Monday, February 22



This past Saturday, after almost two weeks of being alone here with the kids, I got up before the sun and drove 2 hours to join my brother at a farm auction. It started early, and with the drive time, I had to get the trailer hooked up and be out of the driveway by 7 at the latest. Of course, as it always does, obstacles arose. It was bitterly cold that morning and promised to stay that way through the rest of the day, but I was bound and determined to get out of this zip code before I went completely crazy.

The trailer hitch was completely frozen to the ground and it took a few hits with the maul before it came loose. Then came the fun of getting it attached to the car and noticing it had a soft tire. This took time to re-inflate and then came the duct tape repair of one of the trailer tail lights which had been knocked loose when driving too close to the woodpile. By this time it was past 7:30 and I did not want to be driving faster than I should on snowy back roads.

I managed to meet my brother in time for the auction after a few hair raising near misses with guard rails and oncoming traffic. The route that I took was beautiful and I wished that I could stop and take some pictures. It was what I call the "Back Finger Lakes" - not the smoothly paved wine trail routes but the twisty back roads, some paved, some not, where you see more trees and Amish buggies than cars.

This particular auction required the trailer since my brother wanted to pick up some new fencing, some roofing and possibly a new tiller for the garden. It was a farm auction so there were many plows, implements, tractors and just about every type of equipment or tool you would need to raise any type of livestock, crop, or start your own salvage yard. I was there for the two very nice recurve bows that my brother had spotted at the pre-auction the day before and called me about.

I signed in for my bidding number - 46 - at the clerks table which was located in the garage on the property and staffed by some very nice Mennonite ladies in dresses, despite the 10 degree temperature. I soon realized two things - there are not very many women at farm auctions at 9am when the temperature is 10 degrees, and when you do go to an outdoor farm auction in 10 degree weather, you had better dress for it. I was one of 5 ladies in attendance, not counting the owners and the Mennonite ladies at the clerks table. And I was one of the two ladies not wearing Carhartt clothing. 

Looking over the attendees, which numbered around 300 and were 99% male, I felt like I was adrift in a churning sea of brown, black and camo Carhartts. There were some brave Mennonite men and boys in their black hats and wool coats, but it was mostly Carhartts and testosterone. 

I stood out from the pack wearing my Walmart black and yellow ski jacket and some black snow boots that were not as well insulated as I thought. Not even half way through the 5 hours of bidding, we were putting those air activated hand warmers in our boots and gloves.

We froze, and we did not get the bows or the roofing or the tiller. We did get some fencing and some nice outdoor wooden benches, plus some farming odds and ends. The most fun part for me was listening to the conversations of the other attendees. Mostly farmers and Mennonites and quite a few people were speaking what I think was German.

It took about an hour of standing in front of the wood stove at my brothers farm before I could feel my toes again and before I made the trip home but it was still a great day in my book.

Next up.... seed starting time, property updates and tree orders

Monday, February 8

Landscape Chores in February

I am thoroughly enjoying this very mild winter weather we've had here lately. Practically this entire winter has been snow-free which is great news for those of us who count winter as there least favorite season. We have had to clear the driveway once since November and I am convinced that my husband just wanted to be able to use the snow thrower, given that the weather man called for sunny skies and melting temperatures the very next day. What few inches accumulated on the driveway would have melted nicely away in the next 48 hours.

This past weekend was in the 50s and sunny so I took advantage of the weather to get the kids outside and to start dismantling one of my perennial flower gardens. This particular garden area has been bothering me for a couple of years. It started out as a flower garden and through some contaminated soil and some bad planting decisions, quickly became overrun with mint and Grapeleaf Anemone. I am a fan of both plants but in moderation, in containers and in out of the way places that you want something to grow every year without any fuss and fill up a lot of space. In this garden of 12 feet by 8 feet however, it completely took over. My yarrow, bee balm, black hollyhocks and orange lilies held on and managed to grow and bloom this past season but I knew that I probably would not see them again next year unless I dug them out and moved them.

Also, this particular garden was planted when we moved in over 10 years ago and is near what was the back property line. Now that we have purchased that other property, this garden now seems to divide the yard. Along with a patch of Joe Pie Weed, I intended this to give a little privacy to my clothes line - who wants their neighbor viewing the laundry, dirty or otherwise.

So the kids and I started moving rocks. I love to have flat field stone borders on all my gardens, stacked up 4 or 5 high. It looks great, it is easy to mow around and if I decide I don't like the way something is arranged, I can dismantle it without too much fuss. We move all the stones to a section of the driveway to get them all out of the way. Then we went around with our garden shovels, poking in the dirt to see if we had missed any flat stones that had sunk into the ground over the past ten years from the weight of the other stones on top. We found quite a few and pried them out with my garden trowel and the kids plastic sandbox shovels. The only rocks that are left are three huge and heavy boulders that need to be moved with the tractor bucket and that can wait until spring. I have no idea where I am going to use these big rocks in the yard right now and I don;t want to have to move them any more than necessary. Besides, I have a strong suspicion that there may be things living under those rocks that I would rather not deal with at the moment.

With the rock border out of the way, we raked all the dead plant material and last falls dried leaves out of the garden. No need for compost this year - this garden is history. After the ground was cleaned up I began hunting around for signs of life from the plants I wanted to save. If it did not hit me at the time I was doing it, it surely has now that I am typing this. The beginning of February in New York State should be a frigid, ice scraping nightmare. There should be at least a foot of snow covering the ground with no chance of spotting a stray lily sprout, That we were out there digging and working on the landscaping with summer jackets on is rare and strange. Am I happy to not be driving 10 MPH in a blizzard, yes. Am I a little concerned that something is changing weather patterns, it's a safe bet to say that yes, I am.

Without reading too much into the weather, we were happy to be able to get out and enjoy it, and get some work done in the process. Any time I can cross something off the list is good. One less thing to do when April gets here and that list gets much, much longer.

Side note: invasive plants are very interesting to me. I often think of them in terms of seed weapons or cage fighters. Please don't ask me why I think of things like this but you could make the perfect evil seed bomb with mint, Anemone, Chinese lanterns and comfrey. And when planted together, who would eventually take over and win? Would the spreading roots of the mint choke out the lanterns or would the deep roots of the comfrey bring up the nutrients it would need to overpower the Anemone?

Just some of the things that run through the mind of a gardener.