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Heron Hike 2

The foliage in Central Massachusetts is becoming more brilliant each day. Swamp maples surrounding the beaver lodge at Wachusett Wildlife Sanctuary are nearly at peak color.

Meanwhile, the juvenile Great Blue Heron featured in the previous post is still roaming the sanctuary. It seems in no rush to migrate, perhaps because of the warm weather this week.

Beaver Lodge, Wildlife Pond, Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary
Juvenile Great Blue Heron, South Meadow

Pumpkin Puzzle

The clever combination of pumpkins and corn perplexes and delights in this inventive architectural seasonal “home” design.

Bemis Farms Nursery, North Brookfield, MA

An Appealing Orchard

Brookfield Orchards has served generations of Central Massachusetts residents during its one hundred and two year history.

Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, MA is one of New England’s oldest orchards, and a perfect setting for a fall picnic.

Corn, Clouds and Crows

Early fall in Central Massachusetts is the perfect time to explore and photograph the beauty of the region’s local farmlands.

Jordan Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts is a fifth generation farm. In addition to its long history, it is highly regarded as one of the first farms in Massachusetts to produce clean energy.
This is only a small section of the cornfields that provide food for their 375 cows.
On this early fall day, fast moving cloud formations lent a constantly changing counterpoint to the landscape.
The windswept tassels on top of the corn were elegantly silhouetted against the clouds.
I was startled by what appeared to be a rising moon behind the corn.
It is actually a receptacle for storing corn silage (corn used to feed the cows in Winter).
The corn is sown and harvested with mechanical precision, resulting in perfectly neat rhythmic rows.
Corn loving crows are almost always found in undulating groups, creating fascinating patterns in the sky.

A group of crows is often called a murder, but I prefer a less frequently used collective noun for these intelligent and social creatures– a parcel.
Crows aren’t fussy. They will eat corn on or off the cob, as well as seeds and seedlings.
The proud old farmstead sits at the edge of a country road, at the very top of a long hill.
The classic New England red barn across the street stands as a testament to a beloved bygone era.
This historic and progressive farm is only ten miles away from Worcester, MA, New England’s second largest city.

Lunch Break

From apples to zinnias: visitors can choose from a wide variety of tasty treats in my garden this week.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit/ Scarlet Emperor Greens
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird/Scarlet Emperor Bean Blossoms
Eastern Chipmunk/Acorns
Downy Woodpecker/Baldwin Apple
Monarch Butterfly/ California Giant Zinnia

Painted (Turtle) Portrait Redux

Out with the old, and in with the new: a turtle sheds its shell.

Last June, I photographed a turtle on this exact log at Mass Audubon Wachusett Meadow. Yesterday, the turtle I saw there was shedding its shell. As a turtle grows larger, the outer portion of the shell, called the scutes, must fall off to make way for the newer, larger scutes.

Iridescence

Glistening Ruby-throated hummingbirds will be heading south for the winter soon.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary iridescence is:

1 : a lustrous rainbowlike play of color caused by differential refraction of light waves (as from an oil slick, soap bubble, or fish scales) that tends to change as the angle of view changes
2 : a lustrous or attractive quality or effect
The Ruby-throated hummingbird is found throughout Massachusetts during the warm months. This female paused on the branch of a nearby apple tree recently, providing me with a close-up of her luminous feathers.

Digging for Gold

How fortunate that many of nature’s treasures are edible.

What’s in the bag?
Let’s see. . .
Looks promising. . .
Keep digging. . .
All is revealed!
Edible treasure:
Yukon Gold potatoes!

Now and Then

The transformation of a garden in just three months is delightful to consider.

Even though it’s been a summer of extreme weather here in Central Massachusetts, most parts of the garden have thrived. Below, recent pictures are paired with those from late May, when the garden was first planted.

The pole beans are luxurious. The squash is holding its own, despite not being in full sun and hosting a mole that samples ground level fruits nightly.
Squash seedlings were barely visible in late May. Beans had yet to sprout.

Hard working Scarlet Emperor beans are on double duty attracting hummingbirds with jewel-like red blossoms and providing a screen from the road beyond. Additionally, the beans are tasty if picked when they are small.
The beans were planted in high planters as protection from hungry rabbits. Fortunately, rabbits have been few and far between during the past weeks.
The “Christmas tree” look of the heirloom Boston Pickling cucumber lends visual interest to the garden with its height and large leaves. A prolific grower, it is sprawling out on the ground in back of the “tree” as well.
Growing cucumbers vertically on bamboo canes makes harvesting produce much easier.
Eggplants that are ready to harvest are surrounded by marigolds for support. The plants cover the blue bucket they are growing in.
Marigold seedlings are barely visible in this picture. They bloomed so prolifically around the eggplant, I had to remove one to give the eggplant more room.
Kale has been continually harvested throughout the summer. Nasturtium and marigolds make good companion plants, as well as surrounding it with spots of edible color.
Lettuce (that had not germinated when this photograph was taken) was planted in between the kale. The kale provided shade for the lettuce during the hot July days.

Apple Art

Apple leaves that had fallen on a white table were the inspiration for this still life.

Apple leaves that fell from my Baldwin apple tree onto a white table inspired me to add garden flowers and windfall apples to create this still life.
Keeping the leaves exactly where they had fallen, I experimented with the addition of a small garden bouquet of freshly picked flowers.
Windfall apples added contrast in keeping with the theme.
A gravel “frame” was a simple addition.
Baldwin apples trees usually bear fruit every other year, but this will be the second year in a row I am looking forward to harvesting Baldwins for applesauce, muffins, pie and other delights.
Central Massachusetts holds a special affinity for apples, as Johnny Appleseed was born in Leominster, Massachusetts.
Close-up photography highlights different aspects of the artwork.
The Baldwin apple is one of New England’s oldest, and was first discovered in Massachusetts.
Apple season is coming soon to Central Massachusetts!

Monarch of the Meadow

Increased monarch butterfly activity is a sign of fall at Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary.

This thoughtfully placed bench at Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary is a perfect place to sit and contemplate monarch butterflies.
The North and South Meadows are ablaze with goldenrod in the late summer. Goldenrod is an important food source for monarchs.
The majestic monarch has a wingspan of three to four inches.
In addition to goldenrod, adult monarchs feed on a wide variety of nectar bearing flowers in preparation for their migration to Mexico.
With their striking orange and black coloring, monarchs are one of the most easily recognized butterflies in North America.
The goldenrod this monarch is feeding on does not cause allergies in humans. Ragweed, which blooms at the same time, is the allergy culprit.

In the Pink

Pink is a-poppin’ in my garden this week.

Tall Phlox
Luminosa Zinnias, Butterfly Bush and Morning Glories
Echinacea or Purple Cone Flower
Butterfly Bush
Candy Pink Morning Glory
Grandpa Ott Morning Glories

How I Miss Them!

A mysterious bird disease is affecting the Southern and Mid-Atlantic states.

Birdbaths in my yard, usually a focal point for visiting birds, have been turned over at the urging of Massachusetts Wildlife officials. Although not yet reported in Massachusetts, a mysterious bird disease has affected many Southern and Mid-Atlantic states. Since late May there have been numerous reports of dying birds with swollen eyes and crusty discharge, as well as neurological problems. In lieu of the bright colors and uplifting energy our feathered friends provide, I offer these digitally altered photos, hoping the birds will be back flitting around my yard soon, and in good health.

Bees, Please

Doing my part to make my yard pollinator friendly.

Echinacea, calendula, zinnia and marigold blossoms are bedecked with bees this week.

Mindfulness

Photographs from a visit to the grounds of the Barre Center For Buddhist Studies in Barre, Massachusetts.

At the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Barre, MA thoughtful landscaping and architecture are designed to encourage reflection and contemplation in or out of doors.
Stone walls, sturdy trees, benches and other wooden elements recur throughout the grounds. Circular and domed shapes enhance architectural elements.
The large domed bell with striker is hung from a aged tree. In Buddhism, the bell is sometimes said to be the sound of the Buddha’s voice.
A dome-shaped stupa (a Buddhist monument housing sacred relics associated with the Buddha) is surrounded by greenery and stone walls.
The Meditation Hall features large circular windows. Circles are associated with enlightenment in Buddhist thought.
Wooden floors and exposed beams enhance the inside of the hall.
The vegetable garden is enclosed by a handmade willow fence. Garden sections are now being planted, as the Center will welcome on-site students once again this fall.
A wooden Thai Spirit House sits at the edge of the garden.
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