It’s been a long, cold winter here. But the month of March always gives me hope for spring. And this year is no different. Even though white patches of snow still dot the ground, I know winter’s days are numbered.
Yesterday I saw squirrels running through the woods hopping from limb to limb in a kind of feverish ecstasy that enters all of our souls to one degree or another with the coming of spring.
Our first robin is back. (A quick google search will tell you that some of the robins never leave. We, however, have not seen one solitary robin at our feeders the entire winter until the past few days. You can judge for yourself.)
And a red-winged blackbird has been visiting our feeders. (Websites like the Cornell lab of Ornithology will tell you that these birds are here year-round. It also states, “In the North, their early arrival and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.” Again, you can judge for yourself.)
Spring is coming. I can see it in the birds, and feel it in the air.
This planet we’re on and the plant life on it never fail to amaze me. Right now a storm just kicked up outside my study window where I sit at my desk. The rain is pouring, tree limbs are moving violently, thunder is booming, and my little dog Arthur is hiding behind the recliner shaking. I’ll have to go get his Thunder Shirt.
Storms amaze me. But that isn’t what this blog is about, just a timely coincidence.
I want to talk about new growth. New life.
You might remember last spring when I came home to find our red bud tree in the back yard lying down on the ground in full bloom, like a carelessly tossed aside bouquet.
Mark went out and cut it off at the ground. I brought in a few boughs for a centerpiece, a floral arrangement to mourn the loss of this herald of spring.
And if you’ve followed my blog at all, you probably know I like to take Arthur for walks at the Voice of America park where I often take photos of the birds that frequent the lake and surrounding meadowland. What you don’t know is that they have had a problem with beavers there in recent years. Even if you’ve never seen the results of a beaver’s work on a small tree, you will know right away if you ever do.
In March of this year, this is what was left of a Cleveland Pear tree planted in memory of a individual named Walsh.
And this is what was left of a Swamp White Oak in memory of Dan Fleming.
I thought the trees were goners.
But here’s the amazing part.
In the beginning of June, the Walsh pear tree started showing signs of life.
By the end of June, the Swamp White Oak had a lot of dense new growth.
And finally, our red bud tree is growing again. It looks like a little bush beside the chairs.
I think this is amazing.
What are we to make of it?
Well, some might say, that’s no big deal. The trees have an extensive root system that stayed alive even in the absence of limbs and leaves.
Yes! My point exactly.
It is all underground. I can’t see any of it. There is life pulsing beneath the earth, within the soil. Isn’t that amazing?
This is an incredible beautiful bountiful planet.
Don’t miss it it on your short stay here.
If you’ve kept up with my blog at all over the couple of years I’ve been cluttering up the internet with minutia, you already know that I love deer. I have a whole page devoted to my deer posts, I spend a lot of time running for my camera and trying to capture the image of these beautiful creatures in a digital file.
However, if you’ve been keeping up, you also know I love my gardens, and rejoice in the surprises they offer me, like the recent volunteer sunflowers, for example.
We’ve never been able to grow sunflowers here before because of the critters. I’ve been running outside with my camera and shooting the progress of the sole sunflower bloom so far.
Can you guess where this post is headed?
This morning I was greeted by sunflower stalks with leafless stems poking out.
And it didn’t take a lot of detective work to figure out who did it.
I think I should just make this point perfectly clear to the four-legged creatures dining in our garden — you’re not the only ones who like the sunflowers. Leave something for the rest of us.
So far so good. The buds and blooms are still intact.
However, I am not going to be a happy camper if I wake up one morning to find them missing.
My gardens are colorful and lush this time of year before the summer’s heat starts to wreck its havoc on the leaves and flowers.
The most striking things right now in my St. Francis Garden are the volunteers you see stretching up to the sky in the middle of this shot.
These sunflowers sprouted from seeds distributed by the birds and squirrels who frequented our bird feeder this winter. I suspect we’ve had these volunteers before and unwittingly yanked them as weeds in early spring. This year I allowed the little sprouts to stay out of curiosity.
The buds are forming. I’m very excited about these, especially considering the sunflower seeds I planted have never prevailed due to small creatures eating the seedlings.
These little annuals are visible in the bottom left corner of the above garden photo if you look hard enough. (Clicking on the photo helps). I don’t know their name and forgot to keep the tag.
I have high hopes for this Mandevilla on the trellis. They’re supposed to attract hummingbirds I’m told.
If you look down past the feet of the sunflowers, you might be able to spot these bright little daisies. I used to have three nice bunches of them along the stone steps through the garden, but the bird feeder placement had a detrimental effect on them.
These are the same daisies Mark and I planted at Annie’s grave, where Mom and Dad are now also buried. Since the cemetery is about an hour and a half north of here they bloom a little later. I will wait about a week or two and then make the trip to see them blooming on the gravesite.
At the bottom of the garden near the woods, these white astilbe are blooming. I think I need to plant more of these for next year. The other shade plants here—sweet woodruff, lilies of the valley, columbine, bleeding hearts—have all had their moment in the spotlight and are now done for this year.
We have a nice little patch of yellow Stella d’Oras blooming at the end of the garden before you get to the back yard.
I love the flowers on this variety, although the lighter cream or vanilla colored stella doras in our Angel Garden are my favorite. They have a lot of buds, but aren’t blooming quite yet.
You probably noticed the spot of color provided by these purple petunias. I added this hanging cone-shaped basket last year.
I’m trying to use more containers, but am not as vigilant as I might need to be to be successful at it. I rely heavily on Mother Nature in my perennial gardens.
I think these are verbena, but don’t hold me to it. You’d think I’d know not only the common names, but also the biological ones for my plants— but, no.
In the background you can see my biggest splash of color this month – the oak leaf hydrangeas.
They bloom all along the upper edge of the Angel Garden. We have our home’s original owners to thank for them.
Our daisies in the Angel Garden are doing quite well. This is the shorter variety like those we have in the St. Francis Garden. We also planted a taller version that haven’t started blooming yet. Initially we had those behind the shorter ones, but we transplanted them this season to the far end of the garden where they won’t be competing with the Stella d’Oras when they all bloom.
We put in a little patch of vanilla marigolds in an open area near the far edge of this garden. Some of them are doing fine, others not so much. You might notice an occasional orange or yellow one interspersed. Someone wasn’t watching the tags on the flowers very closely when we bought them.
Here is our little section of chameleon-ivy-infested liriope. Last year, or the one before, we dug these up and cleared this section of the ivy, but apparently not well enough. We will have to do it again. Most of the rest of the garden we worked on two times. I don’t think we’re going to see the end of the chameleon in our lifetime.
We have a few princess spirea bushes that are blooming now.
I love to run my fingers across the soft flowers. I think we must have had these somewhere when I was young, because it brings back an early memory.
I’ve taken my container-gardening to the deck. We always had the railing boxes, but I’ve added several other pots. I’m starting to appreciate all those articles I used to read about the joys of container gardens. But they do require constancy in their care. You can’t neglect them for weeks at a time and hope they’ll get by with an occasional rain shower.
This one is particularly demanding. I think it is some kind of rudebeka, so I assumed it would be low-maintenance. No so. It wants to be watered every day. And if you forget, it reminds you by completely wilting. At least it has the courtesy to revive in short order once given some water. I have a bad feeling about this one in light of the weekend trips on our calendar.
Container gardens can still present a surprise or two. Could these be more volunteer sunflowers?
What to do?
I planted a lot of red on the deck this year to encourage the hummingbirds to stop by. They don’t seem to be that crazy about the geraniums though.
Here’s another Mandevilla. I have to give it occasional haircuts at the top or it starts looking like it has a mohawk.
You can see why the hummingbirds like these.
Here’s a little gallery of the rest of the pots on our deck.
And finally, the little container I found under our deck and planted with red petunias sits on the table we got from Mom and Dad’s yard, and the glider Dad loved to sit in—just one more reminder for me of those I loved and lost.
I hope your world is filled with color. Send me links to posts about your flowers.
I’ve been noticing a couple of tiny birds in the two locust trees outside my study window. I think they may have an nest in our birdhouse that’s hanging there.
Heeding the advise of my bird-watching blogging friend, Patti, at A New Day Dawns, I tried to identify distinguishing characteristics. The small relatively nondescript birds always confound me. But today I was successful at identifying the blue-gray gnatcatcher, even if I didn’t get a good, clear, up close and personal shot. The little birds would not sit still for a moment.
The first thing I noticed other than its small size, was the white-striped tail. At first I wondered if it could be a baby mockingbird because of its size and its tail. Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies describes the blue-gray gnatcathcer as suggesting “a miniature Mockingbird.” Although I didn’t recognize it until I read it in Peterson’s, this little bird also has a distinctive white ring around its eye that you can see in this photo.
Peterson goes on to say that the its tail is “often cocked like a wren’s tail and flipped about.” Although Peterson doesn’t mention it, I thought that the beak was particularly long and slender.
Here is an action shot of the blue-gray gnatcatcher giving me the what-for. It had a worm in its mouth and I think it was trying to intimidate me away from its nest by making what could only have been considered a threatening noise and flapping its wings.
That wasn’t particularly effective coming from such a tiny mite. But I moved on anyway not wanting to intrude on a mother’s work of feeding her young.
This bird’s size makes it irresistible. It definitely has found a place near the top of my favorite birds list.
I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning watching a robin enjoy the hanging planter full of garden refuse that I left for the birds as a kind of discount store or bonanza.
We had already cleaned all the old dried leaves and winter garden refuse from the ground, and Mark covered it all with a rich, crisp layer of mulch, leaving slim pickins’ for nest-building birds.
I patted myself on the back. If I wouldn’t have created this hanging basket for them, what would the robins have done?
As I watched out the window, I noticed a rustling in the leaves near the top of a tree. A little squirrel emerged with a leaf-laden twig in its mouth and scampered across a few limbs, then up the trunk of a dead tree where I saw she was happily building a nest. It’s a dead ash tree, technically on our neighbor’s property. They plan to have their dead ash trees removed this year. I don’t believe there is anything I can do to save the squirrel, the nest, and any babies that arrive, beyond hoping that the tree-cutters won’t come too soon.
Yesterday I walked out into our garage and was startled by a small bird in there. I think it was a juvenile wren. One of the two garage doors was open, but the little guy couldn’t seem to find his way out. I spent the next hour or so trying to help him leave. I adjusted both garage doors to try to give him space above and below the door to leave. I moved the car out of the garage so it wouldn’t get in the way. I talked and chirped to the bird, showed him the way out, chased him around the garage with a broom to try to direct him out, and tried to catch him in a sheet.
At one point after I had gone back inside for a few minutes, I found two other wrens in the garage. They left immediately upon my return and my hopes that one of them was the little guy were soon dashed when I heard him chirping. But I was encouraged that I was not the only one trying to rescue the baby.
Eventually I was able to lower the window blind behind him, reach in and catch the little guy in my sheet-covered hand. I patted myself on the back for returning him to the wild.
What would he have done if I wasn’t here? I wondered.
If I wasn’t here at all, then maybe my house and garage wouldn’t be here either. And the natural progression of that kind of thinking led me to the question, What if all the humans left?
The birds would still be here. The robin would find nature-provided nesting materials all around.
The squirrels’ new home would not be in jeopardy.
And the little bird would never have found its way into a place it couldn’t leave.
When we were driving to Hocking Hills a few weeks ago, we passed an abandoned property on a country road. I first noticed the rusted, decaying car near the road. Then I saw the decrepit house further back in what was becoming woods. The rectangular property lines were clearly discernible where the neighboring properties, still being tended, ended and this abandoned property began, as if a surveyor had pounded in stakes at the corners and strung a wire around. The grass was long, trees and bushes were sprouting up throughout. The semi-hidden car and the house were falling apart in pieces on the ground. The earth was reclaiming its own.
I don’t know how long the abandoned property has stood there, but my guess is that it hasn’t been all that long in the whole scheme of things.
If the humans left, the earth would reclaim its own in short order most likely. And the birds, the squirrels, the deer and all the creatures would have their paradise without us.
Although we were walking beside fascinating geological features and cliffs that rose as walls around us on our way to Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills State Park, I often found myself gazing at Roots.
Over the years park authorities have incorporated human-man structures to assist the population in experiencing the wonder of the park’s features. This bridge is actually a series of free-standing, unconnected concrete steps with small gaps in between. It reminded me of Robert Jordan’s concept of “the ways” in the Wheel of Time series where characters got on and traveled through the dark without clear guidance or expectation of destination. A lot of bad stuff could happen in the ways, especially if you encountered traveling trollocs. I’m just glad we were traveling here in the light of day.
We took the low road. It’s a long way up to the rim trail.
It’s difficult to convey the immensity of the surrounding landscape. I was Enchanted with the green mossy growth on the walls.
The ferns growing out of the base of a tree looked like someplace you might find magical forest dwellers living.
And of course, the Water Runs Through It. Largely because these geological features were created by water dissolving way the more soluble minerals leaving behind the hard structures, like in Ash Cave.
The cave itself does not look overly impressive from a distance. It appears as a dark horizontal crevice in the face of the cliff.
Another human-made structure helped us get to The Main Event.
Some people think that this profile of a face in the rock is the Old Man. Not so. The old man was a recluse named Richard Row who made this cave his home in the 1800s. The face in the rock looks like something out of the time of Cleopatra to me. Do you see it?
It was fun to watch fearless Arthur boldly go . . .
and even cross A Bridge Too Far. Nothing seemed to deter the little guy out there. He was, however, afraid to jump off the bed at the cabin. It was a wee bit too high for his liking.
Inside Old Man’s Cave Richard Row clearly had A Room with a View.
The green mossy rocks transform the landscape into a Paradise Lost.
Without a doubt this cave was big enough for a whole clan and their cavebears.
Tomorrow I’ll show you the brick house, or was that the rock house?
I never know what I’m going to see next. I think the mallards that were checking out the yard last week are trying to capitalize on this find.
I’m pretty sure he’s up to no good.
My last post about spring was two weeks ago when I was Looking for Signs of Spring.
The tree with the swollen buds outside my kitchen door, is in full bloom. Last year this little tree only had one solitary flower. It’s interesting to note that I photographed and posted about that single bud on March 19th last year. We are nearly a month behind on spring this year. That’s the last time I pay attention to Punxsutawney Phil.
Last year on March 19th, I took a photo of the magical green veil as the leaves in woods begin to unfurl. I called it “an elusive green mist where fairies play.” I’ve been waiting and waiting to see it this year, and the mist has finally arrived. It is rushing forward into full-blown leaves. The trees are trying to make up for lost time.
Here’s a sad part of the story. Last year from my window view as I sat at my desk, this little tree was blooming brightly across the lane on our stretch of property there.
About a month ago, I was sitting here typing as I often am in the morning, and I heard and then saw about 5 or 6 township workers with chain saws working across the lane clearing things out. This wasn’t completely unexpected because the manager had stopped here last fall to talk to us about cutting down a big dead ash tree up on the hill. We own the majority of the hillside, but the township owns the top where there is a small pioneer cemetery that is overgrown for the most part. But as I sat and watched the workers, I saw a man come up to the little tree that was not yet in bloom but beginning to bud. “I hope he’s not going to cut that down,” I said to myself. And no sooner were the words out of my mouth than the deed was done. Some things just don’t have do-overs.
Mark was not a happy camper. He loves his trees.
As you may be able to see from the above photo, there was a LOT of honeysuckle over there.
The workers managed to decimate about half the dense growth over there before Mark and another neighbor put a halt to it, resulting in a half thick, half bare view across the way. We had them finish the removal of the honeysuckle from our property.
But Mark had them mark the small trees they were to leave standing. They had been removing the smaller diameter trees as well as chopping down the honeysuckle. The yellow tags around the trees indicate they are to be removed, the pink means they are to be left alone. Our neighbor had them completely block off his property with yellow tape. Now it looks like some kind of marriage of a crime scene with a used car lot across the lane.
After much to-do, several emails, and a township trustee meeting over there, the township will be replacing our blooming tree that they leveled with a comparable one. Mark marked the place for it so they could check on underground utilities.
Being something of opportunists, with the removal of all the undergrowth, Mark and I went out yesterday and bought then planted a peach tree shown above
and a cherry tree. They are both self-pollinating, which is an interesting idea if you stop and think about it. I’m thrilled about the cherry tree because we grew up with two cherry trees in our back yard. My mom made cherry jelly.
“You won’t be making cherry jelly with these,” Mark said. “We had trees like this at our last house and we never reaped a harvest.”
“I’m going to make cherry pie,” I said, undeterred.
“The birds got all the cherries,” Mark said. “You won’t get any.”
I can taste that cherry pie already.
Meanwhile, a robin kept watch.
“And peach pie too,” I added, “I can’t wait.”
Wednesday morning I was stumbling around the kitchen before I managed to ingest my daily dose of caffeine in the form of hot tea which isn’t nearly as potent as the caffeine I used to get in a day’s worth of coffee. Alas, another compromise as I have grown older.
I looked outside and saw a big bird in the trees. Over time I’ve gotten used to finding them amidst the camoflage of the tree branches. They look like a big blob interrupting the natural flow of the branches.
It was a red-tailed hawk.
Our bird feeders have been frequented this winter by a rather bold sharp-shinned hawk who likes to hunt there, but the larger red-tailed hawks don’t come around as much, and when they do, like some of the other more skittish birds, they tend to stay back and within the protection of the woods .
I recently read about the benefits of green smoothies from my blogging friend Marion at Figments of a Dutchess and have been trying them out all week. I poured my green smoothie made with an apple, pear, banana, and spinach, into a large glass and sat down at the table beside Mark. It was an April morning and for some reason the wood ducks we saw last year came to mind. “Do you think the wood ducks will be back this year?” I asked Mark. “I haven’t seen them yet.”
“I saw them yesterday,” Mark replied. Unlike me, Mark doesn’t rush to announce his nature observations to me or the world at large.
“I hope they come back again.”
From my lips to the universe. I looked outside and spotted the female wood duck perched on a sycamore branch.
She and I were both looking all around. I was looking for her mate. I didn’t know at first what she was looking for, but I found out later.
There he was. Just a few trees away, perched on the limb of another sycamore.
You’ll have to take my word for the next part because I wasn’t quick enough to catch a photo. This is not as easy as it looks.
The female duck went into the hole in the sycamore tree. I circled it for you. I was stunned to say the least and not certain. But then I saw a cascade of dried brown leaves shoot out of the hole and flutter down. Then again. I became hopeful. Like the chickadee I told you about earlier, the wood duck was apartment-hunting.
She poked her head out to check out the view from her front porch.
Meanwhile, her mate was waiting patiently.
And then not so patiently as he quacked at her, “Well, make up your mind, Mabel. Do you like it or not. I’m not going to stand here all day.”
She took one more good look around and then darted out of the hole and flew right past her mate who immediately took off and followed behind. Again, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
But that wasn’t the best part. Later in the day a movement through the woods caught my eye. It was a large black bird with striking white stripes on its wings sweeping through the trees. It landed on the trunk of a tall tree near the top and I saw the tell-tale red plummage on the top of its head. I enjoy all the birds I see from the smallest wren to the largest owl or blue-heron, but some birds really thrill me because of the rarity of their visits. And the pileated woodpecker is one. It moves quickly through the trees with a flash of white, landing here and then there. A true wonder to see.
Yet again, you’ll just have to take my word for it.