Students found this egg on the trail. They all assume it's a robin's egg, but it's actually a bit more pale of a blue. Starling?
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Students found this egg on the trail. They all assume it's a robin's egg, but it's actually a bit more pale of a blue. Starling?
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
- the ash tree in my yard has swelling buds, but no leaves to speak of; just three houses down, there are emerging leaves from an ash tree. Don't ask me...
- Honey locust buds and redbud buds (the flower ones) are also swelling and ready. As compound leaves tend to leaf out late, these are notable!
- Oak buds continue to swell, but no leaves there, either.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
- Wild ginger emerged. In shadiest places, it's just now peaking out. In slightly lighter shady spots, the whole leaves are out and big (but wrinkled).
- Pasqueflower blooming (1 in my yard is open, the other is not, and the third is dead...)
- Mayapples emerging, but still all folded up (and one got chewed already!)
- First tulip opened at school, but none in my yard even look close.
- Virginia bluebells have big purple buds, and will flower any day now.
- Lilacs have fully leafed out. Many shrubs are learing away, actually...
- Lilies of the valley are emerging.
- Cattails are about 6 inches above the water's surface (and the water is pretty high); visible where dead plants are now.
- Purple Coneflower emerged a few days ago, but is now looking robust.
- I have confirmed the happy suspicion that the mystery plants in my yard are shooting star! (Not flowering yet).
- In the garden, spinach planties and radish planties emerged. Also, a large crop of weeds...
- Tomorrow may hit 8o degrees! (SO happy I get to spend it in an institute day.)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
A busy, sunny, windy day.
Observations and happenings:
- Bur Oak buds beginning to swell.
- Cattails poking new green leaves in burned areas.
- Student found very large egg shell cracked open. Of what, I do not know.
- Student also found two dead turtles. One just a shell, one rotting inside with maggots and everything. Took photos, but no time to download them now.
- Many tree swallows nesting in bluebird boxes.
- Moths on my garage door when I got home tonight.
- Planted potatoes in garden (not me, personally).
Monday, April 20, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
We have to celebrate Earth Day
And even though you help the plants
You wet our hair and soak our pants
And all the classes want it to be sunny
So they can have lots of fun-ny.
So please take a break
While I'm not awake
Then we can have our ribbon cutting.
Steady rain for 24 hours. Also dropping temperatures. Not the weather we want going into Earth Week.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
In bittersweet plant news, the buckthorn has leafed out (see photo)... bitter because buckthorn is a terribly invasive plant. It poisons the soil around it, making the areas it lives uninhabitable for native species. It creates a mono-culture. And it's berries aren't really a great food source for birds; nothing really eats it. The only sweet aspect is, now that they've leafed out, I can see them really well. I pulled about 50 out of my yard. (Although I just realized that I left the one in the photo!) That was pretty dumb.
I have a few flowers on my celandine poppies! I got those from a friend a few years ago. She had them in her yard and they had such beautiful yellow flowers, and she dug up some small ones for me. But for years, I got no yellow flowers. This year, I will have many and I am so happy.
The box elders are progressing -- see how different they look from the sketch I made last weekend! I am also pretty sure willows have leafed out and are flowering (but I made this diagnosis through a car window, which means it may not be accurate.)
Our raspberry bushes have also leafed out. We got two more and planted them today. This was all we got done in the yard, though. We spent the day helping a friend install raised beds. I am glad we did this -- he's helped up a lot in the past and it's just, in general, good to help friends. But it is a little bit frustrating to work all day and then get home and realize that... um... nothing got done in my yard. And it has clouded over and is supposed to rain, and I think also get cold. Which will make getting yard stuff dome tomorrow unlikely. (The house will be sparkling clean, though!)
Bumble bees bumbling, spiders spidering today. The sky seems exciting and I keep waiting for crazy weather, but it's been the same grey since the clouds blew in a few hours ago. (Before that is was sunny and in the 70s and perfect).
Friday, April 17, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
1. Emerging pasqueflower.
2. Prairie Smoke.
4. Emerging red baneberry.
5. Bloodroot. My one plant has friends. I have discovered 2 more plants. The one shown here has 2 leaves and 2 flowers!!!!
6. Hepatica. Can you believe it!!!!
7. Spring beauties, transferred from my mom's house. Trout lily transfer not successful, but these survived.
Also, celandine poppies have many buds, and I will get flowers for the first time this year.
Basil and tomato seedlings popping up inside, and lots of sunflowers. Late to class!!! But so excited!!!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
It was chilly but not terrible (probably low 50s, but with no sun and not moving at all); cloudy until inning 7; 10 mph wind from the north. I made it through the game without wearing my snow pants. But I did have long underwear, my winter coat, a fleece, hat, gloves, and boots. But this may not be a phenological observation, it turns out, because the girl next to me was wearing capris and a t-shirt. In the third inning she put on the light spring jacket that she had been sitting on.
Honestly, it was like I was in the tundra and she was in Florida but somehow we had been beamed together.
Rock doves abounded. (Doesn't that sound more bird-nerdy than pigeons?)
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
In plant news. There is a trillium emerging in my yard in a place where we did not plant one. I am not complaining about this, mind you. I'm thrilled. But I am a little miffed that the ones we did plant are not coming back. Is this a joke? Did Chippy cleverly move them just as he and I were getting to like each other?
One of the bloodroots I planted 2 years ago is hanging on. Last year, it came up with 1 pathetic leaf. This year, it appears it will have 1 pathetic (and I mean small) flower to go with its one pathetic leaf. I guess we're moving in the right direction. I wish we were moving faster. I want one of those huge clumps, with over 10 flowers and so many leaves that you don't mind picking one to show people why it's called "bloodroot."
I wish I had rescued the ones across the street from my mom's before the new neighbors -- not realizing or not caring that they had a goldmine of native plant materials -- destroyed it all and put plain mulch. They probably thought they had weeds, and now they have the clean look of trees and wood chips. Makes me grumpy.
Other things that I am pretty sure are not coming back in my yard: Dutchman's breeches. I keep meaning to go to OO and check the ones there for comparison, but I expect to have something by now...
In closing, Naomi is going to the Cubs game tomorrow, so let's all cross our fingers that the weather is better than it's been. (Tomorrow night marks an important phenological event -- after this game, I will be able to put away my snow pants, boots, etc. for the year.)
Monday, April 13, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
In the garden, I planted sugar snap peas, radishes, lettuce, spinach, cilantro and carrots today. These should be able to withstand the cold so long as we don't have a major snowfall. Started hardening off the onion seedlings that we started too late, hoping to put them, and potatoes, in the ground next weekend. Yea!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
My scanner adds a whole new dimension to blogging. Actually, I quite prefer carrying a sketch book and a pencil to carrying a camera... or, I guess I should say, I prefer sketching to taking pictures... but it is a lot slower, and surely less accurate as well.
Above is a sketch of the tiny white violets that are blooming in several locations of my yard. Despite being violets, they are not purple except for the very base of the bottom petal -- the part that cups the pistil and is, in my drawing, cupped under the stem at the right side. The reproductive parts, which I tried to show in the small sketch to the right, are orange and yellow, coming to a triangular point. They are almost enclosed in the soft petals; yet the way the petals fold back at the top makes the whole thing seem inviting. Come in, it says... and if you do, a faint sweet smell will greet you, almost sticky. I am also quite taken with the fringe that surrounds the pistil, making this ordinary lawn plant seem exotic and special. The delicate, irregular flowers grow in clumps, with several flowers and many basal leaves originating from the same place. The clumps themselves grow in clumps... To many, they are weeds, since they manage to grow in lawns among the grass. I take the opposite view, that grass is the interloper that doesn't belong here. That the yard would be better off if the wildflowers took back over.
So each year, a little bit more of my lawn becomes garden. This year, the new garden space is mostly in vegetables, but a few natives will find their way into the edges as well. And meanwhile, conflicted, I will continue to care for the turf grass that is so poorly adapted to this area that, unwatered, it turns yellow midsummer. (This is the fate of my lawn. We will mow and feed; I will stress out about bare patches and having a yard that doesn't look like a magazine picture. But I draw the line at watering that stuff.) One day, perhaps my whole yard will be a small island of native wilderness in the midst of an ordinary subdivision...
But that day will not come soon, because native plants can be expensive at first. In some places -- like my mom's yard -- native seeds remain under the soil and come up without prompting. If I were to leave my yard alone, the only native plants that would grow would be progeny of those I have nurtured over the last five years; and only those that were strong enough to fight through the multitudes of buckthorn and box elder seedlings.
Box elders. The "black" sheep of the maple family (tee-hee). Another yard-dweller about which I am firmly ambivalent. My yard, and my neighbor's, have several ginormous ones growing between them. Based on the number and size of the box elders and buckthorns growing in a line, I am fairly certain this was once a hedge row between two fields. Now, it is a pain. I removed the buckthorns from my yard before I even moved in. No ambivalence there -- those things had to go. The neighbors still have theirs, including the largest single buckthorn I have ever seen, poisoning the soil just two doors down. I spend a lot of time fighting with the seedlings, which sprout all over, planted by birds who think they have hit the jackpot but are actually getting a strong laxative which causes them to, um... plant the seeds before they can get much nutrition out of the berries. Anyhow...
I didn't remove the three huge box elders on the edge of my yard. They're not particularly desirable trees. Actually, I rather dislike them. Their little seedlings sprout everywhere. They grow fast and therefore aren't very strong, so they're a storm danger. Their fast growth also means I have to pay someone to trim them pretty often so they don't hurt the roof or other trees. On the other hand, they provide shade for my garden of lush ferns, which also has May apples, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild ginger, a shooting star that actually comes back, wild geranium and lilies of the valley (not native, I know, but they remind me of my grandmother and they smell so delicious). If I got rid of the box elders, these would probably all die of scorching. Even if I replanted something I wanted, it would take years to reach a size that shaded the area again. Not to mention how much this whole endeavor would cost.
So for now they're here, waiting to be trimmed again, but meanwhile starting to bloom. As the twig sketch above shows (or is trying to show), they're covered in clusters of burgundy stamen. They're still tightly packed together, but within a day or two they will spread out and start to make the million seeds that will go everywhere. Curled up and wrinkly, the compound leaves are also emerging, but are still teeny-tiny.
Why do so many of the plants I hate so much show up so early? (I could actually write paragraphs in answer to that, but right now it is meant more as a lament than a scientific question...) And why, if I claim to be a nature-lover, do I have such negative feelings toward so many of the organisms that share my yard with me?
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
First, lilac buds, swelling with the promise of purple fragrance inside. Second, a slightly blurry* image of a serviceberry (Juneberry, Saskatoon) bud. Call them what you will, I call them delicious and eagerly anticipate their June bounty.
Monday, April 6, 2009
- Snow. In 2007 we had about 6 inches of snow on April 11; last year our last big snowfall was the day before spring break (late March) causing me to miss my friend's wedding due to air travel being impossible.
- Daffodils. In 2008, the first one didn't bloom on the side of my house until April 14, which is over a week later than this year. But in 2007, it was Mar 26.
- Herps. In '07 and '08, there were turtles and/or garter snakes on April 5 (possibly earlier and I didn't see them) which is right in line with this year's timing. I noted the first Chorus frogs on April 2 last year, much later than this year; in '07 it was Mar 22.
- Ticks. The first ticks were found on April 16 and 14 in 'o7 and '08, respectively. So we'll be looking out for those shortly.
- Ephemerals. In 2007, bloodroots were blooming nearby (OO) on April 5. I haven't checked this specific location yet, but I would be really surprised if they were blooming now.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
And the spring responds, "%#$@ you." (Hey, this is a family blog.)