Spring walk

The woods on the mountain are beautiful in the spring. I like the brilliant, yellowish-green of the new leaves. They are especially beautiful against a deep blue sky.

This was down near the bottom of the mountain. Even with the few hundred feet difference in elevation from the top of the mountain, the trees at the bottom are deeper into spring.

One thing I noticed on my dog walk Sunday morning was that a few trees seem not to have recovered from the drought of last summer. This one seems to have lost a major branch.

Some of the upper branches on this tree are leafing out.

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I was afraid some of the dogwoods on the mountain had died from what I presume was drought stress. Their leaves had turned brown on the trees, and the dogwoods did not shed those leaves as usual. Most of the dogwoods are now blooming or leafing out, but I am noticing a few that remain brown. The dogwoods down off the mountain seem to be in pretty good shape. I see quite a few in the woods along Technology Parkway as we drive into town. I see very few blooming dogwoods higher on the mountain. This is one of the few. It’s near the corner of our property.

I identified several dogwoods near the house last summer. I can’t find any of them that show any signs of life now.

I have also mentioned that some of the pines on the mountain, including quite a few on our property, seemed to be dying. Most of those are showing no sign of life, but a few seem to be sprouting new needles. The one that seems most likely to survive is a loblolly. The shortleaf pines don’t seem to be recovering. Maybe later in the spring they will.

I am sad to have to report that it looks like the little longleaf pine I planted at our old house seems to have died. All the needles have turned brown. I suppose it’s possible it could recover, but it doesn’t look good. It was just reaching the bottlebrush stages

The full moon will be April 11. (Since this will be the first full moon of spring, next Sunday will be Easter.) It seemed pretty full Sunday as it rose. I thought it looked nice through the bare limbs of our pet maple.

This was a time exposure with my Olympus mounted on a tripod. The exposure was long enough that the floodlights on the front of the house illuminated the tree. This is more like what my eye saw.

I like both images, but I prefer the darker silhouette. Unfortunately, when I zoomed out with the camera on AUTO, the camera extended the exposure enough that the maple was no longer just a black silhouette.

Although the maple looks like it’s also dead, it has the red tips that show first on maples.

Daffodils and an oak

It has been a very warm beginning to the new year. We have used our wood stove very little so far. The low Saturday night was 61 up here on the mountain, higher than the average high temperature for that day, and higher than any average high in February until the very end of the month.

Even in a normal month, the earliest daffodils begin blooming towards the end of the month, or at latest the beginning of March, but even so, I was a little surprised to see those nodding yellow heads peeking through the trees down at the bottom of the mountain Saturday morning.

This is at our turn-around point. This area is barely visible from the road. There is a driveway here leading to what looks like a picnic shelter. There is a gate a few dozen feet from the road; I felt comfortable walking up to the gate, but not beyond it. I was using my iPhone, as usual, so the daffodils in the distance are not so easy to see. There is a bunch just to the left of the little cedar about a quarter of the way from left to right in this picture, and a line of daffodils along the driveway.

The oak is remarkable. It’s the largest I have seen anywhere on Lavender Mountain. It’s hard to get the scale in this image, but it is certainly more than six feet in diameter. I’m not sure of the specific type. I don’t think chestnut oaks, which are the most numerous on the mountain, get this big. Based on what I could find about record sizes for chestnut oaks, this one might be a contender. But it might not be a chestnut oak. The shape of the trunk doesn’t really look like the chestnut oaks I’m familiar with. It could even be something else, like a walnut for all I know.

I suspect that this location is the site of an old home, perhaps one of the earliest in the Texas Valley area. It is gone now, but the daffodils are a sure indication that a residence was once here. I imagine that the oak is also a remnant of the old home site.

When I lived in Alabama, my house was in Stewart Hollow. My yard had a line of daffodils across the open area of the yard. I suspect that those daffodils once lined a driveway or walk way long, long ago. There was no sign of a residence other than my own, which was fairly new. I imagine that there was once a farm house located somewhere nearby.

I would love to explore this area, but I won’t, not with the no trespassing signs. In my younger days I might wander through the woods and come upon the site from the back rather than the front. Without signs facing into the woods, I would probably have considered it fair game. But I don’t wander the woods any more, so I probably won’t get to see this area up close.

Peach State

Once upon a time, long, long ago, my parents took me and my brother to a peach orchard. I don’t remember where it was, only that it was not far from home. I do remember  the heat of an open-sided processing shed on a sunny day, and I remember biting into a peach. I remember the sticky juice that ran down my chin and over my hand, the itchy peach fuzz, and, most of all, the incredibly peachy sweetness of a ripe peach just plucked from the tree.

That was back in the time when Georgia was known as the Peach State. Today Georgia is third in peach production in the US, behind California (far, far behind), and not all that far behind South Carolina. There are no peach orchards in Floyd County, or in any of the neighboring counties. The closest orchard that offers peaches directly to the public is about a two hour drive on the other side of Atlanta. There are more roadside (or interstate-side) stands or stores down in south Georgia, below the fall line, but those are even further away from us.

That leaves grocery stores as our only practical source of peaches, or what passes for peaches today in the average grocery store in the Peach State. We have tried to eat peaches from Walmart, the closest grocery store to us. They look incredibly realistic, but they are as hard as baseballs, and taste about like what I imagine a baseball might taste like. We tried putting these peach-like objects into a paper bag to let them ripen, with results that ranged from unacceptable to somewhat decent. They were nothing at all like the peach from my past, and that’s not just because of rose-tinted memories of my childhood.

I suspect that peaches are harvested way before they ripen so they can be shipped to warehouses and then to grocery stores without bruising or spoiling. So they end up looking good, but with no taste.

Several years ago when a large tract of property at the end of Lavender Trail was being auctioned I met the man who subdivided and sold the lots where we now live. He said that there was once an orchard up here on the mountain. At that time I used to take our last doberman Zeus on long walks through the woods. I found a number of old, overgrown roads, but no sign of an orchard.

A few weeks ago I found this peach tree at one end of Lavender Trail.

peachtree

I doubt that this peach tree has anything to do with the mythical Lavender Mountain peach orchard. It’s probably the accidental offspring of a peach that was eaten nearby. I had been up to this turnaround many, many times but had never noticed this tree. It was around 10 feet tall.

The tree held about two dozen hard, green peaches, a little larger than ping-pong balls. I went home planning to check back on this tree and maybe, just maybe, get a decent, if small, peach. I didn’t hold out much hope, though. This turnaround, like the one at the other end of Lavender Trail, is frequented by tourists and other ne’er-do-wells (one of which might be the source of the tree itself).

I went back a couple of weeks later. The peaches were closer to ripe, but only about half of them remained. When I went back a week or so after that, they were all gone.

June berries

You may remember last year when I mentioned that Zeke loves blackberries. This year we have a large crop down near where Fouche Gap Road crosses the top of the mountain. They are mostly tiny, green pebbles, but a few have ripened. They are pretty small.

earlyblackberries

It turns out that Sam likes them.

samblackberry

Zeke got one, too.

zekegetsblackberry

Most of the blackberries are quite small. Northwest Georgia, including out part of Floyd County, is currently in severe drought conditions, so I suspect that they will remain small unless the weather pattern changes.

The mulberries seem to be ripening reasonably well, and they seem to be of normal size, which is about the size of a good, wild blackberry.

mulberries

Recently I have been seeing a fox crossing into and out of our yard in the afternoon, much earlier than we usually see one. Leah is not leaving unattended cat food out, so I couldn’t figure out what the fox was doing. And then I noticed black fox poop under the large mulberry tree in the yard. The mulberries are dropping onto the ground, and the fox is eating them.

Wednesday afternoon after our walk I took Zeke and Sam by the mulberry. I picked a few and gave them to the dogs. I tried one last year. To me it tasted a lot like a blackberry. The dogs have offered no opinion on the taste other than to eat them off the ground.

Gardenias

Our two dwarf gardenia plants are starting to bloom. Gardenia was my mother’s favorite scent. I suppose it’s probably pretty old-fashioned these days, but the real thing is nice.

gardenias

The amazing thing is how many buds there are. There are hundreds of unopened blooms.

gardeniazoom

It looks like there are more buds than leaves.

They won’t all open at the same time, but if they did … that would be a sight.