Wednesday, April 30, 2008

31 posts in 30 days!

Well here it is, May 30th and except for one day, I actually managed to post daily all month. I posted twice on two days during the month for a total of 31 posts in 30 days. It's been a test to post daily and while its been fun, I don't think I'll keep it up in May! I'll try to post often, but can't promise daily. Thanks for reading.

I was going to give you a picture of the first peony to open but didn't get that together, though it would have been a fitting segue way into May as peonies are definitely THE flower of May. Maybe tomorrow. Instead I'll leave you with a picture of one of our azaleas, this one is called "Hot Shot" and you can see why. Good night for now.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Native Dwarf Iris

I'm in the home stretch of this blog-a-day month. Phew. My belief that there would be something new everyday to share has been fulfilled, but its been a challenge to blog daily!

Here I present to you the two native dwarf iris that grow in our area and that Mr. D has brought to live in our yard.
Above is the Iris Verna Linnaeus*. It is distinguished by the patch of orange on its sepal and the fact that it has no crest. Below is the crested dwarf iris Iris Cristata Aiton*. Its hard to see the crest in this picture, but isn't it lovely nestled in with the Japanese silver fern ?

April into May is definitely the month for iris and the Siberians are about to put on a show along with the taller crested purple iris that we moved from our house in town. Below, if you look close, you can see the frilly patch that is the crest.

*Wild Flowers of North Carolina by William S. Justice and C. Ritchie Bell, UNC Press 1987

Monday, April 28, 2008


We've been having the most incredible rain- its been raining for 24 hours! Mostly slow and steady but there have been a few downpours. When I checked the rain gauge this afternoon it was at 1.4 inches, but then it started up again, so might have gotten another 1/4 inch or more. Yippee.

I'm so glad I took this picture of my lilac yesterday morning before the rains came, it's now completely weighted down from the water to the point I was afraid the branches might break. It is decadently fragrant and just luscious in the number of blooms it bears- I hope it bounces back tomorrow when the sun comes out.

Up close. I wish you could smell it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tomatoes are Planted!

It's been raining all evening, a lovely slow gentle rain, just what we needed. The windows are open and the sound of the rain is soothing. I finally got the tomatoes planted, finished just as the rain started to come down, perfect timing. I put in 3-4 plants of several varieties, Big Beef, Cherokee Purple, Mrs. Benson, Bolsano, Celebrity, Tuscany and Amish paste. I still need to plant the red and sungold cherries, thinking of growing them on the fence by the lawn where we can pick and eat them as we play croquet.

Here are all my tomato babies, I started them from seeds around March 8th, grew them under lights for about a month, then moved them to larger pots and put them out on the deck to harden off and get strong. I have about 50 but only room for 25, I'll give the leftovers to my family, neighbors and friends.

Went on a bird walk this morning with my brother but there wasn't anything too exciting, they were singing but hard to see and the exciting migrants just haven't started passing through yet.

One more garden delight, a Siberian iris that opened yesterday for the first time. Got this one from my Papa's garden.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

First Leeks

We harvested our first 3 leeks tonight and cooked them up with this colorful "bright lights" hybrid, rainbow stemmed Swiss chard. Italian sausage, Montesio cheese and orechiette pasta rounded out the dish , a tasty way to end a day of hard work.
D. passed several hours with the chainsaw tidying up some areas and trails along our small creek. He was battling the cat brier, a noxious vine that grows into the trees , smothering them and eventually pulling them down. The tough green vine sports vicious thorns that I think have poison tips, whenever I get stuck with one it hurts for days.
I spent most of the day working at a family fun and health fair. It was toasty standing in the sun for hours and wore me out. As soon as I finished I went to the Y and threw myself into the pool, then headed home for lunch and a nap. My body isn't used to the heat yet.
Tonight I opened the house up wide, hoping most of the pollen has passed, though that is probably wishful thinking. It was hot in here and I couldn't breath, it feels wonderful to have the night air wafting through the house and to hear the night sounds again. The barred owls will probably wake me in the night with their caterwauling.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Yellow Bird

Now with it being spring you might think I'm talking about an actual yellow bird, but no. I'm referring to this magnolia that we planted a couple of years ago that is getting better by the day. I can't wait till its 20 feet tall and covered all over with these pale yellow flowers.

It's still only about 3 feet tall and last spring the blooms got nipped by the late hard frost, this year we wrapped it up those two cold nights last week to protect it and it's come through beautifully.

The bark of the tree is gray and the leaves a limey green, it will be a fine specimen one day.
I almost finished preparing the beds for the tomatoes today, got the rows ready, "put some happiness in those holes" as my friend Jenny would say by adding fertilizer, compost and wood ashes. Hopefully tomorrow or Sunday I'll get the second trellis up and get the plants in the ground. I'm planning to plant 24. Last year we had 20 and it was good, but a couple more is better, we can eat as many as we want, have some for the squirrels and plenty to make sauce with too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Seriously Local

I couldn't resist sharing this lunch with you, the only things not from our yard or the Creamery next door were the olive oil and lemon that I dressed the salad with and a few crackers on the side.
That's 6 kinds of lettuce, arugula, parsley, purple cabbage, asparagus and radishes all from our garden, and one orange yolked egg that the hen girls made for us and some fresh mozzarella that the cheese gals produced.
I'm here to tell you this was a delicious little repast.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Poppies and Daisies

My energy for the daily blog seems to be waning a bit, in fact my energy in general is waning. I've been working pretty hard at all my jobs and in the garden and have been just plain tired of late. But I still wanted you to see the sight that made me smile as I stood at the kitchen sink rinsing out my coffee pot this morning.

The daisies haven't peaked yet, but the view of this big patch of them, with the blue and purple columbines and the orange poppies dotting the green and white background of daisies was so lovely, I had to run out there and snap a few shots to share. Daisies are a nuisance, they spread like wild and we pull the seedlings up by the handfuls every summer. But I keep them in the garden because they add bloom between the early flowers and the peonies and I find them cheerful. The columbines and poppies are perfect because while they "seed around" as my father used to say, they don't do it in droves, so they're manageable in the flower beds. The other fun thing about the columbines is that they cross, so we have purple and blue and plum and pink and some have the long spurs like these and others are frillier like the ones I posted a few days ago.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Ultimate Truth

It's late and it's been a long day so I'll just leave you with this:

The mountains, rivers, grasses, trees, and forests are
always emanating a subtle, precious light, day and night,
always emanating a subtle, precious sound, demonstrating and expounding to all people the unsurpassed ultimate truth.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Pinxter Flower

Oh Lawd, I am tired tonight. Woke up at 3:30 this morning and could not get back to sleep, finally gave in about 5 and just got up. Worked all day at the Forest and then drove out to Graham to have dinner with some friends, as soon as I finish this post I'm putting this old body to bed.
I couldn't get through April without sharing this delight. A native pink azalea, Rhododendron nudiflorum, also called the Pinxter-Flower. This tall airy shrub is downright flamboyant with its frilly peppermint candy flowers. They bloom all up and down the creeks for several weeks in April and stand out strong against the daily thickening green.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

April Showers

More rain, what a wonderful thing. I emptied out all the rain barrels yesterday afternoon and had to break out the hose to water in a few of the things I planted. After close to an inch of rain last night, the two trash cans were full again, I emptied those into 10 five gallon buckets and I'm thinking the trash cans could be full again after the downpour we just received. Needless to say- we've still not made any further progress on our rainwater catchment system, oh well, at least its raining.
I've been thinking about all the people around the world that have to carry water everyday just for cooking and drinking let alone agriculture. It's a meditation for sure to fill the watering cans by dipping them in the rain barrel and then make repeated trips back and forth to the garden to water the young plants and seed beds almost daily. I really do want a better set-up where we can at least gravity feed through a hose. And we clearly need a much greater storage capacity.

When I decided to do a daily post for April, I felt sure that there we be something new everyday to talk about and there has been. Here is a shot that includes a hot pink dianthes in the foreground, just beginning to bloom, a very late blooming daffodil called Fragrant Rose, it isn't really fragrant but its nice and tall and is still blooming after all the other daffodils are finished. To the right you can just see a blue columbine and in the back our weeping redbud which is a fabulous plant. The redbud has a curvy trunk that's gorgeous all winter, then it puts on this pink show in the spring and in the summer it is covered with large glossy leaves that reach to the ground. Then I call it the "Cousin It" tree because it looks like a giant green lump.
You can see the trees are really greening up in the woods beyond. With all the rain they will pop for sure and soon it will be a thick lush forest of spring green on every side of our yard. Oh how I LOVE this time of year!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ooh Wee-ain't that a purty plum colored columbine in front of that variegated iris!
It was another action packed day in the garden. I mowed the grass. Even filled in a few bare spots with some dirt and sprinkled a little grass seed around. Croquet season is upon us and our course is a bit of a disgrace. Maybe the rain over the next few days will help those seeds sprout to fill in the bald spots, otherwise it's going to be a rugged course this year.

We weeded and moved plants around and planted a few things that had been loitering in pots; one of the new camellias, a clematis, some tall pink phlox that were in the old nursery bed which is now a corner of the veggie garden, last thing to get out of there, some tall Asiatic trumpet lilies that we started from corms off the mother bulb a couple of years ago, finally big enough to plant. It's fun starting and moving plants around, one of the bonuses of perennials, they just keep multiplying.
I planted some seeds too, nasturtiums, dill, sunflowers, zinnias. It was looking mighty pretty by the time we called it a night, both of us working together out there for several hours really made a big difference. The front flower beds need weeding again already, we've got to get a trailer load of wood chip mulch to lay down or we'll be back out there weeding the whole damn thing all over again in a couple of weeks.
It was starting to rain when we were ready to take our evening tour of the garden with a glass of wine, so we grabbed umbrellas and did it anyway, wanting to admire our days work. Now I am ready for a long deep sleep, goodnight all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Another day in the garden, backache to prove it

As I was working in the vegetable garden this morning I thought "you should tell your readers it's not all sweetness and light" My backs been aching and I'm overwhelmed most days by all the things I need to get done. All the same- I wouldn't trade any of it.

I stirred up a toad while I weeded and mulched around the Swiss chard I planted last fall, he hid between the rows and I tried not to scare him too much. We've got a little bunny living in the yard too, so far it's only eating clover and chickweed outside the veggie garden, I'm hopeful that the rabbit wire is really small enough that he can't squeeze through.

Call me anal retentive, but it really makes me happy to see the garden beds looking so tidy.

From front to back this is beets, carrots, red and toscano kale, tatsoi, cilantro, radishes, lettuce and peas at the back, you can see some onions on the left and the shed with all our rain buckets in the background.

Wish it would rain, its getting dry again. I stepped my peppers and eggplants up from small to larger pots today, will set them out in a couple of weeks. Next week I'm going to plant tomatoes, yippee, only about 10 weeks now till the first red ripe one.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Kayak Bliss

We took our kayaks out on Jordan Lake this morning for the first time since I can't remember when. Last year it got so hot and the lake got so low and skanky that we just stopped going. Well it isn't low anymore, there was hardly a space to launch the boats today the water level was so high. Where there is normally a wide sandy beach there was just enough room on the walkway to slip our two boats in side by side over the sand.

As always it was stunning out there. In the early morning light with hardly another boat on the lake, the water was placid, the air was cool and the sky was bright and clear. The tops of the big pine trees along the shore were brushy with new needles and yellow candles, sharp against the blue sky. I was wearing yellowish glasses that rendered the new leaves on the trees an electric chartreuse.

Yellow throated warblers were singing their "sweet, sweet, little more sweet" song from the tops of all those pines but we saw nary a one despite our searching. We did get a great look at a red-headed woodpecker and saw the usual raft of cormorants, ring-billed gulls, a couple of osprey and a dozen great blue herons. Eagles evaded us this time out but I know they're still there.

We like to paddle the boats back into a cove and just drift, looking up into the trees and willows. Good thing we didn't need to get out of the boats as there was no beach to pull out on anywhere.

We paddled about an hour and a half and then loaded up and headed home. It's a process, loading the boats, driving to the lake, unloading, paddling, reloading, coming home and unloading again! Probably about 2 hours in loading and driving each time but its worth it to be out there on the water.

I love to swim and I feel that way about the swimming too. Got to drive to the pool, change, swim, shower, dress and drive back home, but it's worth it to get that aqua therapy. In fact- anything I do that gets me next to water is worth whatever it takes because the water so feeds my soul.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Latest "In Season" Column

So I'm copping out just a hair on the daily post today as I'm really tired and still have some miles to go before I sleep tonight. But for your reading pleasure, you can hop on over to my latest column in the Chapel Hill News which was published today, its called April Fools.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Possible Freeze Tonight

It figures. With our last spring frost date being April 15th that we might actually get a frost tonight. It worries me, things are so far along already.

I'm especially concerned about this lovely little Japanese maple that tends to leaf out very early. It got seriously nipped in the late freeze we had last spring and I hate to see it happen again. I've wrapped the little baby in remay fabric and hope it will do the job.

This tree is really special to us. Mr. D. dug it from my fathers garden after my father died. He did it lovingly and with great care, taking up as much of the root as possible. The poor tree had been battered and munched by deer and had no soil under it, its roots were fairly well established, but spread wide rather than deep.

When we set it in this place in the ground we put some of my fathers ashes underneath to give it a good start and help us to remember him even more by this planting. I don't know what type of maple it is, but it won't ever get any taller than this, it will only spread its canopy of small red edged leaves wider and wider over the years. In summer it turns a deep green and in autumn, red. Now, in the spring, it is its most beautiful; the leaves start out yellowish with red edges and slowly go green.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Nesting Warblers Return

Oh my- I was gone most of the day working at CF so have no photo and not much to tell. It was a beautiful morning and walking over there was delightful, the sun was bright and the birds were starting to sing. But by midday the weather turned awful, rainy, the temp dropped from 57 to 47 between about 12 and 4. We were ready to get out of there after the UPS truck showed up to haul off the close to 30 boxes of plants we packed up today.

The rain is good, but I'm looking forward to some sunshine tomorrow- hope it comes.

My bro said today he saw all of the 7 warblers that nest on our land, back for another season. The Pine Warbler, here all year, Louisiana Waterthrush, the first to return, Yellow-Throated, Common Yellow Throat, Ovenbird, Northern Parula and Hooded all showed up in the past week or two. The Prairie Warbler nests on neighboring land where a clear cut was made a couple of years ago. It is the last to return and we haven't heard its rising stair step twitter yet.

In the next few weeks we'll eagerly don our binoculars and head out on early mornings to see what we can spot passing through- I'll get distracted from tasks outside by a call from the forest and grab my binoculars to try and hunt down the new comer who may be a stranger. The list on my front page shows all the things we've seen regularly in migration, its a pretty good list and I look forward to possibly adding something new.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lizard Land

The lizards are back- they've been showing up over the past few weeks, finally slipping back out of hibernation to enjoy a little sunshine and eat a few bugs. Mr. D. caught this shot of one the other evening, looking ever so much like a lapel pin, sitting on our Mrs. Fox statue. She seems to be demurely checking him out- but then she tends to maintain this demure look most of the time.

This afternoon thousands of termites took flight from the railroad ties that line our front promenade and we watched as a reddish lizard - I think a Broadhead Skink - sat eating them as fast as they could fly out of one of the holes. When he got full he did a few push ups, as if to say, "these are my bugs, I'm the man, get back all you other lizards."

Lizards really like our railroad ties. They have lots of cracks and crevices where they can hide and the ties get really warm in the sun, two things a lizard can really love. So far I have only seen the fence lizards and the red ones, no 5-lined blue tailed skinks as of yet. But as the weather warms, they will be swarming over that stairway out there, like the termites were swarming into the air today.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Carrboro Ramble

I went to the Carrboro Farmers Market today for the first time this season. It was bursting with produce and people. I didn't buy anything, mainly went to say hi to my brother Alex and of course saw 5 million people I know- which is the good and bad thing about going to market. If you are in a hurry it's bad, if you have all morning-its delightful. I hadn't really planned to spend all morning there but did anyway- it was nice.
Starved, I wandered over to the newly opened Neil's Deli next to Open Eye Cafe and scored a Porchetta sandwich, tender, slightly smokey pork shoulder stuffed with garlic and herbs on olive-oiled bread- with a fennel and celery salad on the side- this place rocks- brand new and booming- check it out. Good thing I only ate half of it (saved half to bring home for the honey) because...
I then went over to the New Years celebration of the people of Burma at Carrboro Elementary School. In the cafeteria they were serving amazing food; a soup with quail eggs and small onions floating in it, a red curry pork dish, mountains of white rice, sweet and spicy cabbage, sweet lo mein noodles, a fishy soup garnished with raw green beans and fried corn kernels, the only thing I couldn't handle was something very dark brown and crunchy that was super salty, crunchy, fishy, spicy- too intense, fruit and ice cream for dessert.

Have you ever seen such curly writing?

In the auditorium groups of young girls danced on stage. Dressed in traditional costumes they used the angled arm movements familiar from various Asian and eastern traditions, while dancing to Asian pop music. The people in the audience sat in rapt attention to the activity on stage, young men lingered near the doorway and on the fringes. There was lots of smoking going on outside the building, I decided they couldn't read the signs posted everywhere stating it was a tobacco free campus, hopefully someone will police the grounds for ciggy butts before they leave today.

This little one had a piece of long white fabric at her feet and she kicked it up as she danced

Everyone was very welcoming, warm and friendly. I spoke to one man I thought I knew but didn't, we then engaged in a long conversation. Later I spoke to a man I did know but he didn't think he knew me and didn't speak much English- so we engaged an interpreter. It was an eye opening and beautiful experience and I was glad to be able to take part in it.

Now I'm sitting here blogging when I should be working- so ta-ta for now.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pollen, Pollen Everywhere

The world turned yellow this week when the pine trees started to shed their pollen, the windshield is covered every time I go to the car, my shoes are covered when I come in from a walk. It was so hot today and I REALLY wanted to open the windows but don't dare, the house is dusty enough already with out another 1/8 inch of pollen added to everything. Every vessel of water has a yellow scum on it and the pond looks like old mustard. When I washed the greens the other day I wondered if ingesting pollen on things we eat might make us less likely to be allergic, maybe sort of a homeopathic remedy? everything I pick has a lovely yellow haze across it, hopefully it will rain tomorrow and wash some of it down.

My dearest Jenny came today and helped me finish weeding, thinning and mulching all of the spring veggies, this was no small task and it was hot in the sun. Thank-you sweet pea, you made it bearable. Everything looks oh so happy now all dressed in a layer of dark brown leaf mulch- it really sets off the greens of the spinach, onions, lettuce etc. I'll make a picture tomorrow perhaps, too tired today.

I spotted this little guy down at the creek when I went for a walk late this afternoon- it looks like he has the pine needle in his mouth but I think he is actually resting his chin on it. Good to see the water still swirling down the creek.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tulip Snuggle

Just a quick little post before bed. Couldn't resist these two tulips snugging up to each other - it looks like the yellow one is leaning in to give the pink one a smooch. Spotted it tonight on our end of the day, glass of wine in hand, ritual garden tour. These yellow tulips with the reddish tinges are super fantastic. I have been really happy with the tulips altogether. I bought one of those mixed bags with 75 bulbs because I waited till too late to order the varieties I wanted and so settled for that cheap bag in the end. They've been phenomenally gorgeous, mostly reddish pinks, and these yellow- but they've really jazzed up the garden for several weeks. I hope they'll come back next year.

Baby Greens

OK- so I failed to blog yesterday, it was a super busy day and I fell asleep on the couch at 9, moving to the bed after I finished "watching" American Masters about Zora Neale Hurston. Sorry I missed it actually, she was a fascinating person. The last thing I said before completely falling into la la land was " I didn't blog today". Oh well, the good thing about a self-imposed goal is you are the only one that has to live up to it- right?

I'll try to post twice today to make up for it. I did have a plan for yesterday's blog and it was this. One of the main reasons I grow my own vegetables is so I can pick them when they are small. Yesterday I thinned my greens and lettuces. This is a long standing spring ritual for me. They are always too close together so need to be thinned- I wait until they have a little size on them and that way I can eat the thinnings. I'm not talking about "micro" greens here, the silly greens just past being sprouts they are now serving in trendy restaurants. This is more like the mix you pay $6.99 a pound for at the store.

I made a salad mix; four kinds of lettuce and baby arugula. (top picture) and a braising mix ; spinach, tatsoi, turnip greens, red and toscano kale,(bottom picture)

For dinner I browned local pork sweet Italian sausage with mushrooms and onions in olive oil, added the entire bowl full of braising mix, bow tie pasta and an Italian cheese they had on "sale" at Whole Paycheck for $11.99 per pound called Montesio. It is a very tasty cheese, a bit milder and creamier than an asiago and perfect in this dish. We each consumed a giant bowl full of this yummy pasta before passing out in front of the television.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Asparagus on the March

The onslaught begins. From now till early May we'll be picking a huge bunch of asparagus everyday. If it rains and then gets really warm, we have to pick them twice a day they shoot out of the ground with such speed. I think of them like little soldiers with purple helmets.

I love love love them. I cannot describe to you how tasty they are fresh from the garden, I eat the skinny ones while I'm picking, they are so sweet and tender- they never make it into the house. Like all veggies, as soon as they are picked they begin to convert their sugars to starch so the longer they hang around, the less tasty they become. Most people never have the pleasure of eating asparagus so fresh and sweet.

If you have even 10 feet of garden that you could dedicate to asparagus, and you plan to stay where you are for a while, I recommend you try them. One of the first things we planted once our garden was in place was 75 crowns of asparagus. This was a bit extreme but we share them with our best friends who have a tiny cottage garden in Carrboro with not much sun. My best girlfriend is an asparagus aficionado so she begged us to plant extra. They helped to prepare the beds, no small task. It includes digging a trench a foot deep and amending the soil, then setting in the crowns which look like octopus with long fleshy roots, in the bottom of the trench. You cover the crowns and then you add soil as the plants grow until the trench is filled in. Each winter our friends come and help us cleanup the beds by cutting the old dry ferns to the ground, weeding and laying on a nice deep blanket of leaf mulch. It's a nice way to spend a sunny winter afternoon chatting and hanging out. In return they get all they can eat and so do we and then some.

I'm willing to sacrifice the space because they are just so fantastic and their price in the store is high. I never eat them any other time of year unless they are served to me at a restaurant or someones house. I get my fill in April and May.

We especially like to eat them with eggs; omelets, scrambled, frittatas, casseroles. They are also mighty fine just steamed or microwaved with butter or chilled for a salad. Many people like them grilled though we haven't tried them that way too often, too much fuss when you can just toss them in a skillet with some butter and slurp them down by the pound.

If you have any favorite asparagus recipes, please send them my way, I need some new ideas for using them up. I make some cream of asparagus soup base at the end of the season when I'm getting tired of the little buggers and that freezes really well and keeps its fresh sweet taste and bright green color.

There is the controversy of asparagus pee, the strange odor that emanates from ones urine after eating asparagus. Apparently this is a genetic trait and not everyone can claim the fame. But here at our house, the bathroom gets pretty fragrant around this time of year.

So if you don't have your own bed, plant one. If you don't have the space, get over to the farmers market and buy some really fresh ones, get them home quick, cook them simply and eat them with verve to experience true asparagus bliss.

Todays harvest with a few french breakfast radishes for fun

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another chilly gray day

The last time the first week of April was this cold and rainy was in 2003. I remember it well as at the end of March that year I had major surgery and the first week of my recovery spent at home was just like this. It was perfect as I was on heavy meds and sleeping most of the time and really needed to rest and get healed. On doctors orders I took a short walk three times a day, each day walking a little further.

By the second week of my recovery the weather had cleared and I spent the next 5 weeks in a wonderful state of rest and relaxation. I took daily walks, hired a young man to help me get the garden planted; since I wasn't allowed to lift anything, and spent the remainder of the time bird and nature watching . It was grand really, to have permission to do nothing but what I wanted for 6 weeks.

Not the case this year with all my new obligations, but I'm hopeful that the cold weather is passing and the next weeks will bring warm and sunny days as we expect and deserve in the month of April.

I heard my first Northern Parula warbler of the season singing on my walk to work this morning. I joke that the Parula is my nemesis in birdwatching- a distinct call makes me search for this bird that loves to hang out in the highest tops of the poplar trees and it's so small that it can easily sequester behind leaves and be VERY hard to spot. He is worth the search though, a very pretty little fellow with yellow breast, orange-brown collar, and blue grey back.

The forest is filling with a green and pastel haze that will soon obliterate the long views I've been enjoying since October, green-up time is coming fast.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Late night sleepy post

Well I promised a post-a-day in April- so even though I'm sleepy, here comes a quickie. It was cloudy and cool again today and we got another 1/2 an inch of rain last night! The potatoes are sprouting and all of my spring seedlings need to be weeded, thinned and mulched. The tomatoes desperately need to be stepped up to larger pots as they are bumping into the grow lights and getting scraggly- they need more space, light and nutrients. If I have any energy left after my shift at Camellia Forest tomorrow I must tend to them.

The asparagus are beginning to come on nicely and we're picking a good handful daily now, if it warms up they'll be flying out of the ground. Dinner tonight was a frittata of fresh asparagus, green onions, spinach and chard all from the garden, made with those good CH creamery eggs we love so well. Feta cheese and some mushrooms too- from the store not locally made/grown, ah well, can't have every single thing local every time.

OK- I've done it, a post for the day. I leave you with the frilly loropetalum, up close and shocking- to brighten up another cloudy day. I'm off to dreamland.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

More Rain

So we've now had almost 3 inches of rain in a single week. This is a switch, I'm glad its raining but I wish we had a better cistern and rain barrel set-up figured out. And the weeds are growing like crazy and I can't get outside to work. Despite the rain- the view out the kitchen window this morning was marvelous.
A trio of pink trees. On the left a weeping redbud, in the center the "Prairie Fire" crab apple we planted last year and in the distance, the Tulip Magnolia already touted repeatedly in this blog. You can also see a magnificent Japanese maple on the right- bright lime green and if you look closely you can see the terracotta nest pot that's been taken over by chickadees. Also you can see the tulips and daffodils scattered about.

Here is a close up of that Japanese maple in bloom last week

Here's what happens to a ripe cabbage that gets 3 inches of water in a single week. Think I'll be cooking a favorite dish for dinner; shredded cabbage with sliced apples and chicken sausage, a bit of onion and caraway, red wine vinegar and pinch of sugar, altogether in the skillet- delicious, beautiful and easy.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Camellia Forest

I've mentioned that I have 3 new part-time jobs. One of them is working at a local nursery that specializes in camellias and also has lots of very interesting trees, shrubs and landscape plants. I took this job because:
  1. I love plants and want to learn more
  2. I can walk to work-incredible considering where I live
  3. The folks that run the place are nice and laidback
  4. I'm getting paid two thirds in cash and one third in plants :-)
  5. I only have to work there one day a week (usually)

So far I have worked 5 days over 4 weeks, every one of those days has been freezing cold and the last one was also raining. I have been completely exhausted at the end of these days and frozen, had to come home and take hot baths and naps to recover. Keep wondering if I am too old for this kind of physical labor though I'm only packing plants for shipping, no real heavy lifting. But I'm not going to whimp out, I will stick it out. It's April and it must get warmer right? I'll get stronger right?

So to encourage myself I went over there today with Mr. D and picked out my free plants for my first months work- and then some- now I am an indentured servant, but that will keep me showing up for work. The hard part is choosing. We picked:

  • Chamaecyparis Obtusa "Wells Special" fantastic evergreen with architectural qualities and bluish foliage
  • Acer Palmatum "Orangeola" weeping cut leaf Japanese Maple that is red in spring, greenish in summer and bright orange in fall- oh boy
  • Corylopsis Sinensis- Chinese Winterhazel- pendulous yellow fragrant blooms in March-have always wanted one of these- spreading 10x10 feet
  • Prunus Hally Jolivette-small cherry tree (12 feet) that blooms spring and fall - white flowers with dark pink centers- will plant below my study window
  • 2 spring blooming camellias, white "Sudie Blanchard" and red "Royal Velvet"

So to my three part-time jobs add digging holes for these new plants and keeping them watered through the summer so they don't die!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Robins and Leeks

More wet and cold today doesn't feel very spring like, but I'm happy for the rain. Yesterdays sunshine got Mr. D out pushing the mower through the thick, lush grass, first time this season. This morning a flock of 35 hungry robins landed there to see what they could find in the new mown lawn. The most common of the thrushes, I take them for granted but they're a handsome bird with their red breasts, dark heads and white spectacles. Three flickers poked around under the apple trees and bluebirds, chipping sparrows and juncos were checking it all out too. We watched a pine warbler gathering feathers off the ground under the bird feeder to carry back to its nest, and I saw a chickadee swoop into the nest pot with something white and fluffy that looked like a ball of cotton.

I'm excited about these leeks. We started them last July, from seed I had collected some years back. Set the green toothpick-size shoots in the bed in September and slowly hilled the soil and mulch up around them as they grew. I'm hoping for long thick white bases on these babies. I remember the last time we grew leeks, the deer ate them down to the ground during the winter so they never got any real size on them. So here's one more thing we can grow without molestation, thanks to the deer fence. Some are big enough to harvest soon and then through the spring and early summer. I'm imagining what I can do with asparagus and leeks; quiche, omelets, grilled and tossed in vinaigrette, or leeks and potatoes, leeks and sugar snap peas, leeks and spinach....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bearded Iris

I've set a goal for myself to blog every day in April with something new from the garden or woods each time- we'll see if I can live up to the challenge. There is absolutely so much happening- I can't stop gazing out the windows and strolling around the yard to see what's new.
This morning the first of these bearded iris opened, they were a gift from the garden of my friend and massage therapist, Pat. They've spread and now make a nice clump on one edge of one bed, I hope one day they will be many and cast their fragrance across the yard, something I've experienced in places with big iris beds. The scent is like their color, I can't explain, not quite grape jelly, but sweet like that. You can see that crazy fringed flowered loropetalum in the background, it'll burn your retinas on a sunny day.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool Part II

OK- I know I just did a post but I was sitting there eating my lunch, (egg salad made from the freshest most delicious eggs compliments of my dairy farming neighbors), and I couldn't help but take a photo of this vase of tulips and daffodils. This little white daffodil with the split corona of pale yellow and white may be my favorite of the close to 20 varieties that we have planted around our place, its gently nodding flower head is so graceful.

I'm not sure if its spring fever or just procrastination. My writing group meets tonight and I haven't got a thing other than these blog posts to show, I've got to get cracking on something more substantial, perhaps a piece on spring fever? Being the April fool?

Meanwhile, yellow swallowtail butterflies are flitting about the yard, the sun is toying with the idea of actually shining for the first time in several days, but I've got to glue myself to this seat, drink the after-lunch cappuccino I've treated myself to and get serious!

April Fool

I took the opportunity for a quick walk during a break in the rain today, the short loop down our creek, past the pond to Morgan and back up the pond creek to the house again. The understory is really greening up, buckeyes are opening their leaves and the ground is very green now with trout lilies which have passed the baton to the spring beauties for most prolific flower at the moment.

The creek is up again from the rain and I’m hopeful that the big carp that live in University Lake will reappear to spawn here in the headwaters of Morgan. We’ve not seen them in a couple of years as its been too dry or maybe too much debris in the creek downstream from storms kept them from being able to swim up.

The Canada geese are back at the pond, they’ll give it a go one more year, despite the turtles eating their babies every time. They lay completely flat, their long necks out in front, they even manage to flatten their big bodies out, he in the water, she on the nest, to try and hide from me as I walk past.

Mama goose, flat on the nest

The green umbrellas of the May apples are up and I search in vein for morels, I know they are out there but never seem able to find any. Some trees are beginning to leaf out, the redbuds are open, casting a pink haze across the woods and the dogwoods are just beginning- still green and not completely open yet.

The first asparagus appeared this week, just a couple per day, soon we’ll be inundated- yumm. Lettuce are almost big enough to pick, a few radishes are looking right as well, spring veggie season begins…

Tulips started blooming this week to join the daffodils. Lilac, iris, and poppies are showing buds. The loropetalum in its hot pink fringed finery outshines every other thing in the garden right now, but the tulip tree is still putting on a show and the crabapple is about to do the same.

Tulip magnolia with ginger scented blooms

I’ve been ridiculously busy, after not working for 10 months I accepted three part-time jobs simultaneously and am now working about 30 hours per week. This is not helping me get all my house and garden chores done, nor leaving me time to write or blog or anything else. What was I thinking- and just as spring is coming on. I’m doing my best to juggle it all, but forgive me if you don’t see as many dispatches as usual from me here.

Check this out- I’ve got a monthly column now in the Chapel Hill News called “In Season”, the first one ran in March and the next will be out in a couple of weeks, click above if you care to read it.