Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring Isn't Just Pretty Flowers

There's more to spring than greener grass and pretty wildflowers. Spring also included the return of ticks, chiggers and these guys.

This copperhead tried to join me in the basement the other night, but I convinced him to go somewhere else.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rue Anemone

From March, 2007

The route we normally walk every afternoons includes both a northwest and southeast slope. Almost all the wildflowers are on the northwest slope because it is more moist.

More information on rue anemones at Asheville Natural and Missouri Wildflowers.


Garden Bench

Our "garden bench" for the past several years has been an old sawhorse. It's been a long time since we could actually sit on our bench without fear on ending up with our butts on the ground, but the old sawhorse has still been useful for leaning our tools against and sitting our gardening beverages of choice upon, but now, even resting such a light load on the sawhorse is risky. It's time for a replacement and we're going to use a truck toolbox that's been sitting in the old truck rusting and providing a dry home for many generations of red wasps. Sure, it looks tacky, but it ought to be useful. We can sit on it, sit our drinks and such on it, lean our tools against it and even store some small garden tools inside -- once I remove the wasps, that is. The old sawhorse is headed for the brush pile.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Let The Gardening Begin

From March, 2007

Now we've gone and done it! We've officially started the 2007 gardening season. True, Jo has been working with the seedlings and transplants for several weeks, and we did replant the strawberry beds, but starting to get the beds ready for this year's plantings means crossing the threshold into several months of near daily work out in the garden.

Spring bed preparation would be a lot easier if we did a better job of putting the garden to bed in the fall, but we never do. Last year we did a particularily poor job of it. So, now we have weeds that must be pulled before they take over.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


And now for something completely different, meet Bucky, our new male rabbit. We had two males, but one died and we're beginning to suspect that our remaining buck is shooting blanks. He's zero for three in the breeding department in his last attempts with our does.

Some friends had an extra buck, so we decided it would be a good idea to introduce some new genetic material into our line of rabbits. A little viable sperm would be beneficial too.

Luna Moth

The first luna moth we've seen this season. Jo found it along the trail leading down from Jerry Joe's north pasture.

Luna moths (Actias luna) are members of the Giant Silkworm moth family. Adult moths live only about one week, just long enough to mate and for the female to lay eggs. For this reason they do not even have mouth parts and live on energy stored as a caterpillar. I believe this specimen is a male based on its longer tail and more highly feathered antennae.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Greening of Bear Creek Valley

From March, 2007

Every day things are just a little bit greener around here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Stormy Monday

From March, 2007

It was overcast with occasional periods of light mist most all day on Monday. When the time for our afternoon walk rolled around, the skies looked less threatening than they had all day, so we decided to go ahead and go for the full walk instead of sticking closer to the house. I even took the camera, and didn't bother bringing along a plastic bag to protect it should we get caught out in a shower. By the time we got up to the pasture, we began hearing thunder. I only took time to take a couple of photos. Aside from those we continued around our routine loop at a pretty good pace -- no stopping to smell the roses (or look at the wildflowers) on this trip. We made it back to the house before the rain started. Several small, weak squall lines moved through over the next couple of hours. We didn't have any severe weather, and only received .3" of rain.

Still Winter?

Even with all the wildflowers starting to bloom, the leafless trees remind you that spring is just barely getting started.

Dog-Toothed Violet

From March, 2007

The dog-toothed violet's name comes from the shape of its root. The numerous rhizomes on the bottom could resemble a dog's jaw and canine teeth if you've got a good imagination. "Violet" is a misnomer. The plant is a lily and not related to violets. Another common name is trout lily which is based on the speckled appearance of the leaves. Both the leaves and root are supposedly edible, although I've never been hungry enough to give either a try.

Dog-toothed violets are said to often grow in clusters. Most of the ones that grow around here are simply scattered around the forest floor, except for the ones picture in the top photo. They are clustered on the top of a large rock. I reckon the accumulated leaf litter and other rotted organic matter up there gives the dog-toothed violets as much soil to grow in as we've got in most places.

Additional information here and here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Wild Plum

From March, 2007

A few of the early wild plums are in full bloom this week, and they're attracting many bees.


Sunday, March 18, 2007


From March, 2007

A look inside the root shows how bloodroot got its name. The root contains a red pigment that was once used as a dye.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Jerry Joe's Horses

From March, 2007

Jerry Joe's horses up on the pasture north of our place. He usually keeps the horses closer to his house.

Jerry has had the mare for several years. A year or so ago she had a colt. (We tried to get some photos of the colt when it was younger, but the mare wouldn't allow it. She always took the colt so far away from us that getting a shot was impossible.) I don't know when Jerry Joe got the other two horses.

When we first walked up onto the pasture, the colt wanted to come over for a visit, but our dogs didn't want to be friendly. They barked and raise a ruckus until it left.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Helping In The Garden

From March, 2007

Eager and reliable help in the garden is always appreciated. Bucket and Rusty are always eager to go to the garden, but their reliability is suspect.

The basic personalities and priorities in life of the two dogs come through loud and clear in these photos. Rusty is the one who craves affection and has come over to Jo for a hug. Bucket wants to eat something and thinks the plastic bag may contain something edible instead of the strawberry transplants that it actually holds. (Click on the photo of Bucket to enlarge it and you'll see that there's no doubt that eating is what she has on her mind.)

New Strawberries Planted

On Wednesday Jo got the strawberry plants set out into the strawberry beds, then covered the beds with wire so that the new plants don't become deer food.

It's hard to believe that these scruffy little strawberries will one day produce the berries we love to eat so much.

From March, 2007


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Red Maple Bloom

From March, 2007

Growing directly in front of the house along the top of the creek valley. Although they are small, the red maple tree is covered with so many of these blooms it appears red. Blooms appear before leaves.

No Strawberries This Year

One strawberry bed done and one to go.

I seriously doubt that we get any strawberries into the freezer this year -- not unless we buy some berries from a roadside produce vendor. After several years of good production, very few of our strawberry plants made it through last summer. I don't know if it was something we did or didn't do, the extreme dryness of last summer or if it was just the plants time to go into decline -- that happens with strawberries -- but it was time to start over with some new berry plants this year.

Jo ordered the new plants and was expecting to hear something regarding their shipping date. Instead, Federal Express delivered them Tuesday. The new arrivals needed to be planted in the garden ASAP, but of course, we had not done any of the necessary bed preparation yet. The strawberry beds were full of weeds. Time to start revising our daily agenda.

Jo began working on the beds, turning the soil over with a spading fork. She looked as if she was enjoying herself so much that I just couldn't resist joining in the fun. We eventually worked out a system where I turned over the soil and she broke up the soil and removed the weeds. Later, Jo went back and raked down the beds.

Turning over those beds should have been relatively easy. The soil has been mulched and amended enough that it's fairly loose -- as compared to the rest of our soil, anyway -- and we removed the rocks when we originally build the beds. However, a nearby sweet gum tree had found the nutrient rich soil of the strawberry beds to be an excellent location for sending its roots. Everyone knows that trees and gardens really don't mix, but having a couple of trees around the perimeter adds to our enjoyment of the garden, so they will stay, although the fate of that sweet gum was debatable while I was fighting with its roots.

We got both strawberry beds turned and raked down. Wednesday Jo will haul a little manure and plant the new strawberries. We may get a few berries this year, but it will be next year before they really start producing fruit.

The worst thing about the whole project was that even after all that time and work, I didn't get to check an item off my "To Do" list. Dealing with the strawberry beds hadn't even been added to my list yet. Oh, well. It's done.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Monday Chores

Jo transplanted the seedlings into larger containers so that they have enough room to continue growing.

Since our second hot water heater has been doing a much better job of holding water than our first unit did, I decided to press my luck and try to get us a little bit hotter water. The thermostats were set to their lowest setting which was supposed to be 120º. I cranked them up a couple of notches to 140º, but that proved to be too hot. I don't want to scald anyone, so I backed the thermostats back down to the 130º range. We'll see how that goes before I flange everything back up and re-install the insulation blanket.

Wildflower Blooms Begin

We found the first bloodroot bloom of the season along our afternoon walking trail on Sunday.

The little purple violets growing out of a crack in a large rock are doing well, too.

From March, 2007


Arkansas Craft Guild Annual Meeting

From March, 2007
Harding Centennial Plaza fountain on the UCA campus.

Saturday was the Arkansas Craft Guild annual meeting. This year's meeting was held on the University of Central Arkansas campus in Conway. Both Jo and I planned to attend the meeting, but the day turned out unseasonably warm, too warm to leave Rusty and Bucket closed up in the van. I volunteered to stay with the dogs so Jo could attend the meeting. Remaining outside in the fresh air and sunshine, roaming the campus, taking photos, tending to the dogs and napping instead of being cooped up in a windowless room listening to other folks talk for six hours was quite a sacrifice on my part, but one of us had to do it. (Oh, please, don't throw me in the brier patch.) Besides, as Guild president, Jo had to preside over the meeting.


Monday, March 12, 2007

An Overcast Friday

Friday was overcast for most of the day with a little bit -- a very little bit -- of rain during the evening. Even with the cloud cover the temperature managed to make it up to 67º.

I took a few photos on our afternoon walk. I told Bucket to sit and wait while I took the pictures. Jo and Rusty continued with the walk. Boo is sitting and waiting, but is absolutely convince that Jo and Rusty are off to do something new and exciting that she is going to miss out on.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Sunny Thursday

From March, 2007

The temperature warmed into the upper seventies again on Thursday. For most of the day we had a couple of windows and the sliding glass door open. We needed to let some of that warm air into the house. During the early afternoon it was about five degrees colder inside the house than it was outside.

We pass by the overhang in the bluff pictured above nearly every day on our afternoon walk. There are a couple of these overhangs, but the other one is more obscured by rocks in front of it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Red Sky At Sunset

From March, 2007

Little wind and lots of smoke in the air led to a very red sunset on Wednesday (3/7/07).

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Warm Wednesday Afternoon

With the temperature getting close to eighty degrees on Wednesday afternoon, Jo changed out of her sweatshirt before we took off on our afternoon walk. We took the camera on the walk because on Tuesday I'd spotted a dog-tooth violet bloom, the first we'd seen this spring. We didn't have the camera with us Tuesday, so we wanted to photograph the bloom Wednesday. However, the bloom was gone.


Jerry Burns Leaves

On Wednesday Jerry Joe came down to burn off leaves in the woods just northeast of our place.

Jo wasn't happy about the fires and decided she better get our sheets and towels off the clothesline before they picked up a burnt leaf aroma.

Our "watch dogs" were oblivious to Jerry Joe's arrival. However, they went ballistic when he left. One of them decided to get a better look at Jerry's departure by standing up and planting his/her front feet on the window sill, knocking off a whole tray of small houseplants. (The guilty party would not confess and neither Rusty nor Bucket would rat the other out.) None of the flower pots broke, but several of the trays they sit on did. The resulting mess was considerable, making Jo even less happy. I decided the best thing for my to do was go to my shop and stay out of Jo's way for a while.

Surprise Lily Bulbs Planted

Tuesday Jo planted surprise lilies out by the fire hydrant. We had two containers of surprise lily bulbs that Jo dug up when our water line was dug. Some were in a large terra cotta pot. Others were in a short plastic tote. Both groups were beginning to grow despite their ill treatment since being dug up. Neither have received any water since – when was it that our water line was laid – last August?

The group in the plastic tote have been stuck in the unfinished side of the basement where they were protected from freezing, but received absolutely no sunlight. Those in the terra cotta pot sat outside for several months and then were brought inside the studio during the worst of the winter. However, the studio is only heated when Jo is working over there, and she doesn't work during periods of extreme cold, which means they were exposed to several days of sub-freezing temperatures. (I know the bulbs are exposed to sub-freezing temperatures outside, but they receive a lot of warmth and protection from being buried in the ground.)

I also wonder what mechanism the bulbs use to know when to start growing? It cannot be day length because the group in the root cellar weren't exposed to sunlight. I reckon temperature can play a role, but the two groups experienced some considerably different temperatures. Yet, both groups began sending up shoots about the same time as those that have been outside in the ground all winter. Amazing!

Anyway...... Jo got the surprise lilies planted outside where they can continue growing, die back completely, then bloom in late July.

My previous comments on surprise lilies.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Chainsaw: Rusty Lends A ... Ahhhhh ... Hand

I sat my chainsaw out on my "splitting stump" so I could work on it a little more. Before I got to work, Rusty came along, lifted a rear leg and peed on it. Although it expressed my sentiments exactly, Rusty's contribution to the cause didn't help get the saw running fast enough to cut any more than all my tinkering has.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Nice Day For A Walk

We've enjoyed a string of really nice days -- chilly overnight, but warming quickly during the day. It's tempting to get started out in the garden, but it's still a little too early for that, although Jo does have the seedlings that will eventually become transplants started. They are doing well under grow lights.

I took the camera along on Sunday's walk, and since my hands were full with it, I let Bucket off her leash for most of the walk. While Boo may have a host of bad habit, running off in pursuit of a squirrel that happened to cross our path isn't among them -- not that she stays right with us either. Bucket is usually either lagging behind investigating some particularly interesting smell or running ahead and becoming exasperated at the rest of us for not keeping up.

The section of trial pictured is about three-quarters of the way around the loop that we normally walk every afternoon. After a bit of climbing, we'll be in the home stretch.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lunar Eclipse

Jo and I knew that we wouldn't be able to see much of the eclipse from down in our holler so we drove up to the county road to get a better view. First, we tried a location up by Jerry Joe's hay barn, but it was cold and windy out in the open waiting for the moon to rise. Besides, we had way to much help from several heifers Jerry had on that pasture. They were sure we had something for them to eat.

We moved on down the county road a bit to a little knoll out in one of Jerry's pastures. The advantage here was that we could drive out into the pasture to the top of the knoll allowing us to stay inside the pickup out of the wind while waiting -- much warmer. We still didn't have a true horizon, though. The eclipse occurred so soon after the moon rose that we could not see it. By the time the moon rose above the hill across the way, the total eclipse was over and the moon was beginning to emerge again.

From March, 2007

Jo still took a few photos before we headed back to the house. At home, we still couldn't see the moon at all. Had we not driven up to the county road, we would not have been able to see any of the eclipse.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Daffodils in the Road

Despite being transplanted and replanted by numerous applications of heavy equipment while our water line was being laid, at least a couple of dozen daffodils are trying to grow in the area around out water meter, including these out in the middle of the road.

From March, 2007


Friday, March 02, 2007

Draining The Basement

Thursday began stormy. Fortunately (for us), all the really severe weather was to our north. We did get some rain though, about .4" of and inch according to our rain gauge. Our ground is so saturated that even such a little bit of rain caused minor flooding in the basement. It also filled the "ditch" in the unfinished side of the basement, so that it needed to be drained. Actually, I siphon the water out of the ditch. That's one good thing about living in a place so hilly: There's almost always some place that is downhill.

The piece of wood stuck in the end of the hose works as an orifice. If I let the water run through the hose unrestricted, it quickly drains the ditch and loses the siphon. Then, because water is still seeping into the ditch, it refills. I've got a couple of short sections of dowel rod with different size holes drilled in them that I use to try and keep the water outflow only slightly ahead of the water inflow.

We had a fairly gusty south wind blowing later in the day on Thursday; hence, the bent water stream.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Splitting A Little Firewood

With rain and a little cooler weather in the forecast, I decided to split a little firewood on Wednesday. This was a stubborn piece. I've got one wedge driven in and beginning to drive a second. The round had split fairly easily up until this point, but as it turned out, this piece contained an old, grown-over branch making splitting a little more difficult.

We went all the way until evening before getting a fire going in the wood stove. I kept thinking (hoping?) that the sun was going to break through the clouds and make a fire unnecessary. (As you can see, our firewood supply is getting low, and I still haven't gotten my chainsaw running again.) The sun did peak through several times, but never long enough to do and appreciable warming, leaving us with a windy, damp, mid-sixties day.