I talk to plants by being observant. Recently my Austrian pine has been trying to get my attention. Although evergreen, conifers are greener some times of the year than others. They lose needles just as deciduous trees lose leaves. My Austrian pine has had about 25% more brown needles than I thought would be normal. Today while cleaning out the bed under my pine, I realized why. I found a series of 1/4" ovalish holes in rows like kernels of corn on a cob. I found several sets of these holes. I'm not sure, but maybe enough set at different places up and down and around the trunk that possibly the damn sapsucker may have girdled my tree. It's about 6" in diameter and 15 feet tall-- small enough to remove myself.
But,sob! Is it going to die? That's the question. I probably should try to fill in the holes to prevent depredation by insects and pests. I should attempt to place a barrier on the trunk of the tree to prevent further sap sucking. Sap suckers, or woodpeckers, are protected. Not that dealing with a bird in that manner would even be an option. In this case, though, I am going to attempt to separate the bird from this particular food source. The pine hides my neighbor's hideous garage with its peeling paint from my view.
Among the other deprecations of winter, the "free range" dogs in the are starting to drive me crazy. I have a dog. Faithful Companion is all anyone could desire in a dog. My dog is always on a lease when out of doors. When my dog does her duty, I am there and know where the poo lands. I have a specific area in my yard for my dog to poo. Yet, I find poo EVERYWHERE in my yard. There is nothing more unpleasant than gardening and stepping on poo or sticking your hand into poo when weeding. I have had dogs deposit their poo on top of bird netting placed over my blueberries to protect them from rabbits and in a 18" tall pot that held a bush clematis I grew from seed that had big navy bell-shaped flowers (substantially killing it).
So, I have been looking at my yard with thoughts of how to cut off the canine thoroughfare my yard, a gate across my walk, a low fence around my potager. A section of fence I will be adding to my yard would run directly across my white Japanese peony. I moved it today, a second time.
Today, I also put down black landscape fabric in a 6' by 20' area in my potager to warm the soil. Eventually, I will cut slits to plant a few tomatoes, peppers and melons. These plants like warm soil and hot weather, something of which our area has had very little. My mother who keeps track of all this sort of information, tells me that by last year at this time, we had had 27 days of 60 degree weather. This year, we have had three!
A cold, wet spring, and it is raining again. I worried that the peas I had planted outdoors were going to rot In the ground. They obviously like it cool, and wet. It looks like I am getting good germination.
I've been craving the tastes of spring this year; but with the cold, wet spring we have had here in central Wisconsin's zone 4, satisfying that craving has been difficult. I have had a couple flats of kale and cabbage hardening off in the yard under a storm door screen. Picking a leaf a plant, adding in some homegrown basil still growing under lights in my grow rack, and chives from the yard, I chop and mix these with lettuce (even the ubiquitous Iceberg lettuce). I top it with a couple tablespoons of salsa I canned last fall, and it has satisfied some of my spring greens cravings.
The forsythia has just begun to bloom. My daffodils are starting to bloom. That's about three weeks late!
It is pretty wet. We are working up a new space for to garden, but because of the wet ground, we have not been able to get it tilled. It rains almost every day, so we have not been able to put together some of the structures we want to incorporate either.
We have not had the severe weather that has included some wicked bad tornadoes which some people have had across the country. Gas and corn prices have shot up though, so perhaps that is our collective bad weather coming to bear on us as surely a a tornado roiling through the south.
Friday may prove to bring better weather, hopefully enough so to dry out the field so we can begin to work it.
We are behind planting spring peas, potatoes, and radishes. I have been able to plant some of these in small quanitities in my yard.
Just wanted to spread the word on this. I am always looking for the best vegetable and fruit cultivars for this area. Those of you looking for the same, might want to peruse this PowerPoint on research done fduring the 2010 growing season at UW-Madison's West Research Station.
Anything that leads me to the right stuff in a shorter time is all good.
Leeks and cabbage growing in cold frame. Kale and onions hardening off. Kale and cabbage doing their thing under the protection of a storm door screen.
Yes, we just love this ducky weather here in Wisconsin. We love it only in comparison with the thought of more snow.
Plants in the cold frame and under the storm door screen look good, even with the torrential rain of this morning's wee hours.
The ditch out front had water about a foot deep flowing through it early this morning. The village powers that be (which as I sit on the village board, probably includes me) feel that the best way to control run-off is with extensive ditching project. In the heart of our village we actually have sidewalks on one side of the street(this is a hotly-contested issue here in town). That is the side of the street where our village maintenance will also site a ditch if they feel your block needs one (or if the block next to you needs one).
My village is fortunately sited in an area of springs, fortunately and unfortunately. We have a healthy wetlands south of town (according to the WI DNR). We have a spring-fed pond with a dam at the northwest end of town. We are so lucky in the purity of thes waters that our Mill Pond and the streams that flow out of it are classified as Class A trout streams. This is a big deal. We sit on the headwaters of these streams. Such a big deal, that the Wisconsin DNR sited their cold and cool waters fish hatcheries here.
And while the ducks may be loving this, the Wisconsin farmers are not. I saw my first tilled field yesterday. According to the WI DATCP, only 7% of fields statewide are tilled, compared to 56% last year and a running 5-year average of 28%. I also heard food prices have gone up 10% since the beginning of the year, which probably does not include the 40 cent hike in flour prices I saw in the grocery store yesterday ( an approximately 30% hike!).
So while a lot of my growing thoughts have been to doing a better job of ensuring my extended family's food security this year, I have been thinking of things that just exist to cheer me up. One of those is luxuriously planted pots overflowing with flowers. Nothing says that to me (without driving me crazy keeping it watered!) like 'Dragonwing' begonias and the 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia planted in hanging baskets. I overwintered my main pot of 'Dragonwings' and the euphorbia. I have taken one round of cuttings, and today with the rain, will do another.
My favorite pink 'Dragonwings' begonia. Also, I may have mentioned I have this huge tuber/corm of begonia 'Bonfire', maybe 10" across. I took a knife to it and cut it into 3 sections, retaining sprouting eyes at the base of previous years stem growth in each section, and planted each.
Garden update: The first of my French breakfast radishes planted before the April 19 snow storm are coming up. Also, not sure, but the peas planted outdoors may be sprouting as well. Spinach transplants transplanted outdoors before the snow are starting to bulk up. I also divided off three large clumps of rhubarb from my mother of all rhubarb plants. Those will go into my sister-in-laws family garden, which we are working on this year.
I love to get outside when the weather warms up. So many spring smells, so little time. I love the feel of the sun on my smooth brown coat. The feel of the grass beneath my paws. For a dog, my vision is crap, but I can smell things, and that makes me a micro-vision sorta dog. I can see the little things, but with my nose. I have a nose for the details. Mom, she's a macro-vision sorta pack member.
This is what Mom sees. The rest of this is what I see.
(Bald eagle, seen at the Wild Rose Mill Pond during our recent April 19 blizzard. Photo courtesy of the "Waushara Argus".)
I remember reading Rachel Carson's book, "Silent Spring", in maybe 1970. I was about 13. It's pretty heavy reading for a 13-year-old. In 1970, the year of the first Earth Day; in central Wisconsin, I think it was shelved right next to literature about UFOs, extraterrestrials, bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster.
You see, central Wisconsin is the heart of the premiere vegetable-growing region in Wisconsin. In the 1970s, Wisconsin was the largest producer in the USA (and maybe the world) of cucumbers, and second largest producer of a whole array of edibles like potatoes, beans, cranberries, sweet corn, honey, maple syrup; putting a dent in the idea of many who before the California Cows went all Hollywood on us, thought that Wisconsin was simply "the Dairy State".
Nobody around here believed DDT was "bad" for us.
I saw my first eagle when I was about 12. It was a big deal. I remember my Dad running into the house to grab the binoculars and telling us to come quick and be quiet. We ran out to see the eagle sitting on a dead branch in the top of a towering cottonwood tree. The fact that I remember my Dad making a big deal about it, means that it was a big deal for him, too.
I didn't see another eagle until I was nearly 35.
Now, I see them all the time. I see a lot of other birds casually, as well. I remember avidly looking for birds as a young adult and not seeing that many. It is the carrion-eaters and raptors that were missing most from the bird entourage; the eagles, hawks, and turkey vultures.
Now, with the Wisconsin DNR's help, turkeys also go their merry way in Wisconsin. Hummingbirds are frequent visitors to feeders in every yard. The birds are back.
DDT is banned, dairy farmers are having a hard go of it, and I don't think we are in the top three in the production of many vegetables these days. Back in the 1970s, California produced about double the edibles Wisconsin did. Now, according to the USDA, California outproduces us by nearly seven times! In 1960, Wisconsin's total output was sixth. In 2004, we are ninth.
Wisconsin's economic climate is becoming more and more debatable and some have written that we are a state at war with ourselves. Our path is not clear.
If you live in the central part of this state, there is little more than lip-service to ideas of sustainability or the green movement. This is amazing to me, when we also have one of the premiere environmental colleges in the country, are home to the largest renewable energy festival in the country every year, and are the native soil of the likes of Aldo Leopold and John Muir. Here, where we are a distance from anywhere, it has been our large scale commercial vegetable agriculture that pays everyone's way and petroleum that gets us where we are going.
Charting a path where our agricultural can sustain us in a meaningful way and provide a living wage to the small farmers who feed us will continue to be a challenge. I'm not sure where the vectors of sustainability and cost intercept here in central Wisconsin-- or even if they do.
Small farmers are on Wisconsin's endangered list these days. I can hear a present-day father somewhere asking for the binoculars, "Come quick, I think I see a small farmer!"
This afternoon, the sun is beginning to peek out. It seems like forever since we've had that much light! It is not supposed to freeze for at least the next several days, although we are supposed to have some wind today. It is pretty wet to work in the garden.
I did move three flats filled with kale, cabbage, and onions out of the cold frame and under a storm door screen. I have found the screen provides just enough sun, wind, and torrential rain protection to serve as the perfect cover when hardening off plantlings. One edge of the screen is on the cold frame the other two corners are supported by a stack of bricks. I tucked three flats under one edge next to the thermal mass of the cold frame.
This frees up space for three more flats in the cold frame. At this point with temps in the mid-30s at night, I don't want to bring out peppers, eggplant, coleus, or tomatoes; but dino kale seedlings, radicchio and head lettuce starts may do well in the cold frame.
I started some peas indoors and after they have germinated and grown true leaves, they will be candidate to bring out to harden off. There's still no sign of those I planted in the ground. I also planted some yellow onion sets before our major spring snow storm. Onions are pretty cold hardy and even wet, cold ground should not deter them.
This activity has also freed up space on the grow racks. The average last frost date is about 4 weeks out. I am thinking of getting some more spinach started, including a climbing spinach.
After May 1, I will start some heat lovers, like melons and pumpkins. These won't go into the garden until almost June 1 here, well after any chance of frost.
If you are like me, always looking for a way to save money, while having luxurious gardens with bountiful border, overflowing containers, and beautiful front yards; you will want to take note of this post.
Today, although our village Snow Witch has proclaimed an end to snow and that we should go forth into Spring, my yard is still pretty muddy. Also, NOAA has proclaimed thunderstorms for this afternoon (Snow for Debi-O! 1-3", Put on your game face, girl!). I don't argue with my high-tech and low-tech experts, besides planting in mud is not fun for me; and no matter how late the season is, the young plantlings don't much care for it either.
So, I am still gardening indoors.
The last few days, I have allowed myself to dream about my gardens of summer; beautiful vignettes of potted begonias on my porch and deck, borders amassed with color, but I am always on a tight budget. Also, my across the street neighbor, a fairly famous (in horticultural circles) doctor of horticulture who has really upped the gardening anty in my village since moving here about three years ago and restoring his 1900-period house and landscaping his yard, is holding (in conjunction with the local Kiwanis) a cultural day mid-July focusing on his gardens, house, and music as a scholarship fundraiser for the local school district.
I have many of my vegetable garden plantlings growing and they look great. Some I will sell, some are destined for my small potager (probably 12' by 20') or the spots in my perennial or shrub borders I fill in with edible landscaping, or the large garden I am planning with my brother and sister-in-law. But I want to have the street view of my house to be impressive, even by comparison to aforementioned neighbor.
Starting flowers from seed is already underway. I have cosmos 'Pink Popsocks', millet 'Jester', blue laurentia, and jewels of Opar, busily photosynthesizing as I write.
Another way I multiply my flowers and colorful foliage plants is through cuttings. I have several, including moses-in-a-boat, coleus, plecanthus, begonias, non-hardy succulents, and geraniums, of which I either have several "mother" plants planted all together in a pot which I bring indoors or take cuttings in fall. My goal with these plants is not that they look great all winter indoors, but merely that they survive.
I usually start my cuttings in two waves. The first wave of cuttings were begun around March 1. I took a 72-celled flat, filled it with a soil mixture of 1/2 compost, 1/4 local sandy loam, 1/4 vermiculite. I have used various different soil compositions and all work pretty well for me. This might not work for you, particularly if you seem to be prone to the fungal disease which causes "damping off".
In my area the local soil has natural anti-fungal properties. Soil scientists and biologists have been studying this, but I don't think it is widely known. A local materials company has been selling some of this topsoil under the "Waupaca" logo and at least in the Midwest, I have seen this sold as the generic topsoil in Wal-Mart. It is a heavy soil and for proper aeration, you do need to cut it with compost and vermiculite or perlite. As long as I use 25-50% of this type of dirt (which looks like a black peat soil, I have been free of fungal diseases with no particular attention to sanitation. Using my local sandy loam and local compost is a departure from this regime, but has seemed to work equally as well.
After I have prepared my tray with my soil tamped into the cells, I begin to collect the materials I will need. These include a bamboo skewer, a sharp scissors, a small container (any small plastic recyclable container can be re-purposed for this), and Rootone rooting hormone. I shake out a small amount of the rooting hormone into the container. I do not like to dip directly into the jar, as this invariably allows me to tip over the jar at some point, or introduce dirt and foreign material into the hormone jar.
Although the rooting hormone may say to dip the cutting into water and then into the hormone or mix the hormone in water and use the liquid for cutting dipping, I do not do either. When you have taken a cutting, the very act of cutting the plant signals the plant to produce its own natural hormones to begin a growth process. On the plant from which you clipped the cutting, the hormone will activate healing and new growth from the axials. On the cutting it will signal the cutting to regenerate what has been lost-- roots! Using the rooting hormone with the plants natural hormones simply provides a boost to this natural process. On some plants, especially when daylight hours expand, a plant has been given signals to get set and grow and could very well root without the hormone. I like a pretty much sure thing, so I use rooting hormone.
When I make my cut, I like to use a sharp tool. If I am working with shrubs I use a garden clipper, but on annuals a kitchen scissors works best. I want good, clean cuts that do not crush the cambrium layer. I also want to expose as much of that layer as possible. I make cuts on a 45-degree angle. (With shrub cuttings I may also wound the stem, by cutting parallel up the stem. In the case of needlenose ivy, I scape some of the outer layer off the stem on one side.)
As I have taken a cutting, what I have in fact done, is cut away 100% of the plant's root system. Nature likes a balance. I need to cut away some of the top growth as well. Do not worry about what your cutting looks like, worry more about your goal of getting the plant to live while growing a new root system.
In this picture I have made my first cut separating the cutting from the mother plant. I realize I have taken a cutting large enough to generate two cuttings. I make another cutting. Notice how I leave a length of stem below the leaf nodes.
In this picture, I am removing about 75% of the leaf foliage. The leaves are where the plant transpires water. A lot of leave surface means a lot of water gets transpired. As your new plant has zero root structure at this point, it lacks efficient means to pull water into the stem and leaves from roots. The open cambrium layer is trying to do all of this on its own.
In this picture you can see the 45-degree angle of the stem and the hormone clinging to it after dipping in Rootone.
I use the bamboo skewer to make a hole in the center of the cell's soil. I place the cutting in up to the leaves and press the soil firmly around the stem. Good soil contact with the cut area is important to rooting.
I water carefully. If I notice any of my cutting lift up or seem to float, I have overwatered and need to go back through the tray firmly pressing my cuttings into the soil.
Bottom heat will speed up the rooting process, but is not necessary. If you use bottom heat though, it also causes more water to be transpired. When using bottom heat, also use a clear dome on your tray or a layer of plastic wrap. A domed tray also is effective without a heatmat. Place your tray under lights or in a sunny window.
Your cuttings will be rooted when you see new top growth. Remember, new top growth shows a plant is seeking to balance a root system with foliage. Your plantlings will be ready for their new homes in your garden border or pots when you see roots coming through the bottoms of you cells.
Installing spring ███████████████░░░░░░░░░░░░░ 44% DONE.
Install delayed....please wait. Installation failed. Error: Season not found. Season "Spring" cannot be located. The season you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable. Please try again.
Feels that way!
I am attempting things this year gardening under lights that I would never have thought particularly worthwhile in the past. We have had years recently where we have not had frost after April 1. More frequently, the two periods of full moon between April 1 and our average last frost date, sometime around the third week in May, will bring gardeners a periodic pause to cover things with sheets or bring in tender hanging baskets for the night.
This year, this spring, is atypical. I would guess soil temps are below 40 degrees. If the snow would melt, I would find my soil thermometer and have at it. As it is, I have to dig a hole to find the garden.
So today, I planted soaked peas in a 128-cell flat, indoors, instead. The way they are going they will be better than the ones in the snow. I'll let you know.
Checking in on the progress of other garden "inquiries":
The cut-off nubs from the bottom of the celery bunch-- looked good about a week after planting and then ran out of steam, droopy-looking and dies.
The iceberg lettuce cores--transplanted to the garden. They looked good before the snow. Not sure now, though.
Pruned grapes--usually by April 7, when I actually got to pruning them, the buds are typically starting to unfurl tiny leaves. This year? No change since the end of March. They are a good 3 weeks behind. They usually are ready to pick about September 11-19. I'll let you know if this summer is a bust. Three weeks late puts us into the average first fall frost date of October 5.
A gardener across the way gave me some seed for this. Said I "wanted it". I vaguely remember some plant in his side yard. The germination has shown a great deal of variability. It has taken quite a while to get to thinking about true leaves. The Internet has not added a great deal to my knowledge of this cultivar.
Anybody grow this?
(Alternative spelling may be "Peucedanum" for the genus.)
Michael Phillips picking apples at his Lost Nation Orchard (Photo: Frank Siteman).
Organic apples are supposedly the last frontier for organics. As you may be aware, I am the granddaughter of a small apple orchardist. At one time when apples were supplied locally, it was my grandfather's apples that everyone in the area ate. In the fall it was not unusual to see one of my grandfather's apples on the dessert section of my school lunch tray. These weren't the cute little section Delicious apples with a gloppy faux caramel dipping sauce, but 'Cortlands' and 'Macintosh'.
Once in a while I would see my grandfather in the school hallway talking to the principal; talking business, how many apples did the school want next week? It was the same school my grandfather graduated from, I think in the second or third class to ever graduate there. My grandfather also raised potatoes, and had a few hundred laying hens. I remember learning to candle eggs as a girl. I'm sure now that my school was once a large customer of many of the local farmers.
I also know that those eggs were being candled to look for blood spots or fertilized eggs, and those apples were sprayed with DDT and lead arsenics to make them marketable.
My grandfather and his farm are long gone. Only a few of the trees in the orchard remain, producing no better than "deer-apples" along the edge of a feed lot where a dairy farmer milking 1,000 head of cows with numbers instead of names, raises out his young replacement stock.
My love for a good fresh apple remains. Apples were a treat. As a gradeschooler, I could name and identify a couple dozen apple varieties. I remember my grandfather bringing me a yearly "Halloween" apple as big a my head, it seemed, and so perfect, I would gaze at it for days before attempting to eat it. (This apple was probably the locally discovered apple 'Wolf River'.)
I recently came across the blog and an interview with an organic apple farmer from New Hampshire. He espoused his philosophy on organic apples in a podcast. His goal, a 70% grade A product, and his aim to make local orchards common place once more.
I urge you to follow these links. He has written a book on the subject, as well.
Summarizing it, he is using a fine particle (that's very important) kaolin clay called Surround WP. Unfortunately, it is only sold in 25 pound bags, probably enough to do a 300-tree orchard all season, certainly more than I need with my one 'Honeycrisp'. The other takeaway, though, is he covered the soil around his tree with a paper or plastic mulch to prevent the codling moth burrowing into the earth during one phase of its life cycle. Phillips understand his enemy. This is something I will be doing this growing season. Unlike the tradition orchard of my grandfather's day with tall grass growing up around the trees that was mown down once a year before harvest, my tree grows in a composted garden with ample soil to provide protection during this one phase of the codling moths destructive life cycle.
More snow is in the forecast for Wisconsin gardeners, particularly in the northern (Sorry, Debi-o! See her pictures of "'Springtime' in the North Woods") and central parts of Wisconsin, possibly as much as six inches! Snow is in the forecast for overnight tonight and overnight Tuesday into Wednesday.
Two snowfalls will once again cement the leadership and knowledge of all things weather of our village Snow Witch, giving her smug bragging rights. She would never come right out and say, " I told you so..."
Gardening in Wisconsin is starting to look a bit more like a Greek tragedy than anything else. The snow also give weight to weather as an externalization of internal mood of one of my life's leading characters, my teenage son. Having recently dissolved things with his girlfriend of a year; he says his heart just feels cold.
I used to tell him he was always so very funny, although not a good joke teller, more of a "life comic" along the lines of Adam Sandler. Nowadays, it seems like total Greek Tragedy at this Wisconsin gardener's house.
His history teacher has assigned him a "This Day in History..." paper to be written in front page newspaper style. My son, being as one with his "Cut and Paste" generation, went to the Internet to pull up everything that happened on his birthday in recorded time in one fell swoop. While he was in the shower, I snooped.
"You could title your front page 'On This Day in History...: Son Born, Comedy Dies-- Last episode of Monty Python Aired' Sub-headings include: 'So Many Football Players, University of Pittsburgh Takes to Numbering their Jerseys' and 'Electric Car Goes 15 Miles Between Rechargings-- in 1893'," I say.
"What's Monty Python, Mom?" the apple of my obviously ancient eye queries.
"Before there was Saturday Night Live, and William Sandler, Rob Schneider and that crew, there was the Three Stooges and Monty Python," I reply.
"ADAM Sandler, Mom!"
"Musta crossed a circuit with Adam and William Shakespeare," I mumble.
Comedy has decidedly evolved.
Unfortunately, weather in Wisconsin seems to be moving toward Spring at the same rate we are moving toward having a viable electric car-- way too slowly for me.
As for the garden?
I moved one more of my cole crop type trays of starter plants into my cold frame, which is now full with five flats. Even though the temperatures have been in the freezing range for most of the day and night here, and the seal where the bricks and storm window meet is far from perfect; the plantlings are soaking up any sunshine with which we are blessed.
I walked through a Big Box store the other day and noticed a lot of herbicides and pesticides for sale, far out numbering any growing things. One other thing caught my eye, though. I first noticed this on a NYC gardener's blog, "66 Square Feet". She is a rooftop gardener, or "farmer" as her zoning requires her to be; and seemingly a fairly good one, not having farm roots. She started her peas in fiber pots!
What? Peas pre-started in fiber pots. Now here is the same thing, a six-cell of peas about 3"-4" tall for $1.93 in the Big Box store. Peas germinate in about 3-4 days. If soaked overnight, it improves the consistency of germination. In the spring, you can almost always count on a least one of those four days including a shower. Keeping the seeds/planting area from drying out in for 3-4 days is not much of a struggle. Translate that into a NYC rooftop with a city's heat sink and winds, that's a different story, transplants for everything has to be the way to go.
So how does this apply to gardening in the central part of Wisconsin? Well, I planted my soaked peas 10 days ago today. As of yesterday, nada, zip, zilch. The weather is making everything so slow here. On the flip side when this weather pattern exits the state, we are more prone to having the temperature shoot up to 90 degrees while the rest of the state settles into a balmy 70 degrees. Those 3-4 hours when the sun is at its peak and temperatures that high are killer for young peas. I talked with some gardeners a few days back, who spoke of planting their peas through the snow, because of those central Wisconsin temperature spikes.
As I mentioned before, peas are problematic here. Might planting them as transplants make sense for us just as it does with the NYC gardener and her unsual micro-climate? Are pre-started peas a "Best Practice" for central Wisconsin gardeners who want to ensure their spring pea harvest?
For all you non-gardeners, happy sledding and may you have a Wonderful White Easter!
Only the massive trunk is visible in most of my pictures, so completely out of scale to the unimportant human activity taking place beneath it, is my tree.
"You can live for years next door to a big pine tree, honored to have so venerable a neighbor, even when it sheds needles all over your flowers or wakes you, dropping big cones onto your deck at still of night.
- Denise Levertov, Threat
My comfortable porch on a hot summer day
Gardening is not a sure thing here in central Wisconsin. Since the beginning of March we've had a scant handful of days, certainly no more than five, with temperature hitting 50 degrees. Today the wind is gusting to about 40 miles per hour with the flag a couple yards over whipped straight out from its pole.
Winds like these can cause dessication of evergreen plants like azaleas and rhododendrons, turning the leaves a nasty brown or "burning" the needles of conifers, particularly the Alberta spruce. A chemical anti-desiccant can be sprayed on evergreens and conifers. In the winter, many gardeners wrap their ornamental spruce in burlap to stave off the effects of these types of winds.
Wind, for me, is always ominous. My house is built under the shade of an over 100-year-old white pine. White self-prune, dropping branches as they grow and age. The tops of white pines develop these craggy features as they are buffeted by the winds.
There is a picture of my house, newly built, maybe around 1880. There is nothing around my house, just bare ground. It is a street view, looking down the street. My neighbors' houses for the most part, are citizens of the future, the road is yet unpaved. The picture does not pan wide enough to show the outhouse that would be torn down in 1959 when my house got its indoor plumbing and the back stoop was converted to an awkward 6' by 24' addition nor the side porch enclosed to frame out my galley kitchen. The outhouse's location ironically becoming the source of great composted material, where I would unwittingly site my nutrient-loving massive rhubarb plant. The picture also does not show the middens heap where the residents tossed their broken china and worn-out tin cans, lost a flint, and is the present site of my potager.
What the picture does show is a scraggly white pine, maybe four feet tall. I can imagine the person who planted it, a short Welsh immigrant, no doubt, as Wild Rose was first settled by Welsh relocating from Wales and the mines in Mineral Point, which were becoming more and more difficult from which to easily extracted lead ore. Until I bought my house,it was owned by a long line of Jones, most with the given name of either Robert or John, one after another like a corded rope. Up until the time I was a small girl, church services were still held in Welsh here, even after the Catholics had given up on Latin. There are paisley shawls, in the local historical museum woven in Paisley, Wales, and not a few brittle tomes that can be nothing other than family Bibles printed in Welsh as well.
I can imagine them digging the white pine up from one of the swampier areas and bringing it into town. There are maybe a dozen such transplants in town in this day. In the shelter of "my" white pine, it is at least ten degrees cooler in the summer.
There is nothing I can do to protect my tree from the winds. I have to take faith in the thought that it has been here longer than I and suffered through many such winds. Winds that at some point over 50 or more years ago, possibly in 1959 when a tornado touched down in Waushara County, changed the top of my tree--without damaging my house.
Last February, we had one of those freak thunderstorms with hail and winds that took down a massive limb. It was about 4:30 AM, and I was marginally awake watching one of those ghost hunter-type shows on the SyFy channel. I didn't hear any mighty crack, but rather a prolonged whooshing and crashing as the limb, probably as big around as my thigh and 12' long, crashed downward barreling into first one limb and then another on its descent. When it finally came to rest on my roof, what seemed five minutes later, it miraculously did no damage. During its descent, I thought the ghosts of the lost tribes of Wales had all gathered to scare the English from their home under the white pine they had planted with no real anticipation of ever resting beneath its cool, shady bows.
"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit."
- Nelson Henderson
For other wonderful quotes about trees, click here.