Green Frog

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Here is one of the handsome green frogs that take up residence every summer in the small pond outside our front door. This fellow came out to enjoy the sun on one of warm days we had last week, basking on the little pagoda lantern right near the edge.

I believe our visitors are drawn by the sound of water splashing in the fountain. On summer evenings while we sit conversing on the porch, they will put in a word or two with a “ka-dunk” or “bar-umph,” often hilariously well-timed to our conversations, like they are agreeing or putting in their two cents.

Because this shallow pond freezes solid every winter and kills any amphibians that attempt to hibernate in it, every fall we must drain it, relocating all the residents to overwinter in a muddy lagoon in the river below the house. Last year we captured 14 frogs of various sizes, all of them showing up over the course of one summer. So in the next week or two, when I make time for such an undertaking, this guy will be headed to safer winter quarters. I wonder if he will wake up in the spring and start heading up the hill, remembering his idyllic summerhouse?

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Autumn Light

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There’s something about light filtering through autumn leaves that reminds me of opaque stained glass, but with even greater luminosity than anything manmade. Its beauty is all the more special because it is so ephemeral.

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Seeds

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For plants, Autumn is about setting fruit and producing seeds; ensuring the perpetuation of the species is the purpose of life in Nature. Above is a seed pod from Turk’s Cap Lily (Lilium canadense), now dry and beginning to split open, awaiting the autumn winds to disperse the winged seeds. I am amazed at the sheer abundance of neatly layered seeds that line each of the six chambers within a single pod. This one pod has over 200 seeds! The plant I took it from had thirteen pods.

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Such is the generosity of Nature. If you’ve ever wondered if God loves you, here is your answer!

Although rodents and birds probably consume a lot of the seed, there are always enough to ensure a new crop to sprout in the coming spring. We ‘help’ by gathering a few of the pods to sow in different spots along our paths that have ideal growing conditions – full to part sun and rich, evenly moist soil. It takes several years for the seed to grow into a bulb large enough to produce a flowering stalk, providing it isn’t eaten by rodents or deer. A risky business, but well worth the wait!

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Country Road

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“Take me home, country road…”

When I drive down the country roads near my home, this popular song by John Denver often pops into my head. I sometimes exchange “Massachusetts” for “West Virginia” because it seems to perfectly describe my rural area. I visited Wikipedia and was surprised to learn that the composer may have been describing our area after all!

Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a song written by Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver, and initially recorded by John Denver.

Danoff (from Springfield, MA) has stated he had never been in West Virginia before co-writing the song.[citation needed] He had even briefly considered using “Massachusetts” rather than “West Virginia”, as both four-syllable state names would have fit the song’s meter.

I guess it is true that you learn something new every day. “Almost heaven, Massachusetts…”  It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Hope you’re having a wonderful day, wherever you are!

 

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Canopy

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I love to look up through the tree canopy to the sky above in any season, but in autumn with the foliage on fire, this practice fills me with wonder and delight.IMG_2214

I never tire of it, Nature’s beauty knows no bounds!IMG_2256The hills are tapestries of color, peaking this week in our area of New England. Driving through the countryside, I marvel at the glory of red, orange and gold, interwoven with accents of evergreen.IMG_2246 IMG_2247All too fleeting, I find myself pausing to drink it in, knowing full well that with every passing breeze and raindrop that falls, this show will be coming to an end. Enjoy this brilliant moment!

 

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Blazing

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Blazing Fall Color – Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

A glorious shrub native to Eastern North America with incredible fall color and attractive, burgundy seed panicles that are an important food source for birds during winter. A tea that is high in vitamin C, said to taste like cranberry lemonade, can be made from the ripe berries by infusing in cold water overnight, then straining through cheesecloth or coffee filter. I’ve never tried it, but it sounds delicious!

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Hydrangea Wreath

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My friend Carol has a PeeGee Hydrangea (H. paniculata) in front of her house, which has been burnished a lovely shade of deep rose and mauve from the cool weather, but not yet ruined by frost. I suggested we get together to make wreaths out of some of her blooms and she enthusiastically agreed.

We lucked out weather-wise as the day dawned bright and clear. We set up a folding table outside to take advantage of the beautiful day and with no  worries about making a mess. There are always a few spiders and creepy crawlers in freshly picked flowers, so they got a chance to make their getaway safely.

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We chose the rosiest blooms we could find, filling a laundry basket with voluptuous, heavy bracts. Working with fresh hydrangea is much easier than dried; while it is equally delicate, it is more pliable than brittle.

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I had a store-bought wreath frame on hand, but a coat hanger works as well. The hook is bent around as a nail hanger and all the angles worked into a round shape.

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Using a spool of 24-gauge wire, we begin by securing the wire to the frame. Choosing one or more blooms, placed along frame, we wrap gently, but firmly (too tightly, the stems will break; too loosely, they will fall out as the stems dry), attaching it to the frame with several loops.

IMG_2169Advancing by wrapping wire several inches along frame, we then place the next blooms and repeat. The idea is to try to position blooms so that the best color faces outward and there is some symmetry in size and shape as we work along. At the end we can cut tips and adjust edges to create a pleasing look.

It really doesn’t take long to work around the frame because of the bulkiness of each hydrangea head. When finished, we snip wire and tuck securely into frame. Assessing where the wreath looks fullest, which will be the bottom, I cut a six-inch piece of wire and slip into the opposite side to create a loop for a nail to hang it, marking with a scrap of ribbon so it is easy to find later. Here is the completed wreath, which ended up somewhat heart-shaped:

IMG_2172Carol had some Cockscomb (Celosia cristata) on hand to add to hers, creating a nice effect. Any combination of dried flowers can be added when making a wreath, each is a unique creation and all that matters is that it pleases you!

IMG_2171Setting the finished wreath flat, out of bright light for a day or two to dry sets the bloom, so nothing will dry in a droopy way. Once dry, hanging on a wall that has indirect light will help to preserve the color.

Any type of hydrangea can be used for wreaths and arrangements once the flowers have passed and the bracts firmed up. (The ‘true’ flowers on hydrangeas are tiny, surrounded by four-petalled bracts that we think of as their flowers; poinsettias and dogwood are other bract inflorescences.)

We had a lot of fun visiting, being creative and making something beautiful to enjoy in our home during the winter months. Our wreaths will also serve to remind us of this lovely autumn day shared with a friend.

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