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Archive for the 'Gardening' Category

Visions of Spring

February 21st, 2010

A rainy day today with colder days and freezing nights on the schedule this week.  But yesterday?  Oh my goodness, it was a glorious 50+ degrees Farenheit yesterday!  I took full advantage of the intermittent sun and almost balmy temperatures by wearing a t-shirt around all day!  Okay, most of the day.  The cold came back in the afternoon and I put on a sweatshirt.

But with visions of spring in mind,  I took advantage of the temps and hooked up a hose to wash cars.  The boy helped and it was great… gave them a good clean up, and even washed and mopped out the garage that was so dirty from winter road grime.   Yeah, the cars will be dirty again in a day or two, but it felt good to clean them up all the same.  

As if to join me in my reverie, I saw several bluebirds darting around the trees playfully and singing to each other.  A cardinal sat high in an ash tree calling to mark his territory, and throughout the day I saw and heard a half-dozen groups of geese migrating. 

These were the white-fronted geese,  flying incredibly high with their flute-like whistling calls.  I haven’t seen them since October, but they were probably looking for open water.   I took this picture as they flew over the house and it came out with a neat halo around the sun.  

migrating-geese

I also managed to clean up the old truck with the messed up clutch.  I’m still fiddling with it trying to find a solution other than a $600 repair bill.  Bleeding the clutch on these old trucks is a painful affair.  The best recommendation I found includes using 3 people for the job.  But hey, I almost got it working.  Tightened up the system, added more fluid, checked out the mechanism, pumped it like heck… it seemed fine. 

It even worked well enough to carry the garbage cans up to the road.   Of course as I proceeded to turn around on the rural highway… clunk!  The clutch goes out right there on the road.   So I’m sitting in the road (fortunately on the correct side) with my clutch pedal on the floor, and the boy in the seat next to me saying, “I told you we shouldn’t take the truck!”   

Anyway I finally managed to jam it into reverse, and we headed backwards at a good clip down the quarter mile driveway, making a big rut in the soggy grass along the way, and eventually parking it near the house.  That’s a good place for a tow truck just in case I give up fiddling with it.  Arrggh! 

But it really was a beautiful day out there :)   And I managed to find those daffodils…  Just peeking out of the soil, not nearly as far along as last year.  No surprise with the cold and snow, but they’ll be here soon!

daffodils-coming-up 

And tulips!  I didn’t expect these to come back up.  They were planted a few seasons ago and are usually eaten by rabbits and other critters.  I don’t remember them last year, but hopefully they’ll flower too.

emerging-tulips

While I cleaned up outside the little Shiba slept on the hillside. We gave him treat and he promptly growled at me… thankless!

shiba-with-bone

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* By the way, I wanted to put a plug in about comments for those who use Blogger.   I love to peruse different blogs and make comments, but some of the Blogger comment settings only seem to allow Google or other “name-brand” or Open ID’s for registered users.   A lot of us don’t use an “Open ID” and really like to use the “Name and URL” option for leaving comments, so I recommend considering allowing “anyone to comment” as a setting if you can.   Sometimes folks will come by here and make a nice comment, and I’d like to say hello on your blog too! I think you’ll find you receive more comments from folks who are not using Google or other Open ID registration.  Just a thought; have a great week…



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…



Sights and Colors in Early September

September 3rd, 2009

The mornings have been so cool and the days full of sunshine.  Everything is still green, but you can see signs of autumn coming.  By late afternoon it’s nice and warm around 80 degrees F- and all the critters are about.  Today I thought I would share a mix of sights over the past week.   One thing I’ve noticed is that all the bees and wasps are nearly desparate for nectar.   They are covering every available flower as they rush towards winter preparations.  Here the bees are taking nectar from a pink sedum.

honeybees-pink-sedum

The honeybee is one of the few species of its kind that winter over as a community.  I believe most our other wasps, bumblebees, yellowjackets, etc. die with the coming frost except for leaving one or more queens to survive through winter. Those queens find somewhere to hide and lay dormant, emerging in the spring to begin an entire new colony.

This is an early morning picture just after sunrise- the bees are waiting for the sun’s curtain of light to drape across their hives with warming temperatures and cue them to start foraging.

beehive-sunrise

The honeybees must survive as a colony through the winter, depending upon stored reserves of honey to carry them through. They form a tight cluster or ball inside the hive to keep warm through shared body heat and metabolism. I’ll be making winter preparations for the bees next month- for now they are keeping very busy.

The young boy picked his little muskmelon (cantaloupe) the other day. This one ripened small, but we watched for telltale signs of light browning and beginning to split from so much moisture inside.  The plant spread out to a huge vine, but only produced 3-4 smaller melons.

little-muskmelon

But sure enough it was wonderfully ripe. We kept it in the refrigerator and he loved having it as a snack after school.  Yum!

yummy-muskmelon

It’s also been time to pick elderberries again.   Last year I combined elderberries and grapes to make some really tasty  jam and sauce… it’s fitting that we are on our last jars this month. Even if we’re not quite ready to make more, I pick the elderberries and put them in a plastic bag in the freezer.  Not only does it keep them from spoiling, but it freezes the little bugs on the berry clusters and makes it much easier to pick and wash them.

spider-elderberry-poke

I went to reach for a cluster here, and found this nice Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) in the way.  The spider didn’t mind as I reached over his web to the drooping corymb of berries.   The larger berries at right are of course from wild Poke- not edible for us unfortunately, but the birds really love them!

I came across a neat fungi in the yard and got down on my knees for a close up picture. I didn’t realize I had captured the basset hound in the background.  He’s the “old man” of the place, in his eleventh year now.

fungi-dog1

And a friendly Monarch butterfly landed among the day lily leaves. It seems the butterfly had a broken wing, perhaps from an encounter with a bird.  It still managed to flap away through the air.  The monarch migration has begun, peaking in our region as they travel south about the second and third week of this month.  Here’s a couple links where you can check the fall map for monarch migration routes, and the peak migration dates for your latitude.  We don’t normally see that many- their route is too far east or west I think.  But one year I saw dozens around that timeframe.

monarch-butterfly

In the past I’ve only see one species of milkweed plant for the monarch larvae to feed upon.  But last week I came across some milkweed vine (Asclepias family).  The monarch larva also feed upon this species so I was excited by the find.  However I do have mixed feelings about vines growing around the landscape- they seem to take over!  These large green pods contain thousands of big, white fluffy seeds that fly everywhere.   I recently dug up several thorny thistle plants with purple flowers- they too have fluffy seed heads that float on the wind.

milkweed-vine-pods1

Near the bee hives the oak and hickory rounds are gathering in a big pile for splitting. These are from a few trees that have died and been cut down over the past year.  The wood is still excellent for using in our woodburning stoves for winter heat.  They also make great seats for fishing!

oak-hickory-rounds

In another garden/food experiment, I made some fermented pickles last week. These were very interesting- not vingegar cured like most modern pickle recipes, but instead they undergo natural lacto-fermentation and become true sour dill pickles like in the old days.  I’m sure a few of you make or enjoy real saurkraut, and the pickle fermentation is similar.  Here we are adding some more cucumbers to the brine.

fermented-pickles

They were really good and after 7-10 days of fermentation I placed them in quart-sized mason jars with the brine and then into the refrigerator which essentially stops the fermentation.   Lots of recipes call for boiling the brine, and then processing the pickles in a canner. You can do that for long-term storage, however doing so kills all the beneficial bacteria and the probiotic qualities of fresh fermented pickles. Next year I would like to grow better cucumbers (and cabbage) for pickling- these are more for fresh eating, but they did okay for pickles. You can google quite a few different recipes, and try it yourself!



Days of Change

August 21st, 2009

A bit of a busy week…  the season of the yellow bus begins again!

 

school-again

rainstorm

 

We had an enormous series of rainstorms this week too.  Short-lived but pretty intense.  No worse for the wear except for some tree branches on the ground, and it looks like the bees took cover inside their hives.

 

 

 

 

 

squash-bugs

 

 

 

In garden news, the great squash experiment finally ended with mixed results when I found these little guys crawling around on one.  But most of the squash plants remained critter free this summer while growing next to a patch of Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). 

This little plant was on the outskirts and the squash bugs were having a feast.  I think it really helps to plant the aromatic herbs and flowers near the vegetables however.   Not to worry in this case… the bugs received a bubble bath in return!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The days are growing shorter, and everything is changing once again. Summer flew by too fast, and the afternoon light through the trees has that end of summer charm, beckoning of autumn. Not yet! I’m not ready…



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