Fall Color and Reflection

I hear it over and over again – women saying they love the fall because of the colors and the crisp, cool weather. I love the fall and spring for the mild weather and I also love them because they signal change. I love living where we have four seasons. Another reason I like the fall is because the days are getting shorter so my evenings are more relaxing. I’m not outside weeding or doing other garden chores to stay out of the hot sun of day, but still suffering through our heat and humidity that lingers into the night. I look forward to getting a shower and into my pajamas soon after dinner and spending the evening reading, sewing or sketching.

I noted the first fall we were here that we don’t have much fall color on our property. I have a cold and so was sitting quietly in my sunroom late yesterday afternoon and realized that while we don’t have a lot of bright color I was still enjoying the muted tones of early fall. So I grabbed my phone and went outside to photograph some color.

These aromatic asters bloom until first frost. This purplish blue color is a favorite of mine.

I’ve come to love columbine – it’s delicate spring flower and pretty foliage through summer and fall.

Tupelo tree – also known as black gum or sour gum

white oak

Dogwood tree

Redbud tree

Silverberry tree – see the gold leave in the upper left corner – this tree is just starting to turn. It’s kind of hidden behind other trees in our front yard so I keep missing it’s June blooms and golden fall leaves. Will try to remember to keep an eye on it.

This is one of our volunteer oaks in the front yard. I think it is a burr oak.

pear tree

Southern magnolia tree

Sassafras tree

Gooseberry bush

Rose hips

Sedum

Purple coneflower

barrenwort or bishop’s cap

Down with the brick walls

I took photos of our dismantling of the brick walls that line our driveway. Moffat paving said they should get to us in October so we are waiting to hear from them. They are contracted to take down the walls but I wanted to save some of the brick for a walkway in the kitchen garden. My neighbor, Nancy, says bricks are 50 cents each at Habitat for Humanity. It seemed worth saving what we could even though it is a messy job dealing with the mortar dust.

There was a good six inch gap between this wall and the asphalt. Dave used the tractor to nudge the brick forward so we could see what we can salvage. A lot of it has mortar that is too difficult to remove with our hand tool method. The original mortar is crumbling, but the mortar previous owners used for repairs was much newer and stronger.

The brick on this side started falling on their own. We were able to do the rest with hand tools.

Moffet doesn’t do brick. They will replace with a wall of block in a brown and grey. Just a wall, no pillars. I think pillars are a bit pretentious anyway. I expect we will fill in with plantings.

I invited Nancy to take any bricks she could chisel off. She got a shovel full on the tractor and Dave drove it up their steep driveway. She gave me some of their chinese chestnuts. Above are the roasted nuts. I’d never had them before. They are somewhat starchy in texture and not really much taste. I ate a few and put the rest in the freezer.

While thinking of chinese chestnuts, I have to set the record straight. A couple years ago I posted here that I though we had found a beech tree hidden among the privet we were chopping down. Well, come to find out, it was a chinese chestnut. Surely planted there from nuts gathered by squirrels at Nancy’s place across the road. Oh, well. I’d prefer the beech but won’t complain about a volunteer plant that provides food.

Fall is Finally Here

I’m sitting at a table with an open window at my back and the breeze is glorious! The first three days of October were around 90 degrees which is crazy. Today is beautiful and we are even expecting some much needed rain on Monday so keeping my fingers crossed.

Dave usually walks Darcy in the morning and we both go in the evening. Dave’s requirement to report to work in northern Virgina two days every other week means it is hard to get his hours in so I’ve been walking Darcy in the morning when I can. She plops herself down when she looks back and sees people coming up behind us which is pretty much always since it is a well loved park we walk in. I literally have to drag her to get her going again. Then the people say “oh, she’s tired” and I let them know she just wants to see them. She runs around the dog park for an hour so I know walking with me isn’t causing her to be tired. I enjoy walking again and can feel it is good for my body.

Letting her have her little break.

The red chokeberry bush

 in my nature journal

The paw paw tree leaves start turning color quite early. I harvested quite a few this year. They are best when I just pick them off the ground before they start to rot too much. I gave some away this year. Some people had them before and were happy to have them again. One had never had a paw paw and was surprised she like it.

Our one little pepper plant has given us quite a few large peppers. I expect this is the last of it. I made some sweet red pepper relish with these. The guys ate it on their chicken salad sandwiches last night.

 

Been Too Long

Having issues with getting photos in a post and have now figured it out.

A photo from July – Dave and a harvest of green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. The green beans did well for about a month and that was it. We’ve gotten a tomato here and there. The two plants just didn’t do well. Not sure why. We got so many cucumbers I canned bread and butter pickles and dill pickles. Without fail we have to make tomato sauce so we ended up buying seconds at the farmers market to do so.

Our big news around here since last post is that we adopted a five month old puppy. She is a labrador/hound mix. We were smitten at first sight even though I didn’t really want a big dog.

Her first visit to the vet.

She loves Dave best.

white wood aster

woodland goldenrod

Darcy and the cats have made peace.

Darcy has been with us for six weeks now. I can’t imagine a home without a dog.

Onion Harvest

I harvested the onions this week. It would have been nice to let them cure a little longer outside, but we are still getting a lot of rain and I was afraid they’d start to rot.

a few had started to flower

We got about 70 lbs. We store them in the basement – keeping space and good airflow around them.

Native Garden

I took these photos of our native garden last week.

from the sun room window

from the kitchen window

The redbud trees have grown so much this year. I can really tell by how much they take up the view out the window.

meadow petunia

orange coneflower

Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden is starting to  fill in nicely. In the center of the above photo is our onion patch. We’ve started harvesting them one at a time as needed. When the green part is mostly brown we’ll bring them in and store them on a rack in the basement. They should last us through the end of the year. Along the fence on the left are nasturtiums and two little cucumber plants. They are far from producing so we’ll see if we get anything. We were a little late getting the seeds planted. Behind the onions are zinnias, borage and weeds.

This photo shows the day lilies, calendula, borage, purple cone flowers, pie pumpkin, beans, sage, oregano, dill and the inevitable weeds along the fence. It’s always hard to keep that fence line neat.

The cardboard and brick is there to kill the grass. This was a difficult area to cut. I hope to get a path down and some additional planting area. We don’t have a firm plan of what material we will use for the path.

The weather has been hot and muggy. We are getting frequent thunderstorms. Thankfully, nothing too heavy. The wet area along the road has finally dried up. It was very unusual that it was wet for so long – about 10 months. While so much rain was concerning, the one good thing was that most of the trees we’ve planted loved it. We’ve also notice an abundance of black walnut seedlings sprouting here and there. We are leaving those that are not too close to the house. Lots of people consider this a weed tree. Not me. It’s a native and will provide shade on the property. If they become a problem, we can always take them down. Dave didn’t mow the areas in the field that were too wet and we’ve noticed little maple tree sprouts. They are from the mature trees along the road and we are pretty sure they are silver maples. Again, maybe not a prized tree but they are free so we are hoping they do well.

How Does My Garden Grow

It’s looking pretty good. We’ve found that the leaf mulch we get from the Gypsy Hill Park is the best for suppressing weeds. We spent many evenings this past spring laying it on our beds and it was so worth it. It mean we don’t have to do as much weeding in the summer heat.

Here is a little patch of the barn garden – bloody butcher corn, nasturtiums, strawberries and a single sweet pepper.

Beekeepers

I’ll get to the bees in a minute. First some photos from earlier in the month. Here, the fringe tree and columbine are blooming.

What do Frida and Smokey want?

A replacement rhododendron – the others are white. I’m okay with it.

Blooming woodland geraniums and stonecrop

I love green and gold as a ground cover in our native garden.

Lichen (blooming?) on the old fence behind the barn.

Peony time

Ready for the bees

Larry (we know him from hOUR Economy) had hives and not enough property. We had property and a desire to have bees with the help of someone with some experience. So we have partnered with him in beekeeping.  The bees arrived last Friday in this box. The queen bee come in a little separate box.  There is a piece of candy on one end and the bees are supposed to eat the candy over a period of a few days to release her. It gives the other bees the time to accept her as their queen. We opened the wrong side of the little box and released her too early. Either she was killed by our clumsy efforts of hive set up or the other bees killed her because we are pretty sure by the behavior of the bees that they are queenless. We even had someone with two decades of bee experience out here yesterday and that was her assessment. Sue wore only a veil and looked all around the hive, lifting the frames and lid to look at all the bees to catch sight of a queen. She couldn’t find one. She also thought they were without a queen by their high pitched buzzing. We are now waiting for another queen to come in the mail.

We have harvested nine quarts of strawberries. Most of which have been sugared and frozen for my mom ; c )

Poor Len took a turn for the worse recently and we had him euthanized a few days ago. He had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer 15 months ago. The doctor was impressed that he had lasted this long. We are now dogless and it feels strange though I was happy to get ride of the stinky dog beds.

I love my old oak.

Not really sure why we did it but we bought a second hive of bees. This one came all ready in a hive and was delivered to us by my friend Paul who keeps bees in downtown Staunton. One of his hives swarmed a month ago so he put them in this hive and they are busy doing their thing – making comb, the queen is laying eggs and maybe even making honey already. I forget what Paul and Larry said. There is so much to learn. This is a very small colony of bees but they seem to know what they are doing and are doing it. I guess because they have a queen. We won’t harvest honey this year because we want the bees to have it so they are strong and make it through the winter. We are of the mind that honey is better for them than sugar water. If both hives do well, we will harvest in he fall of 2020- some honey for us, some for Larry and we’ll leave honey in the hive for the bees. If they run out before spring we will supplement with sugar water. Paul says our garden will flourish with the help of the bees.

You know you are in the country when your neighbors want the beehive near their property ; c )

Perpetual Nature Journal

Here is a photo of my perpetual nature journal. The apple is there to hold the page down while I photographed it. In the journal, each double page spread covers a week of the year. You can make one entry a week a more or even skip a week. The idea is to record nature in a specific area and notice how things change from year to year. It’s also a way to learn about nature and to improve your drawing skills.

Found a land snail on my pot of marjoram yesterday.

We thought the pinxter azalea we planted last year was dead. It’s not!

This is green and gold – a native spring ephemeral. I probably incorrectly identified lesser celandine as green and gold in years past. What a mistake! The lesser celandine is an aggressive non native that we actually planted back into our native garden not realizing our incorrect id. I’ve been weeding it out all spring and I’m sure I’ll have to do the same for years to come. The photo above is the real thing. I planted two last year and only one survived. It is doing well and spreading so I’m happy about that.

A close up of the bullfrog entry in my nature journal.