Dark and quiet here at 5:30 AM. 32.7 degrees out and only the car and truck lights of hunters heading for the woods cuts through the darkness. Deer hunters have another week for the rifle season in Vermont and then special time for muzzleloaders begins. People ask if I still hunt and I do but it has become more of a ritual than a reality. I seem to feel quite comfortable resting on memories of successful hunts in earlier days than actually getting out and taking it seriously. My enjoyment comes from nine successes and my real enjoyment is when my neighbor stops by with a tenderloin and a package or two of venison steak like he did the other night.
Fall clean up continues but from now on it won't be as pleasant as previous weeks when temperatures set new November records and we got to accomplish many things that normally would have waited until April or even May. Yesterday I loaded another truckload of leaves, fired up the wood splitter to split two giant wheelbarrows of ash kindling, and got the rest of the summer furniture heading towards the bulkhead for winter clean up and storage.
Walking the gardens is still enjoyable as there's always something to see that was missed on previous trips. Yesterday I noted how feverishly the small birds were working on the purple and white echinacea seed heads. Just watching them reminded me I wanted to spread some seeds in the lower hosta garden where it stays damp all summer. I want to see how well they actually do close to water. I have noticed many gardening articles this year that mention them growing in damp areas yet I always thought they came from the midwest and needed an arid environment. Guess we'll see in a year or two.
Harvesting echinacea is not a difficult job but don't forget your gloves. This time of year I always wear deerskin gloves with Thinsulate lining but as thick as they are, the slender, outer seed coating of an echinacea seed found a way through a thumb seam and gave me fits trying to find it stuck in a finger. Since they produce prodigous amounts of seed, I had half a five gallon bucket in short time. If you have any echinacea in your garden, spread some around before the birds get to them. No fear, they don't have a high germination rate and a few more plants will look really nice two Augusts from now.
Walking on, the epimedium Gail planted under the James MacFarland lilac caught my attention. Although the small leaves had been eaten ragged in places by some insect, the color had darkened to a nice red-bronze. I still can't get enough customers to buy these but those who do come back to pick up another variety or two. They are a really special plant to me and deserve more attention. I always point out that interested gardeners should scoot on over to The Epimedium Page http://www.home.earthlink.net/~darrellpro/ and take a look at what's available. Darrell Probst is the authority on a plant that seriously needs your attention, whether you have a spot with some New England sunlight or a shade or woodland garden.
As I headed back to the house I noticed yet again how large the Aruncus aethusifolius had grown this summer. Dwarf Goats Beard is a nice symmetrical plant which grows in mound shape, round on the perimeter, rising 15" in the center before the creamy white, astilbe-like flower scapes rise slightly higher. The one that caught my attention is now three feet in diameter. I tried to spring it loose from its tight handhold on the front walkway garden but it lucked out when I couldn't locate the 6 foot prybar. Perhaps this spring??? Perhaps not.
Time is already escaping and my coffee cup is empty.
From the mountain above Peacham Pond where a flock of geese just sounded its overhead flight. Frozen lakes and ponds in Canada will now encourage greater migrations and by mid December Vermont waterways, still unfrozen, will host several goose and duck parties to give birders a fine holiday present.