Thursday, October 30, 2008

First Freeze

Finally we had a real frost and are expecting a true freeze tonight. So we've been running around picking peppers, cutting a last bouquet of zinnias and mums, putting floating row cover over the lettuce and other tender greens, hoping to extend their harvest a few more weeks.

I was online ordering a few paper whites for the winter, and a few more crocus, they are small and easy to plant- right? I succumbed to 9 new peonies, what can I say, I'm a sucker for a peony, the queen of the spring garden. How could one resist Raspberry Sundae or Do Tell
The weather is supposed to be warming up for the weekend so I know what I'll be doing, planting peonies and I still have more camellias and trees to put in the ground as well, it's the time of year when there is no end to planting if I'm not careful, and who wants to be careful when there are so many amazing plants out there?
The fall/winter veggie bed in all its glory, 10 kinds of greens and broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbages, with luck -and the use of row cover- we'll be picking off this bed till spring!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Glorious October Days!

It's been a major week in the garden, 5 entire person days, 3 for me and 2 for Dave, spent digging, weeding and moving plants. The weather was absolutely perfect, cool and sunny, just right for digging holes and moving plants around.

I cleaned up more in the veggie garden, pulled out the tomato trellis and the eggplants and sowed a cover crop of clover and rye on the empty beds. Threat of frost -that did not come -had me pick all the basil and make 6 cups of pesto for the freezer, the first I had made to store, so we'll be glad for that rich taste of summer some cold winter night. We also dug the sweet potatoes, some were huge, others small, but they were well worth having stuck in the ground and I will definitely plant some next year. These came from only 6 or 7 plants.
We had the first wood fire in the stove as well, with several nights in the 30's it was time.

I've been planting some of the many shrubs I've collected with my plant credits earned at Camellia Forest over the summer. Camellias, azaleas, and other evergreens are getting tucked in and around the place.

We plan ahead when going to the nursery. "Want a tree for that spot, a camellia for there" then we get to the nursery and still choose things on impulse, get back home and things we thought were right for one spot are not, lots of mind changing and decision making goes on, as much time is spent in consultation as in actual planting!

Poor D spent hours removing a campanula from one of the perennial beds. It's a beautiful flower that we've encouraged for several years, only to discover it's becoming invasive and taking over and crowding out other plants. Typical problem with a good perennial. So he was digging and teasing the tuberous roots of the campanula out from the roots of columbines, foxgloves, geraniums and other things we still want to have around. His plan is to put some edging in between the remaining campanula and everything else to hopefully contain it as I love the tall stalks of purple-blue bells that are a perfect companion to the pale yellow, small flowered foxglove that we grow.
Today its rainy, so I'm taking a much needed break from the outdoor work to try and find the surface of my desk and put down a few words, I'm supposed to be writing, but can't bare to stay inside when the days are as spectacular as they have been this past week. Maybe in November I'll settle down and get some real writing done?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Mums and Asters and Garlic Time

I can't get enough of the mums and asters that are absolutely pouring out of the flower beds right now. This combination of blue and pink is particularly nice don't you think?

I planted the garlic this week. My friend Martine says plant it on Columbus Day and harvest on Memorial Day and I think that's about right. I broke six of the very best heads that we harvested last summer into cloves, prepped a bed with lots of nice compost and some Plantone fertilizer and in they went. Covered with some leaf mulch and now we wait 8 months for the next crop.

I've still got about 15 heads left, I don't think that will last until early June but it should take us close. Some of the onions are beginning to sprout, especially the purple ones so I'm putting them in everything, the yellows are holding up better but I'm thinking French Onion Soup might be on the menu very soon.

Here's another close up shot of those mums and asters with amazing late season zinnias, wow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Haw River Learning Celebration

Last week I was up at Camp Guilrock north of Greensboro for several days volunteering with the Haw River Learning Celebration. What an amazing feat of human energy. Over 100 volunteers work together over the course of three weeks to bring more than 1,000 fourth graders out to the Haw River to have a day in the woods, learn about ecology and the environment and get a much needed break from the classroom.

It's so apparent that children today do not get enough time outside, for all kinds of reasons including busy lives, TV, computer and video time, fear of the world, and traveling constantly in cars. The end result are children that don't know about the natural world and many who are overweight and unhealthy.

The Learning Celebration was conceived more than 15 years ago by Louise Kessel who got the idea from a group on the Hudson River who did something similar. It has evolved from 7 sites and two groups of kids per day to a more manageable 3 sites and one group of kids per day. One week in Bynum, one in Saxapahaw and one at Guilrock.

Some volunteers camp out at the sites and others come for the day. They lead small groups of 10 year old kids through the woods to a series of stations where they learn about the watershed and what lives in the creek, clay and nature art, animals of the Haw and they get to do a river walk where they simply walk along the river and explore to see what they can find and learn about the trees, plants and wildlife.

It is a fairly cosmic undertaking and I was glad to be a part of it. The Haw River at that point is close to its source and not much bigger than Morgan Creek here in my backyard. But there is also a big beaver dam and marsh that is home to woodpeckers and herons and kingfishers.

At the stream watch station we found lots of interesting water beetles I had never seen before and some fantastic feathery gilled mayflies among other things. At night the staff had a big fire and played games, the last night we held a talent show that was a riot. It was so peaceful and I loved sleeping alone in my little tent, listening to the sound of the rain dripping out of the trees. It never rained us out during the day which was a real blessing and only rained a little at night.

My hat is off to the folks of the Haw River Assembly and all the crew that make this learning celebration a reality year after year. At the end of each day they stage a puppet show with puppets from Paperhand Puppet Intervention and a concert where the kids get entertained while eating their lunches and get the messages of taking care of the planet reinforced a little more.

Then the kids take their trash through a recycling line and learn how to separate it all, its sad to see how many boxes of nasty prefab Lunchables and really unhealthy foods in lots of little packages come out to the river everyday with each group of kids. We've got a long way to go to educate this world about how to be better stewards, but the HRA keeps making an effort and I am glad I could help just a small bit.