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Posts Tagged ‘backyard wildlife habitat’

It is hard to believe that the last time I posted here was before Thanksgiving.  I have been on line, too.  But somehow I have been sucked into Facebook and have found myself putting up little blips here and there rather than making a blog post.   I wonder how many other bloggers have been seduced by social media?

Since I posted, it has snowed and thawed several times.   I did get some pretty nifty snow shots during all those events.

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We had a real cold snap before Thanksgiving, and the little pond froze with beautiful hoarfrost crystals.

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We also had a small ice storm, no big damage although we did have a couple of elm trees that dropped a lot of branches.   The day after the ice covered stuff it was a lovely day and things were already starting to melt.   I took Ruby for a walk and the ice was positively magical.   Everywhere I looked the woods sparkled in rainbow colors.   This phenomenon proved to be shockingly difficult to photograph, but I did get one image that almost conveys how amazing it was out there.

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During all this harsh weather, my neighborhood has been living up to its name.   All kinds of little birds, and big birds too, have been enjoying the shelter, food and water The Havens provides.  Actually, there are plenty of mammals also enjoying The Havens along with the avian population.

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We had a sumptuous Thanksgiving repast.

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At Christmas, Jesse and Lynette were able to get away from their Army duties and bring James to visit us.   They were here for far too short a time, and we loved every minute of it.

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I saved The Quilt for a Christmas presentation, even though the kids knew I had made it and had enjoyed hots of it during all stages of creation.   They did not know about the pillow cases or the matching throw pillow, though.   Honestly, I think it makes a pretty impressive bed.

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James approved, I believe.

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One of my dear friends gave me an amaryllis bulb as a Christmas gift.   This week it started to open.

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Today it looks like this:

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So now you are somewhat up to date.

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I’ve been trying to get the garden put away for the winter.  This is a long and involved process.   Last year it included planting a cover crop in the garden, but I’m not sure this is going to happen this year.    I believe it may just be OBE.  In this case, the event is much traveling coupled with the fact I have not in fact ordered the seeds I would need in order to plant said cover crop.

However, I did get the jungle moved back inside from its summer quarters out under the pergola and on the north side of the house.   That was a HUGE job this year because Marvin, the giant peace lily in the far left corner of the picture below, required repotting this year, as did one of his compatriots.

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I managed to get all the apple sauce made, and Jim and I also made pesto out of the 3 pounds of basil leaves we stripped off the basil I picked the other day.

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One of the things that became evident during the course of events is that the remainders of applesauce are apparently quite delightful.   My compost pile has several very lovely visitors because of that being thrown on it.  There are also about a million flies out there too, but I didn’t take a picture of them.

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In addition to the plant tenants and the compost tenants, I have quite a few amphibians around the place.   There is a very cute little toad who I never see when I have the camera.    However, there are several leopard frogs around, and they are so accustomed to me and Jim that they don’t get particularly concerned when we come across them.   Here is one in the pond, wondering why I have that thing that is not a fly stuck in its face.

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Since we have finished picking and crushing the grapes, we decided it was high time we put the stemmer/crusher away.   We were moving it into the garden shed when a very upset little tree frog emerged from the innards of the machine and said, essentially, “What the hell are you doing?   I was hunting here.”   He hopped off the machine, and after we put it away, we looked around for him so we would not step on him.   I caught him and put him over on the compost pile where I had dumped the remains of the peace lily repotting operations.

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There are at least three box turtles strolling about the place.   One of them was hiding under the hostas this morning.

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None of my tenants really like being photographed, except possibly the plants.   Of course, they might not like it either, but it is difficult to tell how they feel.

Anyway, last but not least, I was admiring the pollinators flitting about the place, and this little tachnid fly caught my eye.   It was extremely cooperative in posing for me.   I had the supermacro function turned on, and the camera was about half an inch away from this insect, but rather than scurrying off, he tilted his wings “just so” and I was able to catch the iridescence on them nicely.

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Well, I’d best be off to pick chard.   If I’m quick I can get it blanched before my afternoon group of clients.

 

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That old saying “Time flies when you’re having fun”  also applies to working hard.

I did indeed go to Alaska.  We cruised for three days up the Inside Passage to Juneau and Skagway.   It was beautiful.

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We went whale watching and did see whales, both humpbacks and orcas.  All those amazing photos you see of whales?   Taken by professionals who got 5000 shots just like mine:

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Out of focus and not very interesting.   But the experience was fantastic.

We also saw the Mendenhall Glacier.

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There was a glacially carved pond along the walk way to the view point.   I loved this.

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I was entranced by the moss/lichen forests.

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The area right below the view point for the glacier was roped off from visitors.   The arctic terns were nesting there.   I watched a pair in their mating dance; the male flew down to the glacial lake and brought his intended a little tiny salmon.   She accepted it.   Farther down the beach there was a female who was deep in the process of incubation.

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We went on a bus tour of the inland part of the state, starting in Canada and crossing into Alaska near Tok.   On to Fairbanks, where I did the tourist things I never did while I lived there:   sailing on the Riverboat Discovery on the Chena to the Tanana River, visiting a gold dredge and learning to pan for gold.   It was fun.

Then we took the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park.   There were more mountains than it seems possible.   And wildlife.   Mostly moose.  This was taken on our wildlife tour in the park.   This mama had twin babies.   They were less than 24 hours old.

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When I got back home, there was a 60th birthday to celebrate, which was done appropriately.   Apparently I am not quite done with my birthday.   Yesterday in the mail I received a beautiful ammonite fossil that someone anonymously ordered off Etsy and had shipped to me.   I feel special and loved.

While we were aboard the ship, we sat for professional portraits.   I believe this is a good way to demonstrate how 60 looks.

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Back at home, I had plenty of work waiting for me.   I got my day lily bed north of the stroll garden cleaned out, much to the day lilies’ relief.  They were being swamped by goldenrod, violets, wild iris and sundry other volunteers.   That took a few days.

I also had to catch everyone up on their massages, and I have been very busy with that ever since we got home.

Last night Jim mentioned that he thought we ought to rake the algae out of the pond that has been forming.  I went out there to do some of that this afternoon.  I decided to be circumspect about it, rather than just wholesale rake in clumps of algae.   I am very glad I did.   It is being used by literally dozens of tiny salamander newts.   They were not too happy to be fondled and photographed by the local paparazzi.

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You can see his gills and tiny legs.   I believe we may  be leaving the algae alone.

Of course the robins have been very busy too.  This fellow was outside my massage room window the other day, chirping loudly to his parents to induce them to feed him.   They were just as loudly exhorting him to move his butt off the juniper and learn to hunt for himself.   He won the day that afternoon, but I saw him out on the lawn a couple of days later, following his papa around and learning to find bugs for himself.   This is so gosh darned cute.

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When I left in mid May, the vegetable garden only had the cool weather crops in, and so since the beginning of June I got the squash, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and I don’t know what all else planted.   It is doing just fine.

We’ve been feasting on beautiful salads.

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This is how the garden looks today.   Notice the wooden boxes rather in the middle.   Those are the potato towers.   I’ll let you know how the crop is.

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Just in case I thought that all this belonged to me, the wren was there to set me straight.

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Well, that catches you all up a bit, I hope.   It is a long summer still.   Now I believe I shall hang out ANOTHER load of laundry and then take Ruby for a walk.

It won’t be a moment too soon for Mallory, who is trying to take a nap on the chair behind me and wishing I would move my derriere off Her Chair so she can get comfortable.  Cats.   Always willing to put your importance into perspective.

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Last night the weatherperson was having the equivalent of a weather orgasm all over the place.   We were setting records in the Ozarks, right and left.   Let’s see, we had the lowest high temperature ever.   I think we set a record for the lowest low temperature for that date.   It snowed in Arkansas, an event that has not happened in May for 194 years.   It snowed here too, something that last happened 106 years ago.

Last night as we were eating our dinner a little flurry set in.   I felt compelled to try to capture it, and I’m telling you that snowfall is hard to get on a still picture.   All those white streaks?   Snow.

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This is how it looked this morning.

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The reason the perspective is so odd on the last one is I was standing on the step ladder.   As you can see, pansies and the peas in the tubs below don’t give a rap that they were snowed on.

The cats know how to deal with snow.

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This photo is remarkable for two reasons.   First, there is a fire going in the stove.   In May.  Unheard of.   Second, Impy is actually lying in front of it.  The first time he witnessed fire being made in the stove his reaction was terrorized disbelief, never having seen a fire or heard it snapping and popping.  He was sure there was some sort of cat-eating monster residing in the living room.  As you can see, Mallory has managed to educate him about the subject.

So, lest you should believe that this spring snow is some sort of horrible environmental disaster, let me reassure you on that point.   Sure, it is chilly, but the frozen precipitation that caused such ecstasy for the meteorologists came without a hard freeze.   So the garden goes on, almost without acknowledging that anything odd or record breaking has occurred.

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It’s a good thing I got out there and got those pictures when I did.   In the time it took me to download them, edit them and get this far on my post, the snow on the wisteria has all melted.

I was concerned about the robins, whom I know for a fact have been very busy incubating eggs lately.   Jim showed me one out in one of the cedars a few days ago who was guarding new hatchlings.   So, the few days of cold and unseasonable snow made me worried for the little family.

I went out to see what I could see.  She was sitting tight.

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She did not like me or the camera, and left the nest to yell at me from a convenient locust tree.   Her mate joined her in vociferous complaints.   Since the nest was open, I thought I’d grab a quick look.

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Not wanting those naked babies to get cold, I left immediately.  I hadn’t gotten fifty feet away before Mama was back on the nest.   So that was all right.

The robin who has chosen to nest on the dragon head driftwood is hyper-vigilant.    You can’t walk into the back yard past the corner of that sauna without her jumping off the nest and flying over to the fig tree to tell you all about it.   This morning was no exception.

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I had my doubts about the viability of her eggs given that pattern of behavior.  Apparently all that flying off didn’t keep the eggs from developing.

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I guess that the cold weather this morning made it possible for her to ignore my presence over by the pond, because she got back on the nest while I was there, which is not her typical pattern.

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She was able to stay on her babies while I walked back to the house.   Of course, the fact that I walked WAY over by the fence behind where the clothesline is may have had something to do with it.

Well, I”m not so overjoyed by this weather pattern as the weatherman, but it certainly has been interesting.

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After nearly killing ourselves last week getting the weeds out of the pond, I sort of let the next phase of the job stay on hold for a while.   Let me refresh your memory:

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As you can see, I have the pavement area partially clear of grass and weeds.   When I originally laid it, all I did was put in a bed of sand.   Needless to say, this was an open invitation to the ants, bermuda grass, dock, clover, etc. etc. etc. to move in and take over, which they did most thoroughly.

It was a slow process scraping the vegetative cover off of the pavers.  This was not made any easier by the fact that that the ants living there did their little earthmoving activities undisturbed for 17 years, which led to the paving blocks heaving and shifting in a most amazing manner.   I decided that filling the wheelbarrow with grass mats once a day was plenty of work of that sort.    There were plenty of other things to occupy me too, like pruning the espalier, the rugosa rose in front of the barn and I don’t know what all.    Needless to say, I also had to walk Ruby.

Anyway, when the grass was finally cleaned away, a job I finished yesterday morning, the paving looked like this:

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There were plenty of grass roots left sticking up, and after a few seconds I decided I really needed to move the paving and do some restoration to the pad.   So I did.

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I was so careful when I moved the blocks, having the insane idea that I would be able to replace them the same way they came out.   What I neglected to take into consideration was the fact that the far edge had had some blocks break, and so the tiles were not fitted together properly over there.  Also, some of my tiles had broken while the shifting sands were under them.

While I was working, the first house wren returned, flying in from the south in a flurry of announcements.  “This is my house.”   “This is my garden.” “This area is mine, mine, mine, what are you doing here?”   “Where are the girls anyway, slowpokes, don’t they know there are plenty of bugs to eat we need to get busy and start a family post haste.”   I was glad to see him back, nosy bossy busybody that he is.

After I had the pavers moved, I grubbed out the grass roots and rhizomes that had invaded.   Then I “leveled” the mud and spread sand over it to make a nice base for the pavers.   No one can say that I do not learn from my mistakes, so it was off to the Big Box store to  purchase a pond liner to go under the tiles.   That item was not cheap, but I was armored with Jim’s statement “It is a one time expense” so I plopped down several twenty dollar bills, managed to avoid the temptation of half price perennial plants, and came on home.

There I spread the new liner, tucking it neatly under the pond’s pond liner at the edge, and trimming it to fit my tile area.   Then it was jig saw puzzle time as I fit the tile blocks back into their space.   This required a lot of running back and forth to the pile of tile behind the barn in the search for blocks that were “just right” for holes that needed filling.   By the end I was reduced to taking a piece of rock and smacking it with my hammer in the hopes that one of the resulting pieces would be right for the hole that needed filling.   This actually worked quite well several times, much to my amazement.

Jim mixed me up a small batch of mortar, and I got into the waterfall area and mended the cracks so that when we finally get the new pond pump the water will fall rather than dribble.   That was just a short little episode in the long slog of work I was involved in.

Finally, I hauled a couple of three gallon buckets of sand over to fill in the cracks, and swept it clear.   I was finishing that up when I was called to dinner.   I left the area changed:

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After dinner, I took Ruby for her walk, and for some reason it was a very slow pace around the mile and half path I generally take her on.   Frequently I make it 3.5 miles, but it simply wasn’t in the cards last night.   I came home and took a nice long, badly needed epsom salt soak.

Elsewhere in the yard, spring is progressing nicely.   Here are a couple of images of the species tulips and one of my very fancy daffodils as they bloomed beautifully and largely un-noticed on the other side of the yard from where my attention was focused.

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In front, I did manage a clean up during the week, which revealed the peony sprouting very optimistically.   There are plenty of daffodils and tulips keeping it company.   One of the irises already has a flower stalk coming up.

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Now that the pond is finished, I can rest easy in the knowledge that it will never be that hard to maintain again.   Hopefully, anyway.   And that is a good thing, as I am not getting any younger.   In another ten years I’m not sure I would have been able to do the herculean job that I accomplished this past week and a half.  And I do not wish to minimize Jim’s help during it, although most of the work was done by me while he was busy mowing and mowing and cooking and working at the Commissary.

Now all I have to do is help Jim replace all the carpet in the house with flooring, paint all the walls that have cracks from the beam replacement job, remove the cannas from the areas that I don’t want them, get the henbit out of the day lilies, finish planting the vegetable garden, and …..

Did I mention I am going on a cruise vacation to Alaska in about a month?

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