Friday, January 01, 2010

Ravens of Winter

Friday, January 1, 2010

Slow getting started this morning after staying up with Gail to watch the New York festivities. I have to say that Karl the Wonder Dog and I have never been impressed with the thought of standing on a street corner in NYC for 10 hours shifting from one foot to the other while waiting for the appointed time. For some, this is something that must be done and now watchers come from around the world to stand and watch.

The snow is falling lightly now. For almost a week weather forecasters have been emphasizing low pressure zones, "ocean influence" and "heavy snowfall potential". This morning the prediction had been reworked to read something like "light snowfall over a long period" as if saying over forty days and forty nights you might need a shovel but probably just a snow brush and the windshield wipers will get you to town safely. Storms do have the potential to change and two days ago when the high winds began, we saw 36 hours straight when the wind gusted from the northeast and I envisioned hours in the truck plowing snow. Don't think so this time.

I fed the birds this morning and put two fresh chucks of suet on the platform feeder. The birds swarmed to the feeder and blue jays came out of the forest to eat. Almost as quickly as they came, they left. I wondered if a shrike or peregrine falcon has appeared on the treeline as they sometimes do but I couldn't see anything. As hunt and peck put letters on the screen, I noticed a blur out of the corner of my eye and as if trained to do so, I stood and stepped to the window. My presence and movement had caught a mature raven in mid flight heading for the suet. Just the flash reminded me of Bernd Heinrich's book Ravens In Winter but I did not need a book to identify the great suet grabbers. Two of them. I yelled to Gail to stand in the window and act odd if the ravens returned while I went hunting for old onion bags to wrap the suet in. Before Gail chanced to perform, I was outside wrapping the suet and tying two orange bags securely together. The larger of two ravens vocalized some nasties from a tall balsam. That may not have been true as I don't understand raven but I do know they weren't all that pleased to see the suet confined to bags. These are a very intelligent bird that deserve more study if you have any living around your house.

The lower shade garden is well covered with snow now but I still think of my missing European ginger and a collection of hellebores I bought from Barry Glick at Sunshine Farm some years back. Since hellebores are a beautiful spring flowering plant, it's worth a little time to research what's on the market and who has big, well rooted plants for spring delivery. I'm buying some again this year as I finally have a place ready for a hundred or so new plants. Take a look at Barry's site and determine if you should try some this year too. He uses those tall tree band pots and they encourage excellent root systems that translate to big plants in short order. Here are some pictures of some that I have growing.

Just thinking about the lower garden has encouraged me to take a walk. Karl's tail is wagging a welcoming "Let's go!" Hope you had a pleasant New Years Eve and that today and the rest of the New Year will be healthy for you and your gardens.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where fearless chickadees are eating sunflower seed between the chunks of ravenless suet.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm


Teza said...

Helleborus is one of my favourite genera - and I too have decided that too many is never enough. I am anxious to see a new Chinese species H. thibetanus - cost more than was logical at the time, but this can quickly turn into an expensive addiction! Happy New Year my friend

AmyO said...

Hello George and Happy New Year! I too have many Hellebores from Barry. He's a nut but a generous one. He donated 2 trays of seedlings to the Primrose Society a few years back...I think his plants will bloom this spring...fingers crossed!
I had a H. thibetanus but killed it. Rats! Hellebores are my new addiction along with cyclamen & Primula.

George Africa said...

Hello Teza & Amy;

Although I suggest to people they try to push their zone limits and try new things, zone 6 H. thibetanus would be too hard a push for me here in Marshfield. That might change if money was no object but this hellebore is not one they give away yet.