If I published pictures of beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers you would be bored, right?  So instead you are in for a few surprises:

This miraculous creature was very camouflaged among the leaves of my tomato plant.  For a couple of days I knew she was present, because some leaves were disappearing and a pile of black droppings were appearing in their place.  But, I could not find the caterpillar.  The first day I spent 20 minutes examining every leaf and branch on the plant and never found her! On the second day I found this beauty and, please forgive me, I asked my husband take her away to squish her out of my sight. How long can I keep believing that he just carried her far away and released her to feast on wild plants???

That story is just to whet (Or is it wet?  Help me here!) your appetite!  Surprise #2 was growing on my Sugarsnap Peas:

A green beauty

Do you see him?  If not, try the next picture.

Do you see me now?

another view

This awesome little guy is a Gray Treefrog, which may leave you wondering why he is green.  He has the ability to change color as camouflage.  It’s also interesting that he is the largest of the treefrogs!  (He is only about 1 and 1/4 inch.)

Here are a few more cool things growing in and around my garden:

Meyer lemons

figs

Cooper's Hawk

unidentified water creature

pugs in a row

Thanks for reading my post!

I haven’t been able to blog for a while and during that time I’ve collected a bunch of interesting pictures and stories that I’ve been eager to share.  So, just now I went outside to the patio with plans to write.  The words were laying themselves out in my brain while I put down my laptop, a glass of ice water, my ubiquitous (and nearly obsolete) cellphone, and started to raise the umbrella.  I expected the scene to look like this:

Idyllic scene of my imagination

However, peaceful and poetic scenes are not my reality at Frog and Toad Farm.  For every bluebird that nests in its bird box, there is a deer tick crawling up my leg.  For every joy-filled scene of a doe with her  frolicking fawns (they really do leap, run back and forth, and play) …

Picture taken yesterday

there is a carefully planted garden urn ripped apart by the deer and chewed down to a stub.  So, to continue my tale from today, as I was about to crank up the folded umbrella I noticed a scattering (as my story goes on you may appreciate the double entendre) of dark droppings on the table.  Considering myself a seasoned naturalist, I grabbed a paper towel and wiped it off with only a small grimace of distaste.  Then I started cranking……..

Brown bat stunned by the rude awakening

There were two bats!  One immediately flew off.  (Seeing as I am not only a naturalist but also a docent at the Columbus Zoo, I have learned about the goodness of bats.  They do not fly into your hair or bite into your jugular vein. They eat pounds of undesirable insects and are rarely rabid. Therefore, my blood-curdling scream was purely from shock rather than terror.)  The other, pictured here, just sat on the underside of the umbrella for five minutes, gradually getting used to the light of day.  Eventually, he flew down and circled crazily around the patio while I cowered and pugs barked. Then he, too, went off.  I only hope it wasn’t into the attic. Here are a few more pictures of my newest friend:

Stretching bat

Stretching more

Ready for takeoff

(Fyi, scat is a fancy word that naturalists use for animal shit, within the context of hunting for wild animals in wild places.)

To end on a note of beauty, I found an amazing wildflower yesterday growing in a pile of old dirt and cast-offs.  It is called a Moth Mullein, because it’s fuzzy stamen were thought to resemble the antennae of a moth.  It is a biennial, which means that this plant won’t be here next year but with luck its seeds will be left behind to grow.  The following year those plants will flower.  I don’t think it will totally disappear because research on the plant has demonstrated that the seeds can remain viable for up to 100 years!  Here are some pictures:

It can grow up to 5 feet tall

Getting closer

Isn't she beautiful?

Final shot

Next time I will share my pictures of the sweet froglet sitting in my hand…..and who knows what else?!  (Fyi, my best friend keeps asking me to tell you that if you click on my pix they come up in full size.)

Ciao for now.

The weather has been so rainy in Ohio that we haven’t been able to plant any of the vegetables I started from seed many weeks ago.  They are growing weak and pale with impatience.  The perennials, however, haven’t minded at all and seem more vigorous than usual.  The herbs, in particular, are very happy.  I’d like to share with you two of my favorite herbs that may not be familiar to you:

Comfrey bush

Bee enjoying a comfrey flower

Meet comfrey.  It is a prolific, hardy, beautiful plant with a controversial history.  It’s medicinal value has been known for centuries for mending broken bones, healing wounds, and lessening bruising.  Its value has been scientifically proven as an anti-inflammatory and cell restorer, the chemical being allantoin.  The other side of the story is that another chemical pyrrolizidine alkaloid is highly toxic to the liver, so it has been banned from alternative medicines in the US.  The bees, hummingbirds and I just love it for the sprays of blue and pink bell flowers that bloom from now through much of the summer.

Another favorite herb is rue.

Common rue in my herb garden

Rue has bluish leaves and grows yellow flowers that are just beginning to bud.  The fragrance is unusual and pleasant, kind of clean and soapy.  It is controversial, too.  One day a couple of Mexican men were here working and excitedly asked me if they could take some of it home to their wives, who make it into a paste for medicinal use.  It is used on the skin for gout, arthritis, aches and pains.  There are also records as old as Roman times that it induces abortion.  If that is not controversial enough for you, it causes gastric problems in many people if ingested and is very bitter; some people also get skin blisters from contact with rue.  Nevertheless, some cultures use small amounts of it in food.

Other wild things are enjoying all the rain:

Common daisy

“He loves me, he loves me not.”

Blue-eyed grass

Dame's rocket

Honeysuckle

And, not a wild thing in the same sense because it is one we planted:  Horseradish.  The taste of the root, however, is wild indeed!

Horseradish flowers -- delicately sweet

Horseradish plant

Shakespeare referred often to flowers, particularly herbs.  My favorite is in Hamlet where Ophelia, in her madness, speaks of rue and daisies:

There’s fennel for you, and columbines: there’s rue 
    for you; and here’s some for me: we may call it 
    herb-grace o’ Sundays: O you must wear your rue with 
    a difference. There’s a daisy: I would give you 
    some violets, but they withered all when my father 
    died: they say he made a good end,–

Let’s hope the rain ends so the vegetables can have a happier June.

I never even knew that it existed until I moved to Ohio!  In fact, I am not sure if I had even seen one until we moved to Frog & Toad Farm a handful of years ago.  The first time I walked across the north side in late May, I was struck by its nearly perfect symmetry. Not only that, Mother Nature in her divine wisdom planted a group of them in a pattern that both enclosed and directed me forward. They just belonged there and made me feel as if I just belonged there, too.

Tuliptree is the common name for the Yellow-poplar.  Walt Whitman called it the “Apollo of the woods” in reference to its grace and it’s tall, columnar trunk.  The leaves are shiny green, fairly large and wide, with usually 4 paired lobes on a long stalk.  However, that’s not the most amazing part:  it produces very beautiful, strikingly bright large orange and light green cup-shaped flowers each spring.  They start at the top of the tree and gradually open at the ends of branches all the way down.  Today I saw that the magic act had just begun at the tree top. Here is a picture I took last  spring:

A tulip from one of our White-poplars

Perhaps one of my readers can tell me if they are indigenous further east of Ohio, where I may have seen them years ago, if I had looked. When we humans stop believing that we are  soooo important, the world becomes so fabulous!

Today I not only want to thank my own mother, my sister, my friends who are mothers, and everyone who helps women be good mothers, but also the biggest mother of us all…Mother Earth!  So, this morning I visited her in the woods to appreciate a snippet of the gifts she gives us every day and share them with you.

Have a beautiful Mothers’ Day!

Pug contemplating foam and enjoying visit

Mayapples

Mayapple blossom grows below the leaf

Eddy of foam in creek

The Robins family, a pair of budding young architects, is visiting Frog & Toad Farm this week.  Having just relocated, they are eager to start a family and have spent a lot of time looking at vacant lots and developed neighborhoods in both urban and rural areas.  They had a “eureka” moment two days ago after finding the perfect locale for their dream home and were eager to share it with us.

Their design style is very organic, using natural materials in earth tones whenever possible.  The Robins believe in the beauty of perfect symmetry and balance. They believe it is essential to blend in with the natural environment.  Also, they are concerned with having easy access to both food and drink of high quality with seasonal ingredients.  Safety and security are of some importance as well, since they expect to have frequent visitors, especially after their babies are born. And, there are some foxy folks in this neck of the woods!

I would love to share some pictures of their new construction:

 

Close up. Their nesting instinct is evident.

This provides some context.

Here you can see the importance of symmetry, balance and beauty in their choice of environment.

I will keep all of my friends alerted to developments as they work toward filling their nest!  

We had other visitors this week:

a bullfrog

Another bullfrog

A great time was had by all!            

Enjoying a day without rain.


Are you looking at ME?

The yard is extremely swampy after days of heavy rain, making it difficult to do our spring work. This beautiful snapping turtle must have been enchanted by it, however, as she walked out of the pond for the first time this year and across the lawn to find the perfect spot to dig a nest.  I clearly interrupted her spring work by running out to take the following pictures, but a lawn is no place for a turtle to spend hours digging!  While I ran back in to appease the pugs who were barking away because I didn’t take them with me, she ran (contrary to myth, turtles can move very fast) back into the pond.  I hope to see her another time moving in another direction.

   

 

If you are interested in reading more about this ancient reptile look here Turtle.  She has some interesting habits, including walking off as soon as she lays her eggs.  Not my style of mothering, but it has been working for 215 million years.  This gal was about 18 inches, snout to tip of tail, by my estimation.  And I don’t tend to exaggerate, unlike some people I know.  (You know who you are!)

Even before I had coffee this morning, I saw another gift from Mother Nature that was amazing.  Unfortunately it has been overshadowed by Ms. Turtle.  These mushrooms appeared overnight among the shrubs.

   

I have no idea what the name of this fungus is other than a cup-type, in spite of owning the definitive guide Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora.  The book is 958 pages and has made mushrooms more mysterious than I ever imagined.  I really just wanted to find a way to tell the edible from the killers, but there is no short way to do that.  In fact, we have gone out to look for morels the past weekends (not that I have ever found them, or even like them, or would  trust my judgement if I thought I found them.  Life is psychedelic enough without eating hallucinogens).

Valerie Worth wrote this in her book  All the Small Poems:

Mushroom

The mushroom pushes

Its soft skull

Up through the soil,

Spreads its frail

Ribs into full

Pale bloom,

And floats,

A dim ghost,

Above the tomb

Where an oak’s

Old dust lies

Flourishing still.

And finally, here is a furry critter enjoying himself that I saw this morning:

  Have a sweet day!