Thursday, September 22, 2011

Watching and waiting

While I work my fingers to the bone raking leaves, transplanting perennials, weeding and doing other yard chores, Baby watches and waits for any sign of the chipmunks that live in this burrow (and many others on the property). She’s logged hours and hours on watch ― one Saturday she spent the entire day at her post. In any contest judging “most focused,” she would dominate all the competition and go on to win the prize.

Alas, it’s all for naught. When she does finally succeed in catching any of the chipmunks that live here, she feels compelled to bring them straight to me and I, in turn, feel compelled to set them free, which, of course, starts the process all over again.

Occasionally, I’ll find a headless chipmunk on the doormat and a triumphant looking Baby sitting proudly beside it. There has been a surge in the chipmunk population this year, and they do make their way into the house, so I resign myself to the few hapless and headless and let Baby be Baby. As always, click on the photos for a better view.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where tears fell

White Wood Asters are late summer and fall food for wildlife

According to legend the Greek goddess Asterea began to cry when she looked down upon the earth and saw no flowers. Asters bloomed where her tears fell. Asters were chosen to decorate the graves of French soldiers to symbolize the wish that things had turned out differently. And so today, when we remember the thousands of people we lost on September 11, 2001, the wild wood aster seems a fitting tribute.

This native plant (Aster divaricatus) is a late blooming, shade tolerant wildflower and in New England some even last until the killing frosts of November. Few people know that they provide a late nectar source for butterflies and other insects and if you allow the seed heads to remain through the fall and winter, wild aster seed serves as food for sparrows, goldfinches, chipmunks and wild turkeys.

There are over 120 species of the genus aster found in the United States. Asters are primarily known for their fall flowering, especially in fields. But wild asters can also be found in swamps, bogs and woods. Some of these species can be a wonderful addition to native meadows planted to replace lawns. The large double-flowered asters seen in catalogs and garden centers belong to a different genus native to Asia.

Asters are the birth flower for September. The star-like flowers are said to be "stars fetched from the night skies and planted on the fields of day."

A song that seems right for this somber day is Peter Murphy's Cuts You Up. Click here to listen.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Mill Brook

The Mill Brook in Concord

Arising in Lincoln, the Mill Brook flows for three miles and disappears into the Concord River. I love the way it shimmers with eel-grass, water starwort and common pondweed (click on the photo for a close-up view). And even though the calendar says September, standing over the brook and gazing at the wetland meadows that surround it makes me feel like summer will never end.