Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Downy Woodpecker

She flew into the large sliding glass door. I was sure she would be fine in a little bit. After all the woodpeckers have such strong neck muscles and a reinforced head! But she never moved again. What a beautiful bird she was! She was good to have around for other reasons besides her looks. She ate such things as ants and beetles and grasshoppers and insect eggs.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

We were gone for a few days. There was a class reunion and a wedding to attend. While we were in Iowa, we visited a huge reconstructed prairie with a really nice visitors center, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. We drove though the prairie along a winding road to the Prairie Learning Center. The center has a very informative video displayed on three screens about the prairie, many many educational displays and a book store. I purchased two books, Field and Roadside, Open-Country Weeds, Trees, and Wildflowers of Eastern North America by John Eastman and Making Collaboration Work, Lessons from Innovation in Natural Resource Management by Julia M. Wondolleck and Steven L. Yaffe. We did not have time to drive though the bison and elk reserve. Next time!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Squiggle Art

What is this interesting light colored pattern in the back yard grass? A natural or carved break in the trees allowing sunshine through? Somebody on the loose with a can of white spray paint?

On closer inspection (of the image or the actual hillside), it's clear that the light grass is dead grass. This quickly leads to the culprit, a small hand pump sprayer containing Roundup that didn't have its cap securely tightened, or perhaps more accusatorially, the person who didn't do the tightening.

I don't really want to get into the argument about Roundup (glyphosate) which is covered extensively elsewhere, for example in many gardening blogs. If you're interested, start at the Wikipedia article. Suffice it to say, we DO use it in moderation in our battle with the invasive species, almost exclusively for applying a 50/50 mix to the stumps of bush honeysuckle and autumn olive after cutting them down, and never near water or on a windy day.

So, next time you're preparing some Roundup (or other herbicide), and you're being careful and following the label instructions, of course, remember to give that applicator cap an extra tightening twist!!

Weed Whacking?

I guess you could call it invasive whacking . What to do with all the yellow and white sweet clover that is growing all over the place? They are the worst weeds. If left to themselves, they would be everywhere. The big patches along the driveway were mowed down with the tractor. It might not look the best but it is the easiest. But what about the patches growing in the middle of the savanna and meadows? The old weed whacker was hauled out for this and after a few repairs and outfitted with a steel blade it has been great for getting the clovers that are out in the middle of the meadows. I have chosen not to spray the clovers but instead try to control them by cutting them down before they can go to seed. (There is so much else that I spray already like the honeysuckle, autumn olive, multiflora rose and, well, you get the idea.) Cutting the patches of clover down seems to be effective and only has to be done once a year. I just hope the heat and humidity are not too hard on the old weed whacker!

Monday, June 22, 2009


These plants (Echinacea, Rudbeckia and Gaillardia) certainly do not mind the heat and humidity. There is a small flower bed in the front of the house. The flower bed was located there so it can be viewed indoors from the dining room table. These plants are blooming there now. I am particularly fond of the coneflower. It is Tennessee Coneflower or Echinacea tennesseensis. Notice that the flower ray is flat not curved like the typical purple coneflower Echinacea purpurea. On such a hot and humid day like today, it is really nice to be able to sit inside and enjoy the beauty of these flowers and also watch the insects and birds that they attract.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Compost Bin

It is so hot and humid. Why would any one work on a compost bin on such a day? Well, we had a lot of wind and rain yesterday morning. Things got moved and blown around the yard. I went out to just tidy up the yard but ended up rotating the compost bins. I feel guilty. I do not do all that should be done to properly maintain the compost bin, like layering of materials, regular turning, temperature monitoring etc., but still, after a while, compost happens. My compost pile is truly a tribute to all the unseen microorganisms and under-appreciated macroorganisms (mites, grubs, insects, earthworms) that make the miracle of decomposition possible.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gardening with a toad

Bufo Americanus or the American toad. He was uncovered while I was weeding a mass of blooming winecups (Callirhoe involucrata). That's the pink in the photo. I did not know that wine cups attracted toads. I thought they just liked insects and earthworms and other toads.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's worth it

When prickly pear cactus (Opuntia macroorhiza) blooms, it is beautiful! One forgets the pain it's little barbed spines (glochids) earlier inflicted on you as you weeded the patch. How hard the spines were to pick out of your gardening gloves or worse your skin. These barbs are tiny and transparent, making them hard to see. And you must find them and pick them out or else the irritation will not stop. Because of the pain inflicted by the barbs and the difficulty removing them, I would really wonder about it's value if I had small children around.

We planted a patch of prickly pear cactus on our property. It is out-of-the-way on a hillside. We will watch the beautiful flowers turn into fruits. The fruits and seeds are browsed by many animals: rabbits, skunks, ground squirrels, mice and some birds.

It really is worth it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


It is raining very hard today.
I wonder about the weeds that are growing here.

Yesterday, while at the library, I borrowed the book Weeds: Friend or Foe? by Sally Roth. So, as I sit here waiting for the rain to stop, I can investigate some of my favorite weeds: wild garlic, morning glories and clover. All of which are abundant on the property. And then there are some I am not really all that familiar with, like Black medic, Medicago lupulina. Reading about this little weed, I now realize that it is all over my lawn, blooming right now!

Is this a plant I need to remove now that I know it is a weed?
The book claims that Black medic has some food value for birds and rodents and has a nitrogen-enriching effect on the soil. I think it even looks rather nice alongside the clover that is also blooming in my lawn. I rather like it.

As the book asks: Friend or Foe?

Monday, June 15, 2009


Carolina Wrens
These two are homeless.

I feel responsible.

They were building a nest in my potted bear claw fern out on the deck. I brought the fern inside. The pair looked and looked and flew away and came back and waited and looked some more. Finally, they moved on. The only good thing is that the plant has been saved. I can only hope that they find another suitable home on our property.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


They were out last night.
What a wonderful sight!
They were in the grass, in the air, in the trees.
They were blinking and flying and glowing.
I sure hope you take the time to enjoy the fireflies

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Do you smell that?

That being a skunk!

We woke up this morning to skunk smell.
Where is he?
What is he doing?
Will he be around long?
Maybe it is a she and she has a den with little ones?

This happened a few years back and we managed to co-exist though it all. So I am hoping that this too will be a peaceful coexistence.

Friday, June 12, 2009

They're Everywhere!

Invasive species that is. Sometimes I feel like all I do is remove plants. The Honeysuckle and Autumn Olives are an all year task and now the yellow clover is blooming. So, that too needs to be removed or cut down. Sometimes I feel like all I do is remove plants! (Oh, I already said that.)

In order to keep from becoming too discouraged about this task, we (Lex and I) have set aside just one day a week when we really go after the Honeysuckle and Autumn Olive. Today was such a day. Lex got out the chain saw and cut down some of the huge honeysuckles and I hauled them away. What a team.

I have come to the realization that this will be something that we do as long as we live here for one is never done with invasive species removal. They're everywhere!