About Me

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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Winter Grasses

I am pleased to report that the savannah garden is coming along nicely, beginning to provide the winter interest one desires from ornamental grasses. The late afternoon sun shining through the waving plumes of nasella tenuissima was a most cheering sight after a week of classes and an onslaught of student essays and exams.
 If my aging eyes did not deceive me, the dark color at the base of the plants is in fact the green of new growth. (Cue smile emoticon.) Let us hope that the six to nine inches of snow predicted for Sunday-into-Monday does not kill the plants, probably at the limit of their cold-hardiness here in the Mid-Ohio Velley.
But even if we should be so unfortunate as to lose the feather grass, our actual West Virginia natives are in their full late-season loveliness. Panicum backlit by evening sun gratifies the senses, and the plants are indestructible.
And of course, little bluestem in sunlight (here with the last of the muhlenbergia) was the inspiration for grass gardening in the first place. "Poverty grass," as it used to be called, is likely to go on forever and is at its most beautiful when everything else has pretty much given up.
No wonder I love this plant.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A host of unfortunates

This was not a good week for animals venturing onto area roadways as there has either been more roadkill than usual, or I have not been particularly observant. The remnants of a gray squirrel were visible for a few days on the next block but have now vanished. Today's drive to the interstate (a mere five miles) revealed a skunk, a raccoon, another squirrel, and a very small deer, along with several dead somethings in the ditches and so not quite visible. The crows, at least, were able to take advantage of the situation.

It has been some time since friend Stumpy has been sighted, so I fear that our tailless squirrel will not be raiding the feeders this spring.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Could it be?

I'm almost afraid to write such a thing, but--the snow is melting. This afternoon's high reached fifty degrees, and I was able to walk in one of the historic districts, even though not all sidewalks had been cleared and dodging ice patches was part of the afternoon's activity. Still--THERE WERE VISIBLE SIDEWALKS. And in one yard, a pair of mallards was having what looked like a wonderful time devouring something they were finding in the grass or the mud. Yes--they were diving into actual grass. The male took time out to take a snow bath, which was a most amusing sight. I'm trying not to get too excited, though.

Spring is likely to be late this year. Last year, on New Year's Day, the creeping phlox was creeping.
 Today, even though the snow has finally melted off of part of the streetside border, no sprigs of green were visible.

the santolina in better days
Last January, the santolina was putting on new growth. Today, it looks as if it may have died.

2013 opened with daffodils already six inches high. None of the 250 daffodils planted in October have yet dared to raise their heads above ground. Sigh.

I did notice, though, that the driveway daffs are up half an inch or so. This year, that passes for a sign of spring.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A paper-grading week (and weekend)

The grading of papers has become perhaps my least-favorite aspect of academic life (well, except for waiting to see what new idiocy may erupt from people who haven't set foot on a campus for a quarter-century but who are somehow in a position to set policy)--not because the papers are any worse than they used to be, but because there are so many of them (97 students this term, all writing every week) and because I have slowed down over the decades. I brought three sets home this weekend (after finishing two at the office) and am pleased to report that two were finished yesterday. Only the essays from the second Comp 1 class remain, and today looks to be a stay-in-and-wait-for-the-snow-to-melt day (good for grading).

But yesterday was balmy--nearly forty degrees in the afternoon(!)--and the Bulgaria Group met for lunch in downtown Marietta, and the sidewalks were (mostly) clear. After lots of laughing with my erstwhile traveling companions, I just had to set off along the river trail. Even though the ice-free zone lasted only until Wooster Street, the short trek was more than  worthwhile.

It was a good day for birds. Crows were perched atop several trees, keeping their usual observant eye on the goings-on in Muskingum Park. A few gulls were swooping above the water, and while I couldn't see most of the smaller birds, there was enough birdsong to indicate that mating season isn't too far off. (According to one of my luncheon companions, February 14 was once believed to herald the beginning of the avian season of romance.) A flock of dark birds dotted the river near a downtown dock, and someone who can ID assorted waterfowl better than I informed me that there were three different types of mergansers in the group.

And the sun was shining, but the sunlight was deceptive. It looked warm, and yesterday was the warmest day we'd had for a while, but the wind off the Muskingum made me wish I'd brought a toboggan to cover my ears; the wind was finding its way under my hood and giving serious annoyance to sinus-plagued ears. However, the sunlight was causing most satisfying sparkles in the river, providing a nice contrast to the ice that lingered in places. It was not, unfortunately, doing much to cheer up the sight of the gray, frozen slush along every street and walkway.

At least we got enough snow last night to cover the gray--until the next melt starts.

Now--to work on those papers.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A little something different

Today brought a little bit of a warming trend (at least the nights are not dropping to zero), but a look out the window revealed more of the same basic view we've had for some weeks now.


Not even the generally amusing presence of the resident furry thieves is alleviating my weather ennui.

Fortunately, juxtaposed with the (seemingly permanent) snowy view is the plant window, where two of the phaelonopsis orchids are now in full bloom, with two more in bud. These four plants will put on a show for the rest of the semester.

Somewhat happier sigh.

Monday, February 3, 2014

More of the Same

In summer (at least as long as the temperature stays below 90 degrees), I never complain of too much green, or too many yellow daisies. I definitely NEVER complain about autumns that go on for months, bathing multicolored foliage in the golden light peculiar to that time of year. And anyone who would grouse about the almost painful gorgeousness of an Appalachian spring after months of cold mud would be a very strange person indeed. But--
I am ready for winter to be over.  This is the fourth day in four weeks that our campus has been closed because of weather, and our public schools have not been open much more than four days in that time. I get the message. Humans are not in control. Universe: are you listening? You can quit beating us over the head with that news now. But--
The view out the front door this morning, when considered from a purely aesthetic perspective, was not unpleasing.
The mix of snowflakes, freezing rain, and ice pellets showed up as sparkles in the camera's flash, and the sound of the ice hitting the roof had a musical quality.  
Even our decrepit birdfeeders looked rather fetching
 with five-inch caps of snow.

And the beauty of evergreens in snow is cliche for a very good reason. Snow-covered pines and hemlocks are genuinely beautiful.

 Even the scraggly, non-blooming, non-native privet that I've been meaning to remove from the oak glade since 2009 looks good. (Okay, with a little imagination, two oaks, a red maple, and a baby dogwood fronting a school bus route can be a glade)
I don't like to whine, but some color other than white, gray, or brown would be a nice addition to the landscape.