From Snow To A Snake

April 20, 2014

Happy Easter everyone!  It is a beautiful day here in Northern Illinois!  A great day to kick back, get out the lawn chair and take a nap in the sun…

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The garden this time of year is bright yellow with daffodils and everything is starting to green up.  The dragon’s blood sedum is red this time of year and the red leaves of the ‘profusion’ crab apple are opening up.  The bumble bees and butterflies are visiting.

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But when we woke up last Tuesday morning, April 15th, this is what it looked like.  The snow did not last long though, and soon we were back to the green color.  I think I have put the plastic hoop away for good now…

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Yesterday was a beautiful day and I planted some collards, along with some other plants.  This robin kept track of me and followed me around looking in holes I dug.  It may be a little early to plant, but collards are pretty hardy and they were very cheap, so why not! The green onions are ready to eat.

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I divided my chives and put half under my American plum trees, which are just starting to leaf out.   I also planted a hellebore under these little trees.  Here is my theory.  Last year the plums were attacked by a lot of little bugs.  If I put some smelly plants and more variety below these shrubs and leave the lawn a little high while the trees are blossoming then the bugs will get more confused or have more places to explore.  The predators will also have more places to hide out.  Basically, biodiversity to solve the gardens problems.

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I got my daughter outside to enjoy the day and she snapped a picture of me planting some mums.  It was a hot day, but I was covered up, afraid of sunburn, since I was out many hours.  You can see that the hicksii yew shrubs got a little burnt over the winter.  Luckily it was not too bad.

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After trimming some old overgrown thyme I noticed a snake moving and went to get my camera.

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Here is a close up of the head.  My daughter and I guessed it was between 12 and 15 inches long.

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Here you can see the skin pattern a little.  Looking on Google I am guessing that this is a DeKay’s brown snake.  Any snake experts want to tell me if I am on track or not?  They apparently spend a lot of time underground and eat earthworms and slugs.  We have plenty of both of those.  I enjoyed seeing this little guy and glad he has a home in my yard.

Previous postings:  I noticed that when people first visit my blog they often open the link for “Purchase Pre-Planned Garden,” which I posted many years ago.  I wanted to say that only about half of the plants I ordered in that package garden lasted past the first year.  The lavender, sea holly, and the yellow butterfly weed did not survive.  I substituted with other plants.

Food – We are eating several cups of baby kale and greens every day from the plants that made it through the winter.

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More Snow…

March 2, 2014

We had two or more inches of snow last night.  The next time the weather will be above freezing will be Friday, March 7th.  Then it will stay around freezing for a few days.

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The snow pack is lower now, but still substantial.  Even though everyone has lost patience with the weather I heard birds chirping as we shoveled.

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The hicksii yew shrubs have gotten some brown needles from wind burn, or whatever.  I wonder how much damage there will be from the cold weather.  Hopefully the snow cover will have protected the plants through the winter.

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The Christmas poinsettia is still cheery in the house.

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My house plants are generally pathetic this time of year, but this one put out some fresh green leaves.

Slow entertainment:  I am enjoying keeping my eye on the live stream of this bald eagle and the egg it laid.  http://www.ustream.tv/jordanlakeeagles

Evergreens

December 22, 2013

The snow from the last weeks has mostly melted, but I have a few pictures from the past week for today.  Evergreens are the foundation of the garden in the winter.  I don’t have many, though I have added a few small ones in the past years.  My neighbors have large evergreens that I enjoy in the winter.

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I am not exactly sure what these trees are, in the yard to the west of us, but they have grown very quickly.  I think they are just two years old.  He may have planted them a little too close to the garage.  I am still not very good at identifying evergreens.

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In the two yards to the east of us the trees are even taller.  They provide dense shade in the summer and a home for a lot of small birds.  You can see my three yew trees in the bottom center.

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Three hicksii yews, growing taller and closer together.

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I read that female yews produce these red, fleshy fruits instead of cones.  The birds love the fruit and they are pretty much gone from these shrubs now.

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On the right is one of four Arborvitae along our west fence.  I think this is called ’emerald green.”  The ‘ raspberry tart’ viburnum did not lose its leaves before the snow fell and I have enjoyed the fall colors mixed with the winter colors.

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It is fun to watch the busy squirrels in the yard.

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I also saw this print in the snow, which pretty much looks like a rabbit foot print, right?  So much for thinking our fence is rabbit proof!

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I have managed to keep this poinsettia looking good for a few weeks. Since we don’t have a Christmas tree this helps cheer up the decorations.

Merry Christmas!!

Plain Old Leaves

May 26, 2013

Flowers get most of the attention, but leaves can be pretty interesting too.  In the spring many of the leaves start out reddish or a very vibrant green.

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There are lots of names for this little tree.  Carpinus caroliniana, American hornbeam, blue-beech.  I love the details on the leaves.

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Catkins on our chinquapin oak.  I took this picture a few weeks ago.  You can see all the little pollen-bearing catkins hanging down from the upper branches.  I wonder when we will start having acorns.  This is the fourth year the tree is in our yard, so it is probably five or six years old.

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Fresh green leaves of Chinquapin oak.  I think the leaves get darker as the summer goes on.

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New spring growth on Hicksii yew shrubs.

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Ants and flies on American plum tree.  There must be something very tasty about these fast growing plum trees.  The sparrows were in the trees today eating something, too.  We have two trees next to each other.  One is growing so quickly that the branches are breaking from rain and wind.  They seem to be attracting wild life, though, so that is fun.

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Lady’s mantle snowflake leaf!  It looks like some insect took a bite of this leaf before it opened, making something like the paper snowflakes we make at Christmas.

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The slugs are out in the garden again.  So far it has not been too bad, but it looks like something was enjoying this broccoli plant.

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Romaine lettuce.  Just like the bugs we like to eat tender leaves.  This week we have been eating romaine and leaf lettuce, baby kale, spinach and tatsoi.

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Yellow crookneck squash.  On Mother’s Day there was a frost which affected my tomatoes, peppers, basil and this squash plant.  With good water and warm weather they all revived, except for two of the peppers, which I replaced.

What’s been happening?  I finished mulching my garden and tying up/staking tall plants.  I’m excited about my first sunflowers that have now sprouted!

Snow White

February 2, 2013

This has been a crazy weather week.  I think it was up to 60 degrees F. on Tuesday or Wednesday and down to zero two days later with a – 15 F. wind chill.  The freezing rain that froze the locks on my car door finally turned to beautiful snow.

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It looks like we got about two inches of snow.  Everything is covered with a clean, white blanket.

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Hicksii yew.

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Here are the crocus leaves that came up in January.  Will they bloom?  I hope so.

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Here is the lettuce that I planted just one week ago.  It is looking very leggy. I have a light on it now, but have not left the light on during the day while I have been at work.

Moving to a healthy diet has had its challenges.  We feel like pioneers, along with others around the world, who are trying to get back to less processed food.  In order for Dan to stay off his Lipitor we have to be serious about this.  At the same time we want to enjoy the process and have fun with it.

End of Summer…

September 18, 2011

This coming week is the autumn equinox.  We tuned up the furnace for those cool nights, but still have some warm summery days.  It’s darker in the morning and we try to adjust to the thought of winter months ahead….  Meanwhile the garden continues to provide produce and an abundance of blooms.

These past weeks the pink sedum has been very dramatic.  It is buzzing with honey bees and another flying bug with yellow wings that I have not identified yet.  An autumn clematis has been climbing up the laundry pole and it is now blooming.  Hopefully it will fill out next year.

Grasses around the garden are producing seed heads.  This miscanthus is in the drought garden.  The russian sage keeps blooming its lavender flowers the bees love.

Several weeks ago I was surprised to see these pretty grasses among the weed I had ignored all summer.  I liked the seed heads and brought them inside.

I imagine this as a fairy meadow.  The small space of thick ground cover is surrounded on the south and west by tall grasses and shrubs and to the east by the melon patch.  The fairies can hide when needed, but then dance in the moonlight or enjoy the morning sunlight.

Yesterday Dan helped me plant these three Hicks Yew shrubs.  The idea is to provide some winter color as well as privacy from the house to the north.  This fall I will remove the grass in front of it and work in compost to prepare the soil for next spring when I will extend the drought garden in this direction off the patio.

Checking back in on the evergreen arborvitae I planted in the spring by my neighbor’s back door.  It looks like it made it through the summer well.  I love the spreading purple and green sweet potato vines.

The turtlehead flowers are blooming now.  On the center flower you can see a bumble bee that is deep in the flower.  They seemed to prefer the slightly browned and decayed flowers to visit.  They completely disappear as they fly in and out of each flower seeking nectar.

Food treat this week:   sweet musk melon – cantaloupe from the garden.