PRICKLY AS A ROSE – Marilyn Armstrong

Prickly as a Rose

Garry bought me roses and they are still looking lovely on the table in the living room. While I was poking around, I found pictures of the last of my roses from this past October.

I was looking at them today as we were coming home from shopping. I realized that the rose bushes have gone into a full wrestling match in the garden. The barbed roses have wound themselves around the rhododendrons that have grown like crazy since I cut the roses back last year.

Tame roses from the florist
Home-grown barbed roses. These are the most merciless roses in the world …

I sat there, staring at them, and seriously wondering how in the world to untangle the two bushes. These aren’t little bushes, either. Both are more than six feet high and at least that or more across. I can feel the pain of thorns already and I haven’t even picked up the pruning shears. It’s going to be pointy, poky, thorny, bloody springtime!

Not only spiky squares. Jagged, barbed, bristly, serrated, prickly, spiny, and pointy whatever, but these are flowers. This time.

FOTD – 03/25/2019

MAKING DO AND SOMETIMES, A SURPRISE – Marilyn Armstrong

Our mailbox got beat up. Was it whacked by a teenager and a baseball bat or hit by a plow? Since we didn’t see it happen, it’s a guess. What we know it that it got mashed. Not just ours, but our neighbors and other people on the same route. The ground is still pretty hard, making putting in a new post difficult, but the post office refused to deliver mail without a mailbox.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Buds in March

Yet somehow, the mailbox got repaired. Not replaced, but fixed. Along with our neighbor across the street. Owen didn’t do it. I asked and he said no, he hadn’t repaired it, so either the neighbor did a secret repair … or the plow driver took responsibility and did it … or the post office did it … or some stranger did it. We are still going to need to do a proper repair. It’s not an expensive repair, mind you. $20 for a post and another $22 for a post box.

Voila! Ready for mail for at least another decade or two, depending on snowfall, plow, teenagers and garbage trucks who also have been known to back into mailboxes.

Photo Garry Armstrong

I’m betting on the guy across the street and the next time we see him, we’ll have to ask. We aren’t exactly friends, but we aren’t exactly not friends. We are the kind of “over the hedge” friends you become in New England. He gives us extra tomatoes (he grows beautiful tomatoes) and we are always very happy to get them.

We have watched his children grow from little kids to college graduates. I remember when our children (our grandchild, actually) took the same school buses. Time has flown!

And now another summer is lurking a few months in the future. It’s only March so it’s still cold but it will get warmer. Eventually, it will be spring, then summer. Before we have time to blink, winter will be back.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – March down by the Mumford Dam

It seems to me the summer is when you race like mad to try and get everything done because there is very little time between the end of winter and winter’s return.

Weather is changing. Autumn is shorter. Summer is shorter and winter lasts longer. There is more rain, more ice, less snow. I don’t know what it means because New England is the kind of environment for erratic weather. Now it’s more erratic, but because it has always been strange. it is more strange, but what does it mean?

I’m sure it means something, but I’m not enough of a scientist to be able to tease the threads apart and make the right deductions. I simply know for the past two years, autumn has gone missing and we’ve had more rain and ice, less snow and more wind than I’ve ever seen. Which for New England IS unusual.

THE SAFETY OF HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

While I was starting dinner, I was watching out the window. Suddenly, a hawk with a white front swooped by the deck then winged off into the woods.

I followed him with my eyes. The camera was in the dining room and I didn’t hurry to get it. I knew I’d lose the hawk before I got the camera focused. Mostly, I wanted to get a good look at him before he disappeared.

I was curious why he swept so close to the house.

Hawks are hunters and don’t usually get so close to houses. It turned out, after minimal research, to be a Cooper’s Hawk. It wasn’t hard to find because among the white-breasted hawks, there are only two living here: American Eagles and Cooper’s Hawks. I’ve seen plenty of American Eagles. They are much bigger than this hawk, so Cooper’s Hawk it had to be.

And he was hunting for exactly what was on my deck: birds and squirrels. Those are a Cooper’s Hawks two favorite foods. The deck is his perfect hunting ground, his dinner buffet.

This is one of the things I feared when I set up the feeders. We have so many predators in the area and so little prey. How did we get so out of balance? Doesn’t it usually go the other way? Don’t deer usually overtake the area?

I remember when we had so many chipmunks they used to line up and chatter at us in groups. Now, we never see chipmunks. We use to see rabbits sitting on the lawn in the sun in summertime. I haven’t seen a rabbit in years and until we put up the feeders, I hadn’t seen any squirrels, either.

Mice I know about because they invade our house every autumn. We have an annual battle to keep them outside. It’s not personal. It’s just that they make an awful mess in the house.

We also used to see more deer, but I’m sure the coyotes have taken them down.

I wonder now if the reason the squirrels have taken refuge on the deck is that they think the house is some kind of protection for them from the hawks and the other predators. Is this house protection for the birds and squirrels?

By sending them back into the woods am I sending them to their deaths? That’s a terrible thought.

I feel like I should invite them all in for a warm dinner and a comfortable nap, but I’m pretty sure the dogs wouldn’t get along with them especially well. It could get pretty raucous.

THE SPIKIEST MARCH WOODPECKERS YET – Marilyn Armstrong

More Spiky Birds in March – 03/15/19

They are redoing our bathroom today and we finally put the two Scotties in the crate and the flying Duke is on a lead. No dog is going anywhere we don’t want them to go.

I’m sure it will do them a world of good. Duke doesn’t mind all that much. He likes being glued to us anyhow. The crate is every dog’s favorite hangout, so that’s fine. Shortly, we’ll put them outside for a couple of hours. I just needed to let the workmen get their materials into the house before putting the pooches out.

So far, so good. Of course, the water is off so I sure hope no one has to do anything bathroom-related anytime soon!

I woke up and there was the Cardinal. I came into the dining room and he was gone — even before I got my hands on the camera. I just sighed. It’s a daily ritual.

I did take a lot of pictures the other day, mainly of our persistent woodpeckers. I keep changing my mind about which one this one is — Downy or Hairy. I think I see both and I was pretty sure this one was a Hairy, but I could be wrong.

Your guess is as good (maybe better!) than mine!

Hairy or Downy? I think he is big enough for a Hairy and that beak looks big enough, too. You think?

And remember it is not just spiky squares we are looking for, you can also be jagged, barbed, bristly, serrated, prickly, spiny, and pointy.

A MORNING FOR BIRDS WITH POINTY BEAKS – Marilyn Armstrong

Spiky Squares and Pointy Beaks

Every morning I get up and peer out of my bathroom window. Every day, there is a Cardinal there, eating at the flat feeder. By the time I get to the kitchen, he is gone. Or he is there. I grab the camera. He is gone.

Junco and Nuthatch, sharing the feeder
Two birds who are NOT afraid of other birds … or each other

All the fun birds to photograph are the first to fly — except the woodpeckers. But they always eat from the back of the feeder. I know they are there from the movement of the feeder, but I can’t get pictures unless they come to the front. They do sometimes.

Downy or Hairy Woodpecker? I thought this was a Hairy, but I’m not sure. Seems bigger than the other one who I’m sure is a downy (smaller beak).
This little Downy Woodpecker is pretty funny and rather athletic! He also seems smaller than the other one …

I also think they are intentionally cute.

Earliest in the morning, it’s squirrels, emptying out the flat feeder. As soon as the squirrels left, I got the big mourning doves who are pretty good at emptying out the feeders too.

My morning squirrel
Time to go home!

They are really fat. Actually, all my birds are fat. The Juncos are particularly fat, though Garry thinks the Cardinal is the fattest bird he has seen to date.

He definitely can’t see his feet. His stomach is in the way.

COLORFUL WITH MEMORIES OF LAST SUMMER – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Colorful

Sunday (aka the day after tomorrow) will bring, in order, snow, sleet, freezing rain, and finally, rain. I know we had some crocus, but it’s buried under 18 inches of snow.

These are eighteen inches of frozen hard snow. Nothing fluffy or fun about it. I’m hoping the rain ultimately washes most of it away.

Photo Garry Armstrong
Photo Garry Armstrong

So, as you can imagine, colorful is later this year or memories of last year. I cannot bring forth the colors to come, so I shall revisit the flowers from days of yore.

July 2018
July 2018- Photo: Garry Armstrong
Daylilies and roses

THE CHANGING SEASONS: FEBRUARY 2019 – Marilyn and Garry Armstrong

The Changing Seasons: February 2019

This has been a very strange winter. Instead of what we usually get — mountains of snow accompanied by very cold weather — we got a tiny bit of snow, a fair amount of sleet, and a lot of rain and wind.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – House and some snow
Aldrich Street – Photo: Garry Armstrong

In a lot of ways, this is a good summary of this winter. A little snow, a lot of sleet, and when this picture was taken, 60 mph winds were blowing.

And of course, there were the birds. Two bird feeders, about 100 pounds of birdseed … and one Panasonic 4/3 telephoto 100-300 mm lens later …

And of course, our Christmas cactus that has been in more or less continuous bloom since Thanksgiving ..

And more pictures from Garry.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
If you look beyond the fence, you’ll see Gibbs and the Duke by the front steps
Photo: Garry Armstrong

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

    • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
    • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them
Bonnie and living room

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

    • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
    • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.
Three bright birds

If you do a ping-back to this post, Su-Leslie will update it with links to all the other photographers.