Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

It Was Wild

The earth seemed to be reflecting the human chaos and fear in this country right now.  After a drive to the city we took a short trip to the C & O Canal where we used to walk or bike often when we lived nearby.  In the photo below it looks like a pleasant fall time, but this was taken in the shelter of the woods and away from the open riverside.

There were a number of people out walking on this weekday.  I photo-shopped away one jogger at the far end of the path.

The day was a normal cool for winter,  but the 25 MPH whistling winds were making the day harsher and when the gusts reached 35 MPH I had to brace my feet to keep from being blown aside like a twig.  Rain storms and some snow to the north had created an angry rush of liquid down the mountains into the Potomac River which runs beside the canal.  We walked to the lookout, a cement platform where emergency helicopters sometimes land to rescue a fearless kayaker or hiker that has fallen or is drowning.

Here the river is wide and deep and deceptively calm.  I turned the photo into a painting above.

But just down the towpath and as we followed  a trail to a bridge that crosses over rocks on one side of the river, chaos reigned.  The sound of the rushing river competed with the sound of the shushing wind.  In the photo below I am crossing the bridge and you can see my shadow in the lower right.  As I raised my camera a gust caught me by surprise and I almost toppled.

Days when I feel overwhelmed, it seems that Mother Earth can take my hand and make me feel even so much smaller.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Seed Freak

I am a seed freak. I love planting seeds, watching plants grow and reading about how to propagate different seeds. I know the difference between open and closed pollination. I know the difference between seeds from hybrid and heirloom plants. I also love seeds because they are fun to look at, rub in your hands, add to collections in glass bowls and for photography.  I also love and respect science and scientists and do not blame them for what I write below.

Seeds are important for the survival of all life. Humans depend on seeds for food, medicine, and unknown inventions and solutions to mankind's future problems.

Climate change will impact the growth of plants and the production of seeds.  Seeds were originally here as the earth was formed and evolved slowly and naturally. Next farmers hybridized seeds to make evolution more controlled and faster or they moved plants into different areas. Then big business came along with their scientists and laboratories and created GMO seeds and then claimed they now own those seeds. Today a handful of companies own the global seed supply.

While that might be concerning it is additionally concerning that 93% of seeds have been lost in the last 80 years. Those are the seeds that might have had a genetic resistance to some global epidemic of a virus, or fungus or resistance to flooding or drought. We now have the technology to implant that feature, but the seeds with the DNA are gone, gone, gone.  Read about the potato famine in Ireland to better understand why that is important.

According to one source "If you were alive in 1903, you would have been able to choose from more than 500 varieties of cabbage, 400 varieties of peas and tomatoes, and 285 varieties of cucumbers. Eighty years later in 1983, the varieties had dwindled sharply, to just 28 varieties of cabbage, 25 varieties of peas, 79 for tomatoes, and just 16 varieties of cucumbers."

"the Big Six chemical/seed companies [Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, Syngenta, DuPont and BASF] have increased their cross-licensing agreements to share genetically engineered traits, strengthening the barriers to entry for smaller firms that don't have access to these expensive technologies."

In an executive meeting with Monsanto executives, Anderson consultants described Monsanto's goals as a world with 100 percent of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. It appears they are almost there. As a result seeds are now pretty expensive and there are criminal laws against seed propagation for many seeds.

I posted this because I was at a recent gardeners' seed swap for the public where commercial and non-commercial seed were available for trade and to give away along with a presentation on how to save and propagate seeds.  It happened at the local public library.  This has to be carefully done insuring that no GMO/hybrid seeds are included unless they are in the original commercial package and that no seeds are sold!

USDA cracked down on one library years ago that was not careful in their seed bank collection and they were required by law to destroy their entire library of seeds as this could lead to "seed terrorism."  They were violating a 20o4 seed act.  This is what happens when we let big business take over entire industries and care only about profits.  One wonders what grannie would say when she was told she could not propagate her favorite flowers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bitter Fruit

It is a bitter world this month. My Meyer lemon has come forth with hundreds of buds and now even has a few blossoms. I got one lemon off this two foot high tree last year and hope by hand pollinating, since there are no crawling or flying insects in my house, that I will get more this year.  I will have to manage removing if too many set as the tree is too small. The smell of the blossoms on this tree is overwhelming.

My Calamondin tree is has been busy for a month with ripening fruit and now we can pick one small one golden orb for our drinks in the evening and I will soon have to do some baking with this fruit and freezing the rest of the abundance.

Both of these are bitter juice fruits, but such a surprise in taste and smell in the short days of winter. Yes these are not in the Room Without Walls, but in a little over two months they will be back out there on my deck.

Friday, January 20, 2017

I am Blessed

I am so blessed to be living in a place where a sunset is a grand, magnificent, overwhelming piece of art certain days of the week. It reminds me that time is eternal for this earth.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Small Reward

I walked out early this cold and damp winter morning being called by the silky veils of fog. Veils hung like thick webs between and behind the black and gray skeletons of my tall forest of trees. I was on a venture for silhouettes and contrasts and simplification to preserve with my camera. Since my big PC has died, I cannot have too much fun with photos, but as this weather gets more gloomy, I hope to have quiet days indoors learning with focus the quiet habits of a new PC which should arrive at the end of the week. Anyway, above is a photo of an Achillea or more commonly called milfoil which I took this very morning. Its name comes from the Greek character named Achilles as some of his soldiers used this relative of the yarrow plant to treat wounds.  According to Wikipedia other more colorful names are allheal and bloodwort. There are over a thousand names under the genus Achillea! It tolerates a wide climate range in the U.S. growing from Texas to New England and across to Wyoming. This lavender/purple one is one type that is in my garden and still blooming in mid-winter and remains optimistic even after the 6 inches of snow over a week ago.  Amazing how it tucked down and hung in there. We can learn things from these plants.  It tends to spread a bit too much which means I will be digging bunches up for the spring plant sale.

I found it was a small pleasure to study the tiny colored faces while  I heard the warning cries of the Blue-jays in the high oak  tree and the rustle of brown leaves from some bird or squirrel just beyond the fence.  I ignored how the spongy grass soaked my shoes and the damp tucked behind my ears.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Market Rush as the Fruit is Ripe

The next cold front, ice storm, snow storm, sleet storm is on its way. I hear the catbird in the ravine hissing about it. How does she know? I see the flickers gleaning my lawn of worms and bugs to last for the next few days. I also noticed that my holly trees were doing a dance. Beneath their boughs are carpets of berries. I went outside and could hear them falling like buckshot.

 Next I also heard the twirping and tweeting of birds that were in that self same tree. Part of the tree was covered in Robins and breezy winds from the incoming storm made the photo blurry.

 The rest of the tree was covered in cedar waxwings. They seemed to tolerate the robins. The waxwings were busy and squirmy and it was difficult to get a photo of their energy efforts. Maybe next time I will put on a jacket to avoid the cool air to keep me from shaking the camera and actually use a tripod! I could hear the tapping of each berry as it fell to the ground reminding me of those market shopping contests where food falls out of the cart as contestants rush down the aisle.

Incoming and outgoing and some actually stop and grab a bite.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Rest of the Rabbit Story

I woke early on Saturday to the predicted snow storm. I opened the front door and saw this very quiet and very stealthy event happening before my sleep fogged eyes.

Even after the morning sun was behind the clouds  and beginning to coldly light the day, I had a very blue picture of my front yard.

By early afternoon the snow  had thinned for just a bit and I walked out to the annual flower garden and saw that someone (most probably our gray fox) had surgically removed the rabbit that had been caught in the predator fence. There was NOTHING left except the fur caught on the wire and this small bunny tail in the second photo which I brought inside. I guess bunny tail soup is too exotic for a hungry fox.  It will be my souvenir of this winter storm.

Within 30 minutes I had to hurry back to the house (forgetting to take the snow shovel out of the shed) and this was the scene that kept most of us at home for the next twenty-four hours.

I tucked away inside my house all Sunday finishing chores and drinking decaffeinated coffee and snuggling up to a cozy fire...

 in the evening and binge watching some old PBS series I had watched years ago. Today I must go out and brave the slippery crusty snow to feed my feathered friends as this is a bird counting day!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The First of 2017

The first winter snowfall has arrived. After many flurried and chaotic photos from news in other states a real winter is actually at my door. Just two days ago I posted a this photo of achillea still in bloom in one of my flower beds.

If I go outside right now the flowers will be buried beneath inches of cotton white snow and look like frozen lace.   Even my tentative and shy rosebuds that seemed to hang in stasis for weeks will be frozen and black by tomorrow.

The eve of my first story roof that I can see from this second story office window has lost all definition and if I squint my eyes I can pretend that it is a twenty foot snow drift up against the house. Something that a fearless child could use for a magical fort or castle with many ice-walled rooms. Some gifted joy to pass the cold day.

The birds flit like colored confetti around the bird feeders that I wisely filled yesterday before the storm's arrival.  They fight and compete and gorge themselves on seed and suet.  The size of the bird is not the determining factor, but the size of the bill that give victory.

It is a very quiet day, a very white day as I sit alone, a very peaceful day with my feathered friends.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Winter and All is Dying

Today is the second day I have been alone at home. My spouse has taken a trip south to fish and camp in the Florida Everglades and will be gone for at total of 12 or 13 days. I am truly all alone. My neighbors to the right are in Florida awaiting the birth of a grandchild and my neighbors to the left have driven down to their luxury condominium in Sarasota, Florida for the duration of the winter. If I fall in the driveway no one will hear or see or come or care. It is kind of a weird, unattached feeling. 

I like the peace and quiet and took a walk outside to see what was happening in the yard as I had not been exploring for some time.  Weather was in the 50's F and the rain had stopped.

On my way back from the driveway gate I saw some strange white substance in my wildflower garden.  This is the place where I plant annuals and have to keep it fenced as animals eat everything.  I had pulled the gate down as everything was dead.

This is the same garden where I got that terrible rash from the larkspur in the summer.  I walked closer to see what this new mushroom or fungus might be.

It was clearly an odd thing and I was ready to document with the camera.

Then as I got closer I saw to my dismay that some tragic accident had taken place a while back. When talking on the phone to my husband that afternoon he said that when he had left in the dark he had seen in the car's headlights a rabbit make a dash across the road in the early dark of the morning.

I tried not to think about the terror and pain that this animal experienced as it died alone in the dark of the winter morning.  I tried not to think about the immediacy of life.  The animal was stiff and preserved in the cold.  I have no idea how to remove it from the fence without cutting through the wire.  I guess I will wait and see if our resident vultures find it or perhaps a hungry fox.