a chill February found me exploring a lonely trail in search of flowers and their attendant butterflies… Possibly a bear if I could see one. It was after all why I had picked an early morning and this particular trail that skirted a vast South West Florida marsh As I rounded an area looking down as I hiked I came across a small grouping, just a very few plants, of Nodding Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes odorata) Orchids. I had never seen these in my travels so it was pretty exciting! Nodding Ladies Tresses grow low and are rather small and they tend to blend in with the rest of, well, everything in the grasses. The blooms only last about a week or two so I was very lucky to come across them. Nodding Ladies Tresses are a ground orchid with just a few leaves and this wonderful flower spike that comes up about a foot. My book on Wild Orchids of Florida says that these are seen from South Dakota, east to Nova Scotia, south to Texas and in Florida. If you are lucky to see them in your area, take only photos and leave nothing behind but footprints… Orchids are protected in many States.
The little garden has been plodding right along, regardless of the intermittent just-under-a-freeze-warning type temperatures we have had here in South West Florida (today it’s warm out!) I got home last night from my Avon Rep Meeting and hubby had decided on his own to go pick one of the tomatoes that was barely starting to turn red! It’s sitting here on the counter more than likely destined for (gluten free) Fried Green Tomato to go along with dinner tonight. I wish he hadn’t picked it. His excuse; “I thought I’d pick it so the animals wouldn’t get it” WELL…. The only animals likely to get it around here are an errant wood pecker, blue jay OR human. The Nasturtiums I planted from seed last month are still coming along. The lettuce and collards are still producing as well.
The rest of the tomato bunches are doing OK… so long as no one decides to pick any or take a bite…. The above and below are Bonnie Select Hybrid Tomato, Determinate. They get 8 to 10 oz and are a good handful. Maturity is around 75 days. Water Tomatoes daily! Check periodically for worms and bugs to pick off. Interestingly enough, my Bonnie Tomato “Mortgage Lifter” and Black Krim are undersized plants with small fruits – they do receive the same treatments with water and fertilizer.
The Cauliflower is just starting to head up. I was taught that when it starts to head up like this you take some of the leaves and you cover the head up so it stay a nice white color. Do you do this with your Cauliflower? (I also like to put some of the leaves in salads for a little different flavor.) Store bought Cauliflower does not compare to home grown! It’s easy to grow, try it out in your Zone!
I had no idea that while I was planting and taking care of the garden, the birds were also planting a Sunflower Garden. OK, they were in cahoots with the squirrels hiding seeds.. The Black Oil sunflowers are almost as tall as me (5′ 4″) and are wonderful to see every day as they track the sun across the sky. I’ve included another photo. The two below are the tallest.
The most cool bird I have seen in the Backyard Universe has been an American Goldfinch I sighted in the Labyrinth tree last month. He was part of a small flock that passed through one evening. You just never know what you might see from your backyard! Spring is coming so get your small (or large) garden in, feed the birds and watch the magic happen around you! Get the family involved! If you need suggestions, drop me a note.
I had really really really wanted to go pack a lunch and drive across the County today.. into another County to see if I could photograph this Bald Eagle that I knew hung out in this one area.. Well, I found out he was there from some other people I was along with and we all saw him and they said “Oh he’s been there for-ever.” SO I had got up with the Eagle on my mind… however I didn’t have the gas funds to get over there so I decided to stick to my original plan to go work in the Backyard Universe weeding and trimming around the garden putting in my Tropical Sage plants I had grown. The tomatoes I found to be doing good. I check them daily for insects to pick off.. and so far no blossom end rot
I was in the process of making this Tropical Sage filled Humming Bird garden around the Sabal Palm for the Ruby-throat Humming birds that visit my feeders:
When I had just got the area weeded and dug up for the sage and I heard one of the occasional, distinctive calls of the neighborhood Osprey So, being a gal who packs cameras at-all-times I hastily washed my hands in my bucket of water, dried them and grabbed my trusty Nikon D5100 in hopes of seeing the bird… I looked around and then I saw him – or her, about 200 feet away sitting up in a tall Slash Pine tree snag in a neighbors backyard. I often hear Osprey calling as I live down the street from a Middle School with a good sized, deep waterway running behind it that the wading birds – and Ospreys love to fish.
Yes, the Backyard Universe was a busy place today! There’s allot that goes on here day and night with animals, plants and insects… even the skies overhead are busy with meteors, the ISS, and constellations wheeling overhead. I can’t imagine not being able to go outside and spend at least part of the day or night in the yard – I consider it a part of the house.
Our yards can be a part of our living rooms if we include them. Thousands of years ago, they WERE our living rooms – around a good fire to ward off carnivores. Somehow many of us got away from that “outdoorsy” need. Why? What purpose could it possibly serve to exclude nature in our lives? To be glued to the TV (and news) as much as some are. For me, I have to go outside and get my hands in the soil… walk barefooted around in the grasses, and take interest in what is happening in the trees, on the ground around me, and in the sky overhead:
When I looked over I saw this Monarch Butterfly sunning on a native Milkweed…
I grow a variety of natives in my yard specifically for the Butterflies and Hummingbirds.
I spent most of my day, once it warmed up and the grass dried off, outside working on the half acre. I watered the little garden, checked the plants for “pests” to re-locate, watered around the labyrinth then decided to clean out and re-fill the Hummingbird feeders. On walking past our next-to-last declining citrus tree in the yard, a Citrus Greening victim, I noticed pollinators busy at their jobs. There were the usual bees and various wasps, and then I saw a beautiful little Red Banded Hairstreak butterfly. (I knew by the shape it was some kind of a little Hairstreak.) Hairstreaks are a common butterfly in South West Florida but they are rather small (compare to the bee) and easily missed if you don’t really take the time to LOOK for them on your flowering plants or trees:
Look at the beautiful orange on the wings.. the eye spots and what looks like an M on the hind wing. If you’ve never watched a Hairstreak before, try it! You’ll notice they do some interesting things with their back hind wings. For one thing, they are usually in motion, being rubbed together much like we’d rub our hands together. GO ahead, try it! Now take a much closer look at the picture and you’ll see the hind wings have little “tufts” looking outgrowths on them that stick up. These will also wiggle around. Now combine the wiggling tufts on the wings and the wings rubbing together with that big black eye spot and a predator just might think it’s looking at the front end of the butterfly instead of the back end! Allot of times Hairstreaks will be missing part of their lower wings because this worked so well. Hairstreaks don’t move around so fast when they have a good source of nectar. I’ve noticed they like to hang around the area and take it easy usually resting on the blooms like this.
If you have a yard with some citrus in it consider watching and exploring there for Hairstreaks as well as other cool insects like this beautiful Paper Wasp.
Look at his coloration what does it tell you? There’s lots of hot colors there red, oranges, yellows and black in bold arrangements of color. The colors say “Keep Back” “Stay Away” “Leave me alone” or I might hurt you to protect myself. That’s a fair warning! So just stand back and watch him in the tree or bush and see what he does. Why is he on the leaf? Is he getting pollen or hunting for worms? If we take time to explore and listen, and question – and do a little research later, there’s allot we can learn.
Insects truly do receive a bad rap for “intruding” upon “our lifestyles” when in fact, they are just minding their own business! Outside even! Whether it is an ant patrolling a counter or a wasp outside in a tree, or a spider in a web a most common thought is Ewwww! followed by trying to figure out the best way to dispose of it and that is really a shame for we are all part of this same living, macro organism called Earth. The outdoors are an amazing place to explore with your family or by yourself so go outside and see what you can find. There are beautiful creatures and plants to see and explore right outside your home.
I enjoy veggie gardening as much as I enjoy going out on the trails or star-gazing… not only is gardening, planting things, good for the mind and body, but also for the soul.. Gardening gets you out into the fresh air working with the soil and plants getting your hands dirty. You become aware that the space around your house, your yard, the little patch on earth we call “ours” is home to many other forms of life besides ourselves. Problems become small.. issues go away quickly as you work and become one with the soil, with the earth and nature.
My garden this year (below) is handkerchief sized at 6′ x 6′ square.. don’t ask me how I got it square, I wasn’t trying LOL. I spaded the area out, removed the grass, and then added some amendments to it consisting of a couple of shovel fulls of Miracle Grow Gardening Soil and Osmocoat. In the background of the image you can see the Labyrinth. The big bushy plant is Lemon Grass used in my Thai cooking and tea on a hot day.
While the garden area is small it’s already produced several rounds of Simpson Elite lettuce and Georgia Collards. The tomatoes are still coming along with blooms. I have two heirloom varieties planted: Mortgage lifter, and Black krim I also planted a couple of Bonnie Select Hybrid Tomatoes which are not seen in the image as they are outside of the garden square proper (for another blog.) I also tried a new green this year, Burpee Senposai Hybrid. This is an awesome green that goes good in salads with the Simpson (or bib) Elite lettuce. The leaves are more sturdy and have a good flavor to them. You can also stir fry it!
Try adding fresh young Collard leaves to your salad. They add a spicy not quite bitter taste that is wonderful! I’ve planted another row Lettuce and Senposai since this photo for later on. I stagger my crops and rotate them. I have a few other things I’ve started from seed I won’t mention yet as they haven’t poked their heads up yet – I just got them started yesterday. Other things I have growing on the lanai are mint and sweet basil.. also good added to a salad.
SO.. If you are tired of “the same old thing” veggie wise, or tired of bagged veggies, consider growing your own. It’s healthier and you will know its Pedigree from your online seed research and choice to planting and nurturing to your plate, and YOU and your family will have grown it yourselves. It’s not difficult to do and it’s actually fun for everyone. If you want the kids to eat their veggies, get them involved in growing them! I know that works because growing up we kids worked and planted and did “pest patrol” on our own half acre garden. We ate all the things we grew and a few of them raw right there in the field. Overages I learned to Can and freeze or dry and sometimes we’d have so much overage we’d drive it around our Suncoast neighborhood in North Fort Myers and sell it from the back of the truck.
We loved being outside in the fresh air, exploring new things we’d see out among the corn tassels or twisty vines… What’s that caterpillar? that flying insect does it bite or sting? how does it move? We’d look them up in the books and increase our knowledge and it was FUN. So much fun and enjoyment that I continue to garden and grow things, and hunt critters out among the leaves – and I’m 50! Teach your kids to garden and explore the world and to ask questions and most importantly, have FUN! We can do this at any age… now go get some plants or seeds and start your Backyard Universe Adventure! Turn off the TV…
I recommend the following books on gardening:
Online Seed Catalogs I love
This post is in response to the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge of the color GREEN. I also want to apologize for a month of non postings. Scheduling issues, as well as health things got in the way of creativity. But I should be back on track now to pick up the blogging so I hope you’ll stay with me and explore the richness of your backyard and community. There really is allot to see out there and the first step to exploring it, is to go outside.
To see the individual images larger, please click on them.
My choices for Green include a selection of small green insects, birds and amphibians you are likely to encounter either in your Florida backyard, or on a boardwalk at your local Nature Center or Preserve. All of these green critters are quite small and can easily be missed if you’re hurried. The Green Tree Frogs are found during the day resting up or hidden in leaves or along board walks. The Green fly pictured on the big leaf is out in our yards daily, hanging around foliage, feeding off of rotted plant material. The beautiful Iridescent Sweat Bees are normally found close to your grasses.. they move fairly slow so they are easy to follow around and study although I have seen them hovering high over trails at almost eye level when you step into their territory – last Friday I was able to hang around a good while watching their antics over the CREW Land and Water Trust trails.
The Florida Green Anole can be a bit harder to find. They have been replaced in many areas by invasive lizards (like the brown ones on your porches and lanais) and loss of habitat. This Anole is from Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, there you can find them along the boardwalks and on Alligator Flag leaves enjoying the sun, and looking for insects. The beautiful, delicate Juvenile (he does not have his red throat yet) Ruby Throated Hummingbird is attracted to red flowers like Native Firebush, Red Shrimp Plants. Vines, trees, and shrubs that attract hummers include honeysuckle, morning glory, trumpet creeper, albelia, butterfly bush, flowering quince, rose of sharon, weigela, flowering currant, rosemary, buckeye and horsechestnut, black locust, flowering crabs, hawthorns, mimosa, and tulip poplar. I’ve also seen them feeding on the orchid like flowers of Bombax trees. I hope you have enjoyed my selection of “Green” and that it inspires you look around your local habitat for more of… the little things… all photography by Linda S. Jacobson.
To see the individual images larger, please click on them.
This Gallery and Blog is in response to The Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge. I just felt I had to make that clear since I normally write about Backyard Nature topics 🙂 and normally include some imagery in it from my backyard – you know, spiders, mushrooms, butterflies, birds etc.. those type of things. Not the Happy Faced Chihuahuas, Rosie Doodles and Luna, running around in my yard while I’m out there 🙂 Word Press has rolled out a new cool Display Mosaic that I had to include with the new Weekly Photo Challenge. I think it is pretty neat.
But back to the topics at hand! Luna and Rosie Doodles….
They BOTH have their own FB page and following, and are total hams. And very photogenic I might add. I got Luna first she is AKC, and the most docile laid back easy going Chihuahua you will ever see. She loves to go to Home Depot and ride in the cart and she contrasts totally with Rosie Doodles, who is also 100% Chihuahua (big attitude) Rosie being a feisty, bossey little thing. I got Rosie through my Vets office, she was surrendered to them by a gal who said Rosie “was not affectionate.” Well I can tell you, Rosie has a HUGE attitude, typical of Chihuahuas, and she is VERY affectionate. Rosie is originally from Oklahoma where she was used in a breeding operation. She’s had three moms, and I’m the only one she has stuck to.
They are our fur kids and they go everywhere with us including Glamping in the Florida State Parks. When I’m out in the yard photographing some new butterfly or a new cool insect, they are out there with me in the half acre running around with those happy smiley faces on. If you’d like to keep up with them, join their Face Book page.