried to the safe shade of poison ivy by a kindly old man who didn't lose a finger. It gave Gabe nightmares.

Blue jays in the yard. One of them screeches like a hawk.

A doe, on a drizzly day, spotted a block from home while pushing the little boy on his tricycle and carrying the baby in the mei tai. I have never seen a deer leap before. Impressive.

A chukar partridge, the size of a small turkey, seen from the window of a local coffee shop, swiftly identified by a group of regulars armed with ipads and smart phones. What is a chukar partridge doing this far from Asia, anyway? This one looked like it was waiting for a cab.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Planting Ramps

This is my new ramp patch. I know, I know, they're all flopped over and pathetic. But when I planted a dozen grocery store ramps last year, they did the same thing. The leaves tried to stand back up, but then quickly withered away when a drought rolled in. Then, half of them surprised me by putting up seed heads.

And then this season, half of them - perhaps the same plants that flowered last year - came back!

Look at what a cheapskate I am. Here, slumping ramps decorate the feet of a rescued rhododendron, which may or may not survive being ripped out of my neighbor's flowerbed.

I have planted perhaps eighty ramps so far this season. At $12 a pound, which is about 40 ramps, and a 50% success rate, I'm game. Especially since it keeps me from splurging at local nurseries, where I'm as likely to spend more on a single plant.

If I were planning ahead, I would order a few hundred ramp bulbs from the Ramp Farm, which is the only ramp farm in existence. But of course then I would have to wait until next year, when it's the time for shipping dormant bulbs. Or I would have to try seeds. Again.

Uh-uh. I require instant gratification. So I'll take my losses and support the local Whole Foods.

Tentacle Porn

Tell me, what do you see in this juniper? Is it dead spots of foliage? Orange flowers, strangely out of place? Some sort of flamboyant pine cone?

. . .or squid?

Or perhaps small, wet muppets?

There isn't much in the natural world that gives me the creeps, but this one has been added to my list. Just imagine for a minute that your skin blistered up into two-inch spherical nodules. Then one day, you got in the shower, and the moist air triggered the vile things to exude orange tentacles of goo.

Yeah, now you get to share my nightmares.

And now that I have caused you to regret eating breakfast, let me reassure you that this bizarre fungus is a plague only to apple orchard owners, and to those who prefer their shrubbery not to appear infested with sea anemones. It's called Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae; or, for the rest of us, "cedar apple rust".

If I could get over the creepy nature of such an organism, I would be fascinated by its parasitic life cycle, which requires alternating between junipers - which it festoons with tentacles - and apple trees - which it doesn't.

You are most likely to see this in the spring, in wet weather, where apple trees and native junipers are in close proximity. In this case, my neighbor has a small orchard, inherited from the farmer who used to own this land, and some standard suburban shrubbery. This is likely why her apple trees have such poor yields. I'll have to let her know - right after I finish yaking up breakfast.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Today I spent a half hour cleaning the woods of poison ivy. I picked up a deer tick for my trouble. I wish I knew which plants they tend to climb on. But I suppose if they are anything like the wood tick Gabe is looking at above, on our screen door, they'll climb whatever they find themselves at the foot of.

Really? The screen door? The inside of the screen door? You are one dumb bug.

I guess I've lost my energy for getting all squeamy when encountering ticks. The best I could muster was a tired sigh. I fetched a wood chip to carry the critter, and learned something new: playing with wood ticks is rather fun.

What amused me so was transferring the tick back and forth between the screen and wood chip. How easily the tick rolls from one surface to another! The way they grab on is somewhat like a monkey crossed with Velcro.

I'll be getting a poison ivy rash on my elbow in a few days, no doubt, since I let a vine smack me there. But I think it will be worth it. The infestation back there diminishes every year. Now if only I could say the same for the ticks.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Gardening for the Greater Good

If I seem to have fallen off the face of the earth with regards to posting on the blog, it is with good reason. I've been planning the build day for Franklin's first community garden along with my fellow committee members. That build day was today, and with an amazing group of volunteers we managed to finished 44 - 4'x10' raised beds that are roughly 2' tall working from around 9am to 3pm with a nice hail storm as a break.

The build has plenty of rough spots, but based on the results I feel like I did a pretty good job as the build leader. Not something I think I could handle every weekend, but oh so worth it seeing the design made real. I would like to send an extra special thank you to my lovely wife Michelle for letting me dedicate the time necessary to get this done. No small feat with a 2 year old and newborn at home. Thank you Michelle, I love you!

I captured a time lapse so you can see the whole day in about ten minutes. So much fun, so tired:)