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

Sunday, April 10, 2016

It's alive!

When we moved from Chipmunk Ridge last year, I potted up some favorite plants to bring with us. One of those was clematis viorna, a native vine with sweet little bell-shaped flowers in an unreal-looking pink and yellow combination. (My photos of the plant are all on an external hard drive that I am too lazy to access at the moment, but you can access images and information here.) Not sure how a native vine would do in a container, but not having anyplace in the walled garden to plant it until the Final Battle With the Alien Invaders has been won, I purchased the largest container available at our local Lowe's (which coincidentally happened to be pink and on sale for $2.99), planted the clematis with burgundy and chartreuse heuchera, and stuck in a large tripod from our local ironworkers at Garden Forge for climbing.

The results were not good. The heuchera did fine, and for a good few months the clematis climbed slowly, twining its tiny tendrils around the metal supports and putting out some healthily-green leaves. Then--nothing. Sometime in September or thereabouts, viorna vanished. Not a wisp of anything vaguely resembling a vine.Evidently, the plant had departed this earthly plane.

The pot remained on the patio all winter, where the heuchera stayed in full leaf in front of the large bare spot. Then, making my morning toast, I glanced out the window to see--tendrils! Viorna has put out a good eight inches of growth already, and we had snow just a couple of hours ago.

This is a Sign of Good Things to Come.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A beauty-ous spring

This may be the best year for spring beauties (claytonia virginica) that I remember. Of course, it is totally possible that my memory is getting worse, but this year, the little things are everywhere: not only in the lawns and lawn strips where we expect them, but popping up in sidewalk cracks and covering one entire side of the Turtle Mound, a Hopewell earthwork a few blocks from our home. Alas, I had no camera with me when walking past the mound, but this view of a city park may give an idea of the abundance of beauties this year.

And this isn't one of the most thickly- carpeted areas. When the violets and dandelions really get going in a day or so, the show will be even more impressive.

Individual claytonia blooms are small--not as tiny as those of creeping veronica (a favorite weed) but not as large as those of sweet violet, with both of which it shares a blooming season. It is a major nectar source for early pollinators, so most people around here avoid mowing until after the plants go dormant.

Claytonia is edible (not that I have ever sampled it) and has had a variety of medicinal uses. Native peoples dug and roasted the corms, while the raw roots were eaten as a form of birth control. The powdered plant was used to treat convulsions, eye problems, and dandruff, according to Marian Blois Lobstein of the Prince William Wildflower Society.

 I don't intend to experiment with our local plant populations, but obviously, spring beauty is more than just a pretty face.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The beauty of bark

Spring is (finally!) springing out all over, but today it was the tree bark along the river trail that got my attention. The process began with "the dancers," one particularly graceful group of trees along the Muskingum River,

but soon brought out my usual admiration for the utter whiteness of mature sycamore bark.

Sycamores are not my favorite trees most of the year, given that their fluff irritates my eyes and nose and their leaves take forever to break down, but in their unveiled state, they are one of the most beautiful of all trees.

 Tree skin is even more varied than human skin, ranging from this relatively delicate version

to the delightful shagginess of dawn redwood (and don't you love it that the ancestors of this tree shared the planet with dinosaurs?)

or an old crabapple.

Young members of the genus Prunus tend to have a gorgeous shimmer

 but can get entertainingly warty at the same time.

Some bark becomes an ecosystem.

 If the presence of buds is any indication, we are soon likely all to be flower-intoxicated,

but for a few more days, it's all about the bark.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

There's a story there

and I'm not sure I want to know what it was. This scruffy male house finch, obviously the worse for wear,

has been missing a good many of his feathers for at least the last two weeks. He is very skittish, bolting even when he hears the camera lens moving. This was the first time he stayed in place long enough for me to get a picture.

Something happened to this little guy, and whatever it was, it wasn't good. (I suspect an encounter with the cat from next door, who cannot be persuaded to stay out of our yard.)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Something new every day

Yesterday was so gorgeous (again--a person could get used to this weather, although Mother Nature is having second thoughts right now) that the spouse and I took another walk along the river and perched for a while on a favorite bench. While there, we noticed squirrels perched out on really tiny branches of trees hanging out, seeming awfully close to the water. Of course, we had no binoculars or camera with us, so it took a few moments of observation to be sure what the little rodents were doing.

They were eating the new leaf or flower buds on whatever this tree was. It had heavy, furrowed bark and so was definitely not a sycamore, but the branches were much too high up (and much too far down the bank for those of us less agile than squirrels to get very close, anyway) for us to get a good look. The squirrels' activity, though, was unmistakable, as they were nibbling their way from branch to branch.

I had no idea that the furry little seed-snitchers were also fond of fresh greens. The cliché was right: it is indeed possible to learn something new every day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lazy and loving it

With work-related documents to finish and an online class to interact with and a talk for Women's History month to write and--oh, yes, a house to clean--there is no time to be lazy. But all immediately pressing tasks were completed by 3:30, so I walked out of the office to a sunny March afternoon with temperatures in the seventies. Given March's sometime caprice of dumping a foot or two of snow on the unwary, today seemed worth celebrating, so I convinced my spouse that a walk along the river trail was in order.

And it was. A delightful assortment of dogs and their humans were out for the afternoon, including a tiny long-haired chihuahua that hardly looked real. A patch of winter aconite and several of crocus were blooming enthusiastically, and one bed of daffodils looked ready to open tomorrow or the next day. (We will have to go back and look.) Whenever a breeze popped up, the river was covered in sun-sparkles, which of course required sitting on a park bench for a spell of admiration.

Back home, there was enough daylight left to begin drafting the talk from my favorite porch chair. The park across the street was hosting lots of activity--runners, gaggles of young people, and a large black poodle-y something bounding along with its accompanying human and a small canine companion of some sort. Closer to my chair, finches and chickadees were tanking up at the nearest birdfeeder, with the first downy woodpecker I've seen in months searching for insects in the crevices of maple bark. Some small, unidentifiable (to me, from that distance) bird was making a racket in the cedar tree--perhaps the first warbler of 2016? Entirely too full of well-being to leave the chair yet, I ended up having a 40-minute phone conversation with a relative in her nineties, comparing the sights from our respective perches. The conversation ended when the church bells audible from her phone reminded me that it was 6:00 PM, and supper was not going to get itself.

A lazy afternoon--but is there anything more worth doing than loving one's beautiful world?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sounds of spring

The weather of this first week of March has not felt particularly springlike (never mind that cold, gray, and spitting snow are what we generally get the first week of March, so expecting anything different is one of those human quirks....). However, spring is definitely on its way, and we know this not just because the daffodil and magnolia buds are getting fat and I am now cooking supper while it's still light outside.

It's the birds! Our feathered friends are singing up a storm, including all those cheerful little songs that we only hear when young birds' fancies turn to thoughts of love, or whatever birds call the urge to pair-bond. Assorted trills, warbles, buzzes, and general cascades of notes are sounding from every tree, bush, and wall around here. (Note to self: take a class on birding by ear as soon as retirement leaves time for such things--hope the hearing holds out for at least the next year as it is not what it once was. Kind of like the eyesight, and the joints, and the memory. . . .)

Hang in there, human friends. Winter will end.