Sunday, September 16, 2012


Now that August is over it's time to put the garden whine and cheese back up on the shelf.

Fall is coming. Even though the days have been hot, the nights have been cooler, almost cold, and crisp.

You know summer is drawing to a close when you start seeing Charlotte and her sisters everywhere!

Most of the birds stopped singing over a month ago, with the exception of an exuburant Blue Grosbeak and year- round resident Field Sparrows and Carolina Wrens. Oh, and the Mockingbird. He rarely shuts up. :)

The hummingbirds are still here and as always Blue Brazilian Sage is their favorite. I moved several divisions of it up around the house ~ one visible from the kitchen window ~ and now it's hummingbird TV all of the time. One of the most intriguing displays I've seen was two that met face to face in front of the same flower, and then zipped up a good 15 feet in the air while still facing each other, ending with the usual bickering. They are the bickeringest birds. Part of their charm.

Trust me. There was a hummingbird here right before I snapped the picture.

Last week on my way out the door for an appointment (injection for carpal tunnel) I saw an amazing sight: wild turkey babies! DH spotted a wild turkey hen near the creek a few months ago, and then later I saw her in the grass road between the two pastures. Definitely not one of the neighbors' escaped Heritage turkeys: she is tall and lean, with long legs, and she does not wait around expecting to be fed. Formerly I have been surprised by the lack of wild turkeys here (and very surprised by the lack of Red-Headed Woodpeckers), wondering if the underbrush was too thick for them, although there are plenty of open fields in the creek valley. Now the hen has 5 poults, half feathers and half fluff and standing at least a foot high. When they saw me they took off down the driveway and then up the hill and through the fence to the neighbor's pasture. I saw them again the other night when I was on my way to bring the horses up for the night. A couple of poults dashed across the grass road, and then in single file they went trotting around the wood's edge with mom bringing up the rear and disappeared into the trees. It's been years and years since I've seen a wild turkey up close. There were turkey on the horse farm where I rode during college and I saw them often then. I even saw a tom displaying once, and since I was on horseback he didn't seem bothered by my presence at all. I've seen turkey frequently since then -- in Pennsylvania we saw large flocks on the hillsides all of the time -- but not up close. They can be very shy and elusive.

The Red-Shouldered Hawks are back on our farm after being absent for the summer. They raised their young this spring in a nest about two hundred feet west of the house. I saw them carrying prey (usually something small, like a lizard or frog) to the nest several times a day. Once the young fledged they moved over to the neighbor's farm for the summer. Now at least one of them is back. They are so used to us now that we can walk by them as they perch on a fence post ten feet away and they don't move. The Barred Owls are back too, after Great Horned Owls moved in briefly last year.

Our farm is currently host to a doe and two fawns, and a buck and a doe. The other day I was pushing the wheelbarrow out of the paddock and I turned around and standing just a yards away was one of the fawns. Sure one day it will be grown up and eat daylilies but it is extremely adorable. Pretty funny too because I could practically see it thinking "omg she sees me what do I do???!!!".

The Bidens have been gearing up since the beginning of September. They are full of light even before they start to bloom.

Now they are full of lemon and golden yellow flowers and are being visited by just about every pollinator imaginable.

So much yellow requires some pink (Hibiscus moscheutos from seed and Seashore Mallow)

and purple. There is a whole collection of Buddleias on the west side of the house: B. davidii 'Royal Red' on the right in the foreground, then B. lindleyana on the left, a B. davidii seedling from an another gardener with flowers the color of Potter's Purple but smaller flowers and leaves, and then to the right 'Petit Indigo'. The plants in the background are Bidens that are now in bloom and the butterfly bushes have finished up their bloom cycle as they wait for more rain.

After feasting on the Joe Pye Weed the Swallowtails moved to the Buddleia. They love it. It wasn't unusual to see 15-20 Swallowtails on each one.

This has been the year of the Swallowtail. I think this is Spicebush Swallowtail feeding on a Hibiscus coccineus, which began blooming in July and usually continues into October. The Black Swallowtails finally found the parsley plants ~ I didn't see them all summer, although they did appear in waves ~ and the cats happily munched them down.

Not just Swallowtails now either. Azures, Sulphurs, Skippers, Red Admirals, Buckeyes, Pearl Crescents, they are all a-flutter everywhere. Going outside is like being in a Disney movie.

For the past 6 weeks we've been Japanese Beetle-free and it's been nice to see the roses again. This is 'Clotilde Soupert'.

After receiving Plant Delights' newsletter I now know what stripped my baptisias bare: the caterpillar of the Genista Broom Moth.

"One insect that made an appearance in our area starting a couple of years ago was the Genista caterpillar (Uresiphita reversalis). Baptisias have long been considered insect resistant since their leaves contain chemicals that repel most insects. Unfortunately, Genista caterpillars are immune to these leaf toxins. To make matters worse, the caterpillars have chemicals in their bodies that make them immune to most caterpillar predators...ain’t that just grand. While the Genista caterpillar is native to southern and central US, they have not been seen this far east until the last few years.

The unattractive nocturnal moths lay their eggs in spring, which subsequently hatch and the Genista caterpillar larvae begin feeding on the tender new baptisia plant growth. The larvae work fast and can completely strip the foliage of a mature baptisia in a few days...fortunately, this should not cause permanent damage to the plant. The larvae have 5 stages before they pupate for overwintering. Since the moths are quite prolific, they can actually lay several generations of eggs each year, so you’ll need to monitor your baptisias all summer. When the caterpillars are young they can be easily killed with organic BT (Bacillus thuringensis) products. Spinosad, a biological insecticide composed of Saccharopolyspora spinosa bacteria from crushed sugar cane, has also shown good effectiveness."

This morning, for the first time on our farm, I saw a coyote. I was walking the pony down the grass road between the pastures to cool her out and saw something standing in the road at the other end of the pine tree tunnel. At first I thought it might be a turkey then I saw it had ears. It was wondering about us too because it came toward us before turning back around and running the other way. Too big for a fox and with a gangling loose-jointed gait. Definitely a coyote. I'm not surprised but not thrilled either, not with my cats and the Gray Foxes and the turkey young and the bobwhite quail that we have here. About 4 years ago I heard a pack singing somewhere east of east ~ probably our neighbor's neighbor ~ and then, nothing. Coyotes are susceptible to distemper and parvo and hunters probably take them out too. Last month I heard a pack yipping and knew that some had spread back out this way. Perhaps that is why even Prissy has been staying on the back porch lately all day, when she would normally be out hunting. I'm not worried about the horses. The pony is small but not that small, about 700 pounds, and Prince is one of those horses that doesn't like medium-sized and large dogs, so I would imagine he wouldn't be friendly to a coyote either. He doesn't mind gray foxes though. When the fox was up this spring polishing off guineas DH looked outside one morning to see the fox curled up asleep in the paddock with the horses!

I will finish this post with mention of our cat Penny. We had to say good-bye to her three weeks ago. She's been a part of our family since I found her starving (literally) in a park in PA seventeen years ago. So she was eighteen years old, if not more. For years she was a one person cat. She always complained if Gene touched her, openly and loudly. Her attitude was so contrary it was actually hilarious, because he was always nice to her. Finally she started to warm up to him. It just took 15 years. She had kidney failure and her poor old body was just wearing out, so we decided to take her in. It was her time. We love her and miss her.


  1. What a wonderful tour of wildlife in the country. It'a a treat for this suburban gardener to see and hear all that goes on in a rural place. I love the intensity of that blue sage, and I know what you mean about the bickering of hummingbirds. Feisty little fighters. I also like the long shot of the billowing bidens and the paths around your place -- gorgeous.

  2. I am sorry that you have lost Miss Penny (we have a hound by that name). There was an article in our local paper about coyote hunting in NC this morning. Many are concerned that a hunter might confuse the endangered red wolf for a coyote. Ya'll need to import some road runners.

  3. Your yard is gorgeous, as always! I can identify with missing the hummingbird! They are pretty hard to capture. I know you must put in lots of hard work to keep your gardens so pretty year round! Penny was a sweet looking kitty, and I know you miss her:(

  4. Hello Sweetbay !
    Your garden is full of magic beauty, as always ... thank you for the virtual walk.

  5. Dear Sweetbay ~ so sorry for the loss of your dear sweet Penny.

    Your blooms are wonderful as always. I was happy to see your bidens in bloom once again.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  6. So sorry for your loss of Penny. Losing one of our pets is heart-wrenching.

  7. Sweetbay, so sorry to hear about your Miss Penny. So hard to lose a part of the family. Know it is hard.
    We have heard some coyote around here too. They are pretty far off in the distance when we hear the yipping. That is one member of the wildlife out here I can do without. Have seen the fox a few times, they are a lot smaller than I thought. I was surprised to see an armadillo, twice.
    There is one huge spider who puts a web up across the front door (full view glass)every night. In the morning it is packed up and gone. Funny. We sure have to be careful to duck under it if we go in or out in the evening.
    Seeing your Seashore Mallow and Hibiscus coccineas makes me want to have them again. I think I have some seeds from VA, will plant them.

  8. Your sweet Penny was a beautiful kitty. I am so sorry, and I know how you must miss her. The photo of the golden Bidens is wonderful. The butterflies, the birds, the turkeys, and all the other wildlife are testament to the special environment you have created. Thank you for the lovely views! By the way, I am constantly frustrated in my attempts to photograph hummingbirds!

  9. I am sorry for your loss. It is always hard to part with a beloved pet like Penny. I am sure you must miss her terribly. You certainly have an interesting range of animals and birds in the area around the farm. How wonderful to meet up with a fawn at close quarters. I fear for the young turkeys with a coyote in the neighbourhood. Be sure to bring your cats in at night. Some of our neighbours have lost pets to local coyote. Love the color of that blue sage!

  10. Such an informative post...I enjoyed reading this so much, about the wildlife, the birds, your animals. Most especially to have knowledge of the baptisia eating moth/caterpillar. Have not seen a hummingbird in over a week, so think they have started migrating south from Nova Scotia.

    Sorry about Miss Penny..

  11. My heart aches for your loss of Penny. As a Fur baby mom, I know your pain. We never had children and our pets have filled the void.

    We have yet to se turkey on our propery or surrounding woods. We once saw a Quail family and the gray fox would trot through our yard. We would hear the coyote at night. But it has been years since any of those sightings. Our once quiet country living is being taken over with housing developments moving in. I willnever forget the excitiment of seeing the Quail family. I litterly woke up the Saint to come see them. The baby's were just so darn cute!

  12. Thank you for the the walk through your beautiful gardens, and am sorry for the loss of sweet faced kitty.jd

  13. I'm so sorry for your loss of Penny, Sweetbay. It's always hard to say goodbye to our special pet friends, but she must have had a wonderful long life living in your beautiful area.

    It sounds like you have quite the wildlife; we have coyotes across the road near the woods, and I can hear them yipping at night. I try to make sure the cats are all tucked in once it's dark and keep on eye on Coconut, daughter's Pomeranian, when he makes his night-time trip outside. A friend of mine who used to live on a farm could never keep cats around--I'm not too fond of coyotes!

    Thanks for the info on the Genista Moth. I had problems with them, too, this summer, and they pretty much stripped the leaves off my baptisia. It seems to be recovering, though, and I'm glad to know that they don't do any permanent damage. But I'm going to keep a better eye on my plant next year.

    Your bidens are gorgeous, as always!

  14. Sweetbay, you have the big farm, so many animals:horses, pony, dogs. You're close to nature!I love the swallowtails, I have never seen these kind of them.

  15. wow! Your garden is beautiful in every season! I love the big beds and the picture of the butterfly in the budleja flower, just amazing.
    Here we are waiting for the spring, but right now we are in the middle of a super big and estrange storm ( we don't have strong winds around here usually) and my poor young garden looks a bit destroyed...
    I think Im gonna have a lot of work this weekend! :)



  16. Losing a family pet is always sad, especially one who has been with you for so long.
    Wow, you've had some interesting wildlife around there. Seeing wild turkeys in the neighborhood must be fun. Hope they survive the coyotes.

  17. I always enjoy my visits to Sweetbay. Such a beautiful, comfortable garden. I'm sorry about Penny. I'm sure she had a very happy life with you. Best wishes from Tom in Kansas.

  18. I am sorry about Penny, it is always hard to lose a pet.

    It is amazing how much is going on in your garden. I loved reading about all your animal encounters. The Bidens are amazing.

  19. Superb photos. The flowers looks gorgeous as always. It was a great shot. The spider and its web sure fits the Halloween theme which is just around the corner. Its looks so cool.
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  20. Dear Sweetbay, Your photos are just stunning. New format or not you look great. I love the landscapes . . . especially with you house and the close ups of flowers and butterflies are wonderful. Your words describing the wildlife around your beautiful land so add to the magic of this post. I am sorry to read that you have lost your beloved Penny. It is a very sad parting when we lose our little purring pets. I love the fox curled up with the horses! Happy Fall gardening! It is . . . I know . . . a great time of year for you there in the south.


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