Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Snowdrops and Why I Enjoy Blogging

The snow is melting!

The Snowdrops have had little closed blossoms for a couple of weeks now, but today they're open! We have bright sunshine and 55ºF ( 12ºC), but a bitingly cold wind has kept it from being pleasant outside, unfortunately. I walked down to the river this morning, trying to get a glimpse of the geese that were honking and calling to each other. I found them sitting on a strip of land surrounded by water, but they were quite a distance away so I wasn't able to get a good photo. They're sitting on that strip to the right of the photo, but are pretty well hidden so you can't really pick them out, even when the photo is enlarged (not many of my photos have been clickable in recent posts...just another Blogger quirk). You can see though, that the snow is rapidly melting. Soon the shades of brown will be replaced by green grass and leaves on the trees.

The snowdrops are finally open!

Marion, my dear blogging friend of Reflections Through the Seasons, has tagged me to write about Why I Enjoy Blogging.

She lives in a quaint seaside village in Wales, and posts glorious photos of the picturesque countryside, as well as her beautiful gardens. Just this week she shared photos of their wonderful old village church, dating back to the 1200’s, with it’s historic Rood Loft and Screen.
It’s people like Marion who draw me to blogging. One of the things I most love to do is chat with friends, but I’m not particularly good at taking time to visit. In my free time I almost always seem to have something I want to get done at home, especially during the gardening season. Blogging gives me a way to visit with many friends during the quiet hours of the day, when there’s time to relax and enjoy a little recreation.

Roses still covered, surrounded by Snowdrops

I’ve always enjoyed corresponding with friends, and blogging is such a wonderful way to do this. In commenting on posts we can send just a few words of encouragement, appreciation, or just a simple hello…as often as we have time for. That’s the beauty of a comment….it can be short and sweet, or a bit longer as time allows.

Blogging has given me friends in far off places, and some who live closer. These are people I would otherwise never have the chance to know, and some have become very dear to me. This is a strange phenomenon about blogging…that we can feel so close, and care so much about people we’ll most likely never meet.
I can travel via the Internet to their homes on any given day, and see what they’re up to, find out what the weather is like compared to ours, and know what’s on their minds. I often find inspiration in my travels.

Blogging has opened up my world and taught me more about geography, climate, human nature, photography, computers, and so much more. I particularly enjoy knowing what the weather is doing in other parts of the world.

Such delicate white blossoms, yet they brave the snow!

It’s amazing how much I’ve learned about gardening especially….this being the subject that attracted me to blogging in the first place. Often in everyday life we don’t have the chance to share what’s growing or blooming in our gardens with like-minded people who truly share our passion. But with blogging we can! What a pleasure it is to find others as enthusiastic in their appreciation for a beautiful bloom, bud, sprout or whatever! And oh, the plants I’ve discovered!

Birds are another passion that’s so much fun to share. I never, ever tire of seeing, and reading about the birds others have spotted and photographed.
And then there are the cats, dogs and other animals that share our lives. I’ve always loved animals and have a particular fondness for cats, as you can guess by all the cat photos I love to post.

Looking up Posted by Picasa

I am so much more aware of what’s going on around me and have a more intense interest and curiosity in everything, because I’m seeing from another’s point of view. Digital photography makes it so easy to share any subject, and seeing all the beautiful photos that others post shows me other parts of our world on a personal level, not just pictures in magazines.

And there are so many wonderful writers! I wish I could mention all my favorites, but there are so many. You’ll find their links on my sidebar if you have some time and want to browse.

In a nutshell, blogging allows me to share, in a very pleasant way, the everyday lives of my blog friends, develop new and satisfying relationships, and learn new and exciting things about this fascinating world we live in, all thanks to my computer and the amazing Internet.
Isn’t technology a wonderful thing?

I'm going to tag Alice, Val and Apple. I hope you won't hate me for it! If you're too busy, or simply don't feel like it, don't worry about it. Otherwise, take your time, and enjoy jotting down a few thoughts about the wonderful world of blogging.

We're off tomorrow to see the kids for a few days, so I'll catch up with all of you when we come back.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Those Wacky Woodpeckers

Whether they're hopping in their jerky gait about the Maple tree in search of insects and grubs, or jostling for a place on the suet, Downy Woodpeckers are a constant source of entertainment and amusement to us.
There's something very endearing about these cute, clownish little birds. We've seen a couple of other woodpecker varieties at the feeders, but the Downy's are our everyday companions.

Male Downy woodpecker

They like the suet best, but also enjoy sunflower seed.

Stunned female woodpecker

This little lady had the unfortunate luck to fly into our sliding glass door a couple of weeks ago. Wings extended, she sprawled on the porch looking dazed, so I hurried out to see if she was OK. Cradling her in the palm of my hand, I called for hubby to please bring the camera (of course!). He held her while I took a few pictures, then I set her on the seed tray and talked softly to her. After a minute or two I was relieved to see her fly away to a nearby spruce tree. Thankfully this is a rare occurance.

Two males taking turns on the suet.

We often see two or more woodys vying for a spot on the suet.

Woody with a snowplow in the background Posted by Picasa

The males have a red spot on their head, but the females don't. We see mostly males.
You're probably wondering why the plow is out if there's no snow on the roads. The wind was blowing the snow across the road that day (one of the many) and he was pushing the snowbanks back.

Sometimes they'll share

I've seen as many as 5 in the Maple tree at once. Look closely to see two in this picture.

The Downys are not shy and will let me get quite close when I go out to fill the feeders.

I walked up the porch steps to within a few feet of this one to take the picture.

Hairy woodpecker

We see the bigger Hairy woodpeckers too, but not as often. They're very shy and I have a hard time capturing an image of them. Notice the bill is longer and they're around 7.5 inches (18.5 cm) compared with the Downy's 5.75 inches (14.5 cm).

Downy and Hairy Posted by Picasa

Just yesterday I was lucky enough to snap this picture of the two, with the Downy on the suet and the Hairy trying to chase him away. The bigger guy was hiding behind the post and peeking out at me before he worked up the courage to come into view and fly over to the suet. He was bolder than most Hairys.

Red-bellied woodpecker

For a few weeks in February and March we were pleased to see this Red-bellied woodpecker at the feeders. I've only seen one visit briefly perhaps twice during all the years we've lived here, so this was an exciting change for us. He was rather shy but I managed to get a couple of quick shots.

They're a little bigger than the Hairys at 8.5 inches (21.5 cm)

He fed on the suet, but he liked sunflower seed too.

The robins are back! I saw my first one on March 13th. As I was filling the feeders that morning it flew down from the Maple tree and twittered a happy hello to me. It did this twice more but flew away before I could get my camera :)

We've had some rainy, warmer days, with a mixture of sunshine and clouds, and most of the snow has melted. This afternoon is gloomy and wet....


Spring has finally sprung and we're rejoicing!

Thanks to everyone for your friendly comments on my 3rd wildflower post. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my passion for those beautiful gifts of nature.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wildflowers of summer

This is the third wildflower post in my series of photos taken during the spring and summer of last year. The difficulty has been in choosing just a few of the hundreds of photos I took! For instance, the orange daylilies could be found in great clumps bordering corn fields, or mixed gloriously with other wildflowers along the country roads. I could do an entire post just using photos of these gorgeous flowers, but I have so many others I want to include as well.

My first 2 wildflower posts are
here and here if you'd like to look at them.

I've found two websites very helpful in my quest to identify and gather information about the various wildflowers I've noticed during my drives and walks. They are The Connecticut Botanical Society and Wildflowers of the Northeastern and Northcentral USA

You'll find beautiful graphics of each individual bloom on the second site.

Daylily - Hemerocallis fulva

Lilies beside a cornfield the second week in July

Lilies and lace

Here the lilies are mixed with Queen Anne's Lace and what I think is Poison Hemlock. I've had a hard time finding a positive identification for this one, so if anyone can help, please let me know. Both the latter plants are members of the carrot family. You can also see it in the next photo.

Beauty beside a small country road Posted by Picasa

As I mentioned in my first post, the roadsides didn't get their usual Spring mowing by the county workers because of an extremely wet June, so we were treated to an abundant display of wildflowers lining the roads.

Queen Anne's Lace and birdfoot trefoil

Notice the tiny spot of red in the center of the Queen Anne's lace flower head.

Opening flowerhead

Before the intricate flowerhead unfurls it looks like this, and is wonderfully fascinating. There's often a bright little bug of some kind to be found hiding in the hollow.

Mayweed and birdfoot trefoil Posted by Picasa

The Mayweed looks a lot like Oxeye Daisies, but the foliage is more lacey. It belongs to the Aster family. It's also known as Stinking Chamomile (charming name!) and Dogfennel. The Trefoil belongs to the Pea family.

St. Johnswort and Musk Mallow

The St. Johnswort belongs to the Mangosteen family.

Lilies and mallow

The front yard of the house hidden around the corner is full of both lilies and mallow. The people who live there apparently love both flowers so much that they've also planted this bank below their house full of them. What a fantastic display it makes! Lilies apparently love lots of water because they flourished during our wet Spring and Summer of 2006 more than I've ever noticed before.

Musk Mallow (Malva Moschata)

Mallow has a family of it's own (Mallow - Malvaceae). I absolutely love this shade of pink!

Here's more of it brightening the bank of a stream beside the road.

Further up the hill lilies were growing beside elderberry bushes.

Lilies and elderberries a bit closer. Posted by Picasa

On this particular stretch the roadsides were really spectacular.

Berry bushes grow beside the mallow and many other wildflowers lining the banks.

It's hard to find a website that shows the various native berries. I've found chokeberries, pin cherries, and others, but I haven't found photos that clearly show the differences. If anyone knows their berries, or a good website for them, I'd appreciate the information.

We had another snow storm yesterday and the snow continues to fall today, but it's not bad compared to what we've experienced lately. Mother Nature teased us with a warm-up at the beginning of the week with temperatures around 50º and 60ºF (10 to 15C), but now we're back in the 20's and 30's (-1 to -6C).

Spring is coming though, and we have much to look forward to!

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Friday, March 09, 2007


Yes, I'm very thankful that Friday is here! Weatherwise it's been a rough week, but there have been some bright spots too.

I'm daydreaming about a trip to my favorite nursery to buy this fuchsia

My good blogging buddy in Western Australia, Stuart, of Gardening Tips 'n Ideas, is off gallivanting in Tasmania for a few days (he says he'll be working....uh huh) and has asked Val of Val Has Her Say, Colleen of In the Garden Online, and myself to write a guest post to help fill the time he's away. I wrote about fuchsias and my post was featured on Thursday, March 8th. Pop over and have a look if you'd like.

Stuart shares a mine of information about all sorts of garden-related topics. He works hard to bring garden bloggers across the world together, and has recently introduced several new features, including a wonderful sitemap that features garden bloggers the world over. You may want to add your own blog to it. You'll find a link to the map in the top right corner of my blog.

Nasty weather

The beginning of the week brought us more wretched weather. In spite of a winter storm warning on Monday, our school was open. Like most schools in our area we had already used one more than our allotted snow days, making administrators reluctant to add yet another. This unfortunately turned out to be a huge mistake. The morning commute was fine, but as the day wore on the wind picked up and the snow squalls began. By dismissal time conditions had deteriorated badly, with 30mph winds and blowing snow creating dangerous whiteout conditions. Where snowbanks are high and the wind blows the snow across the road, visability can be zero. On my trip home I unfortunately drove into one of these spots and had an experience I never want to repeat!

We still have plenty of snow!

The only thing I could see in the mass of swirling white snow engulfing my car was a large vehicle a short distance ahead of me, which seemed to not be moving (it was hard to tell). At this point I became disoriented and drove into a snowbank. It's impossible not to feel terror as one sits there wondering if at any moment another vehicle is going to rear end your car. By backing up just a little and turning my wheels all the way to the left, I luckily was able to drive out of the snowbank (thank The Lord). Pulling up behind the large van I could see that it was a UPS truck, and it was stuck! Now what? There was no way I could drive around it, so I just sat there wondering what to do, and feeling scared to death, all the while waiting to be rear ended.

Finally the UPS guy walked back to me and offered to help guide me around him. He said it wasn't so bad once you got by the houses in that section of the road. I was afraid for him to be standing in the road and thought him a brave and gallant soul. Miraculously, there were no cars behind me, and none coming the other way, so off I went into the swirling snow, feeling my way like a blind person. A little way along I passed a line of 4 cars coming toward me. Thankfully, we were able to pass each other without mishap, and shortly afterward I reached my turn-off and was able to drive out of the bad spot. The rest of the trip home was comparatively easy. You can well imagine how glad I was to get home to my husband and a nice hot cup of coffee!
I told hubby that I was going to stay put until winter was over...or at least until the wind and snow stopped blowing! It didn't stop until Tuesday afternoon, and thankfully school was closed once again.

Poor Apple, who lives not too far away from us, had an experience even worse than mine on Monday when she was involved in an accident during a whiteout. You can read about it here. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Tonight the forecast promised warmer temperatures for the next several days and that's definitely a blessing to look forward to.

I've got mail! Posted by Picasa

Last week a lovely surprise arrived in the mail....Lee-ann sent me an absolutely wonderful magazine from Australia, with a lovely note. While vacationing at the seaside on the breathtakingly beautiful south coast of Australia, she had an idea. As she sat on the beach with her hubby, soaking up the warm Aussie sunshine, she thought of her blog friends here in the freezing temps, surrounded by snow, and decided to share a bit of that sunshine with us. So she sent this magazine, filled with pictures of bright flowers, to a few of her blog friends here in the frozen northern US.

Thank you dear Lee-ann, for your sweet thoughtfulness and friendship. I'm constantly amazed at the warmth, care and concern that flows between blog friends.

Anita's heart

And while I'm thanking blog friends I must show you a couple of other sweet things that have come in the mail recently. Many or you have seen the gorgeous hearts that have been passed between blog friends lately during the Nostalgic Hearts Swap. Just before Valentine's Day a package arrived from Anita in Germany. In it I found not only the white marigold seeds she had most generously shared, but also this perfectly adorable pink embroidered tapestry heart. She's so talented and puts such fine detail into her creations.

See how well the card matches the Heart? Isn't that the prettiest?

Thank you so much dear Anita! You are such a sweet and thoughtful friend.

Wonderful Gifts from Marion and Anita Posted by Picasa

Another dear friend I'd like to thank while I'm at it is Marion, who lives in beautifully picturesque surroundings in Wales. At Christmas time she sent a package of Four O'Clock seeds, this very sweet little fabric covered green gingham heart (pictured above), and a lovely homemade Christmas card. Thank you so much dear Marion for that sweet, thoughtful surprise.

One last thing: A couple of blogger buddies had a happy meeting in Melbourne yesterday and there's a photo on Val's blog showing them in a cute schoolgirl pose :) There you'll find Frances ("Alice") of "A Growing Delight" and Val, happily disturbing the peace at the State Library of Victoria. I wish I could've been there with them!

I hope you all enjoy your weekend

Friday, March 02, 2007

Wildflowers of Spring & Early Summer

Finally, I have my second wildflower post ready! It's been hard to find time to work on it, with so many other things happening lately. You'll find my first wildflower post here, if you missed it and are interested in seeing it.
Thank you all for your friendly comments. I'm sorry if I don't get around to visit you as often as I'd like to. Eventually I will!
The following photos were taken in late June and early July of 2006, while driving in our neighborhood. I rarely go anywhere without my camera these days, and sometimes it takes me a while to get "from here to there"!

Tufted or Cow Vetch

I really love the vetches. When I see this "weed" in our vegetable garden, I hate to pull it out. It makes such a pretty ground cover, doesn't it?

Tufted Vetch and Birdsfoot Trefoil are both members of the Pea family

Tufted vetch, red clover and Birdsfoot Trefoil (the yellow flowers...pronounced "treefoil").


I've seen people gathering this to cook up as a vegetable. I think they probably do it before it blooms. Mustard is related to the white Arabis, or rock cress that blooms in my garden early in the Spring.

Fields of mustard are a common sight. Can you imagine the view from a plane?

The mustard is a weed growing in a corn field that may have been sprayed late, or not at all, to kill the weeds. Perhaps the extremely wet June last year prevented the spraying from being done at the appropriate time, or washed the spray away, as it did in our plantings of sweet corn.

Daylily - Hemerocallis fulva

This was one of the first orange daylilies that I found....standing all alone. Soon they could be seen along the road banks in great profusion. I've never seen so many before. Lilies apparently love lots of rain! I took loads of photos and will post a few more next time.

Unknown white shrub (Edit: Multiflora Rose)

This shrub grows in the front of an abandoned lot where I think a house once stood, and I'm wondering if it's a native, or if someone planted it here long ago. There are also a couple of lilac bushes on the lot. I couldn't find anything that exactly matched my photos on the Connecticut Botanical Society website that I used to identify, or find the Latin names of most of the wildflowers I didn't know, so I'm still in the dark as to what the shrub is. If anyone has some idea please let me know. Posted by Picasa

Here's a close up of the flowers.

Edit: Thanks to Ginger and Xris for naming this shrub for me. It's a Multiflora Rose, and is apparently considered invasive. I did find it on the above named website once I knew what to look for. I've seen more of the invasive Rugosa Rose around here. Both are pretty, in spite of the fact that they can be a nuisance.

Field Scabious - Pincushion Flower

This lovely wildflower grows in great profusion in fields that are no longer used for growing hay. We see so many abandoned fields now that there are so few working farms left in our area.

It forms a sea of pink and lavender Posted by Picasa

Cinquefoil - Potentilla

Moth on Cinquefoil Posted by Picasa

I found out that this sweet little yellow wildflower is related to the shrub, Potentilla that grows in my garden, and it is a member of the Rose family.

Fleabane is a member of the Aster family.

Black-eyed Susan - Rudbeckia Hirta

These were just beginning to bloom. They are the wild version of the Gloriosa Daisies that grow in my garden. Of course, there are many other Rudbeckias too.

Crown vetch

I'd like to have this wildflower covering the banks in front of our house.

Crown Vetch is a member of the Pea or Fabaceae family.
Posted by Picasa

Like several other Blogger friends, I've been having trouble with some of my pictures disappearing from posts. I just keep reloading them through the Edit Posts page, but it's very frustrating. I hope the problem is fixed soon!

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!