Peach Blossom

Our peach trees are blossoming, but they don’t look that encouraging. There aren’t many blossoms across our three young trees. One of the trees looks dead basically, with just two random shoots growing from the bottom of the trunk. A few blossoms decorate each shoot, and a couple branches that look to still be alive. If the bees pollenate the peach trees, we might get one or two peaches before summer’s over.

It’s hopefully too early to tell but honestly not many of the plants and trees that we’ve planted look very good, across the entire yard. I’m hoping things shape up soon.

The apple trees have all leafed and look pretty good. In fact this year I think I’ll actually have to figure out (guess) how to prune them. I do this in the fall I believe. It’s too early to tell if we’ll have any apple blossoms.

Here are today’s pics. Fingers crossed we get lucky with spring – weather wise and bounty wise. Or just luck wise in general.

-c

P.S. I forgot, the one redbud tree has a giant ant hill at its base, just like the other redbud tree had in years past. None of the redbud’s look that great. I’m going to go around and spread fertilizer at the base of all my plants and trees this weekend. Don’t know if it’ll help but it’ll make me feel useful, which is all that matters really. Anyway, the ants..I sprayed them with two mixtures: one was vinegar and essential oils, and the other was warm water with Dawn dish soap. In theory one or the other or both will either kill or deter the ants from living at the base of my redbud tree. I’ll keep spraying, dousing for several days and see if it helps any.

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Apple Blossom

We’ve been extremely busy in 2015. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, I have not been able to write much. The excitement and energy I had when I started the blog has been absent most of this year.

Work dominates everything. My existence is dedicated to working. And if I’m not working, then I should be looking for more work. It’s the my sole purpose for being. I’m a significantly different person than I was three years ago when we moved in.

That being said, I really appreciate fleeting moments here and there when I find myself in the yard.

I like winter because of the lack of outdoor chores, but spring is nice because watching the plants bud and turn leafy green is a pure delight for me. I have a relationship with every plant and tree in my yard. My mood is altered with the ups and downs of their success and failure. I examine each, talking to them in my mind at least. Seeing how they’re doing. How can I help them. How can they help me. My calendar is marked by which colors are blooming when. I know when something is amiss, a leaf or branch is eaten that shouldn’t be. When something sprouts surprisingly, or doesn’t sprout, regrettably.

As far as our yard goes though, a tough winter leaves for a lot of spring question marks.

It looked like we lost a redbud tree, but just today (Tuesday when I wrote this) I saw it has a couple leaves and even a bloom. Like many of the plants that had a rough winter, life still clings to the plant or tree if you know where to look. Now it’s just a question of successfully nursing the tree back to health.

Looks like we lost one of our black gum trees, as the other four have leafed out already. This is a shame because we actually paid good money for the tree, so that adds a little insult to injury.

The peach trees look horrible, though they are hanging in there. Suffice to say no peaches this year. And it’s too tough to say what’s going on with the black berries and raspberry bushes.

As spring has progressed, it’s been wonderful to see the land turn green. Exciting to see each wave of flowers come and go. The whites and pinks of the crab apples peaked in early May. Now in late may the dogwoods are finishing up, and the meadows are aglow with yellow wild flowers and daisies. Closer to the ground, the strawberries have bloomed and now have green berries.

But the best of all this spring is the news that our apple trees blossomed for the first time. Four out of nine trees blossomed. While I didn’t actively see any of our honey bees pollinating them, I do believe I see little apples budding where there were once flowers. Fingers crossed.

Spring is a balance between the joy of everything growing, and the added burden of more work outside (in addition to regular job type work). It’s all a bit much really, but the thought of leaving it all isn’t very appealing either. I guess I’d rather burn out than not be able to visit all these wonderful spring experiences.

Northern Flicker

Looking at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facebook page today I perused a post on a recent bird watching hike they conducted whereby they saw a bunch of different bird species and it got me thinking about a cool bird we’ve been seeing around the estate lately. I looked at the list and nothing jumped out at me. But I was pretty sure whatever our bird was, it was related to a woodpecker because it had a long beak and some bright colors. So I googled “woodpecker” or something like that and looked at the images. And there was my bird; I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.

Male Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker (not sure who checked to see what color its shaft is but I'll take their word for it.) Photo stolen from Wikipedia, click link in post for more info.

Male Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker (not sure who checked to see what color its shaft is but I’ll take their word for it.) Photo stolen from Wikipedia, click link in post for more info.

We have two on the property and they are Yellow Shafted Northern Flickers. I thought they were rare since I’ve never seen one before, but I guess they are not. They’re super neat birds who like to hop along the ground eating ants, and fly around the woods like a wood cock or something. I hope our pair are a breeding / nesting pair.

Speaking of nesting, some sort of bird is using our bird house in the east meadow. I spotted a pair this evening as I walked the driveway. My camera lens isn’t good enough to get a good pic from far away, but it was a little tail wagging song bird of some sort. One was on top of the house, the other inside.

You can't see it really but there's a bird on our bird house. Inside is another. We have a resident couple hopefully using it as a nesting box.

You can’t see it really but there’s a bird on our bird house. Inside is another. We have a resident couple hopefully using it as a nesting box.

I tried to cut the grass but my batteries weren’t fully charged for the lawn mower so I just got the front orchard area done. Before cutting it though, I took in the view of all the beautiful clover blooming in the yard. Surely the bees were beside themselves with all of the flowers. Our lawn is basically a wild mix of grass, clover and other flowering plants. I don’t use any fertilizer of any type (mostly due to laziness, and being a cheap skate).

The yard is a haven for bees, as the clover is all blooming and it has been a while since I mowed the lawn.

The yard is a haven for bees, as the clover is all blooming and it has been a while since I mowed the lawn.

As for other industrious pollinators, after two years the carpenter bees finally discovered that our house is covered in western red cedar. Smack dab in the middle of the front porch a bee has burrowed through our siding, leaving behind a gigantic mound of sawdust. No way Jose; I took a paper towel, dowsed it in bug killer and plugged the hole. Sorry but this tree hugger has his limits. I provide 6.5 acres of wildlife nirvana. My cedar siding is off-limits.

An industrious bee is drilling a hole in our cedar siding. Can you believe all that sawdust?

An industrious bee is drilling a hole in our cedar siding. Can you believe all that sawdust?

You know what else is nirvana? The salsa and chips we got from our community supported agriculture program (CSA). The salsa is from Blaze Gourmet and the corn cracker minis are from Shagbark Seed & MIll. Together, with a cold beer to wash them down is pure culinary ecstasy.

This is the best salsa and chip combo, courtesy of our CSA. Blaze Gourmet salsa and Shagbark Seed & Mill corn cracker minis.

This is the best salsa and chip combo, courtesy of our CSA. Blaze Gourmet salsa and Shagbark Seed & Mill corn cracker minis.

Here’s a picture of a poppy from the yard. All the flowers on the land are incredible. I wish I knew how to paint flowers.

A poppy bloom. Fun.

A poppy bloom. Fun.

Also blooming are the daisies and wild black berry bushes. So far we’ve had constant blooming since the snow departed at the end of winter. Cone flowers are on deck. We’re also starting to harvest strawberries. Back in the garden I even saw a huge zucchini bloom, so we’ll have veggies in no time. I bet our bees help make for a bountiful harvest.

The daisies are in full bloom throughout the areas I planted them.

The daisies are in full bloom throughout the areas I planted them.

I don't think they are all wild black berries, but regardless bushes like these are in full bloom throughout the property. They are beautiful. They remind me of flowers you'd drape over a race horse or coffin.

I don’t think they are all wild black berries, but regardless bushes like these are in full bloom throughout the property. They are beautiful. They remind me of flowers you’d drape over a race horse or coffin.

One thing I noticed was that the rose-bush that survived (the other one is officially dead) has been devastated again by saw fly larvae. I saw their little green bodies under the chewed up leaves. So I sprayed the same insecticide soap that I used last year. Not surprisingly, this post from last year was from June 1st, and it outlines my discovery and remedy. The saw flies come back at the same time each year. One perk of my blog: it acts as an awesome almanac. I can look back and see when things died, bloomed or whatever in years past.

The saw fly larvae are at it again. Check the post to see how I take care of them.

The saw fly larvae are at it again. Check the post to see how I take care of them.

One other fun sighting today: a squirrel! Right by the play set, which is the closest we’ve ever seen a squirrel by the house. I find great pleasure in all the flora and fauna we see on the property.

It really is amazing.

Okay, I guess that’s enough for one day. I wish you all could see it first hand, it really all is amazing. You’d like it a lot.

-Chris

 

P.S. Christine read that because of the cold, the flowering buds on fruit trees can crack open and die off, which means they won’t blossom in the spring, which apparently is what happened to my apple trees throughout my orchard (except those 5 blossoms I had at the tippy top of the one tall tree).

So no apples this year, at all.

I hope we are still here next year.

Just once I would like to get an apple from one of our apple trees.

Apple Blossom

We went to the sold out John Prine concert last night at the Ohio, and it was awesome. I’m not a connoisseur of concerts, so I don’t know if they are all as great, but after seeing John live, I’m not sure there much need to go to any others.

To celebrate the wife and my wedding anniversary we started out the night with dinner at Michael Simon’s Lolita restaurant, where we enjoyed a delicious three course meal. First off were yummy mussels and an order of bruschetta. For dinner we both got the petite steak which was exquisitely fantastic. To top it off we shared a trifle. It’s a nice quaint restaurant and I’d recommend it to anyone.

We then traveled over to the historic Ohio Theater for the concert. It’s a great venue and the seats I got were the best, in the mezzanine, but right behind the aisle so no one was in front of us; I little tight on leg room but definitely the seats to get in my opinion.

Sarah Jarosz opened for John, and even played a few songs with him later in the night. We had never heard her before but we’re fans now. I liked the soulful country sound of her voice, her wonderful lyrics and guitar playing. Sarah entertained the crowd during her 35 minute set. During intermission we went out to the lobby and got her to autograph a copy of her latest CD.

John darted out on stage carrying his guitar, accompanied by his three band mates playing guitar, mandolin and (what I call a) bass cello, and launched right into ‘Spanish Pipedream’ which was a pure delight. It was the perfect song to start with, especially since the wife hadn’t even heard of John, let a lone his music. I wish I could have somehow bottled the moment….the whole night really.

The next two hours were spent listening to songs, ranging from sad to funny, slow to rocking. He hit upon virtually all the ones I know, including the encore ‘Paradise’ which Sarah came back out for and most of the band mates performed solos. John’s music is as authentic an experience as you’re likely to find that touches your heart and soul; it speaks to the human condition. He truly is a national treasure, a hidden gem. We are all better off for he and his music. I count myself extremely fortunate to have seen him perform live and would see him again in a heartbeat.

Here’s a review of the concert from the PD.

Back home today we cleaned up the house for a guest tour. I love having guests and showing off the house. It’s also a great excuse to clean up around here.

We had a beautiful day for it, sunny, though it wasn’t very warm.

As it turns out, we all took the day off. After we visited with our friends and showed them around, we ended up having an early dinner followed by just hanging around the family room watching movies on TV. At one point I even dozed off. As did the cats, and boys. Sometimes, despite the weight of the world squeezing the air out of your lungs, you need to say ‘it can wait til tomorrow’. I’m tired of it all really; and besides I love the escapism of a movie or two on a lazy Sunday.

Oh, and one of the best parts of today – as I was explaining to our friends that I doubted we’d get apple blossoms this year, I spied a white flower in the distance atop the one corner apple tree. Upon further inspection there are five flowers up there.

Who knows, maybe we will have apples this year.

Our first apple blossoms of the year. Better late than never.

Our first apple blossoms of the year. Better late than never.

Mama deer is about to squirt a baby out. Today I thought she was based on how she was walking in the south meadow. She walked the whole time tail up. I was going to video tape the birth but she rambled behind a hedge row.

Mama deer is about to squirt a baby out. Today I thought she was based on how she was walking in the south meadow. She walked the whole time tail up. At one point to relieve herself. I’d swear she was crowning (sorry if that’s not the right term, but I saw more of her privates than I care to admit). I was going to video tape the birth but she rambled behind a hedge row.

It's so rare to have the kitchen clean I just had to take a photo of it.

It’s so rare to have the kitchen clean I just had to take a photo of it.

 

Mother Nature Hates Me…Winter Edition

Alright, things are starting to melt around here, or at least not snow that much anymore. My biggest, unforeseen gripe of late winter turns out to be the large amount of snow that we’ve gotten. I love snow. I love to walk in it, play in it. Even used to ski in the stuff. But in one singular regard, the snow has been a nasty enemy to our little piece of paradise out here in the backwoods of Ohio. And I kick myself for not thinking about it before. In my defense though, we didn’t have this much snow and ice last year, our first winter here.

See the problem is all the snow builds up on our truly phenomenally kick ass steel roof. Then the sun comes out and melts it. And it all slides down. Luckily we have snow rails up there to keep the snow and ice from constantly raining down on unsuspecting civilians below. But the reality is the snow builds up on the rails and then it does come down in huge avalanches of snow and ice at times. So you learn to keep an eye and ear open when going out to the car. It’s not an issue at all if you’re a person.

But if you’re a plant, you’ve got nowhere to run to.

Sadly Mother Nature, by way of roof snow and ice has had a field day massacring our poor little plants that we’ve spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours planting and taking care of. And what the snow isn’t pummeling, I fear the rodents are nibbling on during our super cold winter. The tea plants look like they’re taking the brunt of winter nibbling by rabbits or mice. As for snow, I watched first hand as a pile of snowy ice made a direct hit on an oak leaf hydrangea outside the dining room. There were branches everywhere. Fortunately the wife said she thinks hydrangea grow back from the bottom up every year anyway. What doesn’t grow back from the ground up is the choke berry bush outside my studio window. I was in my office and heard that avalanche land square on top of the poor bush, severing several branches at their base.

here you can see the snow rails on the garage

here you can see the snow rails on the garage

This hydrangea sort of exploded when ice and snow fell on it. Other plants were more lucky. We saw one that missed a fatal ice ball by about six inches.

This hydrangea sort of exploded when ice and snow fell on it. Other plants were more lucky. We saw one that missed a fatal ice ball by about six inches.

Our poor choke berry bush just got hammered by an avalanche of snow. I'll have to do some drastic cutting back this spring.

Our poor choke berry bush just got hammered by an avalanche of snow. I’ll have to do some drastic cutting back this spring.

It's depressing looking out at the orchard in late February. Just a bland mess. I hope Spring comes and our little trees blossom. I'm not sure how optimistic I am anymore.

It’s depressing looking out at the orchard in late February. Just a bland mess. I hope Spring comes and our little trees blossom. I’m not sure how optimistic I am anymore.

It’s so sad to watch. Maybe next year I can invent some sort of devise to protect these bushes. Had I know I would have planted them in slightly different locations; many I planted right at the drip edge of the roof, perfectly lined up for consistent mass destruction from January through February.

Now though, like waiting to see if the bees are alive, all I can do is wait and see what Mother Nature does in the spring. Like anything I suppose, only the strong survive. If our little bush friends were meant to be, then I suppose they’ll have little leaves on them come April or May. If not then we’ll learn from it I guess.

Speaking of bees, Christine ordered two more packages of Italian bees for this Spring. Our philosophy is that our bees probably didn’t make it and we’ve got the equipment for two hives. If our bees did survive it’s not a huge deal to make another stand, and another set of boxes doesn’t cost that much. What does cost more are the bees themselves. I think she said they are now up over $100 a package, vs. like $80 -$90 last year. We placed our order early because we’re hearing there is a shortage of bees this year. As an aside, unless we as a society can start figuring out how to save honey bees, I suspect it’s only going to get worse. I suppose the average Joe will get worried when there are no bees and food prices sky-rocket. Between that and the various droughts this country is experiencing, mundane set backs like snow falling off the roof will be the least worry any of us will have.

How has your winter been going? Are you hopeful for Spring? Do you think your plants and animals fared well? 

Why Do I Bother?

Alright, in all fairness, you knew it wasn’t going to really work did you?  But hey, I like to think I live in a world where the rules don’t apply to me. That, because I try harder than most, that the universe will reward me with being right in the end.

I drove home tonight as the sun was going down and was astonished by the number of deer out and about as I drove down into our valley.  Pretty neat because I haven’t seen too many deer this Summer. When I got home I scared off a whole herd who were hanging out by my blackberry bushes. I even admonished one that was bold enough to stick around as I got out of the Rabbit.

“Stay away from that blackberry bush deer.” I said forcefully to ill effect.

Oh well, I went inside to say “hi” to the family. Then with light dwindling I figured I’d throw my jeans on and dig around for stakes, for the sandbox, in the garage. As I put on my jeans I could see two deer in the backyard. Only this time something was different.

Yes, very much different.

The one deer in the backyard was on the WRONG side of the fence.

Deer inside my garden.

Deer inside my garden.

I called for the wife to witness my disbelief.  One of them figured out they could jump over my meager 4′ tall fence around the garden.  I knew the day would come. And it looked liked only this single deer had figured it out. And you know what, in reality it’s no big deal because the garden is done for the year anyway. I should throw open the gates and let them clear it out but that’d set a bad precedent. After a few nibbles and steps, the deer worked its way to the corner and somewhat ungracefully jumped back up and over the corner of the garden.

And not surprisingly, as the wife and I watched in anticipation, the deer ducked her head under my elaborate twine fence around the orchard and started to nibble the clover inside the perimeter.

Are you kidding me?

Same deer inside my orchard.

Same deer inside my orchard.

Well there goes that bright idea I had.  I proceeded to throw my shoes on and then jumped out of the studio door, screaming like a maniac and scaring the poop out of the deer. She turned tail and deftly ducked under my twine fence.

I know it had to happen some day. Once again Mother Nature outwitting me.  Oh well, that’s okay. I have all next year to outwit deer.

P.S. (10-8-13)

One post script, I know you are all wondering, but no I am not raising any of the fences or tying any other tactics, except maybe making homemade deer spray. My restrained approach to deer management suits me fine and takes care of 80% of the problem. The goal is to keep the deer at bay until things become established.

I still contend the reason the deer moved back in is because we haven’t been spending any time outdoors so they essentially figure the house is abandoned. Time and time again when we go back to spending time outdoors the deer back off from the plants.

Much better to force ourselves back outside than to put up taller fences. A little life lesson for all of us.

Just in case though, I have our oldest boy peeing near the black berry bushes when he can.

Summer Flowers

My relationship with Mother Nature is a love hate one at best. Today I’m enamored with her as she’s in full bloom again and all her little plants and animals are loving our land.  We’ve got some family stopping by to see the place and I’m so happy that they will get to see all the great little plants enjoying our warm wet summer.

I took a quick tour before dinner tonight and snapped some photos for you to enjoy as well. So many amazing things we’ve been seeing, from a plethora of butterflies and bees to flowers to fruits and veggies growing in the garden.  I took a stroll the other day to locate all the blackberry bushes on our land and stumbled upon a huge buck and a baby deer, both in our tall grass that is up to my shoulders in places.  During my trek I found at least a half-dozen new blackberry bushes including one right next to the driveway. This is going to be a banner year for the wild berry bushes…I can’t wait for some home-made blackberry pie.

We’re anxiously awaiting to see how the bees are doing but we’re being good and letting them be so they can do their thing, or rather the queen can do her thing.

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. Nothing fancy but you get the idea. Also you can see our new Harbor Breeze ceiling fan, on sale at Lowe’s for only $88. It looks great in our porch and helps take the edge off hot summer afternoons.