Approaching Autumn

Some people cringe at cool days with clear blue sunshine followed by an early sunset. For me, they are both energizing and cozy. Here is a glimpse of the things that are capturing my attention.

The Waupaca Area Triathlon is held in August each year. George and I volunteer and earn funds for the library. The 2014 triathlon will be held on August 16 next year. If you have any desire to participate, let me know how to encourage you! Both the short and long courses fill up most years.

Swim to bicycle transition area

Swim to bicycle transition area

Our garden might not contain a large variety of plants, but the ones we do have are plentiful.

Tomato frog, August 11

Tomato frog, August 11

Garden spider, August 14

Garden spider, August 14

George planted hardy hibiscus from seed this spring. Most of them were transplanted into a row containing composted manure. The difference in height is apparent, but the difference in number of leaves on each is striking!

Hibiscus seedling

Hibiscus seedling

Hibiscus with compost

Hibiscus with compost

The composted row is in the foreground. The second row with zinnias and zucchinis has the small hibiscus in it.

Garden rows

Garden rows

Our property lines follow the road and perpendicular as marked by the stop sign.

Looking northeast

Looking northeast

The large tank behind the clothesline belongs to the neighbors. Jack and Ed helped us with the steps on the deck earlier this year.

Backyard

Backyard

Asian pears are ripening on a tree planted several years ago.

Asian pears

Asian pears

Grasshopper, September 1

Grasshopper, September 1

Tomatoes

Tomatoes on the vine

I estimate that I picked over 100 pounds of tomatoes on Monday. This is the second picking.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes in a pile

While I was picking, I found a monarch caterpillar preparing to form a chrysalis on one of the tomato plants.

Monarch caterpillar

Monarch caterpillar

When I checked back today, it had transformed. According to The Life Cycles of Butterflies,  “If this phase of its life cycle occurs during the warm summer months, the butterfly should be fully developed and ready for eclosion, or emergence from its chrysalis, in about two weeks. If the insect enters its chrysalis phase during the cooler months of autumn, then it may wait out the winter by going into diapause, hibernating until warmer spring weather arrives.” Since I’ve seen so few butterflies this season, I get excited when they do appear.

Monarch chrysalis

Monarch chrysalis

Each year a group of friends gathers to camp, gather mosquito bites, and eat. This was our 20th year. William, Violet, and James explored a geocache at Lake Kegonsa State Park.

Geocache explorers

Geocache explorers

Those of us without dogs checked out the White Oak Nature Trail.

Sunny smiles

Sunny smiles

Son and dad

Son and dad

A happy couple

A happy couple

Indian pipe

Indian pipe

Almost a sphere

Almost a sphere

Pollinator

Pollinator

Farmer George

Farmer George

Professor George, first day of school (again)

Professor George, first day of school (again)

Happy Autumn!

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Zucchini and other things that grow

The zucchini is here! I am sampling another zucchini bread, this time zucchini gingerbread. It took me quite a while to learn that there is something special about letting a quick bread rest in the pan for 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven. Let it rest nine minutes and the middle of the loaf sticks to the pan, leaving a giant hole in the bottom of the loaf. Rest for 11 minutes, and the loaf is cemented to the pan. Ten minutes = magic. It can’t be explained otherwise.

Zucchini

Zucchini

The sale plants at the store were too much for me to resist today. I planted a Van Houtte Spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei) in the front yard. George planted two Chandler blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Chandler’) in the east yard. I am hoping that the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” theory works for these perennials since they have been in pots in the parking lot since spring.

Blueberry

Blueberry

Summer

Here it is summer and I’ve been sampling a little of it all, so I don’t have a concise post to write. Here is some of my stream of life.

Four-year-old Henry spent the night with George and me. It was his first night away from home alone and he was absolutely blissful to be an only child. He saw the truck and equipment quilt on a bed and declared “That’s my bed!” We visited my childhood by reading two of my favorite picture books. I think Carol gave me I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. As a child I had ambiguous feelings about the book because while I knew that a perfect world didn’t exist, wasn’t a book just the place to explore one? Professor Wormbog in the Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo has always delighted me with its detailed drawings. Professor Wormbog leaving Island Joe’s Rentals is one of my favorite illustrations. Henry and I listened to Bob and Louise De Cormier perform Woody Guthrie’s Children’s Songs on the way to Henry’s house. Take You Riding in my Car-Car is one of my favorites.

Childhood memories

Childhood memories

Mom's inscription in the book

Mom’s inscription in the book

We also picked peas in the garden.

Me: [Offering Henry peas in the pod]
Henry: I will stick my gum on my shirt to keep it clean.
Henry: Do them [these] need to be fried?
Me: No, you can eat them as they are.
Henry: I don’t like them. But they got rid of the cookie-ness in my mouth. [Not sounding displeased, just interested.]

Henry shares my enthusiasm for plants. He points out mullien (even as a wilted leaf on the road). He jumps off his bicycle to point out asparagus in the ditch (too big to eat, he correctly declares). While zooming by on his bicycle he says “I see strawberries!” and then corrects himself that he doesn’t (it was Virginia Creeper). That boy is learning the best stuff!

Henry: [Arriving in the living room using my electric toothbrush.] I didn’t brush my teeth yet so I thought I should.
Me: Okay. [The horse was already out of the barn.]
Henry: Where is your toothbrush?
Me: [Indicating the brush in his mouth] That’s it.
Henry: Oh.
Henry: I thought it was George’s.

Each of Jack and Jenny’s boys has had a night alone with us now.  It is busy enough when they are here that I haven’t gotten any photos of them yet. Robbie, Charlie, and Henry are such great kids that I hope that they can come again soon!

Purple loosestrife would be a beautiful if it wasn’t a non-native and invasive plant. We are growing some to raise biocontrol beetles.

Purple Loosestrife blossom

Purple loosestrife blossom

Invasive St. Johnswort has shown up on our farm within the last few years. We have been pulling it by hand, but it has expanded its range. It is also more prominent in ditches and roadsides. We also have the native, non-invasive St. Johnswort in our wet meadow.

St. Johnswort

St. Johnswort

George has been crazy busy cutting and dabbing invasive buckthorn.

In the garden, eggplant and tomatoes are growing.

Eggplant blossoms

Eggplant blossoms

Future sauce?

Future sauce?

Carol gave us thimbleberry to plant and it is doing well in our yard and woods.

Thimble berry

Thimbleberry

Mom and Larry shared raspberries with us. Just like puppies, they look very appealing to me when they are small!

Raspberries

Raspberries

The yucca in our prairie is crazy pretty.

Yucca

Yucca

Prairie plants with yellow blossoms fall into the yellow flowers category for me. If you can ID them, let me know!

Yellow flowers

Yellow flowers

Other yellow flowers

Other yellow flowers

The wild quinine looks happy.

Wild quinine

Wild quinine

The toad was not interested in being photographed and kept hopping away.

Toad

Toad

We have spiderwort in our prairie and flowerbeds. This one is in the flowerbed.

Spiderwort

Spiderwort

Monarda is a nectar species for the Karner blue butterfly.

Menarda

Monarda

Milkweed is competing for space among our tomatoes.

Milkweed

Milkweed

Luckily I can pull it out since there is much of it in our prairie.

More milkweed

More milkweed

Deer eat the seed pods from our cream wild indigo every year.

Cream wild indigo

Cream wild indigo

The compass plant in the prairie hasn’t grown upward in the prairie for the last ten years because of deer browsing. It is crazy big in the composted flower bed though! Here it is blooming above George’s head. The redbud next to it is happy too.

Compass plant

Compass plant

George and I visited Tellock Woods State Natural Area in the Town of Union. It is adjacent to a proposed silica sand mine site.

Tellock Woods

Tellock Woods

We saw several small frogs (wood frogs, from what I could see before they hopped away). There is a nice grove of hemlock, but the area is so heavily browsed by deer that there is no understory in much of the woods. We will be back to visit after the frost when the leaves are pretty and mosquitoes dead.

George, Meg, and Mosquitos

George, Meg, and Mosquitos

Growing dirt

It was a beautiful November day today, perfect for growing dirt. The process is focused on plants we can eat. A few hardy plants are still producing.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard November 5, 2011

Kale

Kale (started from seed by Carol E.) November 5, 2011

The next step is the weeding, which only really ends when the weeds can’t be seen through the snow. I thought you’d like an larger view of the gardens rather than a closeup of the weeds.
Garden patches in front of barn

Gardens November 5, 2011

 The weeds are pulled and gathered into a bucket or wheelbarrow.

Weeds in wheelbarrow

Weeds in the wheelbarrow November 5, 2011

I’m happy to show you the detail after weeding!

Fall asparagus

Fall asparagus stumps November 5, 2011

The weeds go either into the compost pile or to the animals for power composting.

Compost pile

Compost pile November 5, 2011

The laying hens have already eaten most of the leaves on these weeds. It’s satisfying to provide weeds as a treat to the animals. Pigs are the most appreciative.

Laying hen with weeds November 5, 2011

Laying hen with weeds November 5, 2011

The most recent meat chickens haven’t been out on pasture and aren’t sure what to do with weeds.

Meat chickens with weeds November 5, 2011

I’ll let you fill in the next step in the process. Then, ta-da, there is nice dirt to supplement the gardens with.

Adding fresh dirt to the garden November 5, 2011

I’m looking forward to a great asparagus meals next spring!