Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bugs in Passing

In celebration of my passing the North Carolina Commercial Pesticide Applicators License I thought I would celebrate the diversity of life that helps make our own life on this planet possible.

Don't you just love a bug that tries to mimic fuzzy excrement.

I got a score of 86 on the Turf and Ornamental section and a score of 92 on the core exam. Not bad for a single quick reading of the manuals.

I don't know what this bug is, but it sure likes the Goldenrod. Great stripes!

Now I just sign the form and send them $50 and I am licensed until December 31st 2007. Excuse me?

This is an annual fee that expires every year on December 31st. Further reading says If I do not plan to apply any pesticides during one year of the five year certification period I do not need to purchase a license for that year.

I think I need to give the NCDA & CS a buzz.

Fifty dollars a year for some paper work sounds a bit predatory to me. And I have to take 10 hours of continuing recertification credits over the five year certification period to renew the license. That's not so bad. It could be interesting.

Perhaps they need that annual $50 to help run this program so a bunch of yahoos don't kill off all the pretty creatures we share the planet with.

Still it stings a bit.

I wonder if this partial year will be one of my five year certification period? I am still gainfully unemployed and it is about to get cold. The chances of me needing to kill any bugs on a commercial basis this year are nil. Losing a whole year could sting a bit too.

Oh well I passed the test.

One more thing to scratch off the list on becoming a valuable citizen of a new place.

There sure are a lot of bugs and pretty butterflies here and these are just the ones I was able to capture on film.

I don't really want to kill them. At least the ones that have the good sense to live outside.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cool Blue Skies

It is almost time for the trees to take center stage. I never lose sight of their presence. They dominate the ecosystem. They are not very photographable though. That dominance can not be conveyed well in a cutout of their whole essence.

I live under them more than I live among them.

What this forest has spent most of the summer doing is talking to me. The sounds of crashing branches and entire trees coming down is a regular call. It can happen quickly or a tree can take weeks slowly descending to the ground, caught up in its neighbors. These sounds do not startle me as much any more. They come so regularly.

Two weeks ago the acorns starting falling. They are not demure in their descent. It is a hard sound like a pellet gun. Methodically dropping.

When there are no cars and trucks, no thundering motorcycles whipping by on the sharp curves of the scenic highway at the top of my drive, when it is quiet, it isn't quiet. The forest is very much alive with it own sound.

The wind, the birds, the insects. Gunfire in the distance. Hound dogs too. There are day time sounds and sounds for the night. The forest is rarely silent.

Today I see the trees anew because the sky I remember, the crystal clear deep blue sky appeared above them. I had to look and marvel once again at a sky so clear and clean. I have read that this sky dwells here in the fall and winter. I am happy to see it.

My fingers and toes will just have to get used to the chill that comes with it. I don't think I was warm until noon and was cold again by five.

But I love these clear blue skies.

Friday, September 28, 2007

It's Starting

A cold front

With no rain

Passed through.

A strong cool north wind

Was behind it.

The Trees are still mostly green

But leaves are falling
In greater numbers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Botanical Gardens at Asheville

Located adjacent to the campus of UNC Asheville, The Botanical Gardens of Asheville made for a very pleasant afternoon stroll. Something to help the $200 it cost me to get a NC license plate go done a bit easier. $200 Ouch! The gardens were free.

Between the drought, the end of summer season and the predominantly forest habitat there was not a lot in bloom. Which does not mean there was not a lot to see. This is mainly a native plant collection and many of the trees, shrubs and perennials were well labeled. There just were not any of those glossy plant porn shots you garden bloggers have grown so accustomed to.

The site spoke for itself though and the garden is located in a beautiful forested setting. It is comprised of two parts mainly, a stream valley and the hill that runs parallel to it.

Looking back from the way I came the stream is on the right and the ridge line on the left. The main plantings with labels were on the ridge.

At the far end of the garden an authentic log cabin with a dog trot, the Hayes Cabin, sits bordering a sunny open lawn.

Nice Fireplace and chimney and a side view of the big shady front porch.

Headed back along the ridge. There were many Rhododendron and Azalea species and native woodland perennials through this section of the garden. They were all in desperate need of rain.

This caught my eye of course. Color. Strawberry Bush, Euonymus americana.

What is a garden without art? This looked like it was an actual functioning fountain at one time or at some point. Yes that is a pond in the stone planter bed.

Now I guess I believe the local garden columnist who said it was a bad year for butterflies. Under normal conditions this garden may have had more in bloom at this time of year.

It is worth a return visit. The ambiance of the garden itself was worth the trip today. Spring would be a good time.

Back at home where I think I got a bit more rain and still have manageable numbers of plants to hand water, the Monarchs were liking my store bought Joe Pye Weed big time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Three quarter inch tongue and groove 8'x4' plywood is heavy and sometimes the tongue is not to excited about being forced into the groove. The premium construction adhesive applied to the floor joists did give the plywood a little slide action. Some times that was helpful, some times it most certainly was not. The palms of my hands are a little discolored. At least they are not stuck to anything.

How obsessed am I being with perfection? An eighth of an inch off here, a quarter there, eww that is half an inch off. A little trimming on one of the edges will need to be done, but my contractor warned me that was a possibility. It was more important to have the two sheets of plywood line up on the shared joist at the seam.

I was working methodically, measuring twice, thinking about what I was doing and not in any hurry. They just don't seem to make lumber that is truly straight, flat or true to size. That seemed to account for a lot of the slight discrepancies.

As a floor unit it turned out very tight. After I was done, with the tiny bit of energy I had remaining, I jumped up and down and ran around the new floor. It didn't move. I have a very steady floor.

I wonder what the acceptable margin of error is when they are busting out entire subdivisions that have to be done on schedule? Is my half an inch in the zone or better?

There was a lot of nail pounding involved in this exercise. Perhaps as many nails as the petals on these asters.

Maybe it was more like the actual number of individual flowers on these Goldenrod.

It felt like the number of blades of grass sprouting on my hillside of saprolite.

I was running out of nails.

I think I need a fun day before I go back and finish applying the heavy duty masonry coating to the upper portion of the tall columns.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Butterflies and Stuff

It turns out that these black swallowtail butterflies may or may not have been the Spicebush Swallowtails I thought they were. I have identified them as the Pipevine Swallowtail, one of four species that can look incredibly similar. You can compare them at the link I provided. The butterflies are trying to take after the Asters in numbers and likeness.

The Pipevine Swallowtail's host plant is the Aristolochia vine which tries to mimic Kudzu in its behavior. We have that. The Spicebush butterfly's host is Spicebush of course, Lindera benzoin and Sassafras albidum. We have that. There is a black female form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. It's host plants are Tulip Poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera and Black Cherry, Prunus serotina. We got tons of that. I very well could have been seeing at least these three species.

We are having long stretches between rains and the butterflies were liking the moisture from my heavy duty mortar mixing.

And then there is this gorgeous creature I spotted this morning while having coffee and cigarettes for breakfast. It was living under one of the chairs on the deck and had spun a web beneath it. I tried to coax it out with a free meal, but his web was lacking in good sticking abilities and I gave up flinging other bugs into the web for it to eat. So this evening I went hunting and flushed him out.

Into the Eyes of the Spider.

Passing through the meadow, I spotted this red leaf perfectly perched on top of this green leaf. This should help lower your heart rate from the previous pictures.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


A local garden columnist suggested it was a bad year for butterflies and other less enjoyable insects because of the Great Easter Freeze of '07' and the drought conditions this summer. If this was a bad year for butterflies then I can't wait till next year.

Granted I have a mountaintop meadow that blooms in successive waves of numerous species of plants from spring until, well I will soon find out until when, but there has not been a shortage of butterflies. The Spicebush Swallowtails in particular put on quite a show.

The one thing I was not seeing until recently were Monarch butterflies even though I have seen several patches of Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed here. A few weeks ago I saw one, then another and today quite a few.

The resident gardeners tell me this mountain is on the direct route of the Monarchs migration. This could get interesting.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My Very First JM

Good fortune has smiled down on me and I planted my very first in my entire life, Japanese Maple today. I did not think I would be getting one any time soon. I saw the prices on them at the nurseries and had sticker shock. Granted they were all much bigger than this little one gallon specimen I won in the name drawing at the Arboretum, but I did not see or did not notice any smaller and cheaper Japanese Maples for sale at any of the nurseries I have visited.

I planted my Acer palmatum 'Arakawa' off to the right of my drive up slope from the headwaters of the Tennessee River. To the left of the large Hemlock trunk in the green area is where I would like to one day build a small Tea House overlooking the stream. My Rough Bark Maple will make a fine entry focal point. It will get afternoon sun in this location and be visible from the central hub formed by the house and cottage. Now as long as we don't get another one of them freak Easter freezes that severely damaged Japanese Maples all over the area, all will be well.

It was time for more new things as well. There were some seeds I wanted to collect and sow.

I often wonder about Betsy and how she lived up here so long ago without any of the modern conveniences when I wander by the remains of her home. There are many very old and now unproductive apple trees on this land. I wonder if she planted them. The seeds I was after were of the native onion, the Ramp, Allium tricoccum. The Ramp patch is not far from Betsy's door. She must have made use of them.

I wanted to start some new patches of this coveted native plant. Every spring there are Ramp Festivals throughout the southern Appalachia. They need ramps for this and they are getting scarce in the wild from over harvesting. By collecting the seed and sowing it, making sure it comes into contact with the soil and does not end up on top of the leaf litter I can increase its rate of germination. Then when I am an old fart, I can supplement my meager SS check with my spring Ramp harvest.

I sowed the seeds that were already ripe and will let the rest ripen naturally in a paper bag. Then I will sow them in several locations on the property.

My little cabin has really begun to germinate. It is ready for the plywood floor sheets. The bonding beams are in place and all is secure. I guess I am a little surprised because I keep checking, but this floor framing and foundation is absolutely level. Not bad for an amateur.

The trench with the shorter columns has been filled. Next I need to stucco the bottoms of the taller columns so I can fill in that trench.

I am seeing a stone planter box along the side of the cabin being built with all the rock I am setting off to the side. But before that happens there are a few utility lines that need to be trenched through this area between the cabin and the driveway.

While I was seed collecting and sowing I gathered all the seeds from the Blue Delphinium I bought at the Biltmore and seeded them into this next bed down the driveway. Will I remember that next spring or even know what to look for?

A few Hemlocks were killed in the making of this post and the planting of the Japanese Maple.

Good thing the fire ban was lifted on Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Across the Street from the Bug Test
In The Big City

The View from my Future Front Porches
In The Country

Wired Prayer - Image by Aparina

A World Blog Debut
Driving Through America

Ironweed Looking Blue
In a Mountain Meadow

The True Shade of Ironweed

The Ironweed has captured my imagination
more than any other plant here so far.
It comes out so ethereal in closeups.