Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Amateur Naturalist and Citizen Science

One of my greatest pleasures is spending mornings on the patio in front of my little garden pond. I usually go out between 8 to 9 AM, when the dew is still heavy and not much is moving around, except a few birds. I bring a towel because the patio chairs are not immune to dew.

The first order of business is to count the frogs in the pond. I've had as many as 15 at once, though 8 to 10 is more normal. There are mostly green frogs, with one or two bullfrogs. Occasionally, a toad stops by and, if I’m really lucky, a wood frog. Fortunately, frogs are mostly ambush hunters, so they stay still while you count them.

Bull frog
Wood Frog

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Small Worlds

A couple of summers ago, I spent a lot of time wandering around my yard, making notes of things to do, checking up on certain plants and generally wasting time. I usually spent most of this time in the garden beds but, once in a while, I’d wander around the edges of the yard where semi-meadow met forest just to see what was going on.

This little patch of wild grass and weeds has quite a variety of plants, including a selection of goldenrod species. These are, no doubt, the source of the goldenrod plants now trying to take over some of my garden beds. Goldenrod has roots that go down to hell, some kinds send runners out in all directions and most seed prolifically. It is insultingly healthy and can be very difficult to eradicate. Needless to say, I have not been happy they invaded.

Monday, March 3, 2014

New Directions

Well, I’m back.

Much has happened in the 2 years since I last posted. My entire attitude on gardening has changed, with my focus now on welcoming and nurturing the wildlife which has given me so much education and entertainment since my back surgery. The recovery from the surgery was much worse than I anticipated, though my doctors told me I did very well. It was a solid year before I could even agree that maybe it had been a good idea. As of today, I can say I’m not glad I had to go through it but the final product was worth it.

During that time of recovery, when lifting a gallon of milk was a struggle, the sheer frustration of physical limitations made me unbearable. I was angry a lot. I had no interest in anything, including my blog. My last post, about the bluebirds, was a struggle to write. I simply couldn't get excited about writing when I wanted to be out working in my garden.

I spent a great deal on the summer of 2012 sitting on my patio in front of the pond. I stared at nothing for hours. Occasionally, I would notice movement around me. Eventually, I even paid attention. I started keeping a small journal with me and noting down the critters that joined me for the day. A lot of them were ones I had never seen before, not because they were new but because I hadn't paid attention. Stacks of field guides started making the trip outside with me, giving me names for these strangers.

An interesting thing happened at that point. I discovered that knowing the name of a critter increased its importance to me. I was intrigued by it. Now I could say “I know your name! I read about you in a book! Do you do the things the book says you should do? Why don’t you look like the other ones I saw pictures of?”  It was along the lines of learning a person’s name. Suddenly, they’re not just a face in a crowd; they have a name. They are unique and not strangers anymore. And I wanted to get to know them better.

Once I started paying attention, I was amazed at how diverse a population could be found on my little plot of land. I had always known what a wasp looked like but I began discovering just how many different types of wasps inhabited the garden and surroundings. Some were gentle giants, like the golden digger wasp, while others were little terrors, like yellow jackets.

Golden Digger Wasp