When You Arise

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”    ~ Marcus Aurelius

Catmint – Nepeta racemosa

Catmint – Nepeta racemosa

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Giant Swallowtail

I had an unusual visitor to my garden the other day. While having lunch on our deck, I noticed a rather large butterfly flitting among the Coneflowers. I grabbed my camera and went down to get a closer look. I had never seen one like this: 5-6″ wide, a large, creamy-yellow abdomen with a black band running along the top and the signature ‘tails’ at end of the lower wings, cluing me in that this might be a type of Swallowtail.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) on Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) on Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

When I looked it up, I found we are at the northern end of the rather tropical-looking Giant Swallowtail’s range with rare specimens turning up as far north as Quebec and Nova Scotia. One of the two largest butterflies in North America, this one looked the worse for wear with portions of its bottom and top right wing missing. It still managed to fly well. The bee in the top photo actually tried unsuccessfully to chase it off!

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Apparently fond of citrus trees as host plants, the larvae are voracious pests in Florida, where they fly the year around and produce up to four broods a year. The only other host plants that grow around here, also in the Rutaceae family, are the herb Rue (Ruta graveolens) and Gas Plant (Dictamnus albus). I wondered how far this one travelled to get to my garden in Massachusetts?

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It had a long proboscis that it used like a giant straw to suck nectar and seemed to favor the coneflower, although it briefly paused on the phlox and white allium.

That's quite the proboscis!

That’s quite the proboscis!

It didn’t hang around long and I’ve not seen it since, so I guess it had other gardens to visit. It was fun to have such a delicate and beautiful visitor grace my garden, even if only for a short while.

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Horse-powered Haymaking

 

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We’ve been members of a horse-powered Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm for a number of years.  Natural Roots owners, Anna and David, along with their interns Emily and Nate, allowed me to tag along for a photo shoot while they collected their second mowing of hay last week.

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It was a beautiful, dry and sunny day in the mid-70s, as had been the previous few – perfect for mowing, tedding (turning and fluffing the hay several times to facilitate drying), raking into long windrows and finally for gathering the hay onto wagons to be brought to the barn. I was there for the last of this multi-day process.

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Here comes my ride – David driving Gus & Tim

The farm has two pairs of Belgian workhorses, a gentle breed possessing great strength. I climbed aboard the wagon with David and Nate en route to the field where the hay laid waiting. I love the thrill of riding behind a pair of powerful horses; tack jingling, heads tossing and the bump and sway as the wheels pass over ruts and across the ford in the river. The horses are cued by voice commands, a language that communicates to the team exactly what they are being asked to do: go forward: “Come up,” stop: “Whoa,” backward: “Baack,” left: “Haw,” right: “Gee” and just one step for fine-tuned movement: “Up a step.”

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Once in the field, I jumped down to photograph the hitching up of the hay loader, an ingenious contraption that rakes the hay onto a stepped platform where tines lift the hay up and dumps it into the wagon, where it is then manually distributed evenly by pitchfork across the body of the wagon.

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Hot work, but gratefully, the weather was mild and not the typically grueling heat that usually accompanies haymaking. With each pass the level of hay rose higher and higher. After three and a half times around the field, the wagon was full, ready to head to the barn for offloading. Anna and Emily were waiting at the side of the field to fill the next wagonload.

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Emily & Anna (driving Pat & Lady) discuss their route

I climbed up the rungs of the wagon rack to sit high atop the hay for the ride back – it was a great view from up there in the comfy, soft bed of fresh, sweet-smelling hay. I love hayrides and this was the best! I got a birds-eye-view of the crops as we passed.

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At the barn, the horses drew the wagon under the hayfork; four hooked blades on a chain pushed into the loose hay, then lifted by a pulley system to the upper floor of the barn where a trolley shoots it across to where it is released, again spread manually by pitchfork evenly over the barn floor.

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Up, up and away!

David and Anna’s ten-year old daughter, Leora, operated the pulley system, impressing me with her expert handling of Star.

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The process was coordinated by clear verbal commands between Nate down in the hay wagon, David up in the hayloft and Leora, out in the barnyard opposite Nate. Even six-year old Gabriel was on hand to give Star a carrot treat. “I’m a farmer!” he proudly informed me.

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I totally lost track of time while witnessing this engrossing operation from bygone days. No whiff of diesel fumes, no loud motor running, just the gentle, plodding footsteps of horses, the low-voiced commands and praise given to the horses and the sounds of nature surrounding the farm. The sun, the sky crossed with darting swallows, the fresh smells of clean air, newly mown hay and the quiet tumble of water coursing over the riverbed. This is the way it used to be before farming became mechanized. I can remember a few old timers keeping teams when I was a child, but even then most farm equipment was tractor driven. Teams were used for hauling lumber or maple sap out of the woods or for heavy weight pulling competitions at the agricultural fairs.

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In recent years, there has been renewed interest in farming with horses as sustainable agriculture has grown. Our nearby university now offers a program in sustainable agriculture and more young people are coming on board every year. I admire the hard work and devotion that go into farming using these methods. Organic food really does taste better; the fresher, the more packed with nutrients it is. I am so grateful to Anna, David and their team, who are committed to providing our community with the fruits of their labor as well as their friendship. What a blessing!

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Related article: Read my March post of the community barn raising at Natural Roots.

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Blog Tour

IMG_5069 - Version 2Ellen Shriner, whose blog I follow, WordSisters, has invited me to participate in a blog tour. Ellen is an excellent writer with a clean, concise writing style and solidly researched topics. I am especially fond of her reflections on family and baby boomer topics. She shares the blog with Elizabeth di Grazia, who alternates weeks with Ellen.

The topic for this tour is to relate my ‘writing process,’ which varies from post to post. Sometimes, I see a really inspiring quote that I wish to share with my followers. I go through my photos to find one that compliments the quote, perhaps write a comment and will post that.

Most often, I take my camera out on walks and shoot what appeals to me. I see beauty just about everywhere I go, especially in details right down to the macro level. The natural world is endlessly fascinating to me. When I have a good shot, I will write about the subject. It may be mating frogs, migrating birds or a woodland flower in bloom.

IMG_0363At least once a month I post an article on gardening. In the past few years, I’ve grown more passionate about gardening with nature as opposed to against it, so my topics often reflect that. My land provides so much fodder for posts, I will never be at a loss for a subject!

IMG_9642For the next stop on the tour, I point you to the Forest Garden. Elizabeth lives in coastal Virginia and her posts include photos of gorgeous plant combinations in her various garden niches, as well as the insects, birds and occasional reptile that share her garden. She also writes about the plant and animal life in and around the nearby coastal estuaries. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your visit!

Forest Garden photo

Forest Garden photo

 

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Worker Bee

IMG_1049The diligent and hardworking bumblebee – what would we do without her?

Bumblebee (Bombus grisceocollis) on Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

 

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I Salute You!

may-july12 225One year ago today, with heart pounding (because I had no idea what I was doing), I hit the ‘Publish’ button and posted my first ever blog entry – Serenity Beckons.

Now, I look back on the journey I’ve undertaken and feel proud that I took that first step to reach out to a wider audience. For many years previously, I’d published a garden column in our town’s monthly newsletter. I’d never followed any blogs and had an inaccurate point of view about what they were, thinking they were basically me-me-me showcases. How wrong I was. Yes, I can post my photos and writing, then receive generous feedback. What I didn’t realize is what I would receive by visiting your blogs. On WordPress, I found an incredible community of supportive, like-minded folks whose points of view and wisdom added so much to my daily life, I was amazed and hooked!

I am reluctant to admit how much time I can spend in a day (especially rainy days) reading and responding to your posts and comments (however, my family will tell you)! I am drinking in all your creativity, your hearts and souls seeking expression. You are beautiful! I feel full to the brim, eating from your buffet. Drunk, intoxicated with the sheer headiness of it all.

Am I binging? Sometimes I think so. I have to remind myself to pull back from the buffet, take some time to give back to you all, that my own soul as well needs to add to this buffet. It’s potluck after all, here on WordPress – a smorgasbord beyond belief! I’m so grateful to have found this outlet and inlet, this community of talent, reflections of the world from the eyes and hearts of dozens. Each has so much to offer and I know I cannot see it all. I know that I will miss posts and must pick and choose from thousands, which is tough to do!

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So in love and appreciation, I salute you, fellow bloggers on this, my first blogiversary. I look forward to our continued journey together.

 

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August 8 Global Meditation for Peace

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A reminder for those who wish to participate in the Global Meditation for Peace event tomorrow, August 8, 2014 at noon. Imagine it!

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