Thursday, January 18, 2007

Warm Coats and Lady Slippers

Thursday, January 18th already! It seems as if I was just out cutting the Christmas tree and here it is half way to February. It's a beautiful day at Vermont Flower Farm but the 31 degree reading on the thermometer is deceiving. The sun is bright but the wind continues to whisper cold thoughts which have the birds quite busy. You may not know this, but birds are mandated to read a book on caloric intake each fall and January is the month their memories are tested. A few moments ago there were so many blue jays on the platform feeder that they were coming in like harrier jets and landing sideways on the two tall mullein stalks. Birds and mulleins sprung back and forth, back in forth. Blue jays do not like to take turns and they are always anxious to get to the feeder.

I haven't stopped at our property because of the recent bad weather. Yesterday morning the temperature was at 13 below when I was getting ready to head for work and I know by the time the sun rose it had dropped some more. At ten last night it was 9.8 below but this morning a front had begun to move in and it was "only" 3 below.

There have been many discussions in recent months about global warming. I can vouch for change even though I don't have a definitive reason why things are different. I don't want to get crazy about this but I have a desire to understand it better than I do. Last night I ordered a book by George Perkins Marsh which he wrote around Civil War time. Some say he was one step back from Rachael Carson and wrote his own Silent Spring but named it Man and Nature: Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action. Marsh grew up in Woodstock like I did only a hundred years earlier. I'll give some thoughts about his writings sometime soon.

What I do recall is that winters are not as cold as they were fifty years ago. Likewise the snow is not as deep. We moved to Vermont in 1952 and I quickly despised cold. The house my Dad moved us to was built in 1826 and it was big on woodstoves and drafts. With all the stoves going full bore you could still see your breath in the upstairs bedrooms. Some of the neighbors named my mother Miss Woodbox because any time they came for a winter visit they found her sitting on or near the woodbox by the kitchen stove. Being cold really isn't nice and I promised myself someday I'd work myself into a position of warmth, not wealth and that's about where I am now.

Just because I haven't stopped at the "future" Vermont Flower Farm, I think about it every day. It's really an exciting endeavor and it should be quite a showpiece in a few years. As I drove by yesterday it struck me that I have no idea if there are any wild orchids on the northern side of the property. I doubt that there are but there's good possibility there are some across the river in the dry woods adjacent to the marshland. More to think about and explore next year.

The cypripediums are neat flowers which I enjoy a great deal. Sometime between Memorial Day and June 10th there is always a good display someplace around here. The yellows like the one pictured above prefer sweeter soil but the glaciers left pockets here and there and that's why these can be found between here and Danville and Peacham. I like to sit on the ground and observe insects crawling in and out of the hole in the top of the flower bloom. One day I played a pretty absurd cat 'n mouse game with a my camera and a yellow crab spider. I finally got a bad cramp in my leg and had to give up.

Cypripedium acaule have quite a lot of color variation although the pink shown above is the most prominent around here. The forest floor around Kettle and Osmore Ponds has many colonies of pink but as you climb the surrounding mountains you'll find the pinks going to a red veined

creamy yellow. Occasionally you'll find a pure white but more often these will be in greater abundance as you head deeper north into the Northeast Kingdom. I have found them on Owls Head and also on the back edge of Silver Ledge.

If you are interested in wild flowers, check out the New England Wild Flower Society Within Vermont there's a really special nursery that I try to plug all the time. It's the Vermont Ladyslipper Company located at
It's mail order only, no visitors yet, but the products are only the best. Over the years I've seen an increasing number of shovel holes in the woods where nice plants used to grown. Buying from a very experienced dealer is miles ahead of trying to replicate growing conditions for something you know nothing about. Guess I'm saying to leave whats wild where it is.

Well, I guess it's time to get moving. Karl the wonder dog is suggesting a walk is necessary. ...for him, not me but I have to go too. Maybe you should consider a little walk too!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Juncos predominate the feeder, all with a watchful eye for a feral cat that has moved into the territory.

Winter thoughts and garden wishes,

George Africa

1 comment:

Carol said...

Just wanted to comment that I enjoy your blog, writing and pictures.