Friday, June 25, 2010

Today was hot!

So hot, the turtles got to have watermelon for dinner.

Michael Ray immediately tore into his slice.

And even though the watermelon had just come out of the refrigerator...

...which is not a good thing because Michael Ray is cold-blooded...

I don't think he got a tummyache because that cold watermelon didn't stay cold for long once it got inside a very hot turtle.

That watermelon was sooooo good.

And once Michael Ray was done with it, which took all of a couple minutes, he was off... finish off Cathy Jean's slice of watermelon (which she had not even started eating yet!).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Turtle update

It was kind of a cold spring so the turtles didn't get to spend a full day outdoors until late May. It took a while for the weather to warm up which means it took a while for the turtles to warm up too since they're cold-blooded. And now that they and the weather are a nice consistent warm temperature, those turtles have been busy.

This is the routine for their outdoor living...

I serve them breakfast and they give me mean, mean looks because I am not supposed to step into the area where they sleep at night and where they spend most of their time. That spot behind the deck is theirs, theirs alone. No humans allowed. They don't understand that I just don't get it which is the reason for this staredown...

And then a slow move to cover up the food that I just served because that food is theirs. Theirs!

And they're not going to pose for any darn pictures either.

So what I usually do is serve them their breakfast and then get the heck out. Sometimes I like to try and watch them eat from what I think is a hidden spot on the deck above them but they're familiar with that ruse of mine. Once they catch sight of me, back in their shells they go with a WHOOSH as they expel all the air from their lungs or air sacs or whatever they use to breathe so they can get inside as far as they can. And when I leave, that's when they come out and eat.

Now, the interesting thing is things between us are a little smoother when they're not in sight of their beloved Kerria shrub. Between that shrub and the fence is the prime square foot of the entire backyard. The twins fight over this spot all summer long. Sometimes Cathy will not leave it for days because the strategy to recover that spot from Michael might take weeks. That is the summer routine for those two.

Last week I saw the two of them taking in the morning sun and all I had to do was drop their breakfast plates in front of them and run. They didn't have to move a half inch to start eating and I know they appreciate that.

They're now both giving me the "Go away" look. At least I've been acknowledged (can't ask for more than that from those two I guess).

Michael is especially good at that look.

Another routine (but it only happens in spring) is to take down the peonies. The day they get warmed up enough, they start pacing back and forth against the fence....just the 10 foot length where the peonies try to grow. In less than an hour, the peonies will be flattened, shredded, and composted, like they had never been there.

Michael Ray is mainly responsible for this destructive pacing but Cathy Jean is usually not far behind because she supports her brother's shenanigans 100%. But sometimes she needs to take a break and spends a couple days away from him counting to ten in some other part of the backyard. Eventually she forgives him and goes looking for her brother because she loves him but I can't say Michael thinks the same about her.

Well, those peonies you see in the above two photos are now gone as of last week. But for the first time ever, someone discovered something new to take down in the backyard. He actually marched across the backyard to make sure I saw what he had done because he was proud. PROUD. Michael had discovered sedum (I think that's a bit of clover left on his face however).

He had to take a detour through the phlox...well, he didn't, but plowing through rather than walking around has always been a Michael Ray trait.

A pot of sedum had been waiting to be planted but Michael Ray found it, overturned it, and then bit and stomped on what he could get at. There was another sedum lost somewhere within all this year's volunteer phlox and Michael Ray found that too. I think there is one stalk left.

Finding more pots of sedum (and I do have a lot now that I've been collecting it for that future rock garden) will be this summer's mission for Michael Ray. I just have a feeling.

If only sedum could WHOOSH and hide away inside itself like a turtle.

That all adds up to a lot of potential drama for this summer but wait, there's more (can you stand it???).

My neighbor recently got married and when his bride moved in, she brought four dogs with her. Four. Having a pacing turtle sharing the other side of their fence has got to be some special hell for them. Here's a digging hole one of them has started. I've been watching it get bigger so I've had to place a big potted plant in front of it.

That hasn't stopped Michael from trying to provoke those dogs though. Yes. I've watched him. A dog starts barking in his general area and then he walks right up as close as he can get to the dog that is furiously digging to get at him and just gives him a big long staredown. It is obvious to me AND my neighbor that my turtle really enjoys all this aggravation he is causing.

This is setting up to be the best summer ever for Michael Ray. Here's a smug photo of Michael with tomato and strawberry and part of a pea on his face...probably something that also drives those dogs crazy.

Bad. Baaaaaaaad. But you know, if I didn't have bad animals, I wouldn't have anything to write about.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kansas thoughts

I haven't spent much time on my land in Kansas this past month because it just.......keeps.......raining. I could have driven out this past weekend (despite the constant rain) but since there were flash flood warnings for the area, I stayed put. I'm not a reckless person (although Dick says I have plenty of "reck"). On Tuesday I decided to drive out and see what the creek looked like since for some reason it wasn't raining. Besides, I was curious to see what the creek looked like when it was running high.

When I got out there, the creek looked like it was flowing at its normal level but you can see how high the water did get by looking at the big flattened stalks of butterbur leaves.

Things still looked a little off though.

In this particular spot I found what I think is a mulching bag to a mower. And that orange blob in the water? That turned out to be a Marilyn Manson cd(!!!!!). Who knows...when I start having to mow acres of grass, or "acers" as they spell it on signs in the country, Marilyn Manson might be the best music to listen to if you want to get your lawn mowed really fast. I saw other bright discs in the water and along the creek bank but they were either wedged too tight in the rock or I couldn't safely get to them. Learning the identity of those musicians will have to maybe until tomorrow since it rained like heck again yesterday.

Overlooking all this landscape rearrangement (I think there was some rock shifting in the creek too) were flitting ebony jewelwing damselflies. They were absolutely everywhere. Sometimes they stopped to take a couple seconds rest on a leaf and then they quickly launched into the air again.

Last week when Meg and I were out on the land, there were butterflies flitting around everywhere...almost to the point where you had to bat them off your face. But today, the airspace was being used by the jewelwings. When you see a white dot on their black wings, it means that that particular ebony jewelwing is a girl. When I was reviewing my photos, I noticed that all the photos of damselflies posing for me were girls who were taking a break from all that activity in the air above them. I totally get that. I take a lot of distraction breaks myself. This one left the creek area and got distracted with my new Blue Q bag. :-)

This is a different sort of damselfly I found later in the woods. Unlike those jewelwing girls, he was very focused and patient with me and my camera. However long it took for me to get a good picture, he stayed put and held his frozen smile for all of my photos. Is he cute or what?

I found him hanging out on a plant in the woods that was starting to flower. Lots of little tiny pink flowers.

I had been seeing a lot of these three-leaved plants throughout the forest and I thought they were very pretty. It was nice to see one in flower...I think.

They were not too hard to identify once I got home. Desmodium glutinosum. It's native to the area and since it's in the pea family, it fixes nitrogen to the soil, both of which are good things. But the seeds....oh, I recognize those things. They have to be individually picked off once a few (Ha! Never a "few!") have attached themselves. And poor Aussie. She wears necklaces of these things in the fall. They're also known as beggar's ticks or beggar's lice. Available here. Seriously. :-)

I left the shade of the woods to walk in an open area full of sunshine. This clear area was made when the owner previous to the previous owner of the land put in a satellite dish and thought he needed an unobstructed view to the stars to pick up his reception. I had the gigantic lawn art satellite dish removed but am thankful for this small spot in the woods that is clear of trees. One of these days I want a greenhouse there and a pond and this is where the chickens will have their coop and I'll have a large vegetable garden.... oh my current imagination has a lot of things happening in the future for this area.

This is also the spot where Meg and I saw most of the butterflies fluttering around last weekend. They seemed to really enjoy the coreopsis although I don't think this particular coreopsis is native to Kansas.

But I think this yarrow is.

This horse nettle flower is pretty and is definitely native...but it has spines and is toxic so I don't want it around me or my future pet chickens. It's got to go and I have some conflicted feelings about that.

The sumac at the edge of the clearing is starting to flower. Last fall these trees were disappointing with their color and fruit and I don't think I'm going to be stunned by any new dramatic show by them this year. Michigan sumacs are gorgeous. I'm not sure how to describe these guys. Confused as why they are where they are? Sitting under some oaks at the top of a hill? I kind of want them out of there. I'm conflicted about that too.

It's been interesting watching my transition from only wanting to grow native plants on my Kansas land to figuring out a compromise. Why the compromise? Because I've learned that hardly anything growing on my land is native to the area. Around 200 or so years ago it was part of a tall grass prairie but when the pioneers settled here, although they arrived with hardly anything, they sure had a lot of seeds in their pockets. Just about everything growing out there should be growing on some other continent. I never realized just how dramatic the landscape was permanently changed until I bought land in the "country" and started researching what it's supposed to look like, or what it was supposed to look like.

See that tree in the background? I thought it was a linden, and it is, but combined within its trunks is a white mulberry tree. Their trunks look nearly identical but the leaves betray what's really going on. One tree should be growing there, the other shouldn't. So what to do? Try and remove the mulberry after all this time? I don't think that native linden would recover. Oh the irony of that poor native linden doing its best to cope with the intrusion of that bully of a mulberry who moved in and literally planted itself inside the middle of it.

Those two stalky plants in front are mullein. I've always liked mullein because of its super soft leaves. Apparently the leaves were used as diapers by Native Americans. But is the plant native to North America? Nope. Another sneaky stowaway hidden in some European's dirty pockets. So what to do when you actually like the weeds (which I suppose you can correctly call European wildflowers) that are now permanently part of the American landscape?

And just to further confuse the native plant issue going on in my head, a month ago I saw this Blue-eyed grass blooming in a grassy area and thought it was just the prettiest delicate little thing.

I have no idea why but after identifying what it was in the "wild" and then seeing it again at a nursery, well, I bought one and brought it right home. Huh? I could have dug up some of the plants to transplant into my future rock garden but they looked so happy where they were. This new plant that would eventually be put in the rock garden is named Sisyrinchium "Lucerne" in Lucerne, Switzerland. I think what happened is that the American version went to live in Switzerland and came back to the States all hybridized. I thought that was kind of funny when I researched the nativeness of this native plant that is now a non-native. Oy. This trying to be true to what should be growing out there is a sincere workout for my head.

I struggle with trying to restore or maintain what should be growing out there with knowing that once what was living there can never be like that again. Why do I want to grow native plants anyway? My primary reason is that they attract native bugs and butterflies, little personalities I like to chase with my camera. But those guys are already out there. I guess I'll try to grow native plants where I can but when I can't, I can't, and I'm not going to feel too guilty about it. Well, maybe just a teeny bit.

Monday, June 7, 2010

This is not a black and white photo...

...just a photo of a grey tree frog in a black rain barrel on a very sunny summer day.

You would never know that outside that rain barrel, the sky was crazy blue and the coreopsis was crazy much color it kind of hurt your eyes. I can see why the little guy needed to take a break.

Yesterday Meg and I went to study the water situation on my land in Kansas. I've been trying to get the utility lines marked but I'm finding the country way of doing things is very different than what goes on in the city. Who knew there were even more things to complain about? First of all, the water department is run by volunteers. If that volunteer goes on vacation, you have to wait until she gets back to ask your question because it's not like her phone is set up to take messages. :-/ The gas company guy did manage to mark the electric lines but seemed confused as to why I needed anything else marked. Errrgh. I'm a little nervous about even trying to get a water spigot set up on the property because of the wildly erratic water bills I will eventually get. I've heard that the volunteer's kids jump out of her car to read the meters and maybe they get the numbers remembered in the right order when they return to the car, more likely they make up something on the way back. Anyway, I've been told to get prepared to be billed for crazy amounts that will fluctuate wildly and will make no sense, especially in winter.

While Meg and I were studying the garage (the only building on the property) to find a good spot for a spigot, I heard a peacock in the distance. I've been in sort of a slump for a few weeks but hearing that peacock in the neighborhood just made me feel lighter. That has been a dream of mine for....a heck of long time, possibly before I even lived with birds (that could be close to twenty years)! If people in the area are already suffering with the sound of one peacock, what difference could a few more make when I start living there full-time? >:-)

A couple weeks ago my sister sent me this photo of what she calls her pet of the day. The "dude" just appeared and stuck around for a couple days to check out her land...although most of his time was spent checking out his reflection in her windows to confirm just how pretty he was. He only stayed two days and then left to go hang out in another neighbor's yard who lived down the hill.

Colorful. That's what I'd call the day...and there is potential for even more local color...whether it's peacocks or the odd ways (to me, at least) of how things are done in the country. One thing I've learned in my brief experience out there, I know how to roll my eyes when I hear the stories of someone trying to get anything done.