A blog about a first-time house owner learning to maintain his backyard, and thoughts about nature, science, history, and life.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Flowers Popping Up

The planter boxes next to the patio have been pretty barren since I moved in, but now they're showing signs of life.  Small white flowers have popped up in the corner of one of these boxes, and so far the groundhog hasn't gotten to them.  Maybe they're too small to eat. 

As with most types of flowers, I don't know what kind they are.  But they were a nice surprise.  I have to keep my eyes open around the yard this time of year, or I miss little things like this.

Taking Out the Old Garden Fence

Now that spring is here, it's time to begin preparing for planting season.  The first step is to replace the garden's old chicken wire fence, which was in bad shape when I moved in.  Before I can install a new fence - which I plan to do this weekend - I had to take down the old fence.  First came the posts, then I ripped out the fencing.  In addition to the metal chicken wire, there was a netting that I had to pull out of the ground.  Now, the garden looks strangely naked, and the old fence is piled into a big ball.

A Dinner Companion

I was eating dinner one night last week, when I was joined by a furry friend outside.  This little gray squirrel sat on that tree trunk, looking in my dining room window and eating that acorn for at least five minutes.  It was nice to have some company during my meal.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spring is Here!

Freeville and the greater Ithaca area is finally greening up.  First, the shrubs, and now the trees, are beginning to open up their leaves.

The flowering trees across the area are in bloom, the insects and birds are back, and spring is officially in the air!


One of the mysteries of moving into a new home is what lies underground...and, in the context of this post, what has been planted that won't pop up until spring.  Since I moved to Freeville in August, I've been wondering what, if anything, was planted in the garden.  I've already posted about the crocuses, and when I returned from Washington, DC about a week and a half ago, they had been joined by daffodils.

Now that I'm looking for them, I've seen daffodils all over the place: businesses, homes, the Cornell campus.

Weather Station

My Christmas gift from my parents this year was a weather station.  I've been waiting for help installing it, and that help is coming this weekend.  The plan is to install a wooden post in the garden and mount the station to that.  The station transmits the data wirelessly to the gray data logger in the photo above, and I've bought software that allows me to download the data to my computer.  Now I'll be able to keep track of the conditions in my backyard and compare them to the two nearby weather stations, one at the airport and one near the Cornell campus.

The Birds Have Found the Feeders

The birds are now comfortable with the birdfeeders, and there's a steady stream of birds in the yard all day.  I regularly see mourning doves, robins, blue jays, starlings, sparrows, juncos, finches, chickadees, and goldfinches.  Their songs have been echoing around Freeville for a few weeks now, and its nice to see them making themselves at home in my yard.  Maybe a couple of pairs will choose to take up residence and build a nest in one of my trees.  As you can see, the feeders now require occasional re-filling:

Here's a short, shaky video that I shot of a blue jay going to town in the yard, before something startles it:

Time to Mow

The grass has quickly turned from brown to green, and it's gotten long again.  It's about time to get the lawnmower out of the shed and give the grass a trim...

Monday, April 15, 2013

A View from the Other Side

A week and a half ago, I took a walk around to the Genung Nature Preserve (view more photos of the preserve here, here, and here).   I snuck off the trail and headed in the direction of my house, looking to snap some photos of the dock and the surrounding area from the opposite bank.

There is a large clearing on the other side of the creek, which, once I broke through a little brush, made it easy to walk around.  Right now, it's still pretty lifeless and brown.

But there are splashes of green, too:

The clearing was ringed by thicker brush, and I had to survey a route down to the creek bank.

As I went, I had to make note of landmarks, like the bent-over tree seen here, to help me find my way back to the trail:

I took time to look back in the direction of the trail so I could remember where I had come from when it was time to go back to the trail.  Wading across the creek wasn't a terribly desirable alternative, with the water temperature still somewhere around 40F.

And finally, I made to the creek's edge:

The creek bank is a great deal flatter here on the inside of the "U" formed by the creek.

And the creek had slowly been receding, as we were in the middle of a dry period.  But it was still wet enough that the bank was muddy.

Looking upstream, directly across from my house.  From this angle, you can really see how the opposite bank steepens going into the bend.

One of my neighbors around the corner has a set of steps leading down to a much shallower-inclined creek edge.  

Here's my dock, from the opposite creek bank.  I've been waiting to take this shot side the day I moved in.  The bank is so much steeper here as the creek turns into the base of the "U".  You can see a couple of signs of the creek's power: the erosion of soil, exposing tree roots in the two feet just above the water line, and the power of ice, which lifted up the metal pole supporting the dock on the right.  The dock's become pretty misshapen, but it's still completely intact and safe to stand on.  I'm guessing that it can be repaired, and hopefully without too much effort.

A closeup showing how the right side of the dock has been lifted up about a foot higher than the left side:

And one more dock shot:

And now we begin to turn and look downstream of the dock:

If it weren't for the trees along the bank's edge, the bank would be even farther back.  Those roots - at least where they're more dense - hold the soil in place.

And then the creek winds around to the other bend in the "U".

The contrast between the developed side of the creek and the natural side of the creek is pretty striking: a straight line of trees behind the houses - possibly planted by settlers quite some time ago? - and the open, sparse vegetation of the undeveloped side of the creek.

Farther downstream, the creek splits around a small island.  This (below) is the right branch.  The left branch passes over the remains of the old mill dam.

And here's a better shot of the island and the waters splitting around it.

I wonder if this area gets flooded in high water:

And with that, I had explored the area that I'd hoped to explore.  Here's a well-worn deer trail that I picked up on my way back to my human trail.