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February 2010

January 2010

January Freeze

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Who was it who said 'What a difference a day makes'?  We have gone from mild temperatures to the big chill and high winds.DSC_0026  The high today was 18 F and the wind is blowing steadily giving the wind chill factor a big nudge.  It is not just cold but we had about an inch or two of light, fluffy snow.  The climbing hydrangea always enjoys catching the snow although the wind has blown it free already. DSC_0032
The world is bright again, if cold.  

"It is deep January.  The sky is hard.  The stalks are firmly rooted in ice."
-  Wallace Stevens,  No Possum, No Sop, No Taters


January thaw

DSC_0073 The January thaw lasted one full day with torrential rain, wind, and temperatures in the fifties.  The garden was snow covered until Monday.  Now it has just one patch of snow and the rest has receded.  I am not fooled by this or by the recent warm temperatures.  The thaw can lull one into thinking that spring is upon us but really, we are just one month into winter and February is the longest month of the year even though it has the shortest of days.  The ground thawed just enough in the drive and on the road to create four inch ruts but the lawn areas have already frozen hard once again.  The snowdrops did heave themselves up in search of spring but they are sitting in suspension for another couple of weeks at least.  DSC_0075
Still, they are a very welcome sight. DSC_0079
This hellebore bloomed in early December and has spent a good month under snow and ice.  It is bearing the battle scars to prove it but there are also still buds on the stems.  Time will tell if they are sturdy enough to survive the month of burial.  DSC_0096
The rest of the garden looks bare and it is hard to believe that in six months it will be transformed.  I have a picture to prove it.  DSC_0058 This will help me get through February.  What helps you through the cold days of winter?
   


Nepal, Phase III - Adventures in Pokhara

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Our group of fifteen left the mountains and village of Dhampus to return to Pokhara for a few days of city living and city comforts.  Our hotel was new, clean, and comfortable and we were greeted with bowls of floating flowers IMG_0741and more welcome scarfs.IMG_0740

Pokhara is a city which has a definite flavor and there is an undercurrent of energy in this city. It may be the collective kinetic energy of those about to depart on their own trekking journey.  Pokhara is ringed by the Annapurna mountains with the beautiful Fishtail, Macchapuchhare, IMG_0670
still in view here on the right of the above picture. It is the starting point for many of the trekking trails in this range.  The city has shop after shop offering the latest gear and it has many restaurants and hotels to provide either the last of the creature comforts before trail life or the follow up comforts for those returning from the trail circuit. IMG_0747Just outside of our hotel this wedding procession passed by with the parade of wedding costumes and this IMG_0748
decorated car.  I like the idea of decorating just about anything with flowers so this 'Groom transport vehicle' is a win with me.  Most people paused and enjoyed the celebration as it went past. IMG_0752

The morning following our afternoon arrival, we were treated to a boat ride on Lake Phewa. IMG_0754
Our group split up into several of the colorful boatsIMG_0760
and we enjoyed an hour or so on theIMG_0762
placid surface of the lake.IMG_0771bIt was then off to the International Mountain Climbing Museum where we spent the rest of the morning learning about the history of the mountains, the climbers and the gear necessary for attempting the near impossible feat of conquering Mt. Everest.  While I enjoyed trekking, I would never consider climbing Mt. Everest.  Just because it is there is not reason enough for me.  No building in Nepal would be complete without a colorful temple inside and this building was no different. IMG_0774
On the way out of the building to our bus, Amit and Bill took some time to admire this bronze yak statue. IMG_0778
He is an impressive brute.  Our next adventure occurred the following day when we went to the Maya Devi Restaurant and the home of the Himalayan Raptor Rescue.  We made a donation to the rescue center and had a chance to meet Bob, the Egyptian vulture.  Bob has personality as you can see.IMG_0785b
These birds are rescued and then trained to fly with paragliders which helps to raise money for their cause.  We didn't fly with the birds but six of us did choose to paraglide in tandem with a trained professional.  Here is the EM right before a perfect takeoff to fly over the valley and Lake Phewa in Pokhara.  IMG_0791
You may have already heard of my first take off attempt although Youtube isn't showing that video.  Let us just say it was not pretty and my pilot, the young Frenchman, Benjamin, is still talking about rolling down the hill attached to the rather large American woman.  When they tell you to run but don't look down, you should survey the rough landscape before taking your first steps.   I say 'if at first you don't succeed..." and here we are successfully floating above the valley.IMG_0793
This was taken with my camera extended in my right hand.  Even Ben is smiling now that we are in the air.  Did you know that floating in circles can make you airsick?  Well it can although it is an experience I thoroughly enjoyed once in the air and then safely back on the ground.    In fact, all of our group made it safely back to terra firma as Joyce so gracefully demonstrates. IMG_0795
Our next adventure is river rafting on the Seti River.  Next week's post will cover that excursion as there is little going on in the garden right now.  Thanks for coming along to Pokhara with me.


Foliage Follow up

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A green follow up to yesterday's Bloom Day is being hosted by Pam at Digging and there are a few greens of note both outside and in at Ledge and Gardens.  The above shrub is common boxwood and this is an indispensable green shrub for any New England Gardener.  Not only does it shine in the low glow of the sun, the deer absolutely do not eat it.  I have never seen even a nibble on the boxwood and have made a note to add a new plant every year.  Boxwood adds structure and interest to the winter landscape without providing a buffet for those ever present deer.   This is not the case with the juniper which the deer have pawed to expose and eat.DSC_0034
I don't see the deer all that often which just means that they are sneaky.  No one likes 'sneaky'.  The only herbaceous green in the garden right now are the hellebores.  My favorite being the H. foetidus DSC_0076
which always looks good and which now sports its' St. Patrick's Day green a bit early.  It does give me cheer to see this succulent green in the frozen beds of my garden. DSC_0001The white pines form a framework around the property here.  They add a bit of green although it is high in the sky to the eye.Dsc_0007 (2)The inside garden is mostly green.  The begonias add interesting patterns and colors and thisDSC_0003'Tiger Eye' is one of my favorites.  Not all of them are green but since chlorophyll must be present, I am counting them in for this post.  This one has a burgundy edge with luscious silver markings.DSC_0006It is having a bit of a time with the low humidity in the heated house but I have put it on a pebble tray to raise the moisture level around the plant and hopefully this will help.  There is then the emerging foliage of the mistreated but surviving 'ZZ' plant or Zamioculcas zamiifolia. DSC_0003I say  mistreated as I left it outside a bit too long and the cold damaged it.  It is now sending out new leaves and is one of the easiest houseplants to grow as long as you don't expose it to very cold temperatures of fall. DSC_0007This succulent adds blue green to the mix and while it is not thriving, it is surviving.    I do have this little agave in the urn, two, in fact, which are about five inches across and quite painful with their prickly little points.  Full battle gear is required to groom these little beauties.DSC_0004  These  are for you Pam.  I bought them last spring to sit by the steps so I would be reminded of the fun I had in Chicago with you and Diana of Sharing Nature's Garden, the Austin bloggers. I hope your agave's have weathered the cold. Thank you again for hosting 'Foliage Follow Up Day'.

Bloom Day - January 15, 2010

DSC_0031There is nothing blooming outside in the frigid temperatures of January except perhaps the snow on the stone wall.  Inside, there are a few blooms.  

DSC_0018The begonia is blooming and the Thanksgiving cactus DSC_0022
is also blooming again after a bit of a break.  In addition, the short days of winter sometimes necessitate picking up a bouquet from the florist.  There is nothing like fresh flowers in the middle of winter.  It feels a bit decadent to purchase flowers but Europeans do it all the time and a bit of a European flair is called for on occasion and most especially in the dead of winter.   I find that DSC_0017
Alstroemeria bloom for a good two weeks before they hit the compost heap.  I seem to have a red/orange theme going with blooms this January but this Abutilon DSC_0021
is a definite pink and while it only has a couple of blooms they are welcome.  One last plant is also flowering, the anthurium.DSC_0019
True, it only has two flowers but they do count.  They are also red.  My next bouquet  needs to be pink and purple perhaps. Happy Bloom Day and thanks, as always to Carol from May Dreams for hosting and celebrating blooms.


Phase II - Trekking in Dhampus

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(Click on any picture to enlarge)

The second phase of our Nepal trip involved trekking from Pokhara up almost two thousand feet to the village of Dhampus where we stayed at the very comfortable Basanta Lodge.  We flew from Kathmandu to Pokhara and since there was a three day strike going on in this country due to an altercation between homeless and police we walked from the airport to our OAT office, luggage dragging behind.  Since we were all going to trek anyway, this was just the beginning of this adventure. IMG_0521
We arrived at the office, received our instructions and guide and took a bus to our starting point for the uphill trek.IMG_0550
  Uphill it was.  We climbed stone stairs for three hours before reaching our lodge but it was a humbling experience to watch these women tote all luggage in this mannerIMG_0716
and they were always well ahead of our group.  It was a bit of a hazy day but the terraced hillsides were beautiful in their symmetry.  We did stop at several points along the way to enjoy the view IMG_0538
and check our heart rates. We finally reached our lodge and all of us did breath a sigh of relief. IMG_0625
This was our trekking point for the next three days.  The staff were all wonderful serving us breakfast in the garden at this long tableIMG_0707
which overlooks the Annapurna Range and the 'Fishtail' peak or Macchapuchare. The gardens were lovely at the lodge. IMG_0561
Marigolds were still blooming and potted plantsIMG_0661

were scattered about. IMG_0670

Annapurna South on the left and Fishtail or Macchapuchare on the right

The mornings were cool and some days cloudy.  We were rewarded on this morning with the sunrise shining on the mountains.IMG_0666
  Tea was also served here in the afternoon along with conversation with our fellow trekkers.  The evening comes quickly to the mountains and the lodge welcomed us for cocktails IMG_0627
and more discussion led by our OAT group leader, Amit below on the right.IMG_0708
  The days were filled with morning treks with lunch along the way. We did have to make way for goats on occasion. IMG_0602
We would return to our lodge in the afternoon to enjoy the views and speak with the local people.  The stonework is beautiful in the mountains. IMG_0608
There are walls and paths and steps everywhere. IMG_0624
These steps were built right into the wall and serve to restrict access keeping the animals in the fields.  The paths are worn smooth in many places from use.  This set of stairs and the courtyard belowIMG_0678
are a perfect complement IMG_0683
to the views beyond. IMG_0679
Small towns are colorfulIMG_0691
and vegetable gardens are visible everywhere. IMG_0689
We had fresh greens to eat at just about every meal with spinach, mustard and cauliflower growing in abundance.  Millet is a popular cropIMG_0546
and the stalks are fed to the livestock while the seed is cleaned and culled for daily meals.  One of the best features of any trip has to be meeting the local people and the children.  It is a privilege to be able to experience a small part of daily life.  This picture is of our porters sitting on the lawn at the Basanta lodge. IMG_0556
This woman's caress of her child has a sweet gentleness which is evident.IMG_0600
 These children were scampering around the mountain.   This man is showing us the Nepali version of a raincoat.  IMG_0622
Lightweight and effective.  He had invited us into his impeccably clean home. The dishes and plates were shining in the dim light. IMG_0615
The ceilings are quite low and there is an upstairs which contains baskets of rice and milletIMG_0621
while corn is stored in the rafters.  A row of enviable copper potsIMG_0618
lined the shelfs on the first floor. IMG_0721
This child is enjoying watching our group pass by his balcony.  We left the Basanta Lodge early in the morning to hike back to the base and continue on to visit Pokhara for a couple of days.  Our group posed in front of the mountains for the last time.  This place is one not to be missed.IMG_0711