March 20, 2014 9 am
It snowed and rained last night. As the first day of spring dawned the plow came through, but mostly they were sanding the road because things were a bit icy outside. The temperature was already 34 degrees – and climbing. More showers.
The Cottage Ornee is Spring sun
The rain stopped! Only the roofs are dripping, dripping. The sun came out and raised the temperature to 45 degrees. The snow will melt some today. I am not discouraged because I know it could always be worse. This is what the first day of spring looked like last year.
March 19, 2013
A foot of snow fell during the night – and it wasn’t the last snow fall of the year. Last year The Bridge of Flowers opened on schedule on April 1, but then closed again because of another snowfall. But I’m sure that won’t happen this year. Will it?
View from the Bedroom Window February 2
With this view from the bedroom window on February 2, I continue my more or less regular record of the weather and climate in this year of our Lord 2014. The dawn temperature was 34 degrees. Snow is melting.
February 6, 2014
Thirteen inches of snow fell yesterday, and so did temperatures today – 9 degrees. But it is sunny.
February 9, 2014
More snow on February 8, about 3 inches. Temperature still cold, 10 degrees at 7 am.
February 21, 2014
Still more snow! A total of 30 inches in the last 10 days. And this morning freezing fog turning the trees into crystal.
February 25, 2014
The road is clear, but the snow is melting very slowly because it is so cold. 10 degrees this morning,
February 28, 2014
The last day of February. We are glad to see this cold snowy moth depart – even though we do treasure all that precipitation. Now I walk out to the henhouse on snow that is frozen solid. The Polar Vortex seems to have left its shadow over our region. Zero degrees on this final day of the month. How long will it take all the ice and snow to melt?
For more (almost Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.
The View From My Bedroom Window January 5, 2014
This is my post for the View from the Bedroom Window for the month of January. A continuing record. By January 5 we had 10 inches of snow and temperatures of minus 10 degrees last night. A Polar Vortex is promised in the next couple of days.
January 13, 2014
On Monday, January 6 it was rainy and foggy and 50 degrees. The Polar Vortex arrived on Tuesday, January 7 with temperatures of minus 18 and WIND. The trek to the henhouse was bitter. I had to wrap my face in scarf. But then the weather became milder. On January 11 it was warm enough, 38 degrees, for pouring rain! The snow is nearly gone.
January 19, 2014
On January 18 it snowed and snowed. About six inches. This morning the temperature was 21 degrees at 8 am. Beautiful, mild day as the sun came out.
January 26, 2014
January 26 and temperatures hover at Zero at dawn. Bright sun, brisk breezes; it is cold! As the old saying goes, the cold grows stronger as the days grow longer. Last night’s snow showers freshened the landscape.
January is over, but I am hoping for a lot more snow. Precipitation is what we need.
For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.
What is a mystery melt? Yesterday morning we had snow showers, and cold temperatures all afternoon. When I went out to the henhouse I noticed this mystery melt that ran from the top of the slope towards our wellhead.
I thought it was so strange to have such a clearly demarked area when the cold temperatures kept the veil of snow intact everywhere else.
We have a lot of water on our hill with intermittent streams that have created paths of water/damp loving sedges in our fields. There is a dug well up in the field, a 30 foot dug well lined with stone (an artful marvel of engineering) in back of the house near our drilled well, and a shallow dug well in the North Lawn Bed. The Sunken Garden is nearly a swimming pool from spring into mid-summer. Water comes coursing into our basement – and out through a conduit and onto the road. Water everywhere.
Thinking about all the water on our hill showed I was on the right track. When I showed this to my husband Henry at the end of the day, he didn’t think it was a river or stream, but a spring not far below the surface. The area has always been wet. Then when we had work done on our foundation a few years ago our construction guy was moving soil around behind the house. Henry pointed out that the shape of this melt looked a lot like a bulldozer scrape. The spring was then just a little closer to the surface.
It’s possible. What do you think.
Two years ago Irene came rampaging through the area turning the rivers into torrents overleaping their banks, washing away roads and buildings, breaking hearts and pocketbooks.
Tony Palumbo, artist, owner of the Green Emporium and gardener, was at his easel watching the rain pour down. Neighbors came urging them to leave. Palumbo’s partner, chef Michael Collins, said they would wait it out. Their house had survived the storm’s of ’38 and ’87. It would survive this one too.
Soon Palumbo and Collins were watching fish swim past their kitchen windows in the swirling waters. Suddenly the door burst open and in came the flood. The two ran upstairs to wait out the storm. In the morning the water had all disappeared from the garden, although not the kitchen, leaving behind deep mud and sand. The secret garden with its trickling fountain was buried and the vegetable and flower gardens were washed away. Also washed away was the undergrowth in the woodland at the far end of the garden.
As with all those who suffered losses, at first there was just shock. But soon Tony Palumbo became weary of people commiserating with him on the loss of his beautiful garden. “Wait til you see the next one!” became his spirited response. “My palette was cleared by the storm, I had a whole new canvas to work with.” But the question was what to do and where to begin.
One day Palumbo’s Colrain neighbor Paul Forth, artist and stonemason, walked by and saw the destruction of Palumbo’s garden. “I knew Tony from the Green Emporium where I had eaten and chatted with him, but we didn’t really know each other. When I saw the garden I had to ask if I could help,” he said.
Palumbo replied that he needed so much help he didn’t know where to start. The starting place appeared when Palumbo woke up in the middle of the night and. in a frenzy, sketched out a very different kind of garden from that which had existed. “I didn’t want to recreate what had been lost. I wanted to create something new,” he said.
“He was great to collaborate with,” Forth said. “He had the idea, and then totally trusted me as I worked from his crazy sketch.”
The Palumbo-Collins house is located between the West Branch of the North River on one side, and a stream on the other, that ultimately makes its way to the river. The first project Palumbo and Forth worked on was a dam that turned the stream into a small pond with a stone spillway. The water cascades through the large stones Forth placed in the spillway into the old streambed where watercress grows once again.
Stone Wall built by Paul Forth
The second project was a curving stone wall holding up a steep flower filled bank. Forth said that when he is choosing stones for his projects he is looking for unique stones, stones that have different color veins, or quartz or some other feature.
Standing Stones constructed by Paul Forth
The final project was the small stonehenge, a circle, one hundred feet in diameter, of standing stones around a fire pit. In his business, Stone Creations, Forth is usually working with flat stones, building steps, walkways, walls and patios, sometimes adding metal railings because he is also a blacksmith. But for the circle of standing stones he was looking for stones that were tall enough and strong enough to stand, as well as be aesthetically interesting. All the stones he used are individually chosen, which means time spent walking through the Goshen Stone Company quarry or Hillman and Sons in Shelburne, quickly eliminating many stones and then making his distinctive choices.
“I design as I go,” Forth said. “One of the stones for the smaller arch was too short so I stacked three stones.” This is an element that adds interest as well as stability.
Beyond the standing stones in the woodland, where underbrush was washed away all sorts of metal and automotive debris was unearthed. Palumbo who enjoys turning found objects into art saw immense potential in those bits of rusty car doors and hoods. For the moment he has begun this new garden by planting a shitakke mushroom pyramid that is fruiting, and created an unusual array of old windows illumined with Palumbo’s trademark neon.
When Palumbo proudly gave me a tour of the new of the new garden he said, “These are the gifts of Irene.”
White lilies in Palumbo’s garden
As we come up to the 2nd anniversary of Irene’s rampage, Tony Palumbo and Michael Collins are opening their garden to the public on Saturday, August 24 from 10 AM to 5 PM to celebrate the gifts of Irene. The garden is located at the intersection of Adamsville and North Heath Roads in Colrain. There is no charge. Visitors will be able to admire the arresting stone work, Palumbo’s latest neon work in the new woodland garden, as well as the Secret Garden that has been resurrected from its burial in sand and clay. The magnificent trees survived, and there is a hot sauce garden filled with tomatoes and hot peppers of every kind and color bordering the surviving peonies. Palumbo’s garden sculpture series of Garden Hands (www.gardenhands.com) will be available for sale.
An exhibit of his paintings, Pets and Flowers, will be on display at the Leverett Arts and Crafts Center Barnes Gallery from August 15 to September 1. A portion of the proceeds from sales will go to benefit the Dakin Animal Shelter.
Palumbo’s Secret Garden
Between the Rows August 17, 2013
The suddenness of spring caught me by surprise yesterday. After two days of being kept inside by sometimes torrential rains, I went out and saw that the ajuga, escaped into the lawn years ago from an old flower bed, is in full and startling bloom. This area has not been mowed yet because I made the mistake of planting daffodils here and must wait until they have finished blooming and ripening.
Poeticus or pheasant’s eye daffs
Only a few daffodils are still in flower. Newly blooming are the poeticus daffodils which means the season will be over any minute.
The old apple trees in the field and by the Cottage are suddenly clouds of blossom, barely opened before being battered by the rain.
The Fairy rose, Alma Potscke aster, invisible alliums
I began weeding the area around The Fairy rose in the north Lawn Bed. I got most of the grass out from under the Fairy’s root and released the tiny fine alliums from groundcovering shepherd’s purse and carpetweed and other weeds yet to be identified. I also ripped out a good deal of silver artemesia that has become a weed. I should have known better than to have planted it in a flower bed. It was not ideal to be working in such wet soil, but I can feel the grass growing beneath my feet, and the weeds will quickly outpace the newly emerging plants. Spring is here.
Boule de Neige and Rangoon rhodies
Boule de Neige and Rangoon are the first to rhodies to come into bloom. Other bushes have buds getting fatter by the minute.
Tiarella plants put in last summer and this spring as part of the lawn reduction project are blooming away and spreading out.
Beauty of Moscow lilac
Lilacs have been blooming for more than a week in the lower elevations, but finally mine have burst into bloom. I gathered up a bouquet of mixed lilacs and brought them inside, into the kitchen. Suddenly spring arrived in the garden, and I was able to bring a fragrant bit into the house. Hallelujah!
Henry David Thoreau’s cabin – and me 2010
T is for Thoreau, author of Walden and many many journals in which “[he omitted] the unusual - the hurricanes and earthquakes – and described the common.” He had always recorded the weather and the natural scene in a sporadic and fragmented way, but in July of 1852 he declared a year of observation, a ‘year’ that lasted through 1861. Amidst the the poetry of his prose, and his record of his own responses to the world, he began a careful record of the passing seasons, noting temperatures, leaf break, frost, and blooming seasons of many plants.
I love Walden and reread it from time to time, but I have not read much in the journals. It was with some surprise that I read in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review an essay by Andrea Wulf about the use that modern science is making of the journals. “Richard Primack, a professor of biology at Bsoton University, has collaborated with colleagues at Harvard to use the observations in Thoreau’s journals as the basis for groundbreaking studies in climate change,” she wrote.
What the scientists have discovered is that the average tempeature of our springs is 48 degrees, but Thoreau recorded an average of 42 degrees during his day. Also the first flowering of 32 species of flower has moved to 11 days early. Early blooming flowers have been more affected by the change in temperatures, than later blooming flowers, but the change is undeniable.
I wrote more about Walden Pond and my visit in 2010 here.
I have written about Andrea Wulf’s brilliant and engaging books about gardens and plant and American history here in a review of The Brother Gardeners featuring America’s first botanist John Bartram and his botanical adventures, and a review of The Founding Gardeners about Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madision here.
To see what else begins with T click here at the A to Z Challenge.
It is time to begin spring chores. But exactly how do we know when spring is beginning? A tough question. The only sure answer is that it did not begin on March 20 this year when the temperature was 16 degrees at 7 in the morning and remained cold and cloudy all day.
It was a very different story last year when the snowdrops were in full bloom and my first temperature record was 54 degrees with sun. The first day of spring 2012 led us into several warm days that had me planting lettuce, radishes and beets in the Early Garden in front of the house. I also started working in the main fenced garden, but this year I hadn’t even tried trudging through the snow to the main garden until April 7th..
As far as I can tell from my records the last frost last year was April 6. Amazing. There were cold and chilly days after that, to be sure, but my temperature readings, usually taken around 7 a.m., do not go below 30 and I do not note frost. Actually all of us can remember what an early spring we had with a fair amount of rain.
So how do we try to figure out a planting schedule based on estimated number of weeks from last frost? Memorial Day weekend seems too timid, but this year I am starting to feel timid again.
What spring chores can we do? I finally got out and did some clean-up raking, because the snow had melted on the south slope in front of the house. However, I know spring raking and clean up is well begun in the lower elevations.
The calendar says seeds can be started in Heath, and I do have a few seedlings sprouted. I bought more peat pots, and more seeds are being planted, parsley, basil, and broccolini. At the same time, I am hoping that I can plant peas in the ground within a week or two. Last year at this time I was planting seeds and seedlings in the Front Garden, and in the main garden. I did not trust the warm weather and covered all plantings with floating row covers. They protected tender seedling from the cold and from the rabbits that have been such a problem.
A walk in the main garden on Wednesday showed me that the melting snow is sending little streams of water here and there, occasionally making a little waterfall into a mole hole. There will be no planting here for a while.
It’s time to get out the pruners to thin out red and black raspberry canes. My husband just took the loppers and a saw to do a major pruning of the Sargent crabapple. It is now much more horizontal and architectural. I still have to do some of the finer pruning. Sargent crabs love to be pruned.
Any perennials that were left to provide winter interest or food for the birds can be cut back in preparation for the new growth. I am always surprised at how early and how quickly perennials grow in the spring. This is a time when I can also start thinking about which perennials can be divided and shared with the Bridge of Flowers plant sale in May.
To make sure I am not forgetting some of the obvious garden tasks that can be done in this early season I have been reviewing the Week by Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook written by Ron Kujawski and Jennifer Kujawski. Ron was an Extension Educator at the University of Massachusetts for 25 years and I know I can always look to him for good advice and information.
The Kujawski’s Handbook is useful not only because it gives you practical information about every aspect of vegetable gardening from soil building, starting seedlings, container plantings and controlling insects, and on through the harvest, the book is arranged like a three year garden journal so you can put in your own weather and planting records that will help you with your own garden planning.
Father and daughter Kujawski give tips about “petting” vegetable seedlings to help them be sturdier, the value of vinegar and clove oil to kill weeds, how to handle squash borers, and a whole list of trouble-shooting to handle plant symptoms.
They also describe a slightly different technique of sheet composting. In the fall they dig a foot deep trench, fill it with six inches of kitchen waste (vegetable matter only) and then top it with soil. It will rot over the winter and in the spring you will have a rich fertile planting bed.
This is a technique that I have also heard referred to as ‘trench’ composting. One friend told me she essentially used this method, but she dug large round holes, and filled them halfway with kitchen waste, then soil. She marked each hole with a stake and planted her squash and pumpkins there in the spring.
Please let me know how far have you gotten with your spring chores. Once spring takes hold, the race is on.
Between the Rows April 6,2013
Yellow Birch in snowfall
Almost March, but it still feels like deep winter.
Praying mantis in the snow
Everything is white and still.
Bridge of Flowers in February
The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls is icy. And closed.
Salmon Falls and the Potholes are frozen. Winter has not lost its hold
Paperwhite daffs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs
The days grow longer, so even though we are ‘enjoying’ a week of zero temperatures – and below – we can feel the shifting of seasons. The paperwhites that Brent and Becky sent along with my order as a bonus to cheer those of us who lived through Superstorm Sandy are indeed encouraging.
I potted up my paperwhites in late November and kept them out in our bright unheated Great Room until January 6. Unlike most daffodils they do not need chilling in order to bloom but I wanted that bloom when the excitement of Christmas was over and when I was facing what I consider the longest month of the year, February.
Days grow longer and my lasitude begins to shift, but still the days grow colder which keeps me tethered to the house and as many hours near the woodstove as I can manage. This year I am not complaining about the cold. It is my understanding that one of the reasons for the increase in the number of ticks and terrible invasive insects like the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorn beetle is the mildness of our recent winters. We need the winter cold to rid ourselves of these destructive insects. The city of Worcester, not far from us, has lost many of its trees due to a serious invasion of the asian longhorn beetle.
The days grow longer. What cheers you?