Snow Surprise

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Did I say surprise?  Little should surprise us anymore.  We live in such a ‘land of confusion’ these days that I’ve started taking a lot of what I hear, including weather forecasts, with a grain of salt.  Which is probably why I didn’t expect it to snow, at least not here, despite the forecasts on every wavelength and website. We decided it was as good a day as any to venture out to Toano for some shopping, and chose to ignore the sputtering rain as we headed out on our errands just before noon.

We listened to the sleet bouncing off the car as we returned in the early afternoon from our foray to the Tractor Supply Co.  It is one of our favorite stops in early spring, and we took some time browsing among the boots and hats before heading off to see what was new and interesting.

I was interested in the tools and shrubs and baby chicks huddling under heat lamps in the middle of the store.  There was an ‘instant flower garden’ seed mix complete with mulch and fertilizer; just sprinkle and add water.  I contented myself with a giant bag of potting soil, and we headed back out into the rain and darkening skies.

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After one more stop at a big box store to pick up some bags of bare-root ferns, we hastened home as the storm picked up.  I still expected hours of mixed precipitation with just barely above freezing temperatures through the rest of the afternoon.  The staccato tinkling of sleet sounded oddly comforting, and I turned my attention to pulling together something warm for lunch.

It was only an hour or so later, when I looked up from what I was reading, that I noticed huge flakes of snow falling past the windows.  The cat was asleep beside me and took no notice of our world gone oddly white.  I can’t remember when I’ve ever seen snowflakes the size of eggs, but that is what filled the sky and was already sticking to the deck.

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I quickly pulled up a radar weather map to get the latest guess on what was happening.  Right.  Our whole region still registered as heavy rain according to the NWS map on my screen.  Nothing is quite what it seems these days, but I sort of still hope that at least the radar map will reflect reality.

I looked back to the window, and put the map in motion.  It clearly showed the blue and pink clouds moving over the state well to our west, and we were under dark green and yellow.  Maybe there was still some rain mixed in with these gargantuan snowflakes?

I grabbed my camera and headed for the deck to see for myself what was actually falling.  The budding pear tree, now covered in snow, was shaking strangely.

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At first I thought that two large birds had settled into its upper branches.  I focused carefully and snapped, determined to get a closer look at what had landed in our tree.  And then they moved again, oddly for a bird, and I saw the give-away furry tails of a trio of squirrels happily snacking on our opening flower blossoms despite the falling snow.  And no, there was no rain mixed in; it was pure, fluffy wet snow falling in our yard.

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It felt far colder than the windowsill thermometer reported.  We decided that we should retrieve the mail before the box had a chance to freeze, and so I found boots and something warm and hooded for the hike to the box.  It was only an excuse, of course, to get a better look at our snow filled garden.

It looked absolutely surreal to see pops of bright springtime yellow and fresh green under the white and brown and grey of a snow covered garden.  The pavement was already slippery under almost an inch of snow; the sky thick and white and filled with falling blobs of crystallized wetness; the garden bent under the weight of this spring time ‘snow surprise’.

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Well, for my friends in the northeast, my smugness has been knocked down a notch today.    I’ve been showing you flowers and sunshine, while knowing you were getting hammered up there with winter storms.  Your gracious admiration of my springtime flower photos is appreciated.  Now, I hope you get a good chuckle seeing our snow covered garden this afternoon.

Of course, we wonder how much damage this may cause.  Last spring the Magnolia liliiflora had already bloomed when we got a hard freeze, and all of those buds and blossoms were lost.   A second flush came a few weeks later, but the damage was done.

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Our roses are showing new stems and leaves, despite my reluctance to prune them back yet.  And the redbud trees were just showing their first blossoms this weekend.  The Camellias along the street are covered in red rose-like blossoms.  The fruit trees are beginning to bloom, and the first of the Japanese painted ferns were just showing their earliest fiddle heads yesterday morning.  We’ll know what comes through unharmed tomorrow, won’t we? 

A gardener comes to accept uncertainty.  We keep on planting and tending with some measure of confidence that it will ‘all be OK.’  There is always the chance of a late freeze or snow, a summer storm, a flood, drought, earthquake or even an asteroid, I suppose.  Yet, we keep tending the soil and planting and pruning and protecting tender things when it’s cold like this.

In four months, when the ground is parched, we’ll water and mulch.  And tonight, we’ll linger by the window and find beauty in this last (?) taste of winter before spring settles in for good.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

Were you around in 1986, in the early years of MTV, when this song filled the air?  Somehow it still sounds fresh and true today….  We can still take comfort in our tunes, especially when the weirdness of the day’s news feels like a bit too much.

Land of Confusion

Genesis 1986

I must’ve dreamed a thousand dreams
Been haunted by a million screams
But I can hear their marching feet
Moving into the street

Now, did you read the news today?
They say the danger’s gone away
Well, I can see the fire’s still alight
Burning into the night

Too many men, too many people
Giving too many problems
And not much love to go around
Can’t you see this is the land of confusion?

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make this a place worth living in

Oh, Superman, where are you now?
When everything’s gone wrong somehow
The men of steel, the men of power
Are losing control by the hour

This is the time, this is the place
So we look for the future
There’s not much love to go around
Tell me why this is the land of confusion

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make this a place worth living in

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make this a place worth living in

Make it a place oh, yeah

This is the world we live in (oh, I remember long ago)
This is the world we live in (oh, the sun was shining)

Songwriters: ANTHONY BANKS, MICHAEL RUTHERFORD, PHILLIP COLLINS
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Be Real….

January 28, 2016 garden 005

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Let’s be real….. January is a messy month.

Whether you’re contemplating grime covered snow along the roadside, or frozen limp plants in your flower pots; January offers a little disappointment for everyone.  We know this, and yet we push through it.

Did you read my post, Sunday Dinner: First Snow” where I described some super “squirrel proof” suet cake and showed you some hand crafted bird feeders holding it?  I made up the suet recipe in mid-January and had three new feeders filled with it before our first snow of the season.

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January 23, 2016 Optimistic 010

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And as it snowed, I brushed away the accumulating ice and added little piles of Cayenne laced fresh seeds on top of the feeders to entice our birds.  They rewarded us with lots of action, gathering in the nearby shrubs and trees awaiting their turns to eat.

But all of that easy food attracted the attention of our cold and hungry squirrels as well.  You may know them well:  those pesky little guys who dig holes in the pots in search of tasty bulbs or hidden acorns.   Like deer, they also carry ticks.   You may be a fan of squirrels, but we are not.  Thus, my excitement at the Cayenne laced suet recipe in the first place…..

And in honesty to each of you who read that post, and especially to anyone who may have tried the recipe for yourself: It didn’t deter the squirrels for even a moment.

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The birds did enjoy the feeder, between visits from the squirrels....

The birds did enjoy the feeder, between visits from the squirrels….

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My partner was skeptical from the very beginning.  No amount of explaining about the Cayenne made a bit of difference.  He wisely knew that hungry squirrels would come anyway.  Their little squirrel eyes might be streaming with tears from the hot pepper; (do squirrels have tears?) but they would smell the food and come marauding anyway.

And as usual, he was right.  The blue cup and saucer, carefully hung  in the Dogwood tree by my office window, on a fragile branch way too slender to support a squirrel, was emptied first.

I watched the little guy gingerly explore the branch and find his way to the chain, where he hung upside down while feasting.  No amount of noise I made from inside caused him the least distress.  He simply looked at me with that stoic look of a feasting squirrel, and kept eating.

It was only when I appeared outside, moments later, with a huge shaker of Cayenne pepper in hand that he took off to the neighbor’s yard.  I shook pepper all over the remaining suet, and the glass cup and saucer for good measure.  But the squirrels didn’t mind the pepper, or the swaying chain, and within days cleaned all the suet from the cup.

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January 28, 2016 garden 001

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That is when they discovered the other feeders left in potted plants, one in the front and the other on the deck.  Yesterday we noticed their persistence had broken the one on the deck in two.  The suet filled suet cup landed on the ground a story below.   We rescued it, and set it where the birds can still find it, and the squirrels will do no more damage.

The delicate porcelain bowl I’d placed in front had a worse fate, and cracked when the squirrels’ enthusiasm knocked it out of its pot.  What a mess!

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January 28, 2016 garden 008

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As I said, January is a messy month; and often filled with disappointment.  I say this, having taken stock of the sorry state my pots are in today.  Even the most ‘winter hardy’ ornamentals suffer from days beneath ice, their roots in frozen soil.

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Sorry, no grooming here yet.... We just lifted off its ice dome and freed it yesterday. But the Heuchera shrugs off the cold!

Sorry, no grooming here yet…. We just lifted off its ice dome and freed it yesterday. But the Heuchera shrugs off the cold!

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A few noticeably perked up once their soil thawed a little yesterday, so their  roots could absorb some water.  Even the toughest can dehydrate in the wind, when the soil remains a block of ice.

But all one can do is tidy them up a little and hope for the best.  I’ve spent the last few days lifting off remaining chunks of ice, deadheading and pinching off spent leaves and stems.

My faith is in their roots….  Soon, I expect to see new leaves and plump buds appear again.

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January 28, 2016 garden 009

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But let’s be real.  There are a few more weeks of wicked winter weather left before us.  Even as we turn the first calendar page of 2016 this weekend, there is a lot of cleaning up left to do before we welcome spring.

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January 24, 2016 snowday 009

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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January 28, 2016 garden 003

 

 

Silent Sunday: Autumn Leaves

October 19, 2014 fall color 029

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“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”

Notebook, Oct. 10, 1842

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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October 19, 2014 fall color 050

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“I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.”

  Lee Maynard

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October 19, 2014 fall color 033

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“I was drinking in the surroundings: air so crisp you could snap it with your fingers and greens in every lush shade imaginable offset by autumnal flashes of red and yellow.”

Wendy Delsol

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October 19, 2014 fall color 038

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“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”

Humbert Wolfe

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October 19, 2014 fall color 044

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

October 19, 2014 fall color 009

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