Friday, July 03, 2015

Nature Notes....


Yesterday I spent most of the day mowing and while I was gazing off, I saw this giant wasp with a 6" long poker floating below her.  I had seen this creature before and I knew what she was, but still, it's quite exciting to see something like it just floating by nonchalantly.  I suppose to her it was not a nonchalant flight.  I'm sure she was on a mission!

The female Ichneumon Wasp has this very long ovipositor which she uses to insert her eggs into old wood.  She lays her eggs in tunnels where the horntail wasp larvae are, and Mrs. Ichneumon's babies will feed on them when they hatch out.  Sounds like a nasty little way to feed your babies, but everybody's got to eat somebody, right?

What's amazing to me is how in the world does that little wasp drill a hole into the wood?  Incredible!  No power tools, no torque wrench, no chainsaw!  Just a little poker on the end of her abdomen. I do think that sometimes they find a hole that has already been "predrilled" and go in that way too.  No matter what, it's amazing!

Yesterday I saw her fly by me.  Today I went on a hunt for one and had my phone in my pocket.  I was about to give up the search when here she came.  In my excitement, I couldn't get the phone camera up and running fast enough to snap a photo.  She even landed on my leg!  Kinda creepy, but kinda cool too.  I was glad that my leg didn't look like a tree trunk after all!  They say Ichneumon wasps won't try to harm humans so I didn't feel threatened.

Here's a link to very cool video showing the actual depositing of eggs if you're interested.  It's a few minutes long and quite cool to witness.  I'm determined to find another Ichneumon wasp out there one of these days.  By the way, as I was waiting for Mrs. Ichneumon to come back out (which she did not) I did notice something else laying on the bark of the tree.  It pays to wait and look and observe.


On the swoop of the bark that was peeling off this dead tree was a mish-mash of a nest.  I know the nest type and the two eggs tell me these are a dove's.  We have lots and lots of doves around right now, and they will lay eggs all summer long.  Still, kinda fun to find!


Here's a photo of milkweed.  I think our milkweed is called "Showy Milkweed."  And it is!  I think it's so pretty and intricate.  Monarch butterflies love milkweed and lay their eggs on them.  I'm hoping to come back to this little patch and check for Monarch eggs and/or butterflies laying eggs.  One time we found a chrysalis on a milkweed plant and brought it inside and watched it emerge.  It was one of those awesome times when the kids were little and curious about all things nature.



Did you see the full moon two nights ago?  Oh, so pretty and orange when it just came up.  We've had lots of smokey skies from the Washington fires, and it makes the moon and sun look orange-y when they set or rise.  This moon is up high and peeking through the clouds.

I hope you're enjoying nature this summer.  So much to see! So much to learn!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rough-legged Hawks...

Rough-legged Hawk
Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

 
Rough-legged Hawk
 Photo by Walter Siegmund
Wikimedia, Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

I watched these beautiful creatures hunting mice in the hayfield this morning while I raked hay. It was one of those days that I wished I had my camera and didn't.  At least I had my eyes and the photos in my mind.  I enjoyed every moment watching them as I drove up and down the field.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Haying -- full tilt...


 


The weather has turned hot and sunny and so as the saying goes, we make hay while the sun shines!  The new equipment has been really great to use, even though we pull the implements with old(er) tractors.  Since the rake (third photo down) is pulled by the old John Deere 2520 (open air) it gets mighty hot with the 95* temps and the heat blowing off the engine.  As long as I have plenty of water, fortified with some Real Salt, some lemon wedges, and ice, I can go about 3 hours at a whack.  In the morning it's quite pleasant to rake hay, but after high noon or so, we usually call it quits until evening.  I like to bare my skin for a little while in the early sunshine, but the majority of the time, I am covered up from head to foot to keep the sun off. The bugs have been minimal -- an occasional deer fly bite here and there and sometimes a swarm of gnats comes along, but generally, it's been fairly bug-free for me.

So far, I think we have upwards of 600 round bales of hay and many more to come.  Hubby thinks we'll get somewhere around 3000 bales by the time we are done.  That's a lot of hay for us dry land ranchers.  What looked like a drought in mid-May turned into a bumper hay crop for us in June.  We also missed a lot of hail, tornadoes, and flooding that were in the area.  It's been just about perfect here. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

The buzz....






 

The Buzz is...
We have BEES!
Lots of BEEZ!

On one end of the ranch there's a large colony
and on the other, yet a larger bunch.

They've come from California with banjos on their knees and they are staying for our golden sweet clover.  It's a "clover year"  here.  Not every year is.  Sweet clover is a biennial and so it usually only comes up every other year, depending on the weather conditions.  This year it's growing everywhere and it's as high as the pick-up -- doors so far.  There will be plenty of pollen and nectar for the bees to harvest -- miles and miles and acres and acres of it. Every ranch in the country has several boxes on it.  The bee keepers had intended to put some of these bees in another area, but they were drouthed out and had nothing for the bees to live on so they put them on our place.  Our share in the project will come in honey, and I dare say we'll have more honey than we know what to do with.  We've never had bees here before so it's exciting to us. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pair of pups...

Two little Scotties
Naughty little Scotties
Playing ball in Mommy's flowies
Spanks and owies.
 ............................

Two tea towels for friend's friend
who loves Scottie Dogs.

Monday, June 15, 2015

In the Garden...

 Cecropia Moths rested quietly on my flag all morning.
The grands came to see them and study them.


 My flower garden is overflowing with larkspur, poppies, and blue flax.  
The peonies are not quite ready to pop yet. 

 The lettuce is ready to pick and so are the French Breakfast Radishes.
The radishes are mild, yet peppery and crisp!  
I replanted some green beans today.  
One row is up, but they look rather sad; and the other row is mostly missing so I hope they'll fill in and provide us a nice little crop for two.

 The tomatoes continue to grow in size and girth.  I just planted a teaspoon of lettuce seeds amongst these tomatoes knowing it'll be ready to harvest when the other patch is done.

 The potato plants are pushing up taller and taller. 
 I need to give them another layer of mulch.

 This is my new experiment.  I put down some old shingles I found in the barn to smother weeds and give me a nice pathway to walk on.  This  hillside is really a weedy patch, so I'm trying to keep the weeds down as much as I can.  You can see squash and pumpkin plants and a few stray potatoes.

 My dad, and fellow gardener, gave me these Black Hills Spruce seedlings.  We heeled in ten of them and at first they turned brown, and I was sure they were going to die, but looky here!  New growth!  Each one of them has some new, green growth coming on.  I'm hoping, if they survive, to transplant them in the fall to a permanent spot.

Chives have taken over a corner of the flower bed and I am so glad of it.  I like to use the herb for cooking and as a garnish, but I also think they are the prettiest flower.
...................................................

"Earth is crammed with heaven
And every bush aflame with God
But only those who see take off their shoes."

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mowing hay...



Yesterday it began.  NumberOneSon has been checking and greasing and preparing the tractors and equipment for the big run.  Haying is beginning!  The men were inspecting one large part of our hayfields and found that there was weevil in it, eating away and killing the alfalfa, so it was either cut it a little early or lose it entirely to the nasty bugs.

The men are excited about haying this year because we have three new pieces:  a mower, a wheel rake, and a baler.  The tractors are old, but they're trustworthy and willing to pull.  So this new Vermeer mower is quite the deal!  We are used to running a swather, but this little honey is speedy, wide, and can really cut the hay down.  What normally took the swather 12 hours to cut, only took about 8 hours.  The next step after the mowing is to rake the hay, turn it over, and then follow behind and bale it up.  I'm excited because I will be one of the haying crew who will rake up hay.  I have a nifty little open-air tractor that I just love to drive.  I like it because I can stand up or sit down and I get that open air, free feeling when I'm out turning hay.  I'm really hoping that the bugs aren't too bad this year.  So far the mosquitoes have been especially numerous, but I think with the breeze blowing on me and the heat of the engine, I should be fairly bug free.  I will, however be prepared.  I ordered some mosquito netting for our hats and heads since there were none to be found locally, and of course, there's Deep Woods Off if my natural stuff doesn't work.

We were all excited about our new implements and all the children took their turns riding with Daddy to see how the new mower would work.  The rest of us watched from the field and admired what a fine job it did.  This morning we would have gone to work raking the hay, but it rained .6" early in the morning and so we left it to dry out for the day.  It's been a cool, cloudy day here today so I'm not sure how much drying-out the hay did.  We'll get 'er done sooner or later.

In the meantime, I enjoyed walking through my veggie gardens and my flower gardens, admiring what God does in the seasons.  We brought the cows home from two different pastures.  You can see one bunch out beyond my flowers.  I had the pleasure of walking behind another bunch of cows and calves trailing them part of the way home, minus the wet areas where the mosquitoes would have carried me away!

Happy Sunday.
..................................................................

"But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because he has dealt bountifully with me."
~Psalm 13 5,6

Monday, June 08, 2015

In the Garden (this week)....

 First up, not really in the garden, but geraniums in pots.
Some gardens can be in pots, can't they?

Secondly, I couldn't help sharing this
 *not in the garden* photo of our May crop of lambs.
They are pasturing near an old homestead, therefore, you see trees on the prairie.

The chives and Dame's Rocket are happy near our
grassy rock garden area.
The veggie gardens are just coming up.

 The onions in the far area are well established
and the carrots and tiny basil plants are showing up now.
The lettuces are just about harvest-able.  
There's a mix of greens and purples 
and some radishes will be ready any day now to toss in with a salad.
Carrots sprouts are in the back ground of this bed.
Tomatoes and peppers

 The rhubarb is massive.
I'm baking a pie tonight!

 This little patch has asparagus seeds underneath.  I was going to start with asparagus roots, but they were out at the nursery so I read up on starting asparagus by seed and decided I'd get more established plants next spring by sowing now with seeds.
Two herbs are in the foreground:
Lime Thyme (very citrusy) and plain Thyme.

One of a few pots of German Chamomile which seems fast-growing.
Bonnie shared her seeds with me!  More pot gardening.
I'll use it for teas and infused oils.
I love this white Columbine flower.
I also have pinks and purples.  Lots of it.
Here's my potato patch.  I've planted potatoes in the straw again this year.  The spuds have contact with the soil, but they are mulched deeply with straw to promote growth upward in the mulch layer.  I only planted half of my normal potato patch and so beyond the potatoes is my "overflow spot" where I have zucchini, squash, pumpkins, peppers, herbs, and cabbages. And you see the large Mr. Rhubarb at the end!
The spuds are just coming through.  I've planted some mushroom spawn amongst this straw too.  We'll see if it works.

Thanks for checking in on my garden escapades.  
What's growing in your pots and patches?
Do tell!


Thursday, June 04, 2015

Softies....

for the babies.
 
One for Lil.

One for Chief.

Patterns here and here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Summer nighties...


Two little girls with no summer nighties
Grammy sews
Who knows
What they'll get?
An orange-y and a white-y!
...........

For the white peasant nightie I used the pattern from Leila & Ben.
The orange nightie was made from this tutorial.
Both were made from men's T-shirts.
Comfy & Cool!

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