Monday, February 6, 2017

Tea Time!

Tea Time!

Winter is a funny month in the northeast. This weekend I was bundled up against the near freezing temperatures each time I went out, my scarf wrapped around me and my gloves constant companions. Today I am wearing my spring jacket, unbuttoned, and enjoying the sunny day. There are advantages to all seasons, each offering its own personality.

Sunday was that kind of day. After doing chores in the morning, we lit a fire in the den in the afternoon and settled in for our version of British tea. The logs in the fireplace were aged and burned nicely. We primed them with kindling from the branches that fall from the various trees in our backyard throughout the year using the older, seasoned wood.

When the fire was burning nicely, I set out two mugs of steaming water for our tea. We prefer green but black tea with a tad of milk is delicious, too. We enjoyed chocolate cake with chocolate icing as we sat by the fire, feeling its embracing warmth outside as we relished the pleasing snack inside. After our tea we settled back, my husband with his book and me with the jigsaw puzzle I was doing, and savored the rest of the afternoon.

There will be no fire on this warm day but the memory lasts. And as the seasons change and I experience each in its own way, I hope to bring moments like this with me, to treasure nature’s differences.

Tips for building a safe fire:

For an easy step-by-step for a beginner:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Holidays and the New Year

Holidays and the New Year

We were taking a drive to nowhere on Christmas Eve, looking at the lights that call attention to the holiday, and came across a small house with a simple display. It almost felt like a coloring book illustration. When we returned home, my husband put his photo of the house through a painting app and came up with something that plays on the simplicity and, like the light at the front door, draws you inside. I like the creative way it makes me think.

This year three holidays come at the same time: Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. There is a sense of community within each holiday. Family and friends gather to celebrate, sharing food and fun. There is often an atmosphere of caring among people. I see more smiles and courtesy among the adults, and a joyful excitement among the children as gifts are anticipated.

Much has happened in our country these past few months, but not all has been positive. Nasty things have been said, people have been demonized, beliefs have been dismissed. Our world is too broadly populated for such non-acceptance to be the norm. America is based on the melding of people and ideas. I hope that the holiday season shifts some of the animosity that has developed.

I wish everyone a healthy, happy, expansive 2017!

Brief holiday descriptions:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hawk Sighting

Hawk Sighting

This has been an interesting time in my backyard. Last week there were three deer sprinting through the bushes on their way to who knows where. I live in a housing development but there are a few woodsy places not far away. Why would they venture out of those beautiful areas to a place with houses and fences?

Then this week, there was a hawk hanging out under the leafless redbud tree out back. It just stood there for a while, seemingly checking out its surroundings. I’ve seen hawks circling above my yard and occasionally swooping down to grab a bird or chipmunk but this one seemed to be just hangin’ out. Then it flew to a branch on the tulip tree and there I could see the white under-feathers of a catch that hadn’t been obvious before. Later it returned to the ground and really chowed down, not my favorite thing to see though I realize that every creature needs to eat.

I imagine we’ll be seeing more hawks around here in the future. As the land gets more developed, the wildlife become more visible. We take away habitat. Even as more land is set aside for green preservation, it doesn’t undo what already has been used for human purposes. I wonder what incredible sightings will come next. I hope we all can learn to live peacefully with each other.

More hawk photos and info:

Hawk facts: 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Supermoon 2016

Supermoon 2016

Did you get to see the moon last night? It is the closest and brightest of 2016. It is also the largest since 1948. It won't come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034. It is called a Supermoon as much for its brilliance as for its size.

The full moon has always had a mystique about it. It has always captured our imagination. A full moon has its romantic side as a moon for lovers. It has the reputation of bringing out craziness in people. Vampires come out when the moon is full, don’t they? We see faces in it and it sparks our imaginations for stories and poems. Many cultures have moon myths.

Whatever interpretations we apply to the full moon, it is good to just allow its glow to wash over us, to be awed by its beautiful presence. Our November 2016 may be a special one but it doesn’t negate all the others. Let’s allow ourselves to take a moment to feel the wholeness of the universe and the oneness of humanity. Especially in some difficult times, let the full moon help us to take a deep breath and allow its beauty to remind us of the joy of life.

2016 Supermoon:

Moon myths:

Science debunking some myths:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Skunk Scare

Skunk Scare

We were sniffing skunk around the neighborhood in late Summer but we didn’t see any. Then one morning in early Fall (you know what’s coming) I looked out the back window and saw the biggest skunk munching on our lawn. We watched as it meandered along under the bird feeders, at the edge of the hibiscus bushes, and through the dappled willow hedge on its way to our neighbor’s yard. Then we lost sight of it.

The skunk didn’t show up again and we haven’t been aware of its odor lately but the image is emblazoned in our memories. I had never seen one so large before nor one with just one large, white stripe down its back. I found out it is a particular species of skunk known as Conepatus leuconotus ( a white-backed hog-nosed skunk) that tends to inhabit Eastern Texas more than anywhere else.

I found out that skunks tend to be solitary except in breeding season, which has me wondering if there is a skunk family somewhere about. They often inhabit places where other animals have dug in the earth and we found some evidence of digging near our house.

It would be an understatement to say I am nervous about the situation. I try to remind myself that all creatures need a place to live. I wish it no harm but if it is lost, I admit that wouldn’t mind it finding its way back to its natural habitat.

General facts about skunks:
Specific facts about white-tailed hog nosed skunks:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Groundhog Haven

Groundhog Haven

We have a backyard visitor – a groundhog. We have been trying to find its burrow but so far every time we catch sight of it, the critter takes off and ducks under our neighbors’ deck. Maybe that’s its home though we have seen evidence of digging in the dirt near our front door.

I think it is probably a male because females usually have several babies that stay with her for a while and I haven’t seen any little ones around. This single one is a regular by our bird feeders, eating its fill through the remaining days of summer. When the weather turns cold it will hunker in its burrow, slow its heart rate and hibernate until the spring, living off its fat reserves. But until then, this seems to be the particular groundhog’s haven.

The groundhog is a member of the squirrel family, though that connection is somewhat surprising because it is more of a solitary being than a social one like the squirrel; it certainly has a lot of squirrel family members in my backyard. I guess we all need the comfort of connection when we want it and the space to be on our own when we need it.

Want to know more about groundhogs? 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Home Farm Produce

Home Farm Produce

We have a small home farm, well, that’s how we think of it. It is more of a teeny tiny carved out section of our suburban yard

Each year we plant tomatoes not only because we like them but also we know that they will grow for us. We planted potatoes because some of our store-bought ones started to sprout and we figured we might as well give them a chance. We planted the bottom of a red-leaf lettuce when I read somewhere that it would grow, and it has; we’ve been enjoying the crispy new leaves in our nightly salads. The zucchini plants have grown high and with the bright yellow flowers, we expect some yummy veggies soon.

Last year we bought a small, thornless blackberry bush. It produced a few berries but most of them went to the birds before they ripened. This year the bush spread out, sending shoots in a wide circle. I haphazardly tossed some netting around them to see if we would get any berries for ourselves this season. Boy, are we getting fruit!

We wrapped screening around the plantings to keep out the squirrels. We (mostly my husband) fertilize the plants with natural products and water them but otherwise we kind of leave them alone. Yes, I talk to them, telling each how much I appreciate its providing us with such beautiful, edible products.

We are delighted with it all, considering we really know not much about farming; we are more improvisers than farmers. But our home farm produce connects us with something larger than ourselves. Each time we bite into a tomato that has come from our own garden, we pay attention – to its flavor, its value. When we pick the berries, we know exactly where they have come from. We are all part of nature. What a joyful thing to experience.

Two sites to help you make your own vegetable garden: