1/27/21 – Full Moon! | High 53 | Low 40 | Rain .30″

Current Conditions

The tree guys were supposed to come on Monday, but due to the pretty crummy weather, they have been unable to come out and take care of the trees I have scheduled for removal. This doesn’t really put me behind, but as I mentioned in the previous post, I am feeling like I have a lot to get done and the clock is ticking. Today did turn out pretty nice in the afternoon (although snow is in the forecast tonight), so I decided to get the drone out and take some ‘before’ pictures for posterity. This corner of the property is where my focus is going to be this season. First, four trees come out. Then I’ll build a hugel bed with some of the wood just inside the current one. I plan to put the wood chips from the trees in the corner and begin to build the soil for a polyculture bed, probably adding some Wine Cap spawn to speed break down of the chips. Right now, I am thinking a couple of paw paws here and maybe a hazelnut, but I really haven’t worked all of that out yet. They aren’t visible in the picture, but against the fence behind the blackberries, there is a volunteer peach and a fig from a cutting I planted. Although maybe not this summer, I will probably have to add some trellising for those two fruit trees to be espaliered on. If I come across an interesting blackberry, I might add that to the current bed. I definitely need to upgrade the trellising I have in place for the blackberries. It is just 5 foot T posts and a few wires. It barely kept things under control last year. This is the second season for the blackberries, so I expect them to really put out some growth this year.

In a few months, I will try to post the ‘after’ portion of this entry. Everything will be green and alive and much more interesting than these drab pictures!

The Basic Plan



Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina

Sometime in December, the last of the leaves are raked, all the dead plants are composted and things are cleaned up and put away from another year in the garden. It is an odd feeling when the weekend rolls around and there is nothing to do. Of course, something to do can always be found, but maybe it is just the time of rest that me and the garden are looking for. I am always thinking and planning and shuffling priorities and ideas around in my head but I am content just to let things be for the short days of mid winter. Then, as the days start getting just a little bit longer, I start to feel anxious that I will run out of time. The days and weeks until the garden springs to life are beginning to count down, slowly, steadily. Before it is too late and keeping the garden under control is a full time job, there are things to be done.

When I was a kid, winter was wood cutting time, and somehow I have been able to keep that tradition alive. I don’t use wood for heat and my woodlot is not that big, but there sure are a lot of trees on my little lot. In winter, I prune and cut, moving always toward that perfect blend of shade and privacy and sun in the garden. There is always a lot more shade than sun, so every year some more trees come down, more limbs are pruned back. I have reached the point where there are only a few trees left that I am comfortable taking down. What is left are a bunch of 50 – 80 foot pines, any one of which could hit my house or either of three neighbors’ houses, not to mention assorted fences and sheds. So I pay some one to do the tricky part of bringing them down to the ground. I’ll clean up a lot of the mess, sorting out the wood for its highest value and cycle back into the garden, as chips or mushroom logs or the basis for hugel culture mounds or firewood for next fall’s camping trips. The tree guys are coming Monday. Winter break is over. They will cut up and chip most of the trees they bring down. This will provide most of the raw material for some of the things on this to-do list. The list is ambitious but doable. I am looking forward to getting started.

Winter 2021 To-Do List

  • Build new hugel
  • Wood chips into ‘polyculture corner’
  • Top up existing hugel
  • Remove landscape fabric from under Japanese maple
  • Unload compost tumbler
  • Move tumbler
  • Build firewood rack
  • Wood chips in front beds
  • Prune corner holly bushes
  • Rear fencing on blueberry bed
  • Girdle gum by fence
  • Cut 2 gums (by raspberries, by playset(enough for shiitakes?))
  • Disassemble play set(?)
  • Upgrade blackberry trellis
  • Rain barrels, south corner



Pak Choi – Brassica rapa

The first sprouts of the new season have emerged. The mustard and pak choi planted 11 days ago are up. I lifted the cover to check for peas, but those are still sleeping. I am not expecting the cilantro any time soon, so I was not surprised they were not up. The miracle of seeds is always amazing. These seeds were saved from the previous spring’s plants. Now, a new generation is here. I have never started any this early and I am interested to see how things will grow with such short days.

Mustard – Brassica juncea – ‘Giant of India’

High: 56 | Low: 34 | Moon: Waxing Crescent | Daylight: 9hr 59min


Earlier this fall, a nearby market gardener mentioned that he planted his peas on January 1st. I’ve never planted anything out in the garden this early by at least six or eight weeks, but I thought it might be worth a shot. I have never had much success with peas either, so maybe planting time is my issue and this will be the year.

I spread some fresh soil on a section of the hugel that seems to be get the most winter into spring sunlight and planted two six foot rows of peas. I also filled in the gaps with some cilantro, pak choi and mustard. All seeds were saved from 2020 and are plants that seem to be good candidates for an ultra early planting try. I covered the section with lightweight row cover as much to keep the squirrels out as to keep the heat in. It is forecast to be mild for the next couple of weeks- highs in the 50’s, lows in the 30’s, but also a little rainy and cloudy. I’ve had seeds rot in the early spring, so I am concerned about that here in the beginning of a wet winter, but maybe being up on the hugel in some fresh, fluffy soil will mitigate that some. We will see!

High: 55 | Low: 50 | Precip: 1.5in | Moon: Waning Gibbous

Some might say it’s not a real hugel, but I am working at a small scale here!


Cornus florida

The dogwood enjoyed the sun this summer after a nearby pine was removed and should gift us with beautiful flowers in about 3 months. There is a resident squirrel that seems to enjoy snacking on the buds, but right now he is too fat to get at these little jewels on the tips of the branches!

Unknown fungus on an old sweet gum stump.

I am always amazed at the fungi that pop up all over the garden and yard. Some are predictable and arrive year after year in the same places, and some pop up in strange places and then are never seen again.

Pak Choi – Brassica rapa

The fall garden didn’t work out too well. I was hopeful, as this was the first year of the new hugel. I was not prepared for the ferociousness of the slugs and snails and there is little to show for my effort. This little guy escaped the snail attack, though, and seems to be loving the cold, rainy weather.

Cilantro – Coriandrum sativum

A cilantro volunteer in a garden path. Cilantro always just seems to go to seed around here. It will be interesting to see how this one and a few others nearby get along with the winter. If I can avoid stepping on them.

Rose – Rosa spp.

A warm spell several weeks ago encouraged a couple of rose blooms. But all good things must come to end. Farewell, 2020.