Friday, December 27, 2013

Elvish Spoken Here

Fabulous news story of the week: Iceland is delaying the building of a new road because it will disturb the elves. Yes, really. Elves.

According to the media, around 62 percent of the population believe in the "Huldufolk", or "Hidden People". Elves, gnomes, and trolls are believed to live in the very rocks, particularly standing stones and lone boulders - and woe befalls anyone who moves them.

Believers say the planned road construction would devastate an ancient elvish community, as well as cause considerable environmental damage. And it seems building plans in Iceland actually can be altered to avoid moving stones where the Huldufolk dwell.

It is amazing and heart-healing to think that there are places left on this earth where humans feel so close to the land that they can hear its heart beating, can imagine - or sense? - a dimension just beyond our own. Where respect endures for wonders unseen.

Read more here:

Iceland: Huldufolk, National Geographic Traveler
Elf Lobby Blocks Iceland Road Project, The Guardian 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nature Notes: Seasons Change

November is when autumn fades into winter here - or slams into it broadside, as it did this year. These were taken from an upstairs window just nine days apart.

I've put the bird feeder back up, and it has a few regular visitors again. Not nearly the numbers as before, but maybe as the winter wears on. We do have an unusual number of crows, though.

I've been stalking crows for years, hoping to catch a flock in the snow, but they are the most skittish of all the birds I have. They spot me immediately and they do not stick around to see what I'm going to do with that strange little black box.

Storm Crows

Kind of a short entry this time, what with holiday to-do lists and all. But I do hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving week, filled with family and friends, good food and warmth!

        For more Nature Notes, visit Rambling Woods

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gratitude, With a Side of Milkweed

I posted recently on Maraca (my other blog) that I had become bored with photography lately and asked for advice. Truth be told, I was about to give it up, at least for a while. Among the great responses was this one from Barb at From the World Lens Photography: "Challenge yourself to 'take the picture you've never taken'. That's what I do sometimes, and I don't allow myself to switch to another subject until I've really, really explored the first one."

Well, I have taken a zillion random, so-so shots of milkweed in the field, and I was at it again on Sunday when those words came back to me.  I realized I had never brought milkweed inside, where I had better control of it. It's always seemed kind of wrong to me, doing nature photography indoors, capturing or cutting things down in order to photograph them. But desperate times call for desperate measures. I gathered a few pods and set up the rarely-used light box. Here's what happened:

At first the seeds formed a core, packed tightly as a pinecone, wrinkled and brown.

Milkweed 7

As the warmth of the light began to dry out the pod, the seeds began to wake and rise, like ghosts lifting from their  shared shroud, trailing white satin.  I had to work quickly from there, they were changing so rapidly. But it was time to think about starting dinner.

Another comment came back to me then, from NatureFootstep at Catching the Light: "Most important, take the image when you see it. Never wait - then it is gone."

Right. Sorry, Hubby. The Shot waits for no one.

Milkweed 6

Who would guess, from the blowsy mass of  tangled white cotton we usually see, that milkweed seeds are actually arranged in orderly rows, each layer waiting patiently for its turn to rise and fly.

Milkweed 5

With no wind to blow them free, their silks continued to balloon, barely holding on, sending more and more strands up to the sky, like ships raising their sails.

Milkweed 3

A simple change of perspective revealed an entirely new kind of "flower", one perhaps nobody has ever noticed before.

Milkweed 2

And just like that, in the space of a couple of hours, the thrill was back. And yes, Barb, I'll keep working with these until I've exhausted all the possibilities.

So thanks, Barb and NatureFootstep - and thanks to Karen, Sylvia and Colleen for your suggestions too, and to all who posted such encouraging comments. And thanks to you, Michelle, for hosting this meme!

All of you keep me going, in more ways than you know.

      For more Nature Notes, join Michelle at Rambling Woods.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Drops of Sky

It was one of those perfect fall days, a world of golden woods and cerulean and there, perfect orbs of lingering rain, or maybe dew, glinting on fallen leaves. Miracles are sometimes very small.

Sky Gazing

Drops of Sky

Posted for I Heart Macro at Shine the Divine and for Michelle's Nature Notes.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Kid Buys an Airplane!

Brandon's New Baby

Behold the newest addition to the family: a 1946 Aeronca Champ, a very cute, very small airplane. My older son is a corporate pilot, and this is his first plane of his very own. Needless to say, he is ecstatic...walking on cloud 9, so to speak.

He is one of those lucky souls who always knew what he was born to do - and he was born to fly. Of course, I have to set aside my overprotective, mother-hen tendencies to be happy about this latest turn of events. But I'm working on it.

In fact, my son tells me that the door can be taken off, so I can lean out and take aerial photos from it. And I plan to do it!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nature Notes: Puffballs


Found dozens of these papery orbs covering a rotting log in the woods. According to at least one source on the web, they appear to be pear-shaped puffballs, and they are a "choice edible species" while they are young. Which is to say, still soft and white with no spore holes. I'm disappointed to have missed the boat on them, but they are said to come back every year, so maybe next time. I didn't find any morels or chickens-of-the-woods this year, either, and I was totally ready to give those a go.

I'm thinking these particular puffballs look like fabulous shapes and textures for pottery. Porcelain would do nicely...don't you think? Could be just the inspiration I need to get back into that.

 I'm definitely getting back into macro photography, too, and I'm getting reacquainted with my little Canon G9. I have no macro lens for the Rebel, but the point and shoot lets me get very, very close to a subject. I always do photo memes from my other blog, Maraca, but I'm making an exception for this one and linking to Laura's blog, I Heart Macro at Shine the Divine as well as to Michelle's Nature Notes.

Have a great rest of your week, everyone!

**PS / UPDATE** -  LATE BREAKING NEWS: My kid just bought an AIRPLANE! More on that to come...
**PPS / UPDATE** 11-04-13 - Wanna see our new airplane? Click here to see the Champ!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nature Notes: Spooky


I've been saving this one for Halloween week, because spiders kind of creep me out. These webs, spotted on a recent walk through Ludington State Park in Michigan, were completely invisible unless viewed from exactly the right angle. I had never known multiples of these to occur together and felt very lucky to have seen them. I didn't see the little artists who made them, though, so I can't tell you what sort of spiders they were.

I think the black, spiky seed pods of velvet leaf have a spidery, spooky look too. It's considered a noxious weed and is not native. But I like to let one or two grow in the pasture to provide pods and branches for Halloween decorations. This year's crop popped up next to the compost pile and reached a full six feet in height. My buffet currently hosts an entire skeletal plant, with candles and witchy-looking things mixed in. I'll have to shake all the seeds out before returning it to the yard, because it really does need to be controlled.



For more Nature Notes, visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods. And then stop by at I Heart Macro, at Shine the Divine.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Nature Notes: Swan Song

Swan Songs

That time of year thou mayst in me behold 
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang 
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, 
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. 
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day 
As after sunset fadeth in the west; 
Which by and by black night doth take away, 
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. 
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire, 
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, 
As the deathbed whereon it must expire, 
Consumed with that which it was nourished by. 
 This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong, 
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

- Sonnet 73, Shakespeare

Hey, it's fall. I get moody. And I love that last bit, "This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong: To love that well which thou must leave ere long."  Ain't it the truth? Ain't it the truth?

For more Nature Notes, visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What Will You Do With Your Time?

Found this on and thought it was worth sharing. As a new retiree, I am having a bit of a struggle with the question.

On the one hand, the days are never long enough to do all the things I want to get done. On the other hand, are the things I want to do really the things I should want to be doing?

 I'm having a lot of what I consider fun: Reading, puttering around the house (which is looking and functioning better than ever, by the way), cooking and baking new recipes, canning and freezing produce from the garden, playing with my camera, reading, reading, reading, watching TV ...  Starting today, I intend to learn to draw, using a book on the subject that has been waiting on my shelf for two decades (Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain). With hands that can no longer handle wheel-thrown clay, I am toying with the idea of taking up hand-built pottery and building a Raku kiln in the back yard.

My family seems to think I need to be volunteering, taking classes, and that any artistic efforts should be goal oriented. They prod me to join things, sign up, enter shows and competitions.

When I was younger, I spent nearly all my free time as a volunteer for one thing or another, usually in an all-consuming  leadership/organizer position. I feel I've paid my dues on that front. I'm happy learning new things from books and videos, at my own pace and in my own time. And I was apparently born without a competition gene.

Still, it is uncomfortable when they ask, "Are you working on any projects? Joined any clubs? What are you doing with yourself? You should get together with So-and-So, I'm sure they'd hook you up with their group".

I thought I had left performance reviews behind. But it seems I am currently Not Meeting Expectations.

Should I care?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nature Notes: A Touch of Mink



On a recent weekend visit to the lighthouse in Ludington Michigan, we spotted this little fellow hunting among the rocks.  He (she?) is a mink, which are mostly nocturnal and secretive. Mink are fierce predators and feed only on other animals - fish, frogs, birds, etc. I suspect its fearless foraging was related to the many fishermen around the pier, who may provide it with an occasional tidbit. See the white chin? They all have that. Cute, no?

It's always fun for me to see new animals and birds when we travel, and it's amazing how much things change just a short distance to the north. As usual, I didn't have the best lens for the job attached to the camera, and it was a very gray day. But it's my first mink sighting, so I'm showing it off anyway.

Here's the lighthouse, too, and another resident of the area, who seems to be trying to blend in.

North Breakwater Lighthouse 2

Blending In

For more Nature Notes, visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nature Notes: Cleanup in Isle Two


Would you believe this beautiful thing is a vulture? A common turkey vulture, no less, the kind that usually appears only as an ominous black silhouette high in the sky or perches on fence posts, sunning ragged brown feathers.

On Silent Wings

A few days ago, while I was out walking in the yard with my mother in law, five of these dreaded creatures circled directly overhead, painting dark, vast shadows on the land below. They dropped lower and lower on silent wings -  a disconcerting turn of events, particularly for us old people - then veered off and settled one by one into the tall grass nearby.

The object of their desire was, of course, not the two feisty old broads who were clearly still kicking, but a deceased raccoon, quite "ripe" and overdue for cleanup.



Once we got over our consternation at being buzzed by buzzards, we sat on the deck for over an hour watching them come and go, marveling at their mystery, grace, size, and power.

It was almost enough to make me want to join The Turkey Vulture Society. Almost.

For more nature stories, visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Nature Notes: Bye Bye Birdies

There's good news and there's bad news this week.

Good news first: Cedar Waxwings! They came to visit for just one day last week, darting like swallows over the tall grass in pursuit of insects. I didn't even know they did that.

It was only the third time in my life that I've ever seen them. Unfortunately, they were too busy to pose for photos, so this was the only halfway decent shot I have to remember them by.

Cedar Wax Wing

Now for the bad news. And I'm sorry to say it's really bad news: Avian pox has appeared among the chipping sparrows at the feeders.

I hesitated to post about this, as it's so unpleasant, but I thought it was important that you become aware of it and watch for it in your own backyards. I had never seen or heard of this before, but I have spotted three affected birds, one of them dead, within the last two weeks.

Avian pox is a highly contagious viral skin disease that causes large growths that look like tumors, horrific in the extreme. I'm sparing you any photos, but for those with strong stomachs here's a link to Google images: Avian Pox for what I'm seeing.

It is spread by biting insects, direct contact with affected birds, and contact with contaminated water and surfaces - like seed, feeders, railings and bird baths. Allowing birds to congregate is a recipe for spreading the illness.

According to my research, feeders and baths need to be taken down for at least two weeks to allow the birds to disperse and baths, railings and feeders must be disinfected immediately with a 10 percent bleach solution. If feeding is resumed, bath water needs to be changed daily and everything needs to be disinfected again at least once a week, especially the ports of feeders.

I have bleached the deck rails and removed the baths and all feeders except the hummingbird port attached to my kitchen window. The likelihood of contamination is low there and it will, in any case, be abandoned soon.

Bird watching has been a great joy for me, and I will so miss seeing the little darlings. But at this point, continuing to attract them would just be selfish and irresponsible. I think when the weather turns cold and food becomes scarce I will try again. But for now, no more.


For happier stories, visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods for weekly Nature Notes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nature Notes: Golden

Not much new this time around, but I spotted three patches of these little pretties in the woods and thought I share them.  ** Update August 23 - Just to be clear, these first ones are NOT edible. Just pretty. **


This second photo was taken last year. These are Chicken of the Woods, definitely edible. I chickened out last year, but if I find any this time around I'll give them a go.

Ruffles and Ridges

Also definitely edible: Our gnarly little apple tree actually produced apples this year, following a severe pruning by the hubby. They're almost ripe...


And in case you're wondering, the groundhogs have not returned. In fact, I haven't seen any at all in ages. I kinda miss them. But since they seem to be gone, I'm planning to pot up some nice, big chrysanthemums for the deck. I may get to enjoy some flowers out there for a change!

Visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods for weekly Nature Notes.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nature Notes: The End Is Near

A walk around the pond confirms it. Summer is fading fast, and autumn is in the air. Fall wildflowers are in bloom: goldenrod, bull thistle, field sunflower, nettles, jewel weed, Queen Anne's lace, and the even lacier water parsnip:

Water Parsnip

Queen Anne's Lace

Always the first to turn, sassafras scatters shards of crimson to announce the change of seasons.


Below the surface, tadpoles are busy becoming frogs. (The salamanders have matured and abandoned the pond.) A snapping turtle surfaced, looked me over, decided I wasn't particularly interesting, and returned to the depths.



High above, the trees are putting the finishing touches on their seeds. My favorite is the hop hornbeam, with its beautiful cone shapes that shiver in the wind.

Hop Hornbeam

Entwined with brush at the back of the pond, red nightshade berries glow like a witch's poisoned apple.

Red Nightshade

Now here's the funny thing. Other than the frogs, I'm not supposed to like any of this stuff. Some are invasive, some are just weedy, and some are dangerous. But then, I wasn't supposed to like having groundhogs, deer, or coyotes either. Granted, some things are a tough sell. But as long as I'm around, all of them will be welcome.

(P.S. Except for the poison ivy. That's gotta go.)

Visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods for weekly Nature Notes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Nature Notes: Small Pleasures

A Taste of Summer

Foraging doesn't get much better than wild bramble berries. They are tiny, but with all the rain this year they are plump and plentiful.

Rain is good for spiderwebs, too, transforming a messy mass into a veil of diamonds.

Rain Dance


Visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods for weekly Nature Notes.