Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween and Spiders

Halloween and Spiders

Halloween is here again. Houses are decorated with witches, pumpkins, ghosts and goblins. And, of course, with spider webs. I coated our front bushes with white webs and put up wire webs on the garage doors. It’s fun to decorate for the holiday.

But Mother Nature outdid all the webs in the neighborhood. A spider worked its way down from the roof of our garage and spun a magnificent web that made my attempts laughable. It anchored the bottom of the web on a bush and then sat in the middle waiting around for a meal to be caught. 

Spider webs are well constructed. The spider has a plan. It mixes non-sticky threads with sticky ones in a symmetrical design. And it does it fairly quickly for such complexity. A spider might be small but don’t diminish its capabilities: it has spider smarts.

The more I observe nature, the more I realize that everything has intelligence. Plants do. Insects do. Animals and birds are pretty darn smart. It may differ from how we think but it is functional for how to survive. If we diminish anything in nature we lessen our own understanding of life.

So on this spooky holiday, when we say WOOOOO, let’s remember it is more than being scary, it is being observant.

A look at web-making:
Get to know spiders:

Sunday, September 24, 2017

More Deer

More Deer

I saw another deer, well, three actually. This time they were healthy and strong unlike the poor deer that wandered into my backyard last time. They ambled about hardly paying any attention to the humans mesmerized by their presence. I wondered what they were finding to eat. Did they like the tiny Rose of Sharon bushes that were trying to get started at the foot of the maple tree? Were they munching on the wild strawberry plants that tend to spread wherever they can?

They wandered through the hedges into one neighbor’s yard, then moved to another. Then they moved on, to where I don’t know. I think it was to the woods a couple of blocks away behind the elementary school. But to get there, they would have to cross a busy road and several streets. Surely someone must see them on the way.  I try to be on the lookout for wandering deer but they always pop up as a surprise.

Perhaps it’s time to put up a deer crossing sign next to the school crossing sign. I want to protect any being, human or otherwise. But deer overpopulation is becoming a problem. The New York Times reported on Saturday that New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation has a deer sterilization program in the works in Staten Island. Will that take care of the problem? It takes time and will the deer population continue to grow in the interim? Here are some things to think about in this regard, researched by Koryos: 

Have any thoughts on the issue?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Young Hungry Deer

Young Hungry Deer

We live on a fairly ordinary street, nature-wise. The animals we mostly see in our backyard are squirrels, chipmunks, a groundhog here and there or an unexpected skunk. The birds are more varied with a variety of finches, blue jays, cardinals, sparrows, a woodpecker every now and then. The usual suburban mixture though sometimes we get a surprise.

Earlier this year we saw some adult deer making their way in back of our houses on their way to, well, who knows where. They were in a group of five and looked healthy. This morning we had a deer walk into our yard and slowly make its way into the garden behind our dining room.  

Most of the time when I see a deer, I am charmed by its understated beauty but this time I gaped at it for another reason; it was young, a fawn on its own, and it seemed malnourished. Its bones were visible along its hide. The mother in me wanted to whip up a nourishing breakfast but I know that feeding a fawn is not the good for the animal. It was moot anyway, as our visitor inspected the hydrangea bush just beyond the window, moved along the back of the house, and was gone.

So much of our natural habitat is being shifted into living quarters for humans. There are deer crossing signs on many roads now, with occasional duck or turtle crossing warnings.
It would be great if animals and people could live side-by-side peacefully. It would be terrific if we humans could do that too, letting each other live and thrive and express ourselves with respect and tolerance. May none of us be hungry for the basics of a good life.

Facts about whitetail deer:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tigers, Tigers Everywhere!

Tigers, Tigers Everywhere!

Look at all the tigers! Not the animals – the tiger lilies. They seem to be everywhere, blooming in attention-catching orange. The house on the corner has a yearly display. Gardens up and down the street, around the corner, and through the neighborhood have bursts of orange that are hard to ignore.

I love to anticipate the arrival of my tigers. They are full and beautiful. Best of all, they keep coming back! Sometimes, however, they can take over, spreading into places where other flowers need their own space. A small price to pay, I think, for the beauty they offer.

Life is like a garden, isn’t it? Some of what we encounter is short term, like annuals, while some, like perennials, is lasting. Both kinds of flowers add to the joy and diversity of the garden, even as our varied experiences help us to appreciate the range and complexity of our existence.  

A quick review of plants in general:

Tiger Lily info:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Adaptable Geese

Adaptable Geese

It was a rainy day. We were just coming home from a round of errands, wondering what the rest of the day would bring, when we saw a family of geese strolling across the wet street. The goose (female), gander (male) and goslings (babies) were completely at ease in the middle of the road. Fortunately, it was a side road and not too busy. We turned to the right, another car edged toward the left, and the goose family slowly, slowly moved toward the curb.

Geese are no strangers to this area. We see lots of them flying in vee formation on their way south. Sometimes they land by a pond or a grass field for a rest. But more of them seem to be making their homes locally now. There are plenty of lakes and streams around to keep them happy and the temperatures generally are not too frigid. But this is new for the Canadian geese that traditionally have flown further south.

Times and temperatures change. The geese, which were recently endangered, are now flourishing thanks to wildlife agencies. And many have made their peace with new environments. They are adaptable.

It’s something we can think about. When nature changes, it’s not only the geese that must adapt. Temperatures are rising. The ocean is heating up and heading inland, threatening some shore communities and islands. Some areas are becoming parched and fires are more common and difficult to control. Extreme weather patterns are cropping up.  

Can we change our habits to help minimize the effect of global climate change? Can we recognize the importance of our behavior on nature? Will we need to be as adaptable as Canadian geese?

Why do some geese stay?

Extreme weather changes:

Observing mild weather:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Azalea Beauty

Azalea Beauty

I love the azalea bushes in front of our house. Each morning they greet me with a wild, pink beauty that starts my day off with a gasp of pleasure. Within a week of hinting at flowers, the buds have expressed their full-blossomed glorious nature. There are so many flowers now, the branches keep bending with the weight.

Azaleas are early-flowering plants, which makes them welcome after a season laden with cold, wind, now-and-then snow, and a bunch of rain. They are part of the rhododendron family. Rhododendron bushes are also full of exuberance and color. 

Sometimes we all need a burst of liveliness. Like plants, life has its seasons of quiet and renewal intermingled with growth and high spirits. Summer is coming and many more colorful plants will be available for our viewing pleasure but I know I will always have a fond spot for the reminder of life’s seasons from beautiful azaleas.

Caring for azaleas:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Orchids in Their Own Time

Orchids in Their Own Time

I always thought that orchids were too hard to grow so I never tried. Two years ago I was given a lovely flowering orchid plant. The flowers eventually died off but I continued to water the leaves. As long as they were green I was happy. I sat it on my kitchen windowsill and let it be. This spring I started to see buds and then flowers again. I was excited to see two, then three flowers open up. I complimented the plant on its beauty. The next day two more buds opened into delicate flowers. Each morning another flower appeared. There are twelve flowers currently on the plant, amazing me whenever I look at them.

I didn’t do anything special to help the orchid to flower but then I guess I didn’t do anything to hinder it from expressing itself either. Water and appreciation seemed to do the trick. The plant expressed itself just beautifully.

I know we have the inclination to try to control most things in our lives, and to do it now, but I think that sometimes all we need to do is take a deep breath and wait. It’s sort of like baking. Each ingredient blends with the others while in the oven to create something new. As the pan cools, the waiting helps us to anticipate what we have before us and to appreciate its promise. Brownies or orchids - both brings smiles and delight. 

Easy orchid-care tips:

Everything about growing orchids at home:

Orchid myths:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Daffodils and Spring


Daffodils and Spring

The mini daffodils were peeking out of the earth in our backyard, teasing the big daffies beside them to open up and greet the day. They are always a sweet next reminder after the crocuses that Spring is peeking through the end of Winter. The temperature was warmer and so it was easy to forget that sometimes Winter plays tricks on us.

The mini daffies in this tiny jar are not from my garden, though. They were given to me by a friend as a remembrance of my sister who passed away last year. It was my sister’s birthday. My friend knew how close we were and wanted to honor her and our relationship. It was a small momento but a compassionate one. I put it on my counter and smiled each time I passed by.

Later in the week the temperature cooled down and Winter came back. The minis and the regular daffodils outside are wilting on their stems. Tonight the weather prediction is for 8 – 1- inches of snow! All the daffies will be covered in white. I don’t know if they will be around when the snow melts but that’s okay, they’ll be back next year; they have a lasting power.

The minis in the jar lasted most of the week. They, too, have a lasting power, in my memory. Friendships come and go and some hang around regardless of the different seasons of life. I am grateful for my perennial garden that is there for me year after year, sharing its bounty, and I value my friendships that flower so beautifully in my heart.

Planting and caring for mini-daffodils:

Monday, March 6, 2017

Squirrels - Enough Already!

Squirrels - Enough Already!

I realize that I have written about squirrels several times before but they keep presenting new things to address. This time it’s cars. Yes, cars. A squirrel has been squatting in our car engines, munching on the wires and causing quite a bit of damage. Both our cars, my husband’s and mine, have been victims over the last couple of years. There is nothing like rushing out in the morning, getting into the car, going to start the engine and nothing happens. No lights are on showing an electrical problem. Flip the hood and there is the evidence – disconnected wires, tooth gouges on the brake fluid reservoir cap and even dried grass and branches formed into a cozy nest.

Our cars have been towed to the service station. They were repaired and returned in good working order. But squirrels are persistent. One car was damaged, fixed, and a day later was back in the shop! When we tell others about our squirrel problems, more often than not we hear of other stories about the damage these critters have done.

So now we are on a squirrel discouragement program, asking around for natural squirrel repelling options. We were told that bird feeders are great attractions for squirrels. As we have several in our backyard, we are experimenting with not feeding the birds, at least for a while, to see if that keeps the squirrels away. We heard – and read – that cayenne pepper is a deterrent but when we sprinkled it under the feeders to test out the theory, the squirrels just ignored it and continued eating the seeds that had dropped to the ground. Maybe they like a spicy meal.

We placed net containers with mothballs under the cars and under the hoods. That smell should drive anything away though we aren’t certain it bothers you-know-who. We bought Squirrel Stopper, a spray meant to keep squirrels away from plants. It contains mint oil, rosemary oil, rotten whole egg solids, and vinegar among other natural ingredients, which was sprayed in the engine compartment to repel them. Does it? There is some evidence that the area has again been entered and perhaps some bite marks evident though not damaging. It almost sounds edible.

And now we’re bringing in the heavy-duty stuff, applying fox urine powder. If I were a squirrel and caught a whiff of this I would definitely keep away. Foxes are not squirrels’ friends.

I appreciate all the help we’ve been getting. I just hope one of the suggestions works. I don’t want to hurt the squirrels; I am a believer in every being having the right to exist. But come on, what about Live and Let live? Hear that, squirrels? Keep your distance and we can all be happy.

Some suggestions:

More suggestions and some cautions:

Monday, February 27, 2017

Crocus Alert!

Crocus Alert!

It is still winter but the crocuses know what is coming and they want to be first to celebrate. They pop out in lovely bloom sometimes pushing through a dusting of snow, though this week has been a weather surprise, for them I suspect as well as for us. We have been having 70 degree days in February!

I wrote about a similar uptick in temperature in 2012. The weather seems to be changing and not just seasonally. There is evidence of a rise in temperature in many directions; sea levels are rising, glaciers are retreating, extreme weather events are happening more frequently. There have always been shifts in temperature but this seems to be man-influenced. The atmospheric carbon dioxide is the highest it has ever been, keeping in the earth’s heat.

It’s hard to deny the evidence though some people do try to. I think it’s better to work with science than to deny it. Our planet is such a beautiful place, I hope we can respect it and protect it. Soon many flowers will bloom and remind us of the seasons ahead. Right now, however, it’s the crocuses’ job to alert us to Earth’s offerings and encourage us to value what wonders we have.

Lots of crocus info on planting and care:

Climate change evidence:

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: