Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Visitors for the New Year

   One of Winter's highlights is the influx of migratory birds that come into the area for the season. Like old friends you haven't seen in ages, it always feels good to see them return. I've been looking for Hooded Mergansers during my walks along the river ever since the weather turned cold, and today I finally found them. They generally kept to the far shore while I was there, but I managed to get a few pictures of a couple of willing participants. Also joining in on the fun were three Wood Ducks. They generally live here year round but I haven't seen them regularly until recently and today they kindly cooperated with the camera, for a change. I consider Hoodies and Woodies the two most beautiful species of ducks to be found around here, but you can decide for yourself...

His Hood is relaxed a little here

Is this guy handsome, or what?

Not to be over shadowed, here's the male Wood Duck

A male and female Wood Duck hangin' with some Mallards

This guy wanted his picture taken too, so I obliged. 

*Happy New Year everyone!*

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Foggy Morning Sunrise Rant

From the edge of our backyard, looking down the hill along the golf course.

   I'm not too keen on 60 degree days in December, which seems to be the norm for the second year in a row, although they do give us these pretty scenes in our backyard in the mornings. People look at me like I have two heads or something when I answer "No, it's not beginning to feel a lot like Christmas because it's too damn warm!". This is just wrong. When I was a kid, which wasn't really that long ago, it used to snow in December quite regularly. I can't even remember exactly the last time it did snow in December. Honestly, I don't even like snow all that much. The first day it's fun but after that it's just dirty, grey, and inconvenient. But we need snow, it's supposed to snow here at least occasionally.  But don't worry, climate change isn't real.   ;-)                         

Further around the corner, towards the tee box and green.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Garden as Muse: Part 1

   The inevitable feelings of dreariness, aka winter, began to sink in sometime last week. Not that it's been particularly cold, which it hasn't, but I really miss color, creation, the constant evolving. Everything outside is various shades of brown, tan, and grey, with just a teeny bit of green poking around. I miss the blues, the purples, the scents of flowers and warm earth, and the sounds of bees buzzing about. I know there's beauty out there to be found, it just requires a little more effort and a warm coat. Trying to find it would also prove a great opportunity to experiment with my new camera toy, as you'll see.

This day's focus was on seedheads. Reminders of what was, containing little promises of what will be.


Wild Bergamot

Short-toothed Mountain Mint

Woodland Goldenrod

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Wild Bergamot

Purple Coneflower

Showy Goldenrod

My front walkway, with Anise Hyssop in the foreground

Thursday, November 22, 2012

No, Thank YOU!

Yeah, I'm still here.

I hope you haven't abandoned me in despair. I realize it's been a long time since I last posted anything, but since the garden has been put to bed for winter, I've been otherwise occupied and lacking any inspiration. Anyhoo, there's just not that much going on out there right now. During the gardening season, I happily spend every day toiling away outside, all the while neglecting projects inside. OK, maybe not neglecting, maybe just postponing until colder weather arrives. Right now we're painting some rooms in the house, re-arranging some furniture, and doing some minor repairs and general redecorating. Not really blog material there. Sometimes we all have some catching up to do, don't we? I plan on working on some photography projects in the near future, some garden related, so you can expect to see a little of that here soon (for better or worse).

Meanwhile, I'd like to THANK EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU DEAR READERS who grant me a few seconds or minutes of your busy day. I'm sincerely grateful that anyone out there finds what I have to share interesting in the least.

Here's a little seasonal inspiration from this week...

Frosted Blueberries 

Catmint and Birch leaves

When the sun rises on a clear morning, for a brief moment the faux prairie looks as if it's on fire. There's a gap in the tall White Pines that allows the light to hit only upon the "prairie" before coming around the corner onto the lawn. The frost on the lawn in the shade increases the contrast in color nicely, I think.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I've Got Good News and Bad News

I'll start with the good news...

Just when we could all use a feel good story, I heard about this on NPR while making breakfast Monday morning (yay! something other than election coverage!). A woman in upstate New York found a Monarch that pupated way too late, so Southwest Airlines is flying them to San Antonio so she can release the butterfly at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens where it will have flowers to feed on and it can catch up to the migration train. Pretty cool, huh?

You can read about it here.

Now with the bad news...

This only applies to me, so I'm just publicly whining here. My plans to grow veg (and other things) into the winter months have come to a screeching halt. I assumed all I had to do was cover the frames of my raised beds with greenhouse plastic or "special" frost blankets and my salad greens and herbs would be protected from frost and freeze, at least down into the 20's. Well they're not, neither material worked. I really thought I had done a good job, sealing everything tight, but even though it only got down to 31 last night, everything is frozen solid inside, including the Basil seedlings I just planted out (grrrr!), dead after the first night! I'm so sad, I had such grand plans of leafy green salads well into December, but alas...Apparently even folks with proper greenhouses have to provide some kind of heat source to get through a cold night. So now the grandiose plan of having a real greenhouse built means I have to have space heaters too? What's the point then? I thought the greenhouse itself was insulation enough. Call me foolish...

Did. not. work.  :-(

If the lettuces come back to life, it'll be a miracle, and you better believe I'll be picking what's left and bringing it inside. You can't tell, but they are frozen solid.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Two Things Worth Mentioning


   There might be a new plate available for pollinator conservationists here in Virginia if the DMV receives 450 applications to complete the approval process. The developer, Samantha Gallagher has set up an information page with links to the application here, please consider showing your support and promoting pollinator conservation in our state. The deadline is December, and they're barely halfway there, so don't dilly dally and please tell your friends!

Item #2: It's almost time for Project Feederwatch!

   The 26th season of Project Feederwatch begins on Saturday, November 10. Participating is a great way of slowing down to observe and appreciate the birds outside your window, or think of it as a game by trying to increase the species and individuals you see over the course of the winter by adding extra food and water sources to your viewing area. Participation is flexible, you can count every weekend or maybe just once a month, all data is valuable. Check out their website to see if you might be interested!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Black Swallowtail Update

   Well, it looks like we're in it for the long haul, these chrysalises will be spending a long winter with us. I thought they would have emerged by now, and since they haven't, that means they were planning on hibernating from the start since they have to make a type of antifreeze to keep them from perishing out in the frozen winter months. Also, supposedly they make brown chrysalises in the winter and green chrysalises in the summer to blend better with their surroundings, although I can't confirm it since I've never seen one in the summer. I've moved them and their terrarium from the sunroom where it's likely too warm, to out in the garage where they'll be quite cold but protected.
   If any of you readers out there have overwintered Black Swallowtails before, please share your experience, good or bad.

I have two sets of pairs-where one chrysalis is attached to another. Ironically the last caterpillar to form a chrysalis attached itself to the first caterpillar to form one.

A few attached themselves to the terrarium itself. Note the silken stirrup it made to hang from.

Can you believe there's a butterfly in there? And I won't get to see if it emerges happily until maybe six months from now!