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A Season for Doing

November 3rd, 2007

      We awoke before dawn yesterday to a frosty landscape with the temperature right around freezing.  Most of the plants look fine however, the cold wasn’t long enough to really snap them for the season. Never fear, it’s coming!  But it was cold enough for thermals and sweaters, the young one saying “Brrrr!” while waiting for the bus.   I’ve seen the Juncos back from the north this week, darting around the shrubery, hopping in the grass.  They are near where the feeder goes in winter, as if saying, “Hey!  We’re ready for some birdseed!”  

     The weekend promises to be sunny and warm, and I wish I could get outside more this week.  There’s firewood to stack, barn and garage to clean, motors to winterize, hoses and tools to put away- so much more needs accomplished.   Alas I have several papers and projects due for grad school that will take every bit of my attention.  And the cub scouts- I almost forgot.  My writings here on Fox Haven will probably slow a bit more as well, but I feel like I’m wasting the season, arrgh!   Hopefully next weekend I will make an annual pilgrimage to deer camp with some friends to the northern part of the state.  Mostly it’s a bunch of good ‘ole guys sitting around a fire at night, swapping stories of youth and the day’s hunt.  In so many parts of the country this is a season of harvest and friendship.

The good ‘ole man Basset Hound is snuggling for warmth in the plants on a sunny hillside.   

The Basset Hound snuggles in the leaves for warmth on a frosty morning

I found the most delightful surprise in the garden the other day… in our little pot of strawberry plants were two juicy berries ready to eat!  I didn’t know they could grow fruit this long into the fall season…  I ate one, and it was delicious.  After giving one to the young boy, he rode away on his bicycle saying “Ummm… sweet!”

Two juicy little strawberries - a November surprise

Is It Really November?

November 1st, 2007

      Is it really November already?  I don’t know where the year went, but here we are.   Halloween night was really fun, but now we await the first real freeze of the year tonight.  Today I cleaned up the garden a little, picked the last green tomatos and peppers, and even transplanted a vibrant Jalapeno pepper plant indoors.  It’s such a large and beautiful plant, that I want to see how long I can keep it growing over winter.  Several of the pepper plants already succumbed to the early frost this week, but this one plant just keeps on growing.  Just like the Petunias… they are still flowering beautifully, so I went around and covered several containers.  I just couldn’t let them go yet, or maybe I want to see how long they can keep growing.  I don’t really know, but we’ll have a little more warm weather this weekend.  Next week the real cold finally arrives, and we’ll probably bid goodbye to the green leaves and flowers, the grasshoppers, ladybugs and bees.  All still remain, warming to the day. 

The Petunias just grow and grow, and their color adds to the beautiful shades of Autumn.

 Petunias color the landscape even on the first day of November

As I walked by a Juniper tree yesterday, I found a large 3-4 inch Praying Mantis hiding inside.  I didn’t see any large ones all summer, but I did find the little ones crawling in the garden.   What happens to them?  I don’t know much of their life cycle.

A large Praying Mantis in November

Trees, Leaves and a Sunny Breeze

October 24th, 2007

    Certain days in October feel so energizing to me.  The cool mornings and warm afternoons seem to provide an incentive to get a lot done outdoors.  Plus it just feels good, and looks nice with the colors and changes after a long, hot summer.  In some ways, I wish the fall season would last longer… maybe six months of fall and six months of spring!  Hmmm… doubt there’s anywhere quite like that is there?  Yesterday started out so cool, about 45 degrees F, but  then warmed up into the high 60’s.  The leaves are falling more and more each day, especially if it’s windy.  But in late afternoon the wind was just a gentle breeze with the sunlight filtering through the trees and around the pond… one of my favorite views.

 October afternoon with the sun on trees and pond

The Yellow Lab enjoys wandering around while I do chores and take pictures.  I finally completed burning a large pile of brush.  It rained quite a while the day before, so the forest and grassy areas were wet, and the air was calm.  But the dog just played nearby the whole time.  He found a green walnut and threw it into the air, amusing himself for a good half hour.  He wanted to swim in this picture, but we just stopped by to check out the leaves in the water.  There will be a lot more soon!

The leaves are falling into the pond 

I dumped some of our grass and leaf mulch pile over the garden fence.  This fall we will put a lot more leaves into the mulch pile for next year.  Hopefully the garden will really be enriched over time.

Mulch from leaves and grass piled for the garden

Roses, Peppers and a Wet Labrador

October 22nd, 2007

     Okay, somebody bring back the sun!  The day started out balmy, but the temperatures have been dropping steadily as the clouds and rain rolled in.  We can’t complain though, it was such a beautiful weekend.   This morning I saw several flocks of White-fronted Geese flying far overhead, tootling as they went by, heading south of course.  In March a small flock landed on the pond on their northward journey and I wrote about them here.  They are so different from the Canada Geese.

The roses are still blooming!  Here’s a pink beauty looking toward the sky.

Beautiful pink rose in the morning

I can hardly believe how the pepper plants have grown this year.  I took another 25 peppers off them this morning, and there’s at least that many still growing. 

Jalapeno pepper growing in October

We also did a little retriever training today, and the Yellow Lab swam his heart out bringing the fake duck back.  He loves retrieving, and as the duck landed in the water he was straining to leap towards the pond.  I finally gave him the “back!” command, and off he went, going “Woof! woof!” and grunting with delight.  We’re going to do this 2-3 times a week as the weather gets cooler.  I’m curious to see if the he shows any hesitation with the cold… I know I would!

 The Yellow Labrador completing a water retrieve

Planting Grass, Preventing Erosion

October 18th, 2007

     More rain last night, which we really needed.  At times it came down in buckets, and I was worried about some new grass I had planted over the past few weeks.  But it looks great this morning!  Sometimes I feel like we live in a bowl… well, I guess we do, but I feel like I’m in a bowl… uh, nevermind…  anyway, the house sits on top of the hill at one side, and the ground slopes down to the pond on all sides.  Originally it was what we in Missouri call a “holler” or a hollow- a natural forested drainage from higher ground, with steep slopes on both sides.  About 25 years ago someone put a dam up on the lower end to create a small pond with a 30+ acre watershed.  When it rains heavily, the watershed directs all of the excess runoff into the pond.  Right now that’s okay since the pond is down about 4-5 feet.  But in the spring when the pond is full, it overflows at the corner where the spillway pipes allow it to run down a channel to the creek by the road. 

     Overall it works pretty well, but sometimes the volume of water is incredible, and the challenge we face is to keep the ground covered in enough vegetation to prevent erosion.  Sometimes it’s difficult to keep up with it around the property, especially along the shoulder of the state road as it winds down a hill. The shoulder ruts are about 3-4 feet deep in some places.  Recently I asked the state highway department to help put rocks and gravel down there next to the road, and this morning I put up a few stakes with orange tape to help mark it when they come by.  The problem is they just drive by it, and don’t notice how deep the ruts are beneath the grass.  I asked for them to call me so I could show them, so we’ll see what happens.

The slope from the house is pretty steep too in some places.  There were many weeds and rocks here that I cleared to replant in grass.  I just couldn’t keep the weeds down effectively, so being planted in grass will make it easier to cut and control.  This was the rough removal, after which it was raked and groomed a little more.

Grooming the slope after removing weeds and rocks

After two weeks and some cooler weather the grass came right in.  But I hope it can become thick and resilient like the grass on the pond’s dam.  Hmmm…  I need to find out what is the best type of grass for the slopes.  Anyone know? It’s mostly sunny with southern exposure here, but with some light shade in the afternoon.

Grass growing on slope within two weeks of planting

I had to put up a picture of a Begonia that has grown in a container near the house.  It didn’t really take off until early September, and it has grown big and beautiful.  I may try to dig it up and keep it inside over winter to replant in spring.  I was wondering… do they like the cooler weather?  If we get a frost soon, that will be it for the flowers and foliage!

  Container grown Begonia in October

Bluebirds and Old Rowboats

October 11th, 2007

     A beautiful, but very cool morning of 42 degrees F (5.5 C) today.  There is dew everywhere and soon we will have frost.  I want to say “Wait!  We’re not ready yet!” when I think of the frost coming… I so enjoy the flowers still, and all that warmer weather brings.   

It seems the Bluebirds have come back near the house, and are playing around the nesting boxes.  Maybe they are just checking things out in anticipation of next year.

Eastern Bluebird

 And our Burt Dow boat of Petunias will soon be gone for the year.  We have enjoyed using this old rowboat for a planter under the trees.  That little boat has actually been in many different places, beginning its life on an east coast river near the ocean.  We paddled it around lakes and even the St. Lawrence River years ago.  In Missouri I would drag it to a fishing pond with a friend.  And it even floated around the pond here at Fox Haven in years past. Finally the wood became spongy and brittle after 30+ years, and it’s no longer “seaworthy”.  My favorite childhood story was “Burt Dow Deepwater Man”… he had an old boat filled with flowers in the book.  So we need to give this one a new coat of paint, and maybe next year fill it with more flowers! 

The Burt Dow boat of Petunias

October Flowers

October 7th, 2007

     A beautiful warm weekend, and a chance to enjoy the flowers still in bloom.  The roses continue to bloom and seem to enjoy the cooler weather.  

Rose blooming in early October

 

Knockout Rose in early OctoberPink Rose in early October

 

We also have a small Persimmon tree near a fence line.  Actually several small ones, but only one likely to grow into tree size.  They are volunteers, but I’m not sure if they are the native Common Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) or another variety because the fruit looks more squat shaped.  Does anyone know for sure?  Last year there were more than a dozen Persimmons on the little thing, but only one grew this year.  The early spring freeze prevented most of the flowering trees and shrubs from bearing fruit, and the summer drought made it hard on the others.  We’ll pick this one in a few days and enjoy the juicy pulp!

Persimmon fruit in Missouri

 And we still have Petunias blooming in containers (and our Burt Dow boat!).  What great annuals to have around… just keep them watered and they bloom all year.

Petunias blooming in early October

Happy Birthday Pup! Yellow Lab is 12 Months

October 1st, 2007

     A big Happy Birthday to the Yellow Labrador today!  He was born on this day last year, and is leaving his puppy days behind.  He doesn’t mind however and is getting to be a big dog- I don’t even know his weight.  I took him to the field yesterday with some other Labs for dove hunting.  He has never met another Lab until yesterday… or a female dog.  Suffice it to say he was very excited!   He did okay though,  he found the birds before I did, but wasn’t really sure what to do with it the first time.  After that he made a decent retrieve, but is still a little mystified about the whole process.  I didn’t have a chance to work with him with real birds yet this year, but hopefully he’ll pick it up quickly as the season goes on.  But he’s just a great friend and fun to be around.

The Yellow Labrador Retriever at 12 months. Happy Birthday!

 

  It was time to turn the garden under, clean it up, and prepare it for next year.  We cut down all the stringy vines, and pulled up the old vegetation.  After trimming everything back (except for one lonely tomato plant), I carted all of it off to a pile that I can burn in the months ahead.  So then it was time to lay compost on top of the garden.  The tractor was really helpful, especially since the fence encloses the entire garden.  We could lower the bucket over the fence for filling it up, and dumping in the compost!  Newspapers do the trick over top of weeds and such.  We put them down and I used the tractor to scoop our compost and dump right on top.  The compost is really just leaf litter and grass clippings that have been in a pile for the last 3-6 months.  Hopefully it will help keep the weeds down, and we’ll add more leaf litter as top dressing over the fall and winter months.

The tractor helps with dumping, hauling and just about everything else!

Flowers at Summer’s End

September 19th, 2007

      Many flowers have begun blooming again.   This week is warmer, but probably the last very warm week of the year.  A fitting tribute to summer’s end perhaps.

I found this beautiful apricot rose open at sunrise.

An apricot rose blooming in September 

The butterflies love the sedum plants in flower. 

What a neat plant… drought tolerant, easy to grow, beautiful in flower.

 Pink Sedum blooms everywhere in late Summer

And below is Sweet Autumn Clematis in full flower.  It’s very beautiful, and very fragrant.  Almost reminds me of Jasmine.  Some say this plant can be invasive and escape from the garden to the surrounding borders and forest.  We have not experienced that in the Zone 5/6 weather, and the plant is at least 5 years old.

Fragrant white flowers of Sweet Autumn Clematis

Speaking of invasive, I know these are wild Morning Glory flowers, but they are growing everywhere!  They seem to appear when you least expect them.  This one is growing around a small shrub, claimed by the drought and heat this summer.  There’s something about them I like…

Wild Morning Glory vines are everywhere

     It doesn’t seem like Summer should be coming to an end for the year.  Yet I see the light has a special color to it in the mornings and evenings, the droning of insects in the trees has grown quieter, and the birds seem quieter too.  I heard a Phoebe yesterday, but he’ll soon be gone, as will the Hummingbirds.  Everything has it’s season, and it’s time for Autumn.

Time for Pickles… Yum!

August 19th, 2007

A few years ago I started canning… trying to bring back a lost art, at least for me! More importantly, it was a way to use the abundance of vegetables we could grow in the garden, and keep some of that wonderful warm season foods for the winter.

So the journey began while making a batch of pickles from the garden cucumbers.  They turned out pretty tasty, but a little soft.  This year we have an abundance of cucumbers again, and I did some more canning last week.  Our garden is a work in progress… mostly the progress of weeds!  But the cucumbers and tomatoes are very forgiving.  Oh, and the jalapeno peppers have grown like crazy, so I canned a few jars of those too.

Aside from almost passing out when I got too close to the simmering broth, it went pretty well.  Pickles are probably the easiest… which is good for a beginner like me.  Now we have a bunch of jars for winter.  But I would love to learn how to can more vegetables, and maybe next year will get a pressure canner.  I’ve been a little hesitant to do the pressure canning yet, but we’ll see.  I love canned beans and stewed tomatoes, so that’s my goal for next year.  But the pickles sure look good!

Somewhere I read that grape leaves help keep the pickles crisp, so we threw in a leaf in each jar, and added some fresh dill and garlic seasoning with the mix.  The 6-year old helped with filling the jars…  he loves pickles too!  Do you can your vegetables?  And is it hard to really put up a variety for winter?  I’d love to hear from those of you who do a lot of canning!

Home grown cucumbers made into pickles!

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