Posts Tagged ‘garden’

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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We are told the human story begins in a garden. We are told there were trees pleasing to the eye and they were good for food. We are told there was gold and aromatic resin and onyx. I imagine it to be a place where the wind blew the scent of lilac and lavender and honeysuckle. A place where fish and frogs and turtles splashed in its waters. I imagine laurel and ferns and other ground cover where canines and felines and bovines made paths as they made their way through.

I imagine it to be a place where these trees reached upward, deciduous and conifer, boasting seasonal bloom and color. Trees that became home to owls and woodpeckers and cardinals. I imagine the garden to be full of amphibians and birds and insects that joined as a great choir. I imagine sunny skies by day and shimmering night lights. I imagine brilliant colors on the horizon both evening and morning visible from strategic places in the garden. I imagine a dazzling creation display. While my imaginings are tainted by my local eco sphere, there is something we are told for certain. This is a place where God dwelt with his people.

When humans entered Genesis, we entered as stewards of creation. We also entered as representatives of God. Genesis not only tells us who we are, but what we are made for. We bear the image of God. This is not only a statement about identity, but also about mission. The primary task of an image bearer is to represent the one whose image you bear. Image bearers are to reflect the Creator’s wisdom into the world.

As image bearing representatives, we are designed to work with God toward His purposes. We are designed to use our gifts to follow God’s plan. Yet, we often use our abilities to generate other gods. We abort God’s plan and work toward our own glory. We literally sabotage the very thing we have been made for. The biblical storyline essentially says that by worshipping other gods we give ourselves to wilderness wanderings and exile, principalities and powers. If we expect the world to take us seriously, we need to become more serious about our role as God’s representatives.

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It is a good time of year to be in the garden. Or at least to think about it. Here is a garden thought from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now.

I am in the garden, turning soil and mixing compost, planting onions and lettuce. I roll up my sleeves and reach into the earth. I breathe in the smell and look forward to picking vegetables from the back yard. I am thinking about Genesis, where on the sixth day, God rolled up His sleeves and reached into the earth and formed a human, an earthling.

Genesis says God gave the earthling a name and then breath. Genesis says God looked at this breathing, moving, artistic creation and, “behold, it was very good.” It is not recorded, but I suspect He also said, “Wow.”

I find it interesting that God planted a garden and placed the earthling there to cultivate and to keep the garden. Barbara Brown Taylor thinks that while working in the garden you remember “where you came from and why. You touch the stuff your bones are made of. You handle the decomposed bodies of trees, birds, and fallen stars. Your body recognizes its kin. If you have nerve enough, you also foresee your own decomposition. This is not bad knowledge to have. It is the kind that puts other kinds in perspective. Feel that cool dampness? Welcome back to earth, you earthling. Smell that dirt? Welcome home, you beloved dust creature of God.”

I, scooped from the earth, now flesh given breath, am in the garden, turning soil, mixing compost, planting onions and lettuce. I roll up my sleeves. I breathe in the smell. I reach into the earth. It gets under my nails. In my hair. It’s caked on my knees. I call it dirt. But I think about the sixth day when God first formed a human from this stuff and all I can do is say “wow.”

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Here is a short excerpt from the book Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now;

“I, scooped from the earth, now flesh given breath, am in the garden, turning soil, mixing compost, planting onions and lettuce. I roll up my sleeves. I breathe in the smell. I reach into the earth. It gets under my nails. In my hair. It’s caked on my knees. I call it dirt. But I think about the sixth day when God first formed a human from this stuff and all I can do is say “wow.””

This reading can be found beginning on the bottom of page 61. Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now is published by Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishing.

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