Monday, August 24, 2015

Meatless Monday

Dry Flowers
A Lone Apple in the Tree
Green Lawn Attracts all the Turkeys
Young Buck with Mouth Full of Apples
One of the BIG Bucks
20 Points Between Their Racks
I'm thinking I can give up venison.

For a time, I was ready to shoot one strawberry-eating buck whether or not it was hunting season or Put-'Em-in-the-Freezer Friday. I never saw this beast who ate every strawberry plant I had, berries and all, but I saw his signs, his buck marking he left behind as if robbing me wasn't insult enough.

The next year I ran horses in the pasture next to my garden and couldn't pin the blame on the buck. The mares discovered where the strawberries were, and they didn't have a chance of recovery.

The strawberries, that is.

Now the strawberries are in a tangle of dry weeds. We have no horses this year and the drought has me reducing where I water. I wasn't going to extend my sprinkler to a patch that would attract the buck once again.

Closer to the pond, the apple tree hangs on to much of its fruit. After my friend Kate died in July, I returned home to crisp grass, a wilting garden, dead flowers and dropped early apples. That began a regime of rehabilitation.

My lawn is now mostly green with dandelions and pink clover to feed the bees. My garden is producing dinner and creative excuses to fix zucchini cake or fritters.

And the buck has found the apples.

At first I though the turkeys were eating them, but I couldn't understand how. The apples were sized between a golf ball and a baseball when they fell. Because they were not mushy, I wasn't sure how a turkey would tackle such a large food prize. The birds continue to surprise me, but jaws of steel they do not have.

That's when I discovered the buck. In the flesh.

I was scoping Elmira Pond while pork chops grilled on the BBQ (I assure you, it wasn't a Monday, and the chops are from Wood's Ranch just seven miles down the road from us). Movement caught my eye and I was startled to see the buck so close. He looked at me with an apple in his mouth.

The next night I caught two more bucks creeping through the dry pond grass like spies. They found the young buck's stash. These two are big males, whitetailed bucks with 10-point racks. I can forgive them the strawberries, that's how magnificent they look up close.

#MeatlessMondays will continue at Carrot Ranch. No venison, here. And the only shots I'm taking are with my Nikon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bee Inviting

Welcome Bee!
All Done Here
Bachelor Buttons
Patty Pans, or Flying Saucers of Squash
Pumpkins and More Blossoms
Rows are Like Lines; Color Outside the Box
Watermelon From Seed to Yellow Flowers
Etiquette rule number one of the garden: bee inviting.

Pollinators carry on the weight of the world on their hairy little legs. We depend upon the butterflies, birds and bees to procreate our food. In order for my magnificent blossoms to bear any fruit, I need to invite the bees.

Earlier this spring, I learned several important ways to bee friendly:
  1. To nurture the heart, remember that early pollinators need food: dandelions are the source!
  2. To create pollinator-friendly spaces, bomb the neighborhood with wildflower seeds.
  3. Observe where and when you see bees. Their love of hairy vetch surprised me.
  4. Stop with the chemicals, already. Just stop. Note that birds help with pests.  
  5. If it doesn't rain, be prepared to water. We all need water.
Therefore, when I needed bees the most, they hung around my pollinator-friendly yard. I see them crawl into the cup of a squash blossom and nuzzle the stamen within paper-thin walls the color of cheery sunshine.

I stand mid-garden among blooms of all kinds and white butterflies with painted black lines dance at my knees, fluttering up and down mini vortexes of air I cannot see.

Pollination is happening.

A neighbor once told me that her husband would never stand for flowers in the vegetable garden. Nature doesn't seem all that rigid to me, so I plant outside the lines and add Bachelor buttons because I like to see the color blue among orange and yellow vegetable blossoms.

Purselane and grass fill in the voids and turnips spread out wild and unfettered because I let them go to seed two years ago. Radishes make beautiful pink butterfly bushes in late summer. Marigolds come short and tall.

Just as the bees do, I love wild spaces splashed with unexpected variegated color. My Sunflower hints at purple or red. I'll know when it opens its head. Just like all the pumpkins bursting forth, gardening can be full of surprises.

Dinner is served, thanks to bees. The yellow crook-neck and patty pans compete for my dinner table and the first crop of beets is ready to devour. I'm anticipating blue potatoes because I've seen the flowers pollinated and know the turkeys keep the patch aerated and bug free.

Winter gardening has already begun. I'm taking advantage of my bees and their work ethic. I keep planting. They keep pollinating. We'll do this as long as the weather is agreeable to both parties.

And if the ground freezes before I harvest the turnips, I now know that they'll flower next year, and pollinate new turnips the following.

What we learn from the bees!

Linking up today with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. All photos by Charli Mills from within her delightful, magical bee friendly garden.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Of Gophers and Turkeys

Hen on the Lookout
Turkeys Passing Through
Not a Peep
Curious Sign Among the Potatoes
Flattened Gopher Mound
Turkey Feathers Remain
Missing Onions in a Row
Not Turkeys
Shhh...I'm hunting for turkeys...

Actually my toes are too cold to water so early this morning. In the meantime, I'm listening for the near-silent peeps of wild turkey hens and their fledglings.

Turkeys graze swiftly -- a grasshopper here, a clover head there; move along children, hustle ladies. Brown bodies move like melting chocolate through golden grass. Blue heads shovel low enough to be incognito until one periscopes above the grass line.

Yesterday nothing would break Grenny's focus. I whistled, offered kibble and scolded. He was snuffling among my potatoes and onions. I had to physically pull him from the patch. That is when I noticed the poop and feather. A turkey feather.

With the dogs inside, I thought about turkeys in my garden. Is this the reason my onions have diminished? Before coming to any wild turkey conclusions, I went outside to investigate.

Potato patch seemed fine. I'm definitely missing onions, but no sign that turkeys pulled them. Poop. Another feather. More poop. But wait...

The gopher mounds look odd. Flattened. I walk behind the house where the worst of the mounds erupt. They are simply gone. Raked and hosting several turkey feathers.

Why would turkeys do this?

You might wonder why I don't kill the gophers. The most effective method is poison. If you poison gophers, then you poison everything that feeds on the rodents -- eagles, hawks, owls, foxes, badgers and coyotes. It could flush into Elmira Pond and seep into our water table.

Instead, I aim for balance. After all, I have a gopher-killing cat in residence, a dog that hunts gophers and a husband.

Todd's job is to hose emerging holes near my gardens. We stake the main kitchen garden with sonar and so far, it's remained gopher-free. I plant marigolds, and circle the potato patch with onions.

About those onions...hold that thought.

Naturally curious about the turkeys and the gopher holes, I went next to the Internet. I found a clue from a farmer who filmed her domestic turkeys taking dirt baths.

Bathing! The hens bathed in the gopher mounds. According to other wildlife articles I read, turkeys create baths in their territory that can be 14 inches in diameter and three to four inches deep. Those gopher mounds must have seemed like the wild turkey ideal of a Turkish bath. To see all those hens bathing in my yard!

And that is why I'm hunting turkeys with my camera this morning. So far, not a peep.

Back to the onions. In researching a connection between gophers and turkeys, I discovered that gophers favor tulips, potatoes and onions. Onions? They dislike anything aromatic like marigolds, spearmint or dog poop. I thought onions would drive them away, too.
Makes Me Ponder BBQed Goose...

Well, gophers, I hope you don't like turkey poop because they pooped all around the remaining onions.

That's natural balance for you!

Follow up: while hunting turkeys this morning, the Canada geese (Ma, Pa and two 'tweens) showed up to add further lawn fertilization. 

Bring on the nitrogen!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Little Among Us

Do You See Him?
There He Is, Watching!
Like a Fairy
Flitting in Shadows
Among Nasturtiums
Problems loom large. We hit a deer Friday night and our hood, fender and spirits are crumpled. The next morning, the car won't start and Todd walks to the neighbors behind us to ask for a jump. They loan him a battery charger.

As he walks back, past my garden, he's watched by a tiny bird.

He's so little among us that he's easy to miss, a male black-chinned hummingbird with iridescent back feathers of army green. He's like a glittering little warrior; a fairy or wee-folk. And I watch him, watch Todd. Are we as fascinating to him as he is to me?

Early in spring when apple blossoms scented the air, we had many hummingbirds buzzing the old tree. It hummed with life, fully charged. In my excitement, I bought a hummingbird feeder. I kept it in the pasture by the pond until the grass grew so tall as to cover its plastic blossoms.

When I came home from Montana, after loosing Kate, an empty hummingbird feeder hung with dead flowers in baskets. It almost overwhelmed me, so I turned to my garden instead. I thought the hummingbirds long gone, but when I replanted flowers and filled the feeder, he showed up.

This is the same hummingbird that paused in my sprinkler that first night back and gave me a sense of peace and hope. Now I watch eagerly for him and he flits about my yard everyday.

I've actually seen him among my squash blossoms and flitting from one tiny purple potato flower to another. He loves nasturtiums and petunias. Sometimes it's just a quick movement out of the corner of my eye.

Fairies dance among us. Little but there.

Joining up today with abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. My photos are of my own; the spirit belongs to the green-chinned hummingbird of Elmira Pond.