summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bird Frenzy

This morning I glanced out the window on the orchard side of the house.  The apple trees, as well as the sour cherry, still stood naked.  The sweet cherry tree had just a hint of green from recently expanded buds.  The raspberry canes not yet growing.

But, there was a definite bird frenzy going on.

There were the usual morning birds of Blue Jays, Robins, Mockingbirds, Mourning Doves and Red-bellied Woodpeckers flying from tree to tree, from tree to ground, from ground to tree.

Brown Thrasher...could be male or could be female
Suddenly, my eye caught a reddish-brown glimpse.  On closer inspection, I determined I was watching a Brown Thrasher. Seeing this bird is a rarity for me.  At first, he pecked around the grass.  Soon he wandered into a small bed which is filled with crape myrtle shrubs.  A friend was supposed to come over and dig those out two years ago to use to line her driveway.  She didn’t.  The ground was covered with a thick layer of browned leaves under these bare-branched shrubs.  And, that brown thrasher had the best time flicking up the dry leaves, even so much as flipping the leaves out from the bed onto the lawn. I assume he was looking for food and having fun to boot.

male Eastern Towhee

Soon, another rare species for me, an Eastern Towhee, joined in the leaf-flipping game.

male Northern Flicker

Then, two huge Northern Flickers joined the party.  One f licker had a small tiff with a woodpecker.  Both birds hovered about six inches above the ground verbally abusing and threatening the other with outstretched wings.  The red of the woodpecker’s head and the bright yellow of the underside of the flicker’s tail feathers were radiant.

male American Kestrel

I could not have watched a better show than the one I witnessed just outside my window.

I am coming back tomorrow, same time, just in case there is an encore.

And, for the proverbial ‘cherry on top’…an American Kestrel and Belted Kingfisher were part of today’s bird sightings. 

A bird frenzy, indeed!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Frog Frenzy 2017

The day was a rainy one.  At noon, there was a window of a few hours when the rain would subside.  I took that opportunity to take my daily walk.

Moments out of the house I heard the familiar sound.  The ‘frog frenzy’ had begun down at our farm pond.  I was excited.  After all, this is the only time I actually get to take photos, and movies, of frogs. I was serenaded the entire way down to the pond.  The closer I got to the pond, the louder the mating song became.  I walked faster.

As I stepped along the shore, I could hear the frogs jumping into the water as I neared each one.  I did not actually see the frogs, but I did see the disturbed water where they jumped.  One after another.  I would have to be more quiet and unassuming if I was to get my pictures.

Within minutes, I noticed that the surface of the water was covered with expanding concentric circles.  Was it raining?  I was not feeling the drops, but suddenly, I was in the middle of a downpour.  I was glad that I was able to duck into the pond house to stay dry.  Buddy slinked under the pond house.  Snowball just stayed put standing in the rain.  He probably needed a bit of cooling off.  The tumultuous rain hitting the tin roof of the pond house was near deafening.  The frog sound was gone, or, at least, masked.

When the rain stopped, the frogs could be heard again.  Now, I hoped, I would be able to get a few good photos.  I did. 


Five days ago, I heard one frog at the pond.  Four days ago, I heard two frogs.  Yesterday, I heard several more frogs, but not yet the ‘frenzy’, a term which I coined the raucous a few years ago.

Today…the true start of the 2017 ‘frog frenzy’.  I am thrilled to be able, once again, to partake of this annual event. 

Note:  the 2016 frog frenzy occurred on April 2, the 2015 frog frenzy on April 13

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A New Project

It all started with Becky gifting her Dad a shitake mushroom inoculated log for Christmas.  A great idea.

But, Glenn thought…if he was going to nurture one log he might as well nurture more. Glenn did his research and purchased a complete mushroom growing package (three strains of shitake inoculant and the tools to prepare the logs – special drill bit, inoculator, wax applicator, tags and wax) from Field Forest Products located in Peshtigo, Wisconsin.

Glenn and Matt cut oak logs from some trees Glenn recently had thinned on our Jonestown farm.  They brought the logs to the home farm to prepare.

First, Glenn drilled holes 6-8 inches apart at two-inch intervals.  Then, Becky inoculated each hole and sealed the holes with melted wax which hardened almost immediately. The logs were tagged identifying the inoculant used and stacked. Matt joined the workforce as soon as he arrived on the scene 30 minutes later.

Three laborers working six hours with no breaks and 50 logs later, the task of inoculation was complete.

I am looking at the logs realizing that we are either going to grow enough mushrooms to supply the county or the entire project is going to be a tremendous bust.  The results will be available in about one year.

But wait, the project is not done.  Those logs have to be placed in a suitable environment for the mushrooms to grow and flourish. 

The next step was to place the logs in a wooded area.  We have plenty of options, but Glenn chose a spot that was easily accessible and near a livestock waterer since those logs need to be watered from time to time during their early development.  Glenn wanted his water source nearby to make that task easy. So, the logs were lovingly placed in a very desirable spot.

The first crop of mushrooms may be ready as soon as this coming fall, most likely next spring. 

Now, we wait.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Muddy Dog, Muddy Me

The day is about 20 degrees cooler than it was yesterday.  Therefore, I had to bundle up a bit more for my walk.

Snowball exited from under the pond house here...

Once at the pond, I sat down on the combination wood and grass steps which lead directly from the top of the grassy dam into the water.  I was sheltered from the blustery wind by the pond house.  All of a sudden, Snowball appeared right in front of me.  He had walked under the pond house, along the very muddy bank, exiting at my feet with a big smile of satisfaction. 

Initially, I thought his caper was cute.  That is until he made a quick jump into my lap.  My pants, shoes and sweatshirt were now covered in fresh, damp mud.  A big dog, like Snowball, can cover a lot of real estate (that real estate being me) with no effort.  He did manage to miss my camera by mere inches since it was hanging from my neck, now just above a big blob of mud.

It never fails.  If I sit on the ground, Snowball feels obligated to jump in my lap.  Why?  I cannot make any sense of his action.  I usually am on the lookout and prepared to give him a shove, but this time…

he caught me by surprise.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring Arrives...Calendar Verified

Well, it is official…Spring is here.

There is nothing I enjoy more than getting outside in the early morning on an early spring day to hear the robust birdsong.  There are so many different species of birds singing at once that it is difficult, if impossible, to distinguish any one particular bird.  All the birds are singing their own songs, their own tunes, yet the combination works. 

This morning was such a morning.  The intensity was almost too much, yet again, it is just the way I like it – happy birds, one and all.

And, I was right in the middle…a kind of surround sound.  No matter the direction my walk took, I was enveloped in the sweet melodies of my feathered friends.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Squirrel and a Bird

Today was a great day for wildlife sightings, but not so for the photo documentation. 

I rarely see squirrels on our farm.  Woods surround our farm, but I seldom walk through the woods. Thus, my reason for the lack of my squirrel sightings.

Earlier, as I was looking out the window, I saw a large white critter sitting on a fence post.  Once I retrieved my camera, I could identify it as a squirrel.  I know photos taken through a window do not turn out very clear, but I wanted to take a shot. I was not very successful.

white body, red tail

Later in the day, I saw this same squirrel (the odd coloring is a definite give-away) leaping from tree branch to tree branch.  I was outside, but that squirrel was moving too fat.  More blurs.

blurry for sure, but you can see the color
Suddenly, a yellowy-orange bird landed on the fence just feet in front of me.  My camera was on telephoto mode, so I quickly tried to adjust to the proper focal length.  Too late.  That bird only stopped for a second.  I did not even have time to get a good look at identifying features except for the color and general size.  This bird was the same color as my entry way.  I call it mango.  Some may call the color marigold. The bird’s size was small.

I went to my trusty bird book and decided the bird could be either a yellow warbler or a prairie warbler.  Both are summer residents in Virginian.  On my second review, I decided the bird was a yellow warbler since the color was mostly the mango with very little black.

This is the second summer bird I have seen in as many days. 

It’s verified…spring has arrived.

But, the most exciting point is that I have never seen a yellow warbler before…until today, that is. Believe me...I would have remembered that gorgeous color.

A new bird to add to my check list – yippee, without photo docs – ugh. 

Tomorrow is another day with another opportunity!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Announcing the Arrival of Spring

Hope arrived today.

Down at the pond, I first noticed a bluebird sitting atop a fence post eating what looked to be a big juicy grub. Yummy for that bluebird, I guess.


Within feet of his location, at the very next wooden fence post, was one of our three new bluebird houses that Glenn nailed up around the pond area last fall.  There was bird activity.  But, it was not bluebird activity.  It was tree swallow activity.  Tree swallows challenge bluebirds for the right to reside in the so-called ‘bluebird boxes’ and the tree swallows usually prevail.

The first thought that came to my inquiring mind is whether the tree swallow is a year-round bird that just exited its winter refuge or whether it is a migratory bird.  I really did not know.  The birds that I have been seeing lately are year-round residents even though they get scarce through the winter.  Where these year-round resident birds hang out I do not know, but I assume they take to the deep woods for protection from winter’s elements. They hide well.

In any case, my bird book indicates that the tree swallows are summer residents in our part of Virginia, actually in most parts of Virginia except for the coast. 

You saw right…SUMMER residents.  Hurray!

My first summer bird sighting this season and a sure sign that spring is (Dare I say I commit?) here.


P.S. To make the day even better...we just had a magnificent double rainbow - the main arc looked to begin in the pasture just below the house - what luck!

look closely - the rainbow comes down in front of the woods

Winter Is Not Over

I am a fair-weather outdoor person.  I like the temperatures to be comfortable without having to layer too many clothes, I like only gentle breezes, I try not to walk in the rain, and I definitely never walk in the snow.  I might fall and hurt myself…been there, done that – ugh!

This past week, the lovely shirt-sleeved temperatures of January and February have been taken over by the cold, below freezing, temps of winter. We even received a bit of snow, fortunately not the 12” as had been forecast.

our south-facing pastures melted quickly

My daily walks have stopped.

daffodils in flowers...drooped

I should be seeing bold and bright PINK quince blooms, not brown.

My garden of early daffodils, many in full bloom, and numerous spring-flowering perennials can attest to this weather degradation with their withered, browned, and limp flowers and flower buds which had been at- the- ready to burst into beautiful pastel color. 
close-up of the weather-damaged quince flowers

We were all saying that the season was about one month ahead of the average.  I was enjoying the early flowers and color, and I was especially enjoying my early season walks with my dogs.

Now, I will not be having any perky pink quince blossoms, no lavender lilac clusters, and no late-blooming buttery-yellow daffodil bonnets this year.  I might still get a crop of the spring tulips, iris, flowering dogwood, and flowering ornamental pear, but I do not know for sure.  I will just have to wait, hope and see.

I am not surprised, it has happened many times before, but I am disappointed.  My remaining springs are numbered.  I do not want to waste a single one. Yet, I have no choice but to appreciate as much as Mother Nature will allow.

Mother Nature certainly does like to maintain her control.

At least, I did get a quick sampling of the early spring blooms to savor. And, I know more colorful flowers are to come…soon!  They always do.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Arrival of the Lambs

A few weeks ago, Glenn moved the cattle and sheep into a pasture that had been unused all winter.  His plan was to keep the livestock in that location for about one month before moving them closer to the house for the birthing season.    One week ago, a set of twin lambs and a pretty little South poll calf were born…a month early.  Glenn decided to keep the livestock put as there was still lots of grass to consume and that those births were only an early anomaly – not.

Yesterday, after Glenn made his daily rounds, he rushed back into the house saying we had to move the ewes. Not only were there four new lambs, but he had just scared off a coyote that was within seconds of capturing his breakfast…a newborn lamb – ugh!  

Once on the scene, Snowball got the coyote’s scent and took off, but that coyote was gone.  Unfortunately, he was gone only for the moment.  He will be back as lambs are an easy meal.

To get those ewes and lambs moved to the pasture below the house, we had to separate them from the cows and move them through two other pastures.  Easy - not. Lambs do not move very fast.  They take a few steps and lie down to nap.

One ewe had triplets and traipsed right through the middle of the curious and much larger cows.  The three lambs scattered in three directions.  The mother ewe was panicked not knowing which lamb to retrieve first.  The cows were excited by the teeny tiny creatures.  I panicked as I thought all three babies would be stomped on and crushed.  I did not know which lamb to retrieve first. Fortunately, as I advanced the cows turned and retreated in the opposite direction.  All the lambs were safe. 

Triplets and their Mommy

triplets and mom moving toward their new pasture

I continued to follow behind the ewes and all the new lambs (the current count turned out to be 9) as I tried to direct them through one pasture and into the next.  Glenn had to go around to open the gate into the final pasture.  At times, I had to pick up the napping lambs and carry them to keep the process moving. 

Snowball stayed near investigating his new charges.

Are you my mommy?

I am here to protect you little one.

The ewes and lambs are now happily grazing in the pasture right below the house.  We can view their every move.  And, watch for new arrivals.

Snowball’s job is  to keep the coyotes away.

We, like we do every lambing season, are keeping our fingers crossed.