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. These Maple leaves were beautiful.

But because it has 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.

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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.   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

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