Saturday, May 28, 2022

Nature Journal

Kildeers are present here through all seasons. They dive low over the pastures and lane, swooping in tight circles, landing a few yards ahead to run in zig-zag patterns, while uttering their distinctive, "Kil-dee, kil-dee.'
In early May on my daily walks out to the mailbox near the road, I noticed one particularly agitated bird alternately flying up from the ground, then dropping to stagger along the graveled lane, squawking loudly. 

I noted a particular fence post opposite as a landmark and  next day carried my camera.
Even knowing where the 'nest' might be, it was difficult to locate the eggs. On an overcast day their mottled coloring blended well with the coarsely crushed rocks which line the sloping ditch above the lane.
I used the camera's zoom for a less than sharp photo, not wanting to risk unwittingly stepping on the eggs or getting too close and sending the mother bird into a panic.

Research online indicates that both kildeer parents incubate the eggs, the female usually taking daytime duties while the male takes over during the night hours. There is a high rate of loss since the eggs are laid directly on the ground where livestock may tread. As soon as their feathers dry the young are able to skitter about and search for food, although they are not able to fly immediately. 

The parent bird is trying to distract me, leading me away from the eggs.

The baby kildeers have hatched and are now running about with the adult birds.
Walking to the mailbox this week I found two feathers lying on the ground several yards apart.
The one on the right is identifiable as a kildeer's wing feather. The feather on the left is not so easily identified. 
I recognize many of the more common birds in the area. We have nesting bluebirds, cardinals, robins; barn swallows are taking advantage of the barn loft, several species of woodpeckers live year around in the trees that line the ravines. Gold finches are very noticeable in late summer when seed heads are ripening on the sunflowers.

Wild turkeys are frequent visitors, strolling through the fields. They are easily spooked and scuttle off, sometimes lumbering into clumsy flight no matter how quietly I slide out the door. 
This photo was taken through a window screen.

Deer often wander across the east meadow or browse in small groups at the western end of the property, melting quietly into the tree line when they realize they have been seen.
We've noticed a doe recently who seemed about to give birth. This morning Jim spotted her in the meadow above the garden, a tiny fawn with her. I eased through the back door and walked quietly around to the barn and along the side 'alley' to stand in the open end. I was able to take only one zoomed photo before the deer was off, baby in tow. When the photo is enlarged you can see that the fawn is attempting to nurse while the doe peers warily over her shoulder in my direction.

The guineas, appearing at the end of February, are not strictly wildlife. They are vagrants with no fixed address. Usually they appeared as a flock of eight, although they have meandered about in smaller groups. Sometimes they have disappeared for several days or less than the whole group comes by. We usually know when they are about--they are noisy and the cats alert us to their presence.
It has now been nearly three weeks since we've seen them.
I've wondered if they would become a nuisance should they stay around as the garden comes on; I can imagine greedy pecking of tomatoes, melons and such.
Still, I hope they are alive and well--somewhere--and they may return.

Squirrels are everywhere. In winter and early spring their untidy nests are visible in the trees along the lane. Once the leaves are out the nests blend in, but sitting quietly on the screened porch I will notice the trembling of a branch and can then follow the progress of a squirrel or several as they leap and bounce from one tree to another. 
This squirrel was harvesting a black walnut that had lain on the ground over the winter. He/she was quite bold, scampering about while I stood near, then whisking up to a comfortable branch and nonchalantly settling in for lunch.
Driving the mile to the Beachy's farm market earlier this week, I slowed to let a squirrel dash in front of my car and was surprised to see that a group of squirrels was cavorting madly about in the short grass just off the roadway. I took note of the spot--a wide swath of green, some shrubs, a  few trees. On the way home I slowed, trying to count the squirrels who were still chasing and tumbling about. I settled on seven, although they were so busy it was difficult to keep an eye on them.

this little bird was apparently thinking of creating a home in the upper reaches of the chimney. Jim decided to burn an accumulation of paper in the woodstove and the bird flew out the door into the room. It flung itself against window panes, swirling up to the ceiling, frantic and elusive. It didn't help that several felines were in fascinated pursuit.
Jim finally caught it as it fluttered against a window. He tossed it from the front steps and it flew away.

This racoon has been making early evening forays, hoping to find a few morsels remaining in the dish that serves the barn cats. Coons have a cuteness that makes them more welcome than opossums, but I'm aware that they can be mischievous. 
Several years ago a huge male coon overturned planters, dug up clematis vines, scrabbled in the raised bed near the door until Howard and I live trapped him and took him for a ride.

We were watching him/her through the window high up in the door. Although momentarily startled when the camera flashed, you can see he continued to pick up the last morsels in the dish.

Deer, racoons, possums, can all be a menace to our gardening efforts. During the remainder of the year most creatures are welcome as interesting transients. 


Thursday, May 19, 2022

Night Vision: Prowling the Dooryard on the Evening of Full Moon

'Strawberry Moon' rising over the east meadow.

Meanwhile, a colorful sunset in the west.

An 'impressionistic' view of foxglove at dusk.

Colors altered by the flash.

Standing above the wall, trying to be careful where I put my feet.

Leaves of Jackmanni dark against the fading sky.

An unnamed ground cover rose and hardy 'pinks' against the wall.



Beauty: Mid-May Garden Journal

Clematis Duchess of Edinburgh had a rough start to the season; mid-April frosts as she emerged from dormancy; a dose of cold rain and hail during the first weekend of May. I trimmed off blighted leaves and stems; the reward has been two blossoms. I hope for a reblooming in early September.

Samaritan Jo has a semi-dwarf mounding habit and was easier to cover during the April frosts. 

Edita, also a low growing variety has entwined with Samaritan Jo.

Dr. Ruppel, planted in 2021, is the closest I could find to the heritage variety Nellie Moser. Several of the latest blooms have a deeper magenta hue than usual.

Here is the contrast between earlier and later blooms--both are more vivid than Nellie Moser.

Arabella--a struggling small clematis reaching for the wonky fence. 

Clematis Jackmanni--the last of my collection to bloom.
It is considered hardy to Ag. zone 4--my Vermont garden was borderline for zone 4 plants and I never ventured a clematis.

From wikipedia: Clematis 'Jackmanii' is a Clematis cultivar which, when it was introduced in 1862, was the first of the modern large-flowered hybrid clematises of gardens. It is a climber with large violet-purple blooms, still among the most familiar climbers seen in gardens. It was produced from crosses made by the prominent nurseryman George Jackman (1837–1887),[1] of Jackman & Sons, Woking, Surrey. 

White flowered clematis, the only survivor of the bargain assortment ordered three years ago from Spring Valley nursery. The tiny plants, mere 'slips' were indifferently packaged with labels that fell out of the shipping box when I removed the plants. I appreciate the delicate shading that enhances white flowers.
When we moved into our first Kentucky property in 2010 I was delighted to find two clematis, 'Candida' and 'Nellie Moser' starting their spring climb up a trellis improvised from chicken wire and stakes. During the years we lived there an elegant trellis was provided by son-in-law Matt, which encouraged new growth. Nellie Moser clambered into an adjacent nandina shrub.
Neither clematis was in bloom when we moved from that property in October, 2014. I hastily dug some small roots, hoping I had some of each heritage plant, but only 'Candida' made the move.

Single white peony before rain.

Very little definition in this photo as I wanted a view of the peony group.

Familiar raspberry red peony, probably Karl Rosenfeld.
This vintage peony was a mainstay in the dooryards of old farmsteads and village houses in my native New England, often in company with white Maxima. We didn't call them by 'names'--a root of 'red' or 'white' might be shared with a special friend or neighbor. 

This double white was purchased several years ago and moved to our present location in the fall of 2018. It doesn't have the slender pink anthers [?] which distinguish Maxima. 

No name tag on this favorite single white--offerings at big box garden centers are often an assortment.

Sarah Bernhardt, a familiar vintage pink.

The burst of hail mid-morning of May 7th, sliced off the tips of foxglove, shredded clematis blooms, pummeled the beet and lettuce seedlings in the raised planting boxes.

Decapitated foxglove still blooms.

This is one of my most prolific foxgloves. It produces 'babies' each season which I collect and pot on. 

The foxglove that appears cream/yellow in bud opens to a pale lavender pink.
I think I have three distinct varieties in this wall planting. Sutton's Apricot and a white flowering variety didn't reappear after the second year, nor can I distinguish any that might be from the Camelot plants. I will take foxglove in any coloration they care to perpetuate, and have allowed them to grow in close proximity to the David Austin roses if they so choose.

David Austin "Queen of Sweden'--a very upright rose bush.

Beautiful in all phases.

David Austin "Roald Dahl"--sprawling with lax habit, blooms early and late.

Roald Dahl
As the blossoms fade they take on a creamy pinkish hue with darker pink freckles.

David Austin, 'The Poet's Wife'

The Poet's Wife

The season of roses is brief here in south-central Kentucky. Frost always hits the plants as they begin to break dormancy; I can plan on pruning twice before the shrubs are in full vigorous leaf. Perhaps three weeks or at best four in exuberant bloom before hot and humid weather invites Japanese beetles and sawfly larvae. 
A vase of blooms is pretty for a day or two then walking past I hear the whisper of falling petals.
I take endless photos each year--cherishing the brevity of beauty.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Speck Ridge

On Friday afternoon we decided to drive to the produce auction on Speck Ridge Road.
This is a smaller venue than Casey County Produce Auction which has been a fairly frequent destination when we are hoping to buy canning tomatoes later in the season.
Both auctions are run by Amish/Mennonite communities and many of the vendors are local Amish who raise early veg and flowers in greenhouses.

I sneaked this distance shot of Amish men waiting for the sale to begin. We noticed this was a different group of Amish--no familiar faces.
The auction was scheduled for 4:30. Jim decided we should be there early--which we certainly were. An hour's wait as the auctioneer didn't get started until 5.
I couldn't understand his rapid chanting; even J. who is accustomed to auctions found this man difficult to follow.

Most of the vendors arrived in horse-drawn conveyances. I was amused by this 'unequally yoked' team----a mule and a horse

I had driven to the big greenhouse/nursery next door to the auction barn, but still had time to wander along the hitching rails and enjoy the horses.

This horse was very muscular, perhaps more of a draft horse heritage than the usual finer-boned buggy horse.

This one amused me--a typical 'Amish haircut!'

We didn't see this one arrive--a miniature horse with a miniscule cart in tow.

Most of the offerings were bedding plants in flats and hanging baskets.

Beautiful in full bloom, perhaps intended to be at their best for Mother's Day gifts and will now shortly need some grooming.

Most of the flowering plants are bought up by small retailers. Some will go to seasonal 'stands;' others will likely be sold from the back of a pickup truck from a parking lot. This is how Jim purchased the hanging basket which he gifted me last month.
The plants sell in lots for prices that are dishearteningly low for the vendors, making it possible for the retailers to enjoy a large mark-up.
There was only a small amount of fresh produce on offer--we came home with asparagus, beets, small early cabbage, cucumbers --all but the asparagus raised in 'hoop houses' or cold frames.