Lincoln Road Journal, One year in the backyard, Late July
Staying the course.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
The dog days of July have left little changed in the yard in a week. More spider webs. Walking through the woods is an exercise in picking webs off you.
More fungi cropping up. There are a lot of red, red-orange fungi, possibly of the Russula genus, that turn a sunburst orange red -- kind of like an old Gibson Les Paul guitar for those familiar with that beauty. I'm going to have to do a bit more research into the mushroom to be sure of what it is.
Most of the varieties close, however, are poisonous. I wonder how many people learn about mushrooms the hard way? Even if a mistake wasn't fatal, getting sick isn't worth the risk.
Queen Anne's Lace are taking over the roadside. The milkweed are maturing, getting pods. Their numbers are declining.
Not so with the Queen Anne's Lace. There are more white flowers and green buds daily. I enjoy them just as much.
Today I spent about an hour ambling around the yard, from the upper terraces in the woods to the south, down to the creek. One can sense summer is progressing. More ferns have brown tones, not just the deep green of spring and early summer. Acorns are starting to fall. They're small. Does that mean a light winter? Some would say so.
Deer tracks are piled on top of one another at the creek and the path from the creek.
I've seen no sign of a return of the wolf spider that lived in the garden last summer and fall. She -- she had babies by the score last year -- or her offspring must have found a less visible sight, or died.
Mosquitoes were thick at the creek. Last week's rain must have hatched another generation.
And the past full moon, now waning, is rising low in the south late, adding a glow to the woods.
The yard lived on while I was gone. One thing about nature, it's persistent.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Spent the past five days on the road traveling to, and visiting Nashville, Tennessee. A fun town, but in the summer heat it proved almost too hot for a northern Michigan resident. The temperature hovered around 100 degrees Saturday and Sunday, with humidity to match. Strangely, to me anyways, was the Tennesseans practice of cranking up the air conditioners so inside buildings was often cold, not just cool, but cold. To me it just seemed to make the heat all that much hotter.
My tour of the yard back home today was brief. Much work to do and a political forum to help with at the county fair meant little time for home or yard today. Humidity here was also high, though the temperature was at least 15 degrees cooler.
A potted cherry tomato plant on the deck seems to like the conditions. It's now six feet tall and a few feet wide. An Easter lily planted this year is in bloom, next year maybe it will bloom in spring. Flowers in the gardens had enough rain that they're doing OK.
Soggy and green
Friday, July 23, 2010
Rained a bit more over night. A total of 3 inches fell yesterday. The yard is soggy and green. I awoke to a doe standing in front of the picture window. She bolted when she heard a creak as I walked to get my camera. I can't believe they pay that much attention to the sounds of the house. Normal operations don't bother them. But footsteps do.
The creek isn't all that high for all the rain. It's more laden with sediment than it's been in a while.
Blue jays scolded me as I looked at it, but they stayed out of camera range.
Once again, the rain total will mean July will look pretty average in precipitation. However, most of it, once again, fell in a short period. Some global warming scientists say that is a hallmark of warming climate.
Something to think about.
When it rains
Thursday, July 22, 2010
It poured tonight. The skies built gray all morning. By early afternoon light rain was falling. By this evening it was pouring. A TV meteorologist from Grand Rapids called my office around 7 p.m. to warn me of the storm and to ask for photos of the predicted flooding.
I kind of laughed and said nothing remarkable was happening. He promised it would. He said we were in line for another three inches of rain before dark.
Well, what ensued wasn't as bad as George predicted, but it was enough to get one's attention. Hard rain did fall at times in the coming hour. In town, looking through the office window, it still didn't seem as bad as George had said it would be.
When I went home around 8:30 p.m. signs of a more severe event began showing a few miles north of town. Big puddles in driveways, at intersections, in low spots. A few branches down. And a sodden, dark, dank look to everything.
I was so engrossed by one puddle and a small limb down that I missed my turn. Mr. Magoo was always a role model for my driving.
I made a few photos and checked the rain gauges: 2.5 inches of rain. That's definitely notable. Sheets of storm water apparently flowed down the hill at the side of the house. There was mild erosion. The sand and leaves and yard debris were piled up in the middle lower yard. It looks like a mini-delta.
The rain was needed. It probably will mean most plant can now make a couple more weeks of hot summer without too much stress. It may mean a new crop of mosquitoes.
But that's ok. We've had few rainy days this summer. Can't complain about one.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Approaching full circle
July 16-19, 2010
Month 12 of Lincoln Road Journal has started. I've been wandering the yard looking for good photo subjects hoping to find new ones, or new light or a surprising setting.
It's a human conceit that I've "seen it all" or "photographed the best" or "been there, done that."
On any given day there is truth in having seen parts of my 3-acre yard very closely. Increasingly plants, insects, birds and animals are feeling more familiar as I enter this final month of the one-year study.
But daily, I'm reminded at how much more there is to see. The mass of green plants in the swamp are more than "plants." They're wild mint and past-their-prime jack-in-the-pulpits and marsh marigold without flowers. They're more than ferns. I realize I haven't spent the time to learn the different names of the different ferns. There are at least three different kinds readily seen, yet to this day they're just "ferns" to me.
And the bugs are a wonder, even if at times a nuisance.
Many of my rural acquaintances spray to kill bugs around their home. I understand. Some of the bugs at first glance are creepy or intimidating even. Some bite. I've been bitten so many times this summer as I work mostly in shorts because of the heat, that if either I'm well-inoculated against bug-borne diseases or I'm playing a dangerous game of bug roulette. I prefer to think I'm getting inoculated.
Certainly as much as a nuisance as the biting bugs are -- they seem to sense when you're busy and unable to shoos them away or smoosh them if they don't shoos -- some days I hardly notice them. Other days, just their pesky flights around my head or neck drive me batty.
And still I'm trying to figure out which of the many green plants can cause me to have a mild rash. I've yet to positively identify any poison ivy in the yard, though I'm sure some is lurking somewhere. There's a good chance there's other poisonous plants that I've yet to discover. I know enough to try to avoid the blackberry bush bramble. It can tear up bare legs pretty quickly.
I've learned where I need to walk on downed limbs in the swamp or seek tufts of grass so I don't go half-way up to my knees in rich, black muck -- stinky stuff. Yet I haven't paid attention to what might be living in that muck. Not that desperate yet.
I know where the frogs lurk, the meadow hawks hang out. I can find a salamander most days if I want to.
But I've yet to see a turtle or a snake, both of which surprise me. One year a very pregnant Eastern hognose (puff adder to some) was frequently seen around, much to the pleasure of my eldest daughter who enjoys snakes. While many would run screaming, Michelle would check out the snake and try to see if it would go through its defense mechanisms: puffing its head up like a cobra and striking at you, though harmlessly. If pushed too far they supposedly will roll over and play dead, but I've yet to see one do that.
Snakes, it would seem, would do well in the swamp. But you can't prove it by what I've found.
I've been disappointed that this year the pilleated woodpecker has been an infrequent guest and I've not made a good photo of it. Our crop of lady slippers orchids, a beautiful flower of spring, didn't flower this year. Not one of them. I can only guess the untimely freeze in May might have aborted the flowering.
Wild turkeys, a year ago so common I did all I could to dissuade them from hanging out, this year have so far only made one fleeting appearance.
And I'm still waiting to see a bear -- a long shot, but two summers ago a bear roamed the neighborhood for weeks.
So as move into this last month, some aspects of the yard are much better known by me. The meadow hawks I hadn't noticed in the previous 10 years of living here -- until last August. Now some almost seem friendly and don't pay me much mind.
The same with the blue darners. I'm sure they were here, I just never noticed them.
That list is quite long of stuff I hadn't noticed.
In the final four weeks, as the yard comes full circle on a year, especially with a hotter-than-average summer pushing the season forward faster than expected, what surprise awaits my discovery?
Hang in there and we'll see together.
July 18, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
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