Monday, November 7, 2011

Out and About: Round Lake nature Notes October 2011

    We got a very long run with our flower and vegetable gardens this season.  I realized that some of the annuals that I purchased  in early May survived almost six months!  It helped that  the first frost held off until the end of October.  The warmer than usual temperatures tricked some flowers, like Barb Haynes’ Bearded Iris, into flowering again.  Roses have been pumping out blooms.   Even after two snows and a frost you’ll notice that roses around town are still looking good.  Up to the last week of October, I picked tomatoes and peppers from my garden.  My husband and I just unearthed our sweet potatoes.  Dan read that waiting to pick them right after the first frost sweetens them.  We’ll let you know.  I spotted Dark-eyed Juncos, also known as snow birds, flitting around in shrubbery down at the end of Andrews Avenue on the twenty-fourth of October.  Last year I first saw them back in town on October thirteenth.  The milder weather this year may have allowed  them to linger longer in the higher elevations where they summer.
    If you are tired of raking leaves, take a break and try to catch one.  When you do, you can make a wish.  Late Round Lake resident, Bob Foster, came up with this activity.  We tried this at toddler Green Hour and found it was a lot of fun, not so easy, and a great work-out.  We had just a couple of collisions.  We're hoping our wishes come true.
    Julianna Spallholz not only had the Great Pumpkin in her Janes Avenue yard, but a real-for-sure deer as well.   It was spotted by Julianna on the morning of October twelfth as she left for work.  Reportedly, it strolled up to Prospect Avenue where it may have nibbled on Virginia’s zinnia flowers.  It checked out the playground and walked through town!  Deer’s Day Out.  Sorry I missed it.
    On October tenth several of us went on the lake in our kayaks to watch the full moon come up. As we paddled out into the lake an eagle flew from a tree on the eastern shore, heading to a stand of pines on the lake’s north side.  Then it either circled around behind the trees or it was a second eagle that flew back toward us.  It landed in a dead tree where it kept us company for over an hour.  We watched it preen and watched the moon rise. We wondered if it would roost there for the night. Wonderful entertainment!
    The eagles can sometimes be spotted flying over town.  Dave Hewitt told me recently that he saw one overhead at his house on Curry Avenue.  We talked about the increase in chipmunks around the village and wondered if eagles would eat them as they do mice.  As opportunistic eaters, I’m sure they would although fish are their preferred meal.  The eagles will probably hang around until the lake freezes up.  Look up from time to time.  Maybe you’ll spot one!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Beautiful Blooms on November 1, 2011 and Moon rise on October 10, 2011

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes: September 2011

    First, I would like to thank everyone who either brought over mushrooms or told us where good mushroom patches were located.  Bob Conners found the largest puffball we’ve ever seen.  It was the size of at least two basketballs!  He found it growing in his yard.  Pat and Rich took a walk in One Hundred Acre Woods in the Tech Park and reported seeing at least nine different types of mushrooms.  With so many mushrooms out and about, Dan started using a dehydrator.  He dries the mushrooms, stores them in glass jars and then uses them later in soups and stews.  If you have a favorite mushroom recipe please send it our way.
     Garden books and gardeners often talk about the Autumn task of putting a garden to bed.  It is a general clean-up and winterizing of the garden. It may include cutting back perennial plants, raking leaves, and giving winter protection to some of the more fragile plants and shrubs by mulching, staking or wrapping in burlap.  Here’s a piece I wrote last year, on my blog, concerning this task.
    I usually wait for the last leaf to fall from our two large maple trees before I begin raking.  It then seems like an endless job of covering garden plants and shrubs with some leaves, composting as much as will fit in the piles, and bagging the rest.  I procrastinate raking them up.  I enjoy the crunch of leaves underfoot and shuffling through them.  I love seeing kids in our neighborhood tossing them up in the air, making leaf forts, and jumping into huge piles.  Now it’s November and the first snow has surprised us.  I look out on a half raked yard, still littered with a good amount of leaves, and a forlorn looking garden.  It’s certainly not looking neat and tidy.
    However, I know from my readings and direct observations, that a messy yard is more attractive to birds and other wildlife.  Leaf litter is a good hiding place for insects and larvae to winter over in and will also attract wrens, robins, White throated sparrows, and juncos looking for these food sources.  In addition, leaves will act as an insulator and fertilizer for grass and plants.  My huge ornamental grass will flop over and become a frozen table where I’ll place seed to be eaten by squirrels ( of course) and birds.  Underneath the grass, birds will take cover on frigid days and the neighbor’s cat will need to be chatted with as she slips under there too.  I haven’t cut down my garden plants because I’ve noticed in past years, the seed pods from coneflowers, black-eyed susans, and obedient plants are enjoyed by the goldfinches and chickadees.  A pile of sticks, meant for a fire, is turning into a nice brush pile.  It will offer winter protection for birds and small mammals.  Now I’m looking out at the yard thinking things are looking pretty good, at least from a nature lover’s standpoint.  I think I’m done with raking!