Camping Notes 5/6/13

I realized that on Mondays, I am usually overflowing with camp observations. Thought I’d share some, now and then.

It was the first gorgeous weekend of the 2013 season. Temperatures that I would happily keep year round, 70s, by day, and upper 40s, by night.

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To the right, is our original site which my husband, Ed, had cleared and built. The whole area was thick forest when we began over 15 years ago. This is Ellen and Kory’s place now. (They weren’t here this weekend.)

We have a small Walmart sunken pond which is my first stop every weekend. It provides a wonderful vernal pool for amphibians. The visitors are fewer,so far, and  I have a good theory as to, why?

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010It has been recently dry and the spotted salamanders and wood frogs migrate farther during rainy weather. Only the green frog “locals” and one mature Red Spotted Newt are currently present. This is a first for my pond. This week promises some rain but I’m afraid that their egg laying, for this year, might be over. 😦

So off to check out my plum blossoms. Last year, I was alarmed by how few honeybees had tended to pollination. This year, I spotted a few but the numbers are still dismal compared to years past. I’m hoping that our chilly Spring has not yet awakened the masses.

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As the day progresses, I plan my garden. We have suffered for 4 years with a terrible fungus blight. This year, I plan to grow corn and I’ll be trying an above ground method for tomatoes using wooden skids.

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Ollie, my Jack Russell, is the happiest camper. He’s able to run loose and dig to his heart’s content. He is now 9 years old and requires more breaks in the sun. Of course, he has his own chair.

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Ed and I camp in an area that he prepared for our 5th-wheel. It is just below the old homestead and is our little piece of heaven.

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Ed keeps very busy. He gathers wood and splits it, as well as, maintaining the lawns and building wonderful stone flowerbeds. His four-wheeler has all that he needs. Yes, a rifle and a chainsaw are both necessary here. Actually, Ed had arrived the day before I came. Our gas grill had been knocked from our deck and one (empty) cooler was out in our yard. Our friends, with a game camera, have evidence of a large black bear in our area. Coyotes and a fisher have also been spotted. We leave no food or garbage out to entice them!

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I was pleased to see the first of Ellen’s tulips open. The daylight hours are shorter in the woods, so our campsite is a bit behind what we have at home.

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I was also happy to see some forget-me-not seeds had taken where I’d hoped they would fill in on a banking.

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I never fail to search our piece stone before we leave. It was quarried in Hudson, NY and has many seashell fossils from a time when New York was an ocean floor. I have always loved rocks! I’m thrilled to look for fossils and, sad that so many were ground up, too. I guess I would have never had the chance to find them if that had not happened.

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So there you have a glimpse of the “good life” I find in the forest. I also had time to read in a lovely shaded area beside my dog.

Further updates will show my flower beds and garden. See you later!

Natural Mysteries

As I’m sitting before this blank screen today, I’m listening to an occasional car pass by. There is a cat bird somewhere out there too. I was about 40 years old before I took an interest in birds and the sounds in nature. I guess everything has it’s time and, with so much to learn in one lifetime, we choose our priorities.

Catbird
Catbird

I believe it was the puzzle that enticed me to pay attention. I love puzzles and just don’t like not knowing things.It’s not to be a smarty pants. I realized how many folks had misinformation and felt it my duty to pass on the truth. I figured they hadn’t found their time to listen yet and I could be their investigator for “time-saving” knowledge.

My interest peaked about 12 years ago when we purchased 30 acres of woodland in New York State. That August, my husband had been clearing brush and reported hearing (what he believed were) tree frogs. This didn’t make sense to me. Frogs wouldn’t mate that close to Fall, would they? The sound was definitely foreign to me which I found really interesting since I had spent many years out-of-doors within miles of our land. I happened to be reading a book devoted to grasshoppers and katydids. (See, my nature interests stirred up just at the right time!) It was a journal from a naturalist and it described a sound that seemed to fit the mystery. My Mom had the first computer in our family. She was happy to bring up a site of nature sounds for me.( among them were katydids.) “That’s it!” I shouted. The mystery had been solved! After that, I told many locals who did not know what that delightful “creaking” chorus of the night was. I passed the knowledge on to those who cared. Some even argued when their misinformation was challenged. I stood firm and proud of my investigation.

Katydid

The next year, I found an amazing looking frog clinging to the side of my camper. He was gray and greenish with the cutest suction cup fingertips. I had wondered what he was and took him home to a terrarium that I had set up just for one week. He was a gray tree frog, a usually unseen inhabitant of woodlands. I say HE because,luckily, I had found a male. His blacken throat and awesome song provided those clues of his gender. Believe it or not, his trill was a sound that had puzzled me during the daytime. Two mysteries had been uncovered. I returned him to the place where he was found.

Gray Tree Frog

My granddaughter and I sit and listen in the forest almost every weekend. I am pointing out the correct information and she is an eager naturalist-in-training. Wouldn’t it be cool if she used this knowledge and interest to become a scientist one day? THAT will be up to her. At least, she’ll have a head start in that area!

You Never Know…

First, the saying “Truth is stranger than fiction.” , is absolutely the truth.

Second,” if you hear the beating of hooves on the American prairie you can count on them NOT being zebras.”, is absolutely not always the case.

This is a second-hand true story told by my mother.

Our family had a cottage on a lake in New York state. We spent summers there but sometimes, as we kids grew older, we elected not to go. My mother was alone one evening. Well, she had our black Labrador Retriever Lucky with her,but no one else. I’m not sure if she was reading quietly or was awakened by our trash cans rattling and Lucky barking like crazy. Either way, she was alarmed. Of course, the culprit was a raccoon, she thought. Then the banging kept up. Raccoons make a racket when they tip the cans over but they don’t make a battle out of it.

The dog was going nuts! She dared not to let him out because,by this time, she had concluded it was a bear. She listened to the activity through an open window in the dark bathroom.

By this time, the aloneness and the dogs frantic barking were really alarming her!

She heard the crunching of chicken bones and the intermittent slinging of the trash can lid against the cottage!

Deciding not to let Lucky out under any circumstances, she had to concluded that the BEAST was a bear. Better off to just be quiet and he’d go away. The ferocity of the feeding frenzy outside still gave her the creeps because something just did not seem normal.

“Of course,when it’s nighttime and you’re alone everything seems scarier.”, she thought.

The next morning she got the news that a wayward baboon had been shot one mile from the cottage. Apparently, it had escaped from one of those traveling carnival shows. Maybe, they were afraid to report it? Who knows?

The baboon had been spotted and cornered by police and was shot as it attacked them. (Poor thing.)

Ah ha! That must have been the BEAST at the garbage. Whoa…glad that Lucky did not tangle with a baboon!

Now, mom really had the creeps!

The morals of this story are: YOU NEVER KNOW and Truth is always stranger than fiction.