Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gobbly Gook

Gobbly gook translated: bad photos of wild turkeys at Grass Point State Park. I just happened across these wild turkeys yesterday. They were not cooperative, in fact, downright elusive, the moment I slowed down to take their photos - they "melted" into the woods - eerily stealth-like. We all know why - can't blame 'em.

"You turkey! Now all I have is bad photos!"

I think these guys will avoid the Thanksgiving dinner table.

On the "iridescent" side (as in very bright), I found a beautiful turkey feather! I added this to my little collection in my shed - feathers, cocoons, honeycomb, pine cones, etc. To my dismay, the next day my turkey feather was gone! I searched the shed and found the tip on the floor. Hmmmm, a squirrel (?), seems to have bit off the downy feathers - can't say I blame 'im - would make for a very warm winter nest. At least I was left the beautiful, iridescent finale which I have attempted to capture - not quite succefully - in these photos.

But just look at the detail - okay, maybe not so much (bad) detail - but how the color changes in the light. It is truly a gift from nature that I am thankful for - even if it's been bitten in half.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving - quaint, peaceful, quiet - in a sense of place close to your family and friends and among natures' gifts.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Going Native: Eastern White Pine

Last year in late Spring I chanced upon an Eastern White Pine, Pinus Strobus, at Lowe's wrapped in burlap. As I said, it was late Spring and not an ideal time for planting burlap-wrapped roots, but our Spring in 2009 was cold and behind schedule so I chanced it. For the sale price of $25 I brought home a beautiful, young Eastern White Pine. It was on my list of native plants to purchase and I could now check it off. Its tag even declared it a native.

Here it is in 2009 soon after planting.

Here it is this morning in Fall of 2010. As you can see it made it and has grown substantially in just one year's time. The Eastern White Pine adds one new row of growth each year. It is the tallest conifer in the Northeast - but I have made room for it on my small village lot.

Fall is the time when the Eastern White Pine sheds its old needles. You may see some of the needles turn yellow.

Buds for next year's growth all tucked in.
The Eastern White Pine dominates the views on the St. Lawrence River. The skyline is made of their wind sculptured forms. In the open landscape their tiered, whorling branches will spread horizontally. In dense, protected forests they grow tall and straight. During colonial times, their tall, straight trunks were sought after to use in building ship masts.

View from Grindstone Island looking towards Canada.
View of Goose Bay in the Fall.
The Eastern White Pine provides food and shelter for many forms of wildlife. According to Douglas Tallamy (author of Bringing Nature Home - an excellent book I own and recommend for anyone interested in habitat gardening), the Eastern White Pine is favored by 203 species of moths, butterflies and insects! All those insects mean food for birds. The cones are also eaten by many birds.

Young cones on Eastern White Pine at Wellesley Island Nature Center.
Many birds of prey will use the Eastern White Pine to build their nests. Here, that may include a Bald Eagle, Osprey or Great Horned Owl. I would be extremely thrilled if any of these magnificent birds chose my pine to nest in given a few years. Looking up the trunk of this local, mature White Pine, I can see the appeal.

I guess mine has a few more years to go. Utility poles and channel markers are modern substitutes. I wonder if this pole was made from the Eastern White Pine?

This osprey nests each year at my friend's family camp on Grindstone Island.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's (Still) Growing

If only I had that hoop house up as planned! (Sigh.) It will have to be another day. Regardless, I am still harvesting from the garden. The swiss chard is just non-stop. Though slightly damaged by heavy frosts, the leaves underneath are still as crisp and tasty as ever.

Peek-a-boo carrots, I see you. Will still be using these for soups even if snow falls.

I still have several good dinners of brussel sprouts. I think I will be picking the remainder of these in the next few days, however, before the snow falls.

There may be a parsnip under here! The nasturtium-gone-wild sort of took over and shaded the parsnips. But after several heavy frosts, the nasturtium is now compost and a few parsnip surprises were uncovered.

I just love arugula. I wonder if this will survive the first few snows? I'll keep on eating it as long as it keeps on keeping on.

Hmmm, it might be nice to have some sunflower seeds for snacking. Did the birds leave me anything?

Luckily, I picked all my green tomatoes before the heavy frosts. I was going to keep them in paper bags or newspaper - something I read somewhere - to see if they'd ripen in the cellar. But they never quite got as far as a bowl on the counter. They began turning red anyway and I thought I should take a picture before I ate them all. They taste just as fresh as ever. Ah, there were more ... sort of reminds me of Christmas.

Can you believe my neighbor is already all lit up for Christmas? What happened to Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 15, 2010

What's Blooming

Although we have had an incredible Indian Summer, snow is forecast. What little blooms are left will soon fade until Spring. I'll enjoy what I can right up until the bitter cold end.

This mix of plants, mostly begonias, was brought inside early but seems to be perfectly happy in front of this stained-glass window.

It seems the annuals are out-blooming the perennials. Out front alyssum is blooming among the gourds and bluestar in this basket.

In this basket, the asters are still holding their starry little heads high.

Snap dragons and violas pop in full color among the rocks and fallen leaves.

Along the drive rose mallow and California poppies are still unfolding blooms.

Along the edge of the potager, calendula refuses to go to bed.

This honeysuckle has been blooming since early spring. I look forward to the day it climbs high into the porch lattice work. The hummingbirds should dip into its teardrop blooms while I'm sitting in my great grandmother's rocking chair very nearby. Well, that's what I'm hoping for anyway. Its blooms now stand out against its leaves darkened by the cold.

The catmint is barely singed by the heavy frosts.

Orchid frost lamium seems immune to frost and cold, and continues to bloom beneath this blue spruce.

Though this obedient plant is scorched by the cold, its leaves now a dark, beautiful purple, it obediently blooms.

Panicum switch grass 'Dallas Blues' is now in full bloom and a brilliant gold.

And finally, a first time bloom on my miscanthus 'Morning Light' now three years old.

Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens the 15th of each month. Visit Carol's blog to see who else is blooming and be sure to add your blooms to the list.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Project: Project FeederWatch

This will be my third year participating in Project FeederWatch. The season begins in just two days on Saturday, November 13. If you are not familiar with Project FeederWatch, in a nutshell it is a winter-long survey / count of birds throughout North America from November through April. It is operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. Data is submitted weekly by FeederWatchers, people like me (or you?) who enjoy watching and feeding wild birds. The data is used to measure changes in the winter ranges and abundances of bird species over time. If you would like to learn more about Project FeederWatch, click here. There is a $15 participation fee.

I have just entered my count site information - a description of the feeding area I have set up and that I will be watching. And, I have put up this year's calendar - next to last year's because I like to compare my notes against last year's. If I had room, I would hang all three years.

Participating in Project FeederWatch has definitely made me a better birder and gardener. There is still much I need to learn but I can now better identify birds by parts (i.e. head, wing, tail, etc.), habit, size and shape, and more. Even if you do not participate, there is much to learn from their website. You could also use your own calendar to take notes. I tend to also include notes about the garden as well as the birds such as when the first crocus bloomed, or when the first fall frost occurred. Counting birds each week has made me more aware of birds' habits and of areas where I can improve my garden to better serve them. It also helps me to count my way through winter! Learning more about birds has also helped me to decide on which plants to include in my new gardens. Plants that make the top of the list usually offer some type of natural food source or nesting preference for birds. Gardening organically ensures that I have plenty of insects for birds.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is fairly close to me, so last fall my husband and I took a trip and visited there. I wanted to see first hand the lab responsible for Project FeederWatch.

The observatory is a wonderful space - big, open, made for ... well, observing and viewing! If I lived closer, bird watching there would be one of my favorite, habitual pastimes. Virtually, you can enjoy their live cams.

View of pond and Sapsucker Woods
View of feeding station.
We also hiked the trails through Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary.

Do you think it is appropriately named?

I encourage you to join Project FeederWatch if you enjoy wild birds. At the very least, if you don't already, try keeping a calendar and noting when certain species fly through or when you have seen a bird in your garden that you've never seen before.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November's Featured Bee

Only one month left and I do hope you were inspired by the monthly featured bee posts throughout the year. Growing up I thought there were bees (honey), and bumble bees so I certainly enjoyed and learned from this calendar, and will most likely purchase another. It is also offered through the Xerces Society, but you must place your order by November 30. It would make a great gift for any gardener.

The month of November in my North American Native Bee Calendar purchased from the Great Sunflower Project, features the Sweat Bee, genus Halictus.

Sweat bees emerge in early spring and throughout the summer. They may produce several generations of offspring throughout season. They nest in the ground. Unlike Carpenter Bees, these bees are very small - some less than a 1/4 inch! They are slender and typically have light colored banding. Sweat bees are attracted to human perspiration, thus their common name. They are true generalists and visit a wide range of flowers for pollen and nectar. I think I have seen these bees in my garden - tiny, tiny - and have stopped to admire them. Someday I do hope to have my own positively identified photos, but for now click here to view images of Sweat Bees. (Control or apple click to open the images in a new tab or window).

Favorite pollen and nectar sources of Sweat Bees include eriogonum (buckwheat), erigeron (fleabane), grindelia (gumweed), cosmos, coreopsis (tickweed).

I am including this image of fleabane from a previous post because you may have learned this is a weed. Now that you know, save a spot for this plant in your garden and see if you might spot a Sweat Bee.

October Buzzed By ...

... and I didn't get a chance to post October's featured bee. The month of October in my North American Native Bee Calendar purchased from the Great Sunflower Project, features the Large Carpenter Bee, genus Xylocopa.

These bees are large, often over an inch, and I definitely have these in my garden. You can't miss them if they buzz by (like October). They are typically black. I've seen these bees mating and also buzzing around my shed (made from rough hewn lumber) which makes sense since they are wood nesting bees. The female will use her jaws to excavate a nest tunnel in soft or rotten wood. These bees are known to "rob" nectar, too, by excavating a hole at the base of a flower. Males may put on an "air show" of darting and swooping flight patterns near flowers where females are attracted. To view images of the Carpenter Bee, click here. (Control or apple click to open the images in a new tab or window).

You might attract a Carpenter Bee if you grow salvia, Cercis (Redbud), lavender or wisteria.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Daylight Leaves

Just as daylight savings time ends, so have the leaves left. I managed to freeze the leaves (in timeless photos) before Frosty Morning. As my garden grows, now at three years, I find I am rewarded with a little show of fall color and interest.

Cardinal Dogwood
Geranium and Evening Primrose (Oenothera)
Forsythia 'Meadowlark'
American Witch Hazel
Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Alice'
Snowball Hydrangea
Young Amur Maples with Red Osier Dogwood in background.
Pin Oak
The Witch Hazel I just planted this past spring from a bare root purchased at Prairie Moon. The Forsythia has grown from a cutting I took with me from Maine when we moved here. The Amur Maples showed up as seedlings in a window box I also brought with me from Maine! It is exciting to watch them all grow each year. The Pin Oak put on some weight this year, but nothing can compare to a beautiful, mature tree come fall. Following is a mature Pin Oak in nearby Grass Point State Park. Following that mature Oaks and Maples throughout the park.

Look at this carpet of leaves.
This Birch's branches and jewel leaves dance in the sunlight.


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