Backyard blooms, berries and beyond

Backyard blooms, berries and beyond

Following on in the “B” theme, look in this blog post for a bull frog, blue damselfly and Indiana dunes beach….

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The butterfly weed is in bloom.  We are waiting for the monarch butterflies to visit…

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Veronica spicata Spike speedwell ‘Royal Candles’ a little bit past its prime.  Red hot poker flowers in the background.

IMG_8523Kniphofia red hot pokers in front of miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass.

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The view from the patio.

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Aruncus goat’s beard does well on the north side of the house.

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The first gaillardia blooms.

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Bright yellow yarrow, and in the background salvia ‘blue hill.’

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The alyssum re-seeds itself each year and is starting to bloom now.

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Does cauliflower count as a flower?  I cooked this up in a soup today!

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The collards are looking nice and we are trying to keep up with eating them before the cabbage worms do their munching.  This plant does not look too chewed on.

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We haven’t had to buy lettuce for a few weeks.  This leaf lettuce is nice, but the romaine is starting to bolt with the hot weather.

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In a bowl this morning from our yard – serviceberries, strawberries, mulberries and raspberries.  I enjoyed them with my oatmeal.

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Ripening serviceberry.  I am competing with the birds for these now.  The robins are often in the serviceberry tree.

IMG_8530Unfortunately this berry loving cedar waxwing died after crashing into our kitchen window!  I saw a big serviceberry in its mouth before it died.

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A downy woodpecker has been visiting the birdbath.

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There seem to be a lot of wasps in the yard this year.

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Blue damselfly on miscanthus ornamental grass.

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We visited Indiana Dunes State Park last weekend.  We hiked for a couple of hours in the dunes before enjoying our lunch with the crowd on the beach.

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A little cactus along the prairie trail.  This state park has quite a few endangered species.

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Tomahawk Slough in the Palos Forest Preserve, where we hiked last Sunday.

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One of many bullfrogs at Tomahawk Slough.

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There were also a ton of little toads or frogs hoping around near the water and on the trail.  I guess it is time for them to head out on their own and see if they survive.

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Great blue heron at Tomahawk Slough.

Birding:  I signed up for a birding blitz in the Palos Forest Preserve for June 17th.  I am just an amateur birder, so I was looking forward to going out with someone who could identify a ton of birds.  I showed up in the parking lot at 5:30 am and then remembered to check my email on my phone.  The blitz had been canceled for weather reasons, as thunderstorms were predicted.  I could hear all the birds around me, but the expert birders were not there.  We did not get any rain on Saturday as I guess the rain fell somewhere else.  But it was probably a good thing that I was not involved, as my foot has been giving me some trouble after all that hiking last weekend.  So it is a good weekend to just rest and recover and get this blog post done!

 

Berries and Goat’s Beard

Berries and Goat’s Beard

After a poor start on the strawberries, I got ahead of the birds and bugs by picking strawberries once or twice a day.  We ate out first raspberry on Friday.  We are working through the cool weather vegetables now, eating a lot of lettuce and kale, starting on the collards, and enjoying a few peas.

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I picked this small bowl of berries yesterday and ate them with a little vanilla ice cream.  Yummy!  It includes strawberries, raspberries, mulberries and service berries, also called June berries.

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We tied the raspberries canes to the fence and they are just getting started bearing fruit.  Once the raspberries are eaten we will cut back those canes and tie up this year’s new canes that will have raspberries next year.

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Aruncus dioicus Goat’s Beard.  Since we have moved the goat’s beard to this location it keeps getting bigger each year and I can enjoy it from my office window.

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Close up of the goat’s beard flowers which have been attracting a lot of pollinators, especially some really big bees.

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So far it looks like we have one red hot poker flower coming.  A month ago in Washington state I saw a lot of these blooming, so maybe that climate is better for them.  You can see one small blue petunia on the ground.  The rabbit nibbled down all the petunias when we first planted them.  We finally got rid of the rabbit, for now, so the flowers are getting going again.  Also in the picture are gaillardia, spike speedwell, ‘little bunny’ pennisetum fountain grass and Russian sage.

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Spike Speedwell Veronica spicata ‘Royal Candles.’   These plants are on the decline in my garden, but I enjoy them for a little while each year.

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We have a little bit of leaf lettuce in the yard, but we are mostly eating romaine lettuce these days.  I love eating fresh lettuce in my daily salad.

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Curly kale.  We just made some bean and vegetable soup.

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Wild kale.  I bought the seeds for the wild kale from Seed Savers Exchange.  I don’t like the flavor of all the types of kale so I weeded out those and was left with the mild kale I like.  It is blooming now, since I planted it last fall, but I just keep taking off the flowers.

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Pea flower.  I think these are sugar peas.

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The pole beans are just starting to climb.  We should have flowers on those before long.  The compost pile in the back has shrunk way down.  It is probably soon ready to spread around the garden.

Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Strawberries

We have been eating lettuce for a while, but yesterday we cooked up some soup with our first head of cauliflower, and we need to harvest the first head of broccoli today.  We have been eating a lot of strawberries this week.  Actually Dan reached his limit of strawberries, but I still have room for more!

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This cauliflower was a lot smaller than the ones last year, but probably about 7 inches across, so big enough.  The soup we made also had asparagus and mushrooms from the farmer’s market.

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It looks like I need to pick this broccoli head for super.

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Potato flowers.  I planted red potatoes this year, but these potatoes came up from whatever we missed getting out of the ground last year.

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Backing up you can see the same potato plants on the left, next to some flowers  – Penstemon digitalis (foxglove beard tongue), a native plant.  In front are wax beans that are getting crowded out by the potatoes.  I can always plant some more wax beans, if I get around to it.

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Tomato flower.  These are “Amish paste” tomatoes, that were so good last year.

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I have been picking one to two pints of strawberries a day.  Rain and heat help.

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Strawberry rhubarb sauce.  I have made three batches this year.  I realize how much rhubarb I threw in the compost pile the past years…  Of course, it requires a lot of sugar, but other than that there is no cost to me.  I have been enjoying it with some yummy ice cream.

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Our neighbors cut down some weed trees, and with them the raspberry canes.  Raspberries come on second year canes, I believe, so they are growing back for raspberries next year.  And now we have some growing on our side of the fence, the right side, too!

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I think this is oakleaf lettuce.  We pick leaves off and more grow back.  We have romaine lettuce and some baby kale for salads and smoothies, too.

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A few flower pictures, too…  Blue hill salvia, max frei geraniums, and penstemon digitalis.

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The alchemilla lady’s mantle plants have been big this year.  Behind them the catmint is blooming.  On the right in front is the caryopteris and the baptisia australis is in back.  I could get rid of some of these plants, but I don’t have to pick weeds here, or at least I don’t see them, when the plants are big like this.

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Straight through the opening in the last picture – the spike speedwell royal candles are blooming and the gaillardia are getting going, too.

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Geranium ‘rozanne’ with lady’s mantle in the background.

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The joe pye weed on the right is starting to get tall.  Last year I pinched them back.  I think I will not pinch them back and leave them with some supports this year and see how tall they get.  In front are white foxgloves, liatris getting ready to bloom, and foliage of the turtlehead flowers.

Sightings:  A chipmunk that seems to be under the hostas or the irises.  The rabbit persists.  We are learning to live with it, but give it chase now and then.

Asters, Nasturtiums, and a Rabbit Chase

My New England purple dome asters are hiding partially behind the viburnum bushes.  That helps hide the leggy stems this time of year, but the bright colors can be seen across the yard.

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New England purple dome asters and solidago rugosa ‘fireworks’ goldenrod.  This is a color combination I like and have used it here and there in the garden.

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Bee on New England purple dome aster.    I love the bee’s wings.  The bees and flies definitely prefer the goldenrod today, but they are starting to come over to the asters as the orange centers start opening up.

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The nasturtiums have been growing slowly over the summer, but the dry autumn days seem to have brought out the best.  I love the intricate centers of these flowers.

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I also love the beautiful foliage of the nasturtiums, which is wet here with the morning dew.

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Yellow nasturtiums.  The jewel mix has orange, red, and yellow nasturtiums in a mix, though they were not close enough together to get a good effect of that this year.

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This is my favorite color, but the red nasturtiums have been fighting with the wax beans all summer in a mostly losing battle.

We are still enjoying the beans, so that is good!

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About three weeks ago I notice a small bunny in the yard.  It somehow got through our “rabbit proof” fence and did not seem to be leaving.  Yesterday as I was eating my lunch on the patio, the rabbit, which had grown quickly, was munching his own lunch just a few feet away, with little fear of me.  Dan, Phil, and I opened all the gates in the yard, each grabbed a mop pole and spent about ten minutes trying to get the rabbit to go out a gate.  It eventually ran out into the easement and we closed the gates.  We learned a new meaning for “beating around the bush.”  It was pretty comical and adventurous for us, though probably terrifying for the rabbit.  I am sure the rabbit will now be able to meet other neighborhood rabbits and will find many other places to nibble.

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At first when the rabbit showed up I thought, “what harm can one rabbit do with all the mature plants I have?”  I forgot about my new lettuce plants, which the rabbit quickly chewed down.  I hope he left some nice droppings to fertilize the yard!

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Last year I planted a winter garden and covered it with a hoop.  The kale plants that made it through the snowy winter are big now and we are eating the kale every day.  The leaves are small and tender, as they are on multi-stemmed plants.  We just keep cutting back the yellow flowers.  When the lettuce died with the heat we planted wax beans and finally a cantaloupe in this bed.  I don’t have the energy to dig up another bed for another winter garden so we will just keep eating this kale until the snow falls.  Maybe we can cover it with the plastic hoop and keep eating it.

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We just ate this small, yummy cantaloupe for breakfast the other morning.  A few smaller melons are ripening yet.

Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Zucchini, and more

All of a sudden I am seeing red show up in the garden and the tomatoes are coming.  It is time for the summer vegetables and they are coming quickly.

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Marketmore cucumbers.  The vine went through the fence and we have cucumbers hanging in the easement.  Phil and I are each eating about one a day.  We peel the skin and remove the seeds and it is a refreshing summer food, whether in a salad or just as a snack.

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This tomato is called “Amish Paste.”  I expected a smaller plum tomato like I see in the supermarket, but all the tomatoes are huge in my garden, it seems.  I also planted “gold medal” tomatoes that each weigh a lot and are yellow.  It looks like I will be making spaghetti sauce next weekend.

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“Black beauty” zucchini flower.  There are three bugs taking refuge here, a bee, possibly a cucumber beetle, and a really small bug of some sort.  I had two zucchini that got really huge before I saw them and I just threw those in the compost pile.  Otherwise we are trying to catch up on eating the zucchini.  Now that we have finished eating all the cauliflower we can probably get to these.  There are also a lot of green and wax beans in the fridge.  I have given some away and put bunches of them in cauliflower soup.

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Speaking of cauliflower, I was finally cutting back the old cauliflower leaves and putting them in the compost.  I noticed that beside most of these plants there are new cauliflower plants coming up from the roots next to the mother plant.  I am not sure if I will get cauliflowers out of these, but may get some nice greens to use.

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The brussel sprouts are coming along well.  The little sprouts are forming along the stalk.  We will see if the little tomato cage will be able to hold the weight.

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Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers.  I love these!  These long peppers turn bright red and are a great snack.  I ate several last week.  I ordered my peppers and tomatoes as transplants from Seed Savers.  I like the variety they have a little more than what I get locally, though I sometime end up with local transplants, too.

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It looks like I have a few “Ichiban” eggplants to throw into some recipe.  I have another eggplant, an American variety, that seems to be producing its first fruit now.

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This interesting picture is not from a visiting cat or dog.  They are mushrooms on the sight of our former silver maple tree.  Mushrooms are fungi and this is the above ground representation, maybe like a flower or fruit.  I am happy to have mushrooms in the yard and I think it is a good sign of life in the soil.

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Viburnum dentatum ‘Christom’ blue muffin berries are ripening for the birds.  Keeping the birds fed is part of the plan in having an ecosystem full of biodiversity, that works without pesticides or herbicides.

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While cleaning up this weekend I came across this caterpillar which I think might be a silver spotted skipper caterpillar.  When I first saw it I thought it was a cabbage moth caterpillar.  But when I looked at the picture of the butterfly it looked like a butterfly I had taken a picture of earlier this past week that I could not identify.

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Silver spotted skipper butterfly on agastache ‘blue fortune’ giant hyssop.

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The zinnias have been attracting a lot of wildlife this week.  This very bedraggled swallowtail butterfly has been visiting all week.  I know it is the same one because it is missing a good part of its right wing.  I read this week that butterflies only live 8 – 10 days.  Then another website said that swallowtails live about a month in the summer. In about five minutes yesterday afternoon I saw four different kinds of butterflies in the yard.  I can’t get pictures of all of them and they are all so different.

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The bees also love the zinnias.

Empty birdbath:  The birdbath has been completely empty this week.  No robins, sparrow, finches, starlings, or any other birds visited it, as far a I noticed.  I changed the water several times.  I seem to remember something like this happening last August.  Where have all these birds gone?  I saw a few sparrow gather on the fence yesterday, but then they flew off.  Is there something else exciting happening?  Is it pesticides?  However I do have two kinds of birds visiting in the yard.  The cardinal couple have been around all week making clicking noises in the bushes on the northwest side of the yard.  The goldfinches are also busy working on the zinnias and other flowers they can pick apart for seeds.  The mulberry tree continues to attract birds, but they are far up in the branches.

Fall vegetable planting:  I got out today and planted several patches of lettuce and kale.  It is a little late, but hopefully we will get this plants going so we can have a nice late harvest before the snow falls. I would plant more, but the garden it full!

Snake:  Dan said he saw a little brown snake in the yard by the unmowed grass yesterday.  Glad to know they are still around!  If you made it this far in the blog – Thanks!

Chinquapin, Catalpa, and Berry Season

Trees help take up carbon from the atmosphere and are such a great habitat for wildlife.

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Our chinquapin oak has been growing about 2 feet a year, since we planted it in 2009.  The branches grow so quickly in the spring that they were hanging down to the lawn.    We may have to trim off more lower branches, but we like the low branch look.  We are zone 5B and this is a zone 6 tree, I think, but with global warming and a protected backyard it seems to do well.

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This week when we looked out the kitchen window we noticed that the catalpa tree was blooming in our neighbor’s yard and the flowers all over the tree are so stunning.  This tree is very fast growing – maybe four feet a year – but won’t be long lived like the oak.

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One or two baby robins seemed to have hatched in the robins’ nest and she is busy feeding them now.  The nest is in the crabapple tree outside our kitchen window, but we can see the babies a little from our upstairs bedroom window.

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Robin in the birdbath on a hot day.  The beautiful dark green chinquapin leaves are in the background.

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The raspberry tart viburnum bush is in full bloom and attracting a lot of bees.  On the right is an arborvitae bush.

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The mulberries are just starting to ripen.  I had some for breakfast in my cereal with strawberries and the first serviceberries.

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I try to pick the serviceberries before the birds get them all.

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We have been picking a bowl of strawberries most days now.

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The beautiful yellow yarrow is blooming around the garden now.  Here it is next to turnips and loose leaf lettuce, that we are eating as fast as we can before the weather gets too hot.

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Potato flowers blooming.  In the back is the blooming clematis and the tomato cages.  I was straightening out one of the tomato vines the other day and the smell was wonderful.

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I was looking at the parsley plant to see where the caterpillar was and I noticed this familiar looking plant sticking out of the container.  Then I remembered that for some crazy reason I put potatoes in the bottom of the crazy cornflower container.  I guess I won’t be able to get the potatoes out for a few months, but I don’t think it will hurt anything.

Tree stories:  Our church was planting trees to replace ash trees they had to cut down.  We purchased an American sentry linden tree – Tilia Americana – to add to the new line up and helped shovel in a little dirt today.

Also, we found a hickory tree growing in a corner of our garden and moved it into a new place to see if we could get it to grow.  After one week it is not looking too good, but we will keep babying it to see if it will take root and grow.  I think it is a shagbark hickory.  It had a long tap-root and we heard these are hard to transplant, though it was only about 18 inches tall.

Mid-May Flowers, Birds, and a Salad

Welcome to my new blog!  I previously posted at pardonmygarden.wordpress.com.  Visit there if you want to know what happened in my garden between January 2010 and May 2014.

Here are a few things I took pictures of this week.

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Bulbs blooming in the garden.  I am not positive of the name, since I lost the package they came in.  They are so small I would miss them if I did not come close.

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Heuchera – plum pudding surrounded by fresh green leaves.  On the left are echinacea – cone flower leaves.  The grasses are korean feather reed grass – calamagrostis brachytricha.

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The lilacs have stayed looking good a long time this year.  In the background are common lilacs and they are the ones with the wonderful fragrance.  The darker lilacs are a french lilac called Charles Joly.

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There are so many beautiful leaves in the garden.  Here aruncus – goatsbeard – unfurls its leaves and flower stem.  The flowers will be white soon.

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Yesterday at sunrise I went to Lake Katherine.  I think this is a Great Egret, though I am not an expert.  The morning was cold and this bird seemed to be hunkered down, though looking for a meal, too.

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It looks like the great blue heron is building its nest here on this island in the lake.  Maybe this wooden support was put here for this purpose.

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Here is a shot with the egret and heron in the same picture.  I know that there is a white version of the great blue heron, but the great egret had black legs, so I concluded that it was the great egret.  Fun to see these birds in Florida and now here.

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The geese and goslings are less exotic, but fun to watch.

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I picked a variety of baby kale and lettuce from the garden and topped it with a pear, banana, strawberries and cashews.  I loved it!  The fruit was from the store, but I will have strawberries soon.