Cedar Waxwing

moon phase Week of 04/15/2013 Best days to start flower gardens.

The weather hasn't lived up to people's expectations of the spring they have long waited for. Nature is taking her sweet time, teaching us that we will be rewarded for our patience. It's mid-April and the frost is finally leaving the ground, so there is very little green anywhere. It got a little warmer this week but only by a few degrees, and it was rare to see the sun. Gander on the Ice Gander on the Ice Gray, cloudy skies brought a mix of rain, light snow, sleet and even some hail. The dampness has kept me from doing any garden cleaning, and it's been too wet to plant those early potatoes.

The folks who tap maple trees are having a pretty fair season. Sap has flowed freely for several weeks. I heard it through the grapevine that one of Organic Valley's long-time Amish farmers has cooked down 1,600 gallons of syrup. When you consider that it takes 30 to 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, you see how amazing that is.

Daffodils are peeking up through wet soil, but it just doesn't seem to get warm enough to get things growing. It's going to have to get quite a bit warmer before we have lilacs for Mother's Day.

Spring peepers and wood frogs are singing in the marshes but far from a feverish pitch. This isn't exactly the kind of weather that makes the amphibians go crazy. Like us, they are taking it a day at a time until the warm sunshine heats up their spring fever, and they will all rejoice in songs.

Sandhill Cranes Sandhill Cranes I watched a pair of beautiful, adult sandhill cranes as they walked through the snowy, wet marsh this morning. It was early, and I thought I might catch them doing their lovely courtship dance, but they only seemed interested in catching a fat vole for breakfast. From up the valley came the loud bugling calls of another pair of cranes, and the pair I was watching stopped in their tracks, thrust their long necks straight up and returned the calls. There is something extra special about actually seeing cranes as they call to the heavens. Notice the cranes' marbled plumage as they replace their gray winter feathers with the cinnamon brown feathers of summer.

Flooded Pastures Flooded Pastures Rain and melting snow and ice has caused the Kickapoo River to swell over its banks and flood many of the low-lying pastures and fields. I'm thinking it's just as well that the cranes haven't started nesting yet. I have noticed several Canada geese standing alone without their mates. These are probably the ganders who are patiently waiting while the goose sits on her clutch of eggs, hidden somewhere in the marsh grass.

Cedar Waxwing Cedar Waxwing A flock of about a dozen pretty cedar waxwings landed in the lilac bushes. How subtly beautiful they are with olive bodies and bright yellow tail tips and wingtips. Tiny spots of red at the ends of their secondary feathers are a lovely accent. Their gentle, high-pitched calls—zeeee, zeeee— always give them away as they fly by. Many waxwings spent the winter here this year, and I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing them all summer.

Buffle Heads Buffle Heads Several ducks showed up on the marsh pond along the river road today: a pair of mallards, three pairs of hooded mergansers, two pairs of wood ducks and two other ducks that I hadn't seen until this morning.  A colorful pair of bufflehead together with four striking scaup swam about in the middle of the small pond. These rather small diving ducks visit the Kickapoo Valley in the spring and are here for only a few days before flying to their breeding waters in Canada. That's a long ways from where they had spent the winter in South America.

Lesser Scaup Lesser Scaup The marsh pond was busy today and two pairs of Canada geese preened their feathers in the shallows. The real treat was four magnificent white tundra swans at the far end of the pond. I love watching swans move gracefully on the water in what seems like slow-motion. We're very lucky to see a few of these beautiful birds each spring as they pass through. The vast majority of migrating swans pass over in large flocks, but there always seem to be a few who stop to rest before moving on.

Tundra Swans Tundra Swans Yes, spring has been dragging its heels a little this year, but when the weather finally breaks, it's going to catch up fast. I've had the same fire in the woodstove all winter that I started in late September. I'm looking forward to opening the windows and leaving them opened until next October. It will happen. I haven't lost faith.

Pretty Fish Pretty Fish I always greet the fish in Organic Valley's small aquarium when I come in the door. They seem to recognize me, and they remind me how good it is to have close friends you can swim around with.

Naturally yours,

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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Elaine from from Hernando, (Citrus+Hills),+Fl on April 18, 2013 at 12:37:10 PM
I know what you mean about the fish. We had our son's betta fish (Bubba) for over a year since our son passed. Bubba would even let me touch him when I fed him. He passed yesterday and it seems lonely not to see him watch me in the kitchen. It is hard to see passing of so many things.
We did get out and garden some the past two days, early in am because now we are starting to really warm up. My husband had been sick since November 10 and hadn't really felt like getting out.
We just weeded and fertilized but it was good to work the earth. Our birds are quite noisy as they think when I am out there I should feed the.
I am not doing much of a vege
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Elaine,

Guess it's been a long winter, Elaine. After being cooped-up in a one-room school house for seven months, I can feel what the fish in the tank are thinking. It sure would be nice to be able to swim up-stream for a change. Many years ago, I was watching the goldfish bowl with my five year old daughter Kathey. I asked her if she thought the fish looked lonely, and her reply was "well of course they are dad. Fish are people, too, ya know!" That little observation of hers has stuck with me for forty years. Ah, the innocent wisdom of children.

Sorry to hear your husband isn't feeling well. I don't see where it would do him any harm to go outside (barefoot) and get grounded to the living earth. The songs of the birds are sure to lift his spirits. A little of nature's therapy couldn't hurt.

So nice to hear from you Elaine, and thank you for letting me know how you're doing down in Hernando.

Naturally yours,

Jean from from Lees Summit, MO on April 18, 2013 at 12:26:56 AM
Dear Dan, Thank you again for sharing your view of nature. So lovely. I thought of you today, driving thru the outer part of the Costco parking lot, right in the middle of a drive stood a lone duck, not moving, not visibly injured. I pulled alongside and he was quacking, but stood his ground as I drove on to a parking space. We got out to go back to see if we could help him to a spot of grass out of danger but he was nowhere to be seen. From my field guide his coloring was similar to a mallard, irridescent green head, but crested? I do hope he made it up to join his group, I felt so helpless, not knowing the right thing to do, I doubt he would have come home peacefully with me. to the turkeys and squirrels, woodpeckers and so many small birds. Peace to you, Jean
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Jean,

Interesting story about the mallard drake you saw in the parking lot. The first thought that came to mind is that he is a male duck who is standing guard over his nesting territory. Just a hunch, but if Costco has any landscaping nearby (shrubs, small pines and such), it's a good place for a mother duck to make her nest and lay a clutch of eggs. I've seen it many times, often right in town.

Thank you for the nice thoughts, Jean. If that duck only knew what an impression he made on you.

Naturally yours,

Joan from from Stockton, California the San Joaquin Valley on April 17, 2013 at 04:07:43 PM
I can't help but brag about California's great weather for growing just about every thing except bananas and such. I live in the San Joaquin County of Calif. and I am already growing tomatoes, peppers, squash and strawberries. The frost and cold left us one month ago. T San Joaquin County which has Stockton where I live, we are already harvesting the huge asparagus crop for our annual Asparagus festival. It draws about 150,000 people over three days. We also grow grapes galore for our great wines and table foods. We grow tomatoes, lettuce, beets, cherries, cherries and more cherries. They are a huge boon to our economy. We also grow squash, watermelon, peaches, walnut, almonds. We have Diamond Walnut which ships our home grown walnut and almonds all over the world. Our cherries are shipped in huge amounts to Japan. A large part of our crops are organic but some I have to go to the neighboring farms, which is fun to take a day trip to, to purchase along with organic olive oils.Thank you for letting me post, Joan.
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Joan,

Wow, it sounds like you are one busy farmer, and it really reflects the love you have for what you're doing. Ha! I never would have guessed that an asparagus festival would draw 150,000 people, but heck - why not?

Thank you for passing along your adventures with organic farming, and thanks for passing those good organic veggies along to other folks. You are doing your part to make the world a healthier place.  Glad to hear from you Joan.

Naturally yours,

Ben from from Tybee Island, GA on April 17, 2013 at 03:50:42 PM
Great article, Dan. This last month there have been lots of cedar waxwings here, dining on palm tree, yaupon holly, and ligustrum berries. And they fill the trees facing west catching the warm afternoon sun on their breasts.
katrina from on April 17, 2013 at 01:03:15 PM
Beautifully written....Great share; Precious, photos!
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Katrina,

Thank you for letting me know you like my articles, and I hope you continue to join me each week for a walk down nature's trail.

Naturally yours,

Janice from from Kansas City on April 17, 2013 at 12:21:49 PM
This made my day. Loyal fan
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Janice,

You made MY day by letting mek now that you are a fan of Down Nature's Trail. Thanks for being there, Janice.

Naturally yours,

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