Saturday, November 22, 2014

Iced Over Early

The monster storm that buried Buffalo with lake effect snow brought us days of cold weather.  Our Unadilla River is sporting an unusually early appearance of ice.  Taken from the bridge in Rockdale, this picture shows ice on the still water near shore.  In our long ago younger days we dug the aquatic larval stage of the Dobson fly to use as bass bait in the channel to the left of the small islands.  That was a two person job.  One held a wire mesh wood framed screen nearly perpendicular to the flow of the water while the upstream person overturned stones with a stone fork.  Dobson larvae would wash onto the screen.  Many happy hours were spent securing bait and catching the elusive smallmouth bass.

Here the Unadilla River flows past the bottom land to the left that was part of the former farm that includes our homestead.  Becky's father had a boat chained to a nearby tree.  This is where we turned the Dobson larvae into bass.  Rapidly moving water midstream will remain unfrozen for most of the winter.  Prolonged severe cold is necessary to freeze this part of the river from bank to bank.

Deep still water has already frozen across the width of the river.  In days long past, the New York Ontario and Western Railway tracks ran just behind the pine grove centered in the photo.  Passengers left the trains to picnic and enjoy the river here.  In the distant left center of the picture, outlined against the sky, the row of pines rising above the ridge belongs to us.  We usually feature photos that show what is happening at home but today we took a short drive.

 Here skin ice is trapped in the swirling currents upstream from the remains of a mill dam.  Part of the stone mill building is now used as a restaurant.  Not surprisingly, it is named The Old Mill.  A family group of five ducks flew from the open water in response to my presence.  My focus was on not slipping down the bank into the cold water so there is no picture of the flying ducks.

This  pond was scraped by enlarging a shallow depression cut by a small stream.  Beavers raised the level of the natural outlet considerably increasing the size of the pond soon after the bulldozer left.  Apparently the Department of Environmental Conservation could not take issue with the actions of the beavers so this artificial/natural pond persists.  Geese recently gathered here in impressive numbers as they organized themselves for migration.  Not ready to fly south just yet, the ice has moved them into nearby manure rich corn fields.  All of this ice may soon be gone when 60 degree air temperatures and falling rain leave their mark on the landscape.

Fresh Lettuce Season Is Over

November 4th found me weeding the last outdoor planting of lettuce for this year.  We have found planting lettuce seeds in plastic pots to be the most effective method for us.  High soil temperatures inhibit seed germination during the summer.  An early start is possible when the soil remains cold in the spring.  It is also much easier for our creaky bodies to thin the lettuce seedlings on the planting bench.  No bending over and the ability to see what needs to be removed are big pluses for us.  This planting was properly weeded and Becky clear cut it before the monster storm froze everything solid.  We ate the last of this lettuce yesterday.  It was wonderful.

There are always more plants than can be planted out since lettuce must go under a wire cage.  The plan was to move these plants into the basement on cold nights and set them out on the wall on warm sunny days.  There have been no warm sunny days recently and these plants now languish on a basement windowsill.  With December days close at hand, these plants are facing the end of their season.

Johnny's Select Seeds was our source for Flashy Trout Back lettuce.  Its color is bright and cheerful and the tasty is incredible.  Johnny recently retired selling the business to the employees.  It may be that the transfer of funds will be completed by an increase on each seed pack.  That is an admirable and responsible plan to transfer ownership but I found the new cost of a pack of lettuce seeds to be more than I was willing to pay.  The last of my stock of Flashy Trout Back seeds were planted.  The plants were left to go to seed but I never got around to collecting any.  Some self planted seed grew of its own accord but they are simply too late. I have to wonder if we can keep these little lettuce plants alive until spring but the odds are if I am to continue eating this variety of lettuce, the high price of seed will have to be paid.

Our fresh from the garden lettuce season started early and is ending quite late.  Repeated plantings kept the supply continuous.  Several years ago in a much smaller garden, we did enjoy fresh from the garden lettuce with Christmas dinner.  A small cold frame and a much later arrival of winter made that possible.  Perhaps we should look into a new cold frame for next year.