MLK Quote

MLK Quote

Nature's Inspiration Movie

http://www.flickspire.com/m/HealthierL433/NaturesInspiration -- 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.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

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

Look what I found on my parsley plants :-D. These are the caterpillars of Black Swallowtail Butterfly, a really gorgeous butterfly that is found in all over the North America. It is apparently the state butterfly of New Jersey. It constantly flies around in my garden but I never get the chance to take a picture as they are too restless a butterfly; all the time flittering around. A picture of the butterfly is in the top part of my blog -- it's that black butterfly with beautiful designs on its wings. It's the fifth picture in the series, right next to the tomato-cucumber picture.

 

This is called the first instar of the Swallowtail catterpillar. This apparently looks like bird-poop and thus the birds leave them alone



From the first instar, they become these chubby neon-green caterpillars with black lines and orange-spots



When the caterpillar is disturbed, it protrudes out these orange V-shaped Ostemetrium. It's some kind of protection tools for the caterpillar. When feel threatened the ostemetrium puts out some kind of offensive odor. I tickled it, and it put out the ostemetrium. I didn't get any odor. I guess the predators find the smell offensive.

After these photo-shoots, I went out to the garden. I'm growing lots of hot pepper this year along with some sweet and milder ones. So, this is a small harvest of various types of pepper, lemon-cucumber (a very prolific plant), ground-cherries, beans and some greens:





This is Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Pepper. It is apparently one of the hottest pepper on earth; it is 400 times hotter than the hottest Tabasco sauce. And, I'm growing this :-) because I'm crazy :-P



Small bees and wasps on sunflower. Do you know that the size of a sunflower is related to the size of space it gets to grow? I didn't know that. Being a lover of sunflower, I started growing them in every possible space I could find, and found out this truth: given bigger space, the sunflower will have the optimal bloom size. But, if it gets smaller space, the blooms become smaller.



Honey-bee and aphids (the yellow ones) on Swamp Milkweed.



Do you think bees sleep? Or they become too heavy to fly after  a good dinner? Now and then, I find bees clinging still (as if they are sleeping) on flowers; they will remain like that throughout the night and will fly away the next morning.



Bumble-bee sipping nectar from flowers. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Creatures In My Garden -- Part 2 -- Videos and Photos

I continue with the theme creatures in my garden. In the first post, I posted pictures of the creatures. In this post, I tried to capture their actions in videos. I am not a great video maker; my hands shake too much; also, I don't do any video editing. On top of that all the videos are taken from inside the windows as the creatures will run away if I go out to shoot their actions. So sorry for the poor video qualities.

As I mentioned in my previous post, bears started coming to our yard to feed on the bird-food. So, I had to stop providing birds with food for the last one month. I resumed this week, and who was the first one to come to the feeder? Well, you have to watch the video to get the answer :-) (yep, this is my trick to make you watch my videos).

video


One has to admire the tenacity and hardworking of the chipmunks. They climb the fences, trees up into the patio; scurry down the length of the patio and jump into the bird-feeder. They then stuff their mouth with sunflower seeds, and rush to their homes doing all the acrobatics of climbing and running and dodging all the birds, squirrels and our dogs. They continue this throughout the day. The number of trips they make from their homes to the bird-feeders and back can easily add up to the distance around the world (okay that's my theory).

video

I think the squirrel mistook itself as a chipmunk. It sat in the bird-feeder, exactly like the chipmunk, to have its lunch. It was quite a precarious perch for the squirrel as the feeder is about 6 or 7 feet up from the ground. And the ground is nothing but bricks. So, if it falls, it can be quite hurtful.

video

Then another squirrel whom I will call Dr. Squirrel Einstein realize that there is another bird-feeder from which one can obtain food much easily. Then, finally the birds came. Birds usually do not come to a feeder that is occupied by squirrels. If they come, they sit nearby and wait for squirrels to leave. Birds do not mind chipmunks. But this time, the birds took a long time to come. The birds occupied one of the feeders.

video


Many people claim that creatures can wreck havoc on gardens as they can destroy flowers, fruits and vegetables. They do eat berries and fruits. But they do not destroy the garden as many people claim. Rather, I find them useful to the garden as they fertilize the garden and eat all the unwanted and destructive bugs.

And, now here is the culprit -- THE BEAR -- for who I have to remove the bird feeders. If you watch the video, you will notice that it did not exhibit any sign of fear. We were in the patio. It was down in the garden. It saw us; stared at us and then leisurely rambled around the garden, taking all its time and without being scared of us, before it left the yard.  That means this bear is not scared of humans and that's a dangerous thing. If it ever comes across a human and attack, the bear will be then shot dead by police. So, for its safety I stopped providing bird-food. Now though I provide the food, but I bring it in for the night. And, I hope it will not return during the day-time as it did in the video.

video


Now some photos:










The bird in the last two pictures could be that of a common Grackle or a Brewer's Blackbird. Brewer's Blackbird are not supposed to be present here in the North-East. But at the same time, this bird is not of the size of a common Grackle. So, I'm confused about what it is. I have contacted the Cornell Ornithology Lab to find about its identity.

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

Creatures In My Garden -- Part 2 -- Just Some Videos

I continue with the theme creatures in my garden. In the first post, I posted pictures of the creatures. In this post, I tried to capture their actions in videos. I am not a great video maker; my hands shake too much; also, I don't do any video editing. On top of that all the videos are taken from inside the windows as the creatures will run away if I go out to shoot their actions. So sorry for the poor video qualities.

As I mentioned in my previous post, bears started coming to our yard to feed on the bird-food. So, I had to stop providing birds with food for the last one month. I resumed this week, and who was the first one to come to the feeder? Well, you have to watch the video to get the answer :-) (yep, this is my trick to make you watch my videos).

video


One has to admire the tenacity and hardworking of the chipmunks. They climb the fences, trees up into the patio; scurry down the length of the patio and jump into the bird-feeder. They then stuff their mouth with sunflower seeds, and rush to their homes doing all the acrobatics of climbing and running and dodging all the birds, squirrels and our dogs. They continue this throughout the day. The number of trips they make from their homes to the bird-feeders and back can easily add up to the distance around the world (okay that's my theory).

video

I think the squirrel mistook itself as a chipmunk. It sat in the bird-feeder, exactly like the chipmunk, to have its lunch. It was quite a precarious perch for the squirrel as the feeder is about 6 or 7 feet up from the ground. And the ground is nothing but bricks. So, if it falls, it can be quite hurtful.

video

Then another squirrel whom I will call Dr. Squirrel Einstein realize that there is another bird-feeder from which one can obtain food much easily. Then, finally the birds came. Birds usually do not come to a feeder that is occupied by squirrels. If they come, they sit nearby and wait for squirrels to leave. Birds do not mind chipmunks. But this time, the birds took a long time to come. The birds occupied one of the feeders.

video


Many people claim that creatures can wreck havoc on gardens as they can destroy flowers, fruits and vegetables. They do eat berries and fruits. But they do not destroy the garden as many people claim. Rather, I find them useful to the garden as they fertilize the garden and eat all the unwanted and destructive bugs.

And, now here is the culprit -- THE BEAR -- for who I have to remove the bird feeders. If you watch the video, you will notice that it did not exhibit any sign of fear. We were in the patio. It was down in the garden. It saw us; stared at us and then leisurely rambled around the garden, taking all its time and without being scared of us, before it left the yard.  That means this bear is not scared of humans and that's a dangerous thing. If it ever comes across a human and attack, the bear will be then shot dead by police. So, for its safety I stopped providing bird-food. Now though I provide the food, but I bring it in for the night. And, I hope it will not return during the day-time as it did in the video.

video


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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Creatures In My Garden -- Part 1

When we first moved into this house, about seven years ago, there were hardly any interesting birds or other creatures. A groundhog used to come to eat all the pears that have fallen down from the tree. Squirrels are omnipresent in the USA and thus our house was no exception. I could hear the twittering and the singing of the birds. Honey bees would buzz around only when the rhododendrons were in bloom; and that usually happened in very early spring. There were lack of creatures because like most typical houses here, this house had some evergreen trees; some spring-bulbs and then green carpets of lawns everywhere. But, painstakingly over the years I have transformed and still transforming that garden into a wild-life oasis.

I have planted lots of native flowering plants; some non-native flowering plants; spring and summer bulbs; perennial herbs; fruits and nuts trees. I also plant annual herbs and vegetables. Each tiny (less than a foot in height and about 2 inch across) perennial plants have grown to their full capacity; they are tall and wide and fat and healthy. Each of them has taken up every inch of the garden space that was provided to them. They are crawling and climbing and some of them standing tall and erect. Such thick bushes and ground-covers have created pockets and places where various species -- birds, mammals, reptiles and insects -- take shelter or cover for safety.

Our garden has indeed become a magnet for wild-lives. It has become a bit too much, I guess, as neighbors say that now and then they see black bears passing through our yards. That's why I have stopped providing foods to birds as the food also attracts bears. Bears, deers, groundhogs, chipmunks, raccoons, birds, squirrels, rats, mouse, snakes, frogs, salamanders, stray cats and all sorts of insects are constantly visiting the garden. And, that also has created quite a danger. Luckily, I have not come face to face with any bear but I'm getting stung by bees or wasps that I can't recognize.

I walk around the garden to capture their pictures but they are too fast (or I guess camera-shy) as they fly/run/dart away as soon as I approach them. So, here are some that I could get. I feel happy to be able to provide sanctuary in this earth where habitat-destruction and ever dwindling of nature and forests have become a common place. I am not a charismatic person or a born orator that I can arouse the passion in others and lead them against climate, environment and nature destruction. So, I'm trying to do my small part in my small ways. And, it also helps me feeling a bit smug and/or snobbish as my neighbors hung all those hummingbird-feeders; none visit the feeders and neighbors ask if I've seen any humming-bird. Of course, I have -- they come, sip nectar, take rest on branches of my trees and then fly away :-).


Hummingbird: Ah! there I see some interesting flowers


Hummingbird: Let me have a drink 


Insect: Do you know me? 
Photographer: Sorry, I don't know you. Who are you? 


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail: I see some nice cone-flowers. Let me land


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail: Yipeee...I've landed


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail: Ah! sweet nectar....sweeeettt....


Photographer: Are you a yellow-jacket wasp? It seems like you are some kind of wasps but my knowledge is so poor about you guys. 


Photographer: C'mon, don't roll your eyes. Cucumbers are creatures also; okay, a different type. But do you know that plants are the number of abused living things in this world? 


Chipmunk: Dear visitors, do you see the big green evergreen bush on the right? I live underneath it. It's such a lovely home


Mother Deer: Hmm...my eye-sights are not that good but I have very good smell and hearing. And, I think I can smell something, some strange two-legged creature with a big black thing in her hand


Baby-Deer: Duh! who just want to always tag behind mom and follow her? Let me venture out a bit further and check out all those other things. 


Photographer: Are you a honey-bee or a hover-bee? Whoever you are, you are very welcome here. 


Photographer: Okay, I know people don't like you. You are not a native species and you usually destroy the Brassica family vegetables. But, I don't mind, dear cabbage-butterfly and you have not destroyed any of my cabbages yet though there are so many of you all the time fluttering around in the air. It's beautiful to see your aerial dance. 




Photographer: Hmm...Is this a carpenter-bee? Or a fly? Apparently many flies mimic the bees and wasps and only an expert can distinguish with naked eyes.


Can You See ME :)? 


I am big about 2 inches or more in length and scary


I'm not exactly sure who I'm. I think I am the Great Golden Digger Wasp.


But don't be scared of me. See, even this gentle butterfly is not afraid of me. Howdy Amigo!!


Hey! how does my butt look? 


I think I'm some kind of bees


Photographer: Sorry about a hazy picture. This is either a Monarch or a Viceroy. They look similar from side. They can only be differentiated if they spread out their wings. 


I'm a teeny-weeny cutie-pie. 



Dude! how may photos of mine will you take? Will you ever stop?? I mean seriously...



Photographer: Are you a yellow-jacket wasp that's drinking water from our pond? You then seem to be quite docile as I'm constantly breathing down your neck to take pictures and you don't seem to mind. 


Photographer: Bear in our backyard. Sorry for the hazy and not so distinct pictures as I didn't dare approach it and was trying to take the pictures quite fast :-). In the first picture, it's standing tall and eating sunflower seeds from the bird-feeders.

Observing and watching these wild lives is my meditation. I surely do forget everything as I see the birds and wasps drinking from our artificially-made small pond; butterflies fluttering; bees and wasps  hovering over flowers; bumble-bees buzzing from one flower to the next, and chipmunks darting from safe place to another. The peace and calm it brings is thousand times more powerful and effective than doing yoga or sitting in a room and practicing meditation. And how much nectar does a tiny flower has? I see bees, wasps, hummingbirds all visiting the same flower again and again!?

Now, I need your help. Anyone know who might be living here (the picture below)? It's a pot with some papers stashed into it. I see the creature every summer -- they always live in the nook and crannies like this -- stashed papers, leaf debris. Their color is exactly that of yellow-jacket -- bright yellow with those stripes. But their bodies are not of wasps. Rather much like bees -- thick and fat and hairy. It also hovers on top of flowers. But I don't think I've ever seen them sipping nectar. Rather they seem to bump into (or attack) other bees. They are very protective of their homes and will sting you and attack you. And their stings are extremely painful; itchy and the area will get swollen. They are always so fast, darting in and out that it's impossible to capture them in pictures. So, if anyone has any idea, do let me know.



I'm joining in the memes hosted by  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's and Today's Flowers meme.

Friday, July 15, 2016

July 2016 Update

I'm joining in the memes hosted by Nature Notes hosted by Rambling WoodsSt Germain's and Today's Flowers meme.
This has been a crazy summer, so far, with lots of work everywhere -- office, house and garden. With such a mild winter and hot summer like temperature since May, garden is growing crazily, both weed and non-weed stuff. And that has increased the workload ten-fold. Usually, I harvest, wash, clean, cut, chop,pickle starting mid-August. But this year it has started since mid-June. Also, when plants start to producing fruits, that means I need to take more care of them -- do they need fertilize? It has not rained for the last three days, do they need water? Do they need more mulch? Any tying, clipping needs to be done? Do I need to de-weed around the base of the plant? And the list continues. But, these are all fun work. In fact, I can spend my whole day working in the garden, without complaint. And, I don't like working in the office and/or home and would always complaint :-). Here are few of the harvest (though most are in our stomach; I forget to take pictures most of the time).

I'm very proud of this onion. It's the largest onion I've grown so far. It's the size of my palm. 


I'm making fermented vegetables -- kimchi, fermented carrots and so on. This is my first time doing fermented products and it's really fun, especially when you see all the bubbles released by the bacteria :-)


These are all hot peppers -- some are extremely hot; some very hot; while others are medium hot. I'm growing 7-8 different varieties of hot peppers this year. I'm going to use many of them to make spicy Indian style hot pepper pickles. 


A bunch of grapes. Lots and lots of such branches are hanging in the plants and cat-birds are having a field-day eating them :-)


Wild Raspberries


Triple-Crown Blackberry plants that I planted this year. They have started to grow. 


Do you know that pepper, eggplants, tomatoes are all perennial plants? If you can overwinter them, they will grow nicely the next year. This is a pepper plant that I overwintered. It has now started producing fruits for this year. In their natural habitat and in tropical places, these plants (pepper, tomato, eggplant, etc) can live up to 10-15 years and can become gigantic

The flowers are also in bloom and the bumble bees are buzzing around. I also see lots of other tiny bees and the large carpenter bees. Butterflies are also fluttering around but too difficult to capture their pictures. As I get ready with the camera, they fly away. Unfortunately, I only saw one honey bee so far. Population of honey-bees in my locality has drastically dropped in the last 3-4 years. When I first started gardening in 2011, I could not go near any flowers as they were covered with honey-bees. But, alas, they have vanished now. However, I see lots of different types of wasps and moths (during the night). Wasps are very good for garden as they not only pollinate but they also feed on the bad insects.

May I present a bouquet of Phlox. I love Phlox. They flower profusely; comes in different colors; have beautiful smell; the plants are resistant to all kinds of problems; spread nicely through underground roots/rhizomes; nectar-loving birds and insects love them. 


The shashta-daisy. This is another long-blooming plants, especially if you dead-head them. Moths, bees, butterflies, wasps, everybody loves them. And, do you see all the buds that are yet to open? I brought a small 4-inch plant. Today it has become like 4-feet wide. They are also great as cut-flowers. 


A type of native cone-flowers. Please do not dead-head them after they have stopped flowering. The dead flowers contain lots of seeds and those are the foods for the birds, rabbits, squirrels during the winter month


The twin-sister


My Smiling-Sunflower. One of the benefits of providing food to birds during winter is all these sunflower plants. I don't have to plant them. The birds spread seeds and I have sunflowers growing everywhere. I just love sunflowers. 


I just remember that it was called red-hot poker. But I've completely forgotten the name of this plant. I think it originated from South Africa. They are not supposed to survive our winter. But I planted the bulbs and forgot to take them out last winter. And thus this summer, I'm gifted with this gorgeous flower. 


Edible day-lily. These flowers are considered delicacy in China. You pick them up and fry them in a batter. I did it once and they do taste nice. But I have so many other vegetables that I leave these flowers for wild animals only. 


A native fleabane. It's considered weeds by almost everyone. But, I love these tiny daisy like flowers. 


More cone-flowers along with bee-balms


Last but not the least -- one of my all time companions who is always there to protect me.