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“Whipsaw:  n 1. A narrow two person crosscut saw. v 1. To cut with a whipsaw, 2. To defeat in two ways at once” 

It was a lovely day today at The Havens.  Last week, after several days of pretty cold temperatures (sub zero at night), it snowed.  Then it warmed up enough to melt the thin layer of snow on the ground.  This was followed by some days around freezing accompanied by gusty winds.  Finally it warmed up and the wind blew like a wind tunnel testing a jet airplane.

This morning it dawned clear and cool and totally calm.  It would have been ideal to burn off the labyrinth right then, but we had a date at the kid’s house for home made waffles.   So we went over there (a matter of walking half a block) at the appointed time and thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast with the family.  It is really lovely to have our grandkids so close.  AND their parents…  I must not leave them out!

After our repast, we came home, got busy, and burned off the tall grass that had accumulated in the labyrinth over the last summer.  It was a perfect day for burning, and still hadn’t gotten so warm that tending the fire was onerous.  There have been times when it was sort of like an introduction to Hades, what with a warm day and a brisk breeze.  Today it was just damp enough that the grass burned well but not like an inferno.  No wind to speak of, so the flames crept their way through the paths and rocks desultorily.  We had to use the flame thrower a few times to encourage them to do a complete job.

There are lots of rags and tags of grass tops, as well as things like the stems of goldenrod, little white asters, and primroses spread in the paths.   They really need to be raked up but I decided to do something else instead.  If I leave them long enough they will blow away or compost in place, maybe.

After unhooking and draining the hoses we had deployed for fire safety reasons, we rolled them and coiled them back up on their supports.  Winter is not over yet and we have had enough of frozen pipes.

Speaking of frozen pipes, the contractor man has been here since Wednesday repairing the utility bathroom.  We picked out new floor tile for it, auditioning a style that we are considering using for the Great Bathroom Remodel, which is scheduled for a future date yet to be determined.   We LOVE the tile and lucky for us it was on sale so we bought the necessary quantity and have stashed it in the sauna dressing room.  The bathroom should become functional early next week.

Of course, there has been a daily (except for Thursday) pilgrimage to Springfield to visit the Ailing Mother.  She came through her popliteal bypass alive (barely).  There were a few rough days, and once the hospital figured out that she really needed a blood transfusion, she rallied enough to be moved to a rehabilitation hospital.  Since then she has walked as much as 70 feet during physical therapy and can get up out of her wheel chair and move to the bed “unassisted” (meaning two people stand nearby at the ready to make sure that she does not lose her balance and fall during the painstaking process).  But her appetite has returned, and her mind is once again active.  She has been working on her tatting project.  Aside from the open incision around the bypass site, she is looking fairly good.  There is still a lot of ground to cover, but we are no longer in fear of her life.

And my sister was released from the hospital today, after fighting infection from the cat bite she got while she was neutropenic from her latest chemotherapy for her leukemia.  Thank God for small favors.

With both people that were in so much danger moving towards safety, maybe I can actually get some sleep tonight.

Anyway, back to today.   Instead of raking the labyrinth, I cleared the old dry tops out of the asparagus bed.   While I was engaged in that chore, I noticed that the bees were out foraging.   Then I started wondering if they still had enough honey to keep them going through the rest of the winter.  (Despite the lovely day today, winter is FAR from over.) Presently my curiosity grew so much that I went into the house and prevailed on Jim to make a wellness check on the colony.  He suited up and opened the hive and we determined that they have LOTS of honey to eat, they seem very healthy and active.   Without disturbing them much more than that, he put the hive back together and we watched them continue about their bee business.

This activity made me wonder what on earth they could be finding to forage this time of year?  It didn’t take me long to remember that yesterday while I was walking Ruby I noticed that the witch hazel out at Bennet Spring was blooming.  I have a few witch hazel trees here at the Havens, so it wasn’t much of a leap to wonder if perhaps our bees had found them.

I went to look, and lo and behold!

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The bees have indeed discovered that there is a source of pollen out there for them.  While I was playing bee paparazzi, I saw a couple of tachnid wasps out there too. They declined to be photographed, so I can’t prove it.

Then I went out and weeded the strawberry, blueberry and raspberry cage.   It was very healing to dig out all that henbit and chickweed.  The whole cage looks great!  While I was working, I could hear the hum of the hive on the other side of the fence.

Maybe I will have some time to work on my art journal this evening.  That would be very good.

 

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It was a very white start to Martin Luther King Day here at the Havens.  When I awoke, it was snowing, but the precipitation has stopped for now.   There was no water aerobics this morning, and I am not really excited about getting out on the roads.  While I cut my “driving teeth” in the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado; and then developed them experiencing the roads of Alaska, I still stay off the roads if I don’t have to go out when the weather is like this.

Around here people get way excited when a couple of inches of snow fall and there is a light rime of ice on the roadways, conditions that would make a seasoned Alaskan or Colorado mountain driver simply slow down a bit.  Around here, they close school and the weather people have regular conniptions about how dangerous it all is.  I have no qualms about my ability to negotiate the highways here in the Ozarks.  It is the REST of the drivers that give me pause.  They are so unpredictable I am reluctant to put myself in their vicinity.  Many of them seem to believe that since they have four wheel drive they can still drive over the speed limit and also stop on a dime if they need to. (She shakes her head…)

So I am home, and wondering if I will have any clients this afternoon.  There are three scheduled, whether they will show up is another question entirely.  It makes earning a living very unpredictable.

Meanwhile, the view from my kitchen window is splendid.  The little birds surely did appreciate me filling the feeders this morning.  There was a huge crowd of them at breakfast time.  The hawk flew through and scattered them, afterwards the yard was devoid of birds (and squirrels) for a good half hour.   I did not go out and investigate, but usually that means that the Cooper’s hawk was able to secure her breakfast.  She seems to view the pond area as her dining room.

The petite prairie is looking quite fine, as you can see from my opening photo above.  I love to go out there and inspect the environs after a few hours of no snow fall.  That is when it becomes evident just how important that cover is to the residents of the yard.

There was a small flock of cardinals hanging around after the hawk scare ebbed.   Here is a shot of them I took from the porch.

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That is not all of them, several of them were availing themselves of the sunflower seeds while I was taking these images.

There are more of them in that bush than meets the casual eye.  Here is a closer shot of the same group.

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Aside from the trio of juncos there is one male cardinal and four females sharing this bush.

The male is very suspicious of me.  Even though I was a good 30 meters away when I took this shot, his demeanor tells me “I know you are there and you are probably up to no good.”

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“Just stay on your porch and everyone will be happy.”

 

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We spent a few days down near Corpus Christi, Texas, visiting the Padre Island National Seashore.  It is a truly magical place, a 60 mile long beach you can drive on at low tide when the sand is packed.  This is the view looking south at about mile 15.

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It is a fantastic place to walk next to the water and pick shells up.  Unlike many of our national parks, at Padre Island you are allowed to collect shells, no more than five gallons a day.  They must not have anything living in them, including hermit crabs.

It is also an amazing place to watch birds.   While we were down there I saw a golden eagle sail over the dunes one morning.   There were many northern harriers, red tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons hanging around.  This area is one of the places they winter over.   North of the Island is the place where the whooping cranes winter over.  Many sandhill cranes are also in the area.

The week we were there it got so cold that there were a two mornings when all the shore birds had departed for warmer weather.   There were not even any sea gulls, which seemed eerie.

We did see some pelicans, however.   Mostly they were not interested in flying.  The fish had all gone very deep and it wasn’t worth the effort to try to fish.

There were also quite a few grey herons that stuck around.   One day it was quite windy, and I caught a shot of this gentleman with his feathers ruffled.

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A couple of days later, the wind had died down but it was still very cold.   One of his brethren was posed heroically against the skyline.

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My favorite thing to do was wake up just at dawn and watch the sunrise.  Then take off for a couple of miles on the beach before breakfast.   This was possible because low tide was happening right around dawn during the period we were there.   At high tide, there is no beach to walk on.

There were some grand sunrises.

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That day, when I turned around the gibbous moon was smiling at me.

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The next day we had another fine sunrise.

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That day, the sun was kissing the waves beautifully.

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I love the ocean.   Jim and I both miss living next to it.

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We are getting some badly needed rain.  It has been threatening all morning, flashing and muttering under its breath, teasing us with brief sprinkles.

The radar shows that all of this activity is moving along to the south, which is odd because most of the lightning and clouds I am looking at are to the north of me.  At any rate, I am glad it is raining.   We need for the ground to be nicely wet and more rain promised in order to distribute the beneficial nematodes that are reputed to dine on Japanese beetle grubs.  With a good rain under our belt, and more promised, we can order the supplier to ship them.  With any luck, the weather will cooperate and keep the ground nice and wet after they are applied.

I am happy that there is a storm, Impy is NOT.   I don’t know what horrible trauma happened to him in his kittenhood, but he is terrified of thunder and slinks off full speed ahead for the nearest closet as soon as the first distant rumble occurs.  This morning has been just terrible for him.  With the sporadic nature of this storm, there have been periods of calm in between the heavenly percussion performance long enough for him to stick his whiskers out.   Inevitably, as soon as he is bold enough to exit his sanctuary, a random clap of thunder will send him scurrying back under cover.

We have hypothesized that Impy can understand the weatherman and has listened to all the instructions regarding what to do to be safe in a stormy situation.   If you don’t have a shelter to move into, you should stay in an interior room (preferably with no windows) and put a pillow over your head.  When you hear thunder, you should keep yourself as close to the ground as possible while you move to shelter to minimize the danger of being struck by lightning.   And for God’s sake, don’t go stand under a tree.

Our local YMCA is so careful about lightning danger that they clear the pool if there is any within a few miles of us.   Consequently, this morning our water aerobics class was only 15 minutes long.

I have been surfing the interwebs excessively, so I finally decided I ought to get something worthwhile done instead of endlessly posting on facebook.  I made the bed, and cleaned the catboxes.   I did the dishes, and I am contemplating the idea of vacuuming.   I am pretty sure I can spend enough time on my blog that I simply won’t have time to do that chore before I have to leave for my mammogram.

While I was washing the dishes the storm finally blew into our area and produced a measurable amount of rain.   I was musing as I scrubbed my pots about how one would depict the skies opening up as a response to a prompt of “Open” on an the Art Journal Adventure.   The view out my window captivated me as I worked and pondered.  The finches are busy at  the feeder, they don’t care it is raining and neither do the squirrels, who use their tails as easily as an umbrella as they do a sunshade or blanket.

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The rain will be good for the garden too.  The peas are about an inch tall, and the lettuce that we tended all winter is going gangbusters.   I heartily endorse the use of cold frames in this climate.   We ate beautiful lettuce all winter.

So as I allowed this train of thought to pass through the station of my mind, a huge ground strike flashed down just to the northeast.

I was standing at the window, scrubbing a metal pot with my hands in running water, and I recalled the wisdom that says you can get a pretty bad shock if lightning strikes near your water line when you have your hands in running water.   Suddenly I thought “If that bolt had struck the house and electrocuted me where I stood, I suppose my last thought would have been ‘Impy was right’.”

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I’m sure that is not the longest title ever put on an ariticle, but I’m sure it is right up there.  We have been working very hard getting the yard in shape.   It won’t be long now before we will have to mow the lawns.  The peas are up and looking very nice.

There is a LOT of work to do around here.   Yesterday I worked on the East Prairie; cleaned out the last of the branches of last year’s tiny white asters.   Do not be fooled by that name, the flowers are tiny but the plants can be absolutely rampant.   They got about 5 feet tall last summer, since they had no competition except for the poke weed and some wild lettuce named fireweed (for some arcane reason).

Let me just say that in my head, fireweed is that amazing magenta flower that grows all over the Alaska Interior, not this 6 foot tall Ozarks giant that has insignificant flowers that the pollinators adore.

Anyway, I got that cleaned up and then we went out to dinner, which was scrumptious.   After we got home it was a dead calm so we burned the little brush pile out in the savanna.  That has been there about a year and a half, ever since I beat a path through the forsythia thicket so I could work on removing elm sprouts.

Today I cleaned up the garden area around the sauna.  Now that has turned into quite the place.  My job, now that all the forbs have gotten established, is to keep the honeysuckle and the elm trees from moving in.  It blooms all summer with plants I collected seeds from while walking the dog.   When I first planted this garden, I put some beautiful day lilies in there, but now that it has turned into a micro prairie, the day lilies have a lot of competition.  They bloom, but it is a struggle.  The little birds love this garden.

After I got that done, I decided to have a beer and see if I could see any birds at the pond.  I was rewarded by a gold finch, who came down to the waterfall for a drink.

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He didn’t stay very long.   I waited for a while, and Jim came to join me.   We sat for a while, and all of a sudden a junco dropped by.   This little bird knew darn well we were there, and did not come down to drink.  It took a while for me to capture him looking in our direction.  It is not safe for little birds, you know, and he was trying to look in all directions at once.

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Then I went off for mosquito dunks, and on my way back to the pond I sort of wandered around looking at the yard.

There are about five million violet seedlings in my path, something for future reference.  They are invisible in this shot, which is all about the grape hyacinths and the dragon’s teeth.

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Other than that, I think it is looking pretty special.   I wandered past the Green Man on my way to the pond.   I can actually see him this time of year.  The bittersweet vine really fills in.  Right now it is barely sprouting.

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Right behind him is the pond.   While I was getting this shot, there were a grackle and a robin in the pond taking a bath.  By the time I got around the corner, the grackle was done and had vacated the area.

The robin was very wet.

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He sat there for several minutes as I stood frozen on the opposite side of the pond from him.  After a while, he decided that he was not sufficiently bathed, and so he hopped back into the pool.

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Well.  That’s better.

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He is even more wet.

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But , apparently, not wet enough.   Back in he went for another splash.

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We have a pretty good sized pile of prunings from the yard, so if the wind calms down at sunset we shall have an Equinoctical bonfire.  That will be nice.

Happy Spring!

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Well, I have been way from the blog for far too long.  It is amazing what a profound effect having people make unkind comments has, it is like being burned by a hot stove and never wanting to approach it again.  I have decided that cruel and unstable people do not get to control me.

A few days ago we noticed that the number of small birds in our yards seems to have increased radically, not quite exponentially.   We hang two big feeders, each will hold 3 quarts of black oil sunflower seeds.  All winter, we had to fill them about every three days.   All of a sudden, they are being emptied in one 24 hour period.

Also, I noticed that the number of birds hopping around on the ground and in the trees and shrubs seems to have increased from lots to dozens and dozens.   The elm trees are blooming, and there are finches all over them, eating the elm seeds.  (My hope is that they eat ALL of them, as every year I have to weed hundreds of volunteer elm trees out of my gardens.

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What is going on?

Well, the fact is we have a housing crisis for small birds in the neighborhood.   There is a place about 400 or 500 feet from here where there are new owners.   Now granted, the property they bought was very overgrown, and they have every right to clear the elms and massive quantities of grape vines, virginia creeper and other stuff that has slowly inched its way towards their house.   They probably are going to replant once the area is cleaned up, sort of like what we have done on our east property line.

But at the moment, there are hundreds of little finches, sparrows, wrens, juncos and other birds that like dense woodsy shrubs who have summarily been evicted from their homes without warning.  They have found their way here and have found the proprietors to be willing to provide their needs.

And so, The Havens earns its name once again.  A population in crisis has found a place with shelther and food to get them by.

 

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We had our roof replaced and the house sided last month.  Looks pretty good now, like a brand new house outside.   Too bad the inside does not match…  I definitely need new floor treatments.

However, during the course of the work, the siding guys simply had to walk next to the house, which involved walking in the garden on the north side.  This garden mostly consists of hostas, with a few hellebores and bleeding hearts thrown in.   It started out as a real shade garden with several varieties of shade lovers in it, but over the years the less hardy plants died out.

Truth to tell, some of the original plantings, which I established with great forethought, turned out to be unwise choices.   One of those, notably, was the lily of the valley, which was summarily evicted after I discovered it busily strangling the hostas nearest to it.   The violets that I was so sure would look very nice along the house turned out to be a noxious weed and empire builders.   I have been trying to eradicate them for some time, and if I live long enough I may eventually succeed.

But I digress.   I decided that the north border needed to be revamped.  To that end, I removed all the rocks I had placed next to the house, leveled out the area and edged it with some pound-in edging.   The rocks got thrown into a pile over near the pergola.   After the edging was in place, I lined the rock border right next to the house with black plastic.   The idea is to have a strip of decorative rock between the house and the garden so that I do not have plants right up against the house, in the interest of proper air circulation.

It has taken me about a week to get ready to put my rocks back.   These are mostly very cool rocks that I have brought home from various gravel bars.   While I was doing the prep work, though, behind my back the rock pile became habitat.  I was not particularly surprised to find pill bugs and centipedes living there when I started moving the pile.   The big wolf spider also did not seem very out of place.

But this fellow surprised me!

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He (or she — I’m not good at sexing amphibians), had taken up residence under the pile of rocks and wished sincerely that I had not moved them.

I did pick the little fellow up, because I certainly did not wish to hurt him during my job.

As you can see with the scale of my glove added, this is a very small being indeed.  I think this may be the eft stage of the red spotted newt.  This is very interesting, because for a long time I have been aware of having what I referred to as salamanders living in the pond.  It turns out that the red spotted newt has an aquatic stage, and the guys in the pond are more than likely the red spotted newt in that aquatic stage.  This little fellow has found its way out of the pond to transform to its terrestrial stage.

I took it over to the rain garden, which seemed like a good place to relocate it out of harms way.

Indeed, it found the location satisfactory, and crawled back in and under the rocks there.

I am happy to find yet another individual creature that appreciates the habitat we have created here at the Havens.  It is really very exciting!

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