Friday, September 30, 2016

Strange Sumac

I noticed something peculiar about a few of the sumac growing along the hiking trail.

Usually the drupes of the sumac are tightly clustered and turn rich red, like the ones in the photo above.

Here is a plant with the strange kind of drupe I found.

It's light in color with pinks and greens and instead of the dark red, round, tightly clustered berries of the normal plants. It almost looks like a great mass of writhing of worms or something (it's not - don't get squeamish on me). Does anybody out there know what's going on with these plants? I've tried to look it up to find some answers, but have been unsuccessful.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Four Musketeers

These four Tom turkeys were taking measured strides in a line across the field as Baloo and I came out of the woods and spotted them.

I've seen wild turkeys working together like this before to flush unwary grasshoppers out of the weeds for snacking. The smart turkey version of beating the bushes, I guess.

They were curious, if somewhat wary about a person and dog invading their hunting ground. 

Handsome fellows, no? 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Spinning Gold into ... Gold

The goldenrod is blooming all over the peninsula, but there's a huge field of it on one of our favorite afternoon walking trails.

The air is heavy with perfume and pollen.

Honey bees are clearly taking full advantage of the warm, sunny days to gather in as much pollen as they can to spin into golden treasure for the winter ahead.

There were frequently three or four bees on the same flower and the field was positively humming with activity. Seriously, it was. The air was filled with a constant drone of bees in flight.

Honey bees weren't the only ones gathering in the bounty. Hornets, bumble bees, beetles, and butterflies also flew from blossom to blossom.

They didn't seem to be bothered by our presence and I was able to get quite close with the camera, since they were so intent on their harvesting labors.

Of course, I love getting a shot like this. It really is pure luck (and maybe just a touch of patience), since my camera isn't fast enough to capture the image of a flying bee or bird - they're usually long gone before the shutter clicks!

So, the golden honeybees were gathering golden pollen from goldenrod blossoms to make golden honey - all on a golden afternoon. :)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Chicken of the Woods

Baloo had to go back to the vet for an eye problem and we took the opportunity to hike a different area, since we were already in the vicinity. There's a large, wooded tract of land with a network of walking trails that we almost always get lost in, since there are so many unmarked and poorly marked paths. It's hard to get very lost, but sometimes it can be a challenge to come out in the same place where we went in - at least on the first try!

We tempted fate by taking a route we hadn't attempted before and were rewarded by the discovery of this beauty along our way.

We sliced off just enough to bring home for our scrambled eggs - well maybe just my scrambled eggs, but Baloo does get to have a sample after I'm finished, if he's good. :) 

On our morning walk today, I noticed that someone had harvested a whole bunch of this mushroom from a tree near a local restaurant we frequently pass. I wonder if it's going to appear in the chef's special tonight!

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Not so Very Wild Ride

Look carefully at the first picture in this post. Yes, there are some pretty flowers, but that's not why it's here.

When stepping off the porch to take Baloo for a walk, I discovered someone far better than a garden gnome had taken up residence in the yard. Since this first sighting, I have seen this critter in other spots around the house. Baloo is interested in taking a sniff, but isn't allowed to disturb our lodger for all kinds of reasons.

Can you see it now? It's an American toad - and a magnificently large one, too. It blends in so very well with the mulch and dirt that it's really difficult to see. If you look for the lighter (somewhat warty) patch just below the hydrangea shadow in the top picture, you'll see where it is.

The ride might not be terribly wild around here, but Mr. (or Ms.) Toad is very welcome at our house.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adventures in Canning

My sister and her husband showed up at my house with a bunch of Stanley prune-plums.

We spent the evening poking holes in the plums, making the lightest possible syrup and then putting everything into jars and processing them.

We ended up with fourteen quarts! It's so much fun to listen to the jars seal as they cool - they make little musical tings. The happy sound of success!

I was, therefore, inspired to continue with the canning adventures! While my sister and brother-in-law were off visiting folks in Ohio, I took a table full of red haven peaches...

...and turned them into ten quarts of peach halves. I tossed them in a little lime juice along the way, which gives them a fresh peachy flavor with just a hint of lime tang (one jar failed to seal, so I got to taste the final product). I also put up a batch of pint jars and a couple batches of peach jam.

It will be such a delightful treat to have a taste of summer while snowstorms blow around us!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Little Less Colorful

After the last fairly colorful post, I thought I would share some of the subtler discoveries from our recent wanderings. 

First up is a flower that has no chlorophyll, so it's sort of a pale and ghostly bloom on the forest floor.

I always called it Indian Pipe as I was growing up, but it is also known as the ghost flower or corpse flower. It is a parasitic plant that depends on fungus feeding on trees to survive, since it lacks the chlorophyll that would allow it to generate its own energy. Sort of a parasite's parasite, I guess. They're really quite delicate and pretty, even though 'corpse flower' doesn't sound very appealing.

I believe this is a young chipping sparrow. The babies can be a little hard to tell apart at this stage, but I'm cheating, since I watched a pair of chipping sparrows nest in this area earlier in the season.

It seemed to be as interested in us as we were in it. But, we had to go home and get things done, so we moved on.

Baloo lodged his formal protest about having to go back indoors. It was a beautiful day to be outside!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Morning Loop

Taking one of our typical morning loops the other day, Baloo and I enjoyed the visual (and for him in particular, the olfactory) stimulation along the way. 

We almost always pass one of the vineyards in the neighborhood as we walk. The grapes are ripening and looked so luscious in the morning sun, almost appearing to glow from within. 

They have begun putting netting over the vines now, so the birds don't eat all the grapes before they're ready to harvest for wine.

Then, as Baloo was investigating a chipmunk burrow, I noticed this interesting plant. It looks like a holly bush, but it has blue berries!

Since I belong to the ranks of the terminally curious, I did some research and discovered that it is an Oregon grape or grape-holly, depending on the source. It was fascinating to learn that while it is not a native to this area, it is a well known and respected medicinal plant in the Pacific northwest, using both the berries and woody stems and roots for different purposes.

And then, the sun illuminated these beautiful lilies!

It was an absolute riot of vibrant color! The picture doesn't come close to doing the effect justice, but it's the best image I was able to capture. 

I'm so happy Baloo takes me out to experience the world every day! It's a joy to watch the seasons change. I'm not sure I'm quite ready for winter yet, though.... 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cosmic Finches

The cosmos in my back garden are flourishing in a big way this year.  I keep finding volunteers sprouting in my yard, so I pull them up and transplant them into the garden bed. So far, every one of the transplants has taken.

When I looked out the back window, I saw this lovely lady enjoying the seeds on the flowers that had finished blooming.

Her mate joined her in foraging and I thought that the combination of pinks and yellows was delightful.

She might not be as dramatic as he is with respect to color, but she had a greenish tint that made her almost disappear in the foliage. Subtle is beautiful, too!

The pair would land on the stalks and their weight would bend the plants so that they had to keep fluttering around to get to the seeds they wanted to munch.

I obviously had fun watching them for quite a while.

And as a special treat, I was finally able to catch them together. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fire in the Sky

I have Baloo to thank for taking me on many amazing walks. He has an uncanny sense of timing, particularly when it comes to sunset strolls. 

One moment, he'll be happily snoozing on the couch (yes, he's allowed on the furniture...) and the next he is insisting that it's time to hit the trail.

This sudden desire for perambulation happens almost every day at sunset.

One recent evening, we walked along the road by the shore and watched the sun sink closer to the horizon.

The sky just kept getting more dramatic.

And we ended up with this. No, there is absolutely no color enhancement at all involved in this picture. I took it vertically rather than horizontally like the rest, because the fiery orange rose high into the sky with the blue-gray clouds adding their own intensity to the light show and I wanted to capture both.

So, thanks, Baloo, for making me go enjoy another beautiful sunset!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Wild Plums and Pommes

As Baloo and I walk along the various trails we frequent, we like to watch how the changing seasons affect the world around us.  Baloo takes particular note of things he might be able to eat. One of our regularly traveled paths leads us along an area that used to be cultivated as orchard land. There are cherry trees, peach trees, apple trees and plum trees that have all gone wild over the years. 

On one trail, there is a big tangle of plum trees that has become so overgrown and dense that deer and other critters hide in it (Baloo always stops to see who has been there).  In the spring, the whole thicket is covered with beautiful, white blossoms - the deer have a very special bower to sleep under.

As the season progresses, the plums begin to mature as they turn from green to peachy yellow and, finally, to - well - plum.

I have to keep a close eye on Baloo, since he loves to eat any fruit that falls into his path. This wouldn't be a problem, except the pits can cause obstructions in puppy intestines. So, he doesn't get to eat them, no matter how good they smell.

I do, however stop at one of the crab apple trees and let him crunch a couple apples. These not only have a beautiful red skin, but the flesh is rich red on the inside as well. They are tart, but tasty!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Summer Snowflakes

While walking with Baloo along one of our favorite trails, I started really noticing the Queen Anne's Lace blooming all around us. These wild carrots are often classified as 'noxious weeds', but since they weren't taking over a farm field I was able to appreciate a different dimension of these abundant wildflowers (invaders, though they are).

As I observed their blossoms, it struck me that, not unlike snowflakes, each of the flowers had a slightly different pattern to it.

Some very open and lacy, while others were more dense or even had sort of spiral effects going on in the petal arrangements.

Some were flat and others were dome shaped.

All of them stood out brightly against the green of the the field looking a bit like snowflakes balanced atop long stems. The effect was quite pleasing.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Thieves of Tarts

On the way to one of Baloo's favorite walks is a very young tart cherry orchard. The saplings were planted just last year, so they're still very small and not in full production mode.

Since people weren't in the orchard harvesting the crop, a murder of crows moved in for the kill.

This is just part of one row, but the birds were just as numerous all over the field.

While the harvest may have been too meager for humans to collect, it was a feast for the flock and a treat to watch them fly back and forth as they jockeyed for position.