MLK Quote

MLK Quote

Nature's Inspiration Movie -- Nature's Inspiration Movie: The photographs in this short video are from award-winning photographer, Ken Jenkins, and they are breathtaking. However, this video is much more than beautiful photographs! Peggy Anderson has compiled beautiful quotations from the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, and many others that truly capture the beauty of nature and solitude. Absolute must watch for nature lovers.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

May I please take this opportunity to allow my blog-readers and blog-friends a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If you do not celebrate Christmas, then Happy Festivity, of whatever festivals you celebrate, to you. Here is a card of collage of some of the flowers that I grew in 2013.

Weather have been funny. For the last two days (from about December 21), temperature is rising up; yesterday (December 22), it was about 66 degree Fahrenheit (about nineteen degree centrigrade), an unheard of temperature in the middle of December in this part of New Jersey. Heaven has opened its flood-gate; rain pouring down in bucket-loads; a thick blanket of fog has descended.

The trees are bare but green has returned; lawns around the neighborhood are soft green. Seeing so much green, my spring-itch is back and my green-thumb is twisting. I spent about an hour, yesterday, in a garden-store, looking at the seed-racks, admiring all the green-house gadgets, and lusting for all the seed-starter pots and trays. The seed-catalogs have started coming. Just looking at them, my soul is getting uplifted and filled with joy and happiness.

However, such was not the scenery three days back. Snow was everywhere and not a speck of green to be seen. Here are some photos of snowy-days that I took on December 10.

The red-seeds of the Dogwood-tree. Well, I was mistaken -- there were green out there among the evergreen plants but were hidden from the sight by the snow.

Chilly but a beautiful sky. The sky sets on fire during sunrise and sunset.

A portion of the front garden completely covered in snow. However, the snow was not that much, measured by the thickness on patio furniture, compared to previous years. I hope more will come. Snow is very good as it not only helps in restoring the water-level of our underground reservoirs, but also helps in germinating many seeds, killing many bad/invasive seeds/insects, moisturizes the garden soil and loosens them up and also helps in speeding up the compost-process in the compost pile. That was once a bean-tree in the last picture. It has now some pea-plans; interesting that pea-plants do not die even in this freezing cold-temperature.

The trees are standing tall and proud even in the cold temperature. And, I am spending my days hunkered low in the warm house with a mug of hot chocolate, day-dreaming and enjoying my feather-friends. So many of them flock to the bird-feeders and devour the seeds fast. Their call grow loud whenever I get into the garden to fill the bird-feeders, as if they are shouting to each other, "hey, food is here." Some of them do not even have the patience (or shall I say courtesy) to wait for me to leave. They fly almost right into me to get the seeds. Too bad that I do not have any pictures because they do not mind me standing in their middle; but as soon as I bring out my SLR, they all fly away. I guess they do not like that big black camera or perhaps photo-shy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Montecello and Rural North Virginia

For the thanksgiving break, we went to stay in a cabin in the wilderness of North Virginia. The cabin was surrounded by farms, wineries, orchards and vineyards. It was also close to Charlottesville, Virginia and homes of many of the US Presidents like Jefferson, Monroe, Adams. So, we visited Montecello (the home of Thomas Jefferson), various art museums and studios in Charlottesville, and tasted true apple cider and wine. Here are all the pictures from the tour with description underneath. The tours and the vacation was a delight for us gardeners -- seing all the farms and orchards and visiting Jefferson's famous garden (which is still in existence) in Montecello.

The road to the cottage in the first picture; second picture shows inside the cottage. It was a cute, little cottage made of woods. It had two bedrooms -- one with a queen sized bed; the other two bunk beds; the sofa in the sitting area was also a sofa-cum-bed; thus, six people were allowed to live in that cottage. We were only a group of three two-legged people and two four-legged people. The third picture shows the view outside the cottage.

The area is surrounded by vineyards, orchards, farms, meadows, woods, dancing spring and rolling greens. It sits in the lap of the Blue Ridge Appalachian Mountain. These places are not famous touristy places of the US, but they are the jewels tucked away into the middle of nowhere in the country. One would go to these places to revive one's soul, to be one with nature, to contemplate and think. The places have the magical touch of turning anyone into a philosopher or an artist.

I never liked alcohols. But visiting all the orchards and vineyards and tasting real apple cider and wine has made me appreciate those tastes. The first picture shows one of the vineyard; my prized possession of a desert wine in the second picture. The whole area is dotted with gorgeous farm houses, fences and farm-animals, spread across the vista (third picture). The farmers there seem to be quite rich as the houses were majestic.

One of the highlight of the vacation was visiting Monticello. I always wanted to see the place as I heard so much about Jefferson's gardening skills. A statue of President Jefferson in the first picture. His famous residence in Monticello. One can a take tour inside the house and get to see his many collections -- books, instruments, pictures and other artifacts; get to see his study, the study-table and chairs he used and the bed where he slept; besides, one get to see other artifacts and musical instruments that his family used. His garden is now taken care of by the Garden Club of Virginia.

Small gardens, like the one in the first picture, exists in many places in the property. Apparently, such gardens existed during Jefferson's time and he used to do lots of gardening in such smaller plots around the property. The second picture shows that of the fish pond where fish caught from big rivers or oceans were put there unless it was time to catch them again for food. A view of the big garden plot (the main one) in Monticello.

I am amazed by the pepper variety in the first picture. It's called Texas Bird Pepper. The temperature outside was freezing and have been freezing like that for quite a while, with temperature being in middle and upper 30's. The plants seem to be still alive then in that temperature; it didn't have any leaves but were full of these tiny peppers. And, they were hot as hell!!! A beautiful cabbage in a big cabbage plot. A row of argula in the third picture. The argula tasted really hot and spicy.

Architectural ruin in the first picture. This chimney and foundation are all that remains of a "joiner's shop." From about 1775, free and enslaved craftsmen produced some of the finest woodwork in Virginia here in this joiner's shop. It is located along the famous Mulberry Row -- it was the row where the slaves lived and had all their workshops, shops, buildings. It's an architectural treasure-trove site now as lots and lots of artifacts are found, whenever the place is excavated; the artifacts belonged to the free and not-free slaves that lived and worked in the mulberry row. The graveyard in Monticello where Jefferson is buried. The two pictures tell the history of the place and people who are buried there. If you plan to visit Monticello, be prepared to spend a day or more there -- the whole place is a museum with huge amount of information spread around. You have to see the Residence, the garden, the ground, the exhibition, Mulberry Row, the wine-cellar, beer-cellar, slaves dwellings, privies, places where horses were kept, ice-room, smoke-house and the list continues. You not only have to see all these but read all the information given and take pictures. So, come ready with good pair of shoes and time in your hand to see, learn, wander around and ponder.

We also visited Charlottesville, a quaint little old town in Virginia reeking with history. Apparently it and the Piedmont Valley in Virginia has very vibrating art-culture which some claim even surpasses that of Big Apple. So, we visited one such art-gallery. The second picture is from the art-gallery. We also visited an art-gallery devoted to the art work of Aboriginals of Australia. The third picture shows an art-work done by an Aboriginal artist. All the various forms and symbols used in this art-work actually has meanings. It can almost be read like a language.

Our cottage in the wood. The frozen sedum-leaves in ground. Does this come any surprise to you all gardeners that I ended up buying seeds, plants (two kinds of Hellebores) and bulbs from the Monticello garden-store. All these plants, bulbs and seeds have heritage as these were also planted by Thomas Jefferson.

I want to link this post to Nature Notes hosted by Rambling Woods. The place was a nature lover's paradise. So, here at the end I post pictures of a friend that I saw there. I think this is a mocking-bird. I see them here in NJ during the Spring and Summer. You know that winter is ending and spring is here when you see these birds jumping around in the yard, fleeting from one tree to another, singing happily. So, I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see them in Virginia. Does that mean that they leave the winter of NJ and migrate to Virginia during winter? That's so incredible and mind-boggling as I would have thought that they would go to much further south instead of just going some thousand miles away. The bird was not at all scared of us and was happily posing for us.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sweet Potato

It's freezing cold outside with temperature in 30's but I still have lots of edibles in the garden -- winter vegetables and greens, carrots, Jerusalem Artichokes and sweet potatoes. I harvested the above bunch today (December 4, 2013). I do not know if there are more left in the ground as the plant spread in all directions. This was a store-bought organic sweet potato. I let it grow slips. Then, I put the whole sweet potato along with innumerable slips in the ground. The soil in the ground was very loose with lots of organic matter. After that I forgot about it -- didn't bother to water or fertilize or do anything. Now, I go and get the bounty. Look at that humongous one by the left side in the photo. It itself weighs in close to five pounds. Suddenly, I am finding that growing vegetables is easy. Just take care of the soil -- lots of compost and other organic matter; after that forget about using fertilizers or water. Let nature take care of itself. Just make sure no kind of chemical or even any kind of natural, organic spray is used. Somehow nature knows better than us how to take care of itself and produce bounties. These are purely, 100% organic sweet potatoes :-)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Turtle Back Zoo

It seems like it is becoming a norm for me, nowadays, to be away from this blog for a long period. However, the time have been well spent in going to a garlic festival, spending two days with friends in dreamy Bethany Beach, Delaware (I have to write a big post about it later on; I am postponing it because it was such an amazing experience that much time and feeling needs to be devoted to write about it), hiking in various state parks and lastly going to the local Turtle Back Zoo and doing zip-line (for the first time in my life).

So, this post will be a short post with lots of pictures from our adventure in Turtle Back Zoo. I will be linking this post with Nature Notes. This is primarily a garden-blog and so you might be wondering about the relevance of this post here. Actually, there is no relevance or perhaps there is a little. Regular readers know that I do gardening because I want to be part of nature. A zoo is not part of nature, but its inhabitants are. I feel extremely sad in visiting a zoo, and seeing all the lonely animals sitting alone in a small enclosure and we standing there, gawking at them and forgetting the fact that they might also need to have some kind of privacy. How shall I feel if I am kidnapped and put on an exhibition in a cage by some aliens? But, at the same time, I support zoo because the way the world is going, zoos will perhaps be the only place in the world, in future, where one will be able to see wildlives. One just has to read news from all around the world, news like 500 elephants killed by poachers in last in South Africa or daily about 50 rhinos are killed by poachers for their horns and so on, to start supporting zoos.

My garden is also dying. For the last two to three weeks, temperature have been hovering around 33 degree Fahrenheit(approximately 1 degree or less in Centigrade). Pumpkins were first to go, followed by Basil. Beans, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Pepper and Okra were fighting -- they were still trying to put out new leaves, green stems, flowers. Vegetables are still hanging from them. But temperature have been dropping to about 29 degree or less (about minus two Centigrade) for the last couple of months. I do not even know how those plants are doing now -- I am pretty sure they are all dead now, and I should pick out all the last vegetables and start preparing the bed for next summer. Darn! another year almost gone by. Why time is moving so fast? I have planted many winter vegetables and greens under covering-tunnels and hoop-house. So, gardening has not completely stopped yet, but pace has slowed down significantly and nothing much to write about. I noticed something this year and I am wondering if you have noticed it or not -- this year, I have been getting summer vegetables for a long time; I got the last cucumber in the last week. Even when temperature was dropping to 33, the plants were fighting and fruiting, instead of wilting down completely (which has happened to me in previous years). Could this be due to the fact that I planted the plants close together and thus they grew up, hugging each other, in towering forests? Just like we humans huddle together, during freezing time, to stay warm, perhaps plants also do the same -- if plants are planted close by so that they huddle together, they stay warm by sharing each other's heat; whereas they die from cold if they are planted apart. Any such observation, comments anybody?

Okay, without much adieu, here I present the pictures of our sisters and brothers.

Ray-fish. I was patting them. They were so smooth and silky. Golden Pheasant (one of the most colorful pheasants, found only in mountains of China) and White Napped Crane(their breeding ground is in Mongolia, China and SE-Russia; they migrate to Japan and Korea).

Mutjac or Barking Deer. They are found in the mountains of SE-China and Thailand where they hide under thick undergrowth. Snow Leopard (found in South and Central Asia, from Himalaya to Afghanistan). Red-Panda and they are found in the temperate forests of Himalaya and in some mountain areas of China.

Amur Leopard. It is now only found in a small area of Vladivostok in Russia and in North Korea. It has got extinct from other places, with perhaps a few surviving in China and South Korea. Andean Condor. It is the largest flying bird in the world now and it was indeed humongous. I still can't believe that it can fly. It was almost like a small black bear size!! It has a wing span of 10 to 12 feet. Its population is rapidly declining in the world now(NOW THAT'S NOT A NEWS. IF IT'S POPULATION WAS GOING UP, THEN IT WAS GOING TO BE A NEWS. SILLY ZOO-PEOPLE!!). It can be found in parts of Venezuela, Colombia, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. Emu -- it is the only surviving species of flightless birds from the family of Dromaiidae. There were many such birds in this family and they have been on this earth for about 80 million. However, this is the only surviving species now, found in Australia. All the other species got extinct as recently as 18th or 19th century (we can guess, right, who might be responsible for such extinction :-) ).

Alpaca. No introduction required for these guys. I think they were telling us, "Oye, mate, fancy a beer?" Now, I think my Aussie friends are going to be mad at me for categorizing them like that :-P. America's very own Jaguar :-) -- they were two twin sisters of about four years old. Apparently, they stalk little kids that are there looking at the sisters from outside of the cage!!

Some North-American Mammals

American Bison. The red-fox of New Jersey. Peacock. Do you know that Peacock is the national bird of India. If you go to the western states of India like Rajasthan and Gujarat, you will see them flying around everywhere (pretty much like you see pigeons in cities). They are a site to behold but one has to be very careful as their bites are deadly -- hard and painful.

Now this was one of the highlights of the visit to the zoo -- Zip Line. It was not that scary about 3 or 4 story high (above 100 feet above ground) and similar in length. Before one realizes anything, the whole adventure is over. Scary moment is when they ask you to jump from that height.

And being a garden-blog, I have to finish the post with a picture of produce from my garden. These were the things from the garden on October 22; by then, it was more than a week when temperature were between 33 and 37 degree here. Winter has come very early here but the garden was still producing in full swing.