April 29, 2010

Appalachian Spring

Here are just a few of the treasures you might find tucked away if you were to take a hike in the Appalachian woodlands right now.

Violets (Viola spp.)

White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera)

Creeping Buttercup (Rannunculus repens)

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Step carefully out there because I spotted my first snake of the season - a beautiful, black racer. He moved WAY too fast for a photo shoot, however.

"Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there." - Annie Dillard

April 26, 2010

We have been experiencing some crazy weather in the past 48 hours, including high wind; lots of short heavy rain showers, hail and thunder. Yesterday evening we were hanging out on Lisa's (my mother-in-law) porch visiting and enjoying the meteorological show when we were treated to the spectacular sight of a brilliant, full half-circle rainbow with a fainter second rainbow in front of it. From our vantage point, it was very clear that one end of the brightest rainbow was directly on top of our house. We are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! Such a beautiful revelation! (But let's keep this our little secret so I don't have to deal with stampedes of treasure hunters at my door step.)

April 21, 2010

After months of gossip and speculation, Chickadena has officially come out of the closet as a rooster. I was making the bed the other morning when a strange noise grabbed my attention. Chickadena was the only bird to be seen in the yard. Apparently emboldened by his solitude, he shook his head, fluffed up his neck feathers, and let out a scratchy, muted cough..I mean crow. He indulged in his new found hobby for several minutes until the rest of the flock wandered back into the yard, at which point he returned to his unassuming ways. I don't think Reynaldo has any worries about reigning supreme, at least for the moment. I know you're probably wondering whether or not we would be so backward as to continue calling a rooster Chickadena, and the answer is yes. We have tried on several occasions to switch his name to Chickadude, but it just never stuck.

Other news on the bird front - the hummingbirds are back! Joe called me at work yesterday to tell me that the hummingbirds were not very happy to have made such a long trip only to find their feeder empty, a problem I have since remedied. Now we just need to get the other hammock hung up so we can have front row seats at the hummingbird feeder show.

A photo from a recent visit to the botanical gardens at NC State.

April 15, 2010

One thing I have never claimed to be, nor do I particularly aspire to, is "cool". When I was in college, I studied hard, worked hard and made good grades. My primary extra-curricular activity was dancing with an Appalachian clogging group called the "Hoorah Cloggers", an endeavor I still engage in on occasion.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to dance at my old alma mater, once at an International Street Fair and twice as live demonstration for an Appalachian Studies class. Like I said, I know that clogging is not necessarily the hippest thing going these days, but surely having a live band and group of dancers in your classroom would be at least vaguely entertaining. Not so for today's college student. I have never danced for a more unappreciative, dead pan group of people. I was especially shocked by the one girl who sat in the very front row and never once looked up from her crossword puzzle, even though due to the close quarters our twirling skirts came very close to swiping her newspaper off her desk. I can only hope she shows her teacher a little more courtesy than that on a regular class day.

Oh well, you can't please all of the people all of the time. The real blow to my self esteem came a lot closer to home. When I got back to my house, exhausted after my third clogging gig in four days, I stopped in the yard to talk to Wilson. He was sleeping in some tall grass, so I squatted down and called him over to me. My first peppy "Come here Wilson" got no response. A second attempt got me a raised head and a long yawn. It wasn't until the fourth or fifth try, when my tone had ceased being peppy and turned more commanding, that Wilson finally got up and slowly, as if utterly bored, meandered over to me. He had barely reached me, however, when something in the woods grabbed his attention and he was off. I can handle not being cool enough for college students, but it is a sad day when you're not cool enough for a beagle.

April 13, 2010

A couple of my more succesful "Landscaping with Chickens" projects. This also falls in the "Beauty from Trash" category, so I get bonus points. :)

April 07, 2010

Remember how in my last post I said that my spiffy new anti-chicken flowerbed protecting fence was working like a charm? Well, scratch that (no pun intended). I've yet to catch them red handed, but I have returned home twice now to find evidence of excavation in the flowerbed. Luckily, the emerging perennials seem able to take the mild abuse and there's been no major damage. Soon the flowers will have filled out the available space and it won't be an issue. It is still a cool looking fence, even if it doesn't necessarily work as I intended.

The lesson of the week must be dealing with disappointment because my 12 happy little broccoli plants that I transferred from the greenhouse to the garden a few days ago have been reduced to 8 broccoli plants and 4 broccoli stumps. Portions of the kale patch has suffered a similar fate. The faint slime trails in the area make me suspect slugs are the culprit.

Fortunately, there's too much going on to spend time in mourning for things I can't control. Every day the number of different bird songs I hear is increasing. I'm expecting the return of the hummingbirds any day now. This spurt of summer weather we've been enjoying has prompted us to do away with the down blankets and put the screens back in the windows so we can enjoy the breeze at night. Last night was our first night with the window open, and it was wonderful to drift off to sleep to the sound of spring peepers and a whip-poor-will. Thankfully my hearing is not acute enough to pick up the sounds of slugs munching away on my poor innocent cole crops or else I'd never get a good night's sleep. :)

April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!

If photos could transmit scents, you would be intoxicated by your computer screen right now.
Wow, Easter already. Everything seems to be happening really fast this year. I've almost gotten whiplash from how quickly we went from being buried under a deep blanket of snow to putting on sunscreen and straw hats while out planting flowers. As Joe said, I was expecting more of a transition. While I know that there's a pretty good chance that winter will be back for one final word before it's all over, I'm thoroughly enjoying this burst of spring energy in the meantime.

After so many months of very limited activity, I'm feeling more productive than ever. The spring buzz has infected Joe as well. Yesterday, in a matter of a few hours, he knocked out a project that has been on our "list" for almost three years - finishing the soffit under the porch roof. The numerous wasps who were enthusiastically scouting out our eaves helped to fuel the sense of urgency for this project.

My own projects have been less practical and more aesthetic, but I'm still very proud of them. Visions of flowers bursting forth everywhere made me want to spruce up my flowers beds, but there was no point pulling weeds and putting down mulch as it would only encourage the chickens to excavate the area, damaging the newly emerging bulbs and perennials in their quest for hidden treasure. The thrown together plastic netting fence I put up in desperation last year was falling down and no longer serving its purpose. A full flowerbed makeover was in order! I invented my own fencing system using only some pressure treated porch-rail pickets and some garden twine. The result was far more attractive than its predecessor and so far seems to be working like a charm.