Rain watch

I have mentioned before that a fair number of trees in the woods around here died between last summer and this spring. The forest doesn’t look healthy. A lot of trees of all species on the mountain either never came back in the spring or barely made it out of the winter alive. Even the trees that seem less affected by the heat and drought of last summer don’t seem to have leafed out as much as in a normal year, at least to my uneducated eye.

Some trees are trying. A few pines whose needles all turned brown have come back in part. Some of the trees whose limbs never leafed out have sprouted tight bunches of leaves along their trunks. I suspect many of them will never fully recover and will eventually die, especially if we have another summer like 2016.

One of the hardest hit of species is the dogwood. As far as I could tell earlier this spring, we had only one or two dogwoods that seemed to have survived in reasonably good condition. This is one that grew just inside the woods next to our driveway.

Some vines have grown up into the crown, which makes it look like it still has leaves, but the only leaves on this tree are dead. But this is what I noticed at the base of the tree on Wednesday.

It’s coming back from the roots. It looks pretty good at this point.

Here’s a maple that lost about half of its multiple trunks.

And here’s its base.

I don’t know whether the dogwoods or maples will manage to survive, despite these signs of their struggle to live.

This die-off may be a normal cycle in the northwestern Georgia forest, but I worry.

I also worry about our front yard. I finally got the zoysia seed sown. I filled the ruts and depressions as well as I could, then spread about two inches of rich topsoil. Then I raked it as level as I could, which was not very level. Then I rolled it. Every place I stepped ended up with a deep footprint. I could and probably should have tried harder to get the lawn smooth, but I was racing what I thought was a nice downpour that never materialized.

Now all we have to do is make sure the seed doesn’t get too dry. I have watered lightly – very lightly – twice so far. Our well doesn’t produce at a very high rate, so I am being conservative when I water. I am sprinkling about a third of the lawn at a time, then waiting a few hours before doing the next third. Here you can see the middle third is slightly darker than the ground on either side, a result of watering just a short while before I took the picture.

As I write this on Wednesday afternoon, there is a wide area of rain heading from the southwest up towards us. Based on our history here, I won’t be surprised if we get little or nothing from this system.

Preparing to watch the grass grow

Leah and I both want a nice yard with lots of pretty shrubbery. Although we don’t particularly want a large lawn, our front yard is also our septic system leach field, so we don’t have many options for ground cover. It looks like it’s going to be grass.

The first decision was what type of grass to grow. The county agricultural extension agent immediately suggested Bermuda grass, because it’s fast growing, it spreads, and it’s drought resistant. Fast growing means it has to be mowed often, and I really, really don’t want to mow a lawn every week, or even twice a week. The other option was zoysia grass. Zoysia is slow growing and drought resistant. Slow growing is great for less mowing, or, depending on how you want your yard to look, no mowing at all. But slow growing also means it takes a while to establish, unless you buy sod. Sod would require regular, deep watering, while seed would require regular, shallow watering (at least at first). In the end we decided to try to seed the lawn with zoysia..

I picked a very hot, dry day to start raking the middle 3000 square feet in front of the house to clear the wheat straw and rocks. Then I dug into a pile of dirt the grading contractor left in the front yard to fill the low spots and gullies. I shoveled the dirt into the bed of our Mule, a side-by-side four-wheeler, and hauled it to where it was needed. The pile probably had about five cubic yards of dirt, all of which I moved with a shovel.

Next I had about nine cubic yards of mushroom compost delivered. It also had to be shoveled into the Mule’s little bed so I could spread it about an inch deep everywhere we plan to seed. Once that’s done, I’ll rent a big tiller and try to incorporate it into the soil.

Here’s the mule resting, while I supervise from the porch. The compost is piled to the right of the Mule.

Filling in the low spots and spreading the compost took most of three days, all of which were sunny and near 90 F.

Most of the topsoil was removed from the front yard during construction, leaving us with sandy clay with lots of rock but absolutely no organic material. I’ll till the compost into the soil, but it will still need to be augmented with some decent topsoil, so I had 18 cubic yards delivered on Wednesday afternoon.

We were having a little problem getting the last of the soil to slide out of the dumptruck, and I joked that at least it was easier than shoveling it all out. Then it occurred to me that I actually am going to have to move all those 18 cubic yards with a shovel.

At this point, Thursday night, I still have a little compost left to spread. Although nine cubic yards will cover almost 3000 square feet at one inch depth, I think I’m going to end up covering around 2500 square feet.

This is the yard with most of the compost spread.

The shadow of the house makes it look like we have rich, black soil, but that’s an illusion. The red clay above the darker compost slopes down so it doesn’t look like as large an area as it actually is.

The next steps are tilling the compost into the ground, spreading two inches of topsoil, and then sowing the zoysia seed.

As of Thursday, I don’t have the topsoil spread, or the seed sown. The zoysia seed must be kept moist for about three weeks. Regular gentle showers would be nice once the seed is sown, but I don’t want rain right now. So Thursday afternoon a large line of thunderstorms formed and was moving towards us from Alabama. Fortunately, I had put plastic over the topsoil and the remaining compost, just in case.

This is what it looked like as the rain moved across Alabama. The red push pin is our house.It looked like we were in for some heavy rain.

A little while after this radar image was made, the sky darkened and the wind picked up and began to roar through Fouche Gap. Rain began to fall. The plastic over the compost and topsoil started flapping and I had to put more rocks along the sides. I retreated back inside and waited for the rain. A little while after that, this is what the radar looked like.

It looks like we’re in some fairly heavy rain, but we weren’t. The sea of red had parted and passed on either side of us.

And then, after the line of thunderstorms had passed, this is what it looked like.

We had 0.06 inches of rain.

Here’s the front yard after the rain passed. Instead of water, it mostly deposited leaves torn from the trees.

On the plus side, the temperature dropped from near 90 F to 68 F in about fifteen minutes.

Pink sky at night

We had several warm, cloudy, and rainy days last week, but Tuesday was the day the cold front was supposed to move through and change the weather. That evening, right before sunset, the entire sky seemed to be filled with pink clouds.

This was the view from the front steps. You can see one end of the house on the left of the image and the other end on the right side of the image. I took the image with my iPhone in panorama mode. The view is centered towards the east. Click for a bigger view.

This is the view back towards the house from the front yard.

This time of year the sun sets a little to the right on the house in this image, behind the mountain so that we can’t get a decent view of the sunset. As a consolation, this time the sun provided a nice show everywhere in the sky.

The cold front did, indeed, pass, leaving us with significantly cooler days and nights, despite the continuation of cloudy skies.


Lucy usually sleeps through the night, but she woke us up around 3 or 4 am Thursday morning with a weak, whimpering sort of bark. We thought maybe she needed to go out to relieve herself, so I got up and went to the living room, where we keep the crate she has to sleep in because of some inappropriate urination. I opened the door and called her, but she couldn’t get up. She struggled for a few moments, then I reached in and brought her out onto the floor. She couldn’t stand up. She normally has a kind of splayed stance because of her hips and knees that gives her trouble on the hardwood, but this was different. She would just topple over.

So I took her into the garage where we have a utility carpet strip leading to the outside door. She was still very uncertain on her feet. She continued to stagger around and fall over. I picked her up again and put her in the flower bed, where she often relieves herself, but she couldn’t stand up.

I brought her back inside and put her into her crate. She kind of half stood, and looked around like she was trying to figure out where she was. I thought maybe she would be more comfortable if she could lie down next to Sam and Zeke, and possibly even us, so I brought her crate into the bedroom. After I turned out the light, every time I checked, she was still looking around. After about an hour and a half, I finally heard her snoring.

Thursday morning she seemed much improved. I took her to the vet, who said she now has a heart murmur that she didn’t have a couple of weeks ago when she was in for her checkup. Although the symptoms aligned with the list for a stroke, the vet said Lucy had suffered a heart attack.

Now, Thursday afternoon, she’s barky and snippy when we give her a treat by hand, so pretty much back to normal, but she’s on a veterinary medication for congestive heart failure for the rest of her life. For some time she has been balking at taking the regular long dog walk every morning. From now on, she’s probably going to get a pass on that, unless she volunteers.

Old boots

Back when I was much younger, I sometimes went for weekend hikes on the Appalachian Trail. I started hiking with some clodhoppers that must have weighed 10 pounds each. Then I found a pair of nice Vasque boots that were much lighter, but, as it turns out, very durable. That was sometime in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. I still have them.

I wear them when I work around the yard. On Saturday I wore them while cutting up a tree for firewood.

They used to be a very nice reddish color, which you can kind of see in the upper ankle area and the tongue. Those are the original laces. Believe it or not, I was able to find a photo of “Vasque boots from the 1970’s.”

What a lovely pair of boots. These are for sale for $82. I might consider them, but they’re a size 7, and my old boots are size 11. They don’t make boots like these any more. And also, based on some reading, what they sell is made in China. Mine were made in Italy.

I decided the old boots needed some TLC, so I am polishing them. The most appropriate shoe polish I could find in the basement is cordovan.

It’s a little dark, but they are going to look much better with a coat of shoe polish. They’ll probably feel better, too. So, they have lasted 35 or 40 years, and based on their appearance now, I expect them to last another 35 or 40 years. Or, in other words, for the rest of my life.