How quickly things shift Saturday, Dec 20 2014 

Exactly six months ago, contrast this with the Norway spruce photo of a few days ago, or the one of the maple tree! One of the reasons that New England is so much fun is the dramatic seasonal shifts. The large Norway spruce, by the way, is just visible in the background of the right side in between two smaller trees (the right one is leaning noticeably). You are looking south, in the other picture you are looking east.


Tulip Tree! Thursday, Dec 18 2014 

Out of season, but I was looking for something else and came across this photo of the tulip tree looking like, well, a tulip this fall! They are lovely, fast growing, potentially massive trees. It is probably the ‘massive’ part that makes them a bit difficult for people these days. The New York Botanical Garden has an allee of single trunked, mature specimens which is just spectacular.

Around here, they are very common in the woods: eighty feet straight up with nary a curve. This one, for whatever reason, developed a low double leader, which may limit its height. Not a bad thing, they can hit 120 feet, which even for me is a bit of a muchness. This one is perhaps forty five years old and is about sixty five feet tall.


Zombie fish! Tuesday, Dec 16 2014 

Because we didn’t have enough going on… a check of the fish pond yesterday revealed a rather horrid sight: about eight of the large goldfish looking very dead indeed with the rest apparently heading that way.  We pulled out the dead ones and put them in a bucket (with no water, they were dead after all), pulled the heater as a possible suspect, and consulted with a local fish expert.

This resulted in a reorganizing of the afternoon to go and get an air pump for the pond (it has been running with simply the waterfall as the oxygen source for about a decade) since the consensus was low oxygen levels, likely caused by too many leaves.*

The air pump was installed a few hours later. Remember those fish in the bucket? Still sitting there by the pond? One of them twitched. So the bucket of dead fish was put back into the pond. Several dead fish promptly swam off.  As of this morning only two of those ‘dead’ fish are still lying in the shallows looking dead. Another is looking ill, but the rest seem to be swimming about.  I think we will wait a bit to determine the actual death count.

Apparently, asphyxiated fish in cold weather are the opposite of drowned people in cold weather.  The person isn’t dead till they are warm, dry, and still dead. It would seem fish aren’t dead until they are wet and still dead.  Or something. Not an experiment we are going to repeat.


*Usually the leaves are removed, for a number of very good reasons that just didn’t happen this fall. Now that we know that it really is important to do it, its priority will be bumped up for future years.

dartboard! Sunday, Dec 14 2014 


Otherwise known as your random photo of the day. Hard to believe that there is a busy two lane road out there!

Norway spruces for the most part, the tree in the front/left is a young redbud. What is funny is that until I was looking at this picture just now, I hadn’t seen the strong diagonal of those spruce trunks…I’ll have to give that some consideration. Lines make a garden!


The beauty of old houses Friday, Dec 12 2014 

for gardeners. Aside from the Christmas cactus that have blooming since October and will continue through January; the house is also cold enough and dark enough in areas to allow jasmine to set buds. Not quite ready to bloom yet, but almost. The buds, which stated as miniscule green points, having lengthened. They are now long white spirals, picture a unicorn’s horn, reaching towards the light. There is no fragrance yet, but there will be, subtle and rich.

We still haven’t quite figured out how to prune them for shape; but considering the difficulty of getting them to set flower…

The trick is to put them outdoors during the summer, and then keep them outside until the first frost. They then need forties to fifties and natural daylight for flower set.  No turning the lights on at night! Not easy to do in most houses. But an old, rambling house? That works.

Old and new Wednesday, Dec 10 2014 

The old red maple beyond the garden, one of the few survivors from the original early 1800’s line, has a precarious life. It split many years ago and now exists as a carefully balanced, dancing, tree. Someday it will fall. And someday the two young beeches which bracket it will fill the space, now far larger than those little two foot tall, struggling saplings that I transplanted many years ago. For now the old maple rises above the golden beeches still.


Five feet high and rising Tuesday, Dec 9 2014 

Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad it isn’t snow, especially this year. But water on frozen ground is mighty close to useless. All it is doing is running down the hill into the rivers.

I am equally glad it isn’t ice though, just a touch of true freezing rain this morning to glaze things.

But my real question…why is it colder down near to the shoreline and warmer up here? I am sure the weather people said it would be the other way around….

Weather: providing jobs for frustrated prophets since year one.

Rivers Sunday, Dec 7 2014 

My current commute, such as it is, takes me along when of Connecticut’s nicer rivers: the Farmington. Aside from bird watching for bald eagles while driving, it is always interesting to study the river itself. It is a tame, little river compared to many in North America, though it is bigger than one thinks it is.

The water level in it is largely at the mercy and whim of man; throughout the 1800’s and into the 1900’s, it repeatedly flooded with catastrophic results. Many bridges and chunks of communities went downstream due to spring ice and summer hurricanes. Flood control dams, major drinking water reservoirs, downstream power dams, and the interests of the trout industry all conspire for a constantly managed water flow.

Still in the summer, the rocky, rapid nature emerges. Snags appear and disappear, and the water has a glinting blue color. It is fast running and clear.

And then there are days like today, swollen by the night’s torrential rain on frozen ground. It almost seemed sluggish, how deceptive an appearance, and had risen above its normal high water level,so it had a curious weight: filling its banks completely. The light, even though clear, in the setting sun was that grim pewter color with the faintest tints of orange. A cold reflection. Colder, somehow, than late winter when it is black water is crowned in white ice.

The Barway Friday, Dec 5 2014 


This is an interesting contrast to the picture of the old stump of a few days ago. Only about fifty yards from the stump, this area has been heavily thinned in a way that the other hasn’t (I am waiting, patiently for decades if need be, for several massive giants to come down in that other area. Until they do, finished thinning is sort of useless, since young sugar maples can essentially sit in stasis while in a heavy closed canopy, and when those big ones do come down….things will be different.

I have to admit the other picture has a more dramatic feel to it.

Historical Excerpts Wednesday, Dec 3 2014 

A random division back to 1880 and William Webster Ellsworth, with his young family, living in New York City:

“Street cars, with horses straining at their collars when the car was crowded, ran down Madison Avenue, and some of them turned the corner at Astor Place and stopped at Broadway, directly in front of my office at 743. Omnibuses lumbered down Broadway, with straw on the floor in winter, very unsanitary but some of us are still alive. The driver, always red-faced and looking like a character in Dickens, sat high up, outside, and you handed him money; if you needed change, he gave it to you in envelopes, marked 10, 25, 50 cents, and $1, through a little hole that was just behind him. It was not expected that you would require more than a dollar; buses were not for millionaires. You tore open the envelope and dropped a nickel into a lighted box which the driver could look down on. You passed up money for ladies and handed them the envelope and then dropped in their nickel. A strap ran from the door around the driver’s foot and when you wanted to get out you pulled the strap and he lifted his foot so that you could open the door. Horse cars had conductors however.”

A far cry from Uber!

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