The Violet Fern

Creating Art & Gardens


December Observations: Who is the Birdbrain?

Birdbrain often refers to a stupid or scatter brained person, a brain resembling the flightiness of a bird perhaps. Today I am pondering that word because I think birds are quite intelligent and “flightiness” on this day would be a darn smart thing – as in get the heck out of here, which leads to my thoughts of the supreme intelligence of birds who migrate. On this day, the first day of Winter, we are having an ice storm that has people around here dreadfully reminiscing about the last great ice storm of 1998 – boy does Winter want us to know she’s arrived.


First day of Winter …

In the midst of this storm, I have to question my own intelligence as compared to a bird’s 1.) taking a trip South at the beginning of the Winter season and 2.) why did I ever return? and 3.) why do I continue to live in the Northern clime December through March?

Here is where the birds are:


Jim Green Island, Cedar Key, FL

Here is where I am:


Yes, the berries in ice are beautiful but …

Who is the birdbrain?!

Since we have returned to our Northern NY home we have been subjected to snow storms, below zero temperatures, and now this ice storm all within the span of a few days time. Birds migrate for food? I question that also. I think birds migrate because life is just generally easier in a warmer climate. There is no donning of the coat, gloves, hat, scarf, boots (now with essential Yaktrax). There is no ceremonious warming up, brushing, and scraping of the car. There is no shoveling of snow and ice. There is no salting of sidewalks and walkways (of course, the local hardware store is completely out – demand, demand). Yes, there is no hardship in the “gathering of food” (or booze, or rock salt for that matter). There is just simply sliding on the flip flops and starting up the electric golf cart in a warmer climate, or bird if you will, a simple bath (in unfrozen waters),primp, and lift off for a sun-filled day of “food gathering.”

Again, I ask who is the birdbrain?


What’s Growing: Very Chilly Garlic

Here is a window into my world this morning:

icy morning 4.12.13

Yes, that is ice, ice baby. Not only disheartening but freezing cold. The porch furniture is out, the “protect from freezing” bird houses and garden ornaments are out, as in outside – all too soon.

[Insert SFX: very, loud and audible sigh.] Will anything ever grow again?

Very chilly garlic shoots on ice.

garlic 4.12.13 in ice

On the sunny side: lettuce in the cold frame ready to harvest! I foresee a tasty salad dinner this weekend!

cold frame lettuce 4.12.13

Inside, where it’s warm because we are still running the [BEEP] heat, my seed farm is taking off. I’m going to dig around the shop for a little fan to help strengthen their stems because I’m sure not putting them outside to harden off anytime soon.

amaranth and flower seedlings 4.12.13

Amaranth, Globe Amaranth and other flower seedlings

tomato seeds 4.12.13

Heirloom tomato and pepper seedlings

I planted the runner beans way too early – I am now reminded of the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. Note for next year: runner beans grow very, very fast. I wanted to have a good start on these to head off any cutworms and the big, fat rabbit who, lately, joins me for coffee each morning. I am off to a really good start.

vine and runner bean seedlings 4.12.13

Scarlet Runner Beans, Cardinal Climber and other annual vines

Note: I’m going to need at least one more light for next year, too.

For fun, I am trying to regrow my green onions – a pin I came across on Pinterest. You stick the roots in water and supposedly they will regrow. It seems to be working!

pinterest onion experiment

My potato starts are in a cool, dark closet. Although I don’t know why I need the closet – it is plenty cool, and plenty dark. Hopefully they will keep until I am able to plant.

In an earlier post, did I say Spring was in the lead over the fight with Winter? I better stick to gardening and give up sports announcing!


Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Sleet

… nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds. I’m not so sure that motto will hold true today. I certainly don’t envy our postwoman. The original saying was actually “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” and was said about 2500 years ago by the Greek historian, Herodotus.

People around here are quite wary of ice storms since the Ice Storm of ’98. During that January over 100,000 people were without electricity. Electricity was not fully restored for more than three weeks. To this day our trees are strictly sheared so as not to cripple power lines.

Ice, not snow, nor frost, glazes the garden white today.

Most people are out shoveling and scraping, but not me. I’m skating around the garden taking photos. We all lead different lives.

Grasses look beautiful sheathed in ice. No worry about damage unlike my White Pine that sadly, alarmingly bows to the ground. I read somewhere it is best to not shake off the branches. I hope the bows bounce back.

I’m happy that I can walk, slip and slide, to work today. Safe travels to those on the roads.

Sources: The Phrase Finder, North Country Public Radio