This morning early I rode my bicycle to the park because I noticed a sweet smell in the air yesterday and realized it is from the linden tree across the street, currently in bloom and attracting lots of bees and butterflies. I wanted to see if the linden at the top of the long hill up Skinker Blvd. was also blooming and sweet. Before I left, though, I had to deal with the uglier side of nature. Kitten Britches, now 16 or so years old and the last former alley cat, or any cat, I will ever allow to go outside (Dennis and I have agreed if we have another cat it will be an indoors cat) had caught a young rabbit. I managed to pull her off but the poor rabbit was injured and in for a slow death otherwise so I let Britches go to kill it. I had been entertaining the happy notion that she was getting too old to hunt, but her mother taught her well and she is still in good shape. So. On with the bike ride, during which I saw a dozen or so other rabbits, and some chipmunks. The linden tree I had in mind had already bloomed but others throughout the park suffused the air with that sweetness. I wish I could bottle that smell. I remember in the movie Harold and Maude, Ruth Gordon has some sort of smell machine to hold her olfactory memories and keep them fresh.
Well, the arboretum is still closed, so I will settle for a garden update. The plant growth presents quite a contrast with last month- it’s been a slow, cool spring with plenty of rain. The chickadees who inhabited the wren house raised and fledged 3 clutches of young. They moved out on a Saturday, May 9. That morning there was a fog of chickadees all up in and around the sycamore tree where the house hangs, a regular chickadee caravan forming up to head out and learn to fend for themselves. By that afternoon I saw the wren who inhabits the second house we put up staking claim to the former chickadee house. He was carrying out the chickadee nesting material and carrying in his own. Now he appears to be raising two separate families, as I’ve heard they will do. He is an aggressive little bugger- it is amusing to watch him chase the squirrels who come near his house. He dive bombs them, you can actually see the impact when he pecks them with his sharp, curved beak. I do miss the cheery little chickadees, but every now and then I hear them chattering close by in the bushes at the back of the yard, or even in the sycamore tree. Hummingbirds are now regulars in the garden, and we have had several interesting warblers migrate through, and once a rose-breasted grosbeak for 2 days. There is also a pair of catbirds who have nested nearby, and we see them and their young in the yard frequently. The most fun is in the early mornings, when I hear a group of young barred owls hooting and chuckling and chortling with each other like they do. That always makes me smile.
We cannot go our usual walks at the arboretum to watch the wildflowers unfolding this spring, as it has closed, along with many other local areas. So the best I can do for now is a tour of our back yard, which we have transformed over the years from a euonymous-covered mess to garden beds, a rain garden, and a rock garden. As we are stuck at home for the most part, we take great pleasure in the garden and the birds who come there. We have lots of goldfinches just now, and it seems a good number of juncos have decided to stay here for the spring. And white-throated sparrows, doves, house finched, wrens, and the chickadee inhabitants of the wren house. I think they have fledged their first clutch already. Upcoming projects include ridding our front yard of grass (see Dennis in photo below) and busting out the concrete that underlies the back part of the rain garden, a reminder of the house’s first owner’s love of concrete.
Heard that St. Louis may be on lockdown next week over the coronavirus business.
So, the important news: As I was working today with the window open I heard the happy sound of chickadees. Ran downstairs and spotted two chickadees going into the wren house carrying nest materials, so we will have some residents. They build such a beautiful nest with soft leaves and mosses. Last year they raised 2 or 3 clutches. I heard killdeer flying over this morning, sure sign of spring. And there is a true bug living on the parsley plant we have inside in a south-facing window.
Well. The coronavirus has given me time to catch up. How quickly life is changing- all my colleagues now working from home, kids not going to school, stores and gyms closed, meetings cancelled or postponed. Everything changes- I am curious to see where all this will leave us. Dennis calls the suggested social distancing measures to slow the rate of infection in the population the ‘introvert’s revenge’, and it does, frankly, suit me and my like-minded friends who are happiest when alone.
In the natural world outside the virus: I took off the first week of March to help Dennis prep our gardens for spring. Raked up all the old leaf cover, picked up 8 yards of leaf mold and weeded and spread it over the beds. Ginger is coming up, and aquilegia, celandine poppy, wild geranium, iris, Jacob’s ladder, tradescantia. Still very young, but busting to grow as the weather warms. Forsythia and golden current leafing out.We put up the wren house and have witnessed a wren look it over for a potential nesting site. Time will tell if they move in and raise young. It would be nice if they did, since the wren will chase of some of the squirrels who love to dig in our gardens. The male goldfinches are beginning to show their brilliant yellow spring plumage and the woodpeckers are drumming out mating songs on hollow limbs and metal posts.
Went to the arboretum with my sister when she came for a visit at end of February. Things are slowly coming to life out there as well. I am grateful for these treasures to anchor me in these crazy and sometimes mean times.
A marker in the strange times we live in. Would that this full moon marks a turn for the better in national and international political affairs. Though I am an avid follower of the daily churnings of news, I would have to stop if not for the natural world. Looking forward to a Christmas walk in the woods.
At the arboretum we saw woodpeckers carrying acorns from a free-standing bunch of pin oaks to the woods across the way to stash the acorns against the winter months. We noticed this behavior a few years ago, and ever since have been mindful of this autumn preparation. Rich smells, warm colors.
Our neighbors, Stephanie Schlaifer and Arny Nadler, had an open studio today, where I learned of Stephanie’s work, based on visualization of her poetry. A striking work, via the link above.
This year we have blck swallowtail caterpillars. I witnessed a black swallowtail laying her eggs on the parsley we have planted in pots, and have kept my eye on the development of the four cats. They move from one stage to another in a matter of days, and yesterday I noticed one has reached chrysalis stage. Here are some stages of development: