Posts Tagged ‘shade mountain’

Somewhere between Jacks and Shade Mountain there is a plot of mesic-hydric forest that gets crunchy underfoot this time of year. The sun is shining but snow still lies in shaded places. A dog named Duke ran through it with Rennan one day and with Mya the next. (Another dog Brooks, a Dachshund, tried to keep up). Duke went to the vet yesterday. It’s a busy week to be a German Shepherd.

We fill the feeders with seed and suet. The nuthatches are the first to find the fresh stuff. They dance back and forth on the feeder and a nearby tree. A large hornet nest used to hang from a tree in the back yard. It has literally disintegrated. A coyote, a fisher, fox, deer, and turkey have appeared on the trail camera. Three deer have been harvested this month and there is backstrap waiting in the freezer (yum).

A new composter is standing next to the older one. I toss in some finished compost, leftover grass clippings, straw, kitchen scraps, and coffee grounds from Starbucks (appropriately labeled Christmas Blend”). That should get the new batch started in hopes it will be ready for spring. Two composters mean more compost which means better soil which means more veggies and fruit and flowers.

Skeletal deciduous trees and evergreens surrounded by splotches of snow remind us what time of year it is. Bulbs and seed lie under the surface waiting for warmer weather. What will it all look like a few months from now? A large rosemary plant sits in a container at the entrance. Karissa, Joel, Ellie, Keightley, Nic and I enter to eat Mom’s vegetable soup and homemade rolls. The place is decorated for the holiday. There is a fire in the fireplace and a movie on television. This is a good place to be on a December day.

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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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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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