Photo of the Day Wednesday, Apr 23 2014 

Iris in the flagpole garden last year.  I hope I don’t bother it with my reorganization this year.  I shouldn’t, the iris (blue) and the Oriental poppies (true red) are in the center, I’m fiddling with both long edges of the arc.

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On Age Tuesday, Apr 22 2014 

I was perusing some photos on the internet the other day of Los Angeles at the turn of the last century.  Of course, for all intents and purposes, LA didn’t exist.  It is always a little disconcerting to consider cities of that sort.  To realize that this house existed as Esperanza before several of the major cities in the U.S. were anything more than waystops on the map.

Having lived in the UK for a few years, and for one year in a building built in the 1600′s, the discrepancy is even more apparent.  When the streets existed before this continent was known to Europeans?  It permanently warps what is or is not considered history. At the same time, the comparison can hide just how much have things have changed.  Esperanza existed 130 years ago, but it was a very different Esperanza in some respects.  In others not.  Recognizing the correct balance between the changed/unchanged and should change/should not change…That is the challenge.

Alleluia Sunday, Apr 20 2014 

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The right tool for the job Saturday, Apr 19 2014 

makes all the difference.

Shifting the Shasta Daisies in the flagpole garden, which meant hauling out a solid 20 square feet of matted plants, I was happy to have my belief confirmed.  A digging knife, of the heavy duty sort with a wickedly sharp serrated edge on one side and a straight blade on the other, is indispensable for that sort of perennial plant division.  A good digging knife has to be made with nearly the thickness of a shovel, with a full tang, a good handle, and capable of holding an edge; the amount of force one wants to be able to use is considerable.

Shasta daisies form a mat of surface roots about the width of a finger.  Like most roots they have a fair bit of ‘give’ in them, so cutting through them from directly above takes quite a bit of force, even with a sharp shovel. Remember that the ground below them also compresses, enhancing that give.  Now, you can get through them with a shovel; but the amount of force is considerable.  Furthermore, the effective use of the shovel (or even a properly sharpened edger) means morrising about in the garden somewhat.  Not what you want to be doing if the Shastas are encroaching on asters, poppies, and irises that do not want to be damaged.  With the knife however, one can stab through the mat and cut back towards one very effectively, sectioning the mat into pieces.  Then insert the shovel and pry out the section.  Voila.  The other plants are undisturbed, the Shastas are out.  Now….I just have to finish reworking the edges and replant the blessed things…..  The easy part is done.

The knife I use came from Lee Valley and is about as close to indestructible as one can get, highly recommended.

 

 

Your photo for the day Friday, Apr 18 2014 

Well two, actually. The old horse and the new crocus fence line.  This was taken seven days ago, the crocus are essentially gone now and the field is bright green.

(p.s., I’m running Opera as a browser, if this page loads oddly or slowly tell me, I don’t know how well it is playing with photos yet)

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Contemplations Thursday, Apr 17 2014 

It snowed which didn’t do somethings any good at all.  Actually, it was more the very welcome inch and a half of rain that melted the last few crocus and snowdrops and smashed the chionodoxa under the river birch to bits.  I hope that the latter recover a bit and establish themselves, it would be nice to have a pool of bright blue by the drive there.

I suspect by the time it warms up tomorrow, that the meadow will complete its transformation from brown to green.

Elsewhere, the daffodils, scilla (squill), pushkinia*, tulips, hyacinth, and others are all coming along.  Spring bulbs are an international gathering: Siberia, Central Asia, the Black Sea, Spain, Wales, Scotland, England…  Following close behind are the spring ephemerals, the natives of the rich woodlands of the Americas.

Time to plays into it, hyacinths once flourished here in the 1870′s.  No trace of those are left, but they made the local newspaper then.  Maybe someday the hyacinths by the pond will be re-established.  But scilla grew for my grandmother here and the same bulbs still spring up a bright, saturated blue, the Van Sion daffodils were collected by my father at a site that was being bulldozed, the King Alfreds on the bank came out of the woods and surprised us all, the odd mixed daffodils from a school garden planted by my mother.

How can a flower, so fragile, be a link of space, of time, of memory? Is it not a miracle in our everyday lives?

 

*Similar to the scillas, a delicately striped blue and white, eye catching and unusual. Tough as nails.  For John, it is near Merlin, with love.

Long distance relationship Tuesday, Apr 15 2014 

Julie and Morris had, for most of their marriage, a long distance relationship with the only contact through letters.  It wasn’t always easy.  Here is a passage from a letter in 1857:

“Now here I sit scribbling away against time and to what end, I cannot interest you, I cannot amuse you, I cannot comfort you. I need not advise you, and don’t you think I were as well in bed and asleep?

…You are maybe at church, maybe in Mollie’s room, maybe smoking with Mr. Allen, possibly in your room, perhaps writing to me. At any rate, Dear Morris, if there comes a bright dream of home to you tonight and pleasant looks from home faces, I shall be there, and you will see me.

I put your picture under my pillow the other night in the hope that I might dream of you. But instead I dreamed all night of getting a convict out of a prison dungeon and was horribly afraid of him after all, and so awoke dreadfully fatigued and miserably disappointed. I have had some pleasant dreams of you through this winter. I have seen you, talked with you and have waked with such fresh and real impressions of your presence, that I have gone joyfully all the day long.”

Crocus angustifolius Monday, Apr 14 2014 

Alright, I’ll admit it. I have officially crossed the line and become a plant nerd.  I have a certain fascination with crocus at the moment.  A definite favorite right now is C. angustifolius (also known as C. susianus), commonly referred to as ‘Cloth of Gold’.  Native to Crimea and the northern Black Sea coast, it favors grasslands that are dry in the summer.  I figured I’d give it a shot in the tall grass of the northwest lawn under the white birches.  It certainly didn’t object to the winter, since either I can’t count or each corm was willing to send up multiple flowers.  It is supposedly fragrant, but I haven’t stuck my nose into a flower to find out.  A bright yellow crocus with a distinct star shape from above, more like some of the species tulips, rather than the classic cup of a Dutch crocus.  It may be more sensitive to sunlight than others (all crocus close at night or on cloudy days) since in my brief observation of a few days it is only completely open on bright mornings (the photos below were taken in a clear, late afternoon and the flowers had already noticeably closed).  It is a brilliant yellow with the outside feathered in what can only be described as royal purple.  Whether it is the name, the color, the shape, or its original location….I am always reminded of classical myths surrounding the Black Sea, primarily of course Jason and the Argonauts, but also other suggestions of a harsh land of great wealth and beauty.

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Spring Sunday, Apr 13 2014 

I think we can safely call winter over…the peepers are finally going hard in Julie’s pond.  They started a few days ago in the pond across the road in East Meadow, but that pond is in nearly full sunlight and is fed by the regular seasonal water table rise.  Today, they have been going consistently all day in Julie’s pond, which is down in the woods and is spring fed.  It is, therefore, significantly colder than any other pond.

There is a wood duck pair down there as well, though I doubt they will nest…too much activity on the road.  The real question is whether I will see any baby salamanders swimming about down there this year.  I did last year, but only by pure chance.

Card Games Saturday, Apr 12 2014 

Circa 1920.  Do note the tea cups, with saucers, and sugar bowls! I am not entirely sure of who the people are; it is possibly Bradford Ellsworth and Juliet Inness.  But that is a guess. Note as well that the house still had the narrow wooden clapboards painted green rather than today’s larger, white asbestos. The change to the perceived size and weight of the house was unfortunate, on the other hand the paint bill is a lot smaller.  If one had unlimited cash….

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