Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Posting, traveling, photos, and conundrums

Traveling used to be about getting away and disconnecting. It still is, but digital connectivity is a seductive pull. I've enjoyed sharing real-time photos and reflections while traveling with a vehicle and laptop, on other trips, but hanging around hotel computers is hardly why you travel.

Interestingly, we've been connected via email and voice messages (and Skype) with family while traveling in Southern Vietnam, via our iPod Touch, but photo downloading, not to mention uploading, hasn't been possible because of slow Internet connections and lack of working USB ports. I had brought a back-up portable drive, but without either a fast connection and/or USB, it's just serving as a back-up.

Curiously, as well, the text composition on Blogspot doesn't work with the simple keyboard interface on the iPod Touch. I only just discovered that if you select HTML mode, it does work.

But I'm still tapping out this letter by letter, so hardly optimal (but, we're taking some afternoon pool time after a long bike ride this morning in the countryside (rice and vegetable fields), so it's not actually a hardship.

So there are plenty of photos to come! And gardening reflections, too, about a country that values freshness and taste as well as vegetables at every meal.

Happy New Year!

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Leaves, persimmons, and traveling

Our 'natural gardening' motto is that you can never have too many leaves! (Thanks, Sheila, for the post inspiration.)

In spite of having created nice woodland areas in our garden that are almost self-sufficient in their re-mulching capacity, additional leaves are always valuable for soil enrichment. In temperate areas, organic matter breaks down rapidly, so constant replenishment (following nature's lead) is important.

It's vital in woodland, shrub, and perennial borders, but absolutely essential in heavily-worked vegetable garden beds, where additional inputs of compost and organic nutrients may be needed to add minerals lost in harvesting.

I totally subscribe to the idea (as a plant ecologist and wildlife gardener) that mimicking nature, increasing biodiversity, and trying to create ecological balance in the garden is a good thing.

Personally, I don't worry about diseases that 'might' be harbored by leaf mulch in shrub and woodland areas (let the fungi and micro-organisms duke it out) -- leaves falling in such areas are natural and part of regular ecological processes.

Perennial borders and vegetable garden beds are much more tame, and in need of a gardener's care. But I'm certainly not worried about diseases in those beds either, if leaves are gathered (not the tough, slow to compost, ones) and used appropriately as mulch.

One of our signals that it's time to leave for traveling at winter break is Japanese persimmons.

This is an old tree that was one of the first things I planted as a 'young' gardener well over 20 years ago. It survived transplantation (with few roots) from Georgia to South Carolina, struggled, but has continued to produce persimmons, some year more, some years less. We always enjoy them, either fresh (me) or as persimmon bread (my gardening companion).

The last few fruits will be cut and brought into the refrigerator tomorrow before we leave for winter break travels.

I'm taking an iPod Touch and a new small camera -- hardly great blogging equipment, as we're traveling light.

But I wish those of you that have happened on my posts and especially those of you that continue to read them, a very happy holiday season!

I'll look forward to reading your posts while traveling, but mine will probably be minimal until we return in early January.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lots of rain

It poured all of last night and today. It was a soaking and puddling rain, the sort that overflows gutters on not-so-well engineered streets, and overwhelms the storm sewers. Plenty of red 'mud' was flowing from bare or lightly vegetated areas, hardly a good reflection on any anti-erosion efforts.

It wasn't a day for my gardening companion to move more leaves (he's determined to get the pile delivered by the city distributed before we leave for winter traveling).

Nor was it a day to harvest lettuce, cilantro, or French sorrel, all of which still look good.

But it was a day to think about projects to come, gardens to plants, and encouraging other gardeners.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A hard frost

We had a hard frost last night, not a freeze as of yet, but enough to zap the nasturtiums in the SCBG kitchen garden.

The difference between hard frosts, light frosts, and freezes is somewhat hard to grasp (maybe if I had studied meterology, physics, or paid better attention in organic chemistry, I'd be better prepared to understand it). And plants certainly differ in their responses to light and heavy frosts, and freezes of various temperatures.

The temperature overnight was predicted to be about 34° F (in our regional paper), but heavy frost covered the meadows along the entrance drive in the Garden (where I work). Our outdoor thermometer is outside on the porch, so is not an true reflection of outside temperatures, and I didn't look at it this morning, yada, yada.

But winter is coming.

We'll be off to Asia on Sunday, to Southern Vietnam. We had a wonderful trip to Northern Vietnam some years ago, so we're looking forward to it. We still have plenty to attend to (house-sitting & plant-sitting lists, etc.). But we're fortunate to be able to travel to distant places, and for that, I'm grateful.

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