Thursday, April 20, 2017

Foraging again in the rain


My Grandfather Fred used to say silly things like. "It's raining, let's have a picnic!"

As a kid I thought he was crazy. Who wanted to be out in the rain?
Right?

He'd follow up that comment with an explanation.
"You can't farm in the rain, you can't work in the garden in the rain, so what else is there to do? Why a picnic of course!"

It usually meant that we'd pack up in mom's station wagon and go visiting to other farms and relatives. It was always a mystery to me that we'd show up somewhere and the grown ups would gather around the kitchen table and talk while the kids went into another room to play.

However now that I am the grown up and I see rain coming down. I put on rain-gear and go for a walk.
My husband looks at me as though I've grown two heads and a third eye ball.
"Walk in the rain, are you nuts?"

Oh well. Not really.
"I can't dig in the garden, or do much else," I reply. "I may as well go looking for parsnips and leeks!"

And off I go into a very light rain.

I find parsnips at 'The Beach' easy to pull. I like keeping them out of a section of the neighbor's creek so that we don't have to deal with parsnip burns if the kids come down to wade and play in the creek later on in the year.
Besides, they are good to eat.

The leek patch needs a bit of thinning out so they have room to grow larger. Leeks come up, and after they wilt, disappear into the ground until next spring. They have a nice light onion flavor to them and go well with sauteed parsnips.

 Note the plastic bag over the camera. It is a plastic sleeve often used as a vet sleeve...
It covers the camera quite nicely and keeps it from getting wet.


I made my way back home and stopped to look admire the Mayflowers in the rain.


It may even have been fun to find an overhang of rocks to sit under and enjoy a picnic.

Don't you think?


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tainter Hollow


A few days ago, I made a side trip to Tainter Hollow, the Public Hunting and Fishing area near where I live.

The Wood Anemones were just poking up and I had seen the leaves of the Trout Lilies on the forest floor. I decided to make a quick detour again on my way to work. Of course it was out of my way, but I was glad I did it.

The Trout Lilys were everywhere!




You have to get close to the ground to see these little flowers and they won't be seen if you are not looking for them.

They hide well, but once you find them, it is very obvious.


Here is what they look like if you are standing up and looking down. I placed my 58mm Nikon lens cap next to two plants.
You want to find these in bloom. Once they are done, the plant disappears and won't show itself until next year.

As I expected, the Wood Anemones were covering much of the forest floor.
Its hard to pick out the other white flowers that come up at the same time. I find myself standing in the sea of Anemones and peering around me. Only then can I spot other flowers and plants.



This is one of the most exciting times of the year for me. I love finding these exotic little plants that most people won't even notice.

The Dutchman's Breeches are the wild version I think of the bleeding hearts. They too are white and hard to spot.
However, one you get used to seeing the leaf pattern you can find them fairly quickly.


The Blood Roots are just about done now. And the only part of them a discerning eye will see for the rest of the year is its distinctive leaf.



And last but not least, one flower that stuns me every spring. It, like the trout lily, disappears after flowering.
The Virginia Bluebell. I am not sure why it has 'Virginia' in it as it is a native species...but there you go...

I was happy to see that there were still quite a few plants even after the huge flash flood this valley had last year.



One last thing about Tainter Hollow.
If you are there Trout fishing, pick up after yourself.
If you are hiking, don't leave trash.

Respect our public lands.

And expect the unexpected.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Fun is...

...Cleaning up fence rows... in the woods.

Actually I didn't mind it so much. I really wanted to go riding, but also knew that it was a perfect day for using the nippers and the saw to chop down those nasty barbed briers and multi-flora rose bushes.


This was a tangled mess. And it is on a steep hill that runs into a little gully.
You can't bring machinery into the area and trying to use a blade attachment on the weed wacker would prove pretty difficult as the footing can be tricky also.
I brought a handsaw and a pair of heavy duty nippers.

I ended up using the nippers exclusively.


It is not a job for the faint of heart, the briers and thorny rose brush grab your clothes, your gloves, your pants...
I swear they are attacking you.

Bit by bit I nipped and tossed and went for the base of the bush. A few times I wondered if I shouldn't have hired this done and then discarded that idea. If you want something done to your satisfaction you have to do it yourself.

I spent 6 hours bending, nippering, and tossing small saplings and the thorny brush off from both the electric line and the barbed wire line fence.


I've convinced my husband that the Dexter Cattle should be rotated into this wooded lot. Dexters are excellent 'cleaners', they will glean most of the weeds that the mules and horses won't touch.
So we'll run an electric line on the inside of the hard wire to keep them from pushing on the elderly fence.
My neighbor has cattle also and his cattle rarely mess with the fence. However, the line fence does need replacing and that is a job that should be hired out.

I certainly am not one for stringing up 4 strands of new barbed wire for a half mile on each side of my property.

However, the job I did yesterday is done. Whew. That was some back breaking work.


Just some minor adjustments to these fence lines and things will be ready to move some animals out of their winter lots.

I hope the rain eases up too as things around here were still quite muddy as of Saturday.

The winds and low humidity yesterday helped dry out things quite a bit.

Next big job? Moving the gravel piles out of the yard and putting it back on the driveway.
Tuning up the lawn mowers, tilling the garden...


I guess there is never a day that I can't be busy outside.
Maybe that is why I like winter so much?



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Finding Spring Wildflowers



Oh how I love searching for the very elusive Blood Root! In the surrounding woods they are sometimes very few and far between.
On my way to town yesterday I took a back road and a wee detour to Tainter Hollow where Tainter Creek runs through Public Hunting and Fishing Land.

When I pulled in I didn't see much to look at. I decided to get out and take a good look around.
There they were dozens and dozens of Blood Roots covering a fairly nice sized area.

I danced a little jig and got down on the ground.

The Blue Bells were just emerging in different areas and not flowering yet. Cowslip dotted the area as well.

Wild White Anemones were scattered and soon would also cover the area with their bright white little flowers.

These little flowers are smaller than a pencil eraser. If one didn't look hard for them, they would be missed.

I saw the leaves of Trout Lilies dotting the undergrowth too. I made a mental check to go back today to see if they have flowered.

The ferns are beginning to emerge also in certain parts of the forest. I hiked along the top of the hillside near the house yesterday and didn't find anything popping up until I got midway down the hill.

I don't know all of my ferns, but these were coming up. Morris and I walked around them and several mayflower plants that were just poking their tips up.

I even found a spot where Trillium leaves were coming up.

The bright green leaves belong to the Trillium plant, the other leaves in the photo are Virginia Waterleaf.


Even though the fern is not really a flower, I love finding them too.
This one is a Maidenhair Fern, I know this because in the spring time they have dark red stems.


Now don't get me wrong, I love the conventional spring garden flowers. I have daffodils and tulips beginning to flower in the yard and hostas emerging along with irises and other flowers.
But finding the wild ones seems to be my favorite thing to do.

It is always some sort of adventure finding them.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Oh Garden and Fences!


This is about the time of the year that everyone is making the transition from winter/spring to thinking about a garden. Oh and I am thinking about the garden!

I even tried to inspire myself by looking up planting ideas. Then I proceeded to even draw out how I want to plant my vegetables.

Instead of hand digging the garden up again this year, I am investing in a small tiller that I can operate. I will be able to till and cultivate with it. I am hoping that is will save me a bit of work.

I made my list of vegetables and I am going to include sweet corn again this year. It was nice to freeze enough corn to use through this past winter along with green beans, beets, and canned tomatoes.
I went down to the garden spot in the evening yesterday and noted that the area that I planted parsley in last year, had plants coming up. I found three large onions too. The garden is a mess, it is full of weeds.
I abandoned my weeding when I pulled the last of the squash out of the garden.

Good thing I am getting a tiller!

It is way too early in the season for planting now, so I will get out my drawing of the garden and redraw the places I want to put rows.

In the mean time I am going to put the Creeping Myrtle around the east side of the house and transplant more hostas and iris plants. Everything I moved away from the house last year can now start coming back. I won't get it all done this year.

There is fencing to take care of. All of the electric lines near the creek have to be replaced. The briers have to be cut down. I need to retrieve the posts that are hanging mid air above the creek.

This is a look at the mess hours after the flood waters ravaged our creek bottom, once again changing the fence line.

Since no animals were in this area, we left it. This year we plan on moving the Dexter cattle into the forest above the creek. They do a very nice job cleaning up the land.

It is much easier to fix and replace fence early in the spring before the plants again become overgrown.
Well, that is my plan and we all know how plans work out!

It looks like a busy spring for me. Gardens, planting, moving plants, fixing fence, putting up new fence.

Am I happy that winter is over? I guess so. Compared to what I want to get done around here winter must have been a time for leisure!






Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring ... ing...



Flowers are springing up.
My Grand daughter and I hiked the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. We enjoyed finding Blood Root, Hepatica, and Pinks along the Wintergreen Trail.

When we walked past the Reserve Center we encountered a bat. We watched as it climbed a tree. I really wished I'd had a great long lens, however this was the best I could do with not really wanting to get too close to the little brown thing!



The Wintergreen Trail really did not disappoint us at all. We found the outlook on a bluff over the Kickapoo River and decided to stop there and have our packed lunch.



The trail behind us looked like a mystic movie set.
I could imagine Elves and Hobbits peering at us from behind the Hemlock trees.



There is a surprise if you follow the trail all the way out nearly to the end.
An Ice Cave.


We spent a good part of the day doing some portrait shots. Ariel was a fantastic model and very patient.

The boys finally came home from their fishing excursion with a nice 'mess' of fish.



Our weekend ended last night with a nice pink and purple sky.
Spring has arrived...time to get to working on the fencing!





Friday, April 07, 2017

She needs my help by Morris

I was sleeping and doing my morning daydreaming on my couch when She walked by.

She said something like, "Well Morris what do you think about looking for Parsnips and Skunk Cabbage? Do you think we need to take a hike down into the valley to go find some?"

What I heard was, "Morris...blah blah blah HIKE blah blah..."

So I turned and ear and an eye to watch her. It was still morning and normally we did our hikes in the afternoon when He was taking a nap.

She went upstairs to where she keeps her camera stuff and started to rummage around. "HIKE" echoed in my little ears. We were going on a HIKE!

I hadn't been feeling too well the past few weeks and the doctor guy had given Her some stuff that I had to take every morning. I don't know what the 'stuff' is, but my appetite is back and so is my bounce. Apparently that makes Her a very happy person.
It makes me a happy dog because I can go hiking with Her.

I started to bounce and whine with great vigor. She gave me one of those looks and shook her finger at me. "Calm down Morris, yes you are going!"

Of course I heard, "Blah blah Morris, ... blah blah!" But I got the tone of the thing and although I don't understand much of what She says, I get Her body language very well. I was going with.


Off we went into the forest and climbed down into the creek. I ran ahead and then stopped and smelled the air. It was delicious and full of scents on the breezes.
I tracked deer and followed coyote scent among some other forest creatures.

The coyote scent was old. She stopped to check on the tracks in the sand and the mud of the creek.
I lingered here and there and She would have to call for me. Once I was confused, I had no idea where She went.

She stepped out from behind some brush and called me. I'm pretty much a sight dog so my nose, while not too bad, can't track Her like Dixie can.

She bent down and patted me on the head and then turned to show me what she found. Well, I wasn't really impressed. Plants are not interesting unless they have been marked by a coyote or another dog.



Apparently we were gathering some sort of plant. She pointed out the smelly Skunk Cabbage to me.
Not interested.
She pointed out the Wild Parsnip She'd dug up.
Not interested.

I ran ahead and tested the air at the Big Spring.


Now that interested me.
There were dozens of tracks in and out of the spring. She looked at the Marsh Marigolds and photographed them.


I stood guard and smelled the lingering scents of deer, 'possum, raccoon, coyote, and skunk. They must have all visited the Spring overnight and the damp air was still heavy with their smells.

She filled her bag with wild parsnips to cook as vegetables for supper and then we headed back through the Skunk Cabbage place.


We went upstream and headed home. I was muddy and happy. She was pleased with her wild vegetables.


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Free Food!


The past several days have been rainy and gloomy, but this morning the sun came out!
So with some time on my hands, I'm going to go foraging for some free food.

The stinging nettles pictured above are helping themselves to my veggie garden spot. I've always battled these plants in the garden. But in early spring they are very tasty. Once steamed they have absolutely no sting. Nettle Tea is supposed to be very good for you.
I won't go into all the health benefits, most people will turn their noses up at Nettle Tea.

Nettles as fresh veggies are another great spring benefit. Once cooked or steamed you can eat them with a dab of butter. Don't think of them as nasty weeds, think of them as free food.

I like digging up leeks or wild ramps too. They are a wild onion. I'm going to dehydrate the extras this year to use in soups and stews this winter.

And today I'm going to wander around in the creek bottom and search for wild parsnips.

These are those nasty plants that cause burns when they are flowering.


Of course there is another free food that will come with the nice spring weather but Morel Mushrooms won't be out for at least a month or so yet.


Lamb's Quarters will show up around my birthday and I can't wait for a taste of those either.

Foraging is a lot of fun and if you know what you are doing, you can get grab some free food along with your exercise!