Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cheap Date

Overnight rain left the ground wet this morning.  This pile of spring dumped stone has been calling to me for months.  The large stone with the flat surface was wiggled from the new pile to my ground when first discovered.  With no way to move this great wall stone because of its size and location, I had to find a way to grab at least part of this beauty.  Becky and I headed out with this stone as our destination.  I brought my hammer and stone splitting chisels.  She brought the camera.

This piece of woods is downhill from the gravel bank hill.  Our property line runs along the center of the old stone wall.  The cultivated field was part of the original farm but is now owned by an absentee neighbor.  He has granted me stone gathering rights but there is no way to bring either my lawn tractor nor truck to this area.  Anything that I remove must be hand carried up the hill.

Several roughly parallel cracks extended part way across the edge of this stone.  The deep grove on the flat surface and between the two chisels was made this spring by the farmer's tillage tool.  His instant response might have been colorful language but he soon returned with a bucket loader to remove a load of stone from the field.  He dumped the newly gathered stones where  field stones have always been dropped.  Planting corn was his agenda.  My desire to have this stone probably never occurred to him.

My chances for cleanly splitting the top layer of stone were questionable from the start.  The existing weathered cracks were wavy and extended only part way around the stone.  A sharp resistant sound resulting from the first hammer strike confirmed my fears.  Past experience had taught me that a hard section inside of the stone would make a clean split highly unlikely.  An interior silver gray deposit was revealed when a small section fell away.  These brown stones with an impossibly hard silver colored core have been seen here many times.

How these rocks were formed remains a mystery to me.  Surface fossils indicate that a sedimentary deposit under water initially formed the stone.  Some sort of solution bearing dissolved minerals must have penetrated the stone forming the hard core.  It also contains fossils so the exposure to the solution may have occurred after the rock was forming.  All that I know for certain is that the core is extremely hard and the brown edge stone easily breaks away from it.

This is the result of my pounding.  Vast differences can be seen on the newly exposed interior surfaces.  The brown upper section is rough with poorly defined remains of sea life.  Beneath it the slightly deeper surface shows the brown edge and the silvery hard interior.  A blue colored section further complicates the issue.

This nearly intact flat wall stone has been walked a short distance toward the uphill climb to the operational floor of the gravel bank.  Repeated future walks will likely complete the move.  With time and luck, this stone will find a place as a capstone on a new dry field stone wall.  Once placed, I will be able to recall my effort to acquire this stone as I sit upon it.  The pain this stone caused the farmer and his equipment will also be visible in its scratched surface.  This was truly time well spent.  A walk in our woods and retrieving a free stone for the wall might be a cheap date, but we always enjoy time spent together this way!

Leaving this stone in the woods was simply not an option.  Becky suggested that our hand truck and  her yoga cinch strap could be used to pull the stone up the hill.  Pausing to rest while on a slope and holding tightly to the cargo was a bit of a trick but I am still upright and the stone is now resting atop a wall.  This pile of stones left over from the wall by the road is waiting for the next project but for now it has a somewhat finished appearance to it.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Perfect Conditions For Pernicious Plant Pulling

Instead if a cold, white Christmas, we had a cool wet one.   When the rain finally stopped,  Ed went outside to see what he could find to do that would take advantage of this somewhat unusual chance to work outside at the end of December.  He settled on pulling out Japanese honeysuckle bushes.  With the soft wet ground, he could easily pull bushes that wouldn't budge an inch in dry weather.  Ed uses a neat cable with a ring on each end.  Not unlike a dog choke collar, the cable goes around the bush, through one ring and the other ring goes over the hitch on the back of the truck.  We just hop in the truck and let the Ranger gingerly do the hard work.      

Ed was elated at his success.  By pulling on the bush, easing up and then pulling again, he made short work of the smaller bushes.  He just tossed them in the truck replaced the sod in the hole that remained and moved on to the next bush.  He removed bushes that were too close to the driveway, bushes that he has been mowing around for ages and any bush that seemed to be where he would prefer it be gone.  With all that success under his belt he started to pull even bigger bushes.

Look carefully and you can see Ed on one of his trips to drop off bushes at the brush pile down at the gravel bank .

Quite an impressive pile of bushes  were gathering at the gravel bank.  Ed was having so much fun there is no telling how many bushes would have made it here, but perhaps that really big bush was a bit too much. While under pressure, one of the rings separated and flew off the cable never to be seen again.  That brought the bush pulling to a swift halt.  A new cable has been ordered.  When conditions are like this again he wants to be ready!

My how nice those bushes look when they are gone.  There are literally hundreds more yet to pull.

Ed cut up the  big bushes so that he could toss them on the brush pile.  It is all ready in case Ed gets another day to indulge in this kind of outdoor fun.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

No Snow

Winds from the south have brought us warm air temperatures and warm rain.  With that, the snow is gone and the ground is softening.  All of the plants will be fully exposed when the winds change direction and come to us from the north.  There is nothing to do for them so we wait for seasonally correct weather to find us once again.

There is always an opportunity to take advantage of prevailing conditions to make a task easier.  The new stone for the rock garden in progress was found uphill on the back side of the gravel bank hill.  A generous layer of wet fallen oak leaves provided for an easy pull for me to a point where the truck could do the hard work.  The end of season bargain snow sled once again was up to the task of supporting the rock as it was pulled across the uneven ground.  The only scary moment was when the stone was pulled downhill into the sled.  I needed it to come to rest in the sled and not continue rolling toward me.  Fortunately it stopped in the sled.

The stone was rolled into the pile where it will wait for its turn for another downhill move into the rock garden.  At the conclusion of the job no cracks were found in the sled and the ageing man is moving without pain. A chance to get some garden work done this late in December just feels good.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Spring Preview

With our December thaw so far most of the beds still have a covering of snow, but here and there the perennial plants are putting on new growth to be ready when spring finally arrives.  I am encouraged to see this kind of growth at the base of my perennial flax.  This plant put on quite show last summer.  I can close my eyes and remember the beautiful blue flowers but it's a lot more fun to actually see them.  Those delicate blue flowers that sway in the slightest breeze that open in the morning  and drop their petals to the ground before noon on a hot day, are a delight!

Ed's Mammoth Pink chrysanthemum is sending new growth in all directions.  If this continues we will have plenty of these gorgeous dark pinks flowers to spread around.  It almost feels like money in the bank!

The Doone Valley lemon thyme  looks perfect peeking out from the snow.  The fragrant and tasty green and yellow leaves are the stars here.  In the cold their fragrance is somewhat subdued, but if you rub a small sprig with your hands the aroma of spring is right there just waiting!

I failed in my search to find a picture of the sweet clove scented flowers that remind me of the fragrance of the carnations I remember from my youth.  I would be really tempted by the carnations at the checkout in the but that aroma seems to be missing and without that the flowers have lost their appeal for me.  I'll have to wait for these to bloom!

New Autumn Joy shoots are pushing up through last year's stems. It's kind of amazing since they don't bloom until September.  They will wait right where they are until the warmer weather.  Planted in the bed down by the road, the  big round mound of leaves get larger every year. The flowers are loved by bees, and Ed uses the dried stalks to make trees on his train layout. 

Of course some of our plants show absolutely nothing above ground at this point.  That doesn't prove a thing. Nature has to save some surprises for later. It's part of the fun!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December Thaw

Our recent weather has not been kind to us or our plants.  Freezing rain falling on frozen ground quickly created a substantial coating of ice.  Trees remained only wet as the wood was not yet frozen. Electric power was uninterrupted but the roads were a nightmare.  More snow fell and soon it looked like winter.  This morning's warm air finally cleared the driveway and most of the snow cover elsewhere is gone.  Ever present clouds keep it gray, wet and depressing outside but a walk about was definitely in order.  Geese are still here and their honks filled the air as they flew north just above the river.

Any walk out of doors of necessity starts near the arbutus transplanted close to the house several years ago.  Temporarily removing the protective wire cage allows this native plant to appear wild and free.  A hungry rabbit was seen nearby and the cage was replaced following a quick look and a picture.  These buds look ready for an early spring opening.  We will not miss that.  The rabbit shall not find food here.

A walk up the lane took me to the arbutus transplanted this year.  They too live under a wire cage.  A larger cage, nestled in a low stone wall, is on the to do list for spring.  Spacing between the small transplants seemed adequate at the time but a natural location under a white pine tree and frequent watering when rainfall was scant resulted in impressive growth.  There is still no sign of new plants from the seed produced here but we expect to see new plants after their seasonal period of cold.

This appearance of wintergreen is totally wild.  Neither purchased plants nor transplants have survived my attempts to help this plant reestablish itself here.  Fallen leaves from the birch tree litter the ground but the wintergreen leaves remain above them and their life process continues without my interference.  That is as it should be.

Cardinal flower is a native plant that grows here only in a garden.  This clump of daughter plants is seriously overcrowded and without division will likely choke itself out.  Six brown stems identify this as a single two year old plant that multiplied to six plants this year.  Next year will see this clump try to support the growth of up to thirty-six overcrowded  plants already vying for space.  The way that cardinal flower multiplies may be a factor in why attempts to reestablish this plant in the wild have failed.  The tenacity of the escaped pasture grasses may simply overpower the slight native making reproduction by seed impossible.  Spring will find a dozen pots of cardinal flower waiting on the stone wall until the weather settles so that they can be planted out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Snow Frosted Stonework

Most of the day Ed has been out clearing snow with his plow.  He did take some time off to take a walk around with the camera.  Looking out the window this morning I could see that Ed's stone walls  were frosted with snow.  Take some freezing rain, some wind and falling snow and the walls take on a very special look.  This stone square was Ed's first wall project here.  Started when we could only dream about living here, it is the centerpiece of the garden.

I chose this stone pile that sits down at the gravel bank because it looks different.  You can tell it is one of Ed's temporary piles by the casual way the stones are laid up.  I bet if I checked the top would be level.  Level is Ed's default stone piling setting.  Anyway, I love the way the snow stuck to the tree and the wire and there is not a footprint in sight!

The arbutus wall must have been sheltered somewhat.  It's snow frosting seems thicker on one end than the other.  I would think it was an optical delusion, but the snow is much heavier on the trees on one end that the other as well.

The stone wall down by the road seems a bit lonely without all the plants, but most of them are right there under the snow.  It's nice for the snow capped wall to be the center of attention for a change.  Ed  cleared around the mailbox, and the plow has been by on the road, but still snow covered it's kind of hard to exactly where that road might be.

With a thicker  covering of  snow the interesting rocks in Ed's new rock garden hide their individual charms.  The only indication that this area is a work in progress is the little pink flag. The grey sky explains why the pictures are almost devoid of color.  Next summer when it is hot and sunny, looking at these cool pictures will be a real treat!