Archive for June, 2018

Have Wheels, Will Travel

Once upon a time a mama and papa Carolina Wren searched for a place to build a nest. There were many places to choose from on the farm but finally, they found the perfect spot….

The spare tire on the cattle trailer is fastened firmly to the side of the trailer forming a well protected spot inside the rim of the tire.

Quietly and unnoticed, they built their nest and hatched a clutch of four baby wrens.  All was going well until Monday morning at 7 a.m. when Mr. Farmer loaded  calves to take to the stockyard in Lynchburg.  By 9, Mr. Farmer was on the road and did not arrive home until 4 p.m. The trailer was parked back in its normal spot.

Today, Gene and his buddy, Wray, hauled two finished bulls to Fauquier Butcher Shop in Bealeton which is a two hour drive one way. Gene loaded the trailer at 7 this morning and parked the truck and trailer out front of the house until 11 when they hit the road. When they stopped for lunch in Orange at Burger King, Wray noticed that he was hearing birds chirping and they sounded close by but he didn’t think much about it or say anything. When they got to the butcher shop, he realized he was still hearing a lot of chirping. Suddenly, he saw the very upset nest of baby birds looking out of the wheel well wanting food and mama!

It was 4:30 until they arrived back home. Gene pulled the trailer back to its normal parking spot and immediately mama and papa wren set up a big fuss and ruckus. They chirped and chattered loudly and flew in and out of the nest in a frantic search for food for their squawking younguns.

Their nest is tucked in the corner on the left, but these younguns were at the door mad as a hornet and crying for food.

I checked on them two hours later and the babies were sound asleep in the nest but Mr. and Mrs. Wren were close by watching closely. My presence did not go unnoticed!

 

I wonder, what did Mr. and Mrs. Wren do when the babies disappeared? Did they see them go? Did they attempt to follow? Did they figure out they were parked out front several hours? Did they spend the day mourning their loss? Obviously, they immediately knew when they were back.

I am amazed the babies survived almost two days (Monday and Wednesday) without food for such a long period of time. After traveling almost 400 miles, they now have a story to tell: “We have wheels and we will travel!”

Post note:

I did an internet search and discovered that it takes only 12-14 days for Carolina Wren’s to fledge (leave the nest) from the time they hatch. By Sunday (three days), they were gone. Looking at the pictures that is incredible to me that in three days they were ready to be on their own.

Evening Primrose

One of my favorite flowers is the Evening Primrose. If you have never seen one open, you are missing a very special treat. They open in the evening just before dusk. Right now it is around 8:45 p.m. You can literally watch them pop open.

The head of each stalk contains lots of little blossom pods.  Before opening the pod swells up.  In the picture above you can see the already open flower and the one ready to pop open in about half a minute. The two larger pods behind with the reddish tint will open tomorrow evening and the next larger ones in two evenings.

The stages of opening:

 

 

 

 

Just about as fast as you looked at these pictures, it happened.

The flowers only last one day. By tomorrow evening it will be drooped and wilted and start to fall off. (Picture below)

Years and years ago, a friend gave me a start and I have had them ever since.  They are bi-annuals meaning they bloom the second year. After they finish blooming the little pods you see sticking on the side of the stalk in the picture below will fill with very tiny black seeds.

This fall they will shatter to the ground. The plants that come up this fall or very early next spring will bloom next summer. The ones that sprout later-maybe April or May will stay little all summer and bloom next year. (See picture below).  These are tucked in the flower bed under the blooming plants.

The flowers are very fragrant and at the peak of blooming the plants are loaded with bright yellow blossoms. But this is one plant you have to sit outside in the evening to enjoy. By the time the sun is up in the morning they are on the decline.

One thing you have to remember is, you don’t just watch one blossom open. Everyone of those flowers opened tonight plus  more that aren’t on the picture.

The hummingbird moths love this plant. They look like a cross between a hummingbird and moth with the body of a moth and beak and hovering of a hummingbird.  Under cover of dark, shortly after blooming, they buzz in and fill their beaks with the luscious, sweet nectar. I have two kinds of hummingbird moths; one with a short beak that buries his head into the blossom and the other with long, dangling beak that hovers above the flower and drops his beak into the blossom.  The picture below is the long beaked moth. I don’t have a picture of the short-beaked one.

The Evening Primrose also comes in pink (which I don’t have) and it is a low spreading plant where the yellow one grows 3 feet tall. They are also considered a wildflower and if you are looking for them, you can find them in the ditch banks along roadways in unmowed areas. Most people never notice them because they are night-time blooming.

This 1-minute video shows a flower opening in real time. There was no editing, no shortening of time.

If you want to see this spectacular God-show, I would love to have you stop by (call first to be sure I’m home). Right now they are at their peak and by mid-July it will be almost over. It will be an evening you will always remember.

“Quick-n-Big”

On Memorial Day, Gene planted Quick-n-Big Crabgrass from Dalrymple Farm in Thomas, Oklahoma on two of his fields to help provide fast growing summer grazing for his beef cattle. Their website says, “Quick-n-Big Crabgrass is a very productive, erect growing profuse tillering, relatively “quick” germinating, “quick” seedling growth, “quick” growth to first grazing or haying, and “Big” (up to over 48 inches tall), improved crabgrass….if well managed.”  You only plant 10 lbs. per acre. Last evening we turned the cattle into the field to graze.  Gene set his shoe on end to show the height of the growth; 12-14 inches in three weeks from seeding.

I rode with Gene to turn the cows into the pasture.

The cows were grazing in the front pasture and as we drove past them, Gene started honking the pickup horn and calling out his window, “Whoo-up, whoo-up”. That’s his call. They know his call and they know his truck.  It usually means food! The cows looked up from their grazing and almost instantly started running and mooing after the pickup.  We led them to the new pasture, getting there seconds ahead of them. By the time I could get out of the pickup and up on the back with my camera, they were already running into the field; mooing, bellowing and burying their noses into the lush green grass.

 

 

This little one had to have a quick drink of milk after such an exciting run.

 

Don’t bother me, I am eating!

 

 

Homegrown Blackberries

Last spring I planted a row of thornless Prime-Ark Freedom Blackberries from Burpee in my garden. It has been a learning curve but I am so happy and excited about my berries. This evening I picked the first bowl full of the season to eat.

Let me start at the beginning. Last spring I ordered six plants and they all lived and are doing well. I asked advice from local farmer friends, Bill and India Cox, who raise blackberries to sell at farmer’s markets. They do not raise primocanes but their experience was well worth listening to and very helpful.

When I planted the berries, I put a short 2-ring tomato cage over each one . You can’t see them but they are there.  This helps the canes to stay upright from the start. We also built a support fence for them to help support the canes and also to give me a “controlled” row for the stalks.

My support post at each end of the 50 foot row.

We used two strands of hi-tensile wire on each side of the row with the bottom wire 28″ off the ground and 24″ apart and the top wires are 48 ” off the ground and 36″ apart.  Each wire has a hi-tensile wire tightener/ratchet so that we can tighten the wire as it stretches. We did not put any support posts in between which was a mistake and the weight of the canes soon popped the wires loose.

They produced all summer until frost and cold weather killed the canes. This picture was taken November 10th!

The patch ended up being a mess as my support wires had broken and I had canes 8 foot long stretched out over the ground. I talked to my friends and did some reading online. I ended up trimming the canes back to about 12 inches tall for the winter. The fruit is produced on new growth. We rebuilt the fence and added four t-post on each side to strengthen the wires. This summer as the canes reach over the top wire, I am nipping them off which is causing them to get develop stronger bushes. So far it is working well and I am very happy.

This picture shows the new support posts. We put them in on a slant.

This year the row has filled in to almost a solid row. The plants are strong and bushy. Any stray shoots popping up outside the row I am pulling up and potting some for family.

A spoonful of fresh homegrown garden goodness! I have even had some bigger than this one.

Another helpful website: Growing Erect Blackberries

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