Yellow Morel

Yellow Morel

We’ve found a scattering of morels now and then, usually in late April. Our earliest find was on April 7 (in 2017) and our latest was May 8 (in 2013). We never seem to find them in the same place twice.

Natural events: orchard edition, January 2017

To have a chance at being successful fruit growers in Missouri, we need to be keen observers of the ecosystem, able to identify and understand what is going right and what is not from the perspective of our fruit plantings. This means delving deeper into entomological ID, paying attention to details of plant growth, noticing what herbaceous plants are around, poking around in the wood-chip mulch at the base of the plants to monitor life in the soil, and more. In other words, it means perfect fodder for a continuation of this natural events series.

This is our motivation for a planned shift in this series’ focus from the whole farm to the parts where we’re growing (or attempting to grow) perennial crops, especially fruits. As shown in the orchard photo below, these areas are managed but far from manicured, and there’s more than enough wildness and nature here to keep the amateur naturalists in us busy for a long while.

Featured this month:

  • Basic bud identification
  • Twig damage
  • Signs of mammals
  • Understory plants
  • Swans overhead

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Natural events, December 2016

This post completes our 6th full year of monthly natural-events blogging; the full archive can be viewed under the Landscape and ecosystem tag. What started primarily as a monthly bird list back in 2011 has gradually evolved into a monthly photo essay. We plan yet another shift in focus for 2017, this time toward an emphasis on the orchard and perennial fruit production. More on that when January comes to a close, but first the final installment for 2016.

Featured this month:

  • Frost flowers
  • Barred Owl
  • Bird nests
  • Forest floor greenery
  • Unhappy raccoon

Weather recap:
December started cold and ended warm. Joanna milked the goats on two successive -2ºF mornings in early December (brr!). But temperatures rapidly turned balmy, followed by genuinely warm. Christmas night thunderstorms gifted us with nearly an inch of rain, a welcome amount as fall and early winter have been on the dry side.

dec_natural_frost_flowers
Frost flowers: Frost flowers bring joy to some of the days of first real cold. Certain plants are responsible for these amazing and delicate ice structures. This one is White Crownbeard (Verbesina virginica); though it is a native Missouri plant, we did not have any here, so we acquired some seeds from Joanna’s parents. We started this specimen from seed in the greenhouse last spring, planted it near the house, and more or less forgot about it. What a nice reminder of the effort when we noticed this “bloom” on December 9! Yellow Crownbeard (Verbesina helianthoides) is also well established near the house, verging towards weediness; though in the same genus, that plant does not produce frost flowers.

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Natural events, November 2016

Featured this month:

  • November flowers
  • Shingle Oak dispersal
  • Orchard fungi
  • Blueberry plant status
  • Seed set on invasive vines
  • Cute(ish) fuzzy mammal of the month

Weather recap:
Similar to October, November was above normal in temperature and below normal in precipitation. This made for some really nice outdoor working conditions. It was a first in our experience to enter the month with frost-sensitive plants still going strong; in the photo below, note the zinnias, marigolds, tithonia, luffa, pole beans, and more. However, enjoyment of the weather was tempered by concerns about whether plants were getting the right cues to harden off and prepare for winter.  nov_natural_mg

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Natural events, October 2016

Featured this month:

  • Spore producers
  • Lepidopterans
  • Unhappy caterpillar
  • Beetles
  • Hymenopterans
  • Oh, deer
  • Rose mallow

Weather recap:
October was warm and rather dry. A few nights brought light frost, the first of which was the morning of October 13. These frosts did only the most minor damage to some flowers and tender leaves (such as those of cucurbits) in exposed locations, but most crops didn’t mind. It is very unusual for us to make it to the end of October without a killing frost; see this Tweet from NWS Kansas City for a nice chart of first freeze dates over time.oct_natural_frostOctober 13 brought frost (left, frost on Gift Zinnia), as did October 21 (right, frost on kale).oct_natural_cover_cropsCover crops have had plenty of time to grow and thrive. The sunn hemp (tall plant with yellow flowers in the background) is frost-sensitive, but is still going strong. The oats and peas in the foreground are untouched, as it takes deeper cold to kill them.

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Natural events, August 2016

August typically juxtaposes garden overabundance with disheartening losses to pests. Likewise, August typically combines outrageously good food with utterly miserable weather. In these ways, August 2016 was pretty typical.

Featured this month:

  • Berries
  • August food
  • Attack of the flea beetles
  • Shade cloth pitfalls
  • March of the armyworms
  • The woodpeckers strike again
  • 2016 cash crops
  • Cup plants in flower

Weather recap: Muggy was the word of the month. Temperatures never broke 100ºF, but the heat index sure did. Precipitation whiplash continued. The month got off to a start with a more-than-we-needed downpour, but irrigation was back in the picture by mid-month. Then it went back to being on the wet side, with rain falling on 6 of the last 8 days of the month.

aug_natural_wine_worthy

Quiz: What do these plants have in common? Answer below the break.

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Natural events, July 2016

Featured this month:

  • Predatory stink bugs to the rescue
  • Japanese beetle report
  • Black rat snake nest
  • Plants with milky sap
  • Fungi galore
  • Grazing strategy

Weather recap: July started very wet, then turned hot and steamy, tending towards dry by the end of the month. Between the morning of July 2 and the morning of July 3, we received 5.81″ of rain, an amount that would usually result in a real mess. Runoff was a problem during intense downpours, but overall the landscape soaked up the water remarkably quickly, a testament to just how dry June was and how thirsty the flora was. The temperature never broke 100ºF, but the heat index did repeatedly. We don’t remember ever going through so many soggy, icky, sweat-soaked changes of clothes as we did this July.

Quiz: Are the landscapes in the photos below overgrazed, well grazed, or undergrazed? And by what animal(s)? Answers at the end of the post.

july_natural_grazing

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