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