Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pretty pictures of flowers, an introduction to Bella and still, no morels...

But the mayapples are in bloom...

Acres and acres of them...although you do kind of have to peek under their skirts to see the flowers. :-/

The yellow colored lilac buds from over a month ago...

That looked like this earlier in the month...

Now look like this. An explosion of white.

It was time for all the purple irises to bloom...

The pink flowering shrub growing on the creek bank...

...turned out to be a pink honeysuckle. I never would have guessed (thanks Gardenweb.com).

Burgess pointed out this tree stump and we wondered what kind of oak it was.

Turns out it is a Blackjack oak and it looks like there is an oak gall starting to form (!). I didn't know until I saw the photo enlarged on the computer that there was a little spider waiting to be identified too. Turns out he's a ghost spider (thanks BugGuide.net).

I don't think I'll ever identify what happened to Aussie's head. We were looking for morels near another creek and one minute Aussie was perfectly dry, one minute later she showed up with a big mud patch on the top of her head. Hmmm.

Maybe Bella did it. Bella lives with Aussie and is a very sweet dog but kind of clueless about a lot of things. Like how the treatmobile works. Aussie knows that when a car door is opened, every door is a magic door because there is always a treat behind it. And then there's Bella...

Not quite focusing on what's going on...like that there is someone behind her with dog treats in hand.

Anyway, sweet, clueless but always enthusiastic Bella sometimes joins Aussie when Aussie comes over to visit... just that Bella usually shows up a half hour or more late. She's that kind of girl.

Last fall a friend of mine came to visit and I wanted to show him my land in Kansas. We were instantly joined by Aussie and Bella. It was a memorable day because this was the first time I took a big splat into the creek. I knew it would have to happen some day...and someone I had not seen in almost 20 years was there to witness the whole thing. Great. Anyway, when I felt myself airborne, I knew that when I landed something was going to be broken. Could be a tooth, an arm, my camera.....but when I completed my splat onto a big flat rock, I had no time to figure out the state of things because Bella and Aussie immediately jumped all over me to see if I was okay. Tom called out to ask if I was all right (after he took this picture!) but I couldn't answer because I was laughing so hard because of those dogs. That blurry black spot is Bella. The blurry orange spot is Aussie. The red and blue blurs are parts of me I can't quite figure out. :-/ Surprisingly, my camera and I did not get hurt... both of us did end up getting a little sore though.

Aussie gets along with most dogs and Bacon, just being a little over a year old, really likes to play with her. But Bella...he loves Bella. Rie says that's because Bella is more Bacon's height. Aussie is just too tall.

Bacon still is unsure about this whole water thing.

Bella is too but I don't think she's capable of studying the situation as thoughtfully as Bacon.

Bella comes over to be tutored about what to do about that scary water.

She studies as hard as she is capable.

Two thoughtful dogs sharing a moment. Too much thinking for Bella and she is.......off.

Aussie is mystified by all of this. It had been raining a lot but the creek was only a couple inches deeper than what it was the week before.

However, when it comes to Bucky, who is the shortest dog of all...two extra inches of moving water makes a big difference! Consideration about such things had to be considered.

Well, that was Sunday's adventure. We still have not found any morels but once again, it was a perfect day for dogs. Rie says Bacon loves it out there so much that he screamed bloody murder once he found out he was stuck in the car and on his way home. That little city dog sure does love the country. I should run a doggy day camp for urban dogs who have never experienced the country. Oh the ideas I come up with that could possibly net me tens and tens of dollars a year.

Regarding those elusive morels....we've searched near creeks, under cedars, near mayapples, beside dead trees, on rainy days, on warm days.....I guess the thing to do is to just look out your back door, that's where my brother found these...


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In one week's time...

...the redbuds bloom.

And then the landscape changes from this...

...to this.

Purple buds open up...

...to become woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata).

The flowers of dogtooth violets disappear...

...and are replaced by jack-in-the-pulpits.

One vibrant forsythia bush...

...tones it down and goes into hiding.

One cricket frog will be joined by a lot of cricket frogs...all jumping in every direction.

And the dogs who helped hunt for morels last week are back....joined by even more dogs...........but where's that Aussie?

Oh, she's there.

That's one thing that doesn't change from week to week...and I hope it stays that way for a long, long time. :-)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oaks and hickories

That land of mine in Kansas has nothing on it but oaks and hickories, hickories and oaks, and maybe two maples (if you don't count all the evergreens of course). Oaks are nice and shagbark hickories have that lovely bark but since I've never lived with either one close by before, I wasn't expecting anything that I didn't already know.

On Saturday I saw a lot of these buds(?) on small trees that had not leafed out yet. They looked like magnolia buds but the magnolias in the area had already bloomed and it wouldn't make much sense to have that many magnolias spread out over so many acres in the country anyway. Turns out they belong to the hickory tree. I don't even know what to call them but they were big and I was curious to see what would happen next...

The following day, this one opened to become this...

Arms reaching for the sky, her pale orange and lime green tutu fluttering in the breeze, happy to finally be free because this inexplainable something was born to dance.

"Yes, I am quite the something else. Let me take a bow."

"Yes. I am very beautiful. Thank you, thank you very much."

I also didn't know that when oaks send out their fresh leaves in the spring, they're all fuzzy and soft...

...also with the delicate reaching pose of a seasoned ballet professional.

The leaves looked like dyed velveteen from the Victorian era.

Soooo pretty.

When I go on these walks with my camera (and Aussie) I usually run across one or two oak galls. Galls form when a wasp lays her eggs in a leaf bud in early spring. The oak tree will then grow the gall to protect itself which in turn protects the developing larva. Late summer the young wasp crawls out of the gall and the whole cycle starts all over again.

I found this one hanging on a tree.

I usually find them on the ground.

I like to pick them up and carry them with me with the intention of collecting a whole bowl full one of these days. But I always get distracted. I set them down, usually in weird spots like a crook in a tree, and when I remember to retrieve them, they are always gone. Who knows where they go. They weigh nothing so they've probably rolled themselves down a hill somewhere.

Doesn't matter. That's the fun of exploring the woods in spring, to just enjoy the prettiness and newness of everything around you, even if you go home with no souvenirs.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hunting the elusive

Last Saturday, Rie, Burgess, their dogs Bucky and Bacon, and I drove to Kansas to scout out areas where morels might be coming up. That land has cedars, creeks, plenty of dead trees, mayapples...all the things I've heard you need to be successful with a morel hunt. If only there had been some rain (that one other thing you need to find the elusive morel)...

Bucky had a fabulous time wading in the creek.

It was the perfect depth for a little french bulldog.

Bacon however, questioned that whole get in the water thing.

He preferred to just drink it.

Of course this one showed up to do both, drink the water and then wade in it or maybe it's wade and then drink...anyway, Aussie was the main reason for Bacon being so thirsty. Aussie is twice as tall as Bacon so when those two dogs were going up and down hills, one of those dogs was working twice as hard. And that would not be Aussie.

All in all, a very good day for dogs...just not so much for people because we didn't find any morels...also, a total of nine ticks drove back with us to Missouri (eeeugh! eeeugh! eeugh!).

Earlier in the day, Rie spotted a gray frog on a gray tree.

I hurried over to take a picture but the frog jumped right on my camera and stayed put with his sticky little feet. I had to negotiate him off the lens so I could take some pictures because really, a gray frog?

When I researched what kind of frog it was, I found out it is called an Eastern gray tree frog. Go figure.

Anyway, I returned on Sunday because I wanted to look a little harder for morels and besides, once again the day was gorgeous.

Aussie and I walked into the woods and found mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum), hundreds and hundreds of them...

Smooth yellow violets (Viola pubescens)...

Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), several hillsides of them...

White dogtooth violets, aka Trout lilies (Erythronium albidum)...

Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica)...

And then I saw this. It was about 8 inches above the ground and since there is always something I've never seen before when I go walking on that land, I wondered what kind of plant this was.

Mystifying. I looked at it from another angle.

And then I saw it from the back. No. It couldn't be. Nooooo. Really? A bat? A red bat?

Yes, I had found a little red bat taking a nap just inches above the ground and blissfully asleep while hanging from some frail little plant with just one foot, sort of, it's kind of hard to tell all twisted up like that. Dick says this photo looks like a chicken wing you forgot about in the refrigerator. Well, I think this little bat is pretty darn cute. Look at all that soft red fur.

I took one more picture and then the little guy started to wake up.

And once those eyes opened, he took off down the trail kind of low to the ground and that was that. I researched what kind of bat he was when I got home and it turns out he's an Eastern red bat. Go figure. This identification thing is pretty easy. Maybe this upcoming weekend I will be successful in finding the "Eastern elusive morel." Well, that's what I'm hoping. :-)