Monday, July 31, 2023

End of July but it feels like August

The hot weather finally reached us, but it really wasn't all that unusual other than 90-degree days usually arrive in August, not July. When I was a kid in a previous century, we did not have air conditioning, just fans to sit in front of and hum into. I remember laying on my bed, reading, sweat running into my training bra, but not really feeling uncomfortable. Usually I spent my afternoons at the pool or the library or in the lower level of our split level, watching Cubs games. Now, hot and humid weather leaves me almost comatose. I am so soft.

I've concluded that the unidentified bird I posted a pic of a couple of weeks ago is a juvenile starling. Same general body shape but a bit slimmer, dusky colored instead of black, dark beak instead of yellow, but just as much of an a$$hole as the adults.

As I had hoped, goldfinch have made an appearance in the yard, sometimes at the monarda, sometimes in the sunflower patch. More house finches hang around as well. There are still too many sparrows, though; four immature ones chased away a swallowtail butterfly the other day. Jerks.

My next door neighbor had a tree removed from her backyard, one that hung over her house and lost a branch last summer, damaging the roof and taking out the electricity. Friday night we had a windy storm that dropped a lot of branches in the neighborhood - in fact, I could barely get out of the addition Saturday morning - and I'm guessing she is glad that tree is gone.

Saturday I attended a natural dyeing workshop where most of the dye materials came from the garden by the parking lot. The hibiscus was particularly impressive. And it dyes yarn an impressive color as well.

I talked to the native plant guy who installed my landscape last year. The missing plants will be replaced, per the warranty. He also did not like how the hairy beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus) looked, flopping over in search of the sun that is blocked by the Japanese maple. So he wants to replace that with something more shade tolerant. I'll move the hairy beardtongue somewhere else - don't want to discard perfectly good plants. All gratis.

A blossom finally appeared on the Buddleia 'Purple Haze'. A couple of aster flowers have popped (too early!) The three clumps of nodding onion out front are at their peak.

After previously complaining about the lack of bugs in my yard, I am disconcerted to find something is biting me out there, something invisible that does not leave a mark. At least there is a chorus of cicadas to remind us that tomorrow August starts.

Enjoy the sounds of summer... while they last.

Saturday, July 22, 2023


Sometimes, when the morning light and dew are just right, the invisible becomes visible. In the past, I have found the front lawn completely covered in spider webs. That hasn't happened lately, but the other day, I did find a couple webs in the backyard, evidence that bugs still live on my property.

One blog I follow is called Garden Rant. They recently featured an article by Susan Harris about the Bee Lab, or more precisely the Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab, in the Putuxent Research Refuge, between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. This is the place to go for everything you ever wanted to know about native bees, with links hither and yon. And if you go to, you can find out what plants and shrubs to plant in *your* area to help native bees.

Of course, I had to check out what my bees like, and sunflowers are one of the best sources of pollen for them. Good thing the local squirrels planted those last fall and I let them go wild this summer. I enjoy this wall of sunflowers so much, I changed the photo at the top of my blog.

I love standing out in the sunflower patch and watching the different bees. I expecially like seeing full pollen sacs.
Interestingly, while milkweed is great for monarchs, it is of no use for bees because the pollen is out of reach for them. And some of the items on the list do not excite me, like iris. But as I adjust the plant population in my yard (I just ordered asters to plant with the goldenrod), I'll keep in mind what the bugs favor.

So far, we have escaped the horrid heat that is tormenting the south and southwest portions of this nation. It looks like our respite will end next weekend, when highs will be in the 90's. Not as horrible as 110, but still a good reason to stay inside. It will also be dry, so I will continue to water the tulip tree, as it hasn't given up yet.

When there is a storm that includes thunder, all four pets hang out with me, as shown below. A short while after this pic was taken, I abandoned them for a safer spot than by the picture window because the tornado siren went off. Fortunately, no local damage occurred.

The yard is still full of birds and their young. The babies haven't figured out that the reflections in the windows are NOT trees and shrubs they can land on. One would think from the number of window hits I hear each day that the yard would be littered with dead birds, but I haven't found any. I think they don't hit with enough force to do any real damage to their fragile little necks.

An aside: While I am very happy that I had my landscape redone last summer, I have to admit that the results are not very showy. Right now, the only things blooming in the front yard are a clump of nodding onion and one butterflyweed plant that the monarch caterpillars didn't destroy last year. Meanwhile, "my" areas, the ones I asked them to not touch, sport monarda (which is fading), ironweed, and rudbeckia on the south side, a sea of hostas plus in the future goldenrod and aster on the north, and honeysuckle vine, daylily, and sunflowers in the back. I can see me adding more perennials over the years because, frankly, I like to look at pretty flowers.

Saturday, July 15, 2023


This past week, a sales rep from Greenix rang my doorbell. He rattled off the names of several neighbors who had recently procured his services. When I realized he was an exterminator, I told him that was the opposite of what I want in my yard. It's a granular application, so he claims it does not kill bees. We got stuck on the bee issue, but as it always happens, later I thought of more arguments against his product. One is, without bugs, what are the birds to feed their young? Hummingbirds may dine on nectar, but they feed their babies protein in the form of insects.

Then - and I don't know why solicitors do this - he asked for a bottle of water. I just laughed and said I don't buy bottled water. So in his mind, am I not only a crazy bug lady, I'm a crazy bug environmentalist.

And then I received an email from a fiber friend who helps maintain a colonial garden at one of the local parks. She had bedstraw to give away. The roots of this plant provide nice reds when dyeing yarn, BUT it is also a non-native invasive. No way am I going to introduce that into my yard. I could offer to dig up some roots in the fall, though.

And THEN, while mowing, I found a mousetrap in my yard with a bird leg in it. Who puts mousetraps outside where non-mouse animals and even children can find them? Grrr!

Speaking of birds, does anyone know what kind of bird this is? It looks like a streamlined mourning dove to me, but I can't find any matching photos online.

The rudbeckia and ironweed on the south side of the house was fairly upright this year, until it rained. I keep adding sections of this no-dig fencing to help keep it out of the way, as I have to drive through that area with my mower. I've been adding some fencing to the bed opposite the privacy fence as well, as the milkweed and monarda also flop.

Meanwhile, the summer blooms are starting to pop.





Only a couple of butterflyweed plants survived from last year. I contacted the native plant installer for replacements. He came up with a list of quite a few MIAs. I'm not too concerned that there may be two columbine plants missing, as that plant reseeds itself abundantly. He claims a dozen sedge plants are also gone. He sounds dissatisfied with the overall design and wants to make some changes. We'll see what he comes up with... and how much it will cost.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Few bugs anywhere

We enjoyed a picnic, swim, and hike at Metea Park on Independence Day. The pond was a bit shallow despite the recent rain, but I managed to do the breast stroke hither and yon, supported by a couple of pool noodles. (For some reason, I have no buoyancy.) Then we took a hike in the woods. We didn't need the bug spray I brought along, as there were basically no bugs. No mosquitoes, no deer flies, nothing besides a few gnats. I frequently lament the lack of bugs in my yard, especially pollinators, which I blame on lawn treatments, but it looks like it is an area-wide issue? Or not, as mosquitoes found me while I was visiting with the neighbors across the street in their backyard. They also have moles, while I do not. Go figure.

Eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar at Metea

Coral fungus at Metea

The monarda on the south side of the house has brought out the bees, which I am happy to see.

The common milkweed in the same area is starting to bloom. Smells so sweet! I haven't seen any butterflies to speak of, but those red milkweed beetles are around.

The ironweed is just starting to bloom, so the rudbeckia can't be too far behind.

The blossoms have popped on the Buddleia 'Pink Microchip'. This little shrub likes growing in a container.

Besides the holiday, this week was week two of colorguard camp, so I was again busy chauffeuring my granddaughter. She won an award for being the hardest working "cadet". We watched her perform in the Three Rivers Festival parade yesterday, which marks the end of camp. Whew!

Have a festive week!

Saturday, July 01, 2023

Nothing like a good rain

Last Sunday, we received 1.75" of rainfall, then another 0.25" on Monday. Just what all the plants needed. I've been watering through the dry spells, but there is some kind of magic in actual rain.

Just as I hoped/predicted last week, a few things are blooming. There is one blossom on one of the potted butterfly bushes, but more are on their way. The honeysuckle vine has been blooming all along, but after that rain, it really popped.

And the menarda is joining the pretty party.

The zinnias (my favorite annual) are in pots, but that didn't discourage them from expanding their blossom count after the rain.

My dream of green beans is off to a slow start, but at least I will have tomatoes.

All that moisture has also brought out the fungi. These little guys are popping up all over the yard.

Every year volunteer sunflowers emerge, thanks to the bird feeders. This year is no exception, but what is unusual are the clusters of sunflowers, presumably the result of chipmunks or squirrels burying mouthsful of seeds. I've been letting them grow, as I'm hoping it will attract the goldfinch that seem to be MIA this year.

Speaking of birds, there are baby bluebirds in the nesting box. Squeee! When mom or dad come to feed them, they chirp, chirp, chirp. Sparrows are nesting in the Goodwill sign.

The rainfall revealed that some of my gutters were plugged up, so I tackled that chore this past week. My dad lived in his house into his 90's by slowly outsourcing chores, from snow removal to housecleaning. I think gutter cleaning may be my first chore to be outsourced. At least, my new shoulders can now haul the ladders around.

Due to the wildfires in Canada, the air quality has been rather poor this past week, so I spent a lot of time inside. This is also week one of colorguard camp for my granddaughter, and I've been helping with transportation. And then there are the fireworks, which my dogs hate; they want out to chase the squirrels, then frantically scratch at the patio door to be let back in when one of those big booming ones is set off. Keeps me hopping.

Have an independent week!