Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bird News.

3-30-16 SHORT HILLS: We had some rain a few days ago followed by high winds that lasted two days. The trees tops were dancing around and whacking each other. In the yard branches were raining down, some fairly large, and some are still hanging in the trees. I was afraid to be outside in the branch storm, and so I missed a workday. Today I was again doing pruning and trimming. I keep thinking that I’m almost done, but then find a spot I forgot to do. Some of the trimming I have to defer until the leaves are fully out to determine what is dead and what is alive.

The feeders have been SRO and have needed refilling almost every day. Since I was trapped inside yesterday, I took bird pix. There was nobody unusual at the feeder, but when I was outside for short periods during the day I saw a pair of raptors making big circles high in the sky. They were around several times. I assumed they were our usual red-tailed hawks, but I didn’t see that red tail color. Color can be hard to see when the birds are high and silhouetted against the sky.

In the late afternoon I saw one of them for the third or fourth time facing into the west wind and just hanging out in one spot, letting the wind do the flying. He/she was facing into the sun, and I could see an all white head from a couple different angles as the bird began to move. They were eagles, but I didn’t have a camera, so no pix. I looked for them a lot today, but no more raptors.

New blooms: daffodil, pear, Yoshino cherry, squill.

Daffodil says spring.

Flowering pear is the first of the fruit trees to bloom.

House finches are here in a flock of a dozen or so.

Nuthatch are usually perched on tree trunks upside down.

Ms. Cardinal out without the hubby.

Red-wing blackbirds visit in the spring and fall on their way back and forth.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


3-27-16 SHORT HILLS: I’m still doing pruning and have lots more to go, plus other chores that are not so seasonal or time sensitive.

We’ve had more rain here, not a lot, but enough to soak Judy while she was walking the dogs a couple mornings ago. There was one hard intense downpour, so I stopped pruning, and went out in the car to pick them up, just guessing where they might be. I did find them, and the dogs, who also got wet, were also grateful for the rescue.

We went to see Alan’s new dog, Lexi, a very cute mixed breed with black patches on a white background. She’s very friendly and high energy.

Lithos in Livingston is becoming a new fav restaurant, we had dinner there with Bebe and Ron last night.

New blooms: pachysandra.

Pachysandra - an early bloomer.

Fairly unique flower.

Lexi, fairly unique dog.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Back from California.

3-24-16 SHORT HILLS: I forgot to mention in the last post that it’s now spring, which means the sun has returned to the Northern Hemisphere.

The big concert in California was nice with lots of kids doing their thing. There were three string groups varying in level of achievement and age. The difference was quite apparent as they played. A group of flautists opened the concert. We came back to EWR the next morning.

It rained each day that we were there. There were no downpours, but it all helps. I don’t know how the reservoir levels are doing, but everything along the highways and in town was green as it was around Jon and Siobhan’s house. We even had a rainbow the afternoon before the concert. You can’t have a rainbow without rain.

Back in NJ I have been doing pruning of shrubs and small trees. I have a big pile of cuttings to go to the dump. It has been cool here, and that slows the march of the flowers. Grackles and red-wing blackbirds have joined the winter stalwarts at the feeders.

New blooms: spice bush, saucer magnolia, pulmonaria.

Rainbow over San José from the house.

Eoin's group waiting to start.

Saucer Magnolia, early show-off has opened.

Spice bush in this yard grows with and around the forsythia. Both bloom in yellow and at the same time. The flowers and leaves have a 'spicy' aroma.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Los Gatos.

3-21-16 LOS GATOS, CA: Eoin’s concert is tonight. We hope it is as enjoyable as the one we saw Saturday night at NJPAC in Newark. Joshua Bell and The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields offered Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Schumann and Beethoven—more about that later.

This morning the kids are in school and the parents are working so we walked around Los Gatos downtown, eerily clean, shiny cars, lots of dogs with their walkers. The shops are landscaped and decorated, maybe there are more designers than banks, and a bunch of upscale hotels. We are at the Hotel Los Gatos—stucco and tile roofs with lots of palms and flowers. We did a couple miles on the Los Gatos Creek trail. It was fairly muddy, a good sign, and there were lots of other folks out there. The creek has enough water for pretty vigorous flow, also a good sign. We walked back on College Ave. We saw live oak, eucalyptus, roses, rhododendron and lots of other flowers and shrubs that I recognize, but can't remember the names of. We also saw a pair of new birds, new for us, Acorn Woodpeckers, blue/black, red head, yellow eye, white face.

Hotel Los Gatos done in Spanish style and flowers - very Cal.

Lots of precious shoppes.


Los Gatos Creek trail with big, live oak spanning the walkway.

Los Gatos Creek with water.

Red rhododendron.

Acorn Woodpecker.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Substance Use.

3-19-16 SHORT HILLS: It’s cool again, overcast today, and it might snow tomorrow. We, hopefully, will be escaping the snow on our way to California, mostly to see Eoin play the viola in the San José String Orchestra concert.

This week I did the early fertilizing using Holly-tone on acidophiles like bleeding heart and azalea and 10-10-10 fertilizer on most of the other shrubs and flowers. Those plants that like a more alkaline media like columbine and lilac got a side order of lime with their fertilizer. Lime is calcium and magnesium carbonate and raises the pH of the soil. I also used pH-lowering sulfur compound on the blueberries, who like a tart, acidic media. I also limed the lawn.

I used bone meal on the flowering bulbs outside the fenced part of the yard. Bone meal, as you might suppose, is ground up bones and so is high in phosphorus, which promotes flowering. I can’t use it inside the yard because the dogs eat it.

I used a total of three 40-pound bags of Holly-tone, three 50-pound bags of 10-10-10 fertilizer, and three 40-pound bags of lime. Last year nothing got any treatment because of my broken leg and nobody seemed very unhappy, but this year some things are looking tired, even though it was a mild winter. Perhaps, it was because they went hungry last year.

I also did deadfall removal and some pruning as I made the rounds, and yesterday I spent the afternoon working on the junipers along the driveway. The junipers are a row of old, old shrubs that must date back to the 1940’s when the house was built.

They are tall with gnarly trunks, interlaced branches, lots of old cracks and breaks in the trunks and limbs, some supported by crutches. These shrubs take a beating every winter because the evergreen foliage retains a lot of snow, and that weight causes fractures. Judy tells me to cut them down and plant something new, but I have too much respect for their venerable age not to try and keep them going. I did have to do extensive pruning a few years ago because they had taken over too much of the driveway.

White crocus found a spot in the pachysandra.

Driveway junipers with lifts and crutches.

Junipers were originally planted too close to the edge of the driveway to allow for spread.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Blooms.

3-16-15 SHORT HILLS: We’ve been back in NJ for a few days. We left VT early to avoid the storm that delivered about a half inch of rain here. The last two days have been sunny and in the sixties. The race to bloom is on, all the buds are swelling or starting to open.

I hauled two carloads of deadfall and prunings to the town dump, but there’s more to gather up and dump.

New blooms: snowflake, andromeda, forsythia, red maple.

Snowflake is a cousin of the snowdrop. It opens a bit later.

Snowflakes hiding in the pachysandra.

Snowflake with a peek at the inner organs.

Red maple in bloom.

Andromeda with a hovering pollinator.

Crocus sheltering under an ash tree.

Forsythia just starting.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Snowdrops Open.

3-13-16 VERMONT: We’re rushing around to leave this morning instead of tomorrow to avoid the storm that’s on the way. Yesterday was a pretty one, and we walked around the pasture, the dogs went swimming in the little pond. Today looks nice too, but a big rain or snow arrives tonight.

Speaking of snow, it’s almost gone after the unseasonable warmth, but I’m sure it will be back. March and April are usually snowy months here. The snowdrops are open by the new mudroom door, a month earlier than last year.

New blooms: snowdrops.

Nothing like a morning dip, even if there's a little ice on the pond.

Then you can dry off on someone's pants.

Giving up the sap.

Snowdrops open a month earlier than last year.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Melt Down.

3-10-16 VERMONT: We drove up yesterday with the AC on. The temps even in Vermont were in the seventies—record highs were set all over the Northeast. March is ordinarily a winter month here. The snow, in some years, lasts until May. When we arrived the driveway was a sheet of ice as was part of the yard. The footing was treacherous until I chopped out a path from the house to the garage.

When the snow partially melts on warm days, it turns to ice during the freezing nights. Last night it stayed in the fifties, and the driveway was clear of ice this morning. Today is in the sixties, and it started to rain before noon. The melting snow and ice has turned to fog.

The pond is still frozen over, except for a small spot opened up by the rain and runoff. The road is a muddy mess, a quagmire, but the traffic is non-existent because no one uses the road when it’s like this except us locals.

Maple syrup production has begun, the trees are all sporting their spring hardware. Snowdrops are up, but not open. Last year they didn’t open until mid-April.

The old farmers planted the maple trees along the road so it would be easier to collect the sap.

Snowdrops testing the air.

With a warm rain the Connecticut River is muffled in mist.

Ice is floating downstream on the river.

Foggy pond.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Feels Like Spring.

3-8-16 SHORT HILLS: It was 70° here this afternoon, with sun and a mild breeze. For me, the first day of spring is that day when I’m walking around outside and the wind on my face feels warm—today. I was outside in a T-shirt, feeling the warmth and starting to do clean up.

The first crocus opened today and several Vinca minor flowers opened yesterday. The elm trees have a few blooms open and the red oaks are on the verge as are the andromedas, and snowflakes. Daffodil shoots and star-of-Bethlehem shoots are up an inch or so.

New blooms: vinca minor, crocus, elm.

First Crocuses.

Vinca minor has opened in several spots.

Snowdrops maturing.

Red maple about to pop.

Elm tree flowers with house finches probably after the pollinators.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Snow and Rock.

3-6-16 SHORT HILLS: Sorry for the silence of the last few days. I had the flu, and it cost us our weekend trip to Florida. I was better after about forty-eight hours, probably from the flu-shot last fall.

We had about an inch of snow a couple of days ago along with a cold snap. The snow is mostly gone now and it’s supposed to warm up this coming week.

We had a grackle at the feeder yesterday, the first one of the spring. The robins are back and scurrying around the yard.

Judy and I went to School of Rock last night on B’way. It’s a show for teens, basically, who filled the audience, with parents and g-parents in tow. The show is incredibly loud. I was expecting the worst, but actually enjoyed it. The kid performers are great, and Alex Brightman, as Dewey, is on stage the whole show running, jumping, performing and expending prodigious amounts of energy. There is little clever dialogue and no plot surprises. There is plenty of music, including a very nice "Amazing Grace" and a sample of the Queen of the Night's aria from The Magic Flute.

The big surprise for me was that the book is by Julian Fellowes, who is the executive producer of Downton Abbey, which is somewhere on the opposite end of some spectrum.

We were early for the curtain. It was a sellout, packed with teens and parents and/or g-parents, except for us.

The insides of the old theaters are beautiful where the art work isn't obscured by light and sound equipment.