We’re celebrating this season of festivities in our parents’ winter plaids from the 1970s. The presence of our dear families brings out extra beauty in the Massachusetts woods.
May the return of the sun’s light bring you peace, love, and new resolve to live well.
This weekend we had about 9″ of snow, then maybe half an inch of rain, and now it’s back to freezing. We’re starting to get festive and really look forward to visiting family!
There is a small group of young grouse hanging out near our solar panel along the driveway. Three of them have been around consistently for the past month, but today I got to spend some time watching and listening to one without flushing it.
This week, we ate the very last tomato, which we picked from our garden about a month and a half ago as a greenish pink thing and stored in the basement. Not bad.
I made some whisk brooms out of broom corn (a kind of sorghum we grew this year).
Charley walked back and forth in front of our trail camera, which was on the garden corner fence post. There are rabbit tracks right in front of it, and we set it up there because we found gray fox tracks in that location, but somehow the camera only caught us.
I have since moved the camera, as we found bobcat tracks entering a thicket behind our chicken house.
In the last 2-3 weeks, we’ve seen the following birds on our feeder: downy woodpecker, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, northern cardinal, mourning dove, purple finch, white-breasted nuthatch, blue jay, and European starlings (just once, and they didn’t eat, oddly). Gray squirrels come to eat as well.
This week we picked medlars and broccoli, it snowed, we found life in an ugly plastic box, I turned 29, a tree fell down, and I made it through my first town meeting as a member of the selectboard.
First up: life in a storage box. We keep this ugly left-over from our house’s previous occupants so that the mail carrier can leave a package for us in inclement weather. Apparently it also serves as valuable habitat. We found three different spider egg sacs, about 10 jumping spider houses (one in each molded notch), a funnel web, stink bug eggs, and a paper wasp nest (with wasp still sleepily clinging to it). The northern paper wasp, Polistes fuscatus, is the common native species in the Northeast.
Jumping spider hide-out
spider egg sac
stink bug eggs
ant-mimic spider egg sac (Phrurotimpus sp)
ant-mimic spider egg sac (Castianeira sp)
paper wasp- Polistes fuscatus
Nice to know that the junk also has biological function.
Walking in the woods, we found red maple tree that had recently broken off. Brief investigation led us to suspect beetle damage as the cause of the death of the tree. We found several little channels filled with sawdusty frass, a strange series of holes with little webby sacs in them, and a wriggling beetle larva!
For my birthday, we got to pick medlars. Medlar, Mespilus germanica, is in the rose family along with apples, and the fruit looks like a cross between a rose hip and an apple. Apparently it should be picked in December and stored until March, then eaten when the fruit is soft. It has been likened to a baked cinnamon apple. Never having eaten one didn’t stop Charley from buying the tree two years ago. We picked five fruits; one seemed appropriately squishy, so we tried it out. I’m waiting until March to really assess, but so far, I like apples better. However, the idea of having ripe fruit in March is still appealing.
I’ll leave you this with this beautiful elf shelf mushroom.