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, June 16, 2014

This post has nothing to do with gardening and has everything to do with nature. I am so busy this year (stupid me for taking up all those course loads), that I am losing interest in gardening. The garden just lies there, neglected, growing whatever I have put in the ground -- pepper, eggplants, potato, sweet potato, cucumber, onion, garlic, tomato, squashes, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and flowers. I do not even have the time to go out there, and if I have I am so tired that I do not bother to go. This proves that I am losing my gardening streaks as a gardener always finds the time to go to her garden. Being a post on nature, I am linking this post to Rambling Wood's Nature Note.

On Saturday (June 14), we went to the Lakota Wolf Preserve in NJ. They offer educational wolf tours every day. It was an amazing experience to see raw wilderness face to face. There are many species of wolves like Arctic wolf, Eastern Timber wolf, Gray wolf, etc, in the preserve. Read about the various types of wolves HERE. Each species of wolves were enclosed in huge areas so that they can run, play, chase each other, and if possible, even hunt smaller animals, like their wilder cousins. However, they are hand-raised by humans since puppy-hood and thus they each have a name, recognize their names, and come to the call of the two handlers. A narrow path winds around each of the enclosure; the handler calls out, gives some treats and you get to meet and see each of the wolf packs (of course standing outside the enclosed fence), and even get to hear all of them howling together. The preserve also has foxes and bobcats along with a huge wilderness/woods/lakes/forests for people to hike and camp around.

I took more than two hundred photos. So, here I am presenting few of them.
In all the pictures, I tried to capture their eyes. Their eyes were so haunting; they look right through our souls, piercing and searching it. They are full of life and intelligence, understanding and consciousness. I do not understand how humans advocate killing/hunting of such animals or any such animals, for matter of fact.
What lovely teeth you have :-)!. Just imagine these creatures in the dark with glowing eyes and white teeth. That's what our ancestors experienced around camp-fires eons ago. How did they feel? Were they scared of these animals or revered them?
These white ones are the arctic wolves. During winter, other wolves sought out shelters. But arctic wolves are so comfortable in ice, snow and cold winters that they do not use shelters. They sleep out on cold, harden frozen rocks, grounds, meadows and water bodies throughout the night even during the harshest winter. They can do so because they have special winter coats which they shed out during spring and summer. The coats are so thick that the wolves seem to have gained lots of weight during the winter. Once they shed the coat and people see them in summer, people mistake it as the wolves starving to death.
These blackish species of wolves are what once used to roam New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania. But they got wiped out from New Jersey around 125 years ago. Without the wolves, the deer population rose. The huge deer population then destroyed the natural meadows, forests and woods of New Jersey by feeding on them. So many of the wild and native flowers and plants of New Jersey have vanished; some of the flora are now in endangered species list. Today New Jersey is trying to revive those native plants, trees and flowers by growing them in deer-proof enclosures.
These are common knowledge but still thought of sharing. Wolves can apparently smell a foreign object more than a mile away. They can hear any sound that's five to six miles away. They are complex pack animals with strict hierarchy within the pack. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, nieces&nephews, siblings all live together. The younger ones are strictly disciplined. If the parents are not around to boss them, then they are under the strict disciplinarian supervision of aunts/uncles/grandparents. The alpha female and the alpha male rule together (we humans need to learn from them; that within such complex structure, they have cooperation, peace, happiness, balance and live-together with equality of sexes. They do not claim that women are head of households or men are head of households like WE STUPID humans do).
Call of the wild. Apparently, it's a myth that wolves howl during full-moon. The guide told us some of the reasons why wolves howl but I forgot. Have you experienced your dogs howling when an emergency siren goes off? They do so because they perceive the sirens as the howling of other wolves. Thus they reply back protecting their territory and warning the pack. Wolves are very territorial and they will attack foreign intruding packs. Out of ten hunts, wolves are successful in only two hunts, on average. They can gulp down couple of kilos of meat within few minutes and then go without food for at least fourteen days. Their body structures, as you can see from the pictures above, are entirely different from those of dogs -- they have extremely long legs and lean bodies. Those long legs allow them to run at a speed of 40 miles an hour or more through any kind of terrain. They can perceive rough weather days ahead. During hurricane Sandy (those from outside the US, hurricane Sandy was a ferocious storm that North-East America experienced in the winter of 2012. There were huge flooding and destruction of homes with many places without electricity or water for weeks to come) they slept constantly for two days before the storm came. On the night of the storm, they paced around. That's how, apparently, wolves protect themselves in wilderness during rough weather. They sleep before-hand and gather all the energy. Then during rough weather they move around so that they are always ready to run away from any impending danger. The last picture is that of a wild daisy that we found in the vicinity of the area.

Here is one of the foxes that we saw. It's a red-fox, and apparently one of the smartest animals in the world. Do you know how they get rid off fleas? They get rid of them by exhibiting one of the complex weapons use. If they are attacked by fleas, they search for a tree branch. They carry it in their mouth and balance it perfectly in both the directions. Then, they walk down into water and slowly submerge into the water. As they get deeper into the water, the fleas start rising up. Slowly, as their whole body is under water, the fleas come out of their furs and hop into the dry stick which they hold out of their water. As soon as that happens, the fox submerge the stick in the water, killing the fleas in the process and quickly get out of the water. They hunt ducks and geese in similar fashion. They carry leaves and twigs in their mouth, get into the water and swim underneath it in such a way that if geese look at it, they will think that only some leaves and twigs are floating on the water. Thus, the foxes are able to get closer to the ducks/geese and jump on them to hunt.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

This is just a quick update. Bees are Gone :-(...

I look up as I sit down to write this post and peer outside. It looks like a forest out there with green everywhere. Spring is back with full force. Who would say that just little over a month back, on April 15, we had a freak snow-storm, and I wrote down in my diary: I am dreaming of a white little Christmas...well, I do celebrate the festival of Christmas with everybody else in December. But, I think historians are in dispute over the actual birth-time of Christ. Some say that He was indeed born in December. Some say the story of the wise sages following the stars mean that He might have been born in April or May. If that's true, then I don't have to dream of a white Christmas but actually can see it, feel it and thus start celebrating the White Christmas of those historians who think He was born now :-) in April. So, here is the picture of the outside on May 15 (on April 15, there were not a single leaf on any of these trees; everything was covered in snow):

Snow indeed came on April 15. The weekend before, temperature rose to about 85 degree F(29 degree C). The morning of April 14, the temperature was about 75. Then, it started dropping as gusty wind and rain blew in. By nightfall it was a freezing 19 degree F (-7 degree C). We woke up on April 15 with thin layer of dusty-snow on everything, everywhere. The sun was up and so the snow melted fast, but the freezing temperature continued for two more days and then rose again. But freezing temperature, especially in evening and night, continued until about the last week of April. Then, within a short span of time of about two weeks, everything become green and started growing crazily. This was the first time in my life, though my life is not that long but still, that I saw snow in April with daffodils, hyacinths, primulas, crocuses and other bulbs blooming.

Spring has been trying to come here since March 20. On the first day of Spring, the weather was so warm and sunny that we worked a lot in our garden. Lots of work going on there with installation of new trellis, arches, dog-run fence, newer beds, bird-baths, digging, pruning, cleaning...and the list continues as you know. When we first got this house five years back, our backyard was just a green lawn with three evergreens at the end, some evergreens on the side, and two rose-bushes in the corner. Since then, we are trying to turn it into a our little paradise-oasis. But, it's a bad-breaking, time-taking and money-spending affair and thus going slowly.

But a lot has been done and still need to be done. Lots of new flowering plants, trees and rose-bushes got planted. I will write about them slowly throughout the summer. In the meantime, I end this post with the worry that I don't see any bees around here except one or two in a week; butterflies are also hardly coming. With spring like temperature, on and off, since March 20, I expected more buzzing but alas.....So, here are the flowers that are now blooming in my garden. With so much flowers around, bees were busy buzzing everywhere in the previous years. Did this harsh winter affect them? What's everybody experiencing about bees, especially those who faces a bitter winter last year?
These are just some of the flowers that are blooming. I now have some amazing perennials and natives in the garden about which I will write later. As you see, there are so many flowers in the garden; flowers of all sorts of color, but there are no bees to be seen :-(. I am linking this post to Rambling Wood's Nature Notes.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Global March for Lions -- New York -- 2014

I am linking this post with Rambling Wood's Nature Note meme. Global March for Lions took place yesterday (March 15, 2014). It took place across the globe, in sixty-two different countries, in protests against the canned lion hunting. My husband and I along with our friend Joolz participated in the protest.

The protest was against canned hunting. The canned hunting takes place primarily in South Africa. But, in the US alone, there are 1000 such canned hunting sites with 500 of such sites being only in Texas. NY states also allows canned hunting. In canned hunting, lionesses are captured and kept in secluded captivity and constantly impregnated through artificial insemination (much like what happens to all the catles in industrial meat-farming) so that they can keep on producing lions.

These canned hunting organizations then earn lots of money by luring tourists and volunteers to look after the lion-cubs, to pet them and play with them. So, please be aware of such organizations/rehabilitation-centers in Africa which will allow you to pet cubs, play with them or look after them. Once they become adults, they are confined in cages or small areas where hunters go and shoot them for trophy hunting. The lions die of painful death because they are never shot in the head or heart to be killed at once. They are never shot in such places because then the beauty of the trophies will be gone. Rather they are shot in such places in the body where they die an agonizing death over long hours. The trophies are then collected by the hunters for which they more than ten thousand dollars are more. The rest of the body/bones/meat get sold at sky-rocket prices in Asia for Oriental-medicines. Now, I don't think I am sounding that much gory or horrific but you can imagine the analogous situation where human-females are kept under lock-and-key to keep on producing children; then their children are looked after my volunteers who are thinking that they are helping in orphanage; but as soon as the children of some age, the male-children are hunted down in a confined cage; the female-children are either sold into prostitution, or to produce more babies or in research labs. So, now I hope you get the picture. Here is one such ad where a female white-lioness is being sold. I AM ASHAMED TO SAY THAT 55% OF SUCH HUNTERS ARE FROM THE USA :-(:-(...

Here the story told in picture about what happens to canned lions.

People argue that these hunters provide money to conservation. How? That $10,000 or more that they pay for hunting goes towards these business-organizations -- their goal is to earn money through such hunting practices. If anyone really wants to give to conservation-groups, then there are no scarcity of good conservation groups like National Wildlife Federation who use money to protect everything in nature. People also argue that such hunt take down the pressure on wild lions as they are not being hunted. But the sad reality is that wild lion population is going down dramatically in the last fifty years. Lions once used to roam from Africa to India through Middle-East. No wild lions are found anywhere in the Middle-East; a small pocket of lions is found in Gir National Forest in India; only 4000 wild lions are left in Southern Africa. The lion population in Africa has gone down by 50%.

Here is Archbishop Desmond Tutu leading a prayer for the global march for lions:

Here is a video about canned hunting:

Here are some pictures from the protest. About three hundred signatures were collected; more than three hundred people participated.
If you live in NY state, you can go to this site and sign the petition to ban canning animals in NY state. Such canning sites not only kill and put in danger exotic animals from outside the USA, but also the native (and often time endangered, exotic species) animals. If you are wondering how can such sites put in danger the endangered species like say Bald Eagle, then let me assure you that they do so by exploiting the loop-holes that exists in non-profit status and laws for organizations. All these canning sites have declared themselves non-profit organizations because they claim that whatever money they earn by letting canned hunting goes towards conservation.

If you live in other states which has canned hunting, then you can try to find out which organizations, legislator or senator is trying to ban canned hunting and thus support their petitions. Here are some more ideas through picture.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Nature's Note -- Can I dream of Spring?

Since Saturday (March 8, 2014), weather has been lovely here with temperature rising as high as 50 degree (10 degree C). Morning skies are spectacles to be behold; later in the day the skies are becoming bright blue with puffs of white cotton floating around here and there. Sun is shining brightly, temperature is warm and people are wearing shorts/t-shirts/light-jackets.

Robins are back. I spotted the first robin last Monday (March 3, 2014). As I was watching the birds and enjoying the nature from the kitchen window, I saw a red-something fleeting across the bush in the neighbor's yard with a mocking-bird following it. Was that a cardinal? Could be. But, why is the mocking-bird chasing a cardinal? I have never seen such a behavior! Could it's too cold; the ground is frozen solid covered with about two feet of solid ice. It will starve to shouldn't be here now...but, sub-consciously I was wishing it to be true. Let it be true, let me have some optimistic feeling that spring will indeed come, that the ice will melt, please let me look forward to the future....So, I waited patiently, straining my neck to catch a glimpse of what was going around in that bush, behind it, with something reddish flying around and the mocking-bird giving it a chase. And, then it was that euphoric moment...Lo and Behold! The Robin is Here...I indeed felt like Moses seeing God and receiving the Ten Commandments on the mountain-top.

I had to run for my camera and take this shot through the window. I dare not open the window in case it flew away. It was sitting there with its chest puffed and enjoying the sunshine. The mocking-bird still didn't leave it alone and it was sitting nearby. Any idea anyone why mocking-birds would chase around robins? Perhaps they want to steal the food that the robins dig out? Then, I saw it again on Tuesday but not since then. But, I am worried about what it will eat.

It really brought the spring with it. As I told above, the weather has been so lovely and the sun has been so hot that all the ices are melting fast revealing huge patches of ground where the grasses are waking up. Their bright spring green is indeed a site to cherish and enjoy after the brutality of the winter. But alas, it might not last long as another winter-storm, Vulcan, is supposedly coming up on Thursday (March 13, 2014). What will the robin do in the storm?

Besides robins, I am also seeing an increase in activity among the deer population here. They are always very active during the night. But, I am seeing them around the neighborhood even during the middle of the day. The juncos have not left yet but I think their winter population here is dwindling now as fewer and fewer of them are coming to the bird-feeders. The varieties of bird-songs, during the day, are also increasing. Many different types of finches can again be seen as they are coming back to NJ (they are here during spring and summer but they leave at least this part of northern NJ during winter). I am also getting busy like my feather-friends. In between work and as time permits, I am taking the opportunity of this gorgeous weather to start doing the spring cleaning, designing, planning, re-potting plants and putting in more seeds. And, of course I am taking every opportunity to enjoy the nature and see all the critters.

These beautiful deers were seen today in front of our house. I am linking this post to the wonderful Nature Notes meme hosted by Rambling Woods .

Monday, March 3, 2014

Seasonal Celebration

I am participating in the meme Seasonal Celebration hosted by Donna and Beth. I am also linking this to the Nature Note's meme hosted by Rambling Woods.

I do not like shopping unless it involves book or anything related to garden. So, it was a tiring morning as we had to go for groceries and other little shopping. This has been the winter with record snow-storms and winter temperature. Yesterday (2/28) night also the temperature went down to about six degree Fahrenheit (about minus 14 degree C). Snow and frozen-ice covered lands, lakes and other water-ways, and piled-up snow are everywhere. It was a sunny day and the reflected sunlight from all those accumulated white things on the ground was making the eyes more tiring. Thus, on coming home I fell asleep with the Heirloom Gardener magazine in my hand.

When I woke up it was already quarter past six in the evening. But I was surprised to see that there was still light outside. Winter has not loosen its grip with another snow-storm, Winter Storm Titan, coming in on Monday (3/3) that will dump about six to twelve inches of snow. But the hour-hand of nature has not wavered and is ticking away towards another spring. Sun is rising earlier and higher up in the sky, moving away towards east more and more everyday. It's also going down late. The morning skies are gorgeous.

The Robins have not appeared up here yet, neither the Juncos have left this winter-home but the northern migration has started as reported by the citizen-scientists here. The early mornings are filled with songs of various birds of which I can only recognize that of Cardinals. I am seeing them flying after one another -- are those the results of birds fighting for territory or chasing each other for mating? I am also seeing them trying to gather materials for nests. They must be having a tough time this winter as all the dry leaves and grasses and broken twigs are under snow and ice. Squirrels are also chasing each other running up and down the trees, always a familiar sight here before spring.
Spring is imminent but it is too cold outside for the trees and plants to wake up yet. But the longer daylights have awaken up the plants inside the home. Newer leaves are emerging on the eggplants and pepper plants. I am busy making plans for the garden, and planting seeds. Onions, chives, artichokes and even some garlics (well, I had too much garlics -- they are getting planted since Fall in every nook and crany that I can find) seedlings are thriving inside the house. As I am planning on putting in more seeds, I am thinking about my last year's experience.

Couple of years back I could not grow anything from seeds. I don't know how or when that learning happened, but eventually I learned to grow most flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs from seeds. One of the greatest mistakes a gardener can do is become over confident or lose patience or become busy. I think I either lost patience thinking that if these seeds could handle the rough outside world, then they could also handle a wee bit of negligence in the pampered world inside the house. Or I became too confident, and thus lost many seeds. Yes, I had a bumper crop of tomato and potato and fair amount of garlic, onion, okra, eggplant, pumpkins, pepper, gourd and other kinds of herbs but the amount was nothing compared to the amount of seeds I put in. And, that was a mistake -- it's very difficult to handle too many seedlings. So, the biggest lesson learned last year is to have lots of patience and not to rush. More I am twitching to put in seeds, more I am recalling the experience and really going slow this time, taking one baby-step at a time -- put in one type of seed, take care of them, let them grow to a reasonable size where a day's negligence will not matter much; then, put in the next batch of seeds.

Another lesson that I learned is to have a plan for your garden -- where each plant will go, when they will go and what will come after them. I didn't have any such plans. The result was that I didn't know where to put what, and thus some plants which needed to be in shade got put out in sun and vice-versa and that also resulted in smaller number of crops harvested. Also, when it came to fall planting, I didn't have the correct space. So, planning for the garden is an absolute must.

Keeping detailed notes is another must -- which seeds produced most; when were the seeds put in; what were their germination rate; how much space did it take -- how tall and wide did it become; were they able to handle some frost? how much flower did it produce or how much crop? How fast did a plant grow? Did they require lots of watering and fertilizer? How did it go with the surrounding -- birds, mammals and insects? -- every possible questions and ideas need to be recorded and studied. And, not surprisingly which I failed to do. I also put in the plants too close together and thus many of the plants inter-twined and created a tangle which didn't allow sunlight inside and it was also difficult to harvest.

With all these lessons in hand, I am again marching forward to another year of gardening and another small step towards the grave. I cannot help but have such morbid thoughts as this time of the year always stir up the philosopher inside me as I experience and observe the cycle of season and life. Just like Death, winter spread out its cold tentacles and took away the lives of so many tender plants and reduced the trees to its skeletons. The earth fell silence as birds and mammals hid away in their nests and dens, coming out only when hungry; they forgot to sing and play. But now things are stirring up, waking up and that also creates a flutter in my soul. Something happens inside me and which is very difficult to describe; I get the feeling that something big and profound will happen; I feel like dancing and rejoicing and sucking up every ounce that life can offer before death overtakes me. Thus, I rush to plant in more seeds, order more plants, read more gardening-books and browse more catalogs and wait for that something unknown but beautiful to knock on my door.