The Homestone

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dandelions On the Menu

David ... and our Dandelions again ~ 

with his promise fulfilled to collect a few pics of the various critters in our yard that eat our dandelions. Were we to spray our yellow flowers to make the perfect green lawn, we would poison or kill the food supply of quite a few different animals and birds. Let's start big ... this Grizzly loves dandelions and we're sure glad because we would not want to end up on the menu...



and this family of black bears is so pleased to find this salad bar in the relative safety of our driveway, I say relative because that is exactly the same place as the grizzly pic was taken.

Groundhogs love dandelions,
as do chipmunks and rabbits and deer

Yellow headed blackbirds seek out just the right one in the closed position and bite all the seeds at once from the side.

and Pine Siskins pin them to the ground to make a meal of them one at a time. They prefer them in the parachute stage. 

And so it goes ~ enjoying all these critters and birds is worth every minute of the work we do to maintain a healthy ecosystem on these 48 acres and it's why we encourage and promote dandelions wherever they occur.
And we humans of course can also benefit greatly from the lowly dandelion.

We worked with Danny and Casey on their rings earlier this year. Casey and I were chatting about Dandelions and she kindly sent me her process for making Dandelion oil which I'll share here: (Thanks Casey)

- Pick the dandelion heads, then lay them out over some towels for about 24 hours.  I didn't do this the first two times I made it and after some more research I found someone's suggestion to do this as it reduces the amount of moisture in the dandelion which can then decrease the chances of the oil going rancid. - fill a 2L mason jar or glass bowl about half full with dandelions and then pour a blend of olive oil and grape-seed oil over top.  But I agree with you, almond would also be lovely, I have also used apricot kernel oil.
- Let the dandelions sit in the oil, in the sun for two weeks.
- Strain the oil
- I add arnica oil and essential oils, that assist with circulation or pain management as this enhances the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of the dandelion. 
- Keeping it in the fridge does help keep it fresh and useable.
Casey says that she's had many people say it helps relieve pain in minutes, especially those with injuries or arthritis.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Late May on the Meadow

We've both been keeping the camera discs full these days, and David took some time to jot down a bit about what's going on.

Spring on the meadow is full of new life. The birds are paired and scattered to their chosen nesting spots. Every birdhouse is full and beaks poke from every swallow hole. We have ten pairs of Evening Grosbeaks this year at the start of the season, so we are hoping to have a flock of thirty+ come September.

A very familiar Doe put in an appearance and posed for a few photographs before she made her way down the meadow. She was especially approachable and I think she was in labour. I saw her on the middle meadow a short time later, and she was in the same area she birthed last year. There are a lot of bears around right now, so I hope she is able to find her safe spot

Meanwhile, Mr Marmot is looking ... He seemed to want to get into the dandelion debate and ate a few while we looked on, commenting on their virtues I guess ... He is such a handsome devil, but on the edge of his territory. No girls have ventured onto the meadow yet and so he has to be content to pontificate and dream. And eat ... and sun himself ... and visit with the humans. Life is good ... !!!

We had a late evening reservation at the dandelion salad bar. It took a while for everyone to show themselves, so we assumed that it was the same bunch that were here last week. It turns out that this is a different sow and her four cubs! She must be very comfortable here because while she is quite aware of our presence, she purposely left her cubs on the driveway for a moment to check the harvest around the corner .. then rejoined them.
We were losing light, and I wanted them to look in the direction of the yard, so I disturbed them enough to get their attention and then got some pics of the procession as they made their way down the driveway toward the front gate

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Tall and The Small

Sandhill Cranes and Hummingbirds on the meadow.  Here on the meadow we see our Sandhill's in pairs, or groups of four or six.  "The sandhill cranes bugling calls are unique and can be heard from miles away. These tall, gray-bodied, crimson-capped birds breed in open wetlands, fields, and prairies across North America.  Mates display to each other with exuberant dances that retain a gangly grace."
"Sandhill Cranes are known for their dancing skills. Courting cranes stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air in a graceful and energetic dance."

"Although some start breeding at two years of age, Sandhill Cranes may reach the age of seven before breeding. They mate for life—which can mean two decades or more—and stay with their mates year-round. Juveniles stick close by their parents for 9 or 10 months after hatching.

The oldest Sandhill Crane on record was at least 36 years, 7 months old. Originally banded in Wyoming in 1973, it was found in New Mexico in 2010.

The earliest Sandhill Crane fossil, estimated to be 2.5 million years old, was unearthed in the Macasphalt Shell Pit in Florida."

I believe what we have here is our Rufous Hummingbird however we are always happy to be corrected. : )  "Rufous Hummingbirds have the hummingbird gift for fast, darting flight and pinpoint maneuverability. They are pugnacious birds that tirelessly chase away other hummingbirds, even in places they’re only visiting on migration. Like other hummers, they eat insects as well as nectar, taking them from spider webs or catching them in midair."
All Notes in italics are from the excellent website All About Birds

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hummingbird Arrival

Our newest arrival.  Sunday afternoon; our first hummingbird of the season made his appearance. Very exciting.  By late May and into early September we enjoy well over a hundred hummingbirds at our feeders on a daily basis! It’s absolutely magical.

David is incredibly in tune with our wild birds ~ he observes, listens and communicates with them.  Somehow, he knew it was time! I was sure we wouldn’t see a hummer for a few weeks yet, but David insisted on hanging a feeder about 4 days ago and sure enough, on Sunday afternoon ~ our first hummer arrived!!
Here’s our Sunday arrival on the tree outside our kitchen door that we sometimes refer to as our Christmas Tree because it’s a bird magnet.  During these next few months it’s almost always completely decorated with hummingbirds and other wee birdlets.

For all you fellow bird lovers; May 9th is 'Global Big Day' under the wing (haha) of Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology.  Go birding wherever you are, for any length of time on May 9 and enter your lists in ebird. Here's a link to the Global Big Day 2015 site.   

Their primary goal is fundraising for their excellent work with birds, but May 9th is about finding as many species as possible for the Global Big Day tally and to have a worldwide show of support for the birds! I hope you enjoy your birds wherever you are and if you have some time on the ninth of May ~ please count and record any that you see.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

April has arrived

And here's a post from David for a change of pace : )

News from the meadow ....
Our early spring runoff peaked today and the high spots on the meadow started to reappear. This morning, a half dozen green winged teals worked the edges of the nearest shore with a pair of mallards. They would be on their way north and taking advantage of our temporary lake to refuel. At noon a pair of mature trumpeter swans dropped in with last years cygnets and made their way to the little island to rest and preen where they felt safe, providing a wonderful opportunity for some video footage.
Our robins have begun to arrive en masse, Nicky counting seventy eight without moving off the deck. Three pairs of tree swallows have checked out their nests and are working the edges of the meadow for insects. The flickers are beginning their mating rituals, flashing their bright colours from side to side in unison as they watch the sky for interference.
And then there is old yellow legs who is taking advantage of the large population of birds in the area and making his terrible presence felt ... The thicket that Nicky had Vince build helps the junco and blackbirds escape his sudden appearance, however he gets the slow and weak and keeps everyone on their toes!
Its been a bird filled day ... but not without critters. Nicky saw a big healthy coyote in the mill yard today and the squirrels have been risking the open ground to the bird feeder to try their luck again.
We keep our beavers fed to protect our local aspens, and it always gives us an easy viewing and photographing opportunity. Vince puts new trees into the holes he has made for the purpose at the edge of the beaver pond, and they come and fall them at dusk.
They wintered well and are fat and sassy, cruising up to us then disappearing in a noisy shower of water.
Hope you enjoy the pictures : )

Green wing teals and mallards ...

Green Winged Teals headed north

at noon, four swans arrive for a rest

trumpeters and last years cygnets
the cygnets are still learning but the male is feeling his independence ...
Mature trumpeter swans ... The largest swan in the world.
a cruise downwind so the wind is in their favour for takeoff ...
We get robins!
They gather in the fall by the hundreds and then disappear ... I don't know how far they migrate but I assume they go somewhat south and toward the coast. Too cold for them here, and they forage for insects mainly. The forest here supports a lot of robins, but when the arrive, they work our lawns for earthworms and leather-jacket larvae.
Flicker Ritual
Mom standing (four or five) and two year old daughter
our ubiquitous geese who keep their distance but tolerate us ...
This aspen trunk lasted a couple of days ...

Momma gives us the eye ...

and her warning slap ...
and the swans are on their way ...

Happy April one and all ... 
And be warned :) t'is the season of a billion pics from the meadow folk.