This Spring has had all the possibilities of disquiet and disruption. Instead the pond has been such a place of normalcy (well, normalcy of the creature world) and we have found it to be a haven of quiet, peace and wonder. I was thinking my birthday this week would pass with little change as we would not be going out to dinner or just going out for an event in the evening. Which was all fine with me except it was an overcast rather gloomy looking day… not the best day to sit and contemplate Nature in a misty damp chair outside.
We decided to take a little drive towards the Flint Hills, among the thunderheads and visit a CSA farm* that a friend’s family runs. I was not familiar with the term CSA really so I read about it. CSA stands for community-supported agriculture– as it gives the farmer and consumer a direct connection. Consumers buy “shares” of the farm’s harvest in advance and then reap the benefits of fresh produce, eggs, honey or whatever is produced or grown. I was hoping to score some fresh veggies to provide our dinner a celebratory effect.
And I did! Fresh colorful salad greens, magenta hued beets and strawberries for a little birthday cake idea. I had forgotten how bright fresh picked strawberries taste… full flavor sweet with a hint of tartness. The beets were just the right size for roasting and enjoying with a bit of goat cheese and thyme. I knew even though we would be doing dinner at home, it would be a cheerful preparation!
Dinner prep was accompanied by a parade of many of my favorites on the pond. We can always view the pond from the kitchen and stunning was the view that evening. Three Wood Ducks came up on the lawn to graze with the Mallards and their ducklings. Wood Duck drakes are some of the most stylish and colorful birds I have ever seen here. The Wood Duck hen is very subtle but what a fabulous eyeliner she sports! After they paraded through a Black Crowned Night Heron and Great Blue stopped by to do some meal prep of their own, fishing off the dock and in the low slung willows over the pond.
Gifts from Nature, her bounty, her creatures, the clouds disappeared and it was a lovely evening…. turning 67 on Green Heron Pond!
* Check out Rommey Farms Cassoday, Ks or check out a CSA farm in your area or at a farmers market near you! We had a great tour at Rommey Farms on Wednesday, Thanks Susan!
Recipe: Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese & Thyme
Set oven temp to 325 degrees. Wash 4-5 small whole beets with 1/4″ of stem left on and wrap in enough foil to totally surround tightly. Roast in oven for about 1 hour. Depending on size- you may need to check on tenderness at about 50 minutes. When done, remove beets from oven and allow to cool slightly and then using a paper towel you can remove skins easily by holding onto the 1/4″ stem. (Using a paper towel will keep you from having pink fingers for a couple of days) Slice the warm beets add a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle on goat cheese and fresh thyme. Then enjoy the earthy goodness!
Spring and Autumn are the two seasons here on Green Heron Pond that lend themselves to open windows (screens always!). Autumn is filled with the sounds of brisk breezes and crunchy-crisp leaves; Spring, well Spring is filled with mystery, intrigue- both in sight and sound.
The other night around 3 a.m. (windows opened for the coolness) Dan and I were awakened by a sharp shriek that then turned into a mocking monkey-ish sound of “Ooh, Ooh, Ah, Ah” ending with the familiar “Whoooo cooks for youoooo?”. These nightmarish vocalizations are a rather startling departure from the usual Barred Owl questioning phrase. Apparently searching food sources in the dark does not require subtlety from a frazzled, fatigued parental owl. And the fact that this has now happened on several occasions with the same startling effect on us is astonishing.
Or recently an evening dockside, listening to the lulling water sounds of small fish pursuing insects, a Great Blue Heron’s raspy, raucous voice cut through the darkness and with it the realization of how it had stealthily moved close! It too had been attending to the fish sounds; following in hopes of a late meal to take back to its nest.
Our constant companions, the Mallards and the Cananda geese have nuances to their recognizable quacks and honks. Momma Mallards are not free from brutal, breeding tendencies of rogue drakes even with small ducklings in tow. You can hear them desperately calling to their ducklings as they have to take flight to avoid mass mating. (I have been known to try intervening at times.) So little anxious, bewildered “peep peep peeps” are heard until the hen can return safely to her brood. The geese are monogamous but quite territorial towards all other pond residents so their cackling and actions are just annoying…
However, both of these waterfowl have a very distinct and intense emphasis to their calls when an occasional Red Tail Hawk swoops in for a possible gourmet gosling or duckling dinner. Too, you can hear the swoosh of adult geese wings fanning out as they cover their young. Incredible to both see and hear.
Yesterday’s happenings I think may be the most mysterious of all and it happened in broad daylight. We had the door to the deck open for a breeze and began to hear a plaintive cry but we could not determine what animal was making such a peculiar sound. I looked out to see ducks and ducklings intently watching something in the murky water by the shoreline. I grabbed binoculars only to view a 2′-3′ snake writhing in the water with a larger juvenile Bullfrog hanging from its mouth. The frog was sounding a repeated yelp. There was nothing to be done but we did get the snake to leave the area away from the ducks. And within a few minutes a Greenback Heron appeared splashing to take out a second smaller frog. I could only imagine that the warmth and sun mesmerized the frogs and they were coaxed into feeling invisible.
Life on the pond is fascinating but one has to remember that there is a cycle in Nature that cannot always be denied. We have lost some ducklings, the goose nest eggs were stolen- empty shells strewn about and the small fish and frogs became a meal for someone else. But last night as I lay in bed I was consoled about the day’s events as I heard the big old Bullfrog croaking out its melodious “Harmpphhs” that were answered by another Bullfrog far across the pond. Life and Nature on Green Heron Pond.