Willseyville Diary 2013


Today started out in the office, but by early afternoon we were at our outside chores. First next years firewood pile needed to be shoveled out. We have already used ½ (2 cords) of this winters wood, of the four that was stacked in the hoop house we use for a wood shed. The wood that was already cut and split and stacked by the Gator Shed last year has replaced it, so half of next years wood is all set. If this snow-covered pile was already cut, split, and stacked we would be in the process of in the process of bringing down firewood for year three. We could have hit that dream goal for the first time, but this year was a tough one for multiple reasons and it didn’t work out that way. Anyway, we ARE  ahead, which is good considering  I’ve spent more than one winter without a stick of wood ready for the next.

Next year on left,this year on right

Next year on left,this year on right

We got the pile cleared and the pallets ready for stacking, and Mike cut some rounds for splitting. Mike shoveled off the eaves of the roof as well. It’s supposed to be in the 40’s over the next couple of days, and we are hoping to melt the horrible ice dams that we suspect are the result of poor attic insulation. Heat tape does not touch this stuff, so something must be done. First step was to apply for an energy audit  via the NYS  HPwES Free/Reduced Cost Audit. If they find work to be done, and we follow the yellow brick road of their rules, there may be financial support for some upgrades around here. (Update: we were approved for full coverage of an energy audit up to 250.00. If this is performed by a BPI certified contractor, we may be eligible for-well, I don’t know what yet. One step at a time… Using the contractor list on the NYSERDA website, we first contacted Green Home Heroes of Owego. After some delay, we got this : “Sorry for the delayed response. At this time we are unable to take on any new NYSERDA projects.” Next on the list was a familiar name-Sunnybrook Builders-who responded “We do not do NYSERDA audits.  We recommend you use Snug Planet.” A friend who had both an audit & insulation work done was “unhappy with Snug Planet’s follow-up”. She recommended EnergyTec, and sure enough, they got back to us immediately to schedule an appointment. (I won’t speculate on why the other certified builders aren’t interested in a subsidized job,but I am looking forward to our audit next week!)

It’s not all work and no vegetating around here, though. And to ensure that, we went to a big box and bought out first tv in 20 years! Not to say we haven’t watched plenty of tv shows-that’s what laptops are for, right? But in honor of birthdays & anniversaries past, we decided to get our first flat screen ever, and get rid of the tube tv my mom gave me 20 years ago. Which still works great, by the way, just goes to show. We had quite a time as the only customers at Sears right before closing. First I had to make it past a girl gang of ferocious clerks without buying all 100 pairs of socks in the bin as they suggested. Then we were privileged to witness the resistance of our knowledgable and unflappable  appliance salesman to the ribbing of said gang. He did not crack. Due to our survey taking coupon clipping penny pinching habits, we got Sears card for the 15.00 off, and Shop Your Way points that we can use to by the internet device we will return to buy Friday. All better than the 3% cash back we would have gotten with our credit card, and thus we reassured ourselves as we shelled out 600 dollars. Ah, the human mind!
(Update: Our Sears dude was no Best Buy geek-he advised us incorrectly about the internet device, and as Sears didn’t have the right one, our SYW points remain unused.)


Still warmish (40s) and the ice dam remains in full force. Man, we gotta get that fixed! One year we threw ice melt up there, and still have some nice bubbles in the drywall from that.
The garden well is as full as it gets at 3 1/2′ of water (about 5250 g). The well is an 8′ pipe with holes drilled in it, sunk into a damp area above the nursery filled with gravel. We can periodically fill a pick up truck type storage tank to water the mushroom logs in the auxilliary yard near it, and the nursery can be watered using a buried line that runs from the tank to a riser pipe with a hydrant on top (see WV Diary 2008 for photos).
Speaking of water, our persnickity cat has taken to hopping in the bathtub for a sip, and to accommodate him we run a little water in it if we get up in the night.



Yesterday the water didn’t get turned off. For a long time. A lot of water. In addition to pointlessly moving water from our well into the septic tank, we ran so much water that we stirred the silt near the bottom of the well,which is about 125′ deep. it’s a great well-never runs dry, even according to old lore about the road crews getting a drink from it-but if you run it too low a suspension clouds the water for days. We can still wash with it, but I broke into our permanent stash of stored growlers of water for coffee and cooking.


Johnny Dowd gig at Lot 10 tonite. Awesome as always. Super disclaimer-he’s my bro, and I played with him in Neon Baptist. But I think that makes me even more qualified to recommend his music.Check out this awesome vid of Betty.


Crazy warm day in the 50s.I’m sitting on the porch in the sun with my coat unzipped. Yesterday it was 20 degrees and seemed “bitterly” cold, but my bar has beeen lowered, Soon I’ll be a southern wimp again.
Filled the woodbox and discovered a perfect nest in the wood shed. Somebody nabbed a plastic bag from the recycles, stuffed it half way back and low in the stack and filled it full of grass and leaves. I’ll have to remember that if I’m ever lost in the woods with a Squirrel stashgarbage bag. The wood shed is super popular with the squirrels, as evidenced by this shot of yummy Norway spruce cones from previous years:
The deer have been down and around all season, but all our fences are holding up. One comes regularly to the bird feeder in the day. They are doing a heck of a job eating the myrtle, which is fine by me. I’m okay with it between the driveway and the sidewalk, where it can’t spread, but we make a point of removing it from anywhere close to the woods.


Last night my daughter came to town, and we went to The Battle of the Girl Bands at The Haunt.

“This Saturday, about a dozen acts will gather at the Haunt for “The Girl Bands Battle of the Bands,” a competition organized by three Ithaca music businesses. The competition, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. will be judged by two rock stars – the Horse Flies’s Judy Hyman and the Blind Spots’s Maddy Walsh – as well as Angry Mom Records owner George Johann and Pyramid Sound Studios owner Alex Perialas.

The eleven acts set to perform are Sundown Sally, The Jackies, Misses Bitches, Imonee, Ma’am Jam, Cielle, Go Ogres, Dos XX, Purple Henry, Cerulean 3, and Merch Girls. Of these only three acts – Sundown Sally, Cielle (of The Settlers), and Purple Henry perform regularly.”

Disclaimer-we have friends in Cerulean 3-but they were definitely the most pro with the best beat. Next fav was The Merch girls, super sincere with acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies. We missed Go Ogres, but heard several positive comments from the crowd. And crowd it was, to capacity. Though we were prepared to use the combined star power of Jennie Stearns & Kim Sherwood to get us in, we only had to wait a few minutes for others to leave.


January thaw is over, I guess. Four days in the fifties, maybe, and then suddenly well below zero with the wind chill. It’s tax season, and I’m a bookkeeper, so I didn’t get out a Office shelves into shedlot when it was nice, and now I’m boxed up for good. I did make sure to do what ever wood box filling and moving things around that i could, and one huge accomplishment was putting the metal office shelves up in the shed and storing the landscaping supplies. We had done a big winter rearrangement in the house, turning a tiny room at the end of the hall into a wee library and sorting out piles of computer stuff Mike is now dismantling for it’s metal in order to revamp the office. Part of all this was using the ubiquitous office storage shelves in the shed, because they have doors, and are metal and ugly.


Today we went to town to run as many errands at once as we could think of. We try to be as efficient as possible when driving, but this time I forgot the paint color we needed, and Mikes pdf had extra pages that shouldn’t be printed,so not everything got done. In the summer our rule is to not drive to town unless we earn enough money there to pay for the gas!
We did visit friends-a rare treat. Their daughter plays fourth grade basketball, so we hope to catch a game soon. Pictures? You bet!


We’re spending a lot of time organizing and updating this winter. I enjoy it (when I was a kid, I loved to alphabetize my books), but it’s pretty dull to write about. Today I spent a lot of time researching native azaleas, which actually deserves a post of its own.
We just added a blog button to our business websites. It made me nervous to do…It’s funny-I’m pretty sure no one has read this blog but me, and I find that comforting. It makes me feel the way I do at big, crazy events-state fairs at night, standing room only concerts, any street in any town the first time. Like I could be anybody.Or nobody. (Update: Guess the buttons worked-somebody’s looookiiiing…)


Rain on frozen groundAnother January thaw? I’m losing track…This one was accompanied by rain that was not as helpful as our traditional slow melting snow. With the ground frozen, water puddled or flowed down the creek, and the plants were left exposed and unblanketed. Nonetheless, we enjoyed being in the yard without our jackets on in the middle of winter. Like people whose videos of tornados you see on YouTube.

Broken splitter pile

Broken splitter pile

Most of the day was spent trying to get the splitter to work (unsuccessfully) and organizing the shop in preparation for cleaning and sharpening the tools.


We didn’t take a vacation in 2012  (except for an overnight trip to Toronto to see the Johnny Dowd Band), and in 2011 we visited relatives separately, so we have a new plan for how to have a break together. We are going to take short trips to towns nearby we haven’t been to, maybe even stay overnight now and then.We’ll use the vacation money we’ve saved for these little bursts. I think it may be cheaper in the long run than a big trip, and frankly, less exhausting. Don’t get me wrong-I’d love to do drive cross country, or fly to Europe, but right now the thought of managing our multiple self-employed jobs to leave a gap that big in the year would require so much labor before any after it would use up all the “relax” of the actual trip! Not to mention one more kid with two more years of college to pay for.
Today was the Candor/Owego trip.


Gave up on the splitter, just can’t get it going. Got a tow hitch for the truck, which due to the rough shape of the old gal needed to be cold chiseled into place, and hauled it down to Lanes Auto, a local Danby business. Not only did they fix it, they rigged a ground from the spark plug so we wouldn’t have to flood the engine to stop the splitter running….
Can’t say we really believe in it. Seems like the wacky warmth has made us forget what “snow” really is. I recall sledding down Buffalo St. in Ithaca,and accumulated snow so high in my yard you could dig a tunnel in the side of it.


Today I took care of me, first with a trip to the podiatrist, then a cut & color at Changes. You won’t see any pictures, but trust me, I’m twice as cute and half my age. At the podiatrist, I learned I am supposed to stay off my feet for a while. Funny how what seemed like chores (splitting and stacking, emptying the compost) are suddenly more enticing than being warm and cozy inside,typing away on your blog… For sure I’ll miss a blizzardy hike up the hill. And if all I can do is sit at the computer, I’m sure not to have anything interesting to say!
Gosnowod news is, Mike filled the wood shed all by himself. There are four cords in there now, though we’ll use most of another one this winter, making 3-4 per year altogether. He estimates it takes about 4 tanks of gas in the chainsaw to cut up a cord of rounds,not counting cutting down the tree itself.
As for the storm, it started snowing in Ithaca around 2:30,but in Rochester two hours later they had six inches. Beans are cooking, and it’s still snowing in Danby at 8:30.Guess we believe now…. IMG_6127


Mike has done all the shoveling, and is now plowing for the second time. This morning we had 9 inches, and it’s still coming down at 3:00. Long time no see, New York weather!
I am being a Good Girl, puttering around washing clothes and dishes and drinking tea. My daughter reminded me what a bad patient I can be, so I am really trying this time. I will say, I am instantly rewarded with reduced pain after calf stretching-a basic must for anyone with flat feet or high arches.I swear I’ll have this licked inside of two weeks!!
IMG_0124LATER:Still snowing, only in this tiny tip of Cayuga Lake.Must be about a foot by now. Due to the aforementioned insulation problems, we thought it best to shovel off the roof before the inevitable melt.And yes, I did some shoveling and ladder holding…


What’s blooming now? Well, it’s happening indoors, of course-all the better.


Still splitting wood-hurray IMG_6131for Lane’s Auto! The sun is bright,tough it’s still cold, and with a few blossoms on the plants indoors it’s practically cheery.


The firewood is split & stacked-4 cords in the wood shed and 1/2 cord outside by the gator shed. We need another 3 1/2 to fill the outside area, and another piled somewhere to set us up with 3 years worth of wood.
Oh yes, and I finally graduated from the Natural Areas Academy! Only two years in the making… Tony Ingraham gave a talk on the Haendel, and showed some really great aerial photos, mostly by Bill Hecht, I believe. The Finger Lakes region really has the coolest geology, and seeing Cayuga Lake from above helped me understand it better. And someday I’m going to write ALLLLL about it….


Mike began work on our EQUIP contract, cutting down 5 pines in 2 hours, in the northwest corner of the pine plantation. They seem to be 50-52 years old. There are about 100 marked for cutting, of which we have to do half in 2013.


Today Mike cut down 15 pines in about 7 hours, mostly red and few Norway spruce and white pines. The pines run between 50 and 70 feet tall, the ones higher on the slope being taller. Ultimately we plan to intercrop blueberries in that pine plantation, probably where this weeks cutting was done-we’ll see. It is tricky cutting where the pines are so close their tops touch-lots of hangups. We are not skidding them out, so Mike has to use ropes and lots of wedges… We would like to find a use for the logs, though we always leave as much coarse wood debris as we can. At one point Mike bent his saw blade and thought he was done, but he found a nice groove in the back of the gator that he was able to use to bend it back into shape.Accident or design?? As fro myself-I completed two peoples taxes. Fun fun fun.
One potential accidents: When hammering in a wedge, it popped out and hit him in the face. Good thing he had his visor down!


Another day in the pine plantation-14 trees down in about 5 hours. The southern east-west border about 200 feet in and 50 feet in all down the west side is done. Just a few scattered pines before you get to the ravine, and maybe we’ll be done with what needs to happen this year. That’s good, as I hear snowdrops are blooming, and not just downtown, and we have yet to do our landscaping clients winter pruning!


Still thinning the pine plantation. Only two trees, as the EQUIP contracted trails are the next priority. As usually, they hung up, and we will be glad when this part is done. A few may be good saw logs, maybe for battens when we repair the barn. Worth hauling out if we are going to have a sawmill out for the butternut, anyway.
There is an east-west gap through the pines (which are not as straightly planted or maintained as some plantations are) about 25′ wide-perfect for blueberries on either side with room for the gator down the middle. Mike worked on clearing about 200′ of this, though what is frozen to the ground will have to wait. Not long, I think. It is very majestic and cathedral-like.
Even though we’ll leave lots of brush piles for wildlife, and fallen logs for forest health, we think we’ll still end up with good cross country trails and plenty of foot paths.
We realized today that, after the survey, the property that we didn’t know was ours comprises about 5 acres. Still looking,but some of the trees may not have been cut at least since the 30’s. Maybe much longer…


The snow, which accumulated slowly but steadily over the past few weeks, is falling off the roof in great clumps. We’ll take the melt, as the gator busted itself in a valiant attempt to climb the hill through snowdrifts while carrying its plow. I am pinned to my desk (like a bug at a certain workshop I attended), as I did NOT cure myself with my enormous willpower and instead had to get a cortisone shot in  my foot. Though I haven’t gotten to enjoy it, I am happy to see finally snow arrived. To quote Melissa of Good Life Farm: “Here’s to a real, serious winter storm that sets back our overwintering pests, replenishes our groundwater and makes for snowy white fun.”


It’s been in the 50’s the last two days, but we still have snow cover, and I’m glad. Climate change aside, it’s too early for the snowdrops and crocuses to peek up on our side of the hill. I’m trapped inside, due to a bum foot, so I’m reading up on grasses in advance of some work with the master gardeners in the Cooperative Extension garden, and contemplating Impatien downy mildew.
I am not as personally devastated by this latest plant epidemic as I am by, say, HWA, but I have clients who will be. Looks like it is going to put the kibosh on those massive plantings of Impatiens walleriana we all know and, well, are frankly tired of. One infected plant and you lose the lot, and since the spores overwinter in the soil, next year is also Right Out. I do have a favorite little planting of red Impatiens I like to do by what we’ve come to call the Wailing Wall, though it’s more like May’s wall in The Secret Life of Bees, but begonias will do there. I just want red and shade tolerant.

A good substitute for impatiens might be Browellia. I understand the Dryden Beautification Brigade uses them to great effect. And you can still use New Guinea Impatiens, as they are highly resistant to the mildew.

Indoors, the cactus and the rex begonia are done, but the Phalaenopsis ‘Baldan’s Kaleidoscope’ and Begonia semperflorens are chugging away like the workhorses they are.


Gator is back, with relays & hub repaired and all John Deered up, thanks to Lindsay Lawn & Garden. They only charged $75.00 to come from Apalachin to get it. All the snow we got is melted and it’s raining, but it is supposed to get chilly again. Crocuses & snowdrops blooming in Ithaca and daffodils are up, but gardeners and orchardists are hoping for either a continuation of warm weather right into summer or, more likely, for it to cool back down again. What we are NOT hoping for is warm weather, bud break and then a hard frost like last April.


Plant order from Van Bourgondien arrived: Belamcanda chinensis, Gladiolus, Adiantum pedatum (Maiden Hair fern),Potentilla ‘Fire Flames”,Crocosmia masonorum (Saffron fire flower) and Shasta ‘Banana Cream’. Except for the Glads & Crocosmia, they all went straight into the fridge. What were they thinking?! Truthfully, I don’t usually buy living plants online, but sometimes I can’t resist a crazy-ass sale, even if I am likely to get some failures. Plants grown locally are more acclimated to your area, and if your nursery is good, are going to be larger and more robust than the starts you get in the mail. One of my favorites nurseries around here is Plantasia. They have beautiful, well-cared for stock, and are in our neighborhood. So here’s some props to my friend Jan:local-first-ithaca-300x282





Hamamelis vernalis

Ithaca, now firmly in zone 5, is way ahead of us, but we finally have our first snowdrop . The witch-hazel just outside the window is in full reddish bloom, and has been for a while. It is way too happy to be that close to the house, but it is such a pleasure to see its tiny flowers up close in winter without leaving the couch, I can’t bear to move it. And yes, I planted it there.
Hamamelis vernalis is one of our native understory trees. The other is Hamamelis virginiana, which flowers in the autumn. Interestingly, due to delayed fertilization, it also produces berries at that time. IMG_62212013/03/31

Outside tromping around for the first time today, and it feels SO good. I was able to putter around the yard a bit before the rain started, at which point I decamped to the tool shed. I am on a slow learning curve of tool care, learning to sharpen and repair as I go. Last winter I got ALL the hand tools cleaned and sharpened before the landscaping season started, and most of the long handled tools as well. This year, not so much…


It’s early spring, and here at the southern tip of Danby about 10 degrees colder than in Ithaca. Spring has barely peered out, but winter is definitely over. As always, we are curious to see how the experiments of last summer and fall pan out. One was the sod couch-actually a creation from the debris of the flood of 2011.


…and off at a gallop. Avoiding Alliteration says she took “a hiatus from the internet while I went on life adventures”. I’m pretty sure I didn’t do that, but life did happen. 1000 logs got inoculated, our clients gardens got their spring cleaning and planting, we taught a workshop, harvested some asparagus and ate take out. A lot. Who can come inside before the sun goes down just to cook?
This week I have to get back on track, though, because our CSA has started. I have fresh veggies, and right in front of me, Lauren,s sheep milk yogurt with strawberries from the Fruit Bowl. Another winter survived!


Mushrooms at the GLF end of spring CSA party

Mushrooms at the GLF end of spring CSA party

The mushrooms are  underway, and producing well. Our fears that after fulfilling our shares we wouldn’t have enough for wholesale and restaurants have proved unfounded. As usual, the rain has been damned if you do, damned if you don’t-the high humidity is great for growth, but mushrooms harvested wet can get mushy.Waterbar
We ended up digging the waterbars we needed for our EQIP grant by hand, in the sweltering heat, which seems to be the weather we do everything in lately. Now that that and the inoculations are done, it’s on to the winters firewood. Our son came out and did the splitting, while my husband cut them down to size. My sister, paying back a debt, helped me weed, which I continued to do all day. I pondered flower gardening as I did so. I think perhaps it is not so fashionable in some circles-lots of work, maybe even money, with no practical pay off. Vegetable gardening seems to fit better with the new culture of sustainability and conservation. But I have my doubts about vegetable growing, too, at least on the home scale. There’s no way our forested land can keep us in veggies year round, which honestly is true of most hobby gardeners, not to mention people without the access to land or time to do it. Instead of growing a few veggies and buying the rest imported from California or Florida, I prefer to justify my gardening choice by supporting the local folks who have the moxie to try to grow enough food for everyone and see how far I can make it on my CSA share. So far, pretty good. I’ve reconciled myself to a dearth of citrus fruits, so the occasional shipment from relatives in Florida is a treat. (It must have been something like this for my mom in depression era Oklahoma, because every year we got an orange and a walnut in the toe of our stockings. I always thought it was just to get us to eat something else before the chocolate…) I am by no means a pro at putting up food, but the summer bounty is such that we have greens right through till spring. I have spent so little time in the vegetable section at Wegmans the past few years that the sight of it confuses and frightens me. Like my mom often said about the frozen food section, my eyes just glaze over. This year, to justify my inability to hunt and butcher my own meat, we joined a summer meat CSA. To keep us in healthy eats when we worked too late to cook, we also had a CSK. Damn if I’m not starting to feel like a regular Lady of the Manor.


These hot, muggy days have been hard, especially on the guys. They got a pick up job mowing yesterday and got into some wild parsnip. It’s blooming everywhere now, and if you are outside, sweating, and get it on your skin, you’ll burn. Not as bad as hogweed, but no fun. They put on raingear and gloves and sweated it out.
Back home we have larvae in the vernal pool. Could they be Ambystoma laterale Larvae in vernal pool(blue spotted salamander)? It’s not an uncommon species, but we don’t see them often, though we spotted one near the laying yard not long ago. They are an obligate vernal pool species.There are tadpoles, too. The wood frogs are done, so maybe green frogs?
The vernal pool is one of the neatest ecosystems we have. Though there are other places in the woods where water accumulates seasonally, our main pool is partially manmade. It’s at the bottom of a small cliff in the quarry, a divot in the side of the hill that we imagine may have been used to help build the Ithaca-Owego turnpike. We do know our well was known to never run dry, and work crews stopped by for a drink.


Haven’t written all summer-no surprise. So many things I missed: the toads in the road after the heavy rain, Mike swerving to avoid them at night, even the tiniest ones. The incredible fruit harvest everywhere, still going on in our berry patch at 12 cups. And blackberries, huge,fat ones.

Leaves falling everywhere. How can this be?


So now I’ve gleaned,raked fallen blueberries, and mulched. Then I finished the sides of the raised bed in my own inimitable (read lazy and unskilled) fashion. Unlike the raised beds we just finished for a client composed of timbers, rebar and spikes, I just pounded in a couple of wooden stakes, leaned one of our locusts planks up against them, pounded a third in on the other side, and called’er done.


There is an eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) in the kestrel house, dozing in the opening in broad daylight. It has an excellent view of the bird feeders by the kitchen window. Doors opening and closing and cars starting nearby cause it to tilt it’s head slightly, eyes disdainfully closed.

2 thoughts on “Willseyville Diary 2013

  1. This was fascinating reading. I had no idea about a pine plantation. You have busy and interesting lives.


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