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Buttoning Down The Yard. November 9, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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It’s November.

Ugly Season, as some see it.

The colors of Autumn turn to brown, then blow away, leaving ligneous skeletons behind. Green grasses turn pale, blue skies turns gray. If I were a black & white photographer,  I might welcome the respite from all that damned life and color, the transfer of the load of seeing  from my cones to my rods.

But I’m not, and I don’t. Pulling out my camera requires a full-on act of will, and the recent results have been less than inspired. Sorry about that. I can only hope to try harder going forward.

At least there’s plenty to keep me otherwise occupied around here. The garden has nearly run its course, so I’ve pulled and pitched the coarse , frost-bitten remainder, leaving not much beyond my too-zealous planting of kale and a forest of Brussels sprouts, which are getting sweeter with every frost:

The hoses and fixtures have been drained and coiled and hustled off to the barn until Spring.

I dug up the Gladiolus bulbs, which are drying for a couple of weeks before being packed in sawdust and stored in a cool (but not freezing) room until the days grow longer again:

That blue bowl contains hundreds of mini-bulbs which came off the larger ones in the digging process… do any of you good folks know what I can do with them, other than throwing them out? I’d love a little advice on this one.

In the dooryard I took a different approach – last year’s Glads came back despite being left to winter over, due largely, I suspect, to the micro-clime of a space enclosed by walls on the North and West and lots of sun from the Southeast. Here I put the Glad bulbs to bed in situ, mulching them (and the raised tomato beds, which have garlic growing toward a June harvest) deeply with hay:

It’s more than I did last autumn, so I’m hoping it works out at least as well.

Goodnight, Glads.

The lawn will get one more mowing, as much to mulch the abundant leaves as to cut the grass, before the ride-on gets driven deep enough into the barn to hide from the worst of winter.

And I’ve re-glassed a bunch of the windows in our out-buildings, replacing a lot of missing panes in the garden shed and changing out a broken hinge so the door closes and latches (we love our tools and prefer to see them survive for many more seasons of gardening!)

The re-glazing process in the barn is more complicated, as several of the sashes have rotted beyond the point where they’ll take points, so I’ve been rebuilding them bit by bit. Without a router, this has been a challenge. I’m using a circular saw, often with Rube Goldberg jigs and a healthy dose of trial and error and a fair number of potential pieces turned into slivers and saw-dust. Sometimes the circular saw is inverted and used as a bad version of a table saw. It’s ridiculously dangerous, and I’m terrified, which makes the work inordinately slow.

Hey, I’d rather take too long than rush toward the nick-name “Lefty.”

All-in-all, though, I’m looking forward to a decent winter. We have enough wood in the barn to keep the place livably warm, and it (presumably) won’t be butt-ugly for too much longer.

That, folks, I’m really looking forward to!

Guests In The Garden. September 11, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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Our zinnias have been hosting some winged guests recently. I caught these images of them today:


Both of these were taken with Gizmo and a 2X Tele-Extender from twelve to fifteen feet away, allowing me to get compressed close-ups without disturbing our guests.  🙂

This Week’s Garden. September 7, 2012

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Our vegetables (other than the greens and tomatoes and squash) are largely a memory, but our flowers are still powering my psyche. I prevailed upon my housemates to let them mature in place – cut flowers are nice, but I worship the view out our kitchen window as I do the dishes.

Zinnias and Lacinato kale in our garden:

…and the “volunteer” sunflowers which popped up early in the season, unprovoked progeny of last year’s planting:

They’re all nearing the end of their run as the nights court frosting temperatures, so I figured I better share them with you while I can.

Visitors In The Garden. June 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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So, picture this:

It’s morning, and I’m trying to soldier through getting a pot of coffee going.  I fill the drip machine, grind the beans, hit the button and set to doing the few dishes left from last night.  I’m generally good about not going to bed with anything in the sink, but sometimes I get lazy.

So the coffee is brewing and I’m swabbing at a bowl, praying for the hot water to kick in – it takes forever for the Sacred Elixer to get to this particular faucet.  I’m butt-naked, except for a knitted hat and down booties… hey, it’s cold  in here, we’re out of oil and the wood stove is down for the season…

OK, maybe you should stop “picturing” right about here.  We don’t want any accidents in the home, and we know they’re epidemic.

So anyway, I’m spacing out and gazing out at the western yard when suddenly my attention is drawn to a pair of giant black canon balls wobbling through our lily patch, rolling lazily around the asparagus and emerging at the edge of our garden as… BEARS!!   Two big bears, hip-high to me, though one’s slightly larger than the other.

I snap to attention (HEY!  I told  you that you could stop “picturing” now!)  Two bears, siblings I assume, walking side by each, walking right into my garden.  My Garden!!!

I briefly consider running out the back shop door to yell at them and scare them away, then realize that they might see Naked-Sausage-Waving-Thing differently, and I recalibrate.

So, being me, I grab my camera, then gasp in despair – I’ve still got Elliot on the box from yesterday, a wide-angle lens at 24mm, totally wrong for zooming in on this scene.

Oh well.  If one doesn’t anticipate the shot, one doesn’t get the shot, except when dumb luck intervenes.

And being a believer in Dumb Luck (and lacking options,) I started snapping away through the streaked kitchen window.

Now Elliot is sweet, I love him.  He’s my main photographic squeeze, separating my art from most of the rest of what I see being produced locally.

But a wildlife lens  he ain’t.  Forget the zoom to move in on skittish beasts, never mind the image stabilization, don’t even ask for auto-focus – it ain’t happening.

So what you see here is a crop from the least bad of half a dozen shots I took, scanning a big wide field, manually focusing on a tiny bit of it, and squeezing off a 1/8 second shot without image stabilization:

Bruno and Ursa confer as to whether they should grub around in this little thing I call a garden or just move along.

In the end, they snuffled at the compost, munched my biggest sunflower (it was a foot tall, and I bet it was great!) and bumbled around, plowing their snouts through the wet grass in search of only they knew what, and disappeared around the corner of the house.  I went to far side, camera in hand, waiting for them to emerge, but they didn’t.  Probably headed up into the woods.

So there it is, my Close Encounters of the Furred Kind moment.

At least I had the good sense not to offer them sausage.

Rockin’ Robin! May 15, 2012

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Tweedly-Deedly-Deet.      🙂

A feisty robin has been supervising my planting of our garden, knowing he’ll be rewarded with bugs and worms as soon as I get the hell out of his way:

His rounds take him to a perch atop the water station I’ve set up to make garden management easier.  This allowed me to pre-focus and wait for a shot:

I’m still working the bugs out of my system for super-tele shots.  These are at a focal length of 800mm (400mm from Gizmo, plus a Canon 2X Tele-Extender III.)  The Extender negates the auto-focus on this particular lens and slows it to a maximum aperture of f/11, and the whole mess is huge, which contributes to vibrations from mirror flip-up.

At 800mm, any vibration is unacceptable, so I need to tweak this system.  Perhaps a combination of live-view focusing, mirror lock-up and a cable release will yield better results.

A Rainy Evening. August 6, 2011

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More rain came down on the ride home from Chesterfield.  It didn’t really pour, it just spat.  Much of the drive was shrouded in clouds, with landscapes and details appearing and disappearing like friendly phantasms:

A view down Apple Valley Road in Ashfield.

It’s turning tomorrow as I type this, and has been gently raining off and on for hours.

If you’re a lawn or garden, that’s great news.  🙂

Our Garden. August 1, 2011

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The garden’s up and producing (more than we can eat) and a balm to the eyes on a July evening:

Those Nasturtiums spike up the photo a bit, as they do salads and, last night, a flat iron steak.  Plus, they’re wonderfully vivid in the evening light:

We’ve been through the rhubarb and the asparagus and the lettuce and the peas and are into the carrots and kale and keeping an eye on our many green tomatoes.  The pumpkins and the Brussels sprouts are but mere twinkles in our eyes.

Soon there will be sunflowers as a backdrop, so you’ll doubtless see this scene again.  😉


Rainy Day Dreamin’. July 1, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Ah, the pleasures of a(nother) rainy day, greening up the woods:

…greening up the garden:

…and providing some peaceful evenings down by the river:

Daisy Fleabane closes shop for the night at the East Charlemont boat launch on the Deerfield river.

We should get some sun this long weekend as well as the soggy “usual,” so I’m pretty psyched for that!

Getting The Garden In. October 15, 2010

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That is, harvesting everything which might not survive the predicted weekend weather, cold rain ending in wet snow and high winds.

The chard and tomatoes were the big picks, with hot peppers and celery being covered at night and left for a bit longer;  our Brussels sprouts will actually benefit from this weather.

The big surprise was an uninvited guest who rode in on a sprig of fennel:

A Black Swallowtail caterpillar eyes his next meal.

But I was eying it too, so he got a ride back outside.  😉

My Poor Garden. August 26, 2009

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.

It hasn’t been a great year for gardening here in Massachusetts.

First the freezes kept coming, delaying planting.  Then we planted, and the rains began.

It rained for two months before we saw the sun again.  The greenery grew head high while the air was washed clean of pollinators and the fruit didn’t set.

I kept thinking, “Shoulda planted rice.”

But still, something happened.  The garden, despite looking like hell, began to produce:

my garden

First came the strawberries, arugula and bok choy.  Then, explosively, two kinds of kale, broccoli, and summer squash:

kale, etc.

…followed by tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, onions, Hungarian wax (hot) peppers and eggplant:

tomatoes, etc.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but hey.

Late Blight claimed almost all of the tomato crop in Southern New England and tried to take mine as well; but whereas most “real” gardeners pulled and bagged all their plants, I tried an organic spray recipe I heard on NPR, and three weeks later I’m still battling it, but I’m up to my ears in tomatoes!

Every couple of days I get a harvest which looks something like this:


The mushrooms (chanterelles, hedgehogs and russulas) I picked on the way home from work as part of my “Hundred Yard Diet.”

There are flowers, too – first the columbines, lupines and daisies, now bee balm:

bee balm

…cone flowers:

cone flower

…and, of course, sunflowers:


That last was photographed against a back-drop of echinacea and yellow tansy.

Hey, I gotta go.  It’s time to layer in some tomatoes and basil and red onions and fresh mozzarella.