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Sheepish Sunday Struggles

February 23rd, 2009

The nights are cold but the days are warming, a little.   The spring peepers have quieted down for now, but will be back in force in a week or two.  Walking around I noted the leaf and fruit buds of most trees and shrubs are becoming much thicker now.   Yesterday we heard the cry of a redtail hawk and saw it land among a rough nest of branches in a tall oak tree in the forest.   And little green shoots are poking their way above the ground now- daffodils, crocus, peony, day lilies and more.

I spent the afternoon in the barn working on removing a 19-year old 5 foot mower deck from my father’s old 23hp tractor.  It had not been off for many years, and took me a few hours of fiddling around. My last big winter goal is to try and restore it as much as possible before the growing season.   I lit a fire in the woodstove to take the edge off the cold and the yellow lab paced around the concrete floor impatiently, wanting to run and explore.  He finally settled down, realizing I wasn’t going anywhere.   I turned the radio on, listening to two fellas pontificate  about the economic challenges we face and that we’ve been here before.  I kind of laughed as I saw my father laying underneath the same tractor years ago, about the same time as the last recession.  I know we’ll get through this, and things do go in cycles, but it doesn’t make it any easier for a lot of folks when it comes around again.

After a while I had most of the deck unhooked except for removing a wheel or two, but couldn’t disconnect the drive shaft from underneath the tractor’s mid-pto shaft (power take-off).  Sometimes it’s hard to get your arm under there with any strength, or the couplings are really stuck with old grease and grime.  I struggled for fifteen minutes on one side, and fifteen minutes on another, pulling the 250 pound deck this way and that and banging my knuckles on every sharp corner the darn thing had.

The lab kept coming up to lick my face like he wanted to play…  so we took a break and wandered around outside a bit.  That morning I saw a lone mallard drake on the pond, which was unusual.  I’ve seen wood ducks on the pond but only one mallard here before.   This guy was probably taking a rest enroute to somewhere else.  It was still here as evening approached and he didn’t seem to mind us watching him swim around lazily.

 Mallard drake on the pond

Time to head back inside the barn and try again.  I got back down pushing and pulling this way and that…  and all at once I had the idea that maybe I should consider something else.   I stared at the thing and finally realized sheepishly that I had moved the heavy mower deck backwards just enough that the driveshaft was completely compressed against the tractor’s pto shaft.  Which meant that all the pushing in the world with one hand on that slip collar wasn’t going to remove the drivesaft from the pto… I was trying to push 250 pounds of metal along the floor upside down with one hand and a poor grip.

I shook my head feeling quite silly that I wasted a good half hour or more struggling for no reason, and then I got up and went around to each side to drag the deck forward, extending the driveshaft a few inches and relieving the pressure.  Then back underneath as I reached around to the pto, gave it a good push and “thunk!” off came the driveshaft like it should.  In my mind I could see my father smiling and telling me he did the same thing once before long ago.   How many times in life have we tried and tried to do something, only to realize later on that there was a much easier way?

So with the tractor’s deck off, my hands greasy and the sun settling behind the trees, we walked out the side door shutting up the barn and turned to walk back to the house.  Zoom! A little brown rabbit shot right in front of me and the yellow lab, racing around the front of the barn and into the pasture beyond.  The yellow lab looked up at me as if to say, “I don’t know what his problem is, but I’m not going after him!”  And then we heard “huffa, huffa, huffa” as our little Shiba came racing around breathing heavily, about 5 seconds behind the rabbit.  He paused at the corner of the barn, having lost sight of it, and looked back at us.  “Give it up Kuma” I said, “the little guy is long gone.”   He didn’t listen, and trotted off around the other side of the barn.  That rabbit had this really funny look in its eye as it raced past like “Where the heck did you come from!?”

A Few Warm Days in February

February 11th, 2009

Storms and rain since yesterday, but we had a really nice run of warm weather and I took advantage of the time to catch up on outdoor chores.   It was even time to clean up the garden and prune a host of shrubs.  The timing worked out well with today’s rain- I was able to burn a small garage-sized pile of brush that had accumulated since November.  I only burn after (or during) rainfall, when the winds are calm.   The temperatures are dropping back down to the forties now, but yesterday was amazing.  I was out in a t-shirt in 70 degree weather happily mulching the garden.   Maybe in a few months that will change to happily munching in the garden!

It was time to paint the old bluebird nest boxes too… there’s always some paint around that can be used for something.  The young boy loves to paint!

 Painting Bluebird nest boxes

The weather was so warm we saw a handful of bugs flying around.  Last night this little critter landed on the glass door- the young boy stood on the inside saying it looked like a T, so we called it a T-bug.   I went out and took its picture, and didn’t realize until looking at the picture today that he had traced his own T on the opposite side of the glass.  Update:  A little Googling revealed this critter is in the family of Plume Moths…

The T-Bug

Now we need to find some organic mulch or compost to topdress the garden rows, and we’ll be ready to plant starts and seeds next month or early April.  Before last year I had accumulated enough leaves and grass clippings to have our own mulch, but last year the bagger broke and I just cut the leaves up on the grass.   Going to fix that this year and keep building our own mulch pile again- it’s too easy to have your own, and too expensive to get it someplace else.  Of course if we had some goats or chickens that would be different…  heck, if things get any worse out there we may need to…  

Nothing like a helping hand of the loader bucket to carry the brush and clippings away.  I really like roses… but it’s not fun pruning them.  We’re still experimenting with growing vegetables organically, keeping the weeds down and improving the soil.  Haven’t found a system that works very well yet, but it’s probably more like that old quote about gardens needing lots of moisture… it’s mostly in the form of perspiration! 

 Cleaning up the garden

Gopher Piles and Bathtub Smiles

February 5th, 2009

I had forgotten that in late winter there are some very active critters around- especially underground.  Now I don’t mind a mole or two around the place, they’ve got to live too.  But when the moles and gophers begin to think this is their private little kingdom, then I’m not a happy camper.  After the deep freeze the past few weeks we had a nice warm-up, and I walked around to find this nice little trail of diggings on the hillside below the garden.  These dirt piles are 6-12 inches tall, and would fill up a kid’s beach bucket.

Gopher tunnels on hillside 

These wouldn’t be so bad off in a field by themselves (where they are usually).  But on the slope it causes a great deal of erosion, especially when it rains and the water washes down inside the tunnels evacuating mud everywhere.  I usually squish the muddy hills and tunnels down with the tractor, and the gophers just dig them out again.  We play that game for a while until they move on.  Hopefully I can persuade them to move somewhere else again… not on the slopes, and not near the pond dam!  But if they won’t?  Well, we’re just going to have to figure something out Caddyshack-style…  hopefully with better results!   Somebody remind me why these little critters are useful anyway?!

And what do you get when you ask a dog-and-water-loving-kid to take a bath, and you didn’t keep an eye on your water-and-kid-loving-labrador-retriever?    Well, after hearing unusually gleeful giggles down the hallway, you suddenly look around and notice that your faithful yellow lab is no longer sitting quietly by your side, looking up at you with those big dreamy eyes, and you realize that he has absconded to that playful paradise for kids… the bathtub… much to the boy’s delight of course.  So you get up, get your camera and slowly open the door of the bathroom to find your kid squirting water from a squishy toy at the yellow lab, who loves every minute of it.   Both of them wore great big smiles, and neither of them wanted to get out…

Yellow Lab in the bathtub

Snowy Landscapes

January 29th, 2009

What a snowfall we got the other day.  Our thoughts are with all those folks struggling to get their lives back together after the ice storms this week.  Thankfully we only received the white stuff- about 6-8 inches worth.    The kids were out of school for a couple of days, and we enjoyed a chance to spend some time together.     

The Shiba Inu loves to run around in the snow, and has a coat so thick he would be just fine outside all the time.    He’s running through the garden here and likes to look for rabbits and moles. 

Shiba Inu in winter

Speaking of the garden, it’s pretty sad looking.  I’m embarrassed to show how we’ve barely cleaned up last year’s growth.  The next warm spell we get I’m going to head out and clean it up, and topdress the rows with leaves.  It’s time… I’m already imagining tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, peas…

Garden bare in winter

I keep telling myself spring isn’t far off, especially while plowing the gravel drive.  I took half the snow off, but it’s still a few inches deep.  I don’t want to plow too closely or I would scrape away the packed gravel base.  We park one of the cars near the road during snowstorms because it doesn’t drive very well down and up the snow-covered slope.  Hopefully some of this will melt off today.

Plowing snow on gravel drive

But I just love how the landscape looks when covered in snow.  Maybe it even keeps the bees a little warmer?  Who knows, but in about a month it will be time for the queen bee to start producing a lot more baby bees.  Oh, if you’re wondering- the beehives are black looking because I wrapped them with black-painted insulation for warmth. 

Some people debate whether you should wrap hives in winter in the midwest.  Some believe it makes them too warm and hence they could be more active and eat more their winter stores of honey.  I like to think it helps them stay warmer, using less of their own metabolic energy to stay warm comparatively, and hence eating less of their stored honey over time.  I’m sure there are a lot more opinions and research out there… I’m a new beekeeper and still learning.  But this winter has been colder than normal for us, and I’m glad I wrapped them up. Hopefully they make it to late winter when I’ll start feeding and the cycle will begin again.

Winter landscape and bee hives

Cold Weather and Catching Up

December 16th, 2008

Let it snow!  The landscape is beautiful after a light patch of snowy weather came through the area. Not enough for a snowman, but just enough to appreciate even though the roads are a mess. It’s early morning, and a travel show is playing in the background on the television.  Looks like Australia… one day I’d like to spend the holidays in the land of the kangaroo.  It looks really warm…

Not warm here though, with temperatures in the teens and the high well below freezing. We’re going through firewood like crazy. The birds appreciate the feeders in this weather, and are gathered all around the house.

Light snow in December in Missouri

Did you see the full moon last Friday?  It was beautiful, and big!  It rose slowly beyond the trees, and seemed to grow larger and larger for the next hour or two.  It was one of those magical, clear nights.  Seems I’ve taken to the moon in recent months… either that or we’ve just had clear weather on bright moonlit nights.  So in case you missed it, here it is again.

 December Full Moon in Missouri

I saw a Bald Eagle circling slowly overhead last week too.  We don’t see them often, but they usually arrive in Missouri this time of year on the way to our rivers and lakes.  Here they can take refuge in open water areas where they can still find food.  Most of Missouri’s rivers and lakes remain free of ice through winter, and if they do freeze it only lasts for a week or two.

Bald Eagle circling in the sky

Closer to home our little kitty is growing up fast.  And she still loves to play with the yellow lab- who also loves to play with her.  She claws and chews and pulls and smacks him with her paws… and he doesn’t even seem to notice it.  I think he secretly enjoys the attention, and they’ve become buddies. He doesn’t even mind sharing his bone.  Isn’t she a neat cat?Her name is Spotty… she has six large black spots on her white coat (I wanted to call her Domino!). 

Yellow Lab and Cat

Speaking of attention… something really got mine the other day.  Have you ever heard of “Floam”?  It’s a kid’s toy, supposedly akin to Playdough.  Ever used it? I think it was invented by someone with a warped sense of humor.  It comes in very attractive, colorful packages.  We’ve had a few lying around for a while.  The young boy was home sick last week, the day we spent cleaning his room.  He decided to play with a tub of pink Floam.  Good idea I thought, something to keep him busy.  I was wrong… very wrong.

Floam- an icky, sticky mess

I mean this stuff is downright nasty.  Could be that it doesn’t age very well.  But once it’s on your (supposedly wet) hands, it’s there for a long, long time.  The boy finally said, “Yuck! This stuff is too sticky… it won’t make anything!”  Whoever thought goop and recycled styrofoam balls would make a good toy?  You need water to wash it off your hands, but who’s going to wash styrofoam down the sink? I can’t imagine a worse clog.  So I carefully picked his fingers clean with a wet paper towel, and then he kept trying to wash them clean.   After which we collected all the Floam tubs and out they went, right into the trash.  I honestly don’t know how the company makes any money from the stuff.  Maybe there’s a secret to it, but if Floam is around in a few years I’ll be very surprised.  But if you have a different experience, I’d love to hear about it.  Ah well, when Santa comes there will be other toys to play with.   

Changing the subject again, I had to share a picture of the sun on the pond.  So different from today’s snowfall. It was late afternoon last week as the ice was melting, and the picture came out with a neat blaze from the bright sunlight.  Not a very good picture really, but it was just so bright and…  well I would say warm, but it wasn’t.  It just looked warm! 

Sunlight on Fox Haven Pond

And by the way, are you still around Ron?  Have a feeling you’re moving the site to a new home. Time to catch up on a few more indoor projects this week.  I hope everyone is staying warm!

The Bover Kingdom

November 17th, 2008

One of the oddities around Fox Haven in November is the Ladybug Bonanza that takes place every year.  Sure we see ladybugs, or ladybird beetles around throughout the year, but from late October until mid-November there are zillions of them.   So many in fact that they end up both outside and inside the house.  And actually, most of these are not the typical ladybugs that many of us grew up with, but rather the Asian Ladybug.  Apparently these little guys were released around the country from the 1960’s on, and first showed up “in the wild” in the U.S. around 1988.  Since then they have exploded across the country.  They do eat aphids and other pesky bugs, but they’ve also become quite pesky themselves.  There’s just too many and they get everywhere.

Last week there was a great cloud of them behind the house, flying about on a warm day.  And yes, they are cute little critters, except for one small detail.  At this time of year- they bite!  Maybe it’s just because they don’t have other bugs to prey on, but when they land on your arm and crawl around, you’ve just got time to think “How cute…” before going “Owww!” and brushing it away.  It’s not that bad, but who expects to get bitten by a ladybug!?

And at night where do they go?  They return to the Bover Kingdom of course.  What is the Bover Kingdom?  Well, please allow me to digress for a moment.

The young boy loves ladybugs.  He’s still young enough, and innocent enough, to find joy in so many things, including little bugs.  He has always loved ladybugs for some reason.  He delights in their being, their color, their cute little shape. He was a ladybug for Halloween a few years back.  He even has a little “ladybug house” that he uses to gather them up and watch them crawl around.  Oh, and yes- the name.  It’s “Bover”, with a long “o” sound.   At our house they are known as “Bovers” from the name he gave to them years ago as a toddler.  How he came up with that I have no idea, but one day they officially became known as bovers, and we’ve never looked back.

Except for the day he found a dead one on the porch when he was three years old and didn’t really understand the concept of deadness or the opposite of being alive.  I remember it like it was yesterday…  a loud “Daddy! Come here!”  and I dutifully wander over asking “Whatcha got there?”  He points with a chubby little finger and solemnly replies, “Look, a non-moving bover.”

We’re finding a lot of moving and non-moving bovers lately.  But we’ve also finally discovered where they go at this time of year!  They hide.  Anywhere they can.  Which brings us back to our story.  While gathering wood to stack closer to the house yesterday we discovered the Magical Bover Kingdom!  As we picked up one of the last pieces of wood on the bottom of the pile, we revealed the secret chamber of hidden bovers, that place of ALL PLACES for little bovers.  Maybe it was even Bover Heaven.

Ladybugs in November in Missouri

They looked like jewels among the leaves and wood.  Why are they gathered in such a way? For warmth, or laying eggs before succumbing to the freeze of winter?  Maybe they hibernate… I don’t know.  It was pretty to see, and pretty weird.

But at 4:00 am yesterday I also found that they hide on the bottom of firewood.  It wasn’t my fault, honest.  It was dark, I didn’t turn on any lights and I was sleepy…  I was building up the fire in the wood stove and went outside to get a log. A log on the bottom of the wood pile. I brought it in and placed it right into the stove, closed the door as flames engulfed it and sat back to enjoy the warmth… only to see some kind of sparkly, shimmering mass dancing in the fire.   “Hmmm, that’s kind of neat…” I thought.  And it was, up until the moment my eyes opened wide as I realized it was dozens… (okay, hundreds) of little bovers scrambling madly about.  “Aaahhhh! What have I done!?”

They were all over the bottom of that log and quickly became roasted little (sparkly) embers.  Kind of pretty actually but I felt really bad for burning up a bunch of ladybugs.  Oh if my son could see!  In his eyes I would never be the same.

Well later that morning we brought some more logs in… I turned around, remembering them on the hearth, “Noooo!” I screamed, running toward the fire… (not really).  But I did casually mention that there were probably a few critters hiding on that thing.  Remembering our discovery of the day before he immediately ran over and said “Bovers!”  At which time he began to pick them off one by one, finally carrying a handful gently to the door to let them go outside (the fact that it’s going to be 21 degrees F tonight doesn’t matter).

So I grabbed that “bover cleaned” log and put it in the woodstove, meeting his approval.  And we’re a lot more careful about shaking the bovers off the firewood we’re bringing in now.  But the little dudes are really hard to see.  Last night after putting another log in the fire, he yells  “Daddy wait!” as I jump, startled.

“What? What is it?!” I ask, and he says there’s a little bover crawling on the log I just put into the fire.  Or was.  “Where did it go?” he asks.   And trying hard not to smile I say, “Uh… well, it went up the chimney.”  He actually laughed at that 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.

October Rain

October 23rd, 2008

Awoke to a cloudy darkness that gave way to heavy rain this morning.  It will be with us most of the day so the outside projects will wait.  I know it looks so dismal, but for some reason I enjoy rainy days… mostly.  Of course one time we lived near Seattle and had 96 days straight of rain! That’s a bit much.  Missouri rain is often intermittent, heavier and then gone almost as quickly as it comes. But today the storm system will pass slowly.

I think rainy days help provide a reason to relax inside or catch up on things we’ve put off for a while.  Of course it makes travel a mess, and next week we’re due for our first real frost and freeze.  Glad it’s not Halloween today.  I think three out of the last four Halloweens were cold and rainy here.  Hopefully it will be a decent night for the kids next week, and thank goodness it’s on a Friday this year. 

Rainy October day in Missouri

Oh, another bug question to figure out. Beetle Doc are you still around?!  I found this “nest” of some type when cutting up that oak tree the other day.  It’s very fibrous, with a small, dime-sized opening at the top and what appears to be some type of eggs or balls inside.  Is it an insect gall? A spider nest?!  I’m not sure what else it could be, but I laid it aside in the bushes.

Insect nest or gall

We still have a few things to finish up outside on the pre-winter checklist, so this weekend will be a good time for that.  Up until today I’ve been working on so many different projects, but sometimes I don’t pay enough attention to what the Yellow Lab is up to!  I caught him about to go for a swim in the pond a couple days ago.  I forget how much he loves water, and when I’m not looking he goes right in.   That must be his way of telling me we don’t train enough.  He’s two years old now by the way.  I swear he looks right through me…

Yellow Lab in October ready for a swim

Pile-O-Piglets and Other Critters

October 21st, 2008

Last Friday we went to a fun night for families at the elementary school.  It was great seeing the kids go crazy, and enjoy some silly activities.  They even had a mini-petting zoo with a cute “pile-o-piglets.”  These little guys were pretty tuckered out from all the attention.  It would be neat to raise some  pigs as Ron’s family has done this year, but I’m not so sure we could, uh, invite them to dinner if you know what I mean! 

Pile of piglets

It has been wonderful weather outside, and a chance to get a lot done.  Of course it’s nice to just enjoy the outdoors as well, and after school yesterday we jumped in a little paddleboat on the pond.  The boy loved paddling around collecting leaves, while the basset hound followed around the shoreline going “Bowwooo!”   We saw a few of our large Koi swimming around.  There should be five in the pond, but we’ve only seen four recently…  we call this one “Orangey.”  I’m not sure how big they’ll get, but compared to those oak leaves this one is really growing.  I’ve heard they can live for decades.

Big Koi named Orangey

 

The big garden news:  After planting 3-4 watermelon starts and watching dozens of vines grow and flowers bloom this year, we finally have our ** ONE ** watermelon for the year.  Yipee! I don’t know why the plants didn’t set more fruit… they were in full sun and really nice soil. We’ll see how this one ripens before we try it.   Our pumpkins didn’t set this year either.  Maybe it was too much rain?

 Homegrown watermelon

But the tomatoes are doing great- and I put up another 3 quarts of spaghetti sauce.  We’ve got enough green tomatoes on the plants still for another 3-4 quarts of sauce, but I may have to pick them all before we get our first frost.  For now we’re enjoying cool nights and warm days.  The frost can just stay away, thank you very much!

For the bug aficianados out there, here’s blue and black butterfly of some kind.  I thought it was a swallowtail of some type, but can’t quite identify it.  ***Update***  Beetle Doc was kind enough to tell us this is a “Red-Spotted Purple” butterfly.  That’s what I was going to say! Not… :) 

Unknown black and blue butterfly

And here’s a Comma butterfly, or maybe a Question Mark (yes, that’s a butterfly name!).  It’s the first one I’ve seen here.

Comma butterfly in October

Okay, one more bug today. This little thing is really strange.  It’s a wood wasp of some type I think, and was flying along just above the ground.  It’s about 2 inches long!  That long part is normally an ovipositor for laying eggs.  But again, I tried and was not able to identify it.  Anyone? The wings are a blur as it is flying along in this picture.  *** Update ***  Beetle Doc got this one right too! It’s an Ichnuemonid wasp, and lays eggs into larvae of beetles, caterpillars and other wasps using that long ovipositor.  Strange critter…

Uknown Wood wasp

A New Day, and a Tiger On His Tail

October 8th, 2008

Sometimes the world seems so small, especially when fog blankets the landscape.  At dawn we see the glow of light, and the sun rises, becoming brighter through the gray curtain of cloud.   On days like this the world awakens more slowly, or at least we may feel a closer, measured pace to the presence of life around us.   What does the sunrise represent?  Hope?  A new day, or a new future?

Sunrise through the fog in Missouri

Does it hold meaning for you?  I once read a story that framed the context of challenge by saying,  “In America we get up in the morning, we go to work and we solve our problems.”   And that’s pretty much a testament to action.  So often it’s that first step that is the most difficult.  But as we begin, as we move and as we take steps towards our goals, we are moving every aspect of our lives toward that new day.  With our action, opportunities will come, doors will open and circumstances will gradually shift toward our goals.  We don’t have to solve everything at once, but as we begin everything changes.   And we’ll get there.

Speaking of action, it seems the kitten and the yellow lab have become playmates.  The lab doesn’t quite know what to make of this little ball of energy.  The kitten romps and pounces, darts in and out and generally uses the retriever’s tail as a chew toy.  Instead of a “tiger by the tail,” this dog has a tiger on his tail.

 Kitten playing with Yellow Labrador Retriever

The kitten chomps and wrestles until the lab puts a big ‘ole paw on top of him.  Then a little  “reeoow!” screech and the cat darts away again.  We watch them closely, but he is amazingly restrained to the needle sharp teeth and claws of the kitten.  It will be interesting to see their relationship as they grow older.   When I imagine friendship between dogs and cats, I think of Sparky, no longer with us, as he walked with Justin.

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