Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring Ephemerals

Bloodroot and Trout Lily
Warm rain and everything is starting to burst forth.  I braved the damp mist and took a walk today, eager to get out of the house, stir crazy from organizing my tax documents. The may apples were unfurling their umbrellas. Dainty spring beauties, trout lilies and hepatica dotted the edges of the path along the creek.  The mosses and lichen seemed electric in the gray wetness of the day.  Shining out chartreuse and grey green, I kept expecting to spy a leprechaun peeking out from behind a tree trunk.

There are masses of spotted salamander eggs in the vernal pools.  They must have crawled out of their underground hiding places in the first warm rains a month or so ago.  I've been watching them develop, picking up blobs of the jelly-like clusters to take a closer peek.  I think I might put some in a container to take and show to the kids in my programs, maybe keep a few to watch them hatch, then return them to their birth pools to carry on.

Here's what they look like when they are all grown up. So ready for spring and all the unfolding.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Inside and Out

 Mr. and Mrs. Wood Duck
I actually managed to sneak up on this lovely couple today, they are normally quite skittish.

Foam mat today
I've been thinking about Carol's comment on the creek foam so did a bit of research.  I knew it was naturally occurring but wanted to know more.  Foam is caused by the presence of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Basically DOC comes from plants and other stuff breaking down and decomposing in the water or washed into the stream from the land.  The DOC then changes the surface tension of the water allowing air to get incorporated into the surface.  That air at the surface makes foam which piles up against stream banks and logs.  A similar thing is happening at the ocean edge when you see foam in the surf.

Things that change surface tension are called surfactants.  Soaps and other pollutants can cause this to happen, but in that case the foam is everywhere and often has a scent like the soap that caused it. Fortunately our foam seems to be all natural.  And that is our science lesson for today!

Secret Agent Veggies-Under Cover
In other news.  The weather is capricious with below freezing temps forecast for the next few nights.  Many of the veggie seeds I planted began to sprout when it was warm over the weekend. I've now got everything tucked in and hoping it won't just die when the temp drops into the mid-20's tomorrow night. 

Inside, I had too many seed flats and not enough space or light so I developed the latest in seed starting technology.  Yes folks, those are seed flats and grow lights in the bathtub.  Sadly I don't take near enough bathes in our big beautiful tub so I got the notion that it would be a perfect spot to put more seed flats and suspend lights from boards across the top.  Tah Dah!  It's perfect.  It did require another $45 investment in the grow lights and bulbs, but should be worthwhile if I generate 200 herb, flower and veg plants in the deal.  The cost of a transplant these days can be as much as $3 or $4 each.  You can do the math.  And the original lights I bought for my older set-up have been in use for about 10 years now, same original bulbs.  I know these will help start many healthy transplants for years to come.  And if I really want a bath, I can move the plants out pretty easily.  They should be able to go outside in about 3 weeks.  In case you are wondering, we have a separate shower, so won't be going unwashed for an extended period.

Here's hoping the cold temps don't cause too much damage and that warm spring weather will come very soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Plum Blossoms Persevere

Yesterday these were coated in ice.  Today they appear unscathed.  Perhaps we'll have plums. 

If we can keep the squirrels from eating them all.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Scum of the Earth, Artistically Speaking

Naturally occurring scum and foam form on the creek.  This one spot, above a big log jam of flotsam and jetsam, is a particular favorite.  It's constantly changing, sometimes a mat as above, of blobs and accordion folds of brown and white.  Other times like an elaborate tapestry woven of leaves and pine needles pressed between foamy warp and woof.  And then, after heavy rain breaks it apart and clears it out, more like a swirling galaxy as the raft forms again.  

I've been known to stand for extended periods meditating on this eddy of foam.  Observing the way the current moves the creamy froth, rafts crashing into other patches, gathering together like Pangaea, then breaking apart and floating out to form new continents.

The other day I spied this perfect tiny circle.  A pine needle pared the edge as the sphere of foam spun in its miniature universe. The creek is different every day and such a glorious distraction and entertainment.

This week I heard a kingfisher chatter as it flew down the corridor.  A great blue heron lumbered up out of the shallows where it was fishing, so much effort to raise that long-limbed form from a stand still, I felt bad about scaring it off.

No walk today - more crap weather. The dreaded "wintry mix" rain, snow, sleet, ick.  Cold.  It was 78 on Saturday, the plums and cherries are totally confused, beginning to open their flower buds.  Hopefully they won't get nipped.  Tomorrow more of the same.  Enough already.  I want spring!

The power was out for several hours this evening.  When it got dark we bailed and went out to supper, fortunately the juice was flowing again when we got home. We are SO dependent.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Must be March

  Trout lilies are open down along the creek
First Hepatica reveal their hairy buds

Signs of spring are all around; bulbs blooming, buds fattening, birds singing.

High water from heavy rains last week scoured the leaves from the creek trails and left a slake of mud.  Now when I walk I can see the tracks of all those who use these trails; deer, raccoon, human, dog.

I flushed four wood ducks on the creek this morning, they are skittish, hard to sneak up on. They remind me it's time to start taking my binoculars with me when I walk.
Spectacular drifts of daffodils in the Tilley's creek bottom. 
Remnants from an old farmstead or washed downstream ages ago

Allergies are killing me, not sure from what but guessing cedars that are orange with pollen from the early warmth.  Yesterday was 78, tomorrow will be 40's with a low of 22, these mercurial shifts are hard on things.

On Monday I worked all day to plant seeds of radish, lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, kale, choi's, tatsoi, cress, arugula, cilantro.  In a few weeks the salad bowl with be overflowing! At the same time I am harvesting spinach, kale and lettuce planted in the fall still thriving.  Dug a huge bowl of carrots too.

I also set out broccoli and cabbage plants.  Just now I covered the tender little plants with hoops and remay to protect from tonight and tomorrows cold and heavy wind and rain.

In the bedroom grow lights above and warming mats below the flats of tiny tomatoes and yet to emerge peppers.  In the living room more flats of herbs and flowers.  On the kitchen table and scattered in my office, packets of seeds, planting charts, sacks of seed potatoes.

Must be March.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Snippets of spring appear here and there, a primrose, a crocus, the prunus mume in bloom and smelling like cinnamon.  Then it snows, or it sleets, or the temperature plunges back into the teens.  I have faith that spring will eventually arrive in earnest.  And so I get out there and face a scenario like this one:
A bit daunting but I got it done.  240 onion plants are now tucked into those long furrows.  It was timely that the plants arrived on the day we pulled the last of the onions out of storage.  They were looking a little worse for wear, the outside layer mushy, the center sprouting a green tip, but still edible and a good addition to that nights supper.
The days have included many walks along the streams and through the woods, taking in the clear skies and sunlight sparkling on babbling waters.   I love winter walking, no sweat, no bugs.  I vowed at the new year that I would attempt to make a daily pilgrimage to what I call the "Church of the Woods".  I've not been entirely successful but I have managed to get out most days, even if just to make the trek to the mailbox and take in the sky and pastures.  

And for you bird watchers out there.  I did make the trip with brother Chris to see the snowy owls at Ocracoke.   And we did, despite high winds, rain, cold and other impediments, finally get to the island.  And yes, we did get a very nice, if fleeting look at a real, live, big white and brown snowy owl.  Before over eager others scared it to flight.  Darn them.  And a second look, before it was scared again.  Oh well. Everyone wanted to see it. For a full trip report hop on over to Slow Birding for Chris's version and a couple of good photos.  This little Casper above is a stone I found in the Current river last summer that spoke "owl" to me, so I carried it home for the collection.

Here's hoping March will get more hospitable soon.

PS- I just searched for onions on the blog to include a link above and realized I am officially an onion geek, there are about 10 or 12 posts related to onions on this blog!  So I'll spare you. Search for yourself if you are an onion geek too.