- 1+1=3, or so the saying goes. If we look at one thing, and look at it in relation to another, we don't only have 2 things, but we have a 3rd thing coming from their combination.
Observation check list
Use this check list to maintain observations after the initial observation.
- Observe with all your senses makes random notes on what you notice.
- Pay attention to boundary areas
- What are the temperatures, winds, types of living organisms, elements anything you can notice about the space.
- Do the same again in your project area.
- Do this regularly and keep detailed notes in a diary form.
I will start keeping a better diary this season. I did spend a lot of time observing and getting to know the property last season but didn't write anything down. It's an interesting area because it's difficult to figure out where the the natural and disturbed areas begin. To be honest we aren't even sure exactly where the back of the property that goes into the marsh ends, because there was no survey when we bought the place, though for all practical purposes it won't matter because any work I do in this area would be just a natural extention of the native ecology.
The front of the property is on high ground and gently slopes to a low-lying area that is quite wet. The water table is very high as the property is situated on a small strip between two lakes and according to a neighbor and underground 'river' flow from the lake to the NW to the lake in the S along just off the edge of our property. The front of the property is quite dry as it is high with sandy soil, covered with a lawn and numerous 'weed' species such as red clover, broad-leaf and long-leaf plantain, queen annes lace and a couple of types of mallow. I don't personally consider them 'weeds' though as I have uses mostly medicinal for them all.
There are about half a dozen pine trees along the road, that I'm pretty sure are red pine. A couple of them don't look very healthy to me. There are several huge weeping willows on the property which are more indication of the high water table. In July or August of last summer the one by the barn had hundreds of catapillars on the trunk. My first fear was that it was a gypsy moth infestation but once I determined that it wasn't and that the tree wasn't seeing massive ammounts of defoliation I just left it. I noticed that after a few days, some type of birds came in and had a field day.
In the spring the ground was very wet and the drainage pond full. There were also dozens of puddles in the low-lying area and the back under the trees was completely under water. The back of the house in the fenced yard was also very wet. The side of the house is raised up and pretty much straight sand with a little bit of organic matter on top that grew weeds like crazy. We figured out that this was actually part of the septic bed that had to be raised up because of the high water table.
In early spring a family of Canada geese lived by the pond and over the months of may and june and slowly retreated to the back of the property. I think this was a combination of having us move in, the presence of dogs in the pens and the retreating water. Once things warmed up a little the grass and other plants grew like wild fire starting at the front and moving towards the back as the water retreated. There were frogs everywhere and when you walked you had to shuffle as to not step right one them. I counted about 4 different kinds. In the summer the grasshopper population blossomed, there were at least 4 different kinds. Different types of dragonflies seemed to come in waves.
I also observed several different animal trails, most likely deer, though we never did see any. It appeared that they would make their way from the back, cross the property towards the front on route to the lake on the other side of the road. This will be something to keep in mind as we further develop the planting and working areas. There are also a few resident chipmunks and squirrels. I'm also pretty sure that I saw some sort of small weasel one evening, that ran across the living room floor and into a whole in the wall.
A huge patch of some sort of cammomile appeared just outside of the inner yard by the fence as well as in the inner yard just outside the back door. Burdock grew in abundance along the fenceline and on top of the sandy septic bed. Cat-nip also grew everywhere. During the summer a crop of Canadian thistle grew out in the field area. This can be a highly invasive species and hard to control. I noticed though that as the seedheeds developed that orioles and a couple of other bird species flocked to them and they seemed to provide them with good food source. In the summer a field of joe-pye weed and a couple of other plants came up that at first I thought was swamp milk thistle because monarch butterflies came in and seemed to love it. It wasn't though and even though I did some research and asked other local gardeners no one seemed to know what it was. The monarchs were plentiful as we are in a migration zone.
Weeding and clearing new planting areas as well as the couple of beds that were already there was relatively easy. Most plants slipped out like they were in butter. A couple of the burdock we pulled had roots as big as my arm. The soil it self appears relatively fertile with lots of organic matter and smells fairly earthy, even though it's sandy. This is likely due to the cycle of wet, plant, decomposition and wet again. I also expect that there is quite a bit of leaching from our 'pile or poo' to the lower areas as the area around it seemed to grow like crazy.
The small garden I did plant did fairly well. Woodbugs (don't know there proper name) were prolific and seemed to like certain varieties of tomatoes. There were a few slugs around and the squash plants got eaten by some bug that I couldn't identify. I expected that there would be a variety of bugs that weren't normally found in gardens or at least that I wasn't familiar with due to the proximity to the marsh and there were, but nothing that seemed to cause that much of a problem. Whether this was because they don't generally harm veggie plants or that the birds, snakes and other insects kept them in check I'm not sure. I did see evidence of tomato worm damage on two plants but couldn't find any worms. I expect the birds swooped in and nabbed them.
We also have lots of bats, which unfortunately have taken residence in the siding of the house that was put on improperly. Right now it's a love hate thing. Mosquitos were never a big problem near the house because of the dragonflies during the day and the bats at night which is a good thing. However the damage and mess around the structure isn't a great thing. At one time it was a nightly occurance to get a stray bat out of the house as well.
The pond slowly drained and in july was filled with snails. Thousands of them. As soon as it was dry some sort of ferny type plant seemed to grow overnight and covered the bottom.
The current water supply to the house is just a dug well, literally a 15 foot hole in the ground. The water currently isn't potable as we figure it's just runoff. As the water retreated the well went down as well and we had to be careful even though we were just using it for the garden and toilet.
For the most part the wind came from the west and south west. This makes sense as we live 3 kms from one of the great lakes and the prevailing weather patterns comes off of this lake. At times it did get quite strong. The weather in the summer can be very humid and thunderstorms are common. It would rain, but never for a long period of time...an hour would be a long time and in the summer it was never really that hard. A couple of locals said that summer rainfall in the area seemed to be declining in the area and the words summer drought was used.
Unfortunately I wasn't there to record the date of the last frost. In general it's supposed to be the end of may but frosts have been known in June. Climate change seems to be taking some effect as the weather according to people who garden in the area say things are less predictable and more varied in the spring. In the fall the first frost didn't come to November and the fall was relatively warm, again not the norm apparently. I harvested the last of the tomatoes the first week in November something that they usually say should occur at the latest the beginning of October.
The winter has seen quite a lot of snow, though there have been several warm thaw cycles where it disappears for a couple of days before dumping again.
Temperatures in the summer reached up to 40 C + with the humidity factor but seemed to average around 30 C. In the winter the coldest it's been is around -20C.