It’s tough out there


See the Canada goose in the center of the photo? It’s starving.

IMG_4100The migratory geese left long ago, and the resident population is now desperately searching for bare grass to eat. There isn’t much of that to be found, and they’re hanging out in people’s yards, many of them too weak to fly very far.

This is a tough time for many birds and animals. It’s also a beautiful time, if you make the effort to get outside. Mornings are particularly lovely.

IMG_4050This azalea, coated in fluffy snow, was stunning in the dawn sunlight.

IMG_4049As was Rudbeckia Henry Eilers.

IMG_4074The woods were bright and clean and quiet.

IMG_4059The rhododendrons were curled into themselves against the cold. Sometimes, I feel that way.

IMG_4066But not today.

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Why I grow orchids

IMG_4011Because during the darkest days of winter, they burst into flower.

IMG_3912Because they sit quietly on my desk while I’m working, and give me something beautiful to gaze at.

IMG_3998Because they add so much color to my living room, and they ask for so little.

IMG_3999That’s why I grow orchids.

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Looking at the bright side



I do love winter, and spend as much of it as I can outdoors. This photo was taken while we were hiking the Francis Carter Preserve. The snow was packed down, so we didn’t need snowshoes. It was an uplifting couple of hours.

It has been a wearing few weeks for us here in RI, and even more so in neighboring MA. Storm after storm, with strong winds, snow, frigid temperatures and constant cancellations. This post will focus on the bright side, my attempt to remain positive.

IMG_3895Another shot taken at Francis Carter. The stone walls are gorgeous.

IMG_3832_2And the downhill skiing – well this says it all. Some of those tracks are mine.


In recent years, the west has had all the snow, while we scraped by here in the east. Not so this year. The tables have turned.

IMG_3893Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.

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IMG_3859This wintry scene is the view from my desk. Beautiful, but also potentially dangerous.

IMG_3851 There’s the culprit: a hard, slippery coating of ice.


Here’s where it becomes a problem. Just getting to the end of our driveway is now a major undertaking.


Walking on the snow doesn’t help, because that’s coated with ice, too.

I would rather not use sand on the driveway because it makes a horrible mess in the house. And we have so much ice that using ice melting products is not an environmentally sound option. So I brought out the heavy artillery: crampons.

IMG_3854My sister in Canada gave me these several years ago. I have used them often on icy hikes, and at times like this when everything is slippery. Not all crampons are created equal. Some don’t stay on and others aren’t grippy enough. At the time I received these, they were the ones used by letter carriers. They are easy to put on and they work really well.

IMG_3867Here’s what they look like on.

Problem solved. (Just don’t wear them inside your house. They’ll wreck your floors.)

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SnowMaster will now demonstrate proper powder navigation technique.


Step 1: Survey your surroundings.



Step 2: launch.



Step 3: get all crazy and weird. Corgi people call this behavior “derp.”


More derp. Notice the flattened ears and rolling eyes. Classic.


Step 4: run flat out. Give it all you’ve got.



Step 5: pause to enjoy the moment



Step 6: run back inside. Your work is done.




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All’s quiet on the blizzard front


The “blizzard of 2015″ continues here in coastal Rhode Island. It’s hard to know how much snow we have received, but the weather service says it’s between 1 1/2 to 2 feet. The wind is a big problem, blowing it all around into drifts.

My biggest fear was losing power, but so far we haven’t, thanks largely to the light, dry quality of the snow, which didn’t weigh down tree branches or power lines.


My second biggest worry was taking the dog out first thing this morning. I ended up shoveling a path through a drift at our steps, and once we got to the driveway, the man had come to plow so we just walked to the road. She didn’t like the stinging snowflakes blown into her eyes by the wind, but she performed like a trooper anyway.


Look at that face. No doubt what she’s thinking.

Once we got out onto the road, she was happier.


I was anticipating lots of hungry birds and put out food accordingly. Despite being buffeted by the wind, they stuffed their beaks. I even had a common redpoll feeding with the goldfinches, the first I have ever seen in RI. Here’s a shot of the birds taken through the window. Two juncoes on the left and a song sparrow on the right.


There’s still a total travel ban here, so I cannot go anywhere. Yay! As long as I am warm, I can deal with the rest.

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Not just for the birds


On my deck, I have a large planter and a few pots, which I am putting to use this winter as squirrel and bird feeders. I like to provide food sources for ground-feeding birds and for squirrels, which, when properly diverted, leave my other feeders alone.


In addition to black oil sunflower seed, that universally beloved bird food, I have added a wildlife block, and a mix called “Critter Cuisine” that contains various seeds with corn, pumpkin seeds and peanuts in the shell. Here’s a close-up of the mix: (Notice the peanuts are gone. They’re always gobbled up first.)


So far, my deck container method has worked out very well. The food stays off the wet ground, I can get to the planters easily to refill them, and  – bonus – the squirrels provide live entertainment for the dog, who watches, transfixed, from the kitchen.

Here’s the wildlife block. It lasts for weeks and everyone loves it. I added some tree branches for perching and shelter.


In the spring I will dump out the soil in the planters anyway, so I don’t care if there are seeds in it.

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Orchid time

IMG_3692This is my only catteleya hybrid, “Sunset Glory.” Very peachy and tropical, and a reliable bloomer. I didn’t even have to buy it, because it was a door prize at my orchid club meeting last year.

Orchids definitely brighten up a room during the darkest days of winter. Many cultivars start spiking (putting out flower stems, known in the orchid world as spikes) right after the winter solstice. It seems to be all about the change in daylight hours.


The above orchid is oncidium Wildcat “Chadwick,” another freebie from the club. In my experience, oncidiums do well in the same conditions as phalaenopsis, the ubiquitous moth orchid. This is a rangy plant, with many burgundy-colored, white-rimmed blooms that last well over a month. I’m not a fan of the yellowish brown oncidiums, but this one is a pretty color.

IMG_3712This is one of the smaller phalaenopsis, not exactly a miniature, but sold as such. These are great little plants, robust and floriferous. This one took a first prize at an orchid show a couple of years ago, despite its humble beginnings at Trader Joe’s, where I bought it for $10. You can see the bud at the very tip of the spike has blasted (shriveled up) for a reason known only to the plant. That’s a common occurrence, and in the case of this orchid, there are many other blooms, so it’s not a catastrophe.

This time of year, I continue my regimen of Michigan State University “Tap Water Special” granular fertilizer one week, plain water the next, Superthrive the third week, and plain water the fourth. My plants tend to sulk and even scorch during the heat of summer, but, like me, they’re loving these cool winter temps.

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A little white


It snowed at last, more of a dusting here in southern RI, but enough to cover the depressing grays and browns.

I have blogged about River Bend Cemetery before, (in Westerly on the Pawcatuck River) but I went back after it had snowed and took a few shots. The clouds were brooding and awesome.


These headstones, side by side, captured the snow nicely, making the carving more visible.


We have been skiing, but the snow is confined to the runs where they have been making it. The rest of the woods are brown. This is Berkshire East a week ago. We’re headed to Vermont with fingers crossed.


My perennial beds sure could use a snow blanket.

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Roll with it


Swimming? In December? With seaweed? You betcha!

It’s resolution time, and I’m keeping mine simple. I am going to try to follow the example of my dog and just roll with it. The following sequence was shot at beautiful Napatree Point in Westerly, RI.

I wish all my readers a very healthy, rewarding –  and fun – New Year.







It’s always important to stick the landing.


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