All the Pretty Little Flowers 3: The Downstairs

Poor PZ is still mowing his lawn. Around here Mr regularly sighs “I need to mow the lawn and then we do something else. I like that. I think we will make some hay later in summer in preparation of the degus. For now it’s a pretty wilderness.

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Though we should not use that area for feed as there are many raspberries starting their career there right now.

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All the Pretty Little Flowers 2: The Slopes

As you may recall, our house is built on pretty steep terrain. The ground floor windows in the front are the first floor in the back. From there you have another treeish metres height difference to the garden. last year we had the stairs remodelled, since the old ones were rapidly becoming accidents waiting to happen. The slopes on either side are still steep and this year we started to stabilise the left hand side so we can put a lamppost on top.

The small area created at the top has been sown with “butterfly meadow” and “wildflower mix”. You can buy these seed mixes easily in Germany as many people are trying to bee more friendly. I also always toss a few handful on the rest of the area, which remains in pretty disarray.

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The dark side of the pumpkin patch. That area is more or less permanently in shade and this year we just didn’t have the nerve to look for something that would thrive there after the slugs ate the first round of plants. Suggestions welcome. But you can see the structure well.

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The pumpkin/squash/courgette patch. they are coming along nicely with several promising plants already. Only I never know what is what. You can also see the bane of my gardening existence: Horsetail. A plant that survived the dinosaurs. Common gardening advice is “nuke it from orbit”. It spreads through rhizomes that are also very fragile and will snap quickly so you’ll never get them all out. But you can make some wonderful fertilizer out of it: put the plants into a bucket with water and let it rot. Stinks like hell, but 100% organic, free and efficient.

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All the Pretty Little Flowers 1: The frontyard

Pz has been raging and ranting about lawns and lawnmowers and I wholeheartedly agree. It also prompted me to do a bit of bragging about the sheer beauty of not having a lawn. Let’s start with the front yard, which was carefully weeded when we bought the house. Here’s another aspect of those lawn and front yard regulations: To keep them up to “standards” you need time to do it or money to hire somebody else to do it. I quickly reduced weeding to an absolute minimum. Nobody touches a dandelion in MY front yard. One thing that happened quickly was that wild strawberries overtook most of the ground. They do many things at once:

First, they protect the ground from drying out.

Second, they provide flowers for pollinators.

Third, they taste so good.

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In spring I built a plant tower in an empty space that had previously been occupied by some useless evergreen bush that got thankfully eaten by caterpillars. I also planted some regular strawberries there.

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Guarded by my little dragons

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M

If you want to make bees happy, plant lavender. It will also make you happy. Lavender is low maintenance, just cut off the dry stalks in autumn and ok with dry weather. I don’t know if it can survive Minnesota winters.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Probably no German frontyard is complete without a hydrangea. They are lovely, but high maintenance (needing much water, cutting, right ground) and absolutely no good for insects. Like most plants here they are a leftover from the previous owner. I figure that with so many bee friendly plants around I can afford a couple that only look nice.

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I have no idea about most of the plants that grow here. They were already well established when we moved in. Some of them have already bloomed long ago. I basically get flowers from March to October.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Also one corner has been taken over by some wildflowers. I like them, the insects like them. We’re good.

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Oh, and btw, the next door neighbour has a lawn (I’m not criticising her, she’s 90 and still living all alone). It’s a sad brown area right now and the grass always creeps into my yard which means that I have to do the weeding there.

Mushroom Hunt Pictures – A Bumblebee

I find it interesting that not only is the pollen on this flower pink, but that also the bumblebee apparently collected enough of it to have pink pollen sacks on her legs.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Wednesday Wings: Haven’t you grown?!!!

It’s been a while since I posted an update on our adorable Nile geese.

The first pics are from two weeks ago.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

They have almost their parents’ colouring and size, only the heads are still darker. Sadly, 7 gosducklings turned into 4, but nature is a cruel place where often adorable baby birds turn into a fox’s next meal.

On Monday we met again, and one of them was just as interested in me, as I was in it.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

There was no aggression in its behaviour, just pure curiosity in that strange creature with a box for a face.

Mushroom Hunt Pictures – Ant Venturer

Deep into the woods, an ant did venture.

Over the mossy hills, seeking adventure.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


Edit: I bloody well wish that when I click “delete permanently” in order to re-upload badly cropped picture WordPress really deleted it. As it is, it does not allow me to re-upload a picture unless I also rename it – otherwise, it just un-deletes the wrong version over and over again. The button “delete permanently” is thus without real function. AAARGH.

Mushroom Hunt Pictures – The Finale

Yes, this series is starting at its end, in my kitchen.

Today I took a day off of knifemaking. And by that I mean completely day off, I tried to not even think about knives (at which I failed). I went on a long walk to the forest to look if there are some mushrooms to collect. And there were, enough for me and my father to have a big lunch and a whole bunch that was cooked and put into the freezer for future use.

I did take my camera with me, but we already had a series of mushroom species. And anyway, what I collected was about 90%  blushers and other species were sparse or not there at all yet – the true season comes in August/September.

Blushers are one of those mushrooms that have their own very specific taste – a bit like meat. So the recipe that I have used was very simple – I chopped them up, salted them, added a bit of cumin, basil, oregano, and a tiny amount of ground pepper bolete. Then I softened some onion on lard, added the mushrooms and I stewed them for at least thirty minutes with frequent stirring until most of the water was gone.

So if you cannot expect pictures of mushrooms, what can you expect? Well, I made random pictures of flowers and roadside stuff that I will post one-two a day until I am done. Unfortunately, there were not that many interesting insects around either, but that might be because I was looking for mushrooms, not for bugs. Do not expect some great art, but some of those pictures would look quite good as a screen background, in my opinion.

I Wish I Were This Strong

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She was carrying the dead beetle for several meters already when I caught up with her, and she still had several meters to go. And it was by no means easy to get a sharp picture, but she took a breather for a moment here.

If you have ever wondered where end all those insects and little critters that you step on in your garden – now you have an answer.

Blackheaded Cardinal Beetle

This little buddy has climbed out of a hollow brick yesterday when I was processing dog-daisies into chemical weapons against wooly aphids infesting my bonsai trees (long story).

It was kind enough to remain in place for quite some time, allowing me to take pictures from all possible angles.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This Little Fellow Gave Me Quite a Start

Today when I went into the workshop  I had to light the fire because, despite reasonably sunny weather, the temperatures are really low. And this little fellow was sitting on one piece of wood and he gave me quite a start, for I have mistaken him for a wasp. Which is the point of its coloration, of course.

Unfortunately, I was only able to make these two pictures. The beetle was quite sluggish in the cold workshop, but when I took it outside in the sun, it warmed up quickly and flew off before I could make more with better camera settings. I hope my entomologist friend will be able to identify the species. Preliminarily I think it is some species of longhorn beetle that has emerged from a pupa in firewood.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Monday Mercurial: Duck, Duck, Goose!

The usual residents on any pond are mallards, who I think are underappreciated for their beauty, both male and female, just because they are common. Makes me wonder if people who live in places with colourful parrot that make us ohh and ahh see them the same way as we do with out local wildlife.

Anyway, mallards also feature in the best known German children’s song: Alle meine Entchen (all my little ducks):

It’s a 150 years old and will probably last at least another 150 years: It features animals, is easy to sing and play and describes something even city kids may see and know.

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We also got a pair of Egyptian geese at the pond. While originally coming from, you guess, Egypt, they are now pretty common around Europe. They can cause trouble in places where humans like to spread on laws they consider THEIR lawns, but are for the rest harmless.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Yellowhammers Visit.

I had this visitor a few weeks ago, but the light was bad and I was unable to identify the species. Luckily my biologist friend was able to forward it to an ornithologist who was so very kind and identified the bird for me. So when yesterday they returned in good light, I knew what I am looking at.

The ornithologist also sent some bad news with the identification. He confirmed my subjective observation that there are significantly fewer birds. Some species are actually becoming rare – the whole genus Carduelis for example (greenfinches, goldfinches, siskins). This winter I have not seen a single specimen of these three species, whereas in previous years greenfinches and siskins came in flocks counting dozens.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

And yes, we finally had a few cms of snow. This week seems to have been the actual winter, what we had before was merely agonizingly long and dark fall.