Sights and sounds at the VOA

I’ve had a goal to do more short video on my blog. I don’t know if you’ve tried to use video, and maybe I’m missing the shortcuts, but it seems there are a lot of steps involved:
1. Take the video
2. Upload or download (I can never figure out which is what) the video to my computer.
3. Open iMovie and start a new “event.”
4. Import the movie.
5. Start a new “project.”
6. Edit the movie by selecting segments, or clipping off bad ends, or whatever I can do with iMovie (which at this point isn’t all that much.)
7. Finalize the movie.
8. Share the movie (there is an option to share it directly to YouTube, but that didn’t seem to work for me so I exported it to my computer.)
9. Go to YouTube and download or upload (still haven’t got it) the movie.
10.Copy the movie’s URL and paste it into the “text” page of the WordPress new post editor.

Am I missing something? I suspect if I didn’t want to edit the movie first this process could be significantly shortcut. But I’m going to have to get a whole lot better at planning and shooting videos for that to happen.

I know I talked about this before, but I’m trying again. It’s one of those things that I think if I just do it enough times it will become second nature to me. What do you think?

Also, I vaguely remember seeing a post from WordPress about a new way of adding video that works better. I can’t find it now. I know I saved the email for a while, but I suspect it went the way of the recycle bin on a recent purge in an attempt to get my inbox once again below 50 messages.

That was just the lengthy introduction. Here’s the post.

It was a beautiful breezy day at the VOA this morning. I walk by these little chiming spoons every time I go there. I think it would be lovely to have lots of silverware chimes such as these hanging from the limbs of my trees. Not sure Mark will go for it.

This group of ducks caught my eye. I think they are mallards, but they don’t look quite right, so I’m wondering if they are a group of juvenile mallards. I also don’t know what they’re doing.

Are they practicing their swimming? Having a party? Diving for coins? You tell me.

I was going to show you photos of wildflowers from Leo’s Garden, but in the interest of time, and a desire to have an easy post for another day, (you didn’t hear that from me), I’ll end it here.

It’s still a beautiful day here. I hope you have nice weather to enjoy where you are.


The amazing planet earth

Downed red bud tree – March 2012

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.

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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.

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 In March of this year, this is what was left of a Cleveland Pear tree planted in memory of a individual named Walsh.

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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.

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In the beginning of June, the Walsh pear tree started showing signs of life.

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By the end of June, the Swamp White Oak had a lot of dense new growth.

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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.


Here’s the thing about deer

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.

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June 22 – volunteer sunflowers in my garden

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?

June 25 - morning

June 25 – morning

This morning I was greeted by sunflower stalks with leafless stems poking out.

June 25 - morning

June 25 – morning – deer track in garden

And it didn’t take a lot of detective work to figure out who did it.

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June 25 – afternoon

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.


First fawn sighting

Today I saw a fawn for the first time this year.

I had been outside taking photographs for a what’s-blooming-now post. I was thinking about the fact that I hadn’t seen any fawns yet and I was feeling kind of sad thinking that maybe our doe wouldn’t be back.

I came inside and started working with my photos on my computer when out of the corner of my eye I saw an animal run through our front yard and across the drive into the woods where he or she stopped. A fawn! My next move is always to look for the doe who I saw in our yard on this side of the drive.

Oh no. A truck was coming. The doe was clearly distressed, but personal fear overtook her maternal instinct and she ran back from the road. I was terrified the fawn would follow and possibly get hit by the truck. But the story had a happy ending. After the truck left the doe came back and made it across the drive. I don’t know what kind of trouble that fawn might be in, however.

I don’t think this is the same doe we’ve had in the past. She seems younger and isn’t limping. I wonder if she is one of the fawns we’ve seen returning to a childhood playground.

I love watching the fawns.

Unfortunately, the best I could do with a photo is this one of the doe, or the doe’s nose, actually.

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So I’ll be on the hunt with my camera to capture the little fawn. It makes for good sport in the long days of summer.

And because I was fooling around with my camera and watching the fawn’s drama, I’m out of time. The other blooming post will have to wait.

Life goes on.


One for my bird list – the blue-gray gnatcatcher

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.

Photo from The Birds are Back post October 11, 2012.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


If the humans left

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.

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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.

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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.

Bird in garage

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.


What a difference two weeks makes and the tale of a tree

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.

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March 30

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April 10

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April 15

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.

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April 10, 2013

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Five days later

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Meanwhile, a robin kept watch.

“And peach pie too,” I added, “I can’t wait.”


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