Saturday, April 29, 2006

Cut and Slash

4-29-06 SHORT HILLS: Wow! This blog had 84 hits last week! At that rate It’ll hit one million in only 228 years or the year 2234, sooner if the rate increases.

Back in NJ for nice weather and more pruning and trimming. All the trees are in leaf except for white ash and locust who are always the last to open. The shrubs are all in leaf except for Rose of Sharon. Bamboo shoots are up about 6”. In a month or so they will be 25’ tall.

New blooms: lamium, lily of the valley, azalea, wild cherry, lilac, dandelion, wild mustard, barberry, two more viburnums, Carolina allspice.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


4-26-06 VERMONT: An exciting day for wildlife. In the area where I removed vegetative matter yesterday, I raked and seeded today and saw and probably woke up two spotted salamanders near an outcrop of schist. The pair of mallards were back on the pond which infuriates the dogs. And…while on the way to Lebanon to pick up the roto-tiller I saw a fox mom and one kit on the road half way between the two neighbors that have chickens. Very pretty, red coat and brush, black legs, white on the face. I guess it’s the same costume as those who hunt them on horses. Do they still do that? Then tonight on the way back from dinner with the Koreys at the Mex place in Lebanon, I saw the foxes again, four kits this time fighting on the side of the road over something will probably be dinner when they settle who gets what.

Otherwise, it was a cloudless sky, but cool and windy. I did all the tilling in about 3-4 hrs, found a lot of new rocks in the process, some two handers. All the ox poop was ground up into tiny pieces and mixed with the dirt. seeded the shady spot where grass won’t grow in frontof the porch-hope springs eternal in the spring. I finished the no brush area as mentioned above plus lots of little other things.

New blooms: a bit more forsythia is out and the magnolias are threatening.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Work, Work, Work

4-25-06 VERMONT: The skies finally cleared this evening after more rain last night and this afternoon. I repaired the mint cover in the pasture. I was going to move it to another area, but saw mint shoots underneath so decided to leave it down for another season. I shoveled a lot of ox poop from the pasture to the vegetable garden site. I know discussion of that will make one reader pleased. Tomorrow I have a roto-tiller reserved to work all that ox excrement into the soil. I can taste the tomatoes already. Then I straighten up some fence posts. It is easy work now because the ground is still soft.

I also cut down and removed a bunch of low growing vegetative matter to open up an area of the yard, but I can’t say, “I was clearing brush.” You all know why.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Fence Mending

4-24-06 VERMONT: As of this morning there was 1.4” rain for the preceding 36 hrs. Today was overcast, cool and threatening but dry enough to get in a day of work. I put out all the garden bed fence guards, did some rock repair around the pond and filled a few holes. I found a small web worm nest on one of the named apple trees. It seems early for them; they were all tiny; in a month they will be big, fat and juicy. I peeled them all off with a stick and spread them on the grass for the birds to enjoy. Now it is raining again.

New blooms: none.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Time Travel

4-23-06 VERMONT: The trip to Vermont from NJ in the spring gives me the feeling of traveling backwards in time. I left a yard with trees in leaf, daffodils finishing up, red bud newly opened and azaleas about to start and arrived here to find a few daffodils and forsythia just beginning. It is in the forties and raining. It feels like March in NJ. There has been about an inch of rain since I arrived and more coming. Parts of the yard are deep mud; the clean up needs to be done again. The ponds are unfrozen and the small pond has lots of frog eggs. I saw only one lonely newt in the big pond. The pasture has some grass growing and the oxen are busy eating it. Some of the apple trees that had their bark chewed off by those same oxen are showing bud growth, but others are not, at least so far. I filled the bear feeders and the chickadees were there within an hour.

In bloom: daffodil, forsythia, red trillium, pachysandra and primrose. Red trillium has ‘wake robin’ as a common name, evocative, but the robins have already been here and working for weeks.

Intrepidly, I worked in the rain, appropriately attired, doing clean up and fertilizing shrubs and flowers, or at least the spots were the flowers will be or, rather, may be later. For those who are involved, the bat is gone.
The day before I came up here was great. I had a geology class trip to western NJ and saw some very nice formations and in the evening we went to the Met to see the new production of Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale”.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Snip, Snip, Snip

4-20-06 SHORT HILLS: First day in the 80’s. I spent it in the bushes doing more pruning. One more car load of cuttings to the dump. I hope everyone is fascinated with these details, but what else could possibly be more interesting?

New blooms: snowball Viburnum, the first of about four kinds we have here and grape hyacinth.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Apotheosis of Spring

4-19-06 SHORT HILLS: We’re back after a weekend trip to San José. Jon, Eoin and Joey were coughing all weekend. It rained both days and was colder than here. The red-eye ruins me for about 2 days even when I “sleep”.

In NJ there is no rain, they have it all in California. Perhaps a lot of rain one place means drought has to be happening somewhere else.

New blooms: apple tree and dogwood both starting. Together they are the apotheosis of spring, with lilacs of course. The later daffodils are so eye catching. how could any pollinator resist? I’ll post a bouquet.

Yesterday I did a lot of pruning and took two Subaru loads of dead wood to the dump including four rhododendrons. I hope this entry gets by the editor.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

More work

4-13-06 SHORT HILLS: Today the gardeners were here and did some clean up. I limed the lawn area, mostly dirt with tufts of grass, fertilized with HollyTone for the acidophilic shrubs and generic 10-10-10 fertilizer for the flowers and other shrubs. Judy spread grass seed. An acceptable lawn is an impossibility with four big dogs. Tomorrow brings a class trip and then off to San José for the weekend.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fence Mending

4-12-06 SHORT HILLS: Another pretty day with the promise of rain tonight. I started spreading HollyTone, started siphoning water from the pool which was nearly full after the winter rain and snow even though the precip was so light. I also tested all the sprinklers and did small repairs to three heads, fixed a hose and watered a few dry looking shrubs. The fence company was here this morning and replaced some poles and many rails.

New blooms: trout lily and quince.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Spring Marches On

4-11-06 SHORT HILLS: Today was a spring-like spring day. It was 70º, sunny, balmy with a slight breeze. I was in Brooklyn early to help finish Val’s shed and give a Rocks lecture to the Packer School 1st grade. Lucy was thrilled.

New blooms: marsh marigold, bloodroot, Virginia blue bell and saucer magnolia.

Monday, April 10, 2006

4-10-06 SHORT HILLS: Now this looks more like spring. In bloom: daffodil, crocus, anemone, squill, violet, vinca minor, packasandra, claytonia, and dandelion on the ground and bushes-forsythia, spice and andromeda. Elsewhere in town pear and cherry trees are out. There has been some rain, and now it is warmer. Time to get out in the yard.

More Snow

Someone from Australia commented on the snow. We have plenty of that. Here's one from a few years ago of the three rail fence and the road beyond. This pix was taken in April, 2001.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Winter's Revenge

4-4-06 VERMONT: Did I say spring? Today we have 1” of new, fresh, white snow and more coming. It’s in the 20’s. The pond was 75% thawed but is now 100% ice covered again. There was a pair of Mallards exploring the pond before it refroze. The birds are swarming the feeders. We are hosting chickadee, nuthatch, junco, dove, sparrows and a red squirrel. The robins are disdainful of the feeders. Winter here doesn’t surrender until late May.

Fortunately the new furnace was installed today and is pumping out hot air. I am resisting the impulse to make a comparison between the furnace and a person, notice no names have been mentioned. You know who you are.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The joys of Spring in Thetford

4-2-06 VERMONT: The survivors did another ski day on the 30th at Mt. Sunapee. It was an easier trip and the girls loved the skiing. Maggie was skiing blue trails by the end of the day. The Sunapee and Loon are comparable in difficulty and size.

The weather was quite warm during the days until yesterday when we had a rainstorm followed by cold front. Today is windy, sunny and in the 40’s. The rain was welcome as we are down about 5” from the dry winter. The snow is gone except for the piles under the eaves. Those piles often last until almost May, but this year they will be gone in a few days.

The pond has started to melt. It melts first at the shoreline and extends inward. Now we have about 5 feet of open water around the sides and a floating ice island in the middle. The island is inhabited by tennis balls abandoned on the ice by our masters the dogs. We do not understand why they did that, but we do not question their actions. On a windy day like today, the wind pushes the island back and forth across the pond.

Around the edges of the pond, now that we can see the bottom, there are dozens of crayfish shells, partial shells actually, indicating that someone, raccoon or otter, had a lobster fest before the pond froze last fall. Around the base of the pine trees many of the cones are torn up, somebody else had a pine nut feast, squirrel, raccoon, opossum or porcupine or all of the above.

I spent today doing yard and garden clean up. First I did the driveway. The snow plowers always push a lot of gravel with the snow down the driveway and off the wall at the end. I gathered it up and raked it back in place. Then I played pick-up-sticks and leaves and pinecones. It came to about ten wheelbarrows full, and it all took about 7 hours. It doesn’t sound like so much, but my back thinks it was a big job.

A lot of the yard above the pond is usually wet from drainage off the hillside. Now that water, which is still frozen, is causing huge frost heaves. Huge meaning ridges of sod covered ice raised up to 10 or 12 inches above ground level. When you walk on these ridges they crack as the ice breaks underfoot. The turf can slide across the surface like a small area rug on a polished floor. Where the ice has melted the surface it more liquid than solid. Tree roots can be heaved out of the soil. I will post a few pix when I have broadband access.

The only things in bloom are the snow drops. Daffodils and daylilies are up about an inch. Shrubs and trees show swelling buds, but real spring action seems a long way off. How’s that for a juicy diary posting?