summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Monday, February 27, 2017

Grey Day


A definite grey day today.  I still took my walk, but there was not much activity to see or to record. Even the birds seemed to take cover from the gloom.  I did notice a bunch of small holes in the ground along my path.  They looked like exit holes for some kind of creatures, but what kind I am totally ignorant.  Any ideas?






When I got back home, I decided to wash the few dishes I had sitting in the sink. As I was washing, I glanced out the kitchen window and saw a hint of yellow between the bottom of the garden and the woods.  I knew exactly what I was seeing…the beginnings of my forsythia bushes flowering.





The flower buds were just breaking bud, the yellow was only a suggestion of blossoms.  I had to get a closer look.



The yellow of the forsythia is like a sunshine growing in the garden. I would have to wait a bit longer to get the full effect of these happy perennials.


 

Next to my forsythia bushes, there is a flowering quince.  Still not in flower either, but also giving enough pink color to know the elation is not far off.









For now, I will enjoy my many daffodil clumps in flower throughout my gardens  – many different values of yellow and many different shapes of blossoms. 






Spring is not far off.  Color is returning to the farm.



And, I LOVE color!






Sunday, February 26, 2017

Another Goose Story..Such A Treat


Two days ago,  I had an incredible birding day.  After my initial sighting and watching of three squirrels (no, not birds) jumping from tree to tree, branch to branch to distance themselves from me and my dogs, it was all bird.

see that little blob at the top of the tree...eastern meadowlark


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The eastern meadowlarks seemed to prefer the tree tops this morning over their usual romps in the grassy pastures.  Blue birds rested on winter’s bare tree branches.  I caught sight of a kestrel in flight, then landing on a snag.  A red winged black bird belted song from his location up a walnut tree near the pond.  Gangs of Blue jays were boisterous in my yard.  A line of 10+ wild turkeys crossed my path in the woods as I returned home from a quick lunch out with Glenn.  Several sparrows blurted out a lovely melody from their perches in the tangled stems of the trumpet vine growing on the old corn crib. Chickadees, Nuthatches, Cardinals were also present. There were birds, birds everywhere.



this is that meadowlark...singing, no less

white-throated sparrow...a winter resident

I know you probably do not want to read about another goose story, but…but…




I cannot believe what had happened early in the morning down at the pond.  As I neared the pond, I could see the two resident Canada geese floating slowly, barely moving atop the still surface of the pond.  Suddenly, I heard a racket of honking which became louder and louder.  A group of Canada geese were flying overhead.  They were not in typical ‘v’ formation, but more like a circle. Uncanny.  I was hoping our geese would join the group, but they showed no interest.  I sat on the pond house deck to relish the peace.  Within minutes, I heard more geese honking and approaching.  A second group of Canada geese, this time in the more conventional  ‘v’, flew past in the same northerly direction as the first group.  Again, no interest from the two geese in the pond.  Then, …

I looked up and saw two geese flying directly toward the pond.  By the time they saw me, they had to commit, their landing gear, their huge black webbed feet, were down and ready to make the water landing.  As they landed, the now four geese got into a brawl.  Wings flapped, water churned, honking sounded harshly.  My dogs added their own vocals from their position at the water’s edge.  After a few skirmishes, the geese settled down and swam cautiously around each other.  After about five minutes, two geese, I am assuming the newcomers, made their departure and flew off in a southerly direction.


What a thrill!  I was so lucky to be at the pond at that exact moment.  What are the odds of experiencing such an event?  One in a million visits???



A great birding day indeed!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bird Du Jour


I have been enjoying the mystic, almost hypnotic, notes of the Eastern Meadowlark on my walks to and from the pond.  Their songs surround me as I walk mostly through pasture, an ideal environment for these birds.  I hear a lot of meadowlarks, and I see less. The meadowlark can quickly hide even in the shortest grass which we have at this time of year. During the growing season, I have to catch this fabulous bird either in flight or resting/singing from atop a fence post. 



Fortunately, today, I tracked a bird flying through my line of sight. Sure enough, it was a meadowlark.  The beautiful bird landed and remained visible as it pecked along the ground.  The bright and bold yellow of its chest and belly was easy to spot and follow once the meadowlark faced me head on. 


 Mountain Glen Farm is home to  lots of meadowlarks. 



We always seem to be in song.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First Flowers


Today, while cleaning up another garden bed, I noticed these flowers in bloom.  My first of the season…snowdrops and daffodils.



Beautiful!





Monday, February 20, 2017

Bluebird Happiness aka I'm Seeing Blue



Yesterday was a first for me.  I took a morning walk…in February.  I usually do not begin my morning walks until April or May.  I need the morning to be warm and the morning was warm.  I went out early to fill my empty birdfeeder and was welcomed by comfortable sunshine and bird mania.  The winter birds were going crazy.  They were loud and active. Flying here and there and barely stopping for a rest. Singing, calling, chirping. I would have believed it was spring.



I thought that if the birds around the house are active, I bet the birds in the pastures where I walk would be just as inspired.  They were.  I saw many more birds than I have in months, and I heard many more birds than I saw.  My skills as a bird identifier are weak, especially when it comes to sounds.  Music was never my forte. Nevertheless, I enjoyed all the different sounds and flying birds around me.



The bird of the day, or in this case morning, was the eastern bluebird.  They were all over the farm.











I took photo after photo of the brilliant blue of the males and the muted blues of the females.  A bluebird would perch on a nearby fence post long enough for me to take a photo.  As I walked closer, the bird would retreat away from me to the next fencepost.  I was having fun with the game.


notice the two bluebirds (one on post #6 and one on post #8)...always staying ahead of me

I was continually slowed down by all the bluebirds over and over again.  I just had to stop and take another photo.

up close and personal




The piece de resistance was when an amazing and oh, so blue bluebird lighted on the fence post right, and I mean right, across from me.  I had never, and I do mean never, been that close to a bluebird.  The blue color was more than spectacular.  I thought I was looking at a completely different bird than my familiar bluebird.



That bird stayed on that post long enough for me to take several pictures and long enough for me to watch and wonder.  The moment was FANTASTIC!



bluebird sharing the fence with a male (top) and female house finch
I could have lingered longer, but I decided to finish my walk and let the bluebirds have their own peace. Besides, my dogs were waiting patiently for me and they wanted to finish their morning adventure.



Now, I know why the bluebird is referred to as the ‘Bluebird of Happiness’.



I was certainly happy! 



male and female eastern bluebirds on the horse chestnut tree in my yard



2017 is going to be an incredible birding season…I can feel it!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Glenn Is Not Goin' To Like This


Today as I approached the pond, I saw the ‘resident’ waterfowl glide out from the edge of the pond to the middle, the place of safety for them.



There were the regulars…two Canada geese and a Mallard duck couple.  In addition, there was one more goose.  Yep, we now have three geese.  Glenn is not going to like the ‘newcomer’. Glenn does not like the two regulars.



look at this guy's colors....yellow, emerald green, and orange...pretty!





The situation is bittersweet.  Geese mate for life.  So, one of the Canada’s is mate less.  On the other hand, the mate less goose has been accepted by the couple. A kind of like being taking under their wings…get it? Fortunately, a goose that has lost a mate will look for a new mate.  Whew!



I do not know why Glenn does not like the geese.  They do not eat our grains as we do not grow grains.  I think Glenn might have mentioned that they are messy.  Geese are big birds and they do have large droppings compared to other birds, but…



nothing like the size of the cow pies that pepper, and fertilize, our fields. A fresh pile of cow poop is extremely messy and smelly when accidently stepped into with full foot. I always watch where I place my feet, but being overly cautious as I am, I still step in cow do-do from time to time. It happens.



An old friend once visited us on the farm.  She changed into comfortable shoes, brand new and so very white running/walking shoes, before we took her on the tour.  She was looking at the livestock and looking at the scenery, but she was not paying attention to where she was walking.  Shortly, those white shoes were brown from stepping in many fresh manure piles.  I think I told her to watch where she was walking…maybe not. Needless to say, not only is fresh cow manure messy and stinky, but it also stains. Permanently. Her white shoes would never be white again.  She mentioned that the next time she comes out she will bring boots.  Good idea.



So, the poop theory might be a good one for not liking these birds, but it is hard to accept when we have cows grazing the entire farm. The comparison is weak.



Another excuse, please, Glenn.

P.S.  After I had Glenn read this blog, he told me his real concern.  He was informed by a wildlife specialist that waterfowl pollute small ponds; thus, killing the fish living within....makes more sense.  I do not like swimming with fish as they bite me, but I do not want to swim in a polluted pond either.  I'm with Glenn...the geese have to move on.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bye, Bye Lambs...for now


Our 2016 lambs were finally sold yesterday.  It seems like they have been here at the farm forever making their presence known only when they wanted their treat of supplemental grain.  Continuous bleating can be quite loud.



Our cattle are purely grass-fed, but the lambs do not fatten fast enough on grass alone; thus, they get a measure of grain daily.  And, they look forward to the grain.

some lambs just feel the need to eat the hay from the top of the bale

watching me prior to loading

Becky, Glenn and I, I even had a station at which to stand, loaded the 42 head.  They needed a lot of coaxing. Being smaller than cattle, lambs are much easier to move around and get them going in the right direction.  Once loaded, Glenn and I took the drive to our buyer.  He has been buying our lambs for the past  years.  He pays a fair price. 



On arrival at the buyer’s farm, the lambs were unloaded, weighed, and we got our payment check.  Fast and easy. 



On the drive home, Glenn stopped at his favorite, local barbeque diner to treat us to a late lunch.  I was starving.  The place was near empty as the lunch crowd, and I do mean crowd, was long gone.  I much prefer the quiet anyway.



Glenn suggested the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich.  A customary favorite for me.. I had not tried the one at Peck’s yet, though.  So, we both ordered the Philly Cheesesteak – fully loaded with grilled green peppers, banana peppers, onions; and lettuce, chopped tomatoes and mayonnaise.  Glenn also had jalapenos. I do not eat hot peppers.  We opted not to get French fries.  I am trying to cut back on fried foods.  Glenn presumed that he would get a piece of my sandwich because I usually get full before I finish the food served and I always share my uneaten portion with Glenn. This was not the case yesterday.  I ate the entire sandwich myself. It was so tasty. Glenn was wishing he had ordered those fries.  He survived.




Since we ate around 3:00 PM, we did not have any dinner later. Actually, we were still well-satisfied from our late lunch.



I am ready to go back to Peck’s now that I found my preferred menu item.



FYI – Peck’s is located just south of Staunton, Virginia on the infamous Route 11.  Make a stop for lunch…you will not be disappointed.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hints of Spring


winter interest in my garden

February continues to sport a warm day here and there.  Today…in the 70’s.

It was like I said..."look an me and SMILE"






















honking away




The geese (occasionally honking)
and ducks are still down at the pond (Glenn’s chasing them away was short-lived.) But, what caught my attention were the increasing number of bluebirds from those I observed on my walk just a few days ago.
























The Eastern Bluebirds are starting to make their presence more obvious.  They are searching out future nesting sites.  We have a lot of bluebirds at Mountain Glen, so I imagine a lot of nesting sites are needed, both in what nature provides and in what we provide in way of nesting boxes.






And, do you know what else I noticed today?



My small silver maple, the one growing in my chicken pen, has started to bloom.



Spring is in the air…


I did not notice the lunar eclipse a few nights back,
but the moon was gorgeous nonetheless!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Changes


And the warm days of February continue until tomorrow, that is…cooler temperatures in the mid-30’s and a chance of snow are due.



The pond was a bit quieter today.  The geese were gone. I learned that Glenn had been at the pond earlier and chased them away.  Like I persistently mention, Glenn does not like Canada geese.



I sat on the grassy knoll along the water’s edge enjoying the silence of nature.



A bluebird landed on a nearby fencepost and seemed to be surveying the location.  Last fall, Glenn nailed three bluebird boxes in the vicinity around the pond.  I guess this beautiful blue male was wondering if he should take up residence here or not before enticing a mate to join him. This bluebird did not have to look any further in my opinion.  The Mountain Glen Farm pond would be a special place for any bluebird family.



Suddenly, I heard my first Eastern Meadowlark of the season.  I love the siren sounding notes. So, distinctive and oh, so seductive.  I thought I caught sight of this meadowlark on another fencepost, but on closer examination through my camera lens, I was only looking at a yellow plastic insulator to which we attach an electric fence wire – ugh!  But, no fear, I will see plenty of these golden beauties come spring and all through summer and fall.



Now, I am just getting a pleasant preview of what is to come. 



While I was having a relaxing walk, Glenn was at the Jonestown farm cleaning up some small junk woodlots peppered among the pastures. He has been at this work for weeks.  He is pushing out the undesirable tree species, mainly Ailanthus which is considered a weed species, and regrading areas that had been unsatisfactorily manipulated by a previous owner.  The cleared areas will increase the size of the pastures and promote the growth of the trees that remain. The work is slow but the overall result will only be an improvement.





Tuesday, February 7, 2017

And Then There Were...


Today was a near perfect February day to take a walk.  My thin sweatshirt was off and tied around my waste within seconds of leaving the house and my shirt sleeves were pushed up above my elbows. The breeze proved to be more comforting than inconvenient.



The two Canada geese were still residing down at the pond. They had been joined by two ducks.  A Mallard couple to be exact. The geese were quiet, so in a matter of three days of visiting they evidently had become accustomed to me and my dogs.  The ducks…not so much.  I was able to get a couple of photos of the majestic pair before Buddy and Snowball chased them off.  The two birds took to the air as the dogs jumped up and down at them in excitement from the edge of the water.  The drake and hen flew away in the direction of a neighbor’s pond.  My loss.



Buddy found a bone and carried it back home.  He would run ahead of us and chew, grab the bone and run ahead again as we caught up.



Snowball, on the other hand, walked right behind my heels which is rare.  I heard his panting.  Weather that is desirable for me is not for Snowball.  After all, he is a Pyrenees Mountain Dog.  When I am cold, Snowball is cozy.  When I am freezing, Snowball is in his element. 



The walk was near ending when I noticed what I think was my first sighting of a Pileated Woodpecker this season.  I saw bright red and white undulated through the nearby woods, the colors bold against the grey of the tree bark and bare branches.  How thrilling!



The birds are beginning to come out from their winter hiding. 



Hurray!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Comfort Zones




Yesterday afternoon the dogs and I went on our routine (down to the pond) walk.



It was a warmer February day, yet still a bit brisk and windy.  So, before leaving the house, I had to decide on the appropriate attire.   Two sweatshirts, an added hat or a knitted combination hat/scarf, gloves…I finally decided to go with less and opted for one heavy sweatshirt.  If I got cold, I could always put the hood up and walk a bit faster.



Within minutes out from the house, I was already feeling overheated, even with the cool breeze.  I was inching the zipper open and rolling up my sleeves to reach my comfort zone.  Obvious, I was overthinking the clothing issue.



Snowball ran out ahead and was the first to the pond.  That is OK except I was hoping to sneak up on a Great Blue Heron and Snowball would definitely scare that majestic bird into flight before my arrival.  But, the Great Blue was not to be seen.  Instead, a pair of disturbed Canada geese came floating out of hiding from a small, browned patch of cattails residing along the shallow edge of the pond. (Glenn dislikes geese, especially those that enjoy HIS pond. And, he will not be thrilled when I inform him of the geese status.)  Usually the dogs bark and chase the geese the best they can, dogs on land and geese in water, but today the dogs decided that further investigation would be more interesting.  Snowball and Buddy continued their run/walk beyond the pond and to a large spring area below.


half of the pond with a layer of floating ice...notice the geese at the far side




This gave me a chance to sit down, first surveying that the immediate ground was free of any geese poop, along the pond’s edge and take a few photos.  I totally enjoy my bird, even Canada geese, encounters. The geese slowly meandered back and forth all the while honking.

video




The dogs returned and we started our return trip home.  As we walked up the first incline away from the pond, the geese continued gliding on the water, but became quiet.



 I guess we had adequately moved out of their comfort zone.