30 October 2017

Mary's New Friend

Mary was working in her flowers today when I pulled into the driveway and noticed she had a new friend watching her. About 50 feet behind her, in our apple orchard, was a young deer eating apples.

The deer continued to eat more apples after Mary left and I was able to walk even closer until the deer was full of apples.

29 October 2017

Catching a few rays of Sun

In a few days it will be November and I found these 6 Eastern Painted Turtles at our pond trying to catch some sun and stay warm on an Autumn day. It was only a couple of days ago that the morning temperature was 27F, so the turtles won't have too many more days to enjoy the warm sunshine before the pond ices over

26 October 2017


I often see deer as I drive around the neighborhood and sometimes wounder how many deer I don't see are watching me. The only reason I was able to find this deer camouflaged in the dry goldenrod was because it had just crossed the road in front of me.

22 October 2017


The Autumn leaves are falling, but so are the walnuts. We have several walnut trees around our barn and I hauled away a front end loader bucket full a walnut before turning the job over to the neighborhood squirrels.

When most people in this area think of walnut trees, they think of the eastern black walnut(Juglans nigra) which is native to eastern North America. The nuts of the black walnut are food for many rodents and the wood is highly prized for its dark-colored, straight grained, true heartwood. The nut (fruit) of the black walnut develops inside a round, tennis ball sized bright green husk that falls from the tree in October or November.

While black walnuts are more abundant in this area, we also have some butternut(Juglans cinerea) or white walnut trees growing at our barn. The fruit of the butternut is a lemon-shaped nut, produced in bunches of two to six together with the nut surrounded by a green husk. Butternut wood is light in weight and is highly rot resistant, but is much softer than black walnut wood.

18 October 2017

Emerald Ash Borer

Last year we had an ash tree removed from our lawn because it had been infected by Emerald Ash Borers and died. I've monitored our ash trees this summer and have only found a few infected trees. Within a couple of days this tree went from looking healthy to looking like its bark was blasted off.

This section of bark on the ash tree has fallen off and reveals the cambium layer under the bark where the Emerald Ash Borer creates tunnels as it eats the inner bark layer.

17 October 2017


I planted some sunflowers in our garden this year and the seed-heads were finally ready to harvest. The next step is drying the seed-heads in our solarium.

Once the seed-heads are dry we will use them to feed the winter birds in the neighborhood.

16 October 2017

European Hornet

I started harvesting the seed heads of the sunflowers in our garden when I came across several European Hornets(Vespa crabro) on the sunflower stalks. The European Hornet is an introduced species first reported in the United States in 1840. The European Hornet is large and can reach over an inch long, with the queen reaching 1.5 inches. It is the only true hornet in North America.

European Hornets can be identified by the thin waist between the thorax and the abdomen. The European Hornets have "C" shaped complex eyes with three small ‘simple’ eyes, called "Ocelli" located on the forehead between the complex eyes. The Ocelli are used to detect movement.

European Hornets have large jaws that are used to chew bark from trees to build their nests. These Hornets have been known to "girdle" trees for sap and bark. The girdling may result in the death of the tree.

The Hornets were on the sunflower stalks for the sap. Here are two, much smaller yellow jackets trying to get some sap from the much larger Hornet.

A size comparison between a common house fly and a European Hornet.

Two European Hornets fighting to get sap from a sunflower stalk.

European Hornets will fight for food and to protect their nest, but they are also refereed to as “gentle giants”. I had this Hornet crawl over my hand and wrist for 5 minutes with no problems.

15 October 2017


It started out as a clean up of some trees that blew down this summer during storms. It looked like a small cleanup project, but the more I looked, the more downed trees I found. Mary and I finished splitting the firewood I hauled home from the West Hill property, but I still have a few more maple and black cherry logs to be processed. I may send the remaining logs to a saw mill and made into lumber.

14 October 2017

Star-nosed Mole

You never know what you will find in a wood pile. We found this star-nosed mole(Condylura cristata) while splitting firewood. They have black fur, and wide talon-tipped forefeet designed for digging.

The star-nosed moles are almost completely blind, so they use the tentacles around their nose to detect prey, such as worms and grubs.

13 October 2017

Baby Field Mice

We are still splitting our firewood and found this nest of baby field mice in the wood pile.

They still don't have their eyes open yet.

12 October 2017

Praying Mantis

We were at our barn today splitting some firewood when we found this praying mantis in the wood pile.

This praying mantis was friendly but it may have been the cool weather had slowed it down. We released it in the field but found it back in the wood pile later in the day.

A close-up of its head.

10 October 2017

Bald Eagle

Its been a few months since I've seen any bald eagles along Wysox Creek, but I couldn't miss seeing this bald eagle today. As I started to drive on the bridge over Wysox Creek the eagle, which was perched in a tree next to the bridge, swooped down within feet of my truck. The bald eagle then glided downstream and landed in a tree.

08 October 2017

Citronella Ant Swarm

I had just started my chain saw and was preparing to cut some firewood when I noticed a moving mass in the leaves on the ground. I grabbed my camera and started snapping photos.

Closer inspection revealed thousands of dark colored insects and small orange ants. I had found a swarm of Citronella Ants(Lasius claviger). Citronella Ants spend most of their lives in subterranean nests and are rarely seen above ground except for mating flights, swarms, which occur in late September or early October.

This swarms is made up of three different castes of ants. The orange ants are the sterile female workers. There are two castes of winged ants. The smaller black winged individuals that comprised the largest subset in the swarm are males waiting for a queen. The larger reddish-brown winged ants are the queens. A queen is in the middle of this photo.

Another photo of a reddish-brown queen in the middle surrounded by the dark colored males.

Two reddish-brown queens and orange worker ants.

06 October 2017

Apple Maps Van

I was working in my garden today, cleaning and preparing it for next spring, when I saw a white van with strange objects mounted on its roof drive slowly past. There isn't much traffic in this neighborhood and this van looked like something I read about. I quickly stopped my garden work and was in hot pursuit with my truck.

My suspicion was correct. It was the Apple Maps Van. These vans are used to collect data and images for maps. The vans are equipped with 6 cameras for a 360 degree image, GPS and a wheel encoder for location and measurements, and four Velodyne LIDAR sensors mounted on each corner of the van. LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is sophisticated 3D depth-sensing technology. The LIDAR sensors on the van measure precisely the road and its surroundings, including curbs, drainage channels, even potholes — to within millimeters.

03 October 2017

Feeding Time

A few of the neighborhood deer stopped at my wildlife food plot this evening. For the deer this is the time of year they enjoy the ample supply of food and fatten up for the lean times of winter.

02 October 2017

Sweet Potatoes

It was another cold morning in the neighborhood and the second day of frost in the morning. The growing season for our sweet potatoes is over and it's time dig them up. Sweet potatoes are easy to grow but take a little more work to dig because their skin is soft at this time and easily damaged. The sweet potatoes now need to cure in the heat of our solarium for a couple of weeks to convert the starch in the potatoes to sugar and harden the skin. Once the sweet potatoes have cured they will keep for over a year.

This year's crop of sweet potatoes looks very good and this 12 inch potato was in the first hill I dug. We've been growing sweet potatoes for the past 4 or 5 years but now have been unable to get the plants locally. I propagated this year's crop from a couple of last years potatoes.

01 October 2017

Fall is here

After more than a week of temperatures in the upper 80's and lower 90's we had our first frost of fall this morning. This evening just before sunset I found this buck and doe grazing in one of my food plots.