Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Secret Garden

This morning Howard and I had to buckle down and do yard work. He is always doing yard work however most of what he does is at his other properties. Yesterday he brought his chain saw home and today we got rid of some monster weeds.

One thing we got rid of is this tree that keeps growing and growing. I should have taken a picture before it went. Oh well. It will be back and I can take its picture then.

This tree is some kind of a nuisance tree -- some kind of walnut nuisance tree but of course there are no walnuts. I cannot believe I have never written about it. Once maybe two years ago I pruned it into a beautiful shape and it looked for a while like something out of Beverly Hills. However a better way is just to get rid of it.

So we did, albeit temporarily. Also I pulled up a lot of bishop's weed in the, ahem, herb garden. I found the sage plant and a variety of mints that I put in a couple of years ago. 

The catnip plant is out of control so I pulled a little of it and took it in to Jeoffry. He was munching on it last I looked. I will have to dry some of it and put it away for him. The dried stuff must be stronger.

Now for the biggest challenge.

That picture at the top, that is the space behind the garage!

I am looking at it and I do believe it has good bones, as they say. It is more private than most areas on my property. Where I live, your life is lived in public.

What if I transformed this space?

Howard said: "We can clear it out so it isn't that bad."

However I have been reading about the 10x Rule and I the part of it I really like is that you take an unexciting modest goal and blow it up into outrageous proportions.

I said: "This space is going to be a showplace. People will be begging to see it on the Parkside Garden Walk. I will be hearing from strangers hoping to arrange to cater an event there. It will be famous throughout the city."

Shall we begin?

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Doh! A deer


My naturalist adventures continue. Today was kind of dark and threatening however still I managed to work in a walk at Forest Lawn.

And I bagged a deer!

I mean on my Seek app that I have been carrying on about. There were all these noisy gardening machines going in the cemetery and so to get away from them I had climbed up on this ridge. I was walking along looking at trees and thinking about -- OK, this is like old times, but I was thinking about Leonard Pennario and his composition "Midnight on the Cliffs." That was what I was writing about this morning. Suddenly -- there in front of me -- oh, deer!

See him in the distance?

The seek camera is finicky. Usually the camera is blurry when you try to zoom in and you do not know what the picture will look like until you snap it. So as time was of the essence I switched to my phone camera. This was pretty good...

... however not good enough for Seek, perhaps because of the gravestone behind the deer.

Snap! Again.

Oh, deer me!


 Finally I struck gold with the Seek camera.

This is nice that the Seek camera photos show up among my normal photos. I used to worry I would not be able to share them. However yes, this is the magic picture. The app identified it. 

I could not believe that the app identified the deer. I could not believe it. And the deer has a beautiful name.

It is Western Roe Deer!

This is a Eurasian species. I am not sure how it got here. And a male Roe Deer is, you guessed it, a Roebuck!

This one must be a doe because it has no antlers.

A Roe Doe!

Monday, May 22, 2023

Spotting the Spotted Turtle

The other day I wrote about snapping the Snapping Turtle.

Today it is all about Spotting the Spotted Turtle!

I went to Tifft Nature Preserve after Mass on Sunday. I like swinging by Tifft after church because the Outer Harbor is just over the Skyway from St. Anthony's. It is thrilling at Tifft to walk those wooden walkways over those swamps where God knows what goes on. One Sunday a few weeks ago we saw snakes! Another girl there pointed them out to me.

"They are so gross!" she shuddered. And I agreed.

That did not stop me from trying to get the snakes' picture for my Seek app however it was not to be. The Seek app, as I have written, is finicky.

Which brings me to yesterday, Sunday. I was at Tifft and now I am canny, I am alert for turtles. I spotted one at a distance however it was not close enough to get a picture. Then, heading over one footbridge, I saw the handsome chap at the top of this post.

Looking at him now, he looks like a Painted Turtle. However the app was having none of this turtle -- amazing, considering how much better photo could I have taken? I took more and more. 

These are just two of many pictures I took. It grew maddening to tell you the truth. The app kept sniffing that no, it could not identify it. It was some species of Box Turtle, then it was simply an Animal, and so forth.

I did get into conversations with sympathetic Buffalonians and one gentleman told me there were more turtles to be seen up the way. I went where he suggested and that was where I found this specimen.

The app ate this one up right away and said it was a Painted Turtle.. 

So I went happily on my way. Although I had affection for that first turtle.

Later on yesterday, I re-submitted to the app a couple of pictures of that first turtle. That worked before, with the Snapping Turtle. The app finally reconsidered and identified that photo I took, which, come on, was excellent.

This time the app, after a bit of back and forth, relented, and barfed up that it was a Spotted Turtle.

I looked up Spotted Turtle and to my distress I found that it is rather rare, and threatened, and endangered. Sure enough, on my app, it said that there were only four other sightings in the area.

This seems to be a bit of beginner's luck I am having in the turtle department. I hope some of that luck rubs off on this cute Spotted Turtle. It is funny, I found myself thinking about it later, pondering the Spotted Turtle and its plight, hoping that the species would rebound and flourish.

Another picture of my new friend.

I hope I will see him next Sunday!


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

I love Christmas. I love wine. However ...


It is not even June yet! So I was startled to see these holiday offerings on display at Premier Liquor.

I will put aside the issue of it being only May. I have to zero in on something else.

Advent wine calendars. I ask you. 

Do these people even know what an Advent calendar is?

These Advent Wine Calendars must be brought to you by the same people who think the Twelve Days of Christmas start 12 days before Christmas Day.

How about a Twelve Days of Christmas wine box that starts on the First Day of Christmas, Dec. 25?

Instead of Dry January we would have to have Dry February. That makes sense considering February is the shortest month.

We should have time to get this right.

It is still only May!


Sunday, May 14, 2023

Breeding Like Rabbits

 This is a cute rabbit that hangs out in our yard. We have reason to believe there are baby rabbits beneath our back porch.

It is an Eastern Cottontail! The Seek app identified it.

I also saw this kind of rabbit on the Ring Road at Delaware Park. So I trust this ID.

Our property is alive with baby animals. There is this robin's nest on our garage left over from several years ago. It was sweet to watch it once upon a time. Howard and I watched the baby robins with their mouths open, and then we saw one of the babies -- the last one! -- take his first flight from the nest.

It made me sad to see the nest empty and I kept thinking I should clear it out. However I never did. And now, lo and behold, there are eggs in the nest again and a robin is sitting on them!

That made my day to see that!

Rabbits and robins. Two of the cutest animals in the world.

Right here in our own back yard!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

The Capsule Wardrobe, a huge challenge


Happy Caturday! Jeoffry likes my wardrobe, as you can see in the picture I took this morning. He likes my hundreds of dresses!

Me, I am feeling the need to get organized. And so I am trying to put together an, ahem, Capsule Wardrobe. I thought it would be fun for the summer!

The idea behind a Capsule Wardrobe is, you choose 15 items that you can easily mix and match and that will see you through your normal everyday needs. The idea is that you can get dressed without a fuss and love the clothes you are wearing and always have something to wear. I heard one Capsule Wardrobe guru talking about how she used to love clothes and she had millions of items but nothing to wear. She would wind up frustrated with clothes strewn all over the place and still not have an outfit together she liked.

I thought: That is me before Mass! Clothes strewn everywhere. Signs of a struggle as I like to say.

This all makes sense to me, having a capsule wardrobe. However I have a feeling with me it will grow to 25 items at least. Even that will be a gigantic challenge.

Yesterday I dragged most of the clothes out of my closet, leaving in the closet only the things I really loved. It is funny how you can have two items almost the same, you know, however one you just like better than the other. In that case you are to toss the item you do not like as well.

I am giving precedence to natural fabrics, cotton and linen. A few rayon dresses made the cut because they are loose and swingy and they do not get warm. Rayon will always get you however. It sounds fine -- rayon is breathable, you think. However its real name is Viscose! And it is not breathable.

Between yesterday and today I spent a few hours weeding out the closet. I took tons of metal coat hangers out to the trash. This is serious! I donated some clothes and I have boxes for other ones just so I will take them out of the closet and not overthink things.

I am going to run now and count the clothes in my closet.

Yikes! I am at 35!

I can take the denim jacket out and not count that because it is a jacket.

But still. I must do this, I must get it down to 25. That is generous. Lots of these Capsule Wardrobe types cap it at 15.

I will have to figure this out tomorrow.

I will report!

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Snapping the Snapping Turtle

Yesterday I was walking around Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park and who appeared?

The turtle!

I believe it was the same turtle we met back in, yikes, 2009. There is no reason to doubt that as the Common Snapping Turtle, as I now know this to be, can live to over 100 years old.

I now know this to be the Common Snapping Turtle because of my Seek app. The Seek app has been preoccupying me lately and when I was walking yesterday, I was on complete Nature Alert, trying to sight new species.

Right down by the lake's edge, trying to avoid the goose poop, I all of a sudden saw this turtle in the water. It was just hanging out in the shallows. At first I thought it was a rock. That is how the turtle is designed.

Then I caught my breath because I recognized it for what it was.

Quickly I snapped the snapping turtle with my app camera. Incredibly, seeing that the turtle was right under my nose, the app did not recognize it and did not give me credit.

That is where you are in trouble with the app. You take another picture and you lose the first one. I hurriedly got onto my phone camera and took more pictures. The app did not accept them either. That is the problem with Seek. It can be finicky.

Breathlessly I tried again.


I can see that these challenges I am participating in are not nature sighting challenges as much as they are photography challenges. It is hard to get pictures of these creatures!

Meanwhile the turtle was swimming away. Can you see it?


Later, miraculously, the app did accept one of my phone photos -- the one at the top of this post. However because I did not take it with the Seek camera, I see it does not count toward my challenges. One of those is the Lakes and Ponds Challenge which I have been really working on. That was a disappointment.

But still. Whether or not the app accepted any of my photos really does not matter now that I think of it. Here is a good thought that struck me:

Without the app, I would not have seen the turtle! 

I would have been walking obliviously past the way everyone else was. There was a couple walking past and I wanted to show them the turtle, however they did not look at me and they were talking so the heck with them, they miss out. That would have been me. 

Thank you, Seek app, for keeping my eyes open!

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Thoughts on King Charles' Coronation

This web log has always had fun with the House of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, more recently known as the House of Windsor, and I have spent some time watching videos of King Charles' coronation.

I did not get up at 5 a.m. to watch it! Oddly enough I do think I was up at 5 a.m. however I did not think of it. I watched footage later and also read comments. That is a vice of mine, reading comment sections. However you learn a lot that way.

And so ... here are some thoughts on King Charles' coronation.

1. Enough with the "I can't accept Camilla as Queen -- I will always be thinking about Diana." Diana was not a good fit for that family. She should never have married Prince Charles. She could not handle it. You cannot become a Royal and expect to live the life you could have aspired to had you not made that move.

 2.  I wonder what Princess Diana would be like if she were around now. I wonder what people would think of her. It is like imagining if JFK Jr. had not died in that plane crash. They would both be different people.

3. Kate Middleton, the new Princess of Wales, has really walked the walk. She wears the hats, she wears the smile. Now there is a good woman for that job.

4. I miss Prince Philip.

5. Prince Harry was something of an outsider, as I understand it, having to wear a suit and not royal robes. However... what a suit. Dior made it and is proud of it, as well they might be. Looking good, sir, whatever your title is.

6. I dropped the ball on whatever happened with Prince Andrew. However a lot of the comments condemning him say "he was accused of..." and "allegedly." I do not have a good feeling about that whole thing, however here in the United States the rule is "innocent until proven guilty." I recall that he was stripped of some royal titles however I do not think anything was proven.

7. Speaking of No. 5 there, I think a lot of people on this side of the pond as well have forgotten that rule.

8. About Charles and Camilla ...


...I think he should have been allowed to marry her back when they were kids and liked each other. He was not allowed to, and that paved the way for an awful lot of trouble.

9. Now that she is a divorcee and the Queen Consort, you cannot tell me that Edward VIII is not rolling over in his grave. Look what he had to give up to marry the woman he loved.

10. Princess Anne looked pretty cool on that horse. Prince Philip made that joke, remember, that if it wasn't a horse, she wasn't interested. I miss Prince Philip. Did I say that before? Sorry. I just do. 

And I miss Queen Elizabeth and her handbag.

However, a good show. I will have to watch more.

And opine more!

Friday, May 5, 2023

Wild goose chase


I have been having luck with my Seek app. I am discovering all kinds of new species!

The American Boxwood is one. I know, you see this hedge everywhere. The reason I mention it is, it has the greatest Latin name.

It is Buxus sempervirens! The "sempervirens" must mean evergreen. However it is the box part that I love.


Also there are several waterfowl I adore. The one up above is one that I see frequently in Forest Lawn Cemetery. I actually only see one. That is a picture I took up above. It is a Gray Goose, aka Anser Anser.

This Anser Anser Gray Goose hangs out with two other geese. Both of them seem to be Graylag Geese although they are a little bit different.

Anser Anser and the two Graylag are like the Three Musketeers, always together. They roam around by Mirror Lake. Above is a picture I took of them napping.

Here they are taking a stroll. And yes, the trees in the background are Japanese Cherry. I checked!

I fell in love with Anser Anser and his big orange feet and beak. 

You look at him and just know there is a God, you know? Someone had to come up with that.

And the Graylag Goose. I think of this one as the Mother Goose goose.

I have identified 75 species so far. My friend Melinda went walking with me this morning and I bagged a lot of those sightings with her help.

However nothing has been as much fun as this Wild Goose chase!

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Adventure in Oil Pulling

I am trying, ahem, oil pulling. It is a way to clean your teeth.

The term oil pulling sounds disgusting. I do not know who named it. It is like "chamber music" -- there could be better names. However this is the name we are stuck with. And so, oil pulling.

All it means is you take a teaspoon or two of coconut oil and swish it around in your mouth for 20 minutes or so.

It does take a little getting used to. Particularly the time involved. You have to find something to do while you are swishing that oil around. You can read or I guess you could putter around the kitchen. Or you can do a drawing, or work on a book you are writing. It gives you an excuse to carve out the time for any number of activities.

So. After a few days of this, I have to say, I like it. Coconut oil tastes good. It is almost a pity you do not get to swallow the coconut oil when you are through. Organic unrefined coconut oil may be had at Albrecht Discount for $6 something. Up from $5 something not long ago, but still. That is my Aldi jar of coconut oil pictured up above. Remember our discussions of great Aldi brand names? The coconut oil has a good one: "Simply Nature."

I will say this, this coconut oil treatment makes your mouth feel really clean. You do not wake up with what your parents used to call "puppy breath." 

 As far as what other benefits to expect, I am not sure. It is supposed to clean between your teeth better than flossing -- well, people argue about that, and sure I am still flossing, however this oil does seem to get the job done. Some people say it whitens your teeth. Who wouldn't want that? 

However again, it is hard to get a read on that.

Adding to the confusion, my friend Andrea who is a dental hygienist got all upset when I mentioned it. 

She said, "All it is going to do is give you a greasy mouth!"

I said, "Well, it is not going to hurt me, anyway, is it?" And she admitted it would not.

And so forward we go, Aldi coconut oil in hand. And in mouth.

I will report on how it goes!

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Urban nature and the Seek app

 My adventures with the Seek app continue. Some are right in my own back yard!

A shrubbery by the door was identified by the app as European Holly.

The Seek app was slow to identify this one, and briefly flashed at me that it was Darwin's Barberry. I would have preferred that it was Darwin's Barberry however European Holly is OK too.

There is also Spearmint, coming up from when I planted it last year.

 I can see that Seek will be helpful in identifying the various kinds of mints I have. I forget what is what!

I took a picture of Howard's bananas on the kitchen counter and Seek identified them as Cavendish Bananas. It will be fun to see if other bananas are other varieties.

Jeoffry's catnip plant was swiftly identified as simply Catnip. A bonus: I see that Catnip and Spearmint both count toward one of the three challenges I am working on, the Urban Nature Challenge. So does the Common Motherwort ...


... which I observed Sunday at Tifft. 

That challenge calls for a mere four sightings, so I have only one to go.

What will it be??

Monday, May 1, 2023

The Seek app, my new obsession

My friend Melinda and I were walking the other day when she introduced me to this app called Seek, by a company called iNaturalist. You get to track your sightings of nature.

You know me, on my walks I love to observe strange creatures, plants, and trees.

So I immediately installed the Seek app and pointed it at a tree. It identified the tree however now I have forgotten what the tree was. I did not know you had to take a picture for the tree actually to be entered on your list of observations. That is one thing I love about the Seek app, that it keeps track of your observations.

Since then I have taken the Seek app on several walks. I have taken it to Forest Lawn Cemetery and to Tifft Nature Preserve. And around the Delaware Park Ring Road, where I observed the bunny up above. The app identified the rabbit an Eastern Cottontail.

This is just so much fun! 

The one drawback is, I have to say, when I first pointed the app at that one tree, I must have had beginner's luck. I am finding it is a challenge to get the app to identify things. Occasionally it identifies a species right away, however that is the exception rather than the rule. As a rule it is finicky. It tells you to adjust the angle, which I do, and take more photos, which I do. Even then I often end up having to give up on some element of nature and move on to something else. 

So that is frustrating. At first I embraced it as part of the game. However I watched a YouTube video of a guy using the app and he kept saying, "And it quickly identified this as..." He kept using that word "quickly." So now this gets on my nerves. I cleaned my camera lens, just in case that was the problem, however it is still finicky.

Here is a thought on that. I have learned that the app identifies things based on photos people have taken and posted to its sister app, iNaturalist. Many of the things I have been unable to identify are not the sexy plants, the plants everyone would be photographing and posting. They are these common grasses and weeds. Perhaps there are not enough photos of them. Maybe no one has bothered to take pictures of this grass I was trying to ID.

Another app issue: I am not sure how I am to take pictures of fish -- especially pictures that are up to the app's exacting standards. I am working on in the Lakes and Ponds Challenge but I do not think I will be able to include fish.

I have one sighting so far in that Lakes and Ponds Challenge. That is the Broadleaf Cattail!


I observed that fine specimen at Forest Lawn, in their wetlands area.

I still need 9 more items for this challenge. You need 10 items from: dragonflies, amphibians, fish, ducks, mosses, ferns, water lilies, bulrushes, and cattails. At Tifft on Sunday I tried to identify some cattails there however the app drew a blank on them. They were probably the same species anyhow.

However I did rack up three species observations at Tifft. I identified Colt's-Foo and the Common Motherwort/

And -- ta da -- the Great Stinging Nettle.

The plants at Tifft were not as diverse as I was hoping, my time was limited because the rain was moving in, and I was not able to get a good picture of any of the little birds swooping around. However I was proud of the observations I did chalk up.

Three more good things about Seek: 

1. It is free!

2. It does not engage in annoying behaviors like showing you ads or nagging you to upgrade to a paid plan. 

3. I am actually learning things! This was funny, I looked at a tree and was disappointed because I recognized it as a Saucer Magnolia. And I had already sighted a Saucer Magnolia.

Then I realized: Hey, I can recognize a Saucer Magnolia!

Imagine how smart I will become!

Thursday, April 6, 2023

The mystery cups

I am holding the family Easter and there is big emergency cleaning going on. And rearranging. And lots of what my Uncle Bob used to call "fuss."

It is amazing, the things you find.

This honestly keeps this kind of chore from being too painful. It makes things entertaining because being me, I never know what will wash up.

One thing that I found today was this little cardboard box.

It had been sent to me years ago by my friend Bonnie. I do not actually think I ever met Bonnie, which adds something to this story. She sent it to me at The Buffalo News.

I remembered thanking Bonnie. However I no longer had any idea what was in the box. I no longer blame myself for anything I did or failed to do at The Buffalo News. It was what it was. I did the best I could being the person I was.

Long story short, the box has kicked around the house, here and there. It was upstairs on my dresser for a while. Then it was in a downstairs drawer. Now it had made its way somehow to the sideboard in the dining room. It was occupying a place of honor in a high-traffic area, who knows how or why.

There is that box, I said. It has to go somewhere. It can't stay here. What was in this box, anyway? I opened it up and looked.

There were four little silver cups, tarnished but pretty, wrapped in a blue cloth. Each cup was about two inches tall.

Automatically, acting fast, I decided to put them in a cabinet I have, next to some shot glasses. Then I found the note inside. Bonnie had written me a note.

Bonnie said in the note that she had been told they were Communion cups, and understood somehow that they were stolen from a church. She had been using them as candleholders however did not know what to do with them and so she had sent them to me, as people will, knowing that I never throw anything out.

I must have read this note years ago, then put the cups aside not knowing what to do. 

Now, being in a different place in my life, I have a plan. I can take this box and bring it to folks I know at St. Anthony's and they can figure this out. I have never heard of  tiny "Communion cups" like this...

... however who knows, there is a lot I do not know. Bonnie seems to have believed they were Catholic which is why she sent them to me. We will find out.

Kind of odd, you know, that all this is happening on Holy Thursday, the day when Christ gave us the Eucharist. That did not cross my mind at first however now it has.

Anyway. One thing I know, there will be rejoicing, because the box will be leaving my house. 

It will be someone else's problem!