Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our Mammoth Trip

Our trip to Kentucky was all about flowers.  I mean, sure, there was the cave, which, being the longest in the world and home to unique species, is the natural wonder for which the National Park was created... but we all know I'm a plant person.  

The trees gave a spectacular show.  Even before we got to Kentucky it started.  In northern Indiana, the oak trees had dangling flowers that completed the green haze of spring.  Redbuds lined the highway, their brilliant purple coloring our whole drive.  As we got further south and the roadsides became more wooded and less farmed, the redbud understory intermingled with dogwoods, with their showy bracts and distinctive horizontal branching pattern... there's something about the southland in the springtime, and this?  Is it. 
My dogwood sketch.  I wrote, "Dogwoods decorate the forest.  From afar, each looks like a perfect ornament -- open towards the sky.  up close, each bloom is slightly asymmetrical, bracts twisted and misshapen and bruised."
Another dogwood sketch.
 Exploring the forests above the caves, we noticed distinctive burgundy flowers hanging like bells from many small trees.  We didn't know, at first, what they were... and neither did any of the rangers that we asked, and  we asked several.  (In their defense, I think Mammoth Caves hires their rangers based on geological knowledge, not botanical...)  Leaves weren't much help as they were just emerging, translucent and tiny ad the terminals of the twigs.  Turns out, these were pawpaw flowers!  Very lovely and unique.
My Pawpaw sketches and description.
We also saw a number of ground-dwelling wildflowers, including but probably not limited to:
bellwort, bluebells, celandine poppies, chickweed, Dutchman's breeches, fire-pink, foamflower, forget-me-nots, ginger, irises, jack-in-the-pulpit, larkspur, Mayapples (not blooming yet), phlox, pussytoes, ragwort, rue anenomes, trillium (multiple species), twinleaf (not blooming), violets, wild geranium, something I didn't know maybe a snakeroot...

Friday, March 23, 2012


Serviceberry flowers, first lilac flowers opened (literally while I was watching, they weren't open this morning and then at lunch they were!) and rain, rain, rain all day long!  But a nice, warm rain...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rights of Spring

"Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech." -- Aldo Leopold

In other news, this afternoon a storm came through -- presumably the start of a cold front -- bringing much needed rain after over a week of dry heat.  Sheets of rain poured down, and afterwards the smell of spring was in the air.  Delicious!

Can't Keep Up!

Things are happening so fast out there that if I had enough time to blog every single day, it still wouldn't be enough.  I'd need to blog every hour to keep up with all the changes.  we're supposed to get some cooler weather starting tomorrow, so maybe that'll put the brakes on.

The bloodroot, which started to flower on Sunday,
can't handle the heat (perhaps) and by today have
dropped their petals!
We're at that point where, if you look across a field at a tree line or forest, the whole thing takes on a lime green glow... a haze of tiny leaf-outs and tree flowers in the springiest of greens just hangs there.  Our catalpa has started leafing out.  Maples are all flowering now, including the green-yellow flowers of sugar and Norway maples.  Serviceberries look green... everything is just popping out green.  Meanwhile, here are some blooming updates... though I apologize for the photos, I couldn't really see the screen too well and didn't realize they weren't coming out!  Plus, I'm at the stripey-world computer.

Our sedges are flowering rather strikingly.
Blurry celandine poppies bloomed this morning!  So lovely...

Monday, March 19, 2012


We say goodbye to winter with another 80 degree day.  I heard on NPR, we've broken a record for the most consecutive days in March over 70, today being the 7th... and tomorrow and Wednesday look like they'll be then 8th and 9th.

Magnificent Magnolia
Today:  Magnolias of all sorts bloomed where yesterday there were only seriously swollen buds.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

We're Blooming and Leafing

There is a lot going on right now.  And a lot of it is going on early.  Most people I talk to make some comment about how the weather is freaking them out.  My response is something along the lines of, it may be freaky, but we can't do anything about it, so let's enjoy it... because if you ignore the fact that its mid-March, it's perfect weather... not too hot for an early morning run, warm enough to read outside all afternoon, but not so warm that you get uncomfortable weeding, and then cool enough in the night time for sleeping under the covers with open windows.  

BUT... if you want to add more data to the freak-out part of it... I could include photos of about a hundred things, but no one would bother to scroll through them.  Here are some highlights. 

 Violets flowered today, which have previously been noted in early April...


The bloodroot started to open... over a month earlier than last year (April 21 they looked like this), and a couple of weeks before 2010 bloom-time.


Hepatica isn't quite open but it's close, I mean, this flower will be open tomorrow.  Again, this is exactly how they looked on April 21 last year.  Same with the trillium and mayapples (Aprilapples, this year?), below.

Mayapples poke through the soil.

Ginger leaves emerging from the earth.
Other things to report...
  • A lot of surprising leaf-outs, including...
  • Crab apples leafing out (3/16)
  • Willows catkining and leafing out (3/17)
  • Wasps extremely active (3/18)
  • Currants leafing out (3/17) 
  • Maple-leaf viburnum leafing out (3/18)
  • And today, there were tons of millipedes undulating their way across the trail.  I was trying to avoid them, but it became too difficult, and eventually, I had to just decide that some myriapods are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Spice bushes flowering (since last week, but I liked this photo:) 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Swimming, swimming...

Merganzers kept diving under just as I shot the photo... but at least I got a pic!
Friday and this weekend... buffleheads and coots and merganzers... don't these waterfowl have the greatest names?  I mean, really, who came up with them?  Even mallards, so common they don't merit a mention, have a nice name, it rolls off the tongue...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Some Sketches

 I am pretty out of practice with sketching.  And I haven't the time to work on it.  I wish I did; maybe now with daylight savings time... Anyhow, today I stole about 15 minutes while eating my snack and tried three very quick sketches, then later a fourth... but I didn't really "get into" or feel great about any of them.  Ah, well.  They still illustrate what's happening today!
Siberian Elms Flowering

First Forsythia Flowers
Yesterday, the forsythia bushes had small yellow buds on them.  In 24 hours, they grew about a centimeter and some of them opened up.  It's really amazing -- you could probably literally see them grow if you had the patience.
Lilacs Buds Begin to Look Like Leaves
Other notables today:
  • 2 daffodils bloomed in our yard, although most are not even close.
  • Scilla started blooming today.
  • Temperatures topped 80 degrees F.

Things I Love

Things I Love, by Naomi
  • I love waking up to a cacophony of chirps from robins and chickadees, sparrows and cardinals, through the open bedroom window.
  • I love walking around my yard to check what's blooming before I leave for work without having to put a jacket on.  (Today: dwarf irises, crocuses, lilac leaves pushing out of their bud scales...)  (I'd love it even more if I didn't have to go to work, but the point is, no jacket to bother with, even early in the morning.)
  • I love wearing my sunglasses as a headband when I step inside and not having to worry about the fact that a hat is already in their place on my head.  
  • I love not wearing socks.  
  • I love when my closet -- situated over the garage and not part of the heating or cooling system of the house -- isn't freezing or boiling when I go to get my clothes. 
  • I love when things change every day; it's like waking up to discover a new world each morning.  Even after a mild winter, it's so so refreshing to hit almost-spring.   
(Just wait until we get some sort of April blizzard.  Oh, the complaining I'll engage in!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Today: Frogs croaking.  Prairies burning.  Temperatures hitting 80 degrees.  (It's 79 right now, so I assume it hit 80 at the warmest time of the day...)  Sitting at my desk is a bummer.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sandhill Cranes

...flying low and calling out to our that pre-language part of our brains that still understand crane trumpet!
They're back!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11

Swollen Alder Catkins Sway in the Breeze
 March 11, five years later, brings with it spring fever.  Today was the first day of the year we could open the windows comfortably, let the air in.  Today was the type of day when bikers wanted to pedal (I assume) and runners to stretch their legs, when paddlers needed to feel the resistance of the open water behind the blade and the breeze on their faces.  Today was the type of day when nature nerds just tilted their heads toward the sky and felt their cheeks warm in the sun, and smiled, and were thankful to be alive.

March 11, 2007, was a lot like this March 11, actually, an early nice day that drew people out.  And it just got nicer as the week progressed.  Most of the water was still frozen that year, this early in March... just the rivers were open and flowing... whereas this year there's not a hint of ice... still...  It's hard to imagine anything bad can happen on a day like this.  The most striking of contradictions, really, between a day and its memory.  I remember a few days later, March 13 or 14 maybe, we went out and walked by the water and it was so warm... it just made your blood flow faster and you couldn't help but be... happy.  Happy, in spite of it, and then sad or guilty to be happy.  But in the end, we know that days like this were the same for him, they must have been, with the pull of the sun and the newly freed lagoons...

Phenologically, today was a day of catkins, with alders and hazels dangling gracefully in the wind. The first female flowers of the American hazel are open, too.

A washed-out picture, but still it shows the catkins, yellow, and the female flowers .
Female Flower, American Hazel

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Oh, my!

Bluebirds and killdeers and herons, oh my!

Maple flowers and aspen catkins and pussy willows, oh my!

Celandine poppies and tulips emerging, oh my!

Have we SPRUNG?

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Spring Tweet, Etc.

This morning, I arrived at work to a beautiful, though thin, coating of sparkly snow.  Across the crisp air rang out the distinctive calls of red-wing blackbirds... a sign of spring for certain.  (For some of us, "tweet" is still the noise a bird makes!)  So for me personally, March 5 was the first RWBB of 2012, but I know that I was late...

I spent last week in Colorado at the Green Schools Conference, and then came home and spent the weekend sick in bed.  I've heard reports of RWBB sightings as early as Feb 29.

Some photos from a hike outside Boulder, CO, last week.
Another mysterious stripey world...