Ten Little Celebrations – April 2019

April has been a busy month – only at home for a week out of the month and not all at the same time. There was plenty to celebrate with spring in full swing and the travel to see it in different places.

Certified Zentangle® Trainer (CZT) class. There were so many perspectives of the CZT class to celebrate: the beauty of the creations everyone was making, the conversations, the food…the challenge of being a student…the Zen.

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Train ride home. I don’t go many places where taking the train is feasible…but the CZT class was one of them. I celebrated the low stress hours going home…a fitting finale to the class.

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4th and 5th grade field trips. The early April field trips happened with great weather and the students enjoying being outdoors to learn about the Patapsco heritage (land, water, and rocks) and BioBlitz. It’s always inspiring to see their curiosity and enthusiasm --- celebrating a spring field trip.


Getting to Dallas. I had to travel to Dallas quickly and it was easier than a thought it would be. And I celebrated that I was less stressed by the rapid change in plans (maybe the Zentangle class providing an added benefit.

Spring days. Noticing the rapidly developing blossoms of spring is fodder for many celebrations – oxalis is probably one of my favorites right now. It blooms when the sun is shining!

Rainy day (spent indoors). After busy days – having a rainy day spent indoors is something to celebrate…with homemade soup for lunch!

Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie. A little bit of prairie – carefully tended by volunteers – in a Dallas suburb! Right now it is a celebration of spring wildflowers.

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Cedar waxwings. Birds are migrating and there are serendipity sightings of birds that don’t stay around the area long. I celebrated seeing a small flock of cedar waxwings last week.

Botanical reminders of my grandmother. Many flowers in my parents’ Carrollton yard were planted by my grandmother…good memories to celebrate.

Home again. Providence, Rhode Island to home to Carrollton, Texas to home to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Smith Island to home. I like to travel…but coming home is celebratory too.

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A Carrollton Garden – Part I

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I am visiting my parents this week in Carrollton TX and their garden is responding to the warmer weather. Mounds of oxalis line the large patio – carpeting the partial shade area under the mulberry trees.

Various kinds of iris are in bloom. The Dutch iris blooms seem to last longer than the other kinds.

The mulberry trees are a fruitless variety. The trunks of the largest trees have a lot of color when they are wet. Most of the trees have small branches emerging along the big branches. The larger branches have been thinned to allow more sunlight to reach the ground so all the little branches that are within reach of the pole clippers are snipped from the trees keep the canopy open.

The pecan tree is finally old enough to bloom and may produce some pecans this year. Hopefully the nuts will be the paper-shell variety.

The red yuccas are not blooming yet but the seed pods from last fall are still on the stalks. Some of them look almost black (like they were burned). I like the shapes of the empty pods.

More pictures from the garden tomorrow.

Up Close Irises

There was a large vase of irises from the garden to welcome us to my parents’ house last week. Over the course of the evening, I took several opportunities to photograph them at close range – with and without the macro lens. I like the curves of all parts of the flower - from bud to full flower to spent flower. Today - savor the color and shapes of irises!

Belmont – April 2019

The Howard County Conservancy spring field trips at Belmont and Mt. Pleasant are into prime time. The two I volunteered for last week had beautiful weather for hiking – almost perfect temperature and dry. I always arrive more than 30 minutes before the students. It’s a short walk from parking to the Carriage House….long enough to get some pictures. Birds that are around: chipping sparrows, robins, and red winging blackbirds. There is at least one resident mockingbird which I heard but didn’t get a picture.

The warmer weather is also causing things to bloom and new spring green leaves to unfurl.

As I wait for the bus, I take pictures toward the manor house, down the entrance road, and down toward the pond. It’s the calm….before the students arrive.

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The students, teachers, and chaperones come on buses and there is a flurry of activity to get the groups sorted into hiking groups and activity groups.

The hikes are about an hour. There are forest and meadows…lot of opportunity for good observations. One of my hiking groups was making BioBlitz observations…documenting a common blue violet blooming in the middle of the mowed path!

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Moving the Compost Bin

Last week we had some warm days and I moved my compost bin. It is so hard to turn the whole bin of material adequately, that it’s better to just move the bin periodically and get a good mix of the materials (and take the ‘finished’ compost out for other distribution). The stakes that I’d used to hold the cylinder of rigid plastic up were leaning toward the center too. I decided to move the bin just a few feet away on a bare patch of dirt – still under the red maple.

I got side tracked looking at the haze of yellow in the forest: spice bush in bloom.

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And the baby ferns in the mossy area under the deck.

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And a shell that had collected some water (probably need to turn it over so it doesn’t become a mosquito nursery).

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And some robin nests (neat enough to be from this year) on the deck support beams.

I pulled the stakes out from inside the bin - then lifted the plastic and repositioned it. I put the stakes back in using some branches from the brush pile to cross brace too. Then the material that still needed to decompose was moved with a pitchfork to the newly placed bin. Lesson learned: pine needles and egg shells take longer to decompose than kitchen scrapes and shredded leaves/paper!

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I found something that had sprouted in the compost as I spread the compost from the bottom of the bin around under the red maple in front of the brush pile. Maybe a beet top from last fall’s harvest?

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Gleanings of the Week Ending April 13, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Coconut Spice Cake Recipe | Magnolia Days – The cake I made for my husband’s birthday. It tasted great even without icing!

Photographer Captures Stunning Images of Ice Shards Along Lake Michigan | Smart News | Smithsonian – Spectacular ice forms – made during the breaking up on Lake Michigan a few weeks ago.

Ancient Caribbean children helped with grocery shopping in AD 400 -- ScienceDaily – Snail and clam shells (small ones) might be from child, rather than adult, foragers!

Thousands of Invasive Cane Toads Overtake Florida Community | Smart News | Smithsonian – Ugh! Not something people want in their yards and pools and driveways. These toads have a toxin strong enough to kill cats and dogs that munch on toads and can cause burning eyes or skin irritation in humans.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: March – National Geographic Society – Beautiful birds….changing environments and habitats.

Where Have All the House Sparrows Gone? – Cool Green Science – House sparrow numbers have been declining since 1966 – all around the world!

66-million-year-old deathbed linked to dinosaur-killing meteor -- ScienceDaily – Fossils of animals killed and buried within an hour of the meteor impact!

Pairing Geothermal Plus Rooftop Solar For A Truly Renewable Home | CleanTechnica – At what point will the idea of geothermal heating and cooling catch up with rooftop solar for our homes? Will Dandelion – or comparable companies - become nationwide?

Five new frog species from Madagascar -- ScienceDaily – Some tiny new frogs. The smallest is only a little larger than a grain of rice.

These pictures of seed bank samples turn biology into art – The beauty of seeds. The first photograph (of Australian windflower flower heads is my favorite. The x-ray of a red yucca seed head is also interesting….showing the 3D of the pod in the image.

Blooming Trees in Our Yard

About a week after our trek to the National Arboretum – I walked around our yard to take pictures of our trees in bloom. The maple is not quite as bright red as it was earlier…about done with its blooming for the year. The forsythia our neighbor planted at the edge of the woods is blooming behind the maple. The misty yellow of the spice bush is still weeks away.

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The cherry tree in our front yard is blooming profusely. There were several kinds of bees (I presume bees….some of them were too small for me to see for sure).  In previous years our cherry tree lagged the peak bloom at the tidal basin and the arboretum in Washington DC by at least a week…and that seems about right this year as well.

We also have a plum tree and, even though the flowers are smaller, they keep their pink color all the way through the cycle rather than becoming white like the cherries.

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The spring blooming trees are a clear indicator of the season change…warmer days to come. The colors are a welcome break from the browns of winter. Next comes the delicate spring greens as leaves begin to unfurl.

US National Arboretum in Early Spring

Last weekend we went to the US National Arboretum to see cherry blossoms. We entered the New York Avenue Gate and parked in the big lot just inside….with cherry trees in sight. We walked over to the trees. I got side tracked by some golden moss with spore capsules…had to take pictures from overhead and then from ground level. It was growing under the cherry trees.

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The days before we went had been windy and I found some blooms on the ground – little jewels in the dried leaves and moss.

I zoomed to get some close-up pictures of flowers on the trees – all shades of pink to white.

As I took some pictures of the high branches of one tree, I noticed a lot of bees. I was photographing hand held so had to be content with just knowing the dots in the pictures were insects!

We got back in the car and continued further into the arboretum. There were a lot of cars parking along the side of the road and we could see trees that were blooming ahead. We thought maybe it was more cherry trees. But no – it was deciduous magnolias! They were probably at their peak and gorgeous. People where photographing young children under the trees and held up next to the flowers. There were several different kinds of deciduous magnolias in bloom. My favorites were the deepest pink ones that I saw at the very beginning.

I zoomed in on two buds. Note that the outer covering is very fuzzy. Then there is a covering that looks like brown paper….and then the petals.

Evergreen (southern) magnolias are in the grove as well. They will be beautiful this summer. Right now, the empty pods from last summer are dried (on the tree or the ground under it) – and a study of complexity. I didn’t see a single red seed that had survived the winter in a pod!

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Gleanings of the Week Ending April 6, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

BBC - Future - What happens when we run out of food? – Even in the US, nearly 12% of households re classed as being food insecure; more than 6.5 million children go without adequate food. And the whole food system can be disrupted very easily by war and very bad government all around the world.

Refugee women have healthier pregnancies than US women -- why? An unhealthy US culture: For African refugee women, acculturation may negatively impact health -- ScienceDaily – I was surprised that the researchers did not explore the idea that maybe the value of early pre-natal care is overrated for people that are generally healthy when they get pregnant since the refugee women tended to not start pre-natal care until their 2nd trimester.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Migration – National Geographic Society  - Birds are migrating through our area…we’re seeing more robins…and the juncos will leave soon to go further north. These pictures feature birds from around the world…that are migrating.

Hospital disinfectants should be regulated like antibiotics new study suggests – It’s not just antibiotics that drive antimicrobial resistance…it’s disinfectants (particularly in hospitals) too.

BBC - Future - The unexpected magic of mushrooms – New items made from fungus...replacing some kinds of plastics. It’s good that fungi are so plentiful on the planet – exceeding the biomass of all animals.

An Island Apart – Acadia National Park’s Isle ad Haut. A very different experience from Mount Desert Island

Beautiful cherry blossoms photos – Our cherry tree is in bloom right now. I guess cherry trees are enjoyed around the world very year about this time. There is a picture of the cherry trees around the tidal basin in Washington DC included in the pictures.

Green tea cuts obesity, health risks in mice: Follow-up study in people underway -- ScienceDaily – More research needed…. but I am enjoying green tea already (my favorite is a blend with mint).

Make A Home for Wildlife – Cool Green Science – Some ideas for creating an oasis for wildlife --- it doesn’t take much to help pollinators or birds!

Why did Flamingos flock to Mumbai in record numbers this winter? – 120,000 flamingoes…that’s a lot of birds!

Patuxent Research Refuge

I attended the Patuxent River Conference last week. The conference was informative – lots of up-to-date information about the river. One of the branches of the river (the Middle Patuxent) is through the forest – downhill – from my house. The conference venue was the Patuxent Research Refuge and there was opportunity to look around the visitor center and onto a nearby trail. It has been awhile since I had visited the place and the visitor center was in better condition that I remembered.

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The displays in the visitor center had been updated. The one I found most poignant was the whopping crane display. The Patuxent Research Refuge tried for years to raise whooping cranes to establish a new migratory flock but this year the effort was stopped. The whopping crane we saw down in Florida during the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival (see my post here) began its life at this refuge.

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During the morning break – a mockingbird sat in a nearby tree. It had quite a repertoire of songs.

I remember the timber wolf sculpture in front of the visitor center but the colorful screening on the front windows of the visitor center was new to me.

The refuge biologist let a hike during the last session of the day. A prescribed burn had been done on some of the areas around the visitor center to clear out biomass…keep the area grassland habitat rather than forest.

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We hiked over the causeway and into the forest. The Refuge is doing an inventory of the forest trees and taking core samples to determine the age. One of the corers got stuck in an oak and they are still trying to get it out!

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The trees are not leafed out…but some are easy to identify. Beech trees are easy any time of year.

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A lot of the pines at the refuge were planted about the same time and are dying off together too. There are quite a few that have fallen over. But there are still a lot of trees that fill in the canopy. This will be a very shady area when the trees leaf out.

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It was a good day for a conference and a visit to the refuge!

100 Desert Wildflowers in Natural Color

Dodge, Natt N. 100 Desert Wildflowers in Natural Color. Southwest Monuments Association. 1963. Available from the Project Gutenberg here.

Natt Noyes Dodge (1900-1982) was the regional naturalist for the Southwest Region of the National Park Service from 1935 to 1963. He was also an author and photographer – both of which are shown in this book along with his knowledge of the region. The version available from Project Gutenberg is from the third printing in 1967 which was a revision from the original in 1963.

I’m glad that the copyright holder has allowed this book to be available online....easy to enjoy the photos of desert wildflowers.

I had bought several of Dodge’s books is national parks when traveling to New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado from our home in Dallas in the 1970s, but I didn’t have this one.

Texas Wildflowers in Natural Colors

Whitehouse, Eula. Texas Wildflowers in Natural Colors. 1936. Available from Project Gutenberg here.

This was my favorite botanical book for March….and maybe beyond that too. Eula Whitehouse lived from 1892-1974 and spent the latter part of her career in Dallas – working at Southern Methodist University from 1946 until her retirement; her books and collections are the core of what became BRIT (Botanical Research Institute of Texas). She assisted in organizing the Dallas County Audubon Society in 1954.

The book was self-published first in 1936 and remains a favorite among many Texas botanists. It was published privately and distributed through the Texas Book Store in Austin and then, in 1948, through Cokesbury Bookstore in Dallas. The version available online at Project Gutenberg shows both dates. I’ve included a few sample images below.

I grew up in Texas and found myself wondering why the nature day camps I attended during my elementary and middle school summers didn’t use her book as a reference as we tried to learn about the wildflowers we saw around us.

Eula Whitehouse published a study on the evolution, or succession, of plant communities at Enchanted Rock (in Texas) as part of her doctoral research at the University of Texas in the 1930s. In the late 1970s, Lady Bird Johnson urged The Nature Conservancy to purchase Enchanted Rock to be set aside for posterity. I like that there is a linkage via Enchanted Rock between Eula Whitehouse and Lady Bird Johnson – two women that were deeply involved in preserving wildflowers of Texas.

For more information about Eula Whitehouse, see pages at BRIT and Texas State Historical Association.

eBotantical Prints – March 2019

Twenty-two botanical print books added to the list in March! Enjoy the carousel of the 22 sample images today and all the links to the volumes below! I’ll provide more information on some selections in the next couple of days. The complete list of all the botanical books I’ve found online, can be found here.

Icones Plantarum V27 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1901

Icones Plantarum V28 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1901

Icones Plantarum V29 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1901

Texas Flowers in Natural Colors * Whitehouse, Eula * sample image * 1936

Field and Woodland Plants * Furneaux, William S. * sample image * 1909

100 Desert Wildflowers in Natural Color * Dodge, Natt N. * sample image * 1963

The Flower-fields of Alpine Switzerland * Flemwell, G. * sample image * 1911

Mycologia V1 1909 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1909

Mycologia V2 1910 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1910

Mycologia V3 1911 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1911

Mycologia V4 1912 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1912

Mycologia V5 1913 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1913

Mycologia V6 1914 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1914

Mycologia V7 1915 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1915

Mycologia V8 1916 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1916

Mycologia V9 1917 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1917

Mycologia V10 1918 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1918

Mycologia V11-12 1920 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1920

Mycologia V14 1922 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1922

Mycologia V15 1923 * Murrill, William Alphonso (editor) * sample image * 1923

Plates and descriptions of new and rare plants from southern India and Ceylon V1 * Beddome, R.H. * sample image * 1874

Plates and descriptions of new and rare plants from southern India and Ceylon V3 * Beddome, R.H. * sample image * 1874

Tree Bud Project – Week 3

It’s Friday – I’m updating the status of the branches I brought inside 2 weeks ago (previous posts: week 1, week2). This will be the last post. The flowers and leaves are wilting because the small branches can’t get enough water to the new growth.

The cherry blossoms opened but stayed small – then started to show stress – the delicate white petals wilting.

The tulip poplar branch lasted longer with more and more small leaves emerging from the bud.

Four leaves emerged from one bud and one of the leaves unfolded before they all began to wilt.

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The only branch that didn’t seem to develop at all was the black walnut. Maybe it was just way too early for those buds to develop even in the warmer temperature indoors.

Ten Little Celebrations – March 2019

March had increased activity from February – a nice ramp up to the busy months of the spring field trip season of April, May and June. It was easy to find little celebrations all during the month.

A Creative Live course on bird photography – I always celebrate courses that hone what I already know…and show me something new that I want to try.

Getting new glasses – I had skipped getting new glasses last year – thinking that my prescription had not changed enough. It’s worth celebrating to see better again.

Snow on the ground but no on the streets – I celebrated a beautiful snowy day when the streets kept enough warmth to remain clear. It’s one of those instances where you can enjoy the scenery and not worry about hazardous driving conditions.

Cleaning out stuff – We donated two carloads of stuff (a bicycle was a big part of one load. I celebrated making progress on cleaning out accumulated things that we no longer need.

Then there are signs of spring – appearing throughout the month – and celebrated for the breaking of winter’s hold on the landscape:

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Miniature daffodils blooming in the front flower bed that bring back memories of my mother-in-law that bought and planted the bulbs in another garden 30 years ago.

Tulip poplar and cherry buds brought inside and opening a few weeks before the buds outside open.

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Doves mating on the deck railing.

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Frogs eggs in the little pool at Mt. Pleasant.

A spring-like afternoon – full of sunlight and a warmer temperature.

The biggest celebration of the month was the news that both my daughter and son-in-law have faculty positions beginning next fall in the same place! It’s quite an accomplishment for them to both get their PhD and then do a couple years as post docs…then this milestone.  

Mt. Pleasant – March 2019

I was at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant on a sunny cold morning last week – and took a few pictures. There were two things that have always been there and almost always on my walk from parking to the nature center that I don’t think I have photographed before: 1) The old tractor that has been in the same place for so long that it is sinking into the soil under it (or silt is running down the slope to the wagon shed and accumulating around the tires).

2) The hook closure on the blacksmith’s shed….probably made by the blacksmith!

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The flowerpot people were dressed for spring…but looked a little bedraggled. The March winds have probably made some adjustments.

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I took a picture of a pine on the way to a stop in the Honors Garden. The pines are still the main greenery around.

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In the Honors Garden, the sun was highlighting last season’s cone flower seedpods.

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But the reason I was in the Honors Garden was to check out the little pond. As I walked up a frog swam rapidly through the water to a new hiding place. It was too cold for a lot more activity.

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This little pond is a favorite of the local Wood Frogs and they have been busy. There were egg masses in the water….soon to be tadpoles if they are not too far out of the water and freeze before they can develop. I posted about the frogs here back in March 2016….but it was a warmer day and I noticed the frogs more than the eggs.

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I continued to the Nature Center for the training session scheduled for the day.

Tree Bud Project – Week 2

It’s Friday – so I am doing an update on the tree branches I brought inside a week ago. See the previous post here. All of them seem to be surviving in the vase of water. I’ve freshened the water every few days. All the pictures are with the 15x macro clip-on lens and my smartphone.

The cherry buds have opened into small white flowers! At first the buds just looked bigger.

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Two days later, the white tips showed beyond the green of the outer covering.

And the next morning the flowers were open! I took a picture of the back and front of the flowers.

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The plum is slower. Some of the buds have not changed at all and I am wondering if they were damaged by cold temperatures. Some look like they are larger. I hope they eventually will open.

The red maple has bloomed and is now drooping. They are wind fertilized…so won’t make seeds in the ‘windless’ house. At first, they looked very red – like little streamers from the bud.

Then the bigger structure grew.

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And now they seem to be drying out.

The tulip poplar has been changing a lot too. At first more buds opened.

Two days later all the buds were larger, and a tiny leaf had emerged from one of them.

Over the next few days other tiny leaves emerged and began to get larger. I noticed the tiny leaves while they were still folded inside the bud too. The bark of the twig seems to be a deeper color too.

I haven’t noticed any changes in the black walnut branch. If the buds do open it should be spectacular with so many buds on the tip of the branch.

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The sycamore buds haven’t changed much either although they seem to be a little larger and their color has shifted to green with some red overtones.

Stay tuned to next Friday for the next tree bud report!

Daffodils and Crocus

Our miniature daffodils are blooming. My mother-in-law bought the bulbs about 30 years ago and planted them in the garden of our previous house. I dug them up and planted them in the front flowerbed of our current house about 25 years ago. I’ve divided them several times. I like them because they are small and hardy – no falling over from the weight of snow or heavy rain for these flowers. They’re also a nice way to remember my mother-in-law every spring.

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Crocus bulbs don’t last as long in our area. Perhaps the squirrels eat them, or they get too wet and rot in the soil. I only have one this spring….growing in a mulch of tulip poplar seeds.

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As I was walking around the yard and making a list of yard work that needs to be done, I noticed a holly that has come up near a bush that has been slowly rotting over the past few years. Maybe I’ll trim the bush down to half its current size in the early part of the summer and provide more light to the young holly so that it can replace the old bush sometime soon.

I am using the weather as an excuse to procrastinate on the yard work….just enjoying the daffodils and crocus for the next week or so.

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 16, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Wind Cave, In the National Park, Is 150 Miles Long...And Counting – About 2 miles are surveyed annually and there are about 3,000 unexplored openings that haven’t been checked.

Climate of North American cities will shift hundreds of miles in one generation: New web application helps visualize climate changes in 540 North American cities -- ScienceDaily – The article includes a link to the interactive map. Baltimore Maryland will be like Cleveland, Mississippi in 60 years!

Southern California Will Soon See Another Booming Superbloom | Smart News | Smithsonian – Much better than burn scars and mud slides.

The Obelisks of Heliopolis - Archaeology Magazine – Obelisks taken from the city…a project to understand where they originally stood and the role they played.

In Era of Drought, Phoenix Prepares for a Future Without Colorado River Water - Yale E360 – Living on the edge when it comes to water supply. It’s not just South Africa that has the challenge.

BBC - Future - How Japan’s ancient trees could tell the future –Teasing out how much rain fell in Japan over the past two and half millennia by looking at the preserved wood of ancient forests.    

The soaring cost of US child care, in 5 charts  and Paid family leave is an investment in public health, not a handout – Thought provoking…families coping in the modern world.

Utilities are starting to invest in big batteries instead of building new power plants – Shifts in the way big utilities are structuring themselves for the future – it not all about new power plants.

New molecules reverse memory loss linked to depression, aging -- ScienceDaily – Maybe in the future we’ll be able to treat some types of cognitive decline better than we can now.

The Future of Universities | What's Next: Top Trends – 7 Cs: Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Curiosity, Character and Compassion