Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halfway Home...

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

It was about 31 brisk degrees when I left home on my ride to the Post Office this morning, a nice temperature for bike riding if you're wearing a few layers. It's a 4.4 mile ride into town along roads like this and I stopped for this picture about halfway home. We had a couple of days of good rain here, then some snow showers Tuesday evening, and the Wellsville Mountains are now capped with a dusting of snow.

I've made so many photos I don't know where to start in posting them, so this one will have to do for now.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Good, Bad, & The Ugly

Mantis religiosa

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

This big beautiful girl is one of many Praying Mantids (Mantis religiosa) we've encountered while doing yard clean-up around mom's place during the past 12 days. They are in the process of depositing their foam-like egg cases right now (see photo below) after which they will die. Each egg case or sac can contain up to 300 eggs. Praying Mantids are an insect species beneficial to humans because they are voracious predators of other insects, many of which are damaging to flowers, vegetables, and fruit.

If you're not convinced of the predatory skills of this amazing insect you can see photos of one that actually captured and ate a hummingbird (click here). Yes, she may be a lovely long-legged green-thinking biocentric female but I wouldn't want to get too close to her if we were any where near the same size.

Mantis religiosa Egg Sac
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

What's Scary About This Picture?
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

Many people think insects are ugly or scary looking, especially big insects like Praying Mantids, but to me they're elegantly beautiful in design and fascinating to behold. What's creepy looking to me in this picture is my hairy old arm...

Melanoplus sanguinipes
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

Another handsome colorful bug in abundance here is the large Migratory or Spur-throated Grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes), but this insect is a pest to humans, notorious because of it's appetite for agricultural crops, grasses, leafy vegetables, fruits, flowers, buds, and even tree bark. My guess is that these critters are a challenge to control with organic methods when you're surrounded by miles of cornfields, but, not surprisingly, these grasshoppers are a favorite food of the Praying Mantids above, which, I'm sure, is why the mantids are also here in such great numbers.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Before & After - Some Of What We've Accomplished In The Past 9 Days...

Peggy and I have really been enjoying the past nine days of labor intensive outdoor work cleaning up mom's overgrown acreage under these big beautiful Utah skies.
The four photos below are before and after pictures of the orchard and a large fenced area at the back of her property which could be divided up between vegetable gardens and the raising of farm animals such as chickens & goats.
Much of this area was 4 to 6 feet deep in a thick nasty tangle of weeds, brush, & cockleburs, and quite a challenge to deal with, but we're getting there!
I must say here that, if this were my place, I'd have a herd of goats to manage the weed problems, to help fertilize the gardens, and to provide milk for drinking and the making of goat yogurt and cheese, and, that being said, we'll move on to the reality of the present circumstances.
Click on all photos to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

Weed Management With Infernal Combustion Machines!

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

Yes, we accomplished a lot in a very short period of time mainly because my mother has this little John Deere tractor mower that rose way beyond the task it was designed for, which is basically to mow big lawns, which is why mom bought it.
We were in dire straits here with too many chores to do and not nearly enough time to address them all in some sort of sustainable way before winter sets in.
So, I'm certainly not proud of the fact that we converted about 7 more gallons of fossil fuel (on top of what we blew through the U-Haul truck) into the C02 which is every day rendering our planet less habitable for humans.
But we came here to help my mother, and, at this point in time, I have to do that partly within the context which she lives, and, as I said above, if this was our place things would be done in a different way.

Weeds Ready For the Chipper/Shredder
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

Peggy and I brought our electric chipper/shredder with us because we knew there was going to be a mountain of stuff we could use for mulch and compost and we're just getting started with that.

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

This little pile is just the first trailer full of chipped and shredded weeds headed for the compost heap. The horse manure in the corral will be another essential ingredient.
Note the empty bottle of Negra Modelo in the John Deere's beer holder, sometimes it's so obvious that I'm just a redneck farmer at heart.
The above photos show only a part of the many problems we've had to address in these 9 days, from a huge overgrown lawn to runaway shrubbery and weeds in the flower beds around the house, to broken door latches, lost keys for important locks, automatic sprinkler malfunctions, a broken fitting in the plumbing for the well, and so many other things I've already forgotten.
But the three of us are having a lot of fun together and that's what's important.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Wild Places Around Us...

Dallas With The Wellsville Mountains
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

This photo was taken from the road my mom lives on, about 100 yards south of her house.

The view is to the east and that's the Wellsville Mountains Wilderness in the background, home to deer, elk, moose, mountain lions, bobcats, and bighorn sheep. The Wellsvilles are also located in a major western flyway for raptors.
The Wellsville Mountains run north to south, between us and Logan, Utah. The two highest peaks are Box Elder Peak at 9,372', and Wellsville Cone at 9,356'. Depending upon the source of your information, the Wellsville Mountains are either the steepest mountain range in the U.S., or one of the steepest. Only 5 miles wide, they rise 5,000 feet from the valley floors surrounding them. There are only 17 miles of trail in the mountains and one of these days I'll be hiking them.

Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness Areas Within Bicycling Distance
Area map courtesy of National Geographic Topo! Click to enlarge

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Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Everyday Beauty Of The Bear River Valley...

~Afternoon Sky~
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom
Our View From The Dining Room This Morning
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

Each of our days here is enriched with the overwhelming beauty of the natural world.
Yesterday afternoon found us under the splendid sky pictured above while this morning a family of deer graced the orchard outside mom's dining room windows.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Dragonfly After A Rainstorm...

Click on photo to enlarge © 2010 jim otterstrom

A showy thunderstorm rolled across the Bear River Valley here in Utah last evening providing us with a magnificent light show out the dining room windows at dinner time. Rain came and went through the night and we awoke to a brief downpour about six this morning. Wandering around the yard just before breakfast I came across this dragonfly lying in the grass. I picked it up and placed it on an old piece of wood for this photo. It was still alive but I'm not sure it will survive its drenching.
The above dragonfly dried out warmed up and flew away...

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Our Home Away From Home Here In The Bear River Valley Of Utah

Mom's House In Farm Country
Click on any photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom
Peggy, Dallas, and my shadow coming home from our first 5 mile morning walk in Utah.
We'll be spending at least the next 6 months here helping my 85 year old mother out around the place.

Peggy and mom, still in their jammies, in mom's kitchen this morning.

Peg & Dallas on a morning walk along a crossroad near our new digs. We are headed back to the road mom lives on, which runs perpendicular to this one, about 1/4 mile east (the direction Dallas is facing) where we'll turn right for another 1/2 mile to get home.

Another view of mom's big house which she fell in love with about 5 years ago on a trip from California to visit her sister. She put a deposit on it, sold her house in the San Fernando Valley, and moved out here, lock, stock, & barrel, at 80 years of age.

Looking northwest through part of mom's orchard with our chickens still in their traveling cage. They have since been moved into a large makeshift coop.

A horse named Horse, whom belongs to one my mother's friends, resides on a back corner of the property. The view is to the west.

Looking north across the back 1/2 acre of moms property I can envision a huge vegetable garden at this end with chickens and goats inhabiting the far end.
We've already made the small shelter in the distance into a makeshift coop for our chickens, which we brought with us. This area lies just behind the orchard and large raspberry patch.

Looking northwest from the middle of the orchard which has varieties of apples, pears, peaches, cherries, and apricots. Below are a few pictures of the fruit we are now harvesting.

This pear tree is just loaded!

This apple didn't bear heavily this year but the fruit is sweet, crisp, and delicious.

This apple tree is heavily laden and we're planning on baking some apple pies here in the next few days.

More apples.

Horse with our makeshift chicken coop in the background.

Looking northeast across a view of the Bear River just a few hundred yards south of my mom's place. This is one of the places we go on our morning walks now.

A view to the northeast from the orchard fence. My mom's property ends where the cornfield starts and the raspberry patch is just behind where I was standing when I took the picture.

A view to the southeast with part of mom's raspberry patch in the foreground.
The raspberries were in dire need of water as were parts of the orchard, all the trees need pruning and there's much weeding and outdoor cleanup to be done.
That's why we're here and hopefully we can get much of that done before it snows and the ground freezes., we've already made quite a bit of progress.
To our friends who are trying to e-mail us. I have to contact and set things up differently before I can reply or send e-mail, and, at this point, we are no longer receiving e-mail either.

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