While I was hoping for bluebirds this year in the nest boxes, this little chickadee popped her head out and seems to be making it her home for the spring. Luckily Steve had his camera handy and could get some pictures of this cute little bird.
She was just so entertaining to watch. It was like she couldn’t believe her good fortune in finding this amazing nesting spot.
When we came back a couple of weeks later I was happy to see that they were actually moving in.
As a gardener, one of the fun things about our new cabin in Door County WI is seeing what is going to come up in the gardens this spring and summer. I love taking a walk around the property to see what’s changed since the last time we were there. I know the previous owner took pride in her gardens, but since we bought the place in the fall much was already passed its prime. So this spring has been a wonderful surprise to me!
Much to my delight, there are so many interesting and colorful plants all around the house. Some in gardens, some hiding the rural necessities and some enhancing the “yard”.
Up front, we’re welcomed by a beautiful display of peonies, irises and ferns.
Iris reticulata “Springtime”
And all around the front step are these gorgeous, unusually colored columbine. A favorite of the hummingbirds and bees.
There’s hostas nearby as well, but the deer are finding them to be pretty tasty.
Luckily they don’t seem to like the Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop (Spurium Dragon’s Blood) or rug junipers. These are great ground covers and seem to be flourishing with minimal care.
In a bit of a low area, there’s a rock garden that provides a brilliant splash of purple and green.
It’s a relatively natural property, so I’m taking delight in the daisies in the grass. Since the grass is rather sparse, I glad something pretty is in its place.
It’s going to be a little tough to mow around, but we’ll figure something out.
Based on the plant records she left me, I know there’s going to be lots more in bloom next time we’re there!
This past spring while wandering the Wisconsin woods, the ground was covered with beautiful, light green leaves.
I knew it wasn’t trout lilies, since the leaves weren’t mottled, but I also knew it looked familiar. Without a flower, I wasn’t sure what this plentiful plant was. I sent a photo to my expert and she instantly answered “Leeks”! My mom went on to remind me when I was a kid, we had people who would pull off the road near our cabin in Western NY and scramble around in the woods harvesting them. I knew I had seen them before.
I did a little more research and realized I had a little foodie gold mine back there in the woods. Wild Leeks, or Ramps, (Allium tricoccum) have a sharp flavor, similar to an onion or garlic and come into season in the early spring. You can recognize them by their smooth green leaves that emerge from the ground, with a hint of purple on the lower stem.
You know for sure you have ramps, when you break a leaf and you can distinctively smell onion/garlic. No smell, no eating!!
I had never used them before, so I harvested just a little to try out in a couple of recipes. Wild leeks are actually endangered or rare in many areas because of over-harvesting and they are hard to cultivate. Rule of thumb to maintain a healthy patch is to only pick 5-10% of a patch, or harvest only the leaves. To harvest, it’s easiest to use a trowel and loosen the dirt to make it easier to pop out the bulb and greens as a one. Or, just have a clean shears to trim off the leaves and leave the bulbs behind.
Once I picked what I thought was enough to try in a couple of recipes, I left the rest alone to grow and be healthy for many years to come. I also knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat them right away so I chose to freeze them for later use.
To freeze, first clean off the dirt, peel off any slimy outer skins and cut off the root end.
Oh, they look so delicious and the house smells so tasty. I then cut off the white bulbs and and put them directly into a freezer bag. The greens I blanched for 1 minute in boiling water, plunged into ice water and then placed in a separate freezer bag.
Once things had settled down a bit, I finally was able to get them out of the freezer to try. I decided a Wild Leek Risotto was a good place to start.
I still have enough for another meal and I have a bunch more risotto options to try. Check out my Pinterest site for some wild leek/ramp ideas.
Have you tried any foraging foods this spring?
BTW, the two things that are easily confused wild leeks are Trout Lily and Lily of the Valley. Trout Lily have mottled leaves and white or yellow flowers that will appear at the same time and do not smell like onions. Lily of the Valley are toxic and have two or three leaves on one stem, come up later in the season, and DO NOT SMELL LIKE ONION. As one who is not keen on foraging, I can attest to the fact that wild leeks smell like onions/garlic and lily of the valley do not. Use that as your guide and all with be fine and delicious.
I was able to get back up to our cabin in Door County sooner than I thought and checked on the Black-capped Chickadees nest in our nest boxes. In my previous post, Who’s In My Nest Boxes, I discovered that chickadees had laid their eggs in the boxes intended for bluebirds. In the first box there were 6 eggs and the second 11! I was a little nervous that the older 6 eggs might be too close to becoming fledglings, but I was pretty confident they were still young enough not to make a too early dash from the nest. So I took a quick peak.
This was just the epitome of cuteness! Six little immature chickadees. Mom and Dad were none too happy, so I quickly let them be and didn’t disturb them again.
The other nest was not as far along. They are clearly newly hatched and instinctively looking for food. There were still some eggs in the nest and I’m not sure those will hatch or not.
To give you an idea of just how tiny these hatchlings are, I took a picture from the front of the box to give you some scale.
I also have two other birds nesting on the house. Not near the house, but actually on the house. On the front porch is an Eastern Phoebe nest. It’s not uncommon for them to nest in this kind of location. They often nest on eaves or ledges on structures. I remember when I was a kid, we came to our cabin one weekend and a Phoebe had made her nest right on the door frame and we couldn’t open the door. We were able to create a shelf for the nest and the mom didn’t seem to mind at all.
To keep off the nuisance birds, the previous owner had put a nail board up. Apparently, the Phoebe didn’t seem to mind.
The parents can always be found nearby.
Then just recently a Robin has set up house under the elevated back deck. I discovered it first by walking out on the deck and scaring her off the nest right below my feet. Scared me too!
Certainly a lot of excitement from the birds! Do you have any nests you’re watching?
I was surprised to see so many mushrooms on a recent fall trip to Door County, WI. I know many varieties grow well into fall, but with the mild El Ninõ winter we seem to be having, many plants including mushrooms are lasting well past their usual growing seasons. The Coprinus comatus(Shaggy Mane) was the first mushroom that caught my eye. It was popping right up through the gravel driveway.
Each morning was this most interesting stalk–
But the next morning, each new mushroom looked like this! Something found them to be very tasty so I never was able to see it grow any further.
As I walked in the hardwood woods, I came across a surprising number of other mushrooms. When I later tried to identify these, I realized had nowhere close to enough information to be sure what was what. At a minimum, these are some field notes that I need to make next time if I hope to make an identification:
size of overall mushroom and cap
what is the location; note nearby trees; on ground or tree
look underneath–gills or no gills; gill description
There’s additionally more scientific methods to assist the identification of mushrooms, but I think these simple observations would have probably allowed me to identify most of the mushrooms I saw on my walk.
So, in the absence of knowing what I was looking at, here’s the unlabeled photos of the mushrooms I saw. If you happen to know what these are, I’d love some assistance.
Out mushroom hunting in Door County or elsewhere? Here’s a a few resources I found quite useful: