Sunday, September 24, 2023


Autumn arrived yesterday afternoon. More precisely, astronomical autumn arrived in the northern hemisphere, with the autumnal equinox. By the reckoning of meteorologists (who divide the calendar into three-month quarters) autumn already started at the beginning of September. Either way you reckon, autumn is here. Bring on the pumpkins, the cool nights, and the colored leaves. Click to enlarge.

As Raquel Franco wrote: "...the sun took a step back, the leaves lulled themselves to sleep, and Autumn was awakened."

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Annual Gentian Search


Every year in mid-September I mount an expedition to the New Jersey pine barrens to search for a rare and lovely wildflower -- the pine barrens gentian. The scenery is its own reward. Click to enlarge.

There is the smell of sun-baked pines.

And tranquil quiet. And then...

The first blue flower sighting!

Find one and there are usually others scattered nearby. This one just beginning to unfurl.

This one fully open.

This one with the sun shining through it.

All beautiful inside with spots and dots and sprinkled stars.

All slightly different shades of blue and green.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Black and Yellow Garden Spider


A black and yellow garden spider is currently spinning webs and trapping insects in my yard. Click to enlarge.

She is very pretty, right? She's also very BIG; I estimate just over and inch long. The web she's on is more than a foot across.

The web has a zigzag design on it that is called a stabilimentum. Black and yellow garden spiders are famous for it, though its purpose is disputed. It may be to increase the visibility of the web so that birds (and photographers) do not accidentally crash through and wreck it. These spiders work day and night, so that makes sense. Others think it conceals the spider in the center. Some think it attracts insects.

Let this be a reminder that fall is coming. That Halloween is around the corner. That spiders have been working all summer and have grown large! Here's a disturbing little poem to celebrate.

The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly

by Vachel Lindsay

Once I loved a spider

When I was born a fly,

A velvet-footed spider

With a gown of rainbow-dye.

She ate my wings and gloated.

She bound me with a hair. 

She drove me to her parlor

Above her winding stair. 

To educate young spiders

She took me all apart. 

My ghost came back to haunt her. 

I saw her eat my heart.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Skippers on Zinnias


I'm not the only one who likes zinnia flowers. They really attract skipper butterflies.      Click to enlarge.

Skipper butterflies are sometimes mistaken for moths. They are small and usually drab.

At rest they hold their wings open and angled up or spread in various jaunty ways.
By butterfly standards they have stocky bodies and big heads.

The name skipper comes from their habit of skipping rapidly between perches.

So plant some zinnias. You'll get skippers!

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Grape Jam


I planted a concord grape vine three years ago. This year for the first time -- grapes!      Lots of grapes! 

About two weeks ago they started to ripen. Click to enlarge.

Now they are sweet and juicy. I made jam. There are 8 cups of grapes here. Squeeze each one and the green inside pops out of the skin. Chop the skins and simmer them with 1/4 cup of water for 10 minutes and they will soften. In a separate pot, bring the pulp to a boil then simmer over low heat until the grapes lose their shape-- about 10 minutes. Put the pulp through a food mill to remove the seeds. Mix the skins and the pulp. Add 3 cups of sugar. Add the juice of half a lemon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until it gels -- mine took about 10 minutes.

Behold. It's not clear like jelly. It has the consistency of apple butter.

And it is profoundly delicious.

Sunday, August 20, 2023



A monarch butterfly on a buddleia flower. Click to enlarge.

And a silver-spotted skipper butterfly.

And haiku by Japanese poet, Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828).

a butterfly deigns 

to come and dance...

summer flowers

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Picking Peaches


There are few things as summery as picking peaches in August. I went peach picking this week at my favorite farm in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. Click to enlarge.

The garden writer, Jean Hersey, once said: "August is ripening grain in the fields blowing hot and sunny, the scent of tree-ripening peaches..." I haven't seen any ripening grain lately but I agree about the peaches.

South Jersey is famous for delicious yellow peaches and the state usually ranks among the top five peach-producing states every year.

I'll be making peach jam soon -- little pink orange jars of summer to open throughout the coming cold seasons. This is one of the last of the 2022 batch.

So... I had one of these peaches in my hand but I felt like I'd like to have a pear. I said as much and somebody handed me another peach.

That was a joke. Pit-iful, right?