Archive | August 2019

Nectarines!

We did it!  We grew nectarines!  The first harvest is in.  Fifteen fruit.  They are delicious, tree ripened and juicy.  The flavor is reminiscent of peach combined with apricot, a touch of some sweet, fragrant flower and honey.  I had to toss out almost as many as I kept.  The bugs seem to really like nectarines, too.  Since I grow everything organically, I didn’t apply any sort of bug killer this year to see how well the tree would produce without any help.

The five-year-old baby nectarine tree set its first fruit this year.  It had an abundant crop.  In June after the tiny fruit were showing, I stripped more than half off the limbs.  Removing any fruit trying to grow toward the ends of the young limbs and thinning so no limb had a lot of fruit, I hoped to aid the tree in ripening a decent crop without putting too much strain on it.

The photo above was taken after I had harvested most of the fruit.  I made sure the heavy nectarines would all be supported around the central, stronger part of the tree.  The fruit only reached the size of large apricots.  I’m not sure if that is their normal size, or if they are small because there were still too many for the tree to handle.

I noticed early in the summer that some insect was biting the fruit and causing it to bleed.  Whatever did that didn’t leave any lasting impression.  There are no tunnels or misshapen places on the nectarines.  After the fruit was ripe, the bugs really closed in.  A small black beetle with yellow stripes busily chewed little holes.  The fruit wasps and fruit flies were quickly attracted to the open wounds.  While I was harvesting, a white admiral butterfly kept landing on the nectarines.  Butterflies like the juices of many fruits.  At least the deer don’t seem attracted to the tree.

Even with all the competition, we have a very satisfactory first result from this tree.  If we’re lucky, the tree with continue to thrive in our chilly, short season northern climate.  I’m hoping next year there will be enough fruit to make some nectarine jam.  Yum!

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Little Fat Red Caterpillar

On August 20, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a hike at Dodge Point Reserve in Newcastle, ME.  Previously I blogged about this place, a wonderful spot for getting away from it all.  The land was once a tree farm and has an abundance of old growth oak trees.

As we walked along through the forest, we noticed that something was hitting the leaf litter on the floor.  It sounded like rain.  The weather was bright, sunny and around 85F, not a rain cloud in sight.  After searching for a while to find the cause of the pitter patter, I realized it must be droppings from caterpillars munching on the plethora of oak leaves above our heads.  We were both amazed at the vast number of insects that must be at work up there to produce a constant rain of droppings.

After walking a bit farther, I came across this bright, plump bug on the path.  I took photos since I’d never seen a caterpillar like this before.  After some poking around on the Butterflies and Moths of North America website, the identification was fairly certain.  The little blob is Heterocampa umbrata, or the White-Blotched Heterocampa.  Apparently they come in red or green versions.  The peculiar long face and funny beady eyes are the best identification.  This species feeds on–oak leaves.  I assume the pink spud dropped to the forest floor to prepare for pupation since it appears well grown.  It will hatch out as a rather drab moth.  All the looks are in the caterpillar stage, for sure.

Here’s a link to the butterflies and moths website:  https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Heterocampa-umbrata

Cranes in Maine

Yesterday my husband and I were driving home from the coast.  We were between Sheepscot and Whitefield, towns well inland, when I saw a pair of big birds standing in a field of high grass near the road.  They were sandhill cranes.  We did not stop to take a photo so I borrowed one from Pixnio.  The cranes I saw looked quite similar to this pair.  I don’t know if they were greater or lesser sandhills.  It was extremely surprising to me to see these birds in Maine since I thought they only lived far west of us.

The birds were quite tall, over 3 feet, and a dusky brown color with some gray.  They were standing facing one another less than a foot apart, beaks lowered, like they were staring in each other’s eyes.  They may have been a mated pair or even rivals looking for a fight.  I wish now we had stopped and watched them for a bit.

A little research reveals that within the past twenty years, these cranes have moved into Maine during the summer to breed.  Last year I thought I saw a crane hunting at our pond one day, but it left quickly and I didn’t get a good look at it.  I figured it was really a great blue heron, although my eyes told me it looked like a crane.  Now I know I saw a crane!

The first sandhill cranes were spotted in Maine in 1999.  Since then sightings have increased and breeding pairs have been found.  The birds breed May-July.  The pair I saw could be summer residents or just passing through on the beginning of their long flight south to spend the winter in the southwestern US or Mexico.

It is unknown if the birds once populated Maine and just died off due to human pressure, or if sandhill cranes are moving into new territory.  There are no reliable historic records of sandhill cranes in Maine.  It may be that the global warming trend is making our chill northern state attractive to cranes.  In this state we do have lots of wetland and farmland, the birds preferred habitat.  I hope one or two or even a whole flock land here at our farm pond so I can get a good look at them and maybe even some pictures.