Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Coming home to a nocturnal symphony

I've appreciated many times (via blog posts) in the past how our SE US forests and other natural landscapes support crickets, cicadas, tree frogs, etc. that make our nocturnal symphonies so compelling.

It's in full swing tonight in the forest below our urban house this evening. Whether it's the native trees that were in the canopy, or the native understory trees and herbaceous plants that we've added, or both, I don't know.  The insects and tree frogs are happy.

It's lovely to hear tonight. We didn't hear night insects or frogs in Quebec over the last week, while traveling.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

A farewell bonfire

We're heading home tomorrow , so this is a farewell bonfire. Lovely to be with my Dad and his wife this evening.l

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Gaspesie National Park (Mont Albert loop)

Ten years ago, we'd had a great hike on this loop, reprised again, albeit with a late start. It's a wonderful (and long - almost 11 mile) hike, through coniferous forests, alpine tundra, serpentine endemics, boggy habitats, and riverside areas, with wonderful views at the top.

It was a lovely way to mark our 33th wedding anniversary, even though a bit strenous!

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Parc National de Bic

We visited here last year, on a excursion during a family visit. A magical place, so we returned here again.
It's a park that includes botanical diversity, rugged coastline with views of distant islands in the St. Lawrence River, great hikes, and bays full of sealife -- harbor seals basking in the sun, seabirds, and intertidal flora and fauna.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

An unexpected garden

Heading along the St. Lawrence River, on an afternoon excursion, we came across a historic estate and garden, Domaine Joly De Lotbiniere, near the small town of Lotbiniere.

The summer estate, built in 1851, served as a summer home for a prominent Quebec family for 5 generations (almost 200 years).

Today, it's a National Historic Site of Canada, operated by the Foundation supporting the estate.

The gardens were lovely.

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Observing the natural world

We're in the 99% path of the solar eclipse tomorrow, so we have eclipse glasses ready, and a planned viewing spot.

It would be fun to be over at Biltmore Estate (with its expansive skies) but we're opting for a walkable spot close-by.

I'm inherently more interested in living things than planetary happenings, but thinking about tomorrow at this time going largely dark, is a pretty dramatic thing to contemplate!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tomato hornworm - felled by a braconid wasp

I haven't seen a tomato hornworm in my garden for many years (thanks to all the birds that we encourage, I hope). But this one, in an open hoophouse, in the community garden where I currently volunteer, was a surprise.

And happily, full of parasitoid egg cases from a braconid wasp

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Morning and evening light

A Rudbeckia in the evening and morning glories in the morning.


Friday, August 11, 2017

The power of plants

A full day today of gardening talks, followed by a meeting with the organizer of a recently developed community garden downtown (on a year-by-year city gardening space) has me reeling, a bit.
Too many gardening threads to think about in the same day -- from ecological gardening, to the Lurie Garden's story, to a grounds-up community garden.

But the important message that came through from Thomas Rainer and Roy Diblik, in their presentations, and Clare Hanrahan, the community garden organizer, is about the power of plants to connect people to the environment, stop them in their tracks, and bring nature to the city.

It's a message I've embraced my entire life. I fell in love with plants in the natural world, but was also entranced by the "wild plants in the city" -- the survivors and colonizers -- as a young teenager, spending a summer near NYC.

I left academic research for outreach about a decade into my career life with plants, and embraced that since, whether it's been encouraging people to grow natives ("plants that work for a living") or growing vegetables year-round, another passion.

The power of plants -- humans need nature, and plants are the foundation of that. Whether it's a window box, a box full of edibles, a large-scale garden, or living in the forest, it's a path to the natural world.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Thinking about the future

I'm in an online class, facilitated by a wonderful writer and thinker in Ireland, Sharon Blackie. She posed a question this week about how we address our lives in the context of a changing climate. Her course is all about being inspired to rise up, and pay attention to the natural world, and our particular place in it.

Sharon's weekly missive was prompted by a piece by a NASA climate scientist here in the US, who is tracking human impact on oceans (they're the last sink for the CO2 that we're producing), and her take was not positive.

But, she (the scientist) also wrote that she wasn't willing to have her child live a life without carbon (that is, without modern conveniences and visiting the grandparents through travel). So the question really, that Sharon was asking us to consider, is how much are we willing to do individually to reduce our impact on the earth?

It was a compelling piece, and thought-provoking.

I've tried to do the best that I can over the last 4 decades (I was a teenager at the time of the first Earth Day here in the US, and studied environmental science and biology in college, and became a plant ecologist in graduate school.) This has been on my mind for a long time.

My major carbon use now is travel. But it's perhaps offset because we don't have children? As well as offsets? We live in a small house that's energy-efficient, we recycle everything, I buy clothes at the thrift store (eg. recycled), yada, yada, etc. - but that's really not enough on a planet with an expanding population.

I have no answers. But I'm thinking it's also the "tragedy of the commons," too, as we all put our heads down in the sand.

It was interesting to search my past posts for "stewardship" and read what came up.


Maypops below: host plant for Gulf Frillary butterflies

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

River rock tales

Carefully placed river rock (stone by stone)
I've been too tired after placing river rock (in place of the mulch around my raised vegetable beds and in our front path) -- for the last 3 days (3-4 hours in the morning and an hour or so in the evening is about all I can do), to manage an new post about the garden or any nature observations.  Thank goodness, my gardening companion was doing the really heavy lifting, but I'm the rock placer.

I'm admiring the pocket meadow, which is glorious right now, but don't have the energy to write about how I'm going to change out the tomatoes and peppers in the deep bed for greens this fall. I'm pooped.

The river rock odyssey started early last week, when I suddenly had the energy to start raking out the mulch that had washed down into the small river stone path leading to the house over the years, covering at least half of it. Not particularly attractive.

I excavated and washed off the stones, and it looked great -- inspiring us to think about our several year intention to replace the mulch around the raised beds with something more permanent (and less allergenic).

A trip to the stone yard had us selecting more small river rocks, to be delivered last Friday.  But, we made a mistake in the sizing, I wasn't there, and LARGE river rocks (2-5") were delivered (my gardening companion had even upped the scoop size, un-beknowst to me)....

A partially done addition
So, we've made lemons out of lemonade, with excellent results.  The large river stones, especially after we seal them to be darker, will be lovely.

The drawback is that they needed to placed, one by one.  Yikes.

It's reminded me of the flagstone path that I put in down in the Piedmont (I felt like I had been pummeled by sticks after each weekend.)

Final results will be coming soon.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An August rain

Thankfully, and unexpectedly, we've had a thunderstorm overhead for the last hour.  It's produced a welcome downpour, for a good 30 minutes or so, and now on and off.

Rain hadn't been predicted until Friday, but it's welcome now!

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