Monday, May 9, 2011

Miami County Kansas Farm Crawl

That's what I did on Saturday. There were twelve farms to visit and one of my first stops was an emu ranch.

Those emu girls paced in pairs up and down their muddy routes but would they pose for a picture? No. They were too good at turning the other direction. I tried. Oh, I tried to get a good photo...but it was not going to happen.

Sleeping baby emus were a lot easier to photograph.

My next stop was an alpaca ranch and did they want to be photographed?

Again, no. When I walked into the pen, I was given a handful of alpaca kibble but even with that, I could not get them to look at me.

"Hey! You guys, over here!"

Oh heck. At least they were cute from behind.

And they all seemed to be very sweet since they were so busy kissing visiting children, as well as each other.

Finally, a head shot from an alpaca who knows she is beeyootiful.

This alpaca is more of a fretter...

This one looks like a horserabbit (to me, at least)...

And then there was this one.

I think there's a reason for that scuff on her nose because this alpaca was "in your face" nosy. Definitely some personal space issues. She got in close and rather than nibble on the kibble, she stuck her nose in my purse...

What a bad alpaca. I immediately left her to go watch the five day old baby who was busy chasing a chicken.

That baby was just fascinated with the chickens but the guard llama had had enough of baby shenanigans and took it upon himself to get things back to calm.

"You stop picking on those chickens, you baby, you."

Nudge. Nudge.

And then that baby found himself back with his momma. And from what I overheard, ready to take on those chickens again (once that guard llama was out of sight).

Did I covet emus or alpacas as future pets? Not really. But cows? A slight maybe...a possible 2%. I get such a kick watching cows when I travel down country roads. They might all climb on top of a hill to see who can get the highest, or on a hot day...all of them might go find a pond where you see nothing but cow heads popping up above the water. On Saturday I saw a group of cows hanging out in the woods beside the road which was a funny thing to see because cows are almost always basking in sunshine. Sneaky things. Carefully navigating the rights and lefts around all those trees.

These two girls by the roadside caught my attention, especially the one on the left (such an unwavering staredown!). They were small so I'm guessing they're probably teenagers, especially since they also had such attitude.

Then I was off to a winery which was actually very good. Like really good. I hadn't tried any wine from this part of the country in....more decades than two. And there's a reason for that (scuppernong Missouri wine, eeeugh, eeeugh, eeeugh). But the "Buffalo Red" was delightful and OMG, someone had made shortbread with rosemary in it and that was worth the visit itself.

Then I was off to a chicken/goat something farm. There was an interesting raised bed vegetable garden where 24 inch wide serpentine berms were looked like a maze. It will be mighty interesting to navigate the winding 24 inch wide paths in the coming months. Why grow in straight rows anyway? So predictable the way of getting in and out of the garden. But what I found most interesting were the cut down hollow logs that would soon be containers for future tomatoes. That's an idea I'd like to try myself.

It was such an exquisite day. I saw a bluebird fly across the street. I got to see my first turtle in the road and of course I stopped and moved him to the other side. Knowing what I know about turtles, that little turt probably stomped back to where he was having such a nice rest in the sun and then traveled back across the street when he felt like it.

Places I passed had names like "Wooden Oaks" which made me wonder what oaks aren't wooden? Then there was "Lost Arrow." I wondered if they ever found it. I hope when I finally come up with a name for my spot in the country, it won't confound people who drive by.

My final stop was a wildflower nursery and vineyard. I filled up the golfcart with buttonbushes (Cephalanthus occidentalis) and then drove all of us all the way back home.

If you're familiar with gravel roads, that back window shows a significant amount of happy time spent driving in the country. :-)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

If the Spring Beauties are blooming...

...I guess it must be spring.

That was my thought almost a month ago because I was still having my doubts about this spring business. Little bits and pieces of color were starting to accent the brown landscape but it was not enough for me. The sky didn't even have any color. It had been consistently overcast ranging from an even white to a lumpy grey for weeks and it was decidedly oppressive. I wanted to see color, somewhere, and a lot of it.

At least I could get what I craved in closeup shots...

The crazy purple blue of these grape hyacinths was not as elusive as the blue in the sky however. Almost a month later, they are still a crazy purple.

This has been one odd spring. I had to go searching for crocuses this year. The only ones I saw were the few blooms in my own yard until the squirrels stomped on them. Daffodils this year? I saw some.

The magnolias and dogwoods have been spectacular but I had to check under the leaves of my crabapples to see if they had bloomed...and they had, secretly.

In Kansas, the Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) were doing a good job of blooming (in the woods) but not so much where I found them blooming in big colonies last year.

Every year is always so different from the year before. Some things are going to grow, and some will not. And I'm not sure if I have any input on that. Doesn't matter how much I study up on things to make sure each plant goes where it should be happiest, it still doesn't guarantee that plants will do what they're supposed to do. And then there are always the unplanned and unexpected things that happen. The three Golden Alexanders (Zizia aptera) I planted last year? They all came up....but one disappeared a couple weeks ago when some varmint decided that that very spot was the perfect spot to choose as his front door to wherever he had to go (that plant just disappeared and all that was left was some tunneled hole). Another Zizia now has a hosta actively pushing it out of the way as it is growing up under it. Where the heck did that hosta come from? I know it must have been planted there some time in the past but I had never seen any hosta remnants there before. Errrgh. That Zizia is a goner...probably the hosta too when a deer discovers it. But as of yesterday, I still have one Zizia left. That's something (I guess). So much for "the" perfect spot.

There were new things to see this year though. This was the year I saw my first gooseberry blossom (Ribes missouriense)...

I was delighted for a couple weeks and then realized, when the flowers were gone and the gooseberries had leafed out, that those gooseberries were those annoying scruffy shrubs in the woods that get in my way.

Little Solomon's Seals (Polygonatum biflorum) were popping up solo in all sorts of areas, just one, never two.

I think this flower is a wild plum. I love how those white stamens keep the exuberant golden yellow anthers tethered so they can't make an airborne escape.

For some reason, I missed seeing those flowers last year too.

But there's one flower you can always depend on seeing every spring, those darn dandelions...which apparently can grow in water....

or not (that's not a clump I tossed on the rock, that dandelion is growing in the rock!).

A couple mornings ago, I found another surprise plant, but this time it was in my backyard in Missouri. It's a plant I often see on my walks in the woods in Kansas-Persicaria virginianum (or Tovara virginiana or Polygonum virginianum, plants in the polygonum family get renamed a lot). Last fall I must have carried some seeds back...or part of the plant back on my shoes after returning from Kansas. I'm not sure why I go through all this fuss about planting things correctly when some plants can sneak in the car with you and go out in your backyard and plant themselves and do just fine.

Crazy little plant. I'm kind of curious to see how this country plant will do in the city.