Willseyville Diary 2018


An Eastern tailed blue (Cupido comyntas) appeared in the house today. We see them often, flitting low on the lawn and perching on clover. We gave him some sugar water to be hospitable, but his future seems unproductive at best. We wonder how he got here-perhaps on a plant brought indoors? The temperature the last few months has ranged from below zero to above 60.

Jade and Maggie2018/01/23


All right, kicking back into the blogosphere, and I can’t use going on tour with Johnny as an excuse two years later…Speaking of which, while my husband was on this years romp through the Netherlands and UK, I got to visit my adopted daughter’s (aka daughter’s childhood besty’s) new baby in the hospital, shortly after we spend a goodly amount of time with said daughter’s dad in the emergency room. Here’s the baby (Dad did not take a selfie):


.My boyfriend’s back, and I’m gonna rent a hot tub...
OMG this was the best week of my life. I do not have a single picture it is appropriate to publish.


I am rewarded for spending almost three weeks stuck at shoveling snow daily by and being sick THE ENTIRE TIME- the whole upstairs is being repainted by a rock star!

I can hardly describe the color choice we made twenty years ago, when the kids were young and we were still figuring out how to agree on things, but somehow the compromise involved pastels in complementary colors. It was not exactly,but horrifyingly close, to this:
This time we are going for earth-tone neutrals from Sherwin-Williams.

Early spring in Danby NY


If you’ve done a good job cleaning up in the previous year, early spring can be a relaxing season. There’s not a lot to do, and what there is to do is pretty simple and mostly physical. All you are really doing it waiting to see how what you did in the fall pans out. Maybe it’s a little little what a director feels just before the movie is released?


Snow out of a clear blue sky!


Most hilarious my talk about spring earlier. But the snow did reveal to us the presence of a flock of turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). We followed the tracks a bit, but were not interested in pestering them too much. It is entirely possible to be chased all the way to your house by a pissed off turkey. (PS Possum don’t always play dead,either.)

Same scene as above, in reality

Day of Big Wind


High winds blew everything off the porch, then it hailed. Then the sun came out.




New austerity measures

Took a look at the budget, and implemented brilliant new financial plan involving working and spending less money.  So far, tremendous success on part two, at least at the grocery store!
(Not shown here is the door full of pickles,lifetime supply.)


Wood frogs and bees. Is this spring at last?!? There are salamander and frog eggs in the vernal pool, though we did not seem to get a Big Night, or we missed it. The ground stayed cold and the rains came late.

Crocus and bee


Planted Sugar Sprint peas in the greenhouse for an early start. This may backfire on us later in the spring, as the greenhouse warms up fast. Hope “Sprint” is an accurate description! We also have zinnias and onion starts coming along.

Onion garlic jam in progress

The garlic loves it,though,and is well up. Each year we’ve chosen the largest cloves to replant, and they do seem to be getting bigger. As an experiment last year, I roasted in their skins the tiny ones not worth cooking with and froze them. Today I took on the tedious task of squeezing them out, and made some vidalia onion and garlic jam with them.
And it was excellent.


Finally warm and sunny, and we are out in the yard and greenhouse ( where it hit 80). We are watering the garlic on a drip line from the nursery seep well,and I planted nasturtium Empress of India, for the tasty flowers and pods but also for the killer color. Dahlias and canna came up from the basement into the greenhouse last week, along with Hymenocallis festalis (Peruvian daffodils) and Acidanthera murielae (peacock orchid) in pots of dirt. The canna I grew from seeds collected from plants my husbands Aunt Mary had tossed into the back of the horse pasture in Florida decades ago. All of the above managed fine in the greenhouse till now, though temperatures at night were below 30 at times.

Mike transplanted 6′ and 7′ trees he has grown from seed in the nursery. Some of them have been moved multiple times as they outgrew their space.(Smaller trees from the same batch transplanted earlier are much smaller,due to tougher growing conditions and deer browse.)

<<Here’s a sample of seeds he has collected.Some have grown into trees and are all around the lower part of our land. He has the locations all in his head and shows them to me every year, but has not managed to put them all in mine. Now he is wisely attaching aluminum tags.

Following the advice of a friend who (self proclaimed) once wanted to be a lavender farmer for ten minutes, I cut mine back hard. I have always been afraid to do this because the north side of a mesic hill is not ideal habitat, and any lavender willing to be there I have been leery of messing with.

Standard gardening supplies

Preventatively put out Milky Spore and Tick Tubes. The milky spore has worked great, been putting it out every five years or so, and the Japanese beetle population is way down.So far (crossed fingers) the ticks are not as bad,either, but last year was our first time to put out the tubes. We also switched completely to wood chip mulch, so that might be a factor. And the cold spring weather…But I can confirm that by this time last year, bodily tick removal was a regular part of our end-of-landscaping-day routine.


First daffodil of the season is in bloom! A few others barely in bud… I have many varieties of Narcissus, some from mixes, so I’m not sure what this is. I generally plant bulbs I have very few of in this spot south of the house, but so far my records are unclear. Also unsorted. Also illegible.

First daffodil up


The unexpected benefit of overheating an iron pan is that the smell of all those years of seasoning going up in smoke inspires your husband to grill on the BBQ for dinner.


Beltane greetings  (or May Day eve, if you prefer)! It snowed this morning a bit, as a good-bye, I’m guessing. There are bunnies and woodchucks in the yard!

Planting trees

We celebrated by planting  eight  trees in the woods-oaks, mostly.

We also took the opportunity to dig out a thicket of barberry (Berberis) and pull up some garlic mustard.

These nasties seem to come in groups, preferring the same conditions (newly opened up areas, low competition), so where trees have been downed or cut, we are competing with the deer (which we also saw) to get something new to grow. There was even some Asian earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) mixed in. It’s a whole batch of posts if we get into woodlands invasives, but it’s interesting to note there haven’t been earthworms in our northern woods since the last ice age.

We called this the Grandmother tree when it was still upright

Topping off the evening we had lamb burgers grilled perfectly and rather spectacularly when the BBQ caught on fire. A message from the spirits?


Today is Day 1 of a short Northeastern tour, so I’m on my own for a few days. I have been cutting back on landscaping work, but I’ll cover for this week, or at least for a day. Apropos of nothing, I’ve also lost a crown twice in the last five days. How I hate spitting out what appear to be pieces of myself!

I have a series of small projects  I hope to complete before Mike gets back. I like to give the impression our life doesn’t  fall apart completely if he leaves, even if the first night does start with a marathon of tv watching and mac and cheese consumption.  One is to rehab the sod couch we constructed during a terraforming of the slope inspired by a major flood  that filled the basement. Previously entirely soil, I peeled back the grass and plugged in bricks for support. We’ll see.



They’re back!

The Goldenseal is blooming and, yes, there’s ticks and blackflies. And hummingbirds! Forgot to watch their progress across the country this year, so we didn’t have the feeder ready. We were scolded roundly.

Archilochus colubris (hummingbird)

We are continuing our years long effort at flood control. Not only do we prefer not to convert the basement into a swimming pool, but we’d like to maintain a riparian buffer for the critters of the creek and erosion control. Most recently the side wall of the mushroom yard collapsed, not entirely unexpectedly considering the last flood created a gorge there! We transplanted some Cornus sericea (red-twigged dogwood) there from a location it had outgrown and we’ll see if it can handle such a tough job.



Rheum rhabarbarum (rhubarb)

Rheum rhabarbarum

Rhubarb season, and,as usual, I don’t know what to do with it. It doesn’t fit with my current dietary needs to make pies and jams. In fact, I still had two cups of chopped rhubarb in the freezer from last years identical dilemma. So I googled around, and came up with two ideas, one which turned out great, and the other I have yet to taste.
Number one is a rhubarb ginger shrub. I got mine from Epicurious, but I increased the vinegar and decreased the sugar, and it’s a tasty summer drink even without the gin, if you go for that sort of thing.
The second is rhubarb quick pickles.They are still pickling, but I’m pretty confident. Pickling is like putting horseradish on something-the substrate barely matters.

Rhubarb shrub and pickles

Zinnias,onions and leeks



Mike really beefed up the greenhouse this year, and is growing leeks,onions,peas and the usual garlic and asparagus. The bumper crop is zinnias, so many that after planting,selling and giving away as many as we could, I’ll still have a whole crop to grow up in the nursery for cut flowers and-just maybe-dye.



Local farmers dressed as farm machinery


Volunteered today at both my daughters AND my sisters Ithaca Festival merch booths. I’m not a very consistent volunteerer, but I rise to the occasional occasion for those that are. And selling merch has, somehow, become my thing…


Today got its own post as it was another great gallery night. (Note from the future: Gallery night in Olympia WA was not nearly as cool, its Portlandia culture notwithstanding.)


Amazingly, I posted this day as well, though here I will say that when I told my kids I was going to a Natural Dying Class, they got concerned looks on their faces. I reassured them that while I do hope to die a natural death, I doubt any training I get ahead of time will ensure it.

Snake trying to eat fron at Cornell Botanic Gardens


Coincidentally at that very location (if you believe in coincidences), my friend and I and a small group of visitors witnessed an actual life and death struggle between a Fowler’s toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) and a garter snake. I think we all debated whether to intervene, and if so, which way. In either case, one of the critters loses, perhaps terminally. In the end nobody did anything.

For a while, the toad was ahead, but here you see the snake has managed to wedge its tail in a crack, which is giving it an advantage.