Monday, October 20, 2014

Raking Leaves

I raked lots of oak leaves (and tons of acorns) today, under a sunny, blue sky, before a stretch of rain sets in tomorrow. Kodi helped, sort of.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Garlic Planting 2014

We planted our garlic today: 500 cloves from this year's July harvest. Every year my Dad prepares the garden for the annual planting. He discs up a new plot roughly 4 feet by 50 feet. This fall he spent extra time discing, which helped a lot. The soil was soft and easy to hoe. Thanks Dad.
This year we also had extra hands to help. I, along with my sister, brother, niece and her husband, and nephew are visiting our parents this weekend. Everyone pitched in starting with breaking up the garlic bulbs into individual cloves. Usually each bulb contains 5-6 cloves. This year nearly every bulb had only 4 garlic cloves, but each was very large.
Our planting scheme is the same every year: five rows 50 feet long and spaced 9 inches apart. Within the row we plant the garlic 4 inches deep and 6 inches apart, resulting in 100 cloves of garlic per row.
Dad also picked up the two straw bales from a local farmer that we placed over the garlic patch, after covering each row with about two inches of soil.
This crop is now put to bed. From now until July it takes care of itself. The straws holds down weeds and keeps in moisture. We let Mother Nature take care of the watering. And we have the remainder of our 2014 crop--the remaining 300+ bulbs--for daily cooking until the 2015 crop is pulled. There is a dry spell from May-July when the garlic bulbs have begun to dry out and the new crop is not ready. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Baldfaces

On Sunday we hiked the Baldfaces: Baldface Knob, South Baldface, and North Baldface. The colors were glorious, the trails not too crowded, and the air was warm, actually a little too warm. We were parched by the end of our 10.5 mile hike, drinking nearly every drop of water that we carried.

We ascended via the Slippery Brook Trail, which branches off from the Baldface Circle Trail about one mile from the parking area in North Chatham. Slippery Brook is a longer and gentler climb than the more popular Baldface Circle Trail. We opted for the gentle, quiet route.

Along the upper part of the Slippery Brook Trail, 
lined with colorful hardwoods and hobblebush

For the first 4 miles we had the trails to ourselves. From Baldface Knob to North Baldface we encountered only a handful of people. A bit surprising since the views and colors were at their peak.

From Baldface Knob looking south to Eastman Mountain

Atop Baldface Knob, looking southwest to Sable Mountain

From Baldface Knob looking up at 3,570' South Baldface

The Baldfaces are all less than 4,000 feet, so not part of the White Mountain 48 4,000-footers. Yet they offer, in our opinion, some of the best hiking in the Whites, because they are bald, exposed, and wide open.

On the way to South Baldface

The views from the ridge between South and North Baldface are just stunning, especially looking northwest into the vast Wild River Wilderness to the Carter-Moriah Range and Mt. Washington beyond. The air was a little hazy (temperatures in the mid-80s), but not enough to mar the awe-inspiring views.

On the Baldface Circle Trail between South and North Baldface,
looking northwest all the way to Mt. Washington

A view east from the Baldface Circle Trail

The view from our lunch spot atop North Baldface

Trail junction: Baldface Circle Trail and Bicknell Ridge Trail

We hiked down via the Bicknell Ridge Trail, a long, hot, dry, but beautiful descent. When we finally reached a stream with running water, Kodi flopped down in a pool to cool his hot, black belly, then rested his head in the stream.

A large crowd of high school or college students were hanging around Emerald Pool, a popular swimming destination less than a mile from the parking lot. Otherwise, we encountered only a dozen people on the full hike, a pleasant surprise for one of the best fall weekends in New England.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Stick or An Insect?

When is the last time you saw a stick insect, or as I called it growing up (and still do)--a walking stick? It's been years, maybe decades for me. Last Friday while working with a group of volunteers on conservation land in Durham, NH, someone spotted a moving stick. We paused from pulling up bittersweet vines and honeysuckle shrubs to exclaim over the walking stick. Seven-year old volunteer Grace was happy pose with the 3-4-inch insect. After a bit we placed it gently back at the edge of the woods under some vegetation. It will likely be many more years before I see another, as camouflaged as they are and going about their quiet, nocturnal lives eating leaves.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Hornet's Nest

I've seen a lot of wasps this year: paper wasps, baldfaced hornets, yellow jackets. My approach to wasps, as well as bees, is to respect their nest sites, give them a wide berth, and leave them alone as much as possible.

Just the name of baldfaced hornets sounds ominous. They are actually not a true hornet, but rather a black and white yellow jacket, so named for their white or "baldface" head.

I marvel at the the large egg-shaped paper nest of baldfaced hornets. These are most noticeable after leaf-off, but I've seen several just in the last few weeks. Here is one on the branch of a large while oak tree overhanging a meadow of goldenrod, milkweed, and asters.
My parents have a lovely baldfaced hornet nest, I think, on the side of their house. Other family members are not so keen.

As long as you don't stir up the hornet's nest, all will be fine. After the first hard freeze, all the hornets except the newly mated females (future queens), will die. The future queens abandon their birth nest and bury into the ground or a log for the winter, waiting until spring to start a new paper nest of their own somewhere else.