At pondside today

So. I got this fancy new camera for myself. My plan was to take a few photography courses at the community college where I teach and then treat myself to a digital SLR. My husband got wind of this plan and decided he wanted to get me the camera as an Easter gift. I’ve no room for any more bunnies (the perfect gift for a rabbit lover on Easter) and when he buys me chocolate it goes uneaten and is thrown away. I argued (but not too much, really) and told him I could wait and wanted to take a class first. Then, for the first time ever, I let him win the argument. *grin* Then I went out and bought it for myself as a gift from him – that way I don’t have to feel like I’m spoiling myself – he’s spoiling me – with my money – makes perfect sense!

I’ve been having fun wandering around the yard this past week taking pictures of the flowers and trees. I’ve taken a few pictures of the bunnies with little success. The fancy new camera hasn’t fixed the problem I have with using the flash indoors. I’m hoping to get the time this weekend to take some pics of the bunnies when the light is good in the house so I won’t need the flash.

It was too windy this evening for any flower photos, so I sat by the pond waiting to see if anyone would stop by for a drink or a bath. Half of our pond is very, very shallow and covered in river rock. The birds love the shallow end and the goldfish like to search among the pebbles for food. Usually when they see me coming they all wiggle their way back to the deep end to the usual feeding spot. I took these photos using my favorite 28-200 lens. I was less than 10 feet away from this bird with the lens zoomed all the way out, yet I still had to crop them to get the dove this size. Anyway, I liked these pics well enough and thought the dove looked pretty with the mixed blues and grays of the river rock behind it.

Serviceberry, Shadbush, Juneberry

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

The Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) is a beautiful native ornamental tree that is well-loved by birds for its sweet fruit. It blooms in my yard in mid-April usually; at the same time as the apple trees, after the ornamental pears, but before the dogwoods come to bloom. Early settlers knew it as Shadbush because it blooms when the shad run. My husband gave me this tree a few years ago – its fruit ripens in my birth month, hence its other common name, Juneberry. He wants badly to prune and shape it, but so far I’ve convinced him to leave it growing as a multi-stemmed shrub, rather than a tree. Its natural shape is gracefully arched and its blossoms look like shimmering lace against the woodland border.

Bleeding Hearts

The Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is my favorite old-fashioned garden flower. This plant is near 3 feet across and has been blooming in a shady corner beside my screen porch for at least 20 years. Each year it seems to grow wider and bloom more heavily. Bleeding Hearts like shade and moisture – mine gets morning sun and plenty of rain water from the downspout beside the porch. In cooler climates, the foliage will stay nice through the summer, but here in NJ the heat and humidity yellows it by the beginning of July when I’ll cut it back. I’ve read that the flowers are favored by hummingbirds, but I don’t see them here reliably until July when my plant is past its prime. The plant’s wild relatives, also Dicentras, are called Dutchman’s Breeches and have a less showy, but similarly heart-shaped flower.

The Martha Show

I went into NYC today to see the Martha Stewart Show. I’ve never been in the audience of a TV show, so when my friend Anna had a spare ticket I jumped at the chance. I’m not a big Martha fan, but it was fun to get a behind-the-scenes look at how a live TV show is produced.

I got up before dawn and caught a 6:30 train with all the groggy commuters – boy am I glad that I don’t have to do that every day. It really made me appreciate my scenic drive to work. There is entirely too much hustle-bustle and general crankiness happening in the city for me. Never mind that I felt like a lost little duckling following Anna and her mom around – Penn Station and the city streets are like a maze to me.

The show taped lived today and as an audience member my job was to clap a lot and be energetic – not easy on 4 hours sleep. The show set had a kitchen and a craft area and a small greenhouse. There is a small army of staff people that attends to Martha during the commercial breaks and cleans up any spills or crumbs and has everything ready and *just so* for when the show goes on the air. On today’s show, there was some soap opera actor who I never heard of (Ricky Paull Goldin)and Wolfgang Puck, the chef.

Martha made coconut macaroons and a veggie pizza with the chef. We were looking forward to the audience giveaways – we’d heard that Martha gives really good gifts – but there were only gifts for a few people. Everyone in the audience got a macaroon (sans the chocolate coating she recommended in the recipe) – so I guess that made it worth the trip. 😉 We roamed the city for a bit afterwards and had chinese dumplings for lunch before catching the train back home. Here’s Anna and her mom, Flor, looking dazzled in the audience. The taped show re-runs at 6 pm here in the East on TLC – I’m off to go see if I can find myself clapping my fool head off in the audience.

An Easter barbeque with Christmas presents and a campfire

Only in my family! My husband and I had the traditional Easter dinner with his family, then we went to my brother’s for hamburgers, hot dogs, and ribs. I’m not sure where he got this bright idea, but it was fun on such a nice day. The photo at left is my brothers dicussing the merits of vinegar as a marinade for ribs while they enjoy Bloody Mary’s by the grill. My brother makes a mean Bloody Mary with lots of horseradish – I had the virgin version and boy was it hot! Wow!

We sat out on the deck by my brother’s chiminea and spent the afternoon laughing (usually at my brother’s expense). At one point he plopped a wrapped Xmas gift in my lap and said that he had forgotten about it at Christmas time. It was a great old book about birds with color plates that he had pulled out of a neighbor’s trash – great Xmas gift for Easter, no? We’re thinking about doing Halloween at Christmas next year just to mix things up a bit more. We were making jokes about today being like that TV credit card commercial where the family visits their in-laws and celebrates all the holidays of the year in one visit. The photo at right is the gang of us (minus the photographer) – my DH, my brothers and their wives, my two nieces (aren’t they cute?) and family friends of ours.

The bunny next door

My neighbors are nice people; they mean well. Their kids *love* this bunny. But this is his life, day in and day out. He’s out there in the freezing cold of winter and the steamy heat of summer. He has shelter and shade, and food, but none of the comforts of a house rabbit. He is missing out on a lot, as are his owners.

Some info about the realities of life as an outdoor rabbit is available here.

Someone from PetBunny sent along this little poem:

All I Need to Know about Life I Learned From the Easter Bunny!

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Walk softly and carry a big carrot.
Everyone needs a friend who is all ears.
There’s no such thing as too much candy.
All work and no play can make you a basket case.
A cute little tail attracts a lot of attention.
Everyone is entitled to a bad hare day.
Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.
Some body parts should be floppy.
Keep your paws off other people’s jellybeans.
Good things come in small sugar-coated packages.
The grass is greener in someone else’s basket.
An Easter bonnet can cover the wildest hare.
To show your true colors you have to come out of the shell.
The best things in life are still sweet and gooey.

Black fly fever in the Adirondacks

Lake Flower, Saranac NY

I’ll admit to hating just one thing about the Adirondacks in early summer – the bugs. Biting, buzzing, blood-sucking, rash and hive-inducing bugs.

I keep thinking that I’ll get used to them, maybe build up some type of resistance. In fact, one reason I haven’t made the annual trip the last few years is that on each visit my reaction gets worse. On my last visit my ankles, feet, and neck were actually swollen from all the bites and the welts on my scalp hadn’t gone away until the fall. It was bad.

The culprit is the gnat-like black fly. Billions of them hatch in May and June. They fly in your eyes, up your nose, in your mouth, they find their way inside your clothing through the seams, they get caught in your hair. They bite and then you itch miserably for weeks.

Short of covering myself with bug netting and Deet I’ve found no relief, but to stay out of the North Woods that I love so much. The kind people that I bird with like to kid me about the black flies. They think my suffering is funny. Someone took my picture while I was hiding out in the back of our van and suffering from “black fly fever” induced craziness. I think I was trying to swat them away from my head with the water bottle. I was already bright red from the itching.

I don’t think black flies carry any diseases, but they due threaten the sanity of this birder.