Not too hot today for visitors

We’re closing the month of June on a HOT note in New Hampshire. It’s really uncomfortable and really steamy with temperatures hovering around 92-93° today. But no matter the temperature, I had a chore to tackle in the garden that couldn’t wait for cooler temperatures. Several rolls of sod were waiting to be installed in an area we’re revamping due to construction here. Today we needed to get those rolls positioned and watered well…. heat wave or not.

Just as the some sections were in place and about to be tightened up, our first visitor arrived. Ferdinand, the last surviving bunny in the neighborhood and a welcome little friend, arrived for his twice daily visit. He hopped along the seam between sod sections.

bunny

He’s still a wild bunny. We have never approached him and he would hop away if we did.  But he visits daily and he sits nearby and watches our activity in the yard. We’d like to think he comes to visit us but it’s probably our crop of juicy clover that’s the biggest draw.

ferdinand 2018

While bunny nibbled the clover and watched me cut sod, I spied a second visitor, a tiny newly hatched eastern painted turtle, no bigger than a quarter, shell still quite soft. The top shell or carapace was olive-green on this little guy. He had a pale yellow stripe down the middle of the shell and reddish-orange markings around the edge.

Easterm Painted Turtle 2018

The bottom shell or plastron was a solid yellow.

Eastern Painted Turtle 2018

Our yard was not the best location for this little fellow. Our small community is surrounded by wetland and ponds but a turtle this size would probably find himself beneath a lawn mower or auto tire before he could find any water. They’ve built this neighborhood right where the turtles have probably always laid their eggs. I’ve marked off and added signage to protect one turtle’s egg site and today I helped an adult turtle in the middle of the road reach the road berm (in the same direction it was heading). Sadly, turtles often don’t make the road crossing successfully.

I put the tiny turtle in a container in the shade, added water, rocks, floating leaves, and a conch shell to hide in while I finished cutting and laying the sod. He actually swam, nibbled on algae and seemed to have a jolly time. All the while, I had to fight the urge to keep him as a pet… I’d kept my share as a kid… but after an hour or so, decided to release him in a slow-moving stream close by.

eastern painted turtle 2018

As June ends on a hot note, July will start off on a hot note tomorrow. We have an excessive heat advisory for the next several days stretching well into the week. Hot yes but it won’t keep us indoors… and who knows, we may have more critters visit our little stretch of land.

Adventures with Youngsters

On June 21, summer will officially begin, but you’d never know it by today’s temperature.  It’s 1:00 pm and the temperature on this 6th day of June is hovering somewhere between 46° and 48°, depending on which weather app you check. The weatherman predicts we’ll break the record low for this day.

It’s been a welcome rainy spring to put an end to our drought so we aren’t complaining. We’ve had days of beautiful New England spring weather in-between storms, enough to be satisfied, especially since our goal for this summer is to become better acquainted with everything our area offers…. often through the eyes of children.

Wentworth Marina by the Sea

We no longer own boats, but a stop at the Wentworth Marina by the Sea in New Castle with the grandchildren was one our first spring adventures. What a blast to let the little ones wander up and down the docks, watching boats come and go, including the excitement of the marine police arriving to check the place over. A stop here would hardly be worth it without a relaxing lunch at The Green Bean, outdoor dining while answering 100 little questions, between bites of tasty pulled pork sliders, about boats, birds, water, and rigging.  “What is that spinning thing on top of the masts?” “That’s the wind speed indicator…” “Why do they have them up there?”  Fun, fun, fun!

The Green Bean - Pull Pork Sliders with cheddar cheese and red onions

We’re thrilled to support the wonderful outdoor Exeter Farmers’ Market once again this spring, especially on the warmest days when we can follow-up with homemade strawberry popsicles or the best local ice cream, but that’s only when the grandchildren accompany us. Yes, we all had a popsicle on this day!

Strawberry popcicles - Exeter Farmers' Market

Watching the Phillips Exeter crew teams practice on the Squamscott River is something we stopped to watch for the first time. That was another new adventure for us thanks to keen interest by these little folks.

Grands on the Squamscott River

Our local school crew teams in Virginia were nationally ranked and these crew teams are tops in the nation, according to their website. So much fun to watch… especially through the eyes of children and also after reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. Highly recommended!

I’ve been in working hard in the garden in-between rain showers but I’ll soon be back in earnest. A warming (or hot) trend is approaching for the weekend and I’m ready. Stay tuned.

It’s Snow Wonder I like New Hampshire…

As long as I have a nice fire in the fireplace, a good book and a hot drink, I love a snowy day. I love it if I don’t have to clear the driveway, take the trash to the street through deep drifts, traipse out the mailbox, trudge out to get the morning newspaper, or drive on slippery streets. mister gardener did a lot of that today.

In an all-day-winter-storm like we had today, my favorite pastime is putting my feet up in front of a roaring fire, glancing up every now and then to check snow accumulation. However, lest I sound a bit too inert, I do journey outside for walks in the yard with the dog, refill the bird feeders, sweep the steps of snow or take a few photos of snow laden branches. And here are some photos of the fluffy stuff today. Click on them if you want to see the snow falling. It was an especially beautiful snowfall.

Snow on White PineSnow on roadSnow on Feedersnow clearingAs evening approached, our driveway was finally cleared as the storm began to wane. Perfect timing. Snug again by the fire, one final glance out the window at dusk gave me the last hazy view of the meadow and the house lights of our neighbors, just minutes before the curtain of darkness fell over the field.

I love a snowy day!

Snow on Meadow

Baby, it’s (almost) cold outside

Around these parts, there have been hints that locals are preparing for the wintry weather they know is around the corner. Trucks delivering firewood regularly pass us on the highway, a visit to LLBean two days ago had mister gardener and a number of other customers converging on the down outerwear, and our farmers’ markets have all moved indoors. Around the house, we’ve tested the furnace, stored umbrellas, and discarded annuals in pots. We’ve also dusted off the bird feeders as bears are now thinking more about their winter den than raiding birdseed.

Another sure sign of the approaching season is the colorful scene I photographed from our front door on a warmer day last week. These young people were roller skiing using long inline skates with wheels and ski poles fitted with special tips. Although they had skied past the house, they somehow spotted me and waved. The motion in this activity is similar to cross-country skiing in snow and it’s a terrific way to train for the upcoming season.

Even though my daughter kept her cross-country skills intact just like this for her Vermont school ski team years ago, it’s still a novelty for me to see such a sight. And from the expressions on their faces, you can tell it’s a good way to get in shape and have fun doing it.

I’m learning a lot about zone 5… but my thoughts always return to my family and friends in Virginia. I wonder whether any preparations are underway for cold weather in zone 7. Somehow I imagine them still enjoying a bountiful garden and colorful blooms in the borders…

A Fine Balance

October can be an exciting month for birdwatching. We’ve watched wave after wave of migrating songbirds and shore/water birds pass through this area of southern New Hampshire. Many birdwatchers travel to migratory hot spots to watch the action but we believe we have a good seat right here on the 50-yard line to watch all the birding action we desire.

We’ve followed ducks, geese, vireos, sparrows, warblers, bluebirds, cedar waxwings, hawks and more, stop to rest and dine for a few days before taking off again. One new visitor I’ve especially enjoyed watching this week is the Northern Flicker, the Yellow-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus), a larger bird related to the woodpeckers and sapsuckers. Not an uncommon bird, but it’s fun to watch. It stands out on the horizon as it swoops and dips in flight, its large white rump visible only in the air. I admired his distinctive spotted plumage as it fed on ants and other insects on the ground beneath the white pines .

October is also great time to observe migrating hawks that land in the pines, perch on tree limbs, or circle the salt marsh looking for food. As in Virginia, a hawk we often see is the the Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii.) that scans the horizon from its favorite perch in nearby trees. What is the Cooper’s Hawk looking for? Birds. And what did the last Cooper’s Hawk find? Yep, that’s right. Our Northern Flicker nourished the hunter so it could continue its journey south.

It’s always a bit unsettling for me when I discover a fluff of a bird that was. But understanding nature in its fullest is understanding the delicate cycle and balance of the natural world.

Windy weather in New Hampshire yesterday ushers in a cold front today, perfect weather for spurring on bird migration. We’ll have our binoculars (and warm coats) ready.

Top Ten Ways to Survive…

… a New England winter, especially if you’re a Southern transplant. I hear from friends in Virginia who say they’re still raking leaves in their yards. Our leaves in New Hampshire are hidden under 6″ of snow and ice. It seems the weatherman predicts Wintry Weather every other day around here. That means a little snow, rain, and sleet all at once combined with cold and blustery wind gusts. With these meteorological conditions, it’s easy to catch the dreaded Cabin Fever.  Some of our new acquaintances have kindly suggested a few of their favorite pastimes to get us out of the house.

10. Learn to ice skate on the pond out back. Not a chance.

9. Take up downhill skiing. Our bones are too brittle.

8. Snowmobiling. Well, maybe….

7. Snowshoeing. This looks favorable. We see folks our age out there.

6. Jogging. Not on your life. Black ice is rampant.

5. Skijoring. Have you ever heard of it? Skijoring is Norwegian for ski driving and it’s really gaining in popularity. Think of it as a cross between dog mushing and cross-country skiing. But not for us. We don’t have a death wish.

New York Times Skijoring

4. Hockey games. OK, we did that and loved it. Take a look at this adorable mini-hockey entertainment during halftime:

3. Exploring the area. Yes! Especially in a warm automobile with a GPS. Suggestions are sounding better.

2. Shopping. Portsmouth’s Market Street, voted one of New England’s Best Shopping Streets by Travel and Leisure Magazine. Now we’re talking!

1. Eating Out. Eureka! Our #1 favorite winter pastime so far is checking out area restaurants. And I’m happy to say we’re getting quite skilled at it. Restaurants are plentiful and varied. We’re having a great time wading through menus in different hamlets. The added bonus is a bit of personal insulation around the waistline to keep us warmer when the Wintry Weather hits.

Hot and Dry Weather: Survivors in the Garden

Hot, dry, windy summer weather can be extremely stressful for plants in the garden. Temperatures in Gloucester have hovered near 100º for the last several days, topping out at 102 yesterday. Life seems to be fading from much of the garden. I am usually found hiding inside during intolerably hot weather, however in the late afternoon, I’ll take a stroll to check out heat tolerant plants that shine through the high temps. Several shrubs and perennials are doing well. Here are two that stand out:

The ‘Becky‘ Shasta Daisies, Leucanthemum superbum, that I planted en masse in early spring for our June ‘wedding garden’ are still going strong. I have been rewarded a hundred times over with waves of showy pure white blooms… great for admiring and great for cutting. They’re the 2003 Perennial Plant of the Year and are proving to be heat and drought tolerant. All they ask for is sunshine and a little deadheading.

Becky Shasta Daisy

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9

Light: Full sun

Soil: Growth is optimum in moist, but well-drained soil

Bloom: June to September.

Another favorite that I’ve blogged about a couple of years ago is the Blackberry Lily or the Leopard Lily, a plant that is three plants in one.

1. In the spring, we are rewarded with blue green leaves than fan out in an attractive pattern much like an iris. Indeed it is a member of the iris family.  Familiarly known as Belamcanda chinensis, after a DNA analysis, the new classification is Iris domestica.

Iris-like leaves of the blackberry lily

2. In mid-July we are blessed with a multitude of small orange and red lily-like flowers, each blooming for a day then twisting like tiny wrung out rags before dropping from the plant. I’ve not read anything about the nectar of this flower but have observed a variety of insects actually competing over the sweet fluids.

Blackberry Lily and Sweat Bee

Blackberry Lily and red ants

3. In the late summer and fall and winter, the 3-lobed pods that are green and swelling now, split open to reveal the glossy fruit that resemble blackberries. These will fall from the plant and self seed or stems can be used for flower arrangements. I adore all three phases of this colorful summer perennial.

Belamcanda chinensis

Image via Wikipedia

It will reproduce by seed and by rhizomes which may be divided and shared. Plant rhizomes under 1″ of soil and allow to dry between waterings.

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 5-10

Light: Full sun, partial sun, partial shade (I moved my plants from full sun to partial sun and they seem less stressed)

Soil: Well-drained; grows taller in fertile soil.

Bloom: July and August

Zones: 5-10.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Record Heat Wave!

Outside temps hovered at 106

Officially, the temperature topped 106 yesterday, hot enough to fry a whole omelet on the sidewalk! Triple digit temperatures have been the rule lately in Tidewater, giving us one of the hottest weekends in our history. For the past week or so, temperatures have settled into the mid to upper 90’s each day, chasing us from the waterfront and garden to the relief of air conditioning.

Sadly, as I make my way around the community, the sight of dead or dying landscaping, especially newer shrubs and trees, has become more common. When temperatures rise to the mid-90s, photosynthesis begins to shut down and trees begin to drop leaves. In the 100-degree range, irreparable damage can often be done to trees as cell membranes begin to dissolve.  Water can be the solution but not always.

Several of our young trees, planted less than a year ago, have succumbed to the extreme heat despite being well-watered. A young serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) turned brown and died despite trucking water on a regular basis to this remote location. We also lost a year-old golden raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata) and a year-old bald cypress (Taxodium distichum).

Today we expect temperatures to drop about 16 degrees. A slow-moving cold front is pushing though and winds will drop temperatures into the upper 80s or low 90s. We’ll have sunny skies again, nary a drop of needed rain in sight, but the scorching heat should be over.

What is July like in your neck of the woods?

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Post Ida

Back in its bed...

maple treescreenThe river is high but it’s back within its banks where it belongs. Ida left us with plenty of clean up jobs around the yard and the gardens which will take some time to finish.

As payment for our toils and perhaps to make up for the terrible Nor’easter, Mother Nature rewarded us with an explosion of reds and yellows in the few trees left with leaves around the yard.  The color season has really come to a close in Tidewater but whether this was Mother Nature’s apology or not, it sure made us whistle while we worked on Nor’Ida’s clean up.

Japanese Maple

shedAnn Hohenberger, The garden Club of Gloucester

Change is in the Air

A mist hangs over GloucesterChange is in the air and my thoughts are turning to autumn. Can you feel it? The first signs seem to wait until after Labor Day to allow us our last hurrah with family and friends. Then we feel the seasonal transition. On Wednesday and Thursday, a coastal storm brought a deluge of rain and high winds to Tidewater Virginia and with the storm came brisk temperatures.

Wearing a sweater, I had my coffee on the porch where temperatures hovered around 60 degrees Thursday morning. The sky was dark and overcast and water dripped from the trees and raced through the downspouts. I could count only 8 young hummingbirds this morning dancing from feeder to feeder as the bottles swung to and fro with the wind.  That tells me that thirty plus hummingbirds have begun their journey south. Their internal clocks are set. Now we will begin to see more varieties birds migrating through on their way to warmer temperatures and we will soon welcome the arrival of those birds that spend the winter with us.  Our days are becoming darker earlier and trees are beginning to show the first signs of color and leaves are already falling from the trees.

Early autumn in the garden is a wonderful time.  Before any thoughts of pumpkins, Thanksgiving or frost, gardeners can take pleasure in end-of-season chores out of doors.  We welcome a reprieve from the heat, biting insects, weeds and heavy watering. The humidity improves, the air feels fresh and gardeners spend time taking stock of their gardens, cleaning up, dividing, planting and transplanting old plants and welcoming new friends to the garden.  Mister gardener will be busy cleaning up his summer vegetable garden and will restart the vegetable garden with fall crops.

For some, the first day of autumn is considered to be September 22, the Autumnal Equinox, but for me, my need for a sweater, especially during the evening, tells me when a seasonal change is in the air.  Even though we may have an Indian Summer or Second Summer, the first signs of fall have surely arrived.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

A Rough End to the Weekend

No relief!Last night, I sat huddled on the couch until midnight with two labs and two cats and no power in the house.  Severe thunderstorms pounded Gloucester County overnight with damaging winds and numerous lightning strikes.  Our only light came from very close and frequent lightning and the only sounds we heard were from loud claps of thunder and window-rattling wind gusts or an occasional whimper from me.

The cause of the storms was hot and muggy weather stalled over the entire Atlantic Seaboard.  Cooler air from the north could not penetrate this system due to a Bermuda High firmly situated over the Atlantic Ocean.  With the High strongly in place, we will not have any relief from the muggy weather for the next several days. The storms that passed through last night could roar through each afternoon through Wednesday. Yikes!

Our water gauge registered 3 1/2″ of rain overnight. The pond is overflowing but okay.  So far mister gardener has discovered one tall Tulip Poplar that was struck by lightning but I think there could be damage on more of our trees.  I can hear chain saws on distant properties so we are not alone.  I do wonder how wide this storm front was that passed through Virginia.

As the dogs and cats and I huddled together during the storm last night, where was mister gardener you might ask?  He was asleep.  He heard nothing.  He saw nothing.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

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