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Archive for May, 2010

On Saturday evening, the newest member of the Willow House Gang arrived. He’s a one-year-old grey and white donkey. His name is Teddy.

For some time now, I’ve had an eye out for a potential pal for Louis. Sure, he has the horses for company, but sometimes I thought he seemed a bit sad, lonely. After all, a horse is just not a donkey, and while Louis gets along fine with the horses, I thought he might be happier with a mate of his own. A week ago, I saw an advertisement for a donkey that seemed like a possible candidate. I went to visit him and decided he might be just the donkey for Louis. Right now, he is the same size as Louis, but as he is only a year old, Teddy will probably grow a bit more. Not toooo much, I hope.

Louis is a cross between a standard and a mini donkey, so isn’t quite as big as Teddy is likely to be. However, he has the advantage of superior age and wisdom. I’m sure Louis knows all the Aesop’s fables.

As Teddy arrived in the evening, Louis and the horses were all in the barn, and Teddy was given the fourth stall, beside Louis. I figured a quiet night would be just the thing to help him get over his “new home” jitters. But first, Louis was introduced to his new friend and they had their first chance to touch noses. They were cordial.

Ponygirl, below, came to greet the new arrival and help get him settled in. We’re all looking forward to getting to know Teddy better. Welcome to your new home, Teddy!

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Sunday Snapshot: Bumblebee

Bumblebee

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Pondweed

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Tulips

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I’ve had a lazy week, as far as blog posting goes, anyway. However, I wanted to post on last weekend’s Field Day before the next weekend arrives! It was the annual spring event of the Leeds County Draft Horse Club. Railguy and I attended last year, and dropped by to watch for a while again last Saturday.

I love seeing the teams at work, showing off the skill and training that goes into the partnership of horses and driver. Below, are Nate and Dutch, waiting for their turn.

It amazes me, how patiently they stand. Dutch is the black, Nate, the grey.

This pair were a more compact size than Dutch and Nate. They show the distinctive chestnut colour and sturdy build of Haflingers, a versatile breed developed in Austria in the late 1800s.

Their names are Duke and Doc.

This team’s owner…that’s him in the red…told me he has owned his two mares all their lives. They’re 15 and 18 now. He was very proud of his girls, and said that the work they were doing at the Field Day just scratched the surface of their impressive skills. Now that he is nearly 80 years old, though, someone else is walking behind the plow.

That’s Robin on the left, and her partner, Jenny.

This team of handsome blacks, Canadians probably, were giving wagon rides. There was also a wagon pulled by much smaller horses!

I’ll close with this lovely pair of Canadians.

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Hello

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Mr. and Mrs. Tree Swallow at home.

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Wet Wet Wet

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Coral bells, and their relatives, alumroot, are members of the genus Heuchera (pronounced HEW-ker-ah). There are some 50 species in the genus, all of them native to North America. The name Heuchera was given to the genus by Carolus Linnaeus to honor Johann Heinrich von Heucher, who, like Linnaeus, was both a physician and professor of botany.

When I first started gardening, 30-odd years ago, some of the first plants I bought were coral bells. Back then, perennials weren’t as available as they are now, and there was just one variety of coral bells down at the local nursery. The coral bells that first graced my garden had plain green leaves. Their main claim to fame was the cloud of pretty coral-pink flowers they produced in early summer.

Some years after my first encounter with coral bells, a new variety called “Palace Purple” began to appear at nurseries. As the name suggests, it has deep brownish-purple leaves and is believed to be a cross of Heuchera micrantha, H villosa hybrid, and H. americana. However, its exact parentage is disputed. It was discovered as a seedling in the 1970s at Kew Gardens in London. The palace it was named for is Kew Palace. In 1991, the Perennial Plant Association named Purple Palace as Plant of the Year. Palace Purple is now the most commonly available heuchera at nurseries and big box stores in this area.

Since Purple Palace appeared, hybridizers have been working hard on the genus. In the last few years, there has been an explosion of heuchera species. Unlike the early version of coral bells that I had in my garden, new hybrids are now more noteworthy for their colourful foliage than their flowers. When I saw ‘Berry Smoothie’ at a nursery, I had to have it in my garden. I had an opening in an appropriate part-shade spot in my garden and decided to highlight a few of these hybrids this spring. On dull days, their leaves shine like little jewels and I enjoy walking by them every day.

Heuchera 'tiramisu'

Heuchera 'Dolce Peach Melba'

Heuchera americans 'Dale's strain'

Heuchers 'Dolce Black Currant'

Heuchera 'Berry Smoothie'

Heuchera 'Miracle'

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When I went out to feed the horses this morning, I glanced up and there was a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) sitting on the barn roof, looking back at me. We eyed each other for a minute, and then I started to back towards the house to retrieve my camera. Sensing my intentions, the vulture took off and quickly disappeared. Jeez. You hardly dare leave the house without photographic equipment.

Fortunately, I took my camera with me when I strolled down to the pond yesterday and I was able to get a few pictures of Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus).

It would have been hard to miss their presence. The two birds were engaged in a tumbling chase amongst the trees, weaving in and out of the branches, and pausing to posture with tail outspread. At first I wasn’t sure if I was watching two males battling over territory, or a male and a female courting. After watching them for a while, I concluded it was the latter.

The chase was rapid and intense. The two birds paid no heed to me except to move their performance to a tree a bit farther away. Whenever their energetic chase paused, I could see the display of fanned tailfeathers, showing off the distinctive Kingbird white stripe along the bottom edge of the tail.

When I headed back to the house, they were still at it. Hopefully, they’ll settle in and nest nearby. I wasnt’ the only spectator. This Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) sat on the fence and seemed impressed by the performance.

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