Sunday, December 11, 2011

Of Moles and Men and English Teachers Too

I usually try to come up with some sort of a theme to write a post about. Sometimes it requires the reader to work hard to make the connection as all they see is a bunch of photos; some of the time they might even wonder why someone would have even wasted the effort to aim the camera and push the shutter. It's just me attempting to be creative.

This morning was a cold one (23 F at 8am) and when I stepped out in the backyard with the dog I could see the moles had been extra busy overnight. Maybe they need to dig faster to keep warm. They better hurry because the ground will be frozen soon. Now you may not notice this but if you look hard in the photo above you can see the earth has been disturbed where the moles are tunneling. The dog can always smell they have been around.

If you are following my quilt blog you might have noticed that this week's block was called Grapes of Wrath. I guess that is what has inspired my literary connections for this weekend.

"Two paths diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not take them both..." Robert Frost had other meaning for his words but that piece came into mind as I noticed these two paths diverging in my woods this morning. I have had a number of sightings of two bucks in my backyard in the past few weeks. On Wednesday they were browsing on bushes in the woods quite near the house but it was a dismal day and the photo I tried to take did not come out well at all. The photo above shows deer A took the left path while deer B chose the right path. Frankly I wish they'd just purchase a one way ticket and take the path down the driveway and out of my yard altogether.

Given it was a cold morning my men made brunch and decided to include a good serving of grits to stick the ribs together.

And finally in my series of "the intention was there but the photographer couldn't quite carry through on the idea" is my photo of an exciting visitor to the back yard last week. It was a glorious sighting of a pileated woodpecker. They are much larger than the woodpeckers we usually see in the trees out back. Known as very shy birds they were the inspiration for the Woody Woodpecker character.

The bird baths have been turned over for a few weeks now and I feel badly for my bird friends. It must be time to install the bird spa that I got last December. Since we put it on the railing of the deck it might entice the birds closer so they are easier to see than this one shown above in the black walnut tree. Of course, any visiting woodpeckers would need to understand our hospitality in terms of the deck is only that they use the bird bath. Any pecking they need to do can be satisfied on the many trees out back.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday this isn't!

Some blogs I have visited in the past participate in Wordless Wednesday when the idea is to post a photo that needs no words of explanation. But this isn't Wednesday, it's Tuesday. So how about I institute "Ticked off Tuesday" when the notion is to show something that has me really ticked off!

This is the sight that greeted me this morning when I opened the garage door to take the dog out.
There have been more deer than usual around this season and I have seen them browsing in my side garden during daylight hours which is unusual. But this! This means they are on the driveway right next to the house. I leave the outside lights on at night for security purposes and not for the equivalent of dinner by candlelight for the deer.

When I first saw the destruction I thought I would just pick up the plants and poke them back in and smooth down the soil. But now that a few hours have elapsed and I am more ticked off I don't think that is what I'll do after all.

I'll have to ponder my next move.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another tale from the compost bin

Behold, we have a new compost bin. Last year sometime we had a storm with winds that broke limbs off the trees. One branch landed on the lid of the compost bin and made a hole in it (see photo below). For months and months we just carried on with the bin in that condition. After all this would allow some moisture into the bin as we had not always been good about remembering to keep the contents moist and that was slowing down the process.

But the downside of the hole was that chipmunks or squirrels would get in and choose some tasty morsel to eat from the array of kitchen vegetable scraps and the like. They would drag it out and sit on the lid and have their picnic. The next morning our dog, the tracking labrador, would go straight to the bin area to sniff out who had been there overnight. Despite the fence we had erected to keep him away, he would thrust his head through the fence and attempt to rescue the tidbits left by the picnic party. A few weeks ago after one colorful throwup on the driveway ten minutes after he had visited the compost bin zone I decided I had had enough. Despite it being well into fall I headed out to the stores to see if I could buy a new bin. And I did find one.

Here you can see portions of the disgraced old bin. I delegated the chore of putting together the new bin and emptying the contents of the old bin into the new bin and headed out to my quilt group sewing bee. No sooner had I arrived than there was a call on the cellphone from my son to tell of the treasure he had found at the very bottom of the compost bin.

Yes, the lost sink stopper! For a number of months I had been wondering what could have happened to the sink stopper for the second kitchen sink. There have been a variety of people through my kitchen in the past several months and I thought someone had carefully put it away for me and I really must take the time to search for it. But all my quick searches had come up with nothing. Until Saturday.

Now, you'd think that having found this treasure it would have been triumphantly carried inside, cleaned and returned to it's rightful place wouldn't you. But when I got home after dark and asked where it was I got a vague reply; "it might be in the wheelbarrow in the garage or it might still be outside". So this morning I had a hunt and yes, there it was, waiting quietly in the piles of leaves on the ground to be found for the second time.

We decided to locate the new bin outside the area that the dog goes (he has an "invisible fence") to make it much less possible for him to browse who has been visiting the bin overnight. Here you can see it is close to the bigger compost area where I dump the big loads of leaves and plant materials. The open pile takes much longer to break down. I am trying a new system - I have a fenced enclosure divided in half. One year I will fill one half and then leave it to "cook" while the next year I fill the other half.

So there is plenty of material to create new "tales from the compost bin". And in the meantime, as you can see, I have a lot more raking and gathering of leaves to do before the winter weather settles in.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Changing time(s)

I am maybe trying too hard to find a common denominator in photos and cobble together a posting. But I'll give it a try.

The Halloween basket above is a sign of the changing times that mean we had only two rings of the doorbell on Halloween bringing us a total of six "trick or treat" visitors. A few years back I decided to add decorated pencils to my treat basket to accommodate the children who might not want all that candy. My sons scoffed at me, but you know what?, the children take the pencils. This year all six of my visitors took a pencil and a piece of candy. The leftover pencils I can save for next year but the leftover candy? I was just pleased I had not bought the Costco size bag.

This was a pretty, misty scene as I was opening the blinds on the morning of November 7. We have had so much rain and wind that the fall colors have not been as spectacular this year as in past years.

With the end of daylight savings last weekend came the realization that the evening walk with the black dog might not be as safe as it is in the summertime. While browsing in the L.L Bean store we came across this mini lantern that we thought we'd try hanging from the dog's collar. Thus he will be more visible to traffic when we are walking after dark.

He does not seem to notice the light even though we have it set to flash as that uses less battery and is also more of an attention getter. It does take a lot more organizing to go out for the evening walk now. Getting the harness and the light on the dog is the first challenge. Then, since it is quite a lot cooler as well as dark, I have to kit up with hat, gloves and coat, then stuff the pockets with the baggie, keys, phone and remember to grab the flashlight as I set out.

Oh yes, times have changed.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

And on Sunday; textures

Remember those flowers on Friday? Now see how the frost outlines them.

With no color retouching, see this view looking down onto the copper roof of the bay window. I liked the pattern the frost has made on the copper and the contrast with that verdant, almost spring green grass. It had to do with the early sun I'm thinking.

No texture here, just a dog returning home from his walk but you can see the bright colors of my chrysanthemums behind this pair of walkers.

Followed by the Saturday white stuff

Throughout the week there had been a variety of weather forecasts. By Saturday, late morning, what had started as rain changed to big fat heavy snow flakes. As you can see, there are still autumn leaves on the trees and if you look carefully on the left side, next to the garden bench, the pot with white busy lizzies (impatiens) still blooming away despite the pruning the deer gave them a few weeks back.

The snow was enough to settle and see for the balance of the afternoon on this roof which is on the shadiest side of the house.

Out on the deck, the summer tomato plants, which have really taken a beating this year, had an accumulation of snow in the pots and yes, ice on the deck in front of them.

All sorts of records were set with this storm.

First came the Friday cleanup

We have had an interesting progression of weather these past three days so I thought I would share some images with you.

Friday I had intended to go to a quilt bee but when the day dawned clear and sunny and I saw just how many leaves were littering the grass out back I thought I better change my plan and try and clean up some of the leaves so the sun could reach the grass and dry it out just a little. After three hours of raking, scooping and dumping into the compost pile I realized I was not going to get to the quilt bee at all. The deer have eaten a lot more than they usually do this year in this part of my garden. It is a pity they don't eat fallen leaves as there was a veritable banquet.

I spied this family heading quick smart towards checkin for a flight south.

This shot is taken in a spot that I often use so I have a record of what it looks like at different times of the year. Watch how these flowers change.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A pretty fall day

is a perfect reason to go out and about and enjoy the display that Mother nature has created. The day coincided with a two day studio tour of our local group of artists. I went to visit some of the studios and came home with some very special cards and a giclee print from one of my favorite artists in this group. This was the roadside display to alert passers by to the Atelier where several artists have their studios. I walked by yesterday afternoon with the dog and the parking lot was full. Today I was there twice and the place was humming with visitors so I am sure the artists here will be very tired by the end of the day but also very happy with the number of visitors who came to meet and mingle with them and to enjoy the art they create.

The next venue I visited was our local library where several more artists were set up. As I came back to my car I noticed that nature had her own special show going on. The sky was a gorgeous shade of blue and there were several jet trails across the blue making for a spectacular view when contrasted with the fall colors of the trees below. Of course I did not have my camera with me but I was inspired enough to make a quick trip back home to pick up the camera. Once back in the parking lot I had to try and figure out how to avoid the intrusion of vehicles on my fall scene and of course by now the jet trails had changed. But, above, is my resulting shot - it does not nearly capture the glorious shades that the trees currently wear but I am inspired to keep trying because of my association with the artists group.

As I turned into my own street I noticed this tree looking pretty darn gorgeous.

And the I turned into my own driveway and saw this combination of the blues of the summer ageratum contrasting with the silvery lavender bush and the orange of the chrysanthemums.

This is what I could have been doing had I stayed home all afternoon - doing fall yard work. I spent a hour raking leaves in this area. They all had to be raked up and put in the compost heap.

Here is what happens to the compost the next year. I added a few trowels worth of compost ot this pot when I put the petunias in at the beginning of summer. Two pots sprouted some interesting plants - I pulled them out of one pot but my curiosity allowed me to leave the renegades in this pot. And look what they turned out to be. Some sort of pepper plant. If anyone can identify this pepper please do leave me a comment!

Here we have another planting that owes much to the compost heap. The blue petunias were planted but the blue ageratum and the pink petunias along with some of the pink impatiens in the background are all a happy surprise courtesy of the compost heap.

Obviously, my compost heap is not working quite as well as it should - the heap should build up enough heat to discourage seeds from growing. But I enjoy such happy surprises in my garden.

I hope you enjoyed my pretty fall day.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Change of Scenery

It has been a few weeks since I posted and although I kept thinking "oh, I could write about..." somehow I did not actually get around to doing anything about it.

But last week I went on a four day trip to Deal Island on the Chesapeake Bay and I thought you might like to see some photos from that trip.

The purpose of the trip was strictly a quilting retreat and with the way the weather was (raining and stormy) for most of the time it was just as well.

We stayed at Pieceful Cottage close to the very end of the island.

There was a lot of rain but when I went upstairs late in the afternoon on Friday to my delight I saw a beautiful complete rainbow out the bedroom window. I alerted everyone else to come see and then it occurred to me I could be taking a photo. In the time it took to go back downstairs and find my camera the best of the rainbow was gone - one of my friends took a photo that showed the complete arc but I was only in time to get this section. The difference in coloration between inside the rainbow and the outside of the rainbow was a reminder of the wonders of nature.

I was fascinated by the tree frogs that clustered all day long on the front of the cottage either side of the front door. Our guess was that they were there to feast on the many bugs that are attracted to the area when the lights are on at night. The frogs continued to sit there all day and I was checking on them frequently.

On Friday night someone looked out the window at dusk and saw a deer. I grabbed my camera and went to the front door but opening the door scared the deer off. But certainly this sunset was a much more thrilling sight to see.

The small harbor is a working harbor. Fishermen go out from here to catch crabs and likely other fish as well but with the piles of crabbing baskets we saw we know that is what they catch in certain seasons.

Deal Island holds an annual Skipjack race on Labor Day. Skipjacks are a traditional working boat from the Chesapeake Bay and here is an example on the left of the photo. But the vessel in the right foreground is a more common sight.

These boats had not gone out on Saturday morning.

And here we see one lone sailor setting off out through the breakwater in his small dinghy.

We kept hoping to find some beach, but this, folks, is it. So in conclusion, you do not go to Deal Island for the beach.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Enough already Hughie!

I have been trying to gather pretty garden or critter photos for a posting for several days. But today I abandoned that idea as we have been inundated by rain. Reports of the rainfall today vary from 4" to 6" or more within my local three mile surroundings and the rain is expected to continue through the night. While some readers may think this is not unusual this is very dramatic for this area.

The rain turns the front walk into a swiftly flowing creek.

While out back there is a veritable waterfall over the edge of the garden planter box where my only remaining viable tomato plants are.

If you click on this photo what appears to be walkways is actually flooding water.

This is a shot that I usually take with snow piled up on the railing. But not today! The clay colored rain in the road gutters is coming from the house construction site further up the road.

And my title? When we lived in Australia I heard the saying "send 'er down Hughie" which is a good thing to say as it is usually heard when rain finally arrives in an area that has had no rain for months or maybe years.

In the past few weeks we have had a hail storm that all but destroyed my tomato plants in pots on the deck. Then came the earthquake. Followed by Hurricane Irene. And now today's deluge which I think is courtesy of Hurricane Lee.

So enough already Hughie!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Can you take yet another critter?

I seem to be on a theme here although it was not intentional.

This morning as the dog and I were returning from a walk midmorning I noticed this critter on the front lawn quite near the curb and heading towards the road. It has been a number of years (perhaps five or more) since I have seen a box turtle in our yard. I'm not sure if it could be the same one or not. In the 2000 - 2004 period we would see a box turtle perhaps two or three times in a year and usually in the back yard area.

When I checked thirty minutes later there was no sign of the turtle so I hope it did cross the road and find someplace safe to go.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Introducing the newest critter

Here we can see the most recent critter to be graced with a name in my garden - meet TT (that would be short for Tomato Taker). Over the past couple of days I had been noticing a small pile of what looked to be tomato skins left on the deck railing. And in the early evening today I happened to look out at just the right time to see TT. So I made a mad dash for the camera and then took a chance and took the photo through the glass door so as not to disturb the little rascal at dinner.

Here is TT praying after a good meal that another will be available next time.

And here we see the remains. Not only is there tomato skins but also, well, you can see the damp patch.

What to do? You can see the next meal hanging right there for the taking in the above photo. And tomorrow the forecast is for strong thunderstorms with gusty winds. So the chances of the plant surviving are, well, reasonable if you remember my precautions. But for the chipmunk surviving? No, I would not do anything to harm the little critter. But I might just clear away all the remains and spray some nasty smelling liquid in the area.

You might recall reading about the rhubarb rascal. Let me tell you, that critter is still around and still eating.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Natural events

We have had an unusual afternoon and I needed to abandon my plan for an outing. Instead I was sitting out on the deck having a much needed restorative cup of tea and watching the birds in my garden. It finally occurred to me to go and get my camera and see if I could, at last, get a photo to post to show the hummingbirds coming to my feeder. Here you might have to click (I think it is a left click which will enlarge the photo for you) on the photo to find the bird just to the left of the feeder.

Look carefully and in this shot the bird is about to dip it's beak and get the reward. I did confirm my earlier sightings and I have three hummingbirds regularly visiting my feeder. One seems to come alone. But there are two who are very territorial who spend more time chasing each other away than they do actually getting the sugar water.

Before the hummingbirds I had been watching this yellow finch having a wonderful time on the coneflower. If you look carefully at this photo there are two finches. The upper one was easily feeding there for more than five minutes. However, the flower was some distance from where I was sitting on the deck so it was not easy for my little camera to get a good photo to show you.

And what caused me to have to abandon my plan for the afternoon? Well, the earth shook. Despite my disbelief it really was an earthquake and they are saying about 5.9 so I absolutely did feel it. I thought sitting outside for a while might be safer than staying indoors. But now here I am sitting inside again to bring you the latest news of nature from my garden.