Monday, December 28, 2009
If you don't have a bird feeder or feeders hanging in your yard, now is the time to do so. The Great Backyard Bird Count will be held February 12-15, 2010. Why not join in and help count the birds this year. You can get all the information by visiting www.birdsource.org/gbbc/ Not only will you be helping to feed and count the birds you'll also be treated everyday to the beauty of these little and large wonders. Pictured is a tiny House Wren. This little bird is always a delight to see. A pair of them found a way into the screened porch this spring and built their nest in a folded up lounge chair before I knew what they were up to. Even though I had to remove it they went right on with the construction of their new home in another location.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Temperatures in the teens at night have left a skim of ice on the pond. Thankfully, this will not impede the animals that are in need of a drink or even a swim. The remarkable thing is that many of the pictures taken look like works of art. The longer you look the more you will see. The white in the center of this shot are ice crystals formed on the stem of a plant.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Eastern Cottontail rabbits vary in color from grey to brown. Their large hind feet and ears help to regulate their body heat as rabbits don't pant or sweat. They are rather small animals, usually about a foot long and weighing between 2 to 3 pounds. They are most active at dawn and dusk and feed on leafy plants during the growing season and the bark of woody plants in the winter. Hawks, owls, foxes, raccoons, skunks and opossums prey on rabbits and they seldom survive more than a year in the wild.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
There has been a lot of traffic through the back field the last few days. Seen here is a white tail deer, they are the smallest of the deer families that reside in North America. The name refers to the white underside of the tail, which the deer raises and wags to alert other deer to danger. They are agile, quick and able to run at speeds up to 30 mph. They can leap as high as ten feet and as far as 30 feet in a single bound. I have seen them do this and it is amazing. We see them through out the year and female doe have left their fawns in the back field for days and sometimes weeks at a time.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
My post of September 14th was about Frost Weed also known as White Crownbeard and White Wingstem. When the temperatures dip to freezing the stem of the plant splits and the sap that exudes freezes into icy sculptures. Some of these are beautiful as the ice is very thin and can look like ribbon, as it does in this photo. Some of the stems split almost their entire length and result in tall icy towers. Of course, you must be out early to see this, once the sun rises the ice sculptures are history.
Monday, November 30, 2009
This is the first time we have seen wild turkeys here. Wild turkeys were nearly wiped out by the early part of the twentieth century from hunting and destruction of their natural habitat. In the 1940's they were reintroduced and are found today in many places that are far removed form their preferred woodland areas. A wild turkey can live three to four years in the wild and they have many predators from the time the egg is laid. They can weigh from six to twenty pounds and have a wing span of four to nearly five feet. Only the male displays the ruffled feathers of the fan like tail and a turkey's gobble can be heard for a mile. They travel in flocks that can include dozens of the birds and feed on nuts, seeds, fruits and insects.
Friday, November 27, 2009
An American Kestrel performing an arial display over the back field. Unlike larger raptors, this most beautiful raptor has adapted to man and can now be found in cities all across North America, where it feeds mainly on house sparrows. In the countryside, it feeds on insects, small birds and rodents, taking their prey on the ground rather then in the air. It is the most common falcon in North America and the most colorful. I observed a pair of them taking a dip in the bird bath last winter. I did take pictures but it was through the patio door and the screen door on the porch. If you do a "google" search you will be able to see these beautiful birds up close and read more about them.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
There are several young mulberry trees on the property with this fungi growing on them. Fungi infect plants, animals and even other fungi. Athlete's foot and ringworm are two fungal diseases in humans. Drugs made from fungi cure diseases and stop the rejection of transplanted hearts and other organs. Fungi are also grown to produce flavorings for cooking, enzymes for removing stains and even for vitamins.
Friday, November 20, 2009
I grow wheat grass for Sophie, my cat. Cats and all animals eat grass to maintain their health and to aid in recovery from an injury. Grass is rich in chlorophyll and contains a higher concentration of enzymes, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids than almost any other food. Growing wheat grass for your indoor cat will make them healthier, happier, improve their coat and keep them away from your house plants, which could be poisonous and fatal for them. Wheat grass is available at most pet stores and it is easy to grow a little pot of it for your cat in a few days. Sometimes I snip it off into Sophie's food and always place the container of it on the floor to allow her to graze.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
One year ago today this marvelous little Australian Shepherd came into our lives. She was thin and hungry and ten days later surprised us by giving birth to four puppies, three of which survived. Several weeks went by without a sound from her, I was beginning to think she was unable to bark. She has since made up for that time of silence. Australian Shepherds are highly versatile dogs and have assisted the seeing and hearing impaired, worked with law enforcement in narcotics and rescue endeavors, helped with therapy in nursing homes and have even pulled sleds. They have a very high energy level and need a great deal of exercise on a daily basis. Without appropriate amounts of exercise they can become bored or frustrated and develop destructive habits. It is wonderful to watch this little dog do her laps around the ten acres she has here. For a current picture of "Mini Pearl" look at the posts for October.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I have been watching the leaves fall and waiting for the empty nests to appear. There are just a few of them this year and mostly robin's nest. Of course this distresses me. I have always enjoyed watching a nest being built and then the beautiful eggs cupped in them, the feeding of the fledgelings and the flying lessons are the most fun of all to watch. I know that the flight pattern of the UPS planes has made an impact and trees have been destroyed and damaged by past storms. Fifteen years ago it seems this place was a haven for all types of birds. The numbers seem to dwindle each year and I do miss the birds and their songs.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
All dressed up for fall, a long horned grasshopper takes a break. The name is because of the very long antennae he has. Did you know that all grasshoppers can fly? They have two pairs of wings, the fore wings are not used for flying, they conceal the hind wings which are folded under them like a fan. He uses those strong legs to launch himself into the air in order to fly. In this part of the world they feed mostly on corn and tobacco and maybe an occasional veggie. The grasshopper is an important food source for birds, spiders and small mammals. There are over 1,000 species in North America and more then 23,000 species world wide. I do remember Aesop's fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper and know this fellow has not put aside any food to see him through the winter.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Things have really been busy at the pond the last few days. Another one of my "fishermen" has shown up. I feel sure this Belted Kingfisher has been returning for the past year or two. He is a an interesting bird, about the size of a pigeon and is blue grey in color with a band of color on his breast that gives him his name, Belted Kingfisher.His head is bushy crested and that looks like attitude. He has a dagger-like bill and can hover over the water and dive vertically for his prey. He has a loud and noisy call that he gives when on the wing or perched on a branch. Still, it is good to see him, we do enjoy him.
Friday, October 30, 2009
This cute little critter showed up on the pond a week or so ago. Getting a picture has not been easy. As soon as it was aware of your presence, it would sink below the water and show up at the other end of the pond. We thought it was a duck and it is considered a water bird. When you click on the picture for a larger look you'll see that it has more of a beak than a bill. They are pigeon sized and found around marshes and ponds and eat small fish, insects and they especially like crayfish. It looks really small on the pond and I said it seemed more suited for the bath tub.
Friday, October 23, 2009
On November 19, 2008, this small Australian Shepherd came running down the drive way and into our lives. Ten days later when I let her out to "do her business" she was still doing it as she came back into the house. I grabbed her up and rushed to the bathroom with her, her body started to contort and I wasn't sure what was happening and then I saw what was happening. She was having puppies!!! Four little puppies, three of them made it. After eight weeks of constant care I called the Humane Society and homes were found for all the puppies. Mini Pearl was adopted by my son and is now an official grandoggie and has time with me every day. She is also a contestant at cutestdogcompetition.com you can vote for her there, if you like.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
This is a small Metaphid jumping spider, they are usually 1/8 to 1/4 inch in size. Their color ranges from brown to yellow and they look gray due to the dense covering of hair over their body and legs. They get their name from the huge leaps they make when pouncing on their prey. They have eight eyes, the largest pair faces forward which gives them binocular vision. Jumping spiders have the sharpest vision of all spiders and are excellent hunters. They do not spin webs as other spiders do but make small silk like shelters under leaves and rocks. Click on the picture for a closer look.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
This seed pod is a real beauty. I have always thought the seeds look like small dolls in silk dresses. They burst from the pod and will float on a breeze to new destinations, and if there is no breeze they float to the ground to start next years crop. The insects are large milkweed bugs. The adults will overwinter and next spring the young will hatch from small, bright red, elongated eggs. They feed mainly on the milkweed and may sometimes sip nectar from other plants but are not known for doing any damage. They are vibrant in their bright red and black bodies.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
This fuzzy little critter is seen a lot during the warm days of fall, usually crawling across paved roads. In this part of the country we call them wooly worms. They are black with a band of red-brown bristles. Superstition says the amount of black indicates the severity of the coming winter but in reality the more black you see is an indicator of how close to full growth it is. As you can tell from the photo this one is fairly young. As the weather cools it will seek a winter shelter. In it's moth stage it will have yellow-brown wings with a series of black dots. This one fell off the weed and rolled into it's protective position, so I just picked it up, laid it on my hand and snapped it's picture.
Monday, October 19, 2009
This red honeysuckle is coated with beautiful ice crystals, also known as frost, and most everything else on the property was as well early Sunday morning. Even though frost is beautiful, it signals the end of the growing season for most plants. The honeysuckle bush had actually stopped blooming several weeks ago. Just a couple of these clusters were making an attempt to bloom on.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I had planned to show only a picture of the berries the wild rose bushes are putting out. Of course, I then had to do a little investigative work on the roses. I was surprised to learn that most people don't really know what the wild rose is or even the look of it. The wild rose is not the fluffy rose that was at grandmothers' house nor is any multi-petaled rose. The true wild rose has only five petals, never more or less. Almost all wild roses are pink with a few whites and reds and even more rare are the ones that tend toward yellow. The wild rose blooms for only about two a weeks a year. Not enough bloom time for flower lovers, so enter the new "Nearly Wild Rose". It offers all the beauty of the wild rose and the low maintenance of the wild rose plus you get repeat bloom. Look for them in wildflower nurseries or catalogs.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The Red-tailed Hawk is back! They range in height from eighteen to twenty five inches and can have a wing span of forty eight inches. Other members of this family include the Red-shouldered Hawk and Swainson's Hawk. They soar over the fields in search of their prey and I have watched them set motionless and then swoop to capture a field mouse or vole. They feed mainly on small rodents and rarely take poultry even though they are called "chicken hawk" by many people. They have a high pitched descending scream which I love to hear. And that is the sound used in movies for an eagles' scream. I read that it is because the eagle has a wimpy scream. I hope I will get to decide for myself someday. Photo by Shannon Gritton.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Look what I found growing in the fence line, a mimosa or silk tree. There are none close by that I am aware of, but no matter, a decision has to be made. This tree is loved by many with it's fern like leaves and showy fragrant flowers. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. It is a rapid growing and brittle tree and usually short lived. It is hated by many as it produces a large seed crop and reproduces when damaged. This one is barely three feet in height and fetches sixty dollars on line. Do I plant it in a bucket and sell it or take my chances on replanting it somewhere else on the property?
Friday, October 9, 2009
Velvetleaf is one of the first plants I wrote about. The leaves do have the feel of soft velvet. Here is a picture of a velvetleaf seed pod. Inside the pod are several dark, flat, kidney shaped seeds. The names of butter print and pie maker have also been used for this plant as it was believed that cooks would use the seed pod to decorate their churned butter and pie crust.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The beautiful colors of this plant are amazing. Burnished gold, red gold, golden glow and what is it?
It's a bush
It's a Vine
Leaves of three
Let it be
Poison oak, poison ivy which ever you call it, can bring great discomfort to a great many of us. I now keep Zanfel in my medicine cabinet, it works! You can purchase it at your local drug store and even Walmart has it.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Even though bloom time has ended for this queen anne's lace it still offers up beauty in the fall landscape. The grey-whiteness of it stand in stark contrast to the reds and golds of the surrounding weeds and grasses. Most times we never observe what we are seeing. Life is rushing by with a pace that is continually increasing and we see only a fleeting glimpse and do not take in the beauty of what is before us. A pause of sixty seconds can change the tone of the day, change the way you see and perhaps change your life. This pause to see applies to all things. Try it now.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Another one of the "fishermen" at the pond. This great blue heron and I can just about see eye to eye. I think he has been fishing at the pond for several years now. I read that the oldest known blue heron was twenty three. If they survive their first year they can live to the age of fifteen. Fish is their main diet but they also eat frogs, insects and small mammals. They have been known to choke by trying to swallow prey that is too large. They are solitary hunters and we rarely see more than one at a time at the pond. He will be headed south soon for more good fishing in the sun.
Photo by Shannon Gritton
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Angel was a puppy that needed surgery. The couple that originally had Angel started a campaign to raise the funds for her to have heart surgery. Do you know any animal that has had heart surgery? When they had to return to California and could not take Angel with them they started interviewing to find her a new home. My son took Angel in and she has had several years of running the fields and having a grand time. Today is her birthday. She is thirteen years old.
Happy Birthday, Angel.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This plant seems to be able to infiltrate my "grass island" every year. It sneaks in among the pampas, zebra and other ornamental grasses and is fully grown and unseen at times. Patches of johnson grass in the field in late summer provide a beautiful purple haze background for other blooming weeds. The botanical name means sorghum from Halepa, the area of Syria from which it is thought to have originated. It can be used for hay or pasturage for cattle and can be fatal to cattle if consumed after the leaves have been frozen. Cut hay and silage need to be cured for six weeks before being used.
Monday, September 28, 2009
This white-marked tussock moth caterpillar was taking a walk on the back gate so I grabbed a leaf for him and set him on a post. I think he is just delightful, every time I see one I think of the little truck that sweeps the streets in town. Take a larger look at him and see those brushes on his lower sides. He has a lot of interest going for him at this stage of his life, as a moth he is a dark gray with tan and black mottling. He feeds on the foliage of trees and shrubs and will pupate in a cocoon spun of silk and hair attached to bark, tree branches or other supports.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
After days and days of rain what did we expect? Mushrooms and fungi! These little beauties were poking their very white and smooth heads out of the grass. This is one of the many lawn mushrooms and they grow very well when the lawn is too wet. Most people don't want them in their lawns and eradicate them but they are actually beneficial to the lawn by helping to break down organic materials which add nutrients to the soil. Most of the mushrooms found in our lawns and gardens are not poisonous but never eat a raw mushroom unless you know it is okay to do so. If you click on the picture showing the top of the mushroom you will see some very tiny insects on the edge. Unfortunately I did not see them when I was taking
the picture or you would have a close up of them. I also wanted to show the gills under the cap. Oh, the things the rains brings. Little wonders to delight us like the smooth parasol mushroom.
the picture or you would have a close up of them. I also wanted to show the gills under the cap. Oh, the things the rains brings. Little wonders to delight us like the smooth parasol mushroom.
Friday, September 25, 2009
There are several varieties of fleabane and all are members of the aster family. They are found across the United States and Canada. It blooms early summer through September in Kentucky. Some varieties have pink flowers and hybrids are available at nurseries in other colors. With their small daisy-like appearance they are beautiful as a display on their own or provide interesting "filler" for floral arrangements.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Cicada Killer Wasp is nearly two inches in length and digs holes in lawns, gardens, flower beds and other sunny places. This is a solitary wasp and not like the social wasps such as hornets, yellow jackets and paper wasp. To construct a burrow the female wasp uses her mouth to loosen the soil and then kicks it out into a u-shaped pattern around the entrance. She digs six to ten inches deep and sometimes six inches horizontally. The female uses her sting to paralyze a cicada and then takes it to her burrow. At the end of the burrow are three to four cells, each has one or two cicadas placed in it with one egg. A single burrow can have ten to twenty cells. The female rarely stings humans and the male who is aggressive in defending the nest area has no sting at all. You will see this wasp in late July and they are usually gone by mid August. They took an area in the front corner a few years back and I let them have it, just mowed around it for a few weeks. I didn't know at first what they were and their size is impressive.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Dogday Harvestfly is a member of the cicada family and is known for it's song, which is compared to a circular saw cutting through wood. The body is approximately one and one quarter inches long and the wingspan can exceed three inches in width. It takes three years for the cicada nymph to mature. During this time it is living underground feeding off the juices of tree roots, mostly of pine trees. Once mature and above ground the adult does not eat. A new generation hatches each year in the same area. The name is taken from the time of the year it is seen, during the hot"dog days" of summer. Photo by Shannon Gritton.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Honeyvine Milkweed has heart shaped leaves, shiny seed pods and white, vase shaped flowers that bloom in clusters of five. The vine grows ten to twenty feet in length and when the seed pods are mature they split open to release brown oval seeds that have a tuft of silky hair attached to one end. I helped to release a lot of these seeds as a child. It has been recommended by beekeepers as a good source of pollen for honey production. Monarch butterflies will feed on this plant although it does not have the milky sap like that of common milkweed.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Broom Sedge is a familiar plant in Kentucky. It grows in pastures and along roadsides. It is green to pale green in color during the growing season and the leaf blades are flat and tapered. It has spike like clusters that are narrow with a protruding hairy bristle. To see the colorful beauty of this plant, wait for a wintry day and pull the stem from one of the sheaths to see colors that range from yellow to copper to bright orange red. To make a broom, tie large handfuls of the stems together, beat out the hairy spikelets and trim the edges, it's ready to use. The "hay man" tells me if I have broom sedge growing, I need to lime the field.
Friday, September 18, 2009
This Green Heron is just one of the "fishermen" at the pond. The green heron is classified as a common, stocky, wading bird. It stands 15-18 inches high and is found along creek banks, ponds, marshes and lake edges across most of North America. It is a tool using bird. It will drop it's bait, insects, earthworms, feathers, berries, onto the surface of the water and then grab the small fish that swim too close. It also eats dragonflies, snakes, frogs and small rodents. When fishing it will stand motionless and strike at it's prey by extending it's neck. Their nest is a very loose basket of sticks placed in a small tree, usually over water and if you ever see the nest you will wonder how the eggs can remain in it. He may be classified as common but to me he is a very amazing bird. Photos by Shannon Gritton
Thursday, September 17, 2009
This plant has male and female flower heads. The female heads are the burs and each bur has two seeds inside it. One of those seeds will germinate the following year and the second seed will remain dormant until the second year or even later. The thick yellow sap from this plant has been used as a hair dye. It is poisonous to animals and the burs will clump together in the stomach and intestines. The great virtue of cocklebur is that it led to the invention of Velcro. A Swiss engineer upon finding cocklebur stuck to his pant leg put the burs under a microscope and then found a way to weave nylon so that the hooks on one side grabbed the loops on the other side.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The name, Wild Carrot, comes from the carrot-like taproot. Most of what I have read does not recommend is as tasty eating. It is also known as Queen Anne's Lace and there are stories about a Queen Anne pricking her finger as she was doing her needlework and a drop of blood fell onto a flower cluster, hence the red or purple flower at the center of each cluster. You are seeing the plant here as Bird's Nest or Bee's Nest. When the seeds ripen the flowers contract into the shape of a hollow cup or nest. This young grasshopper has the same coloring as the flower cup and viewed from the top of the flower you most likely would not see him.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Did you know that there are several different morningglorys? They have different shapes of leaves, different colors of flower and some have huge root systems that are edible. The one pictured is Ivyleaf Morningglory. There will be one to five blooms per plant and it blooms June through September. This showy morningglory can be used as an ornamental vine. I think this one seems to be glowing. Click on the picture and tell me if I'm wrong.
Monday, September 14, 2009
I do like this showy wildflower. It always finds a place in and around my pine trees. I prefer the name Frostweed, for the fabulous display this plant gives after the fall season has left us. When this plant has gone to seed and lost it's leaves, the sap in the plant recedes into the roots. On the morning after a hard frost/freeze the stems split and exude the sap that then freezes into fascinating sculpture-like shapes. I can remember the first time I saw this happen and had to go tromping across the field to investigate. Hopefully I will get pictures this year to post. Click on the picture for a larger view.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
This magnificent wild flower is known by several names and has an interesting history. This particular plant was close to three feet in height with bluish to purple flowers touched with white. Lobelia likes moist soil and it was growing along the wet weather creek. It is also known as Ladies' Tobacco and has been smoked as a medicine for asthma and bronchial conditions. Various Native American tribes used it as a sacred tobacco in ceremonies. I did look around for another plant but could not find one. I think it amazing that something so beautiful just grows on it's own. Lobelia can be grown in average garden soil if kept watered.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
This lovely little flower bloom is a wild petunia. They range in color from light blue to violet and sometimes white. They are shaped like cultivated petunias but smaller and the blooms do not flare like regular petunias. It blooms June into September. A few of these plants are growing on the top of the culvert close to the driveway coming to the house. They are growing in an area that receives light shade, but they will do fine in full sun. This is the first year I recall seeing them here.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wingstem, sometimes called Yellow Ironweed, is classified as a wildflower. It likes to grow in moist fertile areas. There are several plants growing along the wet weather creek. Butterflies and bumblebees like this plant. The leaves are bitter and not consumed by the like of deer and rabbit and I am sure that Dug (the ground-hog) won't be bothering them either. Speaking of Dug, he was out for a sunning and a snack this afternoon but scurried back home as soon as he heard me. I know he is fattening himself up for the winter.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Mandy Lynn is a very intelligent Sheltie, and most Shelties are. She is actually my son's dog but came to live with me about a year ago. Shelties or Shetland Sheepdogs are very good companions, love to play and usually get along well with other animals. They like to go for walks and know that you need to go along with them to keep yourself in shape. I walk most every day.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
This is musk thistle and it ranks in the top ten of Kentucky's most troublesome weeds. The flower heads sit atop long stalks and bloom June through September. There are other members of the thistle family growing here as well and they all have prickly leaves. The book, Weeds of Kentucky" states,"raw, peeled stems of musk thistle have a taste similar to artichokes and are tender and flavorful when cooked." I have not tried that, yet. Tourist to this area always ask what this beautiful purple flower is. Another view of musk thistle is used as my profile picture. Photos by Shannon Gritton.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Bearded Beggarticks look like a flower to be grown in a cutting garden. This plant is under two feet in height and covered with radiant yellow flowers. It blooms August through October. The name Beggarticks comes from the seeds, which will stick to clothing if you brush against the plant. They also stick very well to fur, as the Grandoggies seem to be wearing some type of sticking seed every day now. Be sure to click on the picture for a larger view.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Goldenrod is a very showy plant that blooms late summer and can be seen in bloom past frost. It grows three to four feet tall. For many years people believed that it was a cause of allergies, but it has been given a reprieve on that sentence. The very name of this plant describes it, golden flowers atop a rod of green. There are roughly one hundred species of goldenrod and thirty of them are known to grow in Kentucky, it is also the state flower for Kentucky. Placing it in a wild garden with wild blue asters would present a beautiful display. Look for them growing along the roadsides.