Over half of us still have our teddy bears. My sister (painter Barb) and I were given our teddy bears in the early 1950’s, when we were toddlers. From left to right: “Brownie,” Barb’s bear, my “Get Well” bear, who speaks, my childhood bear “Whitey,” and Janet’s “Get Well Bear.” The new bears speak when you press a button on their stomachs, saying in a lithe girl or boy’s voice things like “Laugh, you’ll feel better.” At first I thought this was corny, but then realized how important It could be to one who is bedridden or gravely ill, like I was. Oh Teddy, my two Teddy Bears, I love you both.
Category Archives: Home and Garden
What to do with that extra strand of lights? After draping the lights around our newly gilded mirror, the ten or so little white lights remaining on the strand were stuffed into a large shell. It looks so fun and glowy at night!
Thank you Frankie–our cat Cosmos loves it too! The tree skirt was removed for only a moment to shake off the pine needles and look who claimed it for his own. Of all the least luxurious and uncomfy spots in which to take a cat nap!
When setting up the tree, open wide the ginormous tree-sized bag and place it under the tree stand. When it’s time to bring the tree to curbside, lift the tree off the stand and simply pull up the sides of the bag, preventing the usual pine needle mess.
Christmas tree disposal bags are available locally at Wolf Hill Home and Garden Center.
Weave the 36″ stem of the Watering Elf through your tree branches, placing the base inside the tree stand. Water through the funnel. No more crawling on the floor trying to angle a watering spout into the stand’s opening. Thank you Santa, I love it!
My family adores apple pie, as much as with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, as the following morning (minus the whipped cream and ice cream) My husband’s very favorite breakfast is scrambled eggs and apple pie, with a chunk of cheddar cheese. I don’t see anything wrong with pie for breakfast–its basically fruit with a bit of dough.
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving pie?
Usually I make our apple pies with half Granny Smiths and half Gala apples. This year we had a mishmash in the frig, both Grannies and Galas, also Pink Ladies and Fujis. I am hoping the pies will be extra delish with the flavors and textures of the different cultivars of apples. What variety of apple do you think makes the best apple pie?
The weatherman caught my attention this morning when he mentioned that in our region the earliest sunsets do not take place on the winter solstice (December 21st).
Take heart fellow-lovers-of-sunlight, Gloucester’s earliest sunset of the year will be on December 14th, at 4:09 pm. We’re on the side of gaining late day light everyday thereafter!
When watching, know that the first two minutes of the film were shot in Gloucester. I think you will be dazzled by the sheer numbers of Monarchs that travel through Cape Ann’s backyards and meadows during the peak of migration.
I began photographing the Monarchs in 2006, which was a year when we had an extraordinary number of Monarchs visiting our shores. At that time, I became determined that if ever again this phenomenon were to occur on Cape Ann, I was going to have the ability to document on film, rather than only through still images, this beautiful event for my community. It’s hard to imagine without observing and here you can see what I have wanted to share.
A Flight of Monarchs begins on a September day as first one and then passels of Monarchs begin to arrive to the fields and meadows of Cape Ann, carried across Massachusetts Bay on a tailwind. By the early evening light they begin to pour into the surrounding trees, clustering to stay warm in the branches furthest away from the prevailing breezes. The following morning as the sun begins to touch their wings, they alight from the trees, seeking the freshest wildflowers from which to drink nectar to help build their lipid reserves for the several thousand mile journey south. They drink and drink until the last of the sun’s rays dip below the tree line. As they arrived on a tailwind, they again depart, and are carried to the next gathering area. For coastal Monarchs, Allens Pond, which is located in Westport, Massachusetts is often the next stop.
In the next scene, the butterflies have arrived to the sacred oyamel fir forests of Angangueo, Michoacán, deep in the heart of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. It’s early morning and the butterflies are suspended in great primordial branched clusters that may become so heavy from the weight of so many butterflies the boughs of the trees bend to the breaking point. Later in the day, as the sun begins to warm their wings, the butterflies begin to stir. During the winter, it is imperative that the Monarch’s body temperature remains relatively low. They leave the sunniest branches in search of shade and a drink of water from nearby mountain streams. Occasionally in late February, as the air temperatures begin to warm with the coming springtime, for a short period during the day, the butterflies leave the trees all at once. This phenomenon is called a butterfly “explosion,” and is a truly magnificent event to observe.
A Flight of Monarchs is set to the evocative and tender “Fields of Blue,” written and performed by composer and guitarist Jesse Cook and his band, to which permission was granted by the artist for the purpose of this short film. Here is a link to Cook’s website. I highly, highly recommend attending a live performance of Jesse Cook and Company. As was I, you will be completely taken by their gorgeous music, exquisite artistry, and with Cook’s songwriting, will travel in beautiful melodies inspired from around the world.
I am currently editing my feature length documentary, Beauty on the Wing, which after months and months of organizing and editing three years of footage, is currently running at approximately twelve hours in length. At eleven hours too long, I have a great deal of editing to accomplish in the coming winter months!
A Flight of Monarchs presented here is the shorter version of the film that I created for the Berkshire Museum’s “Butterflies” exhibit. The first version is six minutes long and played on a continuous loop in the main gallery of the exhibit hall. The longer version will soon be posted on Vimeo.
Last night we strained and bottled (and sampled!) out-of-this-world-delicious limoncello. The first time I had ever tasted limoncello that I found to be enjoyable was while filming at the Groppo Family’s Feast of Saint Joseph celebration. Nina serves her icy cold homemade limoncello in the traditional tiny glasses and I think it is so much better tasting than commercially bottled preparations. The flavor of her limoncello is intensely lemony fresh, sweet, and tart all at the same time, without the alcohol burn on the way down.
The limoncello doesn’t look that appetizing in the pre-bottled stage.
As part of the film’s sequence on Feast preparations, Nina and friends Cathy Gunn, Kathy Pratl, and Jane Beddus very graciously agreed to allow me to film during the different steps of limocello-making, along with inviting me to participate and make my own batch! Nina and her family and friends have been so wonderfully helpful and accommodating with Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project and I will be eternally grateful. Making limoncello with these sweet ladies has been so much fun and a wonderful reminder of the delight and joy that comes from sharing a project with friends.
Catherine Gunn, Nina Groppo, Janer Beddus, and Kathy Pratl
After bottling, we sampled each other’s batches, the reason being that they were all made in slightly different ways; several types of lemons were used, some had more vodka, and some had more simple syrup. Kathy pointed out that the because the recipe is so super simple, the only real error in making would be if you were to grate the lemons to close to the pith, which would make the beverage bitter.
Needless to say, we had a ball sampling all, as well as indulging in the beautiful array of cookies and treats prepared by Nina. To see more photos visit Jane Beddus’s FB page here.
The sieve we found to be the easiest and most effective for straining the pulp was a simple wooden flour sifter, used with cheese cloth, that Nina had purchased in Italy (see below in the Vine).
The Mary Prentiss Inn is truly the most welcoming of guest houses and yesterday while there planting the smell of the cook’s apple muffins baking wafted through the garden. A bit later, plates of warm muffins greeted guests; I couldn’t resist when offered. They were divine and are without a doubt the best muffins I’ve ever tasted! I’ve been promised the recipe and can’t wait to give it a go and to share!
Eastern Bluebird and Poison Ivy Berries
“Leaflets three, let it be!”
Perhaps the most disliked plant of all is poison ivy, despised throughout its range for the blistering rash that oozes and itches when one has the misfortune to come in contact with any part of the plant. What is the substance that causes that most dreaded of unpleasant of rashes? Poison ivy is infused with urushiol, a compound that not only wards off humans, but caterpillars, too (generally speaking, caterpillars are a plant’s number one enemy).
Several of my landscape design projects are located on Plum Island. I laughed initially when it was first brought to my attention that poison ivy was one of the “approved” plants permitted on Plum Island. Of course, whether approved or not, I wouldn’t dream of planting poison ivy on a client’s property, but I did want to learn more about why it was on the approved list. And here’s the reason why we might want to rethink our disdain towards poison ivy: Plum Island is home to and breeding ground for hundreds of bird species and small animals. The blossoms of poison ivy are a rich nectar source for many pollinators and the berries are a prime winter staple for dozens and dozens of song birds, including cardinals, mockingbirds, and robins.
Malign poison ivy if you will for its dreadful rash and clamoring habit. Lets rip it out of our backyard play spaces and public pathways. But knowing it holds an important place in our ecosystem, lets allow it to continue to grow wild in wild and appropriate places. Poison ivy is one of the essential reasons why we are privy to the legions and legions of beautiful birds that dwell, nest, and migrate through our region.
Yellow-rumped warblers are able to withstand our cold winters by switching from a diet of primarily insects, to one of poison ivy berries, bayberry, and other small fruits.
“Red hairy vine, no friend of mine!”
The telltale reddish hairs of the vine are clearly evident in the above image; leaves, vines, stems, and hairs are all toxic to humans. As I am constantly exposed to poison ivy due to landscape design projects, and oftentimes filming and photographing in locations where poison ivy is prevalent, my number one solution to avoiding contact is to identify its presence and to wear protective clothing. Knowing poison ivy’s mnemonic rhymes will help with its identification: “Leaves of three, let it be!”, “Berries white, run in fright!”, and “Red hairy vine, no friend of mine!”
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My sincere thanks to Bob Snyder for the use of his photos. Permission to post the bluebird and poison ivy berry photo was requested and John not only graciously allowed the photo, he also forwarded along the photo of the Yellow-rumped Warbler. You can see more of his beautiful photos here: Bob Snyder Photography.
All other images are courtesy Wiki Commons Media.
In my garden design practice, the topic of deadheading flowers comes up often, especially at this time of year. The habitat garden is designed for people and for pollinators and the objective is to find a balance between the two. Esthetically speaking, to some, a garden only looks its best when every plant is tidily trimmed and every spent flower blossom removed. But to a hungry bird on the wing, an expiring sunflower or cosmos is bird food. Some plants should be deadheaded and pruned however, the next time you get a jones to neaten a plant, take a moment to look at it from the perspective of a songbird.
Black-capped Chicakdee ~ Poecile articapillus
I like a bit of unruliness in the garden and don’t even deadhead cosmos any longer. They will continue to flower whether deadheaded or not. A few weeks ago while working with several of our wonderful HarborWalk volunteers, I was explaining what plants to deadhead and what plants not to deadhead, and why, when at the very moment that I was speaking those very words, three brilliant cadmium yellow goldfinches flew on the scene and began devouring the seed heads of a nearby coneflower!
American Goldfinch Eating Cosmos Seeds
And too, a batch of Echinacea not only provides mid-winter sustenance to hungry birds, the seed heads sure look pretty silhouetted by new fallen snow.
Three very interesting articles were shared this past week by friends and GMG FOBs. Thank you!!! I love reading what you send and below are the links to share with readers. Again, thank you!
Frieda from Again and Again forwarded this from Nature:
“The monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is famous for its spectacular annual migration across North America, recent worldwide dispersal, and orange warning colouration. Despite decades of study and broad public interest, we know little about the genetic basis of these hallmark traits. Here we uncover the history of the monarch’s evolutionary origin and global dispersal, characterize the genes and pathways associated with migratory behaviour, and identify the discrete genetic basis of warning colouration by sequencing 101 Danaus genomes from around the globe.” Link to Nature article.
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Our Catherine Ryan forwards from the New York Times:
“Why Some Monarch Butterflies Are Marathoners”
Monarch butterflies can be found throughout the world, but only in North America do they make a spectacular mass migration, annually flying from as far north as Canada to winter in Mexico.
Now, by sequencing genomes of 90 monarch butterflies from around the world, researchers have discovered a gene that plays a critical role in determining whether monarchs are migratory, along with new details about their origins, migratory behavior and coloring.
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Josh Dickinson from the University of Florida in Gainseville forwarded the following:
“A Strange Cloud Over St. Louis Turns Out to Be an Enormous Swarm of Butterflies”
Late last week, meteorologists in St. Louis noticed a cloud acting peculiarly: It was beating a path toward Mexico while changing into a variety of odd shapes. Was it a radar glitch? The debris signature of a south-moving tornado?
The answer was more heartening—and bizarre. After analyzing the reflections,the National Weather Service concluded they showed an immense swarm of Monarch butterflies migrating to their winter home in the Mexican mountains:
Here’s how it technically arrived at that conclusion, for the weather geeks out there:
Keen observers of our radar data probably noticed some fairly high returns moving south over southern Illinois and central Missouri. High differential reflectivity values as well as low correlation coefficient values indicate these are most likely biological targets. High differential reflectivity indicates these are oblate targets, and low correlation coefficient means the targets are changing shape. We think these targets are Monarch butterflies. A Monarch in flight would look oblate to the radar, and flapping wings would account for the changing shape! NWS St. Louis wishes good luck and a safe journey to these amazing little creatures on their long journey south!
Next Monday afternoon at the Community House I will be presenting my “Pollinator Garden” program to the Rockport Garden Club. I am looking forward to meeting with this great group of civic-minded gardeners. I see their signs all around town at the various gardens they maintain and they do a simply outstanding job! The program begins at 1:15 and the doors open to the public at 1:00.
The Pollinator Garden
Following the rhythm of the seasons, celebrated landscape designer Kim Smith presents a stunning slide show and lecture demonstrating how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates.
Gaura is not a only a fabulous drought tolerant plant for the water-wise garden, it is also a caterpillar food plant for the beautiful day-flying White-lined Sphinx Moth.
The Rockport Community House is located at 58 Broadway, Rockport.
Blossom to Fruit ~ With all the delicious smells associated, from the heavenly sweet scent of apple blossoms wafting on the breeze of a bright spring day to the fresh aroma of fruit ripening in the warm September sun, not to mention pies and tarts baking in the oven!
Have you noticed that the foliage of pear, cherry, and apple trees looks exceptional this year? This is a far cry from the past several years when the winter moth took a tremendous toll on the trees. The very cold winter of last has put a damper on the moths devastating effects. A repeat of cold temperatures will give the trees and shrubs, such as maple, blueberry, and apple, which are most heavily afflicted by the moths, a second season to recover and grow in strength.
Around and around the room flew the bat, neatly missing walls and chandelier. My husband’s response was calm and collected–and to me–you’re my nature girl he said. Not when it comes to bats trapped in our dining room I wailed in dismay. After a few unsettled moments, I realized the bat wasn’t going to bite him or me and it truly was just a poor little lost bat struggling to find its way out. I ran and got our trusty butterfly net that, although it has never been used to catch a butterfly with any success, has rescued myriad songbirds and hummingbirds. Tom caught the little bat in a flash and out into the night it flew.
How did it get in we wondered, with all the doors closed and the windows screened?
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When our children were very young, I made each a net using a dowel, piece of wire bent into a hoop-shape, fabric remnant, and recycled leather shoelace. The nets conveniently live in the mud room and they sure have come in handy over the years!
Bellinis would make a festive addition to your Labor Day/Schooner Festival weekend brunch or dinner, especially at this time of year when the farmer’s markets and grocer’s shelves are brimming with tree-ripened fresh fruit.
Our ‘Belle of Georgia’ white-flesh peach tree never disappoints. Each and every year since first planting, this semi-dwarf peach tree gives us mouth-watering sweet peaches. Not all of the peaches are perfect and the ones that are not eaten out of hand are whipped into smoothies, cooked in confections, or macerated with Prosecco.
~ Bellini Recipe ~
Marinate peeled, pitted, and sliced (halved or quartered) peaches in Prosecco for several hours. Just before serving, puree the peach-Prosecco mixture. Spoon the puree into champagne glasses, about 1/3 to 1/2 filled, and to taste. Gently add more Prosecco to the puree. Add a drop of raspberry liquor, Chambord, or a few fresh raspberries to the puree, to give the drink that beautiful pinky-peach glow.
Bellinis are traditionally made with white-flesh peaches such as ‘Belle of Georgia,’ but any variety of sweet peach will do.
In flower and in fruit, the peach is a pretty tree for your landscape ~
Read an excerpt about the ‘Belle of Georgia’ from my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden here ~
GMG FOB Allen Sloane writes with the subject line White, Floppy, and Big:
It was a pleasure to meet and talk with you on Saturday.
Thanks for all the info on poke weeds. My dog doesn’t seem to have any interest in the berries so some day I’ll get around to removing it.
Last night I went to look at it and right next to it is this plant which has decided to blossom. I have seen a couple of other plants in the neighborhood so I don’t know if they are from seed or it is a cultural decision to grow them. Be my guest if you want to answer via your daily post.
The gorgeous flower in the photo that you sent is the North American native Hibiscus moscheutos, also known by many common names, including rose mallow, swamp mallow, eastern rosemallow, and crimson-eyed rose mallow. Crimson-eyed rose mallow blooms in shades of pure white to cheery pink and deepest rose red.
To answer your question, the seeds are dispersed by birds, and they are also readily available in nurseries. Locally, Wolf Hill always has a lovely selection. I plant rose mallows widely in my client’s native plants gardens as well as in Arts and Crafts period gardens because they are beautiful, easily tended, and are a terrific source of nectar for ruby-throated hummingbirds. H. moscheutos grow beautifully along marsh edges as well as in gardens. There’s a sweet patch growing at Niles Pond, and I am sure we would see many more if phragmites weren’t supplanting all our marsh wildflowers.
We planted a patch at the HarborWalk, but sadly they were stolen. Next year I am hoping we can replace the lost plants!
The following is an excerpt from an article that I wrote awhile back, titled “Growing Native:”
“…Throughout the American Arts and Crafts movement, and well into the 1930’s, home and garden magazines, among the most influential sources of ideas for the homeowner, espoused the use of native plants in the landscape. Perhaps the most notable was Gustav Stickley’s The Craftsman, which was published for fifteen years, beginning in 1901. Stickley revered the North American white oak (Quercus alba), admiring it for its majestic role in the eastern forest and for its unique strength and figuring of the wood for furniture making. A sense of connectedness to nature is at the heart of the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement and the popular writing of the era reflects how to create this relationship.
I am reminded of a lovely and memorable cover of Country Living for the September 1905 issue featuring a drift of rose mallows (Hibiscus moscheutos), which resemble and are closely related to hollyhocks (Alcea rosea). Both are members of the Malvaceae or Mallow Family. Hibiscus moscheutos are commonly referred to as crimson-eyed rose mallow and also marsh mallow, because the roots were used to make marshmallows. Rose mallows are a practical and economical native perennial as they reliably return year after year, unlike hollyhocks, although charming and beautiful, are short-lived (with the exception of Alcea rugosa). Rose mallows bloom in shades of pale pink to deeper rosey pink, from July through the first frost. Although found growing in marshy areas along stream and river banks, rose mallows will flourish in the garden when provided with rich moist soil and planted in a sunny location. New growth is slow to emerge in the spring. When cutting back the expired stalks after the first hard frost of autumn, leave a bit of the woody stalk to mark its spot for the following year. The leavesof Hibiscus moscheutos are a host plant for the Gray Hairstreak butterfly and the flowers provide nectar for Ruby-throated hummingbirds.”
The charming note posted below was in my inbox today. I thought Fred would enjoy, as would our GMG readers find interesting.
Dear Madame Butterfly,
(You may recognize my name as an infrequent commenter on
GMG. More importantly, I am an FOF, Friend of Fred Bodin, although he NEVER invited me to his gallery soires !!!!!)
I always read your GMG posts and enjoy and learn from them.
I have a plant that comes up in my back yard and grows to a height of 5 or 6 feet. This week it fell down. Do you know what it is? Can I cut it up safely and dispose of it? Should I throw it over the fence in the back and let wildlife eat the berries?
Any help, thanks,
Allen, as an FOF and FOB, of course you are invited to ALL GMG soirées. I hope you’ll come to the mug-up this Saturday morning at E.J.’s new summer gallery on Rocky Neck. I am planning to go, but will not get there until closer to 11:00. I look forward to meeting you!
American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is what you have growing in your backyard. Pokeweed possesses nearly as many common names as the birds that find nourishment from its fruit, including pokeberry, Virginia poke, inkberry, ink weed, bear’s grape, American spinach, and American nightshade. The American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, European Starling, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, and Pileated Woodpeckers are some of the birds that dine on the fruits of pokeberry. Many mammals such as Red Fox, Virginia Opossum, Raccoon, White-footed Mouse, and Black Bear eat the berries, too.
Pokeweed can grow to ten feet, with an equally as long taproot as is it is tall in height. It typically grows in disturbed areas, pastures, roadsides, fencerows, open woods, and woodland borders. All parts of the plant are toxic to people and livestock, and especially to children. The root is the most toxic and the berries the least. It is not recommended to add to you compost. If you have children visiting your garden, I would suggest that you talk to them about the plant’s toxicity, and only throw it over you fence if beyond your fence is part of your property. To control a plant, cut below the root crown. An older plant may have a ten foot taproot, which would be very difficult to dig up.
Images courtesy wiki commons.
Once established, native Common Milkweed grows vigorously and rambunctiously, making itself known even in the thinnest of sidewalk cracks. Here’s a patch growing along East Main Street. I think it beautiful! What do you think?
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If you caught Tom Ashbrook’s On Point broadcast on NPR this morning you heard Doctor Lincoln Brower, Karen Oberhausser, and Rick Mikula, three of the world’s leading butterfly experts, speaking about the disappearance of the Monarch and the main reason why–most notably because of the sterilization of the American landscape through the use Monsanto’s Roundup and GMO corn and soybean crops. The episode is airing again tonight at 8pm.
The following is a list of a few suggestions on ways in which we can all help turn the tide:
Plant milkweed and wildflowers. Teach members of your family and friends what milkweed looks like and why we don’t want to weed it out of the garden. The above patch of milkweed is growing next to a shop on East Main Street. About a month ago, I went into the store and, very, very politely inquired as to whether or not they knew that the plant growing outside their doorway was a terrific patch of milkweed. They had no idea. I explained what the benefits were to the Monarchs and have since noticed that the milkweed patch is still growing beautifully!
Ban GMO crops. Genetically modified seeds have been altered to withstand megadoses of Roundup. Millions and millions of tons of herbicides are poured onto Roundup Ready fields of crops, preventing any other plant that has not been genetically altered from growing (in other words, wildflowers). The application of Monsanto’s deadly destructive herbicide Roundup is creating vast sterilized agricultural wastelands, which will, over time, only need heavier and heavier does of their lethal chemicals to continue to be viable.
Don’t apply herbicides and pesticides in your own gardens.
Create wildflower corridors in backyards and highways.
Reduce salt wherever possible (and where it wouldn’t cause harm to human life). Large amounts of road salt, as was needed during this past snowiest of winters, is detrimental to wildlife habitats.
This morning the dedication of the new butterfly garden at Pathway’s for Children was celebrated with speeches of thanks, and a song and poem performed by the Pathways children. The sun was shining, the bees and butterflies were on the wing, and there were lots of smiles of joy on the faces of the children and attendees. My most heartfelt thanks and deepest appreciation to all who have given so much to make the garden a success!
Just some of the wonderful people who made the garden possible: Andrew, Bernie Romanowski, Beth Graham, and Peter Van Demark
Before Photo Pathways for Children
See previous GMG post on the new butterfly garden at Pathways here: HOORAY FOR PATHWAYS FOR CHILDREN’S BRAND SPANKING NEW BUTTERFLY GARDEN