A Year in the Yard: Mid-January

Brrrr! The frosty breath of winter has arrived, with temperatures ranging from single digits overnight to 20’s during the day. We also got some snow!

Snowy Spruce 2Though it was only about an inch or so, the snow nestled right down into the boughs of the evergreens.

As I peered out into my backyard, various birds were vying for food at the feeders…red-winged blackbirds, starlings, grackles, and cowbirds bullied everyone else out for a while, though a red-bellied woodpecker finally made its way to the suet.

Holly

Holly

Today, it was a balmy 35 degrees and sunny, so I ventured out to Judge Morris Estate to see what was happening. It was nice to cross through the meadow with the sun warming my back before heading into the cool of the forest. Once inside, the paths were a bit icy in places, so I picked my way carefully down the trail. A pileated woodpecker called his familiar “wuk” in the distance, and I caught a flash of his red head as he flew deftly through the trees.

Black raspberry

Black raspberry cane

Along the way, a stand of holly brightened the otherwise brown tangles of brush and fallen trees, while black raspberry canes added a purplish hue to the edge of the trail.

I came upon a forest elder, a downed beech tree, still giving life to the forest. As it slowly decays with the help of the fungi, this dead tree provides shelter, food, and habitat to wildlife.

I headed back up the hill and past the estate to go visit the pond.

Judge Morris Estate pond

Judge Morris pond

Sweet gum pods, cattails, and American lotus were captured where last they fell, and bare trees framed the blue sky. Remnants of visitors were left behind in the snow at the water’s edge…

It was lovely to sit on a bench facing the sun, taking in the reflection of the water and soaking up the warmth and light. Ahhh.

Pond at Judge Morris

Pond at Judge Morris

I headed back home and glanced at the flower beds out front, when I saw something white and green, hidden under the dead foliage…snowdrops! I didn’t encounter any at the park, but my front yard gets sun all day and is sheltered a bit from the wind. Before we know it, skunk cabbage will pop up in the wetlands with its exotic-looking flower, and then crocuses won’t be far behind.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

The daylight is growing longer and signs of spring will slowly start appearing, so hang in there during the cold days! Get outside for a little sunshine to lift your spirit and listen to how the bird chatter changes as the season moves along.

Ah, one last thing for this week. If you haven’t already, please recycle your Christmas tree if you used a live one. You can lay them in a corner of your backyard as habitat and cover for wildlife this winter or take it to be mulched at the local yard waste recycling site (there’s one on Pollydrummond Hill in Newark). PLEASE do not just throw them in the trash.

Recycle your tree

Till next time!

Greenly blessings,

Sue

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A Year in the Yard: The Beginning

Greetings and welcome!

Today’s post opens the gate to a journey through the seasons, where I’ll weave the story of my yard and our local wild areas as they change throughout the year.

Winter can be the hardest time for many of us to connect outdoors. Nature’s canvas can seem bleak and barren while cold winds make us huddle inside, yet there is a subtle and continuous magic occurring that’s worth witnessing.

So grab a cuppa, and stroll along with me for a while…

Out & About

I find winter to be the time when the land bares her soul to us. The true shape of the trees and landscape are visible like at no other time of year.

DSCN6346

White Clay Creek State Park, with her dancing tree.

Old nests reveal themselves, and birds are easily seen flitting through the brush.

Winter nest and bird2

Old nest and a finch hiding among the branches.

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Pileated woodpecker’s handiwork

 

 

Pileated

Pileated woodpecker

Light touches the earth at an angle that casts a mysterious glow; golden rays are gently held within the grasp of coppery grasses.

Winter sunset silhouettes

Field at Middle Run

 Into the Woods Go I…

Winter Tree Guardians

The Standing People (trees) beckon me to stroll among them, their solid roots holding the land steady and offering safe space to slumbering creatures. Their branches alight with chittering birds and squirrels, offering shelter and food to those still active.

There is a sanctity as I move in their presence, and Istaircase fungi am drawn into silence. I lay my hand upon the peeling bark of a sycamore and take in the bright white of its trunk as it rises to meet the sky. My eyes are drawn back down to a staircase of bracket fungi, and I can just imagine the little people who find those steps convenient to reach the top of that hollowed stump.

Evergreens

Evergreens sweep the landscape with their boughs, reminding me that an eternal spring lives within and winter is but one season.

Home Sweet Home

My own yard is haunted by the ghosts of summer…dead bee balm, purple coneflower, Joe-pye weed, poke, milkweed, and blackberry.

DSCN6340

Winter Joe Pye

Joe pye weed against the house

Their brittle stems stand tall against the winter, filled with frost-kissed seeds and berries for wildlife that may yet need it. It might appear to be sloppy gardening, but there is purposeful and rich nourishment here, so I take the chance to be a good steward of the land I call home.

Praying mantis egg case 2

Signs of life dwell quietly among the branches…a praying mantis egg case holds the promise of future predators that will help maintain balance in the garden.

Winter is a treasure, like a gentle sigh offering brief respite before the next activity. The earth lies open and vulnerable in our hemisphere, biding her time in soothing rest until the increased light calls her to awaken once again. She only moves what is needed at this time, as her focus is on nourishing and replenishing her stores.

Let us tune into this cycle, acknowledging our own vulnerabilities and honoring our true essence. Let us nourish ourselves as we quietly tend our inner and outer gardens filled with dreams and hopes for the coming spring.

Until next time…

Greenly blessings,

Sue

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Roots, Shoots, Blossoms, & Fruits – A Year in the Yard

Earthly Greetings, my friends! This blog has been dormant for some time, sitting in darkness like a seed hunkered down for the winter, waiting for the right time to break through the seed coat and become what it was always meant to be.

This post marks the birth of a new project, and this blog is just the right space to hold this adventure-in-the-works.  🙂

One morning a few weeks ago, I woke up with the above title in my head. With it, came the vision of a year-long pictorial blog where I share photos, observations, and experiences about my changing yard and the local wild areas as we move through the seasons.

My goal is to document the transition of our natural world throughout the year. I’m also working on transforming my yard into a wildlife habitat (for more info, see Delaware Nature Society), so some of that transition may appear here, and I’m sure that my beloved medicinal plants will be regular guests.

Ideally, I will post weekly, but I have learned that when dealing with Nature, I am clearly not in charge. My role is to be a good listener and then share. Mother Nature will be sure to let me know what she wants to say and when.  😉

This should be quite an adventure, and the journey is open for all who wish to travel with me! You can simply read along throughout the year (click on the “Follow” button at the top to be notified by email when I post something new) or perhaps you’ll hear the call of the wild yourself and want to have your own Year in the Yard adventure.

Meanwhile, here’s a little something to enjoy till I get started in January. Enjoy the rest of 2014 and I’ll see you soon!

WCC Dec 2014

White Clay Creek, Newark, DE

Greenly blessings,

Sue

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An Earth Day Journey

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” ~ John  Muir

Earth Day has rolled around once again, and as I take in the view this spring of our beautiful planet, I am reminded that the only thing in life that is constant is change. Seasons move from one to the other, not all at once, but a slow and subtle movement that glides along as shifts in colors, textures, and sounds.

As I reflect on the past year, I’m aware of how Mother Nature can really keep us on our toes! She’s been unpredictable this year, changing up our seasonal experiences a bit. We had a hurricane at the end of August and snow in October here in Delaware, only to be followed by such a mild winter that our spring plants bloomed 2-4 weeks early!  Winter hikes were pleasant and mild, but we needed to be vigilant about checking for ticks, as our insects never really went dormant.

Even though many of us spend most of our lives indoors due to jobs and school, we are all still very much connected to the earth and dependent upon her for survival. If we recognize nothing else, we should understand that weather changes affect the food chain, and the water quality of the local streams and rivers affects our drinking water. Every living thing needs food and water to survive – resources we’re all sharing together on this beautiful planet we call home.

This Earth Day, I would ask you to spend a few minutes and allow yourself to feel how everything on this planet is connected. Let’s take a short journey…

Take a slow, deep breath and picture a local stream or river. See how it flows around rocks, gently hugging the banks, with the sunlight reflecting off the moving water as if it’s dancing. Allow yourself to feel that soothing flow for a minute. Gentle, relaxing, constantly moving, except in a few shallow places near the bank where gentle pools host a nursery of tadpoles. Now imagine dipping your feet in a cool pool of that water on a hot summer day. Ahhh! Look into the water, and see the fish swimming along, the birds scooping down to take a sip or hunt for food, and a fisherman downstream looking for a good catch. This is your water source. This is the water you drink. We don’t make water…we just borrow it from the local sources and clean it of bacteria and other things so it’s safe to drink. This water belongs to us all.

Now picture a field in summer, with plants reaching their full height. Plump tomatoes hang on the vine waiting to be picked, bright green peas and beans dangle gently, and crisp green burst from the earth as spinach and lettuce, promising vital nutrients to our bodies. Corn grows tall waiting for harvest to become much of our cereals and snacks, and the wheat bends gently in the breeze, knowing it will turn into breads and cereals and so many other things to feed our bodies.

Now, turn back time a few months…back to when the plants first flowered. They eagerly await the pollinators so that the fruit/veggies will be able to develop. Picture the bees, butterflies, birds and bats that move from flower to flower, carrying pollen along their journey, helping the creation of that fruit along the way.

Let’s journey back a little further into time…when the pollinators were born. Lots of animals help pollinate. They need a place to be born and raised so that they can continue the cycle. Insects of all sorts (bees, butterflies, flies, beetles, ants and others) as well as birds, bats, and some mammals have a role in pollination. Just like us, they need shelter, food, water, air, and space to survive. Healthy habitat produces healthy pollinators, healthy food, and healthy humans.

We’re all connected. Humans have such a huge impact on our planet and are ultimately the ones who decide the health of it. Things like habitat destruction and pollution affects every living thing, especially us. Extinction of one species is like having a piece of a jigsaw puzzle missing. Everything is delicately balanced and connected.

This Earth Day, I wish you all the beauty and blessings the earth has to offer. And I hope we can all see how we fit into this giant puzzle known as our home, and how we can be a part of keeping it healthy, for one and all. Happy Earth Day!

Love & Light,

Sue

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Local Warming

I think the groundhog’s a liar. He said 6 more weeks of winter, but being as we really haven’t had any winter weather yet, we can’t have more of it! Europe is in the midst of extreme frigid weather while we’re stepping outside in light jackets.

The winter here in Delaware this year has been one of the mildest I’ve ever known. December was filled with many days in the 50’s and January had almost half the days above 50 degrees as well. This warm trend has made outside adventures quite pleasant, but as I hiked around the area this past month, the aberrant weather has given me pause…what’s the impact of this local warming trend besides our enjoyment of mild weather and a little spring fever?

January has been more reminiscent of early spring than our typical winter month. I was surprised to find blooming skunk cabbage (below) and snowdrops (above) in early January. We don’t normally see those until early February around here.

Purple deadnettle also blossomed in January, celandine bore a solitary bloom earlier this week, and just around the corner I found the tall, narrow leaves of daffodils reaching toward the sky. I even saw a bee on Wednesday and lawns are starting to green! The higher temperatures has forced the early presence of this wildlife, despite the normal sunlight levels for January.

These signs of spring are about a month early, and it has left me wondering what will happen if the weather shifts back to our winter “norm” with colder temperatures for another month or so. I know Mother Nature is pretty hardy and many of the plants can handle freezing temperatures if we trend back to our normal weather pattern. But I can’t help wondering how this extended warming trend might affect the local food chain.

I’ve also been wondering how the nesting owls, whoooo are accustomed to incubating their eggs in cold weather, are faring. (Sorry for the pun, couldn’t resist!) Living things are sensitive to temperature changes. We’re designed to function at peak level within a certain range, depending on our species. A long-term change will have some kind of effect. A change in the weather pattern could affect wildlife survival and their food web, which will in turn affect the food chain for humans. We’re all connected. What affects one species on this planet affects us all.

I’ll hold out hope that the warmer weather will stay with no ill effects on the local area wildlife, and that we just get to enjoy the sweet sunshine and balmy weather a bit sooner this year. But I’m also aware that our planet is changing, and I’m watching for the subtle changes that are happening on the local level.

Meanwhile, may you get the chance to soak up the gifts of the sun and mild fresh air. And I for one, am grateful that I don’t live in Europe at this moment!

Love & Light,

Sue

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Winter Reflections, part 1

The new year naturally brings a time of reflecting on the past and looking forward. We celebrate New Year’s Eve with hopes and resolutions and the desire for better days, and try to move past any pain and disappointment from the previous year.

Unlike humans, the rest of nature did not celebrate the change of year. There was no stopping of time at midnight. Nature kept moving forward as part of the perpetual wheel. Birth and death are a part of every living thing. Nature celebrates every moment, never hurrying, never wishing the next day would come more quickly. One moment at a time is experienced fully, and the last one is released fully with no regrets.

Humans are good at looking forward and planning for the future, and looking back and remembering, but we’re not always so good at being in the present and aware of what’s happening right now. What’s happening right now is what creates the future, and paying attention to it would serve us better.

Winter reminds us to take time inward. It naturally draws us indoors, and our bodies react to low light levels by desiring more rest. It’s a good time to take a page from nature’s book and spend our time a little more quietly. Winter is the downtime, time to recuperate and rejuvenate. The time to do things to nourish and recover ourselves: body, mind and spirit. The time to gently explore who we are and remember our own greatness. The time to shed all that no longer serves us, like last year’s leaves that fell from the trees. This is the time to just BE. Winter is the time to remember how to be fully present.

BEcoming aware of what brings us joy, where our passions lie, and who are the important people in our lives helps us to be in the present moment. When we laugh, what is it that made us laugh and feel joy? When we’re sad, what caused it? Getting to the essence of our BEing, like the bare trees who’ve shed the leaves they no longer need, helps us to live life more authentically, in alignment with who we are. When we do that, life flows and we are happy. We struggle when we are not being ourselves.

If we can learn to move in time with winter, allowing ourselves quiet moments of awareness of what fills our hearts and souls, we can carry that into the busy season, for we have already planted and tended the soil and seeds.

Wishing you the quiet blessings of winter to be your magnificent self!

(And stay tuned for part 2…)

In Love & Light,

Sue

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Gratitude

Gratitude: the state of being thankful. 

For the planet on which we live, that provides for our every need: food, water, shelter, air and space, I give thanks.

For all the people in our lives who love and support us and for those who challenge us, I give thanks.

For all the plants that clean our air and provide food, medicine, and beauty, I give thanks.

For all the animals, our pets and wildlife everywhere, I give thanks.

For those who work untiringly to make things better for people, animals, and our planet, I give thanks.

For those who encourage diversity, creativity, and ingenuity, I give thanks.

For those who embrace love and joy in their lives and share those gifts, I give thanks.

For opportunities to serve my fellow humans and our beloved planet, I give thanks.

I ask for blessings to find their way to those heavy of heart and feeling loss or lost in their lives.

I ask for the hearts of all leaders on our planet to be open to compassion and doing what is for the highest and greatest good of us all, guided by love.

May Love and Light fill your hearts today and every day. I am grateful to those who stop by and allow me to share my thoughts and feelings. Bright blessings to you all!

Love & Light,

Sue

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Essence of Autumn

As the autumn tumbles forward, the trees are displaying miraculous colors in hues of gold, crimson, apricot, and every color in between. At this time of year, I feel that we get a glimpse of the true essence of nature. The colors that the leaves display represent who they really are, as they no longer need to be simply green and blending with all the others around them. Their production time is coming to an end, and they are making the journey to going within for the winter. There won’t be enough sunlight to synthesize food, so they can release the need for chlorophyll and return to their resting time of year. But they’ll go down in a blaze of glory, sharing all they have to offer in bright displays that defy words, while dropping their seeds for the future.

Nature goes through this “mini-death” every year, taking time to rest and renew before the next season. She sheds the year’s growth, with leaf-memories tossed on the wind, and the hopes of new life traveling as seeds wherever the breeze or animal belly takes them. Nature releases the past, because she knows that there will be new growth after the time of rest. There’s no regrets. Nature never doubts its ability to simply be what it is, whether it’s an earthworm or an elephant. Each knows its place and path, and joyfully steps into it, in perfect rhythm and time. An earthworm does not try to be elephant, for that’s not what it is. It’s beautiful in its own form, and an important part of the whole.

This fall has brought losses to people that are dear to me, and loss always makes me ponder my own priorities and consider where I’m at in my life: am I being the best I can be? Am I being authentic or have I let other people and things around me turn me into a mimic, like the viceroy butterfly who is colored like the monarch? What color is my essence, and will my leaves simply brown and crumble or have my efforts stood out this year, like the unusually pigmented milkweed bug in the picture below?

We are each amazing beings who came into this life with special gifts that make us unique and allow us to contribute something that’s needed by others. The gifts we bring are those things that we’re naturally good at and love to do, and those should be what we spend most of our time doing – the things we love, even if it makes us feel different. That’s the beauty of this mosaic world that we’re a part of: all our different colors, when combined, reflect a masterpiece which would be incomplete if we didn’t let our own colors shine.

We’re each a part of this greater ecosystem, and every part is important for survival. Life here on this planet is finite, so in the autumn of our lives, can we look back and say, “I gave it my all. I made mistakes, but I lived authentically, growing, blossoming, and sowing seeds for the future, whether I’m around to see them root or not. The world was a more brilliant place because I added my colors.” Whether you’re an earthworm or an elephant, we’re all in this together. And if we feel like we could do better, there’s no better time than now to get started. That’s why it’s called the present: it’s the gift of a new moment to start over if we need.

May the autumn bring you moments of rapturous beauty, both inside and out. And may you know that you are loved just for being you and sharing your essence. Let your color shine!

In Love & Light,

Sue

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Weather Woes

September here in Delaware has been downright wet. When it hasn’t been raining, the humidity has made us feel like we’re breathing water. We’ve reluctantly turned the air conditioners back on when we would normally be throwing open all the windows and freshening our spaces. The grass is growing at rates we can’t keep up with, and the month seems to be flowing by as quickly as the waters around here.

It’s been downright…awkward. Out of the norm. We had an earthquake here on the east coast, Hurricane Irene, and the weather in general has just been out of whack. We don’t know how to dress in the morning, the weather changes in an instant, and we all feel out of sorts. Our definition of “normal” is nowhere to be found, and it’s a bit uncomfortable. Fall is the season of change anyway, and this one has been particularly unpredictable.

It’s a gorgeous day today as I write this, pretty much the only nice day we’ve had in a while, but the forecast has rain on it for the next 5 days. Seriously? There’s a reason I don’t live in Seattle.  I’m rather fond of the sunshine…

But alas, sometimes nature throws us some challenges, and sometimes she blesses us with her sunshine and brilliant colors. I have noticed far more rainbows this year than any other I can recall, and those are always so exquisite. So I guess we’ll have to look for those rainbows again this week and bring our own sunshine in the form of smiles and kindness instead. I’ll try to think of the rain as a way of clearing the air and nourishing the soil for what’s coming in the future. It’s soggy now, but we might prefer to have plenty of water than not enough. It is, after all, the basis of life on this planet.

May the storms be gentle and followed by rainbows in every facet of your life this week…

Love & Light,

Sue

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Clearing Out the Cobwebs

This is the time of year I like to call “the running of the spiders”.  All of a sudden, we find spiders and webs all over the house, and it seems as if they appear almost overnight. Occasionally, we’re greeted by a rather stealthy wolf spider darting across the floor in search of prey in the late evening or early morning. I give the spiders a 2 minute warning to clear out and take their business outside or move to a back corner in the basement, but if I find them in other spaces of the house, they’ll be cleaned up. (I also warn them that my hubby won’t even give them the 2 minute warning…)

The running of the spiders is a sure sign that we’re transitioning to fall, and a reminder that I need to clean up those corners and prepare for the coming winter. Those cobwebs that are hanging about remind me of things I need to complete while it’s still warm, as well as old things I need to clear out. As nature slows down and prepares for the cooling season, it’s time for me to align my energy as well and clear out the old so that my cold weather habitat is clean and comfortable and has everything I need. It will be awful crowded in here come wintertime if I still have summer stuff out and about!

Besides the need to clean up my physical space, there is a need to readjust my habits and mental space. The slow-paced days of summer have come to an end, and my family has moved into the frenzy of fall. Scheduling is much tighter and it becomes easier to get sucked into feeling the pressure of many activities and being pulled in many ways. It helps me to remember that nothing in nature hurries, but it all gets done anyway. Bringing my attention to one thing at a time allows me to properly take care of everything as it comes.

As for those cobwebs, today I get out the vacuum. The spiders have been warned, and I’m cleaning out what’s left behind from summer that’s no longer needed and clearing the path for what’s to come. As I clean, I’ll release any regrets of what I didn’t do or didn’t finish, forgive myself and others for any mistakes, and breathe in the freshness of the fall air to welcome in its gifts.

Here’s wishing you the courage to clear out the cobwebs of the past and allow the freshness of fall to fill your homes and hearts…

Love & Light,

Sue

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