I’m a Faux Yankee

Most around here know I’m not a Genuine Yankee. I was born just south of the Mason-Dixon line and moved here just a few short years ago… but I’m trying hard to adapt. I’ve been learning the ways of the great Northeast and those who were born of this land. Yoga For Yankees is the latest class in which I’m participating. I’m staying in shape AND learning more about local activities, pastimes, and toils.

I’m especially adept at Roof Reiki for the Advanced. Matter of fact, with several inches of overnight snow on the roof, I’m grabbing my ladder and going out to practice it now. No more ice dams for me.

Yoga For Yankees: Folks back home won’t understand much but check it out


Have a nice April Fool’s Day wherever you live…

Lots of Superheroes in Boston

Yesterday mister gardener and I decided to hop a chartered bus to the 2017 Boston Flower Show at the Seaport World Trade Center, a show that’s a harbinger of spring in these parts. Taking a comfortable chartered bus the hour and a half to door of the show was the wise thing to do. Boston traffic, Boston tunnels, parking…. yikes!

Tunnels and traffic, Boston Flower Show

 

The theme “Superheroes in the Garden,” those plants that we can depend on to bring color and staying power in the garden, met us at the entrance and carried up through all the exhibits. We tiptoed through tulips of various shapes and colors, a pale blue muscari, and tete-a-tete daffodils that seemed to dominate landscapes giving us that blast of color we love in the spring.

Tete-a-Tete, Boston Flower Show 2017

Oh how I love water in the garden and we saw plenty of exhibits featuring waterfalls, ponds, and goldfish… and stone paths galore!

Boston Flower Show 2017

The most whimiscal water feature was a fountain of cascading water from a garden table into a pool that would be perfect for soaking your feet after a long day working in the garden. I didn’t ask if the flip-flops came with the setting.

Boston Flower Show 2017

I’ve been looking at pergola designs for our property so it was fun to see the different exhibits featuring them. Attracting lots of attention under a pergola was this feature that simulated flames. Everyone, young and old, felt the ‘flames’ and I saw a few check to see if there was wine in the bottle.

Boston Flower Show 2017

The crème de la crème was a dry stone house by Maine Stonework, patterned after a miniature version of superhero Tinkerbell’s fairy neighborhood in Neverland. Nestled in a moss forest full of conifers, it was a creative work of art and deservedly won Best of Show plus several other awards. Want to see it being assembled in a time-lapse?

Maine Stoneworks, Boston Flower Show 2017

Maine Stoneworks, Boston Flower Show 2017

We saw a chicken coop with clucking chickens, a ‘she-shed,’ an actual tiny house that one could tour, lots of wonderful stonework, lots of lectures and demos, and plenty of plants, woody shrubs, and trees that would do well in our zone 5+ gardens. All good.

We meandered up and down the maze of commercial vendors, many not garden themed yet it was entertaining and business was brisk. We saw booths featuring jewelry, scarves, jams and preserves, soaps, moisturizing lotions, tea towels, sweaters, shoes. We sampled a variety of foods from nuts to honey and if we had worn boots, we could have them conditioned and sealed as we saw other do.

Boston Flower Show 2017

Garden themed vendors were numerous: flowers, fountains, garden seeds, bulbs, patio furniture, containers, pots, statuary, baskets, garden tools, and antiques for the garden. We especially enjoyed visiting Gardens Alive, Walpole Woodworkers, Fine Gardens magazine (a sponsor), and a variety of other garden related booths. We chatted with folks at the master gardener booth and those at the Mass Hort booth and were even serenaded by the Sweet Adelines… and they were sweet!

A tiny tree in the Bonsai Display caught my attention. I had young Cornus mas trees in my Virginia landscape and a son had a large and beautiful 25′ Cornus mas in his Ohio yard. So unique and beautiful a tree, I did not know what to think about this thick trunked mini-version. I certainly admire the skill and creativity involved in keeping this amazing Bonsai version healthy and in full bloom for the show!

Boston Flower Show 2017, Cornus mas

The judged floral arrangements featuring superheroes were impressive…. and had to smile at the “Brace Yourself” competition featuring bracelets of dried plant material designed for superhero and champion Wonder Woman.

Click photos to enlarge

Our day ended in late afternoon and we were ready to make the journey home. This wonderful Boston outing helped us flirt with spring… at least for a day until we returned home and were greeted by another day of snow and sleet.

 

 

 

 

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Winter Walking in Exeter

I would define our community as a pedestrian town. Many people who live here forgo their dependence on vehicles in favor of the healthy alternative…. walking and biking.

This is my 3rd winter in Exeter and it still amazes me that the streets are cleared of snow in the morning in the worst of snowstorms. Not just the streets….the sidewalks are cleared, too. Where some communities threaten to fine citizens for not shoveling their sidewalks, folks here can step out of their homes and walk to town almost immediately following a storm. It’s nifty mini-tractors that do the trick in today, but clearing local sidewalks is nothing new.

Here’s an old film showing our walks being cleared by horse and plow:

Today it’s done by modern horsepower:

sidewalk tractors

Here and there in the downtown, there are small alleyways dug through snow mounds  providing parkers access to sidewalks and shops. I don’t know if the town shovels these paths or the shop owners, but it’s critical for business. Otherwise you’d take a hike to the end of the block… in the street!

Stella brought us perhaps our last real dump of snow two days ago. This morning under sunny skies, I bundled up, stepped outside and was greeted by piles of snow on the sides of dry roads and cleared sidewalks. I love this little community that keeps the streets and sidewalks clear and makes winter walking fun.  All of it is quite indicative of the value Exeter places on pedestrians and a healthier lifestyle.

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Blizzard on Election Day

What do folks in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state do when a blizzard warning interrupts local elections? It seems they do whatever they darn well please.

More than a dozen towns rescheduled today’s elections despite warnings from Governor Sununu that they do so at “their own risk.” Yesterday, the list of towns that postponed elections began to grow as the governor was strongly recommending that they stay open.

Our town of Exeter rescheduled elections after our Town Moderator Paul Scafidi consulted legal counsel. In our local newpaper, Exeter News-Letter, he stated, “We believe we’re correct that we can postpone it and that’s what I’m doing. For the safety of the voters, for the safety of the people that have to work, it’s the best thing for us to do.”

Snowstorm

The confusion lies in ambiguous statutes and laws whether postponing elections was a violation. NH Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlon told NH1 Newsy that, “The position from this office is that, RSA669:1, which is in the section of the statute that talks about town elections, says very clearly that town elections shall be held on the second Tuesday in March. From our perspective there is no provision that allows for the actual statutory date of the election officers to be moved and we cannot recall it ever happening for weather or any other reason.” It’s history in the making in New Hampshire.

Emergency legislation will be introduced this week to eliminate any confusion and make sure towns can postpone in the future. In the meantime, I’m having a second cup of coffee, watching the birds feed, and wondering about the possibility of ice dams.

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Bluebirds in Winter

We have a family of Eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) that is staying with us through the winter. The blues have been expanding their range for the last 10 years or so, and it’s not really unusual to see them in New England during the winter.

Two springs ago, mister gardener made a bluebird house and installed it along the edge of our garden. It wasn’t long before a pair claimed the house, fighting off chickadees, house sparrows and swallows for this real estate. During the summer, the pair fed on a variety of foods that they found in the landscape and we supplemented with a little snack of meal worms.

They only had one nesting that summer and the family wintered over. In the spring, the young were off to find their own territories and our parents managed three nestings last summer. So we have our original pair and 4 of the offspring wintering over this year.

Bluebirds in Winter

We have planted shrubs and trees that also provide food… such as serviceberry, viburnum, crabapple… for the fall when insects become more scarce. To help them out during the winter, we feed them meal worms but make sure we offer a mixed and balanced diet by adding bits of suet, hulled sunflower, and some berries and raisins. Bluebirds love to bathe!  A heated birdbath in the winter is a plus for bathing and drinking.

Bluebird with ice on beak

The blues generally roost at night in nearby pine forests, but will huddle in their bluebird house for shelter from time to time.

Bluebird in House

When I look out on snowy mornings and there is hardly a place for them to land, I wonder what these birds might be thinking. Could they be questioning their decision not to migrate to warm climes?  Just maybe…..

Bluebirds 2017

Let it SNOW!

All I’ve been posting about lately is snow but what else is there in New England in the winter? Old Man Winter has a firm grip on us up here in Exeter while my family members in the mid-Atlantic area are experiencing spring-like mild weather. My daughter texted to say she was outdoors in a short sleeve shirt today and a sister reported daffodils in bloom. Their unseasonably warm temperatures combined with brisk winds from a weather low across the area will advance northward tomorrow, hit an Alberta Clipper and impact us with a potentially big snowfall Sunday evening…. and maybe a little thundersnow! What’s true in New England? They love a snowfall. They ski, snowshoe, snowboard, bike and have epic snowball parties.

Annual Portsmouth Snowball FightThat’s mostly for the young. We aren’t as adventuresome, but will be warm, safe, and well-fed as we watch from our windows. We have plenty of wood for the fireplace and we stocked up this morning with the freshest of foods at our local Winter Farmers’ Market.

We arrived early and you can see that many in Exeter had the same idea as we did. Unless you ski, snowshoe, or sled, where else can a person go and have winter fun?  Happy, socializing crowds were filling bags full of vegetables, breads, meats, baked goods, eggs, and whole meals…. plus much more. It was an event and great to see folks support their local farmers.

(click photo to enlarge)

Exeter Winter Farmers' MarketBusiness was brisk and mister gardener’s bag was weighted down with an assortment of everything he could carry.

We have all we need to weather the storm. Bring it on!

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Bringing the outdoors in…

On a snowy day like today with dangerous roads, we decided to stay home rather than continue holiday errands, a very wise decision. Hot chocolate and a fire in the fireplace was the theme of the day. But, we were also warmed by wonderful  blooms of an outdoor plant brought indoors several weeks ago.  In Virginia, I’d just stick geranium pots in the garage to overwinter but that doesn’t work in our New England climate. Brrrr…!

A year ago, encouraged a couple of years ago by Judy over at NewEnglandGardenAndThread, I brought my favorite annual geranium indoors as an experiment. The first year it stayed in the original large clay pot until spring. It did fine, never got leggy, and bloomed regularly. Outdoors it happily went in the spring, but at summer’s end, it had grown too huge for our windowsill.

So I cut that mammoth geranium down to small nubs, dipped each in a rooting hormone and stuck them in a soilless mix in a trough that now sits in my sunny kitchen window. I thought I’d lose most but, no…. the results really surprised me!  Every wee plant rooted quickly and flourished. Blooms seem to multiply overnight even on the tiniest plants. As soon as one fades, there are 4 or 5 blooms waiting to take its place. It’s our winter flower garden on the windowsill and those sweet blooms warmed us on this wintry day.

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Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote….

April has arrived! As Chaucer wrote in his Canterbury Tales prologue, with April comes the sweet showers that bathe and strengthen the roots of plants. We’ve had a couple of days of good rains followed by temperatures that seemed warm enough to drag out the lounge chairs and hammocks… but not really. I’ve seen young folks shed layers and prance around in shorts and sleeveless shirts but the old folks like me still wear a layer of two of protection from chill of the “sweete breeth,” or sweet breath of the West Winds. This morning I rolled out of bed with a temperature of 30° and with new frost on the landscape to greet me. I left my greenhouse pansies outside overnight and, thankfully, they seemed unfazed by the icy temperatures. PansyThe snow is retreating and I can finally see most of what survived the record snowfalls and what did not and what was damaged and what can be salvaged. With the ground fairly frozen a few inches beneath the surface, it’s too soon to get down and dirty in the garden but there is a lot I can do now…. like taking care of dead and broken limbs. My tiny plants covered by frost covered glasses seemed to do the trick for tiny late season cuttings and plantings.Summersweet, my clethra, mostly laid on the ground during the winter storms. I will need to wade into this thicket and overhaul it…. a shrub that was definitely planted in the wrong location in a prominent foundation spot because it is so darn late to leaf out. But I could never part with the plant because of its insect loving and sweet smelling blooms. Clethra alnifoliaAll of my summer rootings of Tide Hill boxwood (Buxus microphylla ‘Tide Hill’) survived beneath 8′ of snow… well-insulated against the cold. The three parent plants did well, too, although the leaves were chilled this morning with tiny hoar frost. Tide Hill box hoar frost on Tide Hill boxHappy to see that my fall planted Pieris Japonica is greeting the season with zero damage. Not a native, however I love this plant with its drooping clusters of early spring flowers. This is a good foundation plant. Pieris japonicaSadly, I found damage and loss. The new Dwarf Hinoki Cypress lost its beautiful fern-like top branches to the weight of the snow. But, whew, this Japanese ornamental can be salvaged. Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana’The new 5′ female blue maid holly has some winter burn, but the male blue holly, much smaller, survived intact sheltered beneath the blanket of snow. Ilex x meserveae 'blue maid' Blue Prince hollyAzaleas took a hit. Azalea… along with several yews and arborvitae that either split, fell, leaned or all three. We can’t tell if this one can be saved yet. damaged Buried deep within the iceberg  is a border of viburnum, hydrangea, dwarf deutzia, dwarf clethra, upright holly (Steeds), soft touch holly (Ilex crenata), and more. Tips of our steeds holly are beginning to appear at the base of the iceberg below. I just hope the branches I see are from the bottom of the plant, not the top!

Steeds holly beginning to show

Steeds Holly

Perhaps by next week with more of Chaucer’s sweet April showers and warmer winds with 60° temperatures in the forecast, we can evaluate the damage beneath.

Survival of the Fittest

Our population of neighborhood turkeys has dwindled. I’m sure some turkeys didn’t make it through the worst of winter weather but, also, about this time of year, late winter or early spring, the flocks divide into smaller groups… one of hens, one of young males, and older males in another group.  It’s been a tough winter for all wildlife and we’ve tried to help out our birding population as much as we can… and that includes our posse of turkeys.

Snow has drifted to just below the window in the kitchen, which has allowed us to be eye to eye with these noble creatures as they feast on seed that we scatter. They are wary of us but hunger trumps caution.

Tom TurkeyThe dominate male gobbler, above, keeps a sharp eye on us at the breakfast table and when he feels he’s had enough, he gives a silent sign and the flock slowly follows him through the shrubbery. We’re not sure how he does that. We think he watches us and the rest watch him.

We’re visited by 8 turkeys now, we think young males, from about 18 turkeys that visited us all fall. We watch this small group appear at dawn each morning, quickly devour the food we scatter the night before. They take the exact path each morning through a neighbor’s yard and across the road, then disappear up another neighbor’s driveway to their backyard.  I’m sure our small posse takes the same route because a generous soul has a laid out another breakfast course for them.

Turkey hunting season approaches in New Hampshire in May. We hope you fare well, young gobblers!

A Warm Day at Last!

Temperatures rose to 45° yesterday… almost a heat wave in New England. Icicles hanging from the roof began to thin and several large ones fell to the snow below. Instead of staying home and watch the icicles melt, mister gardener and I decided to venture out for a walk and lunch.

If we wanted to trudge through ice, deep snow and slush, we would have taken the woodland walk. We decided to journey down town and use the cleared sidewalks. Once there, we found that others had the same great idea and we walked behind, in front of, and passed happy, friendly folks getting a small-ish workout and enjoying the fresh air along the sidewalks of Exeter.

Afterwards, we had worked up a little appetite for a cup of soup at The Green Bean restaurant… and despite the warm temperatures, we decided that eating lunch on the terrace at one of our favorite restaurants in Exeter is still several weeks away. But look how clean the sidewalk is! It’s that way everywhere here and amazing to me just how the city and the businesses accomplish this feat with the endless snow this season.

Following lunch, we drove home the back way to see how a few neighbors’ mailboxes fared after perhaps a record amount of snow accumulation. Snow plows have no choice but to blast snow to the side of the roads and very often the mailboxes are the victims.  This year was no exception.

And finally, we laughed when we saw in astonishment that the mail is still being delivered to all of them.

A warming trend is in the forecast and we will be happy to say goodbye to these mountains of white, however, the next big threat in New England is water from the big melt. Most homes have basements around here… including us.  We’ve been warned that the threat of a flooded basement is a big one.  We are keeping our fingers VERY tightly crossed.

ICE!

Today the temperature reached 37° and our icicles took on a life of their own. Drip. Drip. Drip. For the next 10 days or so, the temperatures will fluctuate. We may have negative temperatures at night and daytime will be in the teens, the twenties and a couple of thirty degrees here and there. We will have thawing and freezing of the very heavy snow atop everyone’s roofs…. which causes the dreaded ice dams that become leaks in a home. Ice dams are already creating havoc in many homes in New England and we are crossing our fingers that we won’t have a problem this year.iceRoof raking is a big business around these parts. We’ve had our home cleared of ice and snow twice. And we will have it done one more time this week. That should be it for the winter (knock on wood) for us but many others are waiting to have theirs done for the first time and just hoping for no more snowstorms. The weight of snow and ice has caused several major roof collapses in the area and created structural damage to schools, homes and businesses.

ice on cottage It is not an easy job, nor a safe job to clear roofs of snow and ice. Roofs are generally steep in this part of the world. Workers climb tall ladders and cross roofs in frigid temperatures carrying very long snow rakes. We’ve watched numerous homes being done, including our own. It’s a job I would not want!

Huge icesnowThe removal of ice dams is not for the faint of heart. Swinging a sledge hammer overhead like this, you would think it would go through the roof, but I was amazed at how exact these workers were at hitting only ice. They completed the task without causing structural damage to the home.

bang!Even though the ground is beneath about 4′ of snow, I can feel spring. It’s definitely in the air.  I am dreaming about those warmer days ahead and making lots of plans for our garden. Spring officially begins on March 20…. just weeks away (actually 25 days, 34 minutes, and 30 seconds!). Will the snow have melted by then? I rather doubt it…

Protecting Shrubs in Winter

In the milder zone 7b of my former home in Tidewater Virginia, people often tie up their roadside shrubs with burlap to protect them from road salt. Now we’re in New Hampshire. Here it’s done, not only for that reason, but to protect branches and shrubs from the weight of snow. We often see small shrubs and large ones protected with tents of burlap or tied up tight with roping.

Tide Hill Korean BoxwoodWe learned the hard way last year when three new dwarf boxwood (Buxus microphylla “Tide Hill”) were buried under 6′ of snow. In March, when I finally dug them out, the entire crowns were crushed. Multiple stems were completely snapped off (bonus: I rooted them and now have a dozen baby boxes).

The three boxwood were transplanted to a more protected garden and three dwarf Helleri holly (Ilex Crenata “Helleri”) replaced them. More rugged than box, but they have similar small leaves. We will maintain them as a small hedge.

Even though a mild winter was in the forecast for the 2015 winter months, we weren’t taking any chances. We wanted to protect the small Helleri hollies from the elements. So mister gardener made small sandwich boards that he put over the hollies when the first flakes began to fall.

Dwarf Helleri Holly protectionThe next snowstorm covered the boards.

Helleri HollyNow take a look below at our 7-ft. snowdrift over the hollies today. The final snowstorm this week confirmed our suspicions about the Seacoast of New Hampshire. Listen to no one… not the weatherman, not the clerk in the store, not the Farmer’s Almanac, not the mailman, not friends or neighbors. This we know: snow is a given. Take preventive measures to safeguard the garden, the house, the automobiles, and yourself. We are learning….

7-ft drift

For the birds…

It has been an extreme few weeks in New England that has brought us over 40″ of snow in our area of New Hampshire. Today the snow is coming down steady again… enough that the snowplows have cleared our drive 4 times! We always feed the birds but during severe weather we step up our support as natural food supplies are difficult to find. We have trenches and we shovel out to refill feeders twice a day. The snow is as light as ivory flakes so the shoveling isn’t strenuous. And, amazingly, it’s full of tunnels where the squirrels are searching for wayward birdseed. They pop up here and there like Whac-A-Mole game.

trenchThe familiar backyard avian crew frequents our feeders… just in greater numbers in this weather. The black-capped chickadees, the white-breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, and tons of American goldfinch, pine siskins, and purple finches dine on the tube feeder and the covered bluebird feeder. The noisy finches that number in the twenties also monopolize the nyjer seed feeder.

finches on nyjer sock

American Goldfinches

Northern cardinals, mourning doves, a handful of blue jays, white-throated sparrows and a few other sparrows, a large number of dark-eyed juncos, a common redpoll or two, American finches and pine siskins hop around atop the snow for the seeds we scatter.

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Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

junco..

Dark-eyed Junco

Red-bellied woodpeckers, Hairy and Downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, the chickadees and titmice go through the suet in no time.

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chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

 

Female P. Finch

Female Purple Finches

 

Pine Siskin

 

The avian activity provides a lot of excitement and entertainment at our house. Breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime at our table are hives of activity at the window feeder. We enjoy watching the shy, the gregarious, the bullies, the bold, the eat-and-run birds, the noisy, and the birds that like to watch us watching them.

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At least it’s a leisurely hobby that you can enjoy from the comfort and warmth of your home… unlike some of our neighbors who must wait for the snowplow to clear enough snow so their animal friends can have a little recreation. Brrrr….
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Cindy and pup

Blizzard 2015 Visits New England

A week ago, I spoke a little too soon about needing some snow in New Hampshire. This week the January 2015 blizzard came to town. The snow started on Tuesday and never stopped. When all was said and done on Wednesday morning, we officially had 25+ inches on the ground in Exeter…. however, high winds whipped snow, swirled snow, and piled snow in every nook and cranny creating mountains you could get lost in. Beautiful to watch from the window with a crackling fire, a fine cup of java, and two good books to take me far away.

To give you an idea of the Great Dig Out, here is my grandson with his dog following along as his parents forged a path to their mailbox in Portsmouth, a city that received a whopping 31 inches of snow, according to local news.

Drew on Path

And this is how they found the mailbox, buried by the snowplows under several feet of snow. More dig out…

Mail Box in PortsmouthIn Exeter, mister gardener dug a series of deep trenches to the bird feeders trying to keep our feathered friends well-fed for the duration of the storm. All birdseed we scattered atop the snow was completely covered within minutes.

birdprintsBefore the storm hit, we built a small snowman with available snow on the deck railing.  The snows of ‘Juno’ began and we were certain it would be the end of Mister Snowman.Our small Snowman But he withstood the whipping winds of the blizzard. We found him standing upright in the morning although he’d lost an arm and had transformed into Mr. Conehead with a cape.snowman2Very slowly over the next three days, our little man began to lean more and more until he finally toppled and expired late today.

The cleanup continues in New Hampshire with two more winter snowstorm warnings on the horizon. We are ready for them, but not for another threat that emerged this morning. Icicles can possibly foreshadow the dreaded…. ICE DAMS …..identical to the one that caused a leak around our skylight last winter! Yikes! Give me a good snowstorm any day!

icicles

Snow’s a’comin…

Our granddaughter, seen here with her pony, has had more snow at her home in the Midwest than we have in New England. We’ve received family photos of snowmen and romps in the yard. How could that be? Shouldn’t we have more snow? We hear all that is going to change very soon as we’ll be getting the BIG SNOW beginning tomorrow morning.

Claire and her pony, Pongo The National Weather Service is cautioning residents that a strong nor’easter will be bringing us to 7 or 8 inches of heavy snow. You might think that with severe weather warnings, moaning and complaining would be heard across the community but all I hear is ‘bring it on!’

These hearty New England residents have missed seeing the white stuff. They don’t clear out grocery stores with stashes of survival foods like folks do in Virginia when threatened with snow. Here, their skis are waxed, boots lined up, sleds by the door, snowmobiles gassed up. They are ready.

Our plans are less exciting than our adventurous friends. We might take a walk in the snow or sit by a roaring fire or watch the birds at the feeders or make some good soup or snap some photos. We have certainly missed the snow, but as southerners, we have not learned to embrace the outdoor adventures like our enthusiastic neighbors. We will likely venture out to keep our walks clear and will wave to all as they set out on their winter activities.

My Ten Favorite Photos of 2014

Les over at A Tidewater Gardener annually posts his ten favorite photos from the year and he challenges readers to do the same. Since we have downsized and no longer maintain our acres of gardens, I’m not as serious about garden photography and rarely carry my heavy 35mm camera around my neck. But I do carry the world’s most popular camera in my pocket at all times. My iPhone! Not sure about these being my favorite photos but they jumped out at me while scrolling through hundreds!

Since we spent most of the winter under a blanket of snow, I thought I should add at least one photo of the beauty it can bring. Taken on February 8, prints in the snow show where animals come to the stream banks.

Click on photos to enlarge.

IMG_8150I love photos that tell a story and there’s one here. Peaceful demonstrators in Keene NH braved the elements for several hours for a cause on February 7. I can almost hear them talking amongst themselves…. maybe seeing whose turn it is to get some coffee.. among other more important things.

Make Love, Not War!Keene NH also provided another photo that I like. A rainy, gray day was brightened only by taillights at a stoplight on April 15. With family in Keene, we visit this area on a regular basis.

IMG_9886We ventured out of the Granite State for this photo. Two lovely ladies in straw hats were admiring a seaside garden on the rocky shores of the Atlantic. We toured several Cape Neddick Maine gardens on this day during Garden Conservancy Days, June 22.IMG_1338Anyone who knows me knows I am interested in insects and have hundreds of photos and IDs The plump fellow below, the jumping spider, claimed the watering hose as his own at Rolling Green Nursery this summer. These are brave and scary looking spiders, but, oh so harmless. Whenever I moved in, he moved closer. They stalk prey and can pounce a few inches but I just give them a puff of air and they fall to the ground and scamper away. I really like these spiders because they have personality plus. July 12.

The second photo below was a two-for-one. I was photographing the tachinid fly and didn’t see the second insect until I downloaded the photograph. The tachinid is a nectar eating fly as an adult, but one that lays eggs in insect hosts. This time the lowly hover fly is the victim seen just below her body. I don’t like these flies very much as butterfly caterpillars are often victims. July 16.

IMG_1635 IMG_0712Rain drops on vegetation after an all night soaker is always interesting to me. The new growth on this spirea is an especially nice color. May 19.

rain dropsThe sunflower below was a volunteer from our bird feeder. Several seeds that the birds overlooked germinated but only this one grew tall and straight and eventually fed the chickadees many ripe sunflower seeds. (Staring at the center long enough may hypnotize!)  August 26.

volunteer sunflowerFinally, the highlight of 2014 was a vacation with the youngins to Bethel, Maine. Below are two photos from that hiking, swimming, boating trip in August.

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Abundant Sunshine

“Abundant sunshine” is the Yahoo Weather forecast for today. It is 39° this morning but temperatures will rise to an enjoyable 51° by noon before dropping back to 30° tonight. Forecast calls a welcome warming trend with temperatures pushing into the high 60s on one day early next week. There should not be a flake of snow left on the ground then.

Although we see wonderful signs of spring around the neighborhood like my friend’s crocus below, our home lingers in the shade of tall pines.

Crocus

Crocus blooming in the neighborhood

Where there is deep shade, there is snow. Yesterday I took matters into my own hands and helped some of my newly planted treasures see daylight for the first time in many months. I had no idea what I’d find under the crush of snow and ice but I knew there had to be damage. Plants will live but, darn that snow!

This southern gardener is learning about New England winters. Next fall, the holly below will be tied or wrapped in burlap to protect the shape of the upright growth.

Beneath the snowbank (below), I was most worried about three tiny boxwood I found nearby at Rolling Green Nursery. I fell hard for these dwarf Korean boxwood (Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Tide Hill’) that were described as ‘rugged.’ The weight of snow from the roof and from driveway and sidewalk clearing was severe in this border. I tried shoveling it off early in the season, but eventually I had to give up trying to minimize or prevent damage to stems. The snow came too fast and too often.

snow

Tide Mill BoxwoodOnce I located all three shrubs, of course I found crushing damage to the top of shrubs…which is sad as these plants only grow about a foot in height.

Thankfully, when handed lemons, my philosophy is to make the sweetest lemonade on the block. Box can be propagated! I carefully removed the stems that were broken, removed the bottom leaves, dipped the stems in a hormone solution, and I’m growing them in a potting mix. Instead of three dwarf boxwood, I should end up with 8 or 9 babies in about 8 weeks. Who knows? My new landscape plan is to have a full border of these most attractive dwarf boxwood.

Tide Hill

 

March Sprouts

I don’t usually keep plants inside in winter. It’s too hot and dry indoors and I end up watching plants wither and drop leaves all winter. Plants are so much healthier and happier with outdoor sunshine and fresh air and moisture.

That said, I did venture outside late last fall to rescue one tender succulent from winter’s icy grip. All winter, I’ve moved it from sunny window to sunny window.  In a few weeks, it will be returned to the outdoors to be better cared for by Mother Nature. The succulent was a low maintenance venture for me.

succulentAlas, three weeks ago, a high maintenance and potentially huge indoor plant took control of me. The need to touch soil or plant a seed overcame logic because, by this time in Virginia my outdoor gardening has already begun…here, we can barely see the ground for snow. I now I have a new plant that may not make it to the great outdoors. Odds are against it.

After finishing off a cantaloupe one cold morning, I found one lone seed that escaped cleanup. Without much thought, I picked it up and pressed it into the soil next to the healthy succulent and thought no more about it… until three days later when I noticed a tiny green tip of a sprout on the surface of the soil. I watched for the next few days as the embryonic leaf, the cotyledon, emerged from the soil and opened as the first photosynthesis for the plant.

cotyledonOne by one, the vine began to send out hairy shoots and tiny buds. I was totally mesmerized by the miniature plant. We’ve grown melons in the garden before but this time it seems more like a scientific lab experiment on the windowsill. I have a magnifying glass and I am noticing details I’ve never noticed before.

leavesThose who grow cantaloupe know the leaves are fuzzy but I never noticed just how hairy the entire plant is. If by some miracle I keep the plant alive until the end of May after the last danger of frost, I hope to take my cantaloupe outdoors, replant it using a trellis with support for the trailing vines as it matures. We saw how the University of New Hampshire vertically grows sprawling melons several feet high on trellises in their greenhouses. The fruit is supported in small hammocks. Can I do that? My instincts tell me it’s too early to start indoor seedling in New Hampshire but I can hope.

At junctures, small leaves and vines are unfurling in a fuzzy mass. Click on photos to see more details.

leavesAs the leaves on my tiny plant mature, they are becoming more oval or heart shaped with edges that are wavy or uneven. They are very tender and fragile so I’m trying to be careful when I turn the plant in the sun.

cantaloupe leaves

hairy leaves

I have no idea of the variety of my little plant. I am hoping I’m lucky enough to have a quick growing, early maturing variety for our short New England summers. If it lives for the next several weeks, I’ll post on the progress.

 

Buried in Snow

During our first summer in Exeter last year, we saw several unusual mailboxes as we took walks along a rural road. We chuckled as we saw one after another of these swinging mailboxes along the route. We believed that folks were expressing their individuality and creativity. But oh no. We totally understand now. The massive snowbanks are receding along these roadways and today, the first day of spring, we were able to venture out for a walk. Seeing these swinging mailboxes in the receding snow made us realize what these homeowners have created: an indestructible mailbox system.

Swinging Mailboxswinging mailboxswinging mailboxMost mailboxes are damaged by the force of flying snow and ice from the snowplow rather than being flattened by the dreaded plow. These swinging mailboxes move with the snow, then fall back into place. Brilliant!

Their neighbor below had a different solution. He placed the mailbox pole in a large container… probably filled with heavy rocks. Once the snow melted enough, he planned to simply right the container.  But wait… I see he’ll need a new mailbox. The door must be under the snow somewhere.

calusity of snow warsA sad but common sight around these parts…

Winter Walk-Off 2014

I enjoy following Les over at A Tidewater Gardener. His garden and adventures are much appreciated links to my home state, Virginia. For the last few years, he’s challenged readers to a winter walk-off and it’s been fun to participate…. although winter is tougher in New Hampshire for a walk-off. I fully understand why the Eskimos have 50 different words for snow.

A very common scene around here as folks shovel out their mailboxes.

A very common scene around here as folks shovel out their mailboxes following the snowplows.

I’ve been a little hesitant to walk in the snow after a series of falls that my sisters have suffered. Misfortune began on cobblestones in Paris when a sister slipped to her knees right in front of me. Result: a hairline fracture just below the knee. A second sister fell in England, breaking her arm. She was just recovering from surgery when my sister-in-law fell in her home, breaking her arm. The last victim was my youngest sister who fell while hiking in Maui a week ago, breaking both arms! Yes, she is sporting two casts. Now they say it’s my turn for a tumble. It ain’t gonna happen, girls!  When temperatures hit a mild 49° yesterday, it was a good day for a very basic winter walk-off.

We first passed a marsh of Phragmites australis that is rampant in New Hampshire’s seacoast area as it is in low-lying areas almost everywhere. It’s an invasive monoculture replacing cattails, but not entirely all bad according to Dr. Carl Hershner of Virginia Institute of Marine Science. I heard him state in a lecture that it can prevent shoreline erosion and create stability with a mass of roots that can go 6′ deep. It is attractive and full of birds on this day, but I’d rather see a marsh of cattails.

phragmitesTraveling on, we decided to drop in on our friend, John, a master carpenter who was hard at work in his workshop.

JohnJohn and his father built his two workshops beginning in 1955, working on them when time and funds were available, finishing it all in 1957. We could sit forever with John in his toasty workshop soaking in information and history of the area and just watching the master at his work. The atmosphere in the workshop takes you back in time, a better time, and I hope he never changes one thing inside.

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dogsWe continued along our slushy pathway passing only two people and 3 dogs along the way. As we trod along, we noticed a few interesting winter flora and we stayed on the lookout for signs of spring. The following is a sampling of what we saw:

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Did you know that the U.S. Forest service recognizes this tree as the most common variety of tree in America? This lovely tree with red twigs, buds, flowers and fall foliage is one of the first plants to flower in the spring.

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Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

sumacBuds are quite small on hairy twigs that will soon grow into a small tree or upright shrub and expand into a colony along this trail. In the fall we are awed by the rich reds and scarlets of the leaves of this woody perennial.

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Red-twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

red-twig dogwoodRed Osier Dogwood spreads by suckering, forming dense thickets and gives us amazing bright red stems in winter.

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Milkweed Pods

milkweekSeeds are spent from the pods of the common milkweed (Asclepius syriaca). Some folks collect these pods for craft projects.

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New England Aster

asterThese New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) have already offered their seeds up to birds. We hope to see new growth soon.

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Queen Anne’s Lace

queen anne's laceDried seed heads of Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) decorated the edge of the paths.

After about a 3-mile walk-off, we returned home… soaking wet socks but invigorated by the outing. And, guess what… no one fell down!

New Hampshire Bobhouses

According to the NOAA, we have about 20″ of snow on the ground. The tally came after about 7 or 8″ of fresh snow yesterday. It’s snowing again now with an inch or two more expected tonight. We don’t go out in it much. We stand at the window and watch it fall in awe and disbelief.

A warmup is in the forecast. We’re jumping to 48 degrees on Friday. Where will all the melt end up? That’s a worry for all who have basements…us included.

After shoveling a pathway (not me but mister gardener!) to feed our our avian friends, we decided to drive down to the river and see how the bobhouses fared in the snowstorm.

pathway in the snowWe’re just learning about bobhouses. It’s certainly a huge New Hampshire tradition, perhaps a bigger thing on Lake Winnipesaukee than on our local rivers, but we do have a number of bobhouses where diehard ice fishermen have some protection from the elements.

In other states, I’ve heard the huts called by names like ice shanty, ice house, or ice shack but here they call these portable buildings ‘bobhouses’ and no one really knows why. Theories are that fish ‘bob’ on the line, that the houses ‘bob’ in the water if not removed before the ice is thin, but I like the theory that the verb ‘to bob’ means to cut short, such as in a hair style or in bobsled with short runners. And, indeed, these shanties are small structures, some bought, many handmade, painted, plywood, metal… very individualized and colorful.

I would think most bobhouses are pretty basic, however some bobhouses may have a woodstove for warmth, a camping potty or a generator and a t.v. We were hoping to see some activity on the ice today but our bobhouses looked vaccant after about 8 inches of snow last night.

Click photos to enlarge.

Let it snow, let it snow!

People tell me they can sense subtle signs of spring. My Kentucky daughter tells me that, although they’ve had a very severe winter in Louisville with temperatures that mirror ours, there are signs “spring is right around the corner.” She senses more light during the day, her garden seeds are bought, and her fingers are tingling to get in the soil. Closer to home, Keene, NH blogger at New Hampshire Garden Solutions posted photos of skunk cabbage emerging through the ice and snow, something I didn’t expect to happen for a couple of weeks. The signs are here but I honestly cannot feel spring at all.

Our arctic freeze may tease us with a partial thaw yet refuses to lessen its grip. Snow drifts are waist deep around the house and 10 times that deep at the edge of parking lots…. with more snow in our forecast for this week. We have spent the last couple of weeks trying our best to thoroughly winterize this home. We have sealed the house, added a couple of more feet of insulation in the attic, and cleared the skylights of ice and sealed sealed them well. No, I just can’t feel spring yet.

Jack Frost on skylightAlthough I know nature is preparing for spring, an activity we attended last weekend seemed to confirm winter’s grip. On Saturday, we traveled to Keene NH to visit family and were entertained at the 12th annual Ice and Snow Festival. We could partake of hot cocoa and cotton candy while strolling the streets of downtown Keene watching the ice sculpting artists at work. That’s not all. We could have fun making s’mores over a bonfire, join in the snowball throwing, watch snow sculpting artists at work, jump on a horse drawn wagon, and meet the official Ice Princess!

Click to enlarge:

Spring is certainly on the way in New England, but winter weather is still being celebrated in carnivals and festivals across the state. Hundreds of New England folks bundle up on weekends and enjoy ice skating contests, ice fishing derbies, snow golf, sled dog racing, and horse drawn carriage rides. As a southern transplant, it’s all new to me and I’m having a ball….

Blue Snow…

Frigid temperatures have plunged us back in an unwelcome deep freeze this week. Snow on the ground is frozen solid like a glacier, dangerous to walk on. Oh, but last week we were able to enjoy a perfect snow (in my opinion), a nice wet snowman building snow that created a flocked winter wonderland. No matter how tired we are of the white stuff, the view was breathtaking.

Gray clouds that seemed to spread a bluish cast over the snow. That blue cast was actually due to the density and heaviness of the wet snow. Snow is colorless. Dry, fluffy snow contains more air bubbles to reflect light out, thus looking more white.  The heavy, wet snows absorb more red light and the more red that is absorbed, the bluer the the snow. Image Image Walking through the neighborhood was like walking through a movie set where every branch, auto, and blade of grass has been sprayed with faux snow. Image Image Image Image Image And we weren’t the only ones out and about. We passed a steady stream of walkers, runners, and canines out for a slushy snow excursion.

walkers

First Blizzard of 2014

Portsmouth NHA blizzard is on the way for New Hampshire tonight. I always check the live webcam in Portsmouth NH to see updated conditions in the area. It’s a beautiful sight right now with traffic and street lights. Click on the photo to enlarge it and get the full appreciation of a snowy city with motorists hurrying home for the night.

The camera snaps a photo every couple of minutes on Market Square. This scene was captured at 4:30 p.m., just minutes ago.

We are snug and warm and staying home overnight. Tomorrow we are supposed to be keeping our daughter’s pooch as she and her family are scheduled to fly to Michigan to visit her in-laws. Somehow I don’t think that will happen…

“Neither Snow nor Rain…”

Roads have been cleared enough for us to take a peek at our community and see how these folks are coping with the snow.

IMG_7347This was a common sight along our drive. We saw many homeowners who were excavating by hand, however two out of three vehicles we passed were trucks with snow plows. It’s a huge business here.

shoveling snow in ExeterSome people can’t wait for freezing weather. This family floods their front yard annually for a little ice hockey at home. As long as the weather holds, this rink is full of kids. In the warmer months, it reverts back to healthy green grass. How does that happen?

IceNeither the frigid temperatures nor the snow has had much effect on hardy New England shoppers… although it’s all single-file on the sidewalks. IMG_7356

The most unusual sight we witnessed was St. Nick heading toward his sleigh…err… car in a parking lot. Heads turned but we saw no one chasing Santa down to hand over a last minute wish list.photo 2We do admire these New England residents and their adoption of the unofficial US Post Office motto. As for us, we are back in the warmth of home, fire in the fireplace, Christmas carols in the background, a good book to carry us through the afternoon.