Posts Tagged ‘nature’

This is poison ivy.


This is a public service announcement from someone who has years of experience with this vine…namely me!!

In short, stay away. Don’t touch. Don’t eat the berries. And in my case, don’t even look at it. The penalty is an insanely itchy rash that will last for weeks and drive you crazy.

I took these photos on our property this afternoon, so this noxious weed is growing now….and lurking….and waiting for the unsuspecting.

Poison Ivy is easily recognizable once you know what to look for. Nothing else looks like it. It can grow in clusters on the ground, or it can climb a tree. We have seen years old vines that have a trunk about 4-5 inches in diameter and have reached the top branches of a 50 foot tree. All parts and phases of the plant are poisonous: the leaves, the stem, and even dead and brittle pieces that you may inadvertently pick up years later can harbor the poison which is an oil called urushiol.

The plant produces black berries in the summer which are very nutritious and harmless to birds, (but highly irritating to humans). The plant is propagated when the birds eat the berries and deposit the seeds in their droppings. Don’t be lulled into thinking that if you stay out of the woods, you will never come into contact with poison ivy. My first run in with the itchy weed was in my backyard in a suburban golf course community. I contracted it while sitting in my flower bed in shorts, pulling weeds. I’ll let your imagination run wild here. It was not a pretty sight.


So what do you need to look for???  Leaves of 3. Not everything with 3 leaves is poison ivy, though. Look at the shape of the leaves. They are irregularly lobed. Some leaves have lobes on both edges, and some leaves will have a smooth edge on one side and have lobes on the other side.

Poison Ivy Hairy vine

When the vines get mature, they will have a characteristic hairiness. “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson”. Whoops, I just gave away my age.

Now on the other hand, this is Virginia Creeper.


Many people mistakenly think this is poison ivy because it is a vine that grows high in trees. This is a harmless plant, and should be admired. In the fall, the leaves turn a brilliant red, and virtually light up their host tree.

Note the obvious difference here. How many leaves? FIVE.

Now here is a photo of a Virginia creeper growing side by side with a poison ivy vine.


The Virginia Creeper is on the left. Note the regularity and uniformity of the leaves. The edge of each leaf is serrated and is a mirror image from side to side.

So if you need a catchy phrase to help you remember how to tell the two apart, trust the age old axiom:

“Leaves of three, let it be.

Leaves of five, let it live ”

Ok. So it doesn’t rhyme. But I bet you remember it, just the same.

Oh, and what should you do if you should come into contact with poison ivy? Wash it off immediately. Dawn soap is great, because it is an oil fighter. And if you don’t know you have touched it until the rash appears? (Usually takes about 24 to 48 hours to manifest the tell tale itch). I swear by Zanfel. The price will take your breath away, but if you start using it as soon as you see the first bump, and scrub with it a couple times a day, it will help. It won’t go away immediately, but it will go away sooner. Think one week instead of three.

So, head on out into the beauty of nature. Just be careful, and enjoy.

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Browntown Baptist Church

Browntown Baptist Church

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Everything is all about balance. Or so it seems when you think about all the ways the word is used in the English language.

“His life hangs in the balance.”
“We have to balance the good against the bad.”
“Don’t worry, things will balance out in the end.”
We balance the books; we get caught off balance; our government is a system of checks and balances; we should eat a balanced diet; …..to name just a few.

But to our peacock, Farina, balance is more physical than figurative.

For a quick summation, Farina escaped his coop 18 months ago, got lost for 6 months and suddenly reappeared last summer. He has become an outdoor bird, but has totally wormed his way into our hearts. We have been struggling with ways to feed him without the squirrels, crows, raccoons, and bears getting to the food first.

We were actually relieved when Farina learned to eat out of the squirrel proof bird feeder that hangs off our 2nd level deck rail. He comes morning and evening for a snack of nuts and sunflower seeds. The rest of the day he is grazing on grasses and bugs.

Farina at bird feeder

At the time of this photo he had his full 4 foot tail. Don’t be fooled by the idiom “light as a feather”. When you’re dragging around approximately two hundred 48 inch long feathers, it ain’t light. But he has learned very well to compensate for the weight of the ballast and use it to help him balance on narrow perches.

Peacocks shed all of these feathers each year right after the end of mating season. And when the molting starts, it only takes about three days for them to drop every one of those feathers. This happened over the weekend.


Apparently, it is going to take a few days to adjust to a new center of gravity. We were entertained for an hour yesterday evening as Farina struggled to keep from falling off the rail everytime he leaned over to get a nibble. Watch his comical antics as he flairs his nubby little tail to try to keep from toppling off.

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Swallowtail on Hawthorne

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Do you attract large birds to your bird feeders?

Farina at bird feeder 1

Our peacock, Farina, has been studying this squirrel proof feeder for a couple of weeks now. He’d sit on the rail and watch the smaller birds have a feast. A few days ago, we saw him pecking at the glass and wondering why no seed would come out. Finally, last evening, Voila!! I expect we’ll be refilling quite a bit more often now.

Farina at bird feeder

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Days and days of single digit temperatures can be very taxing on all of us, but especially those of us who have animals and livestock that depend on us for their care, comfort, and wellbeing. We’ve raised llamas for over 13 years now and have never had a winter like this one. We thought we had planned well for the vagaries of a Virginia winter, but Mother Nature is a scamp and likes to keep us on our toes by throwing new challenges our way.

Our first winter with the llamas we had a 36 inch snow. It was up to the llamas’ bellies and they would not venture out of the barn. Well, think about it…..would you? We had a 6 foot snow blower that fit onto the PTO of our tractor, so ‘Road Warrior’ cleared a loop around the pasture so the llamas had a place to walk. It took about a month for that snow to melt, and for weeks, the llamas walked in endless circles around the llama loop.

Llama Loop

Then there was the winter that we had a 30 inch blizzard and lost power for 5 days. Of course, our portable generator went belly up and when you’re on a well, no power means no water. Not to mention, no heat. We had the fireplace and a Kerosun heater that we carried from room to room. For water for the llamas, we melted snow in a stew pot on top of the Kerosun. And this isn’t Murphy’s Law, it is THE LAW OF LIFE. If you wait to buy something until you really need it, it will be sold out. No generators, No portable heaters, No bottled water, No lamp oil, No batteries. It got so chilly in the kitchen that we opened the fridge door to keep the food cold.


This year has been COLD. POLAR COLD. We had a burst pipe in the garage, but no major damage. Remember THE LAW OF LIFE? When you really need a plumber, they will be busy. Luckily we have a regular plumber and he squoze in a minute to come put a temporary cap on the pipe so we could have our water back.

It has been so consistently COLD that our freezeless self-draining barn hydrant froze. We went to Lowes to get some electrical heat tape, but there was that old LAW OF LIFE again. They couldn’t get it in and no one had any for miles around. So we took stock of what we had on hand and came up with this ingenious solution.

hydrant heater

Within an hour the pipe was clear and we had water once again.

They are predicting another Arctic blast for the next three days, so today I have been searching for outdoor weatherproof heaters in the hopes of keeping our sweet peacock, Farina, warm. But needless to say……..

Farina on rail

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