Sunday, May 29, 2011

House of Blues.....And Hands

Blue hand building... Grand Canary Island

“Architecture is a social act and the material theater of human activity.” ~ Spiro Kostof (Architectural historian, 1936 - 1991)
More pictures of the strange -- "unusual" architecture found on the Grand Canary Island. These were photographed by my brother when he performed in an opera there a couple of years ago. The stunning shades of blue covering the stucco walls are eye-catching on their own; but then you begin to see three dimensional sculptured shapes on the sides -- hands!

(You may click the pictures to get a larger view)

These remind me of words or phrases delivered in sign language, however, my knowledge is limited to the ABC's. Molding surrounds some of the hands like picture frames. Honestly, at first, the sight of hand "gargoyles" protruding from the walls of a building creeped me out a bit; but with time, the beautiful positions with their touch of grace and poise gave a more fluid and soft look to the structure. You could say the hands "speak" to me. Perhaps that was what the architect and designer was going for.

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Carmi's Theme: "got the blues".
Blue Monday

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Photo Hunt: Looking Down, Another Perspective

Fashionable heels and flip-flops..... graduation.

"One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things." ~ Henry Miller
Footwear for formal occasions found everywhere these days; the entire spectrum from flip-flops to the highest heels (how do they walk in those things), although I don't see any "sensible shoes" among the bunch.

Skywatching from a different perspective.....

"We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon." ~ Konrad Adenauer
Reflections of summer trees and fluffy white clouds against the blue of the sky; but wait, is it really the blue of the sky or the blue of the cold water in the still pool? Is this any way to study the sky? Why, of course!

A bee's eye view.....pumpkin flower.

"Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain." ~ Henry David Thoreau
Busy buzzing bee go about your business and pollinate the pumpkins please. And dear fruit flies stir memories of college days and hours (many, many, many hours) of red eyes or white eyes, short wings or long wings, bristled abdomens or smooth; of crossings and larvae and pupae and counting and counting and counting (endless counting), all in the name of Genetics. You are much better suited for this environment.

And the Saturday Photo Hunt theme this week is? "Looking Down"
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Saturday Photo Hunt: "Looking Down"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When The Bough Breaks

We had wind... (click pictures to enlarge)

"But on the twenty-fifth of May, at sunset, a violent wind howled madly,
Battering and rending my plants;
Rain poured down, Pounding the vines and flowers into the earth.
It was so painful
But as the work of the wind, I have to let it be ..."
~ Ryokan (1758 - 1831)
Except for the fact that it was the 24th of May and we actually had no rain... this describes our weather yesterday pretty well. It looks like our yo-yo season has passed and summer is here to stay, even if it is still officially a month away. Two weeks ago we had days in the upper 60's and mid-70's... nice, low humidity, great weather for working outside. This week? We hit 90 for the first time and yesterday it was up to 93 degrees and 80% humidity for a while. In the late afternoon while the tornadoes were gearing up in Oklahoma, a cell developed over western Virginia and sped off to the east... our direction. I came down to let Miss Daisy do some business outside before the rain hit and suddenly the skies darkened and the wind whipped, it didn't "whip" up... it hit like a sledge hammer. The hot tub lid started to levitate so I ran out and grabbed the handle with my left hand and grabbed the only thing tied down with my right... the short garden hose attached to the faucet. I tied the lid down as best I could, but a lot of debris had already gotten in.

Inside the sunroom, I heard pelting pinecones on the copper roof and another thud and started seeing several plastic objects sliding across the deck and the yard. Then broken limb pieces and leaves and what looked to be flying logs at times. The grow box with my lovely little midget tomatoes was blown off the deck and turned over down the stairs. Little lost tomatoes spread across the patio and multiple tomato branches were broken off. I managed to get it back up near the sunroom and out of the main wind... but I saw the huge dead tree top broken off into the yard.

Little lost tomatoes.

It didn't hit anything but really made a mess....that I have to clean up. Two limbs fell behind the fence and I already tossed them back into the preserve. The strangest thing of all was.... while other areas around us were getting torrential downpours at the rate of 3 inches an hour... we got nothing...NOTHING! At most a few sprinkles... but not even enough to wet the sidewalk or deck or patio or even the roof. Just the wind. Now is that fair? If it makes this mess for me to clean up, it should at least water the yard and plants for me.

After the lightening quit, I started the clean up. I salvaged the grow box, put the roller back on, swept up the lost soil and pressed it all back together. I tied up the plants and set it back in place. Limbs and twigs are all over the back yard and I am going to start on that in a bit. The huge tree top is dead wood, not that heavy and I think should be easy picking for the hand saw, although I e-mailed the yard guy and he said he would take care of it. He had the top of a live old oak tree snap off into his property as well.

I noticed a strange splatter pattern on the patio and up the side of one of our planters that stretched from the middle of the rose garden to the edge of the patio... about 12 feet. It was a red sticky material and since pathology is my life work and since I have watched way to many CSI episodes, my first thought was that this was from an unfortunate bird...yes, blood splatter patterns! But, no bird. What is it? Sweet. Ah, ha! The wind was so strong that it blew the nectar out of the hummingbird feeder and sent it flying all across the patio. Don't ask how I know... I won't admit it.

Anyway, another band went through late last night and when the wind kicked up, I thought, "Oh, no. Not again!" So I tied down the hot tub lid and moved the tomatoes and a couple of other pots and then the wind died down. "Right! Now that I prepared, it's not bad." But... it DID rain!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sensational Sizzle; But, Short Stature

I had to call these my "munchkin" tulips.

"The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size." ~ Gertrude S. Wister
I planted tulips this year...literally, I planted them THIS year... 2011... even though I was supposed to plant them in November 2010. As usual, I have an excuse..explanation for my tardiness. For one thing, I tend to be tardy on planting whether it is seed, bulbs or plants. Other life gets in the way, it's too hot, it's raining, my strangely unique anti-tick outfit is in the washer, it's snowing and too cold; these are just some of my rationalizations. This year it was the snowing and cold thing.... but, really, it WAS snowing and TOO cold to plant the bulbs. My bulb bag said that for our area they should be planted the last two weeks of November and I had the bulb planter and food and all the things ready. The second week of November was a typical balmy coastal Virginia late fall week. Then it all came to a screeching halt... it got cold... really cold... cold enough for a two inch snow to stick. And it didn't really warm up... perhaps it got above freezing in the day a bit, but still the north wind blew and at night it was cold. I quickly got reams of bubble wrap and wrapped all the patio plant containers and covered the bottoms and tops of the soil. I moved Japanese maple tree (the one in the pot) and others to the south side of the patio next to the brick wall and the leaves that had blown up on the patio.. I gathered them all around the wrapped pots for an added layer. I grouped all the wrapped pots together in protected corners and even tried to wrap the mock orange bushes ... but knew that at a hardiness level of 20 - 30℉ they would not likely make it and they didn't. Other plants I brought inside.

With all this hustle and bustle at the unexpected cold snap... I forgot about the tulips, but only for four weeks. Yet, alas, it was too late. We had a couple of insignificant... at least insignificant for those in northern states... snows in the weeks before Christmas and much colder temperatures than usual. Here at the coast with the Gulf Stream it is not unheard of to have temperatures in the 50's and 60's at Christmas time. But this year it was COLD! The ground froze... I tried to plant just before Christmas and my bulb planter would not get past the mulch... the ground froze... it really did. We even had that frost heave they speak of where water gets in the soil and freezes, expanding and pushing up little bits of soil. Then it snowed twelve inches on Christmas night and the day after... and January was just as cold as December. So, it was February... the middle part.. before I managed to get them in. The bulbs had started to sprout in the garage, but at least they seemed viable. So I planted them.... 97 around the two trees in the front of the house.

The daffodils come up in March, early... and the tulips just after them. Everyone else had tulips and I finally started seeing the little pointy shaped buds pushing up out of the mulch... then the leaves started to form.... but no flowers. Across the street was a stand of tall shapely tulips... long slender stems and bulbous cup shaped red flowers swaying when the breeze blew. Mine... nothing. Then one day I saw a dash of red on the ground and thought it was a piece of trash blown into the yard. I checked and to my surprise.. it was a tulip! At ground level! No stem to be seen at all! A few days later... another... same size... and another and another. Pretty soon I had a bevy of blooms... sitting right on top of the leaves and less than three inches off the ground. They were supposed to all be red... they weren't... some were pink and some were purple with white stripes. But all of them were munchkin... short... petite.... very strange looking. I'm sure I saw people driving by twice trying to figure out exactly what they were.

I learned one thing... well, maybe two. First, did you know that after you cut a tulip the stem continues to grow for a few days? I didn't. But after the blooms were spent... the stems on my tulips decided to grow... about 8 inches. And again... people would wonder what these things were. The second thing I learned is... no matter how afraid I am that the bulbs will come up too soon in our usually warm winters and then be hit with a late spring freeze... I WILL plant my bulbs this year in the first week of November... NO MATTER HOW HOT OR COLD IT IS!

Oh, yes... I forgot... to get these pictures I had to lay down on the ground with the camera....again, neighbors wondering.......

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Ruby Tuesday

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Not a bright squirrel..... Posted by Picasa

I couldn't believe this squirrel was so stupid and smart at the same time. Smart enough to get into the cage around the bird food and stupid enough to forget how he did it and get stuck. I still don't know how he got in... how do squirrels do anything.... but he definitely couldn't get out. I had to pull the spring pin that was holding the lid down and do it really quick. Really now, I don't have a hankering to be bitten by one of these things. That was no small feat as it is a really tight spring. By the time I found him here, he was already in a squirrely state (pardon the pun), panicked and frantically chewing on the metal wire. It took several tries but finally the spring came loose and he popped out of the top and off to the woods. If only that experience were imprinted on his pea sized brain... no such luck. We move the patio chairs further and further away from the bird feeder and he jumps further and further to get to the feeder.... soon we will have to catch him and sell him to a traveling squirrel circus, along with his five other cohorts.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

White In The Shade

Columbine... double white....the flower of the spring.

"What a desolate place would be a world without flowers. It would be a face without a smile; a feast without a welcome. Are not flowers the stars of the earth? Are not our stars the flowers of heaven?" ~ Clara L. Balfour
It has been a real struggle to write these last few weeks and for several months now. Life gets in the way and with doctor's appointments for two parents and emergencies that seem never ending and balancing diabetic diets and gout diets and even soft diets for the same person and cooking and grocery shopping and a little planting thrown in... well, by night time the thoughts in my head are mostly non-existent. So I take my pictures... those that I have been able to take... and play. There are so many beautiful flowers opening up on a daily basis and many a surprise... (since I didn't map out the flower beds that well last year and have forgotten exactly what was where)... with such beauty you would think I would be inspired. But my muse is buried under mountains of pills for people and pets and organizing trips to the doctor with as little duplication and extra driving as possible.

This was a new addition to my shade garden last summer... a white double columbine. It prefers shade or partial sun but not too much. It will wilt in the heat in Virginia. But the columbine is hardy too... last year I planted a bunch out behind the fence, right next to the large tree that snapped off during a summer storm. After the people came to remove the tree, I noticed they had trampled most of the growing columbine plants and I grieved. But this spring, little sprouts of green began to grow in the most familiar leaf shape...little scalloped leaves... and before you knew it there were columbine.... purple and white, solid purple, burgundy, pink and white and pale yellow. Most often they die back to the ground in late fall, but emerge again in spring... ours have bloomed through April and into May. Now most are topped with the growing seed pods, but this white double is still blooming strong. I plan to collect more seed to add to our population behind the fence.

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Today's Flowers

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Passing of Pansies

Perky pansies.... their last hurrah! Posted by Picasa

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that's for thoughts." ~ Shakespeare, Hamlet
Creeping upward, slowly... cool day setbacks... but still warmer, each day a little bit... temperature marches slowly and then more quickly... instep with the humidity. Spring takes its time in getting the motor running but seems to rush headlong into the heat of Summer without a thought for those it leaves behind... the daffodils, tulips, iris and the pansies. Poor pansies... they tried to expand and flourish and flower and brighten up the late fall.. but the cold came too soon this year and they struggled. Spunky pansies.. called a winter flower but who can really like the snow or the cold...they try to look beautiful with wet leaves and flowers and ice and that white stuff, but they struggle. Still, in Spring, pansies perk up and lift their heads to the breezes. They call for the April rains and shine. It is in Spring that they show their stuff.... but Spring is too short and counted not by the days but by the temperatures. While the "time" of Summer does not arrive until June... the "heat" of summer... that which signals the roses and lilies and lantana to bloom... arrives in May. And just when the pansies have overcome the winter hardships and are at their brightest show.... it's over.... too much to bear.. the wilting heat... the flashy colors of summer. Perhaps if the pansy gave nectar to the bees or attracted the increasing number of butterflies... would her delicate petals stay just a little while longer? Poor pansies... already pulled up and replaced with summer annuals in the front beds... already removed from hanging baskets and most deck containers.... but, here... for another week perhaps... in a shaded area.. with slightly cooler temperatures... they can share space with roses and petunias and blanket flowers and growing sage and tomatoes.... just a little longer.

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Mellow Yellow Monday

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And So It Begins Again....

Remnants of last season.... beginning again. Black swallowtail butterfly. Posted by Picasa

"I've watched you now a full half-hour,
Self-poised upon that yellow flower;
And, little Butterfly! indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless!---not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!"
~ William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)
Last October, six black swallowtail caterpillars, the last of the season... wove their chrysalides in the small aquarium sitting in my sunroom. Five days past.. then ten... then a full month... and it became obvious that these six were not going to emerge until spring. Days and weeks and months passed; the sticks with five brown and one green chrysalides simply ..."were". Two attached to the mesh cover and the rest to small twigs. A couple of the twigs had to be taped to larger sticks to fit into the empty flower pot in the aquarium. Those black swallowtail that overwinter usually start emerging in mid to late April, but one adventuresome fellow suddenly emerged in early April... really too soon, especially this year. The day was cold and wet and I kept him inside as long as possible before placing him in the drying mesh lid we used last year. An hour or so later, he was gone... I fear for his survival as there were so few flowers blooming and it was really cold. So, for the other five... I covered the aquarium with a dark towel for a few weeks... the length of the day, the light is the trigger for their emergence not the temperature.

Three more butterflies have successfully emerged, inflated their wings, practiced their wing style and spent time resting in the welcome mesh outpost. They have long since gone... but I did notice the tiny eggs on the fennel and several small caterpillars in various stages already eating the now abundant fine foliage. Sadly, the fifth butterfly was deformed and couldn't inflate the wings..... it died quickly. So now there is one left. It still has several days to emerge and still be within the normal time.... we will see. Soon, we will be breaking out the incubators for both the black swallowtail and the monarchs.

And an update on the monarch caterpillars already on the milkweed.... as last year, the first crop of caterpillars mysteriously disappeared. Only one managed to grow fairly large and I was thinking of bringing it inside for the last couple of days before transformation... but this morning it was dead. I do hope the parasite that invaded them at the end of the season is not still around. As yet, I have not seen any adults.

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Nature's Notes

Monday, May 09, 2011

Lilies for Love on Mother's Day

“The mother loves her child most divinely, not when she surrounds him with comfort and anticipates her wants, but when she resolutely holds her to the highest standards and is content with nothing less than her best.” ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie (American writer, 1845-1916)

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” ~ Washington Irving (American Writer. 1783-1859)

“Who ran to help me when I fell,
And would some pretty story tell,
Or kiss the place to make it well?
My mother” ~ Ann Taylor (English Author, 1782-1866)

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” ~ Honore de Balzac quotes (French Novelist. 1799-1850)

"The sweetest sounds to mortals given
Are heard in Mother, Home, and Heaven."
~ William Goldsmith Brown

"A mother's treasure is her daughter." ~ Catherine Pulsifer
Could you see, could you guess... lovely lilies from my daughter Nyssa for Mother's Day. Thank you sweet pea... they are lovely.... not as lovely as seeing your face and hearing you call me "Madre"... but beautiful to brighten the day none the less. Thank you!

OH! Yes... I hope ALL the mothers out there had a lovely day... and all you daughters out there.... CALL YOUR MOTHER!!!!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Look Who Already Showed Up On My Milkweed!!!

Twenty caterpillars, already!!! Posted by Picasa

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly." ~ Richard Buckminster Fuller
My brother is here... it is a busy and too short time of being together, laughing, working, planting... and yes, buying another Japanese maple tree. Just before he arrived I was looking over the flower beds marveling that just weeks before, except for the parsley and fennel and the evergreens, these beds were simply mulch where plants once grew. And then, remarkably, they began to return.. slowly at first but then almost changing each day. A few will not return and I don't know why... a few, I am still holding out hope for. The milkweed are slow to emerge and then grow more rapidly. I was watching them inch up towards the sky, each day a little more. Then I saw some leaves with holes and ragged edges and I thought... "My, these look really ratty... and still they are so short." A closer look showed why... and when I checked all the milkweed it was the same.... little one-half inch long green, yellow, black and white striped caterpillars. I haven't seen any returning Monarch butterflies, but they have slipped in and laid the eggs and so the cycle of life begins.

By the way, of the six black swallowtail chrysalides that overwintered in the sunroom... one emerged on a cold and rainy day, a little too early.... another emerged on time, dried and flew off. Four have not changed, but still a couple of weeks remain in their time frame. I haven't seen these butterflies around either, but I see that the fennel already has a lot of tiny eggs on it. This year I have planted more fennel behind our fence, near the preserve. I want to have a yard that is awash and a flutter with butterflies so thick you can hardly take a step without seeing one. Sigh. Perhaps.

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Nature's Notes