Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day, 2010...sort of

Thistle in the Big Field
The fields were partially bush-hogged a few weeks ago.  My long-term vision of the property is a semi-managed field and forest.  I want to maintain some pasture land that obviously attracts a wide variety creatures while allowing some areas to return forest.  Cymande talks about a small wildflower operation. 
Toad in the Pine Straw
I'm not sure what to say about this friendly toad.  He seems to enjoy living at the base of a fig tree.

Ponte Vedra Beach
Cymande had a brillant idea...a trip to the beach.  It was a perfect day of cool ocean breezes and warm sun.  Cymande sat in the small tidal pool and watched the jelly fish and crabs float by and out to sea. 

Unidentified Crab
This little crab was sitting contently on the edge of a tidal pool.  We disturbed him briefly and then he happily floated away as the ocean advanced.  High tide drove us to seek higher ground and some lunch.

Not Good Harbor Beach
We talked about a day at Good Harbor versus a day at Ponte Vedra.  Each has a unique personality.  We're don't remember seeing an abundance of beach umbrellas in Gloucester.  My memory of Good Harbor is an eight-hour blistering shelterless day surrounded by people smoking and/or blasting music (I'm trying not to criticize, but smoking at the beach? Honestly...Cymande feels this is a cultural issue, but despises it too.)  Cymande has very fond memories of Good Harbor.  Ponte Vedra has the blistering sun and the occasional smoker, and less music.  We still proudly display our expired Gloucester resident sticker that allowed free parking at Good Harbor.  Ponte Vedra = 3 bucks.  
Gopher Tortoise
We have quite a few gopher tortoises on our property.  Charles spotted this one as we drove home from the beach.  I ran out to the field to take her picture and I was shocked by the speed at which she was moving.  She was enjoying a nice meal of grass which you can see sticking out of her mouth.

Bullfrog in Swilly River
I think it's amusing that this bullfrog and several others live in our used bathwater.        

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Pink Spring Cleaning

Morning Fog 
Yesterday morning, around 7am, I woke up to make breakfast and noticed a cloud radiating pink light down to the fog that covered the field.  Naturally, I ran for my camera to capture all the pinkness, but upon reaching the field edge the light began to change.  I caught a bit of it, but I assure you that about 30 seconds prior to this photo it was all pink wonder.
The azaleas are blooming in the front yard and the blooms seem overly abundant this year.  I have a theory about the past winter being a particularly cold one leading to major blooms on all of our trees and bushes.  The pears, plums, peaches and even the live oaks seem to be producing huge numbers of flowers.  Maybe a coincidence...maybe science.

Lula with Chair
Lula enjoys herself with an all day nap outside the barn studio.  This time of year is perfect for her.  Neither shivering in the cold, nor digging holes all day to keep cool she is content lying in the partial shade.

Garden Clean-Up
This photo is post-clean up.  Earlier in the day the garden was looking a bit rough with good  portion being covered in knee deep stinging nettle.  Cymande usually manages all aspects of the garden.  This year being pregnant with twins and now at about 30 weeks she gets to watch me manage all aspect of the garden.  She did direct me and hand me seeds which was quite helpful.  I cleaned, checked the irrigation system and planted beans, okra, watermelon, squash, lettuce, cabbage, peppers, herbs.   

And the Garden Pond Clean-Up
Earlier I mentioned that we experienced a rather cold winter.  We lost a couple of plants, but we also lost all the small fish and invertebrates that were living in the garden pond.  This was the first time that this has happened in the past three years.  I've heard that there were widespread fish kills throughout Florida this past winter.  With all the dead plant and animal material settled on the bottom it was looking pretty bad.  I spent a few hours emptying and mopping up the detritus and now it looks quite pretty.  I'll reintroduce fish from Swilly River in a couple of weeks.

Inside the Coop
Our five hens are starting to lay again.  Of the five hens remaining, two are originals when we started the flock about four years ago.  A variety of predators (including us humans) have taken their toll over the years, but I'm impressed with their longevity. I've learned quite a bit about chickens along the way.  I can identify a good broody hen (sits for the duration and gets up when a good number of chicks hatch) versus a bad broody hen (sits for a few days and gets up for a few days then comes back, or rolls eggs until they crack, or sits and never gets up and eventually dies).  I'm pretty good at identifying predators by mode of death.  Coyotes = a small explosion of feathers and no carcass, dogs = small explosion of feathers with carcass nearby, and the most gruesome would be the weasel = attack at night (because I stupidly forget to close up the coop, oh the guilt) and a carcass with its head chewed off and eaten.  Most of our chickens have been victims of coyote attack which, while disturbing at the time, are at least feeding a family.  The other attacks were just wasteful.
Outside the Coop
We put up a fence around the pear trees which keeps the chickens in a large outdoor area.  We did this for a couple of reasons.  The first reason is to protect them from coyotes and dogs.  The other is to protect our yard and garden.  This maybe news to those without a free ranging flock of chickens in your yard: ten hens can and will destroy a vegetable garden in an hour and then happily finish the day scratching away your landscaping.  While Cymande was always very zen about it all, this caused me great annoyance and thoughts of mass slaughter. Now we are all happy.       
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