Friday, December 28, 2007

Snowy December in New Hampshire

Last year ski season didn't get started until late January, early February. I remember a few balmy January days with temperatures near 60 degrees. This year, the ski season got started before winter arrived on the calendar. Tonight I am awaitng our sixth snow storm. It will probably only bring a couple of inches to my part of the state before it turns to sleet and freezing rain. But that snow amount will be added to what has already fallen in the last two weeks.

As of today, New Hampshire has moved up to the 3rd snowiest December in the state's history since records were first kept in the late 1800's! Although there are only a few days left in the month, it is possible we will break or tie the number one record holder. There are two additional snow events in the weather forcast before New Years Day. This is the heavy wet snow. Many people have to shovel their roofs. On the plus side, New Hampshire is a tourist state with lots of skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. All this snow is good for the state and it sure is pretty. I leave you with some photos I took recently. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

The driveway is down there somewhere!

Sunrise kisses the treetop of one tree in the back yard.

The day after the storm, the sunrise peaks through the trees across the street.

Happy New Year!!! :-)

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I've been tag.. er hooplahed! Here are the rules:

1. List 12 random things about yourself that has to do with Christmas
2. Please refer to it as a 'hoopla' and not the dreaded 'm'-word
3. You have to specifically tag people when you're done. None of this "if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged" stuff is allowed...then nobody ends up actually doing it. The number of people who you tag is really up to you -- but the more, the merrier to get this 'hoopla' circulating through the blogosphere.
4. Please try and do it as quickly as possible. The Christmas season will be over before we know it and I'd like to get as many people involved as possible.
5. If you want to -- please give me, Andrea, some link-love as the 'Hoopla-Creator'. I love new blog-traffic.

Before I get to my Hoolpla, here is how the hoopla got to me:

Sharon at Sit With Me Awhile started this Hoopla. I think she hooplahed
Denise at Samaritan Women who tag... er hooplahed
Mary at Mary's Writing Nook who tag... er hooplahed me :-)

1) One Christmas gift that stands out in my memory is the beautiful white angora tam that Grandma knitted for me when I was about 11 years old.

2) I don't know how old I was, but I must have been around seven or eight when Grandma took me to Boston on the train. I don't remember much except that we stopped to look in a store window that was set up with a beautiful village. A little locomotive traveled around the village. In another window there were mechanical dolls. One was dressed in a cranberry colored coat with a white-fur-lined hood. I was mezmerized by it all!

3) Although I am a terrible singer, I thoroughly enjoyed the year my older cousin took me along with her friends caroling. We had a great time singing - people came to their doors and windows, smiled and waved. Later we went back to her house for hot chocolate.

4) I was deeply touched by my husband's sister and her husband the Christmas after my husband, Dave, had triple bypass surgery. He had been out of work since October and we didn't have money to buy presents for the children. Kathy and Skip arrived Christmas morning with large bags filled with presents for the children, Dave and me. It was an unexpected kindness and thoughtfullness I will never forget.

5) My Christmas treasures are all the handmade cards and drawings my children and grandchildren have given me.

6) Dave and I laughed so hard we were in tears the Christmas that my son and his girlfriend (soon to be daughter-in-law) gave us a Universal remote and a calculator. The remote, for Dave and the calculator for me. Why did we laugh so hard? They were huge! So huge that we could not possibly lose them, nor did we need our glasses to use them. Kevin and Chrissy thought it was a joke - we still use them!!

7) That same year, Chrissy and I had our own laugh - I gave her a book I had just heard of and she gave me a book she had just heard of - The DaVinci Code!! LOL

8) For many years, my daughter Mariah and my grandchildren, Zach and Keely would gather round the tree. The children would decorate it, which was always interesting with delightful results. Then we would sing Christmas carols and drink hot chocolate in Mariah's special Christmas cups.

9) We have a spare room in the cellar. For a number of years, it became the Christmas room. Mariah, who is very artistic, would help me decorate it. She did all the climbing and pinning. Her ideas always gave the room that special extra magical look. I enjoyed the time with her.

10) My favorite Christmas carol is "The Little Drummer Boy."

11) I watch "It's a Wonderful Life" every year and I always cry. It is so hopeful!

12) Christmas is a time for family and friends to be together and to count our blessing - we are together.

That's my "Hoopla". Now in order to comply with the rules, I just need five volunteers who will let me tag... er hooplah them! LOL

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Most Welcome Backyard Visitors

Wednesday, my grandaughter Keely called to me and my grandson Zach in a hushed sort of voice. I went out to the kitchen and she was standing like a statue by the window that looks out on the back yard. She whispered for us to slowly come to the window. There in the backyard were two deer. One was very large, the other smaller. They were eating some of the branches on a pine tree. I took a picture of the smaller one but it didn't come out very well. The screen was still in the closed window, so it made for a blurred photo.

The deer actually seemed so much larger than those we usually see. I think that is due to the fact that we only see them in the late spring and summer. On those rare occasions when they come to the back yard, they are usually partially hidden by foliage. They don't stay long. Usually we spot them across the street at the far side of the baseball field. Again, they don't linger.

Wednesday was different. We watched them for a good 10 minutes. They wandered from the far side of the pond to the other end of the house. Slowly we made our way to the bedroom facing the woodsy area at that end of the house. It was dusk and snowing, but we had no problem watching them. They were beautiful. Finally they made their way to the woods across the street. I managed to get one picture in which, if you look carelfully, you can see them. The sky had darkened by this time and it is reflected in the photo.

Dave told a co-worker about our adventure. He suggested a feed that we could put out to attract the deer back to the yard. Dave bought it. It smells good enough to eat. It looks similar to granola. Dave had put some out Friday, Saturday and today. There are all kinds of deer tracks in the area. Each morning when he checks, all the feed is gone!

Today he put a motion sensor out there that beeps softly in the house whenever disturbed. Hopefully, we will get to see them again and get some good photos. (Yes, we took the screen out - finally. LOL).

Zach, Keely and I were enthralled watching them. They are so beautiful. It was a wonderful experience for us to share. With a little luck, we will have more opportunities to see these beautiful and most welcome backyard visitors!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"Twelve Questions of Christmas Meme"

Here is the "Twelve Questions of Christmas Meme" I saw at my good friend Renie's blog, Renie Burghardts World. It's a lot of fun. If you would like to give it a try, click on over to Hootin' Anni's Blog. Hootin Anni created it and has graciously provided the graphic, too!

1. Christmas is beautiful. [fill in the blank with ONE WORD]

2. In memories, what was the best part of your Christmases past?
Watching my children on Christmas morning!

3. Was Santa ever good to you?
Yes, he has given me many wonderful surprises over the year! I'm glad I married him!

4. Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or both?
One gift Christmas Eve and the rest Christmas Day.

5. Is there something you make each and every year? [craft or recipe]
I used to make fudge. When the kids were little, we made it as a family. They are grown now. I only make it once in a while.

Marshmallow Fluff Fudge
2 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 stick butter or margarine
1 5.33 oz. can evaporated milk (3/4 c.)
1 Jar (7 1/2oz) Marshmallow Fluff
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1 12-oz. package semisweet-chocolate pieces
1 /2 c. chopped walnuts

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan; set aside. In large saucepan combine first 5 ingredients. Stir over low heat until blended. Heat to a full-rolling boil being careful not to mistake escaping air bubbles for boiling. Boil slowly, stirring constantly, 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and chocolate until chocolate is melted. Add nuts. Turn into greased pan and cool. Makes 2 1/2 pounds.

6. What is your favorite five[5] Christmas songs/hymns?
The Little Drummer Boy
Joy to the World
O Holy Night
Feliz Navidad
Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

7. Is there a new tradition for Christmas since your childhood days?
On Christmas morning we all (my husband (aka Santa), my grown son and his fiance, my grown daughter and my two grandchildren) have a continental breakfast together and open presents. The main attraction is watching my grandchildren open their presents. It is very special.
It's usually filled with loads of laughter!

8. Describe one of your Christmas trips. [whether it's across town or across country]
Last year, we had Christmas morning at my daughter's house. Since I'm pretty much homebound, it was a real treat for me. She only lives about a mile or two away, so it was a short trip. I loved seeing her house so beautifully decorated. My grandchildren had much to show me! It was delightful!

9. Do you have a special Christmas outfit to wear for the day?
No. I usually wear my slacks and a favorite blouse and scarf.

10. Have YOU or any of your family members sat on Santa's lap?
Yes, long, long ago.

11. What is/or will be on your Christmas tree this year?
I don't know. We are planning on some construction in the spring. There is a beautiful little tree - I think it is a spruce, growing right in the middle of the area to be disturbed. We may cut it down and use that for our tree. We have cut down trees on our property in the past. We've been lucky to have so many trees!

12. Do you/or have you decorated your yard for Christmas?
Not usually. One year, my daughter and the children decorated some of the trees in the front yard. It was beautiful!!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Nor'easter Hits New Hampshire!

It started snowing last night. Actually, it began as freezing rain. It switched over to snow by early morning. The roads were icy; there were many fender benders around the state. It is supposed to stop snowing here tonight. It will continue to snow in the northern part of the state until tomorrow. Skiers are delighted and shovelers are not!

Snow didn't slow the birds down. Chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice flew to the feeders, grabbed their seeds and were off to the branches to crack them open. They don't seem to mind the storm.

The kids are happy about a day off from school. My husband was not able to go to work. The driving was treacherous, even more so in the area near his workplace. The world will look pretty tomorrow and everything will be back to normal. We got through this first nor'easter of the season just fine. As for me, I'm looking forward to the last nor'easter of the season!

Animal Personality Test

Your Animal Personality

Your Power Animal: Deer

Animal You Were in a Past Life: Panda

You are a fun-seeker - an adventurous, risk-taker.
While you are spontaneous, you are not very rational.

Thank you for this fun test, Michele!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What Kind of Friend...

You Are a Good Friend Because You're Supportive

You are almost like a life coach for your best friends.

You give them help when they need it... but you also know when to give them a push.

People tend to rely on you for moral support and advice.

You've probably always been mature for your age, so this is a role that's you're comfortable with.

A friend like you is one of the rarest kinds.

You are both a good mentor and companion.

Your friends need you most when: They are confused or worried.

You really can't be friends with: Someone who only wants to complain.

Your friendship quote: "The only way to have a friend is to be one."

I saw this at Michele's Writing the Cyber Highway as part of her "Fun Weekend" posts. Join in the fun!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

It Snowed!

We had our first snow on Tuesday, the 20th. There was only an inch or two accumulation. Since it remained cold for a few days, the snow coated the ground until Thanksgiving. It seems snow and cold temperatures made the birds very hungry. They were flitting back and forth between the bird feeders and the trees all day.

It was later in the day when I took these photos so it was getting dusk and the birds had gone, except for one little chickadee. He traveled between the feeder and the birch tree in the photo above. He must have been feeling a little insecure. Instead of flying directly between the two, he would disappear into the small pines in the walkway to emerge a few minutes later.

It was a bit chilly in the house. Oscar, our dachshund, pulled a couch pillow down over himself. His way of saying, "Turn up the heat!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fun Stuff - What Purple Says About Me!

What Your Favorite Color Purple Says About You:
Intuitive --- Seeking --- CreativeKind --- Self-Sacrificing --- Growth OrientedStrong --- Very Wise --- Rare

Friday, November 9, 2007

First Frost

Opaque windows tried to hide the secret of the night. But it couldn't be kept. The deck boards crackled under foot this morning. The unseasonable warmth of September and October could not last long into November. A lone leaf lay covered in frost.

This morning, frost blanketed my world.

It looked as though a light snow had kissed the earth.

A chilly 26 degrees dressed my yard in shimmering, frosty sequins.

Oak leaves, edges etched in icy silver, sparkle briefly in one final glorious display.

Jack Frost beckons Old Man Winter.

Monday, November 5, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

Michele at Writing the Cyber Highway tagged me for a meme entitled: "What would I write if I had an extra hour every day?"

Here is my list:
1) Write a novel, a mystery/suspense novel.
2) I would learn how to write poetry. Sometimes, I just want to say something that feels as though it belongs in a poem.
3) I would try my hand at a TV episode. I often think of twists on those "ripped from the headlines" series.
4) I would practice writing faster. I am the world's slowest writer.
5) I'm afraid I will have to stop here because this is more than I could handle until I accomplish #4!

Thank you for tagging me, Michele. Although my list is short, writing it made me think. It's time to get going on it even without the extra hour. :-)

Unless she has been tagged already or does not have the time, I tag Mary!

Image courtesy of

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Seven Random Facts Meme

Mary at Mary's Writing Nook tagged me for a Seven Random Facts About Me meme.

This was fun! For better or worse, here they are:

1) I was my class Spelling Bee champion in the seventh grade.
2) I can read and write backwards. I can also read a page that is upside down, as well as write upside down and write backwards, upside down.
3) When I was about 10 years old I was standing at the stove talking to my mother. Suddenly her eyes widened in terror and she started rapidly patting the back of my head. My hair had caught fire from the burner flame on the stove. I always thought that was brave of her.
4) I love to read mystery/suspense novels.
5) My very favorite song is Nessun Dorma sung by Luciano Pavarotti. It is so beautiful, it brings me to tears.
6) I love to sing. Unfortunately, no one within the sound of my voice likes for me to sing!
7) The farthest I've ever been from New Hampshire is Dallas, Texas. The plane was diverted to Houston due to tornados. I was very nervous. Fortunately, the man sitting next to me was an airline pilot. He explained how these situations worked and I stopped being nervous.

I am supposed to tag other bloggers. If they want to and have the time, I tag:
Renie at Renie Burghardt's World
Michele at Writing the Cyber Highway

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Naked Eye Comet!

"Comet Holmes brightens almost a million times" read the headlines on October 25th. Almost overnight a comet difficult to find in very good telescope made itself visible in the night sky. I strained to spot the naked eye comet in the constellation Perseus. According to an article I read, it would appear as a fuzz ball. I didn't see a fuzz ball, but I did see a star that didn't belong in Perseus. Sure enough, a look through my binoculars revealed a big fuzzy ball with a bright center - Comet Holmes. It wasn't until the following night, as the comet continued to brighten, that without the aid of binoculars, I spotted the fuzz ball where its star-like imposter had been the night before.

It is expected to remain visible with the naked eye for the next couple of weeks, possibly continuing to brighten. You can spot it, too, if you know where to look. In the early evening look to the northeast for Cassiopeia, which appears to be the letter W standing on its side. Perseus is located below Cassiopeia and slightly to the east. Part of the constellation forms a triangle. Look to the bottom left point of the triangle. It may look like a star or a fuzzy patch depending on your eyesight and the darkness of the sky. That is Comet Holmes. Binoculars reveal that it is not your typical comet. It has no tail; it is circular with a bright center. If you have problems finding it, use binoculars to slowly sweep the general area until it comes into view. It is so bright and round, that you will know immediately that it is not a star. has an impressive photo gallery of Comet Holmes photos taken by amateur astronomers from all over the world. Most of these are from the northern hemisphere, but I noticed some Australia.

By the way, if you have never seen the Andromeda Galaxy, this would be a good time to do so! Andromeda is marked in the sky chart. Again, use Cassiopeia as your guide. From the most northerly star (the top), look east (to the right) until you see a fuzzy patch. If your eyesight doesn't permit or your sky is not dark enough, use binoculars. You won't be able to miss it.

Clear skies!

I made this star chart using the free software, Cartes du Ciel.
Cartes du Ciel
Sky Charts
Free program to draw sky charts
For use with Windows 95/98/NT/2000/XP

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Is This Sedum?

Last week, before our septic woes, I saw a post at Mary's Writing Nook, asking the identity of her plant. I think someone said it might be a sedum. I have a plant that I think is the same. I love this plant. It's very pretty. It blooms late in the summer into early fall. Bees love it. This is the best photo I have of it when it was in bloom. I don't have a picture of the entire plant. Fortunately, I was testing out the macro function on my camera when this bee landed on the plant. I never thought I would deliberately get this close to a bee! LOL

If anyone knows what plant this is, I sure would appreciate it if you would tell me. I would love to get more!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An Award for Me! :-)

My dear friend Mary has honored me with the Christmas Spirit Award. According to Santa, "Quite simply it is those that have a generous and giving nature. Those who care about others. Those who have a kind word to say or a broad shoulder to lean on in the times that others need that. Those who display the "Spirit of Christmas". It should be passed on to five other worthy bloggers. Mary and Renie already have this award. They are the epitome of Christmas Spirit! Since I am relatively new to blogging, I do not have all five bloggers to pass it on to. I have two. Therefore, I will keep the information so that I can make this award when I have met the other three special bloggers, too. Thank you, Mary!

Wondrous Wednesday

Isn't it always the way that when you really need a day to day convenience, that is when it breaks down? It's not the end of the world or anything like that. It is, nevertheless, frustrating and time consuming. It was one of those situations that put the kibosh on my schedule, as well as that of my husband, Dave and my son, Kevin. Actually, they got the worst end of it.

It all started last week. I had an unusally huge amount of laundry to do and I needed to get it done as quickly as possible. I loaded the machine bright and early. When the wash cycle was completed, my grandchildren (who were getting ready to leave for school) and I heard what sounded like a downpour coming from the cellar. I went and looked. Water poured down from the pipes. I couldn't see where it was coming from. I stopped the washing machine. It was then that I noticed there was sudsy water in the tub and the toilet. That night, Dave used the plunger on both the toilet and the tub. It seemed to work. There was no problem flushing and no water was backing up.

The next day, I again started my laundry marathon bright and early. This time, I heard the rains pouring in the cellar and the toilet gurgling. Again, I stopped the washer. Dave rented a snake. He and Kevin spent a good part of the next day snaking out the entire system. (They did the hard work, I was the standby gopher). When they were done, the drains ran free and easy. The toilet flushed like a toilet should.

Finally, bright and early, I resumed my laundry marathon, which by that time had turned from a 5k run into the Boston Marathon! I was doubtful that I would cross the finish line in time. I didn't even make it to Heartbreak Hill. I couldn't even hear the starter's pistol over the sound of deluge in the cellar, the gurgling toilet, and the gurgling sink!

Dave and Kevin teamed up once again, with yours truly as the standby gopher. All the drains were free. Not a problem did they have snaking it out again. In the process of checking everything as thoroughly as possible, they removed the toilet. The good news was that the toilet was not the source of the problem. The bad news was that part of it was broken. They just don't build things to like they used to - that toilet was only 30 years old! Well, it was clear we needed a new toilet, but first they wanted to find the source of the backup problem.

My son decided to check outside where the pipe runs into the septic tank. He started digging and soon realized that the pipe had not been buried deep enough. It was broken and completely clogged. He was surprised that we hadn't had a problem sooner due to the shallow hole it was in. My husband and son got parts and repaired it. They bought a new toilet and installed it. I must say, the new toilet is very nice. It uses water very efficiently.

I was ready to tackle my laundry marathon. I held my breath as the washer emptied of the washing cycle water. I checked - there was no deluge in the cellar, no gurgling in the toilet or tub, and no sudsy water to be seen anywhere. It took a few days, but I not only made it up Heartbreak Hill, but I crossed the finish line - laundry done.

Although it isn't Thursday yet, I think I will end my little story by borrowing a page from Mary's blog. Why I'm Thankful on Wondrous Wednesday:

Thankful for the hard work and perserverance of Dave and Kevin.

Thankful that we have a sparkling new, water efficient toilet.

Thankful that the laundry is done.

Thankful that we don't have to build an ark!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Chipped Teacup

The following is a very short story I wrote in response to a two word challenge - chipped teacup.

Emily slowly twirled the handle of the chipped teacup around until the smooth, unbroken part of the rim faced her. She reached for the fragile handle. Her once delicate fingers gnarled with arthritis could not grasp it. She leaned back in her bed until her frail body rested against the pillows her day care giver, Mrs. Fogg, stacked to prop Emily up at meal time. She would be in soon to feed her and, more importantly to Emily, to hold the cup of tea to her lips.

She didn't mind waiting for Mrs. Fogg. Her granddaughter, Tracey, found Emily’s treasure box of photos and gradually decorated the walls with the most precious of them. Almost a hundred years of family and friends, most of her generation now gone, frozen in time, awaited her gaze each day. Her ninety-eight years drew a blanket of haze over her yesterdays, but not her yesteryears. Each photo unfolded its story vividly, just as sharply as the day it was taken.

As often happened, Emily's eyes grew heavy after reliving a photo or two and she drifted off to sleep. When she awoke, her tray was gone. She had missed her tea and her bones screamed out for the pain medication she also missed. She called for Mrs. Fogg. But it wasn't Mrs. Fogg who answered her call. Emily strained to clear her vision still blurred from sleep.

"Susan, is that you? Oh, Susan I knew you would return one day!" Susan smiled and sat down on the bed. "Just before I drifted off to sleep, I was looking at that photo of us when we were girls. See, the one in the center of the wall?"

Susan turned to look at the photo taken so long ago. "Mrs. Fogg wanted to take it down. She thought it made me sad. Tracey said she would not let her. I told Tracey about you, about our last tea party together the day before the people from the state took us away from each other. I knew one day you would come back, that you would find me. Remember the tea party behind the garden? When I close my eyes I can see the little table you set for us and how you made it so pretty with our floral blanket for a tablecloth and the new yellow washcloths for napkins. How did you smuggle Mama’s tea set out of the house? I never in my life ever had such delicious tea. I still have the teacup that I dropped that afternoon. Every day, I drink my tea out of it and think about you. I always wonder if life has been good to you. I can’t complain. Life has been mostly good to me – except for the empty spot only you can fill. I have missed you so."

Exhausted and wracked with pain, Emily paused. She rarely had the energy to speak more than a couple of sentences. If only Mrs. Fogg would bring her medicine, Emily felt she and Susan could then share all the stories and adventures of their lives. Susan brushed back a wisp of hair from Emily’s forehead. In that moment, Emily’s long ago faded clarity of mind and perception returned reinvigorating her spirit. “Susan, you’ve come for me, haven’t you?” Susan took Emily’s hand and, as death set her free, Emily smiled.

Teacup Image courtesy of Designed to a T – free download

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Sunny, Warm, Windy Day

"If you don't like the weather, wait a minute." Being a New Englander, I've heard that all my life. It seems that in the last few years, the extremes come back to back more often. Last night, the temperature rose. By midnight, it was 68 degrees and the dewpoint was 66. It was actually muggy and uncomfortable for sleeping. It didn't just rain, it poured. That part is good, we still need the rain. But muggy on October 19th? That is odd.

As you can see from the photo below, the little pond came dangerously close to drying up this year. I was worried about the frogs and turtles. Normally, the water level is just about even with the top of the far bank.

Today is warm, sunny and windy. I'm afraid this weather is taking its toll on the foliage. We lost a lot of leaves in the heavy rain. Now with the wind, it has been raining leaves all day. Despite the crazy weather changes over the last 24 hours, today has turned into one beauty of a day.

I decided I better get some pictures of the foliage before it has all fallen to the ground. These were all taken from my yard. I'll be posting more later. My photos don't do the foliage justice. It sure is pretty around here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Foggy, Drizzly, Chilly Day

Yesterday felt like late spring - sunny and 70 degrees. This morning feels more like fall. Muted tones of red, gold, and orange foliage peek through the fog. It's chilly and drizzly. Foggy days always make me think of Carl Sandburg's poem The Fog.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

I've always loved that poem. Apparently the birds are not worried about those "little cat feet" as they visit the feeders and forage on the ground for seeds. It may be my imagination, but they seem more active and lively on rainy days.

As for me, I've had a busy morning and I am looking forward to a late lunch. I think I will fix a nice hot bowl of clam chowder and curl up on the couch with a good book. It's a little chilly, so I'll probably throw my afghan around my shoulders.

There's nothing like a foggy, drizzly, chilly day!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Surprise for Me

When I checked Mary's Writing Nook which belongs to my dear friend, I got a very nice surprise. She has given me this wonderful award. I am honored. Thank you, Mary, you made my day! :-)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What Happened to the Dragonflies?

Now that summer is over, I’ve been thinking about bugs. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about one of my favorite bugs, the dragonfly and wondering why we had so few in the yard this past summer.

For as many years as I can remember, we have been fortunate to have great numbers of dragonflies. Late afternoon would find the front yard or the little pond out back swarming with dragonflies, flying back and forth in what looked like a massive swarm of chaos. There were so many, I often wondered that they didn’t bump into each other. Often while drinking my morning coffee on the deck, a dragonfly would land on the table or even on my hand and stay for a brief time. They were all sizes and colors. Beautiful!

This past year was different. The numbers swarming in the late afternoon had been sparse. Rather than looking as though they would crash into each other, the swarm reminded me of animations I’ve seen of the Universe – vast spaces between the stars, the emptiness ever expanding. My morning coffee time was seldom interrupted by the delightful presence of these wonderful creatures. I missed them!

My observation of other critters gave me some clues as to why there had been so few dragonflies. My research supported my observations. Early spring brought our few eastern phoebes to the yard to nest, just as it had for years. As the season went on, I realized we had more than a few phoebes in the yard. I was surprised to see them in all parts of the yard and across the street since they are not known to flock together. I guessed each had enough of its own space. Phoebes are one of the species that catch insects in flight. During the course of the summer, I often spotted a phoebe swoop down through the air and return to perch on the telephone wire or fence with a dragonfly in its beak.

Still, it seemed to me that the phoebes and other birds that catch insects in flight couldn’t be responsible for such a drastic reduction of dragonflies. Then I realized I needed to research the developmental stages of the dragonfly. Dragonfly larvae live in water! My attention turned to the little pond out back. We had salamanders, turtles and a bumper crop of frogs all of which eat larvae. Since we don’t use pesticides, my hunch is that the pond residents gobbled up the dragonfly larvae resulting in a small adult population. To further exacerbate the problem, dragonflies eat mosquito larvae, which would be a good thing except that the larvae is in the pond shared by the frogs that eat adult dragonflies as well as their larvae. Oh, the circle of life is sometimes sad.

Since we do not use pesticides, this seemed like a good explanation for the small dragonfly population - until I thought about the damselflies. Damselfly eggs are laid on vegetation in the water, they hatch into nymphs that live in the water and as adults they live near the water, even skimming over it during mating season. This past summer the damselfly population was huge, greater than I had ever seen it. Perhaps the pond critters only had a yen for dragonflies? Oh, the circle of life is sometimes very mysterious!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Late Summer Report from My Yard

September 17, 2007 - A fall nip in the air greeted New Hampshire this morning. It was a chilly 35 degrees. Northern parts of the state fell below 32 degrees. Sunshine quickly warmed the air. By 9:00 AM, it was warmer outside than it was inside the house. According to the weather forecast, each day should be a little warmer than the previous day. By Friday, the overnight low should be 50 degrees with a high for the day around 80 degrees. Can't wait for Friday!

I like autumn, but I find it harder to adjust to the cold weather as I get older. The acorns have been dropping from the big oak out front for a couple of weeks. Although the tree doesn't overhang the roof, acorns pelt it sounding more like a winter storm of golf-ball sized hail. Personally, I think squirrels sit up in that tree and hurl the acorns at the house.

Some of the trees are showing dashes of fall color. The Great North Woods, the part of the state near Canada, is about 25% towards peak. During the next three weeks or so, the colors will gradually spread southward. Various shades of green sported by the tree-laden hill across the street will give way to the splendor of autumnal golds, oranges and reds.

It has been an interesting season with the hummingbirds. Despite their cute appearance, hummingbirds are fiercely territorial. One of our regular hummingbirds in particular decided he owned both feeders. He perched in either the oak or the maple watching and waiting for trespassers to invade his territory. We named him the Bully. As one of the "intruders" sipped nectar, he dive-bombed it. The intruder would fly away with the Bully in hot pursuit. Many times, they came within inches of grazing my head or my husband's head. Luckily, the Bully wasn't always around.

Lately I've only seen one hummingbird of the four regulars of the summer. Bully seems to have moved on. I just made a batch of nectar and I'm waiting for it to cool. This may well be the last one of the season. Did you know that hummingbirds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico on their journey to Central and South America? A few weeks ago, PBS ran a series of programs about birds. It was fascinating. I also learned that keeping the hummingbird feeders filled will not cause the hummingbirds to delay their migration. Anyway, the hummingbirds need to stoke up before they head south, so I will keep the feeders filled until I don’t see them anymore.

If you want to make some nectar for the hummingbirds boil 4 cups of water, add 1 cup of granulated sugar and stir well. When it cools, fill the feeder about ¾ of the way. Do not add food coloring. According to experts its not good for the birds. I can attest to the fact that you don’t need it.

Today has turned into a great day for birds. While our dog, Oscar, and I were standing near a feeder, birds whizzed by us, scooped up the seeds and flew away. All the regulars are around including chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, titmice, blue jays, mourning doves, cardinals, goldfinches and downy woodpeckers. White-breasted nuthatches stay the winter. I seldom see red-breasted nuthatches. I was surprised when two of them landed at the feeder. As I turned to go back to the house, I spotted an eastern phoebe on the telephone wire. I've heard them, but have not seen them in weeks.

All in all, it's been a great day, despite the chilly start!

It looks as though my grandson is holding the feeder up while the hummer takes a drink. Actually, he is about six feet away from the feeder! I didn't realize it would be an optical illusion when I took the photo!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Short Lunar Eclipse

On Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 4:40 AMI grabbed my binoculars, camera, and telescope accessories case and headed out the door. The full moon illuminated the way to my chair, table and telescope that had been set up in the front yard the night before. Bad idea. The telescope had fallen prey to the night dew. Nice if one likes that foggy look to everything. No problem, my binoculars and camera were fine.

I live in the New Hampshire. I knew that the moon would set before reaching totality, but I thought I would see a bit more than half the moon eclipsed before it sank out of view. I forgot to figure in the geography of my western horizon - a tall pine-tree-studded hillside. My viewing can be summed up with this little list:

Totality occurred at 5:52 AM,
The moon set below a clear NH horizon at 6:09 AM
The moon set below my tree-lined hilltop horizon at 5:25 AM

The eclipse was beautiful, although brief.

Fortunately, there will be another total lunar eclipse on February 20, 2008. I have already checked. My western horizon will not be a problem. As long as the Nor'easters stay away, I just might see the entire eclipse and end up with a full set of eclipse photos.

Here's to clear skies and low horizons!