Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sqaure Foot Garden is filling out

    It appears that our square foot garden is filling out. The first week a storm seemed to blow the tomato plants over, but that didn't keep them from winding down and off the sides of the raised bed and entangling themselves and getting tangled with the cucumber plants as well. We've had so much rain the cucumber vines are cascading down like a waterfall over one side of the square foot. We're NEVER had luck with cukes before and have picked a dozen maybe, between the sq. ft. garden and a cucumber plant container on the deck. Now if only the little bugger tomatoes on the stems would ripen up. Our earlier, in ground garden is finally starting to get some red tomatoes.

We're going to see fairies (stones, anyway)

    We are going to see some fairy stones this week. What is a fairy stone, you may ask? Well, it is NOT Tinker Bell  encapsulated in a rock. No -- these are special stones, a special configuration of what is called staurolite, where the rock forms at  60 and 90 degree angles, I'm told, and is cross shaped. How odd, and they say you can find a lot of them at Fairy Stone State Park!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rain, rain everywhere; gardens and taking nature for granted

     A drop of water has over  about 5 "sextillion" atoms (a billion is 10 to the 12th power and a sextillion is one to the 21st power). This is what rain is made of and we've had quite a bit of it lately.
     Water is that most unusual element (more technically a compound with its hydrogen and oxygen molecules), with its loose, flowing molecules, refreshing when cool and life depriving when a solid (slow atom moving) block of ice. As part of big groupings we call rain, it can both provide life AND be life threatening if there is too much of it around us at one time. 
     Our current errant weather patterns convey a certain temperamental, whimsical sense to our clouds, lakes and rivers. Should I rain today, flood an area --- or not? This whimsy is frustrating to us humans, who  have not yet figured out how to control this part of nature. We (over)fish the seas, engage in wolf management, preside over the introduction of highways which may or may not compromise the lives of bears, cougars, coyotes, raccoons, think we can handle the Great Lakes. But the bigger question really is how do we peacefully co-exist with nature, a nature more and more out of our control?
     There was so much rain the other night that the TV said a mountain road was being closed due to mud slides. But we are not (normally) in monsoon territory! It is unusual  to have rain on and off all day the beginning of July, so much so that there have been flash flood warnings and they close the public park on 4th of July day!
     The garden plants reach out their fragrant (at least in the case of tomatoes) leaves out toward the sun and then, rain. I read a special native bee is needed to "vibrate" the pollen off the tomato flowers in order to get at the pollen. Bees, sun, rain are all essential for summer garden planting and harvesting, and we probably take them all for granted. But all this rain --- the soil, the plant roots can only soak up just so much water, although I'm not sure a tree can drown. Well, if the tomato plants do get blight/root rot  then I guess this rain will all be too much, even for my well draining square foot garden.
     I am hoping the rain will take a break, the sun will come out and nothing will blight. It's too bad we couldn't just manually push the clouds over Colorado and Arizona, where there have been wildfires lately and nature seems determined to scorch the earth. Such imbalance we see in nature now, and we can't say we are totally innocent in this regard. Is the answer to all this exaggerated rain and drought less CO2 in the air, less warming of the earth overall?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Canoeing to litter at Claytor Lake, local woods discoveries

     Just as there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is actually more than one way to address the litter issue. Litter, that refuse tossed by citizens onto roadways and waterways, is a big issue in our communities. And to help our municipalities and parks, we should volunteer some of our time and pick up some of this unsightly garbage.
     So, the spouse and I headed to our nearby state park, Claytor Lake, and with a group of others, set upon the lake to do some summer cleanup. We wondered at first whether to go that day; after all, the weatherman had predicted partly sunny skies and there was a  light rain coming down at 9 in the a. m. But Frank said, oh, it won't be raining at the lake, and guess what? He was wrong.
     We arrived  to light rain that quickly petered out, just as I was getting on my red plastic poncho. One worker there pointed out that there was a "lake effect" that caused Claytor Lake weather to differ from the surrounding community. The weather was really quite temperamental. In the 4 hours we were there it went from rainy, to deep, gray clouds to sunny and white fluffy clouds high above us, and the park started to really fill up in the beach area.
     It was not a day to sunbathe (though my right arm did get a tiny bit of sunburn) -- we were litter hunters. I thought we would be on land, but they gave us a canoe, life jackets (to borrow, of course) and these thin orange vests, I presume to show vacationing boaters that we meant business. We were litter hunters. And what we found was interesting: tires (too heavy to put in the canoe that a Friend of Claytor Lake told me the lake staff would pick up), I don't know why, plastic and glass bottles, containers for worms, pieces of plastic jugs, tubing, part of a wooden table or chair, pieces of styrofoam (which they say will take several hundred years to break down), and other assorted odds and ends. 
     After 90 minutes it was getting hot and I pulled off the poncho as we got off at a boat dock so Frank could stretch his legs. They made the mistake of putting him in front and me in back (am not a good paddling "steerer"), so we were also going to switch places. The lake had a bit of current, and when a motorboat went by we really had to paddle against the waves in order to not be pulled too far from the coastline. And I had to use my light orange vest so that there would be something to tie to the dock. 
     Once on land again we spied  the smaller cabins for rent. Frank asked a park employee how much they were and he actually opened one up for us to see. For $90 a night you are really close to the lake, and have at your disposal two bedrooms, a screened in porch, a small living room (no TV or  radio as nature is your entertainment), and small kitchen stocked with utensils, plates, fridge, stove, microwave,  air conditioning, also a bath with a shower and linens. Like a motel room but actually bigger, close to fishing, hiking or going to the beach. But I still think $90 a night is steep. Across from our "cove" were McMansion cabins which looked like 3 story wooden apartment buildings for 2-3 families. No idea how expensive they are, but probably great for family reunions on the lake.
      It is really good exercise paddling, your shoulder muscles really put to work.  The lake was, the trees in the distance, the "water bar" little pontoon boat that sold refreshments as it slowly drifted down the middle of the lake -- these were interesting sights, peaceful, in a way. 
    Finally, we contributed 3 big orange bags and a long tube too big for their orange garbage bags to the FOCL group, who had a flatbed trailer collecting our efforts. In return we got a free Friends of Claytor Lake tote bag, with colored letters on an impractical white bag.
     This spring and early summer, when I haven't been doing something like the litter pickup (important for my Master naturalist hours) I have walked various paths. At the local Wildwood Park I have noted different plants coming up with all this rain we have had in the past month --- I sure hope it stops soon so our tomato plants don't rot. I came upon some unfamiliar plants in leaf shape-- one was from the mint family and another was probably the green coneflower family. I won't know till they actually flower or I find them in one of my wildflower guide books. Blackberries were in evidence too, a long ways from being ripe! I love fresh (organic) berries from the woods. They're healthy AND free.