Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Final Preparations

I was lucky enough to have a beautiful day to spend on final preparations for field mowing.  After several days of cloud cover and drizzle, I was under the impression that the leaves had lost their autumn colors.  This mixed stand of oaks proved me wrong and provided the perfect backdrop for my activities.

Corners and tree filled edges have all been cut.  The trees are primarily White Flowering Dogwood and a few oaks.

I made a broad curve around the toad pool and garden.  The unmowed portion of the field is now roughly in the shape of an hourglass with a half mile perimeter.  Of course, every trip around with the mower will reduce that distance by a few feet.

One of the corners is in the power line right-of way.  I found it encouraging that in the 30 foot span that was mowed, only one invading shrub was found.  The right-of-way receives a steady rain of seeds from wire perched birds.  After spending many years trying to get the mess of sprouts cleaned up, I finally feel that I’ve reached the point where I am dealing only with new additions.  Hopefully the rest of the right-of-way will be as clean.

Plants to avoid with the mower are marked with either blue flags or orange ribbon.  Native roses will regrow after being cut, but mature canes need to survive the winter if they are to produce flowers.

Autumn Olive seedlings are still a problem in some of the areas once infested by mature shrubs.  Root sprouts seem to have stopped, but seeds are still germinating.  This cut seedling is two or three years old.  About half of the seedlings demonstrate a growth pattern where a branch grows horizontally just above the ground. This branch then produces a series of vertical branches along its length.

The horizontal branch develops a cluster of roots below each vertical growth.  In this way a single seedling develops a series of individual plants.

I try to spend most of my time working, but I do take time to enjoy some of the interesting attractions in the field.  Sunny mornings still illuminate large orb webs hanging between the tall grass stalks.

All seem to have been constructed by female Banded Garden Spiders.

I would have missed this Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar if it hadn’t curled up at my approach.  The red bands showing between the segments made it easy to see.

This Comma Butterfly is looking a bit worn.  The wing surfaces have been scratched, parts of the right wing have been lost and the left antenna is nothing but a short stump.  Commas overwinter as adults, so with a little bit of luck, this guy may survive to the spring breeding season.

I’m still finding balloons.  In fact, this one dropped from the sky right beside me.  That makes it the second balloon this year that I’ve witnessed fall into my field.  Seven balloons have been found so far this year, just one above average.

Beautiful days usually end with lovely evenings.  I stop working when twilight makes it difficult to distinguish one plant from another. 

If conditions are right, I’ll hang around to watch the sunset.  I always enjoy the show, but my mind is usually busy planning the next day’s work while I’m watching.

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