Archive for May, 2008

Wet and Windy

May 10th, 2008

We have been in a rainy, cool weather cycle for weeks now, and it looks to continue this month.  Some very heavy thunderstorms as well, and many are watchful for tornado warnings.  It must be like this over the entire region, but weather always feels like a local thing when you’re standing outside getting wet.  Remember the old days when you didn’t really know what kind of weather to expect a few days ahead?  Now we have so many technological marvels that we have a good idea of what to expect over a week or more.  So now we’re over 8 inches ahead on rainfall for the year, which is just about the opposite of last year.

The garden and new shrubs and trees are coming along very well, but it’s really too wet at this point.  I’m thankful to have spread so much rock and gravel everhwere to slow the runoff.  And this week a new project begins with a couple packages of buzzing little critters.  If all goes well, we may have our very own pollinators for the garden. 

But in the mean time I haven’t been able to cut much grass. It’s been too wet, so it just grows taller.  Well at least it saves on gas and diesel.  Can you believe fuel prices?  And the weeds are growing quickly too- 

Rember blowing dandelions in the wind?  We’ve got a lot of those right now!

Fun with Dandelions

Leaves of Green

May 8th, 2008

Watching spring unfold is engaging in a subtle yet exciting way. Each day there are new plants, colors and scents that we forgot about from the year before, or stare in wonder at how fast they are growing. I was amazed to see how fast the oak tree leaves grew last week, and really appreciate the bright green colors. A couple of weeks ago there was so much sky and sun reaching the ground, and now we have shade everywhere.

New Red Oak tree leaves in spring

Here’s another plant with new grown leaves. The leaves are are pretty and the plant will soon have little white berries. But it’s not my favorite by a long shot. Can you guess what this is?

Poison Ivy leaves in spring

It’s still raining out after two days, but my little boulders of rocks everywhere seem to be working well. Instead of flowing muddy water, the runoff from the rain cascades gently over the rocks almost like a stream, pooling at the bottom and draining steadily out.

Gambion rocks used to design pond drainage

It’s not finished yet, but is slowly taking shape.  I’ll be so glad not to worry about the heavy rain as much as before.  The pond has quite a bit of accumulated mud and silt, and maybe I can shovel some of that out this summer.  But the fish and other critters seem to like it just fine the way it is…

Yellow Lab Finds a Surprise

May 7th, 2008

Lots of rain coming today while I’m working on moving rocks.  And it’s a great time to move a few plants around with the softer soil. In a couple of months the ground will be dry as a bone.    I’ve been taking so many pictures along the way it’s hard to keep up. 

Yesterday while working behind the barn the yellow lab found a surprise that turned out to be a Black Rat Snake.  A very common snake in the area, although we don’t see them very much.  The lab wanted to see what this new thing was, but was obviously wary.

Yellow lab finds a Black Rat Snake

I was amazed after we left it alone, to see it literally climbing up an oak tree!  I have seen them climb around branches and cavities, but never straight up the side of a tree.  The birds must think this their greatest nemesis in spring. 

Black Rat snake climbing oak tree

After it perched on a branch it reminded me of being in a jungle somewhere.  Gee, I hope I’m not losing readers with my snake pictures! :)

Black Rat snake perched in oak tree

Actually, these snakes are good to have around. They’re harmless to people really, and catch smaller rodents such as mice to keep populations in check.   But this one was about 5-6 feet long and would give you quite a surprise!

But the May Apples and Dogwoods are blooming!  The leaves are almost fully out and everything looks so lush.  Now it’s really hard to keep up with the grass and weeds, but somehow I don’t think it really matters… it’s just nice to enjoy the spring season.

May Apple in flower


Dogwood flowering in May

Alas our geese family didn’t seem to make it this year.  On Saturday I saw two adult geese honking and swimming around by themselves.  Then the same again yesterday, and I haven’t seen the little ones since last week.  All I can think of is that a predator must have got to them.  The cycle of life perhaps, but after seeing the little guys we were hoping to watch them grow.  There’s always next year perhaps.

Sunny Redbud and Sunset

May 4th, 2008

So much to do but thankfully the weather has been very nice lately.  It feels like we could use a little more rain already, but the soil moisture was apparently just right as the local farmers began planting corn and soybeans this weekend.  Several spring flowers are already fading as we transition to warmer weather.   I love the days when you start out the morning in a jacket, and end up working in a t-shirt. 

The redbud trees have been beautiful this year, especially with a few weeks of cooler weather.  But the vibrant pink color of the flowers has begun giving way to new leaves.  So one last redbud picture for the season, and a friendly bee with pollen.  We hope to have lots of bees this year for the garden.

Eastern Redbud tree and honey bee

Everything is turning so green, and the grass and weeds are growing almost too fast to keep with. Well I can keep up with the grass, but the weeds usually get the best of me.  After a long day, you just have to take a deep breath and enjoy the last of the day for what it is.

Sunset in early May


Gandering at Geese

May 2nd, 2008

Sometimes I think I should call this blog The Pond Watcher based on how often I find myself looking wistfully at the water.   Mostly I simply enjoy watching all the critters that live in, on or around it.  Many animals just visit briefly, which keeps it interesting.  But lately we’ve had a family of Canada Geese visiting with their youngsters. 

So I guess I’m gandering at the gander, the goose and the goslings :)  There are a few ponds in the area, and the geese actually walk for hundreds of yards through the fields to different ponds with the goslings in tow.  They have also nested here in the past, but I discourage that due to all the, well… you know what.  We live right here at the pond, and with too much of the ah, you know what laying around, it becomes quite messy.   But the geese have prevailed this year, and I’ll enjoy watching them swim around the pond.

Of course the little goslings are very cute to watch, but the harsh realities of nature takes its toll as there were seven little guys following the parents around last week, and now there are only four left.  We have a lot of hawks, coyotes, foxes, fish and turtles around…  But maybe these four will make it to adulthood?  There is no shortage of Canada Geese in the midwest, but it’s neat to watch them grow and learn to fly.

Family of Canada Geese in May

Flowers and Trees for May Day

May 1st, 2008

A break in the wet weather these last few days has really helped with getting some work finished. And we actually had a frost a couple days ago- I was concerned about the flowers and trees. But we lucked out and the only damage was to our tomato plants in the garden. And they were covered?! They’ll still grow from the bottom, but the tops were frostbitten in just a few hours.

The flowers and leaves coming out on the trees are amazing, so Happy May Day! The oak trees are almost finished blooming… not something we think about often perhaps, but the flowers, or catkins of this Red Oak tree hang downward shedding a great deal of pollen. The trees sort of shine or sparkle with reds and yellows as the new leaves emerge. This should be a strong year for acorns, and next year as well. And all the critters should have a strong year too as population cycles swing up and down based on the forage available.

Red Oak tree catkins in spring

Speaking of trees- the Festival of the Trees will be up today and hosted by 10,000 Birds. What a wonderful site, thanks for hosting the festival! Birds have been a passion of mine since youth. I’m waiting to see if the beautiful Summer Tanagers that came by last year will return. I’m not sure where they nest, but they didn’t remain here long. Like the Orioles they seem to pass by on their way to somewhere else. But we have too many wasps around, and the Tanagers can help with that. Now after I get my bees I may feel a little differently… ;)

The wildflowers continue to bloom too, and it seems this year there are more flowers than ever. Maybe from all the rain? Or maybe just my excitement for the season.

I like the colorful blues that Wild Phlox and Birdsfoot Violet provide to the understory. They come and go so quickly it seems, and next week the Bloodroot and May Apples should be flowering.

Wild Phlox flowers


Birdsfoot Violet

I still haven’t found any morels, but maybe it’s just an off year. One of the cub scout families took a class with a “morel expert” and they walked the landscape for an entire day not finding a single one! He said that in very wet years, the morels will grow underground more. Of course we were hiking last weekend and the guy in front of me found a nice white morel on the side of the trail…

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