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Posts Tagged ‘garden’

Somewhere between Jacks and Shade Mountain spring bulbs have been planted (some for color, some for flavor. I am talking about garlic). The root vegetables have been cured and we’ve picked the last of the lettuce. It is true that lettuce tastes different when it comes from your garden. A garden is, of course, for the flavors. But it is also for walking past and looking at. It is for food and beauty. It is a combination of charm and productivity. I am not sure ours has accomplished either in a substantial way, but it is a work in progress. Therefore, some changes are being planned for next year.

 
The present plans include growing more carrots (Mom has already eaten them all). Grow radishes and beets. Grow pumpkins on purpose. Add cucumbers and strawberries. More Purple Coneflower, more Black Eyed Susans, more garden herbs. We’ll keep the tomatoes and the peppers. I am undecided about Sweet Potatoes. It’s a tough call, they were brilliant in color and extra sweet (made me think those things at the grocery aren’t really sweet potatoes). But anyway, hats off to George the Tator Man who sold us the slips to get started.

 
Anyway, in order for any of that to happen, the soil is getting a heavy dose of compost and manure and straw. Before anything grows next year we need to amend the soil. Better soil will grow better plants. It’s that simple. I am hopeful that next spring we will already be far ahead of where we were last spring. I have already ordered a second composter.

 
The birdhouses have been cleaned and bird feeders have been filled. The feeders operate on a pulley system that hangs them high enough they are out of reach for any bears. Last week while filling them I lowered the feeders and noticed two Black Capped Chickadees still at the suet. I raised it and lowered it three times and they rode up and down. Why fly when you can just ride the elevator? I have some interest in larger birds as well. There are still a number of Wild Turkeys around. Keith scared them from their roost while entering the woods one morning last week. Soon, I will be watching the nesting box hanging just outside the yard for signs of a Screech Owl.

 
There is a fire inside. Not the most efficient way to heat, but it also warms the soul. Mom has a friend who raises grass fed beef. With gratitude there is a porterhouse on the Weber. Who invented this cut? It’s like a filet and a strip steak, why choose when you can have both? Again, cooking over fire may not be the most efficient way to cook. But it makes my soul happy.

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Somewhere between Jacks and Shade Mountain it will soon be time to start a fire in the fireplace. Maybe light up the firepit. Maybe light up a bonfire. As the weather gets cooler, a fire seems to sound better and better. The trees seem to have already caught fire. Yellows, oranges, and reds mix with browns and burn from the surrounding branches. The leaves fall like sparks to the ground where the first frost already claimed the basil.

 
Lettuce, onions, and spinach are still growing. They seem to like this weather. I have pulled up the tomatoes and peppers. Harvested the sweet potatoes. One by one, the gardens are getting ready for Winter. We blanket them with lots of straw and compost. The hummingbird feeders are put away until next year. The other feeders are getting more and more action.

 
I’ve been gathering rocks all summer long. Been digging them out of the yard, finding them in the tree line, and carrying them in from the woods. They are beginning to look like a wall for a Spring garden. I hope it will be the perfect spot for tulips, daffodils, and garlic.

 
The fairly large hornet nest is still hanging from a backyard tree, we’ll wait until it gets colder to take it down. I am still seeing Valley and Ridge Salamanders and Wood Frogs hiding in the leaf litter. Along with deer, a Black Bear, two Gray Foxes, and a flock of Wild Turkeys have been showing themselves on the trail cam. Not satisfied with just being seen on a trail cam, Mom saw twelve turkeys in the yard one day.

 
On another day, we put a chicken on the Weber. Rub it down with butter. Add salt and pepper. Put it over a drip pan on the far side of the grill and add charcoal when necessary. As a bonus, eat the liver, heart, and gizzard while the rest of the bird is cooking. The smells and tastes were awesome. We call it wicked good. Fall is a really good time for a fire. Not too long ago, my favorite season was Summer. Now, I’m starting to think I’m kind of a Fall guy.

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Here between Jacks and Shade Mountain we are adjusting to change. A phenomenon called the equinox came through and left us with shorter days than nights. We call it Fall and that is ok since we’ve been doing Fall stuff. Leaves are falling. The waning harvest moon is hanging in the sky. That seemed like a good time to harvest the remaining carrots and to pick a pumpkin. We are still picking tomatoes and the temperatures have been great for lettuce, spinach, and onions. Mom brought home a chrysanthemum. Other than that, we have started to clean up the gardens.

Hummingbirds and Monarchs are visiting less. Dragonflies continue in abundance. In the western part of the state, there are so many they are showing up on weather radar maps. We don’t see quite that many but are glad for those we do see. They and their cousins the damselflies are known by a lot of names; spiketails and skimmers and bluets and dancers. These critters are carnivores and they eat critters we don’t want. My favorite name for them is the mosquito hawk. A shout out to the dragonflies!

We have been hearing turkey noises. Young bucks have been showing up on the trail cam. And we have been shooting arrows at a target. Considering that we shoot and garden here and the popular idea of naming properties, maybe we could call the property “The Bow and Hoe.”  Probably not. But if we ever start a restaurant back here, that’s what we’ll call it. It’ll be one of those field to table places.

Keith trimmed the lane and it looks great. I think Mom’s marigolds are still growing and some stubborn Black-eyed Susans are still showing their colors. I pulled up some annuals, planted daffodils, and am still cutting trees at the edge of the forest and raking out places for shade plants. Teaberries are ripening in these places. I have plans for a new raised bed and have been collecting rocks for the project. The bird feeders are hanging again. This time on a stronger rig and we are looking forward to seeing more birds in the yard. I dare the bear to mess with it.

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Somewhere between Jacks and Shade Mountain, there is a long lane lined with chicory, blackberries, milkweed, and orange daylilies. Back the lane, four more Black Capped Chickadees have fled the nest box. That is seven from that box this year.

At least two toads have climbed onto the deck this summer. You have to appreciate a toad with some ambition. Who knows what else climbs up there when no one is looking? We know of at least one other critter because he left his skin beside the door step. (Mom did not appreciate this). That reminds me, there was a garter snake in the compost bin. It is always fun to find creatures in unexpected places. While walking the property line, I found a Red Eft. He shows off a brilliant color in contrast to the surrounding dark colors of leaf mold and bright greens of moss. I followed him for a short distance before he disappeared under a rotting log.

A new shade garden is developing along the treeline above the vegetables. Hosta (Pacific Blue Edgers) and Coral Bells (Electric Plum) are adding new colors mixed in with the Mountain Laurel and Redbud tree. The deer have left the Hosta’s alone, so far. But something is eating the tomatoes. I may be trapping some critters.

I did overnight near the garden in hopes of learning something new about what is happening in the dark. Hoping for some visitor or at least a strange noise. But it is difficult to hear anything or to know what is going on around you while sleeping. I did listen to a Green Frog and watch Lightning Bugs until I fell asleep. And I did wake to a wonderful dawn chorus that had so much sound going on it was difficult to identify any of it. But I am telling myself that there were some new chickadees singing in that choir.

There was a nest of White Faced Hornets in a rhododendron bush. Something ripped it out one night and appeared to empty the contents, leaving an empty shell. The same night (one week after my overnighter) something tipped over the burn barrel. Maybe that is some new form of rural entertainment. Cow tipping is out, barrel tipping is in. More likely, we have another bear. While I would like to thank him for disposing of those hornets, I wish he would have put the barrel back the way he found it.

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Somewhere between Jacks and Shade Mountain three little birds are sitting in a nest of moss lined with dog hair. Sounds like a Bob Marley song but these are chickadees that recently hatched in a nest box.

On Memorial Day we checked them out. It was also a good day to sit on the deck, hang a hammock, and practice fly casting. It smelled like bratwursts and tasted like Mom’s home brew.

Everything is growing. Both things we want to grow and many things we do not. At the top of the list of things we don’t want is poison ivy. It appears we are surrounded by it. Some trees that border the yard will need to come down as well. I have started to mark some trees as keepers and others to be thinned. There is an abundance of Tulip Poplar, Sassafras, a variety of oaks and maples and evergreens that are just popping up out of nowhere. There are berry bushes that I hadn’t noticed before.

The lettuces are about finished and the sweet potatoes just went in. Mom has been pulling and clipping from the herb garden to brew tea. I just planted another Redbud and am hopeful it takes as well as the first one did. The Serviceberry, the Flowering Plum, and a Colorado Blue Spruce all seem to have a good start also.

Wild turkeys are becoming more visible. Early in the month, I heard them flying into the roost. Past weeks I have found hens on the ground. I hope they are on nests or already raising poults. I have been finding spotted salamanders and wood frogs and American toads. The primary amphibian song has been from Gray Tree Frogs. Numerous birds have been singing.  Notable songs have included catbirds, the wood thrush, and the parents of newborn chickadees. Other birds just seem to be yelling at me. I can’t blame them, things have been inconsistent at the bird feeder. Only the hummingbirds have been happy. A bear bent the initial stake that is used to support the feeders in the air. After strengthening the rig and rehanging the feeders, the bear climbed the tree to bend the pulley from the tree. One day, Mom found him in the yard. Anyway, that bear is presenting a good challenge. If you see that bear before I do, let him know – challenge accepted.

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Somewhere between Jacks and Shade Mountain there are some new trees growing. A downy serviceberry and a flowering plum are trying to take root so we can enjoy their blooms and fruit in the future. They are not the only things growing. Carrots have been planted. We have already been eating lettuce, arugula, onions, chives, thyme, parsley, and oregano. My mouth is watering just to think of what else we will pull out of the ground later this year. Today, there is a chicken in the smoker. My mouth waters as I walk past to get a whiff.

The garden is coming along. Daryl came up on a Mahindra and leveled the spot. He did an excellent job but my friend Roger mentioned that a John Deere might have made it even more level. There were a surprising number of rocks that came out of the space and they are now stacked alongside the site in a way that resembles a wall.

The trail cam continues to be busy. The old visitors are back. New visitors include wild turkeys and a coyote (who appears pregnant). No bears yet on camera but they are leaving evidence of their presence. Scat full of sunflower seeds suggests that someone is hanging their bird feeders too low. Black Capped Chickadees have taken up residence in a nest box. The field guide describes their nest as a cup shaped nest using moss and coarse materials for a foundation and lined with softer material like fur. In this case, it appears to be the fur of a German Shepherd named Duke.

It is an overcast day and a host of birds are singing. A host of others are feasting at the feeders. Goldfinches are already starting to get that brilliant color they will show off later in the summer. A Pileated Woodpecker flew into the yard. Other birds are investigating empty bird boxes. Dad would have said they were negotiating the lease. But it is birds we can’t see that are causing the greatest commotion. Barred Owls are singing. It sounds like a riot is taking place just beyond the treeline. Not really singing, this has a name – caterwauling. The courtship ritual is a medley of dueling cackles and hoots and caws and gurgles. The best way I can describe it is – a ruckus. For at least one afternoon, here between Jacks and Shade Mountain, we listen to a wild soundtrack.

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Somewhere between Jacks and Shade Mountain there is a property at the end of a cul de sac that recently had an address change. This isn’t your typical circle at the end of a paved street with suburban surroundings. This is one of those places at the end of a lane where a turn a round was created by cars circling through the grass. It can’t be seen from the road due to the distance but also because there is a significant amount of timber blocking the view from the road.

Much of today’s timber is managed in order to get a quick return. Back here, there is old growth and mature hardwoods. Just the kind of place where cavity nesters might want to live. A number of cavity nesters reside back here. There are Mice, Red Squirrels, and Northern Flying Squirrels. Gray Squirrels who are skilled at making their own nests will reside in cavities. Tree Swallows, Black Capped Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, White Breasted Nuthatches, as well as various wrens and swallows.

To increase the odds, we have been installing nesting boxes for cavity nesters. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and we have several boxes ready for guests. Considering the time of year, we should be seeing potential tenants anytime now. Screech Owls are cavity nesters. Keith, Joe, and I hung a box last weekend hoping it will be a future home for these raptors who feast on a lot of critters including mice and insects. I am hoping that mosquitoes become their favorite.

We have been catching a raccoon on trail cam in recent weeks. Perhaps we should put the trail cam in the vicinity of the boxes to see who might be checking things out. Onions are planted and there is a rectangular area painted in the yard where a raised garden is going to be. (While painting the area it felt like I was lining a soccer field). The neighbor, Daryl, has agreed to bring his tractor over and level the proposed site.

Ice continues to cover much of the small vernal pools. Soon, maybe this week, these pools will be full of frog song. I did find two Wood Ducks enjoying the small thawed portion of one of these pools. That reminds me, Wood Ducks are cavity nesters. Maybe it’s time to hang another box.

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