Monday, July 29, 2013

Nature Notes: Too Fast, Too Furious


Five little cucumber seeds. That's all we planted. And now we're getting about this many cucumbers Every. Freakin'. Day. I don't know about you, but I can't eat 'em that fast.

I have added them to salads, made cucumber salad, and cubed them as snacks. I have sent bags of them to the office with Hubby to be foisted upon unwary coworkers.

I have rummaged out my old pickle recipe from my early, more enthusiastic homemaking years. After a quick review of it, I have concluded that I must have been out of my mind back then. Also, I have no idea where the wire basket thingy for the canning pot went. Also, we are not that crazy about pickles.

Somehow, I always forget about this part of having a garden. Everything comes in at once, creating a glut of delicious, fresh, organic produce and a pile of guilt for being unprepared to deal with it. So yeah. Mother Nature has been very, very good to us this year. Damn it.

     But wait, there's more!
Visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods for weekly Nature Notes.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nature Notes: Burning Rings of Fire

Salutation to the Sun

It's been a while since I've gone exploring. Mother Nature is in the throes of a massive hot flash, and I avoid Her when She gets like that. But the garden has given me something to share this week, besides cucumbers and beans: Sunflowers!

This is the first year I have grown them, and getting to know sunflowers has been a revelation. There have been good surprises and bad surprises. Such as:

1. Sunflowers do not actually follow the sun. I planted them around a post in the center of the vegetable garden, to the north of the house. I expected to watch from the kitchen windows as their big, golden heads tracked the sky. Turns out, only the buds do that. The flowers always face east - all of them, all the time. So my view from the house is perpetually edge-on. Dang.

2. Sunflowers do not play well with others. Especially pole beans. All parts of the plant exude chemicals that inhibit the growth of many other plants, so their position in the center of the vegetable garden was probably ill advised.

3. On the plus side, the huge, spiky buds are unexpectedly fabulous, and the petals open in a kind of strip tease, slowly revealing their miraculously spiraled centers.


4. Bumblebees adore Sunflowers. I have never seen so many in one place. As bumblebees are reported to be in decline, it is a joy to see them. They all but wallow in the pollen, purring like well-fed kittens.


5. Sunflowers can clean up contaminated soil and water. They remove lead, arsenic, uranium, and harmful bacteria. They were used to help remediate radioactivity at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

6. Best of all, as my husband observed, "They do make you smile, don't they."

* P.S. May 1 is International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day. Mark your calendar and go forth. Just remember to plant them facing east.

     But wait, there's more!
Visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods for weekly Nature Notes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nature Notes: Fairy Lights

I have heard that people are seeing fewer fireflies these days. It could be because they're all at my house.

Barn Dance

I've been trying for years to photograph the spectacular annual light show in our meadows with no luck at all until now. Though still not great, these are the best so far. They were taken with my new "nifty fifty" lens set for a 15-second exposure.

(For a much better look, please click the photos to enlarge them.)


Out here in the country, we have everything lightning bugs love and homeowner associations hate: Low hanging trees, rotting forest litter for larvae to grow in, standing water, and tall grass. We don't use chemicals and we don't have outdoor lights on at night, which can interfere with mating.

There are different species of fireflies, identifiable to some extent by the color and pattern of their flashes. To the naked eye, all these were yellow, and are probably Photinus. The males fly high and flash to attract females. The females answer from the grass below.

Once they have mated and laid eggs, the adults die. So, like so many magical things, summer nights filled with fireflies are fleeting and few.

* P.S.  I'll be leaving Wednesday for a family reunion so I won't be able to visit right away, but I'll be sure to catch up when I'm back. Hope you all have a wonderful Fourth! *

Links for more about fireflies: / Firefly Watch on SciStarter / and Museum of Science Firefly Watch.

   Visit Michelle's blog, Rambling Woods, for more Nature Notes