Autumn Azalea And Wooly Bears

November 9, 2009

This weekend I noticed that not only is the camellia bush hanging in there and blooming, but the Autumn Azalea bushes in the same flower bed have decided to have a last hurrah and throw out a few blooms.  I guess they decided to live up to their name, since they are from the Encore® Azalea Collection.

This first one is an Autumn Debutante Azalea.

 Autumn Debutante Azaela

It’s a light pink, whereas the other one, Autumn Sangria Azalea, is a hot pink.

Autumn Sangria Azaela

Having checked those out, Toby and I decided to go for a walk in the woods.  We passed The Farmer in the bottom pasture.

The Farmer burning sacks and boxes.

He was busy burning old feed sacks and boxes.  I don’t know how we seem to accumulate so many boxes, but there always seem to be a bunch around here.

There was a nice bright yellow leaf caught in the weeds.

Yellow Leaf

Some day I need to figure out what kind of tree has that leaf.  We have a lot of them around here, whatever they are.

Right beside the path going into the woods there is an old tree that’s been stuck by lightning.  At the base of the tree some fungus balls were growing.

Balls Of Fungus

I haven’t seen any quite like them before.  There’s nothing in the picture to give you a perspective, but they’re all about 1 inch across or less.

Of course we can’t go back in the woods without taking a stroll along the creek.  It’s got lot of leaves floating on it.

Creek covered with leaves.

They especially collect along the sides, or around obstacles like this fallen tree.

I don’t know about other American Working Farmcollies, but our Toby LOVES water.  The highlight of a run in the woods is to splash across the creek and back at least once.

Toby, American Working Farmcollie, crossing creek.

Given the opportunity, it’s more like 2 or 3 or … more times.

On our way back to the house, I stopped and turned over one of the salt bins.  This is the same one I found a black widow spider under earlier this summer.  Thankfully, this time it was a more innocuous discovery.

Wooly worm, Wooly Bear, or Banded Woolly Bear, your pick!

Whether you call it a wooly bear, wooly worm, or more properly, the banded woolly bear, we find a lot of them around here.  They hatch late in the summer or fall, and overwinter in this caterpillar form.  What’s cool is that the little wooly worms survive freezing by producing a cryoprotectant in their body.  How about that, this cool little woolly bear produces its own antifreeze!

Next spring, the little wooly worm will eat and eat, snarfing down all the grass and weeds it can.  Then it pupates, and the fuzzy little wooly bear turns into the Isabella tiger moth:

Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella)

Of course, while it’s still a fuzzy little wooly bear, you’re supposed to be able to use the banded woolly bear to predict what kind of winter is on the way.  Supposedly, the thinner the brownish red bands, the harsher the winter will be.  So if the wooly worm is mostly brownish red in the middle, winter will be mild.

Considering how wide the brownish red band was on the wooly bear I found, looks like if the folklore is correct, we ought to have a mild winter!

Cluttered Culverts

April 30, 2009

Whenever there’s a heavy rain, our bottom pasture floods because the creek gets out of bounds.  It probably wouldn’t do it so much if it weren’t for the fact the creek goes under a road right past our bottom pasture. 

There are two culverts under that road, and they collect debris.  After the last hard rain, I decided to go down and take a peek.  The neighbors living past the bridge have a pack of dogs.  Three of them watched me approach.

Dogs On Bridge

Toby as usual, totally ignored them.  He seems to think they are beneath his notice, and he doesn’t even bother looking at them, let alone barking at them.

Once we got on the bridge, I looked down the creek flowing alongside our bottom pasture.

Creek flowing beside our bottom pasture.

It had been a while since it rained, so the water was almost totally clear again.  I walked past the bridge and went down alongside the creek to see what kind of debris was clogging up the culverts upstream.

Debris In Culverts

It doesn’t look too bad until you look a little closer.  Here’s a close-up of the culvert on the left:

Log blocking culvert.

And here’s a close-up of the culvert on the right:

Logs blocking culvert.

After seeing what kind of debris was clogging up the culvert upstream, I went to the other side to see what it looked like from the downstream side, which is the part bordering our bottom pasture.

Water coming out the downstream side of the culverts.

From a ways off, it really doesn’t look like there’s much of a problem, does it?  But when I got down to where I could take pictures a little closer-up, you can see how the water flow is restricted.

Here’s the culvert that had the single log across it on the upstream side:

Log blocking water flow through culvert.

As you can see, it was a bit deceiving seeing just that one log across the mouth of the culvert on the other side.  There’s a whole lot more debris underneath it that is also blocking the flow of water.

I couldn’t get a straight-through shot of the other culvert, but you can see it has some pretty big tree parts in it!

Large tree parts blocking flow of water through culvert.

It’s no wonder when the rain is heavy, the stream overflows because the culverts are blocked, and goes over the top of the road.

Flood waters over road.

And of course, when the creek backs up and floods over the road, it also backs up into our bottom pasture:

Flood waters in bottom pasture.

We have electric fencing around that pasture, and every time it floods, it needs repaired.  However, since we’ve downsized and don’t have so many animals, we don’t have to worry about it because we’re not using it for grazing space.

Instead, we’re letting it grow up wild again.  When we first moved here, there were all kinds of wildflowers like Joe Pye Weed and Cardinal Flower in that area, along with Button Bushes and other good habitat for wildlife.

Hopefully, there will be lots of flowers grow there this summer, and we’ll see lots of butterflies!

There’s Something Fishy About The Woods

March 31, 2009

I decided to meander around in the woods after the flood waters receded, just to see what might have been left behind.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in the woods was the Trillium is finally up and blooming! 

Trillium cuneatum

Most of the buds aren’t fully opened yet, but these are some of the first flowers around here to welcome spring.

Whippoorwill Flower

This particular variety, Trillium cuneatum,  is also known as Whip-Poor-Will Flower, Cuneate Trillium, Large Toadshade, Purple Toadshade, Bloody Butcher, and Sweet Betsy.  That’s sure a lot of different names for one little plant!

Nearby there was some Virginia Springbeauty (Claytonia virginica) blooming.

Virginia Springbeauty Flowers

These little flowers pop up all over the place in the woods.  Of course, after the flood waters had been through, they weren’t the only buds in the woods.

Bud Light

Nestled among the other flowers, there was a special metallic version known as “Bud Light”.  It’s frustratingly long lasting in the woods, and the only flowers that appear with it are the blooming idiots who consume a little too much of this bud’s nectar.

I don’t know if this particular denizen of our woods tried any Bud Light, but he was certainly laid back.

Box Turtle - Male

In fact, this male box turtle was totally unconcerned by my presence and happy to pose for pictures.  How do you like those bright red-orange eyes?  That’s what makes it easy to tell this turtle is a guy!  (The females have brown or light orange eyes.)

He was wandering near yet another patch of flowers, some Yellow Trout Lilies, also known as Dogtooth Violet.

Trout Lilies

They’re another one of the first wildflowers to bloom around here come spring.  They are such a pretty bright yellow, and look particularly cheerful after the drab browns of winter.

Trout Lily

Supposedly, this plant is called a TROUT Lily because the mottled leaves resemble the patterns seen on trout fish.

But these weren’t the only fishy things in the woods.  Oh no.  You see, along side one of my regular paths in the middle of the woods, I found a fish.  Yep, that’s right, a fish.  You want proof?  Here’s a picture:

Fish in the woods.

See, told ya!

At first I thought it was dead, considering the flood waters were long gone and there was only a little puddle of water left underneath it.  However, when I touched the fish, it moved!  Whoa! time for a rescue operation – get it to the creek quick!

I tried scooping it up with what little water there was, but the fish was unimpressed with my rescue efforts and flopped out onto some leaves.  Now here’s where I wish I had someone following me around and taking movies of some of my misadventures.  I mean, surely ONE of them would go over well enough on Funniest Home Videos to win the big prize!

Just picture a chubby old lady chasing after a little fish flopping all over the fallen leaves in the middle of the woods.  I picked it up several times, but it was a slippery little devil and would manage to get loose once more, and there we’d go again… fish flopping, me hopping.

Finally I sandwiched it between some leaves to hold it fast and ran … well, stumbled really, as fast as I could to the creek, trying to get there before the fish ran out of air.  I’m not sure which one of us was gulping for air the most by the time we made it to the creek.

Despite the prolonged lack of water, after I deposited the fish sandwich in the creek it wasn’t long until the fish was swimming off.

Fish in creek.

I took two pictures in quick succession, but by the second one he (she?) was long gone!  (Do you suppose he’ll tell his buddies about his remarkable experience when a strange alien plucked him out of the woods?  Maybe he’ll even appear on the Fishy Springer show on Small Fry TV!)

Since we were by the creek, our Farm Collie decided it was a good time to wade right in.

Farm Collie in creek.

Toby loves playing in water no matter what the temperature is!

As you can see here, the flood waters left a lot of debris.  All kinds of leaves and stuff caught in the branches of this fallen tree.

Tree fallen across creek.

On the bank nearby, I found a black plastic milk crate which I carried back to the feed shed.  I even found something to carry in it on my way out of the woods.

Yes, there was one last interesting thing Cast Away by the flood waters:

Ball by creek.

Like Wilson, this ball was washed to shore. I think it needs a name. Should it be another Wilson or something entirely different? It’s generic, with no name imprinted on it anywhere.  What would you call a little mini-basketball left behind after a flood?

What with spring flowers, stranded fish, a turtle and cast away basketball, this was definitely one of the most interesting walks in the woods I’ve had in a while!

Flooded Creek

March 27, 2009

Rain Gauge

There seems to be a lot of rain falling all over the country.  We’ve had a bunch here lately, but at least we don’t have to worry about the record level flooding of the Red River like the folks in Fargo, North Dakota, and on into the Manitoba, Canada, area do.

Nevertheless, we still got a lot of rain a little too fast, and by yesterday morning the creek that runs along one side of our property was flooded. 

It backs up a lot when it gets to the culvert/bridge just down the road from us.  There’s just too much water and not enough space for it to run through!  The culvert also gets clogged with debris, and that constricts the water flow even more, and it has to go somewhere.

Flooded creek and pond.

The Farmer decided to check out the flood waters before he left for work and walked down as close as he could get to the bridge, then headed back.

Flood waters over the bridge.

Thankfully, since the bridge is past our driveway, we don’t have to worry about flood waters over the road when we want to drive somewhere.

However, The Farmer was worried about the flood waters getting into his pond.  When it was built, they made a high bank on the side closest to the road, hoping to prevent that.  So far it had worked, but he decided to check it out.

The Farmer looking at the flood waters near the pond.

It almost worked this time, but in a couple of spots there were trickles of water flowing into the pond.

Water flowing into pond.

There wasn’t enough water to worry about, but we’ll just have to see what happens next time we get a lot of heavy rains.

When the creek floods, the water also backs up into our bottom pasture and flows through the adjacent woods.

Flooded field.

As you can see, the water runs over the fence line, which is why we have an electric fence there.  It’s easier to fix when the fast waters tear the wire away from the posts, or the debris just flat out breaks the wires.

The ground was so saturated with water, the earthworms were bailing out everywhere.  The grass was polluted with them, and I could barely walk down the driveway without stepping on one.

Earthworms on driveway.

The guineas chose to stay high in the treetops, even though it rained on them all night. 

Guineas in treetops.

Of course, I wouldn’t accuse guineas of having an excess of intelligence.  They obviously don’t even know enough to come in out of the rain!

All this wet weather makes our Maremma LGD (livestock guardian dog) look pretty ragged since she’s all white.

Muddy Maremma/

She probably looks like a lot of folks in dangerously flooded areas feel – a little rough around the edges.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re done with the rainy weather, so time to hunker down and wait it out!  I’m just thankful we got the basement water-proofed a couple of years ago, so I no longer have to spend hours and hours with a shop vac trying to drain the rising pool of water in the basement!

I guess there’s a silver lining in every cloud after all.

The Joke’s On Us!

March 1, 2009

After numerous times this winter of hearing the weatherman tell us we might get snow and nothing ever happened, last night we kind of laughed off all predictions of the white stuff.  After all, we got through December, January and February without much more than a few flakes, so the first of March would seem pretty safe, right?

Wrong!  The joke was on us when we got up this morning and there was snow swirling around in gusty winds, and even a layer of snow on the ground.  Amazing!

Church services and other Sunday activities screeched to a halt as closing after closing scrolled by on the tv and computer screens.  The animals hunkered down in their sheds, not sure what to make of so much white stuff carried around in wicked gusts of wind.

The sheep, being the hardy souls they are and protected by a nice layer of insulating wool, were the first to stir out of their shed once the weather cleared a little.

Sheep in Snow.

A few of the guineas also ventured out, though the strong wind made things a little precarious. This guinea was hanging on for dear life while the fence swayed back and forth.

Guinea on Fence

After fixing some blueberry muffins for breakfast, I got on my layers of winter clothing and ventured out into the cold, cruel world.  Once all the animals had feed, hay and water, I figured Toby and I needed to take a walk in the woods while we had an opportunity to take pictures of so much snow.

Going into the woods.

Now I’m sure our northern neighbors are rolling their eyes at my definition of “so much snow”, but remember, it’s all relative!  And to us, this much snow is relatively lots!

We walked back to the creek first thing.

Creek with snowy banks.

From there, I looked across at the neighbors woods.  It was obvious to see which way the wind had been blowing from the snow plastered on the sides of the trees.

Snowy Trees

The snowy creek banks lent a bit of softness to the scene we don’t often see.

Creek and snowy trees.

It didn’t last long however.  It had obviously stopped snowing by the time I went out walking, and by the time Toby and I got out of the woods the sun was shining brightly.  There was a hawk flying high overhead enjoying the better weather.   (At least I suppose it would rather have sunny skies, but maybe it was just looking for dinner.)

Blue skies with hawk flying.

The daffodils in the yard were in the shade and still surrounded by snow.

Daffodils in Snow

Now when I look out the windows, I see bright sunshine, and just a few little patches of snow left behind here and there in the shade.

Mother Nature’s snowy joke didn’t last long!