Thursday, April 28, 2011

You're Gonna Need an Ocean....Of Calamine Lotion!

Okay peeps, it's time for a pop quiz on spring plants! One of the pictures below depicts poison ivy. Can you guess which one it is?

Is this the poison ivy?


Nope, that's innocent wild grape. Very young shoots of poison ivy will have a similar color and shiny leaves, just like this wild grape vine. However, poison ivy has sets of three leaves.

Leaves of three,
Let it be!

Is this the poison ivy?


Nope. This is Virginia creeper, an innocent plant that is frequently mistaken for poison ivy. But hey, let's count those leaves again! Virginia creeper has leaves in sets of five, not three.

So what about this plant? Is it poison ivy?


Yes, yes it is! See the leaves in sets of three? You win a bottle of calamine lotion!

And notice how all three plants (wild grape, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy) have similarly colored leaves that are very shiny when young? Later, when the new growth is older, all three plants will looker greener and won't have shiny leaves.

So in conclusion....when in doubt, count those leaves. Poison ivy has leaves in sets of three. Virginia creeper has leaves in sets of five.


Poor, poor innocent Virginia creeper.


Not so innocent poison ivy. By now you should recognize the set of three leaves that are practically snarling, "Don't touch me!" at you.

(And now I have the Coasters stuck in my head...."You'll be scratchin like a hound the moment you start to mess around with poison iv-y-y-y-y-y, poison iv-y-y-y!")

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Easter Wrap Up, 2011


I'm hoping everyone had a lovely Easter weekend. On Sunday we had an egg hunt with Ally, dinner with family, an afternoon movie, and time to chase bubbles in the late afternoon sunlight.

Then yesterday I had a temporary crown put on a back molar, an experience that was not pleasant to say the least. Thankfully I was able to get a good night's sleep with the assistance of some Tylenol and now I'm feeling much better. I can't eat any of those jelly beans lest I pull the temporary crown off, but those M&Ms and malted milk chocolate eggs are fair game. In fact a handful right now sounds like a good idea...just what I need to get me through the marathon of tomato transplanting, laundry, photo processing, and menu planning that I've got on my to do list today.

Anyone got a good recipe for leftover ham? Preferably something that uses a lot of it? And maybe those leftover dyed eggs in the fridge, too?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wild Kingdom in Plum Creek

So after a fairly uneventful winter, the animal kingdom in Plum Creek seems to be out of control.

1. We have been infested with field mice.

2. I found my first tick in the shower this week. (Don't ask.)

3. The deer have mowed down the hostas along the driveway. (No big surprise there.)

4. I found the back half of Little Bunny Foo Foo on the driveway. (Maybe fox or feral cat.)

5. A wren got inside the house yesterday, but evidently found its way out before we noticed it. (Lots of bird poop.)

6. A bluebird knocked itself silly in one of the windows.

7. The resident groundhog has reappeared in the pasture beside our house.

8. Sugar Booger, the resident bat, is flying around at dusk again.

9. Steve saw a black snake in the lower part of our back yard.

10. Our neighbor separated the older calves from the momma cows last week, and the mommas are still very vocal about their unhappiness with this situation. At night. Late at night. (I blame the full moon for part of that.)

11. I found a cricket inside my shirt at 2 am this morning. A live cricket. In my arm sleeve. In our bed. I'm a loss for words to explain this one.


Yes, the bluebird did recover, but first he pooped on me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring in Plum Creek, Part 2

I love early spring when the trees are just starting to bud out. The foliage is still so small that it casts a shade of color to the light coming through the trees. Pinkish-red in the maples, plums, and redbuds; lacy white in the serviceberry (or shadbush trees) and cherrys, and greeny-yellow in the rest of them.




This ethereal mix of color and light doesn't last long, just for a day or two until the trees really flush out and the blossoms drop,


Add an incoming spring storm and you've got yourself a landscape.



Eat your heart out, Thomas Kincade.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring in Plum Creek

Spring has arrived in our neck of the woods. There are signs of it all over the woods.



Mayapple (Does anyone else think this foliage looks like frog skin?)


And one reminder that life, even new life, is often short.
Deer vertebra

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Many Faces of Cinderella

Ally is a big fan of the Polly Pocket-type dolls with the vinyl clothes. We found her a Cinderella doll of that type while we were at Disney World last month. Ally was immediately enthralled by Cinderella's extensive wardrobe, sidekicks, accessories, and copious amounts of glitter.

This is Cinderella. (Yes, she looks like she's had too much Botox.)


The problem with the vinyl clothes for these dolls is that it's very difficult to get the dresses on and off the doll. That's why they're made with removable heads. You pop the head off, change the clothes, and then replace the head.

And because Cinderella has a scullery maid outfit and her princess outfits, she also comes with two heads. One with a ponytail and the other with an updo.


Somewhat disturbing, no?

The best part is that Ally learned very quickly that changing Cinderella's outfit is somewhat of a pain in the butt for an almost 4 year old, and Mom and Dad weren't too excited about assisting with the many, many costume changes Cinderella needed. So Ally just started playing with Cinderella's heads sans body. She would pick up one head in one hand and the other in her other hand and play like they were having a conversation.

"No, I want to wear the blue dress," said scullery maid Cinderella head.

"But I need to wear the wedding dress, " said Princess Cinderella head.

You get the idea. At least it cuts down on the amount of glitter scattered everywhere.

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Open Declaration of War

Dear Mice,

Yes, you're cute. Too cute for your own good.

I was able to let your occasional trespassing in the mudroom and basement go without too much dismay from me, but I felt obligated to take action when the scratching in the walls got to be too loud. So we put out the humane traps baited with peanut butter. We caught several of you and kindly liberated you in the wildlife reintroduction area of the town dump.

Then you got cocky and began to eat all the peanut butter bait without triggering the traps. I found this mildly irritating but I admit I was impressed with your ingenuity.

But now, I'm sorry, you leave me no choice. Leaving a pile of turds among the spoons in the utensil drawer is an obvious act of aggression that will not be tolerated. Your kind will now be prosecuted to the fullest extent that a spring trap will allow. Unless the dog gets you first, and she's gunning for you today. (If I were you, I'd take the spring trap.)


Thursday, April 7, 2011

April is the Cruellest Month

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding 
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing 
Memory and desire, stirring 
Dull roots with spring rain. 
Winter kept us warm, covering         5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding 
A little life with dried tubers.

-T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland, 1922

I've always thought T.S. Eliot got it right about April. It's hard to kickstart a new season after being housebound and nearly mummified all winter. It would be easier to stay inactive, inert, and dumb than trying to force yourself into all that fresh activity seemingly all at once. Winter lets you burrow and hibernate without expectations and judgement, but spring hurtles you into the raw open air with a swift kick in the ass when you least expect it, whether you're ready or not.

Spring is finally here. The spring peepers have been chorusing in the evening for over a month. The maples have set red winged seed pods, the spicebush are that weird greeny-yellow, the redbuds are turning pink, and the serviceberry is white. The bluebirds are skirmishing with the tree swallows, my rhubarb is a foot tall, and the yard needs to be mowed. Someone has been sampling my daylilies, the carpenter bees are at it again, and the male goldfinches are so bright they make your eyes hurt.

One day it's 78 degrees but drops to 36 at night, followed by a high of 52 and a low of 44, then a high of 45 and a low of 28, and finally it gets back up to a high of 68. Because seesawing temperatures are a hallmark of spring, along with that yellow film of oak pollen all over the cars. And the wind...holy cow, do we get wind here in the spring at our new house. I keep making the mistake of thinking that a high of 62 degrees will mean I can work in the garden that day, only I've forgotten that it will take at least late afternoon for the temperature to climb up that far and the relentless wind will blow at least 10 degrees off the high of the day no matter where it tops out. Nothing says "fickle" like spring weather.

All last month I kept saying that I'd be perfectly happy if the temperature would just climb up into the upper 40s or low 50s during the day. I didn't need much, just constant daytime temps in the 40s and 50s and some sunlight. 

Well, I lied. As it turns out, I do very much need temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s right now. I cringe to think of wearing heavy jackets and gloves outside, let alone keeping a heavy sweater on inside the house during the day. I want warmer temperatures so I can stuff all that heavy outerwear back into the closet for six months. I want some bright sunshine with a gentle spring breeze, and not that gale force wind that keeps ripping up our little valley to plow into the southeast corner of our house. 

The calendar tells me it's April, and so do the spring peepers, redbuds, and bluebirds. It's time to put away all this winter foolishness of late snow flurries and sleet, night temperatures below 32 degrees, and the threat of heavy frost on spring flowers. Bring on the warmer weather....and don't be the least bit surprised when I get fickle and start complaining about the summer heat and humidity.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nearly Wordless Wednesday, Apr. 6, 2011

No, my peonies aren't blooming yet. I just needed a bigger dose of spring than what the weather is giving us today.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Despite the nasty cold temperatures, wind, rain, snow, and sleet we saw today, the hellebores are a sure sign of spring.

Hellebores, March 2011