Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Walk In The Woods

Word was the woods were filled with Indian Pipe, Monotropa uniflora, in exuberant quantities, unlike never before. I headed out -on and off the trail. From the trail, I observed a little patch here, a little there. It was only when I went off-trail that I saw how extensive the slopes were covered with the myco-heterotrophic, chlorophyll-free flowering plant. I just discovered this plant for myself last year in Forest Park, so I have little sense of how unusual such a large population is.

But Rex, having been a woodsman all his life, assured me that he has never seen so much Indian Pipe in any of his woods. This patch was right beside his trail, the oak leaves piled high from a recent oak death above the spot.

Rex, who keeps his trails open to his neighbors, excitedly put up a sign identifying the mysterious plant for neighborhood walkers. I was excited to see his sign, I love signs -tell me more.

This is Hogpeanut, Amphicarpaea bracteata, swamping an area of the woods where a few large trees came down and let in some sunlight. I thought it was a weed, possibly invasive. Instead, it's native to eastern woods, edible, fixing nitrogen in the freshly sunlit soil, and probably is invasive to any garden given half the chance.

Indian pipe, caring not for photosynthesis, crops up even under the hogpeanut.

Adjacent, in the clearing, new oaks grow on the fallen.

And asters.

This clearing, towards the western boundary, is wet, causing much of the trees to fall over in storms. This maintains the clearing, allowing the sun lovers to grow.

Upslope and westerly, the woods abruptly ends at a fence line. Here, goldenrod.

Standing at the edge of the woods, looking northwest, we stare into the top edge of the gravel pit -so called because it was actually an active gravel excavation pit in the past. On the slope into the woods, piles of glacially rounded stones, and some chunks of concrete remain from those active days. Now the pit is covered with birch trees, some cedar, a very different plant community than just 100 feet to the east. No water stands in the pit, it seeps straight into the greater area aquifer.

Walking along this trail, on the northern boundary, we enter a valley with sloped sides.

The recent heavy rains unleashed a torrent down the northern slope. It's hard to make out, but a cleft in the slope, center top, is where the torrent ripped through purely black soil, washing this light gray clay onto the valley floor. It swamped everything in its path. Rex says it will kill the trees growing here. The cleft has been growing every year and there is no will to try to slow the water down that pours through here during heavy rains. There is no humus, no undergrowth to slow the moving water. This is a glacial landscape in flux, hills filling basins.

The red dot you may have noticed in the previous photo was a cluster of berries, the fruit of Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum.

First they are green.

Then mixed, finishing up red. These seem to be the only plants that grow in the deep shade under the maples.

Rex is always clearing the fallen twigs and timber, making piles he promises one day to burn.

There are about 8 piles now, all taller than me.

The southern exposure, which faces the large wetland, is occupied by an army of Buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica. Can I make the greatest claim for invasive species management? That is a whole understory of buckthorn is really boring to explore. All green, all the time and nothing else.

I don't remember what these berries were attached to.

The occasional woodland sunflower.

The occasional woodland ladybug.

The occasional marble. I always find marbles when I am gardening.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Beach Farm: Week 8

This is celery, apparently more difficult to grow than other vegetables. Constant moisture is one need. Another is moderate temps and a long season. Also, a sleeve needs to go over it so that its stalks look like those in the bag at the grocery -light colored and erect.

On the celery -this guy. Ah, go ahead, who want the leaves anyhow.

Broccoli has given up all its main florets. Now its side shoot season.

I was impressed to see such large shoots growing from under the soil.

Siamese tomato?

Speaking of tomatoes...they look like sh*t. Once they hit the ground, hello blight.

Speaking of disease, I think bean anthracnose infected one or two plants. That said, we harvested more healthy beans than we know what to do with from about 8 plants.

Our Swiss chard never did well and I pulled some out. While pulling, I discovered some grubs.

I think 'Buckeye Rot.' Close contact with soil, green tomato, warm and wet days. Only one specimen.

The harvest. Those over-sized cherry tomatoes are coming on strong. I was waiting for the cubanelle peppers to turn color, but instead they turned to rot -so I picked em green. Hungarian wax to the far left and a bunch of ichiban eggplants. The hot hot peppers are just now beginning to turn, forget the cukes -two little boogers. Yellow wax and Roma beans by the dozens. Bell peppers should be ready next week, but the cooling temps and heavy rains are putting the damper on the hot weather produce.

However, I did get some seeds in on Sunday morning. Snap peas under the cuke trellis, spinach, parsley, and cilantro where the green beans had been. Next weekend I put in the different salad greens and maybe some radishes. All the rains have been just what was ordered for those newly planted seeds.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Beach Farm Allergy

These are the leaves of Common Ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia, a widely dispersed North American native. Notice the deeply cut leaf with rounded edges. Click on any of these images for a more detailed look.

Above Common Ragweed's rounded, deeply lobed leaves are its flowering spikes. Notice how each individual flower appears green, is well spaced, and tends to hang down. Ragweed is wind pollinated, indicated in part by its drooping flowers. Wind blows, rustles ragweed, out falls the lightweight pollen, into the breeze, your nose, then sneeze. Below an illustration of its form.

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

There are a few plants that could be mistaken for the allergy causing plant. I photographed some in our community garden at Ft. Tilden, where they all grow in masses along plots and fence lines.

These are the deeply cut leaves of Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris. Notice the pointy leaf tips and hairy stems.

These are the flowers of Mugwort, whitish/yellowish with a tinge of red. The flowers form in compound racemes, or panicles -branched clusters of flowering stems. It blooms alongside Common Ragweed in the late summer and fall.

These are the leaves and flowers of Lamb's Quarters, Chenopodium album. Notice how the lower leaves are spade-shaped and toothed. On large plants you'll find the upper leaves to be lance-shaped, or lanceolate, and smooth-edged.

These are the cymose, densely-branched, white and green flowers on a large specimen of Lamb's Quarters. It also blooms alongside Common Ragweed.

This is Seaside Goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens. It is one of a hundred types of Goldenrod that also bloom at the same time as Common Ragweed. Its flowers are bright yellow and face upwards -an indicator that this plant requires flying insects to pollinate it. Goldenrod's pollen is sticky, and does not blow in the wind.

It also does not cause hayfever. I have been hounded by allergies every time I go to harvest at the beach farm. The breezes of the ocean blow Common Ragweed's pollen, which is everywhere around us, right up the nose. I suffer for a day after, then diminishes. Ragweed is one of those barely noticeable green things that has for so long gone unidentifiable by most people. I hope this helps.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Park Drive

Horse chestnut.

Field Guide To Frank's

The helianthus hopper.

I love this little guy, Christmas ball green.

But so does this guy. When we say eyes in the back of his head, we mean him.

Expecting mother in the latest cosmos colors.

"mlom, mlom, mlom, mlom. I hate when you watch me eat."

Really, I mean it.


Art Project: Chapter 2.5

This is the horse run -named for that possible prior use back in olden days. The horse run served up several new problems, the least of which was its dirt floor. Remember how the rubble foundation was crying whenever it rained? That was partly because all the rain falling on the neighbor's concrete back yard flowed into this space.

This is the new central beam in the basement, located directly beneath the main hall walls on the first and second floor. We supported the new beam with pole jacks until permanent columns could be installed. Whatever played a supporting role in the past had long since been removed. However, there was a flimsy partition wall towards the back 50% of the basement.

Which could explain why the joists in front of that location were sagging nearly 2 inches more than those behind. What does this beam have to do with the horse run you ask? Good question. In the end, not much, but we were trying to tackle all the structural sagging at the same time.

The western foundation wall lies not at the boundary of the home, but set in about four feet. The horse run and what else above occupies this 4 feet. Above the horse run is an unused space running the length of the home and above that, on the 2nd floor, is the stairwell, a closet, part of the bath and another closet. The home's western wall, then, extends from roof to ground where it met a brick knee-wall, a quasi-foundation. That knee wall had long ago crumbled and we were loath to replace it. The years of unsupported weight caused the western wall to sag, and it needed some kind of support. Fortunately, the joists that connected the western wall to the rest of the house were mortised in and only four feet long -as opposed to running the width of the house. So it was that the western wall sag didn't take the rest of the house with it.

In conference with the owner, we decided to simply arrest the sagging, not jack the wall back to its original location. In order to avoid digging four feet down the length of the house, major form work, and ordering yards of concrete, I devised a series of concrete piers and treated lumber header-type beams that would support the western wall.

Sorry, no photos of the formwork, but plenty of the results. This is the concrete pier, about 12 inches across, and 8 or 9 inches deep. We needed to be mindful of both building on the neighbor's property and skinned shins in the horse run, necessitating thinner, rectangular, piers. They, of course, extend well into the ground, on a footing, over a gravel bed. Galvanized tabs were inserted to connect the beam to the pier.

As soon as the piers were complete, we dug out the horse run floor, which was a heavy yellow clay (that I later fired in a kiln!), and poured a new concrete floor. That sopping wet clay was holding water and sending it through the rubble foundation. I graded the new floor to send the water out to the street. Then, I threw a mason line along the stud wall to mark the line were the top of the new treated beam would be.

The studs and corner posts were cut to the height of the new treated beam.

The new treated beam was inserted, tabs nailed. The old studs were "sistered" with adhesive and nails, then toe nailed to the new beam.

In this photo, the finished work. Not so good looking, eh? I put it in because you can see the sag in the building at the top of the doorway. Every home owner wants a different set of results. By this time, my friend, the home owner, was hoping the structural repairs were coming to an end and, I think, he was happy to have me accept this compromise solution. What's a little sag after a hundred years anyway. At the very least, it wasn't going to sag anymore. Incidentally, that pile of wood in the back of the horse run is the pine flooring, "acclimating."

Pine flooring and sticks to facilitate air flow.

Coming next: The Kitchen