Thursday, November 2, 2017

A murmuration of birds

Wow! The past half hour or more my neighborhood was visited upon by at least 500 birds! Because it's fairly warm here today in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, I decided to open the door to air out the house. As I'm sipping my morning tea, I heard this strange noise. There always seems to be construction or maintenance-type vehicles going up and down my small quiet street lately. I decided to look out the door and the sound grew louder. I realized this was not a mechanical sound, but rather - birds. LOTS of birds.

I went out and there they were in my tree and my neighbors' trees on each side. I was fascinated. Then I decided to grab my camera but worried I'd miss them. Not to worry, because when I got back out I realized they were just beginning to descend upon our trees.

 It was quite a show the birds put on. I looked up the name of what this giant flock might be called and decided murmuration sounded familiar to me.

I asked the Ethernet this question: Why do birds form murmurations? I like this comment from the
We think that starlings do it for many reasons. Grouping together offers safety in numbers – predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird in the middle of a hypnotising flock of thousands. They also gather to keep warm at night and to exchange information, such as good feeding areas.
Go here to check out this interesting site in the United Kingdom.

I imagine these were starlings. I came in the house to write this post and - poof! - the sound ended in a split second. They were gone. It was kind of strange how it just instantly ended.

Thanks birdies for the lovely show. Be safe on your journey, wherever it may lead you.

Have you been visited by a murmuration of birds?

Happy Fall gardening, my friends,
~Ann Bailey

Please check out my Etsy shop Pinwheels and Yo Yo's. I have a lot of things coming very soon that would be great gifts for Thanksgiving and Christmas, including great Teacher's gifts!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The bugs won

I have been so happy with my Knockout roses. They have filled up the whole area in front of my house under the window. Their flowers smell awesome! These are the ones I got for a dollar a piece a couple years ago.

The above photo was taken back in May. By August they had doubled in size. If you look close you can see holes in the leaves. I believe at that time it was the white cabbage butterfly eating them. I assume these are moths. What did I do? I went to the store and bought two bottles of spray.

Garden Safe Organic insecticidal soap and fungicidal. Back in May I sprayed the daylights out of my roses with each spray. They seemed to like this and doubled in size. I guess I haven't been paying attention, or spraying enough, because I looked at them carefully and there were dead leaves and lots of holes, especially on the left sided one. It was smaller than its neighbor. I walked in closer to the bushes and there was a web with a great big fat spider scurrying away.

I started whacking down the diseased bush and noticed that the other one was really in bad shape, too. It just didn't show it as much because the damage was more on the inside. I decided to whack down both of them and then spray the heck out of them. It looks pretty sad.

As long as the roots are OK, the bushes will come back better than ever. I'll spray them until frost hits.

The above two photos are the rose bush on the other side of the porch - the top one taken in May and the bottom one now in September. This is what the two on the other side started to look like, but they didn't survive the spider attack. 

Lesson Learned: Spray, spray, spray with fungicide and insecticide all summer long!

How have your plants grown this summer?

Happy gardening, my friends,

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Beautiful Lake Erie

My friend and I celebrated our August birthdays in our favorite half-way point: Freeport Beach on Lake Erie in North East, Pennsylvania. We each travelled about two and a half hours to reach our destination.
 We had such a beautiful day for our visit.

Corrosion is a big problem at the shoreline, so tons of large rocks were recently dumped on the beach and in the water, making swimming for children pretty difficult. In the photo below you can see the rocks and how difficult it would be to walk in the water. The beach is also covered with the rocks, so wear very sturdy sneakers.
Lake Erie is ten thousand square miles and seems to go on forever like an ocean. I've been there on off-season with the winds whipping up and the waves can get very high. I love it!

Freeport Beach is wonderful because it is very small and what I would call rustic. On a beautiful day in August, there were few people there, making it a peaceful and quiet place to visit. There's a park-like area right there with a playground and picnic benches, as well as a rest room.

Next to the beach are a few beautiful Victorian homes lining the waterway off the lake that dries and swells with the seasons and the weather. Oh how I'd love to live there!

This little blue home with its gingerbread and flower boxes is so charming.

Some of the homes are vacation rentals while others are year-round living for the homeowners.

I loved seeing the wildlife enjoying the sunny day.

These birds are pretty tame and not interested in this visitor doing a photo op! I love how they sleep with their head tucked behind them - and on one leg! They are enjoying the sunny day, too!

North East is the home of Mercyhurst University. Graduation 2017We pass the campus on the way to the beach.

We had a delicious lunch at "The Cork". The flower photos are outside The Cork outdoor dining area, and of course you know they had to be snapped by me. Ferns, begonias and New Guinea Impatiens. Gorgeous! Actually flowers and beautiful landscaping are all over this sleepy little college town.

If you are reasonably near Freeport Beach in North East PA, check it out. Lake Erie is lovely and it's simple rustic beauty in the midst of vineyard country is worth the trip.

Happy gardening, my friends!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Monarch education

Monarch Butterfly: National Geographic

I took all these photos (below) of the butterfly that was feeding on my Butterfly Bush (buddleia Black Knight). I'm thinking that this is a Monarch, but something kept nagging at my brain. I really am not sure if this is a Monarch and wondered what it was and how is it different?
Swallowtail Butterfly: Ann Bailey
I never claimed to be an expert but soon found out I really don't know much about Monarchs. I found out that they are orange, maybe a bit golden, but mostly orange. My guy is yellow - a pale yellow. I learned that he is a Swallowtail Butterfly.


The most important thing about Monarchs is that they feed on everything, but lay their eggs ONLY on Milkweed. Very unusual.
He's so pretty, but I feel bad that his wing is torn and I wonder how it affects him.
I planted five Butterfly bushes this summer, so I'm happy to know the Swallowtails and bees and other buzzing creatures will be happy! Not sure if Monarchs visited...

I've been planting feverishly (it's been so hot) this summer. My plantings are mostly driven by economics and what I can get on sale - or free. I wasn't thinking about milkweed. But I am now. I will search to find at least one Milkweed to plant this Fall if it is advisable.

For a wonderful site on Monarchs and how to bring them to your garden, go here .

So, do you have milkweed, and hopefully Monarch visitors?

Happy gardening, my friends!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Moonflower miseries....

My love affair with moonflowers (Datura metel) continues on , even in its ups and downs. The photo below was taken at the end of last summer. You can see the wonderful spiny seed pods hanging off the plant, indicating hope for its future. I would let them "ripen" and when the seeds were bulging out of the pod, I sprinkled the dried seeds all over the bottom of the little plot of soil I prepared for them surrounding the mother plant. I lightly covered them with nutritious soil and put them to sleep for a long winter's nap.
When Spring came, I kept impatient watch over my Moonflower patch. One warm Spring morning my efforts were rewarded with a few hundred sprouts peeking up through the dirt. I was so excited - I would have Moonflowers all over my yard!

Two days later, I walked into my garden to check on things. I stopped cold in my tracks. EVERY SINGLE SEEDLING HAD DISAPPEARED!

I was heart-broken. I stared at that empty spot for weeks and weeks. How could this have happened? Daturas are poisonous. I loved how they didn't seem to get eaten by too much. I had to have 200 seedlings in my spot. It had to be the rabbits. I hope they thoroughly enjoyed their Spring salad. Hope they didn't get a tummy ache...... 

I sprayed the heck out of my Moonflower spot with two different organic sprays - one for insects and one for fungus - just in case some moonflower was struggling to appear.

As the weeks went by a few seedlings appeared and now I have ONE plant, for which I'm grateful.

I'll definitely have to figure this out and do something different this year. Well duh, right??

Here's this year's Moonflower:

Are you growing Moonflowers yet?

Happy gardening, my friends!

Photos: Ann Bailey

Monday, July 3, 2017

A gardener's tragedy, part 2

Resource: Center for Disease Control
Since I was diagnosed with Lyme disease I have been doing some research on it, of course. I'd like to share with you what I learned because I want my fellow gardeners to be aware and to be safe!

I look out over my yard and I'm gripped with fear and a nagging notion that something I love turned on me. (Sorry for the drama.) How can I have ticks in my yard?. But then I read a few facts and now I know how they are in my yard. My back yard is about 100 feet deep. Then there's a six foot solid fence, fencing off the neighbor behind the fence. Then there is a woods. I love all these things. But its only a couple hundred feet from my yard to the woods.

I love looking out on my back yard early in the morning to see wild critters in it - the rabbits, the possums, the assortment of birds. The deer in the woods fortunately haven't figured out the salad buffet that awaits them over the fence, thankfully. But the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says all of these animals are little tick-carrying critters. Yes, even the birds. And, mice are tick-carriers. So there is no deficit of four-legged transportation bringing the nasty things into my lawn and garden.

Like you, probably, I've heard many horror stories about Lyme.  I learned that there are four levels of Lyme. Mine was diagnosed at Level 1, and this is the level at which one can take the doxycycline antibiotic and be cured. However, you never know if you are cured because you will always test positive because our bodies produce antibodies, so we'll test positive even tough the bugs are gone.

The commonly-known bulls-eye from a tick bite is not accurate. Some say it only happens 30% of the time. CDC says up to 80%.

The horror stories come from the poor people who have Lyme and didn't know it, yet their health spiraled downward with horribly serious problems. People have been misdiagnosed with other illnesses and the real culprit was missed. Lyme affects every organ system and wreaks havoc when left untreated. There are a lot of conjectures floating around, such as is Alzheimers really undiagnosed Lyme disease? Then there's the Conspiracy Theory - honest - look up Plum Island.

Go here to the CDC website to learn more facts.

So, I bought myself a can of Off Deep Woods insect repellent with 25% DEET to kill the little buggers - or bugs, I should say. Wearing long pants, sleeves, and socks will help, but not practical when it is almost 90 around here.

Go here for an article to prevent ticks in your back yard.

Let me know what you think of this Lyme disease problem.

Now I have to figure out how to get rid of the poison ivy in my backyard. Do you have any ideas?

Be safe, gardeners,


A gardener's tragedy....

My Yucca bloomed. This was a gift from my neighbor Rita. I didn't care for them, but this bloom stalk is gorgeous, so now I'm hooked!
If you love gardening like I do, then you'll understand when you hear my sad story of what has happened over the past few weeks, and why I consider it a tragedy.

That is, what happened to this gardener, not her garden...

I wasn't feeling well at all....I had a headache, a stiff neck, and a few other things. I went to my doctor who said I had a virus. No medicine was required.

A week later I felt worse. I went to the ER. When I went to put on the hospital gown, I had a gigantic rash on my right shoulder.  They took blood and everything came back normal. The doc agreed I had a virus. He gave me an antibiotic and I went home.

A week later I had an ear infection. I went to MedExpress. I told the nurse practitioner about the rash, and I said I was surprised it was still there. She looked at it and asked if I was tested for Lyme disease. I said the hospital talked about sending it out. She called over there and they never did. She took my blood and a week later I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, Level 1. She prescribed doxycycline - she said this is the drug you take for Lyme. It'll cure your ear infection, and if you do have Lyme, you'll get a total of 21 days' worth of the drug.

~and that same week~

I was almost done with my "floating" perennial garden. My grandson Max hauled twenty five bags of brown mulch from the store and down the hill to my back yard. I had been saving a ton of newspapers to spread out among the plants, and my friend came and spread the mulch around the plants. I helped. It was 90 degrees out.

I had asked my friend to weed whack the back of my yard where there was tall brush. I thought I should get rid of it to cut down on the ticks. We got everything done and I was pleased with my floating garden.

I can't even remember when it started, but I got the worse case of poison ivy I've ever had in my life. It just seems to keep going on and on. I believe I inhaled the vapors and it got in my blood stream, if possible.

I've done a lot of research on Lyme disease and it's not pretty. I'm going to write another post on it.

Have any of you gotten Lyme disease? Please share your story so we can all learn from each other.

Be safe my gardening friends,

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Gardening with a disability....

 It'll be exactly a year ago in a couple days that I had shoulder surgery. It went well, but it's a long recovery. I didn't get a lot of heavy-duty gardening done last summer. I still have pain if I over-do it.

I have always had a cloth wheelbarrow. I love these and was working on my second one before I had my surgery. They are much lighter than a metal wheelbarrow and I love how they fold up to take up less room when not in use.

But I knew this wouldn't work for me because of my surgery, due to the fact that you have to PUSH this and it was just too heavy even before I loaded it up with gardening "stuff".


I checked out to see what alternatives they might have and saw the little plastic cart above. It is much lighter than my cloth wheelbarrow.

I loved the idea of it because it looked like something I could PULL, rather than push. It holds a ton of material. It would work for taking out my garbage, too, which is always hard on my arms, especially because I change my kitties' litter every week and this is especially heavy for me.

I ordered the cart and it came in 2 days. All I had to do was screw the handle onto the cart.

I have to say I absolutely LOVE this cart. It holds a ton of material and allows me to do my garbage so much easier. Pulling it behind me is so much easier on my arms and shoulders.

I get no money for this post - I just want to recommend this little cart if you struggle from any kind of disabling problem such as arthritis or something similar to my issues. I just went on and these carts are $10.00 off right now! The link is below if you are interested. And what a great gift for a gardener you know that struggles with their own physical issues.

Happy pain-free gardening my friends!

Something hidden will manifest itself to us....

“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” BrainyQuotes
This quote is AWESOME! Isn't that just what gardening is all about? Something hidden - though hidden, it's working feverishly to manifest itself. When the time is right?

The above two photos show that patience is rewarded. I planted the two rhododendrons two years ago. Last year neither one had a single bloom. I was sad to think they would never bloom. The first one is a gorgeous raspberry color, and the bottom one is white! I'm so glad we all hung in!

Another happy surprise is the return of this beautiful dianthus. Beside it is a black-eyed Susan also from last year, looking very healthy. I love these because I just pull up a stray runner from my daughter's huge clumps and stick them in the pots. They'll look weepy for a while, but will eventually perk up and start growing well.
I must share with you my daughter Erin's rhododendron....just exquisite! This is out in East Central Pennsylvania.

I hope your spring awakening was a good one!

Happy gardening, friends!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Bold and The Brazen

It's just amazing to me how bold this guy is. I don't know if he is living under my shed, or sneaks under the back neighbor's fence which is the end of my back yard.

I happened to look out my back window and there he was, waddling up to my back porch, without a care in the world, looking me square in the eye.

"What chu lookin' at??

Yep I know what he's lookin' for: My garbage can to see what lovely rancid treats he might be able to devour. It ain't happenin', mister.

Well he went away and the next day what do my eyes behold:
This looks like an albino, but I guess he's not. Hmmmm....that guy in the first photos is probably not a guy, but a momma!

I like what WikiLeaks says about groundhogs: "The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, or whistlepig, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. It was first scientifically described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. "

Ground Squirrel?

No wonder they seem so confused.

As long as they leave my plants alone.

Happy Gardening, friends!
Ann Bailey