Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, Readers.

11-26-08 SHORT HILLS: And another week slipped by. We both had nasty, gummy colds, probably from spending an hour with the kindergarten class and an hour with the second graders in San José, plus flying to California and back. We are now recovered and ready for flu season.

The yard is finished for the winter. All the leaves are down and most of them are in the street getting picked up by the town even as I blog. I had the gardeners leave some leaves in the yard and pile them on the many muddy areas in an attempt to prevent the dogs from tracking it into the house. We’ll see if that works any better than the usual feeble efforts at mud control.

I said that all the leaves were down, actually the pear trees still have about half their leaves and some of them are still green. They win for this season as the longest lived leaves.

We had some distinctly cold weather last week. There was one day when the temperature didn’t get above the freezing point. This week is warmer and rainy. A few forsythia blossoms opened.

We go to Alison’s on Long Island for Turkey Day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Round Trip to San José.

11-19-08 SHORT HILLS: Wow! I missed the whole week, and somehow the world survived. I came back to NJ a week ago yesterday, a week ago tomorrow we flew to San José for our fall visit to the left coasters. We checked the suitcase full of rocks for the geology lectures to the kindergartners and second graders. Checking luggage slows travel—you heard it here first. The second graders were very attentive.

The weather in the bay area was beautiful, clear skies, eighties, no fires. We got to see the Tornadoes play soccer. They lost a close game that went down to the wire, but only the parents seemed upset about the loss. Joey plays well and has a feel for the game. The house renovation project continues.

Soccer like it outta be.

Back in NJ, I have been picking fallen tree branches out of the shrubs. This dead fall is probably from the wind storm that delayed out return flight on Sunday.

All our leaves are down. Usually the holdouts, oak, beech, redwood, some maples, keep their leaves until the beginning of December so mid-November is unusually early. An early fall was predicted in these columns back in August—check it out. Too bad I couldn't predict the other recent fall.

Before the leaves came down, intertwined burning bush and black chokecherry.

Birds in a 'V' or an 'L' or a '7'.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More Winterizing.

11-10-08 VERMONT: I go back to NJ tomorrow for our fall trip to San José on Thursday. I am scheduled to give a Geology lecture to both Eoin’s and Joey’s classes on Friday. I’ll need Wednesday to pack the rocks.

So, today was busy here. I finished winterizing the garden beds, I repaired the wire fence, I inspected all the “POSTED” signs, Judy, some needed re-stapling and others needed replacing. Being in the woods, I wore an orange cap even though the hunters are all at work on a Monday morning. I filled some gopher holes in the gardens and spread MoleMax on all the beds. Then I blew the leaves out of the driveway and away from the sides of the garage and the last few that accumulated on the lawn under the willow and apple trees and under the big viburnum.

Tomorrow morning I’ll squirt foam in some new holes in the field stone cellar walls. I saw daylight through the walls a few days ago in the NE corner of the old house.

Today we had sun, clouds and two squalls, both with snow, but one with hail as well, a rare treat.

Stone Walls on Display with the Gardens Cut Back.

Snow Squall.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Stone Walls.

11-9-08 VERMONT: It continues to rain every day. We have had another 0.4 inches in the rain gauge. Today was partly sunny, but colder, in the forties instead of the sixties. I have almost finished the bed clean-up, everything looks so neat. With the gardens cleared of the seasonal debris, all the stone walls re-emerge, but will soon be hidden again by snow.

Another Pretty Sky.

Friday, November 07, 2008

It's Not Just Cut and Slash.

11-7-08 VERMONT: I came up yesterday to finish closing the gardens for the winter. There have been a couple hard frosts, and most of the perennials are dormant. Since we left in mid-October there has been 3.9 inches of rain, the pond is full and draining. Fish, newts, frogs are still active. Today was warm enough to work outside in a T-shirt. I cut down all the dead shoots and stems from the beds behind the new house and raked it all up and carted it all to the compost area. The cuttings were quite wet and heavy.

This operation is not just cut and slash, one had to avoid cutting down the new little biennials, hollyhocks, foxglove, for example, that will be next years flowers, or perennials like primrose and hellebore that already have next years plants out waiting to bloom in the spring. Other perennials like peonies need to be cut to the ground because the stalks are usually infected with fungus.

If you wait until spring to do this, you damage the new shoots popping up. In the spring the snow pack melts back slowly exposing a little more of the beds each day, depending on sun exposure. The open parts of the beds get way ahead of the still snow covered parts making the clean up difficult. Some beds are way ahead of other beds making you spread the clean up over weeks, and making you go back to a particular bed several times as it opens up.

Early this morning, I was watching birds in the crab apple tree outside our bedroom window. The goldfinches were in their gray winter outfits and hanging out with the evening grosbeaks, as they often do. Doves were also in the tree. They were all eating the little apples. Robins are still around and are also big little apple eaters. One tree has been picked clean.

Two feral apple trees, one with yellow fruit and one with red.

When the leaves are down, vistas open up.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Day.

11-5-08 SHORT HILLS: Barak always says exactly the right thing with the right tone, inflection and nuance. He is the first president since JFK with the ability to move and inspire with his words. McCain made a nice concession speech.

Yesterday afternoon I spent two or three hours at Obama HQ in Maplewood, NJ, with lots of other volunteers, phoning seniors, some of them younger than I, to GOTV and see if they needed rides or help getting to the polls. Most of the ones I actually spoke to had already voted. [I did hours of phoning for Obama the last few weeks, most calls just go to voice mail.] The mood at the HQ, in a union office on Springfield Ave, was hopeful, but anxious about converting the lead in the polling to a lead in votes cast.

Tuesday afternoon, Judy did a canine therapy visit to Covenant House in Newark.

“nick and i were in newark yesterday afternoon, to visit covenant house. martin luther king blvd was electric. there were obama signs covering lamp posts and trees. young people were on every street corner with signs and banners, waving and shouting "yes we can." cars were honking. the crowd gathered outside corey booker's ward hdqtrs was massive and animated. it was thrilling. everyone from covenant house had voted and they were energized and optimistic, for obama and themselves.”

I knew he would win when Indiana and Virginia were too close to call, but it was nice to see the west coast come in as predicted. It was exhilarating. Donna from Vermont agreed:

“Double Hooray! I'm in Cambridge with Ellen and Derek enroute home from London. We watched the returns together, and celebrated with champagne when the victory was announced, and even called Bruce in London where he was wide awake and very excited! I then went to bed to the sounds of celebration in Harvard Square. What an exciting, historic moment for all of us in this USA.......”

In the fifties and sixties, both political parties spanned the political spectrum. The Dem’s were a bit to the left of the GOP, but they both had liberals and conservatives who fought with each other within the parties. I remember a NYT Magazine article arguing that the two parties were not merely mirror images of each other. The presidential candidates: Truman, Dewey, Eisenhower, Stevenson, Nixon, Kennedy, were all centrists. The Republicans owned New England, mostly, and the Democrats owned the South. Republicans moved to the right with Goldwater in ’64 and the Democrats to the left after the riots in Chicago in ’68 with McGovern in ‘72.

The country re-aligned itself into the present Red-Blue as the parties changed to liberal vs. conservative. The nominees, especially the legislators, moved to the fringes instead of being centrists, creating and reflecting the ideological divide that presently splits us as a nation.

Will Barack, can he, bridge the fault line and be a unifier? He did change some red states to blue, at least for yesterday, but that may just reflect the demographic changes in those states, the economic crisis, and a swing of the political pendulum back to the left in reaction to the W debacle.

Can he? I think he can.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Souls Day.

11-1-08 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday we went to Val’s place on Garden Place in Brooklyn Heights for the Halloween extravaganza. Most of the brownstones are decorated, some lavishly ghoulish, and most of the stoops are populated with costumed folks doling out hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pieces of candy. Val’s stoop was decorated with our cornstalks and sunflower stalks and our pumpkins, all carved and arranged by Mr. Steve. Mr. Steve was in formal dress as Tony Curtis escorting Lucy as Marilyn from “Some Like It Hot”, Maggie was a beatnik. The costumes were the usual Spidermen and Supermen, lots of Jokers, Angels, Dorothy's, Fairy Princesses, firemen and Star Wars folks, plus some topicals and a hot dog, a pizza, a kitchenette and traditional ghosts and goblins. It starts at dusk and is over by 7:30.

Val's Stoop during a lull-an opportunity to refill your glass.

Joe the Plumber, in the lower center, converses with a pirate on his cell, while a short, wingéd creature listens.

The Obama HQ was abuzz today, there were maybe a hundred volunteers, usually there are a dozen, phoning, making signs, getting instructions for canvassing and assisting at the polls. The crowd was chaotic, but enthusiastic. There were kids, eating candy from last night, and a group milling around of totally diverse NJ Democrats intent on winning this year. We need early voting in NJ.

After the cold spell, we have sunny and warm days predicted through the election.

New blooms: witch hazel.