Things To Be Done in Autumn

Good readers: Ahead of this post, let me say I am not very happy with the new WordPress image handling routine, and it’s been a struggle to get these into the post and oriented properly and not all skewed in aspect. If, when you load the page, the images on your monitor are tiny, tiny and stretched out, it seems that if you refresh the screen (F5 on a PC), they sort themselves and appear properly. I think if you click on the individual images, they will appear as well, but that seems like a bother and takes them out of context. Maybe everything will look good to you and you won’t have to do anything at all.

And so, we begin:

It’s Christmas tree time in these hills. The sky has been a-buzz with the sound of helicopters transporting cut trees to trucks, and the roads are heavy with the trucks moving trees to their destinations.

12nov_treetruckcr_sm

It starts in early October when the trees are going overseas, and continues into November, for the domestic market. Instantly after Thanksgiving dinner is off the tables, every open corner space becomes a Christmas tree lot.

In the orchard, it’s the best time. If there is any sound better than the snap! of an apple stem twisted from its branch on a fall day, then it’s the sound of the apple dropping into the bucket. The air smells like apples and leaves on the ground. My fingers are cold and damp, and the skins of the apples squeak when I handle them.

12nov_cidering3_sm

This little tree of Liberties filled 3 wheelbarrows. It never seems to take a year off. They’re tart and firm, and they make a wonderful cider.

While I pick, the ewes are ever-hopeful, ever-watchful. They have a pretty good idea treats are likely to come over the fence in their direction.

12nov_cideringsheep_cr_sm

And they’re not the only ones hoping to share in the apple crop. I haven’t caught them at it, but here is the evidence of Visitors in the orchard:

.12nov_cidering5_smI’m thinking it’s the little brown rabbit I see hopping for cover when I pass through to feed the the llamas. I really can’t say I mind. Who can begrudge a little rabbit her taste of apple in the fall? But back to work … Here’s the last load on its way through the gate (see them there, down the path, in the wheelbarrow) …

12nov_cidering4_sm

… to sorting before washing …

Sorting

… then loading into the crusher …

12nov_cidering2 … and the crushed result …12nov_cidering_crush_cr_sm

… ready for pressing: 12nov_cidering8_cr_sm

and then, oh! joy!

12nov_cidering7_sm Nothing sweeter!

That’s cidering. We freeze it now and have the freshest-tasting varietal cider all year.

Fall is spider time in the woods and field. 12nov_woodsspider_sm It’s a good time to get a faceful of web as you pass. But they’re beautiful on their houses of silk. This one,

12nov_ciderspider_cr

clinging to grass and apples, is so pregnant she looks about to burst. I set her aside to safety. Spiders are beneficial in the landscape. Still and all, I like them out there, not inside with me.

Fall is time to divide dahlias in the garden. Here’s a nice hand, the offspring of the one, roundish one you can see beneath them. Dahlias can be a little expensive to buy in quantity. With patience, you can start with a single tuber and finish the season with… let’s see… more. I’ll plant them out again next spring.

12nov_dahlia1_sm

Speaking of plant propagation, does anyone remember the rosemary cuttings I set last fall, in  in post Make More Plants? They were tiny little sticks with a couple of leaves on top. Here they are now, ready to go into the garden:

12oct_rosemary1_cr_sm

Of two dozen cuttings, I got 23 to strike. I don’t know what I did wrong on the other one.

Aside from that, it’s time to make holiday wreaths again. Here is my pile of stuff, ready for the genius of the season to arrive. They’ll look better in a week or so.

12nov_wreathstuff_sm

For a review of my wreath-making routine, here is an older post on the subject: Wreathery.

I always do enjoy this time of year when there’s not much to do. They say.

Advertisements
Published in: on December 2, 2012 at 4:13 pm  Comments (2)  

(Waves hand) Yes! I’m Here!

It has been made clear to me that I am a very bad blogger lately. Someone pointed out it was January when I last posted. Someone else actually asked me whether I am still alive!

I appreciate the concern. I am not yet pushing up late summer stubble.

In the meantime, spring has come and gone. Summer has come and is just now used up. Indeed, the faint signs of a change of season are here: mist in the mornings, fruit on the trees. Partly, you see, the things that happen on a farm and in the woods each season are pretty much the same things that happened the last round. I imagined everyone might have been tired of hearing about them. But when people begin asking if I’m still quick, it’s a good time to check in even if it means repeating myself.

You’ll be inquiring about the house project. It is so very, very close to completion.We received a nice write-up in the  PGE Customer News e-letter: Green dream farmhouse: 8 ideas. Many, many names of men and women who have worked on the house are inscribed onto the roof beam in the attic.

Everyone who has worked on the house has signed the roof beam in the attic.

When I look back at the lay-out of our early design work, I’m impressed at how much the house looks like our first vision of it. Here, for instance, is the SketchUp drawing of the kitchen as we imagined it then.

Kitchen plan

And here is much the same view, with workman mess still in the way (but you can get the idea):

Join us for breakfast at the kitchen counter!

We look with joy at the possibility we’ll be able to use the greenhouse this year. The construction scaffold came down a couple of weeks ago, the painters finished working inside it last week, the final windows are to be installed next week, the 10-foot  Big Ass Fan  is installed and running,

No kidding, it’s called a Big Ass Fan

and the soil is ready to be raked into place. This first time we will be experimenting. First plants in: basil. Let’s see how long we can extend its season. I will be starting some seeds here this weekend, I think: lettuces, cilantro, miner’s lettuce. I’d like to try some late-started broccoli and cauliflower, and Swiss chard. We’ll move some tender perennials inside for over-wintering. We’re hoping it can be a real season stretcher and that we’ll be eating vegetables from it long after the outdoor garden has given up. Besides that, this greenhouse will warm the house in winter. We have no conventional furnace.

Out in the garden, I’ve made some progress. The landscaping is still pitiful, showing all the signs of construction and wreckage. When winter comes it will be discouraging again, but by summer’s end this year, parts of it almost looked like a garden.

The terraces: a beginning

The blocks of stone you see in the photo above will become steps from the first terrace to the next. A great many things are held in pots this year: the herb garden, the dahlias, shrubs that need siting and perennial starts from seed or cuttings. It’s all a process, and I  imagine the garden will never be finished, and every year I will feel despair as to its progress and condition.

The cat over there in the walkway is not dead. She just has an odd sense of what a pillow should be.

Pillow time

It’s seed-taking time already. These marigolds are ready to have seeds plucked out for next spring’s sowing. They’re the tiny Signet type that bloom in clouds of deep and bright oranges: easy to start from seed, a favorite of the springtime flush of slugs here. Though losses to slugs were heavy early on, the plants rallied when drier weather came, and now are throwing themselves into reproductive efforts.

Signet marigold seed heads

This one, below, is Nicotiana. I’m relying on them to self-sow. Oh…, well, maybe I’ll collect a few, too.

In the woods the owls are hooting their autumn signal system from tree to tree. In the night you can hear them, one nearby, hoo-hoo! and then, farther into the dark, hoo-hoo, hoo in answer. Add your own hoo to the conversation and they fall indignantly silent for a few minutes. They’re shedding themselves now, too, of soft gray feathers left in the grass.

Owl

It’s a sign, we’re coming ’round to the changing time of year again. It’s the time of year when, if you want to give yourself a case of the creepies, you walk into the woods at dusk. And listen.

Published in: on September 22, 2012 at 9:50 am  Comments (9)  
Tags:

Dark and Light

A  month or so ago, amongst other winter observances, we hurrah-ed the Solstice as if the sun were about to give us balmy days and springtime. Astronomical markers and conditions on the ground are not necessarily the same thing. We are pressing through the dark months here, the weeks of shortened daylight, the days of chill wind and rain, and ice. Solstice is the beginning of winter, and the edges of winter overlap both autumn and spring.

Here, a roadside apple tree on a frozen morning is so seasonally decorated, we think how it must have come to someone to hang colored balls on a tree for midwinter. The next good wind storm will dash them to the ground, but on this morning, they’re beautiful; abandoned and beautiful.

Our farm (where we would never leave apples on the tree into January, no matter how cheerful they be!) seems to sleep for now. Nothing much to do,

but huddle in a stump. The gardengoyle looks philosophical. It may be a long wait for spring.

But stop! There are signs of life in the woods and garden. Like tiny fires under the snow, Cotoneaster berries glow. They’re not really berries, but tiny pomes, like the apples by the road in fact. The birds seem to need to be quite hungry to take them. I suppose they prefer the fruits we would like to enjoy as well.

Fairy rings of tiny branching fungi have appeared in the tree lot. There will be dancing there in the moonlight, but you don’t want to see it. It never comes to any good when people go spying on fairies in the night.

Here in the woods I spy tracks leading off into the scrub. They might, I think, have been faun tracks. We are, after all, in the season of deepest mystery in the forest. Yes, I am pretty sure those are faun tracks. I’ve never seen the faun, or the fairies, but I’m certain they are out there. Who else could be walking through the snow with feet like that? I shudder to think of taking my barefoot toes into the frozen woods.

As a matter of fact, though I wear my wooly handmade winter socks as I sit here typing, I do not need to run barefoot after fauns to have the cold in my feet. My feet are always cold in winter.

With that thought, I will take myself upstairs now, where I have a secret going on in the attic. Here in the laboratory, under clinical light tubes, in plastic incubators…

the promise of spring.

We welcome you to this new year, little seedlings.

You, too, my readers.

Published in: on January 22, 2012 at 8:05 pm  Comments (6)  

Make More Plants

The simplest truth is, plant stuff wants to grow. Given the least helping hand, most plants will be happy to oblige in making more of themselves.

It’s late summer, and it’s a good time for propagation. Seeds are dropping out of pods all over the place, and can be collected as easily as placing a hand beneath and catching the outfall.  A labelled envelope helps , but otherwise, seed collecting is the simplest, cheapest means of satisfying the urge to “have some of that.”

Of course, not every plant reproduces itself faithfully through seed, and for some plants, growth from seed is a long, slow process. For many plants, propagation by rooted cuttings is a splendid choice. You’ll need to do a little reading to determine whether the holdings you want to increase are suitable for rooting, and what time of year is best for a given plant. But here is how I spent my morning today:

This is a fine, healthy rosemary bush from which I’m taking a cutting. I’d like to create a low hedge of Rosemarinus to help soften the high earth berm between our house and the road. A two year-old rosemary plant in the earth will attain a couple of feet in diameter. It’s evergreen, it blooms in summer, it smells wonderful, and it pleases bees. But it’s slow to cultivate by seed. Fortunately, rosemary is not difficult to root from cuttings. Some years ago, when I lived in town, a  neighbor handed me some rosemary cuttings over the fence, and, as I was busy just them, I stuck them in the ground for later attention. And then I forgot about them. By spring I had two robust little plants going gangbusters. Because this time I’m hoping my work will result in a goodly number of plants, I’ll be a little more careful.

Tools and supplies I need:

Sharp, clean snippers; rooting hormone; protective gloves; clean pots, and planting medium. That’s it.

Sharp snippers: I want a clean edge to the cut, without mashing and ripping cells.

Clean snippers: I do not want to introduce pathogens into my little nursery. These tiny plants will be working hard enough to make up for the trauma they’re about to experience.

Protective gloves: this year I read the label on the rooting hormone. I am ashamed to admit I hadn’t done this before. I guess I thought it was just ground-up willow branches or something. Well, now, let me say this: there are ingredients in there, and they call for serious action if you transfer it to your skin, to clothing, or (shudder) to your inner parts. Anything that says “Call a poison control center for for treatment advice, and continue rinsing,” has my respect. Disposable gloves are cheap. Get some.

This is a softwood cutting. It’s tender and flexible, being the summer’s new growth from older branches. I’m not limited to softwood cuttings for propagation, but they’re easy to prepare and they respond quickly to the plant’s urge to grow on.

Below, Ive stripped all but the topmost leaves from the cutting. The little wounds where I pulled the leaves off result in places where the plant will try to repair itself. Those nodes will be underground, so the repair will be root formation. Also, I don’t need the plant trying to put energy into leaves, so by removing most of them, I direct its efforts into the thing I want: new roots.

Wearing my blue nitrile gloves I dip the cut end of the little plant in the rooting hormone and tap off the extra.

I use my finger as a dibble to make a hole in the soil, insert the cutting, and tamp it in. Isn’t “dibble” a good word? It means  a small hand tool used to make holes in the ground for plants, seeds, or bulbs, and comes from late Middle English debylle… OK. No more. I get it. But it is an excellent word. Here’s the little cutting in its new home.

And I give them all a good sip of Mother’s own favorite beverage: deep well water.

Just one other thing: as much as I believe these children will remain individuals in my mind, I do know I will soon forget when I set them into pots and even, sometimes, exactly who they are. Labels are a good detail.

Rosemary cuttings take between 30 and 60 days to to strike and result in about 75% successes. If by chance I don’t get all I need, I’ll try again in the spring.

Most references will tell you to keep the young plants under a plastic dome while they root up. I have learned that cuttings taken in summer will cook pretty quickly under a dome in the sun, and will be susceptible to mold if kept in the shade under a dome. I have best luck this time of year with cuttings placed in pots large enough to hold soil moisture for at least a day, and I water them regularly. For springtime propagation, domes provide some protection from the elements. This is a matter of preference. If I had time to open the domes regularly and watch for bad growths, I might use them in summer, too. But propagation is mostly science with a little bit of art in it. You work out what works.

There are many good references on propagation. An easily available one with detailed techniques and a list of plants agreeable to propagation from cuttings, and the best time of year for taking them, is Geoff Bryant’s Plant Propagation A to Z: Growing Plants for Free. I do like the idea of getting plants for free.

(“Free” is an interesting word, too: O.E. freo “free, exempt from, not in bondage,” also “noble; joyful,” from P.Gmc. *frijaz (cf. O.Fris. fri, O.S., O.H.G. vri, Ger. frei, Du. vrij, Goth. freis “free”), from PIE *prijos “dear, beloved,” from base *pri- “to love” (cf. Skt. priyah “own, dear, beloved,” priyate “loves;” O.C.S. prijati “to help,” prijatelji “friend;” Welsh rhydd “free”).)

Yes. That sums it up.

Go make some cuttings.

Published in: on September 3, 2011 at 4:01 pm  Comments (6)  

Names, Names

Ah, spring has slipped by in a wash of showers, and summer has come. Local weather always seems like it must be universal. Here in the Northwest, we’ve had a long, dank spring and a summer with little hint of sun and warmth. I bend my mind take in the reports of punishing heat and misery in the 30 states under official heat advisory. It’s been a poor summer for picnics and camping out, but an excellent one for planting a garden.

Spring planting is always problematic. Under spring rains, the soil is saturated and heavy; where you dig, you slice into goop; where you plant, the goop closes around the little roots wanting to push into soil. “Just mud ’em in,” my aunt used to say, and she went ahead and planted in the wettest conditions. But she didn’t live on clay loam like we do. Here, when you set a plant into mud, you entomb it.

But we’ve had summer rains this year, and they’re of a different character than the spring ones. They are soft, vagrant, gentle on the ground. They drain easily. A rain in the morning might cede to sun in the afternoon, and you can go ahead and weed it or dig it without penalty. Mercy knows, I have enough weedy dirt to contend with this year, what with recently excavated cavities and newly piled-up berms.

Last weekend I went plant shopping on the rainy Saturday, expecting to set things into the garden on the improved Sunday. It turned out Saturday’s rains were  intermittent, and Sunday’s rains were constant, but never mind. I spent the rainy day reading about plants rather than planting them. I researched a few of the things I’d bought (I know, this is supposed to happen before buying, but it seldom does).

I embrace botanical names. Botanical names simplify things most of the time. Sometimes not, as when botanists disagree or make changes and the rest of us haven’t been informed yet. You might notice, for instance, that when you look for “Montbretia,” you find it always listed as “Crocosmia (Montbretia),” and it takes someone more interested in taxonomy than I to know why. But for the most part, if you want a certain class of plant, it’s good to know its binomial. Going from there, if you want a specific one, you attach its variety name. For instance, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is quite different from Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie.’

Just as a note of possibly very minor interest, one of the few things I know that I can specifically place in a classroom is how to write Latin classifications. I recall exactly sitting in a university biology class when the convention of Genus species notation was conferred upon us. Write them in italics. If you have no italics, transcribe them with an underscore. Capitalize the Genus name. Write the species name in lower case. With plants, a variety name may follow, in conventional type, and enclosed in single quotation marks. Ever since, I have followed these rules with something like obsessive compulsion. I know the spirit of Professor Wirtz will haunt me otherwise.

But — no, even greater than that: BUT! Large letters and an exclamation point! (Another teacher, earlier, once impressed upon me that exclamation points are only to be used in case of earthquake or sudden transcendental knowledge.) But, BUT, I must say, the common names of plants give so much joy in the garden.

For instance, knowing that the name of the genus Dianthus, which contains pinks and carnations and Sweet Williams, derives from the Greek words dios for god and anthos for flower is, well, it’s interesting. But knowing that the common name “Pink” for these flowers, describing their pinked or jagged edges, may have given rise to our color word pink, now that makes me smile. It gives depth to the history of this little flower that has happily bloomed in gardens for centuries. In the Middle English of Chaucer, pingen, or pinken meant  “to push,” or to “prick” (I’m losing track of how to apply my italics and underscores and quotes here…). I imagine medieval sweethearts passing between them a posy of sweet-smelling pinks.

Which… that posy, you might want to know, is a variant from the word poesy, a line of verse or poetry inscribed on the inside of a finger ring. It’s first use meaning a flower or a bouquet dates from the 1570’s. That little bouquet, that posy, carried a poetic symbolism that spoke to the hearts of dear ones. By Victorian times, the symbolism of blooms was formalized into a Language of Flowers by which deeply personal allusion was passed from one lover to another. Carnations, “Clove Pinks,” might be delivered with any of these messages implicit in the posy: if white, endearment; if red, an aching heart; if pink, timeless love; if yellow…then, ” hit the road, Jack.”

Here is Dianthus ‘Raspberry Surprise.’ ‘Raspberry Surprise’ is a kind of Pink known as “Cheddar Pinks.” Why? They’re called for the area near a village named Cheddar in Somerset, England, where, one supposes, they have grown.

And we have tiny Maiden Pinks, so named because of their shy maidenly habit of closing their bloom in the evening. Here they are, awake and smiling upward:

See what fun?

The name carnation, by the way, has an uncertain history… Ah, well. You can see where this leads.

Now, to return to my bringing home of plants, among them are a couple of gallon-sized Bergenia, a large-leafed pink-flowering perennial that I think of as a grandmother’s garden kind of plant. They bloomed out of control in my grandmother’s back garden. At one time I wouldn’t have considered them for my own garden, but it may be a sign of advancing years that I now have some of my own. Bergenia is commonly called Elephant’s Ears, Heart Leaf (both for its large, evergreen leaves), and: Pigsqueak.

Pigsqueak! That’s a name that demands a second look! As it turns out, Pigsqueak is named for a most adorable characteristic of its great, flat leaves. When you rub them firmly between two fingers, they oink like a litter of pigs.

Try it. It’s true.

How can a garden not love a plant with such a name?

Now, looking over here to the next bed, we have Agastache, whose etymology traces to the Greek…

Oh.

Yes, I do understand. You need to go hang out the wash, though you would much rather hear more. Well, then.

Come back soon, will you?

Published in: Uncategorized on July 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Whoops

Yesterday it smelled like spring for sure. Catch the scent of new grass, and violets in the air!

I can hear those fresh lambs bleating in the yard.

It’s the season of blossoms and babies.

But this morning, my gracious,

an April snowfall has come!

One expects rain in April, and a certain amount of hail, and an occasional all-destroying frost. After all, the plums are in bloom, which is reason enough for a freeze-to-kill night in these foothills.

But this gentle snowfall morning, who might have expected it?

Perhaps the nodding daffodils knew.

Published in: on April 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm  Comments (2)  

It’s Here! (Spring, I Mean)

Nothing speaks of spring like this:

Meet Penny Rose, the first lamb of the year. Isn’t she the perkiest thing you ever saw?

This is busy time for ewes, what with bearing and feeding and keeping track of youngsters. It’s suddenly a big responsibility for an animal accustomed to spending her time eating, lounging, and growing wool.

Here is Ida with her new twins, who immediately demand  feeding. Childbirth converts a lazy sheep into an attentive, conscientious mother who knows, from the first moment, what her new job is. Her voice changes. Her manner changes. She has this important thing to do now, and that’s all she is about.

Someone noted to me that this ewe mother has a lot of fleece on. Yes. While some shepherds shear just before lambing, I have always felt it puts unneeded stress onto a heavily pregnant ewe to set her on her butt and shear her. I do go in and give them a little haircut around the relevant areas, called “crutching,” to make sure the path is clear and the teats are available. I will shear later, when everyone has gotten over the excitement of lambing and new duties.

Meanwhile,

the daffodils are emerging from their winter’s sleep. Other than the sound of a lamb bleating, what can so strongly fill you with Spring as the scent of a Narcissus on the breeze? This is the Double Campernelle daffodil, a quite old variety, known in gardens from 1601.

And the Hellebores still nod, heavy and sensual,

nearly indecent with their fulsomeness. What floozies.

And what else?

We have had the Spring Fiber Sale, the first of the year’s gatherings of spinners, knitters, weavers and shepherds, the market days where we greet and exchange goods and envy. It’s been a long winter and we show off our work to one another.

See what can become of that woolly sheep when her fleece is cleaned and spun into fine yarn, worked by skilled hands into a pattern of lace?

This lovely shawl, seen at the Spring Fiber Sale, is done in the classic Shetland pattern known as “Old Shale” or, if you were a speaker of Shetland English some time ago, more probably “Old Shell” in meaning.

Here’s some winter’s work of my own,

done from handspun wool and knitted into a simple, thickly warm wrap.

And, speaking of spring, Sock Madness is underway! Sock Madness is the annual, March, sock knitting eliminations game, run online, on Ravelry – a knit and crochet community.

Here, for your enjoyment, are my completed Round 1 socks:

And my Round 2 socks:

I’m still in it. I await the Round 3 challenge…

Published in: on April 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm  Comments (4)  

Winter, Spring, Winter, Spring. Spring? Winter!

February must be the most confused of the northern months. It is made up of gloom, rains, flurries of snow, bursts of joyous sunshine, unexpected hailstorms, frosts and thaws, and wind like witches in the trees. Who can love a February?

A week ago I was cheering the emergence of bulbs in the garden beds. Narcissus buds are swelling.

The small irises are in full explosion. The splash of blue so surprised me one morning when I came up the path I felt my intake of breath before I could even recognize them as iris.

Under the fir trees, violets nod already.

and the Hellebore is a practically indecent display on the winter-bare slope.

Could I be blamed for rushing out between rain showers to plant primroses? To pull weeds? To dig holes in the damp earth and breathe deeply the hint of spring? The garden is waking! There is work to be done! Pull on the gloves and boots and get yourself out there!

Ah. Traitor. Never trust February.

This week we are promised temperatures in the low Fahrenheit 20’s again. December temperatures.

What is a garden to do?

For the most part, these early greeters are pretty hardy, and I expect they will be fine. We think of them as harbingers of spring for just this reason. They show up early and scoff at lingering winter. But there are a few of them I will worry about. These, for instance,

are my very special “Irene Copeland” daffodils which, in their bloom, look like this:

and which are planted in pots, not in the protective garden ground. I believe the Irenes would be up to the challenge, but I would hate to lose them. So I  gathered up all my bulb pots today and they are now huddled against the garden wall where they may find some protection from the coming cold. For nighttime, I’ll cover them with a plastic sheet.

Sleeping beneath a plastic sheet does not appeal to me, but if I were a daffodil I think I’d have a lesser standard of comfort. On the other hand, as I look on them now, they do remind me of prisoners lined up against a wall…

Published in: on February 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm  Comments (6)  

An Autumn Congeries

Ah, the foul weather has come, and we are shuddering and building fires in the stove. We had our first snow last week, gone now and turned to mud in the yards.

But there are fine things going on anyway. The young ram is courting his ladies. And courting. And courting. Being he’s just a youngster, he seems assiduous enough in his amours. He’s fairly polite about it all. When the mood for love strikes, he sniffs the air for confirmation, and trots toward the lady of his desires. He bumps her gently on the hips. She steps away demurely. He’s sure by now, so he turns toward the action end of things. At first she may walk away from him. He follows. He reminds her he is there with an additional few nudges. By the time he decides to consummate things, they are in agreement over the matter, and she pauses, presents herself to him, and… it’s done. It takes longer to work out the deal than to perform the act.

Our woods are damp and chill. Across the road and along the path up the Butte, Fall is as good as its name, with foliage littering the way. The scent of autumn in the woods is earthy, moldy, tannic and fungal. It’s a good scent.

All our complaints through the long wet summer have given way to joy: the yield of mushrooms in the woods has been good this year. Here is the beautiful Chanterelle in its native home.

And here it is in my home:

In several collecting days we bagged around 15 pounds live weight. Done in the skillet, in their own nectar, packaged and frozen into serving-size portions, they will come out for later use as fresh as fresh.

The scattering of fungi all through the woods is a wonder to the eye. Here are puffballs, spent of their puffs and looking like chimney pots.

And here, you see, the fairies are back in the woods. This is where they have been a-dancing overnight in the woodlot.

.

In the barn we have two litters of rabbits all warm in their nests. The doe pulls hair from her coat to make the softest nursery you can imagine. There are seven little ones in here, snuggled next to each another. Mom hops in and out with what seems like careless disregard for the babes in her way, but none seem to get smashed.

Here’s proof: that’s a tiny black rabbit in there.

They’re not into petting at this age. The little buggers are so wiggly and reluctant, it’s impossible to get a good photo of them.

Here are some 3 week-olds. Eyes open, they’ve come to the cute stage. Really, really cute. They fall over one another as if no one had bones or nerves.

They’ve trampled that beautiful nest into nothing, but by this age they snuggle for shared warmth, and that’s enough. Those rabbit skin coats they wear are remarkably warm. In summer, when they don’t want the insulation, their big ears serve as radiators.

These little ears require some growing before then.

And as I speak of warmth and weather, what better time is there to sit by the fire and work wool into garments? Here’s a beautiful batt of blended wool and silk, carded into color layers, ready to spin.

By selecting gobs (that’s a technical term of art) from different parts of the batt, spinning the varied colors, and then making a 2-ply yarn, the hues come and go through the yarn in partly intentional, partly unpredictable changes.

The passages of color are long enough to create broad bands in the knitted garment. Five balls like those above, make this:

Warm as a bunny’s butt.

Published in: on November 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm  Comments (2)  

Seeds and Feathers and Things

We might reasonably have mistaken the beginning of autumn for a continuation of our dismal summer of rains. But there are signs things are moving toward winter. Here’s one:

The sweetpeas of summer are setting seed pods, readying themselves for next time.

Fall apples are dropping faster than we can cook them into crisps. There are plenty for fresh eating and for sharing with the livestock. William the mule is fond of his morning apple.  Here is evidence the little rabbit in the orchard likes her apple a day, too.

It was not I who left all those nibbles on the ground.

On the fringes of the road, while most of the Queen Anne’s Lace has drawn up its petticoat and is ready to scatter itself into the grass:

a few examples are still fresh and hopeful.

It is said the tiny red flower in the center is a drop of Queen Anne’s blood, a prick from her lace-making. Others, imagining less and defining more, believe the red drop of flower is an insect attractant.

Perhaps it can be both.

In the woods, the autumn fungi are appearing again. Their names are far too difficult for me to work out.  It doesn’t matter whether these are welcome at the table.

Their delicacy of color and shape nearly escapes description.

Some are best viewed from ground level.

Some from above.

In our barn I found a cast feather. This one, I believe, is from an owl, probably an owl taking care of rodent business in the nighttime barn.

And this, from the edge of the woods, a crow:

A Steller’s Jay (When I was small, I thought these were called Stellar Jays, because they were so beautiful):

And this, from near a small carcass in the field, a Turkey Vulture:

We might think of these birds with loathing but without them and others of their ilk, we would soon be knee deep in decaying corpses. I looked up one day and saw the owner of this feather. A vulture lingered on the air, clearly missing a primary feather from its span.

Even with all this appearance of fungi in the woods, this dropping of seeds and feathers about the farm, it’s notable that not everything is getting ready to shut up shop for the fall season. We remember that fall is breeding season on the farm. Soon we’ll bring the ram to his ewes. And here we have, oh dear, someone who has found the day just right for love:

This, my friends,  is slug love. I share it only so you won’t be deceived that everything around here is lovely and lyrical.

It might, however, be sweeter than we believe if we could listen in to the cooing going on in that embrace. Who am I to say what poetry one slug sings to another?

Published in: on October 3, 2010 at 5:30 pm  Comments (9)