It’s been almost a month since my last blog post! As they say, time flies when you are remodeling. Lots of big changes have taken place on the exterior of the house and work is ongoing. I think I will post the different phases of our almost total house redo as projects in the future.
The other evening as I looked out onto the peaceful wooded ravine, I told our youngest daughter that as a child I held this time of year as sweet and holy. School was out, Bible school was over, the summer solstice was upon us and the Fourth of July sparkled in the foreseeable future. There were only a few other things that topped my list. In order they were: Christmas, birthdays, and candy. Lightning bug season held firm at #4, followed by cotton candy and all-day suckers. While actually members of the candy family, their attributes were awesome enough to garner the #5 spot all by themselves. This is the time of year my inner child, never very far away, escapes and runs around the yard at dusk in bare feet, trying to capture lightning bugs in a hastily rinsed out pickle jar. I shudder now, at the sheer number of innocent fireflies who went to their gruesome demise all in the name of childhood entertainment. It was pretty violent, and I’m not even talking about the ones who faced the slow torture of spending the time left to them in a jar with holes hammered in the lid and a handful of grass tossed in for food and solace.
My heart still lifts on that soft June evening as sweet darkness gently nudges the long golden day to the horizon and the first tentative glimmer of a firefly appears. Robins and cardinals steadfastly chirp and chortle until deep dark, when tree frogs pick up the tune. I find myself conjuring up reasons to go outside, and it’s not a difficult task. The hummingbird feeders need washed and refilled; the perennial salvias should be cut back, and since much of ours is a young landscape, a new tree or shrub almost always needs a refreshing drink. A pair of robins have relocated from the gnarly little apple tree in the side yard where their nest was precariously located low in the branches. They are already raising a second brood from a much safer place high on a hickory tree limb. In just a few days the young ones’ thin reedy cries have changed to real cheeps and even from down on the ground I can see their orange breast feathers are already coming in. Eastern wood peewees call plaintively from deep in the woods, punctuated by the occasional sharp whistle of the great-crested flycatcher that sounds a lot like “schreap!” A hen turkey visits frequently and we believe she is now accompanied by two of her youngsters. While they appear to be full grown, they stick close to her. When one remained at the ground feeder too long, the hen could be heard calling from a distance. While this may not be at all what is going on with these turkeys, it’s fun to provide them with a backstory.
We have been very busy fending off the unwelcome visits of some of the other wildlife that abounds. Raccoons waged an attack on the chickens’ run. The girls were safely locked up in their coop, but still, the run is ruined and we need to build a new one. Baby raccoons have decided that the ground under the bird feeders is an all-day buffet. We are staying away from them so they don’t imprint on humans. We are following the advice of Nature’s Nursery, the wildlife rescue organization located in Whitehouse. We are sprinkling little bits of dry cat food Hansel and Gretel style, luring them back to the ravine (and hopefully beyond). Although we don’t actually see deer as frequently as we do in the fall and winter, they are out there. They, and some rabbits, have been browsing their way through my garden beds and borders like an all-you-can-eat salad bar. Some hosta specimens must taste better than others. It appears that “Whirlwind,” “Twilight,” and “Sweet Fragrance” are the hot tickets at this outdoor bistro. Day lily buds are for dessert and I just about jumped up and down in frustration when I discovered the deer had strolled right up to the front porch and eaten most of the “Pardon Me” buds that were about to burst into glorious ruby blooms.
Where the warm-blooded creatures haven’t chomped, a healthy population of pill bugs is wreaking their own special havoc. I don’t like to use poisons, but diatomaceous earth is a natural way to fight back. I tend to assume that slugs are behind many of the desecrations visited on ornamentals. But, an after-dark foray around the yard with a flashlight revealed unsuspected suspects: pill bugs! I couldn’t believe that these tiny creatures with many names – sow bugs, roly-polys, etc. – could be the perps perpetrating the devastation. Doing my research on how to control them, I learned they are members of the (shudder) woodlice family and are not insects, but crustaceans, related to the crayfish that has a mud fort over by the driveway! They were the ones responsible for the notching around each hosta leaf and stem, leaving the plants to appear to have been attacked by a mad seamstress with a pair of pinking shears. Seems they love wood mulch and are opportunistic when it comes to diet. So, I diligently, by the light of day, raked away the mulch that I had ignorantly tucked up around the hostas when planting them, and sprinkled diatomaceous earth on the dirt around the stems. In an odd, slightly diabolical twist, diatomaceous earth is comprised of the ground up remains of fossilized crustaceans. So far, I think it’s working. It will take time to be sure.
And since summer has just begun, we have all kinds of time on these slow, honey sweet days. Don’t we?
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