Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sparrows on the Bird Bath

Sparrows on the Bird Bath

We have a lively collection of sparrows here. They make their home in one of our bushes on the side of our house and several times a day visit the bird bath in back. They drink and bathe and fight and fly back and forth until all their needs are satisfied.

I’ve counted as many as a dozen sparrows on the bath at the same time. They flapped on and off in a flutter of feathers. When there was room, it looked as if one of them was swimming across the water!

Sparrows may be small but they have a lot of energy. Sometimes I see them having a lively conversation on the slanty part of our roof above their bush. They have been known to yell at me as I pull my car onto the driveway and disturb their private together time.

It’s interesting to observe nature’s creatures. We can see relationships, both friendly and not. We can watch them solve problems and sometimes create them. There are many behaviors that are reminders of our own people interactions. I wonder if they watch us and think the same things.

Lots to know about house sparrows:

Monday, July 16, 2018

My Surprising Garden

My Surprising Garden

My little vegetable garden often surprises me. We plant a variety of organic tomatoes and I marvel at how different each kind tastes. It’s a delight each summer to pick tomatoes and eat them while they are still warm from the afternoon sun.

Earlier this season I had found that a shallot in my fridge had started growing. I took a chance and planted it. Then I forgot about it, never really expecting anything to come of it. Then the garden surprised me. A tall stalk reached out of the dirt. I thought it was a wild onion and left it alone. It continued to shoot up and then there was an intriguing flower at the end of it. When I dug it up to see what was growing, I saw the shallot had grown and multiplied! Not only was the flower beautiful to see but the shallots were delicious to eat.

Now I see that the pea plant I thought was gone was doing the same thing as the shallot, reaching up with a stalk that has tiny pea pods slowly maturing. I am thrilled to see how the plants develop despite my farming ignorance.

Each year I look forward to what my garden offers. Even if I expect a crop, as I actually do with the tomatoes, I am pleased with whatever grows. And if something I plant doesn’t make it, well, who knows what surprises next summer will bring.
Shallots are healthy to eat:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Basil is a Great Herb

Basil is a Great Herb

I have to admit I love basil. It sits on my kitchen windowsill and I smile every time I see it. Why? For three reasons. First, the leaves are full and fragrant. I just brush my hand gently across them and I can smell the garden. Secondly, the taste reminds me of some of my favorite foods. And thirdly, the plant is exuberant. It just begs to be part of my day whether with sniffing or munching, but especially with cooking.

There are lots of legends wrapped around basil. It was once associated with hatred in Greece, then later with love in Italy. It has been revered for its health benefits and yet at one time it was associated with snakes and scorpions. Modern understanding of herbs places basil high on the list of healthful plants.

It’s a great herb to grow inside or outside. My windowsill has been its home for quite a while. And I am an appreciative receiver of its many benefits.

Basil legends and lore:

Want to grow your own basil?

And if you want to know about basil’s nutrients, health benefits and studies read on:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tulips in a Vase or on the Tulip Tree

Tulips in a Vase or on the Tulip Tree

I was the happy recipient of a gift of a bouquet of tulips this Mother’s Day. They held a place of honor in a vase on my dining room table for two weeks. But even though I had to say goodbye to my cut flowers, I can still enjoy a form of tulips outside in my backyard. The Liriodendron tulipifera, better known as the Tulip Tree, has been offering us its own bounty of flowers.

The Tulip Tree is related to magnolias and is indigenous to eastern North America.  It can grow to 90 feet of more! Ours started as a small trunk and proceeded to expand. We used to be able to reach the flowers on the lower branches but as the tree reached upward, so did the flowers. The flowers are called tulips because of their shape and color though they aren’t actually tulips. They are beautiful all the same.
Yet everything has its blossoming time. The petals are now beginning to fall, coating the back lawn with color. And now the rest of the garden is starting to expand. I am looking forward to the tomatoes we already planted and to the hibiscus that are just starting to peek out of the dirt. But meanwhile, I appreciate what I can see. When the flowers are all gone, the Tulip Tree will provide us with welcome shade. Ah, sitting outside with nature and being in the moment - another delightful gift.

Here’s more about the beautiful Tulip Tree:

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Snake Alert!

Snake Alert!

I’m used to a variety of wildlife in my neighborhood. We have squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, chipmunks, skunks, deer, the occasional fox, and loads of birds both residential and migratory. Every now and then, however, something appears that’s startling. Like the orange snake that slithered across the front yard of our daughter’s house just a few blocks away.

We didn’t know what kind of snake it was. Was it dangerous? Was it poisonous? Could it work its way up through pipes into the house? The township was alerted and we waited for someone to come and help us. Meanwhile, we watched it wiggle its way from the lawn, up over the front steps, into the bushes on the side of the porch. A police officer came by to assess the situation. He called the local Animal Control office and we waited some more. Meanwhile he kept an eye on the snake’s wanderings. It moved into the neighbor’s backyard and settled in under the back deck.

When the representative came, she identified the snake for us – an orange corn snake. It wasn’t poisonous but it also wasn’t local. It must have been someone’s pet that either got loose or was released by its owner. It seems that many people keep corn snakes as pets! It was a compelling creature but it needed to be relocated. She gathered it up into a container and drove it away, hopefully to be let back into the Pine Barrens, which is its natural home in New Jersey.

I can’t say I’m a snake fan but I meant it no harm and I learned that it wished us no harm either. It reminded me of the variety within nature, how sometimes we have to leave our natural homes and learn to adapt elsewhere. It’s not easy for any of us. I wished the snake well. 

Corn snake facts: 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Rabbit in the Bush

Rabbit in the Bush

Look who was camouflaged underneath last year’s hibiscus bush. The rabbit blended in so well I had trouble seeing it at first. Its coat picked up the gray of the broken branches, the brown of the fallen leaves and the white of the small stones scattered throughout the patch.

This must have been a teenage rabbit, smaller than an adult but not newborn. A baby bunny pranced nearby but was chased away across the yard by this rabbit who then returned to its comfy resting place.

The little one will learn the tricks of survival before long, I’m sure. It will learn how to become part of the landscape so that it can peacefully munch on the grasses. It will discover its place in the world and how to be who it is among the variables. It already knew how to zip along, turning quickly to disorient its pursuer.

Seeing the rabbits made me think of how we all adapt to our environments. We learn to accept some things we are given and change others. We can shift our perspective to create a safer space and blend in when necessary. We, and the rabbits, are fast learners. It helps us to live and to thrive.

Cottontails and camouflage:
Wild rabbits:

Monday, April 2, 2018

Seasons and Changing Climate

Seasons and Changing Climate

Two weeks ago Spring arrived in an unusual way here in the northeast - we had four snowstorms. We also had crocuses hiding under the blanket of white. Last week we had atypical temperatures in the high sixties - and daffodils. Today it was back in the 40s and the flowering plum tree in our front yard was, well, flowering.

I have always respected the inner sense of nature with its seasonal consistency. It has traditionally provided focus in our world. But lately I am concerned; our weather is changing. The seasons are shifting with winters becoming shorter and summers becoming longer, in weather terms. We have been experiencing more floods and extreme storms. Islands are becoming flooded and unlivable. Forest fires are fiercer and more prolonged. Glaciers are melting and animals are losing traditional habitats. I wonder how our food supply will be affected as well as our health.

I hope that we can preserve our beautiful planet for future generations. It is truly an amazing place. And as Spring moves toward Summer, I will plant some vegetables as I do each year. They will each take their own time to grow and hopefully produce their offerings that will be so appreciated in our family. There is nothing as delicious as a handpicked and immediately eaten tomato!

How is climate changing?

And more: