Gleanings of the Week Ending August 31, 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.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: August and Sunbirds and Spiderhunters -  Two sets of bird pictures this week…catching up a little on the gleanings…and good picutres to start out the post this week.

Rare Lightning Strikes Detected 300 Miles from North Pole | Smart News | Smithsonian – I’d never thought about lightning or thunderstorms over the arctic….so this was ‘news to me’ from several perspectives.

Impact of largescale tree death on carbon storage -- ScienceDaily – In our area, invasive insects have caused the deaths of two tree species in recent years: Eastern Hemlock (wooly adelgid) and Ash (Emerald Ash Borer)…die-offs that are definitely not the norm. I wondered if the research included these in their ‘insect outbreak’ category.

The practical ways to reduce your carbon footprint (that actually work) | WIRED UK – How many of these have you considered…implemented?

Here's How the 'Fish Tube' Works | Smart News | Smithsonian – And it doesn’t injure the fish? It seems like it would be very traumatic for the fish.

Tracing the History of Decorative Art, a Genre Where "Form Meets Function" – Short…with some good pictures…and links.

Microplastic drifting down with the snow: In the Alps and the Arctic, experts confirm the presence of plastic in snow -- ScienceDaily – Aargh! Something we have in our minds as being ‘clean’ because it is white, is polluted by things so tiny we can’t see them.

Insect 'apocalypse' in U.S. driven by 50x increase in toxic pesticides – Why are we still using such huge amounts of pesticides when we don’t need to….we have methods to grow our food without decimating pollinators and other beneficial insects.

BBC - Future - The wildlife haven in a Cold War ‘death strip’ – The land between what used to be East and West Germany…the borderland between Finland and Russia….places where the Iron Curtain divided people. This is a long corridor of land left alone for the decades of rapid growth in Europe – land where people didn’t tread but where plants and animals could thrive. It is the European Green Belt through 24 countries. Some species are already using it to migrate north to escape the effects of global warming.

What drives inflammation in type 2 diabetes? Not glucose, says new research -- ScienceDaily – A surprise finding….and now a lot more research needed about fat derivatives and mitochondria in people with type 2 diabetes.

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.  

Snow Day

Years ago, when my daughter was in school, I almost always took off when the schools closed for snow – either with vacation or make up hours or working at home. Now that I’m retired, I am still doing it. Having a snow day is a mini-holiday with traditions. My daughter knew all the best sledding slops in the neighborhood. I enjoyed being outside too although it was usually to shovel the drive or take a walk. The snow day last week did not require shoveling since the forecast for the next day was temperature in the 50s. So - I took a walk. I bundled up in lined boots, snow pants, coat with a hood, scarf with a hood and gloves. I took my cell phone and small camera with me – deciding not to take the larger camera since it was still snowing, and I couldn’t shield it inside my coat easily.

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There were about 3 inches on the ground already when I opened the garage door and headed out.

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The fire hydrants in the neighborhood looked festive with their burden of snow.

My destination was the water retention pond. When I got there the old cattail stalks were catching snow and the still parts of the pond were skimming over with ice. The temperature was in the low 30s.

There were two pairs of ducks at the pond! The surprise (for me) were  Hooded Mergansers.  

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I’ve seen more of them this year in our area and I wonder if their numbers are increasing. Were the pair was looking for a good nesting area? I don’t think our water retention pond would be a good place for ducklings although the pair were occasionally diving and (maybe) finding something to eat in the pond.

The other pair were Mallards. They are dabblers and I noticed they both had snow collecting on their backs since they don’t go completely under water for edibles.

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I headed home. The pan and spatula to collect snow to make snow ice cream was in the garage to cool down. I filled the pan to overflowing then left it to prepare the other ingredients: peppermint candy puffs in a Ziploc broken to bits with a hammer and vanilla soy creamer (it has sugar and vanilla already…so it reduces the ingredient list). I got out the electric mixer and big bowl.

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Then I went out to get the snow. The bowl is so large that it holds the whole pan of snow. I added the peppermint candy and creamer…then beat it all together. The snow was drier than expected so I added more creamer and vanilla coconut almond milk to get the consistency I wanted for the ice cream.

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My husband and I each had two large servings to finish it off in one sitting. It was a yummy lunch.

Ten Little Celebrations – February 2019

February is usually a quiet month for me – not much going on. February 2019 was dominated by the birding after the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in January, family visits, and celebration of the staff where I volunteer. It seemed like a busier than usual February.

Conversations with my daughter – I celebrated my daughter being more available recently. Seeing her forging ahead in her career and life is something to savor. It feels good to see how wonderfully independent and caring she is these days.

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Icy day – staying indoors – Ice is much worse than snow but has its own beauty. This one was easy for me to celebrate since I didn’t need to get out and none of our trees were damaged.

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Snow day – What’s not to like about a snowy day if I can stay at home. Since I am retired…staying at home when I want to is easy. I celebrate every snow day – taking pictures and making snow ice cream. On our most recent snow day, the weather was warming to 50 degrees the next day, so we didn’t even shovel the drive way.

Spring-like day – And then we had a breezy day in the 50s. I celebrated that this will become the norm in a few short weeks.

Books – On all the cold days, I enjoyed good books on my PC, on my iPad and regular books. Celebrating all the forms that books come in these days.  

Cleaning out progress – We have so many things in our house that we no longer need or use but getting motivated to collect and then donate, recycle, or trash things is challenging. I am celebrating that I am making some progress…building the will-power to continue the trend.

Howard County Conservancy staff – The volunteers held a big celebration for the staff of our favorite non-profit this month. The staff makes volunteering a pleasure and a shared celebration is one way we show it.

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Downy woodpecker – I was home in cold, snowy, or icy weather and enjoyed birding from my office window. I celebrated many of the sightings…the downy woodpecker the most. It’s small, it’s hyper, and it seems to enjoy both our trees and our feeder.

Pink egg salad – I discovered that adding a few slices of beet to hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise in the small food processor makes beautiful, spreadable egg salad…celebration worthy food.

Headspace app – I subscribed to the Headspace app and am doing a meditation prompt every day. I am celebrating how easy it is to get started and keep going with this app.

Snow Day

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Last Sunday was a snow day for us. It had snowed all night and was still snowing when I got up. Our neighbor had a spotlight on and it illuminated the back of our house enough that my camera’s ‘hand held night scene’ setting was enough to capture the snow draped over pots and chairs on our deck. In the front of our house there was less light – but the oak near our driveway was visible in the darkness.

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There was no sunrise color – the clouds were too thick – but the day brightened a little. Snow was accumulating on the bushes.

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I went out to measure the depth of the snow about 9 AM; it was about 5 inches and snow was still coming down.

The day was brightening a little more.

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We shoveled the driveway. The snow was heavy enough to stick together but not too heavy to shovel easily. I took a before and after picture.

I took a picture of the kokopelli metal sculptures dancing in a low pot on the deck from my office window

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When we came inside my husband started a fire in the fireplace and I went out to skim the top inch of snow off a portion of our deck and into a big pan. I left it outside to stay frozen while I gathered the other ingredients for snow ice cream. I had purchased some French vanilla coconut creamer (sweetened) that substituted for the usual milk, sugar, and vanilla; I added the last of the peppermint candy chips I had bought before Christmas. The snow went into the biggest bowl I have and then the milk and peppermint candy mixture. My handheld mixer does a great job mixing everything fast enough that the snow doesn’t have time to melt. The color from the candy was my indicator that the ice cream was becoming thoroughly mixed. I had to add a bit more creamer because the snow was so icy; it looked crumbly instead of creamy.

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Yummy! It was the best snow ice cream I’ve ever made! My husband and I had two servings each – ate the whole batch in one sitting.

Ten Little Celebrations – March 2018

March 2018 had a lot to celebrate; some of the top ten were unexpected.

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The Snow Day just last week was our first substantial snow of the winter. There had been so many forecasts that didn’t quite pan out that I didn’t bother to buy the makings for snow ice cream like I usually do. We celebrated with just the view and that we didn’t have to get out in the thick of the event.

Beavers at Mt. Pleasant

Two birds with fish at Conowingo. I celebrated that we saw both a bald eagle and a cormorant getting their fish within a relative short period of time after we got to Conowingo.

Another sign of spring – the first pre-K field trip of the season. I enjoy all of the volunteering I do but somehow the youngest children almost always are the highlight of the season.

The HoLLIE classes continued from February into March; each one was a finely-honed learning experience. I was overwhelmed with little celebrations so I picked a bird that I saw on one of the field trips that I had not seen before in our area – a hooded merganser pair.

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The shell spiral in my front flowerbed was a visual celebration – somehow it made the day for me. I think earlier it had been covered with leaves but after the March winds, its whiteness made it stand out.

I also celebrated that we didn’t lose electrical power in the wind storm like a lot of other neighborhoods did. There was some siding damage and at least one tree down in our neighborhood….but nothing happened to our house.

The miniature iris at Brookside were something I did not expect; I didn’t remember them from previous years. Seeing them blooming among the other spring bulbs was a treat.

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Yellow grass might not be something to celebrate in other seasons, but the bright color was like a beacon at the end of winter.

Finishing up our 2017 taxes was worth celebrating too. It’s something that happens every year and I’m glad my husband does more of the work…it’s celebration – and relief – when they are done.

Snow Day - Part 2

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By mid-morning – it was obvious that the ‘big snow’ was going to be during the day on Wednesday. The backyard became a winter wonderland with snow accumulating on every available surface.

The azalea that has been showing a lot of stem and leaf color earlier in the day became indistinguishable from other mounds of snow.

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After lunch I opened the garage door and took a snow measurement on the driveway – a little over 4.5 inches and it was still snowing. I also photographed the sidewalk in front of our house. I wondered if the plum tree was going to have some breakage from the weight of the snow; there was no wind – a good thing.

I decided to shovel the driveway. The snow was not as heavy as I thought it would be – which made the job easier. There were plops of snow falling from the trees and I could hear some slow trickles of water. The temperature was about 33 degrees.

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A little while after I came in from shoveling, the snow plow made a down and back pass at our street. Later in the day they came back and did the side streets. Events for Thursday began to be cancelled.

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The next morning (Thursday), there was still snow on the trees at sunrise. But the day was sunny and the forecast was for a high of 45…probably the last of the snow days! I got some pictures of the forest and the maple blossom in the morning sunlight.

Snow Day - Part 1

The forecast Tuesday night was for a lot of snow in our area overnight and all day Wednesday, so meetings were cancelled, schools closed, and the recycle truck pickup to our neighborhood delayed. The temperature hovered close to freezing. I saw some deer crossing our street at dusk as the announcements came out.

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 I had planned to shovel my driveway in the morning and then again later in the day since the snow was going to be wet and heavy. I was anticipating getting a workout. But….

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The temperature stayed high enough that the streets and driveways were mostly clear in the morning. I took pictures and enjoyed the relative quiet of the neighborhood without rumbling vehicles (no buses or recycle truck). It seemed that there were less cars on our street; the adults were taking a snow day just like the school children – a time to savor being at home. In the front of our house, I took pictures through the skinny windows on both sides of the front door of vegetation laden with snow and ice: daffodils,

Azalea, and

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Bushes.

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In the back, there was the top of the snow filled pine,

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The heated birdbath with the snow knocked off its rim by birds that visited,

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And a gutter filling in with snow and ice (hopefully it will melt and drain gracefully).

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It started to snow again, and I decided to wait for the afternoon to take a walk (hoping that I would not need to shovel the driveway at all).

Ten Little Celebrations – February 2018

February 2018 has been busier than usual for me than in previous years since ‘graduation’ from my career (that does sound better than ‘retirement’!). The activity that caused that was the day long HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment) classes once a week. I celebrated 1) after the first one – realizing what a rich learning experience the institute was going to be – and after 2) after the second week when we are at Goddard learning about how and what satellites help us understand the Earth…and having the serendipity add on to the class seeing the big rock with dinosaur and early mammal tracks. I could have counted all 4 days as ‘celebrations’ but decided to choose some other items to add variety to this post.

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I celebrated seeing 3) 2 kinds of woodpeckers within about 10 minutes from my office window: pileated and downy and 4) the springtime tussling of male cardinals in the maple tree while the female looked on and stayed out of the way (a sign that winter in waning already).

The old crock pot being replaced by 5) an Instant Pot was a little celebration (because of immediate success using it) and continuing.

Usually I don’t find anything to celebrate in the news…but the 6) successful launch of the Falcon Heavy was something to celebrate. It’s great that there is a heavy lift capability available - a capability we need to further our exploration of space.

Several things came together this month – focusing my attention on how much I’ve enjoyed being a 7) Maryland Master Naturalist…I celebrated the 4-year journey.

I vicariously shared some of my daughter’s experiences this month – 8) celebrating her post doc – teaching – and ‘what next’ search. It’s invigorating to understand how full her life is --- how much we still share so easily.

The weather after mid-month has turned very mild here in Maryland. Earlier I celebrated 9) enough snow to be pretty and that I had 10) no commitments and could stay home on the day it turned icy.

Snow Days

The schools didn’t have to make a decision…the snow was on the weekend! It started last Saturday and by mid-afternoon had flocked seedpods

And tree branches….and it was still snowing.

As it got dark, we had a winter wonderland.

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Sunday morning, the sun came out and the melting got underway – slowly. The Tulip Poplar seed pods were still holding a lot of snow at mid morning.

The squirrels came up to the deck to dump the seed from the feeder. I never saw them do it! After the snow got slushy in mid-afternoon, one visitor left some very nice tracks.

The snow and ice on the skylight of our covered deck always slides down the slope. It reminded me of the ice shelf discussion in the HoLLIE sessions from the past to weeks. This ‘shelf’ didn’t have sea water underneath but it did demonstrate that ice and snow can bend without breaking!

By the end of the day on Sunday there were only patches of snow in shady places left…and we had a warming trend for the early part of the week.

Neighborhood Walk

A few days ago, I took a walk down to the storm water retention pond in our neighborhood. It was my first time out of the house after some exceedingly cold days and a head cold/ear ache. It felt good to be bundled up and crunching through the light coating of snow on the sidewalk. The pond is still rather barren looking after it’s refurbishment but there were a few dried cattails at the edge that were surrounded by ice. They had caught some of the snow. It was the ‘artsy’ image of the walk.

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Across the street, the gutter is labeled…whatever goes down, is on its way to the bay. I was surprised at how rusted and cracked the cover for the gutter looked. It’s probably the age of the neighborhood – about 25 years.

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I noticed some of the limbs that had been cut off our street crews by the county to reduce the possibility of equipment damage if fire trucks had to come down our street. The tees have healed in most cases, but I noticed at least two trees where the wound resulted in part of the tree rotting; that’s not good. I’m glad our oak was not one of them.

Winter Tracks

We are getting another round of very cold weather now and I’m remembering some tracks I saw from my front door during the cold just at the year began. I took pictures through the narrow windows from either side of the door – it was too cold to open the door. The tracks stayed for days until the snow sublimated rather than melted! The ones on the front sidewalk include deer…not sure what the rounds ones were.

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The ones on the front porch were smaller but came right up to the front door! Maybe a squirrel? I thought of a chipmunk at first but haven’t seen any recently. We have lots of squirrels.

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We are well supplied with food and have no appointments for the next few days…so we are staying warm inside and recovering from colds until it warms up. Our forecasted high for today is 30 degrees and cloudy. A good indoor day!

Gleanings of the Week Ending January 6, 2018

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.

30,000 Shards of Historic Stained Glass Found in Westminster Abbey’s Attic | Smart News | Smithsonian – Glass found in the dust and dirt that accumulated in the deep cone-shaped pits of the interior of the triforium. Evidently most of it is from the Medieval period.

Streams can be sensors -- ScienceDaily – Using streams to assess the health of a region’s landscapes my lead to more focused actions for sustainable agriculture and development. This research highlights that basic concept but also points to some way to improve the way streams are monitored.

Stunning Images of Hokkaido Covered in Snow by Photographer Ying Yin – It is very cold in Maryland while I’m creating the post…fortunately we only have a dusting of snow.

BBC - Future - The mosquitoes that are fighting dengue and Zika – Increasing mosquito born diseases….new measures.

John Wesley Powell: Soldier, Explorer, Scientist and National Geographic Founder – National Geographic  - A little history – one of the founders of the National Geographic Society.

Scientists find surprising evidence of rapid changes in the Arctic -- ScienceDaily – Chemical changes in the arctic ocean…open waters, increased wave action, stirred sediments. There is a need for international collaboration to understand what is happening.

Hawai’i Volcanos National Park – A reminder of our vacation a few years ago to the Big Island

The Race North – Cool Green Science – Some trees may not be able to move north or up fast enough as the climate changes. Will foresters for the future step in?

New desalination method offers low energy alternative to purify salty water -- ScienceDaily – In places where water shortages are happening (and projected), desalination may become a very important technology.

The Year Climate Change Began to Spin Out of Control - MIT Technology Review – An aspect of 2017 in review. When will everyone decide climate change is an existential issue rather than a political one?

A Cold Road Trip to Pittsburgh

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We drove to Pittsburgh last Friday for a quick visit with my daughter and son-in-law…returning home on Saturday. It was a very cold trip. The trek from our house to the first rest stop (South Mountain) was cold but the sun came out from behind the clouds occasionally.

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As we were leaving South Mountain, the clouds thickened, and we didn’t see the sun for the rest of the day. We stopped at a truck stop between I-70 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Breezewood). It was miserably cold. I took one picture of a car carrier pulling out through the windshield.

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By the time we stopped at the New Station rest area on the turnpike, there was snow on the ground.

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As we got closer to Pittsburgh, there was more snow on the ground and almost every road cut had ice flows. On the plus side, it wasn’t snowing….just very cold.

Overnight it snowed. We were staying at the Hampton Inn Waterfront; I took a picture through the window of our room before sunrise.

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During the day the snow was supposed to stop but it kept on longer than was forecasted. We started back a little earlier than planned. I didn’t take any pictures on the way back; the light was too dim. The rest stops were overcrowded, and we were glad we had some protein bars in the car, so we didn’t need to stop for food!

More about what we did in Pittsburgh over the next few days…

Zooming – December 2017

December was not a big month for photography. Still – it was not difficult to find zoomed images to feature in this post. From early in the month, I selected two fall walk-in-the-woods images: a seed pod bursting open and a rock cliff in a hillside forest.

Then there was the small amount of snow during the month – caught in vegetation and on top of sculpture…evidence of animals out and about.

The last picture was taken on one of those snow days, but the white fluff is seeds – not snow. I like the curls of leaves along the stems and the hints of color in the background.

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Ten Little Celebrations – December 2017

Merry Christmas!

It’s be a month full of little celebrations too! I’ve picked 10 to highlight.

There has been luscious food all through the month. I managed to spread it out and enjoy it more:

My birthday slice of carrot cake has so much icing that I saved half of it to spread on toast for two days following my birthday!

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There were a large variety of homemade cookies to enjoy at the annual Howard Count Conservancy (HCC) Natural Holiday sale. It’s wonderful to enjoy just one of my favorite kinds rather than having to bake a whole batch myself.

A few days afterward there was a surprise event for HCC volunteers…as celebration of our 2017 activities.

I did make oatmeal cranberry bars and enjoyed the cookie dough first…and then the bars (another multiple day celebration).

I celebrated a hike in the woods…seeing a lot of different kinds of shelf fungus…

And a conference about water monitoring….well worth the registration fee and time.

We had our first snow – it was easy to celebrate because it didn’t snarl traffic but stuck enough to make a surface for animal tracks.

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There is something to celebrate in almost every shift I do with the Brookside model trains because there are always young children there enjoying the trains – a vicarious celebration.

I also celebrated a special engine during one of the shifts: it has smoke swirling out of its smokestack!

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Finally – we’ve had such dry weather recently, I found myself celebrating a rainy day – realizing that even in winter, plants need moisture. I also celebrated that it was a day I was spending at home.

Mt. Pleasant – December 2017

I took a short walk around Howard County Conservancy’s Mt Pleasant Farm yesterday morning after delivering the reports of the conservation easement monitoring. This was probably the last trek there until January, so I took the opportunity to look around at the signs of winter. There were still some patches of snow in shady places and I realized this was the first time I’d been at Mt. Pleasant when there was snow on the ground.

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Montjoy Barn has its doors closed. The ramp retained some snow.

The path to the meadow was soggy and icy at the same time.

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I walked a little ways down toward the stream until I decided the wind was making it feel very cold. I did a quick zoom series on a round of hay in the field on the other side of the trees that mark where the stream divides the meadow from what’s beyond.

There was a large clump of grass with curly seed heads moving in the wind. I headed back toward the parking lot.

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The high point of the walk about was tracks in the little bit of snow. There would have been more and better ones if I’d gotten there earlier.

Just as I turned to leave I noticed a fluffed cardinal in a tangle of branches. He was on his way to the bird feeders in the Honors Garden.

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First Snow of the Season

We had our first snow of the season on Saturday and I got up early enough yesterday to catch some color from the sunrise.

It was the non-disruptive kind of snow: melted quickly on the streets and sidewalks but stuck to the trees and grass. On our asphalt driveway, there were clumps of snow on Sunday morning and they all were associated with a leaf!

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It was very cold on Sunday morning, so I took pictures through my office window of the backyard – the sun making the forest look rosy in the background, the pines and tulip poplars holding clumps of snow, a junco comfortably sitting on the snow-covered deck railing waiting for a turn at the bird feeder.

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A few minutes later – I took a few pictures through a picture from another room. The color of the morning light was fading but the pines and forest were still a pleasant scene.

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I opened the garage door and leaned out to take a picture of the milkweed that are still standing in our garden. In past years the plants have lost their leaves before the frost but this year the leaves are still there, and their curls catch the snow.