25 September 2014


While wandering around our property I came across a small patch of Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). The name Wintergreen commonly refers to plants that remain green (continue photosynthesis) throughout the winter. In North America, the name Wintergreen generally refers to Eastern Teaberry which is also known as American mountain tea, boxberry, Canada tea, canterberry, checkerberry, chickenberry, chinks, creeping wintergreen, deerberry, drunkards, gingerberry, ground berry, ground tea, grouseberry, hillberry, mountain tea, one-berry, partridge berry, procalm, red pollom, spice berry, squaw vine, star berry, spiceberry, spicy wintergreen, spring wintergreen, teaberry, wax cluster, youngsters.

The fruits of Wintergreen, "teaberries," are edible, with a minty flavor.

23 September 2014

Wildflower - New York Ironweed

The New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is still blooming in our neighborhood. This member of the Aster family starts blooming in early summer and reaches its peak around the end of July. Butterflies, bees and other insects are attracted to the brightly colored flowers and its nectar..

Once New York Ironweed is established it can take over fields. One of our hay fields is over-run by New York Ironweed since the haymaking process tends to spread the seeds.

20 September 2014

Bald-faced Hornet

The goldenrod is in full bloom in the neighborhood and buzzing with insects looking for nectar. While photographing some honey bees at work in the goldenrod, I cam across this Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) covered with goldenrod pollen.

The North American bald-faced hornet goes by several common names, such as bald hornet, white-faced hornet, white-tailed hornet, blackjacket or bull wasp, but actualy belongs to a genus of yellowjackets.

Bald-faced hornets are known for their large "paper" nests and their defensive behavior to protect the nest.

19 September 2014

Road Work

The Rome Township road crew was busy on Joyce Road this week correcting some drainage issues. The ditches in this section of Joyce Road were contently full of stagnant water, even during dry summers. The poor drainage in the ditches caused the road base to soften and thereby cause perpetual potholes.

Some of the drainage problems were cause by a plugged driveway culvert which blocked the ditch from draining.

With the plugged culvert replaced, the ditches on both sides were deepened and 4 inch drain lines installed below several feet of crushed stone. While the surface structure of the ditch will carry away the quick/large volume of water created by heavy rains and spring thaw, the 4 inch drain line and stone base will dry up the road base and straighten the road.

The finished drainage improvements. Great job by the township road crew.

18 September 2014

Autumn Olive

The Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) berries are starting to turn a bright red and it will soon be time to make some Autumn Olive Jam. It's still too early to pick the berries since they get sweeter with time.

Some of the bushes on our property are loaded this year. The deer and turkeys are already feeding on the berries, but I'm still doing quality control checks while looking for the sweetest bushes.

We used the following recipe from "dreams and bones" web blog to make our jam.

Autumn Olive Jam

Autumn Olive Jam ~ the Saga

8 cups of ripe autumn olive berries
1 cup of water
3 ½ cups of sugar
1 package of no-sugar-needed Sure Jell

Gather 8 cups of ripe autumn olive berries. (Be sure to taste test the berries as you pick. I've found the bright red berries to be more tart than the dull red berries.)

Add 1 cup of water to the 8 cups of berries and bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Run the mash through a sieve and you will have about 5 cups of pressed fruit.

Measure out 3 ½ cups of sugar. Take ¼ cup of the measured sugar and mix it with the contents of a package of no-sugar-needed Sure Jell. Mix it in with the pressed fruit and bring to a rolling boil. Add the remainder of the sugar to the boiling liquid and return to a rolling boil and let it boil for one minute.

Then can according to canning directions and cool.

This will make about six 8 oz. jars of well set jam. Nice and tart.

17 September 2014

Wildflower - White Wood Aster

The White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata) is a short plant with very small blossoms.  The center of the flower will appear yellow when the blossom first opens and changes to reddish as the  stamens open.

The flowers are less than an inch across. but what the flowers lack in size, they make up with numbers. This perennial plant is native to eastern North America and over time will create dense clumps of flowers that bloom in the late summer and early fall.

16 September 2014

Red Twig Dogwood

Within the last two weeks, the berries on Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) bushes on our property turned from a dull green to a bright white. This large, fast growing shrub is native throughout this area. The ripe berries are eaten by birds as they ripen.

As soon as the berries ripen the leaves and stems turn a bright red, which gives this member of the Cornaceae (Dogwood) family its name. There was an abundant crop of berries this year

The Red Twig Dogwood may put on a colorful show in the late summer, but this bush can easily take over a field quickly.

15 September 2014

Late Summer Fawns

The days are getting shorter and cooler, and the wobbly legged fawns of spring are looking more like their parents as they lose their spots. This fawn only has a few spots on its front shoulder and hind quarter.

11 September 2014

Hunting for Spiders

As I mentioned in an earlier posting on spiders, late summer/fall is a good time to find Orb spiders in our neighborhood. On a recent trip through an overgrown field near our cabin I found 3 different types of Orb spiders within 100 yards.

Since some people with arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, may not want to see pictures of Orb spiders I have created the new Joyce Road Spiders blog and will point people to the spider images.

I have posted photos of a very large, grape sized Shamrock Orb Weaver, a colorful Marbled Orb Weaver with a close-up picture showing its 8 eyes, and a Garden Orb Weaver.

10 September 2014

Wildflower - Field Milkwort

Field Milkwort (Polygala sanguinea) is a wildflower native to Eastern North America. The plant's common name is derived from an old belief that cows eating this plant would produce more milk.

Field Milkwort is generally found in wet, acidic soils in open fields.I found these flowers in an old overgrown farm field.

It produces pink-purple flowers in a cylindrical cluster 1/2 inch across.

09 September 2014

Shamrock Spider

Spiders come in many shapes, colors and sizes, and are an interesting part of nature. People with arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, can in some cases have reactions triggered by just the image of a spider. To view my images of a Shamrock Spider just click on the clip art spider.

While most people are familiar with common house spiders, late summer/early fall is the time to look for the large and colorful Orb Weaver spiders. During my wandering on our property I was able to capture some images of a Shamrock Spider (Araneus trifolium) as it captured a bee in its web.

Soon after the bee flew into the web the Shamrock Spider ran back and forth across the web doing what looked like a "happy dance", but in reality was bite and run attacks on the bee. After the bee was subdued the spider removed it from the web.

With the bee held by several of the spider's 8 legs, it started to rotate the bee as it applied a silk web around the bee. Within seconds the bee was wrapped in a neat package for storage.

The Shamrock Spider can range from white to yellow to brown or orange, and can be distinguished from Garden Orb Weavers by the white bands on the legs.

08 September 2014

Praying Mantis

With its long, slender, green body and legs, the Praying Mantis (disambiguation) can easily camouflage itself in the tall grass where it feeds on insects.

Mantises are ambush predators and are the only insects that can turn their head side-to-side 180 degrees.

05 September 2014

Bush Katydid

While it may look like a large green grasshopper, this is a Fork-tailed Bush Katydid (Scudderia furcata) in the family Tettigoniidae (Katydids). The name katydid is derived from the male’s repetitive chirp, which sounds like “katydid, katy-didn’t.” Katydids have large hind legs and  extremely long, threadlike antennae.

A close-up of the head showing the complex mouth-parts for chewing and the compound eye.

04 September 2014

Blue Mushrooms

While mowing one of my fields behind our house I noticed some large blueish mushrooms growing under a pine tree. I returned the next day to check out the mushroom and take some pictures of the Indigo Milk Cap mushroom (Lactarius indigo).

These older mushrooms appear blueish/gray with some darker blue bands on top.

This younger mushroom has blue gills on the underside and oozes a deep blue liquid where the stem is cut.

The Indigo Milk Cap gets its name from the deep blue "milk", or latex, that oozes when the mushroom tissue is cut or broken.

These mushrooms have a firm/meaty flesh and are delicious when sliced and cooked in butter.

03 September 2014

Silky Dogwood

Over the Labor Day weekend I started wandering around our property with my camera and came across some bushes with clusters of deep blue berries. After a little research I identified the bush as Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum). During the summer, the berries are a grayish/white and turn deep blue around Labor Day. The Silky Dogwood is native to eastern North America and is also known as kinnikinnik, red willow, silky cornel, squawbush, and indigo dogwood. The berries are listed as edible, but I haven't tried them yet. (Update: I tried one and they may be edible, but not worth a second try.)

02 September 2014

Insect - Locust Borer

The goldenrod is starting to bloom and insects of all types are drawn to it. While walking in the fields behind our house, I came across this Locust Borer (Megacyllene robiniae). The borer attacks only black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) and its hybrids. The honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos L.) is not affected.

The Locust Borer adult beetles emerge late August to September and feed on goldenrod. The adults will lay eggs in locust trees in the fall. The larvae will hibernating through the winter under the bark and tunnel into trees in spring. They pupate late July/early August and when the adults emerge, the cycle starts again.

01 September 2014

Wildflower - New England Aster

Today is Labor Day in the United States, which marks the unofficial end of summer. Traditionally fall begins at the autumnal equinox in about three weeks, but this change in seasons can also be marked by the blooming of the New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) in our neighborhood. The New England Aster is native to almost every area in North America east of the Rocky Mountains. This native wildflower brings fall flower color to roadsides and can grow up to 6 feet tall.

The New England Asters are starting to bloom along Joyce Road.