Willseyville Diary 2020


Hoppin John

Made Hoppin’ John for New Years Day, so here’s hoping. Had a ham bone from Christmas, and chard from the summer. Along with carrots and onions, turned out pretty good. Had enough to share around and eat for several days as well, like my mama taught me.

Caught some beautiful iridescent clouds in transit. We watched until the show was over.


Hamamelis blooming March of last year

Years ago we bought a number of plants from the TCSWCD Tree & Shrub sale. Due either to a weakness in my record keeping or lack of information from the TCSWCD itself, I don’t know whether we have planted (quite a number of) Hamamelis virginiana or vernalis. More recently we have planted large specimens of both. My clues are: I only have one witch hazel that blooms any differently from the others, and that’s the one that’s still blooming yellow flowers right now, but bloomed fully in November last year, so my guess is H. virginiana. All the others  have reddish orange flowers currently in bud and

Hamamelis blooms passing

are likely to bloom around March so I guess vernalis. H. virginiana blooms yellow in the fall, which I don’t think of as November, but perhaps now it is, as our summers are much longer. Now, H. vernalis supposedly blooms in late winter or early spring. Being native further west, perhaps that’s March here in NY? And all but the the one bloom reddish-orange. As for the weather right now-the snow is melted and the creek is flowing. Maybe we’re all just confused…

Saw some canine tracks on the middle bridge, so I set the trail cam up there. Given my luck with track ID, and considering who mostly shows up on the trail cam, it’s a bluejay.
(Later: Jokes on me-it was a dog! In my defense, we don’t get a lot of stray dogs out here.)


An extremely loud murder of crows chased a hawk off. All of the little birds in the understory were VERY excited!


Seems like winter for a day. Cold and snowy, though according to the weather report, only at our house. The nasty weather stopped in time for our friend’s birthday hike to the Finger Lakes Trail Chestnut lean-to. We started at the Comfort Rd/Bald Hill Rd. parking spot. It’s listed as an “easy” .57 mile hike in, and it’s not bad, but it is pretty hilly. If you broke your ribs recently (as one of our party had), you’ll need to take your time. You can see the elevation on this topo map.

I think the route from Michigan Hollow, though longer, is less up and down, and in fact I experienced it that way. When we didn’t make the hard right back the car. Unaware that there were white blazes going west AND east… It think we went as far along the dashed line as we would have along the red, causing someone who left 1/2 hour after us to wonder why our car was still there…

In spite of a certain amount of urgency time-wise (a gig in evening), it was an interesting route that included this rather lovely vernal pool that I would like to visit again. From the other direction. On purpose.


Amazing little visitor today. Guess it just wanted to tuck in out of the snow, and our front porch eave seemed just the spot. (Cloudiness is due to plastic over the window).

Megascops asio (screech owl)

Last screech owl that came by roosted in the kestrel house in December 2013, which since came down (along with the dead tree it was attached to). Mike quickly reinstalled it on the treehouse, just in case it was needed.


As I join my fellow financial industrial complex drones drowning in tax season, I doubt I will have much of interest to say until after April 15. Rest assured, I HAVE rented a hot tub, so I will survive with sanity intact.

Meantime Mike is moving stuff around and fixing things. I can’t keep track, but I did notice he repaired our Woodstock stove, installing a new combustor scoop and gaskets all round. Good thing, as we really tore through the woodpile waiting for the parts to arrive. The resulting burn is a thing of beauty.


Temperature dropped and the wind picked up dramatically. I expect some trees will come down somewhere. All the snow was melted as of a couple of days ago.



I never learned to sew. Or really, to cook. My mom let me read instead because that (she said) was what her mom did for her, and I got the impression that was a real stand to take. I appreciate that-I am an avid reader and believer in reading. But eventually I had to learn to cook, and it sure would be helpful if I could sew… My friend Munna gave me a lesson today, and I sewed two sleeves to attach to the back of Tibetan wall hangings we happened to have. I used a sewing machine (this is a machine that you would think just sews for you, but no, you have to be there or nothing happens) and finished with hand stitching. I believe I used a running stitch, but somehow it felt fancier,because I had to make sure not to go all the way through the hanging. Which, in fact, I did once, sewing it to itself. But not to my pants,which I have also done before. I feel a great sense of accomplishment, very Little House on the Prairie.
Can I stop now?


It’s an ill wind that blows no bird good. In this case, a neighbors headless chicken deposited n the front of the house was a bonanza for the local crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos). We regularly put out  peanuts, but the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) family beats them to it for the most part, darting in groups of five to grab them the moment a crow departs, so this was a golden opportunity.

As you can see, we are back to winter.


Old chairs

New chairs

Went to the Special-Exclusive-Just-For-You furniture sale in Fayetteville. Yeah, we’re suckers, but we DID need dining room chairs. The ones we have (actually kinda cool old Stickley‘s) were literally coming apart at the joints. And despite the extra ass padding I seem to have accumulated, were pretty uncomfortable. We got four, with seat padding, loaded’em up and drove them home. On sale,they cost a million dollars. Okay, not exactly, but at least they will last a hundred years, and who needs to eat,anyway?

As for the outside,bugs are flying,snows melting, and the creek it flowing. So…expect a blizzard.





The parties over, but the good thoughts linger. I can’t bring myself to remove the greenhouse finery from it’s inauguration as a party space.

Temperature in the single digits, and an unprecedented red-wing blackbird at the feeder.


Geese in the sky. That cheers me up!


Every year we try to spot the amphibians heading back to the vernal pool.This might be a little TOO early…

Vernal pool as spring approaches

The shiitake logs outside are also still in rest mode, but the indoor ones are running.


Here we are in Marlboro NY at the sort of Fallingwater of downstate NY – The Falcon. A real labor of love on the part of Tony Falco. (Later: This was the last week of free travel we would have, maybe later in the corona epidemic than was wise. The Falcon is closed as of 3/15 until further notice).It’s built over Marlboro Falls, a double music venue and huge deck with good food and drink. Not to be missed.


Belgian comfort food

Comfort food of the day: Belgian witlof met ham en kaas (endive and ham gratin). Some substitutions were made by the cook, I think, but the result was totally authentic to the spirit of the meal. This dish appeals to everything Irish and/or Southern in my heart. I was a bit confused about the endive/chicory part, so here’s a bit of info from Oregon State U.:
“The terms “chicory” and “endive” are frequently interchanged because the “forced” product of Witloof chicory has been erroneously named French or Belgian endive. Another type of chicory, whose dried roots are used as a coffee substitute, is Magdeburgh or Italian Dandelion. Tops may also be used in cooking like spinach.”

(There’s also raddichio, which they don’t mention here.)

Eranthis hyemalis

Here come the Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconite). They are so prolific, I’m trying to get them to come up in the lawn by spreading the seeds as they ripen.


Watering the garlic in the greenhouse. The snow is all melted and the spring bulbs are up. Third month of the coronavirus but two weeks most intensely  for us.

Here we are hunkered down, hoping not to be a danger to anybody. Despite our best efforts, we were a danger to the titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) that knocked itself out on the window, so I switched out the faded WindowAlerts (the UV protection wears out). The rest of the flock was very disturbed by the incident, flying in and out in a flurry, but when I checked later, the victim had recovered and departed.

As for dangers to us…first tick of the season. When you go out in town, it’s other people. When you go out in rural areas,it’s ticks. How spoiled we have been!


Family group video chat this evening. We talked for hours, a report from every member, covering the whole country-north to south and east to west. Did my heart good.

Also pleased to hear the male wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) making their quacking ruckus in the vernal pool, and maybe even a ruffed grouse flying off?


Horticultural services have been declared an essential service here in New York, but we are not quite back to work. As enriching and inspiring as I believe gardens are, I know they will still be there a month from now, none the worse for wear. Maybe better, with homeowners there to putter and enjoy all day!

Here’s what I’ve done around here so far:
– Cut back the dead stems and leaves left from the fall on behalf of overwintering critters
– Cut back the tall grasses and burned the duff (which was bad, considering the spring burn ban went into effect last week).
– Pruned dead from the roses and cut the biggest stems from the red and yellow twig dogwood to promote colorful growth.
– Mike has transplanted saplings from the nursery to the woods, mainly young oaks.



I spent today sorting blankets and sheets due to an influx of extras from a daughter who just moved. Somehow I felt obliged to have more blankets than needed, in case we had to create a bunch of extra places to sleep-the opposite of what is actually happening. Still reacting as trained by my mom…

Daughter moved to Seattle, of all places, before “New York Pause”, but just barely. She and her husband had already sent all their stuff there, including a car, and were just waiting for their flight. Back in winter, a hundred years ago, I was going to go with them and help with the move. Over time it seemed a worse and worse idea, until suddenly it looked like maybe even they couldn’t go. They did, with hand sanitizers and masks, on an almost empty plane, with two small dogs, upgraded to first class.


Heard the peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) tonight.


Another video chat this evening. We all lit candles and blew them out for our brothers birthday. I don’t know what his wish was, but I can guess.


Today I had actual work to do. Some of my clients are not going to make it, and the ones that will are scrambling.

On the plus side, we saw a northern waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis), which seemed a good sign after last years most tragic lost migrant.


Got a good view of the raven across the street. Poor thing is constantly harassed by the local murder of crows.