Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rounding Up The Garden

It all startedwhen we moved next door into the woods to build a new house. I left behind several
beautiful sunny gardens and wildflowers along the back of the house and the adjacent woods. Then there was the vegetable garden.


For decades I supplemented the soil from an active compost pile. The soil became deep rich and loamy. It produced bountiful crops of delicious vegetables. Nothing like home grown is there?

I knew that our new home in the woods next door would require a different gardening approach. Native woodland flowers and other shade growing plants. Surrounded by giants oak trees and white pine there was really no place for a vegetable garden.




I was pointing this all out to Mrs T. Our days of growing, canning and freezing our own crops were over. We would find and patronize local farmers markets. That would be just as good and a lot less work. I especially noted that I would not miss all the hoeing and weeding. Thirty years of that was just about enough!




About that time our friend and neighbor farmer Dick dropped by. He heard Mrs T’s sad story about the end of our vegetable growing days. "Not a problem," he noted generously,
"I have 14 acres of corn on the west side of your woods. Use whatever you need for your garden." Mrs T lit up like a Christmas tree. "Oh how wonderful" she enthused. "Well ah... I’m sort of retiring from that field," I noted cautiously. Getting the "look" I piped down quickly. "Then I’m going to do it," she added..... We were back in the vegetable growing business.












From overhead you can see the emerging corn to the west on the far left. Our house is hidden in the oak trees. The deck faces the setting sun. The plan that developed featured me sitting on the deck, binoculars and adult beverage in hand, offering cogent supervisory assistance, while she worked the garden. Great idea, I thought. That lasted, of course less than a week.






The garden angel!











Its been seven years now since that inauspicious beginning. Each year the garden seems to have grown in size. It apparently has a will all of its own. I can’t explain it. The soil is rocky and not very fertile but the weeds seem to grow better than ever. Till this year. I had studied the adjacent corn field very carefully. Fourteen acres and NOT A SINGLE WEED. I asked what the key to this phenomena was? Roundup its called. By mid July I was definitely losing the weed war. I thought .... what the heck I’ll give it a try. One gallon sprayer in hand I attacked the persistent little green intruders. Success. They wilted and died.

It wasn’t till a couple of weeks later that it became apparent that the tomatoes, peppers beans etc. seemed to be in a permanent sulk. Not exactly dead but with leaves curled tightly and not growing any more. Consulting my farmer friend I received the third degree. "Did you hold the sprayer nozzle within two inches of the ground? Was it very windy the day you sprayed.?" Oh oh...
Drift can be a serious problem with herbicides. Apparently one should read the directions on the container.







In light of the wilted state of the national economy, perhaps next winter, when all the garden catalogues arrive, I will revive my argument that stimulating the local farmers markets is the patriotic thing to do.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ta Da It's Done

After years of waiting because of recalcitrant landowners and a year and a half of intermittent construction.... it's finally done. The new Spring Valley bike trail. Yaaay! I field tested it Thursday morning on my bike. That was my first bike outing since I crashed and burned running into Baron last summer. Then I and Rapid Rick hiked it yesterday afternoon. What fun. Here is what it all looks like. We were hiking the neighbors woods a year ago last spring, decided to go down to the creek and stumbled upon a graded path.Following the graded path, we came upon some workers constructing a bridge over the trout stream. Talking to the men, I quickly discovered the bike trail was about to become a reality. Grading and a gravel base that summer, then blacktopping the next. Finally!!! That summer Baron and I hiked the "trail" many times.



I was biking the trail at 7 a.m. the morning after the blacktopping was finished. The sun was just appearing over the woods to the east.
There were several long uphill stretches. Hopefully by the end of the summer, I'll be in shape to better tackle those!
That same evening I got a chance to go flying with neighbor Dick. Here is part of the new trail, and the creek. Hopefully you can spot it from the air. It's not very wide as it winds through the countryside

What do you say? Lets go biking!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sparrows Sparrows Everywhere

When Mr Chipping Sparrow arrived in my yard in late March it was a first. By that I mean my first conscious effort to identify a sparrow as something beyond my previous notion that sparrows were brown little non-descript birds hardly worthy of notice. I noticed him, realized how striking he was and looked forward to the spring migration where I could identify as many sparrows types as possible. Chipping Sparrow with friend Indigo Bunting

Later Mr Science (Gary), introduced me to Fox Sparrows. Bold and Bright, they were everywhere in his farmyard. We hiked down the trail below his house and soon spotted White-Throated Sparrows, then Tree, Field and Song Sparrows.

Fox Sparrow

White Throated Sparrow


Song Sparrow
Tree Sparrow and Junco


Harris Sparrow

As few weeks ago I was invited to join Top Minnesota Birders John Hockema and Ranger Alex from Forestville State Park to check out the rare, in Minnesota, Henslow Sparrows nesting in the Hvoslev Wildlife Management Area.
Henslow Sparrow photo by Ranger Alex Watson

There are at least 35 bird species of sparrows in North America. Species of these birds can generally be located in five areas of North America. There are 15 species of sparrows, that can be found in most areas of North America, some more abundant and widespread than others. These are the American Tree Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow, Le Conte's Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow and the House Sparrow, which is now a common bird, first introduced to a New York City Central Park around 1850.

What an interesting and colorfull collection they make. Coming in a variety of shades and colors they can be found in many differents habitats. A world of birds unto their own. I can see I have my work cut out for me!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dog Rights


It seems here in Minnesota that our hygiene oriented Northern European forebearers determined that dog waste is a serious menace. Fine. Signs thoughout parks and pathways throughout the state proclaim the responsibility of dog owners to clean up after their pets. Fine. So taking Baron for a walk recently down a forest pathway, we practically had to slalom the route avoiding horse apples at every turn. Now where is the justice in this???


As you can see here, some members of the Audobon Society had to place themselves strategically on the trail to avoid stepping in horse manure. This does create a technical problem for the group. Watching the trees and shrubs fore birds and keeping an eye on where you are stepping, all at the same time, can be rather difficult.

"Horse manure generates so much heat as it decomposes that large piles of it have been known to spontaneously combust." - Little Book of Horse Poop by Becki Bell.

As you can see in the above quote, beside the issue of dog versus horse equal rights, is the danger of horse apples causing forest fires in our beloved parks. I rest my case. :-)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Woodpile Mountain


Here on Oak Hill our young neighbors burn wood in their home. They split and pile it into a mighty heap across the street from us. They also raise goats. Thus, we often sit on our front porch in the evening, watching the goats climb and head butt on what we have come to call "Woodpile Mountain." It’s just like having a National Geographic Special going on in our front yard. More entertaining than a lot of the goat crap you see on TV these days.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July Flowers Ala Carte















Flower gardens. You gotta love em.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mystery Plant

Between our small porch and the sidewalk lies a tiny plot ground. Here, in the spring, I clean out the little pond and drop in the goldfish. Then I may plant a few coleus and hang up the hummingbird feeder and a large ugly thing, that possibly looks like a Christmas Cactus.... which has been on steroids. . A few weeks later the overgrown patch of yellow iris spring into bloom. About that time I surgically remove all the half dried up arms of "The Thing" . It has been hiding in the basement all winter, away from the critical eyes of Mrs. T, who cares for it naught
By early July it looks much greener and begins to sprout little buds which quickly grow...

and begin to open by mid July.


I couldn't wait to take these pictures, although the blooms are only about half open.


Even Mrs T admits it gorgeous (albeit for "only 2 weeks out of the year.)" Neighbors and strangers stop by on the street and "ask what is it?" "Well, I say, it was a gift years ago from Mary Ann, but I've foregotten. I just call it my giant Christmas Cactus." Then I shrug my shoulders.
Maybe you know???



Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rookie Birder


From left to right - Ruthie (Nature Knitter), Lance, Alice and Chris (Johns brother)
The rookie birder (me) got an invitation to join the Zumbro Valley Audobon Society's outing to Forestville State Park. Top Minnesota birder John Hockema led the tour. It was definitely an eye opener. Here is how it went.

We met at the Dairy Queen, where John introduced me to everyone. Then he asked the group what bird they most wanted to look for today. Henslow sparrow, Louisiana Waterthrush, Cerulean Warbler etc. were mentioned. Ok, I had never heard of any of them before. The best I could come up with was, "er, well, there are so many, I hardly know where to begin." The group smiled in a friendly manner and nodded knowingly. I guess they knew where I stood. At least no one offered that we would probably run across a robin or two.

Our destination was Canfield Creek. In Bluff Country there are many disappearing rivers, sinkholes, caves and springs. The origin of Canfield is a beautiful cave set at the base of a high bluff. The stream is inhabited by many wild (not stocked) trout. That I could vouch for. Birds, well, I knew there were some. What kind.... I didn't have a clue.

The first thing I noticed, as we began the hike down the trail into the valley below, was that none of the group had their handy Peterson Field Guides like I did. Thinking that rather odd, it was a minute before it dawned on me.... oh oh, THEY DON'T NEED ONE!

That's John in the red shirt. We had hardly walked for a minute, when he paused looked up briefly and said, " I hear a....." and quickly rattled off about 4 names, to which a member of the group added another. This set the pattern for the next couple of hours. At least fifty birds were identified by sound. With the aid of this kind and very supportive group, I was able to actually see about half of them. And yes, I had forgotten my hearing aids. Who coulda known?
The old fishing path along the stream, on which I had spent many many hours accessing my brown trout hotspots, had been upgraded to accomodate the horsey people. It definitely made walking a lot easier!


The stream itself, as you can see, is gorgeous. It must be, at least partially, the reason why there were so many birds along its woodsy corridor.

So where are the pictures of all the birds? Well , to tell the truth, both the photographer and the camera were inadequate to catch the little rascals flitting amongst all the heavy cover. Maybe next time! Canfield Creek, in Forestville Park - a great place to visit regardless of what your looking for!