Thursday, September 21, 2017

Na Pali Coast boat ride

A ridicuously expensive 4-hr boat trip turned out to be well worth it, at least at Kauai prices.

Wonderful views of what is truly a spectacular coastline.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

On the trail towards Alakai Swamp, Kauai

I didn't take my iPhone on this hike, as it looked like rain was threatening, but all was well until our return ascent.
This is the only photo that I seem to be able to get my iPad to download, from the ones my gardening companion took.
A wonderful hike.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Waimea Canyon

A truly spectacular spot on Kauai, Waimea Canyon was breathtaking.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

More Kauai views

We're so fortunate that our small house in Asheville is walkable to downtown, looks into a restored forest (thanks to my gardening companion), and is surrounded by other gardens, vegetable and pollinator-friendly, native-rich, etc. It's a good place to be.

It makes for a good home exchange. Our home exchange partners here in Kauai will be in our house next April. We're enjoying their wonderful setting now.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Kauai views

From Eastern hardwood forest views to Kauai slopes.
The first two are from our home exchange cottage; the third is looking towards the Na Pali coast.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Coming into Kauai

This afternoon's view was impressive, as we approached Kauai, where we'll be for awhile on a Home Exchange. My gardening companion was here 40+ years ago and remembers it fondly; I've never been to Hawaii.

Hiking, botanizing, snorkeling, and poking around in our Home Exchange partners' garden -- it'll be a wonderful time. It's warm and humid, but hey, we're from the Southeastern US, after all. It's not unfamiliar, even though our summer has been cool this year.

A brief stopover to visit relatives in LA reminded me of why I wouldn't want to live in Southern CA. They live in a wonderful house surrounded by gardens, but, the traffic to and from the airport, even at 6 am this morning was remarkable (not in a good way!)

Now, I'm off to see what the garden might have, while we wait for AAA to charge the battery on the car! There are lots of robust looking tomato plants, recently planted, I think, along with lots of papaya and mango trees.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Gardening is about hope

Isn't gardening really about hope?  Hope for what we've planted, whether it's short-term or long.

I've sowed seeds of greens just before leaving for several weeks and created all the change-outs with kale and collards; my gardening companion has planted new native trees and perennials.  It IS about hope.

Our home exchange folks aren't going to be watering. The daughter of our very nice neighbor will be keeping an eye on whether it needs to be watered, but.., the footsteps of the resident gardeners will be absent for awhile.

All will be well, I think, as Irma will bring plenty of rain over the next week to our garden.  And, September is sometimes a cool month (and has certainly started out like that). Hmm, I wore my fleece jacket on our evening walk -- strange for Sept. 10.

We had a wonderful red sunset looping around the Grove Park Inn this evening. But I didn't have my phone (or camera).

So here's another wonderful one, from Beaver Lake, another favorite walk.

Beaver Lake sunset

Monday, September 4, 2017

A vegetable garden change-out

It's a bit early to dispatch most of the final tomatoes and beans, but with home exchange folks coming, and departure within the week, it's time.  When your vegetable garden is largely in the front of the house, attractiveness standards are high.

So, out came the front beans and the last of the cherry tomatoes, in came transplants of collards, kale, and broccoli, and I've seeded spinach, arugula, beets, mache, creasy greens, and a bit of lettuce (I need more lettuce seeds!)  Now I'll just hope for rain while we're gone, or perhaps the daughter of our neighbor will want to water again.

I've protected most of the cole crops with wire cloches -- they help deter (a bit) the cabbage white butterflies laying eggs (and the following caterpillars) and the errant woodchuck nibbling. Ha!

Sept. 4, 2017
Gardening is always an act of hope and belief in possibilities. It's always a new season.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Evening at Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake in North Asheville is always a source of wonderful views, at whatever time of day. In the evening, the light was lovely today.

And the almost full moon, rising above the lake, was a bonus.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A walk at Biltmore Estate

There's a lot to like about Biltmore Estate, even it's a for-profit, family-owned enterprise. Yes, it's ca-ching, ca-ching - but they're doing stewardship well.

As passholders, we enjoy the landscape along the French Broad River, the gardens around the house, and even the Wine Club -- Woody is welcome, so after a nice walk, perfect.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Coming home to a nocturnal symphony

I've appreciated many times (via blog posts) in the past how our SE US forests and other natural landscapes support crickets, cicadas, tree frogs, etc. that make our nocturnal symphonies so compelling.

It's in full swing tonight in the forest below our urban house this evening. Whether it's the native trees that were in the canopy, or the native understory trees and herbaceous plants that we've added, or both, I don't know.  The insects and tree frogs are happy.

It's lovely to hear tonight. We didn't hear night insects or frogs in Quebec over the last week, while traveling.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A farewell bonfire

We're heading home tomorrow , so this is a farewell bonfire. Lovely to be with my Dad and his wife this evening.l

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Gaspesie National Park (Mont Albert loop)

Ten years ago, we'd had a great hike on this loop, reprised again, albeit with a late start. It's a wonderful (and long - almost 11 mile) hike, through coniferous forests, alpine tundra, serpentine endemics, boggy habitats, and riverside areas, with wonderful views at the top.

It was a lovely way to mark our 33th wedding anniversary, even though a bit strenous!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Parc National de Bic

We visited here last year, on a excursion during a family visit. A magical place, so we returned here again.
It's a park that includes botanical diversity, rugged coastline with views of distant islands in the St. Lawrence River, great hikes, and bays full of sealife -- harbor seals basking in the sun, seabirds, and intertidal flora and fauna.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

An unexpected garden

Heading along the St. Lawrence River, on an afternoon excursion, we came across a historic estate and garden, Domaine Joly De Lotbiniere, near the small town of Lotbiniere.

The summer estate, built in 1851, served as a summer home for a prominent Quebec family for 5 generations (almost 200 years).

Today, it's a National Historic Site of Canada, operated by the Foundation supporting the estate.

The gardens were lovely.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Observing the natural world

We're in the 99% path of the solar eclipse tomorrow, so we have eclipse glasses ready, and a planned viewing spot.

It would be fun to be over at Biltmore Estate (with its expansive skies) but we're opting for a walkable spot close-by.

I'm inherently more interested in living things than planetary happenings, but thinking about tomorrow at this time going largely dark, is a pretty dramatic thing to contemplate!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tomato hornworm - felled by a braconid wasp

I haven't seen a tomato hornworm in my garden for many years (thanks to all the birds that we encourage, I hope). But this one, in an open hoophouse, in the community garden where I currently volunteer, was a surprise.

And happily, full of parasitoid egg cases from a braconid wasp

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Morning and evening light

A Rudbeckia in the evening and morning glories in the morning.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The power of plants

A full day today of gardening talks, followed by a meeting with the organizer of a recently developed community garden downtown (on a year-by-year city gardening space) has me reeling, a bit.
Too many gardening threads to think about in the same day -- from ecological gardening, to the Lurie Garden's story, to a grounds-up community garden.

But the important message that came through from Thomas Rainer and Roy Diblik, in their presentations, and Clare Hanrahan, the community garden organizer, is about the power of plants to connect people to the environment, stop them in their tracks, and bring nature to the city.

It's a message I've embraced my entire life. I fell in love with plants in the natural world, but was also entranced by the "wild plants in the city" -- the survivors and colonizers -- as a young teenager, spending a summer near NYC.

I left academic research for outreach about a decade into my career life with plants, and embraced that since, whether it's been encouraging people to grow natives ("plants that work for a living") or growing vegetables year-round, another passion.

The power of plants -- humans need nature, and plants are the foundation of that. Whether it's a window box, a box full of edibles, a large-scale garden, or living in the forest, it's a path to the natural world.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Thinking about the future

I'm in an online class, facilitated by a wonderful writer and thinker in Ireland, Sharon Blackie. She posed a question this week about how we address our lives in the context of a changing climate. Her course is all about being inspired to rise up, and pay attention to the natural world, and our particular place in it.

Sharon's weekly missive was prompted by a piece by a NASA climate scientist here in the US, who is tracking human impact on oceans (they're the last sink for the CO2 that we're producing), and her take was not positive.

But, she (the scientist) also wrote that she wasn't willing to have her child live a life without carbon (that is, without modern conveniences and visiting the grandparents through travel). So the question really, that Sharon was asking us to consider, is how much are we willing to do individually to reduce our impact on the earth?

It was a compelling piece, and thought-provoking.

I've tried to do the best that I can over the last 4 decades (I was a teenager at the time of the first Earth Day here in the US, and studied environmental science and biology in college, and became a plant ecologist in graduate school.) This has been on my mind for a long time.

My major carbon use now is travel. But it's perhaps offset because we don't have children? As well as offsets? We live in a small house that's energy-efficient, we recycle everything, I buy clothes at the thrift store (eg. recycled), yada, yada, etc. - but that's really not enough on a planet with an expanding population.

I have no answers. But I'm thinking it's also the "tragedy of the commons," too, as we all put our heads down in the sand.

It was interesting to search my past posts for "stewardship" and read what came up.

Maypops below: host plant for Gulf Frillary butterflies

Sunday, August 6, 2017

River rock tales

Carefully placed river rock (stone by stone)
I've been too tired after placing river rock (in place of the mulch around my raised vegetable beds and in our front path) -- for the last 3 days (3-4 hours in the morning and an hour or so in the evening is about all I can do), to manage an new post about the garden or any nature observations.  Thank goodness, my gardening companion was doing the really heavy lifting, but I'm the rock placer.

I'm admiring the pocket meadow, which is glorious right now, but don't have the energy to write about how I'm going to change out the tomatoes and peppers in the deep bed for greens this fall. I'm pooped.

The river rock odyssey started early last week, when I suddenly had the energy to start raking out the mulch that had washed down into the small river stone path leading to the house over the years, covering at least half of it. Not particularly attractive.

I excavated and washed off the stones, and it looked great -- inspiring us to think about our several year intention to replace the mulch around the raised beds with something more permanent (and less allergenic).

A trip to the stone yard had us selecting more small river rocks, to be delivered last Friday.  But, we made a mistake in the sizing, I wasn't there, and LARGE river rocks (2-5") were delivered (my gardening companion had even upped the scoop size, un-beknowst to me)....

A partially done addition
So, we've made lemons out of lemonade, with excellent results.  The large river stones, especially after we seal them to be darker, will be lovely.

The drawback is that they needed to placed, one by one.  Yikes.

It's reminded me of the flagstone path that I put in down in the Piedmont (I felt like I had been pummeled by sticks after each weekend.)

Final results will be coming soon.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An August rain

Thankfully, and unexpectedly, we've had a thunderstorm overhead for the last hour.  It's produced a welcome downpour, for a good 30 minutes or so, and now on and off.

Rain hadn't been predicted until Friday, but it's welcome now!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Milkweeds, monarchs, and Typha (cattails)

A loop around Beaver Lake this evening (in North Asheville) was full of wonderful views, as usual.

But I was particularly glad to see an inflorescence in the expanding common milkweed patch visited by a monarch, painted lady, and several bumblebees.

Common milkweed with monarch. etc.

The young Typha (cattails) along the path towards the Audubon sanctuary were lovely, too.

Cat-tail (Typha latifolia)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pocket meadow abundance

I've made a lot of posts about the pocket meadow over the years.  It's been a lot of fun.

This year, it's exploded, thanks to my over-planting in its center (there's Silphium perfoliatum, Coreopsis trifoliata, and a Heliopsis cultivar).  Yikes.

And the other side of the driveway --the Salvia guaranitica that was planted years ago (hmm, it's not supposed to be reliably hardy here) has engulfed its space (pruning was necessary last week), along with the Verbena 'Homestead,' Solidago 'Fireworks,' a Joe-Pye Weed, and a volunteer Rudbeckia triloba (an echo from a couple of years ago), make for a vibrant homecoming.
Coming home is nice.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A pop-up community garden

There's a city-owned space in downtown Asheville that's been vacant for quite awhile.  Part of it was a mildew-ridden parking garage when we first came to Asheville (it's now removed); another bit was a building (provided for Sister Cities space) that became uninhabitable (also now removed).  And I think there is a bit of additional land as part of the parcel, too.

It's been the source of some discussion (an understatement) over the past years -- slated for development, promoted as a green space, called the "Pit of Despair," etc.

City Council is still pondering about the best use for this space, and has invested much time and dollars in surveying the community, etc. etc. -- tax benefits v. green space distills the ideas behind the pondering.  But in the interim, they called for short term ideas.

I was delighted to see a community garden pop up in the old Sister Cities site. Delightful.  The nearby residents at Battery Park Apartments have been gardening in the empty edges around this site for several years.

But to return from ~ about a month away, to a delightful community garden in this space.

How nice is that? Magic.

Looping through downtown on a walk this evening, I chatted with some of the gardeners. I'll be seeing how I can help in the future, as they have a year's commitment from the city, with possibilities of continuance down the road.

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