Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Monday, April 8, 2013
What amazes me is the amnesia that happens every year. We truly do forget what is to come, the details of the progression of things, and the miracle of the beauty, until it is upon us again out of the cold grayness of winter. First, the buds appear on the trees and bushes, then one of their flowers blooms here and there, and then in a day or so the explosion of color, in pink, magenta, or yellow on gray bark, finally followed by the green leaves that fill in all the empty spaces. It's all a distant memory of an old promise, now being fulfilled.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
I thought I was looking at a water plant, roots anchored on the bottom, single strand floating in the current. But then it disappeared and resurfaced in a nearby spot with its tiny head, the size of my pinky nail, above the water’s surface, swaying to and fro and waiting for bugs, one assumes. I had to bend down and stoop next to the edge to try to get a picture, but the sun was bright and it was hard to even find the little bugger in my frame.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Monday, August 29, 2011
We live near the artistic homestead of John J. Audubon, famed bird and wildlife illustrator, located in a town cleverly named Audubon, PA. I bought some beautiful note cards with his illustrations of hummingbirds: two caught in mid-hover, green and red, delicate and dignified, their long, elegant beaks carefully inserted into slender pink blossoms.
Our resident ruby-throated hummingbirds are nothing of the sort. They spend more time chasing each around our deck, over our heads, and off into space than actually feeding. There are two females that return every spring, and this year we have also seen a smaller male - but he has been scarce, and one can only imagine why. The two females spend most of their time racing around, zipping in and out like Warner Brothers cartoons, in circles, up and down, with sudden sideways left turns, using the most impressive helicopter-like maneuvers to evade and chase each other away from our flowers and sugar-water feeder. When they are not competing for our outdoor buffet, they are hanging out on tree branches nearby watching for each other. They persist with these activities in the middle of thunder storms, in the hot humidity of our summer afternoons, and at dusk when we are sitting outside trying to eat our dinner. If we are not expecting it - like when we are looking down at our plates of zucchini and rice to scoop up another forkful - the sudden zooming by of a 3 to 4 inch creature whose wings are beating at 53 times per second – well, the sound can be quite startling. It’s a sound that the primitive-warning parts of our brains don’t quite recognize, and it's a bit nerve-racking every time. But we love watching them, and so we’ll continue to put out the juice that I suspect got them hooked in the first place.*
One day in the late summer, they’ll disappear. The only thing I wonder is: Where exactly do our dinner companions go every fall? The University of Maine Extension web site says that most ruby-throated hummingbirds fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico, almost 600 miles, to their winter habitat in southern Mexico or Central America. I would love to know in which country they spend those months. Which lush, green rainforest do they hover in down there? Is it mountainous? Foggy and cool? Hot and sunny? I would love to affix a tiny H-bird-cam on their tiny heads, to see how they make the 1500-some-mile journey, and then how they make it back to our deck in Southeastern Pennsylvania each spring. How do they do it?
* For feeder solution, add one part table sugar to four parts boiling water, stir to dissolve the sugar. Boil for at least a minute. Cool before filling feeders. Keep feeder clean and sterilized. You should also have the long, tubular, red, purple, or pink flowers they like – as the flower nectar provides nutrition the sugar water doesn’t have. They need it for the long trip.
There are actually three in this video, recorded through a window (if you can catch them!) ...
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
In summer I am consumed with visiting farm stands and picking, buying, and eating fresh local fruits and vegetables. After being deprived all winter long, the vibrant colors and sheer abundance are shocking. We try to stay local in our produce purchases in the winter, which means that other than buying lettuce shipped in from California, we do without peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and most fruit unless it’s frozen or jarred. So in the summer we go crazy with fresh-off-the-farm strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, corn, tomatoes of every shape and flavor, lettuce, green beans, zucchini, melons, raspberries, cucumbers, red peppers, and anything grown right here or nearby in New Jersey.
We are so blessed here in the Northeast, and in this country, with our seemingly limitless availability of water and good soil and the peace and time for our farmers to plant, grow, and harvest. (I am so grateful to these small family farmers willing to put in the hard work for not very much money.) Not only do we get to eat this stuff the day it’s picked, but the wild shapes and sizes and colors are more beautiful than any painting. For those of us lucky enough to partake – enjoy the bounty!
Gotta go now – the smell of a sweet canary melon is beckoning me to scoop and eat!
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I grew up in southern New Jersey, where the first drive-in movie screen was built. A true summer treat, you could ride there at dusk in the back of your parents’ station wagon in your pajamas, and during a good Disney double feature, pass out with the crickets as company.
Now I live in Pennsylvania, and I don’t know of any drive-ins that exist anymore. But we have a great meadow on a low hill in Valley Forge National Park that we like to drive up to at dusk on summer evenings. We pull up, park, open the windows, stick our bare feet out, and watch the show. Swallows - in their navy blue tuxedo jackets with white dress shirts - swoop and swerve, criss-crossing all across the field, over the car and up overhead against the pink and gray sky, catching their evening bug snacks. The red-winged blackbirds call out cheerily as they finish up their day’s business before retiring. Thrushes, orioles and bluebirds wing by, returning at last to their nests for the night.
The sky grows darker, and the air dampens and wafts across the field, carrying with it the sweet smell of sun-baked grasses. Crickets and cicadas began to warm up for their evening concert. The meadow dims, and one small light flashes gently, then another, and finally the whole field is filled with tiny fairy lanterns, flashing on and off in the darkness.
Like the drive-ins, there are few true meadows left anymore. Most of our land has been developed into houses and shopping centers, lawns and soccer fields. We treasure this meadow in the daytime, taking walks and enjoying all of its inhabitants. But we really like to be there for its always-entertaining evening show. We just don’t wear our pajamas. And at least one of us stays awake to drive home.