Sunday, April 26, 2015

It is spring – really, it is…

I got up this morning and felt the urge to put on a turtleneck and a sweater.  It just felt like the right thing to do.  At church today, a friend said that she thought about wearing a turtleneck, too, but jokingly said she was afraid people would make fun of her because it’s almost May.  Hey, I don’t care if I get laughed at.  It’s raw out.  They say on the local news that this is not really unusual for New England this time of year.  And I do believe that, but after the winter we had, it would be nice to feel the warm sun on the old face now and then.  Yet we haven’t cracked 70 here.  Even so, I’ve seen lots of signs of spring around.

Of course, I know it’s spring when I hear the spring peepers.  They have been chorusing for a while now.  And that means that the water on the ponds is ice-free and open.

And, of course, there’s the skunk cabbage showing up in its usual places.  That’s a sure sign.

I even found a little fern family coming up the other day.

And the squills.  We have Striped Squill…

…and Siberian Squill in our yard.  Aren’t they beautiful?!

Mr. Cheeky is wondering where that pile of snow went that gave him easy access to a free lunch.

A friend posted on Facebook today that he saw a black bear jump the guardrail on Route 49 and cross the highway.  That's not far from our house.  The bears are out of hibernation.  I think that this means that the birds’ days are numbered in the free lunch category, too.  Sorry, little friends.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Willy-nilly Friday Five: Fits and Starts

1.  When I took Olive the pug out this morning, I couldn’t believe it.  It was downright cold with a rather biting wind.  It made me think that I had under-dressed for the occasion and should have worn my winter coat or that maybe I accidentally time traveled backwards and it was really February.  But, no, there is no snow on the ground.  It’s definitely April.

2.  Well, I’ve lived here long enough to know that spring comes to New England in fits and starts.  I was out yesterday buying a new toaster but couldn’t decide which one to buy.  In order to put off making a decision, I decided to check Facebook instead.  On Facebook, there was post after post of people complaining that it was snowing.  I missed it yesterday because I was in Target trying to figure out what toaster to buy.  But I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see it snow here today.

Some things are blooming here....really!
3.  Speaking of toasters, Greg and I have been married for close to 35 years and have had terrible luck with toasters.  I think we’ve owned six or seven in those years and we don’t eat that much toast.  We’ve had expensive toasters and cheap toasters.  I don’t see much difference between the two.  The best one we’ve ever had was a middle-of-the-road toaster pricewise.  It was the Oster that I was replacing yesterday.  I bought it at Target about ten years ago and it toasted our toast until a few months ago when it didn’t want to keep the toast down to finish the toasting cycle and had to be coaxed with curses and kind words.  I got sick of babying it.  So, off I went yesterday hoping to find the exact same toaster – the best toaster we’ve ever had – but unfortunately, they’re selling a new model of that Oster there now.  I bought it anyway and am hoping it lasts ten years like the last one, but I’m not holding my breath on that.

I got sick of waiting on the forsythia, too.  I brought this into the house and forced it.
4.  You know, we could probably get by in life without a toaster, but they are handy to have around.  The toaster I bought yesterday is red.  I consider that a kind of bonus.  Yes, I’m happy about that even though my favorite color is blue.

5.  Earlier this morning, I was sitting here at my computer with a blank expression on my face trying to think of what to write about, when I heard a great racket coming from the front yard.  There were six crows in the pines crowing louder than a Counting Crows concert.  I finally had to get up to see what it was all about and looking down, I saw a fox crossing the yard.  I believe the crows must have been warning the whole neighborhood that the foxes were out and about.  They kept at it for about five more minutes and then dispersed one at a time.  I think that crows are about the coolest birds going.  As a matter of fact, they are my favorite bird.  They may not be colorful and flashy, but they are sleek, elegant and intelligent and infinitely fun to watch.  What is your favorite bird?

Linking up with the crowd at Around Roanoke's Willy-Nilly Friday Five!

Around Roanoke

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lovely spoils and unwanted beauty…

The tulip's petals shine in dew,
All beautiful, but none alike.

~ James Montgomery

I really, really like tulips.  Maybe they aren’t my very favorite flower, but they are right up there on my list of favorites.  One of the things I like about tulips is that they look good even when they are on their way out of this world.  I’ve taken quite a few photos of tulips in their various stages of life.  The other day, I came across some photos I took when we were in Norway in 2013.  I edited the photos and stuck them in a folder on my hard drive and they have yet to see the light of day except in my cluttered office.  I am going to fix that right now.  Here they are.

It's true that I really like tulips, but I’m going out on a limb here to say that it's entirely possible that my very favorite flower is one many people would like to see eliminated from this world.  It is this:

Yes, it’s the lowly dandelion, one of the most charming and most cursed flowers on earth.  We yank it out of the ground and mow it down only to have it pop up time and again.  It is an elegant, beautiful thing in the early spring when it is caught by hoarfrost on a cold but sunny morning.  It also has an elegant and beautiful history and is sometimes described as "a plant for which we once knew the use but we've forgotten it."  Many cultures have used the dandelion in salads and soups and to make wine.  AND, get this, a coffee substitute can be made from the roots.  However, I’m not sure I’ll go there.  I like my caffeine too much.

  Andre Mason said, “If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn.”

  I think he’s right.  It seems to be human nature to want things that are more rarefied and hard to get than the likes of the humble dandelion.

Okay, so I’m a little weird about flowers.  Are you?  What’s your favorite flower?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Willy-nilly Friday 5: Recycling the Blues…

1.  I’m posting the last five weeks of my 52 Weeks of Blue today and since Willy-nilly Friday 5 is back, I’m being otherwise random.

2.  When I was a kid, I remember my Grandpa Oscar playing music.  He could play pretty much any stringed instrument he picked up, but my favorite was the banjo.
  I still love listening to banjo music to this day.

3.  Last night, I got a real treat.  My son Evan drove over from Worcester and we piled into the car and joined my daughter Carrie for dinner in Northampton at a nice tapas place called Ibiza.  Then Carrie left for her photo club meeting and Evan and I went to the Calvin Theater in Noho and got to hear the great banjo player Bela Fleck and his equally talented wife Abigail Washburn.  What fun!  Mark Twain said, "A gentleman is a man who can play the banjo, but doesn't." If that’s the case, I’m glad I wasn’t in the company of gentlemen last night.  The opening act was Rhiannon Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops.  They were fab, too.  A terrific night all around.

4.  When I looked at my calendar today, I saw that it was my cat Clouseau’s birthday.  Clouseau was the first cat that Greg and I adopted after we got married.  I loved that cat!  He was a gorgeous Tuxedo cat with a great personality.  He would have been 35 today.  I don’t suppose any domestic cat has ever lived that long, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t missed…still.

5.  The snow is gone almost completely.  Spring has sprung.  Still waiting for the forsythia to pop, but that should happen any day now.  Have a great weekend!

Linking up with Tanya's Willy-nilly Friday 5!

Just for grins, I thought I would throw in an old photo of my Grandpa and his twin brothers Hobart and McKinley.  Grandpa is the one in the middle.  I love this old photo!

And here's one of me and the birthday boy.  This was probably taken in 1981.  He was the best cat ever! Even though he doesn't look too comfortable in this pic, he never complained.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Good Fences Uncovered…

It was so beautiful here yesterday.  Spring has definitely sprung.  I just had to go out searching for some of those fences that have been buried under the white stuff all winter long.  I took a ride a little bit north of here toward New Braintree, Massachusetts.  There are some really primo rock walls out that way.
  So here you go!

Linking up with The Run*A*Round Ranch's Good Fences!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Thinking of bugs, butterflies, flip-phones and family...

I guess my Random and Willy-nilly link ups are out of business for the time being.  I was sorry to hear that, but I intend to be random anyhow.  So here you are.

On Monday at Magic Wings, we got to check out this great looking bug.  It’s a Jungle Nymph or Heteropteryx dilatata.  The first thought that popped into my head when I saw it was that wouldn’t it be great if people came in that color?  This is a female Jungle Nymph.  The male is dull brown and much smaller.

Also at Magic Wings, it was mating season for the Cairns Birdwing or Ornithoptera euphorion Butterfly.  We were told that they can go at it for two hours.  More power to them!  In this case, it’s the male who is the more colorful.  He's the one hanging upside down.

Get a room, you two!

 And here’s another Cairns Birdwing whose broken wing has been grafted with another so that it can fly easier and longer.  That’s pretty cool.  I just hope it didn't hurt.

I’ve been noticing on TV shows I watch that a lot of the characters carry flip-phones.  It has been years since I’ve had a flip-phone and it seems to me that most people in real life, at least in our circles, carry iPhones or large screen Droids, which is what I have.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a flip-phone besides the one my daughter Carrie carries.  She’s not a Luddite exactly, but she doesn’t really care that much about the latest technology.

  Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about why they use flip-phones in TV shows, because even the richest TV characters use flip-phones and rarely the latest iPhone model.  I think I have the answer.  I think that they use flip-phones on TV shows for the dramatic effect.  Snapping them shut is sort of the current version of slamming down the receiver like in the days of yore.

  You just can’t do that with an iPhone.

Mr. Birdwing is flipped shut.
Today is National Siblings Day.  I have three sisters and three brothers so I feel justified in celebrating.  I believe this picture was taken in 1976 or so and was a gift for my mother.  While there are hundreds of photos of us individually and in small groups, there aren’t that many photos around with the seven of us together.  It’s just too hard to get us all in one place.  Here we are:

I'm the one in the back row, third from the left in the brown turtleneck.  You may have noticed that there's an extra person in this photo.  That little blond kid in the front is my nephew Jim.  I think he was the only offspring around at the time, but there have been plenty more since.

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Oh, ho, ho, it's magic, you know...

Carrie and I took advantage of the coolish weather on Monday and made our last trip to Magic Wings in South Deerfield until the fall when it begins to cool down again.  While in the dead of winter, it feels fantastic in there, it’s just too hot when the temps outside are above 50.  At least, it is for me.  The butterflies seem to manage just fine.

They hire great interpreters there.  The “Flight Attendants” are knowledgeable and friendly.  We always learn something when we go to Magic Wings.

One thing I learned this time was that a butterfly that I thought was a Blue Morpho is actually an Owl Butterfly.  I figured that the Blue Morpho just kind of faded as it got older, but I was wrong.

Here’s the Blue Morpho:

The Blue Morpho has multiple dots on its wings.

And is bright blue on the upper side.  Poor butterfly.  A little worse for wear.
Here’s the Owl Butterfly:

The Owl Butterfly has one big "eye" on its wings.

And is more of a muted greyish blue on top.

When I looked at them more closely, I could see lots of differences that I didn’t catch with a casual glance, so I also learned that I shouldn’t just make assumptions.  And that made me think of my father-in-law Bill who used to say that assume makes an ass of u and me.

Carrie and I learned a bit about these cool little Leopard Geckos.  One thing is that they can “drop” their tails when faced with a difficult situation with a predator and the tale will grow back eventually.  The tail stores nutrition for the little animal somewhat like a camel’s hump.   And when it grows back, it is without the original ridges and is more stumpy like the tail on the animal on the right hand side here:

We got to pet a Leopard Lizard.  They feel so wonderful and seem to like being stroked by humans.

The last time we spent time at Magic Wings, we were told that often the butterflies are attracted to certain bright colors.  So Carrie decided to dress to see if they would come to her.  Here she is taking a photo of Pork Chop, the Colombian Tegu who resides there, but there are no butterflies on her.

For whatever reason, that day the butterflies seemed to prefer this fellow who dressed down for the occasion.  He walked around with this butterfly hitching a ride on his hat for a good ten minutes.  Go figure!

I’ll throw in a portrait of Pork Chop just for grins.  As you can see, he’s a big fellow.

Who needs sleight of hand and women being sawed in half when you can go to Magic Wings?  Nature certainly has all the magic I need.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

More Good Scottish Fences...

We have improved somewhat in the snow removal process.  This photo was taken looking out our kitchen door on February 21:

And here we are now on April 2:

I see bare ground!  Yay!  But as you can see, we are still under a bit of snow.  The bottom line is that I haven't gone out yet in search of new fences, so I am going to post more Scottish fences.

My blogger friend Debbie from It's All About Purple had something to say the last time I posted some fences from Scotland.  She said, "How can you share so many fences in one post.  I would have to split this up, I could get a good month out of these!!!! and a lot of comfort, knowing I have them!!!"  It made me laugh because clearly Debbie can't see just how many photos I have stored on my hard drive.  AND I loved Scotland so much that I took at least a gazillion photos when we were there, many of which I haven't even thought about  touching with my editing yet.

Here are a few that I found that have not seen the light of day for quite a while:

I want this house!!

This is the beautiful town of Oban, Scotland.  Not only is the town beautiful, they also make quite a beautiful whisky there.

I love how these two are perfect in step.

Linking to The Run*A*Round Ranch's Good Fences!