MLK Quote

MLK Quote

Nature's Inspiration Movie -- Nature's Inspiration Movie: The photographs in this short video are from award-winning photographer, Ken Jenkins, and they are breathtaking. However, this video is much more than beautiful photographs! Peggy Anderson has compiled beautiful quotations from the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, and many others that truly capture the beauty of nature and solitude. Absolute must watch for nature lovers.

Monday, December 11, 2017

First snow of the year of 2017

It snowed on Saturday, December 9, and it was the first snow of the season. It came heavy, and snowed from around ten-thirty in the morning till about eleven in the night. Nothing is so pretty as the landscape covered by snow; nothing is as quite as a still winter morning; nothing is as enjoyable as seeing the snow fall, sitting with a hot drink and reflecting.

The Whole Backyard -- not a soul to see

One side of the backyard -- everything calm before the storm Benji

Another side of the backyard

Backyard -- trees huddling together for warmth :-)?

Rhododendron ice-cream cone, anyone?

The front-yard. Where is everyone? 
I am linking with St. Germain's All Season meme.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Weekend Journal Page on Art

St.Germain is holding a weekend journal page on Art. I can tell that she is a great artist by looking at her writings, photos, art-work, etc on her blog. I love anything beautiful, artistic, creative be that be a painting, literature, graphic-design, poem, garden-design, culinary-presentation, dress, nature, whatever.

I am an amateur artist, and love painting especially using oil and acrylic. That's why I undertook the project of painting rooms in our house, and enjoyed it thoroughly though it's such a back-breaking job. Being a novice, I am really apprehensive about participating. But, giving it a try since that might force me to visit other artists' blogs and enjoy their work.

Here is a sunflower that I painted using acryclic. I then put it inside a cheap frame bought from Wal-Mart. It now adorns the top of our kitchen cabinets along with some vases and one of my other painting (the left-side one).

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

No Escape

I cannot escape them no matter what sorts of bird-feeders I put up. There are lots of them in my neighborhood. They are cute and adorable but when they hog the feeders, birds cannot come near. According to one statistics, fifty percent of birds die during severe cold in the UK. I do not know about the USA statistics, but birds in our garden do need all the food that they can find to maintain their body temperature and survive. Here are some links -- Bird-Watcher Ireland and How Birds Cope in Winter by Audobon Society. So, I try to provide all sorts of feeders and hung in various parts of the garden. But, these tiny mammals are too clever.

This is what is happening in my garden now:

They come, eat to their content and leave the feeders to the birds. So, that's one good thing that they do not occupy the feeders for a long time. Also, they spread around lots of food as they eat, and that in turn helps all the birds that will feed only from ground, for example doves and juncos. The only feeder that is squirrel-proof is the one that I bought from Audobon. It has a cage outside; the openings are small -- perfect for birds' beaks; it also has a mechanism that the openings close down under weight of squirrels. And, here is a picture of that feeder. The only drawback is that it cannot hold that much seeds. You need to fill it up every two days.

I'm joining in the memes hosted by Eileen,  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's meme.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Who Is Invading My Garden?

Someone is coming to my garden, and destroying the fence and bird-feeder poles. I live in one of those dark-brown (almost blackish) areas of the map (below). So, no wonder bears come to our garden though it is quite an urban area (population more than 10,000; NYC skyline can be seen from here on a bright day, and NYC is about 20-25 minutes, thus 20-25 miles, away). But previously they used to climb the garden fence, but now they are ripping them off as shown in the second picture.

What do you think? Done by bears? Or something else? Raccoons, coyotes, foxes, will not have that much strength to rip apart solid wooden fences like that, I think. If bears, then why are they not climbing the small fence which they used to do? Is it a baby bear who does not know? Or it is a mother bear with cubs and the cubs are breaking apart the fences?

I hung my bird-feeders on iron-poles. Now, these poles are really strong. We will not be able to bend them unless we are like superhuman. But note how they are completely bent and destroyed. So, that's again arousing my suspicion if it is a bear since these poles are not that tall (say 4 -- 5 feet). A bear can easily stand on its hind legs and eat from the feeders as shown in the picture below. This picture was taken during the summer of 2016.

I have to now think how to provide food for my feather friends. For the time being, I am giving them suet, and hanging the suet basket in our upper deck. Hopefully, a bear will not come there.

This is end of November. Bears should be hibernating now. So, I did some online search. Apparently bears in NJ DO NOT HIBERNATE; they GO INTO TORPOR!! Hibernation means metabolism rates slow down, the animal does not have to eat, drink or defecate, and it goes into deep slumber and thus not aware of its surroundings. Torpor means metabolism rate goes down; animals do not have to eat, drink or defecate (and even if it has to, it will do so in small amount), and it sleeps but very much aware of its surroundings. Thus, we might be trekking in wilderness, during winter, thinking there are no bears; but the bears are in torpor, become very much aware of our presence and thus move out of our way. Only Mother Bears who are going to give birth or who has little babies get into dens during winter. Otherwise, they sleep/torpor among tall grasses/bush/wild-areas/meadows/fallen trees, during winter, in NJ. Though it is the largest land mammal in NJ, but it is very much scared of humans, dogs and other loud, banging noises. Bear population is steadily increasing in NJ. It being one of the most densely populated states of the USA, bears and humans practically coexist side by side. Sadly, many of them are hunted down, during summer, to keep their population at a steady level. I absolutely hate this and so much against it. Are we going to hunt down humans because our population is rising? So, who gives us the right to do so to another species? I am hoping that with a Democratic Governor (for non-American visitors to my blog, Democrats are usually pro-animal/nature/climate/environment; Republicans are usually completely against all of those) elected in NJ, bear-hunting will be stopped.

I think this year bears have not even gone into torpor. With temperature in fifties during day time, whole nature is confused. Thus, I saw a Dandellion blooming today (seeing it for the first time a Dandellion blooming at the end of November). Climate Change is very real.

I'm joining in the memes hosted by Eileen,  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's meme.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Story of My Life in 2017 and Root Vegetables (Yacon)

When did I write last for this blog? I do not even remember. Was it in 2016? 2017 passed by so fast that I can almost tell what I did for each day as the last eleven months seemed like just the last eleven minutes. This was a crazy year for me. I had to apply for a promotion to Associate Professor, and which involved writing essays and letters, collecting documents, and acquiring reference letters. I got the promotion but could not enjoy it much as my father has developed dementia, it seems. He already had Parkinson. Now the disease is deteriorating to dementia. So, we are thinking of bringing him to live with us. Our house didn't have any full-bathroom in the first floor. Since he will not be able to climb stairs, so we have remodeled our house, built a full-bathroom and the remodeling is still going on. I had so many plans for the garden this year but nothing happened as we are spending our time, money and energy on remodeling our house. I also received a grant from the university for a research, and from August till November 13, I was busy with that as our work got accepted for presentation and publication. Thus, lots of work. And, we also did other things for which lots of paper work needed to be done. I will write about those later if they become successful. And on top of all these there are also teaching, mentoring, advising, committee work, family work and all sorts of other things. But slowly everything is winding down, and thus I found some time to go into the garden and pick up whatever the garden produced. I didn't do anything for the garden -- no weeding, no watering, no planting -- but my dear garden still produced. So, today I will talk about a kind of root vegetable that I grow -- Yacon.

I grow quite a few root vegetables -- potato, sweet potato, taro, yacon, ginger, turmeric, garlic and onion (though I am not sure if garlic and onion are considered root vegetables or not) along with beet, turnip and radish (which I grow them not all the time but now and then). Here are some sweet potato and taro that I harvested this year.

Yacon is a root vegetable much like potato or Jerusalem Artichoke. It is from the Andes (Peru). It is very crunchy and has a sweeter taste (the taste is a cross between pear, pineapple, Jerusalem Artichoke, Guava). The plant, can easily grow as tall as eight to ten feet, and produces sunflower like small flowers. The plant behaves very much like a Jerusalem Artichoke plant (I have talked about JA here ). However, Jerusalem Artichoke can survive snow and below freezing temperature. It in fact needs cold to become sweeter. Yacon will die as soon the temperature freezes. You then need to harvest it. Here is the picture of the dead plant that I harvested. It might not be clear in the picture but perhaps you can understand how tall it can grow:

There is a certain procedure in harvesting Yacon. Yacon is a perennial plant. It has a mother-crown and then all the storage tubers that grow from it. We can only eat the storage tubers (I am not sure if the mother crown is edible or not), and then need to plant the mother-crown for next year's harvest. The mother-crown looks reddish in color. The edible storage tubers are chrome/pale yellow/white in color as shown in the pictures below.

I harvest the tubers. Then, I take a pot, put some soil in it; put the mother-crown in it, and cover it up with soil. I leave the pot in basement. When spring comes, I put out the mother-crown in a raised bed in the garden. It initially grows slowly; then suddenly it starts growing fast with huge (like really huge) big leaves and a thick stalk. Nothing bothers this plant. All it needs is some sunshine. Online says that it needs lots of compost. I have not experienced that yet (may be my garden soil is rich?). The tubers are full of inulin, the compound that fights against diabetes. Thus, it can be eaten by people, unlike potato, suffering from diabetes. It can be eaten raw, or fried, boiled, or baked. The only drawback of this vegetable is that it does not last long, once harvested. So, you need to cook it very fast or it will rot within 2-3 days.

Here are some flowers of 2017:

I did not give anything to the garden this year; but she gave me in abundance.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ferns And More Ferns

I have been away from the blog-world for a long time. So, I should first apologize to my regular readers. Life is a bit crazy this year as my university is having lots of changes. Being a full-time professor with all sorts of scholarship, research and teaching duties, I hardly find time. But, time is becoming a more valuable commodity to me now as I have to become part of various committees overlooking all these changes. But today I promised myself to take a break from all these work and attend the monthly meeting of our local garden-club. Anybody living in New Jersey should check out Rockaway Valley Garden Club. It's a fantastic club with great programs and truly wonderful people who are so knowledgeable about plants, gardens and gardening.

In today's meeting, the talk was on Ferns And Their Shady Friends by Marc Zukovich. He is the professor of Horticulture in Morris County College, and also the owner of Sterling Horticultural Services. I love ferns as they are considered one of the oldest living organisms, that is they have been on the earth for more than 300 million years. They are considered some of the very first complex living organisms to have evolved on earth. They are true living fossils. Only if they could talk, how much we were going to learn about the evolution of our dear planet. It is estimated that there are about 11,000 fern species, found in every nook and cranny in the world including Arctic. I am not sure if they are found in Antarctica, anyone knows?

I have quite a few ferns in my garden. They grow along with other shade-loving plants like Heuchera, Foam-flower, Mist-flower, Brunnera, Larkspur, Hostas, Hellebor and some more. Shade-gardening is one of my passions. Here are some pictures of my ferns. My ferns are all babies, only one to two years old. So, they have not matured yet.

The pictures are those of, left to right, Japanese Painted Fern, Cinnamon Fern, Unknown Fern, Christmas Fern. It is said that Cinnamon Fern grows only along stream-banks or in bogs. I don't have either of them. I am growing them in raised bed in a soil that is full of organic matter. They are growing fine. Ferns should always be grown in damp soil. The soil should not be moist or wet but damp to the touch. And, you can achieve that by using soil that is full of organic matter like compost and leaf-mold.

The pictures from left to right are: Lady in Red. As this fern matures, it stems should become bright red, and that's why it has such a name. Dixie Wood Fern, Autumn Fern and the last one is either a baby Ostrich-Glade Fern or Maidenhair Fern. Autumn Fern, as the name suggests, has autumn-colored Orangish fronds. I also have a very sad looking indoor Boston Fern. Boston Fern is a non-hardy fern. Ferns can be either hardy or non-hardy. Among the 11,000 Fern-species, only about hundred or so are found in cooler climates of Asia, Europe and America. The rest are all found in tropical or sub-tropical climates.

Here are some interesting facts that I learned in today's meeting:
  • Many ferns can be grown in full-sun if the soil is kept moist.
  • Ferns do not like fertilizers; they prefer rich, humus soil and organic matter.
  • If a fern start dying, then it rarely bounce back.
  • As cooler weather sets in, the fronds of your ferns dry up and become dry and dead. However, do not take them out before winter. Leave them as it is as they provide protection to the roots below. Clean them up only in Spring.
  • There is an American Fern Society

  • Here are some ferns for color: Adiantum Hispidulum, Athyrium Brandford Beauty, Athyrium Ghost, Athyrium Niponicum Pictum, Athyrium Otophorum, Blechnum Chilense, Blechnum Novae-Zelandiae, Blechnum Penna-Marina, Dryopteris Erythrosora, Dryopteris Lepidopoda, Dryopteris Wallichiana, Osmundo Regalis Purpurascens, Woodwardia Orientalis, Woodwardia Unigemmata, Woodwardia Virginica. I got the list from a hand-out given by Professor Zukovich.

    Ferns with a clumping habit: Adiantum Aleuticum, Adiantum Pedatum, Athyrium Otophorum, Dryopteris Affinis, Dryopteris Australis, Dryopteris Complexa, Dryopteris Erythrosora, Dryopteris Filix-Mas, Dryopteris Intermedia, Polystichum Munitum, Polystichum Polyblepharum, Polystichum Setiferum. The list is obtained from the hand-out.

    Spreading Groundcover Ferns: Adiantum Venustum, Blechnum Chilense, Blechnum Penna-Marina, Dennstaedtia Punctilobula, Gymnocarpium Disjunctum, Gymnocarpium Dryopteris, Matteuccia Struthiopteris, Onoclea Sensibilis, Phegopteris Decursive-Pinnata, Thelypteris Kunthii, Woodwardia Areolata. The list is obtained from the hand-out.

    So, it seems I have a long list of ferns to buy. Those who do only edible-garden, you can also grow fern -- Ostrich Fern -- as the fiddleheads of Ostrich Fern are edible. Between January to May (sometimes even a little later), you can find them being sold in places like Whole Foods. So, do you grow fern? What sorts of fern do you grow?

    Before I end, here is a fascinating article about a fern, that's so small that many of them can fit on your fingernail, responsible for saving our planet and about an extraordinary woman Azolla. I'm joining in the memes hosted by Eileen,  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's meme.

    Monday, December 19, 2016

    Some of the winter birds -- putting up a show for me.

    Winter came forcefully on Saturday. Rain, sleet, ice, squall, blizzard, everything was happening together. One moment it was squall; with heavy wind it turned into blizzard. Then, ice-balls were raining down. Squirrels did not come out of their nests but birds were. I have always noticed this -- in heavy rain or in bad weather, squirrels or other mammals do not come out until the weather subsides a little. But birds come out. Why? Their wings are much more delicate which can easily get battered in dire weather; but rain or snow, sun or cloud, birds are out flapping their wings and chirping.

    Saturday was no exception. As it was snowing heavily outside, I was standing by the window and taking pictures of some of the winter birds that visit the bird-feeders. I have about four or five bird-feeders and a suet-feeder. I always try to keep them filled up as I do not know how all the birds survive here in this winter with so few native plants around. Wild birds eat seeds and berries during winter as most of the insect population has either died down or gone into hibernation deep into some holes which most birds cannot penetrate. But with more and more native trees being cut down in the suburban USA and replaced with non-native ornamental trees or plants which do not provide any berries or seeds, birds find it hard to find food. As the winter goes by, food become more scarce as the remaining food gets covered with snow. That is why February is the bird-feeding month in the US as it is the peak month in winter when everything is hidden under snow, temperature is freezing, water is frozen and that's when most birds die due to lack of food.

    I provide black-sunflower seed and suet for my birds. I should also get some thistle which juncos and finches prefer. Suets are mostly favored by any kind of wood-peckers. I get all sorts of birds -- sparrows, finches, juncos, doves, cardinals, chickadees, titmice, jays, nuthatch, wood-peckers (red-bellied and downy) and starling. Squirrels also come to the feeders. I do not chase them away as they also need food during these winter months. Birds and squirrels share the feeders together and all survive. With so many birds and squirrels, I should be getting raptors in my yard. Luckily I am yet to see them in my yard though I see them flying high in the sky. I know they also need food but please no murder and blood-shed in my yard. Here are pictures of some of the birds that I could capture on Saturday. They dart in and out too fast; or move around too fast to capture properly. Also, the window and the screen were not helping as most of the pictures have come out hazy.

    This is a blue-jay. Do you know jays belong to the crow-family!? Crows and Jays belong to the "Corvidae" family. Who would say they are related!? Like their cousin crows, jays are also highly intelligent birds. You can also train them to get food from your hand if you have the patience and time to stand still, everyday at the same time, with food. This year I had the rare luck of having a jay-family raise their brood in front of my eyes. I will write about it later in another post.

    We can learn a beautiful lesson from jays -- as soon as a jay finds a source of food, it start giving out loud calls so that other jays might find that source of food. Just imagine us humans announcing the source of food, resources, wealth to all and sharing them with all.

    This is a sparrow hanging upside-down from a suet-feeder. From sparrows, we should learn how to work together in a flock. Sparrows are not native birds of the US. But wherever they have been introduced, they have become hugely successful for their flocking habit which helps them with protection and food-sharing.

    This is a Tufted Titmouse, one of my favorite birds. They have such huge circular eyes and such cute mohawks on their tiny heads that one has to fall in love with them. They are considered song-bird species of the eastern deciduous forest of the US. They dart back and forth between the feeder and a tree-branch. They will take a seed, fly to the branch, whack the seed open with their beak, eat and then again fly back to the feeder.

    This is a nut-hatch with habits very similar to wood-peckers. During spring and summer, one can find them poking onto the tree-trunks to eat insects. And, it is one of the few bird-species in the world, that can climb down a tree (or climb down anything). In this picture also, you see it hanging upside-down on the bird-feeder.

    This is a chickadee, another exceptionally cute bird with a tiny body and a round-head. This is a bird which has no fear of humans, I think. They will come and sit right next to you as you fill in the feeder or work in the garden. A very restless bird which cannot sit still for a second. Where does its little body get so much energy? It also behaves like tufted titmouse, flying between feeder and trees with one seed at a time. AND IF YOU START PROVIDING A BIRD-FEEDER, THEN PLEASE CONTINUE DOING SO BECAUSE CHICKADEES BUILD NESTS AND REAR THEIR BABIES WITHIN A ONE-HUNDRED-FIFTY FEET RADIUS OF A FOOD-SOURCE. That is, these birds build their nests very close to a food source. If that food-source happens to be your bird-feeder and if you suddenly stop feeding them (especially in winter), then they might even face death.

    A female downy-woodpecker waiting for its turn at the suet. I see much order, respect and cooperation among the birds in the feeder. They seldom fight. Each wait for its turn. They are not greedy, do not hoard and occupy the feeder -- they come, eat to their fill and then leave.

    This is an European Sterling. They move around in great flock and can finish everything in a bird within matter of seconds. Also, when they are at the feeders, smaller birds like titmice, chickadee, nuthatch, finch or sparrow cannot approach the feeder. Again, I do not have to chase them away so that the smaller birds can feed. As they descend in a large-group and starts eating, squirrels notice the food-source. So, they come. As soon as squirrels come, these birds fly away. And when squirrels on the feeders, all the smaller birds come and eat from the other side of the feeder.

    I spread some seeds on the ground as well for ground-eating birds like dove or juncos.

    This is a mourning-dove, another of my favorite bird. It is one of the most hunted species in the USA. Why would anyone want to hunt such a beautiful-looking bird which does not create any kind of destruction or anything? All it wants to do is sing out lamenting songs in spring. I know you will say that it's killed for food. It seems like all we humans can do are elect stupid leaders, eat anything and everything and destroy world for our needs and greed.

    I think this is a house-sparrow (sometimes also called garden-sparrows). There are couple of different types of sparrows one can find in the eastern USA. House-sparrow is the most common among them.

    The next two pictures are that of Cardinals. The first one is a female Cardinal. The bright red one is the male cardinal and is the state bird of New Jersey. Though they are of medium size but these are dominating and quarrelsome birds. No two cardinals will sit in the same-feeder; they also do not allow any other birds in their vicinity. But they are superbly gorgeous birds, and especially the bright-red male-cardinals are sight to behold in bright white snow.

    And this is the rarest phenomena that I am seeing in my yard for the first time -- an American Robin still hanging out. American Robins do not stay in New Jersey and migrate south during winter. Rarely, one or two birds stay behind. I think it is one of those rare birds. I hope it soon migrates and as otherwise it will die without any insects or berries for food.

    I'm joining in the memes hosted by Eileen,  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's meme.