Monday, July 30, 2007

Crabby day

We tried out a few new crabbing spots on the Navesink River yesterday, but this one was my favorite because it has such a nice view. We were there at a bad time in terms of the tide, as this little creek leads into a quiet cove. Due to some crabby logic that I don't understand, a cove like this should be best when the tide is coming in. We spent very little time actually crabbing, more time moving from one bridge to the next. The first new place we tried became crowded with other crabbers early in the day and wasn't very safe as it's along a busy road. Then we drove to the other side of the river to this scenic spot, but the tide was going out by then and we only stayed an hour or so.
We caught a few crabs, but nothing to brag over. Well, except for my nephew - he was thrilled with anything that was big enough to keep and show off! His older brother came along with us. He's going away to forestry school at the University of Montana in a few weeks - he wants to be a smokejumper by next summer. I'm so proud of him for going to school and being a good kid.
Little Luka came along on our crabbing adventure and was pretty cranky after a few hours without a nap. Finally he just crashed on the sidewalk of the bridge while we worked around him. We wore him out good yesterday so that he slept through the night last night - straight through til 5 am - thank heavens!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Say, "Awww..."

I'm Luka. Wouldn't you be happy to be up with me at 3 in the morning?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Life is good

Yes, it's soon, but really I'm surprised we lasted the few days we did. I found my husband surfing the SPCA websites this morning and that was that. We hadn't spoke of it yet, but I guess we were both thinking the same thing: the house is lonely, it's too quiet when we come in with no one to greet us, the bag of dog food is going to waste in the closet, etc. (insert other lame excuses).

So now there's this puppy. Crying and mouthing and being utterly adorable. I'm not looking forward to the next few nights; his first away from his parents and littermates. But the house didn't feel right without a dog. We're taking the easy way out of our mourning for Buddy, I know. There is no distraction from sadness like a puppy. We do what we have to to heal a broken heart.

I apologize for being away for a few days, but I didn't have anything to say that wasn't pathetic. I appreciate your concern and the love you sent our way. Thank you.

Life is good with a lab pup at your heels.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dear heart


"Warm summer sun, shine kindly here;
Warm western wind, blow softly here;
Green sod above, lie light, lie light--
Good-night, dear heart, good-night, good-night.
"
--Robert Richardson (adapted by Mark Twain)

In the words of my vet, after I apologized for making him go over the necropsy results for the second time in as many hours, "It's hard to lose a dog that's been with you for so many years." Yes it is, but would it be any easier if it were two years instead of twelve?

My old man dog Buddy died today. Just like that. He was a little off this morning and wouldn't settle or eat his treats. He was sleeping alone in the living room when we woke up this morning and was hard to rouse. Nothing unusual, really. We were both concerned enough that my husband stopped home at lunch time to check on him and found him dead. Dead in front of the door so that it couldn't be opened and my husband had to climb in through the kitchen window to get in the house.

My husband brought him to the vet for a necropsy so that we might understand what happened to him. The vet found that he had hemangiosarcoma; an aggressive cancer of the blood vessels and a tumor on his heart. The tumor had ruptured and caused his heart to stop. The vet said that he felt no pain, just tired and weak, and likely collapsed and just went peacefully to sleep.

I had fretted over him getting older and worried that we might have to put him to sleep one day when he couldn't walk any longer. I dreaded that, but never expected anything like this. I have to think that a kindness was done for us - a disease we didn't know about, couldn't worry over and couldn't even have done anything about had we known. No guilt, no what-ifs. I'm just so thankful I took the time this morning before leaving to hold his head in my hand and tell him that he was a good boy and that I loved him. A lot of mornings I didn't take the time for that, but this morning I did.

"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset."
--Crowfoot, Chief of the Blackfeet Nation

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Favorite bird poems


"He picks his pond, and the soft thicket of his world.
He bids his lady come, and she does, flirting with her tail.
He begins early, and makes up his song as he goes.
He does not enter a house at night, or when it rains.
He is not afraid of the wind, though he is cautious.
He watches the snake, that stripe of black fire, until it flows away.
He watches the hawk with her sharpest shins, aloft in the high tree.
He keeps his prayer under his tongue.
In his whole life he has never missed the rising of the sun.
He dislikes snow.
But a few raisins give him the greatest delight.
He sits in the forelock of the lilac, or he struts in its shadow.
He is neither the rare plover or the brilliant bunting, but as common as grass.
His black cap gives him a jaunty look, for which we humans have learned to tilt our caps, in envy.
When he is not singing, he is listening.
Neither have I ever seen him with his eyes closed.
Though he may be looking at nothing more than a cloud it brings to mind a several dozen new remarks.
From one branch to another, or across the path, he dazzles with flight.
Since I see him every morning, I have rewarded myself the pleasure of thinking that he knows me.
Yet never once has he answered my nod.
He seems, in fact, to find in me a kind of humor, I am so vast, uncertain and strange.
I am the one who comes and goes, and who knows why.
Will I ever understand him?
Certainly he will never understand me, or the world I come from.
For he will never sing for the kingdom of dollars.
For he will never grow pockets in his gray wings.
"

-Mary Oliver, "Owls and Other Fantasies"

I have a nice collection of poetry relating to birds that I like to dip into and share now and again. This one from Mary Oliver isn't a favorite, but instead one I came across this evening and enjoyed. Of course, I'm always looking for more. Maybe you have a favorite that comes to mind? Share it here in comments or on your own blog if you like.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sabatia difformis

Lance-leaved sabatia; at least I'm calling it that! In comments on Saturday's post, Patrick reminded me of a helpful website for Pine Barrens plant ID. That, combined with all six of my wildflower guides, helped me decide what this flower is. I think so, anyway.

I've said it before, but learning wildflowers really makes me feel for people who are just starting out with birds. You can have all the best reference material at your fingertips, but it's all a waste if you don't put it to use. I'm easily confused and overwhelmed with all the possibilities, so the few books I have that say what's blooming when are the most helpful because they narrow down the choices of what's possible. Yet, no book can compare, in my opinion, with having an experienced person by your side in the field.

Anyway, glad we figured this one out together!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Just another day in the garden

The milkweed beetles are busy making more...
and the apples are blushing at the sight!
The scarecrow is not very scary and watches it all with his ears in a twist.
Some flowers make me think of lace embroidery...
But the hoops are buried in the cabbage patch!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Guesses welcomed

I'm hoping maybe Patrick or someone else may be able to help me sort this one out, found today at Webb's Mill Bog in the Pine Barrens. I had thought it might be False Asphodel, but that's not it.

We drove halfway to Philly almost to visit an arboretum on the grounds of a retirement community. I was mostly interested in the courtyard gardens, private patio gardens, and the wildflower meadows, but there was also a Pinetum (with native and exotic plants), a collection of rhododendrons, an experimental planting of chestnut trees, and 55 acres of natural woodlands. The wildflower meadows were a disappointment as there were no butterflies (not much was blooming), but the courtyard gardens were very pretty. Maybe when I'm old and gray I'll find a place like that to live. My husband was ready to find a place there today after I made him traipse through the woods for a few hours. Poor guy; his knees are bad and he's not one for walking much.

On our way back we stopped my Webb's Mill to see what was blooming. There were l
ots of those white mystery flowers and the bladderworts were blooming everywhere. We had the place to ourselves; that's a first as the last few visits to the bog have been pretty crowded. I'm not sure what else I can expect to find blooming later in the summer, but it's always worth a visit when I'm in the area. I'm not sure how interested the DH was in the odd bog plants, but he pretended well. He's a good sport.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tattered

It's been a long week and I'm feeling about as beat up as this cormorant looks. I didn't have a normal lunch hour even one day this week and the weather's been crummy and hot or rainy so that after work I haven't been able or willing to spend very much time outside. All work and no play makes Laura pretty cranky!

I'm halfway through my training period with the new job and had mid-point evaluations today. I'm doing fine, but of course there's always some area that *needs improvement*. Uggghh. Why doesn't it get any easier to take criticism as I get older?

At any rate, I'm looking forward to the end of August when I'll be finished and will either have the job or not. I'm looking forward to being able to take a day off. Just today my husband played hookey and went crabbing without me. Bum! I'm trying to find the energy and inspiration to do something fun this weekend besides clean the house and catch up with laundry. I may just sleep away the whole weekend if I'm not careful. Anyone have something fun planned?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

7/19/07 Mid-week bunny fix

I haven't been very good about regular bunny fixes lately, but that's only because I haven't taken any nice ones lately to show off. This one of Sunshine and Boomer is from almost 2 months ago already; I like it because of the way Boomer is spooning around Sunshine and it's sort of hard to tell where one bunny ends and the other begins! The love goes on...

Truth be told, it makes me sad to be taking pics of Boomer and some other girl bunny. We miss Cricket and our familiar routines. I miss seeing the easy way they had with each other. Boomer misses his perfect pillow and ear-washer.

Sunshine is a sweet girl and they're getting along well, but in limited doses. Boomer is alone all day and overnight because I'm not ready to trust them together unsupervised. I imagine it will take me a while to get over that fight they had enough so that I'll let them be together they way they seem to want to be. They make a bee-line to each other in the morning when I let them together for a bit before work. It's the same in the evening when I get home and they lounge and eat salad and hay together until bedtime. Then I separate them for the night which feels cruel. But they're safe that way, at least, from any odd mood that might strike them to have an argument in the dark.

Enough of that. I had wanted to post a video here last week, but for a few hours of trying I wasn't able to get it to cooperate. Maybe there's some problem with the video itself that prevents it from uploading. Anyway, click on the link and enjoy some bunny antics. These aren't my bunnies, but they could be, as silly as they are.

Click here and smile!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Horsey thoughts

I'm in this really wonderful place right now - totally immersed in a book that I can't put down. Don't you just love when that happens? I'm little more than halfway through Jane Smiley's Horse Heaven and already I'm trying to stretch it out and make it last a little longer. I'm tempted to read at every spare moment, but at the same time, I want to savor it before it ends. This is the first of Smiley's books that I've become engaged with, not for lack of trying. I think it must be just the topic that is really interesting to me right now.

I tend to be a little obsessive/compulsive with my reading habits, in that I get hooked on a topic and read anything and everything I can find. The current horsey interest started with a memoir I picked up on the bargain rack, Chosen By A Horse and then the current issue of Vanity Fair had an article about Barbaro which led me to this book. I'm afraid there may be horseriding lessons in my future or a weekend job mucking stalls at the track down the street. Somebody save me, please!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Cape May tease

In case you've missed mention of it elsewhere or, for those of you in the know who need something to focus your anticipation with (Lynne!) I'll pass along a link to the Cape May Bird Observatory's newest website called BirdCapeMay.org - lots of neat features there and just the thing when a cool Fall weekend seems years away.

A few of us girls: Susan, Mary, Lynne, Naturewoman and me are planning to meet at this year's Bird Show in Cape May 10/26-10/28. Maybe you'd like to join our merry gang for a day or an hour or two? The bigger the flock the merrier, right?


Kind of strange, but I came across this pic of me, back when I had short hair - at least I think it's me - on a website while I was searching around for some info on Cape May. I've been going down for years, but don't remember when this was. I remember that purple coat, though. The guy standing behind me must be the hawk counter; he looks very serious about it, doesn't he?

Anyway girls, we need to get some plans together! The Fall will be here before we know it. Be in touch, okay?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lazy Sunday

I didn't even step foot out of the house until near 8pm today. It wasn't all that hot, only in the high 80's, but the glare of the sun kept me inside on the couch with a new book. I was lazy, but my husband got a lot done, at least. The vegetable garden is weeded and presentable enough that I might share a pic or two of our baby peppers and tomatoes. The grass is cut and the patio finally cleared of clutter.

I wanted just to share this pic of my *bog* garden - isn't it monstrous?! Every year I warn myself not to let it get out of hand and it gets away from me anyway. The Joe-Pye Weed is beginning to bloom and is almost as tall as our new gazebo. The goldenrod and swamp hibiscus are just as tall. The purple loosestrife needs to be cut before it has a chance to make seeds. Down low under all that shade are a few plants struggling to find some sun and have a chance to survive.

Our plan had been to have an early dinner and head down to the beach for some surf fishing with my husband's brothers, but he lost track of time and I took a longer than expected nap. Oh well. At least I had a few minutes in the garden with a nice breeze and the company of the fireflies. Wish the weekends didn't go so fast!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What's cookin' ?

Every now and again the cooking bug bites me and, like this afternoon, I spend a few hours in the kitchen trying out new recipes. I never really learned to cook, so I always have to start with a recipe. Even still, it manages to feel like a science experiment. Any *serious* activity in the kitchen catches my husband's interest and before long he's sniffing around and peaking under pot lids to see what kind of poison I'm whipping up.

Today I made a barbeque sauce with at least fifteen different ingredients and a nice bite that we'll use tomorrow - the chicken breasts are marinating overnight. I also made an avocado and tomato salad and a corn salad with fresh Jersey white corn. I've sampled both already and they're pretty yummy!

I'm curious if the rest of you have any favorite cookbooks to recommend? My father swore by the Fanny Farmer Cookbook so I bought one when I first got married and rely on it for basic stuff like what cut of meat to buy or how long to cook a poached egg. For years my favorite *everyday* cookbook was the New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, but lately I've been sampling from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks by Ina Garten.

My friend Linda at work is crazy about her and finally I got tired of listening to her rave about the dishes, so I bought a few of her cookbooks and have been very pleased. Any recipe that I've tried so far has turned out wonderfully. For Christmas Eve I used her recipe for spiral ham with a mango chutney glaze and also made her recipe for baked beans that went nicely with the ham. Christmas morning I made her banana crunch muffins which have turned into a family favorite. All the things I made this afternoon were from her books also.

What I like about her recipes is that they're simple and not intimidating; she uses common ingredients but insists on quality. I hate having to search out some oddball ingredient in gourmet shops in order to make a dish. More often than not I spend a lot of money on something that I'll never have the chance to use again.

So, any good cookbooks to recommend? Have you done any experimenting in the kitchen lately? Please share your successes (or failures)!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Skimming

I went fishing for photos this evening, just as the sun was beginning its earnest descent for the day, and came upon another doing its own sort of fishing.

Black skimmers are as magical-looking as they are improbable: the lipstick-bright band that highlights their underbite, the way they twist and turn over the water, alternately showing black on the topside or silver beneath. That I should find them so close to home, just down the street where the small creek widens into something resembling a lagoon, is something of a surpise. I should know better, know that it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

The cormorants were waiting for something in the
willow overhanging the shoreline, shadows of ducks flew overhead and landed in the water at my feet. A few night herons, silhouetted against the setting sun, the kingfishers dashing back and forth over the creek and I saw this one skimmer, far off in front of an improbably large waterfront home. Oh, how I would love to have this view out my front window!

Most often I see skimmers from my car while sitting in traffic, waiting for the bridge to go down after the sailboats pass below on the river. It's always just a glance out the car window, that flash of silver and black, and lipstick red. This evening was a treat to see one coursing along the creek, dipping and turning as it searched the water below. But it's only ever one or two. At Cape May, in late September, I know to look for the skimmers resting on the beach, facing into the wind, a whole gang of them, looking about as improbable as any bird could.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Purple waterlily

There's only time tonight to share this pic of a new waterlily; it had already closed for the day when I got in from work, so I'm not so sure what it really looks like. So far it seems similar to the purple and yellow one I had last summer, but the flowers are much smaller. What's really fantastic about this lily is the leaves - they're large and splotched with purple. I'll have to work on a better pic to share that includes the lilypads and maybe a sunbathing frog.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fishing

We drove to the water this afternoon to escape the heat; rather than going south along the ocean (where all those pesky tourists like to congregate) we went north along the bayshore and drove through what used to be mainly fishing and clamming communities. Many of the old neighborhoods have been replaced with upscale condos and in most places the commercial fishing docks have given way to recreational marinas. The bayshore's commercial fishing industry survives in Belford however, with a fleet of some 50 boats, including 18-20 modern lobster boats, 7-8 clamming boats, and a few traditional seining boats that are part of the Belford Seafood Cooperative.

In addition to Jersey corn and Jersey tomatoes, there is also Jersey seafood! I prefer the corn and tomatoes, but the boats are pretty to look at, too. We were hoping to find a quiet creek where we could set out our crab traps, but all the places I knew from growing up in the area were either already occupied or seemingly gone. I'd guess they're still there, but the neighborhoods have changed so much that it's hard to get my bearings when all the familiar landmarks seem to be gone.

This area is probably the northernmost commercial fishing fleet in the state and there's a fair amount of historical significance there, as well. Growing up, we made fun of the people who lived there and made their living on the boats. Yet it was a thriving industry and still may be. To the person speeding by on the highway on the way to the beach, one might think our only local industry now is strip malls and big-box stores.

What local industries do you recall from your childhood? Do they still exist there?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Random X 8

TaraDharma and Patrick both tagged me with this 8 random facts meme. Here's the rules:

*We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
*Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
*People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
*At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
*Don’t forget to leave them each a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

I'd swear I've done this before, but here we go:

*I'm not much into movies, but I really like Braveheart. Must be those Scottish accents.
*I designed my own engagement and wedding rings.
*My favorite candies are Hershey's Kisses and Smooth and Melty Easter Mints.
*I love rollercoasters, so long as there are no loops and they don't go upside down.
*I have this recurring dream about being lost and going over a very long bridge. My dad used to have a similar dream only his involved being on the wrong bus.
*I can't stand the smell of lilies.
*The blotter/calendar on my desk is still on the page for April.
*I'd like to get my doctorate someday... for my dad.

So now I'm supposed to tag 8 other bloggers. Hmmmm.. how about Dave , Ruth , Bunnygirl , Liza , KGMom , Jean , Laurie , and Cathy . I don't think that I've seen any of you tagged yet, so have at it!

Friday, July 06, 2007

What's bugging me - second attempt

Besides Mary threatening an extended hiatus from blogging, aphids are bugging me. I hate the little suckers! There's almost no other insect that I would say that about, but I wholeheartedly hate aphids. I think it stems from my beginning days as a gardener. Of all the things to start with I chose roses. I bought lots of beautiful old garden roses and some beautiful David Austin roses that I coddled and crooned over. Even then I knew better than to spray them with pesticides, so I devised many creative and non-lethal ways of eradicating these nasty bugs - none of which worked at all. Eventually I got to the point that I would just run two fingers down each stem of my rosebushes, squishing the bas*ards along the way - with my bare hands - yuck!

I'm too squeamish to attempt that now - especially since there are so darn many of them on each plant. I don't have roses anymore, but they're feasting on my milkweed plants instead. They're really not harming anything, but they look so ugly and make me squirm.

Something mysterious is also bugging my new Sour Gum tree. I first noticed ants crawling on the ends of the branches and they led me to find aphids, or some other aphid-like insect, that's feeding on the new growth. They didn't seem to do any real damage and they've since more or less disappeared. Instead I'm seeing these roundish holes cut into a lot of the leaves now, but I don't know enough about insect pests to be able to identify the culprit. My guess would be some type of leaf-cutting bee, but who knows? My Dirr manual says that the most common diseases and pests are canker, leaf spots, rust, scale, and the tupelo leaf miner but none of those seem likely. I wonder if any of you plant geeks have any ideas? There's also a cute little spider that's made a web on the shady side of the tree; I've tried identifying the bugs it's catching, but the mummified corpses in the web give no clue either.

So what's bugging you? Or your garden?

I can add to my list of things that are bugging me - Blogger! It's gone all wonky again and I fear that this post will show up multiple times, if it shows up at all!

Just kidding, Mary!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pretty Peeper

It was a year ago today that Peeper showed up homeless on my doorstep. Happy Gotcha Day, Peeper! Do you remember how worried I was that she was pregnant? How I complained about how hormonal she was? Good grief - I'm glad those times are behind us!

She no longer peeps at me like a little lost bird - that's how I first named her Peeper. She doesn't often sit at the window watching the cars go by like she used to (a peeper in another sense) - so really her name no longer fits her. Growler would suit her better to be honest! She's a sweet girl, but will always be a bit on the wild side, I imagine. Like children, those formative months at the start of a bunny's life often set the tone for a lifetime of relationships. She didn't learn early to trust and so she lives in a place of suspicion in her relations with people. She's ferocious with any of the other bunnies who come by to visit as well.

I love her just the same and hope that as time goes on she'll come to more easily accept affection and attention. She makes her own joy - digging endlessly in any dark place she can roam in and flopping contentedly on her side when ushered back to her cage when I've had enough of her scratching at floors and walls. She likes to play like a cat and will lunge at a hand dragged back and forth on the carpet in front of her - if that hand reaches around then to poke her on the bottom she dances happily away and turns around in midair to pounce again. That she's learned to play at all is proof of her coming around, I think. I think the best thing for her would be for me to move her out onto the porch with the other bunnies so she'd have more company and the opportunity to see the others interact with me in a positive way - that might quell some of her fear. So far there's no room for her out there and she wouldn't get enough time out of her cage anyway. Maybe someday. Until then she shares my office and keeps me company while I blog and do schoolwork.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Red, white and BLUE

My husband and I walked into the Honda dealership today, signed a few papers and came home with a shiny new CR-V. It seems kind of odd that it should be so easy to spend twenty grand. In reality, it wasn't that easy as I've been fussing over it for months - spending that much money makes me very nervous!

I decided on a lease and am trying to figure out if I got a good deal or not. My monthly payments will be the same on this car as on the Civic that I financed 8 years ago. I put more than half down on that car, but this one cost a few thousand more, so I can't quite get how the payments are the same. I know I didn't get enough for the trade in of my Civic, but I haggled as much as I could stand to.

Anyway, I like it! I had planned on getting it in a nice sagey green, but the blue was all that was available on the lot. Most importantly, my husband fits comfortably inside and I won't have to watch him folding himself up into the front seat like he had to do with the Civic.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Boats at sunset

Fireworks were tonight, but we didn't have our usual invite to the ritzy house on the river to see them. Darn! Instead my husband and I drove into town and planted ourselves on lawn chairs in the middle of the police department parking lot! The view was nice enough, but the atmosphere just wasn't the same, as you can imagine.

I love seeing fireworks over the water. One of these days I'll get out in a boat and see them on the river that way. In our town growing up, the display was set in a dirt field; I can remember crying through it every year because I hated the noise so much. I must have spoiled it for everyone within earshot.

I'm looking forward to the day off tomorrow and have nothing planned!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Too much of a good thing

Everything in the pond is growing out of control! The mint that grows along the rock edge is spilling over and sending roots into the pond. The water lettuce and hyacinths that we bought in early May are reproducing at a frightening rate. We bought three of each and must have at least 50 of each now just two months later! It's no wonder those two are considered noxious weeds in tropical climates. I'll have to find friends with ponds who might like a few dozen floating plants. Maybe I can throw in a dozen baby fish for free? Having some shade and cover for the fish is important, but you can see from this pic that more than 2/3 of the pond surface is covered by plants - that's too much - and may lead to problems with the oxygen level in the pond. Anyone want some free plants?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Home is...

wherever you make your nest!
Ospreys seem to have oddball nesting preferences, don't they? At Sandy Hook a few pairs choose chimneys of the out-of-commission officer's buildings rather than the available salt marsh nesting platforms. I've seen them nest on channel markers, cell towers, and once in the top of an old dead tree - imagine that! Are there any oddball nests in your neighborhood?