Sara came to visit us in early March to help us move in. We took a walk around the perimeter of the farm. She said, according to her Fitbit Flex, that we walked 5000 steps, or 2.3 miles. That was a fun way to get some exercise. Here are some of the more interesting things we saw, which I’ve tried my best to identify.
“Red-breasted sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) is a medium-sized woodpecker. They drill holes in trees and eat the sap and the insects attracted to the sap. Their breeding habitat is usually forests of pine, hemlock, Douglas fir and Spruce. A sapsucker’s tongue is adapted with stiff hairs for collecting the sap. Red-Breasted Sapsuckers visit the same tree multiple times, drilling holes in neat horizontal rows. A bird will leave and come back later, when the sap has started flowing from the holes. Repeated visits over an extended period of time can actually kill the tree. The insects attracted to the sap are also consumed, and not only by sapsuckers. Rufous Hummingbirds, for example, have been observed to follow the movements of sapsuckers and take advantage of this food source.” Wikipedia
We’ve seen a few trees in the orchard with those rows of holes. We haven’t seen any hummingbirds though.
We transported our blueberry plants from California in large white planters. There weren’t any spiders on them at the time, but they’ve appeared since we moved here. They are numerous and their black bodies stand out against the white. I haven’t ID’d them yet, but I’m hoping they aren’t poisonous or some sort of jumping spider. I may have to catch one to figure out what it is.
“Arbutus menziesii is an evergreen tree with rich orange-red bark that when mature naturally peels away in thin sheets, leaving a greenish, silvery appearance that has a satin sheen and smoothness. The exposed wood sometimes feels cool to the touch. In spring, it bears sprays of small bell-like flowers, and in autumn, red berries. The berries dry up and have hooked barbs that latch onto larger animals for migration.” Wikipedia
According to the book, Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, by Gregory L. Tilford, Chickweed ( stellaria media) has a unique characteristic that makes it easy to distinguish from all look-alikes: a line of minute hairs runs up only one side of the stem, switching sides at each pair of leaves. Chickweed has 5 petals, each petal with a deep cleft that makes it appear to have 10 petals. Chickweed blooms continuously, making it difficult to eradicate, or as some would say, impossible. It is one of the most enjoyable wild salad greens. The entire plant is juicy, tender and mildly sweet with a flavor similar to iceberg lettuce. It is also used as an emollient, demulcent ( a soothing substance for the skin), refrigerant and diuretic medicine. It is used to cool and sooth minor burns and skin irritations.
So, I think I have Big Chickweed, not the more interesting Chickweed, but next time I’m going to look for those hairs on the stems. (Edit: 3/22/2015; Upon further study of the wildflower book, the flower petals look more like Chickweed, or Common Chickweed, Stellaria media.)
“It is a hairy, sticky annual. The long seed-pod, shaped like the bill of a stork, bursts open in a spiral when ripe, sending the seeds (which have little feathery parachutes attached) into the air. Seed launch is accomplished using a spring mechanism powered by shape changes as the fruits dry. The spiral shape of the awn can unwind during daily changes in humidity, leading to self-burial of the seeds once they are on the ground. The two tasks (springy launch and self-burial) are accomplished with the same tissue (the awn), which is hygroscopically active and warps upon wetting and also gives rise to the draggy hairs on the awn.
The entire plant is edible with a flavor similar to sharp parsley if picked young. According to John Lovell’s Honey Plants of North America (1926), “the pink flowers are a valuable source of honey (nectar), and also furnish much pollen”. Among the Zuni people, a poultice of chewed root applied to sores and rashes and an infusion of the root taken is for stomachache.” Wikipedia