Blueberries, Birds, and Wildflowers

Spring just keeps progressing day after day.  Plants are blooming and birds are migrating in.

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Duke Blueberry.  Just when I had sort of given up on getting many blueberries in the garden we had a lot of blossoms this year.

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The little Top Hat Blueberry was full of blossoms, too.  We will see if the blueberries turn out well.  These blueberry pictures are from about two weeks ago.

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Today all the strawberries are blooming.  I went around to try to put some straw under each plant to keep the berries out of the dirt.  I can also see that we are going to have a bumper crop of serviceberries before long, so I am looking forward to berry season.

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Common Lilac.  This photo was taken about two weeks ago, but the lilacs have been pretty for a long time, since it has been cool the past two weeks.

IMG_7605.JPGI never got good pictures of the crabapple blossoms this year.  It seemed to rain right after they opened, or I must have been busy….

Last weekend I took a few bird shots when we walked around Lake Katherine.

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Female mallard on log in pond

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Great blue heron

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The end of April seemed pretty early to see goslings, but we had some warm weather early in the spring.

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Fluffy gosling

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Back in our yard the Chinquapin oak tree is full of catkins.  Can you see the palm warbler in the tree?

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I tried to zoom in a little on the palm warbler.

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Here the palm warbler is looking for a bug snack among the strawberry and anemone plants.

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The dwarf fothergilla bush is in bloom now.

IMG_7616And there is the palm warbler again next to the fothergilla bush.

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There are a lot of little brown birds like this in the yard.  It could be just a house sparrow or it could be some wonderful migrating bird.  I have not had much time to get out and observe, but even going outside for 5 or 10 minutes can be rewarding.  I had heard the goldfinch song in the yard and today I saw the yellow bird for the first time this year.

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I was sitting listening to an unfamiliar bird song this morning way up in a tall tree and then I saw the orange color.  A Baltimore Oriole was busy singing and getting some kind of food from the top of this tree.

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It was so much fun to watch this Baltimore Oriole from my patio.

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The kale and romaine lettuce have been in the ground for 2 weeks.  There is a frost warming for tonight, but it looks like 37 degrees, which I think is fine in my yard.  I put up the bean pole structure and am waiting for the soil to warm up to plant pole beans.  You can see the mound of rhubarb in the back.  I made rhubarb sauce for the first time this season today.  I think my tomato and pepper plants should be coming from Seed Savers in the mail some time this week….

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Huechera ‘plum pudding’

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I threw some dwarf sunflower seeds in the meadow a week or two ago and was very excited to see they sprouted.  Can’t wait for these small sunflowers.

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Dark blue salvia is blooming next to the yarrow that will start up soon.

Yesterday our family went for a walk in the forest preserves.  I was looking forward to seeing spring wildflowers.  I did, but they were different from the ones I saw a few weeks ago.

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Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Star wildflower in the Cap Sauers Holdings of the Palos Forest Preserve.

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I am not sure what this is, but it was pretty.  No need to know the name, really.  We can just enjoy the beauty!

Yellow-rumped Warbler and Daffodils

March was warm, but April has been cool.  We had snow this weekend.  Meanwhile it is time for spring bird migration and I was able to take a picture of a yellow-rumped warbler in the garden for the first time this past week.

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It was almost sun-down when I caught this picture of a yellow-rumped warbler.  I got a lot of blurry pictures, too.

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Mourning dove and daffodils.

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On a rainy day a few small insects seek shelter in the daffodil trumpet.

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The different kinds of daffodils bloom at different times, so they keep in bloom for quite a long time.

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These mini daffodils would be wrapping up now, but the weather has been so cool that they continue to look great!

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Just above the daffodils a dark-eyed junco pauses in the viburnum bushes.

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I love these white daffodils.

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I believe this is a double daffodil – Ice King.  I am not that impressed, since they are so heavy they often hang down or get bent over by the snow or wind.

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The crabapple –  Malus ‘Profusion’-  has young red leaves now.

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The robins are active now.  I have not pulled down the old collard stalks, though it seems clear that they are dead.  Behind them the rhubarb leaves are beginning to unfurl.

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The spicebush is finishing up blooming now.  A black-capped chickadee was singing in the spicebush today.  The chickadees nested in the bluebird bird house last spring/summer, since bluebirds have stopped visiting.

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Our common lilac, which was huge, had a lot of dead branches.  We cut them all off except this one branch and a few shoots.  If it does not revive we will plant something else, but we are pretty lazy, so we will see if it revives on its own.  The mourning dove slipped into this picture, too.

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A house finch in the sun yesterday.

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I planted garlic bulbs last spring.  They died back last year and appeared again this spring.  On the internet it says:  “Harvest when the tops begin to yellow and fall over, before they are completely dry.”  This will probably be in July or August.  I should get some lettuce seeds planted soon.  I have some kale coming up that survived the winter.  In a few weeks it will be time to start planting hardy vegetables.

Northern Cardinal, Snow and Last Garden Greens

We have had a pleasant autumn.  This past week we had some snow, but it did not stick on the sidewalk, so no shoveling.  It has melted now and we had a lovely walk in the woods this afternoon.

There seem to be quite a few northern cardinals in the yard these days.

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Male northern cardinal trying out the crab apples outside our kitchen window.

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Let’s see how the next one tastes…

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Some years the crab apples go uneaten, so glad they seem edible this year.

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Female northern cardinal working on a red yew berry.  I think the cardinals have found and eaten all the berries on the hicksii yews now.

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House sparrows hang out in the bare branches of the American plum tree.

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This shot was taken a few weeks ago from the kitchen window.  Can you see the neighbor cat who comes to visit?  Generally I don’t like the cat reducing the biodiversity in the yard, but I guess I don’t mind the help if it is getting rid of some of the house sparrows.

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On Wednesday we had a pretty snowfall, but it quickly melted away.  The winter shadows are long now.

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I just took this shot of the remains of our garden.  We continue to pick a few collard green each time we cook, and we got a few tiny Brussel sprouts today.  Mint, parsley, oregano, and thyme are still green if I want them.  Last Sunday a took some buckets, filled the trunk up with horse manure from the local stable, and spread it on the garden.  We also turned the compost pile yesterday and harvested about a foot of compost from the bottom of the pile and threw in the garden.  We can spread it around where needed in the spring.  I see the squirrel’s tail as it makes a get away on the back fence…

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Winterbor kale is still growing.  Wonder if it will make it through the winter and start up again in the spring.

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The little bluestem grass is wonderful this time of year.  It turns red with feathery seed heads.

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When we went to the forest preserve today the woods were quiet and peaceful.

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These scraggly roots are just a glimpse of the living matter under the ground holding this forest in place.  All the leaves are down now and the deciduous forest can rest until next spring.

Crabapple, Fothergilla, and Lilacs

I have been busy planting all the cool weather vegetables like collards, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, along with lettuce, spinach, potatoes, dill, thyme, basil, parsley, garlic and eggplant…..  While I am busy cleaning up and planting I get wafts of lilac, which is just starting to bloom in the garden.  I love the shrubs that don’t need any work right now, but put on such a great show, and keep the pollinators happy.  In the center stage this week is the crab apple malus profusion.

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Malus profusion crabapple blossom

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As we look out the kitchen window we see the bright colors of the crabapple.  The American plum on the right still has some blossoms, but they are falling quickly.

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Fothergilla flower.  I think this is from my older bush that is about 3 feet tall.

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This is my little fothergilla bush, beaver creek I think, that is finally settling in.  I need to get some fresh mulch down to make it look a little nicer, but this has the most beautiful fall color.  I love it!

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Common lilac.  Can you smell them?  I have three lilac bushes and they are wonderful, but just getting started!

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I planted my first hellebore last spring – peppermint ice.  It had a tough year last year, but hopefully will get established this year.   I have not had any flowers yet, though I see what looks like a flower bud.

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Walking around Lake Katherine this week I noticed that all the lily pads start out red.  I did not know that.

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The turtles are big entertainment for all the children on field trips that visit Lake Katherine.  Here they are soaking in the morning sun rays.

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Is this king of the mountain?  Or family harmony?

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I thought this bird I was trying to take pictures of might be a yellow warbler, but I think it is just a goldfinch, which are common here.  He is sitting in a bald cypress tree that is starting to get needles, and all those branches kept interfering with the focus on my camera.  I am on the look out for migrating birds now.  I got a CD from the library with bird songs and have started listening to that.

Vegetables:  We should have a rainy, hot week, so I have planted seeds and need to be sure a lot of vegetables get established now, throwing in lettuce seeds wherever I can fit them!  I think my tomatoes and peppers should be coming in the mail this week.

Bitternut Hickory:  We planted it three weeks ago and have been watching it every day to see if it is coming out of dormancy.  I just went out to check again and it looks like the buds are opening up and leaves will be arriving!  It is about the last tree in the neighborhood to get leaves so we are really glad it is not dead! Yay!

Plum Blossoms and Mounds of Green Growth

It has been a cool windy week with frosty nights.  It seems like the garden is a little slow in getting going.  I did some weeding and put some mulch down on Friday, but I will wait for some warmer weather to continue garden work.  I have really enjoyed seeing the plum blossoms this week.

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Prunus americana – American plum tree blossoms.

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The branches are full of blossoms all waiting to be pollinated.  It was a windy cool day and I did not see a lot of pollinators out there today, but I am sure they will come.

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We planted two native plum trees a few feet apart to form a privacy screen.  They are vigorous growers and will sucker from the root system, so I have been cutting those back.  The two trees are not quite the same plant and the one on the right is growing taller and has more blossoms this year.  In the back the crabapple is getting ready to bloom soon.

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Crabapple malus profusion.  The crabapple has been looking ready to bloom for a while.  You can see that the leave are looking mostly green now, though some still look bronze colored.

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This is what the little leaves of the profusion crabapple looked like a week or two ago when they started to emerge.

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Around the garden green leaves are mounding up energetically.  In the front is yarrow and behind it is sedum.  There are still some coral colored daffodils blooming.

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Mint

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Chamomile

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Coral bells – heuchera plum pudding and Korean feather reed grass – Calamagrostis brachytricia.  Once the weather warms up the bigger plants crowd out the huechera and it also does not want too much sun, so it is nicest at this time of year.

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Growing grass from seed.  I put some grass seed under the plum trees and used up a free bag of grass starter soil, probably with some fertilizer in it.  The grass is growing in some places.  In the front yard I put down some top soil with no special fertilizer and over seeded my grass, but don’t seem to see the grass seeds sprouting after about 2 weeks.  Maybe if the weather warms up there is still hope….  In any case I am letting the grass get tall this spring to encourage as much growth as possible and maybe crowd out some weeds.

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Walking around Lake Katherine this morning the only bird picture I got was what I think it a tree sparrow going into its nest in what was probably previously a woodpecker cavity.  I am pretty sure I saw a few yellow warblers for the first time, but my camera and photography skills were not good enough to get pictures.

Frost:  One night I put plastic over the lettuce and collards to protect them from frost.  Then next night I did not do anything and the frost seemed to be quite significant.  Still the romaine lettuce and collards seemed to have survived it with no damage.  It looks like two or three more cool nights and then things will start to warm up!

Valentine Rose

Every Saturday morning Dan and I go to the Dunkin’ Donuts in Worth, IL, for coffee, tea and conversation.  This week the staff surprised us on Valentine’s Day with a beautiful red rose.  While we were sitting there I did not see them giving roses to anyone else.  Maybe it is because we are a couple that comes there each week.  When we went out to the car I hid it in my jacket to protect it from the blowing snow and wind chill of -4F.  Thank you Dunkin’ Donuts!

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Valentine’s Day Rose

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Rose next to Ojiisan and Obaasan, the apple picking grandparents that came to me from my mother.

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Outside some moss started to brighten up as the snow melted.  I think the specks of wood are from the maple tree being sawed down and spewing saw dust everywhere.

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In the backyard I could see squirrel foot prints coming down from the crabapple tree trunk and hopping over to the oak tree.  The morning shadows are from the yew bushes.

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Up in the crabapple tree the robin tasted a few crabapples and then flew away.  It was fun to see a robin in the yard again.

I wish you could smell the wonderful fragrance of the rose today!

Thanksgiving Wanderings

For Thanksgiving we took a trip to Minnesota to visit family.  There was some fresh snow on the ground so I walked out to the woods, but the birds were too elusive that morning, so I took some tree pictures.

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Two grand trees.  Red Wing, Minnesota.  In the background you can see the snow on top of Barn Bluff.

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Here you can see Barn Bluff again under another weathered tree, with a nice evergreen tree in the background.

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The structure of this tree is silhouetted in snow.

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Red (pine) squirrel.   These squirrels are about half the size of gray squirrels and this one was chattering quite loudly at me.

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I managed to get one, not so great, nuthatch picture.  This past week I saw a nuthatch in our yard at home, too.

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As we drove home I was trying to take some pictures through the car window.  The Mississippi river was mostly frozen and had a very geometric design on the snow and ice.

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Across the road from the Mississippi river were the bluffs.  Highway 61 is a beautiful drive.

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A few hay bales in the snow.  It was nice to be in the country for a little bit.

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Wisconsin farm and corn field.

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Back in our yard…  I caught the chickadee working on getting a little crabapple this week.

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There seem to be at least two cats in the neighborhood this year.  Since we seem to have an over-abundance of sparrows this year, maybe it is not such a bad thing…  As long as they aren’t getting the native birds!

Winter:  Winter seemed to come early this year.  We have had many days below freezing already.  Today we got up over 50 degrees, though, so the snow is gone.  The compost pile is steaming hot.  We still eat a little kale from the yard.  But now it is time to relax, get cozy, ready some good books, and of course, shovel some snow!