Home And Away

Hot weather and thunderstorms are here.  Tomatoes are growing.  Summer is here and the garden is active!

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American goldfinch feasting on the first purple coneflowers.

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There is just one clump of gaillardias this summer.

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There is also one small group of Shasta daisies.

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The Miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass stretches over the back-eyed Susan flowers, which will bloom before long.

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Bee balm

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Jackmanii clematis

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Butterfly weed

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False sunflower

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The downy woodpecker spent time on the laundry pole pecking for something.

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There have been quite a few baby robins in the yard, though they are really “big” babies!

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Tomatoes are forming on one of three tomato plants.

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With the long, cool and wet spring we have had our best year of green peas.

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I pick a bowl of wax beans every day.  Cooking, freezing and giving to neighbors.  Not pictured here are the raspberries I have been loving!!!

At the end of May I sprained my ankle badly and so I spent a month sitting around watching the weeds grow.  On Sunday I started taking walks again and have been increasing the length of the walks each day.  It is wonderful to walk again, though I should have been doing more stretches this past month and I am trying to make up for it now.

Today, on the fourth of July, I took my lunch to the forest preserve at the Little Red Schoolhouse and took a wandering walk.

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Waterlily at the pond.  When I got this picture on the big screen I saw the tiny frog.  I could hear the bull frogs as I walked past the pond.

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I tried to take a picture of a dragonfly and saw I had a tiny frog in that picture, too.

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Prairie flowers

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I stood still by the slough and saw an indigo bunting feeding.

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The catbird was calling.

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This bird seems to look like a catbird, too, but the call was completely different, I think.

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A summer trail.  I am so thankful to be back on my feet!

June View and Midwest Vacation

I sprained my ankle, so no gardening for me.  It is a chance to post a few pictures from the past few weeks.

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Today’s view from the kitchen window.

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Looks like the squirrel came by for a drink.  I need to move the birdbath into a sunnier location as my chinquapin oak tree grows.

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Digitalis purpurea, foxglove.  This flower is not native, but it is well behaved in my garden and the bees and hummingbirds seem to like it.

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Looking at it from a different angle, the foxglove is on the left.  The grass in the “meadow” is high and the little hickory tree is shooting up. The tall tree in the back is the serviceberry, also called Juneberry.  Since it is June it is time to look for berries, though the weather has been mild, so everything is a bit late.  The raspberries on the right are starting to form.

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The cedar waxwings, who love berries, have been checking the serviceberry tree out.  You can see the berries are not quite ready, though there always might be one or two that can be eaten early.

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In the vegetable garden the clematis started blooming.  The robin came for a little bath in the bottom portion of this birdbath.  I did not get mulch down before I sprained my ankle so there are weeds everywhere.  My doctor said to just “bless the weeds” for the next few weeks while I rest and heal.  I sprained my ankle in the kitchen an hour after returning from our Memorial weekend mini-vacation…  Here are a few pictures from that time.

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Camel rock in the Garden of the Gods Wilderness in southern Illinois.

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We explored a lot of trails, like this trail at Giant City State Park.

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I got a sense of pleasure at seeing a rock pigeon nesting in the rocks instead under an overpass in a city.

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Liriodendron tulipifera – tulip tree in bloom.  There are not too many of these trees in northern Illinois, but they were common as we went south.

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The boardwalk at Heron Pond in the Cache River Wetlands.  Curiosity about this area was what motivated us to make another trip to southern Illinois.  Being on this boardwalk felt magical.  The cypress trees grow up in this swampy pond, where we could hear various birds calling.  It is a pretty wild area, but a great place for biodiversity and a buffer between the south and the north during this time of climate change, where various animals and birds can find habitat.  We did not see any water moccasins, but kept our eyes open and appreciated the boardwalk.

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We did a lot of driving, including on back roads like this.  A Swedish thriller audiobook kept us entertained in between jumping out of the car to explore the next place.

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These may be box turtles mating, or something….  This was at the Oakland Nature Preserve in Carbondale, Illinois.  It was a buggy morning so we were doing a very fast walk through these trails to keep away from the bugs, but we saw quite a few turtles and a lot of native and/or rate plants.  Our hiking boots were caked with mud on this trip.

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On the way home on Sunday we stopped at the Chinook State and Wildlife Area, east of Terre Haute, Indiana.  There were no trails, so we did not stay long, but two different units came to fish while we were there.  We had beautiful warm weather during our trip, but as we headed home the cool, wet weather began to move in again.

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We stopped to see a few of the covered bridges near Rockville, Indiana.

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On the last stretch home to Chicago we stopped to see the bison at Kankakee Sands in northwest Indiana.  Can you see the head of the little calf in the group?  This is a prairie restoration area run by the Nature Conservancy.  We did not want to take the time to go to the bird area, but we were refreshed by the wide open area we saw.  Then back in the car and back to life in the suburbs!

April Blossoms and Greens

Once spring starts you can’t stop it, but today’s snow makes the gardener and garden be patient.  I think most plants should survive with no issues, though I wonder about the blossoms on the serviceberry, American plum tree and crabapple tree, and how that will affect fruiting.

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Blossoms on American plum tree.  The fragrance is wonderful and brings in little bees, red admiral butterflies, and probably lots of other tiny pollinators.  These beautiful flowers make me more forgiving of the suckers the tree throws up in the lawn far and wide.

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Pulling back to see the American plum tree.  There used to be two plums and we cut one back, then we cut off branches on this one, too.  It is a fast grower.

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This is to remind me that snow fell on April 27th!  We also had snow on April 13th.

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Looking at the snow from the kitchen window I can see all the blossoms that have not yet opened on the crabapple tree and hope they will survive.

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Not long ago the red crab apple leaves opened and they gradually turn bronze and green.

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Crabapple earlier this week.

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The kale, collard and lettuce made it fine through the snow on April 14th, so I am hoping that is the case this time.  I held off on planting tomatoes yet…  Notice how big the rhubarb is already!

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I planted 5 rows of various types of lettuce and spinach on April 3rd and they are coming along well.  I need to start thinning some of the lettuce.

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We have had a month or so of various types of daffodils, starting with the mini daffodils.

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Yesterday I was enjoying these white daffodils with the yellow trumpets.  I planted various kinds quite a few years ago and they just keep multiplying.

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Anemones are something I planted a while back that seem to be spreading a little too much.  They are very cheerful next to the daffodils, though.

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Fresh leaves on Viking black chokeberry bush

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We got rid of one of our dying lilacs last year and I replaced it with a fothergilla bush, which really does not provide privacy., though it will get somewhat bigger.  I put in some Miscanthus grass behind it which will provide some quick privacy this year.  Yesterday’s project was weeding and mulching this area, since there are not many plants to cover the ground here yet.

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Close up of fothergilla bush

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I don’t like to use herbicides so I get “weeds” like this pretty violet in the lawn.

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I have a lot of violets in the front lawn, that are pretty now, but I want to encourage the grass to grow, too.  This year I am trying not to think too much about weeds in the lawn, since I know they are good for the insects and bugs, which are the foundation of life on our planet.

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At the woods, at the end of the block, I found some cut-leaved toothwort blooming.  It is at edge of the lot where no mowing is happening.  Yay for spring wildflower diversity!

Moon, Mums and Fall Colors

Does the moon go with Halloween?  The harvest moon caught my attention on an evening walk this week!

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Our beautiful moon!

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The moon behind the oak trees

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We have not had many sunny days to capture these coral mums. They managed to brighten up a dreary corner of the garden this time of year.

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Zooming back to see the whole patch of mums on another cloudy day a few days later.  If you look closely a lot of the mums have a pollinator sitting on them.  They are an attractive place for the last pollinators of the year.

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Fly on coral chrysanthemum

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Yesterday Dan, Steph and I took a walk at the Little Red Schoolhouse forest preserve.  It was so hard to capture the fall colors, but when the sun was shining I got this shot of the oaks.

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The wood duck couple in the distance were swimming away from us.

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Another distant wood duck shot.  I have not seen many wood ducks this year, so this was fun for me.

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Beautiful fall colors by the original little red schoolhouse.  As we were leaving a lot of families with small children were arriving, so I hope they had a great activity going for them to enjoy nature!

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Back in our yard I am happy to say that the new Viking black chokeberry bushes survived the summer.  The older leaves turned red and purple, but there were quite a few newer shoots that grew in the last months with the leaves still green.  So this is one of two bushes that looks to be growing well in the coming years. The berries were consumed very quickly!

September Snapshots

It has been a really busy month for me.  This is the first time I am posting something for about 5 weeks, so I had a lot of pictures I took to choose from.  Here are a few pictures of what is happening now in the garden and has happened this past month.

IMG_3511Asters and goldenrod – Solidago rugosa ‘fireworks.’  I am not sure of the type of aster I have.  They are both great for late pollinators.

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This bumblebee was barely moving on the sedum on a cool morning.

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The painted lady butterfly was hanging around the giant zinnias yesterday and not too bothered by me.

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I enjoy looking at the zinnias from my office window during the day and watching the butterflies come to visit.

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This cucumber got away from me because if was hiding underneath the zinnias.  I picked a nice green, juicy cucumber last week, but not sure if I will get any more this year.  It will be hot tomorrow, so maybe!

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Here is a shot of part of the vegetable garden.  The cherry tomato quantities have been massive.  I have been getting about one zucchini per week recently.  But the peppers are really taking off now.  There are a lot of them hanging on the pepper plants.  Dan is working on the kale plants for his smoothies.  The collards are all chewed up by the cabbage worms, but still work well in soups.  I threw some swiss chard in the soup today along with oregano and parsley.

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Yesterday’s pick of cherry tomatoes.  These have been really sweet and tasty!  Great for my daily salads.

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‘Big Bertha Bell’ is the variety of pepper.  I guess it could turn red if it stays on the plant that long.


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The old raspberry canes have been cut down and the new ones tied to the fence to get ready for winter and next summer’s fruit.

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Earlier in the month it was acorn time on the chinquapin oak tree.  The squirrels, chipmunks and blue jays were so active.   Within a week or so there was not an acorn to be found on the tree or the ground.  I’m glad our yard feeds the wild creatures.

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Chipmunks are so fun to watch.

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American goldfinch on purple coneflower a few weeks ago, getting some lunch.  Just this week I was looking out the office window and saw a bright yellow goldfinch on a coneflower.  Such a cheery sight!

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The pineapple sage finally started blooming this week.  Will any hummingbirds find this late-blooming tubular flower?

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Pink turtlehead flower.  The bumblebees love to fly in and out of each individual flower.  Can you see the grasshopper on the right side of the picture? I am still looking for a praying mantis, but have not seen one this year.

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It has not been a good year for alyssum in my garden this year.  I was pleased to see a few little clumps get going.

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Dan and I took a wonderful short trip to Wisconsin and Northern Illinois before Labor Day.  This picture, taken at Illinois Beach State Park, reminds me of all the wonderful natural places we visited on sunny, warm days.  Cooler days are coming and they will have their own pleasures to offer.

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Recently, on a walk in the forest preserve, Dan took this picture of an eastern bluebird.  There are not so many around, so really fun to see.  It is migration time, so I am keeping my eyes open for different birds in the backyard and woods.

Butterflies and Zinnias

I see that I have already been posting pictures of butterflies and zinnias this year, but that is where the action currently is, so here are a few more pictures.

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Black swallowtail butterfly on zinnia.

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So many delicate parts and such an intricate design.

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I decided to look for black swallowtail caterpillars on the curly parsley today and I saw a total of four caterpillars on three parsley plants.  The picture above is of a medium size caterpillar.  There was one that was much bigger near the house.

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Here is a tiny black swallowtail caterpillar just getting started.  I was watching the butterfly laying more eggs on parsley this week.

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Black swallowtail butterfly and monarch butterfly on zinnias.  Today I was in the garden and saw three butterflies just a few feet from me.  One was a silver spotted skipper butterfly, which I have not seen since last year.

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A few days ago I took this shot of the zinnias and, in front of them, the pole beans.  It has been dry recently, but yesterday we got a downpour, with two inches of rain, so that should keep the flowers blooming and the zucchini coming.

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Monarch butterfly on zinnia.

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Monarch on red zinnia.

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Eastern tiger swallowtail on zinnia.

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Here you can see the butterfly’s face.

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From the kitchen window I took this picture of the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on the white phlox.

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The most frequent flying visitor is the cabbage white butterfly.  Unfortunately, our yard is a wonderful habitat.

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Here are the collard leaves that have been chewed by the cabbage worms.

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The male American goldfinch pulls the petals off the zinnias.

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Here the goldfinch reaches up to work on the sunflower that is hanging down.

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Now that the yucca plant has pods the downy woodpecker likes to come and work on them.  There are worms inside those seeds pods he is trying to get.

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I like the woodpecker’s  portrait pose!

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Smaller orange zinnias along the east fence.

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Something else along the fence that is orange, but not so attractive, are these milkweed bugs that have been maturing on the swamp milkweed. They feed on the seeds, leaves, and stems of the milkweed.

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Our neighbor decided to grow cherry tomatoes on the fence this year, and they are starting to ripen on our side of the fence.

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Yesterday we took down a rather tired common lilac bush and planted this fothergilla bush.  Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’ is supposed to be 5 to 8 feet tall, so the goal is to have it grown up to provide privacy from our neighbor’s deck.  But this shrub might take a while to grow, so it might not be very effective for a while…

Sunflowers and More!

I  never know what will happen when I throw seeds in the ground in the spring.  This year I was pleased with the sunny sunflowers that grew up in my un-mowed “meadow.”

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Sunflowers and coneflowers grow in grassy area.  Zinnias are on the right and Joe Pye Weed in the background.

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Sunflower and purple coneflowers.

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Sunflower with bee.  I saw a lot of different bees and flies on these flowers.

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I planted dwarf sunflowers called “Elves Blend,” and I liked the variety.

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By now the goldfinches have removed the petals and picked away at the seed center on this flower.

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I shot this American goldfinch picture from the kitchen this evening, working on a coneflower.

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This very small butterfly or moth was working on the Joe Pye Weed, which also attracts a lot of pollinators.

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The giant zinnias are looking good now and they are loved by the goldfinches and butterflies.

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Swamp milkweed with black-eyed Susans and Russian sage in the background.

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Black-eyed Susans and Miscanthus ornamental grass ‘morning light.’

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The yellow cherry tomatoes have been fantastic this year.  They are so sweet!  This time of year I spend more time with the vegetables than flowers.  I am picking them and making salads or cooking them and eating them…..

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I usually plant three or four varieties of tomatoes and see which ones are best.  These Bonnie Originals have been wonderful this year.

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Zucchini

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A rabbit has moved into the yard, but mostly seems interested in eating the clover in the grass.

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Our next door neighbor called us over to look at the snake they found sunning in front of their house.  We wondered what kind it was for a while.  It turns out it was a python and a neighbor in the area collects snakes and it must have escaped.  I am glad I did not come across it in our yard….and glad it got safely back to the neighbor!

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Northern Cardinal at the birdbath.  The day lilies add some color.

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In July this bird was in our yard for a while.  I think it is a juvenile Baltimore Oriole.

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One day some northern flickers came for an ant meal.  This handsome male was poking around this tiny bird house I call my bug house.

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I snapped a picture of a cicada on the pole beans.

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The black chokeberries on the bush I planted in the spring seem to be ripening now.  Apparently they are edible, but need a lot of sugar, so best in jellies and jams, which I probably will not make.  Let’s see if the birds like them.