Wednesday, October 31, 2007








Still Looking

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

One Board at a Time

June the 18th.

That is the day I arrived in the mountains of western North Carolina, a bit outside of Clyde. When I worry about money or the lack of work it seems like a very long time ago. When I look at the current state of my cozy little cabin construction project it seems like it has been forever. In theory it is possible to build such a small edifice in a relatively short time. In theory.

The Languid Enjoyment of Life and a fall back cabin for a winter residence allowed for a casual approach to the necessity of construction. All in good time.

When I look at a calendar, I realize I have only been in the mountains of Western North Carolina for four and a half months. That is no time at all.

My much thinner body, dinged up hands and often stiff back tell me I have been busy for quite some time getting things done. Bit by bit a cabin is being built. Plant by plant a new garden grows.

Today while putting on the ledgers for the back stoop I saw this blue/black bug underneath my feet. It would not sit still long enough to get a crisp shot. It looks like a Queen with that tremendous abdomen and it was on a mission, moving quickly to..... one step at a time......or in this case, three steps at a time.

A front porch begins to make an appearance. A few boards, a few brackets and some nails. It does not look that complicated, but let me tell you that cipherin for plumb and level and proper elevation is very time consuming.

We keep at it before the cabin's winter storage of sorts sets in. I will still have the basement patio walls to build and deck flooring to lay and I hope a dern JOB soon. I have also been given an additional deck flooring redo to do at the resident gardeners house. It's only fair. I will gladly pull up the old deck boards and put in the new. One board at a time.

The air is so crisp and cool that I don't even break a sweat. At the end of the day my hands are the only things that seem to need cleaning. Trust me that is a new feeling after working in the tropics for twenty years.

The sky is so blue now. The trees are so cool now. As they thin out I am getting a new view. The horizon in all directions is beginning to peek through.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Day After

When I went outside this morning it did not feel particularly frosty. I looked at two thermometers and they both hovered around 32 degrees. I didn't see anything suspicious. I figured oh well we missed the first frost by one degree of separation.

I had to go to town though to get insulation stripping for the well head and "the wrong kind" of drill bit (rats) and when I pulled out of the driveway there it was. A white frosting across the highway at the neighbors.

Apparently it takes a lawn to have your first frost.

The green pastures in the two valleys below for the next eight miles were covered in frost. It was a lovely site. I should have stopped to try and take a scenic shot, but after I had passed the slow moving farm tractor on the highway I did not want to get behind him again.

Back home the sunny utility meadow of botanical delights is really going to seed.

Another one of the fern species thriving in the forest interior did not seem in the least bit phased. I really do not think it frosted beneath the trees.

This Aster was seen in its prime in a previous post it seems like two months ago. When I have some time I should go back and look at the date on that post to see just how long these flowers have lasted. They are certainly past peak, but are still showy in a faded kind of way.

And another one of the fern species growing in the forest. It reminds me of the Resurrection Ferns that grow on the limbs of Live Oaks in the deep south. It would not surprise me if they are in the same genus.

One of the Goldenrods now white and fuzzy.

We managed to get the ledgers for the front porch on despite my getting the wrong drill bit. It just added an extra step of marking the porch posts and facing board on the house with a pencil through the first drill hole, taking the ledgers down, drilling a second hole, putting the ledgers back up and screwing in the screws in the holes, which praise knob, lined up.

We are building to make this cabin last, to stand up to hurricane force winds and the occasional earthquake. It seems not so long ago, less than ten years, there was a quake with an epicenter about fifteen miles from here.

Soon the colorful leaves will be over. I will have to move on to new images.

I don't believe I have ever really taken full notice of the seed heads of Goldenrod. In a way I am surprised by the fluffy white aerial dispersal mechanism for these seeds. I don't know what I was expecting.

The Colorful Leaves are finishing up the falling

The Frosty Leaves

Will return again tomorrow with more of a vengeance.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Good to the First Frost.

This could be it. Monday morning when I wake up it may be the start of a whole new world.

NOAA says: "Sunday Night: Widespread frost after 2am. Otherwise, mostly clear, with a low around 32. North wind between 7 and 10 mph becoming calm." The forecast low for Tuesday morning is 30. Updated: Tuesday's low is now forecast at 27 degrees.

I can already feel my veins restricting and pulling my blood in towards my vital organs.

The winterizing chores have begun and all hoses and water lines were opened and drained today. We still need to wrap the wellhead with its electric heating coil.

The garden chachkis have begun to roll down the mountain towards the basement door of the house. I have put out the word to my siblings that garden chachkis are no longer acceptable gifts for the resident gardeners. I think we have passed the point of clutter. I am sure to be over ruled and out voted. When I mentioned the idea to the resident gardeners I was a presented a wish list of additional chachkis. I guess they will have to continue to expand the garden.

The winterizing experience will some how be transformed this year since the house will be occupied all winter. The places were things were once put, must now remain livable space. It is a tug between shirking the annual work load of winterizing, a joy, and protecting the vulnerable stuff, the work.

Somewhat delayed by the grading of a driveway, maybe just in the nick of time, a few Ox-Eye Daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare have regrown to the point of blooming. They looked so perky today. We will see just how cold tolerant they are.

One more section of wall framing was done before the cabin gets covered for winter. It was thought that doing all six now would make it more difficult to raise the walls in the spring with all the sections stacked on the floor. Instead we have moved on to framing the front porch and back stoop. I will be able to put in the floor joists and decking of that on my own.

There is also the matter of a stone wall and a CMU retaining wall for my basement level patio to build. I think I will be occupied quite well this winter after my contractor heads to warmer climes.

Another late bloomer on the road cut is this Saponaria officinalis, Soapwort or Bouncing Bet. I saw some of this much earlier in the summer.

Updated: Well I was close, in the right family of Caryophyllaceae, but the flower below is Silene armeria, Catchfly.

The trees have really begun to thin and go bare. Pockets of color persist and more begin to emerge. The Oaks are waiting, for what I don't know, but many of them are still green.

On Monday, the first light freeze may convince the oaks that it is indeed time for a change.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Curb Appeal

It can take a while to get to my cabin construction site from the resident gardeners house when I walk through the woods. I see things in there. At this point I am up to recognizing five different species of ferns. I have not ID'd them yet. I'll need a book or another information source for that.

A Humpback whale was swimming through the forest and surfaced near by.

I have way more orchids in North Carolina than I ever did in Hawaii. They actually grow wild here and I have been finding more and more patches of the Putty Root, Aplectrum hyemale. The leaf appears in the fall and lasts through the winter. Then they bloom in May and June after the leaf has shriveled and disappeared.

A huge fossil tree rests on the surface.

By the time I get to the top of my drive where I am slowly working on the installation of a new planting bed, I am wondering why I am even attempting to tidy up nature, thinking I can make it look better.

The split rail fence presents a challenge for a good planting design for this bed. It is a visual barrier to smaller low growing plants and a physical barrier for maintenance access. It's purpose though is paramount and that is to keep cars on the road. On a scenic byway with next to no shoulders people will pull off the road any place there is a space. I want a garden with some curb appeal, not the curb.

I was back in there today because one of the resident gardener over indulged in bulbs and I received some of the overflow. I was the lucky recipient of some Foxtail Lily, an Eremurus species. I need to get the package with the label out of the trash and write the full name down.

This bulb needs full sun in a well drained soil and well the resident gardeners are already full on bulbs and short on full sun. I just happen to have a whole new piece of the mountain to plant. This front garden is also a side arm of the utility easement and has been and will need to continue to be kept clear of trees.

My thoughts are that I need to limit the plant palette and plant a few large drifts of things that will have some presence behind the fence. So far I have put in the Bird's Nest Spruce, Picea abies 'Nidiformis', front and center right, Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light', top left as the bed curves and narrows and now the Eremurus, out of the picture above, about eight feet forward of the Spruce.

I found two clumps of an unidentified sedge, a baby allium of some kind and the Ironweed, all of which I am leaving and will try to multiply with the Miscanthus and Eremurus to help fill this bed. The Blue Aster, Goldenrod, Blackberry and assorted others are being discouraged for now. I need me some mulch.

Below this bed is a tangled mess on a steep slope filled with Blackberry, Aster, Clematis and Pokeweed, at least that is what I can see on the surface. It also contains a solid row as if they were planted by someone, of the native Hydrangea arborescens that extends well into the trees as you move down along the road. The hydrangea need to be uncovered and saved and a new plan put in place for this slope. I am thinking Rhus glabra, Smooth Sumac for its different leaf texture, nice inflorescence and great fall color as the backdrop for the upper bed.

This bed could look so nice it might slow people down enough to safely enter and exit my driveway on the sole straight away on this curving road right after it tops the mountain and starts heading down hill. Local people seem to be in a hurry or is that just how it is done on the mainland?

It can take just as long to get back to the resident gardeners house from my cabin construction and new garden site as it does to get there when I walk through the meadow and woods. I see things in there.

The maples by far have the most diverse color range.

Oh yea, there was that front gate I was going to build too.

The Solomon's Seal just quietly withers away with very little drama. A few still hang on, leafless, with their pawn shop balls dangling in the wind.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tree Form

There is this one spot in the forest along the path that seems to show up quite nicely in photographs on a regular basis. Maybe it's the lighting as it is close to the sunny utility valley, maybe the spacing of trees is particularly feng shuied, perhaps the community of tree species allows for the best layering, maybe it is because in this spot they have all turned yellow and simplicity is hard to mess up. Does it really matter when you are looking at a pretty picture?

This grouping of trees might need a little work. The bone structure isn't quite so pleasing and doesn't play off the split rail fence to best effect. It isn't so noticeable when everything is green. Winter would probably be a good time to look at the tree's bone structure. Is it a no no to prune trees in the winter? I have never had to think about such a thing before.

These trees along one of the ponds on a posh estate are much more pampered than ours.

They even show up well as a reflection.

One day some of my trees may be pampered. I'll put it on my list. Pamper the trees.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Baby Maple

Tucked among the bigger forest trees the little babies can get lost. Often not more than a couple of small branches, they blend in to the dense thicket of green. Until now. Little balls of fire are lighting up the shady forest floor.

With plenty of water for the most part, they don't go thirsty and with a lot of leaf litter and deadfall there is plenty to eat. Still only a few small trees actually manage to hang on in the dense shade. They may have found a spot with just enough light to survive while they wait for an opening in the canopy, for their big chance.

A gravel drive leads to the beginnings of a small cabin and a new life tries to gain a foothold in the forests of WNC. I spent my second full day working in the garden of my first client and tomorrow I have another job interview. I was over qualified for the last one.

This new job possibility at a posh estate would prefer someone with experience in Tropical Plants, small power equipment, landscape maintenance and the ability to obtain a NC Pesticide Applicators License. I have that.

Who knows where this road will lead.

The baby maples really do make quite a splash standing out by themselves in the shady interior of the forest. Brilliant leaves against a dark background making a show as if it might be their last one.

Hopefully I will shine as brightly tomorrow and someone will think this could turn into a very fine tree for our forest.