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Posts Tagged ‘shade mountain’

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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In between Jacks and Shade Mountain, the cicadas are singing their summer song. Many of the trees that were marked to be taken down are gone. The blackberries have been eaten. The trail cam is revealing the activities of White Tailed Deer. A Garter Snake has found a home in the compost bin. A number of herbs have thrived over the summer. And vegetables need picked nearly every day. That is good since Mom has developed some sort of addiction to carrots.

There is a nearby nest hornets have been working on that now resembles an enormous football shaped piñata. We will probably wait until Winter before we take a closer look. Interestingly, these critters we call hornets are actually large members of the wasp family.

I walk through the yard with a one hundred eleven pound German Shepherd who came across a toad. Whenever he got close the toad would jump, and so would the dog. It was like they were practicing some sort of backyard choreography.

We both were kicking up grasshoppers. Interestingly, scientists tell us grasshoppers have been around long before dinosaurs. They jump out in front of us and then fly even further. I hope they don’t decide to swarm. If they do and eat the veggies, I guess we’ll eat the grasshoppers. (If they are good enough for John the Baptizer, I guess they are good enough). Still, if given a choice between one of these and a freshly picked Cherokee Purple Heirloom, I’ll take the tomato.

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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 there is a new deck on the backside of a residential property. Jame, Joel, Joe, and Keith did the bulk of the work. We all climbed on top for a picture when it was done.

Three Chickadees have flown from the nest and four new eggs have replaced them. We can hear them singing inside the forest along with the Wood Thrush and the Catbirds. Catbirds sometimes hide in the tree line and make that sound that gave them the name catbird. Other times, they perch on a branch and cut loose in a mockingbird imitation (and a pretty good one). We can still hear the Gray Tree Frogs and have recently begun hearing Green Frogs.

Everything is growing. Vegetables, flowers, and herbs are looking good.  I am especially interested in the carrots and the sweet potatoes. Mountain laurel came into bloom this past month. The state flower, it is in abundance back here. Wild berries are starting to come on. We are marking a lot of stuff to be taken out. Growth gets thick quickly. I have begun cutting down some trees with a handsaw from Wicked Tree Gear. It is hard work but I think I just like the name of the saw. Seriously, I am using some Wicked Tree Gear.

The smells are outstanding. We pull sassafras up to smell the roots. We scratch birch and it smells like root beer (around here, they call it birch beer). I look up at a blue sky and a song comes to mind. Electric Light Orchestra sang “Mr. Blue Sky” first in 1977 and it never gets old. I think I’ll add that to my summer soundtrack.

Deer have started to be more visible. They don’t hide well this time of year when their coats are golden brown and the background forest is bright green and their velvet is showing. Rabbits are living under the shed and love to play in the yard. I suspect they also play in the garden.

The Hummingbirds are having fun. It is amazing to me that they fly so far. It is interesting that they spend time in tropical places but they always return to this valley. I have started to see Monarch Butterflies also. I wonder how many creatures travel the world but come here to get their game on? The weather has been getting hotter. For a while, it was like a vacation destination. Fifties in the morning, seventies afternoon, cool again at night. Book your flight.

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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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