28 September, 2015

Fall growth is coming along

We had a soggy week here last week, so the fall-planted food, forage, and cover crops are growing like, well, weeds. Cool, most weather means our friends the decomposer fungi are coming out to play!

A broad-capped white mushroom surrounded by young grass, legumes, and brassicas.

The primitive einkorn wheat I planted is thrilled with the fall weather, and doubles in size overnight. Here it is as newborn leaves.

Tiny, delicate blades of green wheat leaves standing straight and about an inch and a half tall.

Even trees are getting in on an early fall burst of growth, as this baby sassafras tree demonstrates.

A six inch tall a sassafras tree with a bushy growth of green-gold leaves. Some leaves are shaped like pointed ovals, some like mittens, and some are divided into three lobes.

The late summer/early fall burst of activity from the vegetable world always raises my spirits, despite the number the cool, damp weather does on my pain levels. The grasses and trees will grow until the frost nips them, then sleep until spring when they’ll put on a wild, celebratory burst of growth and become flush and heavy with seeds.

Some time in April, before the wheat harvest, the front grazing area with its ample supply of sunshine will be ready for its first grazing, just in time for spring lambs to really start wanting solid food. I’m looking forward to it, and clinging to the way this small fall growth boom reminds me that spring will come.

18 October, 2010

Life goes on.

Things are finally settling down here at the Manor after all the wedding excitement. Daniel’s father headed out on Saturday and my parents wandered off home to Roanoke today. We got our usual grocery-shopping trip in, I got a final exam done and a couple midterms, with one more to go on Monday. Today I’ve even managed to fit in some spinning, I’m nearly to the bottom of the bag of heathered purple wool that my Mom got me some time ago, and as I practice predictably the spinning is getting better. We’ve also managed to pull together the packet for Daniel’s adjustment of status so he can stay in the country, and got to work on the woefully late thank you notes for the wedding.

Briar Rose and Noodlehead are the only two cats we see outside, and I still have no clue what happened to Briar Rose’s kittens. Grace is buried on the back acre, at the foot of a little clump of sassafras trees, which I felt was appropriate. When land is clear-cut, sassafras is the first thing to spring up on it, growing off its tap roots like weeds. Since the flavoring extract from the roots was banned due to an association with liver cancer, the trees have no great value, and since they die off quickly when overtopped by other trees, people tend to disregard them as, more or less, worthless weeds that will go away if you ignore them hard enough. They are not unlike my Manor cats in this. But I cherish my little sassafras trees, who are for the blighted back acre valuable agents of resurrection: they supply dead leaves to rebuild the topsoil and their tough roots help break up the rock-hard clay dirt. And I cherish the Manor cats, adorable little personalities that they are.

Grace was not a terribly social cat with most humans, but with me and with other cats she was pure love, head-bumping us all in the excitement of feeding time, rubbing on my legs and the heads of other cats with nothing but pure joy that once again the thumb monkey was here with the good stuff. She was getting nicely round, putting on a thick winter coat and a bit of a layer of winter fat, as well. She had a name, she was known, she was loved, and I miss her.

14 April, 2010

Come squee with me, baby trees edition

The weather has been pretty good for baby trees lately. While I’m worried about the persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) that I planted, and the red mulberry (Morus rubra) that I planted last year is almost certainly dead, the baby pawpaws? They are growing like gangbusters. Also thriving are the trash pines (I really need to thin them) and the sassafras is doing spectactularly this year, for reals.

The main reason I have pawpaws is, let’s face it, the fact that when I was a wee girlchild my grandmother used to sing me a song:
Where oh where oh where is Andrea?
Where oh where oh where is Andrea?
Where oh where oh where is Andrea?
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch!

Come on, girls, let’s go find her
Come on, girls, let’s go find her
Come on, girls, let’s go find her
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch!

It’s got the same tune as “Ten Little Indians” and it’s the sort of repetitive song that little kids like to sing endlessly to drive their parents nuts but for me it is warm fuzzy memories of getting to spend the night with my grandmother.

And now, I have a pawpaw patch:
A shot of a clear space, with some tall oak trees in the near background.  There may, if you squint just right, be some saplings in there that are pawpaws.

All right, fine, they’re not huge yet, so here are some individual pictures. Please keep in mind that healthy leaves on a pawpaw look all floppy and wilted.
One:
A baby pawpaw tree, slightly out of focus and maybe 18 inches tall, but even with the poor photography you can see it is bravely putting out leaves and growing its little heart out.

Two:
This baby pawpaw tree, about a foot tall, is a straight stick crowned with a little clump of longish, floppy green leaves.  It looks like the tree equivalent of a muppet.

Three:
This baby pawpaw tree is shot from above and arches up toward the camera.  It is pretending to be a dead stick, but if you look down near the ground you can see it has put out two branches with brave little leaves on them.
That’s the one I planted last year, and it looks as if it’s opting for the “shrub” version of pawpaw growth patterns. I’m OK with that, just as long as it doesn’t die.

Then there’s the baby sassafras trees, which I deeply adore as their little leaf clusters look like green rose buds. Also you never know what kind of leaves you’re going to get from a sassafras tree, they come in solid, “mitten”, and trefoil shapes, often in the same leaf cluster. If you happen to bruise their leaves (which I try not to do on the babies) then the sweet smell of root beer wafts into the air. Before the link between safrole (the aromatic oil the tree produces) and liver cancer was discovered (although it is disputed by some), the roots of the sassafras tree where what gave Root Beer its name.

Here’s leaf clusters that haven’t opened yet, plus flowers, on an adult sassafras tree (only adult trees think about grown-up tree things like flowers):
A collection of branches against the sky.  The branches are studded with what look like green rosebuds, about 2 inches high and tightly furled.  At the base of these clusters are rings of little non-descript flowers.

Here’s a baby with just a single leaf cluster that’s just starting to open:
A leaf cluster, shot from above.  The center is still tightly furled into the faux-rosebud, but four leaves have opened enough to see that they're all the solid kind, shaped like an almond, sort of.

Here’s a slightly older baby sassafras, unfurling its leaves. You can see all three types of leaf in this particular cluster:
A cluster of six sassafras leaves.  The three outermost are all solid.  Two of the innermost are trefoil, with a largeish central point and two smaller points, one on each side.  The other inner leaf is a mitten shape, but you can't really tell because the photographer got a crappy angle.

Oh there we go, the photographer got her act together.  This is the same cluster of leaves, this time shot from above so you can see the mitten-shaped leaf more clearly.

Finally, I could not resist this gang of juvenile sassafras trees, all hanging out together. They’re probably skipping school or something:
Four adolescent sassafras trees hang out together.  They look, if it is possible for trees to have an expression, as if they are up to something shifty.

There’s a saying in the south, used to refer to land exhausted by farming or other maltreatment: too poor to grow sassafras. Sassafras grows anywhere, and is often the first tree to move in when land is clear-cut. If your land is too poor to grow sassafras, you are in deep trouble. So it gives me a little thrill to see that the back acre, though damaged and blighted, is at least not too poor to grow sassafras. Get on with your bad selves, little trees.

Oh and because a) I can’t possibly walk around my massive 2.5 acre property without a bodyguard and b) she needs the practice standing still while I take pictures, Zille came along. I think she had fun.
Zille, a sable German Shedder, smiles into the camera with bright eyes, ears up, and lolling tongue.