Category Archives: Nature

Flowers, Pollinators, Fungus and Breakfast With the Chickens

Flowers and Pollinators

The hibiscus bushes are blossoming.

There are three bushes in a row. The two on the ends have the deep red blossoms. The one is the middle has light pink/white blossoms.

This year we have an interesting phenomenon. One of the end bushes has both the red blossoms and the pink blossoms. This has never happened before.

The only explanation I can come up with is that these bushes drop seeds every year and small plants sprout each summer. I end up pulling them so I don’t know how long it would take for one to mature. Perhaps a seed from the pink bush grew up amongst the red bush and has become mature enough to produce flowers. So this is actually two bushes that have commingled.

Many of the plants are suffering from too much rain. The oregano leaves are turning yellow and orange. I have been tempted to cut them way down.

But the bees are enjoying the flowers

as are the butterflies, so I will leave them until they are done blossoming.

Dragonflies are not really pollinators but I do love having them around, especially since they eat things like gnats and MOSQUITOS. (Bring on the dragonflies!!!) This one was resting on an Agastache Kudos Mandarin plant, AKA Hummingbird Mint, that we planted this year.

The honey bees were foraging in the anise hyssop.

This patch of wild flowers attracts a lot of pollinators.

Look closely – how many bees do you see on the Mountain Mint in this photo? I see at least 3.

How about this one? (two?)

Honey bees aren’t the only pollinators enjoying these plants. The blue mud dauber wasps like them as well. This is the first year I have seen this type of wasp.

Honey bees like the cone flowers,

and I even spotted some foraging the purple loosestrife. That is something that we haven’t seen in the past.

It took a while but this beauty finally posed for a picture on a marshmallow plant.

Telling it to “hold still” did absolutely no good so I just had to be patient. I think this butterfly is called a Red Spotted Purple.

Fungus

When I did my mushroom post I had forgot about these puff ball mushrooms that grow every year on the hill where we someday hope to build a root cellar. They are well hidden beneath other weeds that grow up around them so we usually don’t even know they are there until late fall or winter when all the foliage dies. By that time they are just large dust balls.

When I first noticed these, a week or so ago, they were bright white. I didn’t have my camera with me at that time and as you can see they have since turned various shades of brown.

Each of these fungi is between 12 and 20 inches across.

Breakfast With the Chickens

Sunday morning I went to open up the chicken coop. When I do this my routine is to first fill their water dish. I then spread some chicken scratch on the ground in piles around the chicken yard, then I fill their feed dish before I open the coop to let them out. I do this because I know that the first thing they want to do when they come out is eat (except the rooster but we won’t talk about what he wants). If I were to let them out first I would likely have the whole flock following me to the feed can, then I would be tripping over them as I tried to the scatter scratch.

As I was filling their feed dish I noticed a deer approaching the chicken yard. She noticed me as well and we stopped for a minute and stared at each other. I then finished what I was doing while she moseyed over to the pile of chicken scratch that was about twenty feet from the coop and began eating. I opened up the coop and the chickens scattered around the area some of them joining her.

I decided to get my camera to see if I could get a picture of this breakfast club. It was still pretty dark in the chicken yard as it is in a grove of large hickory trees so i wasn’t sure how the picture would turn out.

It wasn’t until I got home and viewed the photo on my computer that I realized

that I had experienced an alien encounter. (Where’s Will Smith when you need him???)

Even when she got out in the light her eyes glowed.

Meanwhile the chickens went on their way,

cluelessly searching for worms or grasshoppers and enjoying their worry-free life.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a great week!

Dog Days Of Summer

According to almanac.com the dog days of summer run from July 3 through August 11 which is normally the hottest and most humid time of year in the northern hemisphere. Around here every day is a dog day. Just ask Ranger and Trooper. But, yes, the HEAT IS ON and it is accompanied by a dry spell so keeping the gardens watered has been the main focus for the past week or so. If you are curious about how we manage that on our off-grid farm you can check out our off-grid irrigation system here.

In the mean time I put together a collection of pictures that I’ve taken over about the past few weeks to share with you.

This is how Ranger cools off on these hot days. (Did you know beagles can swim?)

and Trooper enjoys laying on the beach after a swim in the pond.

The grandbabies love the water as much as the dogs do.

Dragonflies are yet another creature that appreciate the pond.

This one is drinking water from the sand. Check out the honey bee (on the left) that photo bombed this shot. She too was coming to the beach for a drink of water.

This beauty hung out with us on the beach, for a couple of hour yesterday evening, fluttering about and pausing now and then to rest or perhaps get a sip of water.

One last pond picture because we can never have too much cuteness. LOL.

Speaking of cuteness, here is a double dose – twins.

The lavender is gorgeous this year and the bees and butterflies are all over it.

We have transitioned from strawberry season to blueberry season. On the same day that my husband, and (daughter) Kara, picked the last of the strawberries, I took (daughter) Tina, and Jackson and Addy into the blueberry patch to pick the first ripe berries. While Kara took her 3/4 of a basket of strawberries home. Addy couldn’t wait, so she ate all of the blueberries we picked while they were still at the farm.

Start them off young – that’s my motto. They posed for a group photo then dad took Jackson and Addy, one at a time, for a ride on the tractor.

The garden is flourishing. I have harvested basil and calendula flowers twice so far.

We have green tomatoes, peppers starting to develop, blossoms on the eggplant,

blossoms on the green beans and the corn is knee high.

We cut garlic scapes (check out this post to learn more about scapes) about two weeks ago and will be digging garlic soon.

It seems that every summer our back field is dominated by different plants. This year it is full of clover and birdsfoot trefoil and I think it is just gorgeous. It’s also great bee food.

I’ll leave you with one last photo of this pair who stopped by our deck for a short visit last week. They were kind enough to stay so I could get a photo then they hurried on their way.

Thanks for visiting and remember – stay hydrated, breathe deep and stay well.

Are you having a heat wave?

Foggy Fall Mornings

It was sweatshirt weather when Trooper and I made our way to farm the last two mornings I snapped a few pictures and thought I would share them.

October 9, 2019

It was right around 8:00 A.M. The sun was up, the sky was blue but patches of fog hung near the ground.

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The Autumn colors are showing up but are not nearly at their peak.

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I took this shot photo from a distance because once we got closer Trooper was sure to chase her off.

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The sun was shining through the fog.

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While the drops of moisture that covered everything shimmered in the sunlight.

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Trooper searched the field for mice.

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Perched high over head, these two bids shared a barren tree. It looks like a red winged blackbird on the right, but I am not sure what the one on the left is. This tree is one of the few dead ash that remain standing. I suspect by this time next year we will have cut it up for fire wood.

October 10,2019

Even chillier than yesterday – I wore a sweatshirt with a long sleeved turtle-neck underneath, a knit hat, and rubber boots to keep my feet dry.

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As we started our walk I thought ‘gloves would have been nice too’.

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Fog hovered above the pond.

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As I looked at the grasses and various plant leaves they appeared to be covered in more than just dew. I reached down and touched a leaf I found that it was indeed frost on the leaves.

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I could barely make out the deer who were grazing in the back of the field. I am not sure if they could see me or just hear me.

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After chasing the deer off Trooper began his search for mice.

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The sun is once again working to burn off the fog.

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Since we have had frost I expect the fall colors will come on quickly now.

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I spotted some geese in the neighbors back yard. I had to go full zoom to got this shot.

I wonder if any of my flowers will succumb to the frost.

IMG_5832 Before leaving Trooper decided to get a nice cool drink. He then laid on the beach, but I had to be a party pooper and tell him it was time to go.

Thanks for visiting the farm with me. Until next time – be well. ūüôā

 

Sweet Summer Time

I can’t believe July is nearly over. I certainly have been enjoying the summer weather we have had this past week, but I fear that summer will¬† be gone before I know it. I am trying to make a conscious effort to take at least a little time each day just appreciating what the season has to offer. Sometimes that involves taking a dip in the pond or kicking off my shoes and going barefoot in the lush green grass. Other times it involves observing nature in all of it’s glory. Last week it also involved a homemade blueberry pie. ‚ėļ

Below are some of my observations from the past week.

¬†That’s Just Ducky!

One day last week, when I was working in the prayer garden, I noticed we had a visitor in the pond.

In the past when we have had ducks visit they have not stayed long. This one doesn’t want to leave.

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I can’t say that I blame her as it is a very lovely environment. I am not sure what kind of duck she is so if you know please leave me a comment at the end of this post.

We don’t want ducks or other water foul living in our pond so we have made many attempts at letting her know she needs to leave.IMG_5415

At first I thought it would be as easy as letting Trooper chase her off, but as he entered the pond she swam quickly to the other end of the pond. Trooper lost sight of her and interest. As I walked around the outside of the pond to the area where she was swimming she again just swam to a different spot. My husband attempts at throwing small stones in the water near her didn’t seem to deter her either. She certainly is persistent!

Finally on Friday when I had family over for a picnic lunch I told my niece, as she and my cousin set out in the paddle boat, that their job was to chase the duck away. A while later my niece announced that the duck had flown away. Good Job Ashley and Abbey! It was maybe a couple of hours later, after we had finished our pond activities, that we saw her land in the pond again. Good Grief!!!

I do think that she has since¬†gotten the message that we don’t want her there because now when she sees my husband or I approaching the pond she flies away – only to return when we are not around.¬†Perhaps she figures¬†“what we don’t know won’t hurt us – or her”.

Unapproved Housing!

So far this year I have written about robins building a nest in a flat of pansies and the sparrow who was raising her young in the middle of our strawberry patch but this is the oddest nest yet.

This past winter my husband noticed that what we assume was a confused woodpecker had made a hole in our U.S. Coast Guard approved floatation devise that our township requires be kept near the pond. It is not made out of wood!

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Last week he told me that he looked in that hole and saw what he thought was a sparrow inside.

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I decided to try to get a photo. As I approached a small bird flew out. It was similar in size and color to a sparrow but I noticed that it had a long pointy beak. After doing a little research I have decided it is probably a house wren. While it seems to have found a cozy home I am not sure that the U.S. Coast Guard would approve.

Birdseye View

Hawks soaring high above our farm is not an unusual sight; it’s just one that I have difficulty photographing.¬†It does get concerning when their search area comes close the area where our chickens are foraging as we have had several chickens fall prey to hawks in the past. Such is the nature of allowing chickens to free range.

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As I watch the hawk gracefully circling I envy its view from above.

A Berry Good Year

While our garlic crop was disappointing this year, all of our berries performed beyond our expectations. As I have mentioned in previous posts it has been a wonderful year for strawberries, currants, cherries, and blueberries. Grapes seem to be following suit.

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One day last week I noticed that the grape vines were sagging. Upon further inspection we discovered that the top wire that supports the grape vines had broken.

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The vines are so heavy laden with fruit that the wire could not support their weight. My husband was able to place a couple of wooden stakes under the vines to keep them off the ground, but repairing the wire will have to wait until after the harvest.

If A Tree Falls and Nobody Is Around To Hear It Does It Really Make A Sound?

As of this writing that question will go unanswered.

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My husband was standing in the garden, perhaps 100 feet from this tree last Sunday when the storm came through. He estimated the wind gust at about sixty miles per hour. As he felt the gust, he heard a loud crack and watched the tree fall.

The dead ash tree has been standing dead in the wood line for several years and we have been waiting for the right winds to come along and bring it down. We can now cut it up to use for firewood this winter.

The Garden Was Busy This Morning

Perhaps I should say buzzy. The squash and pumpkins are blossoming heavily right now,

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and bees and other pollinators love squash blossoms.

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It is not unusual to see two or more pollinators in the same flower.

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The bees were also foraging in the buckwheat.  They moved quickly from flower to flower and I was not able to capture a photo of one.

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We don’t harvest buckwheat but it does serve a dual purpose. It acts as a cover crop,¬†enriching the soil¬†in areas where we are not growing food. It also helps feed the bees.

Thanks for spending a little time with me. What are you doing to make the most of summer?

Beginning Of Summer Farm Update

It’s been just a few days since summer arrived, but for once the weather seemed to coincide with the calendar. The heat that we have been getting has served to dry things up nicely so things are looking much better at the farm.

STRAWBERRIES

Despite the cool, rainy spring our strawberries did well. We have been picking berries for about two weeks now.

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These berries were from the first day we picked. Since then we have picked about 60 quarts of strawberries. They seem to be slowing down but we will probably be picking for the next couple of days at least.

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Besides eating fresh strawberries (even some right in the field as we pick) we have enjoyed them in fruit salad, as strawberry short cake with homemade whipped cream, I made nine pints of strawberry jam, and we have about 15 quarts in the freezer. We have also been able to share them with family and friends.

As we were picking berries on that first day we came across this well hidden nest in the middle of the patch.

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We had no idea what type of eggs they were and we hadn’t seen a momma bird around at all.

Then a few days ago when my husband was picking berries alone he called to tell me that the eggs had hatched. He also said that momma sparrow was watching him from the fence.

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Yesterday as we picked she stayed on the nest until I took her photo.IMG_5252

I think that startled her and she quickly flew away, so I was able to get a photo of her young.

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Although there were five eggs in the nest I could only make out four babies.

GARDEN

Over the last two weeks we were able to get the garden planted. Although planting conditions were less than ideal we planted cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, basil, parsley and more tomatoes. We also put in carrot, beet, and Swiss chard seeds.

The plants that we put in seem to be taking hold but the seeds that only went in a few days ago have yet to sprout.

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This year we decided to use weed guard around many of the plants. This product is a thick organic paper. It will help keep moisture in and weeds down. It will also break down over the course of the summer and can be tilled into the soil.

Having been unsure when or if we would be able to plant a garden at the farm this year I had planted sweet peas and pole beans in containers and they are growing on our deck.

The peas which were planted several weeks before the beans are now producing pods and the peas are growing inside of them. I picked a few of the pods that had not began to fill out and added them to my beef stew a couple nights ago.

BEES

As always we have been keeping an eye out to see where the bees are foraging. We have seen them in the clover, chives, thyme, and raspberries.

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Last Saturday while my husband and son-in-law were doing some fishing I was moving some bricks with the tractor (I love driving the tractor) and I noticed this swarm of bees in a pear tree. Christmas in June! LOL!

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The guys finished up their fishing and my husband prepared to capture the swarm. We helped him set up the new hive and he got out all of the equipment he would need.

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The swarm was located within reach so he had no need for a ladder.

The hive these bees were placed in is a warre top-bar hive. Since there are no frames to remove and the top bars run across the top of each box it was necessary to have the box upside-down pour the bees in. Then he covered it with a piece of cardboard while he returned to the pear tree to gather the remaining bees.

The bees that did not get captured the first time around were collecting back on the tree limb so he gave them a little time to settle before shaking them into the bucket and taking them to their new home.

After pouring the remaining bees into the hive box he again covered it with the cardboard. then Ken helped him hold the cardboard in place as he flipped the box over and placed on top of the lower box. He then slid the cardboard out so the top box sat directly on the lower box.

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CHICKEN

I thought I would include one last picture just because I thought it was cute.

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Not all of our chickens have names but there are a select group that have earned their names. This one is Honey. She is one of three surviving chickens from our very first batch of chicks in 2013. She earned her name by being friendly and lovable. She is at the top of the pecking order, and while she is rarely mean to other hens she pretty much rules the roost and the bumper as the case may be.

I will leave you with this – one of my favorite scriptures.

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“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Has summer arrived is your part of the world?