A stroll about the Red Fox

Today is promising to be a hot one, with temperatures in the 90s and a heat index climbing higher. A hawk just flew over with a blackbird in hot pursuit of the raptor’s red tail. Even the birds are feeling it.

Dewy Borage

The plants, however, are loving the warmth and light after the heavy rain of last week. They’re positively dripping with joy. Humid fog sits over the soybeans to the west of The Quarry Farm, but the nature preserve is rich, deep, rainforest green, with dabs of brilliance. Seems the best kind of morning to inspect those colors more closely.

The gardens at Red Fox Cabin are blooming. The whites, pale yellows, pinks, and violets of spring are gone, replaced by a full spectrum in every shape and size. Bumblebees navigate the lavender and bee balm, hovering just long enough that I think I can get a picture. When I bring up the photo, I see they’ve led me on.

Bee Balm

The pollinators are back this year. Populations are smaller, but they are here. The big fuzzy bumblers share space with other wild bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and moths.

And the dragonflies are glorious.

It’s a little too early in the day for them to be up and about, but Steve is seeing species that he’s not familiar with. The books and apps are out and he is getting to know new odonata in 2017. Storms are in the forecast for later this week. He will be on the front porch watching the dragonflies surge before the storm, hunting for insects ahead of the rain.

The two pipevine trellises are heavy with green. Two days ago, The Quarry Farm Gardener noticed tiny black crawlies on the southwest tower. They grew, expanding with the humidity and tasty leaves, as pipevine swallowtail caterpillars do. We missed them during the past two years. The cropduster that flies low of late is a concern. The news is that gypsy moth treatments are underway.

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillars

The raingarden is doing a fine job drawing water away from the cabin and housing leopard frogs.A wheelbarrow supports its own garden, spilling a fragrant shower that doesn’t quite make landfall.

Common Mullein

Mullein reaches for the sky here and there. The flannel leaves of common mullein were used as lamp wicks–since the time of the Romans for torches–as well as toilet paper. The leaves were once placed inside of shoes to provided both warmth and softness. Mullein isn’t native to North America, but local insects are attracted by the flower’s honey-like scent.

I’ve looped back to my car; my ride to pay the piper. If you balance a coffee in one hand, it’s possible to snap a photo. This last mid-week catch: coneflowers above the nature preserve, leaning toward the place I want to be.

When the frost is feathered

When the morning window trees are coated with a light sugar frost;

when the clouds are thick enough to blend the early sun into a mass of white from horizon to horizon;frost-on-turkeys-back

when the bird calls are muffled in the treeline below a fog so light that it’s as if someone lightly brushed the color from the top third of the tallest sycamore;

when the turkeys standing on the front porch, each with one eye peering through the halflight, have an icy dusting across their feathered backs;

there’s nothing for it but to take the camera for a run.mullen

Six-foot mullein stands along the roadside, the downy green leaves and yellow flowers freeze-dried by winter just like their tame cousins in the cabin gardens behind. In spring, the stalks with melt away and new plants will grow to feed bees, butterflies and birds. You can find encapsulated mullein on drugstore shelves and in teas as a remedy for diseases of the lung, as an expectorant and for skin problems.

This mullein is rigid husk with a melting white cap. Red cardinals, rosy house and goldfinches will peck at them through the coldish months.

The woods beyond the cabin and the floodplain below are free of frost. The warm breath of the trees still keeps the colder air high. Slate-colored juncos blend in with the gray and brown tree trunks, but you can hear them cheer to one another above the old quarry. The quarry itself holds water again. It had been dry for five months, except for a spring pool in the southeast corner.

The little creek nearby is also full, bubbling and churning its way to Riley Creek a quarter of a mile away. There at its mouth, Cranberry Run, buffered on either side for the latter length of its flow by trees, grasses and wetland sponges,  hits the sediment-laden Riley. Even with this week’s high water, the divide is prominent.silt-line


The flood was brief, here and gone. The mush is frozen and the flattened grass is crisp and crunchy with the frost and a layer of surface ice left suspended by receding river. Fresh fungi grow up and down the length of washed up log. It looks like fringe on a sleeve or some kind of elaborate hors d’oeuvres on a bed of straw noodles.shelf-fungi

“Which of these things is not like the other?” The Sesame Street song comes to mind.green-bottle-in-ice

A five-gallon bucket has washed up in the floodplain, too, so I wade through the ice to collect the bottle. Beneath the frosted plates I find cans, bottles, and fruit snacks wrappers. Some of the bottles are big brown plastic specimens that I’ve seen quite a few of late, discarded at least twice a week along the roadside here.

Breakfast of champions.m6-bridge

By the time the bank intersects the historic Mallaham, a rare wrought iron arch truss bridge, the bucket is full. The human condition is one of waste and despair, I think, at least until I look up and see a bald eagle, returned in my lifetime; flip one of the bottles over and see the ‘recycle’ symbol.

Baby steps.

I pick up my bucket and run back home to sort paper, metal and plastic.