Monday, November 16, 2009

Okay, will THIS ever get old?

Last week when I was driving home after spending the day with Aussie, the sun was going down behind me and ahead of me were fields of previously mown hay getting mowed down even further by a lot of loose black cows. When my car reached the top of a hill, all I could see was the golden brown of the hay and the crazy amount of black cows spread out evenly almost to the horizon line. So pretty. And kind of surreal. It looked like a big chocolate chip cookie, make that chocowlate.

But dang, those hills never have areas by the side of the road to stop and take a picture so I tried to find some other place to stop. It's just that once you're off a hill, your viewpoint changes and so what was once a field dotted with evenly spaced cows, becomes a landscape with dotted lines of cows. AND, not to help things, the cows decided to move themselves away from the road. All roads. I drove around as much as I could trying to find a good place to take a picture before the sun went down but that just never happened.

Oh well, at least I did capture the pinkish cast of the setting sun which was making the landscape glow because it really did glow.

So I suppose that's another thing I might have to ask myself in the future...will watching those cows by the side of the road ever get old?

Ha ha ha. Doubt it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Will this ever get old?

I've stomped this land long enough over the past couple months that I'm beginning to know where I am when I get lost. Aussie and I were following the creek as far south as we could while a dog barked in the background. Aussie usually attends to noises like that but she ignored that dog in the distance because I guess she had heard all about what that dog was saying before.

We ended up where three properties converge and dang, it was pretty. I wish all of it was mine, mine, mine. I've been told once you own land, you want more (very, very true) but closer to the truth, that large secluded area is flat. There isn't much "flat" going on with the rest of the land I own.

That green area you see in the middle is a large grove of horsetail (Equisetum). It grows right down to the creek.

Beyond the horsetail is an open area that explained the barking dog. I saw what looked like the tail of a white dog galloping all over the meadow but when I thought about it, that was no dog. That was one or two white-tailed deer with the background sound of some frustrated dog wanting to get out there and give them a good chase. They were fast. They were excellent leapers.

Now for most people this is a big "Oh good grief. The deer feel so at home with us that we just set an extra place setting at the table for them. What is the big deal?" Well, for me it is. I never see them. People will point to the side of the street while we're driving and say-"Look at that deer." I never see them and I don't believe them anyway. The only other time I've seen a deer in the landscape was when I was at Redbud Ranch and Sarah pointed at some deer that were coming down the hill. This time I actually saw....deer. There were quite a few of them and while they stood behind the parked cars waiting for something, the cats jumped on the cars and started to give the deer a good staredown. One cat even started stalking. The deer moved on but they probably laughed about the confidence of that one cat.

So, for me it was a big thing to see deer. And I wonder if that will ever get old...when they come down and start chomping on plants and new trees...once they've finished eating what I served them on paper plates.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another day with Aussie Mueller...and some trees

On Saturday I drove to Kansas. My goal was to try and identify trees. Aussie was there to greet me and armed with my new Sibley Guide to Trees, we were off to see if there was anything out there besides oaks.

I'm not complaining about the oaks....they're just relatively easy to identify. And hopefully in the spring, under all those oaks will be lots and lots of morels. :-)

This is one of the trees that is still standing after being too close to the fire that burned down the house that used to be on the property. Big charred branches still drop from it. I fantasize about hiring a tree crew for a week and just have them trim, prune and remove all the dead or nearly dead trees on oh...all 21 acres. I sure would feel a lot safer what with being out in the woods recently and having a huge tree fall in front of me. But can you imagine the cost? Gawd. I think tree surgeons charge more per hour than neurosurgeons. Part of this land stomping business is to try and figure out which trees are the easiest to fix and which ones are going to be trouble or worse, dangerous.

These two trees had two big nests at the top of them. I would assume squirrels had built them but I have yet to see or hear one squirrel since I've been out there. I did see some telltale bird poop on the ground under the nests so I wonder if this is where the hawk I saw this past summer lives.

Aussie is getting a little impatient. Time to get going and get off the hill...

...and get across that creek.

This little maple (I think it's the only maple on the property) always looks like a happy ballerina in a big tutu.

We walk to the property's western edge and I am able to identify...

Some sort of cedar...

Some sort of spruce...

Some sort of pine...

And some sort of tree that looks like it was left over from the Wizard of Oz movie set.

That thing was wild. I was half expecting it to start throwing apples at me, if there were any. The only things under it were some black walnuts...

...and a beer can.

Well, I am going to have to identify this tree as one that will hide squirrel crime (where did those walnuts come from???) and teenage drinking. When it's in leaf, it must make a nice private tent for anyone in the middle of a misdemeanor. :-)

It was later identified as a Japanese Silverberry (Elaeagnus umbellata), a noxious plant for this area. Greeeat.

Near it was a shrub of craziness...crazy with its shape and crazy with all the colors the leaves were turning.

It turned out to be a forsythia.

I never knew forsythias had such a dramatic color change in the fall.

Nearby was another forsythia, in bloom, no leaves.

Thinking I had left crazy and wild behind, it was easy to identify a crab apple...

But how long has that rusted green stake been leaning against the tree? Enough for the poor tree to grow around it. Oh my, what to do but move on.

Because the sun was starting to set.

But not before I looked at one more tree of wild and crazy. This weeping mulberry also survived the fire...I have no idea how but it did. It is such a mangled mess but I salute if for being a survivor of fire and neglect. It's going to be a pruning nightmare to wrestle this guy into some sort of shape but it will look so much better once it's no longer feral(!). Truthfully, I'm a little intimidated by the thing.

Except for all the oaks and my one maple, there are a lot of crazy trees and shrubs on that land. But I then noticed this tree politely bowing good-bye. Those roots look like an extra-long kimono.

Trees are such fascinating old things. It's hard not to find a story in them. It will be fun to learn more about the trees that are on the land and also to figure out which trees to plant in the future. I'm torn between planting native trees for this area and bringing in exotics. On my list so far is a tulip poplar, a weeping willow, a white pine and lots and lots of dogwoods. I know I have one on the land but I want more, and then I want even more after that.

Anyway, it was another fun day doing important research work with my friend Aussie Mueller. More research and identification to be done later. :-)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Still looking for fall color...

The parrotia tree is starting to turn yellow...

The beautyberry is covered in red berries which look really pretty against what is left of the fading yellow green leaves.

And the heuchera, although still green, is nearly lost in all the leaves that fell off the crab apple...which have now turned brown.

There really isn't that much fall color out there.

And yesterday, the weather decided to be something other than fall. Since it's so warm now (in the 70s!), the turtles get to spend a couple days outdoors.

Can you see Michael in his favorite place in the backyard?

Oh, he's in there. He just doesn't like to have his picture taken while he's eating.

This particular staredown didn't last too long though because...will you look? There's a whole tomato there!

A whole tomato!

There might not be many fall colors out there on the trees but Michael Ray sure makes up for it by having so many fall colors on his face.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chasing shadows

On Saturday, I drove to Powell Gardens, a botanical garden near Kansas City.

Although it was Halloween, it wasn't scary. There was hardly anyone there and most of the trees had lost their leaves, making them look sort of like skeletons, but still, no hint of scary. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the temperature was in the 60s and it was a perfect day to go hiking with a handbag (and camera).

This American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens "American Brave") grew itself around a bridge post. Soooo pretty.

Love it. It's on the list. Just have to figure out a way to get a lot of blue water near it when I grow it because the golden yellow orange of the berries against the blue water? Can't think of anything prettier at the moment.

On the other side of the bridge, the female counterpart (Celastrus scandens "Diana") was growing around the other post but with red berries instead. This is not a picture of it. I was too smitten with the golden yellow orange of the "boy" bittersweet.

I love looking at bridges these days.

And this one cast wonderful shadows.

On the other side of the bridge was a "living wall," a long rock wall with many, many, many succulents planted in the cracks.

I'm not sure if I'm that crazy about it. It's got sort of a "deer head trophy hanging on the wall" kind of thing going on.

But you certainly do focus on each plant because of how each plant is framed by the rock. Some of them are pretty odd looking though.

Hens and chicks are such strange looking plants. For some reason it doesn't bother me to see them growing sideways like this.

I need to find out what these flower bracts belong to because the pink shrimp tail looking flowers were very cute when they shook a little in a passing breeze.

Back on the trail of long shadows.

I look forward to seeing what those dried up fields of wildflowers look like when they're in full bloom when I return next spring or summer.

Most of the trees and plants had lost their leaves so reading their identifying signs was pretty darn easy. I just have no idea what a lot of those trees or dormant plants look like though.

This is the bark of a common persimmon tree. Why is it that when things are described as "common," they turn out to be so unusual?

One of many clouded sulphur butterflies on the Aster tataricus "Jindai."

There were ten times as many bees. That aster patch was a hopping spot.

End of the trail. Still pretty. I didn't find one thing that was scary.

Not one thing. Dang. I had been following shadows that got longer and more dramatic throughout the day. I could have ended the day with a scary shadow pose of myself but I forgot. Oh well, I suppose a scary pose is something a shadow is unlikely to do if it belongs to a woman who hikes with a handbag.