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.


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.


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!


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…



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!


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.


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.

Moments in Autumn, at Dawn

November 16th, 2008

We’ve settled in to that late autumn weather pattern with cold nights and mild days.  Which means gathering wood and sitting around a warm fire on those chilly evenings.   I always feel like this is my favorite season, and I’m not sure why.  All the seasons are wonderful, but there’s something about a crisp fall day that I just love.  The run of holidays and special times that brings promise and hope, or maybe the lead in to a new year. But it’s more than that.

I’m finally feeling human again, and made it outside for a bit this morning to join the ritual of the fall hunt.  It was a quiet, blue sky dawn, just below freezing with the wind rustling gently through the trees.  A few birds darted here and there, and the gray squirrels chased each other, prancing about in the trees.  And then, about 200 yards off, my heart quickened as I saw the breakup of tawny brown feet moving slowly between the trees.  It disappeared for a short time, only to reappear farther off, and there against the backdrop of sky I saw, for a moment, the shadowed silhouette of a majestic buck standing tall against the light of dawn.  It moved off with a determined pace in search of a doe, and I wished it well…  

Missouri oak hickory forest in November

Well, I also wished it would come back towards where I was…  But it was not to be and I enjoyed another hour of a peaceful morning in the forest.   It was a moment of joy, of excitement, of peace, of beauty.   And that for me is the greater part of the autumn season.  It doesn’t matter whether I succeed or not, because I’m already part of the day, part of the whole, and where I want to be.  Eventually, if I am lucky or determined enough, or perhaps both, I may also join the harvest and have meat in the freezer for the winter. 

Do you have a favorite season?   Or some part of the season that awakens something within?  Of course to have a favorite season means you are somewhat familiar with the seasons themselves, either far enough north or south in the world’s hemispheres to experience such change.  Many prefer to live where it’s warmer or moderate all year round, and the seasons are marked more by the school year or the type of sports or festivals taking place.  Maybe the “rainy season” is the biggest change for the year?   

For now I need the seasons in my life; to feel the changes taking place, and experience the dramatic swings in temperature, plant growth, cloud and snow.  This morning I felt so alive as my fingers and cheeks grew cold, the squirrels danced, and the light shimmered through the trees.  I hope I always feel that way.

Chores and More for November

November 3rd, 2008

Such a busy weekend!  We’re still recovering from our sugar highs after a fun Halloween week.  After trick or treating we stopped by a local community center where many little games and tables were set up for the kids.  It was silly, goofy, dopey and just plain fun.  The young one loved it, and all the kids won prizes.  Nice lead in to the weekend to get a lot of chores accomplished. 

The peak of the leaf color change was a few days ago, and as quickly as the colors peaked, they are fading quickly to browns.  But it was just beautiful this past week- here’s a shot of the oak trees on the north side of the pond.

Oak trees in Autumn at Fox Haven

The big agenda was servicing the tractor- it was due for a complete service of the engine and transmission systems.  I’d never really done a lot of servicing except for oil before, but after talking with the dealer I realized I could save over $350 by doing it myself!  So after getting gallons of fluids and filters, I spent the better part of Saturday on my back turning wrenches.  It was kind of fun really, especially with the boy to help and learn too. 

I never realized how nice it is to have someone helping, especially when you need that one particular wrench that’s just out of reach.   We talked a lot about safety and why certain parts were connected like they were, and about the PTO shafts and other moving parts. I don’t know that he enjoyed it as much as I did, but hopefully he learned something.  We finished up, and it felt pretty good to save so much money.  I was dreading the cost, but learning a little how-to can go a long way.  

It was also time to remove the mower deck from the tractor, and get it cleaned up and put away for the year.   These things do a great job, but if you just let them sit they’ll rust out in a few years. 

John Deere 62D Mower Deck

After cleaning the top side, it was time to go underneath with the scraper.  After a couple of hours most of the chunks of grass, old paint and a little rust came off.  Blades will need sharpened again too.

Cleaning underside of mower deck

 Then it was time for a fresh coat of paint to protect from rust, and voila! Almost good as new.   Here’s my two helpers… one of whom figured out that after sweeping the floor it was a great place to scoot around on a skateboard!

62D mower deck after repainting it green

While sitting there scraping away, I realized that it was a better job for the winter if I could heat the barn.  Well, our “barn” is really more like a big equipment shed with a concrete floor, but we still call it the barn.   I’ve got an old wood stove and I’m thinking of buying stove pipe and such to go through the metal roof.  It’s not something you change your mind about half-way through (or after the hole is in the roof!) so I’m still mulling it over.  Whatever I do I want to make sure the roof doesn’t leak…   But I may just get all the materials this week while the weather’s still nice and try to get it done.  Wouldn’t it be great to be out there on a cold, snowy day with a toasty-warm wood stove!?

Not to be outdone for Autumn, here’s my little bonsai maple tree.  This little guy is over 4 years old now believe it or not, and that’s a petunia flower growing in the pot.  My goal is to shape it like a mature tree eventually, but to keep it about this size.  I had two of them, but the other one grew too fast and I didn’t keep up with it.  But it’s neat to see how small some of the leaves become (they’re about the size of a nickel), and I enjoy watching it change colors in the fall.  We’ll see how long I can keep it growing! 

Bonsai Maple tree in Autumn

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

How Many Leaves Must a Man Watch Fly

November 20th, 2007

    “Before his neck really hurts… Da dah, dah, dah, dah…” Okay, a poor Blowing in the Wind rendition.   But what a change over the past week!  The trees are almost bare, and leaves are blowing off the branches in the wind.  I stood outside as the leaves blew in gusts over my head- it was fun to watch.   Except for the ones that have been filling up the gutters of course.  I’ll need to do some work on the ladder in a couple weeks…  Did you ever try catching the falling leaves?  It’s not very easy!

 Oak tree leaves blowing in the sky

     This past weekend we participated in the Cub Scout Space Derby, after making our “spaceship rocket.”  It was fun to make with the young one… and it went down the wire pretty darn fast each time, going all the way to the end!  It wasn’t really a competition, just fun for the kids to get together.  This was just practice for the Pinewood Derby in a few months… apparently that is serious competition!

Space Rocket for the Cub Scout Space Derby

Mallard in the Rain

November 14th, 2007

     We received some much needed rain the past couple of days… perhaps an understatment.  With all the wind and rain, the trees have now shed a majority of their leaves.  The difference between today and a few days ago is amazing.  Also amazing is the temperature… it has been so warm lately that we’ve only worn our coats a handful of times this season.  It helps with the heating bills at least.  Certainly the colder weather is coming, and I welcome that in a strange sort of seasonal embrace.  I think without the different seasons, life would be too much the same for me.  Although I look forward to the opportunity to travel more in the years ahead, somehow I hope to always experience the changing seasons in life.

A lone Mallard drake stopped at the pond during the heaviest of the rain.  He floated this way and that, keeping a wary eye out.  As soon as the rain stopped, he continued on his way.

  Mallard drake hunkers down in the rain

Autumn Sunset

November 12th, 2007

     We reached the peak of color for the trees over the past week, and the afternoons were warm, bright and beautiful.  It is days like this that we treasure and take with us into the long, cold winter as we await the spring. 

Autumn sunset in Missouri

Favorite Trees and Ladybugs

November 11th, 2007

This is one of the longest Autumn seasons in recent years, especially because of the warmth. We may see 70 degrees F this week, and then freezing weather and snow flurries. But the trees have held their leaves so very long, and we’ve enjoyed the colors. But some plants are confused- I found some flowering shrubs and ground cover that normally would flower in the spring. I’m sure the plants know what they’re doing… :)

A few years ago where we used to live, there were two giant Bur Oak trees (Quercus macrocarpa) growing that I really loved… the size of the tree, and the “mossy” cup holding the acorns were really interesting (the link above goes to a nice tree identification site by the way). The Bur Oak tree is native to Missouri, but we didn’t have any at Fox Haven. So a couple years ago I went back and collected a couple dozen large Bur Oak acorns, brought them here, and walked around with the young one planting them. The next season, two little oak seedlings grew up! This picture is the second Autumn for this little Bur Oak. One day it could be a massive oak tree… I”ll give it room and help it grow.

Bur Oak tree seedling - Quercus macrocarpa

On the subject of trees, we also have a variety of Hickory trees around the landscape. My favorite are the Shagbark Hickory trees (Carya ovata), two of which grow right along the pond. These trees are important as summer habitat for bats, and provide forage for squirrels and other critters. The bark peels and sticks out in all kinds of directions!

Shagbark Hickory tree in Missouri


And who doesn’t like Ladybugs? Well, at this time of year, I’m not very fond of them! The warm weather has caused an explosion of these little guys everywhere… in the windows, on the eaves of the house, just flying and buzzing all around. And do you know what? They bite! Because there are few prey for them to find and eat, it seems they try to eat whatever they find. If they land on you, ouch! They prick like a little needle. Maybe I should collect them and sell them on the internet? I read about a guy up north who does that and makes a living by it. Some of these are typical red with spots, and others are more orange with an absence of spots.  Not sure if they’re all the same or not, but there’s a lot of them!

Ladybug in November these little guys can bite!

Last year I was trying to take a picture of a migrant raptor, the Northern Harrier or Marsh Hawk (neat bird site at that link also). It came drifting across the fields for a few days, and then was gone. I saw it again on its journey south, but only got a faraway picture. Here it is, a little fuzzy, but it’s a beautiful bird.

Northern Harrier or Marsh hawk migrating

Magic and Falling Leaves

November 8th, 2007

   There’s magic in the air… maybe it comes with the season.  Each season has wonders all their own, and if we’re lucky or really looking we can see them.  Yesterday morning was one of those magical days.  The temperature was well below freezing, so many of the annuals and green leafy plants were nipped by the cold.  But because it had been so warm during the month of October, many of the trees still had (have!) green leaves on them.  But they are going fast…   and yesterday I was able to see a few trees lose almost all of their leaves in a matter of hours! 

    We have quite a few Eastern Redbud trees around the landscape.  Some are probably 25 years old and have a large canopy of leaves on top.  These leaves were mostly green until the past week, and yesterday morning they were literally raining from the tree!  There was little to no wind, and after a night of freezing temperatures, the leaves must have finally let loose from the tree.  Technically it’s called Leaf Abscission, but I didn’t know a tree could do it so quickly, all at once.  In fact, several of these trees lost all their leaves over a matter of 2-3 hours!  The Redbud leaves fell in a gentle, steady rhythm, carpeting the ground all around… making quiet little tssh, tic, ssh noises all around.  And all the Redbuds were doing this!  Pardon my fascination… but it was really cool to watch. I’ve never quite seen anything like it, and tried to take a few pictures.   But it was kind of magical…

This Redbud started yesterday with a full canopy of leaves on top, but lost more than half of them in a few hours. You can see a couple leaves falling in the picture.

 Leaves falling from a Redbud tree, carpeting the ground in a matter of hours

This Redbud was bare by the end of the day, as were a few others.

 Leaves fell of this Redbud tree in one day

Later I took a walk throug the woods and found a couple of Maple trees I didn’t know were growing amidst the Oaks.  The leaves made up a colorful carpet that was unexpected here.  The tree is the small one at left with the gnarled roots… will it survive?

A carpet of Maple leaves in Missouri

Here’s a branch from the same tree, competing against the Oaks but happily growing in the understory.

Maple tree branch in Autumn

Along my walk I was excited to find this little six-inch Short-leaf Pine tree seedling.  In the spring I planted 15-20 pine seedlings around the acreage, and most of them died in the dry summer.  I tried to water a few, but figured they didn’t make it.  To my surprise this little guy is doing just fine.  Now if it doesn’t get eaten by a deer (like my little Apple trees!) then maybe we’ll have a big ‘ole pine tree one day!

Missouri native Short Leaf Pine tree seedling

Next »