Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy (early) Halloween

Mother Nature got an early start on Halloween this year. She didn’t wait for treats and went right to the tricks. An October snowstorm hit the northeast leaving millions without power and, ironically, forcing the cancellation of lots of Halloween festivities. It wasn’t so much of a surprise as the weather people predicted the storm but it still had a quality of the unbelievable about it. We talked about putting away our patio chairs for the season but felt no rush to do it. I was startled to hear the sleet tapping against the window and stayed glued to the spot as I watched the hard pellets of ice slowly turn into the quiet softness of snowflakes. It didn’t stop us from doing morning chores but we did postpone our afternoon activities in preference for sipping cocktails before our first cozy fire.

I can’t say that I blame Mother Nature for playing tricks. In fact, she seems to have been doing it a lot this year with heat waves that stayed around, rain during what is traditionally a dry part of the year, and lack of rain when the crops were begging for moisture. She certainly gets our attention this way. But then we have been playing tricks on her for decades. We pollute her air and much of her water. We continue to cut down the trees in her virgin forests and decrease the supply of oxygen to our planet. We play around with her crops, altering their genetics and changing our definition of food. Is she trying to tell us something in the only way she can? Will we listen?

And yet, Mother Nature still has a heart. Today, on Halloween proper, she sent a glorious, sunny day. It is just the right weather for little ones to come knocking on doors asking for treats. And when night arrives and the older goblins come around, there will only be a slight chill in the air, appropriate for October 31st.

Check out the Oct.29th storm:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Turtle Crossroads

Why did the chicken cross the road? Remember that old riddle? There should have been a chicken crossing sign to help it across. I pay attention to those signs. I have seen deer crossing, geese crossing, duck crossing though no chicken crossing signs along my local roads. It makes me aware of where I am, which I guess is the purpose of the signs, and since those on the sign cannot be counted on to watch out for me, I had better be responsible and watch out for them.

This sign was posted at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. I did not see any turtles crossing that day though there were turtles lounging in the mud of the marshes. I have seen a number of turtles crossing the road over the years in a variety of places. The first one was when I lived in Queens, New York. I was driving and slowed down because a large rock was in the middle of the street – only this rock was moving! I got out of my car and saw a box turtle lumbering along. I picked it up before the next car came whizzing by and took it to my apartment. I soon learned that box turtles are protected and I could not harbor it. I couldn’t put it back where I found it so I released it on an expanse of wooded land near a water source, a few miles out of harm’s way. I worried, though, that perhaps I was separating it from its family. Would it be lost? Would it be able to forge a satisfactory life in its new surroundings? I wished it well and hoped for the best.

As people take over more land space, the creatures that call those spaces home will find themselves crossing man-made roads, pathways that cut through their natural environments. The chickens/geese/ducks/turtles just want to get to the other side. They are taking their chances with us. Have we forgotten that these crossroads used to be their crossroads? Surely we can suspend our need to rush about to let them get safely across. I expect there will be more crossing signs as our population grows and our need for land expands. I will be looking for them to remind me that we share this earth with many others and to be careful of all life.

The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful place to visit. It has a variety of birds, expansive marshes, and opportunities to stop and connect with nature.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Very Own Watermelon

I was showing my city-girl roots this week when I found a watermelon had actually grown in my tiny garden. I got so excited I couldn’t stand myself. How could I have grown such a thing? Yes, we had planted it and watched the vine creep steadily out into the lawn. Small flowers blossomed along the vine and then a few gourd-like fruits started to develop. It was fun to watch but I never really expected a full, fat watermelon to form. Yet it did and I was thrilled to pieces.

This was a big event. I tested the melon for ripeness the way I do in the supermarket where I usually buy watermelon; I thumped it. It had a solid sound and felt heavy for its size, nine beautiful inches. It had a slight flat spot where it had been resting (garden-bed head?) that was yellowish. All the right signs for a ripe melon. I carried it into the house as if I had the queen’s crown in my hands.

My husband was just as excited. I cut it and I served it fresh and juicy. Our first taste was savored. A sweet offering from Mother Nature and a healthy one, too. It’s an amazing food with an abundance of nutrients: a great source of Vitamin C, has beta carotene, calcium, and more:

Watermelon has always been one of my favorite fruits and now I have had the privilege to grow one. My little foray into gardening was a treat; it allowed me to produce my very own watermelon! I will never be a farmer but I am grateful for the farmer’s gifts. All I can say is, with appreciation, Thank you.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hosta Happy

I am hosta happy. At last, a surviving, flowering hosta. This is not a criticism of the popular perrenial; this is a celebration. Of all the hostas we have planted, this is the only one that has made it to the flowering stage. How can that be? you might well ask. These are hardy plants. They tolerate shade, which we have a lot of in our backyard, though a little sun is welcome. Their leaves are their main attraction but they also flower with lily-like blossoms (appropriate as hostas are in the lily family). I see them all over the place. It seems that everyone can grow hostas.

We can, too, which is a fact not lost on the rabbits. They have been munching on our hostas for a few years, now. Each season the hostas send up leaves and as soon as the plants are full the rabbits take over. We see them bounding up to the hostas and suddenly the leaves are gone, whittled down to short, denuded stalks. I heard that fabric softener sheets keep mosquitoes away so I surrounded a couple of the plants with white, flapping sheets – a cocoon of sorts. It seemed to work, for a short while at least, and then it didn’t. I suspect the rabbits were just taking the measure of the sheets and, finding them non-threatening, continued on their hosta fiesta.

I rescued one tiny plant that was left lying on its side, abandoned for some unknowable reason, and stuck it on the back patio in a flowerpot that had lost its previous occupant. Frankly, I did not expect it to live. But then it did. And it flowered! The rabbits did no nibbling. The squirrels left it alone. The chipmunks bypassed it on their urgent scamperings. Good. Let them all ignore it. I pay attention to it because I so appreciate its survival. I may also buy a companion plant next spring and see if I can grow another undisturbed hosta. I love the wildlife in my backyard but I like my garden, too. Surely we can all find a way to co-exist.

Everything you ever wanted to know about hostas from the University of Minnesota Extension Service:

Monday, October 3, 2011


It has been several weeks since I last posted on my blog. Some of my readers and friends have asked if everything is okay. Thank you all for your concern. All is well though life got a little wild for a couple of months. And that leads me to…

Wildflowers! They appeared on the medians of some busy sections of one of my township’s major roads. At first the usually grassy strips looked neglected because they weren’t being mowed; there were actually signs telling workers not to mow the wildflowers though there weren’t any yet to be seen. Then they looked weedy because the plants were growing leafy and helter-skelter. But now they are glorious! Pink, yellow, orange, red, bursts of purple brighten up an ordinary functional road. Each time I pass I have to smile. There is a sense of freedom here that tickles me. It is unexpected beauty that can’t be ignored. It takes me from my runaway thoughts and helps me focus on the present, at least momentarily. What joy I feel in their wildness. It’s a feeling that remains with me as I continue through my day.

Flowers that grow on their own without cultivation are called wildflowers. Flowers that are natural to the environment where they are growing are called native, those brought in from other countries or environments are referred to as naturalized. They tend to be hardy, needing no help from gardeners. Sometimes they can be invasive and need to be controlled. Kudzu, anyone? But when they are contained and wanted, wildflowers can add something special to their surroundings. Like these do. I hope they last well into the fall when the leaves change color and add their own beauty to life.

So much to learn, so many plants to appreciate. This site has info and photos: