Opossum, Swans and Icy Waters

The weather was mild so I went on a few walks this weekend.

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We stopped briefly at the Saganashkee Slough to see if we could see any bald eagles and ending up watching this opossum for a while.

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It looks like the opossum is looking at us.

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The mute swans were swimming at Lake Katherine today near the fish sculpture where a little ice had thawed.

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A crack in the lake ice.  The weather was supposed to get above 50 degrees today.

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In the ephemeral pond the logs were frozen solid.

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I always love this little bridge over the pond.

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Looking back from the other side I could see my shadow.  Cypress leaves everywhere.

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We took a drive down to Channahon yesterday looking for bald eagles.  No luck.  We first stopped at the Rock Run Rockery and I enjoyed seeing the gull reflections on the ice.  Without a scope it was hard to identify all the birds.  Then we headed over to the 4 Rivers Environmental center, which was a wonderful place, but we had run out of time, so did not spend much time there.  I saw my first hairy woodpecker in the woods there.

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Back at home the squirrels and blue jays occasionally have some crabapples.  The woodpeckers come for the suet.

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The serviceberry branches I brought inside in mid-January are just starting to open.

Cap Sauer Holdings

One of our favorite parts of the Cook County Forest Preserves are the Cap Sauer Holdings.  We parked on the south side of the Calumet Sag Road (Route 83) and walked in on a tiny path where no dogs are allowed.  As we walked south the traffic sounds gradually faded.

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We walked uphill until we were walking on top of a ridge.  We saw no one on our morning walk but constantly heard airplanes overhead.

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We walked by a wetland where we hear frogs in the spring.  But is was cold and quiet.

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We paused to look at fungi and try to identify a bird call.  Or was it a squirrel?  I heard a woodpecker drilling on a tree.

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Then I saw a movement, and realized it was a coyote.  I tried to get Dan to see it.

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I managed to get one clearer picture.  There were actually two coyotes and they gradually slunk away from us further into the woods.  It is a good place to hide and they blend in well with the gray and brown landscape this time of year.  They looked healthy with pretty fur.

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As we walked out I could see a frozen stream flowing downhill.  It was a gray day and these pictures may seem dull, although it was a beautiful walk.  This is a wonderful place to see spring wildflowers.

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We saw a lot of these tennis ball looking fruit near the trailhead.  Looking on Google it seems like these are from an Osage Orange tree.

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Back home, my attention was drawn to a flock of starlings that were checking out the birdbath in the backyard.

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The house sparrows were attracted by the racket.  The water is off and on frozen these days.

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The male northern cardinal briefly stopped by.

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The female northern cardinal looked for a meal on the ground.

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The robin tried out a crabapple.

We are almost at the shortest day of the year.  Time for winter walks, and mostly cozy time indoors, and holiday celebrations!

 

Crabapple Tree

The crabapple tree outside the kitchen window has been catching my attention recently.

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It snowed on Halloween, but the next day the sun came out and I love the blue sky and fluffy clouds above the snow outlined crabapple tree.  On the left the chinquapin oak tree was showing its fall colors.

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Backing up, here is the view from the kitchen window.

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The dark-eyed juncos have arrived, and are winter residents in our neighborhood.

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Male house finch

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The crabapples probably get tastier after a freeze or two.  Though they probably are not terrific tasting since usually quite a few little apples persist on the branches over the winter.

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The crabapples are at various stages of ripeness.  The tree is full of crabapples this year and we hardly had any last year.

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Profusion crabapple tree this past spring.  The weather must have been just right to get the flowers pollinated and set into little apples.

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The squirrels have come a number of times for a snack.

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Golden-crowned kinglet migrating through Chicagoland.  It is always fun to look out the kitchen window and see what birds are stopping by.

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The bark of the tree does not look very healthy to me.  Does this mean the tree is dying?  The leaves get diseased and fall off early each year.  I have not diagnosed the problem yet.  We did have robins successfully nest in this tree early in the year though, when there were still leaves.

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As a side note, I saw a black swallowtail caterpillar in the fennel on November fifth, the week after the snow.  We are in cleanup mode these days and have started a big leaf and grass compost pile.  I am leaving more plants standing in place this year to provide habitat for wintering insects and other critters that are good bird food.  Insects are the foundation of the food chain, right?

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Dan and I had a fantastic walk in the woods this morning, starting at the Wolf Road Woods trail in the Palos Forest Preserve.

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At Tomahawk Slough we saw a very fluffed up great blue heron.  The temperature was below freezing last night and thin ice covered parts of the slough.

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This shot was from our walk last week at the Willow Springs Forest Preserve.  It is time to pull out the cozy jackets, wooly scarves and mittens, and warm boots and enjoy cold weather hiking.

Nasturtiums, Mums and More

As most plants die away some continue to bloom cheerily.  We have not had a real frost in the backyard yet, though I saw frost on our front lawn one day.  We have a little warmer, more protected microclimate in the backyard.

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Orange nasturtium

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Orange nasturtiums and alyssum along the fence.  These have variegated leaves.  I planted 3 packets of Jewel mix nasturtiums around the yard, if I remember correctly.

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More traditional looking leaves.  This giant group grew out onto the patio.  The squirrel jumped on them at one point but they grew back.

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Yellow nasturtiums have a touch of orange and red.

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Reddish orange nasturtium.  I did not get a picture of the dark red nasturtium.

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Coral mums.  This picture was taken about a week ago.

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Coral mums and pollinator

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Some of the pollinators prefer the flowers to be a bit more ripe.

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I looked for a bumblebee today and found one on the Agastache ‘blue boa.’

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On Saturday, 10/19, there were two black swallowtail caterpillars chomping on my curly parsley.  I did not see them today, so hope they got away somewhere.

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Virginia creeper

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Aronia melanocarpa, black chokeberry ‘Viking black.’  I planted these two bushes last year and they grew nicely, though I did not get any berries this year.  The garden around them this year was mostly fallow, though I grew some sunflowers between them after the daffodils.

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Our favorite vegetable this time of year is curly kale.  After we finish cooking our soup on the weekend we throw big bunches of chopped-up kale in, and it softens up in the hot soup pot.

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The squirrels have been tearing around the yard, digging holes in the lawn and everywhere else, planting their nuts for the winter.  We don’t have acorns in our oak tree this year, after a bumper crop last year.

Fall colors are just starting in the yard….

October Flowers and Spooky Spiders

When I started designing my garden, the first thing I worked on was autumn flowers.  I love them, and it is a wonderful time of year to have them begin to bloom after slowly growing over the summer.  My goal is to always have something blooming from March through November or the first frost. This helps the insects and pollinators and cheers me up, too!

I have only been posting about once a month this summer, so there are too many pictures to pick from!

The big attraction this week has been the asters.

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Can you see the green bee on these asters?

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I think this is some kind of sweat bee.  I see them each year on the asters.

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Hoverfly on aster

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Corn earworm moth on aster

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One day I saw a lot of fluttering on the asters from my office window.  I went out and found six to eight painted lady butterflies on the asters and they were also visiting the zinnias.

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A few monarch butterflies joined in.

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The goldenrod is mostly finished now, but it is so vibrant when it first opens.  Here with Russian sage.

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The flies love the goldenrod and seem to like it as the flowers fade.

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A few gaillardia still smiling

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Zinnias and alyssum

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Black swallowtail butterfly on marigolds

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In the foreground the red flowers of pineapple sage are starting to bloom, a favorite of the hummingbirds.  The two huge sunflowers in the garden are leaning over.  I cut off the spent flowers and new flowers keep appearing.

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Sunflowers keep blooming

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Hummingbird rests in crabapple tree.  We had almost no crabapples last year and a bumper crop this year, though the leaves fell early.

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The boltonia bloomed in mid-September.  A grasshopper enjoys the warm resting spot on the fence.

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Pink turtlehead flowers. This picture is from about a month ago, and they are just finishing up now.

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Garden spider lurking in the leaves of the pink turtlehead flowers

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The foggy morning accentuated the spider webs in the garden and this garden spider looks spooky in its web.  I did not need to buy any spooky merchandise to get this picture!

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The orb spiders have been very active on the patio.  One morning I came out to find 3 large orb spider webs near where I was going to hang laundry.

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I found a few common meadow crickets in our little “meadow.”  I still hear crickets at night.

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On a walk recently I saw this eastern shieldback katydid.  The phrase “on its last legs” came to mind.  That seems to be true of a lot of insect at this time of year, though it could just be that they are slow after a cold night.

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Dragonfly – not moving too quickly, but looking beautiful!

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It’s pepper season!  The brussel sprout and kale are great, though the last batch of tomatoes are taking their time ripening.  Organically grown food is the main focus of the garden, but I love the flowers, and all the variety keeps the garden pests under control.

Recent Reading:  Grandma Gatewood Walks

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Loved this book!

Home And Away

Hot weather and thunderstorms are here.  Tomatoes are growing.  Summer is here and the garden is active!

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American goldfinch feasting on the first purple coneflowers.

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There is just one clump of gaillardias this summer.

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There is also one small group of Shasta daisies.

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The Miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass stretches over the back-eyed Susan flowers, which will bloom before long.

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Bee balm

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Jackmanii clematis

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Butterfly weed

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False sunflower

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The downy woodpecker spent time on the laundry pole pecking for something.

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There have been quite a few baby robins in the yard, though they are really “big” babies!

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Tomatoes are forming on one of three tomato plants.

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With the long, cool and wet spring we have had our best year of green peas.

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I pick a bowl of wax beans every day.  Cooking, freezing and giving to neighbors.  Not pictured here are the raspberries I have been loving!!!

At the end of May I sprained my ankle badly and so I spent a month sitting around watching the weeds grow.  On Sunday I started taking walks again and have been increasing the length of the walks each day.  It is wonderful to walk again, though I should have been doing more stretches this past month and I am trying to make up for it now.

Today, on the fourth of July, I took my lunch to the forest preserve at the Little Red Schoolhouse and took a wandering walk.

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Waterlily at the pond.  When I got this picture on the big screen I saw the tiny frog.  I could hear the bull frogs as I walked past the pond.

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I tried to take a picture of a dragonfly and saw I had a tiny frog in that picture, too.

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Prairie flowers

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I stood still by the slough and saw an indigo bunting feeding.

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The catbird was calling.

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This bird seems to look like a catbird, too, but the call was completely different, I think.

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A summer trail.  I am so thankful to be back on my feet!

June View and Midwest Vacation

I sprained my ankle, so no gardening for me.  It is a chance to post a few pictures from the past few weeks.

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Today’s view from the kitchen window.

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Looks like the squirrel came by for a drink.  I need to move the birdbath into a sunnier location as my chinquapin oak tree grows.

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Digitalis purpurea, foxglove.  This flower is not native, but it is well behaved in my garden and the bees and hummingbirds seem to like it.

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Looking at it from a different angle, the foxglove is on the left.  The grass in the “meadow” is high and the little hickory tree is shooting up. The tall tree in the back is the serviceberry, also called Juneberry.  Since it is June it is time to look for berries, though the weather has been mild, so everything is a bit late.  The raspberries on the right are starting to form.

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The cedar waxwings, who love berries, have been checking the serviceberry tree out.  You can see the berries are not quite ready, though there always might be one or two that can be eaten early.

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In the vegetable garden the clematis started blooming.  The robin came for a little bath in the bottom portion of this birdbath.  I did not get mulch down before I sprained my ankle so there are weeds everywhere.  My doctor said to just “bless the weeds” for the next few weeks while I rest and heal.  I sprained my ankle in the kitchen an hour after returning from our Memorial weekend mini-vacation…  Here are a few pictures from that time.

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Camel rock in the Garden of the Gods Wilderness in southern Illinois.

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We explored a lot of trails, like this trail at Giant City State Park.

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I got a sense of pleasure at seeing a rock pigeon nesting in the rocks instead under an overpass in a city.

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Liriodendron tulipifera – tulip tree in bloom.  There are not too many of these trees in northern Illinois, but they were common as we went south.

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The boardwalk at Heron Pond in the Cache River Wetlands.  Curiosity about this area was what motivated us to make another trip to southern Illinois.  Being on this boardwalk felt magical.  The cypress trees grow up in this swampy pond, where we could hear various birds calling.  It is a pretty wild area, but a great place for biodiversity and a buffer between the south and the north during this time of climate change, where various animals and birds can find habitat.  We did not see any water moccasins, but kept our eyes open and appreciated the boardwalk.

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We did a lot of driving, including on back roads like this.  A Swedish thriller audiobook kept us entertained in between jumping out of the car to explore the next place.

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These may be box turtles mating, or something….  This was at the Oakland Nature Preserve in Carbondale, Illinois.  It was a buggy morning so we were doing a very fast walk through these trails to keep away from the bugs, but we saw quite a few turtles and a lot of native and/or rate plants.  Our hiking boots were caked with mud on this trip.

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On the way home on Sunday we stopped at the Chinook State and Wildlife Area, east of Terre Haute, Indiana.  There were no trails, so we did not stay long, but two different units came to fish while we were there.  We had beautiful warm weather during our trip, but as we headed home the cool, wet weather began to move in again.

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We stopped to see a few of the covered bridges near Rockville, Indiana.

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On the last stretch home to Chicago we stopped to see the bison at Kankakee Sands in northwest Indiana.  Can you see the head of the little calf in the group?  This is a prairie restoration area run by the Nature Conservancy.  We did not want to take the time to go to the bird area, but we were refreshed by the wide open area we saw.  Then back in the car and back to life in the suburbs!