Saturday, November 30, 2013

Just Buggy!

Saturday, November 30, 2013
2.7 degrees below zero here on the mountain. The wind has stopped for a change and the sky is full of stars. Occasionally as I walked Karl the Wonder Dog  I could hear trees crack in the distance as the morning temperature deepens a bit and the sun begins to stretch far away in Eastport, Maine. I almost wish I was there in Maine watching it this morning.
For several years now we have had gardening authorities sharing their prayers for extreme cold for a few weeks. The past week has been cold and the weatherman suggests that this first week of December will be very cold at night too. Daytime temperatures will reach 30 degrees but the temperatures at night will be at 15 degrees or below so some will be happy with the drop. As I watch how fast the firewood pile changes during times like this, I normally would not be pleased but cold may be worth the sacrifice.  Here's why.
Pictured above is a longhorn beetle known as the Elderberry Borer. There are lots and lots of longhorn beetles on earth and in fact I saw a display once at the Montshire Museum in Norwich, Vermont and there are +100 in New England alone. I have only seen the Elderberry Borer over the past 5-8 years and although some say it is rare, I have seen many feasting on the pollen of native dogwoods and viburnums. I suspect that those who are now growing elderberry in Vermont have seen it in recent years and are not pleased with it's presence as it has a habit of boring into the base of the shrub and moving upward as part of its life cycle. That behavior obviously kills the shrub over time. Since dogwoods and viburnums are being attacked by disease and insects, I fear for their long term survival. Elderberries for syrups and wines have become a popular crop now and they will not fare well either. Take a look at to get a better look for identification purposes.
So what's the story with the cold temperatures? Deep cold when there is little or no snow cover can kill insects and fungi depending upon what stage in their life cycle they are in. This has been well researched. The trouble we have had over the past twenty years is that winters are warmer and we haven't had the severe cold we were once used to. I remember moving to Marshfield in 1989 and that first winter we had a cold snap where the temperatures dropped to 30 below for a few days. I thought we had moved to the wrong place but that was the only time that has happened and since then temperatures rarely get to -25 and then for only a day or two.
Daylily leaf streak is a fungal experience more and more daylilies share each year. It would be nice if we got more cold which is supposed to stop that fungus. There are other fungal/rust issues with daylilies and perennial flowers that we enjoy so much so maybe, just maybe the current cold will help us out.
If you have read some good research on the impact of intense cold on bugs and diseases, please share with us. In the meantime, keep warm and continue on with planning your gardens for the coming years. Lots and lots of new plant and vegetable varieties are being released this year so there is plenty to consider. Design and's good winter fun!
Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the quiet is interrupted only by a crackling fire in the wood stove and snoring from Karl the Wonder Dog. He loves sleeping by the stove!
George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and also as George Africa
Vermont Flower Farm where we are always happy to help you grow your green thumb!
Gift certificates available year 'round!!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where's Waldo?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The temperature is back up to 17.1 degrees after starting at 20 degrees and dropping to 13. The wind is off and on at 3 mph as the sun rises above Peacham Pond and a new day starts with little promise of the warmth we enjoyed earlier in the week. I just finished a breakfast of poached eggs, OJ and coffee with my friend, Karl the Wonder Dog,  but he only had eggs. He just returned from a walk with Gail and now he is enjoying the wood stove's warmth.

If you remember the Martin Handford  kid's book, Where's Waldo, you remember searching around for a little guy with a red hat. I have been a Waldo of sorts during the past couple months and people have asked Gail where I'm hiding. The Waldo hat is replaced by my honey bee association hat in warm weather or a Carhartt hat on colder days but otherwise I am the same George, just older and busier than ever.

When we get through most of August and the first of September at the flower farm, Gail continues to clean things up there and I get back into my work here at the house creating more wood trails and roads, cutting firewood and cleaning the fields. A year ago I heard just too many stories about friends and acquaintances younger than me passing on to another world. I told Gail that I intended to do more of what I wanted to do. That's exactly what I have done. To keep social media going I have concentrated more on Facebook and Twitter so if you miss me again, look at my personal George Africa page on Facebook or the Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens Like page. Both have pictures and stories and yes, I know well, there is a group of blog readers out there that refuses Facebook at every corner but of course the choice on where and when to write is always that of the author. I hope you'll continue to read on all the formats but if you only like The Vermont Gardener, rest assured that fall is here and I am back to more writing.  In a couple more weeks I will be spending more time at the writer's cottage back in the woods and I hope that will get me closer to some personal goals and provide gardeners with more good material.

This summer was another good one at the flower farm excepting I guess that the changing climate is something we must resign ourselves to. By that I mean that for agricultural  business owners like Gail and me, summer 2013 in Vermont saw many, many days when no one drove into the yard because it was raining so hard. The summer ended with much better weather and although sales were down from three years ago, they were slightly better than last year so I guess we haven't lost our touch with many gardeners.

In May just before our busy season started, I headed for Acadia National Park in Maine and over 4 days climbed trails and learned more of Downeast Maine. The park is not as busy then and for me it's a better time to hike when I don't have to back off trails for speedy kids to scoot by.

Worker Bee Michael who we have known since soon after he was born in 1992, finished his final year with us and headed back to his senior year at Castleton. He'll graduate next spring and will be into the world of work, perhaps in law enforcement which has interested him for some time. He was a great worker, great company and very good with visitors. When he left, Gail T. from Peacham helped a few days here and there  including the weekend that daylily sales peaked. I was really lucky because wife Gail had chosen that weekend to head to Maine with friend Julie for a tour of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Schoodic Bay and points around Milbridge where I have been looking at real estate. Gail T. and I really loaded cars for several days and were almost too tired to smile. Almost.

Just after Labor Day,  Gail and Alex and I headed to Maine for a few days R&R and it was really nice to sit on the beach, read, listen to music and eat fresh seafood. We were all so tired we each did our own thing but had a good time and added to our list of Maine memories. I returned long enough to rest, then headed for Crawford Notch, NH to hike to Arethusa Falls in monsoon-like conditions and come within 75 yards of one of the biggest black bears alive in New England. Guess it was a day of "BIG" as the waterfalls I visited is the largest in New Hampshire at almost 200 feet tall. Great trips.

On the home front I continued to dig and line out daylilies for next year's sales, I weeded and tilled 3/4's of the daylily display gardens and field gardens, and I started splitting wood for fall 2014. My work on the trails in our forests continued and I chipped about 20 truckloads of brush to serve as soil amendment which Alex and I spread on top of tons of shredded maple leaves he and Gail and I moved to various beds. I brush hogged around the fields, framed up an outhouse at the writers cottage and found a logger to help clean up some trees that are experiencing serious insect infestation.

By the end of September I was ready for more hiking and I headed back to Acadia Maine to hike the Precipice Trail and the Beachcroft Trail, locate a nice private beach and relive previous visits to the Ladder Trail, the Wild Gardens of Acadia, Otter Cliffs and a number of other places. 

In mid October we had the opportunity to ride the Cog Railroad to the top of Mt Washington. This was a special experience and got me excited about making that climb on one of the many trails. I decided I would never drive my car up there after riding the train and seeing people with overheated radiators.

In recent days, as the air has chilled and snow crystals have peppered me, I have begun to think through getting started next summer on the Long Trail. I have a good friend who has me almost convinced to head for Baxter State Park in Maine, climb Mt Katahdin and consider the Knife Edge. The last part of that is only a consideration and only on a dry, windless day with an early start for an old set of legs but......maybe, maybe not.

So here it is almost Thanksgiving and my to-do list is bigger than a legal pad. Just the same it has been a great summer. We met so many gardening friends this summer, past and current customers, and met many, many new gardeners from all over the world. Some people stopped to visit and see what was new but apologized for no longer being able to garden. Others brought their kids and grand kids and asked us to participate in an education program. It was just an incredible experience where the family of customers and visitors is far reaching and the stories, although sometimes sad, most of the time bring smiles, laughter, and more stories. That's the good part about gardening!

Guess I better get going. We contracted with a local logger to help us with some problem areas and that work should start within the next month. Before, during and after, I'll be busy. Stop by if you're out and about. Thanks for a great summer and thanks for reading thoughts from The Vermont Gardener. If you have gardening questions and want an opinion, fire away and we'll try to  be help.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond, where the temperature remains a reluctant 20.1 degrees and blue jays fill the platform bird feeder as mourning doves and chickadees eat from the ground. Enjoy today!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!
 Web sales always available at

PS The picture up top is a sculpture at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine. I love that museum because I love Wyeth family art...all art. Great place!