So many folks in my neighborhood (Zone 8b) spend quite a lot of electricity and/or gasoline getting their fallen leaves in bags and onto the street curb these days. Not a lot of analog rake noises abound. And, here in my native deep South, the Live Oaks are the cause of so much local activity.
This candid culprit makes no apologies as it delivers a raucous leaf explosion this time of year. We love them so much whilst they herald the first day of Spring for us by shedding almost every dang brown leaf they have on board. With this kind of flotsam in an Oak lined drive….well, I get excited about the fallen leaves. They are so full of Nitrogen. Click here and here for all the great news!
If ever there were a Southern tree, this guy would be in line. And, my oh my, what a messy boy he is, too. This is the loot from just this morning! The genus classification of Sweet Gum is Liquidambar, named for the amber liquid that is resin that oozes from this valuable hardwood tree. And, even though I forget and walk barefoot past his territory in my back yard and shout “ouch!” from the seedpod and watch every Thanksgiving to Christmas as his leaves cover my garden, I still love him.
Proverbial idiom aside, I really have just located my drawing board and I am so excited to see it, again. Hired movers moved my belongings from storage in the deep South to my Grandmother’s home recently without my supervision. I have a lost and damaged report that I am working on and I fear it may turn into a two page document soon (I would hate to sound too complaintful…I am grateful to have had the professionals do the job, however, the OCD section of my mind needs to make the list in order to put herself at ease).
I have returned to my native zone 8b after a four year sojourn around the globe and I have more chores to do this December than expected. And, the list of chores has me very, very happy. A gardener needs to keep busy in the Winter to thrive just as the landscape does. Dormant does not mean dead or idle and the best time for planning and plotting is now. I intend to put pencil to paper today and plot a preferred placement of the compost pile. Back to the drawing board!
I don’t know how many Americans would recognize this grove at this distance to be a quintessential Pecan grove, but, most Southerners do. We live amongst so many of these deciduous trees and pull the fruit of them from our windshield wipers all Fall and Winter long. Every time the breeze kicks up, Pecans fall all over our landscape and our grandmothers bake pies. This particular grove is part of Brookland Plantation in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. And, I always find the leafless fields in the cold season to be a lonely and lovely sight. I came across a really fantastic article here from the American Forests website, written by a botanist named Jeff Ball, that points out that the word pecan comes from the Algonquin tribe of American aboriginal/First Nations inhabitants to mean the nut so hard as to require a stone to crack. Maybe the Algonquins didn’t run across the Sumner Paper Shell variety or maybe that variety is a modern grafting product and didn’t exist when the tribe was pounding the nut wondering what they should call it. Mainly, I sit around and ponder the reason there is such a nasty, bitter slice in between so tasty and wonderful a prize. And, of course I can get into a conversation about the pronunciation…So how do YOU pronounce the word? It still is unsettled with me.
I keep wandering out to the country this Winter and I can’t seem to embrace an Urban existence. And, in my hometown the country is called the Lowcountry. South Carolina’s coastal plain is filled with neat things to visit and most recently I have found Botany Island and it’s subsequent park, Botany Bay Plantation to be just lovely. I ran right into this gardener’s shed on the now public lands dedicated to the Department of Natural Resouces. I was so excited to see this little gem with it’s oyster tabby walls dating to the late 1700’s that I ran back here to research the potting shed. And, boy did I find quite a lot of material on the history of the shed, from a philology of the word shed across Teutonic translations unto philosophical derivations of the existential “shedliness” of the word shed. My interesting trek through the Google myriad of articles led me to laugh out right with this one from the Telegraph UK. Leave it to the English to corner the market on a precious potting shed contest!
I found these yesterday while touring Botany Island, South Carolina. And, of course, the name of the island speaks volumes.
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee: —
A poet could not but be gay
In such a laughing company:
I gazed — and gazed — but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.
-William Wordsworth, 1807
Yes, yes, yes…I see them. Those oaks ARE beautiful! But, really, I do want to talk about that mud puddle. Because, I want to talk about Mud Daubers. This unbelievably beautiful view is off the front porch of Rochelle Plantation’s main house. That direction we are looking is the finest selection of coastal plain of the South Carolina Santee River Delta I can find and I am lucky enough to get to wake here and have some coffee and walk about. We are looking East towards Bulls Bay, ultimately leading to the Atlantic Ocean. Very close to being beneath sea level, too. So, the bugs around these parts are plentiful and varied and important and some can be super cool and interesting. Like, the Mud Daubers, or Dirt Daubers, or Sphecidae Wasps, a category of thread-waisted wasps that build their nests from mud and cling them to the side of the cabin. Or, porch. Or, bury them up in the bow of your jon boat. These wasps abound around Rochelle. I have seen their nests all over the joint. They fly down to that particular mud puddle there after a rain and navigate their tiny bodies to the rim and collect their material for home building. They are non-aggressive to humans. No need to fear. What they really want to eat and feed their young and store in their tubular larders are Black Widows. Dang, can you say “Thank you?”