Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Flight of the Monarchs

There are those things you understand at a high-level.  You read something, stick it away in your memory.  A fact you can recite when you are called upon to answer a trivia question.

But to actually see and experience something you only read about - now that is different.

The wife and I were sitting on the dock last weekend.  Autumn has been very mild.  It is mid October and I am still wearing shorts and sandals.  The late morning sun feels so nice.  We see a monarch butterfly fly across the river.  Then we see another.  And then another.  In a short period of time we see at least a dozen monarchs flying across the river.  They are heading south.  I knew that monarchs migrate south - but to see them was so special.

We walk to the edge of the woods.  Monarchs are following the treeline south to the river and then cross.  We see a few get diverted flying around some pokeweed, but they then seem to remember their task and fly south across the river.

To know something is one thing.  To experience it is the real gift!

Friday, October 13, 2017


It has been three years since we had a vegetable garden.  We were spending time between our river house and the farm house and we did not have the time to manage gardens in two places.  We have been growing herbs, but no vegetables.  Fast forward to the present.  We have decided to sell the farm house and live full time in the river house.  Life will be so much easier (though calling this blog the Barn Board will have less relevance).

I moved all the raised beds to the river house two years ago.  I filled the beds with soil over the last few weeks and have been getting  them ready for next year.

I tried a new way to create trellises for next-year's pole beans.  I just used T-posts, zip ties, metal screen fencing and some wooden cross members.  They were so easy to set up and are very sturdy.

The autumn has me 'leaf farming'.  Last year's leaves are well decomposed into a beautiful compost.  I will fill both bins over the next few weeks as the leaves fall from the trees.

The compost is dark and rich.  It is full of worms.  I'll be moving it to the new garden beds soon.

I'll be planting the garlic in a few weeks (it gets planted in the late fall).  I then have to wait for next Spring for the rest of the plants.  We are so excited to be growing fresh vegetables again!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cloudy Days

May has been cool and wet.  That said, it has not been a time to ease up in the gardens.  There has been a lot of weeding, especially on the river bank.  We put in over 80 Asiatic lilies and want to make sure that the ever-present interlopers don't block them out.  It seems I am always filling the wheelbarrow every weekend.

Then there is the transplanting.  I have moved a bunch of lavender plants, transplanted some iris and tiger lilies to the riverbank, moved some thyme plants to the herb garden, moved s few stray peony plants to a more centralize grouping, and rearranged some hostas to keep them together by type.

We put in a new sage plant (they never seem to last more than a few years).  We tend to overwinter some rosemary plants indoors (they just bear through the dark days of winter).  I left one outside in the herb garden and and it made it through the winter and is doing well.  I moved a second one outside/  We put our basil plants in the ground as the fear of frost is gone.

The wife wanted some four o'clocks and marigolds.  I am not much of an annual flower person (the idea or replanting something I can't eat seems like a big drain on time). I started them from seed and finally dug a small bed and put them in.

The compost beds have been turned over and the decaying leaves are now consolidated into a single bin.

The yard is just about as I want it.  The last big chore is to fill the raised beds to get the vegetable gardens going.  I need about 5 yards of soil brought in.  This will take me some time over the summer.  We will then be ready for fresh vegetables next year.

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace."

Monday, January 2, 2017

Winter Walk

We have a few inches of snow on the ground.  It is still cold.  The weather will warm as the week progresses and we will see a slight thaw (we seem to have a short thaw in early January).

I drive to the meadows for a walk.  We have been traveling over the holiday.  Airplanes, trains, hotels, security lines, the beds of relatives.  I long to just be outside.

It is windy.  The cattails are already bedraggled.

The ponds are all frozen, though I don't think I will try to cross them,  I stay on the main trail.  I see other footprints (runners and dog walkers I assume).

I pass the feeder stream to Black Brook.  It is ice covered.  It veers to the west through a marshy area. With the cold weather, the marsh is mostly frozen.  As I wander the main path I come to the turnoff for the Esker Trail.  It is not a prepared trail.  In the Spring and Summer is is a marshy path.  With the cold weather (and since I am wearing my waterproof muck boots), I decide to venture in.  I don't see any other footprints.  I try to walk on the path where I see the remnants of last summers grass and weeds poking through the snow.  In places I walk across frozen puddles.  The ice slumps under my weight and I break through in a few places.  The water is not deep, but I'd rather keep my feet as dry as possible.

Soon the trail leaves the marshy area.  The trail continues west.  It come to a "T".  I can go right to follow the Esker trail, or left to go on the West Wood trail.  I will have to cross a wet section again, but if it was like the Esker trail, it should be no problem.  A walk in the woods would get me out of the wind for a time.

The trail is blazed with orange surveyors ribbon.  It is easy to follow.  I pull my hood off and stand still.  I hear nothing.  Not a bird.  No sounds of creaking trees.  It is so quiet.

The trail went south but soon heads east.  The area is marshy, but makeshift bridges have been placed.  I see animal track now follow the trail.  They too seems to be looking for the easiest path through the wet areas.  I walk on the bridges as first, but them just walk in the animals tracks as the ground is mostly frozen and the footing is easier.

I unexpectedly come to a creek.  Across it is the main trail.  I start to contemplate how I can cross it.  I see a few snow cover trees lying across the creek.  I'd hate to slip and fall in.

I walk upstream and soon realize I have no problems - there is a proper bridge.

As I follow the creek I see signs of a bank beaver lodge.  The creek is not dammed, but there are signs of beaver chewing the trees all about.

I cross the river and a open field.  I soon come to the main trail.  I see no footprints in this section.  I the Spring the trail here gets flooded (1 to 3 inches of water).  Last Spring I would ride my mountain bike through the water - what a workout!

I turn onto the Oak Tree trail.  A lone oak stands on a slight ridge.

The wife and I walked this trail in the late summer.  It was ablaze in yellow.  Not it is colorless, brown and grey.

I get onto the main loop and soon find more footprints.  I am heading back to the parking area.  Most people stay on the trails close to the parking area.

I wish for at least 6 inches of snow for snow shoeing, or a good foot for skiing.  These trails would be great for skiing.

It is now midmorning.  The sun is low in the sky.  My shadow looks so long in the snow.

I head back to the car.  I have not shaken off all the stress from my travels, but this walk went a long way to bringing balance back to my life.