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….

IMG_8536

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

IMG_8509

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.

IMG_8590

The view from the patio.

IMG_8551

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

IMG_8508

The first gaillardia blooms.

IMG_8585

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

IMG_8548

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

IMG_8460

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

IMG_8527

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.

IMG_8550

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.

IMG_8599

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

IMG_8572

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.

IMG_8518

A downy woodpecker has been visiting the birdbath.

IMG_8596

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

IMG_8562

Blue damselfly on miscanthus ornamental grass.

IMG_8410

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.

IMG_8426

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

IMG_8462

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

IMG_8464

One of many bullfrogs at Tomahawk Slough.

IMG_8496

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.

IMG_8480

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!

 

June Garden and Illinois Waterways

June Garden and Illinois Waterways

Everything is growing and green now!  The trees have leafed out, the flowers are taking their turns blooming, the vegetables are getting going and the weeds are doing what weeds do…  The birds and the bees are active!

IMG_8324

The chinquapin oak tree is on the left and the crabapple tree on the right.  The crabapple is having another bad year, with the leaves turning brown and falling.  Last year we did not have any crabapples and that might happen again this year.  But we are enjoying the irises blooming this week.

IMG_8333

Red iris

IMG_8330

The male northern flicker was hanging out looking for an ant meal.

IMG_8345

The yarrow flowers have finally turned yellow.  In the back you can see the first pink foxglove flower.

IMG_8346.JPG

Foxglove in foreground, on the left the lady’s mantle is blooming, and in the back penstemon – beardtongue – is getting ready to bloom.

IMG_8350

The grasses in the unmowed “meadow” catch the morning sunlight.  The grasshoppers and damselflies love this area.  The robins are starting to visit the serviceberry bush for a berry snack.  The raspberries on the fence are forming and will ripen in a few weeks.

Road Trip

10 days ago we headed out for a four-day vacation in central Illinois.  The day we took off was rainy, so we spent time driving down to Alton, IL.

IMG_7850

The fields were just getting started.  We enjoyed being out in the country.

IMG_7871

Thursday morning we visited the Audubon Center at Riverlands in Alton, where we spotted this Eastern Kingbird.

IMG_7914

The male indigo bunting kept its distance, but the color is wonderful!

IMG_8018

Many areas along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers were flooded.  We went hiking at Pere Marquette State Park.  Climbing the hills got us away from the flooding and provided wonderful views of the Illinois River.  Can you see the little brown ribbon of a trail we took to get us up to this hilltop where a few benches provided a rest area?

IMG_8021

Dan on the Pere Marquette State Park trail.

IMG_8089

The next morning we visited the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area and enjoyed a walk around this little pond.

We did not stay long as our goal was to visit Emiquon, run by the Nature Conservancy.

IMG_8134

Emiquon is a Nature Conservancy project in a flood plain along the Illinois River, and a lot of migrating birds stop over here.  However, migration season is mostly over and this time of year is when the flooding is the highest.

IMG_8156

We tried, without much luck, to zoom in on birds across the water that looked like pelicans.

IMG_8133

We drove by a snapping turtle, but did not get too close.

Then we crossed the Illinois River and went over to take a look at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, where the flood waters were high as well.

IMG_8177

A lot of drift wood came to rest on the shore at Chautauqua Lake.

IMG_8194

Red-headed woodpecker at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge.

 IMG_8277

On Saturday we visited Matthiessen State Park on the Vermillion River.  Since it was Memorial Day weekend the crowds were large and the trails had turned into muddy pits, that took a lot of skill to navigate!

IMG_8269

Cedar waxwings were in the tree above the river.  I have seen them in our yard this week, too, looking for serviceberries or other ripe berries.

IMG_8288

Sunrise view from the hotel in Yorkville, where we stayed Saturday night.

IMG_8299

We visited Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area on Sunday morning.  There were several lakes as well as a trail along the Fox River.

We enjoyed all the places we saw and now will get back to hiking in our wonderful neck of the woods.

Daily Wonders

Daily Wonders

When you wake up you never know what you might see.  I am often surprised when I take time to look around.

IMG_7757

Double-crested cormorants rest between diving for a meal at the Saganashkee Slough last Sunday morning.

IMG_7755

Double-crested cormorant

IMG_7754

This was our first time hiking on the south side of the slough in the Palos forest preserve, and we walked under this flock of cormorants who had found a dead tree branch to rest on and dry their wing on this sunny morning.  It took a while to find a place to photograph the birds that was not blocked by trees and had the right angle for the light.

IMG_7743

View from the west side of Saganashkee Slough.  The great blue heron flew across the lake as a fisherman sits with a few bobbers in the water.  The cormorants were in a tree somewhere on the right side of this picture further down the lake.

IMG_7736

A sandpiper was hopping along on the shore.

IMG_7731

Back in our yard the white-crowned sparrows visited for a few days in their migration.  This one was in the Chinquapin oak tree among the fresh catkins.

IMG_7713

The white-crowned sparrow visits the birdbath.

IMG_7772

Raspberry getting ready to flower.  All the berries are in progress now, just needing rain and sun.

IMG_7794

The chive flowers were spilling over the strawberries.

IMG_7785

Red romaine lettuce.  We have been eating lettuce from the garden each day.  The little bean and zinnia seeds have sprouted, but I see the bunny has arrived, so I am not sure that they will survive.

 IMG_7803 Wax bean sprouts.  Will they survive the bunny?

IMG_7789

No more need to buy expensive kale at the supermarket until December….

IMG_7783.JPG

I planted a few coleus to fill the space of the viburnum we cut down, due to the invasive viburnum beetles we had last year.  Maybe next year I will have more time to find a shrub replacement.

IMG_7782

Ajuga reptans.  So much blue in the garden now.  The hostas are growing up in the shade.

IMG_7812Clematis jackmanii.  I love seeing these big flowers across the yard from the kitchen window.

Fall Insect Life

The coral mums are attracting a lot of insect action.  Some visitors may be looking for nectar and some may be attracted to the deteriorating plants.

img_6218

Ailanthus webworm moth

img_6256

The mums are beautiful from a distance, but many flowers are past their prime.

img_6212

A honey bee of some sort coming for nectar.

img_6243

Spotted cucumber beetle

img_6226

This hover fly appeared to be mostly dead and the fly was checking out both the flower and the insect.

Below are other creatures I saw on the mums yesterday.

img_6233

img_6237

img_6239

img_6266

img_6258

Above are various flies and moths that I captured in pictures on the mums.  Some were too small or fast moving to catch.  There was one giant bumble bee near the geraniums that moved to quickly to catch in a photo.

img_6315

I noticed that there were tiny insects on the nasturtium flowers, too.  The nasturtiums have really been beautiful this fall.

img_6395

 I took a little time yesterday to use twisty ties to attach the raspberry vines to the fence.  Earlier in the summer I cut off this years vines when they had finished producing fruit.  Now the vines that grew this year will have raspberries next year.

img_5931

 In early October I noticed a lot of aphids on the swamp milkweed plants.  I wondered what predator would come to feast on them.

img_6200

Yesterday I saw a half dozen lady bugs running up and down the branches of the milkweed, without an aphid in sight.  I love it when these beneficial insects take care of the problem with no cost to me or harm to the environment.

img_6154

I will throw in a picture from a walk at the Little Red Schoolhouse path in the forest preserve last week.

img_6151

The yellow and orange leaves of this sassafras tree caught my attention.  There was a little stand of sassafras trees, which is not that common in this neck of the woods.

Back to another week of work, but I really enjoyed getting out in the autumn colors this weekend!

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.

IMG_4283

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.

IMG_4336

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.

IMG_4235

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.

IMG_4241

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

IMG_4308

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.

IMG_4331

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.

IMG_4310

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.

IMG_4332

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

IMG_4335

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.

IMG_4312

Pea flower.  I think these are sugar peas.

IMG_4316

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!

IMG_9004

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.

IMG_9031

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

IMG_9027

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

IMG_9028

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.

IMG_9034

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

IMG_8991

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

IMG_8992

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.

IMG_9046

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!

IMG_9006

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.

IMG_8955

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

IMG_9001

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.

IMG_9019

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

IMG_9041

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

IMG_9044

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.

Feasting From The Garden

A big goal of our garden is to feed ourselves.  We have been eating a lot of lettuce recently, but now the spring vegetables are coming to and end, and the summer vegetables are getting going.  As far as berries go, the strawberries are mostly done, but all the other berries are abundant.

Garden 06 29 14 134

This is a picture from about a week ago, so we still had quite a few strawberries.  Today I picked a bowl of serviceberries, mulberries, raspberries, and a few blueberries.  We usually add them to our oatmeal in the morning, but sometimes I eat them in the evening with a little ice cream…  The view from the kitchen window shows you the change from those winter snow pictures!

Garden 06 29 14 079

Juvenile robin in the serviceberry bush – Amalanchier laevis.  There were several robins in the serviceberry bush having a great snack this morning.  Now that the bush is becoming a tree, and there are a lot of plants near the base, it is hard for me to harvest all the berries without getting eaten by mosquitoes.  Anyway, I am glad to share this abundance with the birds.

Garden 06 29 14 040

The neighbor’s raspberries are ripening and I am getting a handful each day.  I eat the ones on my side of the fence and sometimes reach over for a few on the other side if they don’t seem to be eating them!

Garden 06 29 14 086

The vegetable garden is getting crowded now.  I need to clear out some of the spring vegetables to make more room.  In the patch in front that was covered by the hoop over the winter we are still eating a little of the kale and some lettuce, which is starting to bolt.  I have planted a cantaloupe, and if it takes off I will clear out some of these old plants and let the melon take over.  In the main garden you can see how tall one of the tomato plants is already.

Garden 06 29 14 006

Looking closer in the garden you can see the two tomato plants to the left of the path.  I did not plan very well this year and the zucchini is already blossoming and filling up its spot to the left of the tomatoes.  It is going to be a challenge to get in there to harvest!  I plan to clear out the turnips and lettuce on the right of the path soon.  I am thinking of making a turnip salad, sort of like potato salad, and see how that goes!  On the front left are brussel sprouts and in the very far back the cucumbers are blossoming and getting going.

Garden 06 29 14 119

Tokyo cross turnips.  It looks like I’d better get these harvested!

Garden 06 29 14 005

The other day I brought one of these big turnips in for Dan to cook along with his kale and collards.  When I started washing it, four little earwigs crawled out. So we always have to watch what we bring in the house with us.

Garden 06 29 14 034

Here is a sink full of bok choy we sautéed up with some garlic and soy sauce the other night.  It looks like an earwig or spider was on the back of one of the leaves on the left, too.

Garden 06 29 14 065

I thought I had bought a nine-pack of collards this spring, but when I got home I noticed the little cauliflower label I had missed earlier.  We ate the leaves as collard leaves for a month or so, but now are leaving them as a little protection for the cauliflower that is developing.  Some of the plants have white cauliflower that looks ready to eat pretty soon.  I have never grown this before, so I need to do some research.

Garden 06 29 14 078

I planted my pole beans on the usual green teepee poles I have used the last few years.  But every year the teepee gets too heavy and it all starts falling over, so I bought some large stakes and we put up additional material for the beans to grow on.  The incrediball hydrangea is looking great right now.  In the back you can see the orange butterfly weed, which had a visit from a monarch butterfly today.

Garden 06 29 14 115

I planted a lot of bush beans, that are yellow wax beans.  There are a lot of bean flowers and little beans developing now.  I like these little yellow marigolds, too.

Garden 06 29 14 053

I was hoping to put some compost on the vegetables this weekend, but it was not quite ready yet, so I turned it and with the coming hot weather it should be ready before long.