Monday, June 30, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Walk Around the Backyard

I mowed the lawn Sunday afternoon and that gave me a opportunity to have a good look at some of the things going on in the backyard. While Mr. Johnson was cleaning up the mower, I grabbed my camera so I could show you some of the neat things around the backyard.

In case you didn't already know, my backyard is a little larger than average--5 acres to be exact. It's also a National Wildlife Federation Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat (that's a story for another post--hopefully I can get it organized this summer sometime). Because I am the groundskeeper and in an effort to become more bird and wildlife friendly (and also to cut down on mowing cost and time), last year I decided to stop mowing 1 acre of yard. Since I couldn't afford to put the entire area into wildflowers, I just let it grow with the grass and whatever other plants come up. Here's how it looked yesterday blowing in breeze.I should get one of those big buffalo silhouettes to put out here in the grass--wouldn't that look neat?

This area is on a fairly steep hill and V-shaped, so I only mow 3 paths--2 on each edge and 1 down the middle. Here's the middle path (and you can just see a bit of the outside path at the top right of this picture).

On one side of my yard is the highway right-of-way--which is too steep for the highway department to mow (good stuff growing in the road ditch too and lot of nesting places for birds) and on the other side is my junkyard neighbor who never mows his lawn, so there are actually several acres of habitat here (if we count the neighbor's yard). It took Mr. Johnson a long time to get used to this unmowed area, but I think he likes it a little better this year when he saves on not having to buy so much gas for the lawn mower.

The wild roses are blooming down at the bottom of the hill. I wish you could smell them. I love their beautiful pink color too.

I snuck up on a 13-lined ground squirrel (we call them streaked gophers). We have bunches of these little critters in our yard. Sometimes I'll see them running into their holes with a huge mouthful of dried grass. I wonder if they store it to eat later or use it to line their dens? They like to clean up under the bird feeders too.

One thing I've not seen an abundance of this year while mowing is honeybees. I did spot one on some yellow sweet clover that's blooming out here. My neighbor Scott keeps some beehives and one of these days I'll have to go over and find out if his bees survived the winter.

Look at these cute little flowers on my winterberry holly. By fall all of these flowers will have turned into beautiful, bright red berries.
The mulberry trees are covered with fruit and some of it's starting to ripen. There are quite a few Cedar Waxwings hanging around the yard this year and I often see them perched in a mulberry tree. I hope this abundance of fruit will encourage them to nest somewhere on my property this summer.

Some of the common milkweed is starting to bloom also. I've seen a few monarch butterflies flitting through the yard, so I'll have to start looking under milkweed leaves for monarch eggs and get the monarch ranch started up soon.....over the July 4th holiday weekend might be a good time for that project.

A wren built this nest in one of my bluebird houses. It's wedged in there so tightly I can't even budge it. How long do you suppose it took those wrens to stuff this birdhouse completely full of sticks?

My garden is doing well, but I was surpised to see that one of my broccoli plants has been chomped down to the stalk (good broccoli on the left and broccoli stalk on the right). I'm thinking Mrs. White-Tail Doe is the culprit. The 2-foot high fence is more than adequate for keeping bunnies out, but just the right height for a long-nosed deer to reach her head right down inside the fence and munch all the leaves and broccoli florets off. I've since put some fencing in a dome over these plants and I think I'll also try the "Irish Spring/human hair deterrent" placed in little mesh bags on the fence also. I know one gardener who swears this works wonders to keep deer out of her garden.

Thanks for coming along on my backyard tour. Hope you enjoyed it.

P.S. I had a little video of a disapproving wren that I tried to download with this post, but Blogger wasn't cooperating. I literally left the computer on all night and at 3:15 this morning, it still showed "Processing Video," so I just deleted the video, saved this draft and shut everything down. Has anyone else had problems downloading videos to Blogger lately?


jan m said...

I enjoyed the trip around your backyard. We've been thinking of ways to lessen our lawn area, and creating a more natural habitat too. It sure would help with gas costs!

Ruth said...

I do love your yard! I would never have to leave home to find something new to watch. The grass in our fields is almost waist high this year and there are so many birds about eating the seeds.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely walk along. I can imagine the smell of fresh clover and grasses and those wild roses, wonderful. Everything is blooming now, wait 'til fall when an abundance of fruits and berries will satisfy the hungriest bird or animal, and even make for some storage of those things for our long cold winters. Your yard is certainly a wild life habitat.

Beth said...

I always enjoy your posts about your yard, you do so much to keep it friendly for nature. Ruth's right, why would you ever need to leave. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Lynne said...

Ruthie- I love your back yard walks too. It's fun to see what you have going on there as summer progresses. I didn't realize that you have 5 acres there. Good for you for keeping it nature and $ friendly too. It was a great weekend wasn't it?

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Ruthie your Back 5 are beautiful. I love the little stripped ground squirrel. I like to take pictures of squirrels from everywhere we travel. There always seems to be a ssquirrel I haven't seen before or that I don't often see.

As to your uncut acre. I have a thought. If you want it planted in wild flowers/bird habitat maybe your local Quail Unlimited would plant it for you. Quail Unlimited is sort of like Ducks Unlimited in that they try to conserve property for Quail and other game birds. The QU around here are always delighted to find and acre or two someplace to plant up for wildlife ie: Quail. In a more populated area they use more wildflower seed than anything else. They don't charge here. Of course it is nice to give them a donation.

Of course what you are doing with your property is great. I just wanted to "plant that seed" just in case you would like more of a wildflower meadow.

RuthieJ said...

Glad you enjoyed it Jan. I'm amazed at how much less time I spend mowing now--my shrub and tree areas have expanded too and it takes less than 3.5 hours now to mow (it used to take me twice that long).

Thanks Ruth. It is neat to see how my bird populations have diversified over the years. There are lots of red-winged blackbirds nesting in here and I've had brown thrashers and song sparrows all season again too.

Thanks for coming along Mom, even if it was only a virtual hike. If I had known those roses were blooming I would have brought you some of those last week in your bouquet too.

You're welcome Beth. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm starting to become very selfish of my time at home now--especially with all the different birds and wildlife living in the backyard.

Hi Lynne,
It was a great weekend in southern Minnesota (although northern MN would have been my obvious second choice!) The next time you get down Rochester-way, be sure to stop by for your own personal tour of my backyard!

Hi Lisa,
I've never heard of Quail Unlimited (I think we're too far north). We do have a Pheasants & Habitat Unlimited group around here but most of the habitat they improve and support also allows pheasant hunting on it.

Susan Gets Native said...

I LOVE YOUR YARD. It's like mine, but a whole lot bigger!
Who needs a manicured lawn???? Not us, by Gawd!

I found our first monarch egg of 2008 today. Good stuff.
I hope you get zillions!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

The QU here doesn't have to get on your property to hunt after they plant it. They are just hopeful that some birds will nest there and disperse to hunted areas. Maybe they are more of a conservation group than Pheasant U.

Debbie said...

Wonderful yard, Ruthie and I love how you leave some of it unmowed. We are blessed with a large field across the road and this year the farmer planted a silage mix which is nicer to look at than corn.

Loved the tour.

Jayne said...

I think it is so cool that you can leave that area grown up and doing it's own thing. :c)

Julie said...

Hello Ruth! I've been enjoying your break from blogging blog posts! :-)
I tried for the first time to down load a video. I think it was an av??? something or another type file and it never worked. I may try again this weekend. Good luck with yours. I can imagine the sound. We hear it often with the cats in the neighborhood upsetting the wrens.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Susan,
I KNEW you would appreciate my yard!
I haven't had a chance to search for monarch eggs again, but hopefully tomorrow.

Thanks Lisa, I think you're right about QU being more of a conservation group.

Thanks Debbie. I bet that silage mix across from you attracts a better variety of birds too.

Thanks Jayne....I'm sure some people think we're nuts, but I like it alot better than acres of short grass too.

Hi Julie,
Well, I'm glad to know it wasn't just my video. I mostly wanted to play it because of the sound too and I guess you know what I mean. A lot of noise can come from 1 tiny wren!