Entries organized under Winter

Plant Now for Flowers Next Year!

November 9, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

As the weather cools down, you may find yourself dreaming of NEXT year’s flower bouquets.

bouquet_june_486Now is the time to prepare for at least some of your future garden, because many plants, usually biennials (plants that have a two year life cycle), need a period of cold before they will bloom.

larkspur-row-farmagrostemma-farmPlants like Agrostemma (corn cockles), Bupleurum, bachelor buttons, larkspur, Nigella, Saponaria (soapwort), Scabiosa (pincushion flower) that bloom in early spring can be planted now by direct seed. (Though it may be too late in some areas –check with your local cooperative extension office.) Follow the directions provided on the seed packet or catalog for soil depth and exact timing (larkspur, for example won’t germinate if the soil is too warm).


Other biennials/perennials, like foxglove, Echinacea, snapdragons, lupine and Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), Dianthus (sweet William) and others should have been started as seed back in mid- to late summer, but if you can find starts (young plants) at your local nursery, now is the time to get them in.foxglove-farm-perennial-bed


Yet other flowers like cosmos, zinnia, sunflowers and many more are annuals and are planted in spring.  So dream on and make your plans for them in patience.



august-flower-fieldOr, if you would rather have Nature do your gardening for you in a ‘wilder’ setting, there are some native wildflowers with which you can assist.

cardinal-flowerI am having a hard time thinking of a brighter red naturally occurring in wild Nature than a Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) other than its namesake, a mature male Cardinal himself. The North American native Cardinal Flower grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 9 in wet, poorly drained places, though they also grow in drier conditions. (Cornell University claims they may survive even in Zone 2!)

Cardinal Flower prefers full sun in cooler climates but needs part shade in the warmer part of its range. (They are very happy in the middle of our wet Zone 6 mountain meadow.)

To have your own intensely red insect attractant, collect the seed when the seed heads have matured (or purchase from a reputable seed source) and scatter the tiny seeds where you want them to establish. (Where you can easily see them, of course!) Scatter these seeds in late fall soon after they ripen or through early Spring since they also need to be “stratified” by cold to germinate. Do not cover them because, as with most tiny seeds, they need light to germinate.

Since Cardinal Flower is a short-lived perennial, let the plants reseed (which they should do naturally) to maintain the population.

joe-pye-yellow-swallowtailThe tall pink-lavender topped Joe-Pye Weed (there are several Eutrochium species) with its whorled leaves is native to Zones 4 through 9. Growing and germinating conditions for Joe-Pye Weed are similar to Cardinal Flower. You might want to plant these as more of a ‘backdrop’ since these plants can get quite tall.


great-blue-lobelia-fieldAnd Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is also native to Zones 2 through 9, from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky Mountains and blooms in late summer with the other two flowers above. Growing and germinating conditions are the same as above for this beautiful, though somewhat shorter, plant.

These three plants bloom in late summer (late July to  early September around here) when the bees need to be collecting nectar for winter honey stores and before the later Asters and Goldenrod begin blooming.


Get out there and beautify the future!

Big Snow

January 24, 2016

Contributed by HarryNicolas Graybear

Hurray! We finally got a “big snow” up here on our mountain! (I know there are many out there that do not like snow, sorry.) In two days it snowed more than all of last winter combined! Of, course, it was not as much snow as some other parts of the country got, but still, it’s a lot.

The first bit of snow came down quiet, gentle and nearly windless, piling up on tree branches, even the small twigs. The three or four inches accumulation was so pretty.

The second, bigger storm came in on roaring winds. Because of the wind, it is hard to know how much really came down. In some places it was eight inches deep, in other places it was 24 inches deep. In many places it was up to the dogs’ bellies! Deli loves to roll in it; Grace likes to dance in it and then just lie in it; Tulsi seems to be indifferent though she does, on occasion, like to run and scoop snow into her mouth.  They all have to bite the snow from between their toes when they come back into the cave.

There is so much to like about snow:

* As it falls and accumulates, it is so quiet. Few go out in it to make noise and the noise that is made just gets swallowed up in it.Snowy barn

* The crunch of fresh cold snow under foot is unlike any noise you will hear in spring, summer or fall. And much more pleasing a sound than the ‘splet’ and ‘squelsh’ as it warms up and turns to slush as you step in it.

* The snow swirling and dancing as it is driven across the ground just looks happy! It makes me happy! Where will it come to rest?

* The clean fresh surface lets us see who has passed. You can follow tracks of Mrs. Rabbit to see where she has gone. You can see what the birds like to eat with their chaotic dance under a branch that used to be full of seeds. You can know that Mr. Deer has been searching for food in the meadow.  It can tell interesting stories if you know how to read it.

 brid tracks in snowdeer tracks * After the clouds have dropped their frozen cargo and departed, the sun comes and makes every snowflake sparkle like the whole world is covered in diamond dust.

* The trees on the tops of the taller mountains have collected a glaze of ice because they stuck up into the clouds gathering water before it froze into snowflakes. They are so beautiful as they shimmer in the sun with a different sparkle than the snow.

* You can make snow angels.

* You can make snow bears… and rabbits… and people.

* You can make snow forts and castles, if you have enough.



* You can see the snow covered ground under the trees on the mountains across the valley. You can see the flow and roll of the land better and that white surface under the snowless gray trees makes the mountains look like they are wearing a dark furry coat.

snow creature

* Snow creates rare funny creatures.

* You can make snow cream!

* After playing (and working) in it, you can go inside and warm up by the fire!

Snow is not so bad. I like it.


Magic in the Field

January 16, 2016

Contributed by Deb

Harry and I were out walking the field shown in the background of the picture yesterday and we found some magic.  We found these six all within about 20 feet of each other.  We found another six further on our ramble.  There are probably lots more out there!


Do you know what they are?  We do and we know they are very special.

Why don’t you guess first before I tell you.  Is it part of the plant?  Is it someone’s house?  Is it healthy or a disease on the plant?  Is it a bug?  Hmmmmmm… still don’t know?

I’ll give you a hint:  In the summer, you may see what made them, but they hide very well.

Need another clue?  They are long and usually green.

Here’s another clue:  they have BIG eyes and long arms.

Okay, one more:  The six things in the picture contain lots of eggs during winter.  In spring, when it warms up, they will hatch and the babies will chew their way out.

These are praying mantis egg cases that momma praying mantises made last fall!  Here’s a picture of one of the babies on one of our collecting baskets:

praying mantis

Did you know?

We will take a couple of the egg cases and put them near our garden and the rest we will return to the field… I just wanted to show you.

Sunshine and raspberries to you!


Happy New Year, 2016

January 1, 2016

Contributed by HarryNicolas Graybear

Most Animals in the northern hemisphere know the Sun and Earth have started another cycle of life at the Solstice. The Animals in the southern hemisphere will restart their cycle in 6 months. Humans have picked a different marker to celebrate renewal.

To all our readers, human and otherwise, Happy New Year

In our woods, the First Breath of Spring bushes (Lonicera fragrantissima) and the Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) are in full bloom offering food to any brave bees willing to venture out to forage as the local temperatures finally begin to drop after the warm Christmas rains.

The kids have all departed for their own homes in far-off places. They left me a much-appreciated gift of a denim apron to help keep shavings and sawdust out of my pockets. The oldest son helped me (actually, he did all the cutting!) take down a neighbor’s dead maple (sugar, I think (Acer saccarum) which I will turn into bowls and other useful things (probably including heat).

Unfortunately, the apron, during its first use, did not protect my hand from a flying, lathe-ejected piece of bark.  OUCH!

A couple of dried Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) flowers bound to the wound under a bandage, quickly stopped the bleeding and accelerated the healing such that while it still feels traumatized, it is nearly healed after only three days.

For Christmas, I gave Deb a crudely carved spatula I freed from a twisted piece of cherry firewood.  Look how beautiful the grain is!

Cherry Spatula

She also received this little bowl I discovered hiding in an old black locust fence post.

Locust tricorner

I also removed the ‘waste’ from a small piece of soft mahogany scrap from Deb’s Dad’s old workshop.

Mahogany square

Nature creates such amazing and wonderful masterpieces with trees and other plants.

I hope you’ll look around and find some miracles!