Beating the Invasion

colorThere is something about the fall season that lifts my spirits. The air is clean under crisp blue skies and the vibrant foliage can take your breath. You just want to step outside and bask in the beauty of buttery yellows and blazing reds of the maples, elms, birches and the sumacs that front every wood line.

Fall colors are reaching their peak right now on the Kancamagus Highway, the National Scenic Byway from Lincoln to Conway NH, and I’m sure the hoards of leaf peepers have arrived. A year ago we ventured up during the peak of color and found the 35-mile road through the White Mountain National Forest bumper to bumper with cars, campers, and buses. We hardly found places to pull off and park for the perfect views. This year we thought, “Wouldn’t it be a neat idea to beat the leaf-peeper invasion?” Yes! So last weekend we jumped in the car for a pre-peeper drive on the Kancamagus Highway just to see what we could see.

We hoped to arrive just before peak color and see the emerging reds, oranges, and yellows mixed with the cool, green of conifers without the distracting flood of vehicles driving bumper to bumper along the way. The timing was perfect as we had the approaching highways almost to ourselves.

Click on photos to enlarge:

fall colors 2014 The colors were a little cooler in the distance but quite grand. It was a peaceful and enjoyable drive.

A special delight was visiting the same apple orchard farmer as last year whose truck was brimming with juicy just-picked apples and some fresh vegetables. This time we sampled and bought a bag of crisp Mcintosh.

Apples!And when we arrived home, I made this and invited the kids to come and enjoy! Life is good…

Apple Crumb Pie

Apple Crumb Pie

Staying Cool…

On hot, dry days at Rolling Green Nursery, overhead sprinklers can buy us a little time in the morning until we can get the hose on plants that flag first in the July heat.

Rolling Green SprinklersThat means a lot of time on sultry days is spent deep watering.  We move slowly through the rudbeckia….

Rudbeckiathe liatris….

Liatristhe sage….

sageIt’s a bit of a relief to slip beneath the covered area to water the shade plants,

Fernsand then it’s back out in the hot sun for a second watering of the Leucanthemum…..

Shastas….until the end of the day when we sometimes need a cool shower ourselves before calling it a day. We love our work!

Heidi

Heidi cools down before heading home for the day

What’s round on the ends and hi in the middle?

Farm CountryO-HI-O, the Buckeye state!  From the plane, the land below was a patchwork of vivid green squares. It looked cool and inviting after the scorching temperatures we were enduring in New Hampshire. Children and grandchildren soon arrived, some driving, some flying, for our Annual Hiking Vacation.  We totaled thirteen this year with the oldest grandchild at 19 and the youngest at 11 months, all hosted this year by my son’s Ohio family in his brand new… but unfinished home. We were accommodated beautifully with fabulous meals and all slept well with sleeping bags, inflatable beds in basement and bedrooms.

For two days we had downpours of rain, huge thunderstorms, gale force winds, a tornado siting, power outages, and trees down, but thankfully the weather broke for a full agenda of activities including a glorious walk through the Ohio State University’s (OARDC) horticulture display gardens, a visit to the stables, and, of course, the big hike at Mohican State Park. What a week it was!

OARDC Display Gardens

The stables

Mohican State Park Hiking

Final Glimpse of Summer

Fall is in the air in New Hampshire. Our birches have lost most of their leaves. The yellows are blazing and the reds are emerging quickly near the seacoast. Leaf Peepers must be planning their trips to New England… hopefully with airline tickets already in hand. We read that the leaf color in the Lake Winnipesaukee area in the Lakes Region is showing early reds and oranges. With temperature hovering in the upper 40’s this morning, it should only get better. We’ve flown to New England in the fall in years past but this year we plan to follow the procession of Leaf Peepers along the roads. Wish us luck.

To catch a last glimpse of summer, my sisters and I visited Stonewall Kitchen gardens (twice!) in York, Maine where colorful annuals attracted butterflies, skippers and bees. Glorious!

Click photos if you want full size….

The Challenge

This post challenge comes from Les at A Tidewater Garden Winter Walk-Off: On your own two feet, leave the house and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home.  Your post does not have to be about gardening or a travelogue, unless you want it to be.  Maybe instead you will find some unusual patterns, interesting shadows, signs of spring, a favorite restaurant or shop, questionable landscaping or local eyesores.  Whatever, just keep your eyes and mind open, be creative and have fun, but don’t show anything from your own garden.

It sounds simple. Les can find beauty and interest in shadows and shapes, textures and tales, as well as in his garden. But his challenge is a tricky one for me. Last year I passed up this assignment because all I saw on my walks was a mile and a half of sand and loblollies. Ho-hum. This year I live in the burbs, too far from anything of great photographic interest. But, I tried. Two days ago, I walked around the neighborhood, armed with camera, shooting photographs of boulders, Christmas wreaths that still hang on doors and mailboxes, trees, road signs…. Yawn, Ho-hum.

After our big snow yesterday, I saw a another opportunity to give the assignment a go. I was drawn to the large fields and tidal salt marsh covered in deep snow. With help from my daughter, I strapped on gaiters and snowshoes for the very first time and stepped out into the ‘Wilds’ behind the house… accompanied by my daughter, her Rhodesian ridgeback and our old gal, Mattie.

After only one face-plant, I got the hang of snowshoeing and I was on my journey through the fields, past trees with branches that were beautifully adored with glistening snow, the air shrouded in a winter-blue mist. I felt as if I had stepped through a wardrobe into a mystical land called Narnia.

Although we didn’t encounter Peter, Susan, Edmund or Lucy, we saw signs of creatures that make this land their home. Deer tracks, squirrel tracks, birds calling beyond the treeline, a red-tailed hawk circling, seagulls, a turkey vulture, and the noisy Canada geese overhead.

Together the 4 of us made our way down to the river breaking a trail in the fresh snow, then we turned and followed our trail back across the fields and marsh.

My one amazing but true story to tell about this stretch of land involves the late Aristotle Onassis.

In 1973, shipping and oil magnate Aristotle Onassis had an option to purchase thousands of acres of land and planned to build the world’s largest oil refinery just a stone’s throw from this very spot. Stretching all the way from Lake Winnipesaukee for needed fresh water supply, the pipeline would snake through several towns, ending at an oil dock for super tankers 10 miles offshore on the Isles of Shoals. Outraged local residents were organized under the leadership of 3 strong women and exercised “home rule” where local citizens have the right to determine what happens in their community. They were able to thwart this dastardly plan by legislative vote in 1974 and, thankfully, the land and waterways remain pristine to this day.

Sorry Aristotle. This land is Our Land.

Click on any photo for a more detailed look at a little slice of Durham NH

A Walk in the Park

We’re lucky enough to have fabulous hiking trails at Beaverdam Park in Gloucester. Damming in 1990 created this 635-acre freshwater reservoir surrounded by hardwood trees and a multitude of flora and fauna. Well-maintained trails that circle and loop around the lake are multi-purposed. Hikers, nature walkers, joggers, bikers can be seen on any given day as well as riders atop their horses on certain trails.

mister gardener took the lead on this trip and we stuck to the 3-mile hiking nature trail that takes us across bridges, up inclines, down to the waterfront under the cool canopy of native trees.

Foot bridge over marsh

Along the way we saw many blooming natives such as the tick-trefoil or beggar’s lice, a woodland plant that most folks have had contact with at some time in their lives. The Velcro-like pods of the beggar’s lice is split into triangular legumes. When an animal, human or otherwise, brushes against the plant, the hairs on the seed pods grab onto its fur… or the clothing of a child or adult. I’ve learned from experience to make sure the seeds are peeled off socks before they are washed and dried since they survive both cycles and afterwards become almost impossible to remove.

Beggar's Lice with triangular seeds

The obedient plant or false dragonhead (Physostegia virginianais) we found growing along the banks of the lake.  These tight clusters of lavender/pink flowers grow on long spikes and are seen in moist ground along the edge of streams and marshes. The name ‘obedient’ is given because each flower of the plant can be pushed to and fro, up and down and from side to side and it will remain in that position.

Obedient Plant

Common inhabitants of the park are snakes, especially the rat snake, a constrictor of rodents and birds that is widespread in the northern hemisphere. Like the majority of snakes, it tends to be shy and will avoid being confronted. One identifying trait of the rat snake is the unusual kinks in its body when startled or confronted with danger.

Rat Snake: look for the white chin and throat for a positive ID

This is what mister gardener stepped over without seeing.  Sensing danger, it froze in place developing kinks along its body about every 2 inches. mister gardener allowed me to take the lead after the snake sighting.

Zigzag kinks in the body of a startled 5' rat snake

If you like fungus, it’s plentiful along the hiker’s trails at Beaverdam Park.

Paths are kept in good condition, the 3-mile hike is not difficult to traverse, inclines are slight, and there are plenty of benches to rest and enjoy the view across the water.  Many communities have similar parks and paths to enjoy the great outdoors. It’s a rewarding way to appreciate all that nature provides for us.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester