Flowers on Table

I have been enjoying the cut-your-own flowers from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this summer. It’s great to have the color on the table – changing every week. A small bag with scissors for that part of the share pickup has been added to the larger bags for the heftier veggies. I often get some herbs as well. Fresh oregano and thyme are my two favorites. I rinse the herbs and put them on a small plate on the counter using it up in a few days or letting it dry so that it crinkles easily into a steaming pot of sauce or stir fry.

Laptop Trauma

My laptop is almost 4 years old…the warranty expires in mid-September. The only trauma I experienced with it up to this point was right after I got it and the Solid State Drive (SSD) turned out to not be compatible with Windows 10. A technician came to the house and installed a new drive. But now there are several things that have gone wrong.

The first was the machine not booting. It isn’t clear what happened overnight, but the upshot was the SSD was no longer bootable first thing Thursday morning. It was a horrible way to start a day. My husband had a thumb drive that we booted from and decided that the easiest way to recover was to do a Windows Reset. The positive aspect of that strategy is that it preserves the data files. The negative is that the applications are uninstalled. Aargh!

Another problem then became evident. While we were working directly with the laptop itself on the recovery process, we noticed that the mouse pad is bulging….a sign that the battery underneath is swelling – which is not a good thing at all.

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I’m not sure how long the problem has existed. For the past few months I’ve been using the laptop with a monitor and external keyboard (note the letters worn off the keys of the keyboard…it’s a good thing I am touch typist).

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I called Dell and will be sending it in for battery replacement and general hardware checkup and cleaning…the last (and only second) warranty work on the machine. It should be back by Wednesday. My husband has graciously said I can use his laptop until mine is returned and I have my external drive with everything I need ready to go. Still – I am a little discombobulated at being without my (up until now) very dependable laptop.

Sometime this fall, I’ll probably buy a new laptop…maybe the top of the Dell XPS 13 line. It’s what I did last time and they’ve gotten even better in the last 4 years.

Nature Finds During Yard Work

A week or so ago I was doing yard work and seemed to find interesting subjects to photograph at every turn. I took breaks to get pictures.

A katydid on the mint…and mint flowers…in one flower bed. I was cutting the mint because it had escaped the flower bed and was blocking the path to our front porch.

A black eyed susan and spiderweb filled with dew a few feet away. I noticed both when I was cleaning out the bird bath and filling it with water.

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I was cutting day lily leaves from around the oak tree…noticed the way the leaves curve around the stem of the flower. There was a rustle in an area I had already cut….a toad. I left the remaining leaves and hope I didn’t disturb the toad’s home too much.

There was also a very small black rat snake among the remaining leaves. I didn’t stay around to get a picture. I’m pleased that the leaves have provided shelter and ‘home’ for wildlife in a suburban setting!

Deer Treat

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Earlier this week I trimmed our cherry and plum tree – one long and horizontal branch from the cherry and a lot of little branches from the red-leafed plum. Both were low and making it more difficult for my husband to mow underneath the trees. I took the cut branches to the back of our yard (the edge of the forest).

The morning after my pruning – I noticed a doe and her fawn feasting on the still green leaves of the cherry branch where I had left it near the forest. It must have seemed like quiet a treat to get tasty leaves that were previously too high for them to reach. I took some pictures through the window of my summer office. They enjoyed the leaves long enough for my husband to see them too. Before they left, the doe sampled the plum leaves too; those leaves must have not tasted as good as the cherry leaves since the duo continued their amble back into the forest.

Ten Little Celebrations – July 2019

July 2019 was a busy month with two weeks of the months a way from home and volunteering. We’re in the thick of summer!

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4th of July. There is the holiday celebrated with fireworks and food and family early in the month. I was in Texas rather than at home.

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. It’s thrilling to see a heron that I don’t see all that often…a serendipity sighting during a hike to celebrate.

Easy drive through Arkansas. I celebrated that the road through Arkansas on my way back to Maryland from Texas was a lot better than I expected – good road, no construction, no accidents.

Marigolds. I savored the flowers available for cutting when I go to pick up my CSA share every week. Marigolds are among my favorites….but the sunflowers and amaranth and zinnas are good too.

Pittsburgh to Springfield MO in a day. It was a long drive with my husband and I caravanning. We both celebrated when we arrived – tired but otherwise unscathed.

At home again. After being away for 2 weeks (not concurrently) I had several days celebrating just being at home again.

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Prius Prime. I celebrated my car that has excellent range and is easy to drive. It still feels a little new and it’s 2.5 years old! These recent road trips have added quite a few miles.

Surviving a very hot Wings of Fancy shift. I celebrated that having something cold at each break (grapes, popsicle, Gatorade) and drinking lots of water enabled me to be fine at the end of the shift….and even relaxed in my air conditioned car on the way home.

Summer campers making butterfly Zentangles. Celebrating sharing an activity with campers….enjoying their creations as much as they did.

Toad under the oak tree. There is a toad that is making its home in the day lily forest under the oak tree. I celebrated that our yard is providing suitable habitat (there was a very small black rat snake there too…which I am choosing to celebrate too…but I didn’t take time to get a picture).

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Zooming – July 2019

I probably use the zoom on my camera for most of my pictures. It allows me to frame the picture the way I want and to ‘see’ the environment better than I can with just my eyes. Sometimes I am at the limit of what my camera can do. For example – the tiger swallowtails are particularly numerous in my back yard this summer and I kept seeing then flying under the maple tree where my compost pile is located. I used my camera like binoculars to see that the swallowtails were ‘puddling’ in the compost pile after a rain. They must have been enjoying the nutrient rich water!

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There was a smallish robin that fluttered down from the maple and sat in the grass – just looking around for a few minutes before returned to the tree. It didn’t look or find a worm! Probably a fledging.

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On the hottest day of the summer (so far), a wasp got a drink from our bird bath. Sometimes I find wasps that have drowned in the bird bath but so far it hasn’t happened this year. Maybe they are getting better as just getting the drink that they need.

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Now enjoy the slide show of other zoomed pictures from this month:

  • Plane tree

  • Fireworks

  • Pocket prairie plants

  • Yellow crowned night heron

  • Great egret

  • Female cardinal

  • Fawn

  • Goldfinch

Red-Bellied and Downy Woodpecker Juveniles

A week ago, I saw two juvenile woodpeckers come to the bird feeder handing on my deck.

At first, I saw an adult Red-bellied Woodpecker coming to the feeder, get seeds then fly back to the maple tree.

Soon it became obvious that there was a fledgling because it followed the adult bird to the deck. The fledgling got as far as the railing and then flew back to the maple without attempting to get seed from the feeder. A few days later, I heard the fledging again and it seemed to still be following the parent…with a little more skill.

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There was a juvenile Downy Woodpecker at the feeder on the same day as I saw the fledgling red-bellied woodpecker. It is a Downy rather than Hairy Woodpecker because it has black spots on the white outer tail feathers.

I had seen a juvenile downy woodpecker back on June 9th which must have been from an earlier brood. It had the same clumsy flight pattern as the one I saw on July 19th.

The woods behind our have been good places for the woodpeckers this summer!

Blue Jay Feathers

One morning when my husband and I were working in the yard, we noticed quite a few blue jay feathers in the grass beside our house. I picked them up to photograph. They were not in great shape so had probably be on the ground for a few days.

Some of them had bands on only one side…probably indicating which side of the bird they came from. This group has bands to the left of the rib.

And these feathers have bands on the right.

There are too many feathers for this bird to have survived probably. We have quite a few blue jays that come to our yard for the water and the trees. Sometimes singly but more often in small groups. During some seasons they are very noisy but recently they have been coming through silently. Smart birds since there must be a predator around.

Battered Squirrels

On two days that I was home and observing from my summer office window in June – I noticed two squirrels that looked like they had survived a predator. The first one sprawled on the deck railing long enough for me to realize some fur on top of it head/neck was missing, and the fur looked matted.

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I zoomed in. It looked like the injury might be healing already.

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A few days later, another squirrel was on the deck (or I think it was another one) with a much larger area of missing fur that looked infected. There was also a wound near its nose.

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There seem to have more than our usual number of squirrels this year. Did a juvenile hawk decide the area was easy pickings for a meal but was not adept enough to get its prey? At least twice?

Gorman Farms CSA

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I am overwhelmed with the weekly bounty of vegetables from the medium share from Gorman Farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). My freezer is full because I have made two road trips from Maryland to Springfield, Missouri since the season started – eating very little at home during those two weeks. Now I am closer to home for the rest of the season and anticipate keeping up better week to week…so much good food to eat! I love green smoothies for breakfast (frozen greens, frozen banana, soymilk, peanut butter) on hot summer mornings and there are plenty of frozen greens in the freezer. The farm also has pick-your-own flowers and herbs. Marigolds (the orange flowers in the picture) are pretty….and edible. I ended up just putting them in the center of the table as a little bouquet.

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Each week the message board at the CSA highlights some of the veggies. This week the shishito peppers and tomatillos are new to me. My plan: roasting them and making green salsa.

The share board lists the contents of the share for the week. The picture below is the board from this week. There was a choice between purple and white onions ….and I picked purple since I had white ones left from last week. The melon choice was watermelon or cantaloupe. I picked cantaloupe because I had just bought a watermelon in the grocery store. From the choice section I chose turnips since the last ones I got were great for snacking. I’ll cut them to use for dipping the tomatillo salsa. There were enough reusable bags in my totes to contain the summer squash, cucumbers, eggplant, and tomatillos for weighing… I am avoiding single use plastic entirely when I pick up my share.

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The cabbage white butterflies were thick on one segment of the cut-your-own garden and I went to check what plant was attracting them – catnip! I cut some for my cat and he enjoyed the CSA share this week too!

As in past years – the CSA is providing great food…and the satisfaction of eating produce grown very close to home in a sustainable way.

Fawn in the Backyard

Back in mid-June not long after I moved into a new home office that doesn’t get as much afternoon sun (and get hot) during the summer, a fawn moved through the backyard and stopped log enough for me to get a picture. I didn’t see any other deer around but maybe the doe was just out of my field of view.

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The fawn still had lots of spots but was sure footed enough to not still be in the ‘hiding’ stage of its life. A few days before I had seen a doe move through the yard with a large belly that seemed to move a lot; I wondered if she was in labor and hoped she made it back into the forest before giving birth.

Our area has a significant overpopulation of deer that is impacting our forests and yards; we are plagued by deer tick borne Lyme disease. For those reasons, I am in favor of the deer control measures the state and county governments are implementing…but I enjoy watching them move through our yard from my office window and have resigned myself so never having the day lily buds fully bloom.

Fledglings through the Window

I moved my home office to a room that does not get as much direct sun on summer afternoons…and discovered I have a better view of our bird feeder through the window. One of the first birds I noticed on the feeder was a downy woodpecker that seemed to be coming very frequently.

And then came the explanation…the parent was showing the way to the feeder to a fledgling! It could have been more than one fledgling because these pictures were taken over several hours….and then I haven’t seen the birds again. Perhaps they are finding plenty of food in the trees behind our house. They are – after all – woodpeckers.

A few days later – I saw a titmouse that was very tentatively perched on our deck railing. It didn’t go to the feeder but succeed in fluttering off toward the maple tree…maybe back to the nest.

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Fast forward almost a week and I saw 2 types of fledglings: 1) There were parents and fledgling Carolina Chickadees at the bird feeder (there were several smaller and somewhat clumsy birds with the two adults)…moving too fast for me to get a picture. 2) A crabby fledgling on the deck railing in the rain. I think it was probably a Catbird fledgling. It didn’t go to the feeder but flew off to the sycamore.

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Overall, it’s been a busy month at our feeder. In some cases, it was probably the first meal away from the nest for the young birds…and certainly fun to watch from my summer office window. I enjoy these kinds of distractions!

June Yard Work – Round 1

I was out in my yard by 7:30 AM one morning this week. My husband had requested that I pull all the milkweed in the front flower beds. I agreed even though it probably means that there won’t be a Monarch (caterpillar) nursery at my house when the butterflies arrive in our area. There were day lilies and black-eyed susans growing around most of the plants so pulling them would not leave the ground bare. I took before and after pictures of three areas. Having the milkweed gone makes quite a difference!

I pulled the plants trying to get at least some of the root. There will probably be other milkweed plants that will come up since most of the plants came out with only a bit of the root right under the stem. Milkweed can grow new plants along their horizontal roots (i.e. a ‘stand’ of milkweed might all be the same plant). I also learned last year that cutting milkweed just causes it to grow branches. Hopefully I can continue to pull the tiny milkweed plants that emerge, and the front flower beds will look more traditional this summer.

After I was done pulling milkweed and grass from the flower beds – I carried the pile back to the forest. Before I went indoors, I took some pictures:

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An insect on a leaf.

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A tiny mushroom in the grass.

Flower parts and drowned insects in the bird bath. I cleaned the birdbath and refilled it before I went inside. It’s more visible now that the milkweed is gone.

Ten Little Celebrations – May 2019

May has been a busy month with travel and prep for more travel…lots of volunteer gigs and home maintenance too. As usual – it was easy to identify something to celebrate each and every day. Here are 10 that I’m highlighting for the month.

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Plantain chips. I made my own plantain chips using a plantain from the conservatory at Brookside Gardens. It was a spring celebration of Thanksgiving – good food from a local harvest.

Caterpillar on the hickory. I was hiking with second graders looking at habitats…and what lives in them (paricularly insects). When we came to a young hickory tree that had been planted on earth day, it had some holes in the leaves. It was a small enough tree that we could carefully look under the leaves…and we found a caterpillar! It was one of those serendipity momets…the children were pleased with their find and I celebrated sharing their experience.

Clean car mats. My husband and I both took the mats out of our cars and hosed them off – no more salt and mud that had accumulated over the winter! We picked a sunny day so they could mostly dry out in the driveway after we hosed them off. I am celebrating a cleaner car interior.

Good weather for 4th grade field trip. Earlier in May we were having a lot of rain…and I wondered how the back to back field trips were going to dodge the deluge. At this point I am celebrating not having a single rainy day field trip (even thouh I am prepared with a super rain poncho). The 4th grade field trip was a close call….it didn’t rain and we managed to step around the mud puddles.

A whole day at home. Between volunteer gigs and travel, there were very few days that I could just be at home. When it happened – I celebrated the day to recouperate.

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Horseshoe Crabs. I had never seen horse shoe crabs in action like I saw in Cape May. They are recovering after overharvesting….an ancient creature filling its niche in the web of life. Something to celebrate.

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Light on flowers. I missed most of the azaleas blooming this spring…but managed to get some spotlighted in the dappled light along the path near the stream at Brookside Gardens. I celebrated the photographic experience.

Pre-schoolers are Belmont. I’ve only managed to do one field trip with pre-schools so far this season. What fun they are! I talked to them about trees. We pretended to start out as seeds and grow into a forest…then have the breeze ruffle out leaves (fingers)…and then we talked about trees and wind. Some groups fell down in a heap when the really strong winds came! It’s easy to celebrate the outdoors with pre-schoolers.

Rainy day with butterflies – Mother’s Day. It rained on Mother’s Day and the morning started slow in the Wings of Fancy conservatory – the butterflies weren’t very active and there were not early visitors. I celebrated by taking some butterfly pictures with my phone. And then the ramp up of activity began. It became a busy morning.

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White morpho butterflies. The brilliant irridescent blue morphs are probably the most popluarl butterflies in the Wings of Fancy exhibit. I celebrated the butterflies that are new or not quite as common. The white morphos are one of the special ones I’m celebrating this year.

Our Front Yard

The milkweed is up in the front flowerbed. Hopefully some monarch butterflies will show up soon to lay eggs on it and my monarch nursery will be in business for this year.

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The day lilies are still just green – no bud stalks yet. I’ll try to cut the buds before the deer eat them (enjoy them in vases indoors) and just leave the greenery behind. There are some black eyed susans that should offer some yellow to the beds once the temperature is warm enough.

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The smell of mint rises as I pull weeds – I try to leave the mint behind.

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There are plenty of weeds and grass to pull in the front flower beds. It helps to have the day lilies shading out some of them.

The ninebark bush has some blooms this year and seems to be healthier. Maybe the deer did not eat it as much this past winter.

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I have one iris that is about ready to bloom. I cut it to take inside a few days after this picture was taken. The other irises have leaves but no stalks yet. They do seem to be recovering from whatever ate most of the rhizomes year before last.

Virginia creeper is growing on the oak. I’m leaving it for now because I like the contrast it makes with the day lily leaves around the base of the tree.

Over all – I’m slowly making progress to get the front flower beds looking lush with greenery and weed-free. The Next chore will be trimming the bushes. There is one I will wait on; it has a catbird nesting in it.

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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Rainy Day Drama

Last weekend – we had a very rainy day. It was good sleeping weather. We listened to the rumble of thunder and saw occasional flashes of lightening. Everyone was glad to get things done indoors rather than be out and about. We made a pot of soup for lunch and were settling into after lunch activities when my dad discovered water dripping through the ceiling near a skylight. Break out the towels and plastic bins – quick!

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It took some slight adjustment of the bins to catch all the drips. Then the drama was over until Monday morning when the roofer than had recently replaced the roof could be called.

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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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.

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.