Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thursday Doors/Color My World With Crayola - Chestnut

On Saturday, we visited one of my favorite places in the world, Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. I love walking down the Acacia Passage toward the Orchid House. The conservatory boilers generate a steamy heat that rises from the grates; a gentle and welcome waft of warmth on a very cold winter day. 

There were many varieties of orchids growing within the fragrant enclosure of the Orchid House. I enjoyed seeing the many examples of paphiopedilums. The side petals of the flower are a perfect choice for 'chestnut,' today's color your world challenge color. 

The Mediterranean Garden leads to the Palm House. The door between is my entry in this week's Thursday Doors challenge. In winter, nothing beats the cold quite as well as a walk in a steamy, fragrant conservatory. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Bare Branches/The Hawk

Today, on my way home from the market, I spied a very large hawk in a neighbors tree. Oh my! How I wished I drove everywhere with my camera in tow. I went home, put away everything cold, grabbed my camera and was out the door. The bird was still perched where I first saw him. I managed to zoom in close with my camera lens and capture a lovely portrait of him. I don't know if it was my presence or the sound of the camera, but he flew to a new perch.

He gazed at me from the broken tree trunk almost as if he was posing for the perfect photograph. 

What a beautiful bird. 

I only managed to click fast enough to capture a portion of his wing as he whooshed away again. 

Once again nonchalant as he posed so beautifully against the grey sky of winter. These photographs are part of Skywatch Friday

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Dehydrating Herbs

Winter is a good time to read gardening books, and also think ahead to what plans I have for the coming season. I always have great luck growing herbs. I've learned to include them in my day to day cooking. Many of them, especially basil, do not survive the winter months. Before a first frost, I collect seeds from these and freeze leaves in ice cube trays. Another alternative is to dehydrate my fresh herbs. 

I was happy to stumble upon a great sale of food dehydrators. I had one in the past but gave it away to someone who was keen on learning how to dehydrate fresh produce. Afterwards, I often regretted not having one and was delighted a few weeks ago to find one on sale. 

The herbs on the plate have been dehydrated. The basil at the forefront has retained its green color. For some reason, I can't achieve this color retention with basil when I hang it to dry. Now, when I buy basil in the supermarket or have an overabundance in the garden, I will be able to keep it as a dried herb. 

Here's a good site for anyone interested in growing and using herbs:  Garden Herbs

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Today in the Garden/Twinkle Lights

Today in the garden, after an overnight ice storm, the trees are thawing in the brilliant sunshine. The resultant droplets of water are capturing the rays of the sun and mimic the appearance of twinkle lights spread with wild abandon across every limb and trunk. 

I am housebound until the sun melts the sheets of ice from the driveway. I thought myself brave and ventured out to start the car, only to feel the uncontrollable slide of wet ice take control of my movements. You can imagine my mincing, careful steps back to the porch and front door. 

There will be no garden work for me today. Other than feeding the birds the deep freeze has limited what I am able to do. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018


The predicted, N'or Easter Grayson, arrived early this morning in my Mid-Atlantic State of New Jersey. I took a beautiful early morning photograph as the snow began to fall. The sun was rising, the sky shone a lovely royal blue. My zoom lens captured not only the distant trees but hundreds of snowflakes descending from the clouds.

Fifty miles away in Atlantic City, even as I write, blizzard conditions are creating hazards, flooding, and near white-out conditions. The initial gentle snowfall in my area has given way to the winds, the snow not so much descending, as swooshing sideways in the air, swirling, and creating a spooky roar.

The juncos were the first birds to brave the snow and they were rewarded by my early morning visit to the feeder. I'm afraid the birds are going to have to wait a bit before I venture out again. For some reason watching the snowfall made me hungry and the first thing I did after scattering seed was make, and eat a piece or two, of pumpkin pie.

These photos are part of Skywatch Friday.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Garden Birds - Today in the Garden/Sapsucker in Snow

When I filled my birdfeeder yesterday I was startled by a mournful, mewing cry. It came from above my head so I was fairly certain it was a bird. Today when I filled my birdfeeder I saw the bird again. I think it is a type of woodpecker called a sapsucker. I researched the bird's cry and sure enough it is described as mewing. You can hear a sample of a sapsucker's calls on this page of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 

Skywatch Friday - Junco against the winter Sky

The shy juncos were taking advantage of the feeder today. The snow on the ground has covered over many of their food sources. 

I am trying to fill a plastic dish I bought at the dollar store with water at least once a day. Birds need water sources even in the cold weather. My mirrored bird bath is out of commission, stored against the house for the duration of the cold weather. The plastic understudy, while not attractive, is working well. It has some flexibility when frozen and so far has not cracked. 

The temperature is so cold here in Southern New Jersey the bird bath's frozen water does not melt when it is dumped out. I have several gigantic ice ovals scattered on the ground in the vicinity of the bird bath. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Frosty Moon

It is cold, cold, cold here in the Mid-Atlantic states. The moon, against the wintry sky, seems to be in sync with the frostiness of the looks cold too. 

I've never noticed the moon in the daytime hours as often as I have this year. Whatever the hour of its appearance, I always try to admire God's beautiful handiwork.  This photo is part of Skywatch Friday

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Today in the Garden - Sprouts

I've been sprouting seeds for salads this week. The alfalfa mix did great and the sprouts are in the fridge waiting to be added to salad and sandwiches. A mixed variety also sprouted, but in the rush of Christmas the sprouts sat out for too long a time...I decided these would be a good burst of freshness for the outdoor wildlife and birds. 

The seeds I used for sprouting were purchased through Amazon over a year ago. The Sprout House has a wonderful deal on the Amazon website, and also offers their product through their own website. I've included the link for both. For some fresh summer greens try sprouting some seeds this winter. 

*** Children and those with a compromised immune system should not consume sprouts. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Today in the Garden - Winter is Here!

Common Starlings stay in our area throughout winter. They are a social bird. Some folks don't like them, but I enjoy their cheerful chatter. They are typical of the birds you see lined up on electrical lines and often congregate in the trees surrounding my gardens. One of these days I will get around to creating a painting with a rainbow of starlings as the subject. Why do I say a rainbow? The reference is to their shimmery iridescence. While not as striking as the dark rainbow of a grackle, the starling has many colors within it's feathers. This fellow was a perfect subject for Skywatch Friday.  Along with his shimmer he wears white spangles on his chest throughout the winter months. 

If you enjoy watching birds as I do, check out the Cornell Lab's Bird Cams  Still streaming live are:
Bermuda Cahows, California Condors, Hellgate Ospreys, Savannah Ospreys, and two Feederwatches. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

December 18 - Today in the Garden/Compost

TODAY IN THE GARDEN I turned my compost piles. The one in the back is the main composter. I add any and all food scraps and lawn debris to this as the finished compost is used for the flower gardens. The one in the front, created with a large Rubbermaid container, is dedicated to only organic food scraps and organic lawn debris. This 'clean' compost can be added to the vegetable and herb gardens. My compost doesn't seem to be doing much right now in the cold weather. There needs to be a lot of breaking down before I will be able to use it in the Spring. I am not adding anything new at this time. 

I'm not alone in this problem. I found a good article here at Garden's Alive: "How can you keep compost cooking when it's COLD out?"

I don't know about freezing table scraps to hold until the warmer weather...I think I would opt for putting them outdoors under leaf piles first. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Winter Skies

The month of December has been alive with beautiful skies, many perfect as a photo entry for Skywatch Friday

Today snow is once again falling. The bare branches of nearby trees revealed a small hawk surveying the beginning of the storm. 

The beginning of the month, December 3rd, gave us a marvelous view of the Supermoon...the Cold Moon according the's 2017 Full Moon Calendar

IN THE GARDEN TODAY the snow is falling once again. We've had several small snowfalls this month in Southern New Jersey. I ventured out earlier with some blue felt and fabric and laid them on my potting bench. With nothing being potted outdoors at this time of year, the bench makes a interesting staging area for photographs. Today's goal was to capture some snowflake images. The first few flakes were rather icy, and compact. I'm hoping later on I'll have a chance to photograph a few examples with more details.