Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pussy Willow

Willows are easy to ignore out here because they're everywhere.  But willows with these blooms are unmistakably pussy willows [Salix discolor].   

I never noticed these pussy willows before this year.  A little group of them is growing in the ditch along our road - in a wet spot, of course.   And this year they were covered with bees.









Bees!  

We're still waiting on our new ones [all three of our hives died in the cold this year], so the bees that covered these bushes belong to the swarm that absconded or to the neighbors.    We have two neighbors within a mile or so who have bees now.   

I want more of these bushes, so I cut a bunch of twigs and put them in a jar of water to root.   Now, I just have to find a good damp spot to stick them once they root....and that shouldn't be too hard around here.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Barn down the Way

The barn down the way is beginning to crumble.   This is what it looked like last year.
It's lost a lot more of the old metal roofing and the extra snow and cold this year really took its toll.  You can still see the last load of hay that went in there.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Last Year's Cattails


Here's a pic of some of last year's cattails [Typha sp] that reside in the swamp down the way from us.   I like cattails because they're sculptural - they give structure to a wild wetland garden.   They grow on the edges with the sedges, so it's easy to see where the water is shallow [and mucky.]

I didn't realize they had so many names.  Here's a blurb from wiki:

These plants have many common names. They may be known in British English as bulrush, or reedmace, in American English as cattail, catninetail, punks, or corn dog grass, in Australia as cumbungi or bulrush, and in New Zealand as raupo. Other taxa of plants may be known as bulrush, including some sedges in Scirpus and related genera.

I had heard that they were edible, but didn't realize the extent of their usefulness.  

Also from wiki
The rhizomes are edible. Evidence of preserved starch grains on grinding stones suggests they were eaten in Europe 30,000 years ago...    Many parts of the Typha plant are edible to humans. The starchy rhizomes are nutritious with a protein content comparable to that of maize or rice. They can be processed into a flour...They are most often harvested from late autumn to early spring. They are fibrous, and the starch must be scraped or sucked from the tough fibers. Plants growing in polluted water can accumulate lead and pesticide residues in their rhizomes, and these should not be eaten.  The outer portion of young plants can be peeled and the heart can be eaten raw or boiled and eaten like asparagus. This food has been popular among the Cossacks in Russia, and has been called "Cossack asparagus". The leaf bases can be eaten raw or cooked, especially in late spring when they are young and tender. In early summer the sheath can be removed from the developing green flower spike, which can then be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob. In mid-summer when the male flowers are mature, the pollen can be collected and used as a flour supplement or thickener.

Here's another interesting page all about cattails.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Spring

The tulip trees - Liriodendron tulipifera - are starting to show buds.  It must really be spring.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ode to a Country Road in Spring

A rural sonnet to celebrate an annual spring event.

We live for mud and potholes









Rural Sonnet #3

Our roads out here are covered in debris -
A winter's worth of cracks and holes and pits,
The asphalt honeycombed with fissures wee
and great. A mire in the center sits
In wait to swallow whole the car or truck
That dares to venture far into the wild
And messy reaches of the mud and muck
Unleashed by winter - by the monster child
Of spring, whose tantrums roar and wail in rain
And wind and hail, whose clutching, sucking, grasp
Refuses to let go who tries in vain
to travel here. Avoid the miring clasp
of country roads in spring. Far better yet
to wait a month or two until mud's set.


Yep.   For more rural poetry, see Sonnet #1 here  and Sonnet #2 here.   Enjoy.

Friday, April 18, 2014

In the Woods




The creeks have been completely ice free for a few weeks now.  The water is running cold and clear and the moss is greening.




Bloodroot [Sanguinaria canadensis] is coming up in the woods.    First the flowers, then the leaves.   Since our weather got hot fast, the leaves on these came out before the flowers had fully opened or faded. 


Bloodroot is one of those plants that the ancients believed was governed by the Doctrine of Signatures.  

Here is what a modern herbal says about it.   Mostly, you should remember that it is poisonous.

P.S.  They say it's good for dyeing, but you'd have to gather a whole lot of it and since it uses the root, you'd be destroying the plant.   I don't harvest it ever because the colonies are very small around here and I want it to spread. 





Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pelicans at Goose Pond


Goose Pond NWR is not far from us and we like to pop over every once in a while to see what new birds we can see.      We love our water birds, so we were excited to see these guys last weekend.   They are American white pelicans.     So beautiful in flight.      Claire snapped this pic as they flew from one pond to another.

Gorgeous.

Here's another pic of some pelicans.   The day we were here, they counted a flock of 1500 pelicans.   That is the largest number of pelicans ever for Indiana.  They were first recorded in Indiana in 1887, so this isn't their first time here, but until 2004, the number stayed below 52.   Then BAM, they re-discovered the midwest and the numbers have been climbing ever since. 



We also saw some northern shovelers.   Apparently it's been a spectacular year for ducks, too, at Goose Pond.  


Here's the Friends of Goose Pond site, if you are interested in what else goes on out here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Daffodil Field

We've been planting daffodils in this field for a long time.    This is the time of year when we're happy we did it.   

Persistence

You may have to blow the pic to fully appreciate the site these daylilies have chosen to come up in.   There's a large colony coming up right through some asphalt down the way from us.  

A testament to persistence in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Just grow. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hot Cross Buns


It's Easter soon!    Yay!   I'm not a big fan of baskets of candy, or hard boiled eggs, but I love hot cross buns.  

Love them!

And they're easy to make, too, which is good because otherwise, forget it.   I'm sure you feel that way, too.  





Robin's Hot Cross Buns
www.rurification.com
  • 6 ½ C flour
  • 3 tsp cardamom or cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp sea or kosher salt
  • 1-2 ¼ C mixed dried fruit, chopped:  cherries, citrus, currants, raisins, craisins, apricots, etc. 



Mix all of that together in a large bowl [big enough to mix all the dough in]  leaving a well in the center and put it in the oven to warm up.   Use the lowest oven setting.   


  • ½ C butter
  • 2 C milk
  • 1 C sugar
  • 5 tsp yeast


Melt butter.  Take off heat.   Add milk.   The milk should warm up to skin temp quickly in the pan.   In another bowl, mix the dry yeast and the sugar well.   Add the sugar and yeast to the milk/butter mix and stir well.   Let sit until yeast dissolves.  

  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten.


When the flour mixture is good and warm and the yeast is dissolved in the milk,  pour the yeast mix and the eggs in the flour mix.  Roll to mix using a large spoon or your hands.   Roll until all the flour is incorporated into the dough.   If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.   If it is too dry, add  warm [not hot] water 1 tsp at a time until it is right.     Handle the dough as little as possible for tender bread.  


Cover bowl with damp cloth.  Let rise until double.



Pull dough out on floured surface.   Divide into 24 balls.   Set balls on greased baking pan close together but not touching.   



Let rise 30-45 minutes until doubled and touching.   Pre-heat oven to 500° F.



Egg Glaze: 
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 Tb milk
Cut surface of rolls in cross, brush with egg glaze. 

Traditionally the cross is put on before baking.  That's what I did.  OR  you can leave the topping off and put icing crosses on after they’re baked and cooled.  

Pre-baking Topping:

  • ¼ C flour
  • 1 T sugar
  • 3-4 T water
Mix well in bowl.   Spoon or pipe onto cross.   Put in oven and turn the temp down to 400°.   Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Post-baking-and-cooling
Icing:

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons milk

Monday, April 14, 2014

Muscle Tree


These trees always look very muscular to me.   It's an ironwood tree. Carpinus caroliniana - or the hop hornbeam.  They're very hard and were used to make ship parts. 

We have a lot of these in our woods.  They aren't very large, but they take a long time to grow.  I liked the moss on the bottom of this one.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Old Tires

I thought this pile of tires was rather sculptural.

It certainly brings up the question of what to do with old tires - there are a lot of old tires out here. Lots of them.    You'll be glad to know that this bunch did not get burned with the rest of the old shed that they were pulled out of. 

I don't know what the owners plan on doing with them, but I thought it might be fun to see what others do with old tires, so here is a list of links to projects using old tires.  You'll get a kick out of them.

Here is a list of images that came up in a search for 'project old tire'.  Amazing.

Here is a collection of ideas from Pinterest.  And here's another, even more fun  Pinterest board.

Check out the sculptures at the bottom of this post.

Here are some garden ideas.

This is one of the best lists of all - super creative things here.

And I loved the chairs and the climbing wall in this list.

Just a note:   From what I've seen and read, it is perfectly safe to grow food in old tires and that there is no leaching.  However, there are loads of people out there that are sure you're going to kill us all if you plant in tires.  Do your own research first, if you're nervous. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tree Crystals

OK, they're not really crystals, but the cellular structure of this fallen tree really reminds me of a square crystalline structure. 

It's a red oak.   Blow the pics up for a better look.


The white is a fungus - spalting - between the layers of wood.

The tree fell in a mighty wind this winter.  It had been rotting for a long time and you could see right through it at the bottom. [See top link]


It's an interesting way to see wood.  Not like looking at boards or firewood at all. 





Friday, April 11, 2014

At last



We've planted hundreds of daffs over the years.   They're finally up and blooming this year.  Such a relief.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Woodpecker Tree

Something's been working this dead tree over.   I'm guessing a woodpecker, but if you recognize that this artwork is from something else, shout it out in the comments.   I've been wrong before.

Must be something really tasty in the center of this tree. 
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