Friday, June 30, 2006

The Door of the Moon

I don't know which one of us named it the "Door of the Moon". It's possible that we were influenced by stories of pirates and hidden treasures, or something similar read in some book. In any case, none of us fully understood the name, but it contained all of a secret world, separate and absolutely ours.

The Door of the Moon was a place, a cliff, a sort of stone platform that stood out from the mountain named "El Sestil" that was behind the house. That platform was capable of holding three or four children, canteens of wine, weapons, some frisky and affectionate dog, part of an old army tent, and a variety of more or less precious and indispensable objects.

Although the Door of the Moon was a magnificent observation point, it was also the perfect hiding place during our childhood because it was hidden between the hawthorn and bramble bushes. It was there that we went to escape punishment or when we simply wanted to be alone. Later I found out that our hiding place was also the secret legacy of my mother and her brothers, and later it was used again by my little sister and her friends. But none of us ever told the secret. Each batch of children discovered it on their own and each group gave it a different name.

As I said, many times we went alone, one by one, under different circumstances and in different states of mind. I remember now with great nostalgia the solitude of sitting there on the cliff looking out between the leaves and the hawthorns on the mountain. There below in the house, the adults were like multi-colored ants. Looking at them caused a strange thrill of tender, condescending superiority. The comings and goings of the servants, the messenger boy... that was complete and splendid solitude. Sometimes from underneath the buds of the hawthorn bushes, I would turn my face up to the sky to see it broken through the branches. You could hear the ravens that nested close by in the ramparts on the cliff, among the bats and the black butterflies. It was dim and luminous at the same time. I think that all the children of the world need a Door of the Moon.

When I came back to see it everything was flooded. I looked with my hand over my eyes to the other side of the marsh, for that marvelous place. The water hadn't touched it. From the other side of the bank I made out the stone platform, the wind among the leaves, the cries of the crows and the ravens. I recognized it the way you recognize a friend, a bridge, or a tree. The Door of the Moon appeared desolate without children's voices, or whispers, or the solitude of a child beginning to think and to grow.

Nonetheless, we still have the Door of the Moon. We recover it, I know very well, in the hour of solitude we all look for during the course of the day. That hour of solitude we all ask for and need in the course of months and years. At the Door of the Moon, children grew slowly, inside themselves. In our hour of solitude, the Door of the Moon takes us back to the child who still wanders around inside of us, searching in vain for doors and windows to escape through.

The above essay is another small piece from "El rio" by Ana Maria Matute that I translated from the original Spanish as part of an undergraduate project many moons ago. I'm including it here, and cross-posting at whorled leaves because it relates to the first essay in our July book, "The Geography of Childhood" in which Gary Paul Nabhan discusses a child's sense of wildness and relates the story of his own children's secret hideout and the importance such intimate, wild places have in the lives of children.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Nasturtiums

While sitting here waiting to see if Blogger would take my pics tonight I was deciding what to do if it wouldn't. The wait was forever and I actually started composing bad cinquain poetry in my head while the minutes ticked by. Be glad the pics loaded! I'll have to file away my awkward ode to Blogger for the next time it goes wonky on me. I tried adding these pics to last night's post earlier this evening and they still wouldn't take. Yet I can add them here. Very mysterious.

Plenty of folks blog without pictures and those that do a good job of it are able to write well. I hope somehow that my mediocre pics and mediocre writing somehow make up for each other or cancel each other out or whatever.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand - Nasturtiums. Both the leaves and flowers are edible; at one time even the flower buds were pickled like capers. I've read that they are sometimes planted beneath fruit trees or tomato or squash vines to trap insects that would like to munch on the more valuable property above them. I plant mine in pots on the front steps with some other herbs like dill and pineapple sage. They have a peppery taste that I like in salads mixed with sweeter greens and the flowers make a pretty garnish.

They are easy to grow from seed and like sun and moisture, but not a rich planting medium as too much fertilizer will keep them from blooming well. Aphids seem to love them and the older leaves develop a strange mottled appearance, so I pick the young leaves for eating. Snails and slugs like them, too. Books say that they're also favored by hummingbirds as each flowers holds a small well of sweet nectar inside it. Last night I added some fresh-picked flowers and leaves to the salads for the bunnies - these and dandelion flowers are a favorite treat.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

6/28/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Missy, salad connoisseur extraordinaire


The bunnies eat a lot of greens around here - twice a day in heaping amounts. Each bunny seems to have a favorite, but everybunny enjoys the little bits of carrot and fruit that each salad is laced with as a *treat*. Most people who breed rabbits don't believe in feeding greens (or hay, for that matter), but housebunny people do. Fresh food is healthy for bunnies, as is hay, but it takes a bit more work than just feeding pellets.

Salad-making is part of my routine and I prepare the next day's salads the night before so that I don't have to be chopping lettuce in a daze when I first get up for work in the morning. I prepare a portion for each bunny (or pair of bunnies for Boomer and Cricket) according to their appetite and preferences. I like to feed a nice variety of greens, but our daily staples are Romaine and green-leaf lettuce, parsley and cilantro. I also include at least one *dark green*, high-vitamin item like dandelion, kale, turnip or mustard greens, or collard greens each day. Some have to be careful with these because of their high calcium content (which may lead to bladder stone/sludge issues), but I don't feed that much to have to worry about it. Occasional additions are dill (a favorite, and usually on the menu), red-leaf lettuce, arugula, mint, frisee, anise fennel, chicory, swiss chard, etc. - I buy what is nice and fresh from the market. I also like to feed some extras, in season, like berries, or broccoli, or Brussles sprouts, or tomatoes. Yes, my bunnies are spoiled!

The last few years I've been growing some extras that aren't available in the market and herbs that are easy to grow in pots. (I have a lovely photo that Blogger suddenly won't let me upload - darn!) Parsley, cilantro, and fennel are easy to grow (and loved by some butterflies for laying eggs) so I grow them in pots or in the veggie garden and use the *extra* to supplement what I buy at the market for the bunnies. Yesterday (imagine another lovely photo that Blogger won't let me upload) the bunnies' salads were adorned with red, yellow, and orange nasturtium flowers and leaves, which have a pleasant, peppery taste.

I'm off to fix salads for tomorrow and vent my Blogger frustrations on the cutting board. Check back later for the rest of what I intended to write.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Monarch on swamp milkweed

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly. "One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
- Hans Christian Andersen

An excellent list of key plants for the butterfly and hummingbird garden is available in PDF format from NJ Audubon at this link. I've found this list to be very helpful when planning my own garden and can attest to the popularity of the *Chocolate Cake* plants that are listed there as most attractive to butterflies and hummers. What is especially nice about this list is that it annotates those species which are native.

Monday, June 26, 2006

10 Favorite Bird Songs

Another top-ten list from John at A DC Birding Blog.

None of these songs are particularly *beautiful* on the surface, but in reviewing my list I think the beauty in these birdsongs lies in their very personal meaning for me. Each calls to mind a particular time or place or way of feeling. Anyway, here are my ten favorites:

1. Osprey: I anticipate their return each March; their sweet calls overhead are very much a part of any time spent at Sandy Hook.

2. Ovenbird: Not a musical song, but one I love to hear when searching the woods for other spring arrivals.

3. Carolina Wren: A song I associate with the shortening days of autumn, crisp weather, and home.

4. Baltimore Oriole: Hard to classify this song, but easily recognized. Orioles don't sing much in our neighborhood in spring, but young of the year will practice and chatter throughout July from the treetops.

5. Willet: The one shorebird I can easily identify and a call I love on a spring day at the shore.

6. Great Horned Owl: Reminds me of cold winter nights. I love having these birds in the neighborhood and their calls bring goosebumps and force me to stop whatever I'm doing to listen more closely.

7. Killdeer: The eveywhere bird - background noise - at home, at work, at the shore, in the middle of the night. They return to my area early and their plaintive cries alert me to the changing season.

8. Northern Bobwhite: Sadly, a bird I associate with a few, very specific places. Hard to get to hear in my area, and heartening.

9. White-throated Sparrow: A winter companion and another bird of home.

10. Great-Crested Flycatcher: Another bird I associate with very specific places, but a favorite for some odd reason.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A late June day beside the pond

The pond is overflowing with color now that warmer temps have set in. Daylilies, bee balm, hostas, and ladybells blooming on the margins all try to distract my attention from the water and fish. Mint is creeping from every wet rock edge. Last night's tree frog is calling again from somewhere in the bog garden; maybe high up on one of the Joe Pye stems, ready to decend for another evening spent advertising his new-found territory. The Parrot's Feather is spreading across the surface of the water and creating shade and cover for the fish as it grows. Last weekend I bought this beautiful purple waterlily; it's a tropical, so I'll have to try and overwinter it indoors somehow.


Beautiful! Three flowers were open today, but I focused on just this one.

This is one of the white butterfly koi that was hiding the last time I was out taking pics.

One of many volunteer Floating Hearts (Nymphoides peltata) - visible in the opening photo along the left edges of the pond - the small leaves are heart-shaped and resemble a waterlily. Not sure where it came from, but it sure is pretty! And free!

The other white butterfly koi who is turning more yellow as the days pass - beautiful, hungry fish!

I love late afternoons by the pond - less glare from the sun lets me see the fish beneath the water and the neighborhhood is quiet. If it weren't for the mosquitos, I think I could spend hours out there. It mesmerizes me somehow; the ever-changing patterns of fish and leaf and moving water.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Frog hunting

I'd like to have a pic to show you of the little brown frog that has been calling loudly from the yard and pond all evening long. During a late dinner my husband asked me, "What bird is that?" and with the fans blowing and the rain, I couldn't hear very much so I told him it must be a mockingbird. Ever curious, I stepped outside after dinner and knew it was no mockingbird! I went back in for the flashlight and searched around my neighbor's fence because the sound seemed to be comng from that direction. I didn't find anything and, of course, whatever it was went quiet as soon as I came out with the flashlight. A little while later it started calling again, but this time the sound seemed to be coming from the far back of the yard by the pond. I roamed around for a while with the mosquitos and eventually found this little brown frog with black markings calling from the rocks beside the pond. He's not shy at all and continued to call while I held the flashlight by him.

Just off the top of my head I thought it might be a leopard frog, but the pictures and sound calls I found on the web don't match. Nothing I found matches what this little guy looks/sounds like. Very frustrating! I know just how beginning birdwatchers feel. He's pretty small; not much bigger than my fire-belly toads, if that's any help. And he's very loud and insistent. He hasn't stopped calling at all, even when I let the dog out. I wonder if it could be a toad? Anyone know how to tell the difference? With all the rain we got today, I guess maybe amphibians are on the move. Can anyone take a guess what kind of frog I might have or suggest a website? From close-up, his call sounds sort of like the sound Carolina Wrens make in the fall, when they're scurrying through the underbrush - as if that's any help to you. ;-)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer boredom

When I was a kid the last day of school and the start of summer vacation meant freedom. Being out of school didn't matter so much to me, but all of that free time laid out before me and its lack of resitrictions meant the world. There were days at the beach and camping trips in Maine and Florida, Girl Scout camp and afternoons at the pool club. But most of the time there was nothing but my friends from the neighborhood and our imaginations stretched to fill a summer's day.

Complaining of boredom or not knowing "what to do" was not encouraged by my mother. She sent me "out to play" and wouldn't expect me home until the streetlights came on. It was that way with all of us kids. We played in the creek, built forts in the empty field down the street, rode our bicycles and roller-skated, and ran through everyone's backyard playing *army* and hide-and-seek. I can remember mixing up *potions* from the orange berries of the firethorn bush and the red yew berries that grew beside our house - thank heavens none of us were brave enough to eat any of it. If we ran out of things to do, we'd play cards in the *cave* beneath the spirea bushes.

I understand that we live in different times, but has the world changed so much in twenty years or is it just parent's perceptions that have changed? My co-workers all send their kids to camp. The sad reality is that most moms work and aren't home to supervise. But even among the families in my neighboorhood, where all the moms stay at home, kids still go to camp for most of the summer. When they are at home, very seldom do I see them running and playing and getting into mischief. Why is that? Do kids not know how to play anymore without an adult directing them?

In "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" (linked in sidebar) the author makes the assertion that time spent outdoors builds confidence in children and nurtures imagination and creativity. The greatest barrier that prevents parents from allowing their children the freedom to explore and play outdoors is fear. The author cites a study which found that between 1970 and 1990 the area around home that children were allowed to play in without direct parental supervision has shrunk to a ninth of what it had been in 1970. Only 36% percent of kids are permitted to walk or bike to school on their own. Are our neighborhoods so unsafe that we can't allow kids that one small freedom? If we schedule every moment of a child's day with play dates, and dance practice, and homework can we be surprised that they don't know what to do with themselves otherwise?

I treasure the memories of those summer days and feel sorry for kids growing up surrounded by so much fear of strangers and crime. I have to believe that my early experiences in the *great outdoors* just outside my backyard must have done something to create the love of nature that I feel now. I wonder if kids still have special secret places that they go to when they need solitude.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Milkweeds

Moisture-loving Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is slowly establishing itself in expanding colonies in the garden and bog. The individual flowers, shaped like an hourglass, are a purple-pink color and form umbrel-like clusters at the top of the stalk. The plants can grow to about 4 feet tall and are an important nectar source for many pollinators, like native bees and wasps, flies, and butterflies.

The butterly most often associated with Milkweeds is the Monarch, which lays its eggs on this species alone. I've read that Swamp Milkweed is not often used in this way by Monarchs; they are said to prefer Butterfly Weed (pictured at left) or Common Milkweed (pictured below). I always inspect the underside of the lower leaves for eggs, and one summer had three or four catepillars happily munching away.

The most fragrant of the milkweeds is likely Common Milkweed, which is less showy, but abundant and often grows in waste places and along roadsides as a *weed*. Including milkweeds in the butterfly garden is an easy way to help Monarch butterflies and other pollinators. My bee-keeping friend says that the pollen is especially loved by honeybees, but many die trapped in the blossoms. I didn't find any insects visiting the flowers late this afternoon, but did find quite a few milkweed bugs on the foliage, as well as some aphids and ants. Milkweed bugs feed on the leaves and seeds and taste as bad as monarchs to predators that try to eat them.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

6/21/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Feeling a bit silly this evening so thought I should post an equally silly bunny pic! This is Missy doing her best imitation of a Mermaid for the PetBunny Halloween Ball in 2004. Our Auntie Judith from PB is a PhotoShop wizard and creates costumes for all the bunnies on the list each year. Pics of other PB bunnies in costume are available here. Auntie Judith's bunny, Mr. Bee, is one of my favorite PB bunnies and Judith takes gorgeous pics of him. Have a look at her bunny gallery for a real bunny fix! If you look at the Halloween pics, keep an eye out for some of my other bunnies, and let me know if you *recognize* them in costume!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Garden spikes

"Everything that grows is both beautiful and abundant, lavish and luxuriant. If there ever comes a time to take five minutes at the end of a long day and consider the teeming generosity of this earth, this must be it." - Hal Borland

Taking five minutes at the end of each day, with camera in hand, to consider the blooming bounty of my garden leads to an abundance.... of photographs! I remember longing for such color and finery just a few months ago in the depths of winter.

I focused my attention this evening on the upright, lance-like plants that are blooming around the pond. The flower stalks on this tall grass were impossible to photograph, but so beautiful backlit by the setting sun.

To the right is Ladybells (Adenophora liliifolia) a favorite, and easy to grow with good moisture. The nodding bell-shaped flowers lead to another of its common names, False Campanula. A beauty and compensation for my utter lack of ability at growing foxgloves and delphiniums.

Next, the flower spikes of catmint, which is very generous and grows everywhere in my garden to keep the bumblebees occupied.

Lastly, the noxious Purple Loosestrife (don't hate me Susan!) which grows in the bog garden beside the pond. It behaves well there - I help it along by deadheading religiously so as not to allow it to disburse its seeds, but mostly I think the Joe Pye Weed that grows beside it keeps it in check. The Joe Pye is already twice the size of the loosestrife and needs to be pinched back before long, otherwise it will tower over the rest of the bog at 4 feet or more.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A dog's world view

From here he watches over the birdfeeders and pond. From the corner of his eye he knows if the groundhog has ventured out from beneath the neighbor's garage to raid the vegetable garden. He might consider making chase, but advancing age has lessened any chance of his being a real threat to any furry creature, be it woodchuck or bunny, or marauding squirrel with a taste for sunflower. Most importantly, he can see the bend in the road - the point at which his defended territory begins. He orients himself to that place where children on bicycles (or heaven forbid skateboards!) and dogs on leashes enter his realm. He lies in wait and worries the honeybees working clover until he spots an interloper on his street. Then the show begins and he is up and running like a young pup. Pulling at the lead that allows him run of the length of the yard, looking to all the world like he is about to do a cartwheel off the lead and launch himself into the street. The neighborhood kids know to ignore his silly antics, but to the unsuspecting he looks quite ferocious. He likes it that way and seems to take a certain amount of pride in the number of dog walkers (especially those with little yippy dogs) that he can turn away and convince to retreat out of his territory and back the way they came.

For all the years we've had him, we've tried to break him of this habit, of being so ridiculously protective of his place, but to no avail. When he's finished his clowning he looks to me for the scolding he knows to expect, and smiles in his doggy way at having been bad. How can I fault him for protecting his pack and his place and for taking such joy in it?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The reluctant fisherman and other fathers in my life

I just love this pic of my dad - his goofy grin and the big blue sky behind him while he holds this little fish pulled from some Canadian lake. I didn't think of my dad as the *outdoorsy* type - heck he wouldn't even eat most fish, but the chance to go away on a fishing trip with my brother and his buddies, well. I think this pic was taken on *the* trip when my dad talked non-stop for the whole car ride there - that's my brother Kevin's story to tell.



My father-in-law, at least 20 years before I met him, and smoking a cigarette no less! I miss him - talk about a man who had stories to tell.

My brother Kevin on his daughter's Christening Day

My brother Brian with his Julia - both all legs!

Fathers, especially fathers of daughters: know that you are loved and that your impact will live beyond you. And know that we see the light you hold in your eyes, just for us, your daughters.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Have you read it?

Here are the current top 50 books from whatshouldireadnext.com.

Bold the books you have read. Add comments if you like. Italicize the books you want to read. Pass it on if you feel like it:

The DaVinci Code - Dan Brown
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
His Dark Materials (series) - Philip Pullman
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter 6) - J.K. Rowling
Life of Pi -- Yann Martel
Animal Farm - George Orwell
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
1984 - George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter 3) - J.K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter 4) - J.K. Rowling
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossieni
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter 5) - J.K. Rowling
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
Fight Club -- Chuck Palaniuk
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter 1) - J.K. Rowling
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter 2) - J.K. Rowling
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Ender's Game (The Ender Saga) - Orson Scott Card
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Atonement - Ian McEwan
The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Dune - Frank Herbert

Most hated book on the list: Animal Farm. Freshman English class, need I say more?
Most loved book on the list: Shadow of the Wind or The Time-Traveler's Wife.

I'd love to hear your comments on these books or if you make a list of your own.

Friday, June 16, 2006

In flower this week

Clockwise from left: Black-eyed susan, Moonflower, Orange flowering maple, Swamp milkweed

Thursday, June 15, 2006

First bloom "Colorado"


If you gave me several million years, there would be nothing that did not grow in beauty if it were surrounded by water. - Jan Erik Vold, What All The World Knows

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

6/14/06 Mid-week bunny fix (for Michelle)

A PRAYER
May you always rest in peace,
My darling;
May you sing with the angels
And the heavenly hosts
May you never go hungry,
Never be lonely,
Always remember that I love you,
That I miss you immensely,
That I shall never forget you.
Lastly, may you always
Be happy,
Forever and ever,
Amen
EMILY MARGARET STUPARYK
Michelle is a dear *cyberfriend* from the PetBunny List and tomorrow is her Hazel's one year Bridge Anniversary. I stole this pic from her Webshots page - hope you don't mind Michelle! I'll think of Hazel tomorrow and picture her leaping and dancing in that rainbow dappled land just beyond the sun.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Four hundred tongues

The neighborhood mockingbird (the many-tongued mimic, known to Native Americans as "Cencontlatolly" or "four hundred tongues" has taken to beginning his evening serenade around 11 pm of late, just about the time the people down the street put their young dog out for the night. The dog whines and yaps incessantly and this seems to be the mocker's cue to begin his recital for those of us awake and with the windows open.

MOCKINGBIRD MONTH
A pupa of pain, I sat and lay one July,
companioned by the bird the Indians called "four hundred tongues."
Through the dark in the back yard by my bed,
through the long day near my front couch,
the bird sang without pause an amplified song
"two-thirds his own," books told me,
"and one-third mimicry."


Gray charmer, "the lark and nightingale in one,"
unremitting maker of music so full of wit
and improvisation, I strained by night and light

to hear the scientists' record: "In ten minutes
he mimicked thirty-two species." I counted eight
(even I) variations on cardinal's song alone.

Cock of the neighborhood, his white flashes of wing
and long distinguished tail ruled the bushes and boughs,
and once, enchanted, I saw him walk past my house,
herding, from three feet behind, the neighbor's nice, cowardly cat.
He controlled without any fuss
but took little time off. Most of our month he sang.

The sticky wings of my mind began to open
No mere plagiarist, a Harold Bloom singer,
he leaned on, but played with, robin, or jay or
starling or whippoorwhill. I began to prefer
him and house and hurting to the world outdoors.
Both art and art-lover attend to what may happen.

The weeks went by. At two a.m. he'd begin
my steadier, stronger, surer flight through his airs,
and the sun sent us into heights of his lyric together.
Virtuoso though he was, I was learning his repertoire.
Who would have thought the moth of me would tire?
Toward the end of a month in concert I began to complain.

Constant cadence, I told him, gives one no rest.
Is it my fault you must be lonesome for a mate?
There must be no nestlings to feed (when do you eat?).
What master of complexity won't duplicate with incessant singing?
Delete, delete, delete,
shut up for a while my bird-brained, brilliant stylist!

I left him for the North and less prolific birds
(but not before reading a chatty chapter on him
by a man who threw a shoe treeward at four a.m.
to stop "that endless torrent"),
my movement a handsome tribute to his voice.
Leaving my pencils at home,
I resolved to husband my own apprentice words.

MONA VAN DUYN

Sometime past midnight I heard a neighbor yelling, "shut up! stop it"; whether to the mocker or the yelping dog I'm not sure. I enjoy listening to him sing as I fall asleep and do try to name the bird he's mocking as I drift off. A pair nested for a number of years in a spirea bush in our yard, but since getting cable tv and doing away with our old-fashioned tv antenna they don't seem to find our yard as attractive and have moved across the street to the cemetery. I used to love to watch the mockingbirds *dance* up there on the antenna - jumping into the air with wings extended, only to flutter down in the same place face-down, before turning around with wings out to repeat the dance, singing all the while.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Mystery garden raider

Do birds eat broccoli?

Do squirrels like brussels sprouts?

Well, we've discovered that the fortress my husband built around the veggie garden is not impenetrable. Nothing has chewed through the chicken wire and lattice and nothing has dug under the fence. There are no footprints. So either a bird or an herbivore with a parachute raided our garden or a squirrel or a very lightweight woodchuck climbed over the fence to snack on the broccoli and brussels sprouts. But only those two delicacies. It must be saving the kale, cabbage, and assorted lettuces for tonight. Darn.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Fridge art and hot rods

So this is what's on my fridge. Exciting stuff. 6 years worth of magnets (we're missing 2002) from Westside Hose Company's annual car show and a few silly bird magnets that were stockings stuffers to hold up important papers like the invite to yesterday's graduation party and the reminder card for tomorrow's appointment with the bunny vet.

I wouldn't call it art, but I'm going along with the invite from TaraDharma to post what's on your refrigerator today. I hope other people have more interesting fridges than mine. Slightly more interesting might be a pic of what's lurking inside my fridge, but let's not go there!

Today was Westside's car show and my husband as a volunteer fireman had to go and help out. I stopped by and we did the loop looking at all the cars that had come to show off. They had a really good turn out this year and beautiful weather, so I hope they made lots of money. I don't know the first thing about cars, classic or otherwise, but enjoyed taking pictures of them, mostly because it made the owners feel good for me to show an interest in their car.

I loved the colors of some of these cars - bright orange and purple and this beautiful, almost violet, blue. They were all incredibly shiny and well-cared for. These guys spend so much money on these cars, just to take them out to shows like today's. If they're lucky, they'll win a shiny trophy to go with their shiny car, but that's it.

This bright orange Studebaker truck was my husband's favorite. The whole inside of the hood was mirrored, to show off the engine, I guess. Very shiny! I liked this violet blue Edsel (I'd swear I'd heard my dad talk about Edsel's) - the color was really gorgeous in the sun. There were over 300 cars in the competition, but our friend Jimmy (that's his little red Ford in the photo above) didn't win a trophy. But then, he didn't even wax the truck up so that it would gleam in the sun like the others.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A day for memorials

Sort of an odd day today. I met my brothers at the cemetary this morning to finally bury my father's ashes. We'd put it off for too long, but my brother has just about finalized the estate, so I look at this as another step in that long process.

Two years ago at this time it was all just beginning. Figuring out how we would care for my dad in his illness, the day-to-day efforts to find some normalcy in the midst of his struggle with dialysis and cancer, his poor appetite, and all the medicine and doctors that he hated so much. All the while trying to get his house emptied and ready for sale. It is a wonder to me that it's all worked out okay. My dad can rest well, I think. So today we said our prayers and put a velvet-covered box in the ground beside my mom and brothers who died so long ago. And then we stood around and made jokes, as we do.

My husband and I had a graduation party to attend at a nice waterfront restaurant overlooking the inlet and Sandy Hook Bay. On our way home we visited the county's 9/11 memorial, pictured above, which honors the 147 residents of our county who died that day. Located at Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook in Atlantic Highlands, the memorial is backed by views of Sandy Hook and the Bay, and the New York Skyline. According to the brochure, Mt. Mitchill, at 266 feet, is the highest elevation on the Atlantic coast from southern Maine to the Yucatan. More info on the memorial is available here. Today was my first visit to the memorial and park, but closeby is my dad's favorite German restaurant which we visited often on special occasions, like his 70th birthday, pictured at left, with my brother and sweet red-haired niece. He loved the dark German beer there and the view.

Friday, June 09, 2006

What kind of flower are you?

I am a
Snapdragon

What Flower
Are You?

"Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh."

Click on the link above to take this quiz and while there be sure to check out This Garden Is Illegal - lots of neat gardening info, much of it specific to Ohio. Have fun, Susan ;-) and be sure to let me know if you're a mischief-maker like me.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lady-of-the-night


The moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is an annual vine closely related to the morning glory. The flowers open in the late afternoon and remain until early morning, sweetening the evening air with fragrance. They are pollinated by moths, but I've found the blossoms covered by dozens of bees on late summer evenings, buzzing from one flower to the next. The flowers are trumpet-shaped and the leaves like hearts.

Moonflowers like full sun and rich, moist, well-drained soil. Plant them in a spot where you can observe their silvery beauty by moonlight or near a window to enjoy the scent indoors. We grow ours in pots and along the fence surrounding the pond, where the vines twine in between the pickets and the blossoms unfurl just as the sun begins its descent.

Moonflowers are easily confused with Brugmansias and Daturas. Some of the seedlings we bought this spring were mislabeled as Angel's Trumpet's (Brugmansia), but once these started growing, it was clear they were Moonflowers and not Angel's Trumpets. The others haven't begun to bloom yet, but I'm wondering if they're not Daturas, again mislabeled. Moonflowers can be planted with other evening-blooming flowers to extend your enjoyment of the garden into the twilight hours.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Veggie garden

This looks rather promising, doesn't it? Yes, it's only lettuce and anybody can grow it, but still I'm encouraged! The new *fortress* my husband built around the garden seems to be working at keeping the critters out. Last night I picked some lettuce, kale, basil, parsley and salad burnet for the bunnies. We've also planted tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, but they're not worth photographing yet. Those plants just sit and look at you in NJ gardens until mid-July at the earliest. The zucchini grows at least a foot overnight it seems. The gourds are finely starting to sprout along the bottom of the trellis. The broccoli plants have tiny little broccoli thingies (florettes?) There is much weeding to be done since this photo was taken a week ago and the shed snow of locust flowers have blown away. I guess we'll need to fertilize soon, although I think the winter's worth of bunny poop turned into the garden should give the plants a healthy start. Free fertilizer is another *benefit* I can add to my list of reasons to keep a houseful of bunnies.

If you'd like to see a humorous account of a previous foray into veggie gardening, read Scorched earth: our first attempt at a vegetable garden. Please do wish us luck this time. We've learned; we're laying off the mulch!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Flowers for the birthday girl


Today's my b-day. There was ice-cream cake, and gifts, and flowers, and people (including my adorable little niece) singing at me on the phone. Life is good!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mystery skipper

Aren't all skippers a mystery? The one skipper I can easily identify is the silver-spotted. This one (anyone out there have an idea?) I found feeding the other day on the catmint (Nepeta sp.) which was something of a surprise because most often this plant is loaded with bumblebees, but no butterflies. Catmints are very easy to grow (that's why I love them), so long as they have full sun. It can be a bit aggressive, but is easily divided and spread around the garden or among neighbors.

I don't know that I would recommend planting it in a place that is easily accessible to dogs - as the bees it attracts drive my dog just bonkers and one day soon he's going to get himself stung good!

*Butterflying* has become near as popular as birding during the summer months after migration has ended. There are many butterfly id books on the market, the most popular probably being the Butterflies Through Binoculars series by Jeffrey Glassberg. Great, technical book if you like that. I notice he's recently published A Field Guide to Caterpillars which I'll have to be on the lookout for! As a beginner to butterflies, I prefer something with big, glossy photos like the Stokes Beginner's Guide to Butterflies - I don't own it yet, but do have their guide to dragonflies and it is excellent.

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly. "One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
- Hans Christian Andersen

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Saturday night ramblings

I'm sitting outside in my screenhouse, it's still raining a bit, music is drifting over from the Red Bank Jazz and Blues Festival - somehow this reminds me of camping. Maybe it's the tacky lights. I love to sit out here; especially now that I have a laptop with a wireless connection. Once the weather warms, I really hate to be stuck inside. It rained all day today, so we didn't get to pot up any of the new plants we bought - that will have to wait until tomorrow when hopefully the weather will be better.

I finished up the book I've been reading this week. What a disappointment that was! Stephen King was my favorite as a teenager - I first read "Pet Sematary" as a freshman in high school and was hooked! I didn't read other horror writers, just King. Something about his sense of storytelling and character development always appealed to me. The last 10 years or so all I've read by him are his Dark Tower books - sad to see them be done. His other books haven't appealed to me at all, but I bought "Cell" on a whim, to see if maybe he'd gotten back to the writer he used to be before churning out a new book every six months. The story was good enough, but the ending! I feel totally cheated - it's as if he got tired of writing half-way through the story and just wrapped it up as best he could in a few short pages. What a waste of my time! The reviews were good, though, so maybe my criticism is unfounded.

My students this past semester had a similar reaction to the ending of "The Kite Runner" which I've been using the past year in the course I teach. They were annoyed that the ending leaves the reader *hanging* somewhat, and doesn't answer all the questions a reader might have. I like that kind of ending to a book; one that lets you imagine how things may have turned out for the characters. The technique was well used in that book, not so well used in the King book. I suppose King is just setting us up for a sequel - one I will not be wasting my time with!