Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Birds and Bee...

I was visiting my sister a couple weeks ago and admired the variegated weigela bush that grows at the edge of her yard.

I find both the flowers and the foliage quite striking. 

A bumble bee was busy enjoying the blossoms, too.

And then a pair of mallards wandered in to snack on the sunflower seeds and other tidbits that had fallen from the feeders. My sister said it was the first time she had seen them do that. Interestingly, they didn't seem at all daunted by people moving around to and from the grill. They must have practice visiting other feeders in the area, to be so unperturbed.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Flowers of the Field

There always seems to be something either blooming or bearing fruit out in the big field where Baloo and I walk just about every morning. I like to see what's new each day while Baloo noses around sniffing for ground squirrel or bunny trails.

Purple and white vetch are both blooming, sometimes creating tangles that are difficult to navigate, but are beautiful to look at - and apparently a good source of pollen, if the number of bees are any indication.

In the first picture you can also see the yellow hawkweed flowers dotted among the vetch. There's an orange version of this plant that I believe I highlighted last year. They were favorites of mine as a child - what a great name! Why hawkweed? Apparently, the Romans thought that hawks fed on these flowers to improve their eyesight. I find plant lore fascinating!

The Canada anemone is another field dweller, though it seems to like the wetter, marshy areas more than the dry, sandy ones. If you look carefully, you'll see that the flower on the left has a tiny bee collecting pollen.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Border Patrol

As you have no doubt guessed by this time, I am a fan of whimsy. I have previously shared another piece of delightful yard art from this farm that sports a border collie driving a tractor with the help of some chickens. 

This piece is every bit as much fun, with a border collie driving a "Border Patrol" cart loaded with sheep. 

I've never seen any sheep at the farm, although they have had goats, chickens, horses (including a magnificent and enormous work horse), mules and ponies of various kinds, as well as lots of cherries, grapes and apples.

They decorate all their farm buildings and I always admire the art and animals when I drive by on the way to visit favorite walking trails with Baloo. For his part, Baloo doesn't seem to care about the menagerie - he's more interested in getting on the trail and exploring the fauna in the woods. Chipmunks and bunnies are two particular favorites...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Small Wonders

Sometimes, tiny things are overlooked, as they are overshadowed by larger and flashier things. I thought it would be nice to highlight a couple of them.

The tiny (about 1/8 inch across) blue toadflax flower perches atop a threadlike stem that is only an inch or two tall. This specimen bravely stood in a dry, sandy field and I wondered at its tenacity.

Sometimes, when I'm looking at one thing, I find something else entirely. While trying to get a nice closeup of the vetch flowers, I spotted a bright (spotted) ladybug standing out against the greens and purples. 

This little snail caught my eye as Baloo was sniffing around the trunk of the tree it was on. It would have been easy to miss, since the mostly gray coloring matches the bark of the tree so well. Intricate spiraling detail on a shell that was no bigger than my thumbnail was its own natural wonder.

Unlike many of the creatures I try to photograph, the snail stayed put long enough for me to zoom in and focus. Birds, beasts and bugs are not usually so cooperative.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Temptations and Tantrums

When we go walking in any meadow, Baloo is always hunting for ground squirrels.

I'm always trying to keep him from pouncing on them and he's usually pretty good natured about not getting to have his way, even though they're a mighty temptation. 

He is, however, always reluctant to end the walk and when he realizes that we're on the final, homeward leg of our journey, he frequently throws a little tantrum.

He plops down on the ground to snort and roll and kick for a little while.

So, I stand there and wait for him to finish expressing his discontent.

Finally, he'll reach the stage of resignation, whereupon I tell him, "Protest duly noted. Let's go home." 

Then, he gets up and we finish our walk - even though sometimes, he tends to lag behind, rather than beside me or exploring ahead. On particularly draggy days, I've taken to playing games with him on the way down the road back to the house, up the driveway and to the front door to keep him moving in the right direction with more enthusiasm. It works as a bonus training session, so it's a win-win!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mmmmm.... Pizza!

I had my sister up to share a venison pepperoni pizza.

Homemade crust, fresh mozzarella, fontina, Romano and Parmesan cheeses along with sweet yellow peppers, onions, fresh cherry tomatoes, as well as sun-dried for extra tanginess, hot pepper flakes and fresh basil.

Along with a nice salad, we ate really well.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Pinks and Poppies

Just a little cheerful color for the day!

These colorful little beauties are blooming in my front garden. They are a member of the Dianthus family and they really seem to like the spot under the little crab apple in the front yard.

These eye-popping poppies escaped from the garden in the yard across the street from where they have now firmly established themselves in the weeds. They're a beautiful addition just up the road from my sister's house and Baloo and I got to admire them on a walk while we were visiting.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fire in the Sky

I took a zillion pictures of the big fireworks display last year to try and get a few that I could share. I finally sorted through them all to pick some my favorites (that turned out well enough to really see).They don't really need much in the way of narration, except to note that I especially like the way the lights reflect in the water of the bay. 

And, of course, I left Baloo at home with sound and fans on - he isn't fond of the booms, but he really hates the squealers!

I hope you and your families have had a great Fourth of July holiday.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!!

We get to celebrate both Independence Day and the Cherry Festival with a fabulous air show!

The coast guard anchors location for the pilots.

The Red Baron does all kinds of aerial acrobatics.

And the Blue Angels are awesome!

These pictures were from last year - by the time I sorted through the hundreds of shots to find a few that were worth sharing, it was way past the Fourth of July, so I didn't bother to get them ready until now! 

This year we had the fabulous Thunderbirds at the air show, but I only got to see them from a distance, so it was fun to review some of the great formations and stunts from last year. 

The pictures speak for themselves!

Seriously awesome!

Happy Independence Day!!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Another New Aquaintance

These really striking yellow flowers have been blooming in the meadows where I wander with Baloo.

They open in the morning and close up tight before sunset. I had to do a little research in my wildflower book, since I hadn't been formally introduced. I was struck by their unusual name. 

They are called yellow goats-beard. I didn't see any resemblance to goats or beards and wondered how they came by their name - I couldn't locate any lore to enlighten me on that particular point.

Then they started doing this. The almost metallic bronze color of the giant dandelion-like seed head is quite something when the sun shines on it. The picture doesn't begin to do the color justice. The other thing that is only hinted at in the photo is the geometric effect created by the arrangement of the seeds, which is very interesting and varied, depending on the angle you choose to view it from. So perhaps the fuzzy globe is the source of the goats-beard moniker - I suppose it makes as much sense as anything. 

It was fun to meet this new plant and once again, I learned something new!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

In Flight

Watching birds as Baloo and I take our daily walks is always a treat, especially when I have the chance to catch them on the wing.

A seagull in flight over a moored sailboat caught my eye, and I managed to catch a photo. 

Another seagull wheeled around and over the trees, giving me time enough to get focused on it for a much closer picture than I usually manage.

A pair of mallards flew out from shore as we passed by. Do you think they might have been alarmed by a large black dog? 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Not so Plain Brown Birds

They don't usually garner as much attention as the Baltimore orioles, cardinals or goldfinches, but some of the less obviously colorful birds have their own charms.

The yellow-shafted flicker (I frequently call them My Friend, Flicker - I know, I'm strange...) has just a little splash of red on the back of the neck, but when it takes flight, the underside of its wings flash brilliant yellow-gold. I also love the heavily spotted breast - I'll try to get more pictures as the season progresses. I'm just glad that they seem to be nesting nearby.

The song sparrow doesn't seem very impressive, either, until it starts to sing. In the big field where Baloo and I walk frequently, they perch in the tops of small trees, bushes or wild grape vines and serenade. That's how I usually find them - I follow the sound of the song until I see the little rascals and try to snap a picture before they decide to move to another sound stage.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Nosegays and Nectar

Well, they're pretty well finished now, but I always love the lilacs, so I thought I would post them anyway! 

There are beautiful lilac bushes peppered all along a number of our favorite walks. I always have to stop and stick my nose into the fragrant blossoms as we pass (Baloo noses underneath, hoping for a whiff of bunny or ground squirrel).

When I was a very small, we had a big lilac growing in our back yard and it had a lovely little open area underneath that an imaginative child could turn into a fragrant drawing room for teas, or a secret cave to hide in. I also remember sipping the nectar from the base of the flowers. It was so sweet!

Speaking of sticking one's nose into blossoms and sipping nectar... This bumble bee is taking full advantage of a red buckeye flower.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

By the Beautiful (Inland) Sea

Baloo and I took a walk along the shore near the lighthouse and I was enchanted by the many flowers blooming in the sand right at the water's edge (Baloo, on the other hand, was enchanted by fishy smells and who knows what else!).

False Solomon's Seal always reminds me of palm fronds until it opens completely and becomes less rigid.  This specimen is halfway between the stiff, palm-like quality and the softer arching look it takes on when fully mature.

This beach dweller was new to me and I had to look it up (I always like to be formally introduced to any new plants or creatures that I meet, so that I can call them by their proper names). This pretty little plant is a silverweed. They seemed to grow in colonies, spreading by sending out roots and sprouting new plants from them.

Along the edge of the beach, as we were reentering the forest, we found a lovely patch of wood betony, which is a revered herbal remedy that is recorded back at least as far as the middle ages, where an old Italian proverb advises one to, "Sell your coat and buy betony,", since it was widely considered a magic cure for many ailments.

I often find that if I'm not very careful, I learn something new every day!