September 3, 2019 Franklin
Yellow is one of my favorite colors for it is a tiny burst of happiness, a visible reminder of laughter and light-heartedness. The evening primrose is one such pleasure with its rich yellow brightness and its fresh lemon scent.
Biennials, these wildflowers take two years to complete their life cycle. The leaves emerge the first year, and then in the second year the beautiful yellow flowers appear. Evening primroses bloom in the hours of twilight, and the four-petaled flowers stay open until noon the next day. Then those particular blooms have completed their mission and fall lifeless to the ground.
The great news is each stem hosts a multitude of flowers, so from early summer to early fall the showy display occurs again each evening. Watching the flower petals open is quite the experience, nature's magic for all who have the time to enjoy.
These unique wildflowers are more than just visual delights. Their nectar-rich blooms attract hummingbirds and butterflies and bees. After the flowers come and go, the seeds become a delicious cuisine for birds. Deer eat the mature foliage. Having these plants in your garden or fields will be a win-win, enriching both you and the wildlife.
Evening primroses are edible. The leaves can be cooked like other greens, and the flowers make a nice garnish for salads. The roots are also edible, especially tasty in the spring. The roots and seeds can be roasted. The plant is full of many nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, and especially an Omega-6 fatty acid, which is known to boost the immune system. There is a multitude of perceived health benefits gained from using evening primrose essential oils. If these uses interest you, then please do careful research yourself first.
Evening primroses are an enchanted addition to any landscape. Their vibrant yellow blooms shine with happiness, bringing a smile to our world-weary spirits. I wish for you such moments of nature's contentment.
Want to know more about these outstanding wildflowers native to North America? Check out these web sites for more information!
August 15, 2019 All Around
An artist's palette on full display! The colors of nature astound and inspire and uplift, the most beautiful tints and hues ever found for they occur naturally without human input; therefore, the beauty is pure.
As summer progresses, and the days become hot and dry and miserable, all we have to do is stop and notice. In spite of the sweltering heat and the relentless beating of the sun's rays, the gorgeous colors still abound, providing our souls with a visual respite.
Morning glory blooms with their intense purple and sparkling white contrast magnificently with the deep greens of their leaves. Likewise, the emerald green of ferns growing in cool, soothing places takes away the frustrations of tedious life, comforting the soul with their essence of peace.
The white delicate lacy umbels of Queen Anne's lace grow boldly beside the ever-outstanding black-eyed Susans, showy with their yellow-orange petals radiating from their dark brown centers. Orange clusters on butterfly weed draw in the butterflies. Just today I saw five velvety dancers on one such wildflower.
And then there is the sky. Stately pines and hardwoods with their dark green foliage are showcased against the gray of stormy clouds. The two complement each other well, the greens and the grays. The fluffy clouds change from dawn to dusk, sometimes dainty pink or regal lavender or fiery red. Soft blues, steel grays, thunderous blacks, innocent whites, these clumps of water droplets are a world all their own as they constantly move and change, providing the perfect excuse for relaxation-cloud watching. Let us never grow too old in spirit for that!
This list could go on and on, for the sheer wonder of the colors of nature is endless. Rocks, caterpillars, turtle shells, salamanders, specks of mica in the red clay soil, white ripples of cold mountain water rippling over black stones of untold age and wisdom, bird feathers, foxes, the speckled coat of a fawn-the opportunities for visual refreshment from nature's display is unending, perpetual, all around us. My hope is that you are in a place where you can partake of this visual feast, enriching your spirit and brightening your days.
August 8, 2019 All Around
Queen Anne's lace is an exquisitely elegant wildflower that graces our landscape with its charming beauty. This hardy biennial with its delicate white blooms grows wildly in fields and along roadsides, in places with optimal conditions and in barren lands. Named after Anne (1665-1714), queen of both England and Denmark, who was noted for her intricate lace-making talents, the common yet classical lacy beauty is noteworthy in many ways.
This wildflower has a stately height of up to four feet. With fern-like, feathery leaves the plant is adorned with a showy white umbel, o flat disc-shaped cluster of tiny white flowers. The umbel florets radiate from a unique center, one dark purple floret which the legend says is a drop of blood from Queen Anne's pinpricked finger. The purpose of this infertile little bloom is unknown, but some speculation suggests it resembles the upturned rear of a female insect, inviting males in with the end result being nothing for them but pollination for the flower.
The umbel resembles a bird's nest during two stages of the flower's existence, which occur during the second year of the plant. When the flower cluster first develops it is closed into itself, looking like a bird's nest. It again reverts to this shape after the seeds have formed, just prior to the umbel's death, closing to wait until the clutching seeds can hitch a ride on passing hosts. For this reason the flower is sometimes called a bird's nest.
Another name for Queen Anne's lace is wild carrot. The roots smell like carrots when crushed, and this member of the parsnip family has several cuisine uses.
Queen Anne's lace is a delightful wildflower to have in fields and flower gardens. It can be invasive, but its delicate lacy addition to colorful flower arrangements, whether growing or in a vase, is worth the bit of necessary growth control. Here's a moment of reverence for the natural wild beauty found all around us!
Note: Care needs to be taken to not confuse Queen Anne's lace with the very deadly poison hemlock plant. The most obvious difference is that the stem and leaves of Queen Anne's lace are covered in tiny hairs, while the leaves and stems of poison hemlock are smooth. Another great distinction is that the roots of Queen Anne's lace have a pleasant carrot aroma, but the roots of poison hemlock smell quite foul. Another visual difference is that the umbel (flower cluster) of Queen Anne's lace is a flat disc of florets, while the flower head of poison hemlock is more rounded.
Want to know more about Queen Anne's lace? Check out these web sites:
July 29, 2019 All Around
"Queen Anne's Lace"
Queen Anne, Queen Anne, has washed her lace
(She chose a summer's day
)And hung it in a grassy place
To whiten, if it may.
Queen Anne, Queen Anne, has left it there,
And slept the dewy night,
Then waked, to find the sunshine fair,
And all the meadows white.
Queen Anne, Queen Anne, is dead and gone
(She died a summer's day),
But left her lace to whiten on
Each weed-entangled way!
~ Mary Leslie Newton
July 23, 2019 Franklin
There he was, his iridescent colors sparkling in the sunlight as he perched on a twig over the clear stream water. The upright velvet black wings and metallic marine blue of the slender damselfly captured my attention as we shared that cool shady spot, and I was honored to be in the presence of an ebony jewelwing.
Damselflies are also called snake doctors, devil's darning needles, damsels, and bog dancers. They are in the same scientific order Odonata as dragonflies, and many of their general features and lifestyle patterns are similar. The easiest distinguishing differences are in their wings, their eyes, and their bodies. A damselfly at rest holds its wings in a vertical position, unlike the dragonfly wings which are positioned horizontally. Damselflies have eyes that are far apart with space between, and their bodies are slender. Dragonflies, on the other hand, have huge eyes that actually touch, filling the entire face, and their bodies are bulky, lacking the trimness of the damselfly physique.
Both of these magnificent insects are survivors. They have been present on earth for eons of time. Fossil evidence proves that they were here during, and even before, the dinosaurs, and their preserved forms show that when they inhabited the dinosaur realm they had the wingspan the same as that of hawks today.
Damselflies are found on all of the continents, except Antarctica. They most often are seen around freshwater areas-marshes, streams, ponds, and lakes. Water is necessary for damselfly reproduction, so it's logical that this is where they live.
After mating, the male damselfly stays with the female, protecting her as she goes underwater to lay her eggs on the stem of a water plant and sometimes helping her emerge from the water. The eggs will hatch in one to three weeks, resulting in a creature that looks nothing like an adult damselfly.
Damselflies develop through a cycle known as incomplete metamorphosis, three stages of growth with each being different from the others. The first stage, obviously is the egg, which hatches into a nymph, sometimes called a larva or naiad. This second stage of life is lived exclusively in the water environment. The damselflies in this stage are a brownish color with three gills that look like feathers extending from the posterior.
The nymphs are carnivorous, meat eaters, feeding on smaller insects and other animals in their body of water. Depending on the species, the damselfly is in the nymph stage from two months to three years, molting five to fifteen times. In essence the majority of the damselfly's life is lived here, a voracious hunter of the underwater world.
Once the final molting time has arrived, the nymph crawls up a water plant stem. The exoskeleton splits for the last time, and the adult form emerges. The gills have been replaced with lungs, called spiracles, located in the abdomen. Fluids have to be pumped through the wings and body, and usually within thirty minutes the beautiful adult flits away in the sunlight. Their adult life lasts from a few days to several months, at the end of which they mate, lay eggs, and then die.
Damselflies are important parts of freshwater ecosystems. They are fierce predators of harmful insects, such as mosquitoes and flies, and they sometimes eat beetles and moths.
These slender flyers, along with their dragonfly relatives, are also used as indicators of water quality. Both are found where the water quality is good, as neither they nor their nymph offspring can thrive in polluted water or where the waterside vegetation is not healthy.
Preserving natural and man-made water sources, like marshes, streams, ponds, and lakes, is crucial to the survival of these outstanding water dancers. Damselflies survived what the dinosaurs couldn't. In our human greed and arrogance, let's not do them in now.
For more information about these unique insects, check out these web sites.
July 4, 2019 Franklin
Blue, red, and white! What a display today of the patriotic colors! Bluebirds really know how to flash their charm in the bright morning sun.
Amazingly, a pair of bluebirds has already nested in the box we put on the old cedar tree a couple of months ago. Most of the time a birdhouse has to weather, sometimes for up to a year, before birds will even begin to nest there. It was such a delight today to notice both parents going in and out of the box, obviously taking in insects for hungry youngsters.
Bluebirds are a success story. Not too far in the past they were in trouble, since their natural habitats were disappearing. Bluebirds build their nests in hollow tree cavities, old fence post crevices, or abandoned woodpecker nests. Much of the farmland and forests, where these ideal locations are found, is disappearing; therefore, the bluebird population was declining due to lack of breeding sites.
But, humans stepped up and saved the day. All along the eastern portion of the United States people created bluebird trails, complete with birdhouses specifically designed for bluebirds. This kind and responsible human gesture has made a tremendous difference, and the population of these remarkable songsters is now thriving again.
Another way to help bluebirds is by planting shrubs that produce berries, especially in winter, on your property. These songbirds with their feathers of blue on their backs, red on their chests, and white on their stomachs primarily eat insects, berries, and fruits. They rarely come to bird feeders unless a fine cuisine of mealworms is offered. But, a selection of berries will entice them to your yard.
The male is quite dedicated to the female, especially during courtship and nesting. Males have even been observed chasing away intruders of their domain, including cats, other birds, and humans. Both parents care for the hatchlings, and the father takes over the first nursery, while the mother begins setting on a second bunch of eggs. The first brood will also sometimes help care for their younger siblings.
Bluebirds are clearly fascinating feathered friends, and watching them is certainly one of the pleasures of life. I hope wherever you are, you are blessed to see for yourself how unique they are. With their red, white, and blue colors, they are noteworthy for sure.
There's so much more to learn about these beautiful birds. Check out these web sites for more information.
June 19, 2019 All Around
Quite possibly, the daisy is the quintessential flower of summer. The happy faces of daisy flowers wave from pristine gardens and roadside fields and abandoned city lots, reminding us of the childhood joys of barefoot summer days.
The daisy flower is an example of simple elegance, if there ever has been one. Its very name suggests a radiant beauty, coming from the Anglo Saxon "daes eage," which means "day's eye." Daisy flowers are early risers, opening their classical blooms as the morning sun brightens the land for a new day.
In the language of flowers, daisy means "loyal love". The bloom, usually white but sometimes other soft colors like pinks and yellows, means "innocence" and "purity". The petals seem to be one simple flower, but actually they consist of two types of florets. There are small ones coming from the golden center, while other larger petals are around the outside edge. Together all the florets merge into one grandly graceful flower.
Some scientists believe the daisies are the oldest flowers on earth. The hardiness of these perennials is evident in the way they grow readily in both full sun or partial shade. They prefer loamy soil, but again they are not picky plants. Rarely are they bothered by insects or diseases.
There are thousands of types of daisy flowers. The traditional wildflower is the oxeye daisy, and the shasta daisy is a descendant of this wild plant. Some of the other most common daisies are the gerbera daisy, the English daisy, and the painted daisy. There are countless more, many of which can be purchased or shared from one flower-lover to another.
Wherever you are on this planet, I hope daisies are a part of your terrain. I hope your spot of earth graces you with these natural beauties, simple elegance in its grandest display. I hope daisies lift your spirits and brighten your days. I am grateful they do mine.
Want to know more about these delightful flowers? Check out these web sites:
June 11, 2019 Floyd
The call rang out in the early hours when the darkness tried to hang on but the daylight broke through instead. "What cheer! What cheer, cheer, cheer! What cheer!" Any day heralded in by the magnificent cardinal would have to be a splendid time!
Possibly unsurpassed in beauty by any other bird, the northern cardinal is striking in both appearance and song. The outstanding bright red of the male shows up brilliantly in all seasons, contrasting well with the greens of spring and summer, accenting the changing foliage of fall days, and making a clear splash of crimson against the winter snow. While mostly tawny brown the females too stand out with their orange bill and red trim around the edges of their feathers.
Maybe it's their great beauty that has made the northern cardinals the state bird for seven states: Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana. The good news is that the population of northern cardinals is actually on the increase, and the showy songbirds are found all along the East Coast, as far north as southern Canada. Westward they can be found to the Great Plains but not beyond, although they do live in the Southwest. What a pleasure it is to have these beauties in so many places, spreading the joy of birdwatching to so many! They rarely migrate, so pairs of these birds can be observed year-round.
The female cardinal is one of only a few female songsters that sings along with the male. It's possible her song is to direct him back to the nest with her food, which he devotedly provides while she is nesting. Males are extremely territorial, which is one reason they are often seen attacking their own images in mirrors and windows.
They are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and meat (insects). Seeds, berries, flowers, true bugs, caterpillars, flying insects-their menu selections are varied but so yummy to them. If you want to attract them to your backyard, one of their favorite foods is black sunflower seeds. They will come, if you feed them.
There is so much to share about these delightful birds. If you want to learn more, check out these web sites. Happy Cardinal Watching! May your days be blessed with "What cheer, cheer, cheer!"
June 6, 2019 Franklin
Want to be a hero? Then step up and save the milkweed plants! Monarchs everywhere will thank you! Monarch butterflies that is!
Milkweed plants are wildflowers, not weeds. Tall plants, they bloom with clusters of pinks and purples, enticing to many insects. These stately flowers with their milky insides are the only type of plant on which monarchs will lay their eggs. Unique wildflowers, they are also the only food the newly hatched monarchs will eat.
The population of monarch butterflies has decreased drastically, as much as 90% according to some studies. Why? The primary reason is because milkweed plants are being eradicated from landscapes due to human development and the use of herbicides.
Since monarch butterflies do not diversify for either their host plants for their egg-laying or for their early meals, then they must have milkweed plants. We as humans can help them so much by treating the milkweeds with the respect they deserve and not as a nuisance.
Not only are these wildflowers crucial to the survival of a species, they are showy in their own right. The beautiful star-shaped blooms of pinks and whites and purples make an attractive addition to any place. Let the milkweeds grow!
Want to know more about these outstanding wildflowers? Check out these web sites:
May 29, 2019 Floyd
Thunderstorms are as much a part of summer as lightning bugs and dandelions. With this weather that rips and roars and flashes in the sky, there comes a humbleness to us, mere mortals in this land.
As often happens, this afternoon the wind came first. The blustering air whipped around, warm and forceful. Trees bent and swayed, keeping tempo with the breezy beat that flowed. Birds were tucked safely in their nests, and even the insects had no desire to try flight in this outburst of wind. It was the warning that more was to come.
And appear it did. Thunder rumbled with its deep bass voice, and lightning flashed, quick and sharp, splitting the darkened sky with white brightness.Then the rain fell, a welcomed refreshment for the dry and dusty soil. The silvery drops came down, chilling and glistening and appreciated. They invited the mere mortals to come and dance in their coolness, washing away the clinging heat.
The storm was brief and to the point, as many of life's storms are. The wind abated, the thunder and lightning rolled away, and the rain soaked into the thirsty earth.
But, the coolness stayed.
The thunderstorm brought humbleness and admiration for the power of nature, as intended. And, we mere mortals were grateful for the parting gift, the deliciously cool summer evening.
May 27, 2019 Floyd
'Tis the season! Firefly nights, that is! One of the pleasures of being outside on warm late spring evenings is to watch the lights shine!
Fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, illuminate the darkening landscape with their tiny flashers, seemingly placed there purely for our enjoyment. Yet, these winged beetles are actually fulfilling their own agenda, while we enjoy the free show.
The primary purpose of the fireflies' language of light is to attract mates. The males fly hither and yon, flashing their lights. If a female, resting in a nearby bush or tree, is enticed by a particular light show, she will respond with her own display. The greater her interest, the brighter her flash back will be. The male will then fly to her, and happy times commence.
Lightning bugs may also use their lights to warn predators away. Fireflies supposedly taste bitter and thus are avoided by insect-eaters. (This is purely based on someone else's research, for I personally have never dined on fireflies.)
Sadly, like so many members of nature, fireflies are in trouble. The primary reasons for their decline in numbers are loss of habitat, the use of pesticides, and light pollution
.What can be done?
Lightning bugs live in a variety of places, with the common factor being near a swampy area or a small body of water, and they need rotting wood or dead leaves. Creating a flower garden is one way to entice fireflies to your spot of land. Including a nonchlorinated water feature and a few piles of old wood, branches, and leaves is an important step. Shrubs are favored daytime resting places. This simple addition of a flower garden to your yard can make a difference to the nighttime beauties.
An overabundance of light (light pollution) confuses the mating ritual of fireflies. This leads to less eggs produced and eventually a reduction in population numbers. It helps to keep outside lights turned off as much as possible, and even closing drapes and blinds is good.
Pesticides obviously are a death sentence for these night light fliers, so less is better in terms of saving the insects. Unfortunately, the pesticides used against mosquitoes have the same deadly impact on lightning bugs.
There are over 2,000 species of lightning bugs, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica, yet the firefly populations are dwindling. The research on how to save them is relatively new, but there have been definite observations of their diminishing numbers. We all need to be concerned and do our part to ensure the curtains do not close forever on this spectacular warm evening light show.
Want to know more about fireflies and how to help them? Check out these websites:
May 17, 2019 Franklin
Songbirds fill our souls with joy, greeting each new day with a melodious welcome and often continuing through the day with a splendid serenade. Possibly the greatest master of this is the northern mockingbird, a delightful part of any property.
Mockingbirds sing many songs, often mimicking the melodies of the other birds that live in the same neighborhood. These grayish-brown songsters continue to learn new songs all of their lives, and males can often sing as many as 200 different songs.
Both the males and the females sing, although the males do so more and with crisper vocals. The males sing both during the day and during th night, although it seems to be unattached males who do the nighttime jamborees, especially when the moon is full. Females sing more during the fall, maybe as a way to establish her winter territory.
These birds live in a variety of places, particularly preferring open fields, lawns, parks, the edges of forests, and in suburban developments. Their nests are built three to ten feet above the ground, and consist of a twig foundation (built by the male) and a cup-shaped bowl lined with soft materials like animal fur and small plants (done by the female)
.In these tidy nests both parents raise their young. The female sits on three or four bluish-gray eggs with brown blotches on one end. After twelve or so days of incubation, the eggs hatch, and the parents feed and care for the young birds. The babies leave the nest after about twelve days but cannot fly well for another week.
Mockingbirds are great to have around, for they eat primarily insects and arachnids in the spring and summer and then feast on berries in the fall. They thrive on grasshoppers, beetles, wasps, spiders, and earthworms, to name a few of their favorite summer dining pleasures. In the fall berries and wild fruits are their main meals.
This morning I was captivated to watch a male mockingbird fly up into the air, do his trademark flight dance with his white wing bars flashing in the sunlight, and then perch on the power line, only to repeat this over and over. Intermingled with his dance were beautiful songs, a variety of melodies sung with great enthusiasm. My favorite was the perfect rendition of the whippoorwill. The mockingbird gave an excellent mimicry of the whippoorwill, which we hear often in the night.
This was my gift for the day-the joy shared by the mockingbird. I hope that you too, wherever you are, can be so blessed.To learn more about mockingbirds and for great photos, check out these wedsites:
May 15, 2019 Floyd
The flame azaleas are in their full glory! Their orange blazes of blossoms contrast splendidly with the natural greens, setting the forest coolness afire with their brilliant color.
Native to the Appalachian mountains from Pennsylvania to Georgia, these tall shrubs are truly remarkable in their beauty. They bloom from late spring until early summer, and their blooms are larger than most other azaleas. The colors range from fiery oranges to vibrant yellows to brilliant reds, and the intense colors attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and especially bumblebees.
Found naturally in wooded areas and baldy peaks of the Appalachians, this member of the heath family can also be purchased commercially by those not fortunate enough to live in the flame azalea's native land. These azaleas are showy additions to any landscape, although they prefer acidic soil with moderate moisture.
While the blooms of the flame azalea are beneficial to many insects and hummingbirds, they are highly toxic to humans and most animals. All parts of the shrub are poisonous. Honey made from the blooms can even be fatal, as can injesting any part of the plant. They are a prime example of deadly beauty, for sure.
Flame azaleas are visually outstanding, attracting our attention with their blazing flowers. Their glorious colors light up the landscape and fill us with admiration as we gaze on this natural jewel, complete with no human interference, put here for our enjoyment.
If you would like to know more flame azaleas, check out these web sites.
May 6, 2019 Floyd
There's nothing quite like the slow steady song of the hoot owl, a unique addition to the twilight outdoors symphony of the countryside. On this particular evening, I was serenaded most splendidly, and then suddenly...a raucous outbreak of accompanying noise made me pause and wonder if I had been transported into a faraway jungle somewhere. The cause of this outburt of primal chatter-the owl's babies, of course.
The hoot owl is officially known as the barred owl. Mottled brown and white, their dark brown eyes peer from a round face. Bars of brown and white are all over their bodies with horizontal bars of brown running across the chest and horizontal chocolate bars running up and down the large body. The wings are also colored with brown bars on a white background. There is an understated classical beauty in their coloration, simple yet outstanding.
Hoot owls live in older forests mixed with both hardwoods and coniferous trees, preferably near water. They live in hollows in these trees, and there they sit quietly through the days, Silently, and perhaps wisely, they watch the life of the forest while saying little.At night they become active, hunting for the small animals they eat. They are especially fond of rodents, and thus, play a crucial role in nature's balance.
Barred owls mate for life, and both parents care for the young. The babies remain in the nest for about three before venturing out. They don't fledge, or take their first flight, until about six weeks of age.
Fascinating in their song and admired for their classic plumage, barred owls, also known as hoot owls, are worth noticing. It is far easier to hear one than to see it, but either hearing or seeing is a treat. These majestic birds of the night add a regalness to an aged patch of woods, and they fill us with wonder as we learn from their tendency to watch more than speak, to listen more than to vocalize.
If you would like images or more information on hoot owls, check out these web sites.
April 26, 2019 Floyd
The cool, refreshing scent of mint reached my senses, causing me to realize I was trampling through it. What a pleasant find, a patch of mint growing wildly beside the small stream.
Mint is such a delightful herb. Pinching it between the fingertips creates the splendidly cool aroma, providing an instant stress-reliever. It grows fairly easily in the wild, usually on the banks of a stream or creek or in other moisture-laden places. It also thrives readily on a windowsill, adding both a pleasing aroma and a gentle beauty to any room.
Mint is best known for its culinary uses. The leaves themselves can be steeped in hot water for five or so minutes, creating a deliciously relaxing drink. The leaves can also be used in salads and salsas and chocolate chip cookie dough. A mint garnish accents chicken dishes well, and a sparkling limeade with mint leaves added is tasty. The possibilities are endless.
The number of types of mint varies from source to source with a range of thirteen to twenty. The various mint types include peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, orange mint, and pineapple mint.
Mint is a fascinating herb. It is distinguished by its square stems, and tiny blooms of white, pink, purple, or blue give it a certain fragileness in appearance.
But, there's not much fragile about this delightful plant. As a perennial, it seems to enjoy spreading far and wide with its long roots that run underground. New plants grow up from these rambling roots, and mint can overtake the unwary gardener.
The positive aspects of mint, though, far outweigh its invasive tendencies. One easy way to handle mint is to grow it in pots, either above ground or sunken. Constant watering is the key to maintaining these hardy perennials when they are in pots.
Mint is well-worth the bit of care needed, for it is known to repel such unwanted creatures as cockroaches, ants, and deer. With its cool fragrance and culinary delights, along with the way it wards off the invaders, mint is a definite asset to any garden or windowsill.
Want to learn more about the members of the MENTHA group, the mints? Check out these websites!
April 21, 2019 Floyd
I saw a towhee today, one of my favorite birds at least in part because it has a most unique name. Towhees are delightful birds to observe, elusive most of the time and more easily heard than seen.
Eastern towhees are beautiful sparrows. Black feathers adorn the head and back with white underneath. A band of reddish-brown is between the black and the white, creating a visually appealing plumage arrangement.
Eastern towhees are related to the western spotted towhees, and once upon a time the two were considered the same species, known as the rufous-sided towhee. Geographically, the two still live in the same areas on the Great Plains and often interbreed here.
Eastern towhees are often victimized by cowbirds that lay their eggs in the nests of the towhees. The towhees do not seem to notice the cowbird eggs and subsequent baby cowbirds they raise, partly because the cowbirds may roll out a towhee egg for each cowbird egg left in the nests. Nature's way often seems so unfair.
The towhee's name comes from its song. From their preferred places of residence in shrubs, undergrowth, and low-branched trees, their sweet songs ring out as DRINK-YOUR-TEEEA, which sometimes then becomes TOW-EEEEE. In some areas these birds are also affectionately called chewinks because of the call they give.
Omnivores, they eat both animals and plants. As meat eaters, they devour insects, spiders, millipedes, and snails. They also like seeds and berries and are common visitors to bird feeders.
These fun sparrows are a treat. They have their own niche, or unique place, in the great outdoors. Their songs fill the air with joy, and to actually see one is to know that there are bright moments in this life.
To learn more about towhees and for photos of these gorgeous feathered friends, check out these websites:
April 14, 2019 Floyd
Wind, it blows where it will and travels where it wants. Up, down, through, under, around-there are few barriers that can stop the flow of nature's air. Its power depends on its intensity. Some days we welcome its warmth or its coolness, while at other times we shudder under its might. It can ruffle the hair of a babe, or it can uproot massive trees. It is one of the most fascinating forces of the earth.
Many words in the English language represent the wind. Gentle words like breeze and puff are appreciated, especially on hot days. Tulips and daffodils and snapdragons dance lightly in easy flutters of outdoor air. Zephyr, a mild wind, is often not used, but it still carries the thought of a gentle west wind.
Other words are more forceful. Gale, blast, and tempest suggest a fierceness. Their strength implies it would be better to stay inside by the fire with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate than to venture out into the wildness of these winds.
Most storms carry winds with them wherever they go. The winds are major components of hurricanes and tornadoes. Blizzards wouldn't exist without tremendous snowy whirlwinds.
Some windy words are regional. Typhoons are hurricanes in the West Pacific, and cyclones refer to hurricanes and tornadoes in the Northern Hemisphere. Mistrals are cold winds associated with southern France, while chinooks are warm winds that blow down the eastern side of the Rockies during the spring, beginning the snow melt.
The winds of nature move and shape our world, not requiring nor requesting our permission. Oftentimes, the winds of life do the same. All we can do is continue onward.
April 6, 2019 All Around
Spring is an explosion of colors this year! There is a visual rhapsody whichever way the eyes travel, giving a tremendous lift to the spirits. The rainbow of delights inspires and rejuvenates the beholder.
Yellow is one of the first colors to emerge. This primary color reveals itself in dandelions and daffodils, forsythia bushes and Chinese roses. The yellow blooms of daisy-like wildflowers and wild mustard give warmth to banks and meadows.
Purple represents the blue family well with its multitude of shades. Red buds adorn the forests and roadsides, the delicate blooms combining to create a tree-full of splendor. Grape hyacinths and crocuses hug the ground like a royal carpet, and tiny wild violets in deep purples accented with white give the perfect excuse to not mow the yard yet.
Red tulips sway in the gentle breezes, and bushes show off flashy red blooms. The white and pink blooms of cherry trees and dogwoods look like an eruption of puff balls on the trees. Long flowing limbs of white give the bridal wreath shrubbery its elegance.
In nature green defies the laws of art, and its very dominance makes it a primary color. Green, described as kelly or celery or sage or spruce or any other number of green words, is everywhere, bursting forth after warm rains. The crispness of the greens provides the perfect accompaniment to all the other enchanting colors.
What a privilege it is to take in all these glorious colors! What a joy it is to let the beauty fill the soul with gratitude for being alive! Welcome, spring! Welcome, life!
March 26, 2018 Franklin
Daffodils are such joy! Their bright yellows and oranges shine forth in both sun and rain, and their early emergence from the soil drives away the winter blues that may have beset our souls.
In the language of flowers, daffodils represent friendship. It's no wonder, as these vibrant early spring flowers have such happy blooms. Perennials, these plants are tough and will reappear year after year with very little care.
Indeed, these hardy flowers are often all that is left of an old homeplace. While wandering in the woods, I have realized a cabin had once been in the place because clusters of daffodils were blooming. Long after the house and chimney and barn have disappeared back into the earth, the daffodils continue on, a beautiful testimony to the human lives that were once there.
Daffodils are native to the Mediterranean area. The Romans carried them to Great Britain, and eventually they made their way to the colonies. These uplifting blossoms continued their travels, as they became the must-have for settlers and homesteaders across the land.
Also called narcissuses and jonquils, daffodils include at least fifty species and thousands of hybrids. Colors of yellows, oranges, and whites in various combinations provide the daffodil lover with a vast array. Different sizes mean it's easy to fill both large areas and small nooks and crannies with these splendid early spring blooms.
Hats off to the hardy daffodils! Thank you for sharing your simple elegance with us mere mortals!
Want to know more about these outstanding flowers? Check out these Web sites, complete with gorgeous photos.
March 20, 2018 Franklin
Today is the first day of spring, so let us rejoice in it! Scientifically, this day, the vernal equinox, is the day of equal hours of daylight and darkness, which is a grand event indeed. But, spring is so much more to the soul, the promise of new life after the barren, dreary days of winter.
The crisp spring greens are emerging. Warmer temperatures and gentle rains have paved the way for the life forces sleeping beneath the earth to burst forth. Blooms adorn the trees, large and small, and flowers push toward the light, popping from the soil in jubilee.
With these signs of life our spirits are uplifted too. Like a long lost friend, sunshine has returned for consecutive days, which seems a miracle after the continual stream of rainfall that has cascaded from the heavens. Sunshine! Blessed friend! Welcome back!
Spring is a delightful season with the promise of brighter days and warmer weather. The sights and sounds of nature fill the landscape, reminding us once again that life continues on. How we see our days is ours to mold, inner sunshine intermingled with splashes of rain.
February 25, 2019 Floyd
All it takes is a warm day loaded with sunshine and blue skies, and the earth comes alive! Days and days and weeks and weeks of cold and rain and snow and sleet and fierce winds have kept us all shrouded in the frigid reign of winter. Now, though, in these premature tickles of spring, we all, flora and fauna alike, feel the uplifting energy of the life force.
Today the ferns and mosses seem brighter, their crisp green silently shouting their exuberance for the warmth. These seedless plants naturally convey peace and quietness, for they are found in the cool shady spots near water, inviting relaxation and reflection. Yet, today they are standing proudly, no longer bowed down by the daunting cold but now shining in their vibrant shades of green: forest, kelly, pickle.
So much of nature is emerging from the depths of winter survival, but today the ferns and mosses are most outstanding. The richness of their beauty is so pronounced as they sing forth the joys we all are feeling from this time in the sun, the glorious solar rays soaking into our winter-weary souls.
January 12, 2019 Floyd
Cold and bitter are the wintry days that are here with a frigid wind cutting through mortal bodies, seeping into the very soul. Yet, close observation reveals many tiny specks of green, different plants that hug the earth tightly now, waiting for the warmer days of sunlight. One such plant is the common mullein, often seen as a weed instead of as the magnificent herb that it is.
The common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a herb that grows easily with few special requirements. It thrives in various places as long as there is ample sunlight. From soil-rich woodsy areas to wastelands, this edible plant with green-silver leaves is easy to grow, and for this reason, is a simple addition to any flower garden in need of tall, showy, yellow-blooming plants.
The plant is a biennial, meaning the leaves grow to maturity in the first growing season, and in the second year the plant produces seeds and then dies at the end of that growing season. For the mullein the first year consists of a growth of fuzzy leaves which radiate outward from a center, creating a rosette. These leaves may reach a length of a foot, so this velvety green-silver foliage is quite impressive on its own. In the second growing season a tall stalk, sometimes as high as two feet, emerges from the center of the leaves and then yellow blooms appear on the stalk. The taller the stalk, the longer the herb will bloom.
The blooms are a bright yellow, attractive especially to bees and butterflies and certain other pollinators. Sometimes resplendent for weeks on end, these flowers are bright and uplifting, adding pleasantly to any flower bed or herb garden.
The common mullein is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia but was brought to North America by the early settlers in the 1700's because of its great medicinal values. The Native Americans soon learned from the colonists how beneficial this herb is, and they too cultivated it for their own uses. Because of its undemanding growing requirements the plant quickly spread across the United States and by 1876 it was found along the Pacific coast.
And what is so special about this common wildflower? To early settlers, it had many potential uses, including these: respiratory relief, earache relief, antiseptic for skin infections, and soothing for bruises. The leaves and flowers have been included in salads, and the flowers have been used to create dyes for cloth. Mullein tea is an easy-to-make drink. Besides their outward beauty, the practical value of this plant has been utilized through the generations.
The common mullein has been called many names. Parts of the stalks and leaves were once used to make lamp wicks, so the plant was called the candlewick plant, and the Romans of long ago used the mullein to make torches. One legend claims witches used the plant to make torches, earning it the name hag tapers, while a contradictory tale says that torches made from the mullein would drive away evil spirits. It may also be called rabbit ears because of the velvet texture of the beautiful leaves, and probably for a similar reason it has been known as cowboy toilet paper. Other names are velvet plant, flannel-leaf, and big taper. So many names simply add testimony to the intense value of this too-often disdained common herb.
In the midst of these cold bitter winter days it's refreshing to ponder the wonders of spring that will be here sooner than we realize. Observing the leaves of the common mullein curled tightly against the frozen earth, still maintaining their striking green-silver luster, reminds us that spring is soon to appear. Until then, we need to be like the mullein, thriving in spite of the intense cold. For, you see, the mullein must have the cold of winter in order to bloom in early summer. This process, called vernalization, is absolutely necessary. The present wintry frigidness allows for the glorious blooming when the warmth returns to the land. There's a lesson for us in that!
Please note: The intent of this blog is to awaken an interest in all of us to learn more and more about nature. Do not attempt any medicinal uses of this or any other herb without consulting your own physician and thoroughly detailed sources.
Want to learn more about this delightful plant? Here are a few Web sites for getting started!
December 30, 2018 Floyd
The old year is soon to be in the archive pages, days gone by, memories made, lessons learned, inspiration gained. Where does the time go? To me there is no answer to this eternal question.
I reflect on the wonders of nature experienced through this year. There's no point in recounting them one by one. But, there are a few that stand out from the past few human-induced busy weeks
.On December 20th I was overjoyed to witness a quiet moment, stolen from the yard inhabitants, the white-tail deer that live here. Looking out the upstairs bathroom window I was able to silently appreciate the six deer that were lounging around in the backyard. Contentedly, they lay in the winter grass, chewing while they surveyed their kingdom. Through the glass I could see the individual strands of fur, and the light reflected in their eyes testified to their importance in the grand scheme of life. They were the real epitome of the season, a true peace on earth.
The other night after the sun had set and darkness walked the countryside I was out and about on a nightly ramble. (If you've never done this in winter and are in a place of safe walking, then I encourage you to take a chilly nighttime walk.) Through the ebony blanket came the sound of a hoot owl. Its primal call vibrated thorugh the stillness of the crisp air, giving a feel of nature's wildness that hovers here. As the owl's hoots eerily filled the air, I realized the specialness of the moment, sharing this primitive bit of time with the other night seekers
And tonight! Warmer than it has been in a while, the winter frigidness seemed to be held at bay, making the nightly outdoor escapade pleasant. Yet, the abnormal warmth did not diminish the stars' brilliance. The sky glowed vibrantly, the bright twinkles adding an extra dimension to the celestial canvas. Stars with their glistening radiance always create in me a sense of seeing into heaven's portals, tiny pinpricks in the sky that allow us mere mortals to catch a glimpse of the resplendent next world.
This year will soon be over, another chapter closed in this grand adventure of life. Looking back, it all seems so short, so quickly passed. Yet, looking forward into the new year, it is so far-reaching, open with expectations and possibilities. May the next part of each of our journeys be filled with love and joy and peace. May we grow in our appreciation of the wildness of nature, and may we be blessed with countless opportunities to be a part of the wonders of nature. Safe travels, dear friends, and joyous adventures!
December 9, 2018 Floyd
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
~ Robert Frost
December 8, 2018 Floyd
The air is cold, and the skies are cloudy. The feel of snow is here, seeping through layers of thick clothes, reminding the soul of the beauties and the dangers of frozen precipitation
.Instinctively, I want to eat, even though I'm not really hungry. And it's not just me. The cats and the dog and the horses all seem to have the munchies today. It's a survival reaction, the urge to add layers of insulation by eating. Cold affects all of us in the same way; the more natural insulation we have, the better we can ward off the frigid air. Sometimes this means the difference between living and dying.
There is also an indwelling thought that we had better eat now while food is readily available. Our primitive heritage shows itself, pushing to the forefront the idea that once the cold and snow and ice all blanket the ground, then finding food will be even more difficult.
Wild animals deal with this daily, and the winter months are especially brutal for them. Not only do they need the added insulation for self-protection against the biting cold, they also struggle to find food. They are now resigned to the occasional berries, acorns and other tree nuts, and whatever meager grass and evergreens they can find. It's a tough time.
Any safe food we can leave out for wildlife at this time especially is most helpful. And, any help we can give to our less fortunate human brothers and sisters is also valuable. Now is not the time to be selfish, but rather we need to respond to another primitive urge, that of being social creatures that join together for survival.
Enjoy these days. Let go of the guilt and savor those munchies. Be generous in whatever ways you can. Wherever you are, I hope you can feel the warmth in spite of the cold-in body and soul.
December 5, 2018 Floyd
Today's morning walk revealed a pair of blue jays flitting about in the pines. Their vibrant blues with black trim were a welcome sight amidst all the greens and grays. The biting cold didn't seem to diminish their zest for life, and their exuberance was uplifting, for sure.
Blue jays are unique birds in their own right. They were among some of the first birds noticed and recorded by the early European settlers in the New World. Considering their showy behaviors and intense blue plumage which is accented by black bands, it's no wonder these feathered flyers were so outstanding. They continue now to be among the most visible birds at backyard feeders and along wooded trails.
Possibly the most striking feature of blue jays is their plumage. They appear to be a rich blue. This, however, is misleading, for they are really brown. Seriously! The feathers appear blue because of the way their shape catches and reflects sunlight. The intense blue is really an optical illusion, but oh, what a pleasing misconception!
Some bird watchers consider blue jays to be bullies, for they often drive away smaller birds from feeders. They are often loud with their calls, sometimes obnoxiously so; they can even mimic the cries of a hawk, although it is not clear why they do this. There has also been some observation of them eating eggs and fledglings of other bird species, but the data does not yet clarify if this is a common practice.
Yes, jays are aggressive, and they don't hesitate to use their forcefulness to get what they want. It would be easy to personify these birds, for their intrusive behaviors are so often seen similarly in humans that make a successful mark on the world. Sometimes it is the ones that forge ahead against all odds that emerge in the lead.
Love them or hate them, we do need to give respect to these beautiful feathered neighbors. Once hindered by the clearing of forests in the eastern United States, blue jays adapted and learned to survive in more developed areas, including in large cities. They are intelligent, survivors down through time. Their beauty is surpassed by none, especially in the frigid winter when their intense shades of blue allude to brighter, warmer days.
Would you enjoy learning more about blue jays? Chek out these Web sites:
December 4, 2018 Floyd
The air itself seems to be awaiting the incoming weather. There is a biting crispness in the atmosphere, almost piercing the ears, definitely reminding the soul to prepare. Winter forecasts abound, bouncing around in the social realm; yet, it doesn't take a media outlet to verify moisture hangs in the air and cold seeps into the bones.
There is a specialness to winter. The anticipation of precipitation is probably most pronounced in the cold months, a wait-and-see excitement that continues to affect most long after the years of childhood have passed.
Plans of preparation are made, plans for heat and food and hot chocolate and sled rides. Warm beds are ensured for pets, and the farm animals are gathered in. Extra wildlife food may be put out, especially for the birds. Elderly neighbors and others that need special care are checked on, for this is the way it is-we look out for each other and never assume that all is well.
Winter can be a harsh time. The cold is frigid, and the wind can be unforgiving. Perseverance reaches a different level than in other seasons, and preparing ahead of the storm is a necessity. But, there is also a grand beauty to winter, a stark clarity of the overall power of nature and of our human fragileness in the face of that strength. Stay warm and safe, dear reader friends, and let your youthful spirits lift a bit as we look forward to the wintry days ahead. The anticipation of precipitation is upon us!
November 26, 2018 Floyd
Time passes, more and more quickly. Here we are almost to the tip end of November, yet it seems the year has only just begun. The seasons have rolled around once again with the fingertips of fall holding on for a few more days before the calendar beginning of winter. Time marches on.
In today's walks I looked for the beauty of nature. I am a spring-summer person. Fall and winter are not my favorites, but even I must admit that these seasons too have their purposes. The miracles of the creation are still here, continuing the natural life cycle of all.
Now that most of the rich, royal colors of fall have faded, the deep greens are shining forth. Pines and laurels and persistent grasses are the main colors now. Most everything else has subsided, so now the greens and grays and browns are bursting into view. I need to make a list of what is still green. I probably will be surprised and should gain a new respect for the growth that persists in spite of the encroaching cold.
And, that's the point, isn't it? Time marches on, and the seasons come and go. Life, though, continues on, if not for each individual creature, then for the life force. Energy abounds, flowing from one being into another, perpetuating the zeal for moving forward. All we can do is embrace each day for the opportunity it provides, hopefully adding some good to the overall grand composition.
November 25, 2018 Floyd
I saw a woolly bear today, black as black can be. The folk legends declare that this means a severe, bitter winter is ahead. Whether the caterpillar is the true indicator or not, the harsh winds of cold are upon us. Maybe the caterpillar, completely adorned in black, is speaking the truth.
Woolly bears, also known as woolly worms, are the caterpillars of Isabella tiger moths. In the adult moth form, these relatives to butterflies are a tannish-brown color with a vertical row of black spots on the body and tiny black dots scattered across the bottoms of the inner wings. The adult moths are relatively inconsequential, but the caterpillars are probably the most recognized caterpillars in America. Found in Mexica, throughout all of the United States, and across southern Canada, these bristly, harmless caterpillars are known by most everyone.
Normally, there is a brownish-orange band between the two ends of black. As the legend goes, the wider the band of orange, the milder the winter will be; therefore, a completely black caterpillar indicates a winter of severe weather.
True or not? It's hard to say. The folklore is not based on hard-core scientific research. Some would say it's all hogwash, not dependable at all. But, maybe there is merit in it. Beyond, but not excluding, the woolly bear, I personally believe the animal kingdom is more empowered with a knowledge of upcoming weather than the best meteorologists. After all, the lives of those in the natural world depend on their self-preparation. It would serve all us humans well to observe the actions of the wild ones around us, from the tiny to the majestic. Truth bearers or not, their daily lives are fascinating to watch and more real than any human productions.
Are you seeking more information about woolly bears? Check out these Web sites.
November 22, 2018 Floyd
Today, this day set aside for the giving of thanks, I thought on the blessing of peace that we have here. It is no small matter to live in a place of peace, where we don't have to walk in fear, where being outside alone in the great outdoors is a mostly safe, common choice.
In so many places in the nation and in the world there is outrageous danger, especially in being outside alone. Evil runs rampant, and the violence that some humans impart on other humans is beyond description. It is impossible to gain spiritual renewal from the joys of nature because people are in mortal danger. This is tragic and goes against the plan of the Creator.
So, on this day of thanksgiving, I reflect on the supreme blessing that I have enjoyed always, the pleasure of going outside and soaking in the tranquility that nature offers. To sit in peace and watch a butterfly land on a bloom, to take a walk with only the sounds of the forest chirping and singing and cooing and calling, to rest beside a babbling brook and feel with my soul the eternal motion of the water cascading over the rocks placed there eons ago-these are all gifts. These all lead to peace, a deep, in-the-spirit, oneness with the universe that supersedes all else.
I hope that, wherever you are, you too have your own spot of joy. My wish is that you too have a small bit of earth and sky and water that give to you the blessings of a sense of wonder in the magical moments of nature that remind us that we ourselves are so small in the grand picture. Humbleness of the soul is a tremendous part of peace within. Blessings to you, dear friend. Peace.
November 18, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
This is a most unique place, one of special opportunities to touch nature in so many ways, on so many levels. To be here is a gift, an experience that creates a sense of awe and humbleness. It is a place of quietness for the soul and inspiration for the artist and writer, while also exuding energy and adventure.
It has been our great pleasure and our tremendous honor to be a part of this wonderful bit of earth. We have so many memories here: discovery and joy and sorrow, accomplishments and injuries, lots of laughter and a few tears.
The observations are endless and can never be fully recounted: eagles, herons, Canada geese, mallard and merganser ducks and the other types that sent me time and time again to my duck resources looking for identification, the least bittern, otters, the chubby groundhog, the Velveteen Rabbit, and the bear.
Some became very personal to us: Goldie and Galahad, come spring I will be hoping you successfully nest your goslings this time; Osrik, once called Serena, thank you for being such a calm mallard, only protesting my intrusion of your space on the trail with one small quack; Mr. Bear, thank you for observing our fire pit steaks from a distance (as told to us the next day by a passing neighbor). And the beavers! The best meteorologists around! I will miss you most with your wise ways and amazing craftscritter skills.
The memories taken from here will always be a part of our lives. The lessons learned from absorbing the wonders of nature, lessons that strengthen the human soul, will never be forgotten, as they have become a part of who we are. Every day brings at least one gift, and our gifts from this place have been immeasurable.
The joy is the place is now in the hands of kindred spirits. There are no words to express how this helps. The new owners have the same vision, and the same desire to be a part of this most special place. They too recognize that the greater pleasure is being a part of nature here, not the intruder seeking to overpower and destroy. It is our gift that they came our way and felt the same love that we have. Now the essence of this place can touch more lives, enlarging the circle of pure goodness. This makes my heart happy.
November 6, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
by Carl Sandburg
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
And so it was this evening. The fog crept silently from the cove, moving downward over the lake. Without sound it soon covered the water with a veil of gray, adding a sense of enchantment to a place already most beloved.
The lake has many faces, and the one presented this evening at twilight was one of magic and fairies, of a place where the animals talk and where humans are the ultimate intruders. Still present but with lessened intensity, the colorful display of the trees' oranges and yellows and evergreens was overlaid with the lacy fog shroud. Moving truly on small cat paws, the fog crawled slowly across the water's surface, once again demonstrating nature's power on what will be.
Then the heavens were lit with amazing glory. The pinks and purples of the fluffy clouds created a unique magnificence, made even moreso by the contrasting darkening sky. The silent gray veil and the awe-inspiring celestial colors complemented each other perfectly.
Nature never sits still. There is always movement and change, energy transforming from one element to another. In today's twilight moments the ever-silent footsteps of the silvery fog inched along lowly while the heaven's roses spilled across the clouds.
October 30, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
To those with open eyes the wonders of nature abound. There is great beauty in these little glimpses into another world, a dimension of life that has nothing to do with humans, good or bad.
This afternoon while walking along the lakeshore trail to the Rock Garden I had such a moment in time. A large bundle of fur, and I mean probably near thirty pounds, was hunched over on the bank, right at the edge of the water. Coming closer I realized I was within ten feet of a massive beaver, possibly the patriarch or the matriarch of the beaver clan. The mighty creature was not a