Thursday, October 29, 2015

Effect of weather on leaf color

Somewhere I read that cooler weather earlier will bring out the red in the leaves.  I noticed that this year with my red maple.  We had a few really cool days earlier in the season and I got some red and burgundy color in the maple whereas last year, the same maple had a lot of yellow.  Here are 2 pictures--the first picture is this year and the second picture is last year.  Quite a difference.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A "sensitive plant" mystery

A few days ago, I was standing near my weedy and overgrown mixed border.  I could hear little clicking sounds all about.  Just as I looked in the direction of one click, I would hear one in the opposite direction.  I first assumed I was hearing grasshoppers or crickets or some sort of insect making a clicking noise.  I kept observing and listening.  I think my first clue was not seeing any insects, and maybe I actually heard the miniscule shower of seeds hitting surrounding plants.  I was amazed to realize the clicking sound was made as the seed pods of the weed known as partridge pea or sensitive plant (chamaecrista genus, possibly chamaecrista nictitans?) burst open and spewed their seeds about.  I was amused and in awe.
If you've ever walked through a patch of these plants in the summer, you might have noticed how the foliage kind of withers in response to being touched or brushed against.  Some species are more dramatic than others.  I remember working in a youth program in the Uwharrie Forest and noticing some plants with larger blooms and a much more immediate and dramatic movement (possibly chamaecrista fasciculate?) than the ones that grew around our house.  If you stop and think about it, most movement done by a plant is so slow you can't actually watch it happen--the budding of leaves, the adding of another year's growth.  It's fascinating to see a plant that can make a quick movement.
It's also interesting to me that there were particular plants that I "liked" as a child.  The sensitive plant was one of them.  I think I might have thought the leaves looked a little like miniature palm branches (I could reenact Palm Sunday on a miniature scale) or mini mimosa branches.  I think my older siblings or my mother showed me how the leaves withered in response to being handled.  I'm pretty sure I thought that was cool.  I also liked the tiny yellow flowers that grew underneath the foliage.  I had favorite colors, but I also had favorite "shades" of colors and favorite combinations of colors.  That shade of yellow was particularly gratifying to me, especially against the green foliage.  I think we also liked any plant that formed pods, too, because we could use them as pretend food in our imaginative play.  It's a nice plant that I liked then and I like now, though I do treat it as a weed for my compost pile now.
Here is a close-up from my border of the dried pods--some closed, some curled after spewing their seeds.  Clicking mystery solved.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Volunteer cilantro

The other day when I added some sugar maple leaves and meal-moth-infested rice to my garden compost pile, I noticed some little seedlings around the edge of the pile.  It was cilantro that sprouted from the seeds of the old cilantro stalks that I had put on the pile in spring.
I decided that was better than planting them myself, and I moved the compost pile over to another spot to give the area to the cilantro.
(Here's the newly moved pile (that has an addition of sugar maple leaves, infested rice, infested peanuts, kitchen scraps, weeds, and out-of-date powdered sugar underneath the layers of old pile with its briars and golden bell branches.))
I stuck some sticks from the compost pile upright to sort of mark some of the cilantro, and a day or two later I noticed some worm or snail had nipped off the marked ones.  Maybe some of the others will make it.  I will just have to weed out the hen bit that is also germinating like crazy.
Cilantro will over winter here in central NC.

Monday, October 26, 2015

More compost for the sugar maple

The sugar maple in the front yard got a little pampering last week.  Caleb and I had added a little fertilizer and compost in the spring after the hailstorm, and I decided to repeat that process in the fall (without my helper this time).  My older brother uses the rule of thumb, "when all the leaves have changed colors and half of them have dropped" is the time to fertilize trees.  I have a cold-rot compost pile that I use for my ornamentals.  Whenever I want compost, I scoop it out from the bottom of the pile (sometimes without even trying to move the stuff on top).

I screened the compost through a piece of hardware cloth right into the wheel barrow.  After spreading the fertilizer and compost around the tree, I watered it in with about 20 gallons of water.  I hope the tree will respond well to the pampering.  It has been such a slow growing tree that I like to fantasize that years hence, the lumber would make a fine-grained wood suitable for a musical instrument.  Who knows, though, maybe with all the pampering, the tree will begin to grow faster and the wood will end up with an irregular grain.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Indian summer

I'll let the pictures paint the words.



Relocating a black snake

Yesterday I had the occasion to assist with the relocation of a black snake.  I wonder how far this snake will travel, and how many brothers he has.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My winter squash muffins

This is roughly the recipe I used (an adaptation from a bran muffin recipe).

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Line with paper the cups of a 12-muffin pan.
In a medium bowl, combine
                1 beaten egg
                1/4 c vegetable oil
                1/2 c milk
                2/3 c baked winter squash
                1 1/2 c bran flakes
and let sit for 5 minutes.  Then stir again to break up any cereal clumps.
In a small bowl, combine
                1 c flour
                1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
                2 tsp baking powder
                1/4 tsp baking soda
                dash of cinnamon, and/or nutmeg, and/or ginger, or allspice
                1/4 c chopped walnuts
Set aside dry ingredients for a moment;
                1 medium banana
and add to moist mixture.  Then add dry ingredients to moist, stirring only enough to barely combine.  (The cookbook my husband brought into our marriage 30 years ago says about muffins, "no more than 12 to 15 strokes.")
Cook for 20 to 23 minutes or until a well done aroma wafts through the kitchen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Autumn Crown winter squash

My brother gave me an 'Autumn Crown' winter squash to cook that he had grown.  It looked like a miniature tan colored pumpkin.  My mom had given me instructions to cut the stem out and bake it.  I think I was supposed to remove the seeds before I baked it, but I didn't.  They were pretty tasty by the time the squash finished baking (almost an hour at 350° ).  The squash has a nice bright color and a moist flesh.  I went the "savory" route with part of the squash:  I mixed in little chunks of cheddar, dried sage, salt, pepper, and butter, and reheated it in the microwave till it was warm and the cheese was melted.
My son ate his without complaint, but my husband, who really doesn't like any kind of winter squash, wouldn't even finish his small portion.  I decided to put some of the rest of the squash in a muffin.  I altered the muffin recipe on the box of store brand bran flakes cereal.  I substituted about a half a cup of squash for two of the (three) bananas.  I used brown sugar instead of white and upped it to about a half a cup.  I also added some chopped walnuts and reduced the milk by about as much moisture as I thought the squash would add.  I think we all enjoyed the muffins.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Time to rake

The sugar maple and sycamore have been shedding quite a few leaves already.  My lawn mower has a handy dandy mulching blade  All I have to do is fasten the plate over the discharge area, and I can mulch the leaves as I mow over them.  I did that with the first leaves that fell.  Today I raked some that I will put on the compost pile.  I'll probably use the mulching mower again soon.  I find leaf raking a fairly enjoyable chore, but I do miss my little helper who is all grown up and busy with other things now.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

First frost

We had our season's first frost this morning.  I had brought the houseplants in yesterday.  I always hate doing that because there is not a good, well lit place for them.  The Knock Out roses, on a sunny bank and under the protection of the Japanese maple, managed this morning, but will probably suffer tonight when it is supposed to be a couple of degrees cooler. 
When I was by Walmart Friday, I found some small mums reduced to $0.49 each.  I combined two of them in a container for the front porch.  The porch should provide enough protection from the frost for the mums.
The golden bells are burgundy and the sugar maple is golden.

It sure feels like fall.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Recognizing number patterns and probabilities

Years ago when I delivered newspapers,  I learned about street numbers and apartment numbers.  And I remember when old mail routes were renumbered so the emergency personnel could find each residence.  I guess not everyone got the memo.  Several weeks ago I had the occasion to call the sheriff's department.  It was after dark, and I told the deputy my address and promised to leave my porch light on.  I live in a subdivision and the house number pattern is straightforward:  sequential even numbers on the right and sequential odd numbers on the left.  Now what is the probability that the deputy goes to the wrong house (even though I was the only one with a porch light on).  Quite a few of the neighbors have numbers on their mailboxes and/or houses.  The deputy pointed out that I didn't have a number on my house.  "It's on the mailbox," I replied.  Of course, I noticed later that a morning glory vine has mostly obscured the number.  Still, no excuse for a deputy to go to a house on the right when the odd numbered houses are on the left. 
Then yesterday, I encountered another person who was thrown off by a simple number pattern.  First, some background--I don't clean windows often, but I had taken a notion yesterday to clean the windows of the front storm door.  It's also not very often that someone rings my doorbell, either.  Now what are the chances that I will be in the bathroom when someone does?  Yes, I was in the bathroom when the doorbell rang.  I got to the door as quickly as possible to find a lady with a pizza.  She needed to be at the house next door.  Then, after she left I noticed a smudge on my freshly cleaned storm door.  She must have put her hand to the glass to peer in to see if I was inside since I didn't answer the door right away.  What is the probability that a pizza delivery person will go the wrong house and smudge a rarely cleaned, but freshly cleaned window?  (As ds would say, in this case it was a 100%!)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A very old plastic ruler

The sugar maple tree that I planted in the front yard roughly twenty years ago has struggled, probably because of the roots growing in a circle and binding the tree.  Ds and I have tried to sever the roots that were binding.  Even though the tree has not grown like it should have, it still has provided some nice fall color.  Last spring, after the hailstorm, I spread compost and fertilizer around the tree.  With the added fertilizer and the pretty good rainfall amounts this year, the leaves had a chance to grow larger this year.  I decided to take a picture of one of those large leaves, and I needed something to show the size.  That's where the very old ruler comes in.  Years and years ago when I was still in high school, I spent a weekend with my sister at the university she attended.  We were fairly well behaved, and other than eating a bit too large of a pizza, we didn't get into any trouble.  It's nice to have someone who knows a place to show you around.  After the weekend was over, I rode a Trailways bus back to a small town about ten miles from our rural home.  That might have been my first time riding a bus like that.  So many times when I've tried to navigate my way through a new experience, it has been unpleasant to me, but this stands out as one time where I don't have any negative emotions associated with it.  I guess the little six-inch ruler came with the bus ticket.  I've kept the ruler because it is a great fit for my purse.  I liked the "extra measure of service" slogan--I thought that was clever.

Who knew you could measure time with a ruler?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Monarch butterfly (# 15 of 15 butterflies)

Yesterday, I saw a monarch butterfly in the backyard.  It would hardly be still to have its picture made, but I managed to get a shot from a little distance.  I also managed to get an American Lady butterfly which makes a total of 15 butterfly pictures in 2015 without having to count the rather fuzzy picture I made of the zebra swallowtail.

Here is the monarch (and the rest)!
(got another shot this afternoon)
(this is the zebra swallowtail that I didn't have to count toward my total--a rather fuzzy picture)
14.  sachem
13.  American lady
 12.  red-spotted purple
 11.  viceroy
 10.  Carolina satyr
9.  cloudless sulphur
8.  common checkered-skipper
7.  silver-spotted skipper
 6.  question mark
 5.  red admiral
 4.  pearl crescent
 3.  buckeye
 2.  tiger swallowtail
 1.  clouded sulphur (or is this a sleepy orange?)
Which is your favorite?