Mugging Barberry

AmeriCorps and Volunteers

It’s a tough task eradicating Barberry.

One pleasant Saturday morning a couple dozen heavily armed people walked to the interior of Faulkes Heritage Woods. Their weapons were those used to help heal the forest and included thick leather gloves, lopping shears, hand saws, and clippers. They were out to defeat Japanese Barberry.

For two hours they attacked a huge patch of Japanese Barberry that had infiltrated the Woods. Grasping small ones with both hands people yanked them from the soil, shook them off and placed them so the roots would dry out and not re-root. In winter, when the Barberry has berries, the plants are placed on tarps and hauled off so the berries do not drop and root. Ones too big to pull were cut off at ground level.

Volunteers were organized by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. It holds a conservation easement on the property that’s owned by the Marion City Parks Department. Park staff helped, and so did a crew of young people enrolled in AmeriCorps. Various local volunteers pulled and cut.

In Its Native Habitat, It is OK.

Just why is Japanese Barberry such an onerous plant?  Actually, it’s a fine shrub in Japan and other parts of Asia where it’s native. There it has natural forces that keep its density in check. It was brought to North America as a landscaping plant because barberry is easy to propagate and transplant. It thrives in many locations, including compacted soil of building sites. It is an ideal landscape plant with one terrible trait.

Barberry

Barberry creates impenetrable tangles and changes the soil chemistry.

The plant produces red fruits in late summer that birds find delicious. They gobble them up, fly away, and poop the seeds out. So, birds snacked on barberries planted in yards and delivered the seeds into Faulkes Woods, where the seeds grow with gusto into impenetrable “pukka brush”.

Barberries crowd out native wildflowers and do much more damage. They actually change the soil chemistry to their advantage while making it less suitable for native plants. And, the dense shrubs create pockets of humidity. Each becomes an oasis of comfort for ticks.

Preserving and Exploring Faulkes Heritage Woods

Faulkes Woods Creek

Many hollows and ravines characterize Faulkes Heritage Woods.

Faulkes Heritage Woods is a gorgeous 110-acre steep forest adjoining Winding Pathways. We walk there often. Huge oaks and other native trees fill its wondrous spaces.  Wildflowers abound, especially in the spring, and birding is excellent for woodland species. Pileated woodpeckers are common.

A looping footpath starts and ends at a trailhead off Tama Street Southeast. Visitors can park along the street and enjoy the woods. But, they don’t have to stick to the trail that only covers a small area. Walkers are welcome to go off trail and scramble through the woods to enjoy its beauty and solitude.

For information:

Marion Parks and Recreation: (319)447-3580

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation: (515)288-1846

Winding Pathways LLC.

Attract Hummingbirds this Summer

This Nectar is TOOOO Hot!  Ahh, Just Right!
Lijun Chadima, Guest blogger

Every year I always like to put the hummingbird feeder out as soon as the weather warms up.  It’s been difficult this spring because of the crazy temperature fluctuations.  Earlier this spring I was enjoying the warm sunshine on our porch when a beautiful ruby-throated hummingbird flew over and seemed to be wondering, “Where the heck is the feeder?”  I boiled the sugar water that afternoon and hung out the feeder the next morning.

Mystery – Why No Hummingbirds?

After a couple days the level of the sugar water in the feeder didn’t appear to go down at all.  My little friend stopped by a couple more times, but each time he flew off after just a brief sip.  I went out to check the feeder and discovered it was so hot that I could barely hold it in my hand.  No wonder the hummingbirds weren’t drinking any!  I suddenly remembered a bird show I saw on PBS that stated hummingbirds try to avoid extreme heat, so that afternoon I took the feeder down from its regular spot which was in direct sunlight, and moved it to a new location where it was in the shade under the sun umbrella.

Mystery Solved!

That apparently did the trick because the very next day multiple hummingbirds took turns drinking from the feeder.
Hummingbirds are a source of endless fascination for me.  They are full of energy and dart around the sky in all directions like little helicopters.  What a treat when one actually stops to rest on the ledge and enjoy a drink from the feeder.  Just remember to keep it in the shade so it’s not too hot for them!
Click on the link below, download and watch the video by Lijun of the hummingbird happily sipping nectar in the shade.

Care for Your Rain Barrels This Summer

Problem with Hot Weather

A friend emailed today with this dilemma:  “I got a whiff of a horrible smell near my rain barrel. I looked inside, and there’s a horrible, putrid layer of something floating on the top of the water. I think it might have come from all the fuzz from the trees in the past few days. Do you think I should empty the barrel, scrub it out, and start over? I do have that screen over the top, but something obviously got through it and seems to be “growing” on top of the water.”

Answer

YES!

Solution

 

Three linked rain barrels

Keep your rain barrels clean in hot weather with these easy tips.

It’s important to do these three things to keep the water fresh:

1.  Clean gutters to keep leaves, catkins, and other stuff from getting into the barrel and clean the screen at the top of the barrel.
2.  Use the water.  Don’t let it stand in the barrel for too long.   If it’s really rainy water moves through the barrels and helps keep it fairly fresh.

3.  A couple of times during the summer empty the barrel, take the lid off, and wash it out with tap water.

4. Winding Pathways has cleaned the screens on our rain barrels several times already and after each rainstorm.  They tend to plug up most during the first few rainstorms.    It might also help to put a very small amount of chlorine bleach in the water.  It’s toxic to bacteria and molds that might live in the barrel.
A little practical maintenance will make using rain barrels a pleasure and help your plants.

Creeping Charlie and Other Ground Covers

Years ago, a homeowner visited a garden store and bought plugs of a plant commercially called ground ivy, but most folks today call it Creeping Charlie.

Creeping Charlie

A great ground cover that can get away from you.

In many ways this exotic plant was an ideal ground cover. It’s tough, easy to transport and plant, adaptable to a wide range of conditions, needs no special care, and it spreads like crazy. It only grows a few inches tall so was touted as a plant that, once established, needs no maintenance. And, it attracts valuable pollinators early in the season before other flowering blooms appear.

Benefits

Creeping Charlie’s benefits are also its curse. It does everything too well. Creeping Charlie doesn’t creep. Rather, it races to cover a yard with astonishing speed, often crowding out more desirable plants.

There are two ways to view Creeping Charlie.

What other ground covers can you get? Read more and subscribe now!

Already a member?  Log In.

Goats of Wonderland

A Visit to Cheshire Moon Farm

Fans of Alice and Wonderland know the famous Cheshire Cat grin. That feline gave its name to a happy place called Cheshire Moon Farm in rural Atkins, Iowa. Winding Pathways visited in late April and left smiling.

The farm is perched on high ground with a clear view in all directions. “The night sky is gorgeous and the crescent moon reminded me of the Cheshire Cat’s grin, so that’s how our place got its name,” said Elise Gallet de St Aurin.

Happy Animals Reflect Caretakers’ Enthusiasm

The name is appropriate. Elise and her family are caretakers of goats, sheep, horses, guineas, chickens, and a couple of dogs. As she led us around, her cheery enthusiasm was matched by that of the animals. All seemed happy, and if the animals could grin like the Cheshire cat we’re sure they would.

Elise holds a master’s degree in agriculture education and chose to return to the family farm after college, where she meshed her considerable energy with enthusiasm and knowledge to build a business centered mostly around goats.

How Goats Help People

There are lots of goats at Cheshire Moon Farm. Some are meat breeds sold for the niche meat market. Other goats are kept for breeding. And, at least one semi-retired animal mentors the herd of younger goats. Still, others are milkers that produce the raw material for the soaps and lotions that Elise makes. Although not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for people who suffer from eczema and psoriasis, Elise indicated that some customers find the products helpful.

Thanks to Elise we received a goat education. They are truly amazing and were the first animal domesticated by people some 30,000 years ago in the Middle East. A goat can yield about 45 pounds of meat and a milker may yield up to a gallon a day. Some people enjoy having a goat pet, which has a lifespan similar to that of a dog. Goats live in herds. Sheep in flocks.

There are many goat breeds, and the animals come in many colors and configurations. One goat Elise calls her reverse Dalmatian because of its black body with white spots.

Goats are curious, love to climb on things and are voracious eaters. “They love snacking on woody plants and like poison ivy, Canada thistle, and other prickly plants. In contrast, sheep are grazers that prefer to eat grass,” she said.

Landowners hire her to bring goats to places loaded with exotic undesirable prickly plants. In a short time, the animals devour honeysuckles, barberries, and poison ivy. We asked how she cleans the poison-ivy-eating-goats off. “I mix Dawn soap with water and squirt them down until they turn blue, then hose them off,” she explained.

A Woman on a Mission

In addition to raising goats for brush clearing, milk, and meat Elise, is a farrier who travels to trim the hooves of sheep and goats and had just returned from a Minnesota hoof trimming trip when we met her. She works full time at the Cedar Rapids Tractor Supply Company. Among many duties at the store, she manages baby chick sales.

Despite her vast knowledge of animals, what shines through is her boundless enthusiasm for education, augmented by her master’s degree in that field. She’s also an adept cooperator. “I don’t know machines too well but teamed up with Larry’s Landscaping to fill voids in the farm operation,” she said. While we visited, Larry and two of his children were buzzing around tidying up the property for an upcoming open house.

As we left for home we glanced back at Cheshire Moon Farm. Goats, sheep, chickens, guineas, and horses all seem to give us a big happy grin as if to say, “Hurry back”.

We’ll do that. Anyone is welcome to an Open House from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2018.
3169 74th St Atkins, IA 52206. 1-319-929-5201.CLG.CONSULTANTS.INC@gmail.com. For information check out CGLHEARTANDHOOVES.COM.

 

Baby Chicks Grow Up – Part Two

Mama

Mama Hen with chicks foraging.

Now a couple of months old, the quartet of chicks is exploring farther afield. After the cold and snowy introduction to the outside world in late March, they readily follow Mama Hen outside.

Mama protects them inside from the other hens by cornering the chicks and standing literally in front of them, screening them from the others who get too close. Outside, Mama clucks and calls the chicks over for food and again, warns off the adults with a serious sounding tone and lunge toward one that may get too close to the chicks or be aggressive toward them.

 

Roost

Mama hen with four chicks on roost.

The chicks learned how to fly up onto the roost with Mama and she mightily shelters them at night. We were worried the first few nights in April when temperatures fell to 11 degrees.  But, they did OK.

 

 

To continue reading about Chicks growing up, subscribe now!

Already a member?  Log In.