Thursday, October 17, 2013

AFTER THE RAINS

Clouds have taken over again.  Days of rain(2.5 inches total) and cooler temperatures, transitioned  to beautiful bright warm fall, and now we are back to the gloom. The air is still the perfect temperature, but sun would be welcome.
The birds have sprung back to life after the rains.  A new creature is evident everywhere along the edges of the woods, if we get out early enough.  Bats.  I have wondered with all of the bugs around why I have never seen bats, but now they seem to have tumbled onto the fact that they can eat here.  Glad to have them here to snack on those pesky mosquitoes.  The eagles are busy carrying new nesting material into their nest, getting it ready for raising new little eaglets next year.  A Carolina wren was trapped in the garage, but easily freed by opening all the doors.  A Goldfinch smashed into the window of the bedroom, I went out to get him up off the ground and watch over him until he was capable of stand on a tree limb alone with out falling.  I often wonder if they have a memory of the help, like maybe one day they would fly over perch on my shoulder and say thanks.  I guess not.  One member of our bird family that is definitely not in evidence is the Hummingbird.  I have not seen that little fellow for about a week, he left for warmer territory. I am happy to have given him the feeding resources to get him tanked up and ready for the flight.
The garden is a busy place right now.  The never ending pursuit of removing weeds, divisions and transplant of clumps of perineals that have become to large, pruning of trees and shrubs,  and small renovations here and there to recover an area of the garden that has become overgrown and chaotic.  Most of the work that I now do in the garden is editing whether it be friend or foe, there is always a need to remove something or at least move it around.
The look of fall is becoming more prominent, there is color in the leaves, and increasingly less color in the flowers of the garden.  Still some plants refuse to give up their stunning show, giving the remaining butterflies, bees and other assorted bugs something to exist on.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

HUMMINGBIRDS, ZEBRAS AND JAKE

The trail of white smoke rises directly over the recently burned brush piles in the windless air.  There is a light fog hanging low putting on a lid that holds the smoke close to the ground filling our nostrils with the scent.
Hummingbird wars are in full swing as they vie over the food that will will build them up for their flight south.  The Salvia greggii, with it lipstick red bloom,  outside the front window is prized territory, as it has started it's  fall re-bloom  The fierceness of the battles are shocking for such a little creature.  4 or 5 will engage in a chase taking the battle up,  high into the air, then one breaks away and darts back to feed undisturbed until the others realize what is happening, they all dive back down to drive the one away, then the battle rises into the air again, over and over.  Great window TV.
I was finally able to observe my rare visitor to the garden up close and personal.  Spotting the Zebra Swallowtail again back by the Paw Paw tree feeding on the Hepacodium near by.  So striking with the contrasting black and white and that little dab of red, he made a perfect study for my camera.  I can't believe he waited for me, because you never have your lens available when you really need it.
Parker and Zoe have been feeling the heat and humidity these past days, as have we, so walks are early, and afternoon runs have morphed into short ball games.  Parker who likes to trail along with me out in the yard, finding a cool clump of grass in the shade to relax in while I work, has not lasted long, coming over to poke me or insisting on climbing onto the tractor under the shade of the canopy. He happily retreats back into the house to lie on the air conditioned cold marble floor when given the opportunity.
Fall is for me laced with a bit of  melancholy.  There are thoughts seeping in, as the days shorten, that are strong with the memory of my beloved Jake.  He walks with us still.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

CHANGES

The overwhelming evidence of the end of summer is all around us as we walk the fields on our morning rounds.  There is some slight color coming to the leaves, the fog often lies low on the fields, a few geese are seen on the river, and we awake to darkness in the morning.
There was light rain last night that left the grass damp, but there was not much activity, bird or mammal, to punctuate our walk this morning.  It was just a peaceful quiet stroll with cloudy skies and a breeze.  We did see one of the immature eagles perched in a tree, but by the time we got close he had flown away.
I am afraid that soon I am going to go through tomato and cucumber withdrawal.  The crop is dwindling, and the days of tomatoes with basil, cucumber with mint, pesto on crostini topped with tomato, Burrata with cucumber and tomato salad, and tomato, olive, cucumber feta and mint salad will soon come to a screeching halt.  The dogs will have a rude awakening too, as the they are off to pick a cucumber to munch on when ever they get out into the yard in the afternoon.  That will not be available to them soon.  I do have some solace, the fig production is prolific, I am having a hard time keeping up and finding friends who will take one more batch of the luscious fruit.
The corn is starting to dry for the harvest that will stripe the kernels from the ears, piling them into the trunks for transport to silos,  leaving the rubble of the stalks and husks on the ground.
For now I will try not to think of the impending changes and enjoy the warm air, green trees, and sunny days that are left.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

BUMPS AND BITES

Working in the Garden is not all fun and games.  There are many adverse events that take place.  Hazards.  The mosquito bites that make you itch like crazy, particularly about your ankles and shins.  Then there are the wasps nests that you inadvertently knock when you are reaching into a plant for pruning.  This happened twice this week and gloves are no impediment to the bite. This is a major problem starting now and going into the fall.  There is the occasional bee that takes offense and the biting flies. No, it is certainly not all beautiful flowers and butterflies.  Just this week I had a nasty encounter with a saddleback caterpillar.  In fact several of them, living in a group on the Rudbeckia maxima.  I was pruning and felt a little sting which did not stop me, but soon my whole arm was on fire and I was feeling a little nauseated.  Yes this little, less than 1/2 inch, caterpillars did a lot of damage.  I iced my arm and recovered, but not a lot of fun.  If you add in the scratches, bumping you head because your hat obstructs your upward field of vision, and the sunburn,  well it is downright dangerous.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

LOVE OF A FIG

Heat is an amazing.  It certainly does all manner of evil things to the trees and the plants, causing thirsty drooping leaves, but it also has turned on the Fig ripening mechanism.  The trees have been covered with the little fig bulbs, but with the onset of the heat wave, I can barely keep up with the harvest.  Fresh tree ripened figs beat anything you find in the stores.  Soft, sweet, lovely little balls of gooey deliciousness.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

RAINS

I needed to put on the knee high green rubber boots this morning for the walk.  The rain gauge in our weather station measured 2.35 inches of water during the storm of yesterday, and I knew the grass would be really wet.  I was correct in the assessment.  It was cool as well.  I started to think that perhaps I should have put on a long sleeve shirt and long pants because of the chill, that notion was quickly abandoned by the time I turned the south west conner of the hedgerow.
The rain had been the steady all day sort, sometime heavy, then getting lighter, but never stopping.  There was no wind and the drops fell straight to the ground, so much so that I never needed to close either of the french doors to prevent moisture from coming into the interior.  We were a little bored and house bound, but we made it through.  I got lots of knitting done, Zoe had another day to recover from her surgery, and Parker tried his best to be good.
Lots of deadheading and pruning right now to keep the garden looking fresh.  The corn has grown tremendously, and is tasseling.  This rain should get it through the ear making phase and then it will be onto drying out for harvest.  Sadly the barley could never be harvested.  It stayed to wet, the grass grew too tall, and the heads dried out and fell to the ground.  Really heart breaking, it had been such a beautiful stand.
I had planted the Paw Paw trees in the back to encourage Zebra Swallowtails to inhabit my garden, even though I had never seen one anywhere around.  That all change, I was out putting some debris in the compost pile, when the unmistakable spotting occurred.  The distinctive black and white coloring is readily noticed.   No mistaking it for something else.   It flitted around and much to my delight, landed briefly on a young Paw Paw leaf.   I have not seen this beautiful little creature again, but I keep looking.   Could this be one of many generations to come?

Friday, July 5, 2013

FOURTH

The 4th of July came and went, peacefully around the farm.  There were chores to take care of, and then an annual party to attend on a farm on the bay. At home, we could hear and see distant fireworks of the celebrations taking place around the county.  All and all it was a relaxed, but hot summer day.  The corn is tasseling(on other farms, not here yet), our soy beans have broken ground, the alfalfa, responding to the rain we have received, is already back up from the last cutting, and the garden is still abundant.  There is a trend towards less moisture for the coming week or so.  We will see.
The  twin eagles have been out in the field playing some sort of tag.  I have seen this behavior in others that have matured on this farm before these two, wish I knew the end game.
The wind has been kicking up early, making rowing a poor choice, the afternoons as well have had winds, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that perhaps things will die down today and I will get a sunset row in.  I am really wanting to be out on the water, and if it does not calm down I will have to go out on a rough ride in the morning, searching for the calm water that might exist in a protected spot on the river.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

THE SCENT OF LAVENDER

There has been little excitement on the morning walks. It is perhaps to hot and humid for even the animals and birds to be stirring much even in the early hour of our stroll.  We get a glimpse of the young and mature Eagles, a ground hog scrambling to get back home before being caught by the dogs, rabbits galore and this morning a King bird with young, in one of the ginkgo trees, on a flying lesson. The air is so close.  Thunderstorms pop up putting the dogs in an emotional state, there are short bursts of rain, clearing and then the build up of humidity again. So it is summer.  The barley is still in the fields, harvest delayed by the wet ground.  The gardens surrounding the house, however are really spectacular.  Sitting on the bench in the shade of the Crape Myrtle trees I am happy to enjoy the view all the years of labor have produced, but of course sitting there I also begin to see defects that need my attention to correct.
The Lavender harvest is about 1/2 way done for the year and what a harvest it is.  I do not remember such abundance.  I have had my problems with cultivation of Lavender in the past,  but the plants that I now have, some more than 8 years old, must be satisfied with the location I have found for them, because they seem to be thriving.  This is a laborious task, but not without rewards, for nothing is quite as relaxing and aromatic as the scent of lavender.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

RAINY DAY BLUES

The rains started last night, lightly at first, then it became a really big flash, bang, boom phenomenon. Zoe in her little bed on floor surprised Frank and I by all of the sudden leaping up onto the bed, we were not sure she could do that any longer,but motivation is a powerful thing. She nestled in next to Frank's legs. Parker came creaping out from the closet and hopped up as well, tucking in on my side of the bed, shaking and panting to underscore his feelings about these untoward events. That storm passed, and just as Parker was starting to feel a little more relaxed, another heavy dose of rain, lightening and thunder built back up again. So there we were, two sleeping soundly, one trying desperately to get to sleep and one wondering how the hell we could all be sleeping at a time like this. Morning brought dry skies. Everyone was happy to take their walk under the current weather conditions, so off we went. There were two large trees uprooted and starting their decent to the ground, one moved several feet and made lots of noise just as we past,making the dogs bolt ahead. Back at home, the onslaught began again. Parker took up permanent refuge in the laundry room for the day, where the whirr of the washing machine and dryer must have mask some of the noise, and there are no windows to witness the lighting. Torrential rains have left a pond in the middle of the soon to be field of soy beans. Unfortunate timing for all of this. There is still cut alfalfa laying in the lower field, now saturated with water, and surrounded by muddy fields that will prohibit the machines from doing their gathering for several days. The barley will need to dry out again before it can be cut, and the previous rains have already knocked down a fair amount of the stalks, fungus and mildew are a concern. The ability to groom the field for the soy beans will also be delayed as the ponding will need to be absorbed into the already saturated ground. Oh, sigh! The corn is happy, well at least one thing is right. I of course worry about the gardens with this much moisture. Many of my plants don't really like the water, and some are getting bent over by the heavy rains. It looks beautiful from the window, but the fungus and mildew that comes with all of this moisture is almost worse than what happens when it doesn't rain enough. Wish I were Goldilocks and could find the weather that was just right.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

SISTERS


The rains have once again left us with light wind and sun.  Rain is not alone in leaving.  My sister and two nieces have gone back to their homes as well after a week long visit to the farm.  The house is quiet, no chatter from the sisters both the old and the young.  The conversation between my sister and I is filling in the blanks since last we saw each other.  The young sisters back and forth is in their own language with references to people I don't know and words used in context that I do not understand.  It is fascinating, and I don't mind not knowing everything they say, it is enough to have the words waft about with a feeling it is bathed in the love they have for each other. They step back into our world and have great stories to tell about the adventures they have had and will have.  They poke about the farm and experience it in a new way and I get to watch and get a glimpse into the farm as they see it.  I miss all of them and so, also, do Zoe and Parker.



On the walk this morning we flushed the hen turkey and I saw little chicks scatter.  They are so tiny, they are not flying, and we will avoid that stretch of the walk until they have the ability to fly out of harms way.
The young Eagles are still hanging out close to the nest in between flights and food is still being ferried into to them.  The parents must be getting tired.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

SO EXCITED.

Kate, my niece who is here
visiting the farm, and I went to the river to retrieve the scull in preparation for her lesson on the river later in the afternoon.  We became aware of the unmistakable scream of an eagle.  We walked over to a point where we could look up at the nest that I have been monitoring.  I had been disappointed on the last two morning walks to find no signs of the pair, but today that was turned around.  In the nest was an immature, and and adult.  We watched not knowing what was about to happen, the second parent arrived and landed close by and at that moment, as if that were the cue,  the young eagle  soared out of the nest, followed immediately by both parents lifting off as well.  So all three were in the air  above our heads, what a spectacular moment in time.  As we watched we spotted the the other part of the pair flying above the woods.  The eagles are launched!

Monday, June 3, 2013

RAIN ON THE FARM

/> I went out into the garden this morning, between showers, to gather up a fresh bunch of flowers for the kitchen.  The cooler temperature is welcome after days of hot and humid.  The garden got a needed dose of rain.  There is no replacement for rain in the garden to make it look fresh.
A delightful surprise was discovered in my foray.  A pair of Brown Thrashers were gathering up bits and bobs of dry grass, and twigs, then flying up into the weeping Katsura tree.  I am pretty sure that a nest is in the making.  I will keep observing, but keep my distance, I would hate to foil the attempt by coming in to close.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

PROGRESS AT THE EAGLES NEST

Progressively the young Eagles are moving up the overhanging branches of the tree above the nest.  It is always interesting to see where they might be on our morning walks.  They are the size of the adults or at least pretty close, and I know that they are getting ready to finally fly.  I just don't know when, which does not make me happy, as I would love to see this event.  But alas, they do not have flight times posted.
Heat has come to the farm, and I do mean the hot, humid type,  Work in the garden out of necessity becomes slow and steady with many water breaks and rest periods.  I am hoping for a cool down in a few days, and also looking for some rain.
A small group of Wax Wings has moved into the garden.  I can't help but think they are here testing the serviceberries, waiting the feast to begin.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

OLD FRIENDS

The air has movement, not quite reaching the level of wind.  With the overcast sky the air is close and  even small gestures cause my skin to be damp.  There is much to accomplish, and deciding where to start so as not to be overwhelmed and start nowhere is the task of the morning.  It can not all be finished in a day, and truly it can never be finished at all.
I see the birds in the garden, because the trees are not so dense as the woods along the edges, where I see movement but more often just hear the chatter of the inhabitants.  The corn that Frank planted a little over a week ago is pushing up in straight little rows in the fields, and the alfalfa is growing back rapidly after the harvest.  The Bobolinks are gone.
We had a visitor to the farm the past week, my dear friend Karen.  It was lovely on many levels, but seeing the land and the gardens through the eyes of another is always inspirational.  Parker, Zoe and I feel her absence this morning.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

THE ART OF THE GARDEN

This afternoon a sharp shinned hawk flew into the contorted mulberry tree(Morus Unryu), sitting contently on a lower branch, not moving until I roused him about 30 min latter. It was great having him so close and being able to observe him, observing the garden.
The robin babies are large, stuffed into the nest like sausage, you are no longer able to really see separation, just a pile of feathers and 4 beaks.
The Kingbirds, Phoebes and Orchard Orioles were concentrated in the scrub at the edge of the woods. Lots of activity, in particular with the Kingbirds, darting out low in the grass, retreating to low branches then back out again.

Much is happening in the garden, many trees are still sparely leafed, the spring bulbs and wild dogwoods have faded, but now the show of pèrienials begins to paint the landscape. The tree Peoney is in full bloom and the herbatious cousins following The gas plant (dictamnus Albus) can hardly wait to open and the bush salvia are pushing out the tubes of red and pink that the newly arrive hummingbird visits every morning. Antirrhinum and the extremely exuberant Centaurea Montana are already in full show needing dead heading. There is another plant that is also in full brilliant clear blue bloom. I bought it at the Target store many years ago as a house plant, when it had run its course I stuck it in the ground, it has now been divided and spread around the garden. The identity of this plant has not been determined, but it is lovely in the early spring garden. The California and red Poppies are opening, as are the Clematis and Primrose. There has been hours of work involved clearing the winter weeds from the beds, and there is much more to do to get the gardens nourished and groomed, but I wander the little pathways daily looking at the bloom and watching the plethora of various birds, feeling pretty sure it was well worth the investment. This is a place of peace and beauty, an ever changing  art installation, mostly run by nature.

Friday, May 10, 2013

AND ANOTHER

The start of the walk was later than usual, grass still wet from the condensation, but the sun was high on the eastern horizon.  It was, however, a very event filled walk.
The first sightings came just as the path jogs  right heading to the river.  High in the Sycamore tree was an unfamiliar profile, training my glasses on it, I could see a male Blue Grosbeak, just as he came into focus, 2 more flew in and landed close by.  Really one of my favorite birds.  They nest in the under brush close to the house, but are elusive.  The female is evident, but I seldom get to see the male.
All was quiet at the eagles nest.  The young must be oh so bored, waiting patiently for their parents to bring them food and otherwise having not much else to do, or can birds get  bored?
Parker grabbed a baby Killdeer out of the grass, but lucky for that little bird, he listened to my command to "drop it", this time.
On we went, listening to the sounds from deep within the glen. Half way up the hedgerow, there was flittering movements high in a sparsely leafed oak.  My identification skills for warblers is not finely honed, but my best guess is it was a bouquet of Common Yellowthroats.  There was so much activity, and then slowly it became less so,  then nothing, they had all moved on.
Zoe, Parker and I walked on towards home, reaching the road leading to the house. I saw some birds on the ground up ahead, thinking them to be killdeer or perhaps swallows.  Some of them flew up to the top of the tree and something caught my eye.   Could it possibly be that the Bobolinks that I had been waiting for all spring had return?  Yes it was true, I watched as they passed from the tree out over the alfalfa, and back again.  Those that remained in the trees, flew forward on mass to the next ginkgo, and the next, marching slowly down the drive as the three of us walked towards them, finally leaving the trees to fly off over the fields as well.
Home just in time to help Frank hook up the large field cultivator to the tractor.
The day has now officially started.

Friday, April 26, 2013

WALKING

The morning walks take different forms, thinking and sauntering, brisk and purposeful,  interval training, and the observational stop and go walk like the one I took this morning.  It was gorgeous this morning, which led to all sorts of looking.
First, I was able to confirm that there is at least twin eaglets in the nest by the river.  There could be the rare triplet breeding, and I just saw two, but I am sticking to the belief that we will see only two fledge from this years pairing.  One little one was sitting up high on the wall of the nest revealing almost the entire body, the other was tucked down further in the nest so that just the neck and head were revealed. It is so nice to have the nest located where I can observe without breeching the interior of the woods and bringing alarm screeches from the parents.
Off we went, continuing along the river stopping briefly to watch a pair of Herons vying for territory,  as if the river wasn't big enough for all.
Rounding the corner starting up the west hedgerow, we and I mean all of us, were starteled by a Turkey, hidden in the alfalfa suddenly launching itself into the air.  Zoe and Parker hardly knew what to do, and I let out a little scream.  We recovered and were off again.
A very faint noise came up from the glen where the creek runs, slight, but Parker and I heard it.  Then nothing.  Parker, soon bored and distracted,  ran off to join Zoe who was checking out some scent in the grass, I moved closer to edge, and stood for a moment, on the far side of the ravine a doe emerged and ran fast away.  The other two members of the walking party were oblivious to the occurrence.
At the upper end of the walk along the gully before we turned towards the lane, I could not help but stop and hunt the tree tops for a sign of the Bobolinks.  Two years ago a very large flock joined the Red Wings dipping and diving over the fields, taking refuge in the tree tops, then spreading out over the fields again.  So far there is no sign of these colorful little birds joining in the arial display.
Just about home, a little bird sat above me in the ginkgo tree singing.  I know that song.  Looking up I spotted him right away.  He was hard to miss with the sun shinning on his under belly and chest, turning it almost crimson, the male Orchard Orioles have arrived.  There will soon be great chases at fast speeds through the back yard trees as the males fight for territory and the attention of their mates.
Almost home, but one quick look in the Robin's nest by the garage, a forth blue egg has been added to the nest tucked in the spruce tree.  I will be able to watch the progress in the easily accessible cup.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

EAGLE'S NEST

Dangling from the talons a fish freshly plucked after a fleeting hover and a stealthy swoop, from the calm river waters, the eagle headed straight for the nest, dropping into the giant twig bowl, the mate landed on branch close by.
It is clear that the egg(eggs?) has released it contents into the world.  I wish I could jump really high and just peer into the mossy, feather lined  home to see the tiny downy chick. It must look dwarfed by this nest that it will grow into over the months.  The eggs were no longer being attended to, I would see an eagle sitting on the edge of the nest, or on a nearby branch often, so I had a idea the babies were out of the egg, but this was confirmation.  I am sure that when the chill of night comes on, or rain is pouring down the adult spreads itself over the young for shelter and warmth, but mostly they are on their own now as the parents search for food to fuel this giant growth spurt.  I will see the heads in a few weeks and if lucky, I will witness the first flight.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

EDITING

Warm days are starting to pile up and with that increase in temperature the plants are responding quickly.  Not just the plants that I want in the garden, but the unwelcome intruders as well.  The yearly ritual of yanking these uninvited guests out of the soil and carting them off to a place where their seeds will not add to next years stock is in high gear.  I have to admit, I do love these first days being out on the ground cleaning the soil.  There is so much to see and hear.
The birds are really active now, the swallows and blue birds are racing against their biological clocks to get the job done.  Nests must be built, territories established and eggs need producing.  They all swoop and dive in and out of the trees, hyperactive and chatty.
Down on the ground as I move along, pulling, and discarding, there is the pleasure of finding the green of one of my favorite plants beginning to poke up through the soil, or the joy of seeing infantile buds beginning to take form.  Satisfying, that yet again the renewal is going according to schedule,  unhappy that perhaps some did not survive.  There is always the internal dialog that goes on. "Oh, yes the Peruvian Lilly I transplanted two years ago is  ready to start blooming again" or "I doubt that Salvia 'red neck girl' survived, what a pity".  I start to catalog and make lists, in my head, of what needs to be transplanted, replaced, what new beauties will I bring into the sanctuary, what needs to be remove to regain balance.  It is so exciting to think about all of this, with sun beaming, sky blue and the smell of soil, oregano, thyme. lavendar  and artemisia diffusing in the air around me.
Parker is huddled far to long over there by brown dry grass clumps, what is he up to,  let me see, oh yes a little garden snake,  how fun for him, not so much for the snake.  I pick the light green spotted snake up, most likely a common garter, distract the pup and then guide the slithering 2 foot rope into a thicket of much denser grass cover.  Game over.