Friday, June 15, 2018

Light at the End of the Tunnel


Air so thick I can cut it with a knife
and then watch slabs fall with pudding-like thuds
at my feet onto the slimy grasses. 
I can wipe the wet mist from my face
as if I had been crying “repentlessly”. 
Where do the birds hide their naked fledglings? 
Where do the bees conceal themselves for days? 
The tree frogs and the spadefoots sing for hours, 
a festival of Huge and Small Leap Day. 
The slow turtles explore cool wet pavement
naïve to the jeopardy that awaits. 
And most dangerous of all woodland life,
the mosquitoes sing in high pitched, fated
annoyance everywhere that warm breath flows.

Deep emerald shade hides the small mammals
Frozen and watchful, certain they're unseen.
There is a pulsing; can nature find breath?
At night the breeze does not rise to cool us.
In the day the sun bravely scatters bright
Patches that have contrast to catch the eye,
But fail to pierce the hard and deep shadows
Beneath the green canopy of large, still leaves
That cluster in hushed anticipation
Reminding me to venture quietly
As I feel I'm alien in my land.

I shall sit until air kisses my face
and the trees wave green flags and dance again.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

It is Amungus



The rains are gentle or heavy or windy or calm, but in every single case, they are frequent and persistent. How long can we hang on? It means I am not dragging a hose across the lawn to the herb bed. It means I have to fertilize my potted plants again as their soil has been soaked and drained of nutrition. I am amazed that my pots of geraniums against the railings of my deck are still alive as they prefer the sunnier drier climate of California. Have you seen how big geranium blossoms get there? Have you seen how big every flower gets there??  We have had so much constant rain that the trimming of geraniums that I did a few days ago to get the pots to bush more have not died.  These are clippings which I threw over the deck railing to the lawn below and are still blooming and looking as if they are air plants as I gaze down on them from my perch above as they lie on the lawn below. 

The woods are pulsing like some great, green giant flexing its scales on either side of my house and threatening to smother me from the sun if take one misstep.  Birds can completely hide in the camouflage and all I hear is their disembodied song as if coming from a foreign land.  The new fawn and her mother are almost ghosts as they dart between deep shade and deeper shade.



My walk to the dock takes me by these exotic emergents, some already sampled for flavor by that annoying squirrel.








I remain the small player in this season of growth.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Personalities

The day is warm but not hot, and last night's heavy rain has filled the crockery birdbath again. The male cardinal flies in with two attentive stops on the deck railing to survey the territory. He has lost his bright sexy red and is now into the faded color of a harried parent. When he feels safe, he perches on the edge of the birdbath and swishes his face back and forth a few times across the surface to test the temperature. When he is satisfied he plops into the bath and splashes for a few minutes and then perches and shakes in a nearby bush while the female follows him and attends to her ablutions. They are methodical and careful and do not stay long and soon return to their noisy singing in the trees. 

The titmouse, on the other hand, flies in with lots of tweets and acrobatics and skids to a crash into the bird bath without caution or fear. She flops and sprays and shakes for quite some time before the male shows up and perches in the nearby lime tree to survey the area. When she has gotten so wet she looks half her size and her little perk at the top of her head is mashed down and she is the color of gray mud, she disappears into the edge of the woods to shake freely before her partner gets his turn.  Water ends up everywhere. They are enthusiastic about life and perhaps that is why I sometimes find their feathers in a catastrophic pile in the lawn.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Joy



The weather is cool, which I love, at my home. Hanging in the low 70's is perfect for easing into the next season and I wish it would last even longer.  I love sweater weather when the sun is shining or non-sweater weather when there is a slightly cool breeze under a warming sun.  But I do not have to heat a swimming pool or get children off early in the morning in swimsuits to Team.

In Southern California the sun almost always shines (at least that is what they want you to believe) and summer is there in full swing in early June.  Above is a place called Newport Beach where you can forget for a moment all the worries of the world and pretend you just got out of school for the next three months and have all that free time ahead of you.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I am Woke



Restless light sleep as I toss in the humid night air. Wondering what is tugging at my dreams and pulling me awake. I quietly plod to the bathroom, but for some reason do not turn on the light. My eyes adjust to the velvet night outside the window, and I see it. Magical fairies dancing in the branches of the trees with their lanterns. They climb and climb and climb until they are at the very top against the black silhouette of heavy leaves.  This celebration is what must have woke me.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Lean in for Your Close-up

I have been inspired by some other bloggers (such as Anvilcloud at the AC is On) to work at some macros of the flowers in my yard. I do not know if it is old age (mine) or the increasing warming and shortening of the spring seasons (climate change) or whatever, but my flowers seem to come and go so fast that I barely have time to record their ephemeral and infant beauty.  They are like enchanted virgins that must retreat before midnight!

Below are the very few  starlets that I found time to capture.  All photos have been gently manipulated.  The first is for sale  as a print and I put it on the site where I sell (on very rare occasions) a photo or two.



This above is one of my peonies which blooms very little as it is planted in too deep a shade beneath the dogwood perhaps styled as an homage to  O'Keeffe. I am moving it this fall and dividing it and urging it to go forth and propagate in a sunnier location.



This wild geranium gets more abundant every year, but it is also done blooming now!  I planted it because it is native.



And above is another peony that has survived our daily or nightly rainstorms.  This has been around about a decade and is also due for a division this fall.



I am guessing you see the common theme here including the poppies above.  Everything is covered in raindrops!!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Is That Sunshine on my Shoulder?

Come walk with me on this early morning where the temp is already at 70F.  The sun has finally been brave enough to break through the clouds.  The trail is dry in most places but every so often you will have to jump the mud puddles and walk the wet leaves at the side of the trail around the squishy muddy middles.  It is easy to see where the deer have dipped their toes in mud as well.  The rain has brought out all the tiny mushrooms in the cracks of the dead wood.



This may or may not be coral spot fungus. It is most certainly poisonous but does not look that edible, anyway.


Our original objective was mountain laurel, usually in bloom this time of year.  Sadly 80% if the buds/blossoms had been knocked to the ground by the torrential rains.



We spotted a few hardy clumps in the sun near the beaver dams.  Mentioning the beavers, I will write that they were having a marvelous time blocking the abundance of water with dams everywhere.  I am sure the park officials were frustrated as many of the trails along the marshes had flooded due to the engineering of this flat-tailed water mammal.  You could almost hear them clapping their little forehands with glee that there was water deep enough to actually float some large logs!


This chap was pretty ambitious.

The forest floor was also littered with holly blossoms from the rain.  It made me wonder what happens to the insects and wildlife that depend on the lengthier blooming of these plants?


We heard the song of the Summer Tanager in the high canopy of the forest.  There was once the call of a Mourning Dove, and of course the territorial cry of the woodpeckers.  There was also an abundance of Chickadees, Cardinals, and Titmice, which are common in our own woods.

I was looking at the patches of sunshine for native orchids but had no luck.


Deceptive patches of grass were very wet soaks from nearby brooks.  Too wet to walk across.

Even the bark of the slash pine was growing green algae in the breaks of the bark!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Slip, Slidin, Away.

Mother Nature has been weeping for days now. We have had an average of 2.5 inches of rain every single day for three days. Absolutely no sun was seen until today. The good part is that there were no winds and only a little lightning at the very beginning.


This is the time of year when the early summer flowers are coming forth with their newest colors and blooms...!





But they cannot stand up to such heavy downpours over days.


I ran out with an umbrella to try to catch a little of my rhododendron which blooms such a short time and beside the house where I cannot see easily, and found that even the bumblers had ventured forth on the third day in the rain!


I felt that his mission was probably more important than mine as I wended my way across the spongy lawn and back inside to binge watch some Royal Wedding TV and some Vera detective work in the rainy weather of Northern England.

We are still here in the mid-Atlantic and did not slide away thank goodness.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

How Do They Make It?

This is the season in my neck of the woods when the box turtles are traveling, across lawns, down ravines, and over highways. Of course, they can cross the yard in about a minute, but they have that shapeshifter gene that makes them look as if they are moving very slowly. They do not run, but they do not slog. Turn your back on them and they will be yards away. 

Please note that in spite of this amazing mobility they cannot make it across the highway when cars are doing more than one mile per hour. If you feel safe, pull over to the side of the road and walk back and pick up the turtle and carry it to the other side where he/she was headed. If you do not feel safe, make sure you do not run over this amazing reptile as you head out into the great beyond. Our weather is warm enough that they can now digest food and that is why they are out in the sunshine and in the rainfall. We have seen three in our neck of the woods already.


Students recently determined that growth can be inhibited in plants when you talk to them in an angry voice. You can feed and water the same as you do another plant which you talked gently to, and the one you snarl at will not grow as much! This leads me to believe that all living things are far more in tune to their world than we realize. Thus I always talk kindly to my resident reptiles, offer them a strawberry or piece of melon or a bit of lettuce. Then I leave them alone. I love these gentle animals and even though they have a very hard-shelled home that is not conducive to cuddling, they also have a tough life. This fellow won a battle with some hard tooth mammal or perhaps a raptor?



Each shell is much like a human fingerprint and can be used to identify a returning or resident box turtle.  But this tooth mark will help me recognize this turtle much easier next time.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Pea Tree

I took a walk along the primary street of my neighborhood a few days ago because the weather was that perfect spring that lasts only a short time.  We have been getting warmer and hotter days sooner with Climate Change.  

I could smell something really lovely and knew it was too early for the honeysuckle to be calling the pollinators.  As I looked to the side I saw the legume shaped blossoms of the Locust tree.  This is the honey locust which is a native to our area.  



While these trees can grow up to fifty feet, the self-seeded ones in our neighborhood are young with branches low enough for me to get close to the blossoms.



It is related to the pea family which can be noticed if you study the blossoms and the leaf shape.  I did not see any pollinators which did make me concerned.  This tree should be full of bees.  It does self-spread and can be too invasive, but only likes full sun, so stays at the edge of our woods and makes it easy for me to study without collecting ticks.

The deer and other mammals eat the seed pods, supposedly sweet, that fall to the ground and also help to spread the tree.  The honey locust seems to be growing across the United States.

The bark is hard and has been used for fence posts.  The tree at the side of my house which has grown so tall has had severe damage to the outside of the trunk decades ago and it still soldiers on growing tall.  



You can see that the canopy is thin and therefore it allows sunlight to the area below which is nice.

There are various varieties, ours does not fix nitrogen like many legumes, but seems to take care of itself.  Some locust trees do have nasty thorns.

Now I am going to smell some more and wait for the pollinators.




Friday, May 11, 2018

The Eagle's Claw

"Aquilegia is a genus of about 60–70 species of perennial plants that are found in meadows, woodlands, and at higher altitudes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, known for the spurred petals of their flowers." 





I think this one is the official state flower of Colorado.
This is a wild native of states in the mid-Atlantic.

 This technical explanation from Wikipedia fails to capture the spring beauty, variety in both shape and color, and the ease of growing this plant. The name Aquilegia which means eagle at least adds some drama to the flower and was given to them because their petals resemble an eagles claw.  As they have been hybridized their petals are double-flowered and can sometimes resemble a Victorian princess dress.





Others look like stars!



The bumblebee, Bombus hortorum, loves these blossoms in the spring (all colors) and they usually come in from the back and slit open the spur to get the nectar.  There are also moths that come as caterpillars and feast.  



Some gardeners do not like the pattern that leaf miners make as the season progresses, but I have never been bothered and find those patterns lovely, as well.   Most grow between 1 and 2 feet tall and are extremely hardy and reseed a lot but never seem to be an intruder in my flower beds.



All in my garden started with just a couple of seed packs.  Some are like biennials, but if they get too crowded they are easy to thin.  They even grow in pots and come back every year.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Guessing Game

It is a guessing game to see where something will emerge after the thaw of the ground. Did that special plant double or even triple in size or did it die back to one small green sprout? Does it require nurture and tender care or does it need a spade to restrict its size and spread? Rarely does a plant know its place and just exist like a quiet neighbor. It can be too shy and eventually just give up or it can be aggressive and take over the place. Below two photos of new spring buds. So primitive looking, are they not? Do you know what they are?








Maybe I will let you know in my next post...

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

It Starts Small

I find that long before the peonies burst forth in huge lacy circles and long before roses open their silky petals, the smallest of flowers bloom to welcome all the little pollinators.  The sweat bees, the tiniest of blue butterflies and even the little spiders all welcome those tiny flowers at your feet.

A corner of my garden has been planted with Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis).  This little flowering plant is very popular.  The fragrance is so strong that it compels you to fall to the ground and place your face close to the little bells.  Mine are pinkish instead of the traditional white.


They are highly poisonous but I do see big bumble bees visiting the bells.  Like so many of the tiniest flowers, they last only a few weeks.  It came from Europe where it grows in the nooks in valleys.  The fall it has red berries that are also poisonous.


The bells have a surface that looks waxy.  They grow close to the ground and spread easily after a year or two and may need to be controlled, but I do not find it badly invasive.  Mine like the partial shade that they get under the tulip tree at the end of the flower bed.  The little bulbs can be forced indoors for fragrance and then planted outside when they are done blooming.  Maybe next year I will dig some up and bring a pot of them inside!


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Whoopee!

The weather finally holds in the 50 and 60's F and I spend backbreaking hours planting new perennials that I have purchased (Sunday mornings no one is in church these days.  They are all at the plant place!) And I am carefully dividing old perennials from years past hoping I do not kill the plant.  And I am bending and weeding circles of tiny green weeds that took the place of perennials that died over the winter. The yellow sassafras in the woods is blooming but I see only the tiniest of bees coming for nectar.




The big bumblers crash headfirst like Kamakazee pilots and upon landing shaking the cherry blossoms free of their pollen and drinking deeply of sweet nectar after the long winter's nap.


I saw the first Zebra Swallowtail last week and was amazed since it was so early, but because we have planted a number of small wild Paw Paw trees which is their primary source for laying eggs I am happy they are here.


I next will take in the bird feeders and wash them in bleach and store them until fall.  The Blue Birds are nesting in the birdhouse attached to the cheap little arbor in the front yard, and we try not to frighten them as we work around those beds.


Yep, spring is here!