Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Painted Turtle

Yertle the turtle came wandering across the road. Some nice people stopped, rather than run it over, and put it on the other side of the road, which happend to be our front yard.

I think it was a "painted turtle". It was also, literally, painted, because it had the letters "PBR" painted on it's shell in pink nailpolish. What does that stand for anyway, "Pabst Blue Ribbon"? Stupid people.

Since we didn't think nailpolish remover would be such a good idea for a turtle, we gently chipped it off with our fingernails. My husband, Dave, my best friend, Joanna and I. It seemed pretty calm about the whole procedure.

We then put it into a galvanized washtub with a big rock to crawl on and some lettuce and peas from our garden to eat. We placed it in the sun. It seemed pretty content.

The next day we brought it to a nearby lake and let it go.

Bye Bye, Yertle. Hope you have a nice turtley life. Posted by Picasa

Look at that turtle go, Bro!

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Frog that came to visit.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006


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Monday, June 12, 2006

Giant Ichneumon Wasp

The other day I found a very interesting insect which I had never seen before. It was a bedraggled cat toy for the hordes of feral cats that my next-door neighbor feeds. I examined it and found it still alive. It was some kind of very large wasp, with a long tail. I guessed (correctly) that the "tail" was not a stinger, but an ovipositor. I examined it, took some pictures of the poor half-dead thing, and released it in an area with fewer feral cats.

Since the pictures didn't come out very well, I decided not to use them on my blog. The very next morning, as I was leaving for work, what did I find but another one of these weird bugs, right on the hood of my car! I went into the house and grabbed the camera, and here it is!

A little google searching taught me that the female giant ichneumon wasp uses it's long ovipositor to drill into a dead tree and lay it's eggs which then parasitize the larvae of another type of wasp living in the wood. The ichneumon larvae keeps the host larvae alive, while eating it from within. Something which has apparently been disturbing theologians for a long time.

As Annie Dillard wrote in (one of my favorite books) Pilgrim at Tinker Creek :

Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and insects, it seems, gotta do one
horrible thing after another.

Still, this living thing was not alien to me, however distasteful it's behavior might seem from a human point of view. Perhaps the mystery of life is not the seeming cruelty or indifference of nature, (the universe, God, etc...) but our own mammalian empathy and compassion. We are the anomaly. Yet we too are part of the this strange mix.

I love nature, and I love the Creator, but I try not to romanticize either. We can't know. Life is bigger than us. That is a hard truth to accept sometimes. Still, it is interesting to study, discover and wonder, in our limited way.

This insect actually looked directly at me, it's head and eyes reminded me of a praying mantis. It looked intelligent, but alien. It's job is necessary. I found it beautiful.

But I'm sure glad I'm not the wasp larvae it will be parasitizing. Posted by Picasa


I've often thought that I would like to paint giant landscapes framed by car windows. This is how we see the landscape now. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 04, 2006


These came from our garden, and I wish you could smell them. They smell *so good*! I had never grown peonies before, but the people who owned the house loved them and planted them all around. When they bloomed that first year I was amazed, and I still feel that way every spring.

Peonies are fleeting. The blooms are over-the-top fabulous for only a week or so in early June, and then they shatter and turn to lots of wet pink kleenex all over the place. Very messy. But I think they are well worth it. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 03, 2006

It's Nettle Time Again

I began this blog a year ago at nettle time. One of my first posts was about gathering nettles at my friend Liz's house last May. Here I am again! Last weekend I went to Liz's to get some more nettles.

Don't they look lovely and healthy? And nettle tea helps keep me healthy. I knelt down in the grass to meditate and communicate gratitude to the plants. I gave them a pinch of tobacco. I felt a little self-conscious, since Liz stood nearby, and I know she doesn't share my view of plants. But even so, I felt the plants' particular energy. Having drunk nettle tea all year, it was easier to tune in to their beauty.

As I gathered them I wore gloves, but my arms were bare. Liz was surprised that I wasn't bothered by the stings. I got a few on my wrists and forearms, but they were mostly just itchy to me, like mosquito bites. I guess to her they are very painful.

She shook her head at me as I went about my work. I showed her (again) how the dock plants growing nearby can be used to stop the nettle stings. She commented that she was always trying to get rid of the dock and how hard it is because it has such deep roots. I told her that the young dock greens could be cooked for food and how the roots could be tinctured. I told her they were nutritious and excellent for building iron in the blood. Her son, Joel, who is 8 stood nearby. He said: "Those are weeds. We don't eat weeds". I could tell that was Liz's view too.

On the other hand, Joel seemed interested in my little ritual, and asked if he could give the plants a pinch of tobacco too, so I showed him how. Despite his declaration about the "weeds" maybe he will see another perspective later on.

I asked Liz if she had tried eating any of the nettles last year, or making tea out of them. She said no, and told me that after I left, her husband would mow down this patch with a weed wacker. I was kind of upset by that, but she said "Oh don't worry, they grow back. That's prob. why these are so healthy, they get mowed all the time!" And I guess I can understand that she doesn't want them to spread, since her kids play in the yard.

Then we went inside to make some mint tea (apparently a "weed" that makes acceptable tea!) and brought it outside to drink under the tall lilac bushes. We observed a little bird going in and out and discovered 2 nests in the bush. I don't know what kind of bird it was, maybe a flycatcher? It was too quick for me to get a picture. We also watched a swallowtail butterfly in the lilacs. Our kids played together. We had a nice visit.

I like Liz, and I like her land. I do appreciate her sharing it with me. I hunt there in the fall too. We've known each other since High School. We used to always talk about having a farm. We both have big vegetable gardens. Liz studied sustainable agriculture in college. She worked with the Heifer Project in Africa.

But I feel sort of bad sometimes when I realize that she probably thinks I'm a little crazy. Well, I suppose I am. But not as crazy as I may seem. The things I do are things our ancestors did, it's only recently (in span of human existance) that we don't do these things anymore and we find them strange.

While I keep a garden, I guess I am also incorporating a kind of hunter-gatherer spirituality in my life that seems alien to most people in our culture. Maybe she thinks it's phony or something. It's not phony to me, though. It seems like the most natural thing in the world to me. The more I express my true feelings and self, the more strange I must appear to others. Even those who I thought would understand.

Oh well, I guess that's part of getting older. Things that are in us just have to come out eventually, whether or not other people find them odd.

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nest 1

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Friday, May 26, 2006


Sometimes I think I should call this blog: "Things I *almost* got a picture of"!

You can sort of see the blurry great blue heron as it flys off. This was right behind my garden, in my backyard.

I was getting ready for work when I heard Betsy give an excited little bark that sounded different from her normal "Let me in" bark. I went to look and there was the heron, fishing in the creek. I snuck around to the back porch with the camera and just caught it taking off.

Sorry this is such a totally crappy picture. It was taken through the porch window at a distance of about 100 yards, and the bird was in motion.

I've seen them in the creek many times, but I've never been quick enough to get a picture.

Sadly, this in no way captures the feeling of seeing this huge bird in your own backyard. I wish I could have shown its shrew efficient zen stillness as it poised looking for frogs and minnows. I wish I could have shown it's narrow tallness, it was as tall as Danny. I wish I could have captured it's nervous awareness that it was being watched, looking around, not seeing me but feeling me watching it. I wish I could show you it's grand prehistoric wingspan as it flew up. But this blurry image is all I have to show.

BTW: If you should ever want to help an injured heron, or one trapped in the ice or in a net: be aware that their first instinct is to aim that dagger sharp beak right for your human eyeball, and pluck it right out of your head. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Maize Festival by Diego Rivera
I had a dream last night that I was having a long conversation with President Bush about GM corn.

Now, believe me, if I had a chance to have a real life convo with Bush, I'd be giving him a piece of my mind on *many* subjects, and corn would probably not be one of them! However, the person we are in dreams is different than the person we are in waking life, it seems. Shadowy, vague, unsubstantial, yet powerful in ways that we are not, and having motivations that are different from the motivations of the person awake.

So I talked to him about GM corn. Corn is the grain of this North American continent. The original wild strains of maize are thought to have come from Mexico. People there call it "Teosinte" and "Mother of Maize". I told him that this plant was very important, spiritually, to this continent, and that genetically modified transgenes that contaminated it could have a very negative, even disastrous effect on our country.

He actually listened and took this seriously, which surprised me. Perhaps he is different in the dream world too.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Bridal Veil

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Pretty, isn't it?

Aphids. Do they really harm roses?

Because we've got a lot of them. Do I need to spray them off with a hose, or some kind of detergent/cayenne pepper/tobacco type thing? If I leave them there, what will they do?

These days, my gardening motto seems to be "wait and see". Watch. Observe. Wait. It seems like those aphids are food for something. They have their own reasons for being too. Why disturb them? The bush looks very healthy and it's covered with buds. It looks so healthy I think it wants to take over the front garden!

Besides, the truth is, I'm curious to know more about these tiny green suckers. Georgia Okeefe said: "No one ever really looks at a flower." I wonder, does anyone ever really look at bugs? Posted by Picasa


These may be Opium poppies. They came with the house. Big reddish-orange things. I used to try to dig them up but they always came back. I've grown to like them.

The buds seem kind of phallic to me. Posted by Picasa

Weedy weed.

I have a big affection for this fuzzy weed growing by our old well. I think it's mullien? If so, it can be used as a smudge, like sage. Used to treat bronchial inflammation. Also good to make into an oil for earaches. I'll save some for the winter.

When our old well failed in 2004, it was a big trauma/drama for us, so somehow I feel this plant is growing right there as a sign of healing. Posted by Picasa

Hosta, one of many.

I like this variety, with the big thick leaves. I'm not sure what it is. My garden markers have washed away. Plenty of forget-me- not's growing there too. Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bush on Global Warming.

Will Ferrell - Bush on Global Warming (from Transbuddha) This is so hilarious.

You have to turn on your speakers for this one. It gets funnier and funnier as it goes along.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Nature's first green is gold...

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Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
-- Robert Frost

Cherry Blossom Time

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I smelled the cherry blossoms today and they didn't smell at all the way I thought they would. They smell a little bit like honey, and oddly: a little bit like pepperoni!

Lots of honeybees buzzing around them. The peaches are blossoming too, they are pink. I'll take some pics of them later.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Taking a break from blogging...

Hi guys! Sorry I haven't been updating my blog. I have been so busy with the Environmental Biology class I'm taking, I don't really have the time to keep up with it. However, I will return at the end of the semester, in early May. And when I do, I'll have a lot to say about nature and ecology. I'm learning a lot and thinking a lot, and I will be back. So please don't forget me! :-)

I may post a few things between now and then, but only sporadically.

One thing I'd like to say that I learned in my class is this:

If global warming continues as it's expected to, there may not be any more sugar maples in NY State. They need a cold period, apparently. No more maple syrup industry in NY, no more brilliant color in the fall, no more little "helicopter" seed pods fluttering to the ground. No more sticking them to your nose. No more canopy of green leafy maples arching over the streets. I can't imagine that.

I'll be an old woman by then and my son will be 48 years old. We'll be the old farts telling younger people how beautiful the maples used to be in NY, and they'll think it's normal that you have to drive much further north to see them.

Maybe this isn't as drastic as some of the other predicted harm that may come from global warming, but it struck home with me. I am intimately connected with the plants in my little area of the world. The sugar maple is that ubiquitous tree we all love, yet take for granted. How could it leave us? It hits me hard. I feel so sad about that.

UPDATE: Hey, guess what? I just came from an awesome workshop with this old retired veterinarian, Alcott Smith, who is FULL of woodslore and natural history knowledge, and we talked a bit about global warming and I asked him about the maples and he said it's not all the maples that will be affected, just the sugar maples. They need a temp of 34 degrees F to germinate. He said it's prob true that they won't be in this area anymore, but at least we'll still have some other maples, like red maples. Just thought I'd let you know. :-) Love to all of you.

Monday, January 30, 2006

X Country skiing pic 9

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The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

X Country skiing pic 8

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X Country skiing pic 7

Still some green moss and ferns under the snow. Posted by Picasa

X Country skiing pic 6

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X Country skiing pic 5

Many of the trails go right along the rushing creek. Posted by Picasa