One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

Best Anticipations: An April Garden Report

I don’t look forward to Earth Day anymore.    Two years ago, I went for a walk on a sunny morning in late April and discovered a days-old development newly carved out of a patch of woods by the bayshore.  Lots for Sale.    The splendid yellow bulldozer still lingered on the scene, the air still toxic with the fumes of the macadam cul-de-sac.

Then last spring, I turned on the radio and heard about an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, the start of a summer’s long environmental crisis in that part of the world.   This year, Earth Day is still a week or so away and we have sewage plant disks that will linger on our shorelines probably as long as that pesky little radiation problem in Japan will be a devilment over there.    They sent work crews down to the Cape last week to clean up the disks, but there are still plenty to be found.    If I’d gone for the close-up, I have no doubt you’d find half a dozen in this photo below.    Hidden pictures, anyone?

Fortunately, April is also about rebirth.    Everywhere you look, there’s a slow motion fireworks display getting underway, with bright colors bursting out of almost every corner of the landscape.    Nature’s cycle begins anew, growing fresh green over the scars of the past and rewarding the faith of gardeners everywhere.

In the last week we seem to have turned a corner with our weather.   Our temperatures are just a little warmer, now.  This past weekend, we slept with windows open for the first time, the peepers in the surrounding wetlands singing us off with a springtime lullabye.   Oh, what a treat!

Pansies have appeared on the landscape, too, on plywood display racks in front of nurseries and groceries and garden centers everywhere.

A hanging basket of assorted colors was my first purchase this year, but just the thing to encourage me out onto the deck to re-install the first of the shepherd’s crooks.

Similarly, it was purchasing a whole flat of pansies in a range of purple-blues and tiny violas in yellow for contrast that got me to start raking out beds and cleaning up the lawn.   There’s an extra layer of thatch to be teased free after last year’s droughtiness, but the raked spots green up so nice, it’s worth the effort.   The robins stalk my progress, digging worms out of the ground where I’ve been.  Cardinals sing down the sun as I rake.

It feels so good to be outside, to be finding everything coming back to life:   the tulips that will be blooming before long, the heliotrope which will tower shortly thereafter.    All the perennials are lush and green looking, as I clear away the debris of last season and the leaves which gathered through the winter’s storms.  I think it’s fun to put on the yard’s happy face at the start of the season, as I consider all the possibilities that lie ahead.
The signs of the season are all around us.   All of the different blackbird varieties have now returned, their presence noted in and around feeders.  Last weekend, a convention of raptors was spotted overhead in our yard, seven or eight of them.    They were up pretty high and we weren’t trying too hard to identify them, but the likeliest suspects are red-tailed hawks, ospreys and/or turkey vultures.    Down on the ground, chipmunks are beginning to scamper about, cautious of the danger overhead, but eager to find food.

This young flicker has been advertising his baser instincts by jackhammering against the vinyl siding right behind where I sit at the computer each sunny morning this week.   You’d think this would give him a wicked headache, but this is how his people attract the attention of a pretty young girl flicker.  There’s a whole family of flickers visiting the yard this spring, in fact.   I’ve seen one or two in the past, but they have apparently found something to bring them back here with their growing family.

You can be sure that I am not the only one who’s noticing the change in the seasons.   Spring (and no doubt the scent of all those birds) has most certainly gotten into to the nose of my roommate and we have been re-introducing after-dinner walks around the yard into our evening routine this week.

My pal Badum is always happy to get out and do a little exploring, but especially so at the end of a long winter (but not all thaaaat long, as we did manage one of these walks one surprisingly-warm day in early January).   It’s fun to see a different side of his personality when we get outside and I try to stay out of his line of sight, when possible, to give him the authentic “I’m outside on my own” experience.   I sometimes suspect he’s as pleased to have some protection from that large birds we now-and-then see overhead.

Anyway, it’s mostly about him finding the kind of grass he likes to nibble on best.   Once in a while, tho, something catches his eye, like the black cat he spotted lurking in the woods at the back of our property tonight.    Fortunately, he didn’t bolt, since he might easily have escaped the harness and I used that…and the falling dark…to justify the end of the evening’s explorations.

Still, it is loads of fun to get out there and see the world through his eyes.   I never know just what it is we’ll find.   For instance, it was the Gardener’s Cat who pointed out the wild white violets which were quietly starting to bloom at the feet of our aging catawba tree.    Amusingly enough, he seems not to have a clue that a family of squirrels have been seen building a home inside.

“Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipations.

It is not much matter if things do not turn out well.”

~ Charles Dudley Warner


Snowy Day

It started out just the way it always does.

There was the sudden appearance on the long range forecast of the big Snowflake icon…and shortly after that, a Winter Storm Watch was posted.     It was far too warm to snow, it seemed, though the temperature seemed to be teetering back and forth and every now and then, we’d look out the office windows and see that the rain was “thicker”.     And then there were wildly swirling snowflakes the size of our heads.

About that time someone heard the forecast about heavy bands of snow sweeping along the Connecticut coast in our direction with the possibility of four inches of heavy snow by 4 pm and a quiet murmur of panic sounded as the usual suspects began to fret about being able to get home safely.   As darkness fell – earlier under the storm’s cloak – and the Storm Watch upgraded to a Warning, our temperature began to climb.   It was heavy rain through which we made our ways home.

And rain that continued on into the evening, spattering the windows as the howling winds began to mount.   Even in the face of that, there was the possibility that we might…only might…wake up to a world of white.  In bed at a reasonable (for me, anyway) hour and snuggling for a bit with Mister Purrypants, I listened to the rain, loud on the windows, on the roof, on the side of the house, not unlike many nights here on Cape Cod, actually.

I did sleep – it’s actually a comforting sound when one’s accustomed to it, I find – but it wasn’t a quiet night and I was attuned enough to the sounds of the storm that I could tell when the temperature would drop and the rain on the windows would start to freeze and sound harder on impact, no longer quite a liquid.   And then it would change back again.   Then, somewhere around 5 or so, I woke to silence, the sounds of the world muffled…and I managed to raise myself up enough for a glimpse out the window, at a world of snow.

There wasn’t much of it, it seemed, but it was still snowing and it was early enough I could comfortably nestle myself back into the covers for a while more.   At least until the Catsby came bounding in, having discovered my momentary wakefulness and capitalizing on it for a bowl refill before I could settle in.

Very shortly, the precious silence was taken over with plow sounds on the nearby highway, in the courthouse parking lot…and then past the front of our place.   Pavement scraping.  Back-up beepers.   The radio chimed in low with the long list of school closings or delayed openings.  And then came the text that our own office opening was going to be delayed a few hours, owing to the slushy, icy snowy conditions out there.

Fortunately, nothing pre-empts The Catdude’s favorite shows and the birds were singing up a storm of their own as the snowstorm began to wind down.

There’s something about this shot below I’m especially fond of.  I think it’s the way our street remains only a tire track at the early hour this was taken and only barely visible through the trees.   I guess what I love about the snow is the way it changes how everything looks.   The dreary dull of this season is blanketed and everything is soft and undisturbed and unspoiled and new looking.

As seems to be the theme so far this year, we didn’t get much snow, certainly not as much as so many other places, most of which were already trying to figure out what to do with the snows from the last couple of storm.

And while it would’ve been sweet to have the whole day off from a bigger storm, I was content that there was time to take a few pictures, to cook a nice hot breakfast and have an extra cup of coffee before getting out there into the workday.  (After all, as Practical Gardener is keen to remind me, a day’s work is a day’s pay.)

This poor bush (is it a privet? I’ll look more closely later on.) was certainly done no service being planted under the eaves of our office building where it must bear this icy run-off, but it certainly was pretty covered in ice and glittering in the sun.

Naturally, once the storm had passed, our temperature dropped back down into the 20s,  but it was still a pretty day with some nice warm sunshine.  Two of us were brave enough to do our usual lunchtime walking, though slushy and potentially slippery conditions kept our lap count down a bit.

Here’s the view out my office window just before leaving to come home this evening.

With the snowy, ice-laden landscape reminding us that all of February still stretched out before us, it’s always cool to be able to see that our days are lengthening and before we know it, Spring will be here.

Walking Into the New Year

I’m not much of a resolver, when it comes to New Years.   Sure, I can see where the illusory Fresh Start of a new calendar can be a motivator for some, but I can’t say it’s often worked for me, nor actually, for lots of other people I know.   It’s not to say I don’t see room for improvement – twas ever thus, but the whole NY Resolutions Thing often feels like magnified guilt over too many Christmas cookies.

This morning on Facebook, my friend Anna posted this:

“Every new year people make resolutions to change aspects of themselves they believe are negative. A majority of people revert back to how they were before and feel like failures. This year I challenge you to a new resolution. I challenge you to just be yourself.”

It doesn’t matter that they weren’t her original thoughts but something she read somewhere.  She admits posting because she shared the sentiment, which is what I’m doing here, because they are wise words, really.

Be yourself.   Don’t know who that is?  Try something new that interests you and see what happens.   Don’t change because you think it will make someone else happy.  Be true to yourself and see where it leads you this year.  And you know what, I know a whole bunch of you, and generally, my advice is don’t change, I like you just the way you are.

(But for the record, only 17 days away from 2.5 years without cigarettes!)

Say, last night I forgot to show you a picture of this new amaryllis we’ve welcomed to the Nest.  The bulb was a birthday gift and you can see its grown rather quickly in the two or three weeks its been with us.   The amaryllis I’ve enjoyed the last two winters has also been brought out of its autumn hibernation recently, but shows no signs of growth just yet.  I recall it was slow to green up last winter, too and then turned out just fine.

This new year brought us a lovely day, with temperatures almost in the fifties and – perhaps more importantly – no wind and so my Purry Pal and I decided to seize the day and start off the new year in style with a nice afternoon stroll around the yard.

Since our recent freeze a couple weeks back was the first real hard freeze we had, there’d been allyssum blooming here and there and pretty much everywhere right up until then, thanks to my fashion of flinging the stuff about…and while my Cat Buddy didn’t care, I was kind of excited to find a small clump of it in a sheltered corner of the garden merrily blooming to meet the sunny day.

He was mostly interested in finding some grass to nibble on and to see what things smelled like.     We made it around the house and through the hedge to the Next Doors when I realized he was slipping out of his harness, which brought an end to our explorations.  Of course he squirmed and fussed, but our adventure lasted about long enough for him and he’s been snoozing the day away since.

Once my pal was watered and treated and happily settled inside, I headed out for a walk of my own, to see what sort of sunset business this first day of the year might bring.   It was one of those nights where it looked as though it would fuzz out short of the horizon, thanks to distant cloud cover (rain tomorrow), but it was still a lovely afternoon and a great opportunity to have a peaceful and thoughtful ramble to the bay and back.

You’re most welcome to come along with me.

I can’t say I have any particularly detailed hopes and dreams to share with you about this new year before us.  Que sera, sera:  more of what I’ve been enjoying will be just fine, thanks.

As long as there are walks through afternoons like this one.