American Crow ~ Corvus brachyrhynchos

Crows are a favorite bird of mine. Their slick, black feathers are magnificent! I enjoy hearing them call to each other, as they are very social birds. Many stay together in their family units, which can contain up to 15 birds. The younger birds (under 2 years old) of the family help take care of the fledglings, as crows don’t generally mate until they are four years old. Although they have family units, crows tend to flock with each other and can have roosts as large as a million birds. That’s a lot of crow😉

Crows are known to mob larger prey birds to scare them away from their nests. Although, crows will also be mobbed by other smaller songbirds when they try to take their fledglings.


Crows are opportunists when it comes to food. They eat berries, insects, small rodents, other birds (and their young) and will eat carrion. Their beaks are large, however not very sharp and can’t penetrate skin very well. They need to wait until another creature breaks open the skin or the carrion has had time to decompose and become easier to rip apart.

Crows will also use tools to get hard to reach food. They will use sticks to poke into nooks to reach hiding insects, understand water displacement and can understand how levers work.

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Most crows do not migrate for the winter. Their foraging skills and talent for finding edible garbage keeps them full and happy during our nasty winters.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Lake County Farm Heritage Association ~ Farm Fest

We went to The Lake County Farm Heritage Association’s Farm Fest last weekend. We always enjoy the activities here. Many of the kiddies (and adults) have no clue where their food comes from and how farmers get it to market. This is an eye opening experience for many, as I heard a small child behind me at the petting zoo ask his mom if the cow is what they make chicken nuggets out of. =-P

Here’s the mission statement from the Lake County Farm Heritage Association, which explains what they do:

Our goal is to preserve and maintain the history, machinery, and ways of the early farmers for all the generations to follow. This project is very dear to our hearts, and we are so grateful that so many of our friends and fellow farmers are helping us to accomplish our lifelong dream by joining us in preservation of the antique farm implements and sharing their talents with all those who are interested in early farming methods.

Our membership has so much to offer and is a big part of early farm history that must be preserved for all the young children to learn from and enjoy. The early farm crafts of quilting, rug making, weaving, soap making, spinning, bread making, candle making, etc. are all part of that history, hopefully, to be shared by all of us for the enjoyment of others.

Without your interest and participation in our association, so much would be lost. The officers and Board of Directors appreciate your support and welcome you as a member of the Lake County Farm Heritage Association.

These ‘potato ribbons’ are to die for!!

This blacksmith was making items you could purchase


I love the steam engines! psst, psst, psst, bing!


Tow-mater’s cousin?


There are even girl tractors!!

Of course this was the highlight for us at the fest!! The Border Collie Show… Sometimes referred to the ‘herding demonstration’. In the previous years, the man that conducted the shows was more regimented, only having 3 show times. This new guy was extremely knowledgeable and personable! He let anyone ask questions, pet the dogs, pet the sheep and try to call the dogs.

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Old School or New School?

What’s your preference??

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl



Confidence, Gave-up, Forgotten, Pent-up, Put away.

The normal contentment of my body,

has changed to rapturous yearnings.

You’ve infected me with your passion.

How can you be so empowering?

Oh Baby! What you do to me!

{You} Enslave my mind, my heart, my soul.

I’ve lost myself to your stirring essence

Emotions so hard to control.

I never forgot the day we met,

electric energy flowed straight to my heart.

{My} esteem so vulnerable.

Should have felt the connection from the start.

How can I explain my needs?

My true heartfelt longings,

When you in frau with another.

Hand over my lips restraining.

Self-preservation is not part of me anymore,

you matter more to me than myself.

Possessions, Obsession, Transgressions,

I consult your feelings before mine.

The strings of my heart you pull,

strain from the pressure of desire.

and if you let go,

my heart will retire.


Thoughts you trapped in my mind,


My heart’s so confined,


Words I want to find,

linger through the air again,


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Image credit: Hufington Post

Eastern Gray Treefrog ~ Hyla versicolor

The eastern gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) common gray treefrog or tetraploid gray treefrog is only different from the Cope’s gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) in distribution, call and chromosomal count.

You can listen to the subtle differences in their calls below:
Eastern Grey Tree Frog – Hyla versicolor

Copes Grey Tree Frog – Hyla chrysoscelis

They are comparatively small compared to other North American frog species, with an average size of 1.5” to 2” inches (3.8 to 5.1 cm).

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He blends right into the tree bark!

As the scientific name implies, gray treefrogs are variable in color from gray to green, depending on what they are attached to. These guys can camouflage themselves like karma chameleons! They change color at a slower rate than chameleons, however they can change from nearly black to nearly white.

Treefrogs have a cupped toes and glands that produce a sticky mucous within them that allows them to climb high into the trees, sometimes being found 50′ feet high (16M).

These frogs rarely ever descend from high treetops except for breeding and hibernation*.

In the winter, they hibernate near the surface, just under the leaf litter. They are capable of surviving freezing temperatures as low as 18F (-8C). Special proteins in their blood, called ‘nucleating proteins’, cause the water in their blood to freeze first. This ice, intakes most of the water out of the frog’s cells. Meanwhile, the frog’s liver produces large amounts of glucose (sugar) which flows into the cells to keep them from collapsing.

In my opinion, a pretty cool trick😉

*or to say hello to his friend, Ilex!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Who Who?!

During the Labor Day camping trip to Merrick State Park, the Park sponsored a presentation by the Audubon Center of the North Woods called, “Silent Hunters” an informative presentation on owls of the Midwestern area.

These two owls were injured and couldn’t be returned to the wild. They reside at the Sanctuary with many other  wildlife ambassadors, ranging from furry, to scaly, to feathery! If you are feeling generous, they do take donations.


Species:  Barred Owl
Sex:  Female
Name:  Athena
Age:  Hatched in 1994
Weight:  900g or ~2 pounds
Injury:  Likely hit by a car, left wing fracture
This barred owl’s call is one you know from childhood, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”


Did you know owls don’t see any better at night than us humans? It’s true! They need to use their hearing to hone in on their meals. Owls also fly silently. Most folks think it’s so they do not spook their prey, however it actually helps the owl hear better and zone in on its prey when it doesn’t hear the whoosh, swoosh, whoosh of its wings.


These owls don’t migrate either. They enjoy the winters of the Midwest from their roosts high in the trees. Although they enjoy hollow trees, they may also reuse stick-platform nests built by other animals like hawks, crows, ravens, and squirrels, as well as human-made nest boxes.


Species:  Eastern Screech Owl (red phase) Megascops asio
Sex:  unknown
Name:  Ciça
Age:  Hatched in 2003
Weight:  145g or ~ 5 oz.
Injury:  Head injury, very slow processing information


This little one was right in the middle of molting and was having a bad hair day.

Red and gray individuals appear across the full range of the Eastern Screech-Owl, with about one-third of all individuals being red. Rufous (red) owls are more common in the East, with fewer than 20% red at the western edge of their range. No red owls are known from southern Texas, although they occur further north in Texas and further south in Mexico.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Autumn Blooming Flowers 9-22-2016

One cannot manage too many affairs: like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other. Chinese Proverb

Not sure why you’d be holding down pumpkins, however see what I found blooming in 201320142015

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A mysterious seedhead    ||   Ageratina altissima ~ White Snakeroot

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Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ~ Calico Aster    ||  Potentilla fruticosa ~ shrubby cinquefoil

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This mushroom looked like a hamburger bun   ||    Beautiful mix of colors

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Grasses bloom too!    ||   Gaura lindheimeri ~ Wand flower


Beautiful grasses

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Vicia ~ Vetch    ||    Thistle

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

My Nymph of the Woods, in Her Autumn Color

imageTupelo’s leaves change color early in the early fall and it has been suggested that this signal might alert migrating birds to the presence of ripe fruits on the tree, a process known as foliar fruit flagging. This way the tree gets its seeds spread to farther distances.

Plants producing early colorful fall foliage and fruits include dogwood, spicebush, virginia creeper and the tupelo.  These woodies produce fruits called ‘drupes’. Drupes are stone fruits (like cherries) that have a thin outer skin, a pulpy middle and a stony center enclosing a seed. The fleshy part of these drupes is full of fat, just what a hungry, migrating bird is looking for!

Many early ripening drupes are red, and easy for birds to see, however others, like virginia creeper, tupelo and sassafras, are dark-colored and not easy to see. That makes the brightly colored leaves or ‘flags’ on these plants crucial for the fall migrants to see.

Seed dispersal obviously helps the tree species, and passing through a birds digestive system is sometimes required for the seed to germinate. This process is called ‘scarification’, which simply means the hard, outer shell of the seed needs to be compromised for the seedling to emerge. The gizzard of a bird does well to damage the outer hull of a seed.

I recently saw two Cedar Waxwings testing out the fruit on my tree… Not quite ready was my impression when the quickly flew away without dining. I had to go find out for myself and agreed, the fruit tasted like a sour cherry and needs a few more days to ripen. I hope they will be back soon =-)

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I bet when the day comes these are ripe, it will be a one-day event that the tree is cleared of fruit!


Zone: 3 to 9

Height: 30 to 50 feet

Spread: 20 to 30 feet

Growth: Slow

Form: Pyramidal when young; opens with age; some branches are pendulous; right angled branches are attractive in winter

Salt: Tolerant

Bloom Time: May to June, insignificant

Bloom Description: Greenish white

Fruit: 1/2″ blue drubes – edible but sour

Fall Color: yellow, orange, bright red and purple

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium to wet

Tolerate: Clay Soil, Wet Soil


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Summer Blooming Flowers 9-20-2016

He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time. ~ Oscar Wilde

No need to be punctual in seeing what I found blooming in 201320142015.

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Hardy mum ~ Don’t see many ‘rund here     ||     Monarda seedhead

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Purple hosta      ||       Liatris aspera ~ Rough blazingstar

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Solidago rigida(or Oligoneuron rigidum) ~ Stiff Goldenrod   ||   I’m confused & maybe this plant is also. This looks like roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii), however its blooming now. Anyone with thoughts??

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Spiraea ~ Spirea     ||     Heptacodium miconioides ~ Seven Son Flower

Ironically, there are no fun stories about this tree, however after it finishes blooming, the calex turn bright red, giving it a second bloom time! This is in my yard, so I’ll be sure to let you see soon.

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Flies like nectar too! (on mint)    ||    A quick bouquet for my neighbor =-)


Rose hips

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Aster     ||     A hosta with a large flower

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl