Thursday, July 27, 2023

A Dance with the Devil

I pause as I cross my bathroom window over the tub and see the devil's walking stick, Auralia spinosa, outside at the edge of the ravine as it dips away into the jungle of summer green.  We have been having some good soaking rains between the hot sunshine and Tabor's Woods are loving it!  The Aralia is now about eighteen feet high as it reaches eagerly toward the sun.  This 'weed' loves disturbed areas and moved in years ago after we had built the house and disturbed the soil for our foundation.  This plant is a younger generation.

I go upstairs and look down from the guest bedroom window.  When my husband's nephew stayed with us last year after a broken bone accident, he would watch from the guest bedroom window the dance of the pollinators on the blooms of the devil's walking stick.  It is a peaceful, healing, and soothing pastime. 

I go outside in the early morning for better photos.  The air is thick but not cloying.  The temperature is warm but not hot.  The cicadas are working hard at their percussion jazz concert and their buzzing fills the air.  The young osprey is celebrating his/her ability to catch fish and fly high overhead and chirps continuously like some very happy teenager at a game win.  A single vulture quietly circles high above in slow circles against a clear blue sky.

I walk around the house camera in hand.

This shrub is a native and perhaps considered a weed, but it IS a native.  (I have written about this before.)  The common name Devil's Walking Stick is due to the nasty thorns on the bark.  If you bump against it or accidentally grab it, you are in for some pain.

This Auralia is just about to bloom.  It starts with a mass of white buds at the very top.  Soon the pollinators will move in and cover each flower with their busy harvesting.  Today the yellow swallowtail butterflies drift gently over the buds waiting for dinnertime.  They resemble a gentle yellow leaf fall and after checking ever so briefly move on to my Physostegia virginiana - obedient plant.

Aralia spinosa
is related to the ginseng family.  "The genus name comes from an old French-Canadian name of “aralie”, applied to a baby girl and means “one who is a born leader.”  In Japan, I have been told, that areas of this plant in the woods are coveted for a harvest of the early leaves that emerge and can be cooked and eaten like spring ferns (fiddleheads).  I have not tried that.

Monday, July 24, 2023

It is Buggy Out There

Those of us who are environmentalists have drifted big time into promoting bugs. Every year I attend a festival about bugs. I work with small children and encourage them to see the world as though it was a tapestry with many threads holding things together and insects being a very important group of knots in that tapestry. I emphasize how 99% of bugs are passive and just want to live like we do. I talk to adults and ask them to reevaluate the damage to their plants before spraying and eradicating unless the insect is non-native and introduced and you use safe methods. Sometimes the damage to the plant is tolerable. I emphasize to all that we will not survive on a planet with fewer and fewer insects.

"The world has lost 5% to 10% of all insect species in the last 150 years — or between 250,000 and 500,000 species, according to a February 2020 study in the journal Biological Conservation." And since we have not really had research on insects comprehensively over time, I think this estimate is conservative.
There is an excellent article here if you want with some beautiful illustrations and interactive graphs. Go on and check it out. What else have you got to do on this hot summer day?

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Sweating Through Summer

Tabor's Yard does not have the awful sweltering heat that other parts of the U.S. seem to be under.  We have our normal hot and humid days.  Most of July was dry with no rain and tulip trees in their trepidation flung brown and yellow leaves to the ground.  Flowering plants bloomed briefly and then wilted feeding our pollinators for just a few days.

Finally, as July moved forward, we got wet weather.  The day started dark and haunting and very warm.  This was the air you could "chew."  This is the air when old people stay indoors.  Then in the distance, the warning thunder began and by nightfall, I could see the lightning strikes across at the end of the bend in the river just glowing quickly.  They competed with the lightning bugs in a fire dance.

The wind shook the drying leaves and then with that familiar pelting sound against the window pane and the skylight, the rains began.  Heavy drops were falling sparsely.  It was as if they did not want to be here, as if Mother Nature had pushed them out the door on their way to school.

By morning the windows were covered in wet humidity and I could not see outside, but I knew we had gotten several inches of rain.  My resident turtle was out and about in the dampness, looking for earthworms, no doubt.

The flowers that had sturdy stems were happy at last.

The Queen Anne's lace blooms prolifically with heavy skirts of white before the wind and rain brought it bending over to the ground.  My phlox keeps most of its petals and then the heavy bees came in and shredded some of those delicate petals in their hunt for sustenance.

Our resident osprey which had fledged two young ones (one later died in a predatory attack) sat on the nest wet and surprised.  Each morning one parent leaves to get food and brings back breakfast.  When I started writing this post, the youngest was days away from flying out on his/her own and getting food, and now, sometimes, I see no one in the nest.  I can hear their high baby-like chirps as I sit inside and the parents instruct the young one on hunting and flying skills in the clear blue sky.

It appears that summer has settled in like a wet fragrant fart and will remain until the end of August or early September.