Monday, February 22, 2010

Turkey vultures descending upon us

When I was growing up in West Tennessee, we called them "buzzards." The more common name is "turkey vulture." Whatever we choose to call them, they are descending on us in record numbers.

In West Tennessee we would only see them soaring gracefully hundreds of feet in the air. Rarely could they be seen on the ground or nesting. Recently I drove by a huge poplar tree on the Pellissippi Parkway that had 25 or 30 of the giant birds nesting in it.

Another spotting is more outrageous. Driving on Topside Road last week, I saw two vultures in the middle of the road working on a roadkill possum. One was dragging the carcass to the shoulder of the road and the other was pushing with it's beak. They hopped to the side of the road as I approached, so I pulled off. The two birds immediately jumped back on their meal and continued their pulling and pushing. Another car passed and they retreated again. I pulled out and started on my way. In my rearview mirror I could see them still hard at work.

I emailed my friend and outdoorsman extraordinaire Sam Venable. He said the only thing they he could think for the influx of vultures is that the unusual amounts of snow in the North this winter may be driving the birds south.

So maybe they will be on the way once they devour all they can in these parts. Just like a certain football coach we know.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pruning cane plants

The mistake that most of us make with plants that grow from canes is pruning them too early or late, and then not pruning them with enough vigor.

February is the best time to prune plants such as the butterfly bush, and you need to take the plants almost all the way to the ground. I used this method with all our butterfly bushes last year. They all turned out full and healthy.

Photo on left is bush before I pruned it yesterday, and at right is the stub of the plant.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Organic Matter R Us

Today's 50-degree weather sent me into a leaf-raking frenzy. I added about a dozen cart loads of dead leaves onto my garden plot. I had already added about 50 cart loads in the fall, plus 40 or so gallons of ashes. I have high hopes when I turn over the ground in the spring that I will finally have enough organic matter in my soil.

In the past I've made the mistake of turning the ground in the late fall, but I learned that a garden should lay fallow and unturned through the winter. The microbes and bacteria work better if the soil is undisturbed.

For reasons I have read but don't understand, hard winter freezes are good for the soil, according to the UT Agricultural Extension Service. It has something to do with the way the ground heaves during freezes and thaws. With all the organic matter and certainly more hard freezes than normal, I'm hoping for a bountiful garden this year. Hope springs eternal . . . and so forth.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My apologies to Deerfield Diary readers

I've been lazy the past few weeks, but I'll blame my lack of posts on the miserable winter weather, some out-of-town trips and installing a new computer system.. I have some future posts in mind, so I'll tease you a little. They include:

* Why the influx of turkey vultures/buzzards?
* First prunings of the season
* Last firewood of the season
* The miracle of trickle-charging
* Screen-door repair ad infinitum

The fruit tree and berry catalogs are flooding in, so spring can't be too far off.