Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Female cardinal on nest

Most often bird nests stay hidden from me until winter when many trees have shed their foliage.  Today, though, I just chanced to see a nest in the little dogwood tree in the backyard.  The tree is one I dug out of the woods many years ago.  I think I planted it two or three times before I was completely satisfied with its location.  It is gratifying to see a nest in a tree that I planted myself.  I thought I could see a bird in the nest.  On closer inspection, I could see a female cardinal.  The give away was the bright beak.  Honestly, in this weather, I think the eggs would hatch even if she didn't sit on the nest, but I guess her instinct is to sit there regardless.
I saw her yesterday in the crepe myrtle which is beside the dogwood.  She appeared to be going after a beetle.  Good for her!
I guess she will raise a brood of birds that will grow up to steal my blueberries.  The main thieves of my blueberries are the cardinals and mockingbirds.
Meanwhile, in the front yard, the bluebirds are taking food to the bird box.  I think this is their third brood this year.  I can't imagine how hot it must be inside the birdhouse. 
The brown thrashers sometimes nest in the golden bells and sometimes in the blueberry bushes.  I'm not sure where they nested this year, but I see one frequently bathing in the water dish that sits on the ground under the sycamore.
I'm glad my yard is full of birds.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Baby sparrow

The birds are busy feeding their young.  The mockingbirds are probably getting a nice diet of blueberries if my diminishing harvest is any indication.  Yesterday, I saw a little bird in the trees in the front yard.  I believe it is a baby chipping sparrow.  It was noisily calling for food, food, food!  It didn't seem to mind me standing around taking pictures.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Butter beans

My little experiment with butter beans where I dug up the raspberry briars near the apple tree is starting to produce results.  I think I've only tried to grow butter beans once before, and I don't recall the first attempt being any kind of success at all.  As I mentioned, I cannot eat them, but my husband enjoys them.  Here is the small amount (just over a half cup) I shelled out this evening.  It would certainly have been more if I had waited till the beans were a little more mature.  I'm still on a learning curve there.
The vines have many more blooms on them, so hopefully I'll have more opportunity to learn how to pick a ripe bean.  Bending over to pick them sure gave my quads a workout.  A good workout without having to pay a gym membership fee--another bargain.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Topiary on a shoestring

When my son used to take piano lessons in an historic section of town, I would often take a walk while he practiced.  I enjoyed looking at the various landscapes. One house that had a particularly nice landscape had a Chinese juniper topiary in the back yard.  I didn't see any reason why I couldn't do that with a native juniper, Eastern red cedar (which, of course, is a juniper and not a true "cedar"), that had volunteered in the yard.  So that's just what I did. It had been getting a little wild looking lately, so I gave it a "haircut" today.
...and after.
A nice accent in the landscape that didn't cost me a dime.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Rescued clematis in bloom

The clematis that I rescued last summer has made it.  The house next door was under foreclosure when a hired lawn service came in and whacked the clematis (which was in bloom at the time!) down to a nubbin.  I dug it up and put it in a pot.

New leaves emerged,
and I overwintered the clematis in a pot by the south end of the house.
This past May, I planted the clematis in the ground next to the musk rose from Grandpa's house.
Just last Friday as I was mowing the yard, I saw the first bloom.  I'm delighted.  I guess this must be 'Clematis Jackmanii.'
(Caleb's pic)
I think I'll give myself a pat on the back.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Lots of June bugs this year

In prior years, I remember June bugs being a pest when the figs ripen, but this year I'm seeing more in my blueberries than I remember seeing before.  Yesterday, I collected about a dozen June bugs with the Japanese beetles.
This morning, I collected about a half dozen June bugs at first.  Then I wised up and got a bucket of water to catch them in.  I got at least 30 more June bugs from my blueberry bushes.  There were even more that I noticed as I picked the blueberries; I guess I will get some of them tomorrow. The chickens next door are  enjoying their daily rations.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Beetle battle continues

I definitely spoke too soon when I said the battle with the Japanese beetles was waning.  I know it will end soon, but right now it's still going strong.
Here are the beetles  I collected Saturday morning to give to my neighbor's chickens.
I collected quite a few Saturday evening too. There were lots this morning, yesterday morning, and Monday morning.  The beet(le) goes on.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Blueberry bounty

July is blueberry season in these parts.  After not having any in 2015 because of a spring hailstorm, I'm enjoying a good harvest this year.

I've made a couple of batches of muffins and two small cheesecakes.

I've put some in the freezer, and I've eaten quite a bit fresh.  When I'm picking them I really eat more than I want because I often eat the berries that looked blemished in some small way--a soft spot, a bug hole, or something.
I have the Tifblue variety of rabbiteye blueberry.  It has been a good bush for me.  I also have a Delight variety, but I don't like the flavor of that variety as well as the Tifblue.  It might do well in cooked applications, though.  My Premier died, but the two I planted at Mom's are still producing, and they have a sweeter flavor.  I might try to plant another one of those in a different location in my yard this fall. 
I'm not the only one enjoying the harvest.  Since he has eaten all the wild cherries, the mockingbird is now in the blueberries.  The June bugs are in the blueberries as well (along with yellow jackets and other wasps).
They say blueberries are good for you, so when you're in the blueberries, you're in the pink.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Variegated fritillary

I was actually trying unsuccessfully to take a picture of another butterfly this evening when I saw this variegated fritillary lighting on the oregano. 
Of the butterflies I photographed last year, this was not one I had, so I was delighted to get such an easy shot of it today.
(I wonder if the flavor of the nectar is anything like the flavor of the leaves.)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Take me out to the ballgame

Monday night, we enjoyed a ballgame and fireworks at Mudcats Stadium.  To me the night was a bit long, but overall it was nice.
Caleb took some pics for me.

"Root, root, root for the home team..."

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Billy Graham exhibit at NC History Museum; NC Archives

My friend Lea and I had the chance to visit the Billy Graham exhibit at the NC History Museum today. The exhibit was nice.  I took only a picture or two,
but Lea recorded the experience and has posted a video on YouTube.

We also did a little research at the NC Archives building. As Winnie the Pooh says, "It's so much friendlier with two."
We had a very nice time.
Check out Lea's videos of our day:
(So I guess I should learn how to pronounce "vuh NIH ree" if Lea is going to put me on the internet!)
A little side note about the case we were researching is the that W. C. Hammer, who was the attorney representing the state in the case, was the attorney who argued the Hammer v. Dagenhart case before the Supreme Court.
So much to see and do and learn!

Friday, July 1, 2016

The waning war on beetles

The war on the Japanese beetles is waning, but that is only because the season is drawing to a close, not because they are being conquered.
At first, I was just knocking them off into sudsy water early in the morning and/or late in the evening when they were inactive.  I would leave them in the water a couple of days to make sure they were good and dead and then put them on the compost pile.  However, I thought it might be better just to catch them in a jar and give them to my neighbor for his chickens which are coop bound.  I began my battle on the 8th day of June, and it has continued unto this day.  In one day, I might get over 400 or as few as 49, but the typical day was probably somewhere in the middle of that.  I've given them to my neighbor for his chickens for 10 days, and I'm sure the chickens enjoyed the added protein. 
One day I caught a couple of June bugs as well for the chickens.  If you've heard the phrase, "like a chicken on a June bug," you can probably surmise that a chicken will readily eat a beetle.  (I knew a guy that everyone called Junebug.  I have no idea how he got his nickname.)  The June bugs are considerably larger than the Japanese beetles. 
I also caught another beetle one day--you can see it floating amongst the Japanese beetles in this shot.  I'm not sure what it is. *  (It is roughly the size of a June bug, but is tan whereas a June bug is a metallic green.)
My routine was to knock them off into the jug of sudsy water.  The next day I would transfer them to a bucket to sit for a day.  (I made the mistake one year to put them on the compost pile the very next day after I caught them, and I found some weren't completely dead.  Of course, with giving them to the chickens, there isn't that issue to worry about.  If they have become active in the jar, refrigerate it briefly to inactivate them so the chickens can get every last one.)
The last two weeks, the routine has been to knock them off into a jar and give the jar to my neighbor (or set the jar near his steps).  He returns the jar by propping it in the Virginia creeper vine atop my fence.

As you can see, they've done quite a bit of damage to the Virginia creeper vine, but only minimal damage to the nearby muscadine vine.
Here's another shot of the Virginia creeper.  It seems a majority of the leaves have at least some damage.
On the other hand, here is one skeletonized leaf among many healthy leaves on the grapevine. 
Some green grapes are coming on.  The last 2 years, they fell off prematurely, but again I hope for a harvest.
A fruit-bearing vine or tree can sustain some damage without hurting the fruit production.  In my opinion, it's best not to worry about the plants being picture-perfect.
Milky spore can be sprayed on the lawn to control the beetles in their larval stage, but it's expensive.  Knocking them off and feeding them to the chickens is cheap.  If you have free range chickens, just go around and shake your bushes, trees, and vines very early in the morning, and the chickens will get them when they hit the ground.
The beetles will be active in the adult stage for just a little while longer.  Then the eggs which have been laid in the ground will hatch and overwinter as grubs.  The moles will feast on the grubs underground.  Then next June the battle will commence again.
*update 7/9/16
I think the tan beetle might be what is called a grapevine beetle, and some people call it a spotted June beetle, Pelidnota punctata.