Monday, October 31, 2011

Unseasonal Storm.

10-30-11 SHORT HILLS: This weekend storm has been a disaster for us and worse for others. We got five inches of heavy, slushy snow after an initial hour of rain. The trees that had given up their foliage—ash and walnut were fine. The trees that were still in leaf took a beating. Our elm lost several large branches as did the sweet gum, Norway maple, red maples, oaks. Some of the broken stuff is still hanging on the trees. Smaller trees are bent double. Shrubs are flattened and broken. Most of the evergreens had only minor damage, but the driveway junipers were again badly beaten up. it wasn’t that the storm was so intense, but that it happened in the wrong season. In January, it would have been ho-hum because the trees would have been leafless, and the cold would have meant dryer, less damaging snow. Other parts of NJ got as much as 19 inches.

We were actually down the shore yesterday, in Lavalette with Bob and Chris to see their new beach house. It was raining in the morning when we left Short Hills, and the snow wasn’t supposed to start until evening. At the shore it was all rain and wind. Our dog sitter called in mid-afternoon to say that he couldn’t get to the house to feed and walk the pack so we left immediately to return home. About halfway up the Garden State Parkway, we were in the snow, thicker and thicker as we went on. There were trees down, cars skidded off the road and accidents, but we made it back without incident. [Subaru rules.] Short Hills has many trees down, wires down, roads closed, schools to be closed. We have power, but no phone, cable or internet. Climate change, anyone?

I did some pruning in the driveway this afternoon, but decided to wait for the snow to clear before doing any more clean up. Today was sunny, clear and in the forties, and snow began to melt.

10-31-11 SHORT HILLS: It’s sunny again and supposed to be in the mid-fifties today. That would be great. There was actually some melting yesterday. We still have no Comcast connection, so no internet, no TV, no phones. Judy tried four different books last night, found them all wanting and declared that she was addicted to TV. I am trying to post from Starbucks—thanks for the wifi. Halloween tonight, if anyone forgot, some local towns have postponed it due to the downed wires, etc. We are supposed to go to Garden Place for the festivities.

Blowin' sand, blowin' surf.

The mess in our yard. The bamboo will bounce back, but the sweet gum tree took a mauling.

Lots of damage around town.

Leaves + snow = problem.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

'The Big Year.'

10-27-11 SHORT HILLS: We have another rainy day and frost warnings in NJ for the first time this season.

I saw, by myself, ‘The Big Year’, that movie about birding with Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. I loved it. The movie has had mediocre reviews that complained that it wasn’t funny enough and that the plot was predictable. While that may be partly true, the point, for me, was about the great shots of the birds and the remote places one may go to see them. I thought the compulsive, competitive behavior of the birders was secondary to the gorgeous cinematography. The reviewers missed the point. I give it two talons up.

The still photos in Rotten Tomatoes, 14 of them, show none of the birds, only actors. What's up with that?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hedera helix Redux.

10-25-11 SHORT HILLS: We had a brief shower last night with only trace accumulation, maybe we’re returning to a more normal precip pattern. I have been busy at garden chores, pruning, straightening flagstone paths, weeding.

Bette responded to the English ivy, Hedera helix, post and recounted her adventures pulling and sawing to get it off her fence and house. It is considered an invasive nuisance in lots of places. In Oregon it’s sale or import is banned.

The flowering is still going with lots of busy bees buzzing the tree and ivy. The dark blue berries won’t ripen until later in the winter when the berries will be enjoyed by the birds.

Here is the trunk of the black pine and the 'trunk' of the ivy embracing it.

The whole pine and its companion. The pine seems none the worse for carrying the ivy.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sun Sinks South.

10-21-11 SHORT HILLS: The last rain left us with another 1.15 inches. Today is overcast, in the fifties with little wind. It’s supposed to be dry for the next few days.

We are now about one month past the Automnal Equinox and the sun is halfway, almost 12° south of the Equator, on its way to the Winter Solstice when it will be 23.5° south of the Equator. From the northern hemisphere viewpoint, the nadir of its excursion from Tropic to Tropic. Two months ago, August 21, or so, the sun was 12° north of the Equator. This dramatic N-S change contrasts with the long dwell time in each hemisphere, N in summer and S in winter, that lasts four months each. That’s why it’s getting cold and dark.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Ivy is at It.

10-19-11 SHORT HILLS: Another rainy day, they just keep coming. We had dinner with Anna and Dylan at L’Absinthe on E. 67th St last night and afterwards walked over to visit their sub-let. A nice post-prandial jaunt. The trip in was hellish—the GWB was backed up so drivers diverted to the tunnels to cross the Hudson, and the tunnels got backed up as a consequence. At the restaurant, the decor and food were excellent, but it's a bit pricey.

Tonight we’re taking Soibhan to Ninety Acres in Peacack-Gladstone, NJ. She is here on business for J&J.

The other day, while emptying the rain gauge once again, I noticed a swarm of pollinators buzzing around the upper reaches of a black pine. The tree is swaddled in English ivy, and the ivy is in bloom. The ivy, a common, evergreen gound-cover, spreads itself pretty quickly, especially in shade and will climb trees. It doesn’t like drought, not a problem this year. Unfortunately the deer eat it.

Seeing it flower is a relative rarity and only happens when it is established on a tree. The flower is totally non-descript, but attracts loads of bees and other flying pollinators, although I can't smell anything. The fertilized flowers will produce berries. The leaves lose their familiar, pointed lobes and become oval when in reproductive mode.

New blooms: English ivy.

Two pix of the buds, flowers and developing berries. Note the oval shaped leaf and lots of pollinators.

The round buds, at the top of the pic, open to flowers with stamens, middle and lower.

The fertilized flowers lose the stamens and petals and will become berries.

Contrast the leaf with pointed lobes on the ground with the oval leaves above.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Berry Quiz.

10-17-11 SHORT HILLS: We had more rain, but just a trace, it’s sunny and windy today. So many of the shrubs and trees have berries this time of year. I started to count the ones in the yard, but decided to make it a quiz. The pix are numbered and the answers are listed at the end. Other berry formers have finished during the summer like most viburnums, dogwood, spice bush to name a few.

1. An easy one to start, notice the foliage.

2. An evergreen.

3. Another evergreen.

4. A little harder. Deciduous shrub.

5. Another deciduous shrub, notice the leaf color.

6. Deciduous shrub with thorns.

7. Also deciduous, and dramatic color.

8. Again deciduous, orange leaves in a few weeks.

Answers: 1. yew, 2. Asian holly, 3. English holly, 4.winterberry holly, 5. burning bush, 6. barberry, 7. pretty berry, 8. black chokeberry. Tell me how you do, I'll list the winners.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The High Line.

10-15-11 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday and the previous night had all the dogs in a panic as a series of electric storms swept past us bringing us tropical air and 1.1 inches of rain. Today it’s cool again, sunny but very windy.

We went to NYC to walk the High Line. The High Line is a section of abandoned elevated railway that serviced the west side of Manhattan before trucks took over the transporting work of running the city’s business. As it fell into disuse weeds, grass, shrubs and finally trees grew up along the route and neighborhood folks used it as a traffic free walkway. When it was scheduled for demolition, local activists intervened to get it designated as a park and refurbished. Now there are walkways, restaurants, overlooks, several entries, great views of the west side and Hudson River, bird houses, lots of native plantings and lots of people. It runs from about 14th St to 34th St west of 10 Ave. An extension to about 40th St along the river is planned. We breezed in and out of the city and walked the dogs on our return.

New blooms: witchhazel.

Grasses and Peoples.

Railroad tracks still there.
Skyline with the ESB on 34th St.
Hudson River and NJ on the other side. There's a sail boat out there.

Plants, people and building co-existing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street.

If anyone is looking for a demo op, here's the map for today's events. It's raining in NYC, but must be sunny enough other places. The police intervention in NYC was postponed! Effect of the Move On petition?

Pick your place.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Rains Are Back.

10-13-11 SHORT HILLS: The rains are back. We had 0.3 inches yesterday with more to come after a dry week. A brief and much needed dry spell.

On the trip to NJ from VT, we decided that the color was peak in southern VT and almost there in northern MA. The maples seem to be turning earlier than usual even here in NJ.

We brought the bumper pumpkin crop [try saying that three times fast] to NJ for the customer to pick up. Customer, you know who your are. I anticipate bowls of salted, roasted pumpkin seeds.

Bumper Crop.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Road Trip.

10-10-11 VERMONT: Another gorgeous, warm day. This morning I painted the new trim and most of the old trim around the back door of the old mudroom. Changed the water filters, turned off the outside water and did a few other seasonal chores.

This afternoon we went looking for color. We drove north on I-95 to Peachum, VT, about 40 miles. Peachum is a beautiful small New England hillside town with all the usual features—white church, cemetery, general store, farms, fences, dirt roads, cows. The color was good on the highway, but past peak at Peachum. We headed west to Danville, Cabot, Joe’s Pond, Plainfield and Montpelier, then picked up I-89 and came south to Sharon and then home. The color is peak here now and heading south. And we go south tomorrow, too, to NJ.

Ryegate, VT with Mt. Moosilauke [NH] in the distance.

Peachum, VT past peak color.

Norwich, VT at peak.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


10-9-11 VERMONT: Four days in a row without rain. The ground is still soggy and wet. The water table is probably up to the grass roots. The fall color gets better every day. It was in the eighties this afternoon.

Travis finished on Friday—great job. Saturday I re-built the field stone steps and cleaned the clapboards and base board trim with bleach to remove all the mold. Today I stained the clapboards with the grey stain that Judy likes, and tomorrow I’ll do the white trim. Judy and I also put away all the outdoor furniture and the boat.

I have to thank the dogs for getting me up at the COD this morning, about 6AM. If they hadn’t, I would have missed a nice sunrise.

Sunrise. Thank you, dogs, for getting me up so early.

Our red maple has gone from mostly green to mostly red since we've been here.

We have color in the pasture....

.....and on the hills.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Mallards in the Morning.

10-6-11 VERMONT: We came up yesterday. It was an easy trip on a rare kind of day—sunny. There has been a north wind blowing and gusting making this cloudless fall day seem colder than it is. The north wind means the high pressure system is still to our west. The air circulation around a high is clockwise. When the high is off to our east in a few days, we will have warmer southern winds.

Travis Keller was here all day replacing rotted wood around the back door of the old mudroom. That corner is a wet spot that never dries out. We are using PT wood to replace everything coming out. The whole door and sidelights unit is out and the hole covered with a tarp for tonight. The job should finish tomorrow.

I spent the day in the veggie garden doing winter prep. I took down and put away the electric fence, pulled up tomato stalks and put the tomato cages in the barn. I harvested the nine pumpkins destined for carving, and pulled up corn stalks. I also did some weeding in the terrace beds.

New blooms: boltonia, cimicfuga, witchhazel, red asters.

Boltonia-a late bloomer.

This apple is covered with small fruit, too small for us, but just right for the birds, especially robins, who carb load before their fall commute.

Mallards visited the pond today. The one in the middle is not a female, but an immature male just getting his adult plumage.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Where are the birds?

10-4-11 SHORT HILLS: It continues to rain almost daily, but has cooled off. With lower temps, the air had been wrung out, and the humidity is lower. I have been able to close all the windows and cabinets and doors. In a normal year, we should have had less than 36 inches of rain to date, but we are at 57 inches. September totalled over 8 inches, more than twice normal.

Bird feeder activity is down, both NJ and VT, since the hurricane and other storms. Have they moved away? Have their food resourses been damaged by the storms? Were the new fledglings killed? Or the adults? Anyone have any thoughts?

My geology site describing the geology of several popular hikes in the Upper Valley of the Connecticut River/Dartmouth area has finally debuted. Check it out. The link is to the right.

I have been trying to ID this shrub, growing in Zone 6 [NJ] under shade trees. It's 7-8 feet tall with 4-5 grayish trunks with stipules. The leaves, flowers and berries are shown, the leaves are a bit fuzzy underneath. Anyone? I used the Virginia Tech dendrology site and think that it's 'Ilex verticillata - winterberry holly'.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Natirar Park

9-30-11 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday we had T-storms with T & L in successive waves. After the last one, temps and humidity plummeted. Today was dry and cool, prototypical fall, but tonight, guess what, it’s raining.

A few days ago we went to a memorial service, in the rain, of course, for a friend of Judy’s at a beautiful park in Somerset County. Natirar Park has over 400 acres, mostly mowed, of trails and lawns and trees with a branch of the Raritan River, which was near flood stage. We had never been there before and were very impressed. It was an oil sheik’s property either before or after it belonged to Richard Branson, but now is the county’s. The manor house is being converted to a spa and/or hotel, and there is a new hot restaurant on the site called ‘Ninety Acres’ where we will eat on Tuesday. On the way up to the restaurant to make a res, we saw turkeys and deer on the lawns, all busy eating.

There were several deer, but they bolted away as we slowed except for the young stag as rear guard.

The turkeys most always head away from you. They keep eating as they amble on.