Sunday, January 27, 2008
After the boys started shoveling snow off the pond our cousin across the street came over with his 4-wheeler to help out. He got it all cleared off very nicely. Too bad we got another inch or so last night and the ice is once again covered! Oh well, I'm sure they'll get out there again today to skate some more.
Here's a good shot of Derek having fun on the ice. His feet and mine are the same size right now so I wore his skates the other day and went skating for the first time in 13 years! And I did pretty good too, I must say!
And in the next shot he's using some of his fancy shmancy hockey footwork.
Next he's being chased by Jim.
Oh, and a big bonus find last night at work. We found some boxes that look like half-finished duck/screech owl nest boxes. All they will need is a floor, a hinged roof, a wire ladder for the duck boxes and the proper sized holes drilled in them. I have four of these heavy wood boxes and the hard part is done already. They are the perfect size for screech owls and I think ducks would like them too although they might be a bit too small inside. We'll see. If they don't use them some bird surely will.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Jim helped me mount this Wood Duck box in this Ash tree before winter set in. My cousin across the road gave us two of these and a fiberglass model which Jim put on the far edge of the pond. It would be so cool if some Wood Ducks decided to use them next spring!
If the ducks don't like it, hopefully the Screech Owls or maybe even a pair of Kestrels will.
It took a few months for it to dry out and once I heard the seeds rattling around inside it I drilled a hold in it. There were a lot of seeds inside which I saved for growing this spring. I'm sure I could grow several hundred gourds from the amount of seeds that were in it.
I sanded the gourd lightly and applied two coats of a matte sealant to protect it from rain. It's now hanging in a Red Osier Dogwood in the east end of the fence row, my wildlife garden-in-the-making.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
It's cut with the grain instead of against it which makes it very unusual. Its odd shape is due to the fact that it is the trunk profile, the upper right corner being an old cut wound left behind after a limb removal. The wood is rough from being cut with a chain saw. The tree it came from was at least 65 years old.
I wasn't sure what to do with it since it's such an odd shape. I thought about sanding it smooth and turning it into a shelf or a wall hanging of some sort, but it didn't seem fitting somehow. Jim suggested I mount grandpa's pruners on it. I had to think about that for a while though. I decided it was a pretty good idea but I didn't think the pruners would fit. Today I placed the pruners on the plank and discovered that they did indeed fit. I drilled three holes and mounted the pruners with some thin wire. I found the picture of grandpa pruning an apple tree in one of my photo albums and mounted it between the handles where it seems to fit perfectly. It's just taped there for now until I can find a suitable mounting method for it.
Isn't it odd that this piece of apple wood seemed destined to hold grandpa's pruners? It's a perfect fit and I can't help but think that this was somehow preordained. Jim even says it's "perfect" and that it seems that the wood was made for the pruners.
Those pruners and I have a history. I've had them since I was a young adult when mom gave them to me. She knew I'd appreciate having them since I spent so much time with grandpa out in the orchard talking with him while he pruned trees. He explained how and why to prune and I learned by watching his skilled hands shape hundreds of apple trees into top-producers.
I wish grandpa was around to see where his pruners are now. I like to think he'd be pleased with what I've done with them.
Monday, January 21, 2008
When I interrupt them to fill the feeders they sit in the maple tree nearby and implore with their questioning call, "Bee-bee-bee-beeeee?"
The Goldfinches are the first to the feeders in the morning and the first to bed at night. I plan to feed them year-round so that I can enjoy their bright yellow plumage in the breeding season.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I asked Derek what it felt like to stand by a 60 year old apple tree and he said, "It's big!" I was just happy to see the fourth generation of tree lover standing next to this tree his great-grandfather took care of.
The pumphouse is no longer operational but it is kept as a family heirloom of sorts. I'm glad my cousins had the foresight to preserve it for future generations, like my son Derek here.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
This bird house was made by Jim and me this fall. The wood came from a recycled pallet I found at work. It was a nice, heavy oak. The rusty nails were sawed off from behind so no little birds can get hurt by them. I do like the rustic look they lend to the bird house, along with the rusty corrugated metal roof. I found the metal on an old shed that had fallen down in the neighbor's woods. We used it to make three wren houses this winter for Christmas gifts too. It didn't take long for a tenant to show up. A few days after we mounted it last fall we could see grasses and a feather inside! Maybe they're using it as a roost until spring arrives.
The bird house is placed on a landscaped mound we created last year. It was something I'd envisioned in my head since I can remember. It fits nicely into the curve of the driveway and there are three White Birches planted on it. I'll finish it with perennials in my chosen color scheme of purple and creamy yellow.
It was cold and blustery today but I wanted to venture into the north end of the windbreak to snap some photos. I like the way the pines and spruces look like a Bavarian forest at this end. This open end is the result of the tornado that ripped hundreds of trees down in June, 1996. There is still a lot of damage to repair and we are working on it gradually. I acted like a big squirrel last fall and stuffed my pockets full of acorns from various oak species in our area and spaded them into the ground as I walked throughout the north end. I hope to see lots of fresh green oak seedlings pop up in spring! Some of the seeds I planted are Red Oak, Pin Oak, Shagbark Hickory, Honey Locust and Bur Oak.
The windbreak trees are right around 65 years old and most are straight as can be. Some have developed multiple leaders as the result of the tornado that ripped their main leaders off. My goal is to replace these patriarchs over time with a mix of conifers and hardwood deciduous trees to created a mixed forest feeling where we can walk and observe nature.
Amongst the patriarchs new life springs forward. This White Pine seedling grows from a niche in the bark of its parent. When it comes time to remove the mature tree I'll be sure to leave the youngster so it can grow and replace its parent.
As I walked through the trees I scared up Cooper, our big Cooper's Hawk. I know, the nickname isn't that original but it helps me keep all the raptor species straight. So far I have counted six raptor species out here. We have so many that I think I should call the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and tell them they can come out here anytime to hold bird watching events. I really should join but with my crazy work schedule I don't know if I'd be able to participate much.
I checked for signs of activity near the Screech Owl nest box we mounted in December (below). I don't see any indications that the owls have been in it. I know they use the windbreak for hunting along with the hawks, so I feel confident they will use it...that is, if we've done our homework and placed the box properly. Time will tell! In the meantime I'll keep an eye out for them.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The south end of the twelve acres is bordered by the fence row. The thinner end on the right is my wildlife garden area which will be planted this spring. The ash trees we've thinned from the fence row were used for firewood. I'm going to be planting a lot of new trees in the fence row to try to increase the variety of hardwood and softwood species.
The pond is a hideous fake blue, the result of my ex-step-dad putting blue dye in it (how incredibly stupid). It will be some time before that ugly blue returns to a natural color like the neighbor's wildlife pond on the other side of the woods (second photo).
On this gray rainy/snowy afternoon I thought it might be nice to look at the hummingbird videos I took this fall before they all migrated. They left for warmer climes on September 12, 2007. Since we had just moved in on August 1, I hadn't had much time to feed them before they left but I had two feeders going all the time and the action was jumpin' (or should I say buzzin'?)
We only have Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds in our area. I had mostly juvenile males and females but once in a while a mature male would show up and dazzle us with his jeweled throat.
Hummingbirds are little miracles of nature. How can something so little be so feisty and tough? Rock on, little hummers...rock on.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Monday, January 7, 2008
I took this photo on a late summer evening in 2007 just as the sun went down. The crescent moon looked lovely. I love the silhouettes of the trees in the fence row. That night we were treated to getting to listen to the pair of Great Horned Owls as they spent at least 15 minutes calling to each other, "Hoo, hoo-hoooo, hoo, hoo-hoo!" One owl's voice was higher than the others' and my bird book said that the female's voice was the higher one. How interesting!
Starting at the east end, I plan to naturalize this fence row. It has been a dream of mine since I was little. Wouldn't it be lovely to walk through this area and see all kinds of wildflowers with butterflies and birds enjoying the blooms? In my previous post I listed the perennial species I plan to sow this spring. I think they will have an easy time of getting established. They'll have dappled sunlight from the sparse trees at the east end and the soil is ideal for plant growth. I certainly hope they do well at least!
Over the years, as trees have matured and the canopy has gradually risen, what was once a solid stand of trees has become sparse with large visible gaps between the trees. As a result I feel like I have less privacy from my cousin's farm at the end of the road. It is my goal to fill in the gaps with new trees. This spring, I am going to plant young trees inside the fence row to replace the trees that have either died naturally or been removed by us. The trees we've cut have been strategically removed to allow more light to penetrate the canopy, which in turn will give new plantings better light and less competition for soil nutrients. I plan to plant a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees including some stately Dawn Redwoods and Bald Cypress, which are fast growing deciduous conifers. Some Red Maples will go in because of their quick growth and some Forsythias will make for a colorful understory planting. While deciduous trees can provide a visual screen only when they have leaves, conifers can provide privacy (and windbreak benefits) year-round.
What's growing in the fence row right now? A large variety of native Ohio trees and understory shrubs. I walked through it last fall and collected the leaves and fruits (if found) of the trees and shrubs. There are plenty of Red Osier Dogwoods for understory growth as well as a few shorter trees, including one native crab apple tree. There are several American Elms, White and Green Ashes, Shagbark Hickories, Pin Oaks, Hackberry, Hawthorns, Mulberry, a gargantuan White Poplar and several large trees I haven't been able to identify yet. We have been working throughout fall and winter to eliminate the wild grape vines and poison ivy growing up the trees and have been able to remove a lot of it.
There are quite a few snags standing in the fence row that I adamantly refuse to remove because there are nest cavities in them. Screech Owls and Northern Flickers use the larger cavities which are excavated by our native woodpeckers. I have also been moving dead and rotten logs away from the foot path and leaving them on the sides. The decaying logs provide food and habitat for a myriad of fungi and insects. There is one very large snag with a cavity nest in it that has been designated as the screech owl area. I have placed dead logs around the base of the snag to allow smaller wildlife to use them as cover which in turn feeds the owls.
As we manage the fence row we are keeping our eye on the future. This special area is a connecting point between nature and us. I want to be able to walk through the fence row without tripping over logs or getting my eyes poked out by twigs, but I don't want it to be so manicured that it looks like a park and the birds are reluctant to nest in it. Finding the balance between the two worlds is not as challenging as one might think. It simply takes some common sense and research, as well as educating the next generation on effective land management so that our efforts will not go to waste when we are gone.
Yesterday I ordered:
- 4,500 Apricot Foxglove seeds
- 50,000 'Excelsior' Foxglove seeds (above)
- 600 Echinacea purpurea seeds
- 100 'Band of Nobles' mixed Lupine seeds (below)
I also love Lupines but they aren't fond of Ohio clay. Fortunately for me (and them) the fence row's soil is rich with organic matter from centuries of leaf fall. The Lupines will have the soil they prefer which is a well-drained loam, rich and black with organic content!
Sunday, January 6, 2008
On my way I startled two Cooper's hawks, one right after the other. They must have been out hunting for supper when my lantern spooked them. A few hours later a trio of Screech Owls discussed the evening hunt with each other. One sat in the orchard on an apple tree, the second was in Helle's woods and the third (oh joy!) had to be less than 30 feet from me. They whinnied and trilled to each other and the one in the apple orchard seemed especially excited about something or other. The one near me would answer with a loud descending whinnie. It's always a thrill to get to listen to them call to each other. I can only wonder what they must be saying! Listen!
After several attempts at getting a hot fire going I finally got fed up and did it right. Then it really took off and we were finally getting somewhere! You see, our cousin's boys had been allowed to play in our fence row and had cut trees willy-nilly to make "forts" which never came full circle but left quite a mess behind. Tonight I burned their attempt at a fort along with all the cut limbs they mutilated next to a snag that I'm leaving standing for the cavity nesters that might want to use it next spring.
The boys will not be allowed to hack up the trees in our fence row anymore, needless to say. I believe trees serve a purpose and entertaining young boys is not one of them. I have plans to naturalize the east end of the fence row to start with and will gradually work my way throughout the whole thing as time and money permit. I'm going to be planting 5 Dawn Redwoods there this spring along with 4 Forsythias and 2 Red Maples. I want to fill the end in with lush growth to block the view of my uncle's barn and silos at the other end of the road. When I was growing up you could never see through the fence row but now you can. Time to get in there and clean up the mess to make room for new growth. I plan to plant several varieties of shrubs as well to fill in the lower growth areas near the trees. I might also try to grow some native wildflowers for natural ground cover. I've always thought some foxgloves would look just lovely growing amongst the shrubs and trees.
The soil is good there so I could plant just about anything I wanted as long as it doesn't have to have full sun to thrive. And now that I can actually get in there I can start to prune out what I don't want and keep what I like. There are some nice Red Osier Dogwoods there and I like to have them as understory plants. I might take some of the neighbors' Jack In The Pulpits and transplant them to our fence row this spring. I'd like some at the house too.
So much to plan and think about and I'm enjoying it very much. I've never had such a large area to work with before so this is a real treat. And it's an ongoing gardening experience that won't ever end. The joy for me is planning it out then making it come to life. How very rewarding!