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.

20190404_084602.jpg

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.

2019 04 IMG_3992.jpg

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.

2019 04 IMG_5769.jpg
2019 04 IMG_5834.jpg

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.

--

The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

Zooming – April 2019

The accelerating change of the seasons in Maryland and Texas…so much to see and do. I’ve picked a few of my favorite images captured with the zoom on my camera. There are insects in at least two of the flower images (maybe a third)….the little critters enjoying the spring bounty. Enjoy the April slideshow!

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.

2019 03 IMG_5483.jpg

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!

2019 03 IMG_5577.jpg

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:

20190315_134809.jpg

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.

2019 03 IMG_5075 (4).jpg

Doves mating on the deck railing.

2019 03 IMG_5170.jpg

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.  

Belmont – March 2019

Howard County Conservancy hosted a training session at Belmont for upcoming elementary school BioBlitzes last week. I hadn’t been to the location since January, so I looked around before going into the Carriage House for class. The plane trees (they are like sycamores but are a little different – have some seed balls in pairs rather than single) seemed full of seed balls. We’ve had quite a lot of wind and the fibers holding the balls to the tree look worn at this point. I wondered how long they would stay attached after I saw the zoomed image through my camera.

2019 03 IMG_5198.jpg

It was sad to see the stump of the red maple they had to cut down recently. Evidently it lost a lot of big branches during some of the recent winds. The colors in the stump drew my attention. The tree was not extensively rotten but there were some insect holes. The stump would have to be sanded to count the rings. The tree had been struggling in recent years, but I always pointed it out because it had small branches low enough on its trunk for children to see the flowers and leaves.

It also had a root that was above the surface and been injured by mowers…but still survived.

2019 03 IMG_5206.jpg
2019 03 IMG_5210.jpg

I almost always pointed out the red maple to contrast with the nearby sugar maple – which is still standing with some ivy growing on it. It was a good concept for student to think through – how the trees were alike and how they were different…both maples.

The class had an outdoor portion to try out the app and tablets the students would be using. I used the time to take a few more pictures. There were crocuses blooming in the grassy area near the mailboxes.

The wind had blown pine cones and sweet gum balls into the same area.

The pond still looked like it has all winter. The clouds had rolled in while we had been indoors. And this landscape shows the dimness of the day.

2019 03 IMG_5222.jpg

I turned back to the view the manor house and notice a maple that no longer had its upper branches. One of the them was very rotten. But the tree is still blooming!

We headed up to the cemetery and I checked the hemlock. The tree looks like the treatment for wooly adelgid has worked. I tried an experimental shot with a cone highlighted…and blurry branches above and below.

2019 03 IMG_5230.jpg

By the time I am at Belmont again – there will be even more signs of spring.

Spring Cleaning – Outdoors

20190313_130225.jpg

It’s still a little cold to be out and doing big projects in the yard but we’ve made progress on a few this past week. They were the ‘easy’ projects. We took the lawn mower for pre-season servicing at the local hardware store first.

Then we planned to take my daughter’s old bicycle (not ridden for over 10 years) to donate. It had been on the covered part of deck out of direct weather but still exposed to temperature changes and some moisture during blowing rains. My husband discovered it was coated with green dust/slime when he went out to walk it around to put in the car. We decided to wait until we could clean it off.

20190313_141038.jpg

A little water and some rubbing….and it looked much better. It got donated the day after I cleaned it.

Then there are projects that I’ve just identified and am waiting for a good day to get them done – like cleaning up piles of tulip poplar seeds and leaves that the wind had blown into corners of the deck and moving the compost bin to allow a thorough turning of the compost still ‘cooking’ (and distribution of the compost that is at the bottom and is probably ‘done’).

2019 03 IMG_3761.jpg

The hardest projects are where I’ve identified an issue but am not sure what to do yet. The most challenging is an area of our backyard that used to be very grassy but the record rain we gotten over the past year has washed away the grass and it’s now a small muddy stream. Maybe the grass will recover as the weather warms. If not, I’ll probably be looking at rocks and water loving plants for the area.

2019 03 IMG_3766.jpg

Tree Bud Project – Week 1

I started a project to photograph tree buds this week by cutting small branches from trees in our yard: cherry, plum, red maple, tulip poplar, black walnut, and sycamore. Unfortunately, there were no branches low enough for me to reach on our oak.

20190310_155608.jpg

The plan is to bring the branches indoors (where it is warm) and monitor the buds – see how many of them would open indoors over the next few weeks. Once they do, I’ll check to see what is happening with the buds on the tree outdoors.

I took pictures of the buds with the 15x macro lens clipped to my smart phone…starting with the cherry. The buds are enlarging but still firmly closed. Our tree lags the blossoms down in DC around the tidal basin.

20190310_144721.jpg

The plum buds are still very small. They already show the pink color of the flowers. The tree usually blooms after the cherry.

The red maple twig is easy to identify - opposite twigs, red buds. I was surprised that there were so few branches with buds on the lower branches; the deer must be the culprits. It took a lot of looking to find a branch I could reach with buds.

20190310_145025.jpg

The tulip poplar already had a popped bud! The others on the branch were still closed. The leaf scars are interesting to notice too.

20190310_145434.jpg

The black walnut has a lot of buds at the tip of the branch. This tree was also heavily browsed by deer. The branch leaked sap as I was taking pictures. Hope is it OK with the water from the vase.

Finally – the sycamore buds are still tight. In a previous year, a sycamore bud on my indoor branch opened and a tiny leaf unfurled.

I’ll be posting about the leaf buds about once a week if there is action to report.

Signs of Spring

Last week, a kindergarten class was the first field trip of the ‘spring’ at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm. The temperature was in the 30s and there was a little breeze – very wintery feeling. The children and I had our coats zipped, hoods up, and gloves on. We hiked and looked for signs of spring….and remnants of other seasons.

We saw daffodils coming up and snow drops blooming…signs of spring. We looked at holly with its shiny green leaves and red berries which is often symbolic of winter. One holly was leaning over the snow drop bed.

20190228_140315.jpg

We saw evidence of squirrels around: lots of opened black walnut shells which had been their food all during the winter. We searched the trees for squirrel nests but decided that the strong winds recently must have blown the nests away.

There were some trees that had been cut down recently. We noted that the centers had been rotting which was probably why they had been cut. The largest stump was near the farm house and the children crowded onto it for their teacher to take a field trip picture!

20190227_111451.jpg

The children were surprised to see the witch hazel in bloom and learning that it normally blooms in late winter. They saw the brown leaves on the ground and still clinging to the branches of the tree – correctly identifying them as the leaves from last summer/fall.

There was a winter jasmine with buds of all sizes – and a single flower. It was another sign of spring on the way. They were surprised at the different sizes of buds and identified the ones that were about ready to open.

In the old orchard, we looked at the buds on the apple trees and the pear tree – deciding that the pear tree would probably bloom first based on way the buds looked.

By the end of the hike – they were ready for a little warm up in the nature center then back outdoors for a focused lesson starting with looking for animal tracks in the muddy areas.

It was a good start to the ramp up of spring field trips!

Cherry and Plum Blossoms

We have a cherry and plum tree in our front yard…and they are both blooming at the same time this year. In past year the plum has been almost finished before the cherry tree peaks. The up and down temperatures this year has acted to synchronize their blooming.

2018 04 IMG_9751.jpg

The cherry tree still has some buds. It always surprises me that the buds look so pink but the petal are almost white.

The cherry tree is an older tree and has more lichen growing on it.

The plum has pink buds and the color is retained in the open flowers.

2018 04 IMG_9762.jpg

The leaves of the tree are red too so there is no greenery around the plum blossoms.

These trees are the best part of our spring front yard!

Signs of Spring

The very first days of March and there are already two signs of spring outside my office window:

A robin looking for worms (not flocks of them yet but single birds…I’ve seen larger groups at both Belmont and Mt Pleasant already this years) and

2018 02 IMG_8777.jpg

The red maple blooming. I’m a little worried about the red maple because we are going to get some cold weather again in the next week or so. How much can these maple flowers withstand? It will be interesting to watch and see. Last year we had very few samaras (seeds of the maple) because some cold water caught the tree at a critical time. I’ll be looking for maple seedlings soon to pull up for display during the tree activity for pre-schoolers; hope there were other maples in the neighborhood that did produce seeds.

2018 02 IMG_8781.jpg