Homestead Report 26: July 16, 2017

Somehow I took over 700 photos in the last month and didn’t post any of them… leaving me a bit overwhelmed as I sort through them now. It’s the glorious growing season and we’ve been BUSY as bees (or beetles, bugs, flies, moths, or any of the other creatures visiting the flowers these days).

At the beginning of the month, we were swamped in strawberries. This season we picked over 40 quarts of strawberries. I sold about 25 quarts at the farmers market. I also froze 2 gallons, made 3 batches of jam, gave away several quarts, and made a raw pie for the 4th of July.  They were tremendously abundant, and then abruptly done around July 8th.

Next up are black raspberries, blueberries, red currants, and chokeberries. All of our black raspberries are “wild,” but we’ve been encouraging them by beating back the blackberries in the edgy parts of our yard and woods. We’ve been picking them since the strawberries quit. We have about 10 highbush blueberry plants of different varieties. A few of them are producing berries, though they’re all just a few feet tall. I think we’ve eaten about 10 berries so far. The white cultivar of the red currant under our solar panel is loaded, and so far the birds haven’t found them–same with a feral red currant we stumbled upon in the woods. We also found a patch of purple chokeberries up on the Crag with abundant berries.  Quite delicious after a climb up there.

The partridgeberry is blooming. You can see the paired blossoms, which make a single fruit with two “nozzles” evident in last year’s berry in the upper right. The cranberries seem happy in our yard too, even though it isn’t a bog.

Speaking of bogs… I’ve had the opportunity to accompany Charley to work a few times recently, and lucky for me, that means admiring the carnivorous plants and insects (and non carnivorous things too) that live in bogs and shrub swamps.

Insects are everywhere! And it is awesome! Here’s a selection. The captions will tell you what things are.

Milkweed is a favorite not just of monarch butterflies; but also of ants, bees, flies, and moths that are nectaring on the blossoms right now. Also present are the characteristically orange and black milkweed feeders (bugs that eat milkweed leaves have various strategies to survive the toxic latex; they often become distasteful, making the warning coloration effective).

One of my favorite plants is meadowsweet (Spiraea alba). The bugs are loving it right now too.

On our most recent walk I noticed this adorable jumping spider.

Also, a spider filled this acorn cap with silk. Perhaps it is an egg sack?

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We’ve been seeing a young porcupine around (as well as a bigger one, sometimes).

And there are other rodents of unusual size around, too! The old beaver pond on our neighbor’s property has new activity! A dam!
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Our motion camera caught this young fox and its parent (I think) as well as a fawn.

The chamomile is going crazy. Lots of flower picking/ drying for tea.

Carrots! 3.7 pounds of them, harvested yesterday.

carrots (Napoli and Yaya)

And so on.

Weekly Homestead Report 10: Oct 17, 2016

As we try to keep our anxiety about the upcoming election at bay, it is good to be able to walk in the woods and notice flowers.

Indian tobacco, Lobelia inflata, is blooming again, although it already has mature seeds.

Maple leaf viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium, has ripe fruits. Charley says that they’re technically edible but not worth it.

Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii, is (regrettably) also fruiting. Not prepared with gloves, we pricked our fingers pulling up barberry on a walk off of our usual trail where we’ve pulled most of the invasive plants already. Japanese barberry is one of our least favorite invasive plants because of its spines and the fact that it readily sprouts from seeds that the robins poop (along with multiflora rose and bittersweet).

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This was the week of the first frost (10/14) and the first fire (10/16).

Well, it wasn’t really that frosty, but I didn’t get a photo before it was gone, so I found one from last year. We covered our strawberries and raspberries with sheets, and they still seem to be in good shape.

Of course the frost meant that we went out the day before to rescue the last of the tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers… thus more hot pepper jelly, tomatillo salsa, and a batch of enchilada sauce.

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One of our older hens died, so I put the carcass out in front of the wildlife camera. We were able to add a new mammal species to our yard list for the first time in a year or so: grey fox! We also got photos of a red fox, a coyote, and a couple raccoons.

In honor of Charley, and because we led an insect tracking walk today, I give you Coptotriche fuscomarginella (or possibly a closely related species). It’s the leaf mine and larva of a moth in the family Tischeriidae. What a beauty!

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