trails in the woods

With recent warm days much of the snow has melted but there’s still a lot in the woods. Here are a few pictures I took on a trail work day a few days ago followed by a simple walk on the trails this morning.

It was fun seeing how the deer use the trails I make!

It was fun seeing how the deer use the trails I make!

In the sunshine branches make patterns of shadow on the snow.

In the sunshine branches make patterns of shadow on the snow.

In some more open spaces the dogwood thickets are, well, thick!

In some more open spaces the dogwood thickets are, well, thick!

a trail that passes by a cedar tree.

a trail that passes by a cedar tree. This hillside has a jumble of huge boulders. You can see one of them on the right beside the trail.

One of my favorite places on the property is the old beaver pond. Several small springs and streams feed into it. Here are some pictures of it, taken from the eastern uphill side of it, looking northwest. I love the patterns the clouds make, and the reddish dogwood and white accents of the grey birches. beaver-pond-and-cloudsbeaver-pondold-beaver-pondclouds-at-the-pondThe woods are peaceful, and mostly quiet. It’s not exactly remote–I can hear occasional traffic, and sometimes neighbors’ dogs or the happy screams of playing children. Yesterday the peace was shattered by a neighbor doing what sounded like target practice with a rifle. But there are also the sounds of wind rattling dry leaves or whispering through bare branches, and the chuckling of the streams. I also hear cackles of turkeys, calling of crows, chirps of chickadees. I never see deer but their tracks are everywhere. I also see a lot of turkey tracks, and also squirrels. I found what looks like a beaver, muskrat, or otter path that led along the pond and down through a hole into the water. I saw raccoon tracks yesterday. There are porcupine signs and trails. I scared up two grouse the other day. It will be wonderful to spend time out here this Spring watching and feeling the woods come back to life.

cherry tree, I think, with fungus.

cherry tree, I think, with fungus.

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snow day

We finally got some real snow! It’s much better for the garden to have a “blanket” of protection in cold weather.

David plowing the driveway

David plowing the driveway

The back yard yesterday morning

The back yard yesterday morning

Yesterday I took three hours to do some more trail work. Here are some pictures I took of the venture.

This is the first day this winter we have had enough snow for me to strap on my snowshoes

This is the first day this winter we have had enough snow for me to strap on my snowshoes!

first I headed out over the existing trails. I turned around to take this picture of my tracks.

first I headed out over the existing trails. I turned around to take this picture of my tracks.

I use a small bow saw and a pair of nippers to clear the trail. I try to cut a trail as wide as my two arms can reach to the sides, and as far as my arms reach over my head. In some places it is easy, but in others it is heavy going.

a lot of brambles and dogwood thickets to cut through.

a lot of brambles and dogwood thickets to cut through.

dogwood branches piled up along the new trail

dogwood branches piled up along the new trail

gloves and bow saw

gloves and bow saw

looking back on the trail I made through an old apple orchard surrounded by thickets of dogwood

looking back on the trail I made through an old apple orchard surrounded by thickets of dogwood

another picture of the trail.

another picture of the trail, with another brush pile on the right.

We are working on a little map showing all the trails, and I’m planning to make markers I can hand on tree branches to help snowshoers or hikers find their way.

beautiful and peaceful winter woods

beautiful and peaceful winter woods

 

 

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not exactly about gardening…

The gardening is on pause for the next few months. The catalogs have started: we got the vegetable seed catalogs last week, and they’ve also got flower seeds for me. I’m planning to start seeds of delphinium, cleome, zinnia, nasturtium, sunflowers and a few other favorites. I am going to buy seedlings of basil, petunias, marigolds and others from a local nursery. I will probably not buy many plants from the flower catalogs, since I already have most of what I can or want to grow from them, after 15 years of buying and planting. For the first time ever I didn’t buy any spring bulbs this last fall, but there are plenty of narcissus and lily bulbs now in the ground from years past. For the last few weeks I’ve been out in our woods making snowshoeing paths. Here are some pictures from those adventures:

I only have two tools: a small bow saw and a pair of nippers.

I only have two tools: a small bow saw and a pair of nippers.

In the mature woods there's no need for trail-making because there is no undergrowth or shrubby stuff

In the mature woods there’s no need for trail-making because there is no undergrowth or shrubby stuff to push through

in some places. there are just a lot of thorny brambles to nip off

in some places. there are just a lot of thorny brambles to nip off

in other places it's impossible to get through without a lot of clearing and pruning.

in other places it’s impossible to get through without a lot of clearing and pruning.

On January first we saw a porcupine in the woods.porcupineThere are so many lovely features in these 115 acres. Here are some of the landmarks:

the old beaver pond

the old beaver pond

a huge boulder that has split into several pieces, covered with moss

a huge boulder that has split into several pieces, covered with moss

we have very few oaks on this property--this is a beautiful red oak

we have very few oaks on this property–this is a beautiful red oak

Along with the major features, there are small blessings I run into at every turn.

a pretty "arrangement" of twig and moss and wild grape

a pretty “arrangement” of twig and moss and wild grapes

a garland of pretty oak leaves draped on an apple tree

a garland of pretty oak leaves draped on an apple tree

In Chinese fashion, I called one of the high spots on the property “dragon bone ridge” (long gu ling). It’s a long “backbone” of rock covered with maple trees and ash trees, with their roots reaching into a deep bed of leaves and dead fallen branches. It slopes down toward the west into hay fields and old apple orchards, and slopes toward the east to a rocky drop-off and then to a brook that drains into the old beaver pond.

dragon bone ridge

dragon bone ridge, looking east

While my home flower garden sleeps, I’ll be spending happy hours making a network of trails for snowshoeing and hiking out in the woods.

 

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end of semester, beginning of winter

I just looked at a few photos I took of the garden in mid-November. Here are some nice ones:

a late bloom on the honeysuckle vine reaches up into a pretty sky. But the hummingbirds have all left for southern regions.

a late bloom on the honeysuckle vine reaches up into a pretty sky. But the hummingbirds have all left for southern regions.

A fallen leaf curls cozily in a "rain chime" which will soon be full of ice.

A fallen leaf curls cozily in a “rain chime” which will soon be full of ice.

a small maple on the south side of the house made a breath-taking display this year.

a small maple on the south side of the house made a breath-taking display this year.

Mr Fluff's beautiful orange coat catches the yellow November sunshine

Mr Fluff’s beautiful orange coat catches the yellow November sunshine.

Yesterday, feeling that I was neglecting my blog unforgivably, I took the camera on a tour of the garden and snapped some pictures. I had it in my pocket as I went out to check on the horses, so I also got some horse pasture photos.

As the two horses ate their grain, I got this picture of them with a manure pile in the foreground. This manure composts in the barnyard for two years and then goes, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, onto the flower and vegetable beds.

As the two horses ate their grain, I got this picture of them with a manure pile in the foreground. This manure composts in the barnyard for two years and then goes, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, onto the flower and vegetable beds. On the right here is the year-old manure, and to the left a smaller pile of this year’s manure.

This is the new bed we built this summer. It does not have much planted in it yet since it's filled with fairly recently composted materials--manure, hay, kitchen compost. We filled it once, it cooked down, and then filled it again.

This is the new bed we built this summer. It does not have much planted in it yet since it’s filled with fairly recently composted materials–manure, hay, kitchen compost. We filled it once, it cooked down, and then filled it again. It’s “decorated” with dead tree branches, and anchored with a gigantic rock there in the corner which took a lot of muscle to place.

Mr Fluff accompanied me on my walk and seemed to get into every shot!

Mr Fluff accompanied me on my walk and seemed to get into every shot!

The winterberry bushes are doing OK in the front yard. I think they would prefer a wetter soil. Still, it gives a splash of color and good food for winter birds. And yes, there is Mr Fluff in the background!

The winterberry bushes are doing OK in the front yard. I think they would prefer a wetter soil. Still, it gives a splash of color and good food for winter birds. And yes, there is Mr Fluff in the background!

a sign of the times: we brought home a tree-farm fir tree last weekend. Happy Holidays!

a sign of the times: we brought home a tree-farm fir tree last weekend. Happy Holidays!

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a non-post post!

December 3, Saturday. I’m in my office grading papers today. I can’t even post a photograph because I have neglected my camera as well as my garden. The garden has been on its own since classes started in late August. It looks scrappy and snaggle-toothed. The only bright spots right now are the red red berries of the winterberry bushes, and a few stubborn dark purple johnny-jump-ups. Otherwise the lovely mutes colors of late fall predominate: dark green of pine trees and spruce, grey of tree branches, deep brown of exposed garden soil and wet fallen leaves. It’s been raining and only a few patches of snow remain in the woods. But things are not all quiet: red squirrels leap around the tree branches, chase each other on the ground, and shrill at us or the cats if we get too close. Daring blue jays steal from the catfood dishes on the front porch and raid the compost pile, chickadees hang upside-down from sunflower heads, piliated woodpeckers swoop through the air and laugh wildly as they go. The calves born last March and April are being taken to a different farm for another year of grazing and growing, so the air is full of the calls of lowing mama cows missing their young ones.  After the grades are done I will post again about the garden and winter woods walks I plan to take!

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frost approaching

These days the weather forcast keeps threatening frost–so far we haven’t had a hard frost, but I took a few quick photos of annuals before getting in the car to go to work the other day, just in case. The garden next to the still-a-work-in-progress white garden is mostly annuals, planted under and around the old swingset. In this picture you can see the cat’s head home-made bird-house our friends gave us, and the apple tree branch trellis we put up for the red honeysuckle vine. To one side is a vigorous trumpet vine. You can also see the compost bin, and the bright annuals planted there: petunias, marigolds, pansies, and dianthus. To the side of the compost bin is a giant annual tithonia (Mexican sunflower)–we got the seedlings from David’s sister and they turned into bushes.  annual-garden-and-compost-binHere are a few close-ups from that area:

a lovely dark red petunia and a few hastily placed rocks.

a lovely dark red petunia and a few hastily placed rocks.

cute little annual dianthus

cute little annual dianthus

marigold with rocks and sticks

marigold with rocks and sticks

I kneeled down and got a close-up picture of this marigold plant. It is one of the few survivors of the nightly raccoon destruction we experienced in the early summer. You can see in this picture my design habit of putting lots of rocks in the garden–low border walls and scattered around singly or in little piles.  I find that crickets and spiders and other creepy crawly friends love these rocks. And I like to “plant” dead branches and sticks in the garden–I don’t know why but I think it’s fun. And I’m always happy when I see a bird perch on one of the taller ones.

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Mid-October winding down

After a dry hot summer we’ve had a milder and wetter fall. Still no real frost, so the garden is lingering. Many of the flowers don’t know the flower season is over!

many types of phlox are still blooming

many types of phlox are still blooming

johnny-jump-ups

johnny-jump-ups

Johnny jump-ups are the first to bloom in the spring and the last to stop in the fall.

blue fortune agastache

blue fortune agastache

Many perennials are slowing down but continue to bloom, which is good for the bumble bees and other insects still hanging on.

chelone turtle heads and honeysuckle vine

chelone turtle heads and honeysuckle vine

These turtle heads start blooming late and continue until frost. The honeysuckle vine is an early spring to late fall bloomer. The hummingbirds have left now, but the vines are still putting out flowers. Also blooming is the pink native plant physostegia virginiana, false dragon head or obedient plant, in several large patches. Another stalwart blooming from May to frost is catmint, which I have in every bed in the garden. It isn’t quite as showy as some plants, but it feeds a lot of insects and is almost a ground-cover for me.

catmint growing around some garden art

catmint growing around some garden art

The most colorful flowers now blooming are the annuals. Marigold, petunias, zinnias, cleome, blue annual sage, and some volunteer sunflowers and nicotiana:

marigold

marigold

patch of pink zinnias

patch of pink zinnias

bright purple cleome

bright purple cleome

annual sage

annual sage

tall volunteer sunflowers

tall volunteer sunflowers

sunflower with a honey bee

sunflower with a honey bee

volunteer ornamental flowering tobacco

volunteer ornamental flowering tobacco

And in the wild meadow gardens, the purple asters are still bright:

purple aster with bumble bee

purple aster with bumble bee

aster

aster

It’s a beautiful season. Yesterday we took a walk in the fields and overgrown meadow near our house. Apples and other fruits like nanny berries and wild grapes are abundant. apple-tree

nanny-berrysunny-meadow-late-afternooncat-on-the-walk

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