Get out your wildflower ID books!

I’m kind of at my wit’s end with trying to figure out what these flowers are. Maybe someone can help? I know, I know, I’ll never learn to key out a plant by cheating this way!

This looks like it wants to be some sort of hyacinth, but the leaves are all wrong.
These were past their prime, but I’m guessing Bloodroot? I know the way the leaves are clasping the stem is important, but I can’t think of the flower that does that! Someone recently had this flower on their blog, but I can’t remember who it was.

These were blooming on a very spindly shrub. There were no leaves yet and the flowers were on the tips of the branches; the open ones reminded me of apple blossoms sort of.

I’ve edited this post to add this last photo above which shows, rather poorly, what the flowers look like when open.
Ideas anyone?

Rabbits: Gentle Hearts, Valiant Spirits

In the absence of any new bunny pics this week, I’ll pass along a link to what looks to be a wonderful new book for the bunnyphile. Click on the pic to link to the author’s website and ordering info if you’re interested.

From a review:

“Anyone who has had the honor of communing with a rabbit—nose to nose, whisker to cheek—will applaud this book. Those unfamiliar with these dear little creatures will enjoy the heartwarming tales of adversity overcome and joy achieved. Educating the public is of paramount importance to the welfare of rabbits, and the author has captured the essence of this far-reaching task. Our rescued rabbits give all who were involved in the creation of this book a “two paws up”!
~DIANA ORR LEGGETT, founder and president of Rabbits’ Rest Sanctuary and WildRescue, Inc.

Backyard willow

I can’t see a weeping willow tree without being reminded of the one that towered over my childhood home. Probably I’m remembering it wrong, but my father told the story that ours was a gift from a neighbor who couldn’t get it to grow in their yard, so we ended up with this wisp of a tree that languished for a few years before it set about dominating our home landscape. There were other trees, lesser trees, that grew in the side yards; a few messy sycamores and a crabapple, but the weeping willow overshadowed them all.

Planting it in the middle of the backyard wasn’t a wise choice, as it eventually grew so large as to block all sun from the patio and my brother’s vegetable garden. It was twice as tall as the house and its roots found their way into the sewer pipes. The limbs were a constant threat to roof and windows. Eventually my father had it cut down after a large part of it came through the kitchen window one night during a storm.

Once it was down, the backyard never felt the same; there was too much sun and too much space. No more would it be one of the first trees in the neighborhood to show color in spring. There weren’t any kids in the house by then to climb it or attach a rope swing to it.

I wonder if the new family that owns my dad’s house now will plant some other tree in that empty space, although I suppose it doesn’t look as if anything is missing to their eyes. But I remember the tree that stood so tall there, and am reminded of it when I see the first green of a willow’s wispy branches. All that’s missing from this one is the rope swing.

Trout lily X 4

Another find from the brookside trail. I walked past these at least twice before I noticed them, and then I saw patches of them everywhere – most weren’t blooming yet; only their purplish-spotted green leaves gave away their presence. Ther’ye tiny things and easy to miss at about six inches high.

I’m trying to teach myself wildflowers, and it seems half the exercise is in finding them, never mind identifying them! I have to get my head out of the clouds and my eyes off the treetops and look down at my feet for a new perspective on the natural world.

The few wildflowers that I recognize I know only from books and I’m finding the wildflower ID guides to be fairly useless this early in the learning process. Reminds me of what it felt like when I was first learning to identify birds – the field guide only confuses and frustrates. I’m having better success with with a few books by Hal Borland. Who else? One, A Countryman’s Flowers with photographs by Les Line, was a gift from my father a few years ago. I’m sure it’s out of print, but you might find it online with some searching. What I like about it, in addition to the photographs, is that the flowers are grouped by habitat, helping a beginner like me to know what flowers to expect where. Of course a standard wildflower ID guide includes that info, but it’s buried with all the other confusing stuff that makes my eyes glaze over. The categories are basic – the dooryard, the roadside, the old pasture, and brookside and bog and the book only includes 85 species, but I figure that’s enough for someone just starting out. The book also features Borland’s delightful essays; one for each species and includes info on growth and flowering habits as well as a bit of folklore. Of the trout lily, he writes:
“If you don’t know this flower by this name, try dogtooth violet, or yellow adder’s tongue, or fawn lily… The names trout lily and fawn lily come from its time of blooming – late April and May, when trout are biting in the brooks and when does are dropping their fawns in the woodland… Dogtooth violets mean May Day to me. As a small boy I gathered them for my May baskets, simply because they were one of the few flowers that always were in bloom by then.”
This book is almost as good as having someone along with me, teaching and telling stories. Does anyone make May Day baskets anymore?

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Now that I’ve finished ruminating on trout lilies (lol!) I’m off to finally finish up my income taxes. All that’s left to do is recopy them in nice handwriting and make photocopies, and stuff the envelopes. Think I might’ve waited a bit longer?
My husband is off with a fireman friend evacuating nursing home residents in another part of the state. Here on the coast there hasn’t been any significant flooding, but inland to the west is another story. I’m proud of my DH for doing this. I guess we all have our sense of duty – me to the IRS and him to something a bit more valiant.

Rainy day tour of Asbury Park

My husband and I ventured out in the storm this afternoon to have a look at the ocean – can you see just how churned up it is with the storm? No, me neither. This view is typical of the northern part of the Jersey Shore – huge mansions and condos on the right and the concrete seawall on the left. The seawall is meant to keep the huge mansions from floating away in a big storm. In some towns, the people who own houses on the right side of the road (the river side) also own the rights to a private staircase over the seawall. The rest of us get to look at the concrete wall that keeps *us* safe from the ocean’s fury. Yea right. The seawall only runs through those towns that are backed by the river; where it ends it’s replaced by condos, hotels, and beach clubs that also block public access to the ocean. Until you get to Asbury Park.

Asbury Park is a ghost town and has been for at least the past twenty years. There was a time long ago when it was a seaside resort and a family place. Through the years it’s become a seedy sort of place, yet I can remember as a kid going there on Easter Sunday all dresssed up to ride the rides and walk on the boardwalk. My husband remembers going there to race along the main drag when he was in high school. Bruce Springsteen made Asbury and its nightclubs famous.

Now it’s just a very sad sort of place. Most of it, like the once gorgeous Convention Hall pictured above, is in some perpetual state of revival that never seems to come. What’s not boarded up, falling down, or outright abandoned is “under construction” that seems to have been stalled for a decade at least. There’s yellow police tape and orange construction barrels at every turn, but never any work being done. There are still plenty of families who make their home here, and some sections of town have been revived, but I don’t know that the parts of Asbury that I remember will ever get back to what they were so many years ago. I don’t think many people care about Asbury Park anymore or its future.

One thing that Asbury had going for it today was easy ocean access, not that we were willing to step out of the car to enjoy it. The gulls were in heaven, or so it seemed. I’m not sure what this was about, but there must have been something churned up by the waves to draw so many to one spot. The ocean was angry today, but the *historic storm* the weathermen predicted turned out to be nothing more than a rainy day with some flooded roads. Here locally, at least. Some places are being pounded with snow – glad it wasn’t us.

Spring beauties

These small pinkish white flowers are litle more than half an inch across, but when you find a nice patch of them dappling a meadow or woodland the effect is lovely. These and squill were the most numerous wildflowers on the brookside trail that I visited today. Hal Borland says Spring Beauties are also sometimes known as Quaker Ladies and oldtimers might know them as Patience, though he claims to not know why. Could it be that they bloom just when we need patience the most in our wait for Spring?

Today’s weather gave no hint of the storm to come tomorrow. Everyone seemed to have the same idea as me; to get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine while it lasted.

I went to two spots today looking for early blooming flowers; one had lots (more pics to come) and another had none. I don’t know enough about wildflowers to understand why that is, but wonder how to find more places where pretty groundlings like spring beauties bloom.

Weekend plans

“The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing birds is come.”
– Song of Solomon
Yes, they’re metal flowers and metal birds, but we can make do, can’t we?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m glad it’s Friday! I only wish the weather predictions were a bit brighter for the weekend. Tomorrow will be the day to be out and about. I only need to decide where I’ll spend it. Oh the possibilities!

Sunday into Monday we’re supposed to have a nasty storm – a Nor’easter – which might provide the time to veg out on the couch and make some sort of a dent in watching the boxed set of the whole 7 years of The West Wing series that the Easter Bunny left me. I’m not much for tv and totally spaced this show for all the years it was on, but I like the reruns that I catch and will enjoy the gift for many rainy days to come.

It might also be fun to head down to the beach and see the surf churned up with the storm, assuming I can get there and the roads aren’t flooded out. Might make for some interesting pics anyway. Which reminds me that the Good Planets Show is happening tomorrow at Vicki’s place – be sure to stop by and have a look. Vicki’s toying with the idea of having *water* as a theme when the show reappears in two weeks – maybe I’ll manage a decent photo to submit by then.

I would love to hear what you all have planned, especially if you live someplace where it’s warm and sunny and spring-like!

Laura the thinker (lol!)

Vicki at Outside In tagged me as a *thinking blogger* – imagine that! On the off chance that you haven’t seen this meme a thousand times already, the idea is that once you’re tagged, you’re supposed to pass the fun along by linking to five other blogs that make you *think*.

I wouldn’t really consider myself a *thinker* – more like an occasional ponderer or idea tinkerer. The practice of writing something here each day formalizes my thinking process and offers me the opportunity to engage the thinking of you all, which is what I really enjoy. I think we’re a pretty *thoughtful* bunch, even if prone to occasional silliness.

In an effort to avoid what very much feels like a popularity contest I won’t choose five blogs from my sidebar to highlight. Most of you read them all anyway and know how delightful they are. Besides, most of you have already been tagged, I think! Instead, I’ve chosen a few blogs that I read regularly, but haven’t ever linked to. Most are blogs where I don’t comment often or at all, but lurk and think and quietly enjoy for one reason or another. They’re all *thinking bloggers* for sure, but there’s more. Have a look and find out for yourself.

Kelly at Kikipotamus the Hobo is a new friend from the Finding Water reading group. She is creative and whimsical and complex. Her writing is generous and her topics wide-ranging.

Lyn at Wandermuse is an artist/painter/photographer. She doesn’t post often; she’s too busy wandering around big sky country, but once in a while I peruse her archives and am inspired by her honesty and deep respect for the outdoors.

e4 at Green, Blue, Brown writes about farming, gardening, and parenting in Ohio. He’s always got something interesting going on with the goats, chickens or his errant children. He writes a great blog for *thinking green*.

A Tree Grower’s Diary has been a favorite for some time now, but Julie who blogs from NJ recently moved it into her other blog called A City of Nouns. Great photos and interesting tree stuff – have a look.
Another beautiful blog, Graf Nature Photography offers thoughts on nature and the environment as seen through the lens of a talented nature photographer. Good photo tips, too!
So that’s my five and that means I’ve finally finished the homework, Vicki! Thanks again for the compliment.

Coyote wisdom

Trickster, Shape-Changer, keep me from danger.
Cunning magician, teach me your ways
Of magical fire, powers much higher.
Lead me to new life. Brighten my days.

The big news here locally is that a toddler was attacked by a coyote, from the Asbury Park Press (links to full story):

“As a group of children played in the backyard of a Middletown home, an animal, believed to be one of two or three coyotes that emerged from the woods, ran to and grabbed a 20-month-old boy, township officials said.

The family managed to scare the animal away, and the toddler was treated at a local hospital for scratches and teeth marks, in what wildlife experts said is probably the first coyote attack on a child in state history.

After the animal attack Friday off Kings Highway East, near Chapel Hill Road, local officials took a second look at six to eight other recent reported sightings and incidents involving pets that were attacked by what were initially thought to be stray dogs.

And while officials have not yet received independent confirmation, because of Friday’s attack, and based on the description and behavior of the animals, it appears coyotes are roaming in the neighborhood near Normandy Road, the private thoroughfare that connects the main base of the Earle Naval Weapons Station with the weapons station’s pier on Sandy Hook Bay, Township Administrator Robert Czech said.

“They didn’t think they were dealing with a pattern, or series of incidents that related to a pack of coyotes, until we put pieces together (after) Friday evening,” he said.

The other cases include four puppies that were killed and a pet cat that was attacked, he said.”

My initial reaction was of disbelief that a coyote would be so bold. While I’ve read that they’re present throughout the state of NJ, I’d never seen one myself nor knew of anyone who had seen one. Then I talked to a few people who roam the woods regularly or who live in less-developed areas and sure enough, they’d seen a few over the years.

I know nothing of the nature of coyotes, but this story leaves me feeling very skeptical. Would a coyote be so daring as to try and grab a little child? Anyone with coyote wisdom to share?