Friday, October 14, 2016

The Falling Season…

 

Temperatures have finally dipped into the 40’s(F) at night now and we even hit a 37(F) the other night, brrrr… Which is a sure sign that Fall is upon us but alas the trees here at Fox Paw have been dropping more than just their leaf’s. I am considering adding a Hard Hat to my fall fashion wardrobe, blaze orange of course.


Created an autumn arrangement for a retirement breakfast at the day job, unfortunately it was not my retirement but that of my supervisor. To which I have now slid up into the position he vacated and after 4 weeks I am ready to slide right back out of it. But the council has stated they want to do position reorganization so I guess I’ll be riding this roller coaster for a couple of months more.


Thanks to all who questioned as to my where about, I am hoping that now as the dust is settling I can once again return to a little more normal posting schedule. 

Chat you later…

Oh and just a side note, as of today it's only 4 months till Valentines, just saying.....

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Encroaching Lushness …

The weather pendulum has once again swung into milder temperature ranges, yesterday’s high only made it on 70°F and moistness, and it has been drizzly to rainy for the last few days. The overall mildness of this summer has been rarely seen in this area of the Blue Ridge physiographic province of the Appalachian mountain range for some years. The norm of cool springs melting into hot summers by the end of June and early July has not held sway this year. Temperatures have only reached the mid 90 in the last couple of weeks and at the start of this week have retreated back into the 70’s and 80’s, a temperature range I am not complaining about. Yet it comes at a price.

After summers of a laissez-faire practice of grounds upkeep, the mowing of those spotty areas of green ground cover I loosely refer to as a lawn, every three to four weeks, has now become a weekly chore as the surrounding forest has begun an encroachment not unlike a constrictor slowly squeezing its leafy coils. But unlike a pythons caress of death the forest’s brings life, with increased bird and mammal, reptile and insect, welcomed or not. And roads less traveled then others are slowly becoming obscured as waves of foliage cascade in from both sides. All of this a reminder that Nature can and will hide the labor of Man.



Monday, August 1, 2016

Drowning In A Sea Of Sweat …

Well the “Dog Days Of Summer” must truly be upon us here in the Blue Ridge. I for one was happy for it’s later than usual arrival this year but now with days edging close to 100°F and with the humidity hovering around 98% I look back to our cool Spring with the fondest of thoughts.

Now as we sit here on the first day August one reflects back on the month just past. July slipped onto the seasonal calendar much as a lover slipping into bed. Delicate was its caress, so delicate it barely ruffled a leaf among the tree canopy. Sweetly it kissed ones senses during the day and leaving one on the edge at night with coolness only this month of summer can employ. As the days ebbed, this lover became more intense soon a heat would come upon us, a damp sticky heat trapping all as a fly in honey. Nights of light sleep are now spent feverishly writhing in this lovers python like embrace.

Sultry days now end climatically with thunder and clouds pulsing with white hot electrical charges and then a deluge of rain, rain that falls heavy in great splatters of heat before turning into a sensation of chilliness as the warm air is washed of its temperate state. And as the day darkens, the ground begins to give back the heat stolen in great columns of steam rising toward the starry sky.  

As July departed last night a final kiss was given and it slipped quietly from the calendar to make way the eighth month to bring itself forward.


The rains and heat of July have added to the lushness of the forest floor.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Oh Happy Day …

Several years ago we had purchased a lily for the garden and having planted it in the herbiary thinking it would be safe from the grazers, wrong!!! Each year, just as a bloom stalk appeared it was devoured. Of course the basils, sages and oreganos were left untouched.

This spring we thought it time to move the herbiary and thus the lily to would be moved. I moved it over with the callas in the chimney ruin garden and proceed to forget about it. Well that was till the other day when something caught my eye among the stone. There in all her glory, Madame Lily was beckoning to me to come take a closer look. I will admit to having forgotten what color the lily was even supposed to be. So when seeing it in bloom after all this time, it was a most wonderful surprise.  


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Lazy Days Of Summer …

Having ebbed into full summer here at Fox Paw, all work has slowed to the mundane, the routine. When not mowing grass or pulling weeds we set on the deck or in the shade of the grapevine on the gravel terrace and enjoy what the labors of spring have wrought. We make mental notes of what has done well and what has been less than stellar, what has flourished and what became fodder for the wild life.

Over the years, through trial and error we have learned what not to plant and what seems to leave a bad taste on the herbivores palate. Yet there are some plants we suffer the agony of loss as old gardening/planting habits are hard to break. The growing of Hosta’s is just one of those habits. The planting of Hosta’s in the past has been nothing less than ringing a dinner bell for the local deer population. And once again, last year Hosta’s went into a landscape planting area, but with a difference, they were potted. Not just potted, but a makeshift cage was placed around them, they thrived.

The next hurdle came with winter, would they survive the freezing temperature in their above ground pot home. Spring saw they had and we were jubilant. This year I chose to upgrade the caging to a more artistic means, using inexpensive trellising from a big box store I fashioned a wire screen around the Hosta pots. The black wire trellising all but disappears in the shadows. The thinking was, at night, prime grazing time for the deer, should they find the Hosta’s they would bump their noses on the wire and hopefully frighten them off. To date this seems to have worked.




The Lazy Days Of Summer …

Having ebbed into full summer here at Fox Paw, all work has slowed to the mundane, the routine. When not mowing grass or pulling weeds we set on the deck or in the shade of the grapevine on the gravel terrace and enjoy what the labors of spring have wrought. We make mental notes of what has done well and what has been less than stellar, what has flourished and what became fodder for the wild life.

Over the years, through trial and error we have learned what not to plant and what seems to leave a bad taste on the herbivores palate. Yet there are some plants we suffer the agony of loss as old gardening/planting habits are hard to break. The growing of Hosta’s is just one of those habits. The planting of Hosta’s in the past has been nothing less than ringing a dinner bell for the local deer population. And once again, last year Hosta’s went into a landscape planting area, but with a difference, they were potted. Not just potted, but a makeshift cage was placed around them, they thrived.

The next hurdle came with winter, would they survive the freezing temperature in their above ground pot home. Spring saw they had and we were jubilant. This year I chose to upgrade the caging to a more artistic means, using inexpensive trellising from a big box store I fashioned a wire screen around the Hosta pots. The black wire trellising all but disappears in the shadows. The thinking was, at night, prime grazing time for the deer, should they find the Hosta’s they would bump their noses on the wire and hopefully frighten them off. To date this seems to have worked.




Sunday, May 15, 2016

Welcome To Fairy Terrace …


While finishing up with mulch mowing of the Northern Woods the other day I noticed this stump, resplendent with a crop of bracket fungus. My mind softly wondered to thoughts of fairies, elves and gnomes and how they might abide here in a fantastic and fanciful communal forest haven.

I am sure there could be a “Reality Television” show here, “Welcome To Fairy Terrace” …     


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Rainy Days and Fountains …



Today was overcast and rainy for the most part. Showers rolling the through and over the mountains are generally good for naps and very little else, but today much work needed to be done rain or not. Mulch mowing of the Northern Woods have finally been completed. Now attentions turn to the finer detailed task for the spring season.

One of those achieved today was the spring/summer setup of the Gravel Terrace water fountain. This year I wanted more of the ruin look. The following You Tube video was taken shortly after completion today, please enjoy. One thing I found out with this setup this year is I can tune the sound the fountain makes by adding or subtracting rocks from the broken urn catch basin, marvelous !!!








Tuesday, May 10, 2016

After 06:00 Gardening, Is Formal Attire Required …


A few days ago found Jim and me perusing the garden section of large hardware store. As often on such outings we tend to wander apart, each going in search of items of our own particular interest. I was there for potting soil, soil needed for the deck pots this year. Before going to the outside pen were the soils, mulches and plants are caged I first thought of inspecting the selection of small gardening hand tools. As I walked down the aisle contemplating each tool and its use I suddenly spied them. In the shadowy depths of the shelving, non-descript merchandizing, they hung, waiting. And as my gaze fell upon them, a memory, and old memory of decades past flooded on me. Why would a simple pair of leather gardening gloves sweep me away on a torrent of almost forgotten memories from my childhood.

It is said that anything can be a memory trigger and in this case it was a pair of gardening gloves, actually and more exactly, pruning gauntlets. But in those first seconds I saw a pair of white, elbow length, evening gloves. Evening gloves a now vividly recall my Grandmother dawning as her and my Grandfather departed for one of the famous “Events”. And the time I speak was when the grand style maven Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy ( long before the Onassis was added) was watched and emulated by perhaps every woman in America. And while perhaps best known for her little “pill box” hats you never saw the First Lady in a formal gown without properly accessorized by elbow length white gloves, after 06:00pm of course!

With perhaps a slightly audible squeal I snagged a pair in my size and headed through the store to find Jim, who, when found was much less taken with my find than I. But then again, it’s my memories and not his.
And as I hack, chop and cut my way through the brambles wearing these leather gloves of work, I will remember my Grandmother’s stately elegance and grace, and her own elbow length white gloves.


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Woodland “Not So” Wild Flowers …



In roughly the same vain as the last posting, this one is a little less on the wild side, so speaking. Over the years many bought flowers and shrubberies have been planted here and some have forestalled the ravages of the herbivore grazing by means of being tender less, noxious, or simply not pleasing to grazing palate.

Iris seems to be one the plants given too toxic compounds in the roots, leaves, and stems in the forms of irisin, iridin, and irisine. And while considered mildly or potentially toxic it would seem the grazers sense such possibility and steer themselves clear of our iris plantings. More iris please.


I have known of Rhododendrons poisonous nature form my early childhood. As a young woodland explorer my Grandmothers warned of this plant which grew drifts that could cover miles and along with their toxicity getting lost in the tangle of branches was a real and present possibility. I recall on more than one occasion search and rescue being called upon to find hunters lost in the expanses. The toxins associated with rhododendron are andromedotoxin, acetylandromedol and rhodotoxin, all sounding like wonderful apocalyptic movie villains. Of note here, the pictured rhododendron was purchased shrubbery but there are many wild one growing in the woods here and when they come into flower will be appearing here in a post.


And finally we have the Peony on our list of plants the grazers shy away from. A garden staple, the peonies roots, stems, leaves, flowers and seeds contain the toxin paeonol. I had apparently been garden under a misconception when I first introduced these heirloom peonies into the garden some years ago. I thought they would soon become a favorite menu item on the deer and rabbit salad bar I had seemed to be planting thus far. And yet here today they are happily full of buds. But again these are from decades old heirloom stock which might account for their longevity in the our woodland home garden.



Woodland Wild Flowers …


And hearty greetings this fine, albeit overcast and rainy, day as the calendar on the corner of the desk mocks me, it is the first weekend in May. Spring seems to be a fleeting and uncaringly hard mistress this year. Like a temperamental lover, spring has teased and toyed with me most of the season. Tempting me out with moments of bright sunshine to only turn angry with a mixture of hot and dry earlier days that caused one to create little puffs of dust while striding about the landscape or as of late, turning a cold shoulder to me with days of cold and drizzly rain. And while the cold rain has for the most part kept me cloistered from woodland landscape work it has by no means slowed the plants needing tending to maintain a civilized and kept appearance.

The other afternoon, this fickle vixen lured me away from my desk by sending bright shafts of sunlight deep into darken recesses of the house and beckoning me out. With camera in hand, I tentatively stepped out. As a reward for my attention this hardened mistress kissed my cheek with a cool and moist breeze. A breeze so light it seemed like a downy feather brushing my face. My reward for attending too this demanding lover was a visual delight of some of the more delicate wild flowers the woodland has to offer.





Knowing the season was right, I hastily ventured to see if “Her Ladyship” had decided to bestow me with her grace, I was not disappointed. Three years on now, I first discovered this beauty after she had bloomed and all that remained to see that first year was the dried brown husk of the bloom. But I knew straight way I had stumbled on a rarity of the woodland floor. Lady Slipper’s will only germinate in the right conditions so it’s appearance on the property was viewed as a gift from nature. I most pleased also knew that transplanting this finicky orchid was not to be, so I found an unused rose cage and placed it around my discovered treasure, as a small amount of protection, mostly from the threat of my own treading. 



Soon though, with the caprice of a despot I felt the cold drops of rain on my shoulders. My mistress had tired of me and through her coldness I knew it was time to leave. I once again retreated to the warmth of the house as her encouragement that I do so began to fall in heavy, almost icy, drops of rain. Alas, I now wait, I wait once again for the call of this mistress of delight, this mistress of woe, this mistress we call Spring…

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day 2016 …

May Day as a festival tradition has pretty much fallen by the wayside as a spring tradition here in America. As some have written, perhaps it is the loss of innocence as a nation the time when the population celebrated a more gentle arrival of spring.

I am by no means an authority on the subject, but I do recall that May Day has its beginnings in ancient agrarian culture as the celebration of the start of the planting season, the warming of the northern hemisphere and lengthening of days.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it seems there were two key components, a basket and a pole. May Day sometimes called May Basket Day was celebrated by the anonymous hanging of handmade baskets filled with flowers (generally wild), candies and trinkets. The basket was hung on the recipient’s door in upmost secrecy lest the identity of the giver be given away.

The pole was the center of, and some cases greatly choreographed, dances or celebrations. Ribbons affixed to the top of the pole are wrapped around the pole by participants circling the pole. My Mother has told stories of when she was a young girl of participating in such. Dressed in heavily starched white dresses, young girls carrying white baskets filled with flower petals and holding on to the ribbon streamers coming from the top of the pole. Would promenade around the pole with half the participants going around in the opposite direction so that every other young lady was headed in the opposite direction, as each meet one another they dodge each other in and in and out fashion which served to braid the streamers and as the whole assemblage circled the pole the pole was incased by the fluffy braided ribbons. As each girl reached the base of the pole their ribbon was tied off and they scattered the flower petals. I am most sure that this was a grand spectacle too witness. Add to this a marching band play accompaniment and the whole community/town turned out to view I am sure it full of ceremony.

Well today you will find none of this pomp in my post but I have chosen to celebrate May Day in my own way. I am attaching a snippet of a video I shot this morning with a lone Whippoorwill heralding the day with a chorus of birds and frogs (in the distant background) and all held within the rhythm of an early morning shower.

So I wish one and all, “Happy May Day”…  



Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Waning Days Of April …



I’ll have to admit to being a touch off my game this year as far as spring property cleaning goes. And why so is a question I have no answer. Was it the earliness of Easter, the fact that we are still hovering around the freezing point at night or is it combination of both reasons. Could it be the steadily increasing work load at the Microbial Mine? a little too much part-time work for the Ladies at the shop? All I know is that spring has just not “felt” like spring so far this year. I did do a little puttering about last evening with the camera after getting home for work. And found a few signs that spring is here, even if not in full bloom.




With only a few days of April left there are a number of cleanup projects I hope to have completed before May comes rolling in. So I guess I should get up from here and get to it. I have completed the mulch mowing of the south side woods and now it’s time to move onto the northern badlands, well maybe after another coffee and maybe one sausage gravy biscuit. Oh, and did I mention the lower back yard needs pre-mowing grooming, need to add that to the “To Do” list, now where did I put that list…


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Nasty Little Tool …


Looking more like a tool of the Inquisition, the item pictured below is an often used tool on swine farms. Commonly called a “Pig Ringer” it is the device used to place a staple looking ring in the nose of swine to prevent their rooting, I find the thoughts of its use for that purpose ghastly. But as tool it has “other”, less spine chilling, uses around the home and garden.


Today’s application was the joining of several inexpensive steel rod plant trellises too construct a decorative cage to protect the hostas in the head of the driveway landscaping from the deer. The arching of the trellis repeats that of a bakers rack already placed in the landscape as a potting/work bench.




I am pleased with this new cage because its decorative, the opening are big enough to get my hands through and work on the planter yet small enough to keep a deer’s head out, BOOYAH !!!

Sun Rise “Peek-A-Boo” …


Heading out to the shed yesterday morning I caught the sun playing “Peek-a-Boo” with me through the trees. Living in the woods, our first glimpse of the sun in the early morning hours is caught between tree trunks, flashing much like a beacon. During the oncoming summer months these will be the hour of much activity here at the homestead. While the air has yet to shake off the coolness of the night, laborious tasks are best preformed prior to the suns climb above the tree tops.


Much like a Bram Stoker character I will be racing the suns ascent to complete my tasks. Work will soon progress across the property with the shorting of the shadows. And like said character I will fear that my work fulfilment will be caught in full sunlight. Yesterday brought this awareness with a temperature of 91°F (33°C).

But before urgent need of daily chore completion becomes a gauntlet challenge I will enjoy morning strolls through the woods to see what manner of plants are sprouting forth for the season. Below I happened upon a forming cluster of Galax (Galax urceolata).



Sunday, April 17, 2016

End Of The Week, Start Of The Weekend …



Well here we are on Sunday morning and I have a full day planned out around the homestead, the mulch mowing continues. But as I go about my work I feel my thoughts will be elsewhere, from a design standpoint anyway.

As a creative outlet I work (play for pay) part-time for a local florist and this year we have been asked to create the florals for the big spring “DO” at a local liberal arts college the first weekend in June. So the other evening we tour the campus to view the various venues that we will be creating arrangements for. The three day event will require center pieces for breakfasts, brunches, lunches, dinners, dances, and picnics. All staged at different locations and many taking place at the same time.

As a means of starting the design process I am posting a few pictures of some of the locations as a way of theme planning. Some of the more important events will require a bit more of a lavish production, while others a more natural and earthy look.

Graduating Classes celebrating their 50th or more reunion are in the upper and lower levels of the Conference Center. The Class celebrating its 25th reunion is down at the boathouse. All other Classes will be celebrating with a picnic on the Upper Quad. All this happens simultaneously Friday evening. Pictured below is the Upper Quad.


Saturday an early breakfast with the College President will be held in the school’s Library in the periodicals reading room, pictured below. Flooded with light I am thinking greenhouse/garden-ie theme.


Saturday night in the schools dining hall will be the all attendees dinner and dance. Which will use the atrium and 5 associate dining rooms.



Then there will be memorials held in the Chapel on campus...


Well I guess I had best post this and get busy if I am going to get anything done around the homestead today.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Closer Look, Please …


The ongoing task of cleaning and mulching the front woods has continued this weekend. While moving slower that I would like, it is moving along at a steady clip having been able to push the un-kept area back by some yards. Affectively increasing the amount of groomed forest floor considered the homesteads front “lawn”. Admittedly, I am beginning to tire of the browns and greys that are currently making up the early spring color palette. Unfortunately, spring blooming trees such as the red bud and dogwoods do not populate the area I am currently working in. But there is spring color, color that the 26°F (-3°C) nightly temperatures are not causing to remain concealed from view. But if you look close, down hidden amount the leaf litter there is riotous spring color. Moss is now in full bloom.



Down, tight to the ground moss is celebrating spring with a fireworks display of reds.




Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Weed Trimming, Mountain Style …


Today’s high only got up to 61°F, which was perfect weather for doing a little heavy property cleaning in the Front Woods. Spring cleaning had progressed to the fallen popular tree that I had been working around for a couple of weeks now. Actually having procrastinated pulling the chain saw I figured today would be the day to take care of this project. It’s not that I don’t like using a chain saw, on the contrary, I “love” using the chain saw, perhaps a bit too much. It’s the picking up, splitting and then stacking of the wood cut. Below I have gotten well into the task of cutting the tree up into manageable pieces.


Once cutting was completed and the wood stacked out of the way I jumped back into mulch mowing the area that I had been circling for the last little bit. Now the view out the front window is most pleasing. But there is still several standing dead that will need to be brought down in the next few weeks. Once the wood is split it will be destine for use in the fireplace in the clubroom of the homestead as and emergency heat source or in the fire-pit on summer nights on the deck, hmm, now I have the cravings for smore’s.


Finally a unique woodland happenstance, a ring of hollies around the base of a white oak, will have to research forest lore and see if there is any significant legend about such a growing combination. This could be one of those natural occurring plant groupings that will become a feature in the landscape.  


Sunday, April 3, 2016

It’s An Ill Wind That Blows No Good …


Evening last, we suffered through yet another high wind event that preceded the cold front that swept through this morning, bring a teeth chattering 34°F. Having plotted off to bed last evening leaving the bedroom window open meant a most brisk temperature met me this morning as I awoke from my slumbers. As I lay there in the still morning contemplating the best way to extract myself from under the warm layers of quilts and comforters, my thoughts drifted to what awaited me outside after the night’s high winds. I had been lulled to sleep by the peppering of branches on the roof.

After my morning cup (pot) of coffee and thus suitably steadied I ventured out into the day. Being this early in the season The Jim and I have yet pulled the summer furniture out of storage and erected the deck canopy so there had been no mad evening dash to secure flyable’ s. As expected there was the normal assortment of twigs and small branches scattered about the deck and roof. A quick brooming took care of the deck; the roof is on the schedule for tomorrow. Larger debris was picked up from the driveway and the emergency generator cover replaced. The cover for the fire pit was a different story, surveying the yard it was not to be seen. Taking a que from the direction the generator cover had been a skewed I began my trek into the woods. Several yards in I found the wondering cover and happily retrieved it. Other than a few pieces of trash blow in from who knows where the cleanup will be minimal, actually un-noticeable when mixed with other need seasonal clean up item, ahem.

Before heading off to the part-time job to help “My Ladies” at the flower shop (wedding flowers for a photo ops at a new wedding venue) I strolled the Up Front landscaping installation, which by the by has yet to see a gardeners hand this spring, ahem. I was surprised, pleasantly so, to see the hosta planter sprouting. Of course around here we have another name for hosta’s, “Deer Candy”. I need to devise an artfully pleasing fence for them and the sooner the better.


Also in the Up Front, and for which I cannot take credit, Her Ladyship has likewise sprouted. Her Ladyship is a wild and native “Lady Slipper”. I stumbled across her a couple of years ago and placed a rose cage around her for protection. Since a large portion of the Lady Slippers natural habit has disappeared I was most ecstatic to have one volunteer to grow on the property and have taken great care not to disturb her. My efforts have been rewarded by having her as a photographic subject.


And as always the little Red Bud behind the hydrangea berm is showing off in spectacular fashion. Once this little fellow goes into full flower spring is not too far behind in earnest. I have been watching the progression of the red buds blooming up the mountain sides. Starting at the base, as spring progresses so to the blooming trees up the mountain. Once the red buds start to fade, dogwoods will take their place and then the trees will begin leafing proper. The headiness of spring is truly upon us.