Just the back yard!? Nah, I want the front and side yards landscaped in natives too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Now We're Getting Somewhere!

I called in an order for flowering dogwood and Canadian hemlock...both of which I already have planted on our two acres. In addition to those, I ordered two natives that I've never grown before...and, to my knowledge, have never seen in nature (although, it is possible I've seen them and did not know what they were): dwarf chinkapin oak (Quercus prinoides), and American sweet crabapple (Malus coronaria).

I've been looking for this particular oak--which is supposed to produce acorns even when they are young--as early as 3-5 years old...and they produce them consistently every year. They are supposed to be a wildlife favorite.

I've never been too interested in crabapple trees--I've always pictured the exotic species that are sometimes used in landscaping. After reading about this native species, I thought I'd like to grow them. Aside from the flowers and fruits, they should make good nesting sites for birds.

I found a fairly local source (a couple of hours away)...the prices are very reasonable for bare root seedlings. They are sold in units of 25 seedlings per unit...so, I will have quite a lot to plant come April!

Oh, and happy first day of spring. Today is the Vernal Equinox. It feels more like summer than spring though...with temperatures in the 70s this week.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Third Day in a Row!

The weather has been great...high 60s, I think (not sure if we hit 70 or not), anyway, I got out in the yard again today!

Finally I was able to remove a circle of fence that must've been used to protect a blueberry bush when it was younger, but several seedling trees grew up around it and through it. One of these trees is the dreaded invasive buckthorn. Luckily, It has been cut back over the years and never bloomed or went to seed. I got it out with the help of a reciprocating saw. Now I have another fence-round to protect any seedlings I plant (I'll make sure I remove it before something grows into it.).

Also, I dug up one piece of the Clematis virginiana that I'd disturbed while removing the fence and trees growing at the base of the blueberry bush. If this were in a more natural area and not so close to the barn, I'd be more likely to let the native trees crowd the area...but I'm glad the buckthorn is gone...and that I had only one!

Later, I removed more of the bush honeysuckle bushes and created a brush pile of sorts while trying to keep the bushes (that I'd ripped from the earth) upright--while keeping their roots from contact with the ground (just in case). I ran into my neighbors and had a nice conversation...despite the mild winter, we're all ready for spring. After that, I got a little more done. By then the sun was going down, but I had no desire to go inside. I spent a good twenty minutes or so walking my paths, then with the light really starting to fail me, I headed back to the house. What a great day!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bad Habit

I worked more on the project I started yesterday...but, I have a bad habit of making more work for myself. Even though I'm not really finished, I set things up to see how they'd look. Most likely I may have to move the fence rails to finish things up.

While removing another of the young black walnut trees (I'm not sure this one will survive), I decided to move the fence posts closer together so that I could put the rails up on the posts. The posts were rather loose so I didn't take too much to pull them out of the ground, so I was able to move them closer. Eventually, I'll probably remove the fence--now that I know it is not a historical remnant of a homestead fence. (Last summer the neighbor told me about the previous owner installing it.) For now, I plan to move a native clematis to grow over it. Currently that clematis is growing over one of the blueberry bushes.

There are still more bittersweet roots that I will need to remove. Also, I'm leaving the (cut) vining branches for cover and perches for the birds. Once I know that I've eradicated the bittersweet, I'd like to plant a variety of field wildflowers (natives, of course).

Here is what it looks like so far:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

I never know what project I'll start on...I've so many left undone, so when something sparks my interest, I pick up where I left off and start working.

Jeff told me to take it easy today since I'd apparently pulled a muscle in my abdomen while moving logs a few days ago. He told me not to lift anything heavy...so, I didn't. Instead, I pulled thick roots out of the ground by hand...and with a pick. Probably not the best choice, but when deciding what to work on, it is hard to hold off on a project that is calling to me. I ended up clearing most of the invasive Oriental bittersweet that a previous owner had planted along a fence remnant. This stuff has really begun to take over in the past two years. I'd hoped it was the American bittersweet, and if it was, I'd have moved a piece or two into the hedgerow where it could fight for its niche there away from the house and my other plantings...but this invasive one will not have a chance to out compete the natives trees and shrubs I'm putting there.

These vines strangle and girdle young trees never allowing natural succession to take place. I found this wrapped around what I think are young black walnut trees. I'm hoping to transplant them as leaving them there would change my plan for meadow and bluebird habitat. There is a small oak nearby that I will let grow to maturity..but the two black walnuts were to close to it and would create more of a woodland. I'm hoping the lone oak will create more of an oak savanna that will allow for the field wildflowers to continue to grow...and be open enough for the bluebirds to continue nesting here. The oak must've sprouted the first year we were here, so it will be a long time before I have to worry whether an oak savanna will work or not. :) I could've tried to relocate the oak as well, but I like the look of a mature oak tree growing out in the open. The others I have will be part of the woodland.

Surprisingly, the roots pulled up pretty easily...aside from having good loose soil, I think the freezing and thawing this time of year always seems to help. I've been able to remove the invasive bush honeysuckles by wrenching them out of the ground late winter and early spring as well.

Curious Chickadees

I was walking the paths today and two chickadees were chattering nearby. They seemed to be watching me (as I've seen them do before), and they came quite close. Later on, when I had the camera with me, I got this shot of one as he was going in for some birdseed.

As much as I enjoy the return of the red-wings (and other summer residents), I'm happy that the cheerful, little chickadees are year-round residents. I hope these cute, brave little birds will nest in our yard this year. Our first year here, before I started the blog, I had them in a nest box I'd attached to the barn. I've since moved it, but, perhaps I should get another one for there.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Red-wing & Robins

I've been keeping my eye out for the first red-wing blackbird of the year. Finally, on my drive in to work Friday morning, I spotted a male among the trees and shrubs along the highway where there is a field with a pond. Each year, I will try to document the first I see...it seems they are early this year--not really a surprise with how mild it has been.

This morning I saw a few robins in the yard. While trying to focus the camera, I missed a great shot of a robin pulling a worm from the ground.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring Visitor

For the past week or so, I've had my eye out for the first red-winged blackbird...a sure sign of spring. Although they are not red-winged blackbirds, this morning I was happy to see two grackles visiting the yard for some seed. They've returned, so that is a great start. Spring is on its way...but I still can't wait for the red-wings to arrive.

It didn't hurt that today was 60 degrees...so it felt like spring too.