Monday, April 26, 2010

Cob Cottage on the Farm Tour


We visited the 14th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour last year and it was a huge hit. So we went again this year. The Farm Tour is a fund raiser for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association  

Anyway this is the first posting about one of the farms. The Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute I was taken in by the Cob Cottage. Cob is something I read all about months back when I was thinking about building a huge bottle wall in our garden. I had met this guy named Greg in Durham who just happened to be working on his sisters garden across the street from where were were working.

Anyway Greg and many others built this Cob Cottage and here is a tour.

The front entrance, ok the only entrance.
The view from these windows is very breath taking, what a place to wake up to in the morning. That pole you see behind the cottage is a small wind turbine.
For those of you who do not know what cob is it is mud and straw that is made into a clay like consistency and piled and shaped to build walls and other items.

The roof has a herb garden growing on it, is case you were wondering.
A view of the inside the cottage, lovely and so cozy.

It took 10 months to build this cottage with1-10 people helping when they could. Sure wish we had one of these, I've read they can last for a very long time, some cob built buildings in Europe are said to be 600 years old if I remembered that correctly.

 Above is a look at the entrance to the garden. Note the girl on the horse, they were giving rides to the kids, one of the girls was in Meg's class a few years ago. Right under the sign you can see the back of the solar panels. The Cob Cottage is slightly down the hill on the left out of sight.

Now time for our first peony in our garden.
 We have two plants that were planted last year and this is the only bloom.
This bloom is about 6 inches across!
This Swallowtail Columbine is from Helga's Garden at Four Leaf  Farm which is with in walking distance from here. She delivered us some tomato plants tonight!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Picking up trash along the road

Yesterday day morning Meg and I helped with the roadside trash pick for the Orange County Radio Amateurs Club. It was a long over due task so we met them early in the morning and joined a group of about 10 or 12 people. Below is the trash we picked up from about a mile of road in Orange County, NC.

Funny trash tells a lot about people. There were no healthy items along the road, no water bottles or other juice cans. What we found were soda and beer bottles and cans, alchol bottles big and small, skoal tins,  fast food wrappers and cups and junk food wrappers.

Since I was a kid I've hoped people would stop littering, but it will never end. I know now that the people that are littering are not people who eat and drink healthy. Nothing we picked up would be in our diet at all except a beer once and a while.

Sometimes you find a little beauty along side the road.

Clematis crispa I think. It was sprouting up in the grass along where the highway department mows. Not quite filled out in color yet. It was a delight to find.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day's 40th Birthday

Oddly I got up today and at 7:30 am I heard chain saws thinning the neighbors woods. They have been doing this for weeks, but this was the earliest I heard them.

Meg and I consider every day Earth Day, I hope you do also.

I went to Best Buy to get a camera bag(which was made of recycled products I might add) for my new camera and ran into this Earth Elf  Amy and got permission to take her photo for the blog. Hope you enjoy!

She was having fun!
We are still after 40 years not doing enough for the planet. Corporations and our elected politicians work for their own profits and rarely look towards the long term. Things are changing slowly. So here on Earth Day I raise my Yellow Flag which in fact opened up today! 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seeds Pie Social in Durham

The Seeds Pie Social was a great time! It was a fund raiser for the Seeds program. For those of you who do not know about Seeds check the link in the line above. Here is a little about them from their website:
SEEDS is a non-profit community garden whose goal is to teach people to care for the earth, themselves and each other through a variety of garden-based programs. 

Anyway the suggested donation was $10 and you received 4 tickets for a slice of pie per ticket. The pies were donated by local restaurants and bakeries and oh so good! Also pies made from the garden like chard pie.

Just before this photo was taken there WAS 3 slices of pie on my plate. The Cherry Pie was awesome it was from Whole Foods, the other pie was really good, I forgot what it was. I went back and got a vegan peanut butter pie, it was surprisingly delicious.  Megan also got 4 slices of pie she ate one slice and guess what we had for dessert that night after dinner?
These were pies made by the Seeds volunteers, all made from the garden. One of those is that famous chard pie.
At the entrance to the garden was this Coral Honeysuckle. The wow factor of this wall of honeysuckle was incredible, imagine a wall of this 6-7 foot height and 8 foot long.
I would have shown the entire wall but it was sunny so I just took photos of the shaded portion.

Here is a Pawpaw, Asimina triloba flower from the Seeds Garden. These flowers have a hard time getting pollinated, Seeds also has their own bee hives. When I was a kid we'd know when it was time to pick the fruits and go into the woods to pick them. Now where we used to picked them it is a subdivision. I bet most kids today don't know what these are or when to pick and eat the fruit. The Seeds kids I'm sure they do.

I could not resist getting a shot of the underside of the pawpaw flower, oh so pretty!

Mission control I think we have fruit in the making! These are just starting, when full grown they will be about 2 inches around and 4 inches long. Tastes like a banana but different. Pawpaws are also the host plant for the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Occoneechee April Nature Walk.

On Sunday meg and I took a nature walk at Occoneechee State Preserve. The Carolina Butterfly Society was having a mid day field trip and we had plans on going to the Seeds Pie Social so we went on our walk before the club got there.

The two ponds at the preserve were re done a few years ago and it still looks bad habitat wise that is. We decided to first look for dragonflies and damselflies in the ponds. It was a good day as we found about 20 dragonflies and 2 damselflies emerging. Most were just out of reach of the camera but I managed to get a few shots.

Freshly emerged damselfly and exuvia.

Not sure but this emerging dragonfly might be a Blue Dasher, I have been wrong before.
 Not quite out of the exuvia yet. This is the same kind of dragonfly as in the previous photo.

Life outside of the pond begins!
A female Skimming Bluet, Enallagna geminatum I found on the hillside well above the ponds and the Eno River.
One of our best finds of the day! This is a Common Roadside-Skipper in Orange County I have only found these along our driveway and it has been 4-5 years since we had one. Three were seen, not at all common in the Piedmont of North Carolina.

Brown Elfin on Blueberry.
Occoneechee is know for the unusual population of Brown Elfins, some think they were displaced on Occoneechee Mountain as far back as the ice age. We counted 34 Brown Elfins a new state high count!
Female Pipevine Swallowtail, she posed for about 2 seconds for this photo.
May Apples stole the show down along the Eno River. I have not taken a close look at these in many years. What have I been thinking? We have them blooming in in our ravine also.
Iris verna, these were all long the power lines out in the sunlight.

Cranesbill Geranium found mixing with the May Apples. We have a light blue version of these blooming along our road right now.

This is for Neil Jean! Pinkster Azalea, we saw a patch of these over the river on a cliff that was 15 x 50 foot likely the largest native patch I have ever seen of them. Needed a canoe to get a good photo of them though.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spicebush Swallowtail

Today I was working in the garden re purposing the 10ft x 16ft old deck that used to be on the back of our house. It was pushed aside two years ago and I rolled it on 4 inch PVC pipes into the woods and set it up to sit and enjoy the garden from it. I really like where it is now and the upper side of it is the hellebore beds and the back side is the Dwarf Crested Patch and several of the camellias.

Anyway I saw this Spicebush Swallowtail and grabbed my little Canon G11 and took this photo. The swallowtail stopped fluttering when the clouds passed overhead and allowed me to get this shot! Normally when I want to get a photo like this I grab the big guns DSLR and 180mm macro lens.

It looks like it might have a parasite. But seemed very healthy and happy to have found my azaleas. At least 2 other Spicebush Swallowtails were flying about in the yard, they are never seen here in any kind of numbers. Meg saw our first hummingbird of the season this morning from the bathroom on this same azalea bush.

Above is half the Dwarf Crested iris patch, this was taken from about 10 foot in front of the newly re purposed deck. Note all the trees and Virginia Creeper I need to pull out of the patch.

Opened yesterday this Iris tectorum, Japanese Roof Iris. I planted one plant about 12 years ago and now I have a 5ft x 5ft x 5ft triangle of these growing in the neglected garden. I have given so many of these away I could not count them. Last year I was given a blue one, a single bloom should be open in the morning.

Also Dr Ruppel Clematis opened Friday night, it opened on a Friday last year. Clematis henrii also opened today!

Our last miniature daffodil Tiny Bubbles opened a few days ago. This is a Brent and Becky's introduction. The jury is still out as the plants barely bloomed, maybe next year they will kick some butt.

Here is one of my new favorite triandus daffodils Hawera. What I like about this daffodil is it can have 2-5 blooms per stalk and my last fall planted bulbs many of them produced up to 7 flower stalks per bulb! Makes me think this is a great naturalizer.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Iris Crestata now blooming!

Several years ago the septic field was planted smack in the middle of the wild Dwarf Crested Iris  patch. Now it has more than doubled in size, I personally thought it would thin the patch dramatically. The patch used to be somewhere around 10' x 15' now it is like 15' x 30' and not quite as filled in as it was before the septic field.  So we have 100s of blooms open and more coming tomorrow with our mid 80s temps. They only last a few days.
Keeping the tree seedlings at bay will help them from getting taken over, it is a job around here pulling tree seedlings and dealing with blackberries and Japanese Bamboo Grass.
Above is a sample of what the actual patch looks like. Anyone local wanting some of these please let me know, many plants are in the proposed walkway. They can be moved or shared just the same.

The above plant was a gift last fall. Does anybody know what it is?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Trip to Bobbit's Hole.

Today we visited the Eno River State Park at Cole Mill Rd. We walked the powerline looking for butterflies and dragonflies. Then took the trail at the last trail crossing to Bobbit's Hole. Didn't have the time to walk the trail that is covered up with huge American Hollies in bloom, heavenly this time of year.

We did find a lot of butterflies in the powerline clearing, although it had been sprayed with a herbicide at some point. 12 Pipevine Swallowtails (a great number here in the Piedmont), 6 Henry's Elfins, 2 Juniper Hairstreaks (see photo below) and a rare skipper called a Cobweb Skipper. These skippers are the earliest grass skippers we have here and are mostly overlooked.

 I got my first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher today eating tent caterpillars out of our cherry tree. Meg says the tent cats have been raided many times by birds in the past few days. And Ovenbirds and Northern Parulas were calling everywhere along the Eno.

Juniper Hairstreak on a blade of grass.

Here is a female Black Swallowtail with a tail broken off.
Check out the subtle differences of the dark form female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
in the photo below!

Common Baskettails, the male on the top and female at the bottom. These are called baskettails because the female creates a basket of eggs on the end of her abdomen to deposit them in the water. I have seen this from a canoe at Merchant's Millpond.
This female Common Baskettail had me hoping she was a Robust Baskettail. Just a extra large one. It has been a while since I found a new dragonfly in these parts perhaps I'd been at it too long.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Swallowtails in the Redbud trees!

Today it is another 90 degree day in North Carolina. Pollen is falling everywhere and everything is covered in green stuff. I took a walk up the driveway today and found 5 Eastern Tiger Swallowtails feeding like crazy on one branch of a special Eastern Redbud tree.

Here is a fresh dragonfly from the driveway a female Common Whitetail. Today was the first day to see Common Whitetails, maybe 4 of them along the driveway today.

You can see on both dragonfly photos here the pollen on the bodies.
Here is a male Stream Cruiser the scientific name is one I always remember Ditymops transversa. This was one of the first dragonflies I saw this year. These guys pose well for the camera unlike many of the other spring dragonflies.