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!

Random September Images

It’s that time between summer and fall.  The temperatures have been much cooler, but I have quite a few plants that bloom in the fall, so the yard is colorful.  Here are a few shots a took over the past two weeks.

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We watched the great blue heron fishing at Lake Katherine.  We made some clicking noises to get it to turn its head.

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We have had very few birds in the yard, though there are plenty at Lake Katherine.  We had other visitors though.  This chipmunk was around for a week or two, but seems to be gone now.

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Instead of birds we have had quite a few resident squirrels around, who are busy gathering, burying, and munching on nuts.  I love those fluffy tails.

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Red-spotted purple butterfly.  The butterflies continue to visit the sedum mostly.  My theory is that our sedum is so popular with the pollinators because it probably is not a cultivar.  I am not sure if that is true, but I have not seen so many flies and bees on the other darker colored sedum in the neighborhood.

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Lake Katherine had its Monarch Festival last Sunday.  On Tuesday I went for a walk there and there were still quite a few monarchs under the tent.  I am not sure what this plant is.  Anyway it was very popular with the butterflies.  They were also on the marigolds.  Yesterday as I sat outside a monarch flew by, so I am glad they are still around.

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 Back in the yard, an eastern black swallowtail visited the sedum.  I had trouble getting a good shot in the sunlight, but it was fun to see, since we have often have black swallowtail caterpillars in the parsley.

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We have three really large curly parsley plants.  I saw a black swallowtail caterpillar on one of the plants within the last two weeks.  I am hoping that the butterfly is laying some eggs here.  I have plenty of parsley chopped and in the freezer for the winter.

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I had my third basil harvest last week and made another batch of pesto.  I mixed in a little parsley, too.  The juice of a whole lemon gave it a great fresh taste.  I am eating it on crackers now as I write this!

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I decided to cut down the sunflower.  It was drooping over the neighbor’s yard and not that attractive.   That was the biggest sunflower I have ever grown.

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I took this spider web picture at Lake Katherine.  It is that time of year…  I brought in a large spider with some swiss chard this week, but managed to use a container to get it back outside again.

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The leaves are gone on the melon vine, but the cantaloupes are still connected to it and I think getting some nutrients or water through the vine.  These melons are very small, but maybe they would be edible.  We are still getting a few wax beans and there are green tomatoes that might ripen if we get some sun.  The peppers are doing well and are tasty.

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Solidago rugosa ‘fireworks’ – goldenrod.  The goldenrod is at its peak now.  I have three stands that brighten up the yard.  Just to the left of this plant are purple asters that are getting going.  Maybe I will get a picture of that next week.

Cooking:  I cooked up some vegan red lentil soup yesterday that included a butternut squash, though not one that I grew.  Good stuff, though a little spicier that I prefer.

Snake:  There have been several sightings of snakes, but they are all very small brown snakes.  Once in the middle of the compost pile and once one stopped to sun on the wood beam, before continuing into the undergrowth.

The Big Sunflower

This past week I took pictures of the big sunflower as it progressed.

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The sunflower is 11 feet tall.

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Gradually the parts of the flower opened, from the outside edges toward the center.

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There are soldier beetles, bumble bees, and honey bees working the sunflower.

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Another sunflower close-up with pollinators.

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At this point the sunflower started to bend over with the weight of the flower.

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The pollinators wrap up the pollinating.

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Now the sunflower is really heavy!

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Sunflower seeds are developing now.  I will be watching to see when the goldfinches start on this flower.

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On a visit to Minnesota this weekend I saw this giant sunflower at my sister-in-law’s house.  It just came up from a seed that fell from a sunflower last year.  This year it morphed into this multi-stemmed flower.

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I think this is a hoverfly on the sunflower.

Grasshopper and Pink Turtlehead flowers

Each week there is something new.  While picking bush beans a week ago I discovered this grasshopper.  It has to keep well hidden with all the birds around.

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I have always enjoyed grasshoppers.  Now that we have some tall grass in the meadow there are quite a few grasshoppers and crickets around.  But I enjoy these bigger more colorful ones.  When you go outside the summer insect sounds are loud and varied.

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The pink turtleneck flowers are just starting to bloom.  I cut down all the dead joe pye weed behind it so that the area will look nicer.  Soon we will have goldenrod and sedum blooming.

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Robin and berries of viburnum ‘Chicago Lustre.’

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Soldier beetles are everywhere.  These beetles were mating on the agastache today.

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After the rain I took a closer look and sure enough we have a cantaloupe growing now.

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Our ten foot sunflower started to open today!Garden 08 24 14 003

On summer mornings it is just nice to sit and look at the clouds.

August Snapshots

The late summer flowers are starting up now.  There is always something to keep the bees buzzing.  The weather has been a little drier now, but with a few occasionally showers to keep things somewhat green.

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Facing west you can see the tall sunflower, which is getting ready to bloom.  I got a packet of sunflower seeds in the mail as a promotion, and of all the seeds I planted only this one grew.  Right now it is between 9 and 10 feet tall.  In front the sedum is getting ready to bloom, but right now the caryopteris, right in the middle of the picture, is busy blooming and attracting many bees.  Behind is the spice bush, which had a hard year, but is growing back up from the base.  The Baptisia australis – blue false indigo has set some big seeds which are cool looking.  On the left the catmint was cut back mid-summer, but getting ready to bloom again.

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Caryopteris and bee.

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Seed heads of Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ – switch grass.  In the background you can see the big seeds of the blue false indigo.

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In another corner of the garden the hydrangea macrophylla foliage has been great this summer, but with just one flower.  Now that the plant finally seems happy, maybe I will get more flowers next year.

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Here is a close up of the hydrangea macrophylla.  My understanding is the alkaline soil produces pink flowers and acidic soil produces bluer flowers.  It looks like I have a little of both colors here.  The soil is alkaline, but it is planted right by the three arborvitae, so maybe they make the soil a little more acidic…

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Comma butterfly on Joe Pye weed.  It looks like I captured a soldier bug in this picture, too.  I tried to get a picture with the butterfly wings open, but the wings opened and closed too quickly to get a picture in focus.  The Joe Pye weed has turned brown now.

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I love dragonflies.  It was a windy day and this dragonfly, a widow skimmer, was hanging on to this grass stalk as the breeze blew.

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Bumblebee sleeping or resting on pink zinnia.  It was just laying on the flower, but when I got very close it flew away.  Maybe it was a cozy bed.  This bee seemed to be more yellow than other bumblebees I have seen in the yard.  I am doing my best to provide habitat for native bees.

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It looks like we have fewer acorns in the Chinquapin oak tree this year.  The squirrel was in the tree this week and that prompted me to see if I could see any acorns in the tree.  I just saw one or two with a quick glance.

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A week or two ago I put the rest of all the onion bulbs that I bought in the spring into the ground.  They came right up, so I will either have green onions that are big enough to eat soon, or if they overwinter, I will have an onion patch in the spring.  Also the lettuce and kale I planted last week germinated right away in the cool wet weather, so maybe we will get to eat that before cold weather comes.

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I planted three tomato plants this year.  In front is ‘gold medal.’  The red ones are ‘Amish paste.”  I also have a nice cherry tomato.  I made a big batch of our favorite spaghetti sauce and froze a few buckets.  It looks like we will have to cook up another batch to keep up with the tomatoes.  Or maybe I will have some tomato salads!  The flavor of the Amish paste is excellent.