Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rain and other woes

           It rained for an entire week. Well, to be accurate, it wasn’t the continuous Noah-time-to-enter-the-arc type of rain. But a week ago Saturday afternoon we had a rattle-the-windows thunder storm and there’s been at least one like it each of the next six days. Twice I hung out my wash, enticed by a burst of sunshine, only to run out and snatch damp clothes off the line during a sudden downpour.
            And forget the garden! The tomatoes refuse to turn red. They are holding out for full sun. Borers have found my zucchini plant. Though it is still trumpeting male flowers, its fruiting days are over. We don’t even have lettuce to pick. The young groundhog took care of that—as well as the broccoli, cabbage and kale plants. He even ate the last promising zucchini.
            I knew a groundhog lived at the far end of our yard. Assumed—I can’t say why—it was a male. But one day I opened our back door and my eye caught a rustle of leaves in the vegetable garden. A small groundhog wiggled through a hole he must have gnawed in my plastic fencing. Young groundhog—the large resident is probably his mom. Now I have double trouble.
            My neighbor has begun to complain, “The groundhog that lives in your backyard is eating my vegetables.” She has volunteered to trap it. I haven’t told her that it is a THEM. I said, “You can put a trap back there, but do not kill the groundhog. Just take it far away.” I think either option is illegal. Seems the stealing of our produce should also be against the law, but our groundhogs make their living by stealing what others raise. Between those critters and the squirrels it’s been a poor year for harvesting. How did our fore bearers ever live off the land?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Water Lilies

The water lilies are in bloom again.  I’ve always loved them though I rarely had opportunity to see them. When we lived in Lower Manhattan and visited the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens I always dawdled around the lily ponds—tried to absorb their form and beauty. Now I’m happy to see them in the lake, though I have to paddle the kayak to the shallow, south end to find them. As a child, I had learned that the flower of my birth month – July – is a water lily so I guess I’ve always felt they should be a special flower for me.  But since the local water lilies seem to bloom in August, not July, either our locale or the deciders of things significant to young girls and lovers, such as birthstones and flowers, are a bit off.  
            I often wish it were more convenient to paint the water lilies, as Monet did from a bridge. Though I’m not sure he thought it convenient, going from one canvas to another as the sun moved. But the area where they thrive in great floating clusters is marshy. No way can I approach them on foot.  I toy with the idea of sitting in a canoe and painting. There’s hardly a current at this end of the lake, still there is drift and an anchor would probably get tangled in the lily stems. Last thing I want to do is capture water lilies in that way.  I try to slow the kayak to an almost standstill to photograph them. Even that is difficult. I hope the photos turn out. I’ll have to paint from them.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fog and Little Duck Feet

We awaken Friday morning to find that the landscape has disappeared. Thick fog obscures not only the opposite mountain, but the entire lake. Nothing can be seen beyond the rail of the deck. But the railing itself is amazing. Beautifully formed spider webs appeared between many of the rungs—courtesy of the tiny droplets of water that coat everything. Certainly the webs were not all woven overnight. Only now, all gleam out their presence.
            I see other changes once the fog burns off. I can count on less then ten fingers the remaining dragonflies. But the butterfly bushes have flowered and yellow and black swallowtails and monarchs frequent them. And the ducks have claimed the lake. Ten female mallards travel together. A single mom glides by with a duckling at her side, reminding me of a motorcycle and side car.  Six larger ducklings paddle in a row. Toward evening two male mallards show up—boys’ night out I guess.

            Best of all, the Jewel Weed wildflowers have begun to bloom. They’ve called back the hummingbirds. At first I think I see a huge insect darting by. It changes direction rapidly—like  a UFO, or so I’ve heard. Suddenly it hovers, feeding from the slipper-like blossom. Before I can grab my camera, it’s off again. One day I’ll be prepared and get a picture.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Squirrel Farmers

            The nearest oak tree is 50 yards away, in the park where my block dead ends. So why did I find and pull nine infant oaks from by Montclair back lawn? Actually, I know the answer—it’s the squirrels. Leave it up to them and they’d create another oak forest here. Apparently it is not enough for them to accept the hospitality of my pussy willow—from which they clip the blossoms, nor the pear tree—that’s another story.
            The pear tree is a real bone of contention for me this year. Last year a squirrel helped himself to one as yet not ripe pear each day. He took a bite, laughed at us from the treetop, and threw the rest of the pear to the ground. I hated the waste and, though I didn't appreciate his mocking attitude, I didn’t mind too much—there were plenty of pears. The tree was so prolific that we still had pears to eat, give away and make jam. This year, he must have brought his family because they have denuded our tree. I see only three still-unripe pears left on slender, low-hanging branches. Kind of them to leave some for us.
            I know they have their eyes on my sunflowers too. Two years ago I was able to save the seeds to feed the Cardinals in the winter. Last year the seeds disappeared before I could harvest. Can’t blame only squirrels for that. I bet the birds had a beak in it too.
            A few years ago squirrels attempted to chew their way into our attic. Luckily we heard their gnawing in time to call the Squirrel Hunter to chase them away and block up their tunnels.
            I’m onto their plot. We’ve provided them a safe haven with fruit. Now they are planting nut trees—well, acorns, anyway.  They intend to take over my yard and probably my house. But they will find that we will not easily give them up. And they will have to learn to share with the groundhog, raccoons and birds.