Bird Bath Visitors

Bird Bath Visitors

Our bird bath is often shady now, as our chinquapin oak keeps getting bigger.  So it is sometimes harder to get the camera to focus on the birds instead of the sunny view in the background.  But these are a few of the birds we have seen in the past weeks.

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An American robin enjoys a peaceful, solitary moment to rest at the bird bath on a sunny day.

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It is not always so peaceful as there are a lot of robins and house sparrows in the neighborhood who are looking for the same thing.

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Here there are four or five robins in the bird bath and four waiting on the ground.

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It is the time of year for more blue jay visitors, as they inspect our acorns to see if they have become tasty food.

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Female northern cardinal in chinquapin oak tree.  The cardinals are not pushy, and I think they like it a little quieter when  they come to the bird bath.

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I have seen grackles in the yard a few times recently.  This one was very wary and furtive before taking a sip of water.

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A European starling joined the grackle.  The grackle is bigger, but starlings are bold birds.  The starling drank some water and jumped in to splash in the bath as the grackle watched.

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The robin deferred to the grackle, even though the robin is usually king of the castle.

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The goldfinches are often heard and seen in the yard this time of year.  They are seed eaters and especially like the cone flowers.

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This looks like a female American goldfinch.  This little bird spent a long time hopping around the edge of the bird bath cautiously.

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At one point the goldfinch removed a white feather that had been floating in the water.

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It finally jumped in and had a nice splash!

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I have been so happy to see beautiful cedar waxwings in the yard.  This one was cautious about the bird bath, also.

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Finally it made the plunge!

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Too cool!

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The hummingbird was visiting the lilies by the bird bath.  I wondered if it would stop for some water….

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But it rested on a lily flower.  A sparrow stopped at the bird bath and the hummingbird took off….

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A female northern flicker, in the woodpecker family, searches for ants or beetles near the bird bath.  She keeps looking around between foraging moments.

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The black-capped chickadee likes to preen itself on top of the laundry pole.

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A downy woodpecker came for a visit back in mid-June.

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This looked like a giant wasp or bee in the dill today.  I love providing habitat for native bees.

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Monarch on zinnia.

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Meanwhile I am picking yellow wax beans and green pole beans every day and trying to cook them to keep up.  I know this is a losing battle and might try to freeze some beans soon!

Summer Flowers Bring Pollinators

Summer Flowers Bring Pollinators

The information below was originally posted last weekend.

A lot of flowers are blooming in the garden now and they are looking pretty good because we have not had many thunderstorms to knock them over nor have we had drought. This is the time of year that you can hear the cicadas and crickets, and start seeing more butterflies and bees on the flowers.

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Monarch butterfly depositing eggs on swamp milkweed.

IMG_9611Swamp milkweed in bloom. I am watching for the Monarch caterpillar, but am not too hopeful as we have a lot of predators around, such as wasps, that hopefully keep a check on the cabbage moth worms

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Agastache ‘blue fortune’ giant hyssop’ in the front, with a visiting bee. The yellow flowers are Heliopsis helianthoides false sunflower ‘summer sun.’

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Black-eyed Susans are cheery in front of the ornamental grass Miscanthus ‘Morning Light.’ The Russian sage on the right is flowering a lavender color and the pink hydrangeas are having their best year.

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Close up of Black-Eyed Susans

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A view of the yard mid-summer. The chinquapin oak tree has tiny acorns on it and it keeps growing each year. The pole beans are climbing the bean structure and starting to produce. Vegetables and flowers are doing their thing around the yard.

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The coneflowers seem to have multiplied around the yard and I love it. Liatris spicata blazing star flowers are blooming in the background.

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Joe Pye weed and coneflowers in a pink part of the garden.

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I have not had time to investigate what insect is sitting on this coneflower. I can see its little claws and it has wings as well.

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A question mark butterfly sunning on the laundry rack.

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Closed wings on question mark butterfly.

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The first and only nasturtium flower in the garden so far this year. I planted two packets full of seeds, but some of the other plants are very small, probably due to lack of rain. I am too lazy to water this time of year….

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Pink flowers of the yellow wax bean plants.

IMG_9608Zinnias and dill. Both are great butterfly plants. The dill is a host plant for black swallowtail caterpillars and the zinnias attract butterflies, bees and goldfinches.

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.

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

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Double-crested cormorant

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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.

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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.

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A sandpiper was hopping along on the shore.

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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.

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The white-crowned sparrow visits the birdbath.

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

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The chive flowers were spilling over the strawberries.

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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?

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

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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.

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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.

Vegetable Flowers

Vegetable Flowers

The raspberries are finished now, though all kinds of birds are wild about the remaining mulberries in the big tree in the easement.  Now is the time for summer vegetables.  Last weekend I took these vegetable flower pictures.

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Cucumber flower.  The first cucumber is a little small yet.  It has been dry, so I will probably put the drip hose on tomorrow for a few hours.

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Zucchini flower.

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Eggplant flower.

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This is the first year I have grown white eggplants.

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Tomato flower.  Green tomatoes are ripening, but I have eaten a couple of sweet cherry tomatoes.

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Wax bean flower.  I have been picking yellow wax beans every day and cooking them up.

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The French pole beans are climbing the poles and string lattice, and they have been flowering, but I have not seen the thin green beans yet.  Soon!

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Kale planted last year is flowering now.  I just keep breaking off these flower stems to keep the plant producing leaves.  On the right is wild kale that it tender and easy to use.  In the back left is curly kale.

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There are a lot of pepper flowers now.

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Dill in bloom.

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Cone flowers.  The birds, bees, and butterflies need food, too.

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Joe Pye Weed

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Liatris spicata blazing star

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Great blue heron at Lake Katherine, where we often walk on Saturdays.  There are a lot of fish in this lake, so happy hunting.

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Another shot of the heron and lily pads.

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The little house wren thinks he is king of the yard.  He has been busy bringing home lunch.  I saw glimpses of a cedar waxwing and an oriole in the yard this week.

Rabbit Story:  A while ago we were excited that we chsed a baby rabbit out of the yard.  A larger rabbit somehow got in for a visit sometimes, but politely went out the gate when we opened it.  Then about a week ago Dan discovered five baby rabbits in our meadow!  Our neighbor helped us chase them out of our yard.  He was hoping they would come and live under his deck.  Every now and then we find a little bunny in the yard, so it is non-stop, but so far the damage has been manageable…  We just have such a cozy habitat for insects, birds, and even mammals.  The brave chipmunk ran by me few times as I read outside this afternoon.

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.

Sedum’s Visitors

The sedum is in full bloom.  I often take a break and go out to see what has come to visit on sedum’s sweet landing pad.  Talk about pink!

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Red-spotted purple butterfly on sedum.  This one had fresh, beautiful wings.  While I was taking this picture there was another red-spotted purple butterfly on the sedum that had torn, dull wings.  It looked like it had been around for a while.

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Spider hiding in sedum.  I might not have noticed this spider, but when I was filling up the bird bath I saw this spider run out and unsuccessfully try to nab a wasp that was on the edge of the sedum.  It looked like this spider had a fly in his web that he had already caught.  There are so many flies on the sedum that it seemed like a great strategy.  I have seen quite a few other spiders around the garden this week.  I only like spiders from a distance!

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Bee, maybe a carpenter bee, on sedum.  Aren’t those tiny flowers beautiful?  I can see how all the pollinators would be attracted to this area where they can just walk around and graze on the sweet nectar.

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Silver-spotted skipper on sedum.  Here you can see the open flowers on the left and the almost open flower buds on the right.

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This year I planted my pole beans at the end of the sedum bed.  In the back on the left you can see the blooming blue caryopteris, which is also buzzing with bees now.  If you want to plant a sedum bed, just visit a friend with sedum and break off four to eight stalks.  Stick the bases of the stalks in the ground and water it until it gets established.  You may have to water every day or twice a day and then slow it to just once a week.  Now I never water them.

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The bean pole structure is heavy with beans, but did not fall over this year with the added support. Almost three weeks ago I got stung by a bee or wasp on my foot while I was picking pole beans.  I am not exactly allergic, but don’t do well with bee stings so I decided to stop picking the beans, since we still have plenty of yellow wax beans to eat.  Of course the pole beans kept coming.

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Pole beans and ‘Incrediball’ hydrangea.  My first idea was just to leave the beans until they dry on the vine and then cook them like dried legumes.  However I read that you can also shell the beans before they get completely dry and it is a little like shelling pea pods.  That way you can avoid the tough outer skin, but not need to soak the beans before cooking them.  The hydrangeas were looking pretty good, so I just brought in another batch of them to dry in the house.

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I bought some ginger at an Asian market this spring and stuck it in a pot to see if it would grow.  It was slow going, but now the base is bulging some and it looks like I will have ginger to eat before long.  I am not sure what a good recipe would be….

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Here is the view from the patio, where I read and took a nap today.  The abundance of mosquitoes this year has dimmed my appetite for much gardening.  I am keeping my eyes on the ‘fireworks’ goldenrod in the back center of this picture that is just starting to turn yellow now.

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This is the time of year when I really enjoy that flowers along the walkway to the garden in the back of the yard.  The yellow mums have been blooming since I planted them in the spring.  The orange zinnias are getting going and there is always a lot of alyssum.  A few petunias and hosta flowers add a blue touch and in the front I still have a few coreopsis tickseed blooming.

Time to cook:  We have a tiny cauliflower that grew from a shoot after we cut out the big cauliflower.  That will go into the weekly stew of garden vegetables.

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.