Category Archives: Nature

Moonrise/Sunset

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown.

[I figured we should have a little astronomy before Monday.]

Just a few blocks from our house in Winona, there is a spit of land beyond the levee that juts out into the Mississippi. Boat trailers can be driven down to put in (and pull out) their boats. Even farther out are chunks of concrete that you can climb over, and once you get all the way out there, you feel like you’re right in the river. It’s a great place to watch ducks and other water birds, and the barges being pushed by the (ironically-named) tugboats.

During the warmer months, on the evenings of the full moon, we go there at sunset, climb out and look West until the sun goes down behind (in this case) the hills in an island in the river. Then we turn ourselves 180 degrees to the East, and wait for the moon to come up. It’s tricky to predict exactly where it will rise * – and the orb is hard to see because it’s still quite light out. But finally it appears:  a big golden- orange roundness edging up into the sky, and it’s thrilling each time we do this.

Before I met Husband, he lived in the country up on the ridge, where he was able to see lots of sunsets. Because of the tilt of Earth’s axis and its rotation, each night the sun goes down (* and the moon comes up) at a little different spot on the horizon. These photos were taken on the July 9 full moon by my friend Angela. In August the sun went down considerably to the left of that hill you see, and the moon also came up left of what’s pictured.

Tell about a memorable solar, lunar, or stellar event in your past.

Any baboons traveling to see the solar eclipse?

 

The Doldrums

It is a slow time of year right now. Clients are waiting until school begins to resume therapy The garden is in a “wait and watch” stage, with beans developing, the third crop of spinach growing, and tomatoes slowly reddening.  Who knows what is happening beneath the potato plants. They just keep flowering.

This is the first time since 1991 that we haven’t had a child in school or college. I feel as though I am in the doldrums, just waiting for something to happen.  The wait isn’t necessarily refreshing or pleasant. Husband’s father goes to a Memory Care Center this week. We are sort of waiting for things to happen with him, too. Who knows how he will adjust. This time of year is usually busy and forward looking. Not this year.  Send in the clowns!

How do you handle the doldrums?

 

The Right Amount of Stress

It is hard to know in a drought how much supplemental water for the vegetable garden is too much, and how much is too  little.  We err on the side of overindulgence. Our recent water bill is testimony to our generosity.  I worry that our pole beans, full and tall on their poles, have yet to produce flowers due to our over watering and not allowing them to feel stress.  I worry our peppers are responding the same way, with very few fruits as yet. Here is a photo of the pole beans with potato plants in the foreground.

Babies born to diabetic mothers often have underdeveloped lungs due to  the  glucose-rich uterine environment  which lacks the normal “stress” of less sweet amniotic fluid. Children who have few expectations don’t fare as well as their peers who have expectations.

It has been stressful at my work due to difficulty hiring staff. I can’t believe that the stress is doing me any good.

I think that a  little bit of stress is necessary for all good development, be it for plants or people.  The trick is discerning the right balance.  Oh that we could thrive without stress!

What do you consider the good stress in your life? The not so good stress? How do you find a balance?

National Zucchini Day

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown

Last week after our t’ai chi class, one intrepid soul brought out her garden bag, to see if anyone would like some… what else?… ZUCCHINI. She was able to shed a couple of them, and proceeded to tell us that August 8 is “sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch” day.  I thought perhaps she’d made that up, but a little research shows that, indeed, Tuesday August 8 is National Zucchini Day, known in some circles as Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch DayThis site states that “Desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s time to sneak over, under the cover of darkness, to your neighbor’s porch, and unload some zucchini…”

Those of you with veggie gardens know what I’m talking about. This year I have given zukes to half a dozen people so far; I think I’m caught up with our four plants at the moment, but more are on the way. I thought I was doing well when I discovered, on the ground back by the fence, a real “baseball bat”. I decided to leave it on the neighbor’s back stoop, with a note saying “Just kidding, I’ll come back for it”, because they have their own plants, and I want to keep them as friends.

Here are some fun facts about zucchini for the curious, found at

  • Zucchinis are 95 percent water, with just 33 calories in a medium-size squash.
  • One zucchini has more potassium than a banana, supplying more than 10 percent of your daily need.
  • Summer squash is rich in carotenoids, powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants that are mostly found in its skin. So be sure not to peel your squash. And buy organic to avoid pesticide residues.

I just checked the garden, and found a good sized green torpedo hiding on the ground… next year I’m campaigning for yellow squash – tastes the same in my book, and you can actually see them!

When have you sneaked around after dark, for any reason?

Not Feeling It

Today’s post comes from littlejailbird.

A couple weeks ago my friend from Vermont stayed a few days with me. The first full day she was here, she took the light rail over to the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul to do some research for a book she is writing, but the rest of the time (Tuesday mid-morning to Friday evening), we spent most of our time together.

Those of you who know me at all know that I have a strong tendency toward introversion, which means that I get tired out by spending lots of time with other people, even people I like. So you may not be surprised to learn that, after planning our activity for Friday, I went upstairs to bed and moaned to myself, “I really don’t feel like going anywhere tomorrow.”

But, because she is my friend and because one of the things we’ve always liked doing together is take walks, in the morning off we went to Wood Lake Nature Center. We saw some egrets and either two great blue herons or the same one twice, a turtle, a muskrat, and some egg masses that my friend got very excited about (one of the books she has written is about salamanders). So I ended up being glad I went, especially since one of the egrets was close enough that, even with my not-very-long telephoto lens, I was able to get a couple decent shots.

 

Also, the great blue heron flew in close enough that we got a good view of it in flight. I snapped some shots of it, not expecting to get anything very good, because I’ve never been able to catch birds in flight, but I just couldn’t not try and sometimes it’s fun to try even if you’re pretty sure you won’t succeed.

When have you been glad you went somewhere or did something when you didn’t really feel like it?

For the Birds

I am afraid of birds. I like to watch birds, but I get anxious if they are too close, or swoop at me. I don’t mind the  scolding wren who upbraids me in the garden, since he keeps his distance and scolds me from the safety of a tree.

I think my bird fear started when I was very young and I went with my grandmother to collect eggs from her hens. I remember the birds pecking me and flapping their wings as I tried to retrieve the eggs. Flapping birds really scare me.  I also remember a parakeet we had who escaped from its cage all the time and who was devoured right before my eyes by a very proud and self-important pug when I was a preschooler.  Alfred Hitchcock didn’t help the situation at all with The Birds.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed what I thought was a robin crash into the French doors leading out to our deck. Robins tend to do that, momentarily stunning themselves and then flying away. This bird fluttered at the door a couple of times.  Husband noticed, too, and went to see what was happening. Imagine my surprise when he announced “Renee, it’s a parrot!” It was trying to get into the house.

We don’t see many parrots in our backyard as a rule. I phoned the police to see if anyone had reported a missing parrot. The dispatcher said no, but that a man had phoned to report two small parrots sitting in his tree.  Our parrot appeared to be alone, and was sitting in the grape vines that grow up our deck. Husband made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to catch the bird with a net. It flew off each time and then returned to the grape vines on the deck.

It was 99° that day, and I was really worried about the bird’s safety.  I asked Husband to get our cat carrier, and I placed it on the deck with some cherries in it. Then I slowly approached the parrot, speaking to it in a gentle, high-pitched voice.  It let me come close, and I extended my finger. It hopped right on.  I tried to stay calm and not think about having a bird perched on me.  It allowed me to walk over to the cat carrier and pop it in. Thank goodness it didn’t flap at me. It started devouring the cherries.

Here is the bird I rescued after the police took it to the shelter.

I learned that it was a Green Cheeked Conure, and that its buddy was apprehended the next day two blocks from our house.  They were placed together in a foster home. A work friend knows the foster mom, and she showed me a photo of the two exhausted birds cuddled up to each other on the foster mom’s shoulder.  She will adopt them if no one claims them.

I still am afraid of birds,  but glad I could help  a grateful bird who had enough of the outdoors and just wanted to feel safe and eat cherries.  It was the perfect bird for a therapeutic intervention to reduce a phobia.

How do you tackle your fears?