Friday, July 25, 2014

Pelicans Passing Through

I can't believe it's Friday already.  This has been the best summer in a long time as far as the weather.  I love the cooler temperatures.  Early in the week it was very hot, but that only lasted a couple days.  Now we are back to the 70's, exactly where I like it.  We could use some rain for our stream and pond.  Even though our pond is nearly gone, we had enough water to host a beautiful sight.

Here they come, can you tell what they are?

At first when I saw these birds come in, I thought it was a Whooping Crane.  At least I was hoping that was what they were.  They had a large white wingspan with black on the edges.  I got out the binoculars to get a better look.  They were Pelicans.  Pretty soon, more and more landed.  They landed in a small body of water that is left of our pond.

I didn't get an exact count, but there are at least 30 and maybe as many as 50.

They played around practicing take offs and landings.

These were not the cranes I was hoping for, but pretty exciting to see.  They stayed all afternoon and evening and then spent the night.  In the morning when I got up, they were gone.  I don't know where they came from or where they were going, I'm just glad they decided to spend a little time here.

Last fall even more Pelicans landed in Montello Wisconsin.  That time there were hundreds of them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Discovered An Indian Pipe Plant

The other day I was walking through the woods.  I love the smell of the pine forest.  Petrichor is the word for the smell of earth after the rain. The woods has that damp earthy smell.

I found a wild Rose.

I found some beautiful ferns.

The new catails are forming.

A lot of pine cones.

I found some vines that are either pumpkin, squash or gourds.  We feed the animals these things in the fall when Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations are no longer needed.  The critters love them but some of the seeds get planted into the ground and they germinate in the Spring.  It is too shady in the woods, so they seldom produce anything.  Once in a while we get a little pumpkin or gourd.

Vines from pumpkins, squash or gourds.

I found some interesting fungi.  It's amazing how many colors, sizes and shapes there are.


All these were fun to discover, but the most interesting thing I found was something I couldn't identify.  I had to research what it was.  I found out it is called an Indian Pipe or Ghost plant.  It is also called a Corpse plant.  It isn't a fungus even though it looks like one.  This plant is pure white on the stem and the flower.  It doesn't have any chlorophyll.  It is very waxy and tough.  I tried to break one off to bring it inside.  I couldn't break it off.   Instead of relying on photosynthesis for energy as a green plant does, this species uses the fungi growing on roots to gain nutrients and energy.  The roots and fungi get their nutrients from the decaying organic matter in the soil.  When this plant is finished blooming it turns completely black.

An Indian Pipe plant emerging through the leaves.

This is also called a Ghost Plant.

I have lived in this area for twelve years.  I have seen them after they turned black, but I had no idea they were so interesting and really beautiful when they are in full bloom.  I wonder what wonders I will find the next time I venture out.  I will probably wait until after the frost when the mosquitoes have died off.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Tasty Way To Cook Your Veggies

Almost every town has a Farmer's Market.  Princeton is no exception.  Every Wednesday we have one set up at the location of our Saturday Flea Market.  This flea market has a lot of vendors selling produce, bakery and plants.

We hadn't gone to the Farm to Fork Farmer's Market yet, so last Wednesday we went.  Whoa!  We were used to the Farmer's Market we used to see in Madison, WI.  That market took up many city blocks and sold anything and everything you could imagine.  It is the largest in the state.  Poor Princeton Wisconsin has four tables.  Hopefully it will grow over time and offer more things.  One of the vendors sold Certified Organic produce.  We purchased red potatoes, green beans, a yellow summer squash and a small zucchini.  We also bought a tomato.  It isn't tomato time so I don't know how it was grown. Maybe they grew it in a greenhouse. Wherever it came from, it did taste like a fresh home grown tomato.

This story brings me to my Tuesday recipe.  I have a tendency to overbuy in situations such as this, and then let some of it go bad.  I didn't want that to happen so I used almost everything for dinner.  I used a recipe from the Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, but I added a little of my own touches.  The recipe was for green beans cooked in bacon grease.  We always have bacon grease.  Whenever we buy bacon, my husband cooks the whole pound at the same time.  He puts it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Then when we want bacon for a salad, a sandwich or with eggs, the bacon can be heated in the microwave for 45 seconds.  We put the grease in a covered dish and keep it in the refrigerator.  We use it for frying once in a while.  A nutritional comparison between a tablespoon of bacon grease, butter and canola oil is kind of surprising. The grease has slightly less cholesterol than the butter, and only 2 more milligrams of saturated fat.  It has the same number of calories as the oil, but a lot more sodium.

Our dinner with red potatoes, tomatoes, meat loaf & vegetables.

Farmer's Market Vegetables

1 pound fresh green beans, cut in bite sized pieces
1 sliced summer yellow squash
1 small sliced zucchini
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves, garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons bacon grease or butter (bacon grease adds good flavor)
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper

Prepare the green beans, squash or any other fresh vegetables that you like.  Yellow beans would be good in this recipe.

Melt bacon grease in a skillet.  Add the garlic and onion and cook for a couple minutes.  Add the green beans and any other vegetables you are using.  Cook a couple more minutes and add the chicken broth.  Turn the heat to low and cover leaving just a little space to let steam escape.  Cook until the liquid evaporates and the beans are softened.  It could take 20-30 minutes.  Watch it because as the liquid cooks away, the vegetables start to caramelize.  Then it's ready to serve.

Caramelized vegetables ready to eat.

If you are interested, this is my husband's meat loaf recipe.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Turkey Family Visitors

It was hot and humid today, but we needed to go out to run some errands.  We got the oil changed in the car and bought a lot of groceries.  We could have easily missed these visitors.  They came through the yard just as we were leaving.  I grabbed the camera and got some photos before they moved on.  I know some people consider these birds a nuisance, but today they were pretty cute.

First the mama came into the yard.

She brought another mama and nine baby turkeys.

And then they moved on.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Year Without The Bluebirds

This is the last bluebird I saw on our property.  It was November 20th of 2013.  That was very late to see one here.

He was all alone.  I hope he met up with some friends down the road.

Mother Nature is a hard woman to deal with sometimes.  2014 will be called "the year without the bluebirds".  Every summer since we moved to Princeton, we have had nesting bluebirds.  They come in March to check things out and then begin building their nests using the exact same bluebird houses.  Every year like clockwork, the Tree Swallows and the Bluebirds arrive.  They squabble over which houses to choose, and then each settles on the same house as the year before.  This year was different.  The Tree Swallows arrived, nested and raised their family but I didn't see a bluebird.  I have seen a few in the area, but only a small percentage of what I usually see.  I don't know if the harsh winter and late Spring had some effect.  I suspect it's the mean little House Wren.  I have written about this nasty little bird many times.  If you want to read some of my rants, just type 'wren' in the blog search box.  This year the wrens are very plentiful.  Every birdhouse on our property was stuffed with sticks.  I would remove them and in a few hours they were full again.  It is illegal to remove House Wren eggs, so I make sure it doesn't get to that point.  Most of the nests are mock nests to discourage any other bird specie from nesting.  They want to dominate an area, and they have taken over this one.  They aren't easily discouraged.  Most of my FitBit steps are from chasing after House Wrens.  The sound of their song makes my blood boil.

I will do whatever needs to be done to discourage the little buggers.

I will use strapping tape when it is necessary and otherwise, I will just leave the door open.

To add insult to injury, our pond is drying up.  Whenever they mess with the locks on the river, we lose most of our water until Spring.  The water can be here one minute and gone the next.

Heron standing on a tuft of grass.
A couple hours later the water has receded with no warning.

I shouldn't complain, I think the Great Blue Heron's love it.  I think when the water leaves, a lot of frogs show up on the mud flats.  The heron's are flying in like it is O'hare Airport.

The weeds have also taken over the landscape.  If I think of it right, that also provides food and shelter for wildlife.  That is nature, and I am fortunate to be able to see the changes on a daily basis. That doesn't mean I don't try to change Mother Nature's mind.  She doesn't listen, but I will keep trying.  Today I turned on the air conditioning because I must have angered her and she's breathing her hot and humid breath into the air.