A Look at Exeter’s Fish Ladder

Several weeks ago on a soggy gray day, mister gardener attended a presentation by New Hampshire’s Fish and Game Department at Exeter’s fish ladder. The public was invited to see what fish were making the annual spring trip around the Great Dam taking them from salt water to fresh water.

Fish LadderThis is the location where fresh water of the Exeter River flow into the salty Squamscott River. The dam was constructed hundreds of years ago when the town was settled by Europeans to power sawmills, grist mills and more. Naturally, it was an obstacle to the fish that needed to migrate from salt water to fresh water to spawn. With the mills gone and a fish ladder in place, they have restored the natural habitat for such fish as smelt, alewife, blueback herring, American shad, American Eel and sea lamprey.

A small crowd gathered at the street and made the short walk downhill to the river.

Fish and Game Presentationand watched as a sampling of fish were netted and brought ashore.

netBiologist Becky Heuss shows a lamprey to the gathering, with a bit of wariness on the faces of these youngsters. What better way to introduce and educate the youth to be the natural caretakers of the future.

LampreyThe mouth identifies it as a lamprey rather than an eel.

Lamprey and more fish.

fishBecky Heuss and her assistant, Edward Motyka, a biological aide, explained the challenges fish face on route and explained the efforts to improve the ecological quality of the Squamscott and Exeter Rivers.

Fish and Game

A Garden Party…. Maine Style

This being the first official weekend of summer, we decided to celebrate by taking in a garden tour just over the Maine border in York. It was a fabulous opportunity to peek over the hedge (see below) into a lovely estate, stroll through the gardens, enjoy refreshments and come away inspired by what we saw.

Brave Boat Harbor Farms I love a landscape that beckons visitors along gentle pathways from one garden to another, around corners, up hills, along stone walls, through woodlands and meadows with wonderful vistas and surprises along the way. Brave Boat Harbor Farm did just that. It was a true slice of heaven on earth.

Pathway to the PondA sampling of sights from our adventure. Click on photos to enlarge:

The Gunhouse, built by the last owner, a marksman and a gunsmith, was completed in 1980. This tiny getaway sparked a real interest among the men on the tour but I’d be perfectly thrilled to claim it as my personal retreat…

Many thanks to Old York Garden Club for sponsoring the tour and our gratitude to the family for throwing open the garden gates for visitors.

Good Mourning!

Mourning DoveThis graceful mourning dove (zenaida macroura) is a regular visitor at our breakfast window. Normally shy and retiring, the love of sunflower seeds overrides his wariness.

It’s a very common backyard bird in this country, a protected bird in some places yet it is hunted in season in many states…. not in New Hampshire since they aren’t numerous enough.  Other states that ban dove hunting are Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Alaska.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Alaska. – See more at: http://www.ussportsmen.org/hunting/dove-season-equals-safe-fun/#sthash.ZzhBDjNQ.dpuf

Interesting facts:

  • They are monogamous and mate for life.
  • Some migrate. Some do not if food is plentiful.
  • They are named for their ‘mournful’ song.
  • They are the Wisconsin state symbol of peace.
  • Nests are so loose you can see the eggs through the twigs.
  • They are the most frequently hunted species in North America.
  • Up to 45 million are killed by hunters annually, yet they remain plentiful.
  • They eat approximately 12 – 20 percent of their weight daily.
  • The oldest mourning dove lived to 31 years 4 months old.
  • They are one of a handful of birds that enter a shallow state of torpor at night when fasting.
  • …and finally, many years ago, my young daughter adopted and raised an abandoned chick.

We Fixed the Problem….

Burning BushWe’ve been busy. When we purchased this property in March, we were under several feet of snow, but we could see beneath the drifts that our foundation shrubs were old and overgrown. As soon as we could, we removed old junipers, a huge burning bush, transplanted dozens of hostas to the back yard, divided an overgrown hydrangea into 4 shrubs and spaced them in the border. Soil in the new and enlarged border was amended, the new shrubs were selected, some already planted and others were standing in pots ready to be planted.

The big snows had melted and soon some mighty big spring rain storms passed through New Hampshire. It took us a while to realize we had a major problem with standing water against the foundation just behind our new garden.  Two days after a rain we still needed galoshes if we wanted to trudge along the foundation wall. Not good… especially because we have a basement.

French DrainThe new garden was put on hold while we came up with a viable solution for to rid ourselves of this mini-lake. Several weeks later and the problem is a distant memory.  The solution consisted of gravel, perforated PCP piping, filter fabric, and a grate: a French Drain.  Luckily, we live on a yard with a gradient so channeling water flow downhill was not a problem. We had a downpour yesterday and the foundation is dry as a bone! Our new plants are in the ground and all we need now is mulch.

The most interesting thing about a French Drain is the origin of the design. It was not invented in France as I thought but was popularized by Henry Flagg French, an agriculturist, an inventor, a lawyer, a judge, Postmaster, assistant district attorney and Assistant US Treasury Secretary. Whew! His design used sections of roofing tile with a gap between the sections.

And, the most amazing thing…. he was born in this county and lived for some time in our Lincoln statuetown of Exeter and is buried here. And another amazing fact… his son, Daniel Chester French, born right here in Exeter, was the famed sculptor best known for the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial… a landmark that I plan to visit on an upcoming DC trip. Now, if I can link Abe to Kevin Bacon, I will win the game of Six Degrees.

The Show is Over

Torrential rainfall, accompanying winds, then more rain, and a little more rain ended our rhododendron show too soon.

on the ground One by one, blooms slid along their pistils and fell to a heap in the grass.sliding bloomsWaterlogged blossoms still dangling from branches were visited by dozens of bees today. Competition was lively and the buzzing was a steady drone for most of the day.

bees Petal drop was everywhere. Lilac  and viburnum blooms are also finished and petals are decorating the grass in different shades. I am sorry to see the show end but never sorry to see a good spring rain.

Visitors on a cool morning…

Coffee in hand, I stepped outside today to greet the morning sun with Maggie, our aged cat who has yet to leave the deck in our new place.

MaggieCool temperatures awaited us, real sweater weather! We always check on the birds, chase away the squirrels, check the blooms and blossoms, and see what insects might have visited during the night.

The usual insect suspects were here and there around the deck but a couple of neat ones caught my eye. One tiny guy crawled slowly across the pollen-laden table looking like it had been sprinkled with fairy dust. Click on it for a closer look at the overnight pollen.It is an American Carrion Beetle (Necrophila americana), found east of the Rocky Mountains. Perhaps you have seen this small insect on dead animals. It’s a beneficial beetle that not only eats the flesh of a decaying animal, it eats its main competitors, those icky maggots. They have another clever little trick to help their survival. Tiny mites that also love to dine on the competition hitch a ride on the beetles from carcass to carcass, hop off and pig out on maggots.

The rather odd insect (below) resting on the deck was as big as a dragonfly… nearly 2″ in length. It’s an adult Spring Fishfly (Chauliodes rastricornis), sort of a scary looking bugger. This one is a female. The males have feathery antennae. They are found near water since they lay eggs on the edge on leaves, etc. The larvae live in the water for 2-3 years. Yes, I did see larvae in my Virginia pond eating vegetation and an occasional tadpole. This female is said to not eat but will live and mate and lay eggs and die in a week’s time. This gal was looking a little sluggish….


The Welcome Sign is Out

I occasionally saw this beauty during migration in Virginia but we now live where the Rose-breasted Grosbeak breeds. Although they are insect eaters and fruit eater, too, this male adores our sunflower seed and doesn’t care how close I get to him. He’s got to fill his tummy.

mister gardener laughed when I put up this window feeder over the breakfast table. We though we’d never see a bird there, but, lo and behold, it’s a favorite spot for dining and provides much entertainment (and dirty windows!) for us.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak maleIf I make too much noise or move too much, the grosbeak moves to the other feeder and patiently waits for me to settle down.

rose-breastedHe will dine at the other feeder but much prefers to sink his head into the larger quantity of seed in the window feeder.

GrosbeakClick photos twice for a closer look….

To Market, To Market

The Exeter Farmers’ Market is in full swing. It’s a great place to stroll, chat with other shoppers, get to know your farmers, and get to know your food. Today mister gardener had potatoes and chicken on his shopping list. I had herbs.

ChivesBut it’s hard to stick to your shopping list when we find things like this:

Good thing we brought two shopping bags!

What’s Blooming Now?

We’ve got rhodies! Four of them. And I’ve been excited for them to bloom. I’ve never had a rhododendron on any property I’ve lived and I was a little nervous about these. I read a release from the Cooperative Extension program at UNH that said most rhododendrons are too tender for New England weather. I also read about possible problems: Black Vine Weevil, sawflies, root rot, Petal Blight and Powdery Mildew.

Well, our variety must be a hardy one. All four of the rhodies are healthy and just beginning to bloom.  I have no ID on the species, but, I’m thinking  it could be Catawba (R. catawbiense), an evergreen that is about 7′ tall. Blooms have brownish speckles in the throat and, boy, are the blooms showy and huge!  Yes, it’s magic around this yard right now.