Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring Guests: Long Awaited, Unexpected & Unwanted

The streams on our property
are no longer dry
I just realized it has been a month since my last post, Spring has arrived, and with it many chores have been added to those that had become the Winter routine. Occasionally we still have to bring in wood and tend the fire, as we have been told this Spring has been below average temperature-wise, but our gardening projects are now in full swing. Those exploits, however,  will be another post in the near future. Spring has also meant the arrival of some guests around the property.

Introducing friends to a favorite
BBQ joint
First, the long awaited. My dear, best friend brought her son and a friends of his down from Wisconsin for Spring Break. Unfortunately, the weather turned cold and wet just before they arrived and stayed that way the entire week they were here. One of the things I love about our Ozark weather is it's volatility. Whenever a cold spell sets in, all you have to do is wait a day or two and warmer temperatures will soon replace it, however that was not the case for their visit.

We put the boys to work
around the property
Despite the weather we had a great time showing them around and enjoying each other's company. Up north we used to get together with them every Friday, so they have been greatly missed. We also got to travel several hours from our place to go visit some of their relatives that also live in the Ozarks. We had a great time visiting her family, and Alan and I my just stop in to see them again if we ever find ourselves in their neck-of-the-woods. One other perk with these guests - I had two strong teen-age boys to carry wood in all week, not to mention a few other chores we put them to work on.

The boys decide to 'enjoy' the stream
despite the temperatures only getting to the low 60's
Next, the unexpected guests. There have been several of these lately. One evening we came home to 13 deer in our front yard. Since the area of the front yard by the road is the only part of the property in full sun, that is where a majority of my raised beds are going. There was already one bed in place, but early this spring, I discovered it was filled with flower bulbs. I have dug up dozens, if not hundreds of iris, tulip and hyacinth bulbs in this little plot. I am throwing them down over the bank along the roadside in hopes that some of them will take root there. The good news is, our deer have been eating many of the unwanted shoots that were popping up in my soon to be vegetable garden. The bad news is, the deer have been eating many of the unwanted shoots that were popping up in my soon to be vegetable garden! I am sure they will not stop when the buffet switches from flowers to vegetables. So, one of our projects has been creating deer barriers (hopefully!).
The deer enjoy the bird seed under the feeders,
as well as inside the feeders they can reach.

Critter-Cam confirms my late night Peeping Tom
was a bobcat that was visiting that night.
Or, would that be a Peeping Bob?
Our 'critter cam' has shown us lots of our nightly visitors, and confirmed one in particular that was a little disconcerting, but exciting!. I was up late one night by myself, sitting in our living room, working on a crochet project, when I heard a loud 'thunk' against the window closest to the sofa. I looked up and saw a cat doing a chin-up on the window ledge, staring in at me. My first thought was that one of our cats was out on the deck and wanted in. This was quickly followed by the realization that both of our cats were curled up on the sofa next to me. Then I realized this was a very large cat with a pudgy face and tufted ears. All of this took place in just a few seconds and the cat disappeared quickly, at that point it dawned on me that I was 90% sure it was a bobcat, we have seen one in our yard before. I ran out to the deck (not too smart as I was un-armed) but it was gone. Later, we checked the critter-cam and verified there had been a bobcat visiting that night.

And now we come to the unwanted. It happened sooner in the season than I expected, I found the first tick on myself, never a pleasant experience. We had taken our visiting teens over to the side of the property by our 'cottage' to do some target shooting, and that night I discovered the nasty little unwanted visitor had taken up residency on my abdomen. And these interlopers are not limited to our property. I am taking a course to become a Master Naturalist and our last class was on entomology. There have also been classes on mammals, stream studies, geology, etc. Each class consists of class time in the morning and then going out in the field for hands-on instruction for what we had just studied. In the case of the entomology class, we spent the afternoon out in the woods turning over rocks and dead tree limbs looking for interesting bugs, spider, centipedes and mites. I really enjoyed the class, but unfortunately, when I got home that night, I discovered yet another tick attached to my abdomen, word must have got out that this was a prime feeding ground for ticks. The good news is that while I was at my all-day class, Alan had sprayed our entire yard with a tick killing solution. And next we will be putting down the granules we discovered last year that kept the ticks away all Summer and Fall.

Our new water facility
You will notice I said Alan sprayed the yard. He did not use the back-pack sprayed that was our version 2 shower last summer, he used a hose hooked up to our new pressurized water system! You may recall the pump we installed in our bathroom to pump water to our shower, well Alan installed a similar but more elaborate system in our utility room. There is now a water hose from one of our large rain water storage tanks into the house. This is connected to a 12 volt water pump that also has a small pressurized tank. From this, there are two take-offs.

Look, we can spray water
out the window!
Pressurized water is redirected both to an outside spigot, which can be used for watering the garden (or spraying tick-icide') and an inside spigot that first runs through a somewhat coarse water filter. This inside water can be used directly for laundry and cleaning, or used to fill our potable water filter bucket to be further filtered for our cooking and drinking water. I have also claimed this new hose as my weapon of choice in our long-standing family tradition of indoor water gun battles. I can't wait for the next time any of the kids visit!

There will probably be another post soon with more details on this and other amenities in the most recent round of upgrades we have made around the house. This is our first Spring on the property and it has been proven to be a very  busy time of year. It has felt good to once again be working on many physical projects around the house and property, the sore muscles are back and it is a welcomed feeling as we can sit out on the deck in the evening and look over what we have accomplished during the day. And now that the yard has been sprayed, it is nice to know there are no ticks staring back at me thinking 'Mmmm, dinner". At least, that is what I am telling myself....

In a recent post I included images of various birds we have identified that are visiting the property, but those were 'canned' photos, not ones of the actual birds that have visited. I will leave you now with some photos Alan has taken recently from our living room window:

The birds really enjoy the new Hot Pepper suet we found.
This little nuthatch keeps coming back for more.

The next few shots are of a red-bellied woodpecker
that has become a very frequent guest.

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