Saturday, August 29, 2020

Update on the Jungle

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state

As you should know by now, my gardening skills amount to the triumph of hope over experience but I said to myself when we got back here that, if the jungle didn't look good this summer, with, let's face it, nothing much else to do with one's life, then it never would. Of course there were several obstacles in the way:  flowerbeds originally planted willy nilly around tree stums (roots everywhere); a soil full of rocks (Florida soil is nothing but dust but at least you can dig) ; the charms of the local wildlife, deer, woodchucks, rabbits chipmunks, slugs, Japanese beetles and anything else you can think of; the charms of the local weather, storms, rain, drought (not to mention winter freeze-thaw). But I will be positive and mention some of the minor triumphs.

1) The deer did not eat the tall phlox this year.

In past summers I've caught them literally with their heads buried in it, munching away. Perhaps the Irish Spring soap really did work, even if it made the garden smell like the inside of a minicab.

2) The apricot-coloured lily I always think has been smothered still manages to fight back against the opposition. It seems to enjoy the plant equivalent of city life.

3) The deer didn't eat any of the other phlox either. Perhaps, having gobbled up every single one last year they got memorable indigestion.

4) The slugs missed the one red coneflower.

5) The eager lad at the nursery sold me some good rose fertiliser. It seems to have worked. The rose looks almost as good as it did when it was planted.

6) I managed to keep the Japanese beetles away from the hibiscus.

It's a sign of how desperate people are around here that slug pellets are as impossible to find in the shops as loo paper was in March. (Now the supermarket is trying to unload tons of dodgy-looking weird unknown brand loo paper which it must have got in a job lot of so maybe there'll be a glut of slug pellets soon). Same with Japanese beetle traps. But as luck would have it, I found an old, unopened one in the shed. It is currently writhing with inmates (don't tell the animal protection people)  but I sometimes wonder whether it isn't attracting even more.
6) The chipmunks left us with two tomatoes. (After I'd wrapped them all up in netting so it's impossible to pick them).

Well there have been failures too but let's not dwell on them now. Onwards and upwards! 

Friday, August 21, 2020

And Into the Harbour (Harbor)

 The other day there was absolutely no wind so we pretended we were in a power boat and took a cruise around Buffalo Harbour.  Here we are going under the skyway and on the left is an operational grain elevator - most of them are rusting hulks left over from when Buffalo took in all the grain from the prairies and was one of the world's major cities but this one produces Cheerios breakfast cereal - when there is a wind and it's in the right direction the treacly aroma wafts across the harbour. 

The Skyway may have looked futuristic a few decades ago but now it serves to block any kind of useful and/or attractive development along the lakefront. Some people would like to knock it down but I'm sure it has its fans.

I have been collecting bizarre boat names, of which there are many. Boat owners seem to love plays and puns, some of them not very salubrious. Yes the one in the middle really is called Breakin' Wind.

And here's Feelin' Nauti on the left.

"Seanile" I can sympathise with. I'm sure it's not owned by a politician.

There's Nice Ketch - better if it was a fishing boat.

Sail La Vie. Oh dear.

Then on the way out, a redundant battle cruiser with a more workmanlike name, the USS Little Rock, dwarfing Titanic 2, not to mention the kayakers. A risky business, paddling in the harbour but a lot of people seem to want to do it. It is a nice way to socially distance.

Here's the sailing school with the sweetest little huts, all different colours, just like the English Riviera.

Out past the historic lighthouse.

Here's a close-up. It was finished in 1933 and has a fascinating history which you can read more about here - it's one of the prettiest sights on the waterfront. It almost makes up for the Skyway and the Marina Ugly Tower, (which I can't bear to photograph again - a brutalist monstrosity) but not quite.

And back in our own marina, a few more boat names. Speaking of not very salubrious ...

Of course, what would you expect from a powerboater?

Aqua Maureen is a bit more like it. 


More fool him. Not getting the art of going nowhere, slowly, at great expense. (Especially on a day like today.)

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Into the Woods

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state

In all the time I've been here I'd never before been to the State Forest. Or rather the State Forests. These pockets of wooded idyll are dotted around the landscape. Occasionally you see a rustic wooden notice, bump along a country lane  and find yourself lost in the simple splendour of nature. No car park, no visitor centre, no manicured trails, camp sites or collections of cabins. Best of all, no sentry box asking you to cough up some money as happens in the State Parks. The State Forests are a simpler, wilder experience. And when you see a path like this....

With the sun glittering through the trees, an incredible stillness in the air, save for the rustling of deer scampering out of the bushes, you want to keep on walking forever - around the next corner, and the one after that, wondering if you'll ever reach the top of the hill.  And there's no one around. It's social distancing heaven. It's so quiet that you notice things lying on the ground. What's this? Autumn already?

Of course you're never truly free of the scourges of modern life. The barrier to stop cars going up the path had suspicious ruts on either side. The local citizenry on those noisy off-road tractor things probably. But they weren't there today.

  Plus you can never really get away from the strange times we live in. What does that piece of paper say?

Wouldn't you know. Even out here. 

And another of the special charms of rural America. Roads signs used for target practice.

If you don't believe me, look at the other side.

But we'll definitely be back to the State Forest again. Just don't tell too many people about it.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

And Some Pretty Sights

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state

There could be worse places to spend a quiet, social distancing summer.
  Here's a cousin of Chippy's from far up the lane. You can't stay cross with them for long. (See below)
And a misty forest.
And a foggy lane. This is near where my neighbour saw a 400lb bear crossing.
But not this day. And here's some Queen Anne's lace again, before the Mad Mower got to it. It never ceases to amaze. Every one is ever so slightly different.
And here's Jack Daniels, as I call the Clematis Jackmanii, looking particularly chipper on the garden shed a couple of weeks ago. For the first time this year I've managed to keep the slugs, apart from one or two diehards, away from the window boxes. I still can't work out how they get up there.

And the neighbour's pond, all spooky in the morning mist. What lurks in those depths? (Well there are some pretty big fish jumping around, not to mention a few frogs that take a running jump as you approach.)

And from the other side, a few seconds later.  

Walking along, I scared, not a frog but a huge turkey out of a very tall tree, the first turkey I've seen around here for a very long time. The sound it made was like a round of applause. The geese have been inordinately noisy too, in the last couple of days. I hope they're not planning to go south already. Today we heard the troubling news that they expect so many hurricanes this year that they may run out of letters of the alphabet and have to start on the Greek one.  At least here we mostly just have thunderstorms
Oh and here's the pond in the sunshine. See - nothing spooky there!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

A Few Goodbyes

First to the New Batch who took off last week, just like their siblings without a word of thanks. That's it for Mrs Robin, hubby said. That nest atop the motion detector lights has got to go. Well we'll see. 

And a very sorrowful goodbye to the roadside wildflowers along the lane. The chicory, aka cowboy coffee, was a heavenly blue

And made a great double act with the white Queen Anne's lace - yes that's what the Americans call it.

We don't have that much to put joy in our hearts at the moment and that was one of them. And goodbye to the pretty show of clover and daisies looking down on the babbling brook under the road.

Every year a sadist from the local authority comes around with a fiendish, rumbling machine. My heart sinks when I hear it coming up the hill. One year I nearly threw myself in front of it to stop him massacring a bank of small trees. But he's still coming and mowing everything down.  It's heartbreaking and we don't know why he does it, unless he's been told to go and find something to do. 

Mushroom Time

It must be wetter than I thought. Mushrooms have appeared, out of the blue, in the grass. This one looks like milk chocolate with a sprinkling of nuts. NOT.

Someone appears to have taken a bite of one of these.

And this resembles one of those weird crusty bread rolls they used to sell in Sainsbury's...

Ah how I miss them!  
There were almost as many kinds of fungi as on our Mushroom Mania nature walk - was it really nearly two years ago? Perhaps the jungle can set itself up as a nature reserve, with self-guided, social-distancing tours. By the time people have hacked their way through the multiflora roses they will definitely have their moneysworth of adventure.