Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Cold Ending


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Just in from too long a day that began at 4 AM when the wind was intent upon filling the walkway with snow and the stars were hidden away by clouds and snow flakes. With afternoon passing quickly, the wind continues, and looking out the windows makes me think of little snow globes that kids shake and watch spin no matter what month it is. Today's Burlington Free Press headline read "Year Brought Weird Weather" and went on to say "A tornado. Flash floods that wiped out roads in a matter of minutes. Ninety-mph winds. Snow measured in feet, not inches. Forests decimated under the crushing weight of ice." That was all very, very true in 2008.

Today as we wrap up the year, I can reflect on what we have accomplished and what is left to be done at the new nursery. It's not new any more. It has been challenged by the weather as rain came regularly in inches, so frequently in fact that at times we closed off part of our daylily display gardens. It was easier losing sales than helping shoeless customers and visitors retrieve muddy footwear. The wind challenged our new shade houses and actually flattened one less than an hour after I had tied the final knots to the shade cloth. That one ended in pieces so twisted and gnarled that I dismantled the steel pipe frame and headed the pieces to the scrap recyclers soon after the lightning finally stopped. I'll never forget that storm.

2008 was a great year nonetheless, as we met many new people, learned to be travel directors, and waited patiently for prior customers familiar with our Peacham Pond Road gardens to reorient themselves to Route 2. Every new business has its idiosyncrasies and you can only guess at what they will be.

For 2009, we have to construct a hosta display garden that will provide the same opportunity we offered on the mountain. The site is prepared and when spring arrives we'll begin planting. I carry the plan with me every day but it's not written on paper or electronic media. The day I decide to start planting, I'll convince Gail that we need to do something different. She's accustomed to this with me and with reluctance she'll agree and get people organized. She knows it's important to me. Within a week, the bones will be in place and a new beginning under way.

Here are some pictures from our current garden on Peacham Pond Road. It is small in comparison to what is planned. Come visit next summer to see the new garden grow. Watch our two blogs for pictures as the garden evolves. And for now, be safe, wish family and friends well, and keep commitments to making our world a better place. The best gifts do not have to cost money.














Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where eleven blue jays fill themselves with sunflower seeds, as strong winds ruffle their feathers and blow them sideways as they land and take off. First Night for some, but just another blue jay day.

Warm New Year wishes to everyone!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
Vermont Gardens


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Afterthoughts


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Just in from a brief walk with Karl the Wonder Dog. His feet and mine weren't doing too well this morning on the glaze that covers the walks, driveway and road. That glaze arrived yesterday morning but is nothing like what is en route in the next few hours. It's 26 degrees right now and the wind is clocking at 9 mph. The humidity is 76% and that makes the air feel heavy outside and colder than the thermometer suggests.

Christmas Day has passed but the spirit and happiness we enjoyed here continues. I always try to take time off now to be here with Alex as sometimes the senses of the holidays get confusing for him and us too. Autism, just like gardening, is something everyone should try to learn a little more about in today's world.

Gardeners and especially flower hybridizers enjoy using Christmas names when they register a new plant. We grow a lot of hostas and daylilies and although we don't have such individual collections specific to Christmas, we're aware of the numbers out there. Each of these plants has its own society and membership is worth every nickel.

The American Hosta Society ranks number one with us but folks could debate that either way. We belong to both societies and a bunch of others too. For years now the hosta group have had an incredible journal of table top book quality paper and a pictorial display that's unmatched among the societies. I recommend membership for yourself or friends if you even think you should learn more about hostas.

During the past year the American Hemerocallis Society (hemerocallis=daylilies) has revamped their journals and taken on a larger paper/print/picture format. They are moving along with much more content and still publish seasonally four times. Again, a great journal with lots of information and details about regional and national events, plant sources, and growing information.

So the registered names, what are some examples? With hostas the list is a third that of the registered daylilies but still interesting. Actually that's not a bad ratio because there are probably 15 times as many registered daylilies as there are hostas. I recently wrote to the daylily registrar asking for the actual count because I don't know what it really is any more.

With hostas try Christmas Candy or Christmas Cookies or Christmas Cup; try Christmas Dome, Christmas Gold, or Christmas Jewel. How about Christmas Lights, or Christmas Pageant or Christmas Stocking? Try Christmas Tree, Christmas Tree Gala, Christmas Surprise or Christmas Tart. If you want to see what these look like, try the Hosta Library .

With daylilies the list is longer than I want to write. It's probably around 50 registrations. Try these as example, all with the prefix "Christmas". There's Christmas Angel, Balls, Blessing, Candles, Candy, Carol, Celebration, Cheer, Cherub, Chocolate, Colors, Comet, Concerts and another 40 or so. If you use Tinkers Gardens daylily database, many of these are pictured. Just enter "Christmas" in the database and you will get the list.

Slim availability here at Vermont Flower Farm which is probably surprising to anyone who knows us and knows how well we decorate for the holidays. We have the daylily Christmas Is pictured up top and then the hostas Night Before Christmas and Christmas Tree pictured below. Sometime maybe we'll move along with a collection.




Better get going here! From the mountain above Peacham Pond where a lone blue jay is sitting on the platform feeder outside my office asking "Where's the breakfast buffet?" Guess it's bird food time.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Trees For Profit???


Friday, December 26, 2008

A cold, still morning here on the mountain. The stars are sparse compared to a week ago and yet it's bright for 4:30 in the morning. Karl the Wonder Dog heard me stirring the fire and came out to try to coax me for a quick walk so he could get back to bed. Christmas Day with food and friends and different smells tired him out and he obviously wants to sleep in some more. That's fine for him but I am too much of a morning person and I have lots to do before I sleep again.

Writing and just having blogs is a fun way to garden when the snow depth exceeds three feet like it is here. I am always amazed the number of people who write to me as a result of what I write and I guess I'm more amazed at how many people prefer to write directly instead of responding to the blog itself. I care not, for correspondence from any direction is fine. Of late there has been lots of news from Europe and that is very interesting. Some time ago I had a computer crash and lost some addresses including one from Marek in Poland. He found me again a couple weeks ago and it like finding a long lost friend even though we barely know each other yet. He raises cannas and has a site that's quite interesting.

To my last post here, Don, a retired physician from eastern Iowa wrote and questioned profitability in growing Christmas trees. Don writes An Iowa Garden and has shared links with me for two-three years now. I enjoy his thoughts as he grows many of the same things I enjoy.

Many of us purchase a Christmas tree every year, some raise their trees, and some only buy a live tree which they plant when spring arrives. When I was a kid there was slim to nothing under the tree most years but the tree was always large and well adorned with many antique, hand blown glass ornaments from England and Germany that were passed down from great great grand parents and their families. Our tree was always something my Dad would find in the woods and I was always required to go on the "hunt". I sure got to see some acts of ........I sure got a chance to see some interesting behaviors over the years. Once we returned home and Dad didn't think he cut a tree with enough branches so he got out a bit and brace and drilled holes and added more branches. I saw this same performance recently on one of the home and garden channels and it reinforced my thought that someone should break out the Stanford-Binet intelligence tests again and try to find out what's going on. Another time the only apparent tree was really the top of a giant fir balsam. It looked fine at 60 feet but once on the ground it was a little lean. Once home it was turned around so many times in the tree stand to find "the good side" that it left a mark in the wooden plank floor.

Gail asks me time and again when I will begin to prune some of the bazillion balsams we have growing here. I think the price this year has pushed me far enough in that direction. Her Dad had a twenty acre piece logged off in 1992 and now it is coming back strong with lots of balsams. I think a planned pruning program over the next few years will get us out of buying each year.

But back to Don's question about profitability. First, let me be really generic with the answer. Farmers do not get rich. Most wealthy farmers were wealthy before they started to farm whether they raise Christmas trees or cows or porkers or trout. Flower farmers like us are even worse because we are more at odds with the weather. As for Christmas trees, you have to be forgetful to grow them. When you make a sale you have to put the money in your pocket and completely forget the previous ten years. That time started with initial planting and then there were annual prunings, fertilizer application, fungicide/insecticide worries, grass mowing, and deer control problems. The errant tree thief doesn't even register on this scale. Just look at your tree for a minute and ask how long would it take to trim and shape it each year? How much did you pay for it? Makes no sense does it? Next time you buy a tree from a grower, remember to give a nice "thank you".

Now how about buying a tree from a retailer? My son Adam lives in Seattle and now, with a house and kids, he is into Christmas trees. This year's story is no better than the last one I heard. Last year he found a place that was recommended, bought a tree, brought it home and looked at the truck bed which by then was covered with needles. Oh boy!! The day after the tree was in the stand the needles were on the floor and the cats were having a field day scooting stuff around. This year he got a step smarter. He picked up the tree and kind of half bounced it off the ground to see how much fell off first. The report is it's about 50% better than last year. No one has shared any pictures so I can't confirm how the learning process is really going. I relayed that I heard there were some very nice tree farms down towards Olympia so maybe just maybe next year.........??

So to answer Don in Iowa, no Don, there is no profitability in trees unless you take them to a city yourself or you are the middleman.

I'm not cutting trees but I do have lots to do here today. Have to get going. Sunrise is bright red and that's just a reminder of the rain that is headed this way for the next two days. Hope you are having a great holiday season, with or without a tree.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm

Website rebuild update: I keep saying I am updating our site. I am rebuilding it all. The old site is still here and works well but will be replaced soon. I've completed the rewrites on astilbes and daylilies and started the hostas last night. Nothing too difficult but it sure takes time. Bear with me!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Gift Thoughts


Monday, December 22, 2008

Tonight is flying by as I try to crank out Christmas cards and little notes to people I am feeling guilty about. They were able to find time to send nice notes and I'm trying to figure out if I should use up the rest of the sunflower postage stamps or wait in line at the post office for half an hour tomorrow. It's been one of those weeks that doesn't seem to change. Do people really look at stamps on Christmas cards and letters or is that just something my mother taught me?

Last week's 8 inches of sleet and freezing rain bonded to the roofs and Friday's additional foot was followed by yesterday's 22" of new fluffiness. I am not going to get into an inconvenient truth type discussion with anyone but I have to say that the past couple years have brought this part of Vermont one pile of snow.

I cannot make myself forget when I was a kid growing up on Church Hill Road in Woodstock that by January my 6 foot 6 inch father was made small by mountains of snow. The snow was so plentiful it blocked visibility from the farmhouse windows while actually shielding us from the subzero winds that blew through our 1826 farmhouse. It was so cold in that house that you could see your breath despite six woodstoves. Even the mice packed up and moved to the farm next door for the winter.



The top picture is looking down the valley from the house roof on Saturday. It looks a lot different today. The next picture of the snow fence at night shows the fence before it was covered with drifting snow. A snow fence is intended to block snow and this one did just that until the snow got deeper than the fence. Tonight the lights look nice but the path that was supposed to be protected is deep in crystal magic.

The holidays are here and good gardeners have already made gift purchases for other gardeners. I know there are some who see shopping as a challenge that only gets better as less time remains and for those I want to drop a few suggestions. There's no order to this but I do ask that you think about the last suggestion after number 12. I wanted to have some pictures but time is short so just pretend there is a backwards Letterman drum roll and here we go.

1.) Folding garden bench for huff and puff older gardeners. Gail asked me to get her a fold up bench like worker bee Gail brought to work one day. These are readily available and I got one at Gardener's Supply in Williston for $32.95. They have two folding handles and a knee pad so you can huff and puff and push yourself back up from a kneeling position when you're pulling weeds or planting. The plastic and foam pad is marginally easy on your knees but it's the ability to get up off the ground easier that makes this product worth it.

2.) Long handled garden trowel. I suspect most would call this a little garden shovel with a 4" shovel blade and an 18" wooden handle. These are so great for planting annuals in the spring or perennials in September. I wish they would paint a flourescent stripe on the handle so I don't have to keep hunting for mine when I lay it down but that's because the handle is dirt brown after twenty odd years of use. About $20. now. Do not buy one that says "Made In..." you know where on it. Their steel is no good.

3.) It's hard to believe every gardener doesn't have a cheap digital camera. They come with too many pixels now and some are made for outside use, i.e. built to lay on a rock, spray with the hose, coat with fertilizer, leave in your pocket with the old Hersey candy wrapper, etc. Digital pictures of your garden make you proud but also give you plenty of recall during winter months when you are replanning gardens or designing new ones. Memory cards wear out over time and are cheap so if a friend has a camera, find out what they use for a card and buy a replacement/back up. If you really like the person and know they don't have a newer model computer with ports for every gadget going, spring for a card reader for about $15. They plug into aUSB port and will handle 13 different memory cards. That way they won't have to plug their camera into the computer. Cameras aren't built for the stresses of plug in, plug out, plug in, plug out, etc

4.) A bulb drill bit to fit in your electric drill is of no use this time of year but a great tool for quickly planting hundreds of bulbs next spring or fall. I even use mine to plant annual plugs in early summer. The drill will fit in any electric drill. $10.00 will do it.

5.) Gloves and polar fleece socks are good stocking stuffers and make for better spring and fall chores when wet, cold days tend to slow down the day's to-do list. Write a little verse and stuff it in a glove or sock and no one will know about it until the day they are placed into action. The little note will be nice and generate smiles.

6.) Memberships to plant societies are great. We belong to a dozen societies and like the American Hosta Society best followed by the American Hemerocallis Society. Name the plant and there's probably a society to go with it. Don't say "no" to the American Conifer Society or the
succulent folks or the rock gardeners or the begonia clan. They are all great and have an annual magazine published from 2-4 times a year. $25-$40/year for individual memberships.

7.) A one gallon, recycled, glass mayonaise jar with lid and a note from you saying you'll get together in the fall and make a terrarium of native woodland plants that are not on the endangered list. Thoughts or pictures of bunchberries or partridge berries or tiny hayscented ferns or mosses would give nice thoughts to what is possible.

8.) A stainless steel shovel, strong and sleek. It won't rust, will look attractive, will feel good in the hands and will cause garden comment. $50 or more.

9.) A leather, belt case for nursery shears. About $10 but either give it with some leather curing oil or rub it good before giving as a gift. Tell the recipeint what the smell is. Protect it at the beginning and it will be passed on for years and years, turning darker with age but remaining soft. A good leather holster is one that is on your belt but you don't know it 's there.

10.) Lunch and a day trip to visit 1-2-3 garden centers, display gardens, speciality nurseries within an hour of your home. Do this annually and you won't be able to stop because it's always fun and always enjoyed by anyone. Pack the lunch if you don't want to stop at a resturant but include a tentative sample menu and itinerary at gift giving time as a description to what you're planning. Make the card yourself and slide in a dried flower, some dried herbs or rose petals and thoughts of creative genius.

11.) Garden books that you think will match the recipent's experience or interest. I'm a nut and love the outdoors so you can give me a new bird book, an 1932 daylily species book, a history of a New England garden estate or Dan Snow's latest book on dry wall stacking. Used book stores have some great finds and such books are cherished. I once found Pioneering With Wildflowers
by Vermont's famous US Senator George D Aiken. Not only had the senator autographed the book but the previous owner had included newspaper clippings of him in the cover flaps. Book dealers have great memories and can help with books you may not have ever seen or even thought about.

12.) A can of Vermont- famous Bag Balm for sore, garden- rough hands. Made in Lyndonville, Vermont for chapped cows teats, Bag Balm cures problems fast. $5 to $10 depending on the size (of the can). Include a pair of cotton gloves for excitement. Explain that rough hands rubbed with Bag Balm and gloved before bed, will seem odd until morning when the soreness is gone. ..all gone.


These are just some ideas to get you going. There are millions more out there and unless your mind is getting muddled and time is growing short, you'll do fine yourself. But before you finish with the giving part, think about those that you do not know who are not receiving gifts. As I sit here writing away, the temperature is 4 below zero and the wind chill is "I don't know how cold". "Bitter" isn't close to what it would be called if you were homeless and "shivery cold" wouldn't be much better if you were on fixed income with the heat turned to 40 so you could keep from freezing and still have a buck to buy something to eat.

If you want to feel really good about the holidays, think about what you can give of yourself. There are lots of charities to give to, kitchens to work at, food shelves where deliveries need to be unloaded, seniors' driveways to be shoveled, rides to doctors to be offered. These are things that are worth a million to someone with nothing. These thoughts always become more obvious to people when I ask "Who exactly does put money in the Salvation Army kettles? Give these thoughts a little attention. The warmth created will come from you!


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where fine snow drops from a below zero sky as a sliver of moon twinkles seasons greetings to all.

Best holiday thoughts and wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm Where gift certificates are always available

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just A Day Stretcher, Please


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Heading towards 9 PM here and the snow is still raining from the sky as if it was February, not the first day of winter. My body is a little weary from a couple weeks of this snow thing and the past week has been a little more taxing than usual. It's not that it's the holiday season, it's the snow that is getting to me.

Yesterday I cleaned off Gail's mother's roof. Miriam recently moved to a nursing facility but the home remains and has to be cared for. I wanted to get the last storm shoveled off but it quickly came to me that the "rememory" part of my brain wasn't turned on. I had already forgotten that under the top layer of a foot of fluffy light stuff was 8 inches of sleet with a slippery crust of left over freezing rain...left over from last week. That roof work sliced almost three hours out of my day and gave some leg cramps I didn't need.

Before I climbed up the ladder, I erased the foot of snow from the road and driveways that fell Friday night. Being a snow plow operator seemed great when I was in high school but now I just can't get excited about bumping around in a truck cab, wipers flip-flopping and defroster moving humid air in circles. Even though Karl the Wonder Dog enjoys riding shotgun with me, it's still not a job that ranks high on my list. Somewhere in yesterday's mix was a lot of shovel work plus cleaning the backside of our house roof too.

I finished yesterday's snow removal just in time for the evening news and weather. There's nothing like sitting slumped into a chair like bread dough that won't rise, listening to a weatherman who is smiling when he says "...and 12-18 inches, maybe a little more in the mountains." That was today, no, no, the part about the little more in the mountains. We are in the mountains and the snow depth of 3 inches above my knees is about where we were two hours ago when I came in from cleaning off our satellite dish to make this connection. And to top that off, the snow that was falling again today in Seattle, home of my two fine grandsons, should be here in Vermont sometime pre-Christmas like Wednesday afternoon.

So there's my snow story and that's why it appears I have packed up and left the world of blogging.......... even though I reported a couple weeks back that I would give a few holiday shopping hints for tardy shoppers. Days are only just so long and the snow has been an interruption for certain.

So now I want to make the promise again that by tomorrow night there will be some ideas out there for gifts that shouldn't be too difficult to pick up in the next couple days. Don't trust me on this but check back late tomorrow night or first thing Tuesday. Could be the ideas will be helpful.
In the meantime, consider finding a Cape Cod Weeder. It's such a handy gift that even if your gardening buddy already has one, two is not too many.


This brand was Snow and Neally, a company that may or may not be around any more but the concept is the same. Gail liked this brand enough to buy them in multiples to hand out as gifts. This one is tagged at $19.95 which was probably the going price four years ago. If you find a look alike, grab the steel weeder hook in one hand and the wooden handle in the other and see if they come apart. The Snow and Neally brand were built strong but many imported look-alikes are poorly bonded. If you can't find anything better, some Gorilla glue in the joint will solve the problem even though no one likes to "fix" something brand new. In this modern day real world, there is however, an acceptance that there's never time to do things right, but always time to do them over. I'm not keen on that philosophy but that's why Mr. Gorilla apparently made a very good glue. Think it through and if you read this blog and don't know a gardener who needs a weeder but do know a woodworker, then buy some Gorilla Glue and make someone happy.


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Snowflake Bentley would be pleased with tonight as he'd have plenty of snowflakes to investigate. As for me, two of Gail's ginger cookies and a glass of milk should be just fine. I'd really like to find a day stretcher but I don't know that one exists yet.

Good Sunday wishes. Travel with care!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm

If you are a gift certificate type gift giver, consider calling Gail and ordering one up. Unlike some businesses, we know we'll still be here when all this snow melts next spring. 802-426-3505

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Temporary Turkey Talk


video

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Troublesome morning here on the mountain. Just can't get going. Made it through the newspaper and have had a chance to watch my environmental clean up team, Mrs. Turkey and the kids, clean up blue jay spills from the past couple days. Here is a through-the-window-and-screen video clip. I haven't incorporated a movie clip before, so if you have any feedback, send it along.

The Thursday night-Friday ice storm was quite an event. We probably received 8 inches of snow before the rain poured down as if it was an August storm. Although everything was cover in ice here, we had nothing close to what people experienced in southern directions of New England where having electricity may be days away for some.


I have noticed that the grosbeaks are having a difficult time with Sunday brunch. They really want some crab apple seeds but getting through the coating of ice is a bit of a chore for them. When the turkeys head out, I'll replace the seed and be sure to get a good quantity of seed down for the ground feeders. Between the snow and the heavy crust, seeds and nuts are difficult to come by today.

During the holidays I enjoy being on the receiving end of ornaments for our tree. I especially like items from nature. From Tracy and Diana, our friends from the Marshfield Inn , we received a hand carved ornament by Gary M Starr of Starr Decoys, Middlebury, Vermont. Gary does great work creating an ornament that is also a great teaching aid for children for years to come.

Here are the three ornaments we have so far including the Hermit Thrush, Vermont's state bird, on the bottom. This is a bird to watch because its numbers are in decline relative to the demise in old growth forests.



In contrast to "old growth" is a new growth "forest" to watch. It's the Cabot Christmas Tree Farm at the old Smith Farm in Cabot. The farm is accessible from either Thistle Hill Road off Route 2 just east of Water Tower Horse Farm, Marshfield, or off Rt 215 in Marshfield Village, then the first right hand turn just past Cabot Creamery entering Cabot village. There are signs at all junctions. The have 35,000 trees for sale and they are beautifully sheared and market priced. I cut an 8.5 footer last Saturday and now it's standing proud and perfect. If you live within reasonable distance and don't have a tree yet, give this place a try. Cabot Creamery is also a place for some nice gifts and stocking stuffers!

Have to get going here although I have misplaced my energy. As you work your way through your Christmas shopping this year, don't forget to support your local farmers, hand crafters and businesses. Operating a small business is difficult any time and these recent times place many small business owners in precarious spots. Work together and we'll stay healthy together!


From the mountain above Peacham Pond where a sudden, heavy downdraft of wind just placed a scary cloud of smoke in the living room. That's what living at great heights does.

Good Sunday wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm




Sunday, December 07, 2008

First Eruptions


Sunday, December 7, 2008, 5:10 AM

A different-than expected morning here on the mountain. Yesterday's 7 degrees was programmed in my mind to welcome me this morning but it's 21 degrees out and strangely bright with light pushing through thin cloud cover. Karl the Wonder Dog wanted to walk longer than I did on the ice covered paths out back and then down the road. The coyotes are moving more right now, perhaps looking for deer, sadly leftover from deer season which is now in its muzzle loader phase. Karl pulled right, then left, nose sniffing and snorting like the bloodhound he is not. If Karl was on his own this time of year I would worry about him as coyotes have bad habits with domestic dogs and the result sure wouldn't be a holiday story.

Friday I noticed the first of two eruptions here and I welcome them. These are bird type eruptions, not volcano eruptions which would really have people talking. Vermont is volcano-less but full of fine birds. Certain birds move to food sources and you can see movement when there is more snow in Canada earlier in the year than on average. The evening grosbeaks came first last week and by Friday the Pine Grosbeaks were here in abundance eating the bazillions of crab apples on the Malus sargentii trees.


If you enjoy birds and want a fine display of spring color on a small crab apple, try Malus (that's may-lus) sargentii. The flower buds begin as red and then the flowers open, first pink and then to white and the trees hum with the sound of bees. The fruit is not anything you'd do anything with but the tiny red apples are packed with seeds which any of the seed eating birds love. Grosbeaks have conventions on our trees and when they are there only the briefest of time, the snow is covered with red confetti as they are seed eaters, not apple eaters. Usually when the crabs are cleaned out, most of the pine grosbeaks move along but the evening grosbeaks seem to stay here as long as there is sunflower seed and cracked corn in the feeders.

As the holiday season approaches, I want to do my usual couple-three-four recommendations on possible presents for gardeners and their families. I personally don't think we do a good enough job teaching our children about the world we live in so I'm always looking for inexpensive gifts that help parents do what they themselves may not be all that good at any more.

Cornell University is one of the finest in my book and their Lab for Ornithology has lots of opportunity for new bird watchers. They have set up an eStore that makes on-line shopping easy. One of the favorites is Project FeederWatch. For $12 a year you can get everything you need to know about bird watching and as you use the resources, you can help track very important information about where bird populations exist, pass through, or are now absent from. You can be a piece of the environmental puzzle and have fun doing it too!

Another possibility comes from a local ornithologist and one of Vermont's best, Bryan Pfeiffer. We just received a card from Bryan and he is again promoting his Vermont Bird Tours. These tours include Vermont opportunities but also February 20-March 1 in southern Florida looking for Limpkin, Magnificent Frigatebird, Reddish Egret, Swallow-tailed Kites and as he says in his ad "sunshine". From April 4-12 he's doing a tour to the Texas Rio Grande Valley in search of Great Kiskadee, Ringed Kingfisher and the Green Jay. Now don't get me wrong, even though I've lived in Vermont since I was five, I see birds every year that are on my "new and unknown" list. Show me a Limpkin and I'll show you a new addition to the list. People such as Bryan can help those of interest expand their knowledge and get outside. Give it some thought and don't forget about Cornell!


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where this writer will be at the computer much of today learning more Dreamweaver software and redoing more of our Vermont Flower Farm web site. In my personal chain of weak links, this task is mine. Bear with me and in a couple months, there will be a new site that should catch your interest. In the meantime, remember that we offer gift certificates for your gardening friends--just call Gail at 802-426-3505 and she will help. And if you see this bird (just below) in one of your trees, let me know. Mr. Pine Grosbeak having breakfast.





George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cool Hostas, Warm Climates


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Almost 10 am here on the mountain and everyone seems to making progress on the day but me. It was a cold start at 7 degrees and Karl and I had a tough time wanting to head out for a walk and then down to the village for a newspaper. Mike, a neighbor down the road a bit, was feeding a friend's beef cattle so we stopped to talk. He was pounding away at the watering trough helping the aerator/heater open up so the cows could drink. Mike is one of those local guys who will help anyone, anytime. Vermont still has a number of those people and it's sure nice to know there's someone close by when you need three hands but only have two.

I got home and filled the bird feeders early as there's a big storm coming and all wildlife know it. In anticipation, they are eating as if they'll be too busy tomorrow dodging sleet and freezing rain. This morning I was again reminded of the pecking order at the feeders. The blue jays are top dog until a flock of grosbeaks come and then they are intimidated. A large red squirrel will scare the grosbeaks but not the blue jays and a shrike, just a nasty robin-sized bird that reminds me of a mini harrier jet will scare all birds and small critters away.

Last Saturday I wrote about "Hosta Vision" and described the planning process for what will be a large shade garden at out new nursery. Susan Tomlinson, author of the blog, The Bicycle Garden commented that hostas do not grow in Texas where she lives. The comment made me think about a web order we received for hostas last year from San Diego, California. As soon as I saw the order come through I wrote the person and said that I like orders but I also like people to be happy with what we send. Basically I was doubting the purchase but I guess I said I'd do whatever the customer wanted. In short order I learned that this gardener had been studying hostas that can accept a warmer climate and he had several long term successes. He referred me to an article I'll share with you in hopes that maybe "Cool Hostas, Warm Climates" will work for you too.

Tony Avent owns and operates Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. in Raleigh, NC. He has a super nursery and a fine offering that will keep you going back again and again. He's also a great author and published one of my favorite reference books, So You Want To Start A Nursery, published by Timber Press. A couple years back Tony wrote an article entitled Hostas For Warm Climates which is available on his site at


If you question whether you can grow hostas where you live, read Tony's article and go from there. In the meantime, think about how nice a hosta garden can look and let us know if you have any questions.


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where I was just reminded there are things that have to be done today.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm





Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey Irony


Saturday, November 29, 2008

For some reason, sleep left me an hour ago and I am wide awake and ready for a new day even though the balance of the house is deep in slumber. Aging has a way of changing clocks and mine feels like its still flickering after a brief power outage. Maybe one more cup of coffee will reset things and prepare me for the day's events.

It's still clean up time here on the mountain. Austin is home from the University of Vermont for the weekend and he came up yesterday to help with some clean up. Gail is immensely relieved because he has committed to working for us again this summer which means she has her same crew back again. For Gail, that's monumental relief. It is for me too as people who can show up for work on time, handle customers and wear a smile are invaluable. They give me the opportunity to move along with my projects and come closer to the goals I have set for the new nursery.

Michelle will be back with us too. In the other work world, she is a super teacher and directs some education programs for some very special people in this county. She is one of those people you can trust with everything you own and not have to give a thought about the outcome. It's always timely and correct. I'm foggy this morning but I think this is year five that she will be working with us.

Besides these two, we have dependable part time, fill-in, come-when-we-call, spring planters--that kind of mix of interested gardeners who have been with us for years. Managing a business with a good crew makes tiring days shorter and smiles frequent! Austin will be back this morning and we'll try to get a few more things ticked off the list before the sun sets.

Thanksgiving is now two days past and the turkey in the fridge has almost been reduced to bones and pieces for soup. Yesterday morning as I was sitting here, Gail advised me to look out the window under the bird feeder. I was engrossed in Dreamweaver and a new website I am working on but under the feeder were five wild turkeys pecking corn the ungrateful blue jays had scattered about. There was an old hen and four kids from this spring. It certainly was ironic that they had absented themselves from the fields for a week and now that Thanksgiving is over, they're back.

The big hen reminded me of a show on public radio on Wednesday. Every year they have a call-in show where people with less than a clue about certain culinary processes call and ask things like "Why can't I get the stuffing in?" "What's that package I found in the bird?" "Why is my mother's gravy good and mine would be better to hang wall paper with?" "How can I cook everything in an oven that's too small?"

Wednesday I was impressed with the lady who called to report a neighbor had given her family a 42 pound turkey he had raised. It was so big she didn't have a pan or an oven to cook it in and her husband was on the verge of breaking out the chain saw to cut it down to size. The turkey pro said she was on the right path and since turkey parts---legs, breast, stuffing-- all cook at different times, it would be best to break the bird down into pieces and go from there. One suggestion I am quite uncertain about was his recommendation to try cooking it outside on the BBQ. I guess there are those people in the world that like to give and accept challenges and perhaps someone will give that a shot although my BBQ wouldn't hold that big a bird either. Our turkey was 17 pounds and just the right size.




I just heard Karl the Wonder Dog hit the hardwood floor. That means that in a minute he'll be bringing in a wagging tail and a plea for a morning walk. It's 28 degrees this morning and overcast as we have a big storm coming in for tomorrow. I always enjoy morning walks with Karl but have to say I miss the enjoyment of July wildflowers such as the Lilium canadense (top) or seeing ducks and geese raising new families on nearby Marshfield Pond. Those things are on hold until spring but the memories always stay here. Try to get out for a walk today and enjoy the balance of the fall season.


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where I do hope your amaryllis bulbs are doing better than mine. For me, no more of those prepotted or kit affairs. I'm going back to the wholesalers who sell big bulbs that only cost a couple bucks more and bloom strong and big!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm



Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hosta Vision


Saturday, November 22, 2008

A dark, blustery morning here on the mountain. A sliver of moon struggles through the snow squalls to let us know it's up there. The ground is white from last night's snow and Karl the Wonder Dog makes it clear that this is not a morning to be sniffing around. I concur even though all I do is hold the leash.

The confines of the house with a cup of coffee and a screen full of summer pictures provides reminder to what kind of summer it was. I have been reviewing pictures of our hosta gardens here at the house in preparation for mapping out the new shade garden I pictured Tuesday as I wrote "Floating Snow Flakes". It's difficult for some folks to construct something this big in their mind or even on paper but for me it's a matter of how I want people to flow through the garden .........and from there everything falls into place.

When I planted the foundation garden here on Peacham Pond Road, I was learning about hostas. I had patience, and frankly in 2001, there were few big hosta gardens in Vermont and almost no place that was publicized to go see 200-300-400 different hostas at one location. The interest has grown rapidly since but back then it required quite a bit of salesmanship to convince people there were more than the 6-8 hostas they had grown accustomed to seeing at nurseries and garden centers.


As I started planting, I had yet to develop a sense of the mature size of the hostas I was planting. This small-medium-large thing was confusing at best and I had not learned that some hostas are slower than death to grow while others delight the gardener with good growth. The old barn foundation I was planting literally had tons of rocks to plant around but lacking the vision of true size, I over-planted most areas so that after a couple years the rocks were completely covered over by June.

Granite is in abundance in this part of Vermont and within a garden it becomes soft as its uneven edges break the complexity of masses of hosta leaves. Stone requires some mechanical assistance to move in quantity but once in place, it changes the landscape so quickly that you're immediately gratified regardless of the price.

Here's a comparative example. Last September we laid out the stones for what is to become our daylily display garden. We will follow this same lesson plan on the hosta/shade garden. Our friend Brien Ducharme took the cherry picker on his logging truck and placed stones to form the skeleton of a fine garden. All last winter people drove by asking themselves who would bring in stones in a part of Vermont already covered with more than its share. The land looked just as you see it in this picture of a year ago because the building hadn't been started. We knew it would become a great garden but some doubted our sanity--actually at that point, few knew whose sanity they were questioning because they didn't know we were moving.


We prepared the land with an herbicide, rototilled several times and then began planting. Slowly we incorporated trees and shurbs and a couple hundred daylilies. Today the garden is only half planted, maybe a little less, but it represents the same plan we'll follow on the new shade garden.



The ground is frozen hard now and nothing but planning can take place over the winter. That's fine as we need time for mental work and some relaxation from the heavy stuff. If you have a new garden in mind, follow suit and you'll be pleased with the eventual outcome. Keep an eye on our gardens and share your questions and comments. Good gardeners grow with each others ideas and cares!


Writing fromthe mountain above Peacham Pond where the morning temperature is down to nine degrees and the young blue jays are noticeably less fluffed up with protective feathers than their parents, aunts and uncles.

Good Gardening Wishes,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Floating Snow Flakes


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A quiet morning here on the mountain. Last night's bright moon turned into this morning's cloud cover, as 19 degrees in temperature and floating snow flakes greeted us. The cold is supposed to continue for several days so anything involving the soil will soon end here.

Gail and I have worked very hard for the past couple years making the move to our new nursery. It is not easy for a couple people to quickly recreate what they spent 20 years building but we are making good progress. Being able to look back at where we were and where we are going is rewarding for sure.


These first three pictures (top down) start with the getting the land surveyed and then mapping out what will become a new shade garden and pond. We cleared the land and then began scraping off the top growth and rototilling it. From a mess of weeds and vines and alders we have the basis of a good shade garden.

You don't count hours when you make gardens like this. They are too big and take a long time. You strive for the vision you have and work until you come close to that. As we end our first full season, here are some pictures of what will become our new shade garden.





The soil is stone free, alluvial soil in need of organic matter but fundamentally good for hostas and the companions we will plant here with them. The vision includes clumps of every hosta we sell so once again visitors can get an accurate measure of the mature size of the hosta they think they are interested in. A series of paths will meander through the plain and swaths of 25's, 50's and 100's of certain hosta will create a depth. Our hope it that in time this garden will be visible from Route 2; and from the top of the main sales area it will lure folks down a set of wide stone steps to a place of tranquility. It's all workable, bearing time for the gardener, and for the plants to mature. Part of our vision is the entrance to our shade garden here on the mountain. There's nothing like the structure of hostas such as Elegans, On Stage, Ryan's Big One, Sunpower, Yellow River, August Moon, Jimmy Crack Corn, Tall Boy, Super Nova, Sea Fire, Revolution, and Birchwood Parky's Gold to motion a gardener down for a look-see. We bet it will work!


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where today's chores include repairing the bear damaged platform feeder outside my window and getting it set up again. Bird feeding time here does not start until Thanksgiving Day, a day when we expect the bears have begun hibernation. "Expect" sometimes results in unexpected problems. We hope not!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm An old but good website from which to obtain good gardening ideas and information on purchasing a gift certificate for a gardener you know. Support agriculture this year and help us keep things green!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Looking Back



Wednesday, November 12, 2008

3:30 AM and Karl has gone back to bed but the rest of us are in various states of diminished slumber and are a bit grouchy. The moon is bright outside, the temperature 27 degrees and the wildlife is apparently in abundance, having a late dinner/early breakfast that is stirring adrenaline in Karl the Wonder Dog. In today's world it's nice to have a watch dog that really "watches" but it's also nice to be able to sleep. I've toured both sides of the house looking for large animals, deer, moose, coyotes or bear but all I see is the brightness of the moon.

November is well upon us and with it is the rain and snow we expect in Vermont. After a very cold start which put ice on every pond, the temperature rose for a week and good gardeners reveled in the opportunity to push the fall clean up a little further, plant a few more bulbs, transplant a few more perennials. For us that was a chance to continue on at the nursery, preparing more areas for next season.

Six new daylily beds have been prepared and two were planted in October. The remaining three have been well rototilled and spread with calcium sulphate to break down the clay. The new shade garden has been prepared as far as I can work it for this fall and now we're bringing in rocks to make another daylily display garden parallel to the parking area. We're also laying out the bones of a sedum garden close to the check out area where we can keep an eye on plants we're just learning about.

At the nursery all the pots have been lined up and are ready to be covered for the winter. If the weather holds today and Gail gets some help as expected, the day will end with the final project finished for the season.

Once the pots are lined up in rows ten feet wide and "however" long, we randomly lay out 2" PVC pipe cut to 2 foot lengths and filled with a cup of D-con mouse and vole control. We use the granular variety not the blocks so that the pieces don't get carried around and dropped where dogs or kids might find them come spring. Rodent control is a big importance in a nursery because one winter's damage can be devastating and very costly. Rodents always go after the most expensive, most difficult to propagate or obtain perennials. For some reason the red vole population is excessive this year and I may have to revisit the pipes mid-winter to better deal with a rodent that does not hibernate.

With the pipes in place, we roll out white insulated fabric as the first measure to protecting our potted plants. You have to remember that water and the freeze-thaw process we experience in January in Vermont are the two threats to potted plants. If you can keep the pots frozen and dry, they will defrost come spring and grow on in good health.

Years back before the insulating blankets were available, we placed all the pots on their sides and covered them with leaves, then construction grade 6 mil plastic. This worked well and is still an option if you cannot find the insulating blankets where you live or don't want to purchase a 100 foot roll. That's generally the minimum commercial size. This is a spun fiber blanket 3/8" thick and 12 feet wide. It has a life of five years but if you keep it modestly clean at the end of the season and roll it up, store it out of the sun, and cover it from the weather, it will probably last twice that long. It's artificial and probably some petroleum by-product, one step away from polar fleece. Once that's rolled out, we cover it with 6 mil plastic weighted down by old tires. As long as you tuck in the sides and corners so wind can't get in, you'll be successful in "wintering over" your plants.

Keep this freeze-thaw-water conversation in mind if you attempt to over winter any potted plants outside. If you have any large containers, especially decorative ones, be sure to cover them well so they don't freeze and split. Your loss could be bigger than the plants if you don't remember this. Gail has a couple large antique urns in her collection and we empty them completely each year as we have no trust at all for Mother Nature when dealing with something which cannot be replaced.


By now you're probably wondering why the picture at the top of hostas in a foggy garden setting when in fact the ground is covered with snow outside and I've already said the temperature is "cold". The picture is our hosta garden here at the house. It was taken in June when the hostas looked great just after a rain storm. I simply want to mention that this winter I want to explain a little more about hostas and give some examples of what I have done with them in our gardens at the house. Our other blog, Vermont Gardens, will parallel this writing with a presentation on the new shade garden we are creating. Lots going on, mentally and physically at Vermont Flower Farm!



As we look back on this summer, we can only admire the work we accomplished and the new friends we made. Right this minute, I'm looking back on slumber.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where it's quiet...that's nice!

George Africa

The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm




Sunday, November 02, 2008

Winter and Winterberry


Sunday, November 2, 2008

A crisp morning here on the mountain. The crows are noisy and their message is confusing. I think perhaps they are calling friends to a breakfast at the compost pile. It is amazing how far into the woods I find food scraps that they drop. This morning's offering is a few egg shells and a bowl of apple parings from last night's Apple Crisp. That's a fall delight for sure and anything goes well with the "crisp" bite of the fall air.

There has been "sleeping trouble" here at Vermont Flower Farm of late and last night made three nights in a row that Karl the Wonder Dog sounded his animal security barks at a time when I really wanted to be dreaming. It wasn't the three bears this time. I woke at about 12:30 to the sound of deer hooves walking up or down the path from the drive to the house. At that time of night (morning), it sounded like the Budweiser Clydesdales on a paved road.

Eighteen years ago I built a wooden walkway of pressure treated decking boards and although it has lasted well, I'd never do it again. I had seen several configurations in garden magazines at the time and they looked very nice, landscaped right to the edge. A chop saw made cutting angles easy and articles suggested ways to add a serpentine look without too much carpentry skill. I thought there was some merit in the ease of construction and future care. The downside, I find, is that over time the walks develop a slippery coating of algae and moss that creates a challenge that aging ankles and legs don't need in the winter. Last year I took three headers, each time landing in either the lilac bush or the Alberta Spruce. Strange safety nets that worked!

The noise of the deer woke Karl from the front room and in nanoseconds he was at our bed shouting barks of "Go-Away, Go-Away" that took a while to register with the deer. By then we were wide awake again, hoping that slumber would return. There is a price for any good security system!

As fall weather brings it's first snow, I always make a ride to the same place where I have cultivated a nice stand of winterberry. If my timing is right and I haven't allowed too many 15 degree nights to get ahead of me, I pick a nice bucket full of winterberry for the house. This is the native variety found along Vermont streams, ponds or in bogs. It grows to 9 feet tall and in good years offers a profusion of berries. The key is to getting to them early. Successive cold nights eventually wear down the anti freeze in the berries and when you bring branches inside, the temperature change turns them mushy in a week. If you plan it right, you have a nice display through Thanksgiving. There are several hybrids on the market now and other than needing a companion variety to set berries, they are a nice addition. Color through the fall and another seed crop for birds and small creatures.



Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where a large flock of Canada Geese is moving overhead. The sky is clear, the air pressure high and the geese are at several thousand feet but there are so many, their voices are clear even here inside the house.


With kind fall wishes,

George Africa
The (sleepy) Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

First Snow



Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Returned home late yesterday, but fully aware that a big storm was coming. It was billed as a possible nor'easter and I knew that this time of year that could mean about anything. One forecaster had the Adirondacks of New York lined up with 12-14 inches of snow and high winds so I decided I'd try one last time to grab a few pictures and enjoy the fall scene.

The list of things to clean up in the gardens before serious snow arrives is quite long and this apparently is not the year to challenge Mother Nature. That reminder was confirmed when Vermont Public Radio mentioned a major storm of over a foot of snow on the same day in 1952. Although quite young, I remember that year well because that was when we were fairly new to Vermont and depended on a vegetable garden for food. Let me leave it that there was just not a lot to go around. Unlike the melting snow, those memories have never left me.





I changed quickly and got Karl the Wonder Dog and the camera and away we went with Karl's nose pointed out the truck window, sniffing and snorting fall smells of interest. We arrived down at Ethan Allen Corners and the view I wanted was perfect, although the rain didn't help the photographer much. The tamaracks are a beautiful yellow right now and they contrast against the rusty browns and yellows of the swamp grass. This valley opens with wildlife this time of year as large game cross back and forth and waterfowl follow the small stream southwest to where it meets the Winooski River. This is an area that makes you want to stop and stare and enjoy.

We turned around and headed back home as I wanted to walk the shade garden again. That garden has been a part of me since I began to build it years ago. It presents a tranquility, a peacefulness that I thrive on. I miss it when I can't find the time to enjoy it.

We made it to the garden bench and I spread out my jacket and sat down. Karl chased a chipmunk that was missing an inch of his tail. Rain fell, but the smell of the leaves on the air was refreshing just the same. In front of me were dozens of hostas, topless and well trimmed. Deer on fall maneuvers had diligently eaten each leaf, flower scape and seed pod, leaving only spiky looking affairs that could have served as models to Dale Chihuly's beautiful glass art. Oh those deer...what an unusual relationship I have with them!

I couldn't sit as long as I wanted. Karl was impatient and I wanted to walk a little more. The power of the granite foundation blocks looked stronger than ever, their color enhanced by the rain. The Christmas Ferns were beautiful and the adjacent groupings of European Ginger contrasted so well with the fallen maple leaves.


As Karl and I walked up out of the sunken garden, the Japanese primroses and the various hellebores were obvious. The wet summer days had set the year's seed crop well and gave last year's new plants a good jump start. Next spring Gail will have a good selection to dig and pot for sales.

We reached the yard and I noticed a crab apple tree shaking with a flock of robins devouring the seeded fruits.For some reason a line from an old Johnny Cash song came back to me, not the song's name, not the whole line, just a piece, hopefully correct, kind of appropriate to the view.

"Did you ever see a robin weep, when leaves begin to die?"

We grabbed the mail out of the box, waved to a passing neighbor and headed for the house. Our brief mission was complete.



Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where geese are resting for the night, hopeful for clear skies tomorrow.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Drying Hydrangeas


Sunday, October 26, 2008

5:30 PM and the sun already slid over the mountain and the high 50's temperatures that made today so nice are down to 42 already. Two beautiful Sundays in a row have given us an opportunity to scratch off a couple more things from the fall clean up list. My problem was the "us" fell apart after lunch and left me to work on alone. Gail and Alex headed to Studio Place Arts
in Barre to hear a lecture. Stephen Bissette, an instructor and consultant for The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Jct, Vt, was offering Ghosts, Graphic Novels, Manga and Comics: An Introduction to the Medium.

For those who don't know, Alex is our favorite home schooler and one of his pursuits is drawing. His comics always involve our current and past two dogs, Barney, Baker and Karl, and always are drawn in black and white. Humans are absent from Alex's cartoons as the dogs carry out human type conversations with a perspective of dog sense. Anyho-o-o-o-o, in their absense, I finished the afternoon off at the nursery repairing some fence and tightening a couple pieces that had moose stretches.

It's too late here in Vermont for this suggestion but the hydrangea up top here was supposed to be a reminder a couple months back that if you enjoy your hydrangeas in the garden, you can easily enjoy them in the house once they are dried. And the drying part is easy. Pick your hydrangeas early on when they are fresh and perky. Place them in a vase with a couple inches of water. When they have taken in all the water and the vase is dry, the hydrangeas will be dry themselves and they will keep as long as you want. This makes them attractive in dried arrangements or in an arrangement just by themselves. With all the different hydrangeas on the market how, you have a good selection. Currently I am studying them as I want to carry some at our nursery next year, regardless of what the economy is doing. Right now I am gathering info on hardiness so if any of you can recommend zone 4a and 3 hardy hydrangeas, let me know.


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the robins are in flocks going nowhere but to the crab apples. Sargent crab apple, Malus 'sargentii', gets my vote. White flowers in spring, dark foliage in summer and small dark red fruit in fall allowing seed-loving birds a place to dine. Right now the robins are using a menu with only one item but they are certainly chowing down!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Making New Beds


Aster 'Alma potschke' still blooming


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting late already and I haven't come close to the list of things which have to be accomplished before my head hits the pillow. One of the girls next door just left. 16 years old today and she had printer problems finishing up a school paper. The interruption was brief and it was fine as she's a good kid--but it was an interruption.

After work today Karl the Wonder Dog and I headed to the nursery to pull the water pump for the winter. Next year when I finally get an insulated pump house built, this whole procedure won't be necessary but for this year there is no choice. It's a half horse shallow well pump that sits atop a pressure tank and neither of those would fare well at 25 degrees below zero. The advent of winter strongly suggests precautionary measures when it comes to water pumps and faucets, water lines and irrigation.

We got to the nursery just after 4 and I took Karl for his regular perimeter walk. I really didn't want to spend so much time but he had been cooped up today as Gail and Alex had headed for Burlington before noon. As we returned to the truck, he refused to get back inside and he ran around in circles at top speed challenging with nips and barking sounds of "This is fun, this is fun." Dogs which misbehave bug me and I wasn't in the mood for another walk. Then I remembered he had been by himself until I came home, he does enjoy the smells of autumn and we are really friends.

It took an hour to disconnect the electric, and unplumb and drain everything but that was easy compared to carrying the pump up the clay-slick river bank to the truck. I secured it with some spaghetti straps and then sat in the truck with Karl, having a bottle of water and catching my breath. As I looked across the field, it was instant gratification of what we accomplished this year.


Just last week the new daylily plots had turned yellow and I began tilling them. Since these plots were closer to the river than the 24 I made last year, the tilling was easier as the soil is more loan, less clay. Just the same it took dozens of repetitions to begin to get things in shape. The 30 horse tractor is not a big rig but it plugs along and does a nice job. Although the weather prediction is for 1"-3" of white stuff tonight, I still have time to spread calcium sulphate over all this new work and then re-till one more time before serious snow arrives and accumulates.


Calcium sulphate is the miracle worker for breaking down the clay soil. It is an acid and that means that when the job is done I'll have to balance back to where I want to be, ph-wise. No matter to me as it's good stuff and it works better than anything I have ever seen. I spread by hand so I'll be talking to myself a bunch before that's over, perhaps accompanied by some I pod tunes and thoughts of next year. For right now, good thoughts are sufficient!



Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Karl and I passed a sow bear and two cubs on the way home tonight. I'm thinking this was the same family that was here last night which translates to a walking tour of 3-5 miles for them since last night. I don't talk to bears unless I have to and I am pleased to say that none have ever spoken to me.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm A website about our business and how we build thoughts and gardens

As a PS: Give Bernd Heinrich a read if you want to know what bears and other creatures do this time of year. His book, Winter World, The Ingenuity of Animal Survival is great!