Since we no longer have a cat at home, I enjoy the ones that live in the barn across the road from us. Every year there’s a new litter of kitties to meet and greet. Pictured is my most recent favorite, a cute little calico girl who often comes over to visit.
Dani (L) and Middie (R) were two unlucky cats that ultimately lived very lucky lives. Both cats were rescues from two different shelters in Illinois. They shared a similar history being female, three-legged, special needs kitties. From what their respective shelters knew, Dani lost her hind leg after being hit by a car, and Middie lost her hind leg after being attacked by a coyote. Upon adoption, the two of them lived 'the princess life,' spending their days on soft pillows and warm blankets. They got lots of good food and love from Jade and Blake, our grands, along with their Mom and Dad. Dani lived 12 years, and Middie lived 17 years.
After Middie's passing earlier this year, Jade and Blake were finally ready to bury both cats' ashes so they could be together. They decided our house would be a perfect place, so we had a kitty burial for them. We put them in a safe, protected place so the urns with their ashes would never be disturbed. The kiddos painted a special memorial rock and placed it on top of the dirt as a remembrance of their two pets. Now when they come to visit they can always take a moment to remember Dani and Middie.
As much as I love gardening, there are just a few things I wish didn't happen when I'm outside:
We have always seen Sandhill Cranes in our area marshlands as we live close to the Mississippi and Black Rivers. However, 2021 marks the first year that we have experienced a pair of cranes up close and personal all summer long. The cranes have been parading up and down our road and doing flybys just about every day. They have an impressive wingspan of over five feet. Soon they will be migrating south for the winter and I will miss hearing their daily calls. Sandhill Crane calls are seriously LOUD, in fact they woke me on up on more than one occasion as they flew past my bedroom window at daybreak.
Sandhill Cranes nest in small, isolated wetlands -- marshes, bogs, or swales, though occasionally on dry land—within about 300 yards of the edges of larger ones. They prefer areas with vegetation growing in standing water, but some nest on dry ground. Their food includes berries, small mammals, insects, snails, reptiles, and amphibians. Sandhill Cranes mate for life, choosing their partners based on dancing displays. Displaying birds stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air. Predators include foxes, raccoons, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, crows, ravens, eagles, and owls.
Listen to this YouTube clip to hear what they sound like:
Crane information from Cornell University:
Before photo with a calico kitty balancing on the rotted stump edges
After photo with a black kitty happily sitting on the new seat
The barn across the road from our home currently houses about five or six cats. The cats routinely patrol our property for field mice, which we really appreciate and encourage. We noticed that they liked to sit in the sun and/or sleep on an old tree stump across the road. When Ange saw that the stump was rotting, he decided to build a new, sturdy seat for the cats. It only took about ten minutes of his time and the cats started using the new perch immediately!
A few days ago, Ange and I spotted a large animal in a VERY tall walnut tree across the road. Imagine our surprise as we got closer and realized it was a chubby groundhog! I always thought woodchucks (aka groundhogs) were ground-dwellers, but it turns out I was wrong. They are adept tree climbers when escaping predators or when they want to scope out their surroundings.
This sighting prompted me to find out more about woodchucks. Here's what I learned:
Information from: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/blog/groundhogs-facts/
With spring right around the corner, an important topic of interest for gardeners is the Jumping Worm. Jumping Worms are extremely invasive earthworms. Already well-established in the United States, they were first identified in Wisconsin in 2013. Vigilant prevention is crucial to keep these nasties out of your garden.
The links below have great information to help you prevent the spread. Purchase your annuals, perennials and mulch from a reputable source; these nurseries should be fully aware of Jumping Worms. Be careful when sharing plants between gardens. I would also like to add that I have made it a routine practice to treat any new bare root daylilies that come into my garden with a 10% bleach solution (1 cup bleach to 10 cups water). I soak my daylilies for an hour or so and hose them off with water and let them soak in the water to rehydrate before planting.
Be observant -- and good luck!
Jumping Worm Information and Resources:
Video Shown is from Expedition Homestead
One evening I noticed a faintly unpleasant odor in our living room. I ignored it and went on about my business. By the next day, however, the odor had grown from faintly unpleasant to funky-yuck-horrible. And now the odor had an unmistakable identity...SKUNK!
Problem #1: Where was this skunk? After investigating, Ange and I deduced that the smell was coming from underneath the concrete steps outside of our front door. It seemed that a wayward skunk must have squeezed through the small crevice between the house and the hollow concrete steps and taken up residence.
Problem #2: What should we do? Knowing that skunks are primarily nocturnal, Ange and I had time to Google a solution before the skunk emerged. We learned that skunks hate water and don't like nesting anywhere around water. Ange cleverly rigged up a hose with a sprinkler-type nozzle on it. He positioned it on the top of the stairs so that it pointed away from the house and sprayed inside the steps. He turned the water on just enough to have a fine spray coming out.
Ange watched from the outside, while I watched from the inside window closest to the front steps. The important part was that we needed to actually see a skunk come out. Finally, about ten minutes later, out came a wet, dazed, big, fat skunk. It waddled away and disappeared into the woods. To make sure there were no other skunks under the steps, we kept the water spray going for five more minutes. Ange then turned the water off and immediately blocked the crevice by the steps with a big iron pipe so the skunk (or any other varmint) couldn't get back in.
It took a day or two, along with some Febreze, but the smell finally vanished. I'm happy to say that our front steps have been skunk-free ever since. When you live in the country, you always have to expect the unexpected!
Photo courtesy of NDomer73 from www.flickr.com
(There's no way I'd get anywhere near a skunk to take a photo!)
I couldn't resist posting these adorable photos. Like clockwork, at the end of July and throughout August, these tiny American Green Tree Frogs appear in and on my daylilies. It's fun searching for them and finding their hiding places while (carefully) dead-heading the old blooms each day. Ange took these photos; the tiny frogs are one of his favorite subjects. To read more about American Green Tree Frogs visit my September 7, 2014 blog.
Daylily pictured: Border Blessed
I noticed a beautiful pair of Cardinals frequenting our clematis trellis, perching on top and going inside the clematis foliage. The female always had twigs or leaves in her beak. Sure enough, there's a nest! It's a great location choice. The nest so protected, you'd never realize it is hidden inside the abundant clematis foliage. The photos were taken every few days until one day, the nest was empty!
Cardinals mate with the same partner each breeding season. They will breed two or three times during the summer. The female builds a nest in dense shrubs or thick bushes. She will lay three to four eggs and incubate them; remaining in the nest for 11 to 13 days. During this period the male cardinal will feed the female. Both male and female cardinals care for and feed their young. In the first few weeks the chicks are fed only insects. Young cardinals begin learning to fly around ten days after hatching. The parents continue to help feed their chicks for several weeks after they have left the nest. The chicks will usually flock with other juveniles until they are mature enough to establish their own territory. Cardinals have a lifespan of 15 years in the wild.
Info from Northern Cardinal Facts: https://forum.americanexpedition.us/northern-cardinal-facts
Usually I whine about the herds of deer that roam around our home, but for some odd reason this year the rabbits have been the problem--digging holes, destroying our lawn and just about every petunia in sight, like they're on steroids! They don't eat the flowers, but they rip the plants out of the ground and tear apart the root balls. So much for the two batches of Wave Petunias we bought.
We have been regularly spraying all of our plants with Liquid Fence. Any other year, the Liquid Fence always did the trick--the rabbits never even looked twice at my petunias. But not this year... so we doubled down and came up with a solution. Here's the recipe Ange experimented with, and so far it seems to be working. The rabbits have not bothered our latest batch of Waves, the new patches of seeded dirt are coming up, plus there are fewer rabbits lurking in our yard.
1/8 cup Crystal Hot Sauce
1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Tablespoon Powered Onion
Enough hot water to fill up a 1 quart sprayer
Boil the above mixture on the stove until the cayenne pepper dissolves, but make sure you strain it with a cotton cloth to remove the remaining cayenne pepper particles, otherwise it will clog up the sprayer. And remember, be especially vigilant with your applications.
I'm gifting myself with a couple of weeks away from technology. My blog will be on hiatus until August 18th. We'll catch up then!
Pictured: Twin fawns that visit my yard daily - Mom is hidden in the thicket, watching.
While weeding I discovered four bunnies in a nest next to one of my daylilies. (In the second photo the fourth bunny is hard to see. His head is sticking out on the left, underneath his siblings.) These babies have been growing faster than weeds! I have checked on them every day for a little over a week and each day they grow remarkably larger. At first I could barely see them nestled inside their nest covered up with their mom's fur and some old grass, but now they are so big and wiggling all over that they no longer have cover. We have had some heavy rain and I worried that their nest would get soggy and they would get wet and cold. Ange came to the rescue; he put a little table above their nest so the rain wouldn't beat on them. We made sure there was ample room under the table so their mom could get to them easily in the morning and evening. And honestly, I'm not even sure why I'm so worried about these tiny stinkers -- in no time they will be roaming around my yard devouring all my flowers.
After reading the April 19 CNN article about the Connecticut golfer that was attacked by a bobcat on a golf course, you can well imagine how shocked I was to see this bobcat only a few feet from our back door just three days later! In all the years we have lived here I had never seen a bobcat. This one looked like it weighed about 25 pounds. The photos aren't the best, but honestly I'm surprised I was able to get any photos at all. As I watched the bobcat saunter through our yard towards the woods, I noticed a small cat cowering alongside of our house, trying not to be seen. The moment the bobcat disappeared into the woods, the cat high-tailed it back home on turbo boost.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has noted an increased presence of bobcats in western and southwestern Wisconsin. Bobcats eat a diversity of prey including rabbits, squirrels, opossums, and birds. An adult bobcat usually weighs between 20-25 pounds, with some large males weighing up to 40 pounds. Bobcats have pointed ears with ear tufts, short tails about 6-inches long, cheek whiskers and orange/tan to brown fur with irregular black spots or blotches. They are usually most active at twilight around sunset or sunrise.
This bobcat looked very healthy, so clearly it's living the good life in our area. And as much as I enjoyed seeing this wild bobcat up close and personal, I sincerely hope I never see it again.
Bobcat info is from the Wisconsin DNR
I saw my first robin last Friday! In fact I saw an entire flock of about 25 robins sitting in a tree by our front yard. Despite the three-plus feet of snow remaining after a week of rain and freezing rain, this gives me hope that warmer weather is just around the corner.
Still, I can't help but worry about these little robins and wondered how they manage in the 30 degree temperatures. Apparently, if food is abundant, robins can thrive in surprisingly cold temperatures if there is not too much snow. In the north, ornamental fruit tees can sustain robins during the cold weather (crabapples, hollies, and mountain ash) in both urban and suburban areas.
We put out some dried cranberries and raisins for them, but unfortunately, the mice got to them before the birds. Robins also like dried blueberries, apple slices, fresh grapes, meal worms, and suet pellets. And for the robin spa experience, they especially enjoy a heated bird bath. Hang in there robins!
These two photos illustrate why I place protective tomato cages in my flower garden over the winter. On this occasion there happened to be only one deer foraging for food, but it's not unusual to have a herd of them roaming around. This whitetail scrounged up some dried up marigolds, but thankfully the tomato cages kept my precious daylilies safe.
As you can see, this kitten found a new vantage point to look for Santa. What is it about cats and Christmas trees? I'm sure to 'Thunder' this tree looks like a tall cat toy challenge, put there purely for his enjoyment alone. Anyone who has lived with cats knows how much they like climbing as high as they possibly can to observe their surroundings.
Thunder is a shelter rescue who found his forever home last August with two of the most amazing children ever. And he just so happens to be my grand-kitty. This little guy has a big personality. He is outgoing, cuddly, and very gentle. Whatever is happening around his house, he likes to be right in the middle of the action. Thunder has proven to be a perfect fit for his new family...other than the Christmas tree thing.
Thanks to Tara Elizabeth for the photo of this irrepressible adventurer.
These little creatures visited my garden for quite a while before I found out they were not a type of hummingbird – they were actually a moth! The hummingbird moth in the photo is a 'Hemaris Clearwing' (the most common kind). Your chances of seeing them are better if you grow Phlox, Bee Balm, Butterfly Bush, Honeysuckle and/or Verbena in your yard.
Hummingbird moths are more plump than hummingbirds, and grow approximately two inches long. The Clearwings are usually a reddish brown/olive color. Like hummingbirds, these moths make humming sounds when they hover around flowers. What makes them unusual is that they have a very long tongue that they keep rolled up under their chin; when they unroll their tongue they can reach nectar inside flowers that many other insects can't.
The females lay their eggs on plants, usually on the underside of the leaves. The caterpillars are green, so they blend in with the foliage. When they are fully-grown they drop to the ground and spin a loose cocoon. The pupa spends the winter well hidden and the adult emerges the following spring. In northern climates there is only one generation per year.
The white garden phlox pictured is 'David.'
Credit for the photography goes to my husband Ange
Credit for the hummingbird moth information: butterflywebsite.com
In spring, a kitty we had never seen before started patrolling our little piece of paradise. It was hard to miss him with his snowy white fur and ginger spots. Talk about skills; this stinker scaled the trees like a squirrel! He also liked to check out the inside perimeter of our garage for mice. Some days, he followed me around the garden, curious about what I was doing.
Here's the funny part...there are actually THREE of these guys, and they all look quite similar. I did a triple take the first time I saw all three of them together. After I paid attention to the details I could easily tell them apart--love those raccoon-striped tails. Sometimes their mom comes along on patrol, too. There are, after all, lessons to be learned.
Cats that patrol our yard live in the barn across the road. The triplets' mom is Penny-Kitty, who I did an earlier blog about.
American Green Tree Frogs and daylilies go together like toast and jam. The frogs arrive in late July and early August. Gotta love these little guys; they just sit and patiently wait for their meal to arrive. They often stay on the same plant for days at a time and just move to a new bloom each day. When I deadhead my daylilies it's important that I pay attention and be very careful so that I don't accidentally fling a tiny frog into outer space.
A few of the daylilies pictured include: Sabine Baur, Spanish Glow, She's Got Legs, Techny Peace, and Webster's Pink Wonder.
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