Spring in my garden

The season of yellow is quickly giving over to the season of blues, pinks and whites. The neighbors are welcome to their garish forsythia; I’d rather wait for these in my garden:

Virginia Bluebells


Meadow Sage

Quince (slightly garish, yes, but gorgeous anyway!)

So… what’s blooming your way this weekend? Still stuck with all that yellow?



Today was the type of Spring day I wait for… perfectly warm, a Friday, payday… and a chance to sneak off work early and hit the beach for a couple hours…

Because it’s nesting season for beach birds, Luka could only run on the bay side of Sandy Hook, but run he did! He swam some, too, and came across a couple mating horseshoe crabs floating in the flooded marsh. I guess this is the first full moon of the spring and the tide was very high, and well, the horseshoe crabs were doing their thing. Nice to see. I don’t know what it is about dogs and horseshoe crabs, but Luka barked and growled and was afraid like every other dog I’ve ever had.

He was in his element there, in the marsh, tasting the prickly pear cactus and chewing sticks after I tossed them into the water for him. He really wants to be a bird dog, I think, and he certainly looks the part, finally, when he’s in the water.

I had to hold him by the collar for a pic of us two… he was sopping wet at this point and had just run off with two complete strangers… such a friendly dog; I think he’d wander along with anyone so long as it looked like they were about to do something fun.

Speaking of fun… a girl after my own heart… searching a tidal pool for hermit crabs. Look at those wellies! She was careful to warn me not to be fooled by snails.

One of my favorite sunset views… the osprey platform in the far distance is occupied, as is usual, but the residents went off fishing soon after I arrived. Some brant are still around, but the calls of oystercatchers have replaced those of oldsquaw echoing across the bay. I found towhees in the holly forest, but no willets overhead, yet. It’s not properly Spring without the call of the willet.

Poem in your Pocket Day

A favorite from Ted Kooser:

The Bluet

Of all the flowers, the bluet has
the sweetest name, two syllables
that form on the lips, then fall
with a tiny, raindrop splash
into a suddenly bluer morning.

I offer you mornings like that,
fragrant tiny blue blossoms–
each with four petals, each with a star
at its heart. I would give you whole fields
of wild perfume if only

you could be mine, if you were not–
like the foolish bluet (also called
Innocence) – always holding your face
to the fickle, careless, fly by kiss
of the Clouded Sulphur Butterfly.

Bluet image from Hilton Pond

First looks

Patrick invited us to share a bit about the first pair of binoculars that we used for birding. Unlike Patrick, I came to birding kinda late in life, when I was in my mid-twenties, and bought a pair of Kowa’s at the nature center where I would end up volunteering a few weeks later.

They were cheap and pretty awful, but nothing as bad as what I see some people trying to learn birds with. I used them for a couple years until I was able to appreciate the difference between a $100 pair of binoculars and a $1000 pair of binoculars. I saved up for the Zeiss 7X42’s I use now and still keep those old Kowa’s on the counter to grab when I see something interesting out the kitchen window. They’re always dusty, but I still see nice birds with them once in a while.

Now I’m trying to remember what my first bird was with the new Zeiss’… I think it may have been a prothonotary on the first day of the spring weekend in Cape May in 98 or 99.

Wild flowers in the lawn

The frustrated wildflower photographer (me) roamed around the garden this weekend looking for flowers. There was nothing new in the woods, so I settled for what I could find in the less well-kept corners of the yard. You might think of these as weeds, but it’s really a matter of perspective…

The bunnies were treated to their first dandy-lion adorned salads of the season!
A bunch or two of grape hyacinths pop up in random parts of the lawn every spring and remind me of my mother who had them planted in a little bed with lily-of-the-valley.

I’m not really certain what this is, but think it may be bittercress? It’s blooming everywhere and must taste nice to someone.

The tiniest of yellow flowers, no bigger than the nail on my pinky finger, oxalis maybe, and nectar for a very tiny critter.

Purple violets, well before May Day, something else the bunnies like on their salads.

A couple years ago when my work schedule was flexible, I completed the classes and required volunteer hours to become a Master Gardener. If I remember correctly, I had to take 3 months of classes and *give back* 60 hours of volunteer work that first year. An awful lot of class time was spent learning things that I found pretty distasteful; mainly what sorts of herbicides would work to control broadleaf weeds like these in a manicured lawn. I’ve spent an even greater amount of hours pulling these weeds, and the summer weeds, and the fall weeds, and the winter weeds in the county parks where I do the majority of my volunteer hours these days.

The weeds always win. There’s always more of them. Why not find a way to enjoy them?

Count the fishies

The first summer we put in our pond we were pretty conservative with the number of fish we provided for. I think we started with less than twenty and I worried that even that small number was too much for our 1100 gallons. There was, of course, some formula involving the number of gallons divided by the ‘inches of fish’ that confounded me, as does most math, so we sort of ignored it and hoped that we didn’t have too many fish to overload the filtration system.

Pond books also had me scared to death to actually feed them very much food. I had the idea that if I fed them too much, the pond would quickly go green and the goldfish would grow to monstrous proportions in just one season. So I fed them once a day, if I remembered.

However many years out now… 6 or 7 since we put it in… I’ve decided that most of what I read in books is baloney. Maybe you have to worry about all that crap if you have a really small pond and man-eating koi, or if you think of a garden pond in terms of an indoor tropical aquarium, or have no means of filtering it, but I’ve found that it takes care of itself pretty well so long as I just leave it alone!

And the fish, well, they’re taking pretty good care of themselves too and multiplying. We added three small koi two summers ago and they seem to really like it here. They’ve certainly added some color to the mix of babies. Somehow the twenty or so survivors that we started with last spring have turned into…

Well, I’ll let you guess. You can try counting them in the pic, but like those count-the-jelly-beans-in-the-jar contests, it’s much more fun to just eyeball it and make a guess.

The person who guesses with the closest number wins all of this season’s babies!


Note: I’ve finally added a category in the sidebar for pond posts, so if you should ever be in the mood for reading more, go there.

I fell in love today…

Anything else like this wouldn’t ordinarily garner a second glance from me… yellow… not my type. Not my type at all.

But there was something to this yellow that caused me to turn my head and then captured me. A clear pure yellow on dainty pointed petals that completely stole my heart.

The shape to the leaves called to mind something familiar, some other love that I might’ve already met. Tumbling down a little hillside of dappled sun as it was, I was smitten, but can’t come up with a name. Anyone know this handsome little flower?

In which I foresee the future and rant some

Today was a beautiful day, so beautiful and warm for the first time that it was hard to stay inside at work for so many hours.

Spring fever got the best of me this evening and I skipped the gym (again!) and wandered around the garden instead to encourage the bluebells and bleeding hearts in their progress towards blooming. I checked in with the fish in their temporary home until the pond is cleaned (soon!) and tried to find a frog or two hidden amongst the muck at the bottom. Once it started to get dark, I walked the farm fields in back hoping for woodcock. No luck; it’s too late and I missed my chance for the year. I knew it was all wrong when I heard only robins caroling and no white-throated sparrows. Usually, I know to expect the peenting to begin once the white-throats have quieted down for the night. The robins are singing at dusk and the woodcock have moved on.

In short, it was another of those days that left with me nothing much to blog about. Around 9 pm I finally got to open the mail and found my topic for the day: my impending poverty.


My birthday’s coming up in a couple months and as you working people know, Social Security sends out an estimated benefits statement each year. Mostly I don’t pay much mind to it because the idea of retirement is so far off for me now that it feels like a waste of time to even contemplate it. But I spent some time looking at those numbers tonight and am sort of sorry I did.

The bad news is that if I continue to work two jobs until I’m 62 (another 25 years or so) I’ll have earned enough to qualify myself for a whopping $576 in monthly benefits. $576 a month is way below the federal poverty level, you know.

Worse is that if I continue to work two jobs for another 30 years, I’ll still qualify for benefits that keep me below the federal poverty level, but which are too high to entitle me to food stamps or any other sort of government assistance.

Worse still is that if I continue to work two jobs for another 33 years (until I’m 70 for christsakes!) I’ll barely qualify for enough to keep me out of the poorhouse.

Does anyone else find this terribly depressing?

Can anyone wonder why I try to be so kind to my poor downtrodden clients? I’ll be one of them someday!


Granted, I’ve not made lucrative career choices and don’t believe it’s up to the government to support me in my old age, but jeez! Where’s the motivation to go to work on a sunny spring day?

The truth of the matter is that I can also expect a pension as a public employee, assuming the other taxpayers in my fine state don’t whittle that away to nothing by the time I’m old and gray. ‘Taxpayers’ seem to think that we public employees, your teachers and public health nurses and garbage men, and even us dopey social workers, have too many perks and earn too much and shouldn’t also earn a nice pension for our old age. The truth is in those numbers though… I earn so little as a public employee that, were it not for that anticipated pension, I’d be going to work everyday for the rest of eternity only to set myself up to be poor in the future.

I’m thinking of leaving it all behind… running off to join the circus or finding a band that needs a groupie or setting up a lemonade stand on some deserted beach in the Bahamas; anything to avoid the seeming drudgery of working everyday for nothing.

Maybe I should just find a really good financial advisor instead.