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Archive for the 'Seasons' Category

Celebrating Life and Change

September 30th, 2009

Goodness has the weather changed.  Awoke to low-forties this morning and we put on a that first fall jacket.  That’s saying a lot for me… yet it feels so good!  Finished a host of chores over the past few days and an incredibly busy weekend.  It was the young one’s birthday of course, and it was a great day for him.

We shared a beautiful sunrise early one morning…

dawns-early-light

He never really had a big birthday party, and it was time.   Well, except for that preschool class party to that really sticky pizza place… we won’t go there right now.  That was four years ago I think.  This year it was an outdoor party at a small park near the school, and his class was invited to join the fun.   More than half the class came on a Friday after school and it was a grand celebration. The park was setup, and I walked a dozen kids there from the school to the great amusement of the principal watching me with a gaggle of third-graders.   But that’s okay, I’m pretty good with kids… but there were a lot of them! The party quickly became a sunny cacophony of school kids with genuine smiles and excitement.  We played balloon and three-legged races, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and a host of other outdoor fun with cake and ice cream.   The highlight was smashing the pinata!

The boy gets in line for the first go-around with fifteen kids lined up behind him.

homemade-pinata

This wasn’t just any pinata mind you… no siree, it was homemade!  Looking like a rainbow death star, this thing was nearly indestructible.  Put together with a team effort, (twice after the cat punctured the balloon inside the first soggy ball), the boy and I painted the outside with all sorts of pretty colors.  It was filled with a couple pounds of candy and 15+ kids took turns whacking it with the broomstick.  And yes, some of the kids nearly whacked the other kids but we tried to keep ’em back enough… not easy to do with so many candy-hungry feet scrambling around.

I’ve only seen “pinata bashing” a few times before.  Seems like it’s  more popular these days, although I’m not a fan of the newfangled “pull-string” pinatas at the stores.  Have you seen them?   They are less dangerous, no whacking stick involved… and with society’s zeal to protect our children (or ourselves in preventing legal entanglement perhaps), each kid gets a turn at reaching up and pulling the pinata string, and some lucky boy or girl randomly pulls the trap door open to let out the prizes.  I’m sure it’s fine for the kids- they don’t know the difference.  We’re still of the “smashing the pinata” persuasion however, and enjoyed watching the kids swing the broomstick.

I held the rope on a pulley (the thing weighed about 20 pounds), and we quickly discovered how solidly built it was.  “Whack!  Thump!  Whump!” it sounded as each kid gave it a few swings.   That pinata made it through more than 20 turns, gradually falling apart, before I finally yanked it hard enough to dump the candy out, raining all over as the kids scrambled to fill goody bags.  They seemed well-rehearsed to the pinata ritual, and it was fun to watch.   After leaving the park that day I felt really good for the boy, and he was all smiles.   We were tired and hoarse, and hoping once is enough…

As if the big kids party wasn’t enough, the next day we held our annual Cub Scout carnival with a host of different kids at a different park…   The highlight of the carnival for me was hosting the bubble gum pie eating contest- an extension of his birthday party game.  You gather 8-10 kids at a big table, place a piece of bubble gum on a pie plate, cover it generously with whip cream and the first few kids to get to the gum using only their mouth and blowing a bubble win a prize.  Unbeknownst (is that really a word?!) to most of the kids, the sugar in the whip cream combines with the bubble gum sugars and makes it a gooey mess that is reeaally hard to make a bubble with.  The kids loved the game and we did it three times with a huge group of them.

The weekend finished with a quiet afternoon BBQ.   Lots of memories, especially for the youngster.   Along the way there was always time to appreciate the beauty of the world around us-

The last of the goldenrod is still beautiful…

sunny-goldenrod

And the pond!  It was a bright green color in a few places, with a light microscopic algae bloom after last week’s rain… we don’t see that color very often.

green-pond

When the wind blows, the light scatters over the surface of the water…  it only happens in autumn with the afternoon sun moving southward.  When the leaves begin changing it’s almost magical.  Maybe it is… it sure feels that way.

windonwater

I wandered around yesterday looking up through the canopy of green leaves. There are changes everywhere, and we have enjoyed the dappled shade this year.

canopy-of-green-leaves

The leaves will be gone soon, coming again in six or seven months. At breakfast this morning the boy was playing with a small hourglass. He wondered how someone decided what particular time would be measured by the sand, before clocks were invented. That’s a bit of history I need to learn.  We talked about how the seasons, and our lives, each have their time.  Like the sands of the hourglass… maybe it sounds trite, but it’s so very true.

Flowers, Veggies and Doggy Noses

September 24th, 2009

A steady, gentle rain today, and gives one time to catch up on a few things.  I want to take a minute to thank everyone for visiting (and commenting) here at Fox Haven.  Writing, blogging, whatever you call this form of expression…. it gives us a chance to “think out loud” perhaps, and reach out to folks in a different way.  That’s not my intent per se, but I’ve really come to enjoy this little part of our world.  I know there are always a lot more people browsing or lurking a bit, and I understand that very well. I tend to lurk on other blogs and sites far more than commenting too it seems.

In some ways,  reading and commenting on a blog on a regular basis is like investing some part of yourself, or sharing who you are a bit as well.  Is it a risk for some people?  Maybe too personal?  I don’t know, but I know it’s hard at times when a blog disappears for unknown reasons and we wonder where those good folks have gone.  Change and a shift of focus is understandable in anyone’s life though.   Sometimes we face challenges that are difficult to write about, or not shared with our readers, or we simply need a break.  I wonder who could qualify as the longest writing blogger?!

Maybe we feel that we’re only showing half the picture of our real lives, or we wonder what’s the point?  Honestly I don’t know that there is any point, at least for me, beyond keeping a journal of our lives and examining aspects of ourselves that perhaps could be shared later on.  It doesn’t really matter- I enjoy writing and sharing pictures, and hope that others enjoy it too.   When it comes right down to it, I would like to think that what most people write and share about their lives is a lot closer to who they really are.   So with that, I just want you to know that you are welcome here any time, and I appreciate how many of you do take the time to come by… :) 

Meanwhile, back on our weedy acreage (the weeds are stiffly standing their ground against my efforts!) I’m still mucking about pruning, cutting, planting, ripping things out and generally trying to keep ahead of nature’s efforts.  If I strike a balance, then I’ll call it a victory… but there’s always something else to do.  Just as with rainbows there are moments of beauty all around us though.  These perennial asters get my vote for flowers of the month- they seem to get bigger every year, and the honeybees enjoy them too.

honeybee-purple-asters

Near the house I planted a couple of Burkwood Viburnum shrubs a few years ago. They’ve finally settled in and are covered with nice red berries this year.  In the spring they have the most fragrant white flower clusters- it’s really amazing, but such a sweet fragrance only blooms for a few days it seems.  The birds will certainly enjoy the little fruit this winter.

burkwood-viburnum

Yesterday was a misty morning with dew hanging everywhere, including this spider’s web. There are so many spiders about now, their webs even gather in your hair when you least expect it!

dew-on-spider-web

Contrasts are always interesting, and a few days ago I stared at the walnut tree standing tall against the stormy sky.  What a stark picture it made with leaves mostly gone yet the nuts still hanging on.  As I looked I felt a small chill… so gray and dark!  It almost seemed a portent of the coming winter. Brrr…

autumn-walnut-tree

 

But then I smiled and thought, “No you don’t!  Winter is months away!” remembering we have many warm days yet to come.   And the garden is still growing too.  We’ve got all kinds of veggies on hand, and too many cucumbers to keep up with. 

Yesterday I set a bowl of mixed vegetables on the ground and the dogs ran up… Kuma, our little Shiba Inu to the right, and the namesake icon for Fox Haven (little does he know!).  To his left is the protruding nose of Justin, our elderly Basset Hound. The yellow lab was standing off to the side looking like, “Me to! I want some!” but he must wait his turn. Actually I didn’t give the vegetables to the dogs, but do you see the one thing that doesn’t belong in the bowl?  There were two of them… and that’s what the dogs were really after!

vegetables-and-dogs


I love the fall season so much, even if I’m still playing catch-up around the house.  I’ve let some of the hedgerows and borders grow more this year, and these deep yellow blooms of goldenrod were the result. This honeybee worked the flowers vigorously, with a red Knockout rose in the background.

honeybee-on-goldenrod

The leaves on the trees have even begun turning now… with the first yellows and browns at the tops.  Those of you further north must be ahead of us by now.  In a few weeks we’ll see the blazing variety of colors and watch leaves sailing through the air.  Almost as if to join the change of the seasons, our young one has a birthday this weekend.  He’s growing up so fast.  That will be an interesting conjunction as he grows older, to feel the change of the seasons of his own life, as part of the world around him too.   Soon we’ll be out catching the falling leaves, and jumping in leaf piles.   It’s time… Autumn is here.



Summer’s End, Changing Seasons

September 19th, 2009

The mornings are becoming so much cooler… around 50 degrees F.   It’s so refreshing, but a bit too dry, as we’ve had little rain for the past month.  Many leaves from shrubs and trees are dropping early from the lack of water, so it’s time to make the rounds again with the big water barrel in the cart as a little insurance for those favored landscape plants.  

That includes the garden of course… and the first beans are ready to eat!  I planted the seeds around the first week of August;  hopefully we’ll get nearly a month from them before the first killing frost.

fresh-green-beans

I was impressed with the huge blooming Sweet Autumn Clematis this year. It was fairly small in previous years but I trailed some branches with a string guide up high on the little red garden shed. It was so fragrant!  The bees covered the flowers for a few days at their peak.

sweet-autumn-clematis

The most prolific flowers for us in September are those in the goldenrod and aster family. They grow everywhere with many varieties, including these spires nearly five feet tall. I haven’t seen the bees working the goldenrod feverishly yet, which means they are still finding asters and other wildflowers they like better.   

tall-goldenrod

This time of year also produces a bit of sneezing and itchy eyes, and I always thought goldenrod contributed to that. But upon further research the pollen from goldenrod is generally not airborne, and is too large to really affect people. It’s actually the ragweeds and asters that have the most airborne pollen that ends up in my nose and eyes while outdoors! Who called them sneezeweeds? They certainly are…

Here we are at the end of summer, and I still feel like there’s so much to do!  I managed to pick the last of the elderberries I could find last week, bugs, spiderwebs and all.  This cluster had some incredibly large berries- in the freezer they went, soon to make some jam and jelly.

elderberry-cluster

I’m thankful we can still enjoy these warm days. The season’s changes are fast upon us, with new colors, sights and sounds. I saw a small flock of nighthawks moving south, and a duck on the pond the other day. The vultures have gathered in flocks too for their own small migration. The barn swallows left last week… one day they were chasing insects around the tractor while I cut grass, and the next they were nowhere to be seen. The leaves are almost gone from the walnut trees now, and acorns are dropping all around us with squirrels racing around the oak trees…



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?



Cool, Calm and Heavenly

July 20th, 2009

Up early this morning after getting back late last week.  It’s 55 degrees out there today!  I think I’m in heaven… July and it feels like October.   The past few days have been extraordinary, and so pleasant.  I know it won’t last, and that’s okay.  We’ll be back to the hot and humid days soon, and that good ‘ole fashioned Missouri summer.

What a treat though- and with all the rain, the grass is still green and lush everywhere.  After cutting for a couple days it’s far more enjoyable than the usual hot, dusty routine.   I think the bees have also benefited from the moisture and cooler weather- the spring and summer “honeyflow” seems to be longer this year in our area.  The dutch white clover has been in bloom for over a month now and the bees are all over the flowers.  

We had a nice trip last week, touching base with aunts, uncles and cousins that I haven’t see in many years- some as long as 30 years ago.  It was fun to hear old family stories, and connect with people that share a bond through generations.   The young one played with other kids and other dogs, we drove through five or six states, ate good food and bad, and generally had a great time.  I was even able to pick up some beekeeping supplies while avoiding shipping costs.  Gas prices weren’t too bad this year compared to last summer either.  So there’s still time for a couple side trips around the state!

Walking around the pond last night, it was so pretty with the yellow-orange sunset and the pond’s surface completely calm. The yellow lab spied another critter along the shoreline… it was our other dog, the shiba.  He decided to go for a swim, and his ears were poking up- it was funny to watch.  The lab whined to join him, but we were heading back in the house for dinner.  “Not this time…” I told him, and he looked at me with pure frustration in his eyes.  Another day fella…  it was a beautiful night.

dogs-in-the-pond

A Soggy End to Spring

June 16th, 2009

Well now. That big wet red spot  has finally passed,  and the sun is shining once again. Everything is like a soggy sponge. And it’s supposed to be 96 degrees on Thursday!   The old timers say that’s Missouri for you- if you don’t like the weather, stick around… it’ll change.  Hope y’all are drying out a little bit.   Can you believe summer arrives this Sunday!?

missouri-rainstorm

Rambling in the Rain

April 30th, 2009

 I’ve been trying to catch up everywhere it seems, and today is no exception.  I’ve felt lost in the work both outdoors and in, and a little lost in my head lately with everything!  Strange goings on these days with the economy, health news and so much more.  I drive a Ford by the way- and climbing into my truck listening to the news with the other car companies makes me wonder if I’ll be driving around in a truck made by the last independent American motor vehicle company!?  Hard to say, but hopefull we’ll get things turned around.

We’ve had oodles of rain though, and more coming.  Fortunately it hasn’t been too hard, but steady and long.  Good for the garden, which I finally managed to get in this week after bending over in the rain for hours.  Only a few weeks late with getting it all planted, but better late than never! Planting seeds in the rain was kind of fun actually- warm enough weather to enjoy the gentle rain, and very peaceful even with wet clothes.   That and pruning and a host of other chores… I’ve been rambling in the rain.  Or maybe mumbling in the rain, I don’t know.   It was kind of muddy though- but I’m sure the plants will like it.   Hopefully a little fertilizer and organic compost will help the garden make up for lost time and really get things going.  I’ll show some pictures when it looks better than rows of mud :) 

And do you know what these are?

cherries-growing

Cherries!  I planted two Northstar var. cherry trees last year to have cherries for pies, cobbler, etc.  So far they are doing well, and both have flowered and set fruit.  With any luck and some netting to keep the birds away we should have some awesome cherries by the fourth of  July!

Speaking of birds, I saw my first Orchard Oriole yesterday.  It was high in a red oak tree eating something on or from the catkins drooping down.  It’s a fairly common oriole, but I just had never seen one.  I was surprised how much smaller (and less colorful) it was compared with the Baltimore orioles we see each year.  It’s a nice looking bird although the fuzzy picture doesn’t do it justice.  Another bird for the list…

orchard-oriole

We spent some time hiking last weekend, and found some neat wildflowers (no morels though!).  I had not seen a white trillium so large before- I think this is Trillium grandiflorum sp.

white-trillium

And here’s the little flower from wild ginger (Asarum canadense) , tucked under the heart shaped leaves. You really have to look carefully or you’ll miss it- I’ve always enjoyed finding these, but haven’t ever tried the roots as a ginger-substitute before. 

wild-ginger

On the home front the young one found a four-leaf clover in the grass- he was excited. Really he found several of them and I found one too.  We layed on the grass, rolling around on one of the drier afternoons.  Then the dog ran up and ate my clover…  chomp!  Ah well, he’s a lucky dog.  Interesting that the genetic variation in one patch of clovers produced quite a few of the four-leafed variety.

four-leafed-clover

Spring Unfolding Quickly

April 25th, 2009

Spring has moved so quickly that we’ve seen temperatures in the high 80’s for the past few days.  It has been downright hot and windy!  Where’s my cool spring air?  Ok, I’m not complaining- and the leaves are just bursting forth along with insects and everything else.   The bees have been frantically busy, and I’ve tried to keep up with them, adding boxes of “supers” so they have plenty of room and can continue to build comb and store honey.  The bees need these warmer temperatures to help produce and manipulate the wax while building comb.  Since this is the second year for my bees, they still need to build, or draw, honeycomb on many frames of plain blank foundation– the sheets of wax or plastic that give them a start in each frame. 

The redbuds were beautiful this year, and the bees took the most advantage of it that they could. 

redbud-flowers-honeybee

They didn’t seem to mind when I got up close- they simply went about their business.  For at least a week I enjoyed the hum of their efforts all around the house.  I love this rear-shot of a a honeybee, heavy with pollen, cruising in to another redbud flower.

honeybee-redbud-pollen

The critters of the pond have really emerged too. I’ve noticed that the bass and bluegill have begun swishing out nesting areas for the spring spawn, and the frogs are all about now.  And we have more turtles this year!  I’ve seen at least four different ones around the pond, and caught a picture of these three enjoying the the sunshine on a warm afternoon.  I need to sneak up closer to see if they’re the same species- I don’t think so, but they “plop” off the log really fast if I try to get too close.

three-turtles

We did have a pair of wood ducks hanging about near the woody area at the top of the pond.  I hoped they were nesting, and saw a pair last year with a half-dozen ducklings paddling about. 

wood-ducks

But lo and behold, yesterday I found that our too-friendly Canada geese have returned, bringing with them a half-dozen of their own goslings! If you know much about these big, beautiful birds, you know that having them around- right here where we live- is a mixed blessing.  While wonderful to watch, especially while raising their young, they can also be a mess- leaving bird stuff all around the pond, and they have voracious appetites, pulling grass by the rootful from around the edge of the pond.   I do enjoy watching them swim gently around the pond, and the little ones are really cute.

canada-geese-family

I was successful at discouraging them from nesting here in February and early March, but there are 2-3 smaller ponds in the area that they can use for nest sites.  Once their young have hatched in March, they gradually get to know the area.  And yesterday they walked them through field and forest to our pond where they would like to spend a lot of time.  It’s fun to watch them paddle about and learn to fly, but I’m not really a fan of the idea… given their tenacious nature however, we may have little choice!

The oak trees are in full bloom right now too- these red oak catkins must be 3 inches long.  I wonder if bees gather pollen from oak trees?  Maybe not when their is so much flower nectar and pollen available.  But they do gather maple pollen, so…

red-oak-catkins

I hope you have time to get outdoors and enjoy the warming weather. Spring and fall are my favorite times of the year- I don’t think I can really pick just one!

Treasures in the Forest

April 21st, 2009

It rained incredibly this past weekend, but for a few hours on Saturday morning we went exploring with nice weather.   And what did we find?  Ah, the elusive morel!  Finally… it wasn’t even on our property, but in a state natural area.  We hiked all over both upland and bottomland forest, and ended up finding eight morels.  Not very much for the time we spent, considering that some folks find them in the hundreds.  But we were excited and had a lot of fun exploring.  This morel was over 3 inches tall…  a little breading and it fried right up- yum!  All together we found 4… The young one loved finding one of his own.   Turns out that I’m about the only one interesting in eating them…  maybe I can get the boy to try them…   but hey, somebody has to do the hard jobs right?!  Hopefully with the weather warming up this week we’ll have a chance to find a few more.

missouri-morel

As we hiked along we found many wildflowers – my favorite is Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria).  I remember long ago wandering in a similar place at this time of year- there were thousands of these carpeting the forest floor, it was amazing. What a great name for a wildflower.

dutchmans-breeches

A group of yellow violets were found in a bottomland site.  I think this is Viola pubescens var. leiocarpa.

yellow-violet

We also came across a fallen log revealing the love someone shared for another… and maybe they still do.  This was a fallen sycamore tree, about 4 feet in diameter. The names are carved sideways on the log, so the carving is probably not too old, but I don’t know.  You could write a story from something like this.  Have you ever carved your name in a tree?  I think I did long ago when I was younger once.  Wouldn’t these two be surprised to see their names here?!

patbecky

Speaking of trees- can anyone identify this one? The tree itself was only about 6-8 inches in diameter, but the bark was amazing.  And the tree was 20-30 feet tall, with no twigs or other identifying material low enough to examine. There were no other trees like it in the area.

crazy-bark

And the young one discovered an amazing field of purple henbit and yellow mustard flowers. He wandered through the field joyfully picking tiny flowers and enjoying the colors… These are the kinds of things I’ll remember when he grows up.  It was a nice day.

fields-of-color

Beautiful Spring, Bees and Color

April 18th, 2009

dogwoodredbudspring

It’s amazing how many flowering plants are in bloom right now- the bees have so many flowers to choose from. You walk along side a redbud and hear a constant “hummmm” from the bees.  Here a fuzzy young bee is gathering pollen and nectar from a viburnum in flower.  Never thought I’d think of a bee as cute, but doesn’t this one look neat?   I’ve planted Burkwood viburnum along side a Carlesi viburnum, and we have several native Blackhaw viburnum in the area as well.  They don’t flower long, but the fragrance is amazing.

fuzzy-bee

Here’s a better look at the viburnum flowers with another bee. 

bee-and-viburnum

And everyone loves the dogwoods at this time of year. The dappled white flowering trees look so nice scattered through the woodlands before the leaves come out. But in a few weeks all will be green once again.  Time to get outside again!

dogwood-tree

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