Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Children's Garden Week

Roberta at Growing with Science Blog is celebrating Children's Garden Week with fun posts everyday, and has invited us to join the celebration.  Since I am often accused of being a child and I do love gardening, I wanted to add to the fun.  Roberta started the week on Sunday's post giving an overview of what to expect throughout the week, and asked if we were pining for Spring and leafing through seed catalogs?  Yes, and YES! I am excited to start a new garden in a completely new climate since we moved to Connecticut last Fall.  This is the first winter in a northern state and it has been a cold snowy winter.  And while it has been fun, I am ready to put seeds in dirt.

I want to share for Children's Gardening Week is this wonderful image of the Food Web of a Compost Pile from a booklet produced by New York State called Ecology of Compost.  The booklet is just 12 pages, but is a great introduction to starting and using a compost pile.  It was printed in the seventies before the internet.  I've found some great gems among those old pamphlets.
I've done compost related activities with kids.  One of those activities was looking through mostly broken down compost searching for critters.  The kids had a great time finding sowbugs and rolly pollies, earthworms, millipedes, tiny mites, and beetles.  Compost it so cool.  I loved my old compost pile in Texas.  I saw butterflies, weird flies with patterned wings, beetles, larvae, millipedes, lizards, and opossum tracks.  Since our compost was more than 200 ft from the house, I didn't try to keep bigger animals out.  I liked seeing the recognizable vegetable scraps turn into broken bits.  I also enjoyed seeing what took the longest to break down.  Broccoli stems, corn cobs, and mango seed pits lasted the longest for me.  Pumpkin, cucumber, and other water-filled squash disappeared in a day or two, but that was in hot, thirsty Texas.  I feel bad because I didn't start a compost pile last fall and have been throwing food scraps in the trash.  I want to get one started after the ground thaws and get that micro-ecosystem going in my backyard.

I have several garden and insect themed posts in the blog archives that you may also enjoy.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Abstract snow

This is a short post with a bunch of abstract snow photos.  I love the textures, lines, and tones that the sunlight, snow, and tree shadows make.  One of the bloggers I follow, Julie Zickefoose, recently wrote about the blue and white scenery that winter storms have provided.  Julie's posts are always good, filled with birds, enthusiasm for life, scenery, art, and doggies.  She shares so much that you feel that you are one of the gang when reading. Anyways, I agree the snow is blue and white, and on sunny days with the bright blue sky you get bonus blue, my favorite color! 

two not so abstract, but pretty pictures

Saturday, February 15, 2014


This week like much of the Eastern US, we received more snow, and it is actually snowing as I write this post!  I snapped several fun snow pictures for you, but I want to depart from snow related posts to share some cool websites that I recently discovered.  

I believe this Red Oak is just 1 mile from my house.
It is listed on the Notable Trees of Connecticut website, tree # 24001.
Photo by Marty Aligata (Dec 11, 2010) from the website

I found the Notable Trees of Connecticut website while doing research for a dendrology nature program last Saturday.  Connecticut has a rich history of valuing trees, in fact the Charter Oak tree is on the back of the State's quarter.  The Notable Tree Project was established in 1985, and people nominate trees by measuring height, circumference, and average spread of the branches.  If the tree is big enough, official measurements are taken and the tree is registered.  The website is well organized; you can search by tree species, town, tallest, biggest, or just scan the list of trees.  Not all the trees' locations are listed since some are on private land, but I think I've located a Red Oak near my house that is on the list.  There is also a National Register of big trees.  I found several Arizona trees on that list, and you can nominate trees, too.  I already love finding huge trees, and this website really got me wanting to nominate a tree!

My Garden plan, lots of tomatoes, peas, peppers, greens, carrots, and herbs!

While the snow is beautiful, I am eagerly looking forward to spring and starting my new garden!  I am told the original owned Mr. Oliver Bolduc always had a big garden, often had veggies to share with the neighbors, and there might be some rhubarb mounds still out back.  There is already a 20 x 30 foot space with poles up for attaching deer fencing (I'm sure the deer and other critters are eager for me to start my garden, too).  I am already enjoying time planning all the plants I want to put in the dirt as soon as I am able. In my dreaming, I found Smartgardener a free website with a lot of fun tools and information.  After you sign up, you can map your garden, pick vegetables and herb varieties, and set a to do list (not that there's a lot to do currently).  There is a journal to keep track of what you end up planting, how things do, what problems you encountered, and other notes. When you click on a plant variety, the website gives you information on that plant, alerts you if it is a bad choice for your area, and there are also links to buy the selected varieties of seeds, which I assume is why the program is free.  I could have done all this in a traditional notebook, but the map I got is very neat, is easy to change, comes with appropriate spacing for each plant, and everything is in one place.

Screen shot of the tomato varieties listed.

Friday, February 7, 2014

short rambles

In my last post, I mentioned that more snow was coming, and boy did it.  We now have a little over a foot of snow on the ground.  It comes up just a little lower than the top of my rubber boots which with two pairs of socks are my winter shoes.  I'm guessing the dogs and I won't be out hiking in the woods for a while since it's almost deeper than Silly, and Antro.  Cici is even slowed down a bit and I wouldn't last long trudging through the heavy, thick blanket.  This snow is also wetter and heavier than our last since we also got a bit of sleet with the storm.  The road is also not a super great place to walk the dogs since the salt, used to melt the snow, hurts Silly's feet.  I might try to take Cici out on the road later since I miss my walks.  I didn't notice how much I enjoy my daily exercise, but I'm missing it almost as much as the dogs are.

Well, here are a few pictures from our big snow.  It is pretty!  There are several photos of us digging out trails around the house.  The depth and weight of the snow make it a hard workout.


I can't get enough of bird tracks in the snow.  Shadows of me and the dogs on the snow are fun, but sunset colors and shadows through the trees are beautiful!

James Goodwin State Forest, snow covered Pine Acres Lake 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014



Bird Snow-angel 
Today since about 8:30 am, there hasn't be a moment when a glance out the window doesn't reveals a scene of white fluff falling.  Each hour the white is thicker and deeper as the snow layers build.  I wasn't thrilled with the weather forecast to see more snow, we've had our share of cold weather (it's not just me even the locals say it's been an unusually cold winter).  But, the snow is beautiful!  You really can't deny that a snow covered landscape is a pretty transformation.  Snow gives the woods bold black and white patterns, softens hard edges, and makes everything quiet and peaceful.  As it snows, the weather isn't that cold, and I enjoy little strolls through the woods and down the hill listening to my boots crunch/thump compacting the snow and leaving windy trails.

Silent falling snow
Highlights gentle twig framework
Beauty grows with peace

This weekend brought a wonderful break from a week of temperatures staying below freezing, and sunny skies. You become much more appreciative of warmer, sunnier days after a few without.  The dogs and I took advantage of the nice weather and neglected chores for longer walks in the woods around the house. The woods near the house are composed of birch, maples, hickories, and oaks.  Every now and then there are huge magnificent oak trees that completely amaze me.  They must be hundreds of years old, older than the united states.  Many have dropped tree sized branches leaving gaping openings that look into the hollow heart of the tree.  How many animals have hidden and slept in the safety of that tree.  Each massive tree is a landmark on my walkabouts.

What stories you tell
You massive gnarly old trunk
I sit and listen

There is also a grove of pine trees in the woods which Jacob estimates were planted 30-50 yrs ago.  They are white pines, and I haven't measured them but I'm guessing they are about 2-3 ft in diameter and reach 75 feet tall.  The grove was planted on a grid which is unnatural but also pleasing to eye.  The pine needles make a silent carpet and the crunching sound of the rest of the woods stop as you walk among the giants.  From the outside it appears black under their shady branches, but as you enter your eyes adjust and the filtered light hits trunks, branches, and the floor.  The pine grove is a good illustration of what author of my college ecology textbook has to say about temperate forest; it is easy to see how myths of elves, nymphs, and other woodland creatures came to exist.

Grid planned long ago
Green needles, black bark, rusty brown floor
Ancient path through pines

turkey track
Today the sun has returned, and the snow shines brightly.  The snow begins to melt dripping from the roof.  It becomes heavier and looses a bit of its fluffy height.  The bird feeder needs to be filled again because the birds gorge to say warm.  Another storm arrives tonight bringing more snow so I better go put on my boots, fill up the feeder, and enjoy the sun.