Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Aperature Settings

Another long day is drawing to a close. The rain is noisy on the metal roof but it's nice to think it's still warm outside. It will be tricky taking the dog out for the last call, as I know the frogs and toads will be jumping everywhere.

I was happy to get home this afternoon. My list of gardening chores gets longer this time of year as the daylight shortens and the wood pile talks to me. It continually reminds me that it's not big enough, not long enough, not high enough yet. I never was sure about all that stuff about wooly bear caterpillers and the duration and type of winter but they are in great numbers this year so I better get on with the wood splitting.

I went down Springfield-way today. It's about 100 miles each way but it seems much longer because I've made the trip so many times. Less and less to see so more time to think about Vermont Flower Farm and how to grow it bigger. When I arrived home and pulled into the drive, a Jeep and trailer were trying to back around the "Y" in the road. People often have a problem making a decision at this particular "Y" and often elect for the left when in fact they should be heading right, nine times out of ten.

There's a big maple tree in the middle of the road just past our mailbox. I use that tree to tie up lost bear hounds and rabbit dogs. There's a granite marker in front of the tree with arrows pointing left and right with numbers of camps on Peacham Pond. I've lived here 17 years and still haven't figured out the numbers. Neither have camp visitors, the UPS, FedEx or DHL delivery guys, 3 different rescue squads, the oil and propane delivery drivers, or the trucks from the lumber yards in East Montpelier and Barre. Lots of people like to do things over around here.

The guy in the Jeep was looking for a couple hostas for his wife. He lives in Groton and his wife decided she'd like to have some like the house across the road from where they live. I pointed out the lower hosta garden but this man was on a mission for two hostas. He picked out Christmas Tree and Blue Umbrellas and after a pleasant conversation he headed home with a gift for his wife. Nice gesture, nice hosta!

I changed, grabbed the chain saw, my safety chaps and my camera and headed out to cut wood. Like the man and the hostas, I had a mission too: clean up the downed wood from yesterday and scout out some rattlesnake plaintain.

Several years ago I found some rattlesnake plantain growing under some fir balsams and a lone hemlock. I really liked them. They belong to the orchid family and have neat foliage and single scapes of multiple white flowers. Over time the pods ripen and there are numerous tiny seeds in each one to sprinkle on the forest floor in hope of a larger colony.

For several years I only found one or two scapes so distributing the seed was easy. Then I began to study where the bigger ones grew and it became apparent that slightly greater sunlight meant larger and more plentiful scapes. My "aperature setting theory" was born. I decided to try to clear out a minor number of overhanging branches here and there and reach an improved amount of sunlight. This has taken about three years. Over time I slowly opened the sky as one opens a camera's aperature, and the result was more plants. This was rewarding for sure, and a lesson I'll remember.

The dog is whimpering and that means it's time for the last "run" of the evening. I'll carry a flashlight and hope my eyes quickly open wide to spot the leaping frogs and toads before the dog pulls me and my lead arm parallel to the ground. Even little dogs can do that!

From the mountain above Peacham Pond, where animal life continues in darkness despite my thoughts on aperature setting.

Gardening wishes,

George Africa

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