Sunday, October 22, 2023

Our Retirement Home

 My late forties were filled with reading about really rural living.  At age fifty we purchased thirty-six acres that were once part of a one hundred thirty acre farm.  Bordering on the Unadilla River, some rich river bottom land kept the farm functioning for many decades.  Other land included interesting glacial deposits and some bedrock ridge.  Neither the glacial land forms nor the ridge were of much use for farming and prior to our arrival all of the good land had been sold as building lots or summer camps.  We bought what no one else wanted.  For us the land was perfect.  Only a forty foot wide section gave us access to the road.  The rest of our land opened up to a very private and peaceful location.

Early in our time here a coyote moved toward us descending the steep edge of our kame terrace.  When it became aware of our presence, it turned around and shot back up the hill.  A short time later it reappeared crawling on its belly to get a look at the new strangers.  An area of the bedrock ridge included a substantial area that was filled with huge chunks of broken ridge that served as home for the group of coyotes.  A recent purchase of that land became a camp for gun lovers.  Many weekends were filled with the noise of gunshots as these people blasted away firing toward the area the coyotes called home.  The coyotes left.

The area near our new home became the location of our gardens.  Meadow weeds were mower cut creating a large area of animal friendly food.  When we were active here the deer were occasional guests feeding and sleeping.  Age has now limited our ability to spend time in the garden.  The deer are presently frequent visitors.  Newly born fawns have been seen here.  Watching the youngsters grow is a nearly daily activity.  One super mom usually has twins.

Two days ago we returned home to find one of this year's fawns on the neighbor's ground near the road.  It was not all busted up but it was dead.  Today my lawn tractor and its trailer were used to remove the carcass.  I decided to place it in the tall weeds that border our mown field.  A group of crows had today  expanded the rear vent feeding on fresh meat.  What to do with the deer?  By placing it within sight of our home, we will watch nature take its course.  Mature bald eagles inhabit this area and we are hopeful that one might stop by for a meal.  If any coyotes still frequent this area, they would likely feed after dark but we have previously seen their work several times.  Now we wait.  This might sound weird to many but why waste a chance to see and learn.  Waste nothing. Use everything. In 2012 coyote pups were close to the house.  Surely they would be adults by now we would love to see them especially from inside the house watching through the window!

Saturday, March 18, 2023

After The Storm

In many ways our retirement land is perfectly suited to us.  The recent snow storm dumped enough on us that the man with the truck mounted plow was asked to plow us out.  To our West, Norwich had about one half as much snow as we did.  To our East more than twice as much snow buried cars.  The return of above freezing temperatures and bright sunlight is exposing some ground.  Winter Aconites are not native here but their bright yellow flowers peeking out from the snow has earned them considerable space in our gardens.

White flowered Snow Drops are also not native here but they hold a great deal of space in our gardens.  Some of them are still covered with snow.  The heart shaped leaves belong to what we see as a persistent weed.

These Bluets have presented challenges to us for decades.  These grew in a friend's lawn downhill from the septic system.  No surface discharge was ever seen but the ground there was always moist.  The Bluets took and held considerable space among the lawn grass.  Ours were transplanted just inside of the stone wall that defined our shade garden.  They did not find our garden soil suitable but their seeds did take root in a depression in a wall stone.  Our deer herd found them edible so a wire cage covers and protects these remaining plants.

When our daughter moved to NYC, one of the public gardens featured a gentle sloped lawn that was home for many Magnolia trees.  When they were in bloom she would spread out under the trees for a scented and beautiful quiet experience.  The source of our Magnolia tree was a nursery near Canandaigua Lake.  It is among the plants that form their flower buds in the Fall.  Our deer find these buds tasty and would eat them all if we failed to surround this tree with a fence and numerous wire cages.  Some try to walk on the tops of the cages when snow cover is present.  Their hooves fall in the spaces between the wires and the deer are denied this meal.  We have the promise of numerous sweetly scented blossoms when Spring is reliably here. 

Much of what we have features things built with our abundant field stones.  A sizeable patio fills an area at the West end of our house.  This Thyme was intended to fill the cracks between the stones but now it covers the patio from end to end.  When it is in bloom bees feed here in huge numbers.

This Dianthus grows on the edge of the planting on the South side of the house.  It covers an impressive area but the pictured plant is protected by a wire cage.  Close by the exposed plants continue to grow but are thinned by animals feeding here.

Stones have always played a huge part in our life here.  In my younger days planting beds five feet wide and thirty-two feet long had their soil screened to a depth of six inches to remove all of the stone.  Large rocks were used to build walls while smaller stones were used to build paths three feet wide.  Interesting stones are still looking for a home.  This fossil filled piece identifies our ground as being part the Alleghany Plateau.  Runoff from huge mountains to our East filled a sea.  Depending on the force of the water eroding the mountains, our fill ranged from sizeable chunks to sand.  Earlier in out time here we were able to identify many of the types of stone by name.  Now what we see is interesting attractive stones. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

A Welcome Visitor

 It was nearly dark when I noticed this owl sitting on a post in the garden. I grabbed the camera an snapped off a bunch of pictures hoping I would get a good one.  This one is the best and it is good enough to tell me that we had a Barred owl visiting the garden.   

Already I have looked up the nesting habits of this bird.  They like old trees with nesting holes 20 feet off the ground.  We have lots of those.  They like to be near water.  We have a small pond in the back and the Unadilla River in the front. They can have up to four nestlings and the babies stay around for 4 months. I like my odds better than the stock market! They have a great time hooting at each other.  Now I'll be falling asleep listening for that hooting.  They love to eat voles. I hate voles. They make me let out a primal scream whenever they come my way! Voles love to eat my plants. The foxes could use some reinforcements!

 I know I'm counting my Barred owls before they hatch since so far I have seen only one.   Up until now I have never even  seen a Barred owl here.  Now I have a picture of one right out there in the garden.  I sure hope he decides to stay!