Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | May 25, 2012

Welcome to My Garden – Bluebird Babies Hatching Today!

The onamental crabapple tree in bloom in the bird feeding bed. This picture was taken just after the bed was created so its still fairly sparse.

This is our small ranch house under the big sky in early spring and the majestic White Oak Trees we estimate to be between 100 and 150 years old.

Another view of the bird feeding bed, now more mature, in early spring when the daffodils are in bloom. Our beds are all surrounded by field stones I collected from farmers fields or at the lakeshore over the past 12 years. I collected them all in my truck and brought them home and placed them myself! Thank goodness for 6 yeas of yoga to build upper body strength!

This is a second flower bed located just outside out three-seasons-porch. This is early spring, and the shrubs are just stating to get-going Our garden can be very ‘droughty’ so we heavily mulch with barkchips to hold in moisture and to keep the weeds at bay. That brown lump is my beloved Labrador Retriever, Spirit, who keeps me company and follows me along my daily ‘route’.

May 25, 2012 – Garden Journal Entry – A Blue Banner Day

Today the bluebird babies are hatching! I just checked the bluebird house in the meadow and found the babies pecking their ways out of the five blue eggs. And this is the second hatch of bluebirds on our property this year to date. That definitely makes this is a blue banner day!

We have several intersecting habitats here; woods, lawn and a meadow with ponds and lake nearby. This is just the kind of place the birds look for as a place to raise their young. It helps that we feed and water them year-around, a kind of free bird Bed & Breakfast with open doors that welcome them here anytime day or night. It bring us a great deal of pleasure for such a little bit of work.

While our state has been suffering in the recent economic recession, we are a state that is also blessed with so much natural beauty. We live in the middle of an Oak Savanna Forest in South Western Michigan. We are surrounded by almost 50,000 acres of the protected Allegan State Game area and Pine Barrens and the Oak Savanna acreage. This is a place that is famous for the protected Karner Blue Butterfly and its host plant, the wild Purple Lupines. The tremendous natural beauty got or attention as did the amazing wildlife and birds when we looking for a place to retire. We are also located only 17 miles from Lake Michigan and these are all reasons why we moved here.

We consider ourselves stewards of these 5-acres of property that we named, White Oak Acres. This includes about 2 ½ acres of lawn and gardens (the rest in woods) and the 47 majestic large namesake White Oak Trees. My husband Gene and I take care of this property together. Over the past twelve years I’ve worked hard to create a healthy and natural habitat that is set up for the benefit of the birds, insects and animals and the visiting humans. We are a National Wildlife Federation Certified Habitat and a Monarch Way Station. Both certifications please me very much.

We play B&B to many birds (nesting Bluebirds, Rufus Sided Towhee, Oriels, Phoebe and many more) and often hear Great Horned Owls and Whippoorwills at night and see the Pileated Woodpeckers by day. We offer the equilivent of a family-style buffet to the butterflies and moths here by planting host plants like milkweed, rue, parsley, dill and the Lupines so these creatures are frequent visitors here laying their eggs and hatching and raising their young in a safe and welcoming habitat.

I planted these gardens mostly over a 9 year period when the White Oak Studio & Gallery was open and our visitors enjoyed rambling through them when they came to visit the gallery. I also use the plants in my handmade paper artwork.

In addition to the flowers, shrubs and trees we grow a lot of our vegetables. We are completely organic and no chemicals are used here.  Overall this work is pretty much our contribution to cleaner air, soil and a true labor of love, because a labor it is.  This time of year, I’m generally outside at first light and work in the gardens until it’s too hot to work any further. I should be thin, but unfortunately, I am not!

This time of year more time is spent outside trying to get the grounds in shape than in my studio. Last month we took down 4 large trees and did most of the work ourselves. This month I am weeding and digging up and potting about 40 perennials (daylily’s and native Lupines) from a bed near the road to save them from the upcoming trench that is going in to get the on-going high ground water problem under control here. Now that the perennials are potted; my attention has turned to truck load number two of bark chip mulch to unload and spread on the flower beds. I estimate that there will be two more truckloads of chips to go through before that job is done.

Today I also planted and staked 24 tomatoes and our potted flowers. We are hoping the predicted rain will happen tonight.

It’s kind of crazy, I know, because I was not born to this life…I choose it. I see this work and these gardens as my legacy to my family and to my community. It’s a place to help teach my grandchildren about the natural world and a place to make many wonderful memories for all of us.

Stop by for a tour if you are ever in the area!

Small House / Big Sky Donna


Thanks for taking the White Oak Garden tour!


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