Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The World Turned Upside Down

Weather: Last snow, this morning.

What’s blooming: Nothing.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds.

Weekly update: The Halloween season has finally ended. That’s my term for the period after the trees have dropped all the leaves they’re voluntarily going to, and before a severe frost completes the transition to winter.

It’s a period of inversions. The clocks change and we’re disoriented for a few days. The weather changes, and some plants thrive. We treat them like pariahs because they deny our simple view that nature follows the same Newtonian rules as the Earth. Many are weeds with genes that make them immune to our most popular herbicides. The purple asters sneak back with innocent looking rosettes.

One doesn’t mind the pansies and snapdragons that keep blooming. It’s understood they prefer cool weather, and they stayed around all summer as bits of dormant green. But the golden spur columbine die in the summer, leaving large swathes of brown. Then, in the fall they recover and refill the bed they abandoned to weeds. Even today’s snow hasn’t destroyed their leaves.

It took a lot to end this Halloween. The cold front that blew through November 17 didn’t change things much, even though winds in Santa Fé were clocked at 55 mph and reached 45 mph in Los Alamos. Morning temperatures dropped to 23 the next day. My cottonwood’s leaves only turned color. Most clung to the branches.

Then they got teased with rain and warmer temperatures a week ago Monday. Nothing changed.

This past Saturday afternoon my workroom darkened, and I checked the weather maps. I had stopped bothering when the doldrums began. NOAA showed the remnants of a hurricane and a great arc of cold air sweeping from it up into New Mexico.

I wondered, how did I miss a hurricane. This one was named Otto, and the last one in late September had been Seymour. I looked at the time stamp on the display to make sure my computer’s browser didn’t have some embedded date in it.

Another inversion. Otto was an interloper that crossed from the Caribbean over Nicaragua and Costa Rica on Thanksgiving setting records for its lateness and strength.

Otto finally got Nature’s attention. A flock of migrating robins landed that afternoon in my yard. They seemed to have come for the privet berries, but left when they didn’t like them. I never get flocks of robins. At most, I see a couple closer to the river.

We’ve had some rain each day since Otto. Yesterday, I saw more flocks of birds finally heading south. They’d stopped to feed in the grasses in some adjacent orchards.

After dark last night, we got some snow, with a bit more this morning. The forecast low for Los Alamos tonight is 14. Lingering fall will die a sudden death, and claim it was all so unexpected. Why, only Sunday the morning temperature was above 37.

Notes: “Hurricane Otto Crosses From Caribbean to Pacific.” Weather.com, 26 November 2016.

Photographs: All taken 18 November 2016, the day after the big winds and first morning temperatures in the low 20s.

1. Alfilerillo completely disappeared in the summer, then comes back in the fall.

2. The cottonwood still holding half its leaves.

3. Lush, resurgent golden spur columbine.

4. Vinca, which has grown very little since it was planted in 2000. It multiplied this fall.

5. Purple aster rosettes.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

As the World Turns

Weather: Some rain last weekend, and cold temperatures Thursday morning. Last rain 11/6.

The weather forecasts are deceptive: nothing’s happening, or highs and lows are maneuvering each other to little consequence. The southern waters have cooled, so there’s little tropical moisture coming our way. The changes are coming from the Earth moving through its orbit; one of those things that can be demonstrated in any number of ways, but is hard to actually see.

What’s blooming: Hybrid roses, chocolate flowers, blanket flower, random plants close to the ground, usually sheltered by a wall, larger plant, or fallen leaves.

What’s nearly bare: Siberian pea, black locust, choke cherry, spirea.

Leaves have stopped turning color, and simply fall in batches.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses, aptenia.

About the time the sun began to shine in my eyes in the morning, the plants on the inside porch began producing more flowers. I knew they bloomed in winter, but hadn’t realized before that it was because they were enjoying the light that was bothering me.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds.

Tuesday afternoon I heard a noise about the house I couldn’t locate. I looked through the window on the enclosed porch before I entered, in case an animal had gotten in. I saw nothing when I looked through the window of the door, but still heard the noise. I knocked on the glass to make noise, and a large bird took off for the locust. It looked like a quail until it landed vertical, not horizontal, on a branch. It’s long beak declared it was a woodpecker with dark feathers spotted light.

Photograph: A tansy cluster has finally come into bloom, 12 November 16.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

In Suspension

Weather: Temperatures staying about freezing with last rain 10/9.

What’s blooming: Hybrid roses, chocolate flowers, blanket flower.

What’s turning/turned red: Leaves on Bradford pear, pink evening primroses, lead plants, toothed spurge, Johnson’s Blue geranium.

What’s turning/turned yellow: Leaves on cottonwoods, apricots, globe willows.

What’s nearly bare: Purple leaf sand cherry, catalpa, Rose of Sharon, caryopteris, skunk bush.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds.

Weekly update: Time is standing still. Sun angles change daily, but with the warm, dry days, nature’s preparations for winter are proceeding in slow motion. Little changes from day to day. It’s death by inertia rather than by cold.

The days are ideal for working outside, but there’s little to do. Most of the people have cleared their fields and cut their hay. And, most with trees seem to be watching the leaves fall, but not doing anything yet to remove them. Only the most fastidious go out before all have fallen that are going to.

I have things I could do, but they’re all heavy labor - finishing the repairs on the irrigation channel, extending a path, pruning shrubs. They’ve all been postponed before, and can wait until my thumb is ready for abuse.

It’s possible to find plants blooming in protected areas, but little is visible from the car. Even the roses are hard to see. Chrysanthemums were all but invisible this year. My florist ones are putting out flowers with only half the petals.

Leaves on the skunkbush dropped without turning color, but a young seedling protected by the catalpa has bright red ones. I don’t know if it’s its youth or the seclusion that allowed the member of the sumac family to show its true coloring.

I suppose the birds are migrating, but I haven’t heard them. This morning when I was running a hose that’s sprung a small leak, a half dozen birds came from somewhere for the pooling water, then disappeared when it sank into the gravel.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Observations from the Sidelines

Weather: More nice weather with no water; last rain 10/9.

What’s blooming: Hybrid roses, chocolate flowers, blanket flower, chrysanthemums.

What’s turning/turned red: Leaves on pink evening primroses, lead plants, toothed spurge.

What’s turning/turned yellow: Leaves on cottonwoods are yellow, but those on lilacs are lime green and are brownish-yellow on tamarix.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds. Something, presumably the rabbit is eating the still green leaves on the gazanias and the oriental poppies.

Weekly update: Before I whacked by thumb, I was removing heath asters and cleaning grasses that had died under my globe willow. It was my last chance of the season, and now I can’t continue until next spring. Leaves then hadn’t started falling, but now the blankets are being laid.

Some trees and shrubs are bare: the young peaches, roses of Sharon, Siberian peas, and my neighbor’s ashes. Thick coats have accumulated under the catalpa, black locust, peach, and apricots.

There was a good reason to attack the Aster ericoides. As I mentioned in the post for 23 May 2010, their roots turn into woody masses. I found one that was lying right along the top of a tree root, so it was impossible to remove it without nicking what lay below. It was necessary, of course, because as long as it was there, no water would seep down. Most weren’t so bad, but the runners did have to be turfed out.

Flowers on the yellow Mary Stoker chrysanthemums have all died. I don’t know if this is because they are taller than the others still blooming two feet closer to the house, or if it’s the genetics. They are a rubellum hybrid, while the others are various forms of the cushion mum, morifolium. The florist mums in a much lower place are still hoping to get their flowers open before they’re cold killed. Every year there’s the same conundrum, will they make get to bloom, or will they be pinched at the last moment.

Thursday morning, after the temperature flirted with freezing, the garlic chives gave off a strong smell of onion.

I don’t know why the piñon nuts didn’t mature this year. If they’re anything like my late season raspberries, they stop developing when temperatures rise without additional water. In the past, my early season raspberries always produced, but the others always shriveled in July. My good Willamette canes didn’t survive the past winter, and I’ve been cutting down the Heritages as wasted effort, so I don’t know how they would have reacted to this odd summer.

Photographs: I can take pictures and download them, but sorting through them requires too many strokes of the space bar.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hop o’ My Thumb

Weather: The sun came through the front window and into my eyes for the first time this season on Friday. Indian summer continues with no rain since 10/9.

What’s blooming: Hybrid roses, large leafed soapwort, winecup mallow, chocolate flowers, anthemis, blanket flower, French marigolds, Maximilian sunflowers, chrysanthemums. While few things are blooming, plants like golden-spur columbine which died back in the heat of summer have been putting out new growth.

What’s turning red: Leaves on woodsii roses, sand cherries, pink evening primroses, lead plants, toothed spurge.

What’s turning yellow: Leaves on cottonwoods, apricots, rugosa roses, Siberian peas, catalpas, grapes, ladybells.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses, aptinia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, goldfinches in the Maximilian sunflowers, geckoes, ants.

Weekly update: About three weeks ago I banged my right thumb with a heavy aluminum sauce pan in the kitchen. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but a week ago a realized it wasn’t getting any better.

Then, I decided to use it as a little as possible. Since I’ve learned a great deal about what our thumbs are for, and why they were an evolutionary advance. I seem to use it for anything that uses strength. More, it gets used every time I type a word. My left thumb simply refuses to tap the space bar.

Finally, I put on one of those glove-looking stabilizers. I figured, if nothing else, it would interfere enough to stop me abusing the digit. My typing has gotten much worse as my right index finger now takes over its duties on the keyboard.

I put off this week’s entry, thinking my typing would improve. It hasn’t. So, I’m providing minimal information until it does. After all, I also can’t work outside, much as I want to.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Harvest Unreaped

Weather: Some rain Sunday and Monday, but cold mornings continue to send signals of changes coming. Last rain, 10/9.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, Maximilian sunflowers, pampas grass.

Beyond the walls and fences: Leather leaf globe mallow, purple asters.

In my yard: Large leafed soapwort, calamintha, winecup mallow, chocolate flowers, anthemis, blanket flower, French marigolds, chrysanthemums.

Bedding plants: Wax begonias, sweet alyssum.

Inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, goldfinches in the Maximilian sunflowers, geckoes, ants.

Weekly update: This is just not a self-perpetuating fruit area, despite the many apricot and apple trees. Bees may have been imported to fertilize the flowers, but there are few animals to spread the seed by eating the fruit.

Even natives like junipers don’t always have their berries plucked.

But what’s a plant to do when its bounty dries on the vine or twig?

Apples shrug off their fruit to save themselves from carrying the extra weight into winter. I don’t know if apples behave like the watermelons described by William Weaver that nurture their seeds inside their moist wombs. In the past, when apples were pressed for cider, the unused debris was thrown away. Ian Merwin said, seedlings "sprouted naturally in pomace piles." Saplings certain seem to appear wherever they can begin undetected.

My neighbor’s Russian olive has a different strategy: it throws off the fruits with a few leaves to help them fly away a bit. One landed in my drive this past week. I’m not sure how all the others I cut down got here.

The buffalo gourd down the road uses gravity. It’s growing at the top of a road cut where it’s vine tumble down the bank. The fruit accumulates at the bottom. One must have rolled across the road, and on down the slight grade to lodge in the grass around a fence. On the other side is an active hay field, whose owner cannot be happy to have to worry about its fruit infesting his bales.

Merwin, Ian A. "Apple Tree Rootstocks," Cornell University website, summer 1999.

Weaver, William. His observations on watermelon were discussed in the post for 30 August 2015.

1. Pyracantha berries are eaten in other parts of the country, but never here. Ones in town, 4 October 2016.

2. Privet berries are also neglected here; 5 October 2016.

3. Juniper berries in my yard, 5 October 2016.

4. Sand cherries drying on the twig in my yard, 5 October 2016.

5. Apples fallen in a nearby orchard, 4 October 2016.

6. Russian olives in my drive, 5 October 2016.

7. Young buffalo gourd vine hidden in the grass near a hay field, 4 October 2016.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Of Lemmings and Lummoxes

Weather: More clear skies than clouds, with bits of rain; last useful rain was 9/23.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, trumpet creeper, silver lace vine, datura, morning glories, Maximilian sunflowers, zinnia, pampas grass.

Beyond the walls and fences: Bindweed, leather leaf globe mallow, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, golden hairy, heath and purple asters.

In my yard: Large leafed soapwort, calamintha, winecup mallow, Mexican hats, chocolate flowers, coreopsis, blanket flower, French marigolds, Sensation and yellow cosmos, chrysanthemums.

Bedding plants: Wax begonias, sweet alyssum, gazania.

Inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses.
Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds, geckoes, small bees, hornets, ants, grasshoppers.

Weekly update: It’s that time again, between the first cold morning and the first hard frost, when one ponders the ways leaves respond to their imminent demise.

Some trees are dependable. As soon as they detect cold, they send signals and their leaves turn yellow. One down the road with finely cut leaves is always the first to respond.

The fruit trees are rarely so dramatic. Leaves on my peach were turning yellow and dropping almost as soon as the branches shook off the last of their fruit. An apricot down the road is showing more stress. Some branches have turned yellow, and others are green. The light color backlights others on the southeast side that had died, but weren’t visible before.

Other plants just ignore the weather, following their own internal clocks. Leaves on corn that was planted early have turned brown and their stalks have been cut. But plants seeded later are still green, and the ones I planted very late are still producing new ears though the lummoxes will never ripen.

Way too many plants just never recovered from the heat of summer and like lemmings are continuing their slow walk to oblivion. My friends tell me his tomatoes still have done nothing. My melon plants only put out some more leaves and flowers, but never grew. The one person I think had squash just tore his out when he cut his corn. As near as I could tell, they finally did start to vine, but I never saw any squashes.

Catalpas never grew comfortable. The leaves were smaller than usual so bare branches showed through. At their best, they looked like newly shorn poodles. The leaves never became fully green, but always kept a hint of yellow. Now, at the first sign of fall, that green is retreating.

Bedding plants also continue to nurse their grievances. The French marigolds died about the time some reseeds came into bloom. The snapdragons have finally started to blossom, but only one flower at a time. The moss roses only recovered when I brought them inside.

But then they rarely have a chance to thrive. Growers always put too many seeds in a cell to make single threads look like full plants. They fight one another for water, and lebensraum for their roots.

Photographs: Most taken in the area on Saturday, 1 October 2016.

1. Heavenly Blue morning glories are another seed that simply didn’t grow this year. What morning glories are blooming are mixes from reseedings. I put some seeds in when I planted the corn in a shaded area, and, perhaps because it didn’t go through the harsh transition to July as a seedling, it has started to bloom.

2. Virginia creeper is one of the most predictable plants; it always turns maroon. This one is near the village.

3. The unknown trees with finely dissected leaves down the road.

4. An apricot with patches of yellow that reveal its dead branches.

5. My experimental corn plant.

6. My cantaloupe plant plants with leaves and recent flowers, and nothing more.

7. The prematurely yellowing catalpa.

8. Moss rose plants bought early in the season that finally are blooming indoors. The number of colors indicates how many seedling fought with one another. 3 October 2016.

9. I bought some single plants a few weeks ago, mainly because I was checking out with one brick, and needed something more to make a credit card charge They cost much more per plant, and it remains to be seen if they truly are what they claim. At least they are blooming in clusters, not single strands. 3 October 2016.