Saturday, February 28, 2009

Then There Were Two

It has rained all day. I have been out wandering this mountain anyway. Eventually the clumps of daffodils got counted while I was looking for tufts of fur, signs of a scuffle, bits of entrails or suspicious foot prints, any sign I might find as a clue. I found nothing. I heard nothing.

Tomorrow everything will be covered in snow and the temperatures are headed into the teens. If I missed some clue, it will have to wait even longer now before I might spot it.

Something was out there last night. The Spots were going nuts and wouldn't come inside. I finally gave up and went to bed thinking it was the other cat I had seen around in the last two weeks.

This morning two wet cats bolted in when I got up and opened the door. Just two.

I counted 265 clumps of daffodils coming up while crisscrossing the paths of the ridge top garden. Last year on February 26th before the big snow storm I had counted 245 clumps of daffodils. Spring looks to be on schedule.

Sadly there was one less Spot this morning. Collar, the black and white female spotlet has vanished without a trace. Chances of her return, I think are slim to none.

I'm not even hungry for cake.

Oh My God! Collar is back as of 9pm. I spent the whole day calling her. Sound travels in these hills and I did not hear a single meow, a rustle or catch any glimpse of her and I roamed almost two thirds of this eleven acres and a bit of the surrounding land. Good grief!!

Now we are three again.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Daffodils And Rain

It feels like spring is slower coming this year. The daffodils don't seem to be as far along as my memory tells me they were at this time last year. Looking back at February of 2008 on the blog tells me things actually are right on schedule. I have not done a daffodil clump count yet. Tomorrow when there is a break in the 100% diagnosis for rain I will do that. Maybe counting the clumps of daffodils will help reassure me that spring is coming on time.

Then I will get ready for the snow that is supposed to come after that. Just like last year on February 28th when there was eight inches of snow.

Something is different. There has certainly been more rain and snow and cold this winter than last. The ten ponds I have gained is testament to that. The only way that could have happened is if I have been sitting around on my okole more. There can't be that much difference between toting rocks and toting lumber and siding. It must be a quantity of days toting issue. The good thing is gaining ten pounds for me is not a problem. That recovers a third of the weight I lost since moving.

Today's rain slowed things down, but I did manage to cut and paint the first coat on the trim boards for the three windows on the downhill side of the cabin. Tomorrow I can apply the second coat. Maybe even another load of wood chips can be fetched for the vegetable garden. When the sun returns the windows can be trimmed.

Something is stirring. Mama Spot has wanted to be outside tonight for the first time in two months without me being by her side. The spotlets have been hard to keep indoors for the last few days now that the warm spells are warmer and have more rain than snow. The small critters must be getting more active and I am reminded that cats are largely nocturnal animals. It could be too the other cat I have seen lurking about twice now in the last two weeks. I know the Spots have seen it and detected the presence of another. Why are there all these cats in the middle of no where? Good thing we're all fixed now.

If I hadn't heard the coyotes across the road two nights ago, the owls hanging out very close this week and a strange lurking feline who had unusually pointy ears and a strangely long tail, I wouldn't worry about the Spots out there in the dark. It took me months to get them inside and they were just babies when they lived outside all the time. It will be alright.

I need more cake.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


One day the cozy cabin will have all its siding, but I have reached a standstill in my siding obsession. The window trim and porch roofs must go on before I can continue.

One day soon it will be spring and the Helleborus from Fairegarden, Tennessee will have open blooms. One day the Helleborus will be big clumps in large drifts when the potted baby Helleborus join the garden.

One day the dry stack stone walls will get the attention they deserve and can be said to be finished.

One day I may look back at this time and marvel at how fast a cozy cabin, rock walls, vegetable and ornamental gardens came into being by the physical efforts of mostly one man.

One day soon I hope to be able to set in a rocking chair on my front porch and enjoy the lush scenery. Maybe I should just bring a chair down there now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gotta Garden

It was a might chilly this morning. To cold really to work on the siding. I needed a few things in town and my new strategy is to carry my pitchfork and empty mulch bags in the truck when I go to town and grab some wood chips on my way by the dump site down by the river.

By the time I got back with another load of wood chips it had warmed up nicely. My plan to work on the siding in the afternoon was shelved. The garden was calling me. I needed to work in the garden for a change.

I went around the perimeter of the vegetable garden with the manual hedge clippers and cut down all the dead brown stalks of last years wildflowers to make way for the new spring growth of my beneficial insect factory. That is still a ways away yet. I needed to garden though.

Yes there is a fire in the vegetable garden. Now when I burn the rubbish I can just say I am making biochar to improve the soils nutrient holding capacity. These non-woody stems and twigs don't really make much charcoal, but every little bit helps.

I will be expanding the vegetable garden just a bit this year. The small triangle of ground on the left side of the path in front of that stack of wood and the garbage bag I keep up there for picking up roadside trash is going to be brought into production.

This area was mostly filled with vetch, one of the nitrogen fixing legumes. It also has an Ironweed, Vernonia noveboracensis and a perennial sunflower, Helianthus maximiliani that I want to transplant to new locations.

From this vantage point it looks like most of the vegetable garden is mulched. It might be a bit more than half done in reality. It will take a couple more trips to town to finish.

Yesterday's siding of three courses of boards above the back kitchen door and below the porch roof took most of the day. There was extra cutting to fit around the obstacles and one cut had to be done over from scratch. That end of the cabin on sloping ground is a bit precarious for reaching up and nailing on siding. It is best if I move cautiously.

With one whole side completed, half of the front and half of the back, the siding is 50% done. Not to bad for a snowy wet winter.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


There's more snow coming tonight?

Will I be deprived of another day of siding? I did get the siding done to the bottom of the back porch roof today. I was too tired to go back and take a picture.

Maybe tomorrow I will be able to do more siding or maybe I will go fetch more wood chip mulch.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fetching Wood Chip Mulch

A sunny cold day of melt was a perfect time to go fetch some wood chips. While the cozy cabin de-ices and dries out, I could turn my attention to thoughts of a bountiful vegetable garden.

There is a place down by the Pigeon River where the tree trimmers dump their chips. They always disappear eventually. There are enough smart gardeners in these parts to use up this steady supply. I could use this entire pile.

The river below the bridge is running pretty full with all the rain and snow there has been of late.

On a hill across the highway, an old farm house still stands.

Instead of loading the bed of the truck with chips, I used saved plastic bags of cypress mulch. These are way tougher than most plastic garbage bags and save me the process of having to unload the wood chips into the wheelbarrow to get them to where they need to go. I wonder if anyone makes and sells tough reusable plastic bags like this? I always saved my 3 cubic feet Sunshine Mix potting soil bags for chores like this in Hawaii. There are plenty of occasions, particularly with steep terrain, where a wheelbarrow just isn't practical and carrying bags is much easier.

The gold standard of mulch in my opinion is fresh from the trimmer's truck wood chips. It does amazing things for the soil and the plants that will grow in it. If you need more convincing there is an article on arborist wood chips by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott at Sustainable Gardening. I have been doing what she recommends in this article for twenty years with excellent results. I even ignore her advice about not using it in vegetable gardens or annual beds and have seen no ill effects.

The vegetable garden is getting a new layer of wood chips for the upcoming growing season. Two trips to the river got almost a third of the vegetable garden covered. I need more bags. It would take fewer trips.

The mulch will act as an insulating blanket and moderate the soil's temperature swings. That means as much as it will keep the soil warmer later in the season and cooler during the summer, the mulch can keep the soil cooler in the spring when it is time to plant. I will rake an opening in the mulch when I am ready to sow seed. If we have a cool or cold spring I may do that a few days before I sow the seed to help warm the soil a bit.

You can see the scenic highway is the de facto melt line on the north facing side of this mountain. Location becomes an even more crucial consideration for planting of all kinds up here in these mountains.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The More of Snow

The wind began yesterday evening. The snow snuck in during the night.

It continued to fall all day in slowly decreasing density with lifting and at times parting clouds. Bits of sun at midday melted half of what had accumulated in gusty winds filled with moving flakes and ongoing sub-freezing temperatures.

The rhododendron never gave up its death curl. It's such a pitiful sight.

Late in the day the most sky and the distant mountain made an appearance before darkness returned.

Slivers of frozen glass crystals fall in the darkness. The penetrating deep cold has returned.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Before More Snow

There was more siding.

It took some effort to get the long corner trim boards put on the tall end of the cabin where the ground is the shortest. Those two boards took a couple of hours to get placed right and securely nailed.

That allowed me to do the siding on the other side of the back kitchen door. If I squint hard I can tell my siding seams on opposite sides of the door don't quite match up. The next piece of siding above the door will straighten that out. It wasn't enough to worry about.

I'll finish the siding to below the porch roof, as far as I can go before the roof needs to go on. I have this hankering though to do the lower courses of siding on the downhill side now that my corner trim board is on. That is the side you see when driving by on the scenic highway, the big house of Lowes side. I want to cover that up.

Right after this snow passes and a brief day of warm returns some time next week.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Was Robbed

Robbed, I tell you. It never came close to the suggested high of forty degrees today. The House of Lowes lingers in an unworkable cold on a clear sunny day with only light winds. I just know I can get quite a bit of siding done on these walls before I need the scaffolding, now that I have my hanger method down. The next weather approaches for Saturday night. Tomorrow there will be trim and siding with a suggested high of 51. Yes, tomorrow.

Instead I re-insulated and improved the insulation under the leaky shower and freezing drain at the resident gardeners house and closed it all back up. The fifth time with the silicon caulk was the charm. No leak was seen which was good because I had given up and was going to close it up no matter what. I'll still recommend replacing the shower's framed glass walls. Any shower that needs that much caulk has a major defect.

It was cold crawling around under the house and a chill deep into my bones hasn't left me yet. A hot shower will fix that and I can look for leaks again. Maybe I shouldn't.

And the mouse/mice is/are now sealed in the house. I hear it now scurrying above my head. I must attempt to get it stuck to a sticky trap in the basement utility room. Cats and sticky traps are not a good match in the rest of the house.

The first Crocus was discovered yesterday. Tomorrow in warmth it may open.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


It looked pleasant enough out there, a nice sunny day with passing clouds, until you stepped outside.

A meager high of thirty degrees may have lasted for a few minutes. I can handle that now surprisingly. It was the constant rip roaring thirty knot winds that was the kiss of death for a pleasant day.

I stayed inside and did my taxes for an anorexic income.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Intermittent Warm Sun

You've got to make the most of it.

The area around the pond at Client #1's got cleaned today during a hole in the weathers and I got home early enough to utilize more productive sun.

More siding on the cozy cabin. That is about as far as I can go until I put the corner trim board on the right hand side and get the siding done on that side of the door. I could do that with the ladders and keep on siding a bit higher up. To trim that window way up there is going to require the scaffolding though.

The Spots get tossed outside when I leave and the second I come home mama Spot dashes inside. The spotlets seem more interested in being outside when the weather is nice. They need to be coaxed back in half the time.

The weird thing is when I go out, mama Spot wants to come. When I go in she is watching to make sure she doesn't get left out. They do enjoy their garden tours though. There are all kinds of things to scratch and sniff.

I have to check on the progress of things. The daffodils are coming along. More are appearing with each miniature bout of warmth.

The rhododendrons have plenty of flower buds. It'll be a while before that show starts.

The next bout of weather is headed this way.

It is a rain, maybe sleet, maybe snow, maybe rain and sleet and snow event according to the diagnosis.

It seems the low temperatures will be hovering around the low thirties in that indecisive moisture configuration range while this weather passes through. It could be anything and it could be everything.

Then it's gonna get cold again. Back to the teens and twenties for lows. I'll have time to give the shower its fourth and final leak test before I give up in despair and recommend ripping the whole thing out and starting over. Crappy *^@@++!!** shower.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Clear And Cold

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It Can't Always Be Colorful

Sometimes the clouds are too thick because there is something headed this way and the sky at sunset is just shades of grey.

Sometimes a story gets put on hold because the spark of ignition for typing only flickers, never lights, like a sunny utility meadow waiting for multiple days of warmth to take flight.

Sometimes we go hunting and only see a slight rustle. Tiny nandinas with winter red leaves only hint at some color being next to some green.

Sometimes all the parts are on hand with weather that cooperates and some siding that lines up just right with the wall around the corner is tacked into place. It's a good thing to since I did not think to check until I stood back and looked after five boards had been nailed on. I think it means my cozy cabin is essentially square and level. I had meant to paint, but thought I'd put on just one Hardie Plank once the flashing above and below the back kitchen door had finished taking shape.

Sometimes the blooms are just promises to come. Two sacks of daffodil bulbs jump in my cart a little while back and the bulbs from one sack are coming up nice and fat.

Sometimes the blooms for a Garden Bloggers Bloom Day that started two years ago on a cold winter day in a place we'll call May Dreams have to be used again cause that's just all we've got. There is a very distinctive white spot on a hillside of brown that gives me much hope that things will come around.

It's the Snowdrops. That's what I got for a February Bloom Day in the upper most low spot on a North Carolina mountain top.

They very much enjoyed their last week in the sun. Little seed pods are forming and the petals are fading. They won't last much longer and tomorrow they will be gone. The other kind snow drops are covering them now. Those too thick grey clouds have arrived with their cold load.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Preparing For The Bulbs

It is a bit odd for this transplanted Hawaiian gardener, yet feels quite enjoyable, that I have not been to Client #1's since last December. I stopped by a couple of times to have a look, but that was it. The time is getting close though. The flowering bulbs will be arriving soon.

All the perennials that are left to stand through the winter need to be cleared out before the early spring show begins. It is much easier to cut them all down with a pair of hedge clippers when the bulbs are just beginning to show. I can get a closer and neater trim when the bulb foliage is not in the way.

Cleaning all the iris foliage around the pond was left for another visit. This is most likely Iris virginica, the Blue Flag Iris. It has not bloomed with any significance that I remember and is more foliage than anything else, squashed and matted brown foliage right now.

I should have taken a before shot. This side bed has daylily, Shasta daisy, Baptisia, Echinacea, Iris, Mallow, Perovskia, Joe Pye Weed, Rubbeckia laciniata, Rudbeckia hirta and hundreds of emerging tulips, daffodils, crocus and muscari to name the bulk of the perennials. It is ready for the upcoming show.

Last fall I planted another 500 bulbs, mostly tulips. The bulbs are poking up through the ground all over the place.

Even this island bed in the parking lot is filled with tulips. There is also lots of tunneling activity in the soil, so I wonder how much loss there is to what ever critter this may be. The mole is the benign one as far as bulbs are concerned. The vole is the enemy of bulbs.

The weather diagnosis says I need to prepare for some more cold and snow headed this way during the week. The bulbapaloozathon will be here in due time and I will have more time to finish the preparation.

The sky blooms for me every day. I can wait a few more weeks for the bulbs.