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:
https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-grow-tulip-trees-2132098

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:
https://www.snaketype.com/corn-snake/ 

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:
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/global-warming-effects/ 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Snow in Spring


Snow in Spring

It’s Spring! Normally I’d be thinking of crocuses and daffodils and waiting for the hibiscus to send out thick buds that will turn into giant red flowers. But this season has started off strangely. The bushes in our backyard are showing puffs of white instead of the colorful promise of hydrangeas. Branches from the pine trees are touching the ground with the weight of wet snow.

What is going on? This is the fourth nor’easter we’ve had this month, bringing snow and sleet at a time when we should be having a gentle shift into the next season. We speak about global warming and yet we see snow in Spring?

I remember the saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I also can recall one year that we had snow in the beginning of April. So things do sometimes defy expectations. However, we are in a time of large shifts in our climate.  It’s hard to ignore the changes that are taking place across the world. The atmosphere is heating up, causing glaciers to melt, oceans to rise, more floods, and fires in drier lands. And yet, we can still have snow at the beginning of Spring.

What we do affects things, whether it is personally or globally. Our climate has changed over the millennia but we seem to be hurrying things up lately. I hope that our current leaders work to minimize climate changes rather than take a short-term approach for political gains. Our planet is a marvelous place; let’s try our best to support it.

U.S. Spring forecast:

NASA evidence of global warming:
https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

Monday, March 5, 2018

Broken Tree


Broken Tree
 
This past week was full of a variety of weathers. It was raining. It was snowing. The wind was blowing like mad. And then the sun came out, lighting up the sky as if nothing had happened. But plenty had happened. It was a nor’easter that affected lots of people. Some people lost power. Neighborhoods all along the coasts expected flooding after the wind moved out to sea and would probably affect the tides coming in.

Our backyard trees weathered the onslaught but our neighbor’s Bradford Pear tree wasn’t so lucky. A large branch broke off, spreading wood and the buds of new leaves across both our yards. The downed branch fell onto a bush that has been in our yard for over forty years, each summer sending flowers and new stems as a reminder that summer was approaching. But it left both our roofs untouched, thank goodness.

It reminds me not to take anything for granted. Trees are so strong and impressive yet they, too, are part of the progression of life. It’s important to appreciate the present because that is all we truly have. Even as we plan for the future we can live moment to moment along the way. Which is good to remember because another rain/snow storm is expected tomorrow.

How the nor’easter affected the Boston area:
http://www.wbur.org/news/2018/03/03/noreaster-saturday

Monday, February 19, 2018

Turkey Vultures in Our Neighborhood


Turkey Vultures in Our Neighborhood

My neighborhood consists mostly of houses, a local elementary school, well-tended lawns and a variety of trees. It’s like most suburban developments except for an occasional aberration like I noticed yesterday. It seems that a clump of trees has become home to a bunch of turkey vultures.

I’ve seen these birds soaring overhead more frequently this year. Sometimes they come fairly close to rooftops and float over backyards. They usually come in groups, tilting their wings to catch the updrafts and maybe spot some carrion to eat. They aren’t exactly cute but they are impressive.

Why are they here? These birds used to be seen mostly in the southern states but since our climate has been warming, they now have moved into the north and have even been spotted in Canada.

The world of nature is shifting as we can see by the weather forecasts this season. We are expecting temps in the 70s for the next few days! I wonder what the birds will think of that. Perhaps we all need to be flexible as our world changes.

All about turkey vultures:
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Turkey_Vulture/id

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Groundhog Getting Ready for Winter


Groundhog Getting Ready for Winter

Back in September we saw this groundhog munching on the leaves of our peach tree, filling up in preparation for its winter hibernation. It wasn't planning on a long trip to get to its diggings, just a short hop past our property line to squiggle under our neighbor's deck. We have seen it enter and exit between the nicely planted shrubs many times during the other seasons but it would usually skitter away when it became aware of us. At this point, though, it was too busy to care.

With Groundhog’s Day coming up soon, everyone will be watching for that special animal known as Punxutawney Phil. The holiday started in the 1800s but is still the traditional weather predictor. If he sees his shadow, it means the sky is cold and clear, a prediction of six more weeks of winter. If there is no shadow, spring is on its way. For Punxutawney Phil it is not about seasons. It is all about reproduction. If it is too cold he will go back into his burrow for some more sleep and return in more comfortable temperatures.

Our neighbor knows the groundhog lives there but chooses not to evict it. Everyone, even a groundhog, needs a place to live.  Sometimes the place we imagine will be our forever lodgings, whether it is a particular house or neighborhood, state or country, ends up being temporary. It is not easy to move even if it is warranted. So many people today are on the move.

The groundhog next door is lucky. I admire our neighbor for being so caring. I hope the people who need to leave their special places find new, caring places to resettle, and others who will understand how hard it was to go.

General groundhog info: https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2014/01/31/9-things-you-didnt-know-about-groundhogs/ 
Groundhog Day info: https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/groundhog-day

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Geese and Growth


Geese and Growth

It’s another winter, another year. So many things in nature shift with the seasons. Geese remind us of the coming cold as they honk their way south. The geese have moved to warmer climates by now, which is a good thing. We have had some record cold temps lately. I know they’ll be back in spring but as I watched them take off, I kind of missed them already.

People respond to the change in seasons as well. Someone I know says she is not a winter person. She hunkers inside during the winter weather and waits for the warm summer’s embrace. Another friend relishes the snow and cold and looks forward to getting out her skis. I kind of like the snow myself, even when I have to shovel. We each try to adjust in our own way to what Mother Nature brings.

As I looked at the geese honking their way south, I thought about this past year. It hasn’t been an easy time for me but, like the geese instinctively know, I sense it is time to move on. Come the spring the geese will return to familiar surroundings with a new perspective. It sounds like a plan for me, too.

As I watched the geese fly off, I wished them well and knew I would look forward to their return.

And now I wish everyone a healthy and happy – and rejuvenated - 2018!