Tuesday, April 30, 2013

They don't tell you exactly what to do when they say "harvest some dandelion"

I used one of my favorite baskets to gather some dandelion today, mainly from the garden, but partly from the unused whiterock driveway.

Here are the small, scroddy leaves and dirty or soft leaves and dirt, etc.

I "snapped" off the root ... broke off the root, they really didn't snap off, then rinsed the leafy group. Sometimes there were four groups to the plant. Sometimes there are forked roots.

These, although they had not bloomed had tiny blossoms wedged down in the center of the plants.

 Then I filled the bowl of leaves up with cool water and stuffed it in the fridge. This is, in my mind, an opportunity to get bugs and more dirt out of the leaves.
Here is a pile of dandelion roots on the edge of my sink. Then I put them to drain on a towel.

I don't happen to know any place where they tell you precisely how to handle these guys, so I'm just playing it by ear.

The roots are to make medicine with. The leaves are for a salad or for wilted greens, which I have not tried.

High time, huh?

Planting chokecherries


It was chokecherry-planting day. In digging the first two holes, I hit something metal about two inches belowground and pulled out two license plates whose stickers hadn't even expired by the time we moved here. Just crazy. How did that happen? A little mystery.

And why do folks want to hold on to license plates anyway? Not that I mind. The metal comes in handy once in a while.

Apparently, it was so that I had the perfect spacer, as that's how far apart I wanted my 9 chokecherries.

The chokecherries are leafing out from the stem. The elderberries from the other day? They were are sprouting from the root. No leaves on the stems. Hm.

Oh hey, check out that bitchin' kneeler? The blue one. It's made of soft-ish foam and I bought it for a dime at a garage sale the other day. Yay me!

The only destructive thing I did was stob into the plastic a couple times and make holes in it. After that, I scooped from the side, but I'd already done the damage.
By the time I planted about seven of the nine of these, I had realized that there weren't just two chokecherries left, there were four. Apparently I have forgotten how to count ... or something.

Springtime house-hunting, renovation, and abandonment

Like anyone, home-hunters are often willing to put in a lot of work to make a house a home.
It's possible these folks were working on this in the past couple of days. Hard workers, one way or the other.
It appears that this location was unsuitable.

Maybe the plumbing was bad or the roof leaked. Too bad.

Or maybe the woman of the house was just not satisfied with that little something that makes a house a home. Maybe once she got inside, it was damp. I mean, really. This stuff happens.

Out in the rural areas, you get used to seeing abandoned homes, but it always makes you wonder what it was ...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Elderberries and chokecherries from the NRCS

The local NRCS offered chokecherries and elderberries $23 for 25 bareroot plants. Even though I was late by a couple days, they were really nice and told me what plants and trees were left.

So today I could get to them while they were open and I headed home to plant up! This poor thing I broke off first thing, and of course I planted it anyway.

This augur post-holer makes a perfect circle through the sod, even though it's dull. I used a tiling spade to dig the holes deeper.

The pc of plastic the plants were wrapped in was a perfect dirt tarp. I couldn't believe how much easier it was to throw the dirt on the plastic and direct it to various places from there.

Sooooo nice! I have a few holes around the yard I was able to fill with excess dirt.

Honestly, I worked so hard on these holes, you get another look, lol

Of course the plants don't look like much ...
But up close, the plants were sprouting! See at the base of the stem? Pale red, but juuust like an elderberry! Pore things were sprouting even though they were in a fridge truck, in the dark, without soil. Yeah.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tall clouds, really tall clouds. Yeah.

 I was driving home, heading north Wednesday night, from a sunny, breezy day, at nearly dusk, about 8:30 pm.

Gee, it feels weird to say it was so late and only sunset! I realized that we hadn't been able to adjust to longer days because it has been too cold to be out in the yard.

Anyway, I haven't seen clouds like this for such a long time. A really long time.

From the floodplain where I had been, through some foothills to the high point in my county, I came over a hill and saw this and I just stopped thinking too much and just looked.

Understandably, I had to pull over and take photos.

Monday, April 22, 2013

An inch of slush, and I'm NOT sitting in it!

This is a walnut tree. This is one-third of the robins that were sitting there when I was getting wood for the woodstove.

So I went and got my camera, and they were still impressive (because I could see their color so much better than you can), so I snapped a few pics.
This is the apple tree, also with a monopoly of robins in it. But so few I wouldn't have noticed, really.

There are about seven robins were also hiding in this pine. They did not budge as I neared them.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A raptorful day with Number 105

This is a male bald eagle, unable to stand due
to lead poisoning.

Eagles get lead poisoning by eating other animals
which have been shot by lead shot or bullets.

Eagles commonly prey on waterfowl, and any animal injured by being shot is easy prey for carnivores and raptors. Being opportunists, eagles also eat carrion, so sometimes they accumulate enough lead in their bodies that it poisons them.

It causes many symptoms, the most obvious is the inability to walk or fly, and having green fecal matter.

This guy was showing both signs. The birds have to be treated in a big darned hurry at this point, or they can just die overnight.

A state park official contacted one of the many relay people who volunteer for Raptor Recovery Nebraska, and everything was put into motion.

That official took the eagle to person A in the network. I was person B, whom person A brought the bird to. I was going to drive him to person C, but as it turned out, I took the bird on to its destination, where it could be effectively treated (and in a hurry) for the poisoning.

I drove 95 miles to person C's house and she had part of the antidote ready, seen in a blur at right. She gave him a chelating shot to start getting the lead out of his system.

She and I also conducted a physical exam, to see if he was otherwise injured or underfed. He was underfed.

But I liked it that he was clearly unhappy with us. He snapped his beak, he tugged on his wings as we examined him. And then, best of all, he stood on a branch in his cage.

Some birds respond to treatment, some don't.

Some seem to be recovering and don't.

I've known birds who were completely paralyzed and with four times a fatal amount of lead in their systems to come back. But you just can't tell.

So here's to Mr. 105. Hang in there!

For more information, see www.raptorrecoverynebr.org. Donate to the program. The volunteers give of their time, fuel and cell phones to keep this program going.

You didn't spend ALL of your tax return already, did you?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Seat-of-the-pants "gardening"

 So you remember this wad of weeping willow tips from my friend's wind-damaged yard, right? I just tied it with pieces of itself and threw it on my dash.

Reason? Willow contains a rooting compound and you never know when it could be handy.

Problem? I have no idea how long these compounds continue to be effective. That was Tuesday when I got them. This is Thursday. I don't recall which windstorm ripped them off the parent tree.

This is my cottonwood tree that a bunny snipped off and didn't even eat. (How insulting!) It's the tallest of my 1-yr-old cottonwoods who sprouted in the white rock in our driveway. I moved them all to a different location last fall and it survived the winter. I was thrilled!

Then a bunny snipped it off about 4 weeks ago. It was about 13 inches tall and now it's about 9 inches tall. I put it in a foil-covered jar, hoping it would root, and I could put it back in the garden. (For the bunnies? I dunno.)

Now it has leafed out cute as all get-out, with these beautiful 5-7mm leaves, but has no roots. Damned bunnies.

So today I took about four bits of stem from that yellow wad of weeping willow, and snipped them into little bits.

I had thought to make a tea of them first, but decided, for an experiment, to just throw them in the water the cottonwood is living (for now) in.

So here's my cottonwood, in its foil-covered jar (foil covered so the possible roots would say Hey, it's dark here! This is good!) and there are the bits of willow in there.

I think of this as seat-of-the-pants gardening. It is definitely seat-of-the-pants. ... I'm not sure you can call it gardening.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Madame and Monsieur Cottonwood

The ice-damaged branches blown down at my friend's house had leaf buds and THESE crazy things, which turn out to be emerging catkins. Which means the particular tree is Monsieur le Cottonwood, and not Madame.

The male trees produce catkins (which produce pollen when they are mature)  about this time of year and the females produce the seed pods that contain the cottony seed in May and June.

So the dark bits are very early catkins. And you can see one leaf bud there, sticking straight up. So we basically harvested a lot of the single leaf buds for another batch of cottonwood leaf bud salve.

And we put them in this high-class container, a Solo cup.

You actually don't want to use too much
high class hardware with these leaf buds
because the resin so So Sticky! Like super
hard to remove at all, sticky.

At this time of year, there were drops of goo
coming out of some of the buds. If you hold
a few in your hands while harvesting, they
will stick to your hands.

After awhile, these buds in the cup just stuck to each other in a loose block.

Bloodroot and other hidden jewels, which are also bloodroot

Went to a friend's house where we looked for and found bloodroot sprouting.

This is a plant that doesn't like my place, so I have to enjoy it wherever I can find it.

These little goomers were popping up while still covered with cottonwood leaf litter.
This dock was giving a little camoflage to the adjoining bloodroot. Once we found a few, we found a few more.

Then we could recognize them as younger shoots, below:

There's a little close-up of some more bloodroot.

This wad of cordage is some storm-downed weeping willow she gave me. It's going to be a tea to try to root a plant in. The stuff in willow is a good rooting hormone as well as the tender tips being good for headache. I just tied a wad of it up with other pieces of broken whippy branches.

Now this.

This is my favorite picture of the bloodroot sprouts because you can see how the broad initial leaf is furled around itself like a flag. Just pretty.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Well, I just can't complain when ....

... I Saw Whooping Cranes Today! I'm So Excited! 

I was pretty near the Platte River, about a quarter mile from it. ... If my steering wheel had ears, I might have deafened it. I had to tell someone, so I got on the phone! They are so COOL!

It's been since 1974 since I last saw them, and that was on the Gulf Coast, near Rockport, Texas. There were about 50 at that time. This photo is from www.whoopingcrane.com. The ones that flew over me where circling like a pair might. But what do I know?

There are about 599 still existing in the wild and I. Got. To. See. Two. Of. Them. Wooooooooooooooooot!

Fact is, I was so excited I had to call someone. Fortunately they were very understanding, and even got a bird book out.

I was on my way to an an auction, where mainly,  I people-watched. I did take $ but it was an estate sale of a good ole boy who passed away, and stuff went high. I had fun anyway. I spent about four hours there. It sure has been a long time.

There's always something to see and always some darn thing I can't identify. Also different auctioneers are interesting. I tried to get a glass carboy, an ATV jack, and a couple other items, but no go.

There was a '52 pickup, a dune buggy, a Corvette and a 650 Yamaha trike, so it was my kind of crowd. Plenty of gray-haired gents with long ponies and long beards ... more ponies than beards, though! 

90% of the vehicles were pickups. Over half the folks were in camo, overalls and more people than not had hats on. I notice that urban dwellers are not hat-wearers.

I did do a couple errands, and I got a pizza with a lovely conversation with the manager about the crazy stuff "corporate" asks of franchises.

I did, in fact, notice the plants were a lot more progressed than the ones in my yard, the Capsella bursa-pastoris aka Shepherd's purse was 3 or 4 inches tall. There's a blue-flowering ground cover blooming like crazy, too. Just happy for a bit of sunshine, of which we had about an hour, then it clouded over again. Brr.

It's called Corn Speedwell, and looks like this pic from www.lawn-care-academy.com:   ... It is introduced, and appears in all lower 48 states except North Dakota. For now. If there are uses for it, let me know!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The sleet is melting, just not very fast

So over the past two days, we had rain, hail, sleet, rain, sleet, rain, wind, wind, wind, and sleet. And we are expecting more sleet and some snow.

Here is the apple tree:

The Ponderosa pine:
 The white oak:
and the catnip ... with just a little sleet and no ice, but doing very well, thank you very much:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Crazy Great Plains weather and a case of the trashies

Yesterday I picked up a lot of trash from my yard and the next yard, which is more like a meadow. I walked around a lot, it was nice out, and there was a good bit of trash. The folks living to our west are ... less careful ... than the older couple who had trash cans with lids.

Anyway, I felt good about trash-picking and about remembering to put my trash out at the curb. ... And then the weather changed.

It Changed with a capital "ch!" The temperature is still dropping, the wind rose exponentially, and yes, the trash I carefully stashed in my lidded trash can is spread out all over the meadow again. It could have been worse, the whole can could have fallen over, but still.

It's a little comical. Now I will be waiting til the wind decides to drop off to pick it all up again. That will be after the rain, the hail, the lightning, the sleet ... well, we've already had all that. We are only waiting for the snow and the ice. It's coming!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

In which I really have not visited my garden but I was looking around

I went to visit friends who are 2 1/2 hours from me, and en route I got to see rain on my windshield on and off for about 30 minutes, and indeed, there was none at home. Heavy sigh. But it was nice and smelled good and I'm happy for that state ... sigh.

On the way back, I got to see a big blob of a Really Wide rainbow, but only a short segment was showing and it lasted for a longggggg time, about a half-hour. Remarkable! A column of smoke, tinged with green and brown was visible off to the west, and I knew it was a grass fire. I don't know if the droplets that occasionally fall at home are enough to reduce the fire hazard we face, but I don't think so.

They are saying to expect rain, then snow in three days, when the temps vary between 41 and 27 F. Hai Chihuahua! Crazy spring weather!

It's time to move heavy things around the yard, so I really should charge the battery on the lawn tractor, and get off the computer.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Woohoo! A turkey vulture!

Turkey buzzards are *definite* harbingers of spring here, and usually arrive with the spring rains. Not having had any spring rains, they arrived anyway. Yay vultures!

Bring on the rain!

This photo is from US Geological Survey at http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov. They have a good ID site via Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wonderful find of mullein!

Ahhh, this is the first time I really really enjoyed cleaning off last year's garden debris!

Lots of brown-silver debris, some of it is still stems and some of it still standing. Me with my .... I think it's a cultivator ... it's not a rake ... raking stuff up the slope to a combined pile of stems, leaves, stems and leaves.

Rakes are really too unwieldy and I only have a giant plastic one, manageable only by men 6'5" or the Jolly Green Giant, and one iron rake. Iron rakes take all matter with them, including soil, and are pretty heavy themselves. I say no. The culitvator, however, left the soil behind and took the debris.

But what made it great was finding three more mullein volunteering out there. One we'd found last fall. I put three bricks in a protective shape around it.

These "new" ones, I got broken-off Aus branches (Aussie willow hybrid) and made these markers around each one. Basically just three sticks in the ground in an unnatural way, so I know there's something there.

Another reason I'm so thrilled is this: I can't plant mullein anywhere and have it work. So when I find a rosette of mullein, I mark it and guard it and never, ever mow it. Fortunately my housemates get this and they never, ever mow mullein.

We have plants volunteering here and there in weird places, and you know? So be it! We mow around them. Mowing is over-rated anyway, it may as well be more of a pain in the butt.

From the size of the rosettes, one will be tall this year, in it's 2nd biennial year, and the three others may just stay rosettes. But I don't know each one personally, so I guess we'll just find out later.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Change of plans with the cottonwood leaf buds in oil

After heating up my cottonwood leaf buds in my undersized crock pot yesterday for 20 minutes and today for 15, I decided to further accelerate the process.

First, I took my potato masher and mashed, but I couldn't tell any difference. Maybe the buds slipped through the squares in my masher.

Next, I took a slotted spoon, got out the buds in spoonsful, and chopped them.

Maybe I'm being too aggressive, I don't know, but maceration is a time-honored part of tincturing. I had also read that you can use a food processor on "big batches," and declined to get this stuff in my food processor. I have a feeling it would be a challenge to clean up. You can see my processor, my favorite mini-chef knife. (Easy to clean.)

The Devil Queen (my cat) was requiring attention at this time, which was good, coz these buds are not soft, easy-to-whack nubbins, like say, green beans. They require some attention. Also they are covered in oil, which makes them a little ... slippery.

Everything in the crock pot still smells like "green" and olive oil at this point, and I read that there's a wonderful "cottonwood" smell you get after awhile, so the crock sits in the sun until tomorrow's warming episode.

Also it seems like the olive oil is soaking into the buds, because each day I need to add a bit more to make sure the buds are covered in oil. I may use the whole 500 ml bottle.