Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Singapore plumeria (frangipani)

This is the second set of flowers to bloom. Actually the first "set" was only a single bloom.There is a fragrance if you walk past the plant. Tropical flowers with an incongruous winter snow backdrop Posted by Hello

Monday, January 24, 2005

Digging planting holes

There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to digging planting holes for shrubs and trees. Most of the instructions I've gotten, tell you to dig a million dollar hole for a 10 dollar plant-the hole should be twice the size and depth of the plant's rootball. Most also tell you to add amendments to the soil you dug, with either manure, mulch or peat and maybe even some fertilizer.

There is another but minority opinion (I haven't come across it more than once) that says to dig the hole as above but to not add amendments of any kind because if you do, the roots will grow around and around in the hole you've dug, where you've kindly supplied all the nice nutrients. Keep the soil uniform and the roots will spread out evenly. They also recommend not staking trees, having wind stress make the trees root faster and spread farther.

I used the second method because it seemed logical. I believe the trees have stood up better in windstorms because the roots did spread. Our neighbor has had a terrible time with windstorms. Two of his medium sized trees were felled and I believe it's because they (the landscapers) added mulch to the original soil. None of our trees have fallen in spite of some being top heavy and unstaked. Any thoughts on this?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Posted by Hello

Friday, January 21, 2005

Growing fruit cont'd: Plums

We are trying to grow Stanley plums like the ones we had when we were living in a rented home in the Pacific Northwest. The straggly tree was in a shady neglected yard right next to the garage as if someone had thrown a pit there. But the fruit were large, juicy and delicious. The Stanley plum tree we have now is tall and leggy having grown from 5 feet to 15 feet in 3 years but almost zero fruit. Last year it managed to produce 2 or 3 fruit but only one actually ripened to a reddish purple color then fell off. It was only the size of an unhulled almond. I've seen cherries that were bigger. Although in full sun for most of the day the tree is leggy and grows mostly straight up. I'll try a mild girdling this year to see if that will spark some fruit production.

I also bought a Santa Rosa plum but it died almost immediately after planting despite it's robust appearance. I replanted the hole it came out of with another plum - I can't remember the name - which turned out to be a wonderful tree with an abundance of very good fruit. In its second year it has produced about 25 plums which I stupidly left on the tree too long so the catbirds got about half of the crop despite some bird netting - actually fine deer fencing material I had left over.

We have two other plums that have not produced any fruit. They are suposedly Santa Rosa but they looked more like peach trees when they first started growing and not like the Santa Rosa that died. These were purchased from the Arbor Day Society. The trees were really more like twigs when they arrived, a single stem completely branchless, only about a foot in height, sent bare root in a plastic bag with nothing to hold moisture to the roots. I didn't think they would grow but they are hardy plants, one being trasplanted twice and heavily cropped by deer yet keeps on growing. The other is in a more sheltered location and despite being almost ripped out of the ground by our hyperactive dog, is almost 8 feet tall...but no fruit.

So I guess one out of four ain't bad. I'm still hoping.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Growing fruit cont'd...Amelanchier canadensis?

We've bought a lot of our plants at Lowe's and Home Depot and still do. Not that we would not like to do business with our local nurseries but we simply cannot afford their prices as they usually carry larger caliper size trees and plants. There is one discount nursery that we do frequent especially in Fall when they have their 50% off trees and perennials sale but most nurseries are just too expensive.

Walking through Home Depot a couple of years back, I spotted an interesting looking large shrub or small tree with skinny multiple trunks and rounded leaves that I was not familiar with. The tag read Shadblow...what a strange name, followed by Amelanchier. I made note of the name and consulted my American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Garden Plants which further described the plant as a serviceberry. They also gave other names for the plant-Juneberry, Shadbush etc. They further described the plant as having numerous white flowers in the Spring and edible sweet berries in the Summer but that one would have to compete with the birds who apparently relish the berries. I liked the look of the plant which was sort of Japanese-ie with slender multiple trunks about 7 feet tall with branches starting only at the topmost 1/3 of the plant.

I rushed back and bought all three for sale. Luckily no one bought them during my research. These have turned out to be a great buy. The leaves turned a very nice gold and red in the Fall and as promised bloomed profusely in the Spring and produced an abundance of berries in the summer. I was so afraid the birds would get them before we had a chance to taste them that I picked many in an unripened red cherry colored state. We made a pie out of the berries but I didn't care for the taste, sort of like an anemic, bland cherry pie but my wife liked it enough to eat it all. I decided to wait and give it a chance to ripen which should be a dark purple black and be damned if the birds got them but interestingly the birds weren't the least bit attracted to the berries. Perhaps they were satiated, eating mulberries instead which were also in season.

We made a pie out of these fully ripened berries along with a handful of blueberries and the taste was magnificent. I later discovered that our neighbor directly across the street had a huge tree about twenty feet high by ten feet around (multiple suckers) absolutely loaded with fruit. I didn't recognize the tree as a Shadblow because its size and many trunks made it look like a massive bush, sort of like a giant forsythia. She would always ask to pick wild blackberries (actually domesicated blackberry gone wild) in the undeveloped lot behind our house but didn't think the service berries were edible, didn't try them and told her kids the berries were poisonous. Even after I told her it was edible and ate a few right in front of her she was reluctant to even try one! But she said I could help myself to as much as I wanted so I picked about a couple of gallons of the stuff. My brother-in-law who is a self proclaimed connoisseur of berry pies, having grown up in the Pacific Northwest where they have the true wild blackberry, tiny ones that grow on fire cleared lands in the mountains, proclaimed the pie delicious and almost as good as a wild blackberry pie! High praise indeed. I must say that I've had a piece or two of wild blackberry pie and it is a wonder. As mentioned previously a handful of blueberries and some lemon juice help to give it some tartness as the serviceberries don't have any tartness.

What a find, a beautiful small tree with Spring and Fall interest and fruit to boot! The berries were an important survival food for the Indians who mashed it with meat and fat to make pemmican. It's called a Shadblow because the tree flowers in Spring when the Shad (fish) swim upstream to spawn.

We found one more tree at a different Home Depot but have not seen one since. I guess it depends on the garden manager/buyer if they get them in or not. We bought the trees for $29.95 and I've seen them at local nurseries for $125 for the exact same size and more than $300 for larger specimens. We could never afford that! The four trees are doing very well but they do sucker so I have to be diligent to remove the suckers to maintain the beautiful form they have now. I've rooted the suckers so we have two 2 feet tall plants and four others about 6 inches tall planted in the yard. Trouble is the deer love to eat the tender leaves so the little plants are stunted. I don't know how the deer find these little plants but they do! The first three trees we bought were planted as a copse on a berm in the backyard. The fourth a lone sentinel in the side front, giving a little privacy screen from the neighbors.

Now that I know what it is, I see them everywhere-in college campuses, government building landscaping and housing development landscaping. Amazing that I could overlook such a wonderful plant. I'm glad it caught my eye that day.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Adventures in fruit growing

We have planted various fruit bearing plants hoping to duplicate the taste of freshly picked plums, peaches, apricots etc., instead of the bland tasteless ones from the supermarkets. The cherries we planted were a bust. What the deer didn't eat the birds ate or if not that, some kind of black rot killed the trees. Bush cherries were abundant but sort of watery and soft with an off putting taste. We tried to make a sauce or chutney out of it but it was a failure.

I planted about 15 blueberry bushes and these have produced only enough fruit to make a pie or two. Not quite the 15 pounds per plant the catalogs promise. This is quite shameful because we live in the second biggest blueberry producing state-Michigan being the first. I keep acidifying the soil by heaping on the peat and sulfur and have even resorted to feritlizing the plants but to no avail. The berries are quite tasty though so it's worth the effort and it's nice to just pick the fruit off the bushes and pop them into your mouth.

We've planted four apricot trees but one died immediately. The first year about 15 fruit set and were doing ok after the June fruit drop but either the birds nicked the fruit or they never ripened. Last year we had none but the trees grew fairly well so I'm hoping this year we'll have some edible fruit if we manage to keep the birds away. One tree was "Moonglow" which requires the "Sunglow" for fertilization. The nursery only sold the Moonglow and I didn't find out 'til later why this tree hasn't produced any fruit! Now why would this nursery do this? A warped sense of humor? Needless to say I don't buy stuff from them any longer.

To be continued.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

One more on fungus and I'll stop, I promise

We have had very bad infestations(?) of powdery mildew in the last two years. This stuff infects our dogwoods (very badly), magnolias, blackeyed susans, apples, mountain azaleas and many other plants I can't remember now. The dogwoods were so badly infected that the leaves drooped, turned prematurely yellow and dropped off the trees. I've been spraying with elemental sulphur the least toxic fungicide and the bonus is it also helps to acidify the soil. But I have to spray every week if it rains and it's a real chore to have to do that. Has anyone else had problems with this and what do you do to correct the situation? This year we've raked all the leaves around the affected plants and I will do pre-emergent spraying of the sulphur. If that doesn't work I'll try some of the oil sprays although I'm not very keen on doing so.

The darned thing is that almost all the affected plants are in full sun and not densely planted so they get lots of air and are not in dampish conditions at all.

Friday, January 14, 2005

They are us!

Sticking with this lichen, moss, fungus theme, I read somewhere that the reason why fungal infections are so difficult to get rid of is that we have a lot of fungal dna in us, i.e. we evolved from fungus so trying to kill the infection will practically kill you too. You can get liver failure if you use a high dose of fungal medications. I also read that Vicks Vaporub works as a fungicide. Probably the camphor in the Rx. Much less toxic so worth a try.

I also read in Discover magazine I think, that only 15% of you are you. 85% of you are made up of aggregations of other bacterial and fungal cells. I may be misinterpreting this but I think that's what I read. Will try to find the article.

We seem to have a lot of mushrooms here in the Northeast. The wet weather in the past couple of years no doubt has contributed to the flush of the fungus. We had huge puffballs in our yard the past summer. Try cutting into one of these with the mower. Poof, the air is filled with brown spores. Supposedly all puffballs are edible but I haven't had the nerve to try them. Went out with the mycological association on a beginners intro to mushroom identification. Found a few edible ones, they weren't very delicious but these were not listed as being very choice. My elderly father finds a lot on his daily walks. He brought back a deadly amanita-yellow cap with white sprinkles on the top. He thought it was edible! But he thinks all the mushrooms he finds are edible. Luckily he doesn't cook.

Got a lot of ticks on that mycological assoc. outing though. Five of the nasty buggers on me. I only thought to do a clothes off full body search when I felt one crawling on my arm. Shocked to find four more securely fastened to my body. Luckily they weren't the deer tick. Those are so small I probably wouldn't have noticed until the skin got irritated from the bite. I had a crawling sensation all night long. But that's what you get when you walk through the woods in these parts.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Growing lichens part 2

Amazingly there is a lot of infomation about lichens out there. Here are some of the more interesting sites but not much about growing or propagating them.

From the Smithsonian website

Erik Acharius website Beautiful pictures

Lichens of North America book website

Of course the Brits have their own lichen society The British Lichen Society

And from the lichen.com site

Some growing information

Burke's Backyard
Caring for lichens in your garden

"Pollution and human damage are hard on lichens. Because they are slow growing, lichens take time to become established. If you are building and lichens are going to be destroyed by your new home or garden, it is possible to move them to a similar environment where they'll gradually re-establish. As with all native plants, they should never be removed from protected areas such as national parks.

Lichens and mosses only grow in areas where the air is clean and will not flourish in gardens in polluted inner-city suburbs. They look distinctive growing on rocks along a garden path or on the trunks of trees. The best way to reproduce them in your own garden is to break off pieces, place them where you wish them to grow, and keep them moist. Watering rocks will also encourage algae, mosses and lichens to grow."

And from the backyard nature site

Lichens reproduce in two main ways:

* The fungus part produces reproductive structures that further produce spores. If a spore lands and germinates, and the resulting hypha finds the right species of alga in the neighborhood, the hypha will grow through the algal cells and a new lichen will start developing.

* By asexual (vegetative) techniques. One asexual strategy is that of fragmentation, which simply involves a piece of a lichen breaking off and this fragment then grows into a new lichen. Lichens also produce on their surfaces microscopic, dust-like particles composed of one or several algal cells closely enveloped by fungus hyphae. These are known as soredia. Each soredium can produce a new plant. Lichen fragments and soredia can be transported great distances by wind and water."

So there you have it. I'll try scraping some off the one rock I have that has lichen growing on it and paste it onto other rocks. What will the neighbors think now? What is that wacko doing? First he paints white goop all over the rocks and now he's doing who knows what to the rocks. Rocks in the head I tell you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Growing Lichens on rocks

I read somewhere that painting yogurt on rocks will hasten the appearance and speed the growth of lichens. I tried doing this in the summertime but still have no results. I had a forgotten quart tub of plain yogurt in the frig that had a bit of mold on top but didn't smell "off". I diluted this into a watery consistency like some of the yogurt drinks you can get now and painted it on a lot of rocks. Nothing. Maybe the heat and full summer sun dried the yogurt too quickly or the coating may have been too thin but there is no evidence of lichens or moss.

Today I went out again with brush in hand. Since it had just rained last night I thought the yogurt wouldn't dry so quickly and I used it full strength this time. The rocks look weird with white streaks slathered on top and on the sides. Now we have fog so hopefully lichen spores (?) will have time to land on the yogurt and establish itself if indeed that's the way they propagate. I need to do some research on how lichens grow. Will report back later.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Red witch hazel H. carmine red Posted by Hello

Monday, January 10, 2005

General observations

Checked the yard to see how the plants are faring. The camellia keeps on blooming, more than 10 blooms on the plant--enjoying this mild weather. The red witch hazel is starting to bloom but I don't dectect a scent like the yellow one. The hyacinths are peeking out. And the daffodils are trying to grow out again after being frost bitten when they tried to force their way out in the previous warm spell. We may have lost all next spring's blooms I fear.

I've planted some lenten rose, H. niger but have seen no activity at all. I thought it was supposed to bloom around Christmas time?

Our indoor plumeria (frangipani) plant is about to bloom! It's the Singapore variety. White blooms with a yellow center and dark green, rounded tip, evergreen leaves-the only non deciduous variety. I planted it mainly for its scent and hopefully it will perfume the house. Here's a good site for growing and caring for plumerias The Plumeria Place

My dad who lived all his life in Hawaii says that the plants on the mainland don't have smell. "Even the cilantro and green onions don't have a very strong odor...not like in Hawaii". I'm inclined to think he's right. We grew a jasmine here, the same variety that they make hedges of in Hawaii. They mistankenly call it a "mock orange"; the leaves and red fruit make it look like a small orange tree. The scent is similar to the perfume of orange blossoms. But here it gave off a very meagre scent a faint shadow of the ones in Hawaii.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Bird observations

I saw a robin this morning while dog walking. Didn't see any last year but many the year before when we had a mild winter. I wonder if this means we will have another mild winter here in the Northeast? Apparently more robins are overwintering because of the warmer weather. We also have huge resident flocks of Canada geese, who doesn't? They don't migrate anymore and cause huge problems on fancy corporate campuses, pooping all over their manicured lawns and walks. They've taken to using geese chasing dogs and sneaking in the night to stick a pin in the eggs and scrambling the yolk. They got into hotwater for the last tactic; federal law protects the geese. We would love to have the geese on our lawn but they don't come.

We had a Toulouse goose named PT (this was way before the Dodge PT cruiser)when we lived on the Northshore of Oahu in Hawaii. He went missing for a couple of weeks so we thought some feral dogs got him. Then one day a neighbor told my wife that "your goose is living in someone's carport about a block away". Sure enough my wife checked out all the carports and there he was, nonplussed but happy to see my wife. People are so mellow in Hawaii, the people living there never complained to us to come get your x*%#@*! goose.

A couple of weeks back I glimpsed my favorite bird, the white-breasted nuthatch, actually my second favorite, the first being the red-breasted. I rarely see these birds although they frequented our feeder regularly when we rented a home with overgrown brush alongside the house.

At the home we have now, we get only the usual suspects, house finches, sparrows, does, starlings. In the summer blackbirds, cowbirds, catbirds, goldfinch, barn swallows and grackles are commonly seen and in the winter we see more chickadees, titmice, juncos and cardinals. We have a resident mocking bird and a sharp shinned hawk would sweep down on the birds at the feeder but we haven't seen it for about a month now. We usually see one ruby throated hummingbird on the migration north and south. Wrens and yellow bellied sapsuckers are rare, the downy woodpecker being more common. Once this summer, I did observe a white eyed vireo, very close up, looking for bugs in a rhododendron while I was knee deep in water in the fishpond--quite a treat.

When living in Baltimore I saw one of the strangest birds I've ever seen. A flat headed American woodcock was flying slowly and I do mean slowly (this is the slowest flying bird known), very close to town. Obviously lost, the ungainly, nocturnal woodland bird, frightened and disoriented was flying erratically along the tree lined streets. Something I'll remember for a long time.

Friday, January 07, 2005

USDA zone 6 worldwide

I was looking at a world map of USDA zones. It's pretty amazing to see where zone 6 meanders. Most of us are pretty familiar where it lies in the U.S. From the east coast going west it goes through all of Newfoundland, New York, Philly, D.C., just below St. Louis, Albuquerque, above Phoenix northward to Portland, Vancouver and just a little spot in the southern coast of Alaska.

It picks up again in Sapporo Japan, just below Seoul Korea, in a narrow band across China through Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Interior Turkey and around the Caspian and Black seas to Ukraine, Romania, much of eastern Europe including Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Rep. Poland and most of Germany. All of Denmark up to southern Sweden and interior Norway all the way up to the Bering sea, the northern 3/4 of Iceland and a huge section of the coastline of southern Greenland!

Also some interior sections of Argentina in South America.

What really surprised me was how far north it went in Norway--to the very northern most coast line. I mean this should all be tundra. This must be above the Artic Circle. And Greenland? I could easily believe that Iceland could be zone 6 with all the geothermal vents but Greenland? I thought it was all covered with ice. Who knew?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The show stopper. Posted by Hello

Oriental poppy Posted by Hello

Poppies in wildflower packet Posted by Hello

Winter cheer

The weather's been cold and drizzly so a little cheer me up is in order. Here are some pictures of poppies we planted by seed last summer. Actually they were in a package of wildflower seeds but they became the predominate flower. Also included are pictures of the oriental poppy, Papaver orientale, can't tell you what species. The orange one was a show stopper. Drivers would stop to take a look. Even people not normally interested in plants like our college neighbor's girlfriend asked what kind of flower it was.

I bought some oriental poppy seeds from Swallowtail Seeds . Pretty cheap and they shipped quickly. We can't wait to plant and see what the blooms will be like this summer.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I'm trying out w.bloggar to write this post. Hope it works.

I saw the last of the ladybugs trying to get into the house a few days ago. I didn't think it could survive temperatures in the teens we had a few weeks ago but they're tough little critters. I read an article in the local newspaper where this guy claimed he bought and released millions of these ladybugs and was responsible for populating much of the NorthEast. Well this claim turns out to be bogus because the Dept. of Agriculture actually did the releases. The ones that try to come into your house in the Fall are Asian Ladybird beetles.

Here's some interesting sites: Iowa State University

Oregon State Univ. site didn't know they came in so many variations.

Excellent write up by Susan C. Jones, Ph.D. on the Ohio State U. site

Template change

I decided to change templates. I think this looks a little better and easier on the eyes than all that white space. But, I don't like the sans serif font so I'll have to see if I can make changes to the html.

Another observation: If you click on the pictures the full res. photo will appear in a new window. It loads pretty quickly even with a dial up connection-pretty cool.

More worms

We also have dark olive green earthworms that live in a band of 6 inch dark gray earth 2 feet below the surface. The overlying clay is orangey-tan in color. I was amazed to see such a strangely colored worm that far down and only in that strata. This dark soil seems to be very porous and I have seen water dripping from it when I've dug a hole for a tree. I wonder if the worms are colored by ingesting the dark gray earth?

What geological conditions produced this dark band? A mystery I'll never solve.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Earthworm suicide

A provocative title but not quite true.

Everytime we have a hard rain or when it has been raining for a few days and the ground is saturated, earthworms appear all over our driveway and sidewalks. I think the worms are trying to keep from drowing so technically it isn't suicide, where one has the intention of killing themselves. They're trying to save themselves only to be stranded on the pavement and eventually get stepped on, run over or dry up and die anyway. I have not noticed this phenomenon anywhere we've lived but here in central New Jersey.

My wife tries to rescue them by throwing them on higher ground but there are just too many of them--you literally can't take a step without mashing a few. And they're hard to pick up, wriggling and squirming. You end up injuring them by scraping them along the rough pavement or squeezing them too hard, pinching their soft bodies. I've since learned that other kind hearted souls try to do the same but it is a Sisyphean feat.

I think this happens because we have a few and I mean a few inches of topsoil the builder trucked in, overlaying hard or mucky clay depending on whether it is dry or wet. The water just lies on the ground if we get too much rain and only slowly gets absorbed or runs off.

We've lived in Hawaii, the left coast, the midwest and in Maryland but I haven't noticed this phenomenon. Maybe I haven't been observant enough or have forgotten but it only seems to happen here. Anyone notice this where you live?

Here's an interesting worm blog: Worms of Endearment. I believe an article was written about the blogger, Amy Stewart, in the New Yorker magazine? It was about growing worms to get rich schemes. Or maybe it was about someone else.

Fire Alarm Escapades

This is not a gardening topic but it may save someone the headache of dealing with malfunctioning fire alarms.

For the past week or so we've been plagued by the fire alarms going off in the early morning hours. This usually happened about 6:00 to 6:30 a.m., intermittently for three days. We have the alarms hardwired so they are all coupled. When one goes off, all go off at the same time. What a din. I found that we have eight alarms scattered throughout the house.

When it first happened I was brushing my teeth so I was running around the house literally foaming at the mouth. Checked to see if there was any smoke. No, ok, so I grabbed a stool and started to pull out all the batteries. It's hard to get your mind in gear that early in the morning especially with 100+ decibels screeching 2 feet above your head. In my muddled brain I thought a battery was going bad (we heard a chirping sound earlier in the week) and that triggered the alarm. The trouble was, which one? Anyway I managed to pull all the batteries but that didn't shut them up so I ran to the circuit breaker, tripped the main breaker and they slowly went off one by one as the juice ran out of their system. Except for one. I could hear it in the distance. Ran upstairs before it stopped but too late, not a peep.

I called the fire department told them it wasn't an emergency but wanted to know what I should do. The dispatcher said, "get out of the house now!" I said, "you don't understand..." he cut me off saying "I know it's cold but get everyone out of the house now" it was below freezing. I told him that there was no evidence of fire or smoke “the alarms are malfunctioning” and "besides we have a 87 year old Alzheimer's patient in the upstairs bedroom” and trying to get her moving even when she's awake and cooperative is no mean feat.

The fire chief was the first one here. After he made note that there was no fire I asked him what caused the alarms to trip. He replied that after 10 years the alarms become unreliable and some start to go bad. His suggestion was to go to Lowes or Home Depot to buy and replace all the alarms. Said it would be about $5.00 apiece. Well maybe 10 or 20 years ago but they're more like $12-13 now. Our neighbor down the street had the same problem but he replaced his without the battery back up thinking, "what are the chances of having a fire when the electricity goes off?" Well, my thinking is in line with Murphy’s law; if it can happen it will. So I paid the $2.50 extra per alarm. Cheap insurance.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I still needed to solve the problem of finding the last chirping alarm. My wife thought that opening the garage door somehow triggered the alarms. It happened twice when she opened the door. I guessed that the somewhat balky garage door was sending a spike of electricity, triggering the alarms. So I made a note to buy a replacement inside switch. But it happened again even when we used the in-car opener.

After searching over and over, I finally located the missing eighth alarm. It was in the upstairs hallway. I knew there was one in the hallway but two? We thought the builder had hidden an alarm in the attic to get back at the first owner because he was such a bastard.

Well, I finally replaced them all. The fire chief said it would be easy, "just pull out the plug and stick it into the new one--well not quite, because, the plug was of a different configuration and didn't fit. The retaining ring also didn't fit so I had to essentially re-wire and re-install all eight! The new ones have two lights and the alarm that triggers all the others will stay lit so you can tell which one set them off. Cool huh?

I threw the old ones into a box in the basement thinking that I would use them as battery powered alarms around the basement and forgot about them until yesterday when one of them went off. I finally found the offending bugger. I ripped out its battery guts with great relish. This was the malfunctioning alarm that caused all the problems, almost $100 and half a day of my time. The garage door was a red herring. Just a coincidence.

So that was it...except I heard another faint chirping sound in the basement. Good lord it's come back from the dead. After confirming that the offending alarm was truly dead, I found that the carbon monoxide alarm in the basement was indicating a low battery charge. Another coincidence and the chirp we had been hearing for the past week!

I still have an uneasy feeling. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

New picture

The picture of the witch hazel was blurry so I replaced it with this one. I retook the picture using the macro setting this time (head slap) and didn't use the zoom. The Olympus C3000 still seems very sensitive in it's focusing ability when trying to take a closeup. My wife's Nikon Coolpix 3100 is better when using the macro feature. The Nikon also seems to take a sharper photo. But some camera aficionados prefer a softer lens. Before buying a used Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera I read messages on a discussion board to get some info on which camera I should buy. The Rollei was offered with two different lenses, a Zeiss Tessar and a Schneider Xenotar. The Tessar was by far the preferred lens because it had "bokay" (bokeh) a corruption of a Japanese word meaning it had a softness or very slight blurring like a fine gauze in front of the lens. My reaction was, give me the most analytically sharp lens possible. I'll do my own "bokay", they can have their atmosphere. Amazing how people can get carried away with something of supposed cachet.

But that's the advantage of a digital camera for an amateur like me--take a lot of pictures and choose the best one. With a point and shoot film camera I would have been hard pressed to take a picture like this. With the viewfinder not showing what was being captured and not having a macro lens it would be all but impossible. Even with a single lens reflex camera you would have to buy a macro lens and you don't have the luxury of popping it into the computer for a quick look.

Now all I have to do is learn to use the darned thing!

Funny thing about the Picasa and Hello programs that I'm using to post the pictures; it gives me the ability to post several pictures to a single webpage but when I choose that option, it doesn't do it but places each photo on separate pages. Oh well...

Witch Hazel

Yellow witch hazel H. japonica, Sulphurea? Camera: Olympus C3000. Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Year's surprise

We were greeted this New Year's morning by my wife's discovery that one of our witch hazels was starting to bloom. Perhaps this is a portent that the coming year must surely be better than the previous one. Our hearts go out to all those people affected by the Southeast Asia tsunami. It was a depressing end to the year. Made me not want to blog for the last few days but I did anyway in a half-hearted way.

We have four witch hazels, two red Hamamelis x intermedia, Carmine red and Corylopsis, spicata actually a winter-hazel with drooping flowers in spring and the one that's blooming now the yellow probably H. japonica, Sulphurea--it's a guess, the plant didn't come with a tag. It also has a wonderful scent much like freesias I think.

The red witch hazels are just showing a bit of color in the bud opening and probably won't bloom for another two to three weeks. But I look forward to its much welcome color in mid winter. When I first saw the bloom I must say I was badly disappointed after reading all the hype of "bright winter color, and wonderful perfume" in various books and magazines. The color was a dark dull red. The scent subtle. But I think I will have a better appreciation of it this year since my judgment won't be colored by overly enthusiastic writing. It aint no camellia but has the subdued dignity of a winter plant.

Also the rest of the buds on the camellia are blooming again after the short cold spell. The temperatures went down into the low teens last week and burned the ends of the flower buds which turned brown but the inner part of the flower remains the vivid dark pink of my earlier photo. We are now in a warm period, today's temperature was well into the sixties. I was out in a t-shirt scooping out rotting leaves from our pond and pulling out the leaves and flower pods of the water lillies. Strange weather for January.
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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