Friday, November 7, 2008

Sweet Dreams

An old house in the country.
And land all around.
A sanctuary for all who dwell here.

Those were our dreams for the 1835 farm.
And, though the original land had been cleared decades earlier when it stood proudly as a 100-acre tract, the pastures on these remaining fifteen had long grown wild. Creek beds, once again, filled with sycamores and hickories. While the old oak marking the far property line spawned a stand of new, young trees beyond the pond.

The elderly owners had wished for it wildness, and touched very little in their fifteen-year stay.
Untouched land reclaims even stone houses.
And the damage from neglect shown as rot and decay.
Shoring up the old house consumed much of our first years’ efforts.

Looking to the land, we began by removing fences. Creating a connected space, through which wildlife could easily move. From the pond to the oak woods, from the woods to the field—many tracks ran about on the soon well-worn paths. Regrowth had begun to restore the once-farmed land.

Julie and Chet Baker

Last week, another dream.
Julie Zickefoose, who literally wrote the book on creating safe places to both attract and sustain birds and butterflies, "The Bird-Friendly Backyard : Natural Gardening for Birds," walked the property with us. Her years of experience on her own land, just four hours east, and wealth of knowledge far beyond birds alone, were a privilege to tap into, even though, on this afternoon, the skies revealed very few, if any, birds to watch.

Bullfrogs? Who knew the hundreds lurking in the shallow water edging the pond might be a problem for songbirds? Doesn’t everyone have this many?
And suggestions for creating a nest site for turtles—the many curled white shells, evidence of a predator’s attention.

That evening after dinner, we relaxed around the table by the fire—catching up with Kathi and Susan, fellow bloggers and travelers along the dark country roads leading to the old farm.
Charming a small Black Rat snake found earlier, sunning on the lawn.
Enjoying the company of Chet Baker, Julie’s Boston Terrier, loved by all who meet him and a celebrity in his own right.

Chet Baker

I spent the following afternoon with Baker, while Julie led walks and programs at a nearby middle school. On one of the last gloriously fine days of autumn we fell asleep, stretched out in the back field, warmed by sunshine.

Missing Mether

Time to walk.
And time to talk.
I marvel at this generous woman who makes herself so accessible to so many. And whose passion for the natural world spreads wildly--lingering in those she touches long after she has gone.

Sweet Dreams, Chet Baker

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Robert V. Sobczak said...

I feel privileged to be part of the network of nature bloggers. I'm continually amazed by the power of the blog to connect people with themselves and others. This post is a testament to that.

Tom said...

I wish Chet Baker would come and check out my back yard!


Susan Gets Native said...

Oh, look at that sad face, missing Mether.
I hope Julie continues to take Chet along on her travels. We all benefit from that!

MojoMan said...

How lucky you are to have had Julie walk your land! You're so right about her generosity, she seems to do more than any three people I know, and yet she is always willing to help others. A very special soul indeed.

Mary said...

Dear Nina,

This is wonderful. I don't know what to say except I admire you and this tribute to Julie.

and to dear Chet Baker :o)


KGMom said...

what a handsome poser dog is Chet Baker. His expression--go ahead, take my photo, I know I am handsome!

I do love the way the land reclaims whatever we leave undisturbed. Even houses--and all our grand monuments. Makes me think of Ozymandias, Shelley's marvelous poem.

nina said...

Robert--I find we know quite a lot about the bloggers we blog with. But there's something very fulfilling about an actual face to face meeting. The whole experience can be very bizarre--meeting for the first time someone you already know everything about!

Tom--I'm sure you'll do wonderful things with your land, now that you're a homeowner!

Mojo--so right--Julie's schedule must be an exhausting one, yet her responses to each of us are fresh and full of energy. I don't know how she does it! Vitamins? My guess is, passion.

Susan--isn't Chet just the most photogenic dog??

Mary--at times the old house can be less than charming--but the age and growth around it are wonderful for sheltering wildlife. As the new homes come around us, as I know they will, I would like to think our space will be found by those displaced by development.

kgmom--Yes! (I had to look that one up) The land does not matter who you are or what you have built against it.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Nina, It looks like you need to have a mess of frog legs every once in awhile to keep those big green bullies under control. Kinda makes me hungry looking at them.

I can see why you and Julie are drawn together. You are much alike. Having two celebrities at your place at one time must have been such fun. It is good to see that Chet is busy spreading his charm around.

Deborah Godin said...

Love the poetry of this post! And the photos make a wonderufl journey in themselves. I'm curious about the threat of bullfrogs to songbirds - competition for food? Or something

Old Lady Lincoln said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Dog is very cute. Sister-in-law use to always have a Boston Terrier.

I just noticed where you are located. Perhaps you are closer than I realize.

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Thank you for another informative and lovely post... and for the link to Julie's blog. I anticipate more fascinating reading ahead.

Brenda@View From The Pines said...

I love Boston Terriers. Grew up with one. And my youngest daughter has one named Maggie in Tulsa. I too am trying to make my yard as accessible to wildlife as living one block to a major highway can be. I even had it certified as a national wildlife habitat a few months back.

LauraHinNJ said...

She is a gem... as all Ohio bloggers seem to be!


Anonymous said...

Wonderful read and post! Thank you for sharing!
Cheers, Klaus

KatDoc said...

Excellent Chet photos! I see a new career for you, Nina - Portrait photography for canine stars, LOL!

I can't believe all those bullfrogs. It looks like the plagues of Egypt!! You need a few catfish or something in that pond to thin them out. After I stocked my pond with bluegills, bass and channel cats, my bullfrog population went way down. I still have a few, but I do miss the symphony of croaking I used to hear.

How sweet to have Julie walk your property with you and give you tips. Glad you had such a nice visit with her, and of course Baker. (It's all about the dog.)


Gretchen said...

Great photos. Love the final one the best. All snuggled up in his blanket. :)

Island Rambles Blog said...

Wonderful description of your day with Julie. She has touched everyone in the nature community in some way.
I like coming in here. I have favorite postings of yours Nina that I re-read. Today I read again about the stray cats and the cute kittens. I still think about those kittens.

Reader Wil said...

Vwry brave and admirable of you to start such a big job and creating suchbeautiful surroundings. You have got many bullfrogs in your pobd. In Australia they are a nuisance and dangerous to the indigenous frogs and songbirds. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

Tide Turn said...

Lovely post - couldn't believe the bullfrogs. Like your comment on how bizarre it is meeting people you know everything about. Find that to some extent with bloggers who are social friends as well!

nina said...

Deborah--too much of anything in an ecosystem is a sign that something is missing from the hierarchy. In our case, the low water we experience every few years is the hardest on the largest inhabitants of the pond, and drops their numbers at a faster rate than smaller creatures, like frogs.
And bullfrogs DO eat birds.
In Julie's book, "Letters From Eden," she tells the story of Fergus, a bullfrog, whom she finds with the tail feathers of a chipping sparrow sticking from his mouth, while hummingbird feathers float on the surface of their pond.
It is never good to have too many anythings.

Aisha said...

I had a great time reading this post and Chet is so adorable. :)

Kelly said...

Wow, that is so neat that we both had family that came over on the Mayflower! Thomas Rogers was the one from our family that came over on the Mayflower. If you have any information, I'd love to hear about it!!! It would be neat if we are related!!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Late to this party, I am humbled and bawly. Thank you, Nina. Your home is a haven for people as well as wild things, and you and Anton were so kind to put your lives aside to help me and Chetty do our thing in Batavia. I wish, of course, to return the favor to you and Anton, and I can imagine the things we'd find should we look at my stomping grounds through your eyes. Should you ever wish to drive the length of old Ohio, you have a bed and places at the table, right next to The Bacon.

Thinking about your bullfrog imbalance, I believe you've got a handle on it...there has been an event or events that knocked bullfrog predators out of the loop in your pond. Until the bass have a string of wet years in a row to recover and grow large enough to eat frogs, I think you need a crate of green herons delivered to your door. Let me know when they get there and I'll come clip their wings for you. It's ironic to see this overpopulation, when amphibians worldwide are declining at such precipitous rates. I would hate to be a dragonfly on that shore.

The Tile Lady said...

Oh my what an amazing post...first that Ms. Zickfoose walked your land with you and gave you such great advice (I loved reading her comment too!) and then the fact that you bought an 1835 farmhouse and restored it and made the land work for you! I am are living my dream! :-)

Appalachian Lady said...

I love the dog--that type of dog would be good for the Obamas. I hope they are reading your post.