Saturday, October 30, 2010

The "kittens"

* the "kittens" *
Leaf wrangling progress is slow due to days upon days of high winds.  So I've been cleaning up beds, pulling up spent plants, cutting down stalks, etc.  I endure the wind until I feel too battered, call it a day and retreat to the calm air of the house.

The birds and squirrels are stuffing their little faces at the feeder.  I was lucky to get these 2 particular squirrels chowing down on the cracked corn in the birdseed.

I call this pair "the kittens".  In Spring there was a bumper crop of baby squirrels to all 3 types: the fox, grey and black squirrels.  Sure made for fun watching!  Early on I noticed that a black mother was always followed by both a black and a grey.  She tolerated both of their antics, allowing them to tease and chase her and scolded both when they overstepped.

After a couple of months they were on their own, but not alone.  One was never seen without the other. They've played, chased, tumbled and fed together ever since. Of all the other squirrels born this year, I've not seen even 'real' litter mates hang out with each other. But these 2 are inseparable, have a real bond.

There's not a day goes by that they don't do something that makes me chuckle, whether it's hide-n-seek around a tree trunk, rolling around in a pile of mulch (taking turns while the other watches), trying to see who can jump the highest from a standstill and other squirrel-ly antics. They even nap together.

While the 2 previous posts show that I do love having the hawks in the area, it's hard to not get a little fearful for the kittens when I hear a ladyhawke scream.  Should anything happen to one of the kittens, I'm quite sure the other would suffer from the loss.

I wonder how these 2 will fare through the coming winter. I have no idea of their respective sexes or if they will build a good winter shelter nest and share it. They are such a joy to have in the gardens and I would really miss them if they didn't live a long and happy life.


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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The 'other' ladyhawke

* marsh hawk *
Yesterday afternoon, while I waited for the 'big storm' to hit, I was delighted to see the other area hawk visit the gardens.  This is the smaller, slimmer, more acrobatic marsh hawk.  While the big female red-tailed hawk can usually be seen high in the sky, the marsh hawk tends to make a sudden appearance as it swoops under a tree and into a bush or mass planting.

These hawks are more ambush hunters and will hang around the lower limbs of trees, or on fences, etc. and pounce on a likely meal, taking smaller birds than a red-tailed will bother with.

It's always a treat when I get to see this gal's sudden aerial display of swoops, dives and hairpin turns.  Even the 30-40 mph wind didn't seem to affect her flight, although she didn't score a meal this time.

Eventually, around 3:30 the 'big storm' came through and over the next couple of hours gave us a full inch of water.  

I put quotes around big storm because, once again (at least for our area) the weather channel turned up the volume and forecasted end-of-the-world weather for us.  The wind WAS stiff (gusts up to 40 mph), but the rain?  It was just rain - no thunder, no lightning, no apocalypse.  But I know we were very lucky and dodged a bullet - the news is full of tornadoes, wind damage, beach erosion and property damage.

And while we really Really REALLY needed the rain (only .75" previously this month), couldn't it have waited until next week when most of the leaves would have been gathered up?  *sigh*  Now I'll have to wait for them to dry.  Such is life.... :-/
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ladyhawke

* red tailed hawk *
While I'm off in the yard wrangling leaves, the female red tailed hawk keeps a close eye on the bird feeder.  (Sorry for the blurry pic, I didn't want to spook her so took it from inside the breezeway and those windows haven't been washed for a while.  But you can still see her impressive size.)

Here the little red-breasted nuthatch taking seeds doesn't really interest her.  She's waiting for a more substantial meal, like a plump mourning dove.  (Mr. Toad discretely looks away.)

The hawk has fared well this season.  She successfully raised 2 offspring a stones' throw from my back property border and they, too, have become successful hunters.  Lord knows there's plenty for them to eat hereabouts.  (We cater to the whole food chain at Melissa Majora. ;-))

Meanwhile yours truly promises to post a pile of leaf-wrangling pics soon.  Gotta go ... the rake is cooling off and we can't let that happen!  *urg*

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And so it ends....

The growing season, that is.
* 2010 - first freeze *
We had a longer freeze-to-freeze this year.  Traditionally we freeze up until May 18 then freeze again on October 18.  The last freeze this spring was on the 10th and this fall's first freeze is here on the 20th.  So we enjoyed an extra 10 days this year.  

There is frost on the lawn this morning.  I wonder how the annuals will react.  I may lose the impatiens.  We'll see.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Battle on

*roots - common milkweed*
The milkweed war continues.  It's time to tuck in the beds, but before mulching the ring, I had to dig up as many of those &%$ common milkweed (asclepia syriaca) roots as I could.  Didn't want those invasives gathering forces over winter!

*July -first strike*
Though I'd been spraying all sprouts with herbicide ever since I pulled the plants back in July, you sure can't believe the label: kills the roots.  Ha! No killing here.  

I dug down as deep as I could with the fork, loosened the soil, then extracted what I could.  These things were everywhere.  It wasn't uncommon to pull laterals snaking way out into the lawn.  As for the taps, well, I got maybe 12-14" but after that they snapped off, leaving the rest down to China.

I want to plant in those 2 ring arcs - tomatoes in one, perhaps asters in the other.  But I'm leery.  I guess I'll just have to see what springs up next year.  Dang it.  And to think I brought this on myself thinking common milkweed was a good forage plant for the bees.  Live and learn...  


At least I can warn you guys!
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Monday, October 18, 2010

The elephants...

*leaf wrangling*

Tammy over at Casa Mariposa commented that she loves the colorful trees in Autumn. "They're like a final act in a fabulous show, the best is saved for last."

*my hickory*
I like them too, but when that pretty parade passes by, I'm stuck with cleaning up after those elephants.  LOL  At this point all the of ash and wild cherry trees have dropped their leaves in the front yard.  I spent Sunday using my riding mower to blow them into windrows.  Today I'll tarp them and start shoving them into the foundation beds around the house.
*nabe's 2 hickories*

But the show isn't over.  The walnut and sassafras trees pic'd in the previous post will drop and soon, waiting in the wings, are the hickories.


Right now the squirrels are in a frenzy hiding away a caboodle of hickory nuts.  Looks like a bumper crop this year (nuts AND squirrels!).
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fab Fall flora

Sassafras & Walnut trees
 The trees are burning bright in the October sunshine.


Fleabane

At long last the Autumn flowers are in bloom - though briefly to be sure.  Frost will be here soon.


There are 2 large patches of fleabane back along the golf course border.  When I took this picture I thought there was a breeze as the plants were swaying a lot.  On closer inspection, however,  I saw they were heavy with native bees.


Native asters
Another aster cousin is also in blue bloom - the native New England aster (nova angliae). The bees are busy there too.

Pink mums
Near freezing!
And the shell pink mums only get better every day.  Though I've never seen any bees on them, they are a constant delight to the gardener. :-D

The thermometer, however, is becoming most UN-delightful these mornings.  

I'm going to miss all this color soon. :-(


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Monday, October 4, 2010

October bees

I'm happy to report that even though it's October there is still bee activity.

*bee at nest entrance*
I looked around the gardens to find out what they are foraging on...
*salvia subrotunda*
*honeycomb butterfly bush*
*marigold*
*perennial salvia "Blue Bedder"*
I also found them on the zinnias, salvia splendens, Apricot Sprite & Apache Sunset hyssops and the first native aster blooms.  There is also some of the little blue flowers they favor: not only the blue salvia pictured, but the re-blooming lavenders, the non-stop Walker's Low cat mint and some very tiny new buds on the anise agastache.

And where they are not....
*autumn joy sedum*
*spotted horsemint (m. punctata)
The lack of traffic on the spotted horsemint isn't all that surprising.  The plants only started blooming in the past 2 weeks, much later than last year.  Even then it only attracted large wasps and carpenter bees.  Once again I'll reconsider if I'll even grow it next year.

What is really surprising is the lack of bees on the Autumn Joy sedums!  I have dozens of clumps in the gardens and the blooms this year are amazingly dark and dense.  But even when they started to bloom in mid-September there was very little traffic which quickly dwindled to none.  No bees on my sedums.  No bees at the neighbor's or my Mom's Autumn Joys (all equally splendid this year).  I've never seen sedums so gorgeous and so not loaded with all kinds of bees.  What's the deal?

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

And so it begins....

October 2, 2010 7:40 a.m.
You have got to be kidding me!


Thank goodness I got the deck done (click for details) yesterday!


What a year.  I think Ma Nature needs to call in a good HVAC guy because there's no MEDIUM setting on her thermostat anymore!  We've gone from MELT to MEAT LOCKER in just a week or two.  Where's all the NICE weather this season?  *whine*

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