Sunday by the pond

A volunteer in the bog garden.

Fishies playing around in the shallow end of the pond.

Dragonfly whose name I can’t come up with. Maybe a blue dasher?

Sweet baby robin, looking for a place to put in for a bath.

Joe Pye Weed blooming in the bog.

I spent the afternoon doing some work around the pond. The heat is causing the usual algae problems in the shallow end of the pond. The water is crystal clear (thanks to the UV light), but the little pebbles that line the beach are covered with slimy algae. I have this contraption called a *Muck Vac* which I use to suck up some of the junk that accumulates in the pebbles, but using it is a nightmare! Whoever thought to combine a vacuum with a garden hose must have been delirious. I spend most of the time fighting with the various hoses and trying to keep some sort of suction going. What isn’t sucked out I blast away with the hose. Labor-intensive, but it works and now the rocks are clean and it doesn’t look like a swamp out there. For a few days anyway. I trimmed the yellow and brown leaves off of the water-lilies and hacked away at the mint that is taking over the edge. The parrot’s feather and water lettuce were reduced by half, but I still have too much of both. They provide a lot of shade for the fish, but do get carried away with themselves!

My tummy hurts!

Peeper the stray bunny had her spay yesterday. She’s feeling much better today and has started eating a little, but is spending most of her time flopped on her side in the litterbox like you see here. She’s dug most all of the litter out (and onto the floor, thank you) and pushed the hay up to the opposite end so that she’s got a clear spot to flop. She’s peeping at me a lot and lunging whenever I put my hands in her cage – poor cranky thing!

I used a new vet this time because my regular vet would have charged a huge amout for the spay (nearly $500.00!!) and this vet spays/neuters for the rescue I adopt from, so I felt I could trust her. Everything went okay, but I think the vet was a little startled with just how stressed out Peeper was by any handling. She quickly checked to see if she was a boy or a girl, listened to her heart, palpated her to check for babies after I told her about Peeper’s nesting behavior, and then put her back into the carrier and whisked her away. I returned a few hours later to pick her up, after an hour of frantic unanswered phone calls, to discover that the animal hospital had lost power in the thunderstorm.

Some people might wonder why they should spay/neuter a bunny who lives alone – Peeper is a perfect example. Her hormonal behavior probably would have continued, making her a less than enjoyable pet. The reproductive urge is very strong in rabbits (you know their reputation!) and her nesting, circling, and mounting, plus her cage aggression would have gone on forever. There is also a very high likelihood of uterine cancer in unspayed females. There is a risk to any surgery with a creature as sensitive as a rabbit, but the benefits outweigh the risks associated with the surgery.

So Peeper will be cranky for a few days, but I’ll spoil her until she feels better. Then we can go about getting to know one another, without the threat of babies in our future. Thank goodness! Over the next month, as the hormones leave her system, I can expect her to calm down and learn to be a loving house-bunny. Welcome home, Peeper!

Horseshoe cove

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. – Anne Frank

Rained-out rant

So. Our county fair is this week. I LOVE the fair and look forward to it all year long. We decided to go tonight because the weather forecast for the remainder of the week looks awfully hot. Plus, some friends from work were going and my co-worker’s daughter was singing in the *talent showcase*. We got there late and I missed my friend’s daughter and then this terribly rude woman behind us actually put her hands on me and pulled me down into my seat because I was blocking her view of the stage as I said hello to my friend. I was so angry I nearly spit. At her. Rudeness abounds in NJ whenever you get a bunch of us together in 90 degree heat. Add women who have been paying through the nose for singing lessons for their precious one-of-a-kind daughters and a video camera and you’re just asking for a catfight.

Glutton for punishment that I am, I always visit the 4-H bunny tent. I walk around feeling bad for all the overweight bunnies panting in the heat on wire-floored cages without a scrap of hay in front of them. Today at least some had frozen water bottles to keep cool with. I really don’t understand the point of the whole thing – the 4-H people won’t talk to any of the people streaming by, there is no educational information made available for those who are interested in learning something about rabbits. Nothing but these bunnies laying there like rag dolls. Oh and plenty of signs for bunnies for sale (when the 4-H project is over, of course). Every year I fantasize about setting up an alternative bunny display, with my bunnies in an x-pen with toys and litterboxes, so that people can get to see something other than a bunny in a cage being boring. Can anyone explain the whole 4-H philosophy to me in a way that makes sense? What exactly are they teaching kids in the small animal programs that is socially responsible? I took this pic of a French Lop for Michelle – this big boy was the only one who looked comfortable – notice the *happy feet*.

I have some more pics and ranting to do, but wonder of wonders! Blogger won’t let me load anymore pics! Why am I not surprised? Maybe Blogger’s trying to tell me that I’m too cranky tonight and should just go to bed.

The fair got rained out tonight – my husband and I stood around in the tractor tent for about an hour waiting for the rain to let up. Hopefully I can get back before the fair ends. I didn’t even get to see the pig races or the lumberjack show!

Chaste tree – Deep Cut Gardens

One day last week I visited a horticultural park nearby to photograph flowers and butterflies. I’ve spent many hours volunteering in this park as part of my master gardener hours, but haven’t really experienced it the way a first-time visitor would. I know many of the nooks and crannies, and where all the nastiest weeds grow, but to wander around with my camera and a few spare hours was a treat. The gardens are pretty diverse and my interest is mostly in the wildest parts of the park where the hands of the horticultural staff or the master gardeners haven’t much reached yet. Blogger has fits if I try to load more than two or three photos per post, so I’ll share some of the nicer pics from the different gardens on an occasional basis.

I had to call and ask the staff about the shrub in the above photo. From far away it looked like a humungous butterfly bush, but I knew better. The shape of the flowers was similar to a butterfly bush also, but they were formed more like those of a lilac. I got my answer today – it’s a Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) – a non-native, but from what I’ve read seems to be popular in the south and in arid regions of the country. I’d be interested to hear more about it from anyone that is familiar with it. The flowers were covered with bees and small butterflies, I walked round and round a few times to get a look at all the insects that were feeding on it.

I’m awful with skippers, but my handy-dandy naturalist friend says this is probably a Peck’s Skipper.

He suggested these might be Delaware or European Skippers. I don’t have a clue!

I thought this might be a sootywing, but he says it’s a duskywing, either Wild Indigo or Horace’s.

Buddy by the bay

Buddy dragged me out to Sandy Hook today because we haven’t visited this favorite place in a while. It’s nice to walk with him there because when it gets hot we both can take a dip in the bay. Dogs are aren’t allowed on most ocean beaches during the summer months to protect beach nesting birds, like terns and plovers. We started out at North Pond, down a path that is well-worn during the Spring because migrant birds congregate here, but now is overgrown with poison ivy and shaded just enough to be a haven for mosquitos. Buddy marched along unfazed by both.

I was anxious to get out to the dunes and pond to see the tree swallows and osprey that nest close there. Along the way, I paused among the beach plums that I photographed in April and saw plenty of fruit, none quite ripe enough for picking. When ready they’ll turn a luscious shade of frosty purple, usually in late August or early September. Ever had beach plum jelly? We rested for awhile in the dunes, watching the swallows darting over the pond until finally the biting flies chased us back out to the parking lot.

The park service is in the process of revegetating most of the parking lot at North Pond with native plants and grasses to restore grassland habitat that was lost in other areas of Sandy Hook. The field is blooming with chicory, spotted knapweed, some little-bluestem, and a lot of coneflowers – they’re what caught my eye! Hopefully, in the fall, we’ll find Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and numerous sparrows in addition to the Goldfinches I found there today.

By this point, Buddy was hot and bored with all the attention I was paying to the flowers and the butterflies. I turned around to find him belly-up in the wildflowers, scratching his back, I guess. Or looking for attention himself. He loves to roll around in the grass like a fool – silly boy!

We headed in the car to Horseshoe Cove, where I was hoping to get some pics of the osprey that nest in the marsh there. First, we had to stop and take a dip in a quiet pool made by the tide. Buddy is not much of a swimmer, he prefers to wade and just get his belly wet.

We walked along to the beach on the bayside and found families fishing and seining the water for tiny little fish. I’m not sure what they do with them, but I know these are the same fish that I’ve watched terns catch. Tiny little silvery things. We spent a lot of time here, me taking pics and Buddy laying in the surf, cooling off. I watched a group of cormorants on the pilings, waiting out the tide and drying their wings.

I set out to find the osprey and had to drag Buddy from the water. At 11, he doesn’t have the stamina he once had, and it was obvious today. Used to be he pulled me along behind him. Today we walked side by side at a leisurely pace and took a minute to photograph this common tern.

We found our way to the marsh, but the osprey platform was too far away for any nice pics. There were 2 almost fully grown youngsters there on the nest, waiting to be fed. Buddy decided the marsh grass was a nice shady place for a nap and settled in while I watched the osprey with my binoculars.

We headed home then, wet and hot and tired. Any visit to Sandy Hook is a good one; the variery of things I saw today made it an especially nice visit. Buddy, I think, was just glad to be home on his bed with the fan blowing on him.

On birthdays and remembering

Today would have been my dad’s 75th birthday – here he is on his 73rd. He fully planned to live to be at least 100 and told us so all the time. There were a lot of things, I guess, that he still wanted to do.

This is probably the only pic I have of my dad sitting in front of a birthday cake, and it’s a sad one for me to look at. He looks so frail and sick; I wish I couldn’t see his catheter for dialysis poking out of the collar of his shirt. We’re standing around him there in the darkness, watching him make his wish before blowing out the candles. I wonder what he wished for on his last birthday.

I’m still at the point where I can’t think of my dad without thinking of the burdens of sickness he faced during the last months of his life. I want to be done with this part of remembering. His life was not about being sick and dying – I want to be able to think of all the rest.

I hardly remember my dad ever being sick; until the hospital got a hold of him. We brought him in because his feet and lower legs were swollen and full of sores. The doctors kept talking about cancer and kidney failure and heart problems. All my dad wanted was for the doctors to fix his feet! He told them so and refused most of the tests they wanted.

He was doing pretty well when I first brought him home with me, even though the swelling in his feet and legs never much improved. Within a month he was sick and back in the hospital and on dialysis. Dialysis, at least, took away the swelling, but made him so weak. He refused any treatment for the cancer; always said he wanted to wait until he was stronger. Only, he never got stronger, just weaker and more frail. Then he got shingles, lost his appetite, stopped being himself.

My friend Debbie lost her father early this year. She used to see my dad on his dialysis days when she was at the hospital visiting her own dad. She often told me how good he looked and that she always saw him smiling and concerned with others. That was his way.

There are some happy memories from that time: the way my dog Buddy would greet my dad each morning, tail wagging, when I went in to wake him and my dad’s greeting to us, “There’s the sunshine”; driving from my brother’s to my house with my dad on Thursday nights and passing the horse farms and the one field planted with giant sunflowers; my dad calling the bus that brought him to dialysis the “scat-wagon” (SCAT stands for senior citizen activity transportation); the pretty flowered finger bowl my dad insisted on having his meds served in, otherwise he might not take them; packing a lunch bag on dialysis days with anything my dad might eat, even if it was on the *prohibited* list – sometimes I would add a little love note or a chocolate for him to find.

This is the type of remembering I ought to be doing – it makes me smile to think of these things. My friend Debbie, with the loss of her dad, is a few steps behind me. She is marking the milestones of the first year without her dad. It’s so very hard for her, I know. I am anxious to see her get to where she can remember her dad with a smile, rather than tears; but I am hardly there myself.