Showing posts from February, 2017

Invasives at your garden center

This is the time of year when gardeners are considering new plants to be added to their landscapes. Often, they may take a stroll through their local garden center, checking out what is there and thinking about how it would look in their own yard. It is at this point that many may be misled into purchasing a plant based only on its looks and characteristics without being aware of its impact on the overall environment. For the truth is there are many perfectly lovely plants that you can find at garden centers that should never be brought home and given a place in your garden.  These are non-native plants that can become invasive and overrun an area because the enemies that kept them in control in their native environment do not exist here. Just ask anyone from the southern United States about kudzu, a Japanese vine that was introduced to this country in 1876. There is a good reason why kudzu is called "the vine that ate the South."  In spite of all the publicity in recent

Another look: Olive Kitteridge

I am a big fan of Elizabeth Strout's writing. I greatly enjoyed her latest book My Name is Lucy Barton and I just read that she has another one coming out in the spring - something to look forward to. But probably my favorite among her books, so far, is Olive Kitteridge , winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 2009. Not only did I love the book, I also loved the HBO limited series based on the book. It starred the wonderful Frances McDormand as Olive. She was perfect in the role. When I recently read about Strout's new book in one of the magazines that I follow, it naturally brought to mind Olive Kitteridge and my pleasure in that book. I read and reviewed the book back in 2014. Rereading my review brought it all back to me. ~~~ December 16, 2014 Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: A review   My rating: 5 of 5 stars          Olive Kitteridge is a large woman with a loud voice and a big personality. If we were to compare Crosby, Maine to a solar syst

Poetry Sunday: For the Love of Avocados

We love our children, nourish them, teach them as best we can, and, filled with trepidation, we send them out into the world and hope for the best. And sometimes, when they come back to visit, we find that they have grown far beyond the space that we had thought they occupied. They have learned so much more than we ever knew and have become unique individuals with knowledge and skills quite separate from us. They have learned how to slice and prepare - and love - avocados. For the Love of Avocados Related Poem Content Details by Diane Lockward I sent him from home hardly more than a child. Years later, he came back loving avocados. In the distant kitchen where he'd flipped burgers and tossed salads, he'd mastered how to prepare the pear-shaped fruit. He took a knife and plied his way into the thick skin with a bravado and gentleness I'd never seen in him. He nudged the halves apart, grabbed a teaspoon and carefully eased out the heart

This week in birds - # 245

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : American Goldfinch in my redbud tree this week. The goldfinches appear to be leaving our area early this year. Last week, they were all over my feeders, but by the weekend when I was doing my Great Backyard Bird Count, there were very few left to count and by late this week, I was only seeing single birds like this one present in my yard. In previous years, they remained in the area through March. *~*~*~* It's not exactly news of OUR environment, unless you count our astronomical environment, but the big news in science this week was the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a small, faint star named Trappist-1 in the constellation of Aquarius. The star and its planets are 39 light years away, making the system a prime candidate for the search for extraterrestrial life. Scientists and geeks everywhere are very excited about this! *~*~*~* Meanwhile, in discoveries here on our planet,

The Roots of My Obsession redux

I was idly thumbing through my shelves of gardening books yesterday when I came across this little gem. I had frankly forgotten that I had it. I picked it up and read a few random pages which were more than enough to remind me that I really, really loved this book. I had read and reviewed it back in 2014. The essays here speak to the gestalt of gardening, the thing that makes the enterprise more than just about planting seeds, weeding, pruning, harvesting. The committed gardener sees the world in the garden and sees gardening as a transcendent experience.  If you want to understand why people garden, you might want to pick up this little book and read these essays. ~~~ The Roots of My Obsession: Thirty Great Gardeners Reveal Why They Garden  by  Thomas C. Cooper My rating:  5 of 5 stars I love this little book. It speaks to my soul and to my own obsession. Yes, I admit it - I, too, am obsessed with gardening, sometimes to the point of nuttiness, but reading this book w

I Shot the Buddha by Colin Cotterill: A review

Dr. Siri Paiboun is one of my favorite characters from an ongoing series. The series is set in Laos in the 1970s. Dr. Siri and his wife Madame Daeng fought for many years to free their country from foreign domination and to establish a communist government that would provide justice and equality for all citizens. The Pathet Lao were ultimately successful in their struggle and the communist government was established, but it hasn't quite worked out as Dr. Siri and the others who fought for it had hoped. Dr. Siri is now nearing eighty. After the revolution, he served for a few years as the country's coroner, but finally he was allowed to retire. However, he hasn't retired from solving mysteries and from pursuing adventure. Siri is surrounded by a coterie, one might call it an entourage, of quirky characters, starting with his wife, the noodle shop proprietor, who assist him in his adventures. They include his former co-workers at the morgue, a Vientiane policeman, and

Wrapping up the GBBC

The weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count concluded on Monday, Presidents' Day. The count had participants from around the world. You can check out the reports from any area that interests you by visiting the GBBC website . My personal count was a bit hit or miss, not my most successful GBBC experience. I was busy gardening on three of the days, so I combined gardening with bird counting and I'm sure I missed some. On the last day of the count, we had heavy rains so that put a bit of a damper ( sorry! ) on my counting. Overall, I managed to find 24 species around my yard. In my best years of counting, I've had more than 30 and there were probably that many or more here this year, but they didn't show themselves to be counted. So, here's what I saw. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Black Vulture Turkey Vulture Cooper's Hawk Red-shouldered Hawk White-winged Dove Red-bellied Woodpecker Downy Woodpecker Eastern Phoebe Blue Jay American Crow Carolina

Backyard Nature Wednesday: Redbud buds

Most of the native redbuds in the area have been in bloom for several days now, but my specimen is a variety that was purchased from a nursery. It's called 'Forest Pansy' and its blooms always come about a week later. This week the buds are popping out all over and the bees are feasting. Yes, it really is spring here!

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson: A review

I first read this book many, many years ago; it must have been in the '70s. It was devastating. Reading it again this weekend, I found it, if anything, even more devastating. The cover of the book calls it "The classic that launched the environmental movement," and indeed it is. One can trace a straight line from the publication of this book to the public outcry that led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and to the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Carson's book was published in 1962. It outlined in overwhelming and incisive detail the damage that was being done to Nature and to human beings (who are, after all, a part of Nature) by the profligate use of chemicals, especially DDT, to fight insects and plants that are labeled as pests and weeds. Carson argued that those chemicals accumulated in the cells of plants and animals, working their way up the food chain and becoming more and more potent at each step along the wa

Poetry Sunday: Fire and Ice

Brief and to the point. That's Robert Frost in this little poem. It is actually one of his most popular poems. He considers the end of the world and the debate about whether it will end in fire or in ice and comes to the conclusion that both would accomplish the task equally well. Fire and Ice by Robert Frost Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.

This week in birds - # 244

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Cedar Waxwings photographed on one of my previous Great Backyard Bird Counts. This year's count continues all weekend , through Monday, so plenty of time for you to participate.  *~*~*~* An avowed enemy of the Environmental Protection Agency, who would like nothing better than to see it destroyed, has been approved by the Senate as the new head of that agency. Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma's attorney general, who has made a career out of suing the EPA on behalf of gas and oil companies, will now be able to work to destroy the agency from within. Republicans refused to delay the vote on his confirmation even though a judge had ordered release of Pruitt's emails that he exchanged with oil and gas executives to be accomplished next Tuesday. I guess emails aren't important when they are written by Republicans. Meanwhile, William Happer, the man who has been tipped as science advisor to the new president,

Why aren't you out counting birds?

Mrs. Cardinal says, "The Great Backyard Bird Count is underway. Why aren't you out counting birds?" Yes, this is the weekend of the big count. It starts today and runs through Presidents' Day on Monday. Participating couldn't be easier. Just note the birds in your yard or in some other public or private space which you designate and then go to the website and report what you've seen. You don't have to be an ornithologist or even an expert birder. Just be able to recognize the birds in your area by sight or by referring to a bird field guide. And if there are some you can't identify, well, you can report that, too. This is important, because the information collected by citizen scientists, when collated, helps ornithologists to determine the winter movements of birds and the health of bird populations. Are populations declining or booming? This count will help to tell the tale. So, get off the sofa, grab you binoculars and go out and count!

Faithful Place by Tana French: A review

Faithful Place is the third in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, and, just like the first two entries, it is a gem. We met Frank Mackey, the main character here, in the second book, The Likeness . He was the tough head of the Undercover Squad with a single-minded devotion to the job that left little room for emotion. He was not an especially likable character. This time around, we learn Frank's backstory. We meet the hardscrabble working class family that produced him and we get to know the community where he grew up - Faithful Place in Dublin. Frank's family represents the very worst of the Irish stereotypical family of the 20th century. The father is a drunken, brutal beast of a man who can't keep a job and spends most of his life on the dole. His mother is a harpy who hides and excuses her and the children's beatings at the hands of her husband because, what would the neighbors think? Actually, of course, the neighbors know only too well what is

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2017

Most days, spring seems to have arrived early in my zone 9a garden, but that has become fairly typical in recent years. True, we may still have some chilly nights, but it seems unlikely that we'll have another freeze. (I better hope that we don't since I planted my tomatoes this week!) With the warming days, a few blossoms are beginning to show themselves. Here's what's blooming in the garden on this February Bloom Day. The 'Peggy Martin' rose has a few blooms this week. By another week to ten days, it will be fairly covered in these pretty blossoms. And the little tazetta daffodils are here to assure us that it REALLY IS spring. A few African daisies bloom among the foxtail fern. The Carolina jessamine is actually past its prime and looking a bit the worse for wear now after a heavy rain this morning that knocked lots of its blossoms to the ground. This was taken a few days ago. Several primroses grace pots around the garden