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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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
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.
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.
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.
Rue Anemone Continue reading
Do you know that I started this blog in 2013? Yeep, things were different then. One of the different things, and the blog’s original main topic, was a baby avocado plant.
Brewed with love, well travelled, and creatively fed, this young blog’s mascot represented bringing nature home. It journeyed to the Eastern Shore and back again while I was teaching outdoor education. Oh those simpler days. I still do not miss the long nights in tents and no time to change out of wet boots, but gosh, that fresh air, those flushed faces. The mud and the youth and Sassafras trees the rainy night board games and the salamanders.
Have things changed? Well, just ask this baby, who lived, in those wilder days, in a plastic cup.
And I wish you my kind of success.
I had a special morning, doing some What the Robin Knows type activities in the woods I know well. That means going outside and holding still for awhile, letting the natural world come to you. This time of year is so full of life, maybe, just maybe, the fullest. There was a bird chasing a juvenile male Pileated Woodpecker, which turned out to be a Red Bellied Woodpecker! I guess that he wanted to check out the newer drilling done by a bigger beak. There were many tadpoles and nymphs and there was a huge Green Frog staring at me from a few feet away. It took me so long to actually spot it while I peered into the water. I always wonder when frogs do this to me what else I am not noticing right before my eyes. There were little froglets (but not the littlest; they may have done some growing) hopping up the dry streambed to escape my boots. There was a flycatcher catching flies, and a lot of Chickadees. There was one Cedar Waxwing. I have never seen one by itself, but no others seemed to turn up- was I seeing the same one over and over or catching glimpses of a few? It was all so lovely, and I didn’t take pictures and I didn’t really want to… but I want you to maybe go outside too. Into the Woods!
Three Polyphemus Eggs hatched on June 13th.
My oh my how the time has flown, because just yesterday the first emerged from her cocoon! Here is the tiny caterpillar that almost escaped but that I finally found, after a lot of searching, clinging to my own hair.
So furry! So big! How can those two photos be of the same creature sitting on my hand? Continue reading