A Beautiful End to Summer

Posted by mrssmythe on September 21, 2018 in Chickens, Garden, Hiking, Out & About, Pollinators, Week in Review |

Time in the garden is extra sweet these days knowing that our first freeze is just around the corner. Many of the flowers are putting out a final show before the cold descends, the clematis among them.

The pond lily is particularly pretty right now.

And, though the zinnias are looking a little worn – especially after the recent rains – the monarchs don’t seem to mind.

Neither do the bumble bees.

By the way – isn’t the center of a zinnia beautiful? I didn’t realize how intriguing they were until I looked more closely at the photo above. Really, quite pretty.

The honeybees are busily employed.

And, as I may have mentioned before, we have lots of dragonflies in the yard this year.

In the backyard, the bumble bees remain busy amongst the pumpkin vines which continue to put out flowers. Here you see two bees tumbling about a single blossom. I imagine it’s hard to know if a flower is occupied before you fly into it.

And the chickens are molting. We find feathers all over the yard. Both birds look patchy at best. The area where they dust bathe looks particularly gruesome – like a massacre occurred there. Hopefully they will fill back in soon.

By the way, I still don’t understand why chickens molt right before winter. Wouldn’t you think it would be better for them to hang onto all of their feathers going into colder weather? Or, maybe a fresh set of feathers is more insulating.

We continue to try and squeeze in family hikes when we can. This past Sunday, we drove to the White Cedar Swamp trail in Wilbraham for a mild walk through some beautiful terrain.

Portions of the trail stretch through forest.

Other sections take you through lovely meadows.

As you can see, we had beautiful weather, and I’m sure this path is one we’ll return to again. If you’re in the local area, we definitely recommend it.

From the dining room table, hoping the beautiful weather holds and keeps the flowers going for a while longer,

Mrs. Smythe

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Hike to Whale Rock

Posted by mrssmythe on September 13, 2018 in Hiking, Out & About |

We’re trying to do more hiking as a family this Fall. There are so many places to hike near us, and it’s always a treat to get out of doors and into the woods for a while. This past Saturday, we drove about fifteen minutes east to get to the Thayer Brook Conservation Area.

As hikes go, the trail there is a relatively easy one: short (less than 2 miles), very little elevation gain, and an easy-to-follow path.

The highlight was Whale Rock – a massive boulder that has a rope affixed to facilitate climbing. Ginger was the first one up.

Then CPT A ascended.

CPT A is pretty good at this sort of thing. He’s had training.

I gave it a go, too. Actually, I gave it a couple of goes, and on the second run, made it almost to the top…and then I scooted right back down because I realized if I got up on top of that rock, I might not be able to figure out how to get back down again, and that would have been a problem. So, I contented myself with cheering Ginger and CPT A from a spot on the ground…and then had very sore arms the next day. Humiliating, but true.

Here’s a view of Whale Rock from the front.

It really does look like a whale’s face!

And here’s a shot from the back where there are plenty of pretty ferns growing out of cracks in the stone.

Many of the smaller rocks along the trail had moss on them.

In fact, there were ferns and moss everywhere.

It gave the whole walk a “back in time” feel. I almost expected to see a dinosaur.

And there were a few flowers, as well. Lovely little woodland flowers.

So, if you’re in the local area and are looking for a walk that is enjoyable and not too strenuous, this might be just the “hike” for you.

From the dining room table – getting ready to do some light weight lifting now to beef up those arms of mine,

Mrs. Smythe

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This Week’s Garden Visitors

Posted by mrssmythe on September 10, 2018 in Critters, Garden |

Here’s something I’ve never seen…a chicken’s egg laid in weather so hot, it became hard boiled.

That gives you an idea of the extreme heat we’ve had this year. Not non-stop heat, thankfully, but enough to make me glad to see the return of cooler temperatures.

The garden hasn’t seemed to mind the heat too much – nor have the critters that populate it. Here you see three in one photo – a ladybug larva (black and orange), aphids (yellow), and a monarch caterpillar.

Hopefully, the ladybug larva got busy and ate all those aphids!

Other visitors to the garden – monarch butterflies.

These are frequent visitors. On warm days, they stop by at about three o’clock. The one on the right is very ragged, but still manages to fly surprisingly well.

Here’s another frequent visitor to the garden this year – a Carpenter Bee.

We have quite a few of these. They’re very large. I think they’re actually starting to nest in the porch eaves, which is not good. But, maybe we can encourage them to go elsewhere in the future by putting up a bee box. I most often see these bees on my butterfly bush.

Other visitors to the butterfly bush:

A Spicebush Swallowtail…

…and a Black Swallowtail.

I was thrilled to see both of these butterflies! They aren’t common in our yard. I made note of what they like to eat, though, and hope to plant things next year that will encourage more of their kind to visit.

Other visitors to the butterfly bush…

A Great Spangled Fritillary

and a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth.

The butterfly bush is getting to be a popular place!

Nearby, on the Verbena, I spotted this Peck’s Skipper.

The Skippers may not be as dramatic as the other butterflies, but they are cheerful little flyers, and I’m always happy to see them.

Looking lower, I found a Yellow Woolly Bear. I didn’t know they came in “yellow” (more of a cream, really, in this one’s case), did you?

Add, finally, we’re seeing a host of dragonflies – mostly in the backyard. This one was on the peach tree.

Here’s hoping you’re seeing plenty of pollinators in your yard, as well. From the dining room table, hoping to squeeze in some knitting before bed tonight (I’m working on a sweater),

Mrs. Smythe

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Dinosaur State Park

Posted by mrssmythe on September 2, 2018 in Out & About |

CPT A has had the last two weeks off, and though we haven’t taken a traditional family vacation this year, we have spent time exploring spots in the local area that had somehow previously escaped our attention. One of those areas was Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.

That’s my hand in front of a T. Rex footprint. It was amazing to see a cast of the print first hand and to spend time exploring the Exhibit Center where a trackway containing hundreds of dinosaur tracks is preserved and on display.

(That’s Ginger acting like a dinosaur).

Outside the Center are over two miles of nature trails through varying swampy and forested areas. The trails are free and open year round – I imagine they’ll be gorgeous in just a few weeks when the trees begin to lose their leaves.

Speaking of trees, here’s what I believe is an Umbrella Magnolia.

The leaves on this tree were huge and I kept trying to imagine what it would look like in fall and how comical it would be to rake up such enormous leaves.

CPT A and I are both a bit smitten with Umbrella Magnolias at the moment. We saw a charming juvenile version at a botanical garden sale plot last week and were very tempted to bring it home with us. More research is needed, though.

On the way home from Dinosaur State Park, we stumbled onto the nation’s oldest continuously operating ferry.

People have been crossing at this point in the Connecticut River since 1655. Mind boggling! It was only $6 for the four minute trip, so we got in line. Only three cars could cross at a go, so there was a bit of a wait, but I think it was worth it.

Something else we saw on our drive home…tobacco barns.

These are common in northern Connecticut, and, this time of year, they’re thrown open with enormous tobacco leaves hanging inside to dry. I’m not a smoker, nor am I a fan of tobacco, but I do find those barns intriguing.

Writing from the upstairs bedroom tonight because the girls are watching a movie and it’s very loud downstairs,

Mrs. Smythe

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The Humane Gardener

Posted by mrssmythe on August 29, 2018 in Critters, Garden |

Here’s an interesting book:

And the author’s website – The Humane Gardener – is equally interesting. Warning – you may find yourself rethinking the kinds of flowers, shrubs, and trees you’ve been planting in your yard. Also, be prepared to have some of your ideas about the animals and insect “pests” you’ve been battling challenged.

For instance, I’m now taking a different attitude toward this Fall Webworm – a little caterpillar that makes unsightly web “tents” in trees and shrubs. These creatures also serve as food for many birds and parasitic insects and, with their end-of-season nibbling, rarely do any lasting damage to trees.

I suppose the Webworm can stay.

Another thing that can stay…Jewelweed.

I’ve been pulling this out along our fence line all summer…then I read that migrating hummingbirds love it. I won’t be pulling out any more Jewelweed.

Something I did pull out:

these tomato seedlings. I had so many this year, they were taking over. So, I pulled out the ones I didn’t want and threw them onto this hugelkultur bed as mulch. Wouldn’t you know it, they took root! They’re a bit behind the other tomato plants, but if they get a move on, we might just get an extra harvest of tomatoes.

They’ll have to work fast, though. Fall is closing in. We’ve already seen quite a bit of leaf change, and it’s only August.

Another sure sign of Fall – the chrysanthemums displays at the grocery stores.

So far, I’ve resisted, but I should pick up a couple for the porch steps before we get too far into September.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to soak up what remains of summer. On Monday, we drove to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Connecticut. It was wonderful. The water was just right, the beach wasn’t too crowded, and I was even able to get in a bit of knitting (I’m working on a sweater). Time well spent.

And, on one final note, the Moonflower I planted finally bloomed!

I’ve been waiting to see one of these flowers all summer. I’d just about given up, but tonight – there it was. They only bloom at night. Isn’t that interesting?

From the dining room table, hoping for many more unexpected Moonflowers in the evenings to come,

Mrs. Smythe

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