Saturday, July 29, 2006


Last July, I spotted a hummingbird sipping nectar from flowers on the terrace garden, so I bought a feeder on my next trip to town. In time, I could identify five different hummingbirds that regularly visited the feeder. Hummingbirds aren't as thick as ticks here, but they're common enough. My neighbor's feeder would be empty within an hour or two of refilling. We just got the overflow.

This summer, the original five returned with friends and family. They buzz through, buzz one another, bicker, chatter, and occasionally three or four will actually feed peacefully from their separate perches on a single feeder. They flit from branch to branch, and contrary to conventional 'wisdom', they do sit still now and then. They perch on the branch tips of the oaks, on the wrought iron plant hanger, and on the feeders. This one posed quite nicely, don't you think?

And again, landing on the perch for a snack a while later.

Pretty back feathers.

And a speckled throat.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The reaper

My new favorite tool is a European style scythe from Scythe Supply in Maine. I've been interested in various archaic crafts for much of my life, and in the simple tools of farm and home life.

I remember my father using a scythe for trimming tall grass when I was a child, but his was an unwieldy metal tool without grace or character. I asked him about it recently, and he said he hadn't used it in years. His lower back hurt badly after each use.

I'm told by those who seem to know about such things that American scythes have earned a bad reputation because of mass production. Factories could produce more, faster, and cheaper, and of course they were designed to accommodate the production process and not each individual. And thus were lost the finer points that make a finely crafted tool a pleasure to use.

After much thought and investigation, I chose a European style scythe with a hand-made snath (handle). I followed the guidelines for proper fit and provided my measurements from hip joint to floor and from elbow to the tip of my outstretched middle finger (cubit). When it arrived, I carefully waterproofed the snath with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine. I clamped on the blade, and took the scythe to the tall stand of grass and blackberries near the larger of my garden patches. Working in short sessions each day, I practiced my stance and swing, and gradually began to make sense of the instructions I'd read in various articles. I cut a respectable area and let the hay dry in the heat. I raked it into windrows, turned the windrows, and finally deemed it finished. I hauled four heaping loads in the old dump cart to the rabbit stall in the barn. The stack filled a corner, six feet tall.

It's good hay, or at least the rabbits think so. And it makes good use of the best corner of what used to be a pasture and now is the fringe area along my young orchard and the gardens. I could keep that area trimmed with the lawn mower, but the clippings aren't so nice as this long-fibered hay. And then there's the noise and the exhaust from the mower engine to consider. There's a certain peace to be found in the rhythmic motion, the swish of the blade through the grass, and the sounds of the countryside. It's not a bad trade-off, and there's always the lawnmower when I'm in the mood to just get the job done in a hurry. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


We seldom see any of the whitetail deer that live here. When we do, it's usually at a distance. With three dogs at my heels, it's unlikely I'll be able to slip up close enough for a stunning photo. What I usually see is the white flag of their tails as they leap into the safety of heavy underbrush, followed by the sound of them crashing through said underbrush. A few days ago, I was lucky enough to be downwind and standing behind a tree when I noticed this doe approaching the fence. But alas, she spotted me. She paused only a moment, sniffing the wind, then gave me a glimpse of that familiar white flag as she ran away.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Wild plums

Before the heat wave, the wild plum crop appeared promising. In the last week, most of the fruit have dropped off. Sigh. I was so looking forward to adding wild plum jelly to the pantry shelves. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Heat wave

It's 103 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade here. I do not even want to know the heat index. The ducks have retreated to the shade under the trailer, which already was in the shade of a pecan grove. Notice the panting...notice that you can see right through the nostrils of one duck. I never noticed that before.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Jewelry for geese?

I must be more careful what I toss onto the compost pile. The poultry dig through for snacks there . . . and apparently neckwear. I found this goose sporting an old peat pot one afternoon last week. She (he?) didn't seem to mind. She grazed a while, napped, had a swim in the big water tub. Eventually it tumbled off while she was snacking on clover. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Color in the garden

I've never grown such lush, happy eggplants before. The huge leaves concerned me at first because I feared I'd been too heavy-handed with the compost this spring and would have all leaves and no fruit. Not to worry. They're setting fruit now, and still the plants grow and grow and grow. I planted two varieties, Apple Green and Ichting Long, I think. Unfortunately, the goslings 'helped' me weed the garden one day and took great delight in plucking most of the markers from the ground. Fortunately, they found the markers more interesting than the plants. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Wild cherries

If I were 20 feet taller, I could harvest this thick crop of wild cherries. I picked a modest amount from the branches I could reach, but they grow much thicker in the sunny treetops. I've also been picking wild blackberries and the fully ripened deep purple gooseberries. The ripe gooseberries are quite tasty, much better than the green stage that's more commonly used in this country.
Wild berries are small, though. It probably takes me three or four times longer to pick enough for a batch of jam as it would in a cultivated garden of domestic fruit. But ah, the flavors!  Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 10, 2006

English roses

'Eglantine', a David Austin variety of English-style roses. My daughter took this photo in my new flower & herb garden next to the house. This garden is rather sparse now, just half-planted, and with only a couple mature plants. Thus, these blossoms stand out particularly well. The fragrance is heavenly, too. Posted by Picasa