Archives for November 2013

Safe Travels!

Crossing the parking lot: places to go.

Crossing the parking lot: places to go.

Fall Impressions: Trees In My Tennessee Garden

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Nature’s paintbrush only. No color enhancements here or below.

Maybe it’s just me, but the trees seemed different this fall — the colors more vibrant and, at the same time, impressionistic and softly layered. Before the rains came and the leaves started swirling down, I saw hues and combinations I hadn’t noticed before.

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I wouldn’t purposely pair shades of peach and red, but that’s how things ended up as leaves transitioned this month.The leaves in the foreground belong to a well-loved Japanese maple, a very dominant tree in our backyard. Behind the maple is a Stewartia koreana, which has been spectacular all year. I wish I’d planted it a little closer to the house, but it’s nice to view it from a distance, through various angles in the yard and from the windows indoors. There’s a Ginkgo biloba across from the stewartia, but it’s hard to distinguish among the other trees. It was topped several years ago when a very large tree (oak, if I recall) fell onto it from the neighbor’s property across the road.

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The maple is one of my most treasured trees. I got it as a five-or-six foot specimen from a sweet man who grew unusual trees on his family farm. The tree has moved with me two times and I’m thinking *big* digging equipment (just dreaming!) if I ever move again. Somewhere, way back in the plant files, is the name of this tree. I keep thinking I’ll try to find it, and someday I will.

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In this photo, the maple leaves on the west- facing side were still burgundy. Gradually, they took on the crimson hue of the ones in back . The purple/green leaves to the left are ‘Summer Snowflake’, an upright doublefile viburnum. In the distance: Acer saccharum, sugar maple, which competes with the many tulip poplars throughout the backyard.

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A beech tree (Fagus grandifolia) lights up the hillside. Thankfully, I get to look at this magnificent tree every time I pull into the driveway.

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Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’, fullmoon maple, is the vividly-colored little tree to the right in this photo. In the middle (still green): Parrotia persica. The grayish sticks, bottom left, belong to a huge bottlebrush buckeye. Sadly missing from this year’s fall line-up is the ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud that was planted on the hill to the right of the parrotia. I believe the voles finally decimated its roots this summer. The redbud leaves a blank space that will need to be filled sometime in early winter.

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An earlier view of the fullmoon maple shows the leaves looking stressed. There was some dieback on the top of the tree this summer, which is a concern. Voles have been very active this year and the root structure is becoming unstable. I know, because the voles almost got my Japanese umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) this year. It was a close call. We had to dig up the pine and put it in a huge pot until we determine a new (less vole prone) location for it.

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Here’s another odd color combination — kind of interesting, I think. In the foreground, left, is the purple foliage of ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod, followed by the billowy yellow Amsonia hubrichtii, a dark green falsecypress, a blue spruce and finally the coppery-orange leaves of American beech in the distance.

Now, the color is almost gone. It’s time to rake … and rake some more, remembering that the oaks and the beeches will hold out for a long, long time.

Light on Leaves. Carolina.

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This time of year, I love to walk on the land that has been in my family for decades. I take in the colors, the sight of old grapevines, the smell of damp leaves … the faraway smoke.

Today’s walk was no different, except when the sun changed, making me stop short on the path. I saw a beautiful, very-focused band of light on the native trees at the edge of the pasture. A gorgeous, sight — and very brief. The sourwood (far right) was outside the glow, but held its own amidst the hickories, oaks, white pines, and maples.

Why am I such a sucker when it comes to sights like this? Is it the light … the color … the affinity with the land ? Yes, all of those, and the assurance that nature remains, through all the craziness.

Sure wish you could have walked with me!

*****

(*Another post about sourwoods & how they seem to thrive in the NC mountains is here) .

Fall Colors of a Different Kind

Colors of Fall: Museum of Appalachia

Quilts on Display: Museum of Appalachia Homecoming 

My Amsonia: 11.12.13

Late fall cascade

Frothy. Cascading. A bird shangri-la.

Camping: Last Fling of Fall

One of my last times camping was in a pristine, secluded spot in the Smoky Mountains. We pitched our tent near the creek, and settled in for a quiet weekend in a natural, unspoiled environment, free from the everyday troubles and noises of the “civilized” world.

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The daylight hours of the first day went really well. Good food, some hiking, the traditional wade in the wide, rushing creek. Then, lulled by the crackle of the campfire and the sounds of flowing water and tree frogs, we extinguished the campfire and prepared for sleep.

Around that time, two men in a beaten-up truck with Florida license plates drove up and started untying the mattress they’d strapped to the roof of their truck. They set up camp on a site near us and were soon joined by several other men. Before long, they all started drinking. Their voices got louder as the night went on.

A park ranger made several visits to our camp area before daylight. By the next morning, the men and their mattress were gone. Needless to say, neighboring campers were very relieved (and sleepy). We stayed over another night or so. It was blissfully quiet.

*         *         *         *         *

Camping was a lot more peaceful this October when we met up with my son and his fiancee at a small campground near Tellico Lake in East Tennessee. Instead of a tent, we slept in a relatively-roomy pop-up camper. Some of our neighbors had pop-ups, but most had small RVs with elaborately decorated “yards” indicating they were semi-permanent residents in all but the coldest winter months.

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As far as we could see, views from the shore were of trees and vegetation. Surprising, since so many of the coves of East Tennessee are ringed by big houses and boat docks.

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A young native dogwood, Cornus florida, provided bold color and screening from neighbors.

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Companions and soon-to-be life partners chill out by the fire.

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A river of Japanese stilt grass or Microstegium  flows through part of the campground. It’s a highly-invasive weed, now rampant through the southeast and beyond. We ignored its presence, focusing instead on the view of the lake, good conversation, and wonderful smells of food cooking on the campfire.

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A huge poison ivy vine enmeshed in the trunk of a cedar tree.

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Our camper had a funky, diner-style vibe after dark.

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A peaceful, quiet campground. Friendly neighbors. No late night carousing.

Lights out!

A Chicken’s Labor

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After decades of opening egg cartons and finding ordinary-shaped eggs inside, I woke up from my pre-breakfast stupor long enough to find something out-of-the-ordinary in today’s carton: one egg was distinctly more round than oval, plus part of the shell had a distinctly wavy, almost-scalloped pattern.

It was a puzzling sight, but Mike the Chicken Vet/Blogger helped me figure it out. He says this is a slab-sided egg, caused when two eggs are in the chicken’s laying tract at the same time. Basically, the second egg, softer and not fully formed (and meant for day 2), comes down too early and mashes against the first egg, now ready to be laid (day 1). Says Mike:

“The new egg is a soft-shelled egg and deformable….it sits against the old egg as the shell is deposited on it….thus the flat side on the egg, and the round area of wrinkles around the flat side.  If you see these types of eggs in your nests, you should immediately assess the amount of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D that is available to the hens, since hypocalcemia can result in weakness, sickness and death in a hen.”

All this was new to me. I haven’t been around chickens much since I was a girl and, even then, my folks were responsible for the care, feeding, and productivity of the tiny flock. There were challenges, as with any creatures, but I don’t recall Mom and Dad worrying if a chicken didn’t lay an egg every day. The chickens seemed pretty laid-back and healthy too, but that’s an observation filtered through a child’s eyes and a lot of years. I’m sure the age-old threats — hawks and foxes and various hen maladies — were always there. I just don’t remember that part.

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