Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Farm Charm

This week, Todd and I had a chance to visit a privately-owned farmhouse, built in the early 1900s. The farmhouse itself was small, white, and boxy, and no one had lived there for a long time. I was more interested in the surrounding area. I loved the weathered stone steps leading up to the sagging porch. I tried to imagine previous tenants - women in long skirts, men in stiff trousers - bounding up these very steps.

It was a beautiful day for a little exploring!

I found piles of weathered boards. What was their original purpose? Surely this board didn't say...brains?

Two old chicken coops still stood. I love old fashioned chicken wire windows. I saw a rabbit hutch, too, long empty.

Several buildings were missing some pretty essential parts...doors, walls, and roofs! The sunshine looked nice, streaming in.

An old bag of seed from a more recent year hung in one tiny shack.

I found a beautiful old walking stick with a delightfully twisted top. Although I've never used a walking stick, I like them. My great grandmother had several that were smoothly shaped and polished so that the wood glowed richly. They seemed too nice to be used!

Old farm equipment was still strewn about. This was a very industrious place at one time!

In an adjoining field, some considerate person erected a bird house. A quick peek inside told me that the occupant was out and about. A dense little nest was built there, with twigs and leaves and bright white feathers.

I saw several signs of the advancing season. This field weed is completely dry, just waiting for a nice brisk breeze to waft away its seeds.

This tree has been almost completely relieved of its fruit. A few dessicated apples hang on relentlessly. I bet this is a beautiful tree in the spring!

Despite the chill, a bit of life still stirs. A small plant flourishes in the rich soil tucked away in this tree stump.

A green vine clings stubbornly here.

A strange amoeba-like object has attached to this tree...

It completely covers this vine, an invasive species itself. I read recently that the "hairy" vines you sometimes see on trees are actually dormant poison ivy. You should never touch it, even if it appears dead! It can cause the same unpleasant effect as the lively green plant.

Wild berries are flourishing...

...while these oak leaves, crisp and brown, are ready for a long winter's nap. They'll make great compost.

I love to examine tree bark. This particular example seems almost reptilian.

I see shingles here!

The farmhouse owner called this fungus "Hog's Ear." It may sound strange, but I absolutely love tree fungus. It looks so otherworldly with its spiraling shelves and graduated colors.

Of course, lichen is a real favorite. I think it looks just like a lava flow.

Winter is definitely coming. These dripping icicles show that a freeze and thaw happened recently.

A puddle in a nearby field froze into whimsical whorls. It's like a very, very small ice skating rink. A fairyland.

Snow has collected in the pines...

...and on the ground.

I've finally got an excuse to wear my new mittens!

I found an insect gall on an oak tree in the front yard. Galls are really fascinating things. Insects burrow into the branch and emit a chemical that causes the wood to swell. The larvae develop inside the resulting ball. In oak trees, galls are typically caused by small wasps.

Speaking of wasps, a mud dauber left its telltale mark on this chicken wire door. Larvae develop in these "daubs" of mud, which are found on many structures.

A woodpecker has been here, leaving an almost unbelievably even line of small holes. Woodpeckers make these holes to look for insects, to mark their territory, or to excavate a nesting site.

Other birds have been working hard here, too. I saw several nests, tucked safely away.

I saw several loud, bossy blue jays. I was delighted, because while I grew up seeing them everywhere, I haven't seen one in the city where I live. Blue jays have a way of making their presence known, but all I've seen are dainty, polite martens and swallows.

It was nice to get away, because we've been quite busy at home. I've been packing orders for our eBay business, which always booms before the Christmas holiday season. Cooking, cleaning, and knitting have taken a sudden back seat...not necessarily in that order! It's a happy time, though, as we prepare to put up the Christmas tree and count our many blessings.

Here's to a productive week...with a great Christmas song soundtrack!

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