Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mystery Plant.

8-29-12 VERMONT: Today is cool, dry, breezy and crisp with deep blue sky that says “fall.” We ended up with 1.5 inches of rain the other night, enough to fill the pond back to the top.

I have cleared the culvert, sawed up a big broken branch in the pasture, and put a lot of stuff away. Judy is bringing in the corn and tomatoes because we go back to NJ tomorrow. The house will be in the hands of Alison, Dan, Anna and Lily for the week.

I mentioned a ‘mystery plant’ a few posts back. It appeared this year in the bed below the east side of the deck. I do not recall planting it and don’t have a nursery tag for it. You might suspect that it’s just a weed, but nothing like it grows in the yard or pasture. The mature plant is about six feet tall and bushy. It just started to bloom with small, half inch whitish-purple flowers.

I do have some boltonia, but it is less than three feet tall, hasn’t started to bloom yet, and its flowers are white. It grows in the shade, while the mystery grows in full sun. The pictures are below, any ideas appreciated.

Bottle Gentian. It doesn't open at all,  how does it get pollinated? The early settlers used this for purple dye.

Mystery Plant, it is almost six feet tall and just now starting to bloom. I think it's a boltonia, anyone got another idea?

'Boltonia' flower has a hint of purple. It's less than an inch wide.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fall in the Wings.

8-27-12 VERMONT: It rained today after about ten dry days, around the area, shrubs and lawns were turning brown. I checked the gauge during a lull and there was 0.4 inches with more since, just what we needed now. Earlier today I finished the mowing I wanted to do, pulled the syphon hose out of the pond and put it all away, did a bit of weeding and watering before the rain.

Yesterday we canoed on Miller Pond, found on Miller Pond Rd., in Strafford, VT. It’s a small, round pond, big enough for a camp, a few houses and a fair amount of natural shoreline. There seems to be good fishing. It has been known as a loon nesting spot, and some years ago, when we were last there, there were several. Yesterday we saw one, busy diving over and over and baring posing on the surface long enough for a picture. There were several human fisherfolk as well.

We are edging into fall. Trees are beginning to turn, the ashes are dropping leaves from the treetops. The birds are starting to form flocks before migrating. Berries are ripe. The days are noticeably shorter. We have almost no apples this year because of the early thaw and later freeze.

Our pond clarity, so far, has not improved much. After four weeks of draining 90 gallons per hour, which is 12 cubic ft/hr or 8000 cu. ft. for the month, which should be the bottom two feet of the pond water, the yuckiest stuff. The pond is down about four inches, less after today’s rain. It is, perhaps, less brown than it was. When the weather cools, algae growth stops and the clarity will be assessable.

Early aster, these volunteers are in all the beds after a little encouragement.

Miller Pond, Strafford, VT.

Loon, the only one we saw, was doing a lot of diving.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back on the River.

8-26-12 VERMONT: The weather has provided a series of cookie-cutter days with no rain, sunny skies, and pleasant temps, I’m not complaining. Two days ago I finally repaired the DR Trimmer and did the rest of the mowing and then some weeding. I checked the burdock that I had sprayed with Roundup, they were all nicely dying.

Yesterday we were back on the Connecticut with Ken and Jane. We motored from the mouth of the Ompompanoosuc River to Gilman Island, AKA Pirate Island, locally, very locally. The new log cabin on the island is beautifully done, complements to the DOC who did it. The trip is six miles and took exactly an hour, both down river and back up, which tells you about the current in the Connecticut at this time. We saw dozens of mallards in family groups, but no unusual birds.

New blooms: mystery plant [more about that one later].

Mallard chicks and mom.

Mallard male, immature.

Occasionally trains still use the tracks along the Connecticut R.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

River Trip.

8-23-12 VERMONT: We took the boat, The Chelsea, out on the river, the Connecticut, putting in at North Thetford and motoring up river to look for the green heron and then downstream, south, for more adventures. We didn’t see the green heron, but we did see a blue heron, a much commoner sighting. We also saw what I have ID’d as a double-crested cormorant. The hooked beak is distinctive, and the double-crested is the only eastern cormorant found inland. I considered a female merganser, because of the reddish color, but the eye/beak relationship is different and the orange chin and the swimming depth favor a cormorant.

The bottom of the pond has been draining for three weeks now, and the pond really looks no different except the level is down about two inches because it’s been dry. After another week, I’ll stop draining and wait for a frost to kill any algae and see how it looks then.

New blooms: bottle gentian.

Double-Crested Cormorant. The only eastern, inland cormorant as far as I know. Anyone?
Cormorants swim with the body deep in the water, unlike a duck.

Great Blue Heron stalking the shallows.

The admiral takes the helm.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Butterflies 2.

8-21-12 VERMONT: Happy Anniversary to A & D and V & S, it’s very convenient for me that you all used the same day. Here, the weather remains great, and dry for almost the first time this summer. I spent another couple hours yesterday wandering around in the waist-high mint and found a few new visitors, some of which are below.

New blooms: autumn sedum.

Viceroy, a Monarch mimic. Monarchs grow up on milkweed and retain some chemical from the plant that makes them distasteful to birds, who know to avoid them. The look-alike Viceroy profits from the same appearance without that chemical.

Orange Sulfur, it takes a lot of patience to get these guys, they're always on the move. Mint.

Another beauty-White Admiral. Mint, milkweed.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


8-19-12 VERMONT: The last couple of days have been cool and dry after a brief shower two nights ago. Last night was down to 50° and today was quite cool. I noticed leaves turning today, really. I was out in the pasture with the camera. The mint is covered with butterflies and other pollinators. The mint is a nuisance because none of the animals for whom the pasture is intended will eat it, but it’s great for butterfly watching, as are the other flowers in the pasture and garden. I posted some of them today after an hour with the ID book.

New blooms: turtle head.

Monarch, those two raised dots on the hind wings mean it's a he. Echinacea.

Common Ringlet. Mint.

Silver-bordered Fritillary. Aster.

Cabbage White. Mint.

Common Wood-Nymph. Mint.

Aphrodite Fritillary. Mint.

Painted Lady. Mint.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Foggy Day.

8-17-12 VERMONT: Well, we got the rain, another 0.75 inches worth on the night before last. We had dinner that night with Roger, Ann, Melissa and Dick at Ariana’s in Orford, NH.

Lily and her friend José were here overnight at the end of their counseloring tours, I guess that should be Josée. They have now moved on.

We were fogged in this morning. If you looked up, there was blue sky, but everything else was grey and obscured and strange.

Ligularia dentata. This plant is mostly for foliage with large purple leaves that take a mounded shape, but the flower is OK too.

Foggy morning makes the familiar seem exotic.

I saw this chart on Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight Blog, found in the online NYT. The blue line represents Industrial Production over time, and the grey bars are recessions since World War II. Look at the length of the recent recession and the steep and deep drop in Industrial Production, far worse than any of the other recessions, and which has not yet returned to pre-recession levels. Employment can't improve further until Industrial Production does. Obama deserves credit for dealing with this whopper of a recession as well as he has.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

River Paddle

8-15-12 VERMONT: We went canoeing again, this time on the Connecticut River. We put in at the North Thetford boat launch and headed up river and then back down. For the most part, it was just exercise, but we did see a Green Heron, the pic is mediocre because I had only an old camera. The bird is north of its usual summer range, but with warming climate change, species migrate to higher latitude and altitude for an agreeable habitat. On the drive home we did a few back roads and saw a flock of turkeys, three or four hens and a bunch of chicks, now half grown.

We have had no real rain here for a few days, but elsewhere in the area there have been heavy showers.

New blooms: ligularia dentata

Green Heron, sorry about the quality, shot with an old camera.

Turkey army.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Doom for Buckthorn.

8-12-12 VERMONT: It continues to be hot and rainy with another 0.95 inches of rain in several different showers. I cleared the narrow slot between the pasture split-rail fence and the stone wall that borders the yard near the road.

Several small trees, buckthorn, had grown there up to seven feet or so tall. Buckthorn is an non-native invasive, that looks like a cross between and a cherry and an apple tree. I will spray the stumps with RoundUp to prevent re-growth. I also pulled out berry briers and grape vines—it was a mess. Now I have another bunch of stuff to chip.

Has anybody noticed that the days are shorter? On August 21 the sun will be half-way back to the Equator.

New blooms: globe thistle.

Globe Thistle, just looks prickly.

Mr. Toad, pull up a chair, if you're into yellow.

Indian pipe, Monotropa uniflora, is a flowering plant, angiosperm, but without chlorophyll so it isn't green, doesn't need sun and grows in dark spots. It gets its energy, saprophytically or parasitically, from a fungus that, in turn, lives on tree roots, which brings us back around to the sun as the ultimate source of energy. Now wouldn't they make a nice corsage for the prom?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rainy Day.

8-10-12 VERMONT: There was a T-storm last night while we were out to dinner with Andy, Kate and Sarah at Tip Top Cafe in WRJ, they treated, thanks, guys. This morning the invisible dog fence was a no show and probably got zapped in the storm. That storm delivered 0.4 inches of precip, along with the electricity.

Chippers, the tree clean-up folks, were here this morning and turned that fallen piece of sugar maple into chips, now in a pile under the barn run-in where it covers mud. Chippers also did some work on pines at the corner of the yard, road and pasture. More rain started as they finished and continued most of the day, sometimes quite hard and heavy, but with only distant thunder.

Bill Butler, the electrician, was here this afternoon to add to more outlets to the generator circuit.

Who's this one? Apparently it's a Clouded Sulfur.

Here are the Canada Geese from Grafton Pond-not exactly aloof.

Horse and friend, I'm not sure which one is the whisperer.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Loons on Grafton Pond.

8-8-12 VERMONT: We spent a couple hours canoeing on Grafton Pond, in Grafton, NH. It’s a beautiful lake, in spite of the name, with mostly preserved, pristine shoreline and dotted with pine-covered, granite islets. It’s in the shadow of Mt. Cardigan. There were a couple dozen folks there, scattered on the islands, in kayaks and canoes. We saw nothing with a motor. The water is clear to 15 or 20 feet. There are lots of coves, some marshy, to explore. You need to be on the lookout for shallow rocks and stumps.

It is a breeding site for loons, we saw them and heard the call, definitely a looney tune. A pair of half-grown immatures were following mom around while dad was off fishing. The loons often swim with most of the body under water unlike ducks. They dive for fish, stay under a long time and surface far from where they dove down. It’s hard to say for sure, but I think we saw six or eight different birds. At the boat launch there was a family of Canada geese looking for a handout.

Common Loon, summer plumage, the red eye probably helps with under-water vision.

Grafton Pond from the boat launch.

Moma and babies, when they're little, they ride on her back. They swim deep in the water.

Thanks for the back view.

Piney islet.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Living in the Air.

8-7-12 VERMONT: The last two days have been pleasant, low humidity, in the seventies after the last T-storm that dumped 0.85 inches of rain on us. That last storm also left a lot of road sand in the culvert, and I shoveled it out yesterday.

I spent some time today sitting on the deck railing watching the hummers come and go, mostly working the bee balm and the feeders. There were as many as three at a time, and they would rather chase each other away than share the many flowers. They only occasionally sit on a branch for a few seconds but mostly fly, dart, hover and move in any direction. I took dozens of pix and video to get a few decent images.

New blooms: blue lobelia.

Female Hummingbird working on bee balm, check those wings.

Same lady from the side, the green color makes it easy to pass as a leaf.

Male hummer has a darker head and red bib. It's not very prominent in this guy, probably he's not fully mature. These are all Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, our only native in Vermont.

Female dancing in air.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Sugar Holes.

8-5-12 VERMONT: It was another action-packed weekend. Judy threw another dinner party—Alison, Dan, Lily, Bruce, Donna, Phyllis, Arnie, Lou and Ned were joined by Lisa and Zoe. The day was hot and muggy, again, but the evening was nice enough for everyone to be outside for the whole party.

All the overnight guest left this morning for points south. A huge branch fell off one of the roadside sugar maples this morning while the sky was clear and there was only a light breeze. It fell into the pasture without breaking the fence, as yet.

Today was another hot one, but tonight’s T-storms are supposed to bring in a cold front—we hope.

New blooms: star clematis.

Monarch?? Wrong-It's a Viceroy.

Viola. The radiating, dark lines guide the pollinator like the lights along a runway. The pollinator gets the nectar in the center hole while those pom-poms dust him with pollen. The rest of the petals are to attract from a distance.

Lobelia. Same deal. Radiating petals draw the pollinator while that sconce over the hole lays on the pollen.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Something Blue.

8-3-12 VERMONT: It’s hot, muggy, hazy again today. I was at Brown’s Nursery early and got a blueberry bush, Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Duke’, for the spot where the rose bush died and four chrysanthemum, two Dendranthema zawadskii ‘Mary Stoker’ and two ‘Overture’ to go in the bed in back of the old mudroom where I pulled out Mohican viburnum volunteers. I put the viburnums on the south end of the yard where there are other viburnums and burning bushes. I acidified the blueberry and alkalised the chrysanthemums. That was more than enough to do on a day like this.

The pond syphon is draining at a rate of 90 gal/hr, so it'll take a month or so to dump 80-100,000 gals, my estimate of the volume of the bottom two feet of the pond.

New blooms: pink coreopsis.

The water lilies have been blooming all summer.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Pond Experiment.

8-2-12 VERMONT: There’ve been a couple more brief showers and distant lightening. Today was hot with high humidity. I did another bunch of pruning, mostly around the house and cleaned up the bed where the rose bush was for new planting tomorrow. What I plant will depend on what looks good at the nursery.

The pond has not cleared with the treatments that have been done, in fact, it is a bit more murky than it was. So, yesterday I wired a hose to an anchor and dropped them in the middle of the pond with a float and rope attached to the anchor for later retrieval. The hose, three hoses actually, filled with water and were lead over the dam to the runoff brook. They are now syphoning water out of the pond, pond bottom water, the low oxygen saturation and high particle water.

Compared to the surface water, the bottom water is darker and murkier. It will be replaced by clear spring water and rain water. Usually the water added by rain just displaces other surface water. The nasty stuff on the bottom just sits there. There is seasonal turnover of the pond water when the bottom water is warmer than the surface water. This happens when the weather cools the surface in the fall and when the ice melts in the spring. The pond looks clearer at those times. Tomorrow I’ll figure out the rate of flow.

Everything is still blooming early. Wild asters are already opening, and the perennial chrysanthemums are out. The white phlox we have, an old cultivar, usually blooms in September, but is starting now.

New blooms: chrysanthemum, asters, white phlox.

Helenium, also known as sneezeweed for its late blooming season coinciding with ragweed.

Giant Swallowtail butterfly. The wing-span is at least three inches.

Chrysanthemum, out before its time.