Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Easter Eggs or Ducklings?

In the midst of yet another Nor'Easter, one has to believe that the ducks know best and Spring will not be long in coming.
Caillou, the matriarch of our flock has this year decided to make her nest in one of the chicken egg laying boxes 

which may help contain her eggs, as she has a tendency to scratch her eggs out of the nest.


Nora, so named because her sister Dora wandered far and wide throughout the woods, until one day her exploring took her to the point of no return.
The incubation period for a Muscovy duck is around 5 weeks, Nora has been sitting for three weeks

Cinco, a daughter of Nora, got her name because she has made her nest under the Pizza oven sink countertop

She has 4 eggs at present and will start sitting when she has a dozen or more, which will probably take another couple of weeks.

The almost identical sister of Cinco, who we named  Mayo, has been sitting for just over a week

and as you can see, has a full clutch of eggs, 17 in total.

Studley, on the left and Sir Francis, are our two drakes.

But don't put away your snow shovel just yet, as Coddle hatched 4 little duckling back in December.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Historic Walls for Wildlife

Yesterday I gave a hands on demonstration of Dry Stone Walling for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation

The large stones for the adults

and the smaller stones for the children.

In all my years of teaching dry stone walling, invariably a group of strangers come together and within minutes they are working together like old friends.
In this particular case three children came together, and within seconds they were cooperating verbally and actively to create this masterpiece

I would like to think it was the wall that had the full attention of the baby in its mothers arms. you're never too young to learn

The bottom half of this miniature wall started with multiple running joints (stones stacked one on top of another) whereas the top half is almost entirely built with crossing joints. That is a steep learning curve for a child. Well done.

Whatever the end result, the looks of concentration and enjoyment that go into the build make it a worthwhile endeavour.

It's nice to know someone was listening when I was explaining the batter of a dry stone wall. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Have you ever wanted to build a Dry Stone wall without all the heavy lifting?

Tomorrow March 18th

For Kids from 4 to 40 and above


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation

This Sunday, March 18th 2018

Sunday at the Sanctuary- Historic Stone Walls for Wildlife

Join us at Fraser Woods Montesori School
173 S. Main St Newtown, CT


Dr. Robert Thorson, UCONN professor and founder of the Stone Wall Initiative, will share the exciting, hidden life behind stones! Author of the children's book "Stone Wall Secrets", Dr. Thorson will also be signing books and answering questions.


Join Becky Newman, Education Director from Earth Place of Westport, as she introduces stone wall wildlife including Box Turtles and Amphibians!

In addition, Master Stone Mason Andrew Pighills will take participants on an interactive journey of exploration including:
Hands on stone wall building demonstration
Children's stone wall building activity
How to explore, date and identify your stone walls

Please register at this web address

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

An update on tree damage

I pruned the various damaged branches and limbs from the two willows, and took cuttings from the newest growth.

The silver leaf cuttings above and the gold leaf cuttings below, are planted in the wetlands where there is a constant supply of water

The willow is one of the easiest plants to strike from cuttings. One can also make willow water which is used to encourage plants other than willows to strike from cuttings.
This is due to the high concentration of Indolebutyric acid, a hormone that stimulates root growth found in the growing tips of willows, and Salicylic acid, a hormone which is similar to, and acts like an aspirin in signalling a plants defenses.
Simply cut young present years growth from any willow tree, remove leaves and cut into one inch lengths. Place in a waterproof container and add cold water, leave for several days or weeks. The more twigs, the stronger the brew. When finished strain off the liquid.
To use, just pour some willow water into a small container and immerse your cuttings overnight to soak up some of the willow water, then plant accordingly.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The resilient and not so resilient tree

Amazingly the River Birch, laid low by the weight of snow

has sprung back to its previous shape once the snow was removed.

The Lilac at center survived pretty much unscathed, as did the Dogwood behind and to the right of the old well. It recovered its normal shape, even though the snow covered branches were touching the ground

The Golden willow, back center looks to have come through undamaged, 

but on closer inspection, one of the main stems, left, has bent passed the point of no return. As this is a fast growing willow, I will probably cut out the bent branch and select a couple of well placed shoots from the multitude that will grow from around the cut, to bring it back to shape. 

The Hawthorn fared even worse. I will cut back all the broken branches and see how it grows back. This tree has fearsome thorns, so I may raise the crown above the highest broken branch for ease of grass mowing.

The silver leafed willow also incurred some damage, but once the damaged branches are pruned, it will soon regain its beautiful appearance.

Willows are easy to propagate from cuttings, simply push the clean cut branches in to reliably moist soil, and you will soon have rooted young trees, like these seven willow cuttings that I struck in spring 2017 and will be ready for planting out this spring.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

 Shelter to Death Trap or Succor to Suffocation

Here is an aspect of dry stone walls that may not be apparent to all.

When the snow is falling and the prevailing winds are constant, the snow is first scoured from the land and then blown against any object in its path, in this case a dry stone wall.

The wall not only creates a barrier, but also shelter on the leeward side, where the decrease in wind pressure allows the snow to settle and accumulate in even greater amounts than on the windward side of the wall.

Sheep will also seek shelter behind the wall from the wind and snow, or as this photo clearly shows where the sheep sheltered behind the snow drifts the night after the snowstorm.

Unfortunately, if the snow drifts become too deep, the sheep will become trapped beneath the snow and suffocate.

The ever vigilant shepard counts the sheep daily.

If there is one or more missing, the dig begins.