2017.01.07 – Four-legged fox

This guy has been turning up on and off all day.

First real snow, btw.

Also, btw, the reason I specify four-legged in the title is because not long ago there was a three-legged fox making herself comfortable in my garden.

2017.01.04 Last call

2017.01.04. Wednesday.

Happy New Year! I took advantage of a warm sunny day in January (warmth relative, of course — in the 50s, sweatshirt weather) to tidy up a little, a very little. Coil up the hose, turn the compost, and that’s about it.

The garden is a dry weedy mess, and I don’t intend to do much, if anything about it. So there. Just one bit of good news, a rhododendron ripping (that’s like a cutting, but instead of cutting it, I accidentally ripped out of the ground) has survived where I transplanted it along the swale in back.

It was a branch that had been lying on the ground and so it had roots already. I marked it with debris and forgot about it. That is often the best method. On the other hand, it didn’t work very well with the red twig dogwood cuttings. 😀

I’ll try again in the spring.

Other than that, just pictures of empty seed pods — it’s going to be quite a wildflower garden next year…

And with that, the garden is closed.




2016.12.24. Saturday.

Here is your holiday gift of knowledge.

Remember back in April when I asked how is it that I’m always finding stones on top of soil, even — or especially — undisturbed soil?

Well, today I heard the answer on the radio on a cooking show. The phenomenon is called granular convection or the brazil nut effect, so called from the observation that in a can of mixed nuts, brazil nuts always “rise” to the top. The effect is so common and yet so counter-intuitive. We expect large, heavy things to sink to the bottom, but we’re always finding, from soil to snack mix, that larger objects wind up on top.

After hearing Dan Pashman of The Sporkful mention the brazil nut effect while talking about the dos and don’ts of party mix on Milk Street Radio (Episode 102), I searched online to see if I could learn more. I found out that although the phenomenon was reported on in the 1930s, the physics behind it were investigated and explained only in 1987. 1987! That seems crazy late to me! Did it take the advent of Chex Mix in the 1950s to finally prompt some bridge-playing physicists to notice what farmers have been commenting on year after year since crop cultivation began?

Anyway, now you know. Just in time to impress new acquaintances at that end-of-year holiday party!

You’re welcome! Happy Holidays!

Further reading:

The 1987 article: Rosato, A., K.J. Strandburg, F. Prinz, and R.H. Swendsen. 1987. Why the Brazil nuts are on top: Size segregation of particulate matter by shaking. Phys. Rev. Lett. 58, 1038 (Published 9 March 1987) — paid access only, but maybe you have a subscription?

Brazil-nut effect: Size separation of granular particles. 2001. Nature 414, 270 (15 November 2001) | doi:10.1038/35104697.

Brazil nut effect more complex than thought previously. On the site of the James Franck Institute at the University of Chicago, self-described as “the premier institute in the U.S. for interdisciplinary research at the intersection of physics, chemistry and materials science.”



2016.12.20. Tuesday.

The very last gasp of this season’s tomatoes. I noticed the bag was starting to leak — never a good sign. But the situation was not as bad as I feared:


Only two or three covered in fuzz or dried past recognition. All are fairly soft, but what would be the point of putting them in a bag to ripen if I didn’t actually try them?

And the verdict is . . . Edible!

Not press-your-mother-to-try-one edible, but I-grew-it-so-I’ll-eat-it edible. That’s why we grow them, after all.


2016.12.17. Saturday.

I was not expecting this.


But as long as I don’t have to go anywhere . . .

Crape myrtle in ice:

Cryogenically preserved camellia:


2016.12.15. Thursday.

Birdbath slushie

Birdbath slushie bath


2016.12.07 — Three-legged fox

2016.12.07. Once in a while I’ll see a fox trot past along the property line between our yard and the neighbor behind us. And sometimes at night you can see a fox crossing one of the two-lane roads around here. Even though this is well-developed suburbia, there are still a lot of creeks and some contiguous woods running across the area. But you rarely see a fox out in the open during the day unless there’s something wrong. And I think that’s what I witnessed today.

Not great pictures, because I was going telephoto through a window and screen, but can you see its left hind leg stump? Also, it has no tail, just a bushy stump.

I knew it would run if I opened the back door or even a window, so I went upstairs where I thought I could get a better view. Even from up there, I had to be really really careful opening the window and the wire screen. It didn’t flinch at all when the blue jays cawed or squirrels rattled across the telephone wires, but even a sound that was almost indiscernable to me (and I was making the sound) caught this fox’s attention.

The appearance of a lame fox needn’t signal a problem. What was strange is that it settled down in my garden to have a nap. It picked the softest part of the garden, though, cloth-covered soil.

It looked tired. I didn’t do anything, or call anyone, just watched it for a while, then as quietly as I could closed the window and went back downstairs to work. About a half-hour later it was gone.



Well, I finally finished moving this pile of dirt, seven months later…


Four cubic yards

I’m glad I captioned this photo back in March (March 31, to be exact), because I was thinking tonight as I filled the last wheelbarrow full, “Don’t ever get that much again!”


2016.11.13 Sunday.

It’s been chilly! I’ve said it before, but maybe this time it’ll stick: I think this is the end of the season.

I picked the remaining tomatoes and peppers no matter the color, pulled out the kale, basil, and many of the pepper plants but not all (it gets dark so early now!). I cut down and pulled out the two tomatoes near the driveway and also pulled lots of spent leaves from the hostas there. I have a plan for those, but let’s see if I get to it before it gets too cold.

I have to start thinking about where things will go next year because I need to plant garlic and finally move that dirt from off the driveway. I hope to take care of that this week.

A surprisingly large haul today.



2016.10.25 Tuesday.

It’s really fall now, and there’s a frost warning tonight so I harvested as many peppers and tomatoes (and even some basil) as I could. I estimate a little under two paper grocery bags full — a surprising amount, especially of tomatoes.

Anyway, here are some shots from the fall garden.

Yes, those are cranberries in the upper left picture. And radishes from where I toss the spent plants. The camellia started blooming over the weekend, it’s covered in buds.

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