Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer Pictures IV - Sunflowers

Along with the modest vegetable garden we planted, I also planted some flowers. Why not? Everybody likes flowers. I'd never grown them before, but I decided to grow some sunflowers. I tried a variety of sunflowers. Maybe a half dozen different types.

I haven't been dutifully recording the progress of each variety as any self-respecting gardener probably would, but I'm sort of new to the whole concept of having land, and I haven't fully adapted to the concept since I don't believe it will last. There's also the fact that I spent the majority of my life dwelling in arid deserts where land was often plentiful but growing non-desert plants was usually much more trouble than it was worth (because I am lazy). It was probably out of necessity, but I learned to respect the innate beauty and sheer will to live expressed by most desert plants. Heck, even cactuses and yucca plants have flowers to enjoy.

Anyway, back to the sunflowers. Not only are sunflowers pretty with their large green stalks and colorful flowers, they also attract and support a variety of bird and insect life. You'll see a couple of picture below where I attempted to capture some of that. Also, I'm not going to list each variety's name. Except for the last variety shown below, I'm just going to post some pictures without more comment (because I am lazy).

The one sunflower that I will make an exception to point out is called, I believe, a chianti hybrid. The flower has a wonderfully dark but warm color. In full sunlight, the petals glow from within. These photos don't really do it justice.

While the flower is first growing, it looks a lot like any other sunflower with thick green stalks. However, as the plant matures and it gets ready to bloom, a dark color begins to work its way up the plant. Before long the stalk and the veins in the leaves have this dark color. All the darker colored flowers do this to a certain extent, but for these very dark flowers, the total effect of the dark color is slightly sinister (but very beautiful). If I ever grow sunflowers again, I will grow some of these, and I will make the patch as large as I can. You know, to warn off the neighbors.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer Pictures III - Frolicking Fawns

Being somewhat out in the boonies, we are frequently visited by deer. You can be walking around out back minding your own business, and suddenly you're staring down the accusatory stare of a couple of deer.

I'm normally tolerant of deer. They give me plenty of space, and they seem to have enough problems with hunters and highway vehicles, and I see no need to harass them further. However, for a short period earlier in the summer, they were using our barely established garden as a buffet, and I lost all tolerance for their presence. I even went so far as to chase after and run off a suspect deer who had the temerity to eye our garden while I was standing right there! It didn't really help, but it made me feel a little better.

After that, we worked out some makeshift barriers that seemed to dissuade them, and right now the deer seem to be happy to munch on the apples that are falling from the trees.

Somewhere in the middle of all that excitement, we had an extremely blustery day, and we spotted two fawns playing around in the back. We'd seen a doe with two fawns a couple of times before, so we suspected that the fawns became separated because of the weather. Does will call to their fawns, but in the wind, we doubted they could hear her. At any rate, the event afforded me the opportunity to get some action shots of these fawns.

(I apologize for the graininess. I couldn't get too close, and I was using a point and shoot camera with 6x zoom in low light conditions. I'm amazed I got the photos I did.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Summer Pictures II - The Fair

Whenever summer nears its end, you can always find some fair or other running. The Montana Fair recently made its run here, and we made a trek to see it.

I enjoy fairs. I'm not really into the rides, or the "games", or the crappy and expensive food. I know what you're thinking, "That's all there is to fairs, so you don't really enjoy fairs, you dummy." First, name calling is uncalled for, and second, you'd be right except you forgot about the exhibits. You know, the exhibits showing off people's baking, knitting, sewing, painting, photographing, place setting etc. skills. I enjoy viewing exhibits of people's industrious efforts. For instance, here's a picture of somebody's giant flower... thing.

I really don't know what sort of flower it was, but believe me when I tell you it was impressive in person.

Some other things people like to exhibit at fairs are various farm animals large and small. I admit that I don't appreciate the farm aspect of fairs as much as I should even though that is probably the traditional purpose of fairs. I just don't have enough experience and knowledge about animal husbandry (*snicker*) to really appreciate what I'm looking at. Usually when people inform me we're heading over to the animal exhibits, my initial reaction is pretty much that of this fair goer I spotted near one of the animal exhibits (I empathize completely).

However, I have to admit that if I give it half a chance that there is usually something interesting to look at in the animal exhibits. So, I try to keep an open mind.

This year we went to the fair just a day after it had opened. By the time we usually visit the fair, all the animal judging has already happened. But this time we visited the animal exhibits while judging was going on. I caught some of the cows being shown. Even kids get into the act (#141 had better be quick on his feet).

I can judge the heck out of people, but with cows, I wouldn't know where to begin. After each round, the judge would helpfully explain his choices as the cows were moved out of the pen single file. However, I still couldn't follow him. He said things about round flanks, feminine somethings, and straight backs. He also talked about the way they walked as they were led around the judging area. Actually, the only thing I could really appreciate was the straight back. The rest was lost on me, especially the whole "feminine" thing. I'd appreciate it more if I was a cow connoisseur. (Man, I sure hope somebody in the world has "cow connoisseur" on their business card.)

However, I have to say that this gentleman's cow (which won its judging) did have a straighter back than its competitors. Also, he was very adept at moving his cow around and getting it to do what he wanted. I assume that helps the judging quite a bit.

Before seeing the cows, we passed through some of the bird areas. The birds are always a lot of fun to see. There's just such a wild variety of birds. This is especially true of chickens. This year there were quite a few excellent examples, but I'll just highlight two I really liked.

Here's a proud fellow. He isn't the showiest rooster you'll find, but his solid, dark, iridescent color is striking, and his shape is just classic rooster form.

Then there is this hen. Again she has a simple feather pattern, but I find it striking and very beautiful.

Beautiful birds are cool, but apparently there is also a whole category for ugly birds. While it's nice of them to try to provide opportunities for the less endowed birds, it seems a shame we have to be so judgemental about it. Here's an example of one of the poor benighted hens entered into the ugly category.

Before you ask, apparently that is a "healthy" bird. They're bred to be that way.

Finally, there's one other thing I like about the fair: all the cute chicks you'll get to see.

Yeah. Lame pun. Well, there's nothing you can do about it except to futilely shake your fist at the monitor.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Pictures I

I didn't used to be much for snapping photos, but now that I have a digital camera, I've steadily increased the number of pictures I take. It's just so dang easy! As a result, I've got a little pile of pictures I've built over the summer. Nothing dramatic, but I thought I'd share some of them over the next few days.

First up, baby pumpkins! Actually, I don't know what to call them. Pumpkin buds? I'm no gardenologist, so cut me some slack.

Anyway, we started a modest garden this summer in an attempt to make this land give a little something back. One of the things we planted was jack-o-lantern type pumpkins. I really like the light and limited color scheme in this picture.

Just to prove the thing was growing, I came back a week later. The lighting wasn't as good this time, but the growth is evident.

More pictures tomorrow!