This hydrangea has taken a few years to get established. Last year it was eaten back by the deer, which didn’t do it a whole lot of good. We’ve managed to protect it (or have simply been lucky) this year and it’s doing much better. We planted it and another, blue hydrangea a few years ago but the other didn’t make it. This seems happy and the flowers, white and pink, are quite nice against the green of our back border. We’ll need to do a little pruning to keep the forsythia from covering it up, but I think it’s well on its way to being a favorite late summer bloomer.
Monthly Archives: September 2017
We babysat Kai for a few hours today and naturally I took a few pictures. Actually, he slept or was mostly quiet in his crib for most of the time we had him. He didn’t fall asleep for about 20 minutes but was actually not very fussy during that time. After he woke up again we played with him a little and that’s when I took pictures. He was less happy for most of that time than he had been when left alone in his crib. Cathy had him somewhat interested in a few books but the pictures I took were not of a happy boy.
Then his mom came to the door. That’s when I snapped this one. Yes, the happy view we present on social media is often that one moment of joy in an otherwise bleak, joyless day (his, not ours, we were happy just to be in the same room as this beautiful little boy, even when he was sleeping). Enjoy this picture for what it is, a joyous smile on a cute little fellow. But don’t be taken in by the visions of perfection you see on Facebook, Instagram, and other such sites. They are often not a reflection of reality.
I went for a hike with a friend and his four lovely kids today. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and a perfect day to get a little bit lost. We were never really truly lost but we did miss a turn and ended up further from the car than we had originally planned. We enjoyed the woods and the kids in particular enjoyed kicking over mushrooms (after letting me get down on the ground to get a few pictures first). We also saw a slug and I got some nice pictures of that, if pictures of a slug can ever really be considered nice. This picture is a red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), one of four subspecies of Limenitis arthemis. This is a very distinctive butterfly and quite a pretty thing. Yes, I know that it looks more blue than purple. It’s been mentioned. The ‘red’ spots (which are orange. I know, right?) are on the lower hind wings (i.e., the other side).
We went with Cathy’s mom to the Fourth Presbyterian picnic today at Rocklands Farm. We haven’t gone to Fourth for over 25 years but we still know a lot of people there and of course we know the Rocklands folks, so we had a wonderful time visiting with old friends. I took a bunch of pictures but I have to admit I took more of Janis and Greg’s grandchildren than all the other pictures combined. They’re all just so darned cute. Here are two cousins, Elsie on the left and Marit on the right, ‘driving’ the gator (actually it’s a Kubota, but their previous one was a John Deere and the name is a holdover from that). These two are clearly chums and I’m really happy that Marit and her family are back in the USA for the foreseeable future. Anyway, this picture makes me happy.
I met the guys for dinner at Matchbox this evening and was a little early. It was raining quite hard as I drove there and I sat in the car a little while waiting for it to let up before heading in. The store lights across the street were lighting up the water splashing on and flowing down the windscreen of my car and I enjoyed watching the patterns it made. I have no idea, at this point, what the signs say and you certainly can’t tell from the picture, although at the time I remember wondering if I’d be able to read them in the pictures. By the time we were done with dinner the rain had basically stopped and I took a few pictures of the gas fire in the pit outside the restaurant entrance. But fire pictures are easier to come by. It doesn’t often rain as hard as it did this evening.
It was a busy day, picking up Cathy’s mom, coming back to our house and then going to dinner before taking her home again. When we were back at her house I took pictures of a few things in an old post office desk in the kitchen. This is a desk with an array of square cubbies used for sorting mail. It is currently used to house curios, one or two per cubbie. I’ve been meaning to photograph this pipe for a while now and today I got around to it. Grandma doesn’t actually smoke anything, much less using an Amazonian clay pipe. We aren’t actually 100% sure where this came from but we all assume it was from Cathy’s grandma, who lived in Lima, Peru for over 20 years and that it was made in the Peruvian Amazon region. That’s an educated guess but still just a guess.
It was a beautiful day and I decided to go out into the woods today. Just after I crossed the creek on the fallen tree trunk I looked to see what insects I could find in the little stand of yellow ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia) and the first thing I found was this leaf-footed bug, one of probably two species in the genus Piezogaster. After that I took some pictures of the crab apples on the edge of what I call the uplands. There are both red and yellow apples and they’re quite pretty but then, they’ll be there when I come back in a day or two and I don’t know if I’ll see another bug like this for a while.
Writers get writer’s block. I sometimes get photographer’s block. I just can’t seem to find anything interesting to photograph. In generally I’m interested in a wide variety of things and find it pretty easy to find some detail to look at. Occasionally it’s hard and today was such a day. So, as I was making dinner, I photographed the broccolini that I was getting ready to cook. It got me wondering what, exactly, broccolini is. Well, according to Wikipedia (which you cannot always trust, but in this case it’s probably right or at least close), broccolini is a hybrid between two cultivars of Brassica oleracea. One of those is regular, old broccoli and the other is called kai-lan or Chinese broccoli, which has been bred for it’s leaves instead of its flower buds. This gives broccolini it’s longer stems and smaller flower clusters. The way I like to fix broccolini is to parboil it briefly and then put it in a sauté pan with a little olive oil and some garlic and salt.
It was a cool day today, felling much more like October than September. I suspect we’ll get a bit more summer before it’s done but today was absolutely lovely. The maple tree in the back yard is starting to show some color and it felt very autumnal. In the late afternoon I went out back and took some pictures of hosta flowers. It was a smallish hosta and I got down on the patio to take pictures. The warm concrete of the patio and the cool air was really nice. I noticed this little blue-winged wasp (Scolia dubia) and was able to get one reasonably decent picture (and a bunch of not-very-good pictures) of it before it flew off. This is one of my favorite wasps but they’re a challenge to get close to, so I was pleased.
Cathy and I went for a walk to and along a stretch of the Northwest Branch of Rock Creek late this afternoon. We made it as far as where the creek goes under Muncaster Mill Road and then followed the road back to our neighborhood and home. It was a nice walk and warm without being hot. As we were walking up Muncaster Mill, Cathy spotted this spider along the edge of the trees. It is probably a species in the genus Neoscona, the spotted orbweavers. Light was fairly low and this isn’t nearly as sharp as I’d have liked. Also, without seeing the dorsal view, it’s not really possible to make a good identification.
I managed to get outdoors for a little while today and into the woods and upland next to my office building. It was warm but not hot and I enjoyed the break in an otherwise busy day. I got some pictures of a lady beetle on the same stand of yellow ironweed where I took the picture of the leaf-footed bug last Thursday (see Thursday, September 7, 2017). Then when I got out into the sun I was able to get reasonably close to this dragonfly, which I haven’t had time to identify yet. It’s a pretty thing and I particularly like the eyes.
I didn’t really get outside today except to go to and come home from work. As the passed, I realized that I hadn’t taken any pictures today so shortly before 10:00 PM I started taking a few pictures of the fish in my main fish tank. I say ‘main fish tank’ because I currently have two, a largish, 70 gallon tank in the breakfast room (the ‘main’ one) and a smaller, 30 gallon tank in the family room. As of today, however, there are no fish in the smaller tank. There were only two, a fairly good size fresh water angel fish (Pterophyllum scalare) and this kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii). Catching them in the other tank was a bit tricky but I finally managed it. The loach was particularly hard, as it kept Darting under things. Finally I took everything out of the tank (the rocks, etc. so there were fewer places to hide. Those rocks have been moved, along with the fish, into the larger tank, and they seem to be doing fine so far. The plecostomus that’s been in the tank seemed happy to have more places to hide, as well, and has claimed the largest spot under the rocks for himself. This loach is the last remaining fish that I took from our friend Hannah when she went off to college a little more than four years ago. Sadly the others are all gone, but this little guy, who we actually hardly ever see, seems perfectly content.
The Physostegia virginiana, otherwise known as obedient plant, is a North American native herbaceous perennial, hardy as far north as USDA zone 3. The Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder says that is it “easily grown in average, moist, acidic, well-drained soils in full sun.” It certainly is easily grown in our yard. They also mention that it tends to flop over “in rich soils, too much shade or hot summer temperatures.” I don’t know about the heat this summer but ours certainly did flop over this year. But that hasn’t prevented it from blooming very nicely, providing a welcome contrast with all the black-eyed Susans. The bees, particularly the carpenter bees, it seems, really love it.
The last time we saw Kai (see Saturday, September 2, 2017) he was mostly fussy and slept much of the time he was here. We had a family dinner this evening and today he was in a much happier mood. He’s also progressed a bit from crawling to standing. He still needs to hold on, of course, but he’s not nine months old quite yet, so I think he’s doing very well. Often when I put the camera up to take a picture, if he notices me at all, he just stares blankly at me. I was happy to get a few with him looking at me and also smiling. The joke, of course, is that he’s not going to recognize me because he only sees me with a camera between us and he doesn’t actually know what I look like. It’s mostly a joke, anyway.
I had a meeting in one of the other buildings on campus this afternoon. I took my camera with me, as I often do, and went into the woods between the buildings on my way back. Below the pond there is a stream and to the side of that, an old settling pond that’s almost completely silted up. The water isn’t more than six inches deep although I wouldn’t be surprised if the soft mud is another foot deep below that. I walked along the side of that and took a few pictures of a red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis ) before spotting this little spider, and orchard orbweaver (Leucauge venusta). I managed to get down onto the ground without getting too wet and got a few pictures, although a tripod would have been a big help. These are pretty little things and of course they eat things that I don’t particularly like. So they’re my friends.
I needed to cut a 4×8 sheet of plywood into 7 pieces today and as usual i did it on the back patio. It’s relatively flat and it’s a lot less work than getting such a large board into the basement. I took a kitchen towel to wipe rhe sweat off my face and when I was done, it was left for a while on a table in the sun. After I had put everything else away, I noticed that this grasshopper had found the towel and was, I assume, eating the salt from my sweat. It stayed quite a while, slowly moving over the exposed cloth. With the camera resting on the table I was able to get some nice close-up pictures of the grasshopper.
The skippers are a constant source of attraction pretty much all summer and into the fall in our yard. They may have their favorites but they are generally everywhere, from the black-eye Susans (Rudbekia) as seen here, to the Verbena bonariensis, the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), and the Buddleia. They are everywhere and it pretty huge numbers. If you walk along the edge of the black-eyed Susans, they fly off en masse and alight again, further along or behind you. It’s enjoyable just to watch them flitting about, sometimes two or even three on a flower, but not usually for long, as they are so often on the move.
This dahlia is one of two that Cathy has growing in containers at the top of our driveway. It is one of seven dahlias in the Dark Angel line from the Dutch company Verwer-Dahlias. The seven cultivars in the Dark Angel series are named for what they consider to be edgy films and in addition to ‘Dracula’ are ‘American Pie’, ‘Braveheart’, ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Taxi Driver’. I’m not sure those are the edgiest films you could come up with, but the flower themselves are quite beautiful. Of course they have other series, as well, such as Karma, Meloda, Happy Days, and Gallery.
Dahlias are, in general, a bit more work than some flowers, but they sure are beautiful when grown well. The genus name Dahlia is in honor of Dr. Anders Dahl (1751-1789), a Swedish botanist and pupil of Linnaeus.
We’ve been wanting to have one of these for a while and last year Cathy finally got one and planted it in the back garden. We’ve only had a few flowers this year and they only last a day, but today I managed to get some pictures of one. Hopefully as it gets better established we’ll have more flowers over the course of the summer. This is related to the rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), which we’ve had growing for a while, as well as the tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) which has to be brought in for the winter. The flowers on the hardy hibiscus are larger than on either of the other two and quite striking, even from all the way across the yard. Definitely a good choice for the back of the garden.
We went to a soup pot-luck this evening and had some really good food. I tried a new recipe for a Thai chicken and coconut milk soup and if I say so myself, it turned out really well. Some would call that cultural appropriation, I know. What I call it is the sincerest form of flattery. I’ve had very few Thai dishes that I didn’t like (if any, I don’t actually remember having any that I didn’t like). The other soups were also delicious and I was particularly fond of the collard greens and black-eyed peas with Italian sausage. As a kid that would not have appealed to me. As an adult, that’s comfort food of the highest order.
As is so often the case, I had my camera. This picture is of Kofi, a friend and fellow church member. I can’t say I know him as well as I’d like but we’ve started getting to know each other a little better recently. Friendships are always journeys and we never really arrive but the joy, as they say, is in the journey.
I hadn’t taken any pictures during the day today but as the evening progressed I had a feeling we might get a nice sunset. The clouds were nice and the conditions seemed right. At about 6:45 I took some pictures of the clouds but of course at that point there wasn’t really any color in them. They were just pretty clouds against a blue sky. Sunset was at 7:06 and as that approached, the light that had been on the clouds went away and the turned from white to grey. There was a little color in the eastern sky, so I went around to the front of the house and got a few pictures of that, but it wasn’t all that spectacular. Coming back to the backyard, though, the western sky had finally turned. This was taken at 7:13 PM, seven minutes or so after official sunset.
Cathy and I went out to dinner with her mom, Margaret, this evening. It isn’t every day that you have a 91st birthday. In fact, a lot of people never have it even once. But she did, so we celebrated. We went to a newish seafood place and had a nice meal. After that we went to York Castle for ice cream. Not the biggest birthday bash in history, but it was relaxing and we had a nice visit. We talked about upcoming transitions and things seem to be beginning to move along those lines (more information on that to come as it happens). In case you’re wondering, Margaret had blacked mahi-mahi (a.k.a., the common dolphin fish, Coryphaena hippurus) and Cathy had stuffed flounder (most likely something in the Paralichthys genus). I had cod (Gadus morhua), oysters, and shrimp.
The light was really pretty this afternoon, shining on the Physostegia virginiana (a.k.a. obedient plant, but that’s not nearly as fun to say). I took some pictures of the flowers by themselves but really what I was looking for was a picture with a bee or wasp or something. There was actually quite a lot of activity, mostly from eastern carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica) but getting a good picture proved elusive. They kept moving, for one thing, and most of the pictures I got are not in focus. They also spent most of their time with their heads buried in the flowers which meant all I could see was their backs.
Originally planted in a pot outside our front door, this hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) has been coming up around the front step every year since and getting a little larger each year. It isn’t what I’d call invasive, but it’s certainly found a spot where it is very happy. The leaves have wonderful, red veins and the flowers are a delicate pink. The male flowers have bright yellow stamens and the female flowers are pendulous and pink with less obvious yellow stigmas. Overall it’s less than two feet tall and very welcoming as we come home. The relatively cool and protected spot is probably important to its doing so well.
As I was writing this I got to wondering where the name Begonia comes from. It is in honor of Michel Bégon (1638-1710), a French government official and avid plant collector.
I love fractals and fractaly patterns. Nevertheless, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this picture. On the one hand, it’s sort of like a coastline with it’s inlets and estuaries while at the same time being made up of various sized pieces, just the way sand or small rocks on the side of a pool, stream, or beach can form what looks like a larger shoreline. On the other hand, this one is made of blobs of fat, in this case pork fat, with the ocean being made from the gelatinous ‘liquids’ from the same roast. After cooking a 10 pound shoulder roast, I put the meat on a plate too cool rest before carving. When I was done, what was not eaten right away (which was the bulk of the roast, after all, there are only two of us here right now) these juices and fat were left on the plate overnight. I know it’s a little gross but it’s also a little interesting. I’ll just leave it at that.
A lot of people make a big deal of the autumnal equinox being the beginning of fall. Of course, that’s mostly just a marker and we don’t go from summer one day to winter the next. Also, the transition happens at a different time in different places (and there really isn’t a winter in the tropics). It’s been fairly warm lately, although the daytime highs are supposed to be down into the 70s by the end of the week. Some trees are showing some color here, but for the most part, it’s still green. This maple tree in our back yard just has this hint of red, teasing us with the prospect of what’s to come. I’m ready.
I decided to take some pictures of plants on the driveway this evening. One that I got pictures of is an elephant ear, otherwise known as taro and more precisely called Colocasia esculenta. After that I started taking some pictures of the pale pink flowers on an autumn flowering stonecrop, probably ‘Autumn Joy’, also known as ‘Herbstfreude’. Although these are often referred to as sedum, they have been reclassified as a Hylotelephium species. As I was taking the pictures, this eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) came and gave me another point of interest.
Between my building and the rest of the company campus is a small drainage pond. Along the edge of the parking lot, overlooking that pond, are a number of seedling hawthorns (Crataegus hybrids). These are most likely a mix of the cultivated hawthorns that are fairly common in the area but I happen to know that these were naturally occurring seedlings as I have watched them grow from the time the area was cleared and the pond was built. They have white flowers and their fruits are varying in color. This one, as you can see, has rusty orange fruits.
When we moved into our house 11 years ago there was a large oak tree centered at the front of the property. It was not a healthy tree and was in the slow process of dying. Because it was actually in the road right-of-way, the county came (at our request) and took it down. Since then Cathy has planted mostly annuals every spring in the spot where it used to be. These are generally brightly colored zinnias and marigolds, although there are other plants as well as a few containers with even more variety. This is the flower from one of the zinnias.
In the afternoon we went over to Cathy’s mom’s for a little while. I ran some updates on her computer and Cathy did some weeding and watered the container plants in the front yard. I went outside for a bit and took a few pictures, mostly of the roses she has in a few places across the front of the house. They are doing quite well and seem pretty happy. We could use a good rain as we didn’t really have much in September, usually a wetter month than July and August. But the roses are doing well in spite of that and it rained enough in June, July, and August (and a really heavy rain the first week of September) that most things are not really suffering yet. It’s also turned seasonably cool, which is quite nice.