What Happened To Spring?

April 15, 2009

The skies are a dreary gray, and it’s in the 50’s.  So what happened to our nice spring weather?

Still, I know it must be springtime, because all those wonderful spring flowers are blooming.  I saw some bluebells earlier this month.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

I’ve never seen any in our woods here, but I planted some in one of our shady flowerbeds.  They’re properly called Mertensia virginica, or Virginia Bluebells.

Not far from them, the Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum commutatum) started blooming a couple of weeks later.

Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum commutatum)

They’re still going strong, although the Bluebells have pretty much died off.

However, the Lenten Rose (Helleborus Royal Heritage Strain)  is still blooming like crazy.

Lenten Rose (Helleborus Royal Heritage Strain)

It blooms for a long time!

And I know it must be spring, because the dogwood trees in the woods are blooming, and the little ones in our front yard have a few blooms, too.

Red Dogwood (Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Chief’)

We have a white one and this red one, a Cherokee Chief variety.

In the front flower beds, there are azaleas budding out, clematis starting to grow, plus “wild” geraniums, iris and beebalm.  There’s also a little white flower formally known as Anemone pulsatilla, but also known as Pasque Flower, Wind Flower, Meadow Anemone, Passe Flower and Easter Flower.

Anemone pulsatilla

I can understand why it’s called Easter Flower since in bloomed at just the right time for Easter.

The Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) is also full of blooms, with one of the many hostas growing up through it.

Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

Of course, this is a just a smattering of the flowers blooming around here.  It’s one thing I’ve had a hard time getting used to living here in the south – all the flowers just seem to bloom at once instead of a succession of blooms.

Okay, they don’t really ALL bloom at the same time, but to have iris and azalea and dogwoods and Lenten roses all blooming at the same time just seems a little strange to me.  There was more of a sequence where I grew up.

At any rate, the flowers are blooming, so even if it’s cold and dreary outside, it must really still be spring!

Tornado Season

April 10, 2009

Spring is one thing, but tornado season comes along at the same time, and that’s quite another thing!

I’ve got the tv on listening to reports of severe thunderstorms, hail the size of softballs, and tornadoes on the ground!

Fortunately, I think the worst has passed us.  Yes, we had a severe thunderstorm.

Rain

And we had some hail, though not near the size of softballs.  We didn’t even make it to ping-pong ball size.

Hailstones

And while I didn’t see a tornado, we had LOTS of wind.  I can’t show you the wind, but I can show you one of the effects:

Here’s another view:

The gutter is a wreck, but I’m hopeful that the roof itself is not actually damaged. However, one of the limbs knocked out part of the fence.

Considering a bad tornado went through north of us that did a lot of damage and the reports are that a couple of people were killed, I’d say we were pretty lucky.

But I guess we’d better get used to spending more time in the basement.

Spring Is In The Air

April 9, 2009

After having what is hopefully the last frost of the season yesterday morning, today beckoned bright and sunny.  And although I stood in line at a visitation last night for 2 hours, and my spine, heel, muscles, etc. are all complaining mightily today from the nerve pain and fibromyalgia, I just HAD. TO. GET. OUT!

Besides, I figured Toby needed a walk in the woods (or is that a splash in the creek?), so after morning chores were done outside, we headed out.

There are still lots of trilliums and spring beauty every where.  I noticed one trillium different from the rest, a sort of albino variation:

Trillium albino

Instead of the usual maroon colored flower, this one had light green.  It’s the only one I saw like that, though I obviously could have missed one somewhere else in the woods.

The ferns are starting to come out in force.  I like it when they’re little and curled up in little balls or like the fiddle heads.

Immature Ferns

Besides the immature ferns, there were bigger ones here and there, too.

Ferns

Of course, they’re not near as big as they’ll get when they are full grown, but it’s nice to see them showing up all over the woods.

Another favorite that is now popping up in colonies are the Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum). I’m not sure why they’re called Mayapple when the appear in April, but maybe somewhere more northern they actually show up in May.  Or maybe the fruit is actually mature in May.  Who knows?

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) Colony

The first year these plants only have one leaf and don’t bloom. The next year, however, the plants have two stems and develop a white flower that is up to 2-inches across at the junction of the two stems.

I didn’t see any flowers today, but I did see either an unopened bud or one of the little “apples” that develop from the flower.

Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum)

It’s hard and green and not very big yet. 

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) immature fruit

When the fruit of a Mayapple is ripe, it’s bigger, yellow and soft.  It’s also edible, though the rest of the plant is poisonous, and the immature fruits are cathartic.  I don’t think I’ll try them out.

We’re also heavy into the pollen season here, with trees puffing out pollen at an alarming rate!  The pond gets a scum of yellow.  The driveway turns yellow.  The cars are coated in yellow.  (I asked the Cave Geek what you get when you cross a car with a tree.  He said, “A cart.”  Okay, I’ll let him chalk up a point for that one. . . )

I know the proper name for these is a “fruit cluster” but it doesn’t look like fruit to me.

Tree Fruit Cluster

I think it looks more like fairy wings.  Maybe they use them for gliders when humans aren’t looking.

Of course, new flowers and pollinating trees aren’t the only signs of spring.  The birds are building nests, and in fact, some already have babies.  I also noticed this morning that our guineas are starting to nest.

Guineas and nest.

If you look close, you can see not only the guinea in front of the nest, but the one behind.  Our guineas always team up and have at least two on a nest and parenting the subsequent keet brood.

Here’s the front door to their nest:

Guineas nest - front entrance.

And here’s the back door:

Guinea nest - back entrance.

When I peeked inside, I saw there are 11 eggs.

Guinea Eggs

They probably aren’t done laying yet.  There’s usually anywhere from 18-36 eggs in a nest with two guineas, and sometimes over 50 if three or more guineas are sharing a nest.

What with flowers, pollinating trees and nesting guineas, it seems to me the signs of spring are everywhere!

Pecans Past

March 19, 2009

Shortly after we moved here, we planted a couple of pecan trees in our orchard.  One was a Western Schley variety, and the other was a Colby pecan.

The goats got in the orchard a few times and girdled a few of the young trees. One of the pecans bit the dust due to those goatly depredations. The other one continued to grow, and a couple of years ago had a few pecans on it for the first time. The Farmer still has one of those pecans tucked away somewhere among his treasures.

However, one lonesome pecan tree isn’t going to produce as many pecans as The Farmer would like.  And we kept hearing reports of bumper pecan crops around here this year, so The Farmer was miffed because all he had on his tree were some dried up old leaves.

Pecan Tree

Or so he thought. 

One day after his new knees were working nicely, he decided to go up to the orchard and have a closer look.

Top of Pecan Tree

Surprise, surprise! His tree had lots of pecans too!  What he thought from a distance were old leaves turned out to be pecans when he got up close.

Of course, he just had to harvest all those wonderful pecans, but the question was how to get them off the tree.

He could stand on the ground and knock the pecans off the lower branches, but the ones at the top of the tree were a little hard to reach.  Determined to reach his prizes, however, The Farmer used those new knees to climb up on the pallets around the tree and brace himself on the tree so he could whack at them with his walking stick.

The Farmer in a pecan tree.

This went on for some time and  he got lots of pecans knocked down onto the ground.  I will let you in on a little secret though . . . if you want to harvest nuts that have fallen to the ground, it’s really better if you keep the grasses mowed down around the tree.  It’s VERY difficult to see nuts nestled down in tufts of grass among tall weeds.

Especially when they sailed through the air like this . . .

Pecans Fly Off Tree

And all too many of them did exactly that.  Those airborne torpedos sailed waaayyyyyy out there!  We searched in the grasses around the tree, going around and around and around and, well, finally gave it up.

We gathered up quite a few pecans, but I’m sure some were lost… well, like a ball in tall weeds.  Or maybe a needle in a haystack.  Whatever cliche you want to use, those pecans aren’t going to be found any time soon.

But at least The Farmer knows his pecan tree didn’t let him down.

When Icicles Are A Sign Of Spring

March 4, 2009

When I went out to do chores this morning, it was already warming up.  I went around the front of the house so I could unplug the heater in the wellhouse and noticed a big icicle hanging off one of the trees in the front yard.

Icicles On Tree

That seemed a little peculiar to me for icicles to be hanging off a tree trunk. So I looked a little closer. . .

Base of icicles on tree.

It still didn’t seem to make any sense there should be icicles hanging there.  So I looked around a little more and noticed these holes. . .

Holes in tree trunk.

Aha! NOW it made more sense.  The woodpeckers have been drilling holes in the trees.  You can see a little bit of ice below the holes to the left.

And that’s exactly how those big icicles were formed.  The tree sap is starting to “run”, getting ready for the growing season, and when it got cold, made some impressive icicles.

And THAT”S why icicles (sapsicles?), in this instance, are a sign of spring!