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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

March Madness

I am not a basketball fan, and I don't follow March Madness, but the title seems somehow appropriate to describe the past week or two.  After being cooped up all winter with little motivation to work on my project during the winter like I normally do, I got outside and got inspired.  Despite the temperatures being below normal over the past two weeks, I've been doing a lot in the yard...every day for more than a week...even after work, I have gone out and dragged myself in when the light was failing.

Mostly I've been focused on the pocket woodland (my "would-be woods" as I've often referred to it). Come summer, this sparsely treed area grows in too thickly for me to get through the paths--and my focus by then has turned to the meadow, pond/stream bed, and various other projects.  Winter allows me access to the "woods" and allows me a chance to assess my progress.  It also exposes the many rocks and boulders along the slope.  Some I want to showcase, while others I want to move to use in the stream bed.

The beauty of the boulders have really motivated me to get this section shaded enough to keep down the weeds so I can enjoy this nearly half-acre part of our yard year round.  I plan to add a lot of trees this year--mostly things I've already got growing, such as the silver maples that have appeared in the meadow, some black cherry trees that I have in pots and in a starter bed, sumac, quaking aspen, black locust, black poplar, (all fast growers) and various other tree seedlings.  I also plan to buy a couple of tulip trees whose flowers I hope to be able to view from above while at the top of the slope.  The slower growing oaks, shagbark hickory, and any others I want to add, will fill in under the shade of the pioneer species.

Crevices for wildlife such as salamanders--I found a few the other day.

Aside from all of my plans for adding trees, understory trees/shrubs, and wildflowers, I have been moving rocks--some quite large.  I am trying my best to maintain the holes, crevices, and possible tunnels for any critters that make them their homes.  At the same time, I am trying to stabilize the slope; many of the rocks are loose and doing nothing to hold back erosion.

I have grand plans for this section and plan to use my favorite park from where I used to live in Western PA as inspiration.  The slope, rocks, and various levels really lend themselves to viewing wildflowers at eye level (as well as at the foot of the path).  I hope it is not too long before I have pictures to post of a more established woodland, replete with wildflowers.

First I had to rake away last years growth to expose the rocks.

Imagine this as a full woodland with trees of various girths, 
understory trees, ferns, and wildflowers. 
"Before" photo..give me a few years for some beautiful "After" shots.
Another beauty for the stream bed.
Originally I pulled this out for the pond/stream bed...but, as I did
with a couple of others, I incorporated it into the hillside slope 
(see below).
The thin, flat rock just right of center didn't have the right presence...
So, I added the rock (from above) which, to me, makes the whole 
composition a thing of beauty.  Just wait until the woodland 
wildflowers grace the slope.  The funny thing is, in the back of 
my mind (although I can't be sure) I have to wonder if I didn't 
take it from that exact spot in the first place! :) 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

First Full Day of Spring

Today is the first full day of spring--even though, with temperatures in the 20's overnight and only a high around 33, it sure doesn't feel like it.  A few weeks ago, I was convinced that March meant spring weather for us...it did last year.

Two weeks ago, we had a few days in the mid-50's.  Had I not messed up my access to my blog, I'd have posted what happened back then.  Here it is now:

March 10, 2013

I was thrilled to see a male bluebird checking out the nestbox.  It is the same one they use every year, so I tend to think it is the same pair coming back year after year (or, there descendants).  The photo could be better, but it was taken at quite a distance and cropped.  I'm just happy to have visual proof of our visitor.

After seeing him, I went out and finally cleaned out the nestboxes--something I should've done earlier this year.  The one still had the abandoned nest of the tree swallows.  I removed it and went about cleaning them all.  After wiping them down with bleach and water and rinsing them, I let them dry before closing them up.  Hopefully, it won't be too long before they are in use again!

I ended up moving his one since its post was about to break.

Hopefully this irresistibly inviting hole will be being filled with a grass nest before long.

Now, the bluebird definitely had me thinking spring, but it wasn't until a week or so later that I saw first a grackle and then the long-awaited red-winged blackbird!

March 12, 2013

Finally, my pond is getting some bird action--
there was a morning dove at it earlier this month as well.

Shortly after seeing the one, I soon saw a flock of them!  So, despite the weather, I'm still thinking spring.
March 19, 2013
March 20, 2013

The blackbirds return signals spring to me more than the robins--although, I did spot three robins the other day.  My high school biology teacher always said that spring was 2 weeks after you spot the first red-winged blackbird.  So, I guess we are more than halfway there.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Signs of Spring

Maybe not what you think...

Red glow on the maples across the way.

Elm buds swelling...I first noticed them a week or so ago.