Category Archives: Nature

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 to 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. ☺

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 flow 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?

At Least We Didn’t Get Skunked

Term “skunked” is sometimes used to define an overwhelming defeat.

If you read my post from last Thursday I am sure you remember that I was quite discouraged about all the rain that we have been having and concerned that we, like most of the farmers in the area, had not been able to get any planting done.

After a dry Friday, but with more rain in the forecast for Sunday night and the week to follow, my husband decided it was now or never – he must try to get some planting done. He hooked the rototiller to the tractor and was able to till up a portion of the garden. YEA!!!! Then while he worked on planting some cabbage and tomato plants I worked on cutting grass.  What a relief it is to at least have the planting started.

The term “skunked” is also used to describe going fishing and catching nothing.

Feeling good about what we accomplished Saturday, and wanting to used some of the worms he collected while planting in the wet soil, we decided to do some fishing in the evening. We took our poles and the worm bucket out in the boat and loaded worms on our hooks. I dropped my hook in the water and seconds later had my first bite. It ended up being a 4 inch perch (although my husband remembered to bring the tape measure I neglected to bring my camera).

He caught the next fish – a 10 inch bass. It was not our intention to have bass in our pond. We originally stocked it with perch, a few walleye, a few catfish, a few pike and lots of minnows. We intentionally did not include bass. They showed up anyway. How does that happen??? Apparently water birds like ducks, geese and herons can get fish eggs stuck to their feet in one body of water and deposit them in another. Well we have had plenty of ducks, geese and herons visit so that explains it.  After seeing the bass my husband said we probably needed to get more pike as they are predators that would help keep the bass population under control. We had originally only put a few pike in there and hadn’t caught one in several years.

As we continued fishing we caught a quite a few 2-3 inch perch, then we each caught a 9 inch perch. We released them this time, but one day the are going to make a nice dinner. I got the last worm of the night (a very large night crawler). Since we didn’t want it to get nibbled away by small fry my husband peddled the boat around the deeper waters. Suddenly I got a bite. I could tell it was a large fish so I let it play on the line a little and waited for it to relax a bit before reeling it in some. When it got close enough I could see that it was neither a perch or a bass. It also wasn’t a catfish. When it got close enough my husband grabbed the line as I held the fishing pole. As he lifted the fish out of the water “it’s a pike he announced”. Just as he did the fish wiggled and got off the hook. Splash! back into the water it went. We didn’t get to measure it but is was significantly larger than the 10 inch bass he caught. Now we know that the predator fish in there.

Skunked? Not even close! Our Saturday was full of wins!

The term “skunked” can also be used to describe getting sprayed by a skunk.

Sunday morning as my husband and I arrived a the farm we noticed something strange near the pond. The colors were such that, despite never seeing a skunk close up in the daylight before, I knew immediately what it was.

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We had never seen skunks on the farm before, but a couple of years ago Trooper had a smelly encounter with one in the field next door.

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This momma seemed to be as surprised to see us as we were to see her.

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We stayed in our vehicle and watched as she tried to round up her three little ones then hurried them out of sight.

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I suspect our saving grace that morning was that we didn’t have Trooper with us.

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Trooper is a watch dog and would be certain announce to us that he saw something that didn’t belong there. He would do this by barking loudly and incessantly. His barking quite possibly would have made this momma feel threatened. Even if momma and baby had scampered off, Trooper, despite his prior experiences with skunks, would have certainly went looking in their direction once he got out of the van.

Though they are incredibly cute skunks might not be an animal we want inhabiting our farm. Beyond the threat of an encounter with a curious watch dog who doesn’t learn from past experiences, skunks could pose a threat to our chickens. They may not prey on our full grown birds but chicks and eggs may be at risk. Since skunks are generally nocturnal animals and our chickens are closed in a secure coop each night the risk may be low.

Skunks are also know to dine on bees – potentially even honey bees. Again since skunks are nocturnal and honey bees retreat to their hive at night the risk again is somewhat low. As a precaution against wild critters my husband places a brick on top of each bee hive so the critter would first have knock the brick off then knock the top off before being able to get into the hive.

Fortunately the skunks should have a more than adequate food supply on our farm without having to bother our chickens, eggs or bees. There may even be some benefits to having them around according the following excerpt from https://www.nativeanimalrescue.org/got-skunks/ . “Despite their smelly reputation, skunks are beneficial to people. They are opportunistic feeders with about 70% of their diet being insects, such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and wasps. They eat a huge number of agricultural pests, such as army worms, potato beetles and squash bugs. One of their favorite foods is grubs, which they dig up from the soil. A hungry skunk can save people lots of money in terms of the amount of pesticides they might use if the skunk was not at work all night. Skunks will also eat spiders, snails, earthworms, carrion, berries, nuts, roots, small rodents and garbage. An easy source of food will quickly become their favorite, so avoid leaving dog and cat food out at night, which will draw skunks and other unwanted wildlife to your home. Skunks are shy, nocturnal creatures and would rather avoid you than spray you.”

After reading this it is my hope that we can have a peaceful coexistence with these critters – and again we didn’t get skunked.

Nature At It’s Best (Continued)

I just had to do a follow up on my post from last week.

After moving the flat of pansies several times with the nest still intact, on Sunday my husband removed the nest and nestled it securely in the crotch of a small tree in the grove behind the bee hives. When he told me what he had done I was relieved that at least we had not destroyed the nest and all of the work those birds had put in to it. It felt like a suitable compromise to me.

Yesterday he showed me where he placed the nest.

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As we looked inside this is what we saw.

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How surprised we were. We are speculating that the robin(s) who built this nest had been watching for several days as we moved it around. Perhaps they had even been back to it when we were away. It seems that they too are satisfied with my husbands choice of locations and decided to make it their summer home.

Don’t you just love a happy ending? 🙂

Nature At It’s Best!???

Last December my husband installed this knotty pine ceiling in the over hang of the barn. He spent many hours going up and down the ladder, measuring and cutting boards, then fitting them together and screwing them into place. It turned out beautiful!

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We decided to put the ceiling in to keep nature out.  Before the ceiling was put in the upstairs of the barn was not fully enclosed. There was about a six inch gap along the entire length of the barn. Not only did this gap allow cold air in it also made easy access for bugs and potentially even birds.

The rafters were exposed on the underside of the overhang making a tempting location for wasps to build nests, and the cedar box which encloses the front horizontal support beam was also open. This could have become a perfect nesting place for any number of birds or even a cozy place for raccoons to camp out.

While we have a great appreciation for all God’s creatures there are places we are not willing to share with them. Thus the ceiling served to keep these parts critter free.

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Yesterday evening my husband worked at the farm staining bees hives, preparing them for the bees that will be arriving in a couple of weeks. After he had finished staining this hive he placed two flats of pansies on top to keep them protected from the heavy rains that were in the forecast.

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This afternoon, as I went to move the pansies, look what I discovered. Despite our best efforts someone (bird) decided to make our barn their home.

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Now there is no disputing that those pansies make a beautiful home, but this just isn’t going to work. The bee hive needed to be moved into the barn for now, but will soon be moved to the apiary where it will become home to some of our new honey bees.

I would be happy to donate this flat of pansies to these birds so that they could raise the next generation, but I am not sure that we have place to locate the flat that would make everyone happy.

 

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Just shaking my head.