Articles for the Month of September 2010

The Eagle Flies on Friday

Bald Eagle

The “eagle flies on Friday” referred to payday in T-Bone Walker’s classic blues song “Stormy Monday”.  In my case the Eagles flew on Saturday.  A pair of the them flew overhead marking the first time I have ever seen eagles from our perch on Ball Rd.  They are magnificent large birds in flight and it was a spectacular reward for getting up early and going out to my bird watching chair at the bottom of the garden.

Throughout this year, which has tested my fortitude on the gardening side (pests to the right of him, drought to the left of him, onward he blundered), watching the birds has a redeemed my investment of time and patience with many new discoveries.  In particular, I’ve found that long after the fruit has disappeared from the mulberry tree it still acts as a haven for bird life.  I don’t think I ever looked as carefully during the summer to fall transition and I probably just never noticed the many little birds that pass through as a part of their migration.

A few years ago I saw, just once, a scarlet tanager in full color.  Now, each time a cardinal flashes by, I keep expecting to see a tanager again.  What I hadn’t anticipated is that all that flashy red color disappears by fall and when the tanager came by I had to do a fair amount of research to discover that was the pretty yellow visitor.

Scarlet Tanager

At one point I saw him eating and I fervently hope this is a stink bug that he has captured.

Scarlet Tanager with bug

Can it be a stink bug?

It has been a pleasure to see new birds (to me at least) several times a week.  Clearly there is a limit to this realm of discovery but it does amaze me how frequently new faces are showing up here.  The warblers and flycatchers all have the characteristic of rapid motion in the tree and photographing them is a challenge.  And then, even when I have the picture, determining the identity of birds which are perhaps most easily distinguished by their song is even more difficult.  I will share some of the images with the clear invitation that if you can better identify these visitors I am open to suggestions.

Black and White Warbler

Blue-headed Vireo

Pine Warbler

American Redstart female

Common Yellowthroat

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Wood Peewee

Least Flycatcher

Northern Parula

Yellow-rumped Warbler?

Common Yellowthroat female or juvenile?

Autumn Harvest

Fall Fest at Wilson Farms

The theme for Gardening Gone Wild photo contest for September is Autumn Harvest.  I was not inspired by our own drought-thirsted crops as considered what photo to enter.  The above photo is from Wilson Farms near Boston.  They make a fall tradition of gathering in some of the biggest pumpkins, squash, and gourds that you will ever see.  They also have apples, cider, and a generally inspiring collection of wonderfully diverse market garden produce and flowers.  If you have the opportunity it is well worth a visit.

However, I think for my entry I’m going to go with last year’s visit to Turkey.  As we drove across the country we went from the fruit orchards of the coast to the equivalent of our midwest where the big crop is sugar beets.

Harvesting sugar beets

We saw tractor after tractor towing in wagons of sugar beets.  They drove them up a near vertical ramp to dump them out (see the red tractor in the upper left of the picture).  Then the enormous piles of sugar beets were loaded onto big trucks for traveling across the country.

Trucking sugar beets

The source of the sweetness for some of those delicious baked goods is probably the molasses derived from sugar beets. The sugar beets are also used for one version of Raki, a distinctive turkish alcoholic beverage.  But wait, the quest for an Autumn Harvest image goes further.

The small farm that we stopped at for an overnight stay operated with more of a traditional mixed crop approach.  We were hosted by a multi-generational family that provided a wonderful meal for us.  They offered that those who wanted to get up early could witness the milking the next morning.  So I got up, along with several others, and toured the barn to see the milking (the whole farm reminded me of my grandfather’s place in Canada).  Then we took an morning walk into the fields. .  The early morning light fell on the stacks of reed-like plants that were as tall as the old traditional haystacks that you may have seen in the U.S..  In honor of the many hours that were required to create those twelve foot stacks I decided to submit this image as representative of Autumn Harvest.

Reedstack at Akburun village

Oh, the gentle rain that droppeth

Morning Mist

Not too long ago we had a morning mist that covered the hillsides.  It was the most rain we had from the twelfth of August until last night.  Another month without rain.  And only .4 inches from last night.  You might ask how the plants can survive such dismal conditions and the simple answer is they can’t.  I have had to water as much as possible and we just don’t have the capacity from our well to support all the plants on the property.  This is what the triangle field looks like after a summer of drought.

The dry triangular field

And, as if it weren’t enough that the dry conditions (combined with woodchucks) did in the corn, the squash, and the cucumbers completely (I mean nothing, not a single morsel), we now have an invasion of stinkbugs on everything that’s left.

Stink Bugs on the tomatoes

These aren’t your ordinary stink bugs.  These are the Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs that will want to come inside for the winter time.  They’ve taken to sitting on the door and window screens when they are not sucking the life out of the tomatoes, the peppers, the eggplant, and the apples.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Nonetheless, we shall persevere.  We can always look forward to a tropical storm visiting the area… — I see that Igor is forming in the Caribbean…