Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Spring Blooms

This spring has been a great show of color. The weather has been perfect for the trees and plants. Each day brings with it a new surprise. Pictured here are
1.) Bradford Pear Bloom
2.)Sandy Cherry
3.) Red & Yellow Tulip
4.) Wild Plum
5.) Hyacinth

I can't wait to see what the next few weeks brings. The Iris will be blooming soon, as well as many other things.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Skunky Adventure

Two summers ago my husband and I went to a farm his family owns in NWMO. As we were driving across the pond dam I noticed a skunk in the corn field . We stopped on the pond dam and I walked into the corn field. I had my camera with me and was determined to get a picture. I proceeded with caution. Within about 30 feet the skunk spotted me and looked at me. It wasn't long before the skunk thought I was way too close. It began to dance on its front legs. I still walked towards it slowly. Then it began tapping its front legs on the ground in between dancing on its front legs. I was approximately 15 feet from it now. dangerously close to spraying range. My husband was quick to point this out to me from the top of the pond dam. He also pointed out I would be walking home or riding in the back of the truck should I get sprayed. I was fascinated by the antics of this skunk. I think I even said something to the effect of "Oh how cute, look how she is dancing on her legs" It was somewhere at this point that she decided to chase me. I ran as fast as I could up the pond dam with her hot on my tail. I was laughing so hard I could barely run. She stopped mid-way up the pond dam and walked about 20 feet away and began digging in the dry grasses and disappeared under ground.(pictured). We determined that she had a den with babies. We left shortly after that, and never bothered her again. I will never forget my experience with this skunk that afternoon. She easily could have sprayed me at several points. It goes to show they really are gentle and would prefer to NOT spray if there is any other alternative. Truthfully if she would have let lose with a stinky stream I couldn't have blamed her. These are one of my favorite mammals, they are so absolutely adorable. Too bad they are such little stink bombs.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

First Morels

This morning we had an unexpected rain shower that lasted about 3 hours. It was a nice soaking rain. After noon the sun came out and it warmed up to 84 degrees. The hot humid afternoon also brought out the first morel mushrooms on our farm. For two days I've been looking for them in our hot spot where we always find them. Finally, today we found 32. They were rather small, but at least they were the nice golden ones. I brought them into the house and soaked them, rinsed them and we had our first mushroom fry. Absolutely delicious. The temperatures are supposed to be hot again tomorrow, I fully expect more morels to pop up. I will be out there searching again.

American Bittersweet

This beautiful indigenous plant of Missouri is found in numerous habitats throughout the state. Seems it will grow most anywhere, but it does prefer sunlight. In June the female plant will have small greenish-white blooms all over it, the male plant will have smaller more insignificant blooms. In order for the female to produce berries there must be a male plant nearby. In the fall is when you will find the deep orangish-yellow berries that later open up to reveal a gorgeous dark orange center. Many people have used these berries in decorating and for various different crafting projects for many many years. Because of over use of the plant it is far from common in Missouri. The one pictured was photographed near Happy Holler Conservation Area. It was entwined on a fence. The berries of the bittersweet are considered poisonous, although not fatally so, you would spend many an uncomfortable hour in your bathroom wishing you might die. So do not eat the berries!!! Birds on the other hand suffer no ill effects, they seem to like the berries very much, especially songbirds, pheasants and bobwhite quail. Squirrels will also dine on these berries. Many nurseries sell American Bittersweet (Celastrus Scandens), and I would suggest possibly planting this vine in your yard somewhere, rather than disturbing and destroying the already low numbers of this native plant. If you choose to plant Bittersweet vine, plant it away from young trees, its climbing habit could choke the tree and stress it or ultimately kill it. Instead plant it near a heavy duty trellis or by a light pole. Then you will be able to enjoy the full effect of this vine, from the greenish-white blooms in the late spring, to beautiful fall foliage and berries. Be careful though, there is another non-native version of this plant. It is called Oriental Bittersweet. It is showing itself in the Midwest now, and it's much more aggressive and fast growing than our native American Bittersweet. From what I have read, one way to tell the difference between the two is the juxtaposition of the berries on the stems. American Bittersweet will have the berries located at the ends of the stems, whereas Oriental Bittersweet will have them distributed down the stem near the leaf projections. Seems the Oriental variety also has some thorn-like projections on the stems. Some cross-pollination may occur where their populations overlap. These are one of the most beautiful fall color shows in Missouri.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Five-Lined Skink

This is one of the most common little lizards found in Missouri as well as most of the Eastern United States. It is sometimes called Blue-Tailed Skink, this comes from the fact that the young ones have a bright blue tail. As they age their tail loses this brilliant blue color and they become more uniformly brown. They have 5 lighter colored stripes down their back. Often times with age these also disappear. They reach a maximum length of about 7 to 8 inches. Like most lizards, if captured, they will lose their tail. This allows them to escape from predation. They will generate a new tail. You will typically find them in moist habitats near some timber. This allows them to find hiding places during the hottest times of the year. They will also be found in the early part of the day basking in the sun on top of rocks. Like all reptiles they are cold blooded and need to warm their bodies with sunlight and warm rocks. They are ground dwellers and feed on small insects and other arthropods. It is always a challenge to catch one of these little critters. Talk about fast!!! I've yet to succeed at capturing one, appears I am way too slow. It is fun to try if you don't mind looking a fool, all bent over, with your hand out stretched running full on at something no one can see but you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mystery Tracks

Just for fun I thought I would offer up this contest of sorts. Each of these pictures features an animal track of a native Missouri mammal. Some will find these easy, still others may find them a challenge. What do we win you ask? well...the satisfaction of being right of course. After a few days I will post the answers. Good luck.
As promised the mystery tracks are as follows.
1.) Bobcat
2.) Raccoon
3.) White-Tail Deer.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pint Size Greenery

Some of my favorite plants are Mosses. Their shades of green are so bright and found in such unexpected places. So many different types growing in various habitats. On the side of trees, on the ground, near water. Almost always found on the North facing side , where the temperatures are damp and cooler. The moss pictured was found in our timber. The little blooms rising up were barely an inch tall; so tiny yet so beautiful.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Seems the population of feral hikers is growing exponentially. I spot them everywhere I go, although I haven't seen them reproduce in the wild yet...unless you count that one weekend.... Uh nevermind.

Feral Hikers Getting Wilder

Hikers who have reverted to a wild state are putting extra burdens on state lands, forest managers say.

Feral hikers have long been a problem in Missouri, but their numbers are increasing as more and more people go into the woods without a compass, become hopelessly lost and are forced to adapt to forest living.

Attempts to eradicate the hikers have failed, largely due to their mobility and savviness. "They garland our snares with wildflowers," a researcher said.

More lethal methods of control have been opposed by sympathizers, who insist the feral hikers have become an essential component of Missouri forests.

"I like knowing wild things still exist in today's world," said a Moberly native.

Forest managers claim the feral hikers present a control problem. "We already know that they are reproducing out there, and it's possible they could hybridize with other species," a biologist said.

"And feral hikers walk full time, using up the environment day after day. Compare that to the normal recreationist, who only gets out on the odd weekend. That's disproportionate use."

"We just want to monitor this group," he said, "and, if possible, tax them."

Read some more at the Outdoor Tattler by Tom Cwynar

Just try not to smile

Is there anything cuter than a baby bunny? This sweet little baby was photographed in my yard then moved to a safer place away from my ornery cats. I've seen fewer and fewer of these wild rabbits over the years. I know their populations will cycle, and some years there will be rabbits everywhere. Other years hardly any. I know it has to do with predation, diseases, and weather conditions. Maybe this will be the year of the bunny.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dogwood Canyon

South of Branson, Missouri on the Arkansas border is a beautiful private refuge of sorts, called Dogwood Canyon. The person who owns Bass Pro Shop also owns this gorgeous property. He has spent much money and time creating a haven for wildlife, and people alike. He raises buffalo and elk here as well as long horn cattle. Many trophy white tail deer hang close to the elk and are often seen roaming with them. There are many eye catching water falls and rippling creeks. Turtles, frogs and fish abound in the waters. Trout fishing is allowed for a fee. They rent bicycles for those who want to bike around the property. There is a tram ride that takes you through the entire property where it crosses over into Arkansas. They rent facilities out for parties and weddings, they even have a wonderful log cabin chapel on site. Nearby Branson offers many wonderful things to see and do. Such as Tablerock Dam, and the lake. The Branson strip with shows, shops and interesting museums. A wonderful butterfly palace where you can see many tropical species of butterflies. Silver Dollar City and other amusement parks abound, even a huge waterpark. Many conservation areas are nearby as well for those who want to get outside and hike or bike the many trails. Maybe you'll even get lucky and spot an armadillo like the one I found and chased around the timber pictured here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blackwater & Arrow Rock Missouri

Heading east on I-70 you will come to a quaint little town called Blackwater, just North of Blackwater is an equally charming town called Arrow Rock each of these small towns is a step back in time to an era when railroad and river travel governed the growth of towns and the people who chose to make those towns home. Blackwater is home to the Iron Horse Hotel (1st and 2nd pictures) It is a fully restored hotel from the late 1800's that still receives guests to this day. The furnishings and atmosphere are reminiscent of a by-gone era. The on site restaurant is absolutely delicious. After a cozy nights sleep they serve a wonderful breakfast each morning (cooks choice), no cold donuts here. We were served omelets, fresh fruit, toast, juice, milk, coffee. We walked the block long main street, and visited several wonderful little shops. Some featuring antiques, or Native America Artifacts, and fudge to die for. The train still runs by the hotel off and on day and night. We even put pennies on the tracks (shhh don't tell). Then we drove to Arrow Rock and ate at a turn of the century Inn and Restaurant. The food was good, and the atmosphere even better. They have a museum on site that features a general store and what the inn would have been like in the 1800's at the height of travelers. At one end of town there is an overlook that shows where the river used to run directly by the town, it has sense changed course and now flows approximately a mile away from its original course. There are several original buildings throughout the town that you can visit, including a log cabin court house, a gunsmith shop, a boarding school, and a one room stone jail that only housed one convict, for one night. He was released after yelling so loudly that he kept town folks awake. Could you imagine that nowadays? The Lyceum Theatre is there as well, and is host to many Broadway quality productions. Looking for a weekend getaway? This is a wonderful spot to visit. You aren't even too far from Columbia Missouri for those Mizzou games as well.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

More Spring Time Blooms

Daffodils are one of my favorite spring time blooms, I have solid yellow and white/yellow. Their soft colors and sunny appearance make them a garden favorite. I discovered this lovely blue flower blooming today as well. Not sure what they are. They sort of remind me of forget-me-nots. Each day seems to being with it more signs of the impending warmer temperatures.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I've been trying for years to get a picture of this little bird. Chick-a-dee's are without a doubt my all time favorite bird. They are so cute and charming. Their plumage is adorable, all that black and white and buff coloring. Taking pictures of this little darling is a challenge; they never stop moving. With the constant motion, training a camera on them is near to impossible. I have tremendous respect for the photographers that have accomplished this feat. This chick-a-dee showed up in the front yard today and sat perfectly still in a bush. I was shocked, I got the camera, situated myself and managed to snap 3 pictures before he flew off. Admittedly this isn't the "best" picture of a chick-a-dee I've ever seen, but I am proud to have accomplished one that is halfway in focus. At least you can tell it is a chick-a-dee, unlike my past efforts. I remember the first time I spotted this species in my yard. It was about 5 or 6 years ago. I had never seen a bird like it before, after retrieving the field guide and identifying my little visitor I learned it was a chick-a-dee. I watched him for quite awhile flying back a forth from the feeder to the tree. Each time taking a seed with him to hammer it open against the bark of the tree. I became so enamored with him it actually brought tears to my eyes. Believe me when I say I have never lived that one down. My kids refer to it as the "Chickadee Moment". If I see any creature that I've not seen before, they ask me if it is going to be a "chickadee moment"? I just laugh along with them, after all if we can't laugh at ourselves who can me laugh at?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


These creatures are truly unusual. Jean Henri Fabre wrote about them in his "Book of Insects" in the chapter "A Well-Dressed Caterpillar" on the Psyche moths. He studied them at length and was fascinated by their queer behavior of creating their own abode. They wrap themselves in a downy covering made of silk. Attached to this strong silk are the sticks and twigs they use to make their hide-out. Typically around here we call these creatures bagworms and find them hanging in their all too familiar casing from evergreen trees. These little creatures are very mobile in their little huts, moving about while carrying their house with them. April is the time of year to remove them from your trees and destroy them. The eggs housed inside will hatch when the weather warms and these little caterpillars will begin seeking out new territories to invade and make their twig covered nests. In the late summer I have watched these caterpillars as they part way leave their casings to feed, and retreat back inside as soon as they sense you are nearby. I have yet to see the adult moths responsible for these crazy worms. I decided to try and experiment and brought 3 bagworm cases inside and placed them in a tank. I will fill the tank with evergreen boughs and see what happens. I opened one case outside and discovered it was full of eggs. It appeared to contain hundreds of the tiniest little eggs I'd ever seen. All a pale yellow color. Discovering these things hanging from my fir trees is a source of irritation, after all they are an eye sore. In large numbers they can even kill a tree. Even though they are nobody's favorite they are still fascinating creatures.

Bee Heaven

Near our goldfish pond in our backyard I planted a Zumi Crabapple tree. This tree is not native to Missouri, and is probably some sort of Hybrid Crabapple, but without a doubt it is one of my favorite trees. It is a relatively small tree, standing at about 15 feet high. It has a beautiful symetrical shape. In the spring it blooms gorgeous pinkish/white blooms. These blooms attract hundreds of honey bees. They swarm it all day eating their fill of nectar. I spend hours watching them, and photographing them. Once the blooms fall, then the tree leafs out in pretty deep green leaves. Then in the fall we have these beauitful red "crabapples" all over the tree. The leaves turn a pretty burnt orange color. The contrast of the leaves with the berries makes a gorgeous autumn show. I look forward to the first blooms this spring to see if the honey bees come back in large numbers like years past. Hopefully the cold frosty nights won't damage the blooms.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Back in Time

Visiting Bonnots Mill, Missouri is truly a step back in time. The small town is located near Jefferson City, right on the Ozark River. The railroad runs night and day nearby as well. A few years back we spent a weekend in this tiny town. We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast by the name of "Dauphine Hotel". In the 1840's the original site of the hotel was nothing more than a two room farmhouse. The town was origionally named Dauphine after its founding father. It was predominantly a french settlement. Later the small farmhouse was purchased by Felix Bonnot, who eventually sold it to Lucien Party. It was Lucien's family who were responsible for opening the Dauphine Hotel for business in 1875. With the nearby river and railroad there were no shortage of guests. The hotel still receives guests to this day as a B&B. The current owners Scott & Sandy purchased the hotel in 1994 and made many changes. Central air and heat were added, as well as antique gas stoves throughout the downstairs. Much cleaning, and updating were done to the decor. Many wonderful antiques are scattered throughout the hotel. Each of the seven rooms have their own private bath and are decorated with true turn of the century(19th century) furnishings. Staying at this hotel is truly a step back in time. Down the street is an excellent resturant that serves the best fried chicken I've had the pleasure of eating. Huge portions are served with a smile, and the price is right too! We spent one day driving the surrounding area and discovered a tiny town called Frankenstein. I found this quite funny. I have since learned that the town was not named after the famous Doctor of horror movie fame, but instead was named after a gentleman by the name of Gottfried Franken. Mr. Franken donated land that he owned for a church to be built. In 1999 in honor of the 25th anniversary of Mel Brooks movie "Young Frankenstein" the town was visited by 25 sky diving Peter Boyle style frankensteins. They skydived right into the community ball field, each one yelling "Putting on the Ritz" as they exited the plane. The mayor later renamed the town Young Frankenstein in honor of the event. I imagine Halloween is an event to not be missed in a town with a name like this. We also took time to visit Jefferson City where we shopped the numeorus antique malls there. We also took time to see the capital building and tour the museum located there. The hotel is charming, cozy and a true taste of what life must have been like in the late 1800's. Plan a visit, but bring the ear plugs, those night time trains will scare you outta your skin when they whistle by.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lake of The Ozarks

For my 40th birthday last year my husband surprised me with a weekend away to Ozark,MO. We stayed at a charming bed and breakfast named appropriately enough "Cliff House Inn" The owners of the establishment were friendly, helpful and a joy to visit with. The room we had was cozy and warm. We played cards and drank Amaretto Sours until the wee hours of the morning. The next day we headed out on a hiking expedition to Lake of the Ozarks State Park. We hiked a total of 8 miles, and enjoyed the trails and the views immensely. We discovered a suspension bridge that was down right scary. It is pictured here, it covered the entire expanse of the river and you could feel the entire bridge moving as you crossed it. We made the BIG mistake of walking out onto the bridge, where we discovered many missing boards, and boards with holes in them. UGH! If we would have noticed that FIRST we probably wouldn't have driven across it. Once on the other side we spotted the deer pictured getting herself a drink at the river. We also found a pileated woodpecker, which has been my nemesis bird for many years now. I was so excited to finally have seen one. They are huge and and impressive. I nearly cried I was so happy. As we were leaving the area we discovered this old Chevy parked in a open grassy area, I thought it was so cool I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a picture of it. The only thing I like taking pictures of more than nature is old cars and barns. I look forward to the day when we can head back to this area and pay Cliff House Inn a visit again. Well worth the visit if you are looking for a weekend getaway.