Full Crow Moon

Full Crow Moon created from Recycled Paper

The Crow Moon is the last full moon before the coming of spring, and the third full moon following the winter solstice. It is considered the harbinger of spring and occurs on March 8th in 2012. The name was given to this seasonal moon by the North Eastern Native American Tribes, after the time when the crows begin to caw. This work was made from many pieces of various discarded cigarette packs creating the background and moon, that have a kind of kind of metallic look. The crow was cut from a tissue box, all glued on re-used cardboard backing. Let it be a good omen for your spring :-)

Exploring the woods nearby

There are many trails in the area where the neighbors ride their 4-wheelers. Our Yamaha Rhino can go most places that a 4-wheeler can go, though it is a little wider and a little top heavy as well. Once you get used to it though, you can usually manage to work around those factors.

I prefer traveling slowly and more quietly on tamer trails through the countryside. I like to enjoy the scenery and watch for any wildlife nearby.

Though the Rhino can handle rougher, steeper trails in wet or wintry conditions too and that can be fun at times too.

This trip I forgot my camera, but took pictures of some interesting litter out in the middle of nowhere with my iphone.

It's nice to take a break from planning and just have fun exploring the land surrounding ours at times. With permission from the landowners, of course. It's a great way to meet the neighbors as well and we'll be well practiced at driving the Rhino, so that we when we use it for work, dragging, hauling and dumping on our own land we'll know how to do it safely and efficiently.

And have fun doing it!

Those Northern Lights

  Aurora ~ watercolor by RLHall

This has been a great winter for Aurora Borealis, though I missed seeing them except on the news. There were reports that they were visible here in the northeast continental United States and have been especially prominent across the rest of the northern hemisphere due to increased solar activity. The resulting solar flares affect the Earth's atmosphere by introducing charged particles which can produce a fantastic natural celestial light show.

I have only seen northern lights once in my life...so far. Having always wanted to go to Alaska, seeing the Aurora is, of course, high on my bucket list. I penciled in a check mark next to that one for now, since having been lucky enough to see an apparently mild version of the phenomenon right here in my backyard several years ago. But maybe one day I will make it to Alaska after all...preferably in March or September, when hopefully clear skies will make it likely to be able to view any chance occurrence of an especially spectacular show, which would be most likely to occur at 1:30 in the morning - so I've read. And it would be nice if I could view them from an immense glacial field or perhaps an iceberg, if those geologic formations haven't completely melted due to global warming by then. I've seen gorgeous photos and video of aurora, but it just isn't like seeing them in person.

I have a keen interest in science and the environment, and astronomy long ago became a favorite pastime. So when my Dad came in from fishing on the dock late one autumn evening, and asked if I wanted to see some northern lights, I rushed outside with him to view the unexpected marvel. Though I'd studied the theory behind the occurrence of aurora, that is the last thing I was thinking about as he and I stood side by side on the lake shore watching the beautiful glowing curtains of ethereal green light as they continuously changed shape and hue over the small expanse of water. It was awe inspiring. We quietly oohed and aahed, occasionally pointing out a certain configuration or shade of color. But mostly we just took it all in, smiling in wonder and pleasure. We stayed there  long after the last glimmer faded away, hoping for another glimpse before walking back into the cottage to turn in for the night. It didn't seem scientific to me, it seemed...magical. Or maybe like a little piece of heaven here on earth. I'm glad we got to share it together. I think I'll check mark that bucket list entry with a permanent marker now, since even if I do get to see the northern lights again, it just wouldn't be the same anyway without my dad here to share it with. I prefer to believe that both he and my mom are able to enjoy that bit of heaven together often now, only with a much better view...          

Swinging Cardinal

Each morning this male Cardinal takes time to swing in the empty squirrel feeder hanging in the pine tree outside my picture window. His mate usually perches in the boughs above him at intervals, flying away and returning several times before they finally fly off together. I have never seen her land on the swing, but she seemingly waits while he remains for quite some time enjoying the view from the 'porch swing' as it moves in the breeze.  

My swinging Cardinal, as I call him, always sits in the same position in the center of the back of the swing feeder which has a spike in the center of the seat to hold a cob of dried corn for squirrels to munch on. Though the squirrels look cute sitting on the seat as they extract the corn kernels, they don't seem to enjoy the swinging motion, often making angry noises and jumping off to a nearby branch or even down to the ground when the wind picks up. But this Cardinal seems to enjoy the increasing motion caused by a heavier wind and usually breaks into cheerful song as he clings to the back of the bench seat, fluttering his wings to keep his balance. He often stays somewhat longer on blustery days and tends to leave during a long lull between windy spells. Since the winter has been mild this year and the bird has been making daily visits for months now, I have delayed replacing the corncob for the squirrels and have been putting food out for them in just the feeding tray at the bottom of the tree instead. I'd hate to interfere in his apparent enjoyment of the swing.


Father's Favorite Flowers

My Dad's favorite wildflower must have been Phlox. I remember him showing me the plant when I was young, making sure I took a whiff of the spicy scented flowers and took notice of the color ranges in the bloom throughout the season. When he spotted them along the road as we drove by he would ask "What kind of flowers are they?" And I would reply proudly with "Phlox!"Now I know that they are specifically called Blue Phlox, Woodland Phlox, or Wild Sweet William. The scent IS wonderful. I can remember Dad always saying "I smell Phlox" as we rode in the car. Or if we were walking he would often hunt them down, by following his nose. He sometimes brought bouquets of them home with him, to be placed in a vase. Though they didn't last long after being cut, it was well worth it, since they brought so much pleasure for that short time before they wilted away.

By Memorial Day the Phlox are just coming into full bloom in Northern Pennsylvania, and each year as we made the trip to visit family cemetery plots in Blossburg Pa. it was his habit to walk across the road to see the flowering Phlox growing along the creek before we left to return to New York, where it would usually be another week before they opened their fragrant petals.
I have many times tried to transplant the wild variety in my flower gardens at home, and finally did succeed in having the perennial reappear the next year and even spread a little. I much prefer the wild variety to the garden species, but that may be just because it will forever remind me of Dad.

Phantom in the Window

This little guy is a Tufted Titmouse and he is a frequent visitor to my feeder this year, though I've never seen one at my yard in town before. I have seen them at the lake, in the Adirondacks and at the land, which are all more wooded areas. He began coming last week, and seemed normal enough, often showing up along with the slightly smaller Nuthatches and Chickadees - sometimes scattering them away from the feeder with his frequent comings and goings. 

I call my new friend a 'he' though from what I've read the two sexes look about the same. After a few days, the weather became especially overcast and that was when I couldn't help but notice his strange behavior. When I got up that morning shortly after daybreak he was already at the feeder and was acting frantic. He didn't leave his perch on the feeder for more than a couple of minutes at a time and while there he seemed to not be eating much. But rather perched on the top of the feeder which sits squarely in front of our large picture window where the cat almost constantly keeps watch of the activity outside from the back of a chair.

At first I thought he was harassing the cat. He fluttered his wings, bobbed his tail up and down, posed with outspread wings, and intermittently flew directly toward the window, fluttering there for a moment before flitting back to his perch. And he did harass the cat whether he meant to, or not. She had already leapt up in the window to grab the bird once, when it flew right up against the pane. She would have captured him between her paws if it hadn't been for the glass that separated them. At first she seemed confused, and then indignant. She didn't try to catch him again, but she did continue to watch his every move with fierce determination for most of the day. 

I soon noticed that when the bird briefly left the feeder, it flew to my truck and landed on the side view mirror, and began flying up to the truck window and performing his antics there as well. From my view from the house I could see the distinct reflection of the bird in the glass and realized that he was intently courting himself. Spending his time between the feeder and the truck he kept up his mating display until well after the other birds had retired to their roosts and it came time for me to turn the lamp on inside.  

He continues to come to the feeder daily, and most days since then have been partly overcast. During the gloomiest times he resumes his courtship and I feel sad that he might not find a real mate since he is so infatuated with his own ghostly reflection. I watch the trees nearby hoping that another Titmouse will hear his calls and join him. The cat has since lost interest, but I would love to watch a brood of Tufted Titmice being raised outside my living room. I try to turn the light on when it darkens to discourage reflections, though it was interesting to watch the courtship of the phantom in the window.

Bare Root Tree Seedlings - Purchase, Planting and Care

Friends from Arizona ordered trees for their summer country home from the local Soil & Conservation District here in New York. Since they won't be arriving at their summer place until the end of April, we picked up the trees for them and are babysitting until May. These are the type of bare root trees that The Arbor Foundation and various environmental agencies offer for sale each year, in time for spring planting. 

Forty small trees came bundled in a recycled dog food bag and could only remain packaged like that for two days at the most. We were instructed to dig a trench with a hoe, in a shady place and lay the seedlings in the trench making sure to cover the roots well with soil. and to keep them moist so the tiny absorbing rootlets don't dry out and die. In this way the delicate plants would be safe. But, when we got to their land we soon discovered that the ground was still frozen solid, and there was un-melted snow visible in some spots of the landscape. Spring is late in arriving this year.

Colorado Blue Spruce $15.00 for ten trees.

The weather is supposed to be warmer through the weekend, so we used a planter box and pot full of potting soil to bury the roots in until the ground is sufficiently warmed. We will keep them in the semi-shade, keep them moist and baby them until then. Since our friends are insisting that we take two trees of each type for helping them out, we are waiting for our land up on the hill to thaw as well.

Ten larger Cranberry Bushes/trees for $10.00

The prices for these trees are great as long as you don't mind watching over them a little closer and being a lot more patient for them to grow to a recognizable size. And if one or two don't make it through the year, well at least you didn't lose a fortune. And think about what planting a tree will do for the planet and for your own enjoyment as well. Buying these tree bundles is a great way to obtain a greater number of trees for creating an eventual wooded lot, a small stand of trees, a wind break or a privacy shield.   

Sugar Maple and Native Birch each $10.00 for ten trees

When the time has come to set them in the ground, planting Bare Root Trees is a little different than planting burlap wrapped balled root trees.

First your going to need to keep the roots moist and covered at all times right up until they are placed in their permanent spot. Exposing those finer roots to the sun and dry air will damage the tree's ability to survive.

Next you will need to pick a spot suitable for the needs of the type of tree you are planting, just look it up online A good place to start is The Arbor Foundation's Tree Guide and How to Plant Trees, if your not sure. Conditions to consider are the size of the full grown tree, type of soil needed, amount of sun and moisture, and any other conditions provided which might affect the health of the tree.

You'll want to clear a three foot circular area of all plant growth in the spot you have chosen, then loosen the soil of a bowl shaped hole quite deep below the surface. Remove enough dirt in the center to allow room for the entire uncrowded root system of your young tree.

Carefully replace the native soil around the tree's roots up to the base of the tree stem or trunk. Create a shallow basin in the soil around the tree, water the area well and then cover with wood or bark mulch. You will need to keep the soil moist and you may want to place fencing or some other protective cover around the seedling to protect it from hungry animals or errant lawn mowers until the tree has gained sufficient growth.

We decided on an alternative method of protecting the seedlings until they are large enough to withstand the possible hazards of a wilder environment. I planted each treeling in a bucket with holes drilled in the bottom. We had some native soil from digging which was done when the front porch was built, though not enough to fill eight buckets, so that was mixed with inexpensive bags of topsoil, some peat moss to help hold moisture, and a little well broken up styrofoam to help keep the dirt from hardening into a solid mass. A few rocks were placed in the bottom of the bucket first, and each bucket was topped with wood chip mulch to keep the roots shaded. The make-shift planters were placed in an area where they would receive the morning light but be protected from the hot afternoon sun. The roots need to be kept moist but not too wet at all times and they may have to be treated with a safe fertilizerer or plant food if kept in the buckets for a long period. Depending on how well they do, and where they will be permanently placed, they could be transplanted next fall or possibly the following year or later.