A Bluecircle birthday!

The Bluecircle is now four years old. The “Home Depot” pines and oaks planted in late 2010 are soundly established, or at least the survivors are.  They have much company now since the last two summers have been kind to seedling trees.

IMG_1412 We have transitioned from vacation and weekend visitors to full-time residents but still find there’s more mowing, trimming, planning and planting to do than days in the week allow. Moving from city to farm, from office to the outdoors, the daily variation in weather is still amazing. The right boots and rain gear, good gloves and a sharp knife turn out to be critical.

Seedling oak showing its colors

Seedling oak showing its colors

Each species of our trees has had a different early early childhood. The sycamores have proven very durable.  Several have emerged from the field grass months  after they were reduced to dead branches and given up for lost. Their light green leaves are large and distinctive so they stand out – unless shredded by the dread Japanese beetle in July and August. More than a few oaks have recovered from chewed bark or sad encounters with the bush hog mower, but they lag way behind their more fortunate brethren. The black walnuts and other nut trees grow slowly, but those that survive their first year have made steady progress.

The hybrid poplars have thrived with only occasional mowing between their rows.  Some in the first planting are now more than thirty feet tall and a favored site for groundhog dens.  A leaf or two at the very top branch is the last to fall in October and waves like a triumph flag at the end of another growth year.  In the photo above a rows of poplars tower over the Scotch pines and early lake-effect snow.  The pines have grown more rapidly than anything but weeds and poplars.  Some brown and die for no apparent reason, but most are doing well and will soon become the most abundant conifers.  Short-needled fir and spruce are scattered through the Bluecircle rows – eventually they will add variety to the treeline.

Slowly grows the seedling spruce

Slowly grows the seedling spruce

The unnatural light of the moon

A "blood moon" in eclipse

A “blood moon” in eclipse

Last week’s lunar eclipse was blessed by good weather at the lake and inspired some late-night camera work.  The leaves are nearing peak color and the eclipsed moon added a seasonal touch.

 

An old post on this blog complained about light pollution from the neighboring condominium’s unshielded sodium lights.  The electric company provided an unsympathetic response when challenged on the topic, so this light trespass continues.  Like the full moon, these lights make moving about at night on the Bluecircle easier.  They also contribute interesting effects to night images.

Barn bathed in the full moon and aglow with sodium light

Barn bathed in the full moon and aglow with sodium light filtering through the poplars

At this posting the leaves are raining down in gusts across the lake and the night is starless.  The moonlit grove of black locust below will soon be stripped and ready for the changing season.

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An expeditionary force of seedling trees suffers heavy losses

A cool rainy day after weeks of heat and drought makes it easier to take stock of what have been difficult months on the Bluecircle.  Recent rains have produced Spring-like greening of grassy areas and a proliferation of giant ragweed and other weeds where trees were planted this year.  Like an ill-prepared and prematurely deployed expeditionary force both short and tall spruce seedlings stand as brittle, naked reminders of the Summer of 2012.  In the graveyard of white spruce it will soon be time to think about tilling and planning for future plantings, but for now a simple mowing and removal of the plastic flags that mark the fallen soldiers will be enough.

Pines planted in 2011 in areas that receive some shade have tolerated the drought, while those in all-day sun have not fared so well.  Long-needled pines were more resilient than the spruce, cedar or firs, but until frosts have eliminated the competing weeds it will be unclear how much damage has been done.   A new well will enable a drip irrigation system next year and we will try to do a better job of matching soil conditions and plantings.

The hybrid poplars from 2011 are already making some shade of their own, but an attempt to introduce tulip poplars failed and only about 20% of this year’s hybrid poplar seedlings successfully rooted and made the transition from nursery to field.   Sunflowers, mostly self-seeded from the 2011 crop, provide the other bright spot amongst the ragweed and thistle.