Monday, June 29

it was the blue One

As we walked the trail along Spearfish Creek to Roughlock Falls, the variety of late June-blooming wildflowers was amazing. Birdsong filled the trees, wildflowers were abundant. We noticed that almost all that we saw were white, ranging from huge water hemlock to bunchberry, white violets, wild strawberries, wild geranium, and tiny pink twinflower for a little variety.

Growing in the damp shade were these lovely pale blue aquilegia. They were a foot tall, with very small, blue and white flowers with curiously short, inward curving spurs, quite different than the native red and yellow aquilegia canadensis. They would be a welcome addition to anyone's woodland garden if they were available from a native plant nursery.

in the Canyon

Bridal Veil Falls cascades into Spearfish Creek, the result of a hanging valley feeding into the main stream. Geologically, a hanging valley is formed by a tributary that has higher relief than the main river it feeds into. Often a hanging valley results in a spectacular waterfall such as this one. Spearfish Canyon is a National Scenic byway, a favorite day trip in any season in the Black Hills. Stay tuned for other pictures taken by the family photographers the last weekend in June.

for Rent

Salvia Cottage, for rent. Nice neighborhood, mature plants, sunny yard.
Pets allowed, available for a song.

Saturday, June 27

he and She

My friend Mary's chickens, in black and white, I liked the effect. Rumpole of the Bailey (popular British comedy character) often referred to Hilda, his wife, as "she who must be obeyed". I am thinking if this lady doesn't have a name already, maybe it should be Hilda.

Thursday, June 25

turkey up a Tree

When mothers get that "what are you up to" look in their eye, you can be sure the kids are "up to" something. As I listened, I could hear the usual "yeeping" of baby birds responding to dear old mom. I looked around and discovered just what the turkey poults were up to. They were up to about 10 feet above my head in the pine tree on the other side of the barbed wire fence! Apparently, when I stopped the car to look, she told them to get moving, while she checked out the possible predator.

7 little turkeys were hiding among the branches and pine needles! There were 2 hens traveling together with 9 poults between them, this was a quick grab shot. Who knew tiny turkeys could fly when they were the size of softballs!

beehives with a View

Some honeybees have apple, peach or almond orchards as the view out their front door. This group of hives looks either west over the Black Hills of South Dakota or east over an artsy arrangement of newly mown hay. Not a bad neighborhood.

the Retiree

Sometimes when you go to a Festival in the Park, there is something more amazing than the beautiful handcrafted art and the decadent fair food. This is that Something.

The Something is a white morph gyrfalcon. This is the largest of the falcons, resident of the high latitudes. In medieval times, the gyrfalcon was knows as the "king's bird", as the ownership of these hard to obtain falcons was reserved for the use of the king or the nobles. These falcons are often seen during the winter months in South Dakota, the Ft. Pierre National Grasslands is the place to go looking for them.

This is one of the education birds that Wildlife Experiences, Inc. uses in their programs. She previously belonged to a licensed falconer and was given to WEI when she was retired from active hunting. Gorgeous creature, is she not?

Wednesday, June 24

sunshine on my Shoulder...

Some people have a plethora of grey squirrels, we have this American red squirrel who is a daily feeder visitor, summer and winter. These little guys are also known as pine squirrels, and are about as feisty a small creature as you could find. Field guides note that they are very territorial, absolutely a true statement! Caching of pine cones and other food is critical to winter survival, so they are very protective of prime foraging territory.

Guerilla fighters have nothing on a red squirrel when it is running off interlopers. Blue jays are a particular target at our feeder, chasing and "swearing" is frequent if they both show up at the same time. This little female won't even share the feeder with her squirrel kids, she chases them off as vigorously as the blue jays.

Tuesday, June 23

the Spillway

This one is for Brian, who is in National Guard Basic Training in South Carolina. A postcard from home on a hot June day. The dam has just been repaired, there is lots of run-off from recent heavy rain and the water is swift and cold at the moment.

Somewhere up in the willows along the creek, a warbling vireo was warning the local caterpillar crowd... " If I sees you, I will seize you; And I'll squeeze you till you squirt" I wonder who was the first listener to decipher vireo-speak into English!

Monday, June 22

Sunday, June 21

summer Solstice

Welcome, Summer!

Saturday, June 20


Saturn and its moon Titan

We went to a Star Party last night, what an experience! The Black Hills Astronomical Society invited people to come view the heavens through their 12" and smaller telescopes, and have a look at the summer sky on the night before the summer solstice at their Hidden Valley observatory.

Saturn showed off its rings and 3 moons, including Titan. Multitudes of summer constellations materialized out of the darkening skies around us. A globular star cluster and the binary star pair, Alberio, in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan) were gorgeous. The telescope we were using was large enough to see the color variation between the bright yellow and the fainter blue star of the binary system in the "beak of the swan".

Thanks BHAS, for sharing your telescopes and your enthusiasm, especially with the kids who came to look out in to the depths of space! What better than a summer night with bats and nighthawks flying, coyotes and frogs singing and all the visible universe around us. Awesome, awesome, awesome

Friday, June 19

what the Surveyor sees...

Tipsin, or prairie turnip, is now blossoming in the grasslands of the northern plains. 21st century ethnobotanists and 19th century observer, William Clark, note this was a staple food of many of the Native people of the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming, a source of starch in their diet. The root was harvested to be eaten fresh, or dried for use during the difficult winter months.

Stories have it that the younger children of the family helped with harvest by locating the plants, while their mothers dug for the tubers. Children were told that the leaves pointed in the direction of the other tipsin plants, so they should follow the direction the leaflets pointed to find more. Take a close look at that leaf....pretty sneaky way to keep the kids occupied, but also helpful to a busy mother having more eyes looking for the plants. Love the universal ingenuity of mothers!

Thursday, June 18

the Surveyor

This western meadowlark sings from the survey marker most of the day, every day. His mate and and the nest must be close by somewhere. There are scattered ponderosa pines in the surrounding grassland, but he likes this spot the best. The grasslands are full of early summer prairie wildflowers at the moment, so on a June afternoon he is the lord of all he surveys and his kingdom is beautiful.

Wednesday, June 17

Madame Chereau

This iris is an heirloom in more ways than one! I believe it is a variety called Madame Chereau, introduced into commercial culture in 1844, therefore, the heirloom label. According to what I can find, it was wildly popular for years, being the first of the plicata variety to appear for sale. Plicata meaning the falls (lower 3 petals) of the flower are banded with a different color than the base color of the petal. Many of the modern plicatas are quite ruffly as well.

The second part of the heirloom picture is that this plant came from my grandmother-in-law's garden in the foothills of Adirondacks of New York, to mine in the foothills of the Black Hills of South Dakota, then on to my daughters' gardens in Minnesota.

Cora had transplanted these more than 60 years ago, when the family moved their dairy operation to the "new" farm. We are fairly certain that she originally planted them when she came to the "old" home place as a new bride in 1917. She was a gardener extrordinaire, with the reputation of being able to coax a dead stick to grow leaves! She was unbeatable at the county fair and always brought home blue ribbons for her floral entries. She'd be so tickled to know her great-granddaughters were growing
her flowers.

Tuesday, June 16

meet Mrs. Feather

Mrs. Feather, Violet-green swallow lady, has selected the birdhouse over our deck to raise her family in again this year.

She has been busy nest building for the past few days and has gotten to the "line it with feathers" stage. She is most willing to accept building materials, I got out some white feathers saved from a long ago school project and tossed them in the back yard. After several passes through the yard to investigate, she flashed down, grabbed a feather off the grass and flew straight up about 20 feet. She let the feather go, banked sharply and snatched it out of the air again. This time she had it correctly aligned with the quill end forward, and headed right for the nestbox and added it to her featherbed for the coming eggs.

Her realignment strategy is the same one you notice when an osprey arranges his catch so it is oriented head first, better aerodynamics. I watched her do the same thing several times over the course of just a few minutes. Last summer, she lined her nest with turkey feathers, I will be curious to see if she found some to use again, there are plenty of wild turkeys around to donate to the cause.

Monday, June 15

where is your Mama?

This new white tail fawn was hunkered down in our neighbor's front yard late yesterday afternoon. The little apple tree he is under is only about 5' tall, no more than 15' from the street, with kids, bike riders and people walking dogs (us) close by. Mama must have told him to sit still, and he did...never moved a whisker or an eyelash. Jack Sparrow (Wonderdog) never knew he was there, I am not sure why I noticed him. There was all kinds of other good cover close by, no idea why she chose to bed the fawn down there. He was gone this morning, so hopefully the doe picked him up from "daycare" last night. Either she is woefully inexperienced or a wise old mother who subscribes to the theory of "hidden in plain sight".

Sunday, June 14

ladies in the Bath

The rain gauge measured 2", including melted hail. It not only filled the gauge, but the birdbaths were brimming over. This lady took advantage of the bounty and freshened up a bit. It must have been invigorating, there was still unmelted hail on the deck at 6am!

Saturday, June 13


This is the "cole slaw machine" when it finally quit. Hail is still in piles 3 hours after the storm passed. Most hailstones were marble sized. Trip to the greenhouse tomorrow...the peppers look like skewers stuck in the pots, no jalapenos on those plants in this millenium. Can't find the cucumbers, the air smells like a funky new air freshener "onion evergreen".


Rats! FOOEY! Drat!
"Severe Thunderstorm warning" just turned garden, potted plants, iris, etc. into cole slaw!

Friday, June 12

Branta canadensis, newly minted edition

The South Dakota National Guard and others are here for "Golden Coyote" training exercises in the Black Hills, they are having to bivouac in the rain. These young Canada geese waiting for their marching orders are also bivouac-ed in the rain.