Wednesday, December 17, 2014



As we get close to the end of 2014, it seems the time passed in the blink of an eye.  Here we stand on the brink of a whole new, fresh, clean year filled with possibilities; the old year is a bit ragged but there is value in revisiting it.

I, for one, am grateful to 2014.  It brought me to this blog and you.  Thank you. 

This post is mostly about the color red - some white and some green are mixed in.  For those of you who celebrate Christmas, red is a prominent color of the season.  For those who celebrate other holidays or even no holiday at all, red is cheery and fun.  

 To all of you, I hope this time of year brings happiness.

  Poinsettias are one of the most popular holiday plants.  As the years went by, the red poinsettia gave way to almost every color imaginable (or combinations thereof) except the blue range.  Many of the plants are grown in Canada where they are shown, judged, and and chosen for market.  I have an artist friend in Ontario who goes to these exhibitions and does judging.  Gardeners look for traits to make the plants more salable, like stems that grow more upward and resist being broken when placed in cellophane sleeves.  Colors are favored or rejected; size and fullness are scrutinized.  All this so you and I can go to the greenhouse or supermarket and buy some of the most beautiful holiday plants offered.

 I went to Ott's Exotic Greenhouse and photographed 20 different varieties - all lovely, all lush and healthy.  Here are just a tiny few of those poinsettias.

 The Christmas, or Holiday Cactus is another favorite plant that is used for gifting or decorating during this holiday season.  Again, the colors available expanded from the red, pink, and white to many others in between.  This particular one caught my eye because the flower looks like a swan - at least to me:>)

 Another splendid plant, one not necessarily paired with the holidays but festive nonetheless, is the hibiscus.  

Rose Of Sharon Hibiscus Family Member

Up Close and Personal with a Red Hibiscus

Orchids can join the many fancy plants considered tough to grow that now enjoy enhanced popularity as ordinary houseplants.  They, too, can be found in an ever-increasing array of colors.  Here is red and white specimen followed by a soft yellow-white flowered orchid.

RED!  Glorious, riotous red.  Here are a couple kinds of Clematis that will warm any heart.

Tiny, white star clematis grown with red poinsettia

The heart of a red clematis

Meet the exquisite cyclamen - this one in white.  They are now found from teacup size to HUGE.  The flowers are all over the place with different colors, except the blue tones.  Can the blues be far behind???

I believe this is a Mimosa flower - some call it a "Sensitive" Tree because touching the leaves makes them close up.

 Love of roses is almost universal, and the red rose is an all-time favorite.

This white beauty is commonly called Queen Of The Night or Night Blooming Cereus.  It's a desert cactus that blooms only for one night but what a sight!  This flower is the size of a dinner plate and, once opened, the fragrance is awesome.

I'll leave you with three winter scenes from the Green Lane, Pennsylvania, USA area.  Our southern hemisphere friends  are experiencing springtime and summer is not far away.  We have bare trees and, often, snow:>)

The day before Thanksgiving (late November 2014)

A snowstorm at the creek

Happy holidays to everyone and a very health, productive, and happy New Year!

Carol & Family (including Spot)



































Sunday, November 9, 2014

I'm Back:>)



Life is crazy - for you, too, I imagine -  but I missed the blog.  This is a brief, not fancy "hello" and a way for me to re-acclimate.  Writing the blog is a way for me to engage with people and share the wonders of our little portion of the natural world.  

Sometimes I write about things other than those delights I see on a walk.  I think the next blog, the more lengthy one, will be on SPOT THE MAGNIFICENT.  Spot is our kitten, the little guy we adopted in June of this year.  He was feral, terrified, and impossible.  Now he's a true "pussycat" - a sweetheart.  It's possible what we learned and experienced could help someone else.

Meantime, "HELLO!  I MISSED YOU:>)"

These ferns are not named; enjoy the lovely greenery, even when it's black and white:>)

Springtime brings us "fiddleheads", the newly growing fern fronds.

Summer is wonderful around here!  Anywhere there is moisture and dappled sunshine there are ferns.  Some are feathery and delicate, some more solid-looking, and others tall and graceful.  I counted no less than 8 kinds of ferns on a walk of about a mile.  The Season was late summer when things are doing well and pretty much grown.

This next picture shows the home of either a moth or a tier caterpillar.  I tried tying cheesecloth over it to see what emerged, but I must have been too late - nothing emerged and nothing was in the "house" when I later examined it.  This was beautifully woven and tightly stitched together with silk - an engineering marvel done by a humble, little larva of some sort.  AWESOME!

Over the course of the many years we've lived here, I collected an occasional wildflower and replanted it in my wildflower garden.  I never dug up a plant that wasn't endangered by construction or some other disaster (spraying plant killer on the power lines by the Electric Company counts as a disaster), and some didn't make it through the transition.  Many wild plants have specific symbiotic relationships with other plants or organisms that thrive in the same area.  Moving them can also take them away from the partners that make the plants healthy and viable and allow them to thrive.  The best ways to capture beautiful wildflowers for your garden is to gather seeds (you'll need to do some research on what to look for and when), take a cutting (can be very difficult), or buy from a reliable source.  There are many on the internet that sell almost any wildflower your heart desires.

Now that was a bit off the subject:>)

This last picture is my wildflower garden in autumn.  Fall is the time of settling in for the winter's nap, a time when colors are both lost and and enhanced.  

There will be another blog post soon.  Meantime, thank you so very much for taking time to come by.

Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Little This ~ A Little That

Odds & Ends

 Although life is busy and I'm officially off my regular posting schedule, I miss you:>)  Once sanity returns and everything is back to normal, I'll post each Friday once again.  For today, however, I'm going to focus on showing you some pictures.  I hope you enjoy this post; it's different from what I normally do with nature and information regarding our subjects.

Life is filled with amusing moments, and this picture is one example.  My husband and I were running errands in another town, and we saw this sign.  It isn't one we've seen before and it made us laugh.  A sense of humor, even by a local borough police department, goes a long way to getting cooperation.

Self-explanatory - LOL
Chocolate Slime Mold isn't something I find all the time, and finding it on a decaying stump was like finding a treasure.  Slime molds are not fungi and they are not plants.  They are also not exactly animals, so what are they?  

They begin life as spores and are single-celled amoeboid protists crawling around looking for food.  Eventually they merge with others like them and form one big cell with lots and lots of nuclei.  They transform into a spore-making body to reproduce, and this picture is of that stage in their life.

The name Protista means "the very first", and these are very elemental, early life forms.  Check this out:  

Amoebas are single-celled animals (  ).
For a couple years I've been dreaming of a lens that could take excellent pictures of birds. Of course the photographer has more to do with it than the lens, but even so . . .  I went to Cardinal Camera and spent some time talking to the youngsters who man the store (excellent photographers and extremely helpful without any hard sell).  We decided I could improve by using a Tamron lens, 150 - 600.  The cost was around $1,800.00, and it was so new that I had to prepay and wait for 2 months to get it.  The serial number is in the mid 3 digits!! Me!  I got one of the first!  YAY!

When it came in and I went to pick it up, I knew immediately it was too heavy for me to hold.  I didn't have a tripod and didn't want one, so I purchased a monopod - a stick with a place to attach the camera on one end.  It worked, but the lens was still too heavy for me to manage.  I did, eventually, buy a tripod.  

Today I went outside and got set up in a place where I could see the hummingbirds like to sit and catch a breath.  I need more days to practice, but there is one photo to share with you.  This is an immature female - no ruby throat.  The fancy feathers are reserved for the guys.

By the way, the Tamron lens is magnificent even if it did take every last penny I'd saved for a new lens.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Now, on to a totally different theme - messing around with pictures to make them "artsy-fartsy".  Most of my family and some of my friends just HATE when I do this.  It's fun.  In case anyone is interested in this process, I'm going to show a few.  This is just a flight of fancy on my part; light-hearted fun:>)

Although some enhanced photos get mixed into the regular blog posts, they are not included there because of the enhancements but because they fit a subject. 

First is a picture of the Asian Dayflower wildflower.  The original and two enhanced versions are below.  (  )

Asian Dayflower - Original picture

This has two layers of what is called "texture work" melded into the original photo.

This has a "frame" and a couple layers for color changes and subtle textures.

This next picture began life as a simple photo of some of our tomatoes.  The old fruit crate labels are, in my opinion, charming, and old seed packets are similarly attractive.  I made the picture into a fantasy seed packet.

Thistle seeds are beautiful - so delicate and light.  This picture got the softening treatment and most of the color was removed.  I then tinted the picture a gentle taupe.  (  )

Thistle seeds
Here are two pictures of Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies that are enhanced in very different ways.  (  )

The first is done in "High Dynamic Range", or HDR.  Some of the newer cameras will give photographers an option, right in the camera, to do this.  I have software called Photomatix Pro which allows for a lot of adjustments from the user.  I prefer the software.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Daylily
 This second picture uses textures which are layers added to the original picture.  It's like stacking two or more photos on top of each other, adjusting how transparent each layer (photo) is, what color it is, and what parts of each photo are the strongest.

Female Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Butterfly Bush.  Females have the blue color on their wings - males have mostly black.
Multiflora Roses grow wild all around our locale.  This image is a combination of the flowers (spring) and rose hips (autumn) combined, then a texture layer was added.  (  )

Multiflora Rose
Meet Spot The Magnificent.  He's our adopted feral kitten and he really gave us a run for our money early on.  I'm thinking about posting his story - how we got him socialized, the trials and tribulations.  If I decide to do this, most of the story will be writing, not pictures, because he's a perpetual motion machine and I need to learn my camera better before I can capture a decent picture.

This post is about messing around with pictures, however, not the story of Spot!  This was Spot after he came home from the vet; ballet is his strong suit!

Spot dancing - Original photo
Spot dancing - here you see a background image and a frame layer.
Now - meet our lover boy at approximately 12 weeks old - not sure exactly when he was born but this is a pretty good guess for his age.  Poor baby has a shaved spot on his right front leg where the vet gave him an IV.

Japanese Iris are so lovely, especially when grown in a large grouping.  They are not the big, bearded kind but rather smaller and more elegant (I think).

Original photo of Japanese Iris Flower
The two pictures below show two different kinds of textures used to enhance the image after I removed the greenery from the original picture.

The people who create lovely textures for others to use in their art are both creative and generous.  Many offer some free to those interested, some ask only for a donation but do not ever ask for money if you don't donate, and some are making a professional living from selling them - some do both the freebies and the sales. Most of what I use are offered free or I make them myself.

In case anyone is interested, the links below go to the sites of the people offering the textures you've seen here.

Until we meet again:>)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Some Local Friends For You To Meet

We are in the throes of summer and the leaves and plants grow thickly, hiding many creatures as they go about their daily routines.  Every so often I find one, though, and I'm sure you'll enjoy meeting them.

The first picture is of a corn snake (late spring) and you'll need to look hard to find it.  Their camouflage is almost perfect among the leaves and twigs.  I was walking up the driveway and heard a rattling sound.  First thought was - WOW, a rattlesnake!  Haven't seen one of them around here in 35 years or so!  Then the sheer weight of probability hit home and I knew it was a only remote chance it could be a rattlesnake.  Closer (but careful) inspection revealed this common, lovely snake - a Corn Snake.

These pretty snakes are prized as pets because of their non-aggressive personalities.  I hesitate to call them "friendly" or "gentle" because that is misleading.  They are not prone to bite, although they can and sometimes do.  They become accustomed to handling by people - best I can say:>)  Snakes do not "love", have "affection", or look forward to cuddling.  Before making a snake a pet, think long and hard about it.  How big will it get?  What does it eat?  How does it get water?  Can I spend the time needed to keep it clean and healthy?  Can I commit to caring for it for a lifetime (up to 25 years in the case of Corn Snakes).


Corn snakes have an adult size of four to six feet, live up to eight years in the wild (25 years in captivity), and are constrictors.  They hold their meals in their teeth and constrict their prey.

The name "Corn Snake" probably came from farmers who used to store their corn crops in cribs (bins) which drew mice and rats.  Those are the favorite foods of corn snakes so, you guess it, the snakes came for dinner and got their name.

Because Corn Snakes are so popular in the pet trade, the colors available are legion.

They are very similar to Milksnakes (and I could be wrong on this ID - it could be a Milksnake). You can read about them here:

More info here:

This is a baby - find the head at the lower left just short of half way up and in front of the stick.  Some of the rest of it is to the right of the stick.  This little guy was about two feet long.
 Our most common toad is the Eastern American Toad.  We've had every size from teeny weeny to big, fat, grandpa toads that were every bit of 3 inches long or better just in the body.  Of course they are completely harmless and are even kept as pets.  I don't advocate for that because the terrariums must be kept immaculate if the toads are to be healthy.  Like any pet, they require care and feeding.

This toad was sitting in a small pool of rainwater in a depression in a rock in our vegetable garden.  See the lovely algae.

The eggs are laid in a reliable pool of water and hatch in a week or two.  The little ones are tiny and black and swim in schools.  They have also developed a "mutualistic relationship with Chlorogonium alga, which makes tadpoles develop faster than normal".  That quote from the Wikipedia article linked below.

They eat spiders, bugs, worms, slugs (what else eats slugs, may I ask!) - all the things you'd want them to eat:>)  Welcome them into your yard or garden:>)

They can't and won't hurt you, but if you pick one up and it gets scared, it will pee all over your hand - effective defense mechanism, don't you think!

Learn more here:

Happy toad:>)
This little one was under a paving stone next to a raised garden bed.  Slugs can be a problem so we were pleased to find this one right in prime slug territory!
Box Turtles are not rare but you'll be lucky to see one in the wild.  We've seen a couple walking through the yard, but the vast majority we see are crossing the road.  If at all possible we stop and put them on the other side (in the direction they are traveling).  People run them over and that's sad.

These turtles are long-lived and are slow to become mature and propagate.  Humans are their worst enemy and although their numbers are okay right now, they are vulnerable.

You'll enjoy this write up.  It's comprehensive and nicely done!

I found this female on a back road.
 Black rat snakes are a boon to our natural environment.  They eat small mammals, their favorite foods being mice and rats, but they will also dine on lizards, frogs, and bird eggs.  Although they have teeth, rat snakes are non-venomous constrictors.

There are a number of sub-species of rat snake, and they have a wide range.  Some are more passive than others, and we find our population is generally calm with the occasional cranky individual.

We have a "teachable moment".  My husband found a young rat snake in the woods behind our house.  It had some sort of plastic mesh around it's body which was cutting badly into the snake's flesh.  My husband caught it, I held it, and he "operated" by delicately cutting and removing the embedded mesh.  When I let it go, the snake crawled into a stone pile.  Although the wound looked mean, it was clean.  We hope to see it next year and confirm it healed and is living a healthy life.

The black snakes in our locale regularly reach five to six feet in length, will climb trees, and come into our cellar to shed their skin.  They are our "genius loci" (spirit of the place) - here when we moved in over 40 years ago and are still here.

For an interesting write up on Black Rat Snakes, take a look at

These photos are from a day ago.  A youngster, about 2 feet long, was curled up on top of the phone battery box in a dark corner of the cellar.  There's a small shed skin up in the rafters that could be his/hers - not sure:>).

This picture was taken with my little point & shoot camera because my big girl camera was in the shop for the annual clean and check.  Sorry about these not-so-hot pics but you get the idea of what they look like.

I think this was his/her best side:>)
 Pennsylvania has a number of different kinds of frogs - some live in water, some live on land.  It's no surprise that there are color variations to each kind, and it can be hard make a good ID if you're an amateur like me.  The below images have my best guess, and I encourage you to visit the web sites shown for more information:>)  Frogs are AWESOME!

Green Frog

Green Frog

Either a Pickerel Frog or a Leopard Frog

One of the most common and beloved of our wild turtles, the Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) can be found in almost every pond, lake, and wetland habitat.  They are often kept as pets, although I gently would say this is not the best idea.  Adults living in the wild can reach more than 40 years of age; maybe this is because they sleep at night and sunbathe most of the day - LOL.

Their food is mostly aquatic vegetation, insects, and maybe a small fish.  The eggs and very young are eaten by snakes, and raccoons and other predators, but as adults their main source of trouble is cars.

To quote Wikipedia on the range of these turtles,
"The most widespread North American turtle,[57] the painted turtle is the only turtle whose native range extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific.[nb 4] It is native to eight of Canada's ten provinces, forty-five of the fifty United States, and one of Mexico's thirty-one states. On the East Coast, it lives from the Canadian Maritimes to the U.S. state of Georgia. On the West Coast, it lives in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon and offshore on southeast Vancouver Island.[nb 5] The northernmost American turtle,[59] its range includes much of southern Canada. To the south, its range reaches the U.S. Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Alabama. In the southwestern United States there are only dispersed populations. It is found in one river in extreme northern Mexico. It is absent in a part of southwestern Virginia and the adjacent states as well as in north-central Alabama."

Painted Turtles are actually found as fossils, the oldest going back 15 million years in Nebraska.

You can also visit:

A bit of sun, a bit of gossip - what more could a Painted Turtle ask of life?
I hope you are all enjoying time outside; keep those eyes, ears, and even noses open and have fun finding some marvelous critters of your own!