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Late Summer Ramblings

August 25th, 2009

The mornings have been crisp and cool, and autumn is right around the corner.  Just the right temperature for getting work accomplished outdoors… which I keep adding to my list.  “I should really be working on that…”  I muse as I wander around admiring the landscape.  The days are still warm yet and this day lily is the last for the year… a solitary figure among the hundreds having already bloomed in July.

day-lily

The young boy found this little guy along the driveway.  This is the last milkweed plant we’ve seen around the house, and this lucky monarch larva found it all to itself, perhaps being one of the last around here as well.  Could its luck continue to become a beautiful butterfly that migrates south for winter?

monarch-caterpillar

The rich green colors of summer are still with us, and everything feels so much closer and well, cozy perhaps compared to the open landscapes of winter.  Rain came through one afternoon last week, dappling the pond with raindrops, and breaking up the reflections of the trees on the surface of the pond.   The old Burt Dow Boat is still hanging on…  and I like filling it with petunias every year.  Behind it I planted a river birch which will overshadow it one day.    And to the left a small austrian pine grows- hopefully to provide a screen and some protection for the bees behind the picture up the hill.  

summer-at-fox-haven-pond

Several of the oak trees have died, and the big trunk/log laying in front of the rowboat has been cut up.  The boy and I moved it up the hill behind the barn this past weekend,  round-by-round in a bucket of the tractor.   We missed one… probably more than 100 pounds, and it rolled down the hill making a big Splash! in the pond.  The boy loved that, jumping and clapping, and I still haven’t figured out how I’ll get it out without getting wet.  I may have to give it a name as it floats around the pond…  now where did it go?



A Little White and Color in March

March 29th, 2009

A little snow in late March and it feels almost like winter again.  This was a wet, heavy snow and most of it is already melting.  I don’t think it even bothered the fruit buds, and I’m glad the day’s temperatures will be near 50 degrees F.  I just finished feeding the bees on Friday to help stimulate brood production- they should be snuggled in a warm embrace in the lower hive body, and when it warms up they can snack on a little of that sugar syrup.  Until yesterday the bees have been quite active however.  I noted that the serviceberry trees are blooming (even saw a bee on one of the flowers which answered my wondering if they used them), and the redbuds are only a few warm days away from flowering too.

  march-snowfall

But just yesterday the landscape was full of spring colors without the wet stuff. The pussy willow tree is about finished blooming now, which is over a week earlier than last year. Here are some of the flower heads just before dropping off the tree, with a little mason bee hovering about.

pussy-willow-in-bloom

March is also time for our PJM rhodedendron to bloom- this is one of my favorite plants and flower colors.  It’s often too hot and humid here for growing most azaleas and rhody’s  easily, but maybe we’ll find some shady places for a few more.

pjm-rhody

Hiking the forest boundary revealed our old friend Rue anemone blooming on the southern slopes. The rue flowers have a gentleness of color and form that reminds me of the quiet days of spring.

rue-anemone

I’m amazed how one day you don’t see anything, and the next day flowers are blooming everywhere.  Soon we’ll get a run of warm spring days and everything else will start bursting forth. Which means it’s really time to get the garden in… unlike some more productive folks, I’m feeling a little behind these days!

garden-angel

We have a little garden angel to look out for things though… This little angel is supposed to help me think of ways to put our bricks to use. As you can see, just the idea kind of makes one sleepy. Of course I’m not the only one looking for ideas about what to do with bricks, but I much prefer garden angels to guardian scorpions!

Winter Giving Way to Spring

February 16th, 2009

As winter’s cold has crept back in we’re still feeding the birds and carrying firewood to the stove.  But a few days ago I heard the first Spring Peepers… and they’ve been calling everyday since.   It’s amazing that a tiny frog can make such a loud bird-like call, and they’re the best harbingers of spring that I know.  They usually start calling around mid-to-late February in our area as the sun brings warmer daytime temperatures to shallow water.

After school one day we took a walk in our small patch of forest to see what might be emerging.  I’ve heard that Witch-Hazel is blooming around the area, but we don’t have any that I know of.  They’re neat small trees or shrubs with beautiful yellow fingery flowers.  I think I ordered some from the conservation department, so with any luck after planting this year, we could have a tree or two of our own in a couple years.  I hope to continue to plant many diverse native species, but also to emphasize the one’s that flower at different months so the honey bees will benefit.  Which means we would benefit from the honey too!

On our little hike we discovered some beautiful patches of moss among the leaf litter.  It’s so green and lush and reminds me of stories of fairies, leprechauns and other forest enchantments when I find places like this.  Not to mention how soft it is… usually I try not to walk on the moss and lichens knowing how long it takes for most of them to grow.  But it looks so inviting… on a warm day I could just lay down and take a nap.

Winter moss in the forest

We also saw the bluebirds checking out the nest boxes, and defending them from the sparrows.  I’ll probably try to help the bluebirds by shooing the sparrows away…   I also saw an enormous flock of White-fronted Geese flying high above heading northward.  The Canada Geese are looking for nesting places too.  That afternoon a flock of geese landed on the pond.  I walk toward the pond and most of them fly off… which is okay with me given the amount of you-know-what they leave behind.  Two remained behind to check out the pond… and eventually they flew off too.  I do enjoy it when they visit.

 Canada Geese in February

It’s really fascinating to watch the seasons unfold- literally in the spring of course.  Most of the changes are very subtle, such as flowers that emerge and disappear in a matter of days.   Many changes are more apparent… the pond’s ice is now gone for the year.  It’s nice to see the open water again, and the shadows and reflections. 

Sunset in February at Fox Haven

After a warm day exploring, we finally watch the sun disappear behind the trees. It all looks so peaceful… and then we see something moving on that little stump by the water’s edge.  It’s one of the cats, prowling along the shoreline.

Winter Mysteries and Bee Shadows

January 25th, 2009

Looks like snow in the forecast for tonight or tomorrow…  If it’s going to be winter, I enjoy having some of that white stuff around- especially if the alternative is ice or freezing rain.   Late one afternoon as I walked along the pond dam the Little Bluestem just stood out beautifully against the background of the pond.  Snow flurries in the afternoon covered the ice briefly.

Little Bluestem and snow on pond

The next day was warm enough that the sun begain melting the snow.   I found the footprints of an animal that crossed the ice- they look like coyote or fox tracks, but I don’t really know.   Neat to see however.  I also have to wonder how the fish are doing under the ice?  Maybe if it stays cold enough we could even try ice fishing this year.

Footprints on the ice at Fox Haven

The next day the sun melted the snow off the ice to reveal a marvelous scene.  The thawing and freezing of the ice had created some of the most beautiful designs!  It almost looks like stained glass or something created by man… but only God and nature creates such beautiful scenes as this. 

 Designs in the Ice

It was even warm enough one day for the bees to fly around.  It was weeks since I had seen them, and I always worry that they are getting enough to eat through winter.  Watching them buzz all around the outside of the hive was pretty neat. 

 Bees flying about in January

I had to zoom in on one part of that picture above- I love how that one bee’s shadow is reflected on the white landing board!  Here’s a close-up-

Bee and Shadow © Fox Haven Media 2009

Is that cool or what?  I liked it so much that I cropped just the bee’s shadow and added it to the image rotation of the little pictures by the quotes above.  With cold nights and warming days, we could think about tapping a few maple trees for syrup.  That’s a project for another year, however, and for now we’ll just enjoy getting things done around the house.  I actually cleaned off that workbench in the barn yesterday with a nice fire in the woodstove- first time in several years.  With any luck, this mad streak of productivity will continue for a few months into spring.   Goodness knows it’s time to think about what’s going in the garden this year.

Winter Sun and Fun in the Barn

January 13th, 2009

A beautiful sunny day, but cold!  And it’s going to be colder for the next few days.  I’ve been asking for snow, and look!  We actually got enough flurries to dust the ice on the pond.   I like how the trees stand as gray sentinels on the hillside- in summer you can’t see this corner of the pond very well because of all the leaves on the trees.

Fox Haven Pond in winter

The long range weather forecast doesn’t have any snow it in this month- will we go all winter with that one small snowstorm in December? 

Worked in the barn yesterday with the woodstove going- I’ve used it a couple times, but this was the first time I’ve kept it going for such a long time and it was pretty nice.  Why didn’t I put the stove in last year!?!   I had it piled in a corner, but didn’t find the “gumption” to tackle it until last fall.  I’m so glad I did- outdoor temperatures were in the high 30’s yesterday and the barn warmed up to around 50+ and a lot warmer near the stove.  That’s enough to fiddle comfortably with a host of things that need cleaned up.  In the afternoon the boy came home from school and did his homework while laying on cardboard near the stove.  He thought it was fun, and enjoyed the warmth.    

Staying warm by the woodstove

(The picture above was a little fuzzy in the darker light, so I applied some “watercolor” filtering to it.)   But working inside the barn gave me time to move some work lights around in preparation for cleaning up the work bench.  I’m embarrased to say I’ve put it off for almost 3 years!  I use it alot,  it’s just that tools and small items come and go from the bench top and it’s a disorganized mess.  And since it’s an outdoor barn/equipment shed, there’s always a lot of dust and grime.  Maybe, just maybe I’ll get started on that soon.  

But the main area inside of the barn is a different story… I’ve got that somewhat organized to maximize use of the space, and I like to keep the floors swept regularly.  It always feels so much better to keep things in order, and clean up the dust.  With tractors and mowers, dust and grass clippings are a way of life.  Our real work bench is closer to the house in the garage, and it’s in a lot better shape.  Still has a lot of junk piled around it, but at least it’s organized junk if there is such a thing!

More Than Words

January 8th, 2009

What else can be said about a beautiful sunset?  It’s an experience, peaceful and calming…  moments lived and remembered along with the sunsets of our past.   Words are not enough. 

Winter sunset in Missouri

First Snow Comes

November 30th, 2008

A magical day… we awakened to a blanket of snowfall, the wet but gentle kind that hangs on the trees in still air.  It’s not often we have such snow in November… a fitting day indeed on the last day of the month.  It’s beautiful though- and so peaceful.  We’re a few weeks from winter yet, but it’s still a wonderland.  Seems there are few mornings as quiet and still as that after a night of snowfall.   

The snow was falling gently at dawn, the landscape covered in gray and white.

November snow in Missouri

I left the camera in the barn and walked through a shallow layer of snow with the dogs running all around.  The yellow lab just loves snow- he was a puppy his first winter and thinks that snow means playtime.  He danced all around waiting for me to throw the snowball, then plowed through the snow looking everywhere… but he never finds it, and looks at me with furrowed brow waiting for the next one.

Falling Leaves, Conservation Thoughts

November 7th, 2008

Windy and cold!  The weather has turned, and it’s surely November.  The leaves are blowing off the trees and changing the previously green landscape to brown everywhere.  A literal carpet of leaves.  Soon it will be time to rake and mulch, and the leaves will disappear.  But first there’s a really big pile of leaves to be made out there waiting for people to jump into it!

Carpet of leaves in November

And the leaves are blowing into the water too… I am always amazed how many leaves accumulate in the pond.  How long do they take to decompose?  Do they pile up on the bottom year after year?  Who knows… but they seem to disappear in a matter of weeks.

Leaves in the pond

But weeks is all we have to really work on outside projects before the winter cold sets in.  Not that I don’t work outside in winter, but it’s a little harder to work with metal, tools and other such things in 20 degree temperatures.  I’ll admit it, I think it’s just more fun (and comfortable) to work on things when the weather’s nice.  I think the real issue is that I love being outside.  So when it’s really cold, I don’t get out as much.   Which is a bit of a contradiction, because I just love the snow.  Or maybe I love looking at the snow.  Well the boy won’t let me off the hook so easily this year, and I’m sure I’ll be out tromping around with him soon!

Deer and duck season have arrived in Missouri, and it’s time to think about putting some meat in the freezer.  I only went out a couple times last year and the freezer stayed empty, at least of wild game.  Contrary to popular belief, hunting wild deer is not easy for most people, especially if you don’t have private land to hunt on.  Most of us hunt public lands, along with a lot of other folks of course.   Also it’s not really a shooting gallery out there, again contrary to that portrayed in the media.  I’ve only seen one or two other hunters when I hike back on public lands, and most of the time you only catch a glimpse of a deer or deer sign such as tracks, etc.  I’ve taken one deer in three years; poor hunting by some standards perhaps. 

Those hunting on private lands usually have more success simply due to less competition. It helps to scout early and by placing deer stands or blinds in strategic locations.   In most states there are strict regulations for what sex of deer may be taken, usually by county, and other strict regulations for the type of hunting method used such as archery, blackpowder or modern rifle.  Bow hunting season is the longest, and it’s the most challenging method of hunting because your effective range is limited to about 30 yards.  It’s very difficult to stay quiet enough, still enough, and not “smelly” so that a deer comes within 30 yards! 

Blackpowder or muzzleloader hunting is also a little longer of a season since you manually load your powder and shot, and have just one chance to shoot accurately.  It’s like musket hunting in the era of Daniel Boone.   Rifle season offers perhaps the best chance to take a deer at farther ranges of course, but the season itself is only 10 days long each year.  Most hunters try their luck during that 10 day period, and that is also when the most deer are taken each year.

Do I hunt here at Fox Haven?  I would, but we only have a few acres of “huntable” land really.   Deer transit our properly usually at night when you’re not allowed to hunt (hunting after dark or with lights is called “poaching”!).  I do have my eyes open for a transient deer that loves to rub his antlers on my trees.  One of our last remaining maple trees- planted two years ago with the young boy, was stripped of it’s bark last week.  I should have covered or protected it earlier- as I’m trying to do with the apple trees.  But I put up a little wire around it for now, and we’ll see if it can still grow with half it’s bark missing.  I’d like to find that deer though…

Maple tree bark stripped by deer antlers

I’m a little more determined this year, and maybe I’ll be more successful on the public lands I hunt.  If I do well I know a couple of families that really could use the food.   We have a wonderful “Share the Harvest” program in Missouri where deer meat (venison) is donated to many charitable organizations that need the food.  In 2007 over 5,500 hunters donated more than 260,000 pounds of venison!  This is not only helpful for the charities that receive the food, but it’s also a vital management tool:

“The Share the Harvest Program is extremely useful in the Conservation Department™s management of Missouri™s deer population.  The Department works with the Conservation Federation to target areas with high deer numbers by increasing local processing-cost incentives and Share the Harvest promotional campaigns. This results in an increased harvest in areas where deer populations are high.”

So why manage deer populations?  Primarily for health and safety- both of the deer and especially for people!   In the late 1990’s statistics showed more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in more than 29,000 injuries and over $1 billion dollars of insurance claims.  I’m sure it’s higher today.   And where there are deer, there are deer ticks which may carry Lyme (or other) disease, a rapidly growing and debilitating disease in the nation.  The damage to agriculture from deer is also in the billions of dollars, and many urban communities are struggling to balance public appreciation for deer as wildlife with the damage and risk that is also present to the community.  

On balance, hunting is one of the best methods for controlling deer populations, and offers benefits in many different ways.  Harvesting deer not only provides food for many purposes, but the money from licensing and training requirements benefits many different conservation and natural resource programs.  In the duck hunting arena, the nation has benefitted immensely from wild land preservation and conservation initiatives to help waterfowl populations.  Too successful in some areas as we’ve seen with Canada and other geese populations.  But as the interface between human populations and wildlife grows closer through the years, we’ll need to ensure sound conservation practices are in place to manage the inevitable conflicting resource needs.

Autumn Change

October 31st, 2008

Beacon of color,
A Maple, standing alone-
Change in the forest.

Maple in Autumn in Missouri

Autumn Days of Color and Light

October 28th, 2008

Well let me just try this again.  After losing an almost finished post (don’t ask…) I’m feeling a little less creative today!  Mostly because I’ve been a little under the weather.  Turned the corner though and we had a cold one last night.  Scrambled to finish up some chores and winterizing.  Tractor battery went dead in the middle of moving a pile of bark…. half a day later it was back in the barn.  Down to less than 29 degrees for half the night and it snapped all the tomatoes and other annuals.   But the darn flies and grasshoppers are still around.  They must have some type of short-term antifreeze in their blood or something.  But the sun came out and the day warmed up nicely, especially with a wood fire in the stove.

Just after sunrise on the way back from school- the Autumn color is highlighted over the Oaks, Maples and Hickories.

Colorful Autumn in Missouri

The landscape is beautiful and the temperatures just right for getting things taken care of outdoors. It’s even supposed to be 70 degrees F on Thursday.   We’re right about at the peak of the fall leaf color changes this week.  Even though the wind has been very strong and lots of leaves are flying around, most of them are still on the trees.  Not for long… Soon it will be time for our annual Leaf Pile Party!  

 But yesterday I discovered that if the boy and I are sitting on the ground collecting hickory nuts, the yellow lab wants to find some too…  Ooof!

Yellow Labrador Retriever playing

Of course, after he knocked me over it was much easier to look up into the canopy of the Oak tree above.  Isn’t it beautiful?

Looking up at Oak Tree in Autumn

Then the Basset Hound comes along and wonders what all the fuss is about… and he’s looking for a little attention too.  Watch out, that nose is dangerous!

Basset Hound nosing around

But {sigh…} afternoons in Autumn are wonderful. 

Sunlight on the water in Autumn

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