It Might Be Over Soon

Re: time slipping away: it’s still funny.

The song that would have been playing is Bon Iver’s 22 (Over S∞n) and the night would have been in summer 2015, or maybe 2016. A Grumpy Old Man would have seen me eating cheese at the counter on a beautiful evening, and would have come and stood next to me to also, companionably and competitively, eat cheese. He listened to the news on earphones, and I listened to this song. The lyrics had some significance I recognized, even then. Even then. The news seemed less important.

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Many species of moths start out as inchworms, measuring the miracles.

This has been a bad year for butterflies, did I mention? But insects are this summer’s taxonomic Class of interest and I would like to share with you that insects have a remarkable ability to rebound. They have evolved to take advantage of good conditions and to survive bad ones, even in very small numbers. They can re-populate at a speed that puts our most prolific ancestors to shame. So the overall insect situation is not great, is maybe even alarming. But lower numbers early in the season, especially in this bizarre season, are not necessarily so dire.

I have been seeing signs of hope. Today, sitting in my yard that is now all lush and flowery and ephemeral, I saw a Red Spotted Purple and an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Those are big graceful butterflies and leave even the uninterested person satisfied with their butterfly viewing experience. I saw a number of Eastern Tailed Blues, and endless Cabbage Whites (they’re not moths) which I am happy enough to share space with now that my kale is all eaten (some by them and some by me). They can pollinate my cucumbers without threatening the rest of my meals. And most exciting of all, as I sat not 4 feet away, a female Ruby Throated Hummingbird came zooming in from afar and made a beeline for the Bee Balm that has been blooming for a week. She took a look at me but kept eating. Bee Balm is my favorite hummingbird feeder, 5 stars.

Here is to the rebounds, even those we know better than to hope for.

Promethia Caterpillar

Twilight Promethea, and the first 5th Instar Saturniid I’ve found in the wild. Someone else found this one, which kind of started my whole entire moth thing. My Spark Bug.

 

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First Butterfly I’ve seen at night. Maybe they are moths!! Jk.

 

Walnut Sphinx Caterpillar

See the Walnut Sphinx Caterpillar on its namesake food plant?

 

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Bee Balm

No photo of the Hummingbird, but here is the Bee Balm a little earlier into its blooming. And Mountain Mint next door, another native pollinator magnet. Two days ago I saw a Horace’s Duskywing on it, another backyard first!

Caterpillars are easier to photograph than butterflies, and I have never found so many before! As far as the adults I hope you’ll take my word for it that they’re showing up out there, and maybe we’ll continue to see more.

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Funny How Time Slips Away

Well hello there. My it’s been a long time.

May 6, 2018 was a day that offered precious hours to spend with some fleeting wonders of early May. And today, two weeks later, I even found a little time to creep out on here and imagine those memories could be made permanent. Memory is on my mind in beautiful and nostalgic and sad ways these days. New lives, new loves, things that you go without but find have stayed nearly as you left them and ready for you to come back, things that can be lost slowly, things that can be lost forever. Many of the flowers and others below are already gone, but new and lovely things may come from them.

Blackhaw Viburnum flowersBlackhaw Viburnums wildly in bloom at a Maryland park that is newish to me.

Blackhaw ViburnumOh captive Viburnum prunufolium in my yard, generous host of the Cecropia caterpillars I found in the nursery with the Grumpy Old Man 2 years ago, I never knew you had all this in you.

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Box Turtle shellIMG_3467.JPGAt the end of this walk, in a patch of Trout Lillies, I almost found the Box Turtle I am forever looking for.

This park is a migrant trap, I have never seen so many Black Throated Blue Warblers, every 10 feet and right on the path, singing their hearts out. They are only passing through, headed to their breeding grounds a bit North. Some may still be around if you stop look and listen for that Beer Beer BEE.

Later in the day, I returned to a place I know well.

Red Oak CatkinsFuture Oak trees

IMG_3482.JPGDogwood FlowersThis may look like 3 Dogwood flowers, but look again. Each of those 4 white leafy bracts contains more like 20!

PawpawThe Pawpaw flowers crept up on me this year.

 

Willie Nelson wrote tonight’s title song, I learned while doing my obligatory googling. But this is always an Al Green song when you hear about it from me.

May your spring be filled with flowers, may your summer be filled with fruits, may you share the wonder of nature with those you love, may those who love you share it with you. Like the future trees these flowers promise, memories return to us again and again.

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What about the Box Turtle?

I will never get over seeing on Zillow that the small patch of wet woods behind my childhood home, filled to the brim with trees above Jack in the Pulpits, Mayapples, and other incredible wildflowers, was entirely cut down and  replaced with sod and 4 bushes. There were Red Backed Salamanders under the logs back there. There was a Box Turtle, and sometimes I could hear it rustling around in the layers of dried leaves on the forest floor. A whole magical world in a backyard. They hardscaped over the place where two of my dogs were buried, and I can never unknow that this sacred spot, unbearable to leave behind, now exists only in my memory. The bones are probably gone. It is sad and dead and ugly, but they bragged about their hardscaping on the Zillow post when the house went up for sale again. Why would someone buy a house that is back in the woods with the goal of getting rid of the woods? What is wrong with people? It breaks my heart, and hasn’t my heart been through enough? My dogs were gone no matter what, but the salamanders and the turtle and the millions of other creatures I did and did not discover back there, and their descendents, should still be with us. It was a particularly well preserved piece of Maryland’s Piedmont biodiversity. I have known about it the changes for 2 years since I happened to look the house up on Zillow, for the first time, and it had just gone on sale that day. This time of year is when I think of it again, when the Mayapples first come up, my favorite before I knew anything about wildflowers. I once saw the Box Turtle eating them, and later learned this animal plant pairing is a classic. I would like to think the turtle, which could live for 100 years, found someplace nearby to go, but in my heart I know that there weren’t many other places, and Box Turtles, with their perfect mental GPS, cannot bear to be taken away from the spot where they’re from. Less adaptable, perhaps, than some humans, neither can I.

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Loraxin’

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This blog was inspired by a strange period of time in my life during which I chose to abandon the path I had planned out and, for want of some form of income and direction, went to work as an outdoor educator on the Eastern Shore. That job is referenced frequently in early posts. Unlike the other outdoor rec jobs I’d had, which were fun and the opposite of a grind, this one involved grueling ’round the clock work without enough staff. It was spring and rained torrentially more days than not, and despite changing (waterproof) shoes a couple times a day my socks always seemed to be wet. The wet socks I was expecting, of course, but not the lack of opportunities to dry my feet off at the end of the day. But hold the complaints. Although I remember moments from that job like they happened YESTERDAY, it was almost 5 years ago. Continue reading

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Spotted

Spotted Salamander.JPGWhen I started this blog, my tree was a seed with 3 leaves sticking out of it. I had just moved back to my parents’ house for a few months, on the road to uncertain places. I remember that I rode my bike up large hills on 90 degree days and looked for caterpillars. Continue reading

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Because

Butterflies are with us all year long. Limited to our human senses and localities we think of them as summer creatures. Even if you’re not going away, I will miss you. Photos from September 17, 2017.

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Fiery SkipperIMG_2395.PNG

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Happy National Moth Week <3

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Male Polyphemus Moth July 2017

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July 29, 2017 · 1:54 pm

Dog Days of Summer (insect days really)

Happy birthday to this sweet little neglected blog! 4 years old and changing every day.

These are Dog Days indeed- one of the hottest I can remember in my 8 summers enjoying life without air conditioning. It’s usually not nearly as bad as people make it out to be- close the blinds, open the windows at night, use the ceiling fan when you’re in the room… I’m good. Sometimes it is an obstacle to cooking just when all yummiest the food is available, but I sweat it out every week or so and live to tell the tale. It is nice to smell the fresh air and hear the birds singing with the windows open and this time of year, the Cicadas! My old favorite insects are back and their chorus is what really makes summer official. Indeed, there is even a Cicada in Maryland named the Dog Day Cicada. It comes out annually, unlike its more famous red-eyed brethren.

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Did you know that the Dog Days of summer occur when the constellation Sirius makes an appearance in our night sky? The Scandinavians are into celebrating anything related to non-frozen times of year and all the old Pagan traditions, so this is obviously their holiday, occurring between early July and mid-August. That is more or less when the Dog Day Cicada calls too. But here is another did you know: Did you know that there are actually 18 species of Cicadas that live here in Maryland? And that the periodic Cicadas are actually 3 different species? That is what the Maryland Biodiversity Project has listed on their website. There is not a lot of information- most of the species have no records, and the Dog Day Cicada has none! Is it a rare Cicada? I’m not even sure. Today I found a barely alive perfect looking Swamp Cicada hanging out in the driveway, so my guess is that this species is the common choruser.

Here is to the soil that remains unturned and the concrete that is not poured over it, so that these sweet friends can sing for many generations to come.

 

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Set Backs

Despite the dire title, for months I have been meaning to write about my many successes out here in our natural world. Successes in finding and observing the bounty of spring early through late, in finding my way around a somewhat new neck of the woods, and in laying my human hands on what living things I might reach and, for better or worse, mess with. As always, I try and be thoughtful. I hope my manipulations will be for the better. Historically, these have mainly involved insects, and this year they still do. The Cecropia caterpillars I found last summer on a Blackhaw Viburnum have been emerging. I really wanted to write about the challenges and wonders this species has presented, but I will save it for another day. I have some eggs, I am lucky to say, and I am as sure as I can be that they are fertile and kicking.

When it comes to plants, my philosophy is a more hands-off approach. I want our yards to fill themselves with nature that comes naturally. Yet, this year I have a huge yard to myself for the first time. I have been growing some herbs and vegetables, just a few, carefully protected in chickenwire. It has gone well and I have gotten really into it, rapidly becoming somehow like my Grandmas and any stereotypical Grandma and I am quite certain this means my brain is aging and no longer seeks novelty but rather the rewards of simple labors. Ugh, so I am old now, and so much older than I was when this blog was a baby. At 29, I was a baby too. Now it must actually be around the blog-o-versary, but I am not quite prepared to investigate the specifics tonight.

I do have to think back to the origins of everycreepingthing though, and my little beloved baby Avocado. This baby is the source of the title of this current post, it has suffered a setback and it may not recover! Please keep my Chesapeake brewed in beer and youth babe in your thoughts. I have been meaning to put it outside, as someone did when it was in her care for a couple of rather sunless years, and let it grow some more. I also have been thinking I should probably repot. But I have reached an uncertain point with this youthful creature; I do not know anyone besides my Grandmother who kept one this long. She is gone now, so I cannot ask her, and when she was here my then novelty-seeking brain did not pay attention. She was here, of course, when the blog began, and that is one of the many dramatic turns that may or may not have contributed to my aging. Anyway, life changes, we all grow old, and I guess it’s true that until a certain point you don’t quite believe it will actually happen to you too. Whatever other setbacks, unfair twists of fate, or loss you may have experienced, time may indeed rob you of more. I don’t mean that to sound entirely dire. It also means that gratitude for what is is generally more valuable than bitterness for what isn’t.  The most openly grateful people I know can also be a little bit… smug, perhaps. If you’re reading this I almost certainly do not mean you. But privately, I hope we can all appreciate what we have.

Because today, in addition to continuing a sort of obsessive planting of native species that I would normally advise against in favor of letting nature plant things for you (my frantic planting began as a result of a kind person mowing my lawn and leaving me feeling bereft at the loss of the butterflies who’d been enjoying the foot high daisies and clovers) including Black Eyed Susans and Coral Honeysuckle, a native that the Hummingbirds generally enjoy, I also decided to take on the Avocado work. I transplanted the big baby first, and some heart-wrenching root-ripping occurred. The plant was already really really droopy, like the trunk was just too weak. Do I prune? Was transplanting best? There was not really extensive rooting to the bottom, so I’m not certain this huge heavy new pot was necessary. I left it outside in the shade, since it has had a tough time with too much sun for too long when I have brought it out on other adventures. While I was at it, mixing sand, etc, I decided to transplant the baby’s 1.5 year old younger sibling (an old soul from the start, it never qualified for the B word in my heart). This went well, the root system looked ready for transplant without being rootbound, and that child was proud and tall in its new pot. I thought it would be generous of me to leave it in dappled shade, and then let it grow fast and tall in the sun for the summer. Alas, later I went out to check on the nearly sideways sensitive darling, and I saw that my younger one was knocked over, snipped in half, uneaten but killed, all for the pit that had still been supplying it. Good bye strong proud avocado that asked for little and received less. You deserved better, but I really thought I was helping! I am waiting to see if your root system can grow something.

I took the baby in, of course. I can’t bare more squirrels or worse in this strangely vulnerable urban yard to hurt my tree. Now the poor thing is tied up with a scarf to a shelf in my kitchen, to keep it from practically lying on the ground. The leaves actually look pretty happy, which I think they might not if the roots were really harmed. Channeling my Grandmother’s old Reader’s Digests I wonder, Can This Avocado Be Saved? It’s been through so much with me, I hope so.

I’m not ready for the big yellow taxi to take this babe away. Actual concrete advice welcomed.

 

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Ferns, Fungi, and a Flowering Plant

I went on a plant walk along the Gunpowder with the Maryland Native Plant Society. I remember being amazed by the birders who could hear and ID Parulas, Yellow Throated Warblers, and Louisiana Waterthrushes in the distance on early spring trips to look for salamanders and flowers. Now I find that I am one of them. It is so much easier to learn the harder songs now that I find other songs so familiar. It also helps to know who to expect when, and where. These three warblers show up early, although quickly more are coming. I actually saw a pair of Louisiana Waterthrushes near what may be a nest. They make nests in mud banks, they are warblers despite their name, their legs are pink and their chip call is loud. But plants are easier to take pictures of.

IMG_0666.JPGMarginal Fern

IMG_0669.JPGRue Anemone Continue reading

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