Tag Archives: crocus

March 13- March flowers

What was that quote about Frebruary showers?..

We’re starting to get a pretty nice floral display at Twin Oaks, one which will keep getting better over the next couple months.  The crocuses continue to bloom, and I’m spotting new patches, some that are just starting to flower and some that I’m just seeing for the first time.  The daffodils are starting to bloom all around the community, although it will still be a while before they peak.  The ground-smothering periwinkle ivy has started opening up into delicate purple flowers.  And, in a sure sign that spring is arriving, the cherry trees and bushes are starting to blossom.  The bush cherries in the Morningstar orchard opened just this morning, the first of the fruit trees and bushes at Twin Oaks to flower!Image

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March 11- up Tupelo creek

There can be no clearer metaphor for the retreat of winter and the advance of spring than the scene playing itself out all around the community.  The snowbanks of winter are quite literally retreating before the advancing tide of tender young shoots.Image

Although the daffodils have begun to flower, it is still the season of the crocus.  They mostly occur in small patches here and there; masses like the one below are generally the exception.

 

Took a walk along the creek that I have started thinking of as “Tupelo Creek,” a seasonal waterway that in wet times of year is a tributary of Tofu Creek.  It branches off in the woods below Tupelo house, and parallels the path from Tupelo to our warehouse.  Most of the snow in the woods is already melted.  All that remained was tiny patches here and there, mostly on the north side of trees. The creek itself had a nice little trickle, the ground saturated with recent snowmelt.

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There was even a little waterfall.  When I see little cascades like this one, I like to imagine that the size scale is all off, and I am looking at a mighty cascade plunging into a deep pool in some far-off mountain range.

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Further upstream, the channel of the creek deepened into what is, for a seasonal rivulet that’s usually not much more than a trickle, a pretty impressive “canyon.”

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Another spot where the “canyon” walls are held close together by four parallel roots bridging the gap.

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At the head of the little “gorge” was this “headwall,” which is probably pretty impressive during or immediately after a storm.  It is a scooped-out area where the flow of water has undercut and washed away the banks, leaving a network of roots hanging down, reaching for the moisture of the pool.IMG_2461 IMG_2466

I continued upstream, past a few pretty little pools like this one, to the spot where Tupelo creek begins, in a flat marshy bit of the woods. IMG_2469

I pumped up the saturation on this photo to make a point, but in fact the moss all over the woods is thick and bright green, clearly thankful for the moist conditions.  Still no leaves on the trees, but the abundant moss certainly gives a verdant tinge to the forest.

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Passing by the place where we are putting in a new fruit orchard– the fruit trees and bushes have been laid out but not yet put in the ground.IMG_2474

During the three-day blackout, we moved our generators around in order to give a few hours of power at a time to the different places in the community that needed it.  Our wellhouse was one of those places; periodically powering our pump allowed us to have a mostly uninterrupted supply of fresh water.  The grassy field beside the wellhouse was, unfortunately, a casualty of the blackout.  IMG_2477

Just before noon, I took a whole cartload of expired veggies down to the newly free-range chickens.  They are truly lords of the compost heap these days.  IMG_2481

Despite their successful foraging, they do come running when they see me pulling up that cart o’ produce!Image

Now don’t that look dee-licious?  Those chickens certainly think so!IMG_2476

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Feb 20- February daze

And February drags on, with little change in the weather or landscape.  When I was conceptualizing this project, I was a bit worried about this time of year, when it seems like nothing is changing or growing around here, just a monotonous succession of winter days.   And I must confess, it’s easier to fantasize about friends in Florida, or the trip to California that I booked this morning, than it is to continue to find novelty and beauty in the inertness of central Virginia nature in mid-February.

At the birdfeeder, I saw my first finches of the year, which is a little surprising; in past years, goldfinches and purple finches were the most common visitors, and I was noticing their lack.  Even the male finches are still wearing their drab winter plumage, as you can see below.

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And I saw my first yellow crocuses at Twin Oaks– I had seen some on the neighbor’s land, but these are the first I’ve seen here, out in front of Nashoba.Image

After lunch today, I spent a couple hours splitting wood.  Here’s the stack of freshly-split wood as I got started, now the piles are even bigger.Image

A lot of the logs were full of life, assorted bugs and grubs and molds.  Splitting this piece was a rude awakening for this colony of ants living within.  The other side of the same piece was covered with freshly hatched ant babies; I tried to photograph them, but it came out all blurry.Image

This one had a pattern that looked like some sort of abstract modern art:Image

And this piece, a chunk of old, grizzled, half rotten trunk, was filled with impressive mycelium, cottony white fungal flowers. Image

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Freaky yellow, orange, and green molds have colonized the inside of this log, along with the puffy white mycelial mat.  Image

After finishing my wood splitting shift, I had some spare time to walk in the woods, which seemed unusually quiet, still, and oddly lifeless today.  There was hardly even any birdsong’ the loudest sound in the forest was the roar of the train whistle, 7 miles to the north in Louisa.  Eventually, I found myself wandering through our neighbor’s property, the “Purcell land.”  This property was clearcut shortly before I moved to Twin Oaks 12 years ago.  These days, it’s a thick forest of young skinny trees, with the occasional large, impressively rotted stump.  Not the easiest terrain to navigate, and, quite frankly, there’s not much to see in there.

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A couple of the interesting things I found were this bleached out old turtle shell that looked like a dinosaur-era fossil, and this beautifully decomposed stump, which reminded me of some sort of cliff-dweller’s homes, carved into a rock wall.  One thing I didn’t find was any evidence that the seasons are turning, or that winter is loosening its dreary grip.

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Feb 14–cleanin’ the road (first of many)

Twin Oaks has for years been part of the “adopt-a-highway” program, and I’ve been the main person doing it for most of my twelve years here.  In our case, “adopt-a-highway” is a bit of a euphemism, as it’s more “adopt-a-little-used-rural-byway.” Once a month, I go out with a group of Twin Oaks visitors, walk the “half-block” of roads linking the community’s front and back entrances, and pick up the inevitable, regrettable, accumulation of garbage along the roadway.  I alternate sides, so I’m walking each side of the half-block once every two months– seeing the changes in the landscape as I repeated the same route was one of the experiences which inspired me to keep a daily journal.  This afternoon, we walked the Vigor Rd./Old Mtn. Road section, which is longer but more scenic, passing through sections of forest and past old farms.  It was a sunny but cool afternoon, very pleasant winter day for a 3-mile walk.

Blue skies and white horses on the Sadler Farm (our neighbor to the west)

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Another neighbor had blooming crocuses scattered through their yard, white and yellow ones, in contrast to the purple ones that are starting to come up everywhere at Twin Oaks

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The fields are still yellow with last years’ dead grass; the forests are still wearing their grey winter coat.  No change there.Image

At one point, we found this old bottle buried in the muck.  As I started to dig it out, I discovered a tiny terrarium world growing inside the bottle.  Decided to leave it where it was, a mini-greenhouse along the side of the road, trash having combined with nature to create art.  We also found: a cigar in a sealed wrapper, a candy cane also in a sealed wrapper, and an unopened Bud Lite.  Had ourselves quite a party when the road clean was finished!

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Further up, I came across this tree, which looks like a fish or dinosaur head or something.  As it’s just a few steps off of the road, I’ve been enjoying seeing this tree for years.

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Near the end of the day’s walk, I came across this bloom of daffodils in a neighbor’s front yard.  February 14th, a traditional day of flowers, and definitely the first daffodils I’ve seen so far this year.Image

Feb 12– Monticello ramble

Today was one of the warmest days so far this year– actually, I think it was the warmest.  Sunny, high fifties.  I blasted through my tofu delivery duties as fast as reasonably possible so that I would have an hour or more free for a walk.  The folks at Monticello (yes, that Monticello) have preserved a bunch of forested acres on the mountain below TJ’s famous residence, with a network of freely accessible trails running all this way and that.  It’s a great spot for a hike, just a couple of minutes out of C’ville.  The trails start off in younger scrubby woods, areas that were farmed until recently, but quickly climb into some stately old forest that has clearly not felt the bite of axe or chainsaw for many decades.  Many impressively large old oaks and maples along the couple of miles of trail I hiked.

The woods themselves seemed unusually devoid of any sort of greenery; not surprising, given the time of year, but somehow they felt even stiller and emptier than the woods at Twin Oaks.  Maybe because it is an entirely deciduous forest, without even the little bit of green that the conifers in our woods give.

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As I hiked along the mountainside, I enjoyed looking to the northwest and seeing the city of Charlottesville spread out below, with the Blue Ridge mountains of Shenandoah national park in the background: Image

On previous trips to this park, I had been rewarded with large hauls of oyster mushrooms.  On this trip, I found ample evidence of places where the mushrooms had grown within the last week or two, but no young fresh ones (see photos below).  This has been pretty much the case everywhere I’ve looked over the past couple of weeks–lots of old withered mushrooms and no firm edible ones.  Either I’m getting consistently unlucky, or we’re at a time of year where nothing is fruiting– which seems unusual, as the weather has been damp and, at least for this time of year, relatively warm.

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After hiking on trails for a mile or so, I dropped down into a trail-less ravine to walk along what turned out to be a dry creekbed.  Down at the bottom of the ravine, I came across several old glass bottles, looks like they’re from the 70’s or 80’s.  This one was the best preserved of the lot, but there were a bunch more.  Odd.Image

Before getting back to the truck, I came across an odd sight– water running down the side of a hill (rather than in the bed of a creek, or at the bottom of a valley where you would expect it).  I bashed my way up the hillside to investigate, and came across this broken black pipe, with water gushing out of it and down the hill.  A hundred feet further up, I came across the well pictured below, with a pipe coming out of it, looked like a piped spring to me!  I tried to lift the lid of the well to look inside, but it was too heavy to budge.  I had foolishly gone out without carrying any water, so I was pretty happy to find this spring– I drank up and it tasted goood.Image

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Final note– yesterday afternoon, Zadek pointed out this clump of crocuses.  It was late in the day, so they were all closed up, but I made a point of going back to the spot (right by the road in front of ZK) and photographing them today while they were open and enjoying the sunshine.  There are certainly more showy flowers, but by virtue of being first and ushering in thoughts (if not quite the reality) of spring, the humble crocus may be the most beloved. Image

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Jan 21– Hocus pocus it’s a crocus!

Jan 21-- Hocus pocus it's a crocus!

January 21, the first crocus of the year, right outside of ZK. Given that we’re about to come into our coldest weather so far this winter, I don’t know how long it will last. But for now, here it is, a crocus on January 21st, a sure-fire sign that while it may be midwinter now, spring is on its way!