About Me

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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A good day at the wetland

Entering the last week of October, and our valley has yet to experience a frost (although that situation may change tonight). On a sunny, 60-degree afternoon, avoiding a stack of research paper drafts, I stopped for a few minutes at a wetland backwater of the Ohio River. Lots of life was happening. Some sort of insect was emitting a most musical chirp near the parking area, small beings of some sort were skittering into the fallen leaves before I could see them, bees were still working the late asters, and various unidentified birds were calling among the fall foliage. The sunlight was sparkling on the water in a most satisfying way. Even better, a goldfinch with some of his breeding plumage still hanging on decided to swoop among some trees just a few yards away from me, always a cheerful sight.

Then, the stroll's highlight: a patch of goldenrod that seemed to think we were still in early September, pure, clear yellow in the afternoon light. Sun brought down to earth on an autumn afternoon is a good thing.

Friday, October 7, 2016

"They need to get rid of those weeds"

Or so said the old gentleman encountered on the river trail one morning a few weeks ago. I had commented in passing how lovely it was to walk along the water, and he countered that the "weeds" along the trail were so tall that they sometimes obscured the river view. The solution, of course, would be to have the city take them out.

Now our city employees and a number of volunteers do take out weeds along the river. Every spring brings garlic mustard eradication parties, and the city is waging an ongoing war against Japanese knotweed. These are not, however, the plants about which that morning bench-sitter was complaining. No, the objects of his particular ire were asters, goldenrod, and wingstem.

I simply nodded and kept going, figuring that getting into a debate on what constitutes a weed with a chance-encountered octogenarian was not a worthwhile expenditure of time. Never mind that all three of these "weeds" are featured in the USDA's booklet on pollinator-friendly plants for our region, and that all three have extensive root systems that help protect our fragile riverbanks from erosion.

The ubiquitous goldenrod (solidago sp.) is a pollinator magnet. In a former garden, I mounted a stepstool to determine the variety of insect species feasting on our head-high driveway planting. The exact count has vanished from my memory, but there were lots.

Falling in love with wingstem (verbisena) took a while. It is admittedly an ungainly plant, with flowers that do not appeal to everyone, but I have succumbed to its charms.


So have the local bees. 

Besides, who could manage not to love that color on an early-autumn day?

 And in the fall, asters are the life of the party, the almost-last hurrah of any garden, roadside, or field.

Other than a propensity to colonize the known universe (and this might be a better world if flowers ran it), what's not to like?

Friday, September 30, 2016

A new phase

I have always gardened alone (in terms of my personal garden--the college habitat is quite another thing). Recently, though, some neighborhood children saw me removing some grass from a soon-to-be-expanded bed and asked if they could help; it turns out that a fifth-grader up the block is fascinated with plants, insects, and amphibians.When my flower bulb shipment arrives in a week or so, four enthusiastic volunteers under the age of twelve will be helping to dig the holes, place the bulbs, and spread the mulch.

They also brought me five toads to add to the amphibian population in the walled garden. This is a very useful gift.

Monday, September 19, 2016


...in work, that is; the college is getting its money's worth out of me and my slowed-down mind this last semester. Getting through the papers takes longer than it used to. (Maybe it is not such a good idea to have students writing in all classes nearly every day--except that four of my classes are indeed writing classes. Hmmm...)

I am indeed still alive, and earlier this month actually got away to Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Akron. This local gem requires more exploration, but here is a shot of Indigo Lake, a restful spot that will definitely get a second visit.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Today is my 60th birthday, an age that seemed impossibly old when I was in high school and couldn't imagine living this long. The actual age finds me still reasonably energetic and looking forward to new adventures after I retire from full-time work at the end of this December. (Yes, I could keep going, but our college hires new people only when some of us older ones get out of the way, and we do have some wonderful young teachers who need jobs.)

Yesterday brought a wonderful early birthday present (no offense to the earrings already presented by the dear spouse, who is very good at selecting such things): the planting of Phase One of the trailhead pollinator garden at the school. Several science-department colleagues and a sprinkling of students came out to get plants into the ground (in some of the hardest-baked clay soil I have ever seen, but these are mostly native plants--well, except for the "Autumn Joy" sedum which will draw lots of butterflies--and should be able to take it if we baby them along this first year--after all, they evolved to grow in this area), and in a short time, this

became this.

We need another volunteer crew to finish spreading the mulch, but crescents and skippers were visiting the blossoms and the puddling area while we were still working. Success already! 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Golden Moments

Wandering around a park is always a good thing. This weekend I saw my first eastern phoebe (or at least the first that I identified) and got to enjoy a remnant prairie with large stands of sorghastrum nutans, my favorite Indian grass, in full bloom.

Of course, with that hardly-looks-real blue stem (and why is Indian grass so much bluer than bluestem?), who really cares if the grass blooms or not?

Actually, lots of creatures care. Those lovely seedheads ripen into seeds that are a favorite food of small songbirds, and while the seed was not yet yet ripe, this prairie pocket proved to be a magical space. The air was filled with the twittering of American goldfinches, and anyone who stopped to look over the field was treated to the swooping flight of dozens of male finches, tiny sparks of absolute gold that my camera was unable to capture.

On the edge of Ohio suburbia, golden moments in a little piece of heaven.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

It's not always pretty

Nature, that is. Sometimes, it's downright cruel, depending on one's perspective, but humans do not have a consistent attitude toward predators.

Yesterday morning, the early sun created a shimmer in what turned out to be insect wings caught in a spiderweb strung between a maple tree and a large pot of coleus on the garden wall.. Light passing through translucent membranes has a definite beauty.

The wings, it turned out, had belonged to a cicada, probably one of those singing a few evenings ago. This unfortunate individual had become a meal for some sort of orbweaver, perhaps the cavatica over whom so many of us wept in Charlotte's Web. I must admit to being taken aback at the sight of a large spider sucking the liquified former innards from a cicada corpse just a few feet outside our door.

The first reaction of most of us is probably some variant of "Ewww!"

Another small predator was hiding on a hydrangea leaf just a few feet from the spider and its meal. Why do we have such a different reaction to this guy, who does not eat cicadas only for the reason that he is half the size of that noisy summer insect?

Another human quirk to ponder.