Archive for the 'Trees and Plants' Category

Poke Salad Annie

September 9th, 2010

Beautiful mornings with cooler temperatures. The days are becoming noticeably shorter, and the light just changes somehow. I love how the sun is lower in the sky, especially in the afternoons. Light filters through the trees and reflects off the pond in different ways, shimmering as the wind drifts across the water…

 The nights over the past week have been interesting too.  I’ve seen glow worms in the grass… I know, most people say, “Glow worms? There’s no such thing!” Ah but there is.   Really they are just firefly larvae, but most people have never seen them.

When you walk along at night, with dew on the grass at this time of year, you think you may be seeing things.  As you walk along you begin to notice little sparkles of light, almost like the stars above, yet twinkling all around you.   It’s natural magic I tell you…

As I write early this morning, Captain Jack is outside crowing like a banshee.  Or, um, a rooster I suppose.  Good thing we live a few hundred yards from our neighbors! If I listen carefully, there’s another rooster crowing a good distance to the south, so maybe he’s just keeping up appearances :)

I have to say the eggs these little birds give us each day are really wonderful.  I’m officially spoiled now with having fresh eggs and store bought cartons will never seem the same.  So in the name of enjoying such bounty, I’ve decided to encourage the girls to continue laying this winter by adding a little artificial light.

There’s a host of passions on the issue, but honestly the chickens I have are bred to be decent winter layers anyway. But I realized an extension cord into the nearby shed would be too simple, and perhaps it will give the girls a little extra heat in the winter. I’ll keep the light going for a few extra hours each evening, and that should be just enough to keep their egg production going well. I have to admit I also like the idea of the chickens earning their keep!

So the cool thing about how the coop fits together with the shed is that the window in the shed serves as both the “feeder door” and as a window for the light to shine through.    I put the food into a 30 gallon galvanized can to minimize the mice or other critters getting to it. When it’s time to feed (which seems to be all too frequently lately!), we just scoop it up and reach through the window to their feeder.

Makes it so much simpler, and I’m soooo glad I built it there.  Between the shed and the nest box door outside the coop, we don’t have to go inside the run and coop itself very often.   Of course if all the hens laid their eggs in the nest boxes, we’d only have to go in the coop every few days to change water.   There’s a couple of hold outs…  those hens seem to lay their eggs wherever the mood strikes them!

The light works well enough, although I may run it into the coop this winter to provide a little extra heat.  Or maybe the inherent heat within the shed will help keep the coop warm.  Either way most of the walls are insulated, and when I figure out what to put over the screen windows the chickens should be fine.

Otherwise it’s time to clean up around here.   I’ve been battling weeds and grass, and thinking of preparing for winter.  Summer’s done gone…   The cycle begins again it seems.   I did come across an interesting plant, way up high in a dead tree.    This snag has been around for a long time, and this year a Pokeweed plant (Phytolacca americana) decided to grow about halfway up on the right side…

Have you ever had poke salat ?    Lots of folks in the south have made it a staple, at least in the older days.   I tried it last year, not bad… if you like cooked greens.   When the little head and shoots are coming up around 6 inches in the spring, you just cut them off at ground level.

Then you boil the heck of them (two or three times is a good idea) and maybe saute them like spinach with butter or garlic and olive oil.  Pretty tasty, although I was a little hesitant because just about the entire plant is poisonous!   You can’t eat the plant or the berries in their mature form at all.

But if you never ate it before… then maybe you’ve heard the song.   Remember Tony Joe White’s Poke Salad Annie?   Here’s a grand ‘ole duet with Tony on the Johnny Cash Show from April, 1970… think I was in third or fourth grade, somewhere between California and New Jersey…

That’s just plain good stuff…


Flowers and Fungi

August 10th, 2010

The vegetables are slowing down and the flowers are too, but a host of yellow daisies still brighten the day. I’m not sure what this flower really is, but yellow daisy seemed fitting.  I’m glad they still bloom under the August sun.  I haven’t seen any bees or or insects on them.  I would love to find something the bees could use in late summer.

As we made the rounds last week with the yellow lab, we found various fungi that popped up rather quickly after the last rainfall. He was a curious pup, yet smart enough not to mess with them. 

This one was really cool looking… I love the split edges.   Since they are not morels however, I just enjoy them for pictures.

Not to be outdone, this one was reddish colored with yellow patches where the skin was open or perhaps chewed away. Maybe one day I’ll learn more about them. 

Life and Death on a Black-Eyed Susan

July 24th, 2010

The Praying Mantis finds its prey…

A Sunflower Brightens the Day

June 25th, 2010

The birds really love sunflower seeds… especially fresh sunflowers.  This goldfinch was testing out the buffet, although I hope to get a few mature seeds for planting next year before they’re all gone.  This one grew as a lucky volunteer from scattered winter seed… there’s three in the same area.  I’m amazed at how large they can grow, and it’s just a fresh, sunny feeling when you walk by and see them.

The size of these leaves is amazing.   I placed my reading glasses on the top for comparison.   Those are just enormous photosynthesis machines in action.  I remember driving through Illinois last year and seeing vast stretches of sunflowers growing in the fields.  It looked beautiful…

Our Days Are Worth So Much More

May 26th, 2010

I have been amazed at the season’s changes.   Yesterday I saw a trio of swifts!  Have you ever seen these fleeting, amazing birds?  They are usually seen high in the sky, sleek and fast, tiny wings, twittering as they fly by living almost their entire days aloft, returning to earth only to skim across the water or in the evening to roost for the night in chimneys or hollow trees.  Three of them came flying by, just over my head and made several circles throughout the trees chasing each other.   They were gone as quickly as they came. I wanted to join them…

Over the past week I’ve heard whipporwill’s, owls and coyotes at night, while during the day even the bullfrogs have begun calling.  The deep, stuttering and resonant brruo-o-ommm! bro-o-oummm! bro-o-oummm! of the bullfrogs speaks of mid-summer nights.  

We have the heat this week, over 90 in late May, so why not bullfrogs?   With the heat came afternoon clouds, and as I worked late one hot afternoon, dripping wet from digging post holes for the chicken coop run, I caught a glimpse of diffracted rays of the sun over the trees.  I  took a break and ran to the top of the hill for a better view. 

I see the sun and clouds shining beautifully in this way and it reaches to the depths of my soul.  Why is that?  I feel so many things, and among them all…  hope. 

I watched the sun slowly set, and the perspectives of light changed from above to the sides and around through the clouds and sky.    I think how so many people face challenges or difficulty in one way or another.  And yet there is so much more to us and beyond us!   As the sun showers its rays of light across the sky, it seems that we too can transform our own lives in so many glorious ways.  There is always hope, and change.

The past few nights have been magical too-  I wish I could share them in pictures.   Last night was incredible: There were distant thunderstorms with high dark clouds filled with the glow and flash of scattered lightning to the north and west. The clouds would burst from shaded gray and black to bright flashes of yellows and golds,  an incredible show of light, and contrasted with hazy gray clouds and the diffused light of a nearly full moon bright and shining in the southern sky.   

If that wasn’t enough, I could look out across the fields of grass below the horizon and see thousands of twinkling fireflies.   It was all happening at once and I was there, alone, an audience of one to marvel at the majesty of nature at night.

“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore;  and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!   But every night comes out with these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”

                                                                            Ralph Waldo Emerson


And then the morning.  To wake early enough to see the sun’s rays return across the landscape from the east.   I walk outside to breathe the fresh, cool air and see the world come alive again.    I look up into the trees as the yellow light of the sun colors the bark of their trunks.   It brings each tree alive, and I marvel at seeing things in a new way.    I wonder how old it is?

How many years have passed for this mighty oak tree, and how many birds have graced its branches?  How many leaves have fallen…  Ah, too many questions, without answers that do not matter anyway.   It is simply reaching for something, perhaps a measure of time and a greater perspective with which to compare our life.  The tree itself seems timeless.   Certainly the tree grows and ages in time beyond our own measured lives.   All that we experience, or see, or become a part of…  still the trees may grow, patiently, a witness to generations of people come, and gone.

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.   The longer I live the more my mind dwells upon the beauty and the wonder of the world.” 

                                                                               John Burroughs

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