Friday, March 23, 2007

Sugar House Smoke

Friday, March 23, 2007

32.3 degrees here on the hill. As the temperature drops tonight, bigger and bigger smiles form on sugar makers faces each time they look at the thermometer falling into the twenties. A hard freeze tonight will guarantee a good sap run tomorrow and sugar house smoke should billow skyward by about 2 PM.

The maple syrup industry is important to Vermont and although the process of gathering sap and making delicious syrup is foreign to most folks, it's something many of us have grown up with. It's worthy of explanation and if I get a chance over the next week, I'll shoot some pictures and tell a story or two. Let me leave that as a promise.

Gail and I have been busy for a couple weeks now and regrettably we have wandered away from work on our website and writing to each blog. Autism is a big part of our family and there is legislation in Montpelier that is dear to us. I must add that some of what I have learned about the legislative process I did not care to know. No matter how big a state you live in, politics is just that and everyone has agendas which may differ from yours. I have written to over 35 legislators and as things stand now, there's a good chance a very important bill will never come out of Senate Appropriations because .......of politics. I had to catch myself there and for those who know me, you can let out that sigh of relief now. I won't go further on this one.

Today's warm weather dropped the snow and I can begin to see the pots we covered with an insulating blanket and plastic last fall. As the snow has melted, too many rodent trails are appearing in the snow and that's not a good feeling. We knew in January when the ground was barely covered with snow and the voles were feeding everywhere that there would be losses we couldn't control. It will be another month before we can accurately access the damage but don't be surprised if you lose a few things in your garden too. Usually you lose the expensive plants first. It's a tough world out there for animals so they like expensive things and they go for them ambitiously.

One plant I really like is coneflower or echinacea. It is not expensive unless you buy the newer varieties. It is an enjoyable plant because it lures birds and bees and butterflies in abundance. The white varieties tend to bring in Japanese beetles if there are any within miles of your property but the plants stand out nicely in early evening light and make gardens look bigger as only white can do. The various heights and sizes of pink are also very nice.

The reason I go with the whites and pinks is that the newer creams, reds, oranges, yellows and marmalades are just not hardy here. I'm told that with protection they fare better but for the current price I don't think it's worth the possible enjoyment. During a winter like this last one, I doubt any amount of help would have brought them back as they tend to be susceptible to multiple freeze-thaw cycles and we sure had those this year.

Coneflower exits fall each year as a large seedhead packed with seeds that are bird feed for months to come. Although the plants produce thousands of seeds, few germinate each spring. Regardless of the weather or the variety, you're likely to see some new growth. As spring approaches and cleanup time begins, be sure to find a good pair of gloves before cleaning up this plant. The remaining seeds and stalks are prickery and if you don't use care you'll find yourself performing minor surgery. I have no problem digging out prickers or broken stems with a sterilized needle and some magnifying glasses but the room seems to clear out quickly around here. In your house do everyone a favor and wear good gloves to start with. In the meantime think about buying some coneflowers to add to your gardens. Varieties range in height from 20"-36". The bloom time is quite long and the accompanying display of critters is fun to watch.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where the wind is silent, the stars are shining and the word "prickery" eludes Webster, even though I still like it. Karl the wonder dog wants to go out just one more time before he goes to bed. Sounds good to me.

Gardening wishes,

George Africa

1 comment:

IBOY said...

The progress that's being made in autism research the last few years is quite breathtaking... I think it's more in terms of cause and effect, rather than cure, but it's a start.