Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where's the Lamb?

3-30-11 SHORT HILLS: Today was the warmest of the week. The last two days were cold with a biting wind, even if sunny. It clouded up tonight and the weather radar shows a new storm approaching, possibly with snow. The snow we have is slowly, slowly melting.

The cold weather has frozen Spring in its tracks. All the flowers poised to bloom—daffodils, forsythia, spice bush, squill, to name a few—have just not moved for days. If you think about it, it makes sense. The point of flowers is to attract pollinators, and the bugs, most pollinators are insects, don’t hatch out or circulate on these harsh days. So the flowers, apparently temperature sensitive, are waiting for better days for the pollinators.

New blooms: on hold....

Here's the Andromeda that I mentioned in the last post.

A couple more quilts, both feather patterns. Check out the stitching work.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Quilt Collection.

3-27-11 SHORT HILLS: We both drove down yesterday, and both had nice, uneventful trips. Having left the Arctic behind, we were a bit surprised to see as much new snow here as there is. We were plowed again and have about 25% of the yard covered with an inch or two. It is cold, sunny and windy here.

New blooms: andromeda, vinca minor, more crocus.

Today we went to NYC. We had lunch on Montague St. in Brooklyn Heights with Val, Maggie and Lucy, then walked the Promenade and visited the six new piers on the East River below the Promenade being developed for recreation. The project will be wonderful recapturing of the shore line for peoples’ use since all the shipping has moved to Newark and Elizabeth. The harbor is so busy with ferries and helicopters and commercial shipping and all the bridges and that special statute, you don’t know where to look first.

Judy and I went to the Park Avenue Armory, back in Manhattan, for a huge show of quilts. The show was sponsored by the American Folk Art Museum and displayed the collection of Joanna S. Rose. There are 650 quilts, all red and white, mostly from the 19th Century. The Armory has a huge display space and most of the quilts were hanging in circular arrangements. Each piece was unique and beautifully crafted, but the effect of the massed hanging is stunningly dramatic. The show is there until Wednesday if you can do it.

Each of the hanging quilts that you see is backed by a different one. Below are a couple of many I thought were special.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


3-24-11 VERMONT: It’s been colder, and the snow has remained and stayed firm enough to comfortably walk around on, in snowshoes, of course. Val and Lucy are back in Brooklyn Heights, and Judy and I are figuring out how long to stay in snowland.

Judy, BTW, had a letter published in the NYT Science Section on Tuesday. Here’s the link:
I have written the NYT, perhaps a dozen times, and never gotten more than a ‘thanks for your interest’. Judy’s letter was, of course, edited to a shadow of its original self.

Across the road, they’re boilin’, turning sugar maple sap into syrup. It takes 100 gallons of sap, collected in the buckets hanging on the taps in the trees and then carried to the sugar house, to make 2.5 gallons of syrup. The sap, looking like water, is poured into the tank on the side of the sugar house from where it feeds by gravity into the maze of a large, compartmentalized, rectangular pan heated by a long, wood-fired stove called an ‘arch’. The sap moves through the sections of the pan, boiling as it goes, pushed along by the inflow of more sap. At the other end of the maze, the syrup is decanted when it has reached the right specific gravity and temperature. They boil at a rate of 25 gallons per hour. The process turns a lot of water into steam and a lot of wood into smoke, both of which are wafting out of the sugar house. Their excellent syrup is branded as ‘Winter Ridge’, but you probably won’t find it very far from Thetford, VT.

Lots of buckets and steam and smoke to make a little syrup. A sugar house has a huge cupola with sides that open to let the steam out and a chimney for the smoke.

The collecting tank is on the gable end of the sugar house.

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Snow.

3-21-11 VERMONT: Every day is different. Yesterday, after a cold night, the snow was solid again, and snowshoeing was fun and easy and the dogs were running around on top. The day was bright sun, and we were out in the pasture for quite a while. Val and Lucy arrived in the afternoon and Lucy was saucering down the frozen hillside and across the pond with Gus as escort. Later she got too close to the pond drain, which was flowing, and broke through the ice, getting wet to the waist. She said it was more than refreshing.

Today, after the passage of the Vernal Equinox, we awoke to overcast skies and new snow, about an inch an hour, five inches so far. The sun is now back in the northern hemisphere, our days are now longer than our nights, more so the farther north we happen to be. Now we push on to the Summer Solstice, hoping that some of the snow may have melted by then.

New blooms: snowdrops [almost].

These guys don't need a calendar, just a gap in the snow. If you look closely, there's a new columbine leaf and a new violet leaf.

Flying Saucer and Occupant.

New white out.

Snow drops on Snowdrops.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mud Season.

3-19-11 VERMONT: Yesterday was even warmer, and I went skiing. The snow was soft, of course, but the warm, pleasant day had other skiers in t-shirts. There was a lot of thawing and melting, our snow pack is down maybe five inches. The snow that I walked on top of a few days back is now mush. Even with snowshoes, it is a slog getting around the pasture. The dogs were breaking through every other step and then used my snowshoe tracks.

The road was barely passable yesterday. The roads are messy, muddy, ridged, rutted, pot-holed and puddled. Last night was cold again and things stiffened up. The ruts are axle deep in wet spots. The town grader was here yesterday, but all he did was push the mud around. Any benefit was lost with the first car to go by. The art of driving means picking the driest spots and zig-zagging right or left to try and stay on top of the ridges. When you slide into the ruts, just keep going and hope the AWD gets you through. Fortunately the traffic is very light, only local folks dare these roads now.

Signs of Spring: Sap Buckets and Mud.

Muddy Ruts and Ridges.

The Third Rail Reappears.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Wearin' o' the White.

3-17-11 VERMONT: It’s St. Pat’s Day, but Vermont is wearing the white not the green. I came up yesterday and saw patches of snow in CT, sparse cover in MA, but in VT—lots of snow. There’s so much snow on the ground that half of our garage is inaccessible. The plow piles and piles under the eaves are huge, but there’s 18 inches of snow around the house and covering the pasture.

Sam, Chloe and I walked around this morning staying on top of the frozen snow. I broke through a couple of times and was in up to my knee each time. That’s an excellent technique for getting a boot full of snow. The taps and buckets are out on all the sugar maples. Across the road they were boiling yesterday. It smelled like wood-smoke and syrup.

It’s warm, 50’s, and sunny today, and I cleared some of the snow from the deck. In addition to the accumulation of fallen snow, the deck catches the snow falling off the east side of the roof. The snow, falling two stories, lands with a house-shaking thud and gets compacted and heavy. I cut it into two foot square chunks and slide them off the deck through gates in the railing put there for that purpose.

Deck with snow, open gate.

Plenty of snow above and below that wall. The bell post is three feet tall.

No room on this park bench.

If the buckets are out, it must be March.

Monday, March 14, 2011

J. C., Beware the Ides!

3-14-11 SHORT HILLS: The last patch of snow was down to an ice cube yesterday, a wet spot this morning and is now dried up. A month ago I couldn’t see over the top of the pile. It’s a metaphor for the housing market, investment portfolios or your own favorite disaster. Speaking of disasters, lots of houses in NJ are still underwater, and flooding problems persist, too.

Today was cold, overcast, gusty and uncomfortable—March. Actually there were a few flakes in the air this morning. Yesterday was a bit more pleasant, and I moved a few small plants around. Judy would say, “Re-accessorizing.” I moved a Star-of-Bethlehem out of the lawn area to a bed, I put some Rose-of-Sharon shoots and a small blueberry into the damaged area. Vermont later this week.

New blooms: lots more crocus.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Time to Build an Ark.

3-11-11 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday we had another soaker that dumped another 2.25 inches of rain. That totals to 4.8 inches—more than 10% of our yearly predicted rainfall in one week. Needless to say, the yard is a quagmire again. The temperature got into the fifties today and the snow piles are now just little patches. All over the state and the Northeast there are flooded towns.

On the ninth I bought two Japanese flowering cherry trees, Prunus serrulata ‘kwanzan’, at Home Depot and planted them today in the area where we lost the spruces. The loss of the spruce trees, which were huge, has given us s patch of sunlight that I will fill with small flowering trees, perhaps six. There are already colonizers there, ash tree shoots, viburnum, spice bushes, burning bushes which will take off as will three English holly volunteers, forsythia and hemlock and Douglas fir and rhododendrons, leucothoe and a large boxwood. After the plantings, I finished the Holly-Tone fertilizing of the acidophilic shrubs.

The forsythia canes and buds are getting yellowish and wild strawberry leaves and claytonia shoots are poking up out of the soggy ground.

New blooms: crocus.

Crocus slowly cracking a smile.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Flower Stampede Begins.

3-8-11 SHORT HILLS: We did get a big rain, 2.55 inches. The sump pump was very busy, but the basement stayed dry. The temps were in the fifties during the rain, and so the snow piles have dwindled considerably.

Yesterday was cooler, and the yard was a quagmire after the rain so I did clean-up and pruning around the driveway, accumulating enough for a dump run with the debris.

Today I was back in the yard doing more pruning and made two trips to the dump with bamboo, boxwood, rhododendron and juniper winter kill. I oiled and adjusted gates and fertilized more rising spring bulbs.

New blooms: spring snowflake, crocus [almost].

Spring Snowflake, Lercojum vernum, is related to the Snowdrop, Galanthus, both are in the Amaryllis family. This one has six petals instead of three and each one is adorned with a green-yellow dot. Look back a few days for pix of Snowdrops.

Early Crocus is threatening. Sometimes I think I like them better in the bud stage.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Apps for the Yard.

3-5-11 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday was in the thirties with a sharp breeze, but sunny. I spread lime, Ca and Mg Carbonate—just like OsCal and Tums, but cheaper by the big bag. I put 80 pounds on what passes for lawn. Then I did the Holly-Tone to all the acidophilic plants, over 100 pounds, but came up a bit short. After four hours, I came in with cold hands and feet.

Today, sixties and partly sunny, feels like, what’s that word—oh yeah, Spring. I did fertilizing of the non-acidophilic shrubs and plants, so far using about 50 pounds of generic 10-10-10. By mid-afternoon today, viburnum buds were getting green. I did more clean-up of dead fall in trees and shrubs and starting pruning winter kill. Heavy rain predicted for tomorrow should help all the fertilizer and lime soak in. I put out the rain gauge.

Little by little the shrubs around the driveway are freeing themselves from the icy grip of the plow piles. There are lots of broken branches, but the shrubs will probably end up fine.

Snowdrop. That yellow-green ball in the center is what becomes the new bulb.

Snowdrops are popping up all over the yard.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Trees Know What Time It Is.

3-2-11 SHORT HILLS: We are 99% snow free, not counting the piles in the driveway. It took a couple warmish days and some rain. Now we have mud and sticks. All those wind storms left the yard covered with sticks, branches, limbs, twigs and wood chips and chunks where the spruce trees came down. Today started out as sunny, but is now overcast and windy with a freeze predicted for tonight.

I counted rings on the spruce stumps. The smaller one, 18 inches in diameter, had about 75 rings. The larger stump was almost three feet in diameter. The rings were harder to read because the stump was split in several places, all opposite from the wind direction, but there were probably not a whole lot more than about 80 rings. The center 3 inches was rotted. The outer most rings were a half inch in thickness.

I have started clean-up, pulling broken branches out of the shrubs and breaking up the big pieces for mulch.

The tops of the elm tree, birches and maples are showing a little orange or reddish color and the buds are swelling. Daffodil and crocus shoots are visible.

New blooms: more snowdrops.

The top of a red maple, the red doesn't show, but the buds are busy.

The top of our elm, seen through other trees, those fat blobs are the elm buds. They'll be open a week.