Since Georgia is the Peach state and Atlanta seems to have overused Peachtree in naming streets, you’d think that every yard in Georgia would have a Peach tree. Not so! Flowering Cherry, Crabapple, and Pear trees are much more plentiful. That’s a shame because Peach trees have pretty pink blossoms in Spring and actually produce fruit.
My tree is loaded with delicate flowers and each one will become a luscious peach. Unfortunately, I won’t get a single one. As soon as they ripen, the deer pilfer every peach--one day they’re green, the next day they’re gone. Deer even know how to shake the tree so the ones on top fall to the ground. Here’s a picture of a peach thief caught in the act.
It’s a good thing that I planted my Peach tree because it seemed fitting for a Georgia backyard. If feasting on peaches from my own tree was the reason, I’d be a very disappointed gardener.
Although this blog is usually about my back yard, after seeing the touching Budweiser Super Bowl commercial about the Clydesdale recognizing his trainer, I couldn’t resist writing about my most favorite Mardi Gras memory--visiting those amazing horses.
It's Carnival season in New Orleans, a festive time with weeks of parades, balls, and parties, culminating on Mardi Gras day (February 12 in 2013). The Budweiser Clydesdales appear in several parades every year. When I lived in New Orleans, they were always stabled in the old Budweiser warehouse on Tchoupitoulas Street during their visits. It may have been a beer warehouse, but the standard of horse comfort and care couldn’t have been higher. The public was allowed to visit the Clydesdales, too, and I never passed up the opportunity to see them up close.
Instead of being skittish and cranky with their fans, I remember the Clydesdales as gracious STARS of the old school who seemed to enjoy the affection of their adoring public. With names like Sailor and Bud, they placidly stood fetlock-deep in golden hay while we oohed and aahed over their magnificence. Being so close, I was awed by the strength and intelligence of these bay behemoths.
They were beautiful au naturel in their stable but when they appeared in the parades pulling the big red beer truck in full leather and brass harness, black manes and tails braided with colorful ribbons, and white feathered legs stepping high, the crowd went wild. Cheers for the Clydesdales were louder than for even the most over-the-top float.
In an age where corporate cost cutting is the norm, I give Budweiser kudos for their commitment to these “Gentle Giants.” The Clydesdales get the best care money can buy, and they deserve it. The happiness and fond memories they give to generations of fans are priceless. So if you decide to go to Mardi Gras, see the parades but visit the Clydesdales, too. Details about the parades may fade over time, but you’ll never forget seeing these amazing horses.
Since so many creatures forage in the backyard, I've been experimenting with tossing overripe fruit and soggy veggies into the yard so the birds and animals can enjoy them. Some are hits, like cantaloupe rinds, strawberries, carrots, and apples. Others, notably broccoli and celery, are never touched. I thought the deer got the cantaloupe rinds I threw out last week, but seeing this little squirrel pounce on one about a minute after it hit the ground made me wonder. He looked around, then scurried into the shurbs with his treat. He's probably wondering by what miracle a summer melon dropped from the sky into his territory.
When I raised the shades this morning, a pesky squirrel was perched in a gently swinging planter. He reminded me of a painted yard ornament I'd seen at a garden store. These rodents are true acrobats--at home leaping from branch to branch in swaying trees, but who knew they made such nice planter decorations?
It's been raining almost non-stop since early Sunday morning. The lake is swollen and almost reaches the bird feeders. Now the forecast is for wintery mix this evening. In the last few days, I've noticed an uptick in activity. Birds have been flocking to the feeders, the heron has been fishing every day, and a mother deer and her two almost grown babies have been foraging in the daylight.
I lured the deer trio to the yard by tossing quartered apples off the deck. It's amazing that they knew the sound of apples hitting the ground and forded the lake to investigate. They found every one and then sauntered off to forage elsewhere. I'm glad I could give these sweet creatures a special treat on such a nasty day.
Here's some video of an opossum that's been pilfering the cat food on the front porch for about a month. I used to leave the food out until nine at night, but he started showing up about eight-thirty. When I brought it in at eight, he started showing up at seven-thirty. One night he even brought a date to the feast. I give him credit for being clever. Now that I've been bringing the food in at seven, he showed up about six forty-five (without a date) today. Pretty soon the stray cat will get his last meal before dark.
Opossums are omnivores—they eat seeds, nuts, fruit, snakes, rats, slugs, roaches, insects, and even carrion. They’re sort of nature’s garbage disposals. They're shy, too. This one is easily shooed away. I just rattle the door knob and he scurries into the bushes. However, when confronted by a dangerous predator, the opossum can convincingly play dead by rolling on his side, staring with glassy eyes, and even letting his tongue loll—hence, the term “Playing Possum.”
I don't mind opossums foraging around the yard for bugs and slugs, but gorging cat food is another matter. I feel sorry for the stray cat for being the victim of a smart possum and missing those late snacks.
While humans are enjoying Thanksgiving feasts, it's just another day of foraging for our feathered friends. Earlier this week I made sure that all the bird feeders were well stocked. Birds could choose from sunflower hearts, peanuts, safflower seeds, thistle seeds, and black oil sunflower seeds. This afternoon I put out some dried mealworms for a special treat. I was rewarded with a steady stream of beautiful birds all day.
A sweet deer showed up to eat some apples.
Today is a time to reflect on the things we are thankful for. Family, friends, health, and the beauty of nature top my list. Happy Thanksgiving from Georgia Backyard Nature.
We seem to have a bumper crop of Eastern Cottontail rabbits in the neighborhood. Lately I've seen this little rabbit bravely foraging under the bird feeder in the mornings and evenings. He doesn't seem to mind sharing the bounty with a pesky squirrel. Another one hops around the front yard in the early morning.
Eastern Cottontails are the most common rabbit in North America and can be found in fields, farms, woods, and even backyards that have thickets of bushes to hide in. Sporting a grayish-brown coat and a white tail that looks like a cotton ball, they weigh about 2-4 pounds. Cottontails eat green grasses and vegetation in the summer and bark, twigs, and buds in the winter.
Rabbits are nocturnal and most often seen at dawn and dusk. They are constantly on the alert and don’t venture too far from shrubs where they can hide if threatened. Predators include hawks, owls, coyotes, eagles, dogs, cats, opossums, snakes, and bobcats. Last year I found rabbit remains in one of my flower beds and suspected that the stray cat might be the culprit.
Even though they wreak havoc in my garden, rabbits are so cute that I still love to watch them hopping around the yard. Something about these sweet creatures is incredibly soothing--that is until I find some nice plant nibbled to the ground!!
Isn't this an idyllic picture? A mother white-tailed deer visited the lake with her twin fawns to enjoy the lush grasses and a romp in the water. One fawn stuck close to mother and the other was a little more adventurous--getting lost in the tall grass.
The deer have taken a toll on my garden this year. All my newly planted hostas have disappeared and the roses and daylilies are in tatters. Why can't these sweet creatures keep some of the more vigorous shrubs in check so I don't have to do it?
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Eagle Cam 2013 This camera streams the activities of the eagle nest located 110 feet up, in a tree on the grounds of the US FWS National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.