Archive for the 'nature' Category

Natural intrusions

I’ve been away from the blog (although not away away….), focusing on work, reading, and knitting. Finished a vest (the Artisan’s vest from Green Mountain Spinnery), which I’m pretty pleased with, although it sparked questions about how to do a better button band (I’m on it, and reading up on ideas for the next vest).

I acquired a new sewing machine, which holds a lot of promise if I can play with it around my work. The days are now punctuated by a desire to get outside and at least look at other peoples’ yards before all the blooms are gone. There was a banner year of figs and grapes.

However, there is a difference of opinions about yellow jackets

(Took a while for me to get to the point of this post…)

The cats think they’re great. I’m less than impressed that the cats are riling up stragglers who get inside. I’ve been spending my free time trapping angry insects in glass jars and waiting until they calm down. Then I slide a stiff card under the opening and march the angry buzzing cargo outdoors. After waiting a while, I tip over the glass jar with a broom. There’s been a lot of shrieking (after muting the work line). The worst was when two cats were tangled up in the barricade towels with one really indignant specimen of wasp-kind. Brr.

I will post thoughts on the current mysteries that I’m reading once I’ve gotten further in. They are helping me feel October-y without having to watch horror movies. The yellow jacket invaders are creepy enough.

Wishing everyone a happy October. Hopefully I’ll be back soon to post about my latest knitting, reading, etc.

Me and the boys

Here in the mid-Atlantic, everyone is being serenaded by lots of love-starved, bug-eyed cicadas. Tree canopies vibrate with their noise. I’ve had business meetings where people ask me to turn down the AC or the mechanical noise on my side of the call, and I have to say, “Nope, that’s the bugs!”

It’s loud, and raucous, and drowns out the sounds of lawnmowers. Impressive. At least one or two of the lotharios have tried rattling against the siding of a drain spout, to get the attention of the lady cicadas. Are there any female cicadas yet? I have no idea. But….

When they fly, they catch the sunlight in their wings. They look very different from the slightly cross-eyed looking black bugs with bright red eyes. In the morning, when I’m half awake, they look a little bit like clumsy fairies who land and then fall off the boxwood or the tulip tree. They’re apparently tasty: neighborhood birds have cleared up some of the straggling bug castanets. If you ask me whether they are tasty, I can only say the birds act like they’re a delicacy and newspeople have been talking recipes (nope. Not trying stir fry.).

Photo of a 17-year cicada on the trunk of a young gingko tree. He has red eyes, a black body, and golden wings.
Lovesick troubadour

I’ve had conversations with neighbors where we shout over the din: “They’re really loud!” “Yes! I’m glad they quiet down at night.” It’s like someone cloned 50 copies of the Backstreet Boys, and then let them out to do a concert and they’re all slightly off sync, so instead of a coherent song you get a mosaic wall of crashing sounds.

I am glad they quiet down at night. I wish they’d sleep in.

Incremental stitches

I’ve been stitching a cross-stitch from a kit. I’m slowly getting to the point where I need to decide if I want to use the beads or not. When it seems ridiculous to stare at a small graph and work on what (effectively) is a stitched version of paint by numbers, I have a vest on the needles.

Photo of a cross-stitch oriole on paper backing. Partially done

Incremental, slow, almost meditative. These colors were cheerful and welcome for the early, cold days of spring.

It’s all slow movements of creativity. Even if I’m using a kit, I need to figure out the instructions, to match thread correctly to the colors’ names (what is the difference between light green, bright green, mustard green, medium green, dark green, fresh spring green, and petite green velvet?), to prevent the cat from gnawing the canvas. And then there are new stitches to learn (half cross-stitches with beads, and cross-stitches with petite beads).

I’ve also been able to go on walks to areas outside of my immediate neighborhood that I haven’t seen since cold weather. Stitching back my thoughts about where my town is, how it relates to other places. And these other places provide spaces for something other than a quick errand into the shops.

Fiberglass cow sculpture in a front yard. House porch is tan stucco. Cow has day of the dead imagery on it, including bones and fanciful flowers.

These other places are whimsical, arty, and surprising. People have been putting in garden beds, or adding statues, small seating areas, and awnings (I assume they are planning outdoor family festivities). From paintings on the sides of walls to cow sculptures in a yard to flowering quince and star magnolias … there was something to see at every corner turned. Such a delight.

Photograph of a red poppy blooming. It is very large, and is planted in a large pot with blue slip decoration. Brown bricks and wooden stairs in background.

I hope you find moments of surprise and delight in spring’s unfolding days.

Advent Calendar – Day 11

Sunrise this morning was beautiful, but it was too cold to step outdoors at 7:15 am in slippered feet to get a decent photograph. Here’s a beautiful sunrise from the past…

Photograph of an ocean sunrise, with orange sun low on the horizon, grey clouds in the sky, and beach grasses in the foreground.
Sunrise over the Atlantic ocean in Delaware.

Advent Calendar – Day 7 (oops 8)

Photo of sunset on a cloudy day. Sun reflects in a reservoir. View is from a tarmac covered road next to the fence surrounding the water.
View looking at the sun setting behind the skyline of the city.

For the second Sunday in Advent, here’s a view of sunset at the city reservoir. It’s a luxury to live near so much open space left from when this was part of the countryside. Due to road work there are no cars, so people can walk and jog or ride bikes in the street around the reservoir. It’s a great place to take a socially distanced stroll.

Look off into the distance, and you can see what looks like a church tower, Victorian houses, and hints of tree-lined streets.

Birding from Home

The tree cover here is a bit thick to see actual nestlings, but the Schoolhouse Farmhouse provides the opportunity to watch barn swallows build a nest and feed nestlings. Here is video from the nest cam:


Around the yard, mementos grow
From other swaths of green:
Gardens transplanted
From other gardens; Plants planted
So that 1918 lives on near the lawn.

Heart-shaped green leaves catch the faint breeze
Under willow branches;
They dance to music
Our parents heard. Below the ground
Water swells; small blooms glow under the trees.

– © rjn, June 2020

A moment of calm

Tulips and daffodils agains the south side wall.

The garden is beautiful this time of year. We’re trying not to look at everything as though it’s a glass half empty, but the past 7 days have felt increasingly strange.

I’m glad I did get to see family up north before March. I have other family members I would normally see for big birthday dinners, and those aren’t happening. I have cousins in town – and they feel as far away as Pluto. Things feel pretty awful when I look at the news, read social media, or visit the grocery store. And yet…

The crabapple and quince are blooming. Daffodils are nearly done, and tulips and grape hyacinths are taking their place. It feels important to notice spring doing her best to celebrate rebirth and the return of the light. The nearby church’s gardens are blooming: apple and peach blooms, purple mossy phlox, and purple hyacinths. We’ve seen small butterflies, as well as groups of cardinals, cowbirds, robins, grackles, starlings, finches, and crows. I’m hopeful there will be small joys for you, like the delight of butterflies, in-between the sadness.

Birdsong and flowers

Magnolias in bloom

People have pointed out we can’t cancel spring. As someone for whom March is a depressing anniversary, it can feel relentlessly cheerful. But cheer is what’s needed when everyone is self-isolating, isn’t it? Every day I’ve been pausing away from work (and the relentless drip of news), to walk around the yard.

I look at the sky, marvel at the buds on the Shadblow Serviceberry, follow the stupid rabbit (too bold for a yard where neighbor cats roam), and watch the bluejays bicker over the berries on the privet (at least I think it’s a privet… my plant knowledge is incredibly suspect). The Gardener is delighted that a row of flowers she had planned has come up. Our garden’s first spring tulip is going to open tomorrow, possibly.

Because so few people are coming to the movie theater, the restaurants, and the bars, we are treated to the sounds of twittering birds (and the shussssh of cars in the distance). At night, our neighborhood retreats like Brigadoon back to the countryside flower nursery before is became part of the city. The fog of springtime rolls in, shrouding the relentless city lights. Only foxes travel on the side street, after darkness settles.

Here are some links to birdsong, because I’ve got the opportunity to improve my listening, and maybe you do too:

As seasonal allergies lessen and it gets warmer outside, I’m hoping for some days with windows open during early morning coffee. Let me know if you’ve heard something wonderful in your neighborhood.


We keep hoping things will get better, while we try to make things better. Double exertion/double exhaustion. I just have to remember that I can only influence what I touch, and cannot stop everything in the world to fix it.

Rose blooming in a yard.
Oh Texas rose, you are so thorny… you tower, queen of the yard.

Work has been busy (a good but exhausting thing), so I haven’t been online as much. And, we’ve made a few urgent visits due to older friends and family not doing as well as hoped. Although, other younger family members are improving their lives, or growing into adults step by step. So there’s this weird balance.

The garden is a source of delight — black headed vultures in the driveway eating their takeaway, hummingbird nest in one of the cedars, butterflies everywhere. A church nearby has created a monarch butterfly garden, and they’ve also been visiting the yard, along with the swallowtails.

Our two cats are sorting things out after 3 years (3 years, really?) of anger. The younger cat still has the crazies at specific times of day, and we just have to be prepared with a feather toy or a willow stick with leaves on it to distract her from scaling curtains and destroying the woodbound trunk in the living room.


Flickr Photos