Signs of Spring’s Arrival on my Walks

As usual the Spring weather swings from warm to freezing (literally) and back again. Plus Spring rain. I’ve not been walking anywhere near as much as I want or as would be healthy, but before I took 2 weeks vacation I did get out and about.

I was out at an appointment and I heard an odd but familiar sound. Avian for sure. I looked about and up and there it was – on top of the building. 🙂 It was not alone – periodically I could see something behind that goose that made me think there was another up there. I stood there for a few minutes in the sunshine, listening to the goose trumpet a paean to Spring. Or whatever the call might have been. 🙂

The trouble with warm spring days for my walks is that I become increasingly more demanding about the temperature. Whereas in January temperatures in the 40s were WARM for walking, at this point I’m not going out unless the temps are in the high 50s. I’m tired of being cold and I don’t warm up until halfway through my walk. Good thing Mother Nature is not as picky as I am. 🙂

I just liked this cute little house, flanked by tall trees, light blue sky, puffy clouds

Refuge in the Little Moments

Sigh. I made the mistake of looking at the news. Although it is beautiful sunshine outside, it is also COLD – in the 30sF. Too cold. My to-do list is uninspiring. At moments like these it’s good to turn to the little things in life that can take me away from this moment and into a moment that makes me smile.

White Cat. Sigh. She’s not often a moment that makes me smile, I must confess. She’s over 19.5 years old. Arthritic. Ill. Unclean. Dying of starvation (literally) – we need to feed her every hour. She’s noisy – very meowy because it hurts to move (arthritis), it hurts to defecate, it hurts to be hungry, it is annoying when HER person (my husband) is NOT on the couch where he belongs so she can snuggle. Meow meow meow. I’m probably not supposed to admit or say this, but it will be a huge relief in my life when she finally decides she’s ready to quit hers. And then I catch sight of her all curled up and sweet and innocent on the couch in the sun. All I can do is melt and smile and enjoy her little pink nose and her little pink paw pads and her little pink ears.

Spring flowers always lighten my mood and gladden my heart. These pictures are from one of my afternoon walks. I’m not sure what that purple ground cover is – the flowers look like azaleas but it’s WAY too early for azaleas. I think. The magnolia tree takes me back to my childhood. We had the good fortune to live on a street that had an island running down the middle. Down the middle of the island were magnolia trees, one after the other. They were glorious for about one week, before the petals began turning brown and dropping. My sister’s birthday is a week AFTER that peak magnolia time. My grandmother, who LOVED flowers and gardening, would always come out for my sister’s birthday, and always bemoaned the fact that she was too late for the magnolias. Tradition! That is a cherished loving memory of us all happy together, even if my grandmother missed the magnolias.

Of course it’s wonderful to see my OWN garden starting to wake up as well. I think that this year instead of tying back the forsythia, I’m going to cut it way back. We are having construction done (again) on the house, beginning in May. Yes – I will indeed be documenting it and inflicting the photos and my complaints on you. For some reason I am incapable of remembering what they call the a/c unit we are having installed upstairs (split? slim?). It will have some unit that sits outside the way central air units sit outside, but we will have vents in each of the rooms upstairs. The outside unit is going to be sitting in either the forsythia or the rhododendron, although I suppose maybe we could tuck it back on the far side of the rhododendron and lose the azalea and the andromeda bush back there. In any case, the forsythia needs some heavy pruning. It’s way too straggly. And it’s fun for me to think about gardening. 🙂

There is an old sexist saying: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In our family we laughed at that saying because both my sister and I married men who are great cooks. We always joked that the way to OUR hearts was through our stomachs. 🙂 While my husband is indeed an excellent cook, there are a few meals that are “mine” to make, mostly in the comfort food category. I make the holiday briskets, the tuna casseroles, the ground beef casseroles and the corned beef & cabbage dinners. My husband so enjoyed his corned beef & cabbage dinner this past March 17, he insisted that I take a picture of it. 🙂 I agree – it was delicious. And now I’m hungry.

My cookbook insists on calling this “Boiled New England Dinner”

SeeSaw

Early snowdrops

I’m on an emotional seesaw this morning. “Up” because it’s bright sunshine and temperatures above freezing. Also my ‘weigh-in’ this morning showed me tied with my lowest recorded weight since I began this slow behavioral change back in November of 2020. 🙂 “Down” because my lower back is in agony. To the best of my knowledge all I did since yesterday was sleep. Took some ibuprofen and have an ice pack applied and waiting for relief. “Up” because I’m still feeling good about getting out for a walk yesterday afternoon. I’m not sure if I should be relieved or concerned that lately I’ve had a lot of unscheduled time at work. Not “free” time, there’s still a lot to do. But fewer meetings. I’m not sure what that indicates, but I do appreciate being able to book a meeting with myself to walk in the warm(er) afternoon sunshine. “Down” because what I have to do today is not interesting nor creative yet is essential. Blecch.

saw this field of purple and green from across the street when i started my walk

I’m also feeling “up” because I was able to donate goods, not just $, for Ukraine refugee relief. I’d donated $ last week to a few organizations that were first there to help. I’d especially like to call out World Central Kitchen. I’d never heard of this group before the Ukraine news, but absolutely I am behind an organization that is ‘boots on the ground’ feeding hungry people. I’d seen several local organizations that were accepting physical goods to ship. They had slightly different lists but I collected items in my house from all lists. The first local group I contacted told me that they could only take a very limited amount of what I had because they could not ship the other items. The second group I contacted was thrilled to take it all, and if I could get there in the next 90 minutes (I could) they were preparing a shipment that day. So “up”. But of course the overall event is “down”. 😦 We need to run the world better.

empty boxes, packing tape, linens, towels, blankets, personal toiletries, medical supplies, non-perishable food items – or why it pays to be a “pack rat”

Promises of Spring

Yesterday I woke to the smell of spring air, the sound of birds chirping, and the sight of bright glorious sunshine. It was 58F at 7am and life was glorious. I went for my morning walk and reveled in the experience.

Today it was 38F at 7am. Wet snow is predicted for tomorrow. Ugh. But the days grow longer, the temperatures get warmer, and one day soon I know I’ll be digging in the garden.

Not sure which perennial this is – maybe the delphinium?

Chez Butterfly

Day 10, Alive. Much to the chagrin of WC and BC, Butterfly is now the FIRST being to which I attend upon arrival in the kitchen. Get out the stool, climb up on the counter, check (1) is there water in the saucer? and (2) is the butterfly in sight? Negative and affirmative. Add water to saucer to see if the butterfly reacts. Yes. Verify that there is fruit available. Yes. Add a little more pomegranate molasses (closest thing I have to nectar.) Next up: Chez Cat responsibilities. 🙂

Maybe I should have gotten him a fresh bouquet of flowers yesterday

Patient Update

If you look carefully, you can see he’s missing more parts. I think from various falls.

To my great surprise the butterfly is still with us. No, I have not named him. Yes, I did indeed go out and buy a bouquet of flowers for his enjoyment. It’s considered “enriching the environment”. It did not occur to me until after I strewed them about that they were going to die because they wouldn’t have water. I’ll either need to accept that fact and do nothing about it, accept it and clean up the dead flowers, or go buy more live flowers for the butterfly. I’ll let you guess which option is the most likely to occur. I’m definitely rethinking my former love of butterflies.

Before I added more water to the saucer. He needs the towels to keep from drowning. I think.

No surprise, WC is still with us as well. We had a day where we were sure that “this was it”. We’ve had many of those days. Yet again WC has rebounded, yowling to be fed if I don’t move quickly enough upon a demure meow. She’s still jumping up on furniture, cruising the downstairs. Checking out the humidifier is of great interest to both WC and BC. WC also likes to let me know when the litter pads need changing. WC likes to keep the staff alert and responsive. She has my husband completely under her paw. I suggested he and I might watch TV together. He looked distinctly uncomfortable and said that there was no room for me on the couch with him and WC, and that besides the couch was messy from her “issues”, and that really I wouldn’t enjoy being next to her. I have been displaced. And you all wonder why I am so cranky so much of the time.

She’s really a hobbit. I think this was her Elevenses

I’m very disappointed in my readership, I must confess. NOT ONE of you posted to let me know how long I might anticipate sharing my kitchen with the butterfly. Do you not realize that I need to climb up on the counter in order to see it? To refresh the water in the saucer? To make sure there is still food rotting in case it deigns to eat? Do you not realize that at this close proximity it is much more like a BUG than a butterfly??? I had to turn to the internet for hope – and you know how dangerous THAT can be. “For example, a swallowtail butterfly generally lives from six to 14 days while a monarch butterfly can live from seven to nine months.” Day 6. (and counting)

There is NOTHING patient about this one. “Stop aiming that ‘thing’ at me!”

Very Unexpected Visitor

Fairly certain this is a Black Swallowtail

Well. This was a surprise. I sat down to eat my lunch when a movement caught my eye. It was a butterfly. A live butterfly. Inside my house. On my grow light. 3 feet away. I did what any right-thinking person would do: called to my husband as I raced for my camera. Because after all, we know, if there isn’t a photo, it never happened.

I’m saying “what do we do with it?” since it’s going down to single digits again tonight. Obviously we can’t put it outside. My husband is saying “the cat will get it”. I’m thinking no way am I letting the cats get it. It didn’t look great – either it was starving or burned itself on the grow light or a cat had already gotten it. It didn’t look very stable once it tried to move. It moved off the grow light at some point and was between the planters. Maybe dragging a wing? a foot? NOT flying.

first round of feeding the butterfly, when I began to worry it was drowning, not drinking

So of course we tried to feed it. 🙂 I feed everyone and everything, even unexpected butterflies. Unfortunately I had no rotting food (that’s what my search turned up for ‘what do butterflies eat?’ but I did have a pear with a little brown spot. We put some sugar water, small pieces of the pear, and ultimately, some pomegranate nectar in a plate. The butterfly was still staggering, now back behind the planter. I pushed the plate near it, locked BC in the basement, and went back to my lunch

I got up to check on it and couldn’t tell if it was drowning in the sugar water or drinking it ecstatically (watch the video – you’ll see what I mean). In case it was drowning, I put a bit of paper towel near it so it could get its footing. I know NOTHING about butterflies other than that they are pretty and I like them. 🙂 It didn’t seem impressed by the paper towel…

having dined, returned to the grow light (see the added nectar in the dish)

After lunch I checked again. The butterfly was out of the dish (so it didn’t drown) and back on the grow light. I grabbed some catnip-flavored greenies, put them down in front of the basement door, and released the kracken! I mean BC. 🙂 Who devoured the greenies. I fed BC some wet cat food while I worked the daily crossword puzzle, then grabbed more greenies and BC. While BC protested vociferously (apparently she does not like being carried about) I took us both upstairs, where I strewed a trail of greenies from the top of the stairs to my office. 🙂 I’m hoping the butterfly decides/is able to fly higher. If so, I can move the plate of nectar out of cat-reach. (Although I’m not really sure where such a place might be.) Because I’m going to be very sad if my husband proves correct in this instance.

yay for the distraction power of greenies!!! and the lure of my desk

Actually – it was my day for visitors. It was raining/snowing this morning so I did not go out for my morning walk. When I pulled up the shade downstairs, I discovered my frequent morning walk companions had NOT been deterred by the weather!

I know they do a lot of damage, but I still feel delight seeing them

Winterized

Succulents under the grow lights

I spend a lot of time showing you my garden and yard. Then comes the winter and it all gets shut down and put away. (Okay, I notice in these pictures I’ve not finished putting things away from the front porch.) It requires a lot of effort on my part to dump pots, and protect vines and move things about so that I can call in the professional yard service to do the “fall cleanup”. They always do more than I expect/want, in that they pull out all of my fencing. It annoys me but I’m also grateful that they do, because it WILL be easier to plant in the spring. After, that is, I go through the effort of putting back the metal fences that *I* consider to be permanent. The yard DOES look better without fences around barren lots.

Herbs and plants piled up on the porch – no pots sitting on anything still alive 🙂

Last winter was so warm that easily half of my planters came back to life when I moved them out to the front walk. I thought about buying a very small greenhouse to encourage that to happen again this winter. It turns out that there is more to a greenhouse than simply glass walls and roof. Until I figure out what I’d want to do for a heat source I’m going to pile up the planters on the front porch as I’ve always done. I’ve also decided against digging up my canna lilies this year. It was an interesting experiment last year, and it did work, but it also had some minor inconveniences. I find that this year I’m not as gung-ho to dig them up and prepare them to live in my basement coal bin. They’ll winter over in the ground or they (most likely) won’t.

I don’t know why the succulents seem to flower more once I bring them inside. You’d think that being outside with true sunlight all day would be more nourishing than 10 hours under a grow light. They’ve only been inside for a few weeks, and already several of them are putting up flowers. The palm trees always start out as if they will do okay, and then by spring they are in terrible condition and I end up buying new ones anyway. 🙂 This year I’m using 2 grow lights on them, and the lamps are positioned closer than in prior years. They may still fail because BC has decided that they are perfect for chewing. Now a greenhouse (with heat) would be the perfect place to store the palms!

The grow lamps cast a pink light in the photos, but not so much to the naked eye

Upsy-Daisy

The weather conditions this year have been extremely beneficial to my tall plants. Perhaps too beneficial The rudbeckia was sooooo tall, that it far outstripped the meager supports I had in place. When the heavy rains came in the beginning of August, many of those plants bent and snapped – there was simply too much plant, too much wind, too much rain, and supports that were much too low. The supports did more damage during those rains than if there had been no supports at all. Some of the rudbeckia survived but many were destroyed. Note for next spring: put in tall stakes in the corners of the garden to string supporting twine higher.

oh me, oh my, soooo tired and droopy

The Bolton’s Aster is taller than than the previous 2 years. Side note: I was out gardening one day and was chatting with a passer-by. She actually asked me if the Bolton’s Aster was a weed. Really????? We’re discussing my flowers and garden and you really think I’d be growing a huge weed in the front garden? Anyway, the aster is huge. It was staying upright, with a little help from some supports, until the last week or so. Then the winds and rains from Henri & Ida proved to be a bit much.

stand up straight!!!

Unlike the rudbeckia, the aster had room and flexibility to bend all the way to the ground. Unfortunately, both the aster and I have great difficulty springing back gracefully to upright positions. 🙂 While the aster looked okay as a bush, I really prefer it tall, swaying in the breeze (like Mary’s dress). As a bush it was also killing everything under it – grass, flowers, peony. I bought three 6′ stakes. Yesterday I got my husband to pound the stakes into the ground for me. There was a time when I’d have struggled valiantly to do the stake-pounding myself. My husband is 6′ tall and I’m only 5’1″, he’s strong, and I’m not as strong as he is, so despite the fact that I do NOT let him help me up from the floor when I’m weak as a kitten (this part is for YOU, Honour), I did ask him to help me with the stakes. I held, he pounded. I also had him do the twine tying. After all, he IS the structural engineer. 🙂 I think the asters look much better this way. And NO, they are NOT weeds.

The peony is saying “aaaahhhh! air & light!