Monday, May 03, 2010

Two Bears and a Deer

Monday, May 3, 2010

Overcast sky this morning but surprisingly warm at 61 degrees. I just heard Gail head out with Karl the Wonder Dog who refused to rise and shine for a walk with me this morning. They will be gone for half an hour or so as they make their way to Peacham Pond and back. It's a nice walk and sure to produce some wildlife encounters.

Yesterday morning seems like ages ago. I drove the tractor down to the nursery for the first time this year. It's a matter of necessity as I can't justify the expense of a trailer right now for a couple-three trips a year. It takes half an hour and I always go in the early morning to avoid trucks on Route 2 and impatient fishermen on our road.

As I rounded the final corner maybe a third of a mile from Route 2, I looked down to the bottom of a six acre field. Two black spots caught my attention, one much larger than the other, and as the tractor moved along, a sow bear and one yearling cub became obvious. The sow is big by Vermont sow bear standards and I believe this is the same one I saw last fall with two cubs. I could be wrong but she is a big mother and the other cub could have been inside the treeline or perhaps it was feeding in a different place and didn't catch up yet. I wish I had the time to look longer and I would have liked to make a quick walk down into the field to find what they were eating. Bears are always foraging around and they travel a bunch more than many people think. I suspect these bears will be around the house tonight --or maybe that's what Karl was barking at when he woke us at midnight last night. Bears are hungry now and there's not a great selection of food for them.

As I made it to the bottom of the hill, I glanced left and there was a large deer at about 300 yards. It was by itself and I would guess it was a buck. I was paying attention to traffic and making the turn onto Route 2 as the deer took a couple leaps and was gone. Turkey season started Saturday and that same area produces some fine birds so my guess is a hunter spooked the deer.

Yesterday was the third day at the nursery designated for potting new plants. We started Friday and planted over 700, Saturday with a smaller crew we did 600 and yesterday Gail, our worker bee from Peacham and I planted a little over 500 pots. Yesterday's number is deceiving as everything we planted was perennials from cell packs so the work goes faster save for the responsibility of the guy mixing the potting mix--me.

Among the flowers yesterday was bee balm, monarda, Oswego tea, an herb belonging to the mint family. This is the herb that Native Americans shared with Colonists when their protest saw bales of tea going into Boston Harbor. One time a historical horticulturist joked during a presentation that after the Colonists tried the Oswego Tea (named after natives and bee balm from Oswego region, New York) they quickly decided they wouldn't be dumping any more real tea.
Bee balm comes in many heights and colors and we have always had some growing here at the house. The picture up top shows some Cambridge Scarlet and some Raspberry Wine (on right of pic) that formed wide swathes of color, almost choking out a variety of lilies we used to have. The nine foot tall Empress Orienpet lilies sticking high above the bee balm came from Judith Freeman from The Lily Garden Vancouver, Washington. Four years ago when I visited there, Judith explained she didn't think that lily was so good but it sure likes growing conditions in Vermont! Some place in this mass of monarda is a shorter, light pink too. I cannot remember the exact name right now but for some reason Croftway Pink keeps coming to mind. Aging minds like bumps in Vermont dirt roads, create challenges at times and my "remembery" is no different!

Bee balms are a favorite of night flying moths, butterflies, bees (well, yes!!) and hummingbirds. I love watching all these visitors and stand in amazement as hummingbirds find something good to eat from a flower which is so hard to work at. The hummers are not back to this part of Vermont yet but they always make it about Mothers Day. Use the hummingbird tracking site if you haven't seen any birds at your gardens yet.

As fall approaches and first frosts hit, the flowers look a little like this. We always leave them for the birds and cut bunches for use in dried fall arrangements. Here in Vermont there is a company in Craftsbury named Vermont Bee Balm that combines the oils of the mint with bees wax. There are many virtues to bees wax and one is helping with the arthritis gardeners often encounter.

So anyway we planted some bee balm yesterday and in a week or two it will take hold and fill the pots so that by July gardeners will have a good look at what we have available. We planted Fireball, Gardenview Scarlet, the taller Jacob Cline, the shorter Petite Wonder, Coral Reef and some more Raspberry Wine. I'll dig up enough Cambridge Scarlet from the gardens for 30 pots and that should suffice for this season. Although mints have a spreading habit and bee balms are not different, they are an inexpensive hummingbird lure and if you have never encountered night flyinig moths, a summer night after 9:30 is a place to visit. Try some!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Karl the Wonder Dog just returned and Gail brought me a coffee refill. Nice doggy, very nice wife!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
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Elizabeth said...

I bought a pot of white monarda at a garden club sale 3 yrs ago. It's quite tall, has smallish blossoms, but it keeps growing and spreading. I had no idea white ones existed.

Mistress Gardener said...

Cool...bears and bee balm. Pretty pictures too!