rain

Maybe having brushes with 3 tropical storms and a tropical system, but I cannot remember a year that I have seen so much just general rainfall.

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I do not watch news programs, nor do I subscribe to the local newspaper. So I have no idea what the cumulative rainfall is. It does not really matter. I live in a coastal town so mostly the ground is sand. We have trees so we have leaves and pine needles that fall, decompose and form a thin layer of topsoil. Subdivisions and developments truck in soil to make lawns, landscape crews mulch at least once a year. So not actually on the beachfront there is soil. Not rich, it’s sandy, but soil.

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Still, the rain drains and soaks into the ground within an hour. Not much standing water so thankfully some areas have less mosquitoes. But the area where my neighborhood is was once a watershed.

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Since we are also within 10 miles of the Cape Fear river everything from here drains there.

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I have way overplanted my backyard. In maybe 20 x 80 feet I have three fig trees, two Althea, two hydrangea, a gardenia, two (baby) paw paw trees, a Daphne, beautyberry bush, pussywillows, tansy, 3 lemongrass, asiatic lilies, penstemon, wisteria, passiflora, angel trumpet, old man’s beard, butterfly weed, butterfly bush, iris, daylilies, Black-eyed Susan, echinacea, mint, rosemary, iron weed, elderberry, star anise, Carolina allspice, Vitex, clethra, daisies, firecracker flower and invasive monarda. It’s really hard to walk around back there. I have a few pots with herbs, tomato plants and some okra.

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I have seen two rainbows this week. One a few days ago and one this morning. Because they are a promise, seeing them always makes me cry which is strange. Gratitude I guess. Relief maybe.

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Because it is July, and the rain, most plants are loaded with blooms, and bees and butterflies. I have often wondered where do they go when it rains.

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Wherever it is, they always reappear when the sun comes out and the flowers dry. And the spiders. Especially the ones on the water spout.

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small dramas

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A week of drama… mockingbirds standing up to a hawk, defending their babies nearby

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Spider crabs

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under the watchful eyes of rescue dogs Lily and Lulu on the riverbank

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and a fledgling cardinal in the road, watchful aunts, uncles, parents, cousins frantic chipping overhead

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so much drama.

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bees

This morning after rescue dogs Lily and Lulu had their breakfast and walkie we wandered the backyard. I disrupted the peaceful silence by crashing a clay-potted plant. I brought out a broom and as I swept up the soil heard an unfamiliar sound.

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Bees.

The busy summer sound of bees buzzing has been blatantly absent this spring. But I turned to see bees flying around the flowers, on the flowers.

The importance of these ordered, efficient, productive little creatures has been emphasized for a while. From honey production and pollination to economy and hobbies. Some have ventured to say if we lose our bees we starve.

I hope we don’t lose our bees. They are an integral part of everyone’s summer. But I remember chasing lightning bugs, or fireflies when I was little. I haven’t seen them.

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Butterflies, beetles, dragonflies, ladybugs, ants all pollinate, either by accident or not. But bees are the real workers. People plant gardens to attract and feed them. Like hummingbird and butterfly gardens.

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So I was surprised in a good way to hear them this morning. I hope they liked it enough to stay.

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intentions

For years every summer from when my brother and I were very small my family and I transformed our lives in one week at a small South Carolina beach town. Our parents, away from work and the daily demands of life were relaxed and actually fun to be with. Trading comforts like air-conditioning for ceiling fans we ate basic southern food, played in the ocean and sought interesting shells. Occasionally a pod of porpoises swam by as we sat transfixed on the porch. Idyllic, undemanding, peaceful.

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Even before reading Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us I have always loved the ocean. It’s mysterious, moody and can be, like me, quite dramatic. So when I retired, moving to within minutes of the beach was a dream come true.

Except hurricanes.

Since this remarkable viral plague paralyzed the world I am surfing Zillow almost daily. I have convinced myself that living in the mountains will be my best option. Yes, ice storms. Yes, frozen pipes. I have yet to make my pros and cons list for living both places. I tend to be impulsive. This is a bad trait when considering something like moving house. Since 2003 for instance I have moved 7 times. Three different states. Four of those moves were for work. That is a lot of boxes and bubble wrap. So this one (if there is one) I hope will be the last.

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What made this hard is knowing I will be a 6-hour drive from the ocean. And one of the houses I looked at boasted a “concrete-insulated cellar of bomb shelter quality convenient for safety from tornadoes”.

So maybe hurricanes, though terrible, can be withstood.

 

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gangsters of the bird world

F998D4BD-7E52-44A6-8179-AD6B88962BADCrows have been yelling all week! When it was warm, when it rained, when it got cold. Folklore says crows can be good and bad omens. They are tricksters. They show up in groups or one at a time.

I could never get a picture of one. They were flying around everywhere and I could not capture one.

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I have raised orphan birds in my life, doves, starlings but never a crow. They have communities so if a baby crow loses its parents other crows adopt the orphan. Same for cardinals but cardinals don’t go around eating other birds’ babies or steal their eggs.

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If you find a dead crow it’s good luck but if you accidentally kill one it’s bad luck unless you bury it. And you have to wear black.

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Groups of birds have descriptions that seem to fit their perceived nature: a mewing of catbirds, a cauldron of hawks, peep of chickens, banditry of chickadees, charm of finches, but it’s a murder of crows.

See my point?

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Personally I think crows get a bad rap.

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weather

This once was considered a safe topic. Now it seems to spur arguments over global warming or climate crisis. I try not to get into hot water at all costs. There is too much unknown and I am always skeptical of proponents of a thing with mega millions, private jets and many mansions.

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I remember as a child sometime between late January – mid February hearing the term “false spring”. This was a balmy break in the chilling frozen of winter. Suddenly daffodils sprouted, songbirds sang all day and there was a delicious fragrance on a light, spring-like breeze.  It usually lasted only a few days. No more than a week. Then grey, cold days returned well into March.

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This week has been a gift. Mild temperatures around 60-70. I can count on one hand the number of mornings I have seen sparkling frost the entire winter so far. I know, it’s only January. But this has been a milder winter than I can remember in the coastal southeast.

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We’ve had rain but retention ponds that normally have water all year are dry. Marshes and bogs are dry. Peeper frogs are silent.

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There aren’t as many of these signs here as in Florida, or even South Carolina or Georgia. I have never seen an alligator here, but there is a small pond in the neighborhood where I live and others have said they have seen a gator in there. I am cautious walking my dogs around here. But I have not seen it.

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I spoke with a couple we met on one of our walkies this week. The husband was wearing shorts but also wore a light jacket. His wife had on a warm jacket. They both commented that their brains tell them it is winter, and where they moved from to come here that meant weather much colder than we are having. But they were not complaining.

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So again, I am learning to take each day as it comes, one day at a time. I learned to slow down last year thanks to Lily and her injuries. This year it is the weather.

Our teachers are everywhere, if we are willing learners.

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We get little hints of cooler weather, then heat, as though the tease did not exist at all. There is a strange phenomenon I have heard of but had not seen called seafog. At least not until moving so close to the ocean. This strange and thick mist appears for apparently no reason. It happens on the shoreline as well as inland.

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You can see it at a distance, walk into it, then right out of it as if it wasn’t even there. Like a ghost. Ghost fog.

I am glad now there are more cooler days than warm. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu are happier, I sleep better, walkies are more interesting rather than an endurance challenge.

Yet fall still has its little surprises of flowers, not just the beautiful changing leaves.

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Most of these I don’t even know what they are. This looks like a single-headed messier version of ageratum (old man’s beard), same basic color but untrimmed.

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This looks like a bloodroot but it has needle-like leaves, not broad leaves, so I don’t know what this one is, either.

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Ibis are silly birds to me. But they eat all sorts of grubs and bugs we don’t much want in our lawns, so they can look as funny as they want. I am glad for them.

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possum

We are early risers. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu go outside for their last evening ablutions around 7. With cooler weather here we woke even earlier than normal today. Lulu got to pick front or back yard, and chose back. Lily ambled over to the end of the yard to scratch and sniff what changed over night. Lulu took the other side. Leaves flew, loud hissing and a grey blur darted out, long, ropy pink tail.

Oh no! Rats again. I looked closer before running to get a broom. Too big for rats. Small possum!

It was somewhat cornered. The house was to its left, I was behind it, Lulu was in front and Lily to its right. Lily had yet to catch wind of it and Lulu was feigning disinterest. It backed away, looking over its shoulder every second or two at me. I gave it a wide berth, and it turned and ran around me to the other side of the yard where it climbed the fence. Lulu, realizing her quarry was escaping dashed after it, too late as it topped the fence and toddled away. At this point Lily got interested and she and Lulu darted back and forth along the fence to see where it was.

Long gone.

I am happy to have these little visitors. They don’t carry rabies because their body temperature is too low. They feast on beetles, cockroaches, ticks and all sorts of other unwanted pests. They are virtually harmless and more afraid of me than I of them.

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I haven’t seen a possum in the yard for a while. Maybe being so preoccupied with Lily and her surgery recoveries I hadn’t noticed. Besides, there are fewer steps to the front door than the back door so because it’s easier for Lily we’ve gone out there more than the back yard. Not much happens in the front yard. The occasional rabbit maybe.

I miss seeing deer. To many people they are big pests. They eat a lot of flowers and shrubs but they are so graceful. Where I moved from I often would see them early mornings at my bird feeders eating all the birdseed, then drink out of the bird bath. It did not take much to scare them off. They would sail over the yard fence like they could fly.

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There has been a lot of new construction in this little town. New homes, shopping centers. Development is normally a good thing but eventually there is no more room to build. Which means wildlife has no place to go. So they find themselves in backyards and some humans are not willing to share. Seems unfair to me. Here we have helped ourselves to their homes, cleared their trees and underbrush. When I lived in south Florida I learned about melaleuca, a small, non-native invasive tree also known as tea tree. These were planted everywhere because they soak all the water with their fibrous root system and make marshland dry. So every now and then a massive hurricane comes along where nature tries to reclaim itself.

Against humans it is something of a losing battle.

I wish I had an answer.

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ramblings

A park in a city where  I used to live had such a Canada goose problem they hired border collies to get them to fly away. They usually came back the next day, so it took many tries before the geese got too discouraged to bother going back. Recently I rode my bike to the library to get some books and saw a flock of these geese milling around, with a librarian gently shooing them away.

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The point was, she said, to get them off the sidewalk. There are these sheet metal dog-shaped statues in the grass there that swivel and are supposed to frighten off the geese. But as you can see the geese ignore it.

I walk almost every day. Usually for an hour or more, now that the weather has (likely temporarily) cooled some. I don’t take rescue dogs Lily and Lulu now. Lily is still building her strength after her surgery and Lulu just doesn’t like to walk that far.   And generally not without her pal, Lily. So occasionally a neighbor sees me and asks after Lily. I am running out of things to say. No, she isn’t up to walking far, yet. Yes, she seems to be doing some better. But this recovery is incremental. So I am often surprised when I have this very conversation with a neighbor and just a few days later they are so surprised to see me without a dog. These are not particularly elderly people (which is relative, based on my own age. To a 20-year-old they’d be ancient.), so I wonder do they forget? Not hear me? Do I say it in such a way as to indicate recovery is imminent? So I explain, again.

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I have a tiny backyard. Maybe 40 feet by 20 feet. I over planted. Three fig trees, a hedge of lemon grass that’s hard to get around, an elderberry that is very happy where it is. There are many plants that I like but I have to be practical. Even though they do well it makes no sense to have them choking each other out. When they begin to die back I’ll move some, though I have no idea where.

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Same with house plants. This climate is almost tropical in summer so house plants and orchids love being outside. But some do so well they outgrow their pots and by end of summer I have to divide them into more plants. Philodendron and aloes are most, then Christmas cactus and arrowhead plants. These I divided into so many smaller plants I finally consolidated them into bigger pots.

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But somehow when it truly does get colder (for about 3 months) I have to find places for all of these plants inside the house. Which means spraying them for bugs and not overwatering or drying them out.

After hurricane season.

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preparation

Before Dorian blew by nobody knew what it would be like. We watched horrified as it sat over the Bahamas with high screaming winds and drowning storm surge and rain. We saw it cruelly inch away from the little archipelago toward the east coast. Until it had passed the North Carolina shores it took its sweet time moving by. I don’t think I have ever been through a storm during the daytime. They come at night when sounds are amplified by the dark.

A few days before we began preparing for it– brought bird feeders in, overturned bird baths, moved furniture, I noticed the milkweed had almost been eaten to nubs, even managed to get a picture of the monarch caterpillars I have so eagerly awaited.

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I have watched swallowtail caterpillars gorge on fennel almost all summer, and there were one or two still munching away

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But only more recently did I notice the Gulf fritillaries. I have planted passionflowers year after year and had no luck. They just would not grow. So a neighbor who was moving offered a trellis which I gratefully accepted and planted what I decided would be my last attempt at the maypop. It grew and attracted its companion caterpillar

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So I wondered, did these survive and move on to make their cocoons?

There are still a few butterflies even though it is late in the year for them to be laying eggs. A fritillary (not my picture)

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And swallowtail

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and monarch

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An angel trumpet, late bloomer since I only planted it end of June

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And an interesting moth discovered under the headboard on the backyard fence, I don’t know what kind it is

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So except for a couple more roof shingles, and Lily having to go outside once in the wind and rain most were fortunate the storm stayed largely off shore.

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