Creatures of the night

Do you ever wonder who visits your yard at night? We now live in a much wilder place than our previous home near the ocean, and in addition to a larger more wooded property, our neighborhood has a protected wooded buffer, offering even more wildlife habitat so there’s lots going on almost every night.

The above photo was taken with our relatively new wildlife camera, the Reconyx Microfire, which was recommended to us by a friend. We have it mounted on a fence, facing the back of the property. It’s pricey, but so far anyway, worth it.

This game camera is automatic, so anything within its range that moves it photographs or videos. I am hoping that when our resident black bear emerges from hibernation, it’ll get a few shots of him, too.

Here are a couple of other visitors. This fox, (or maybe it’s several, who knows?) swings by almost every night. Nice bushy tail!

And here’s one of those big, burly Rhode Island coyotes, looking like he or she is just hanging out. The camera downloads images to my iPhone, so I can view and edit them easily.

I’ll be sure to post new and interesting photos as they happen. So far, it’s been a lot of fun to see what’s going on while we’re sleeping.


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A chance encounter with mushroom hunters

I was walking my dog (and shivering because it was wicked windy and cold ) at the Charlestown Breachway this afternoon and ran into this interesting couple, who gave me a copy of their intriguing 2019 calendar/book, “Gourmet Mushrooms of the Northeast.” They were in search of snowy owls, so we chatted a bit about birds and then they  produced the 48-page calendar from their car and handed it to me through the open window. Serendipity at its most serendipitous.

“They” turned out to be Ryan Bouchard and Emily Schmidt, founders of the Mushroom Hunting Foundation, an organization devoted to the study and safe consumption of wild mushrooms. The couple also conducts workshops and seminars on finding and identifying wild mushrooms. I wish I had thought to ask them how they fell so deeply into this passion, but my fingers were too cold to hold a pen.

In addition to detailed color photos of mushrooms, there’s a wealth of information, including an interesting piece on the history of wild mushroom-hunting in Rhode Island. Here’s a cool page showing everything you need for a hunting expedition.

Each month features gorgeous photos of a particular species, a calendar and a detailed description of the mushroom. Here is October’s mushroom of the month: Hen of the woods.

The authors do not encourage people to just head into the woods, find mushrooms and eat them. There is a clear warning about consuming species you are not familiar with and even possible allergies to mushrooms which are normally considered safe to eat.

Here’s the May mushroom, a lovely species called “Pheasant Polypore.” Even if you never harvest a single one of the mushrooms in this calendar/book, it’s still a lovely thing to hang on a wall.

More information on the calendar and the foundation is available here:

Editor’s note: The mushroom hunters responded to my musing about how they became so passionate about wild mushrooms. Here’s the comment:

“It was a pleasure meeting you and thank you for featuring us in your blog!,” Emily Schmidt wrote. ” To answer your question, we fell so deeply into this passion because after sampling the flavor of our first wild mushroom, we were utterly hooked. The flavor of the wild varieties are so much different (and in my opinion much better and more complex) than store bought varieties. We knew we had to learn how to collect more of them.”





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A little green inside

This sprig of hemlock is the last remnant of my Christmas decorations. It looked so cute in its tiny vase that I couldn’t bear to put it on the compost pile. Then I got to thinking about how plants brighten my home indoors at this time of year and how much they enhance my daily life.

Another way to brighten up your indoor environment is with cut flowers. I know they are not environmentally sustainable, but once in a while, I can’t help myself.

I brighten my home all year long by growing orchids. This tiny, beautiful flower is Sophronitis cernua and it’s open now. It grows on my kitchen windowsill and I love its tropical color.

This orchid is Dendrobium “Snow King.” The flowers are now opening. That’s a humidity tray it’s sitting on. I keep my windowsill orchids on them all year long, but I fill the trays with water in the winter. The plants seem to appreciate it.

Another indoor gardening activity I enjoy is listening to podcasts about plants and gardening.

My favorite houseplant podcast is from the U.K. and the host, Jane Perrone, is knowledgeable and witty.

Here’s a link to her  website, and from there you can click on her podcast “On the Ledge.”

Another more general gardening podcast I enjoy is “A Way to Garden,” hosted by Margaret Roach.

Here’s the link to her website:

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Weather woes

This restaurant window sums up our Christmas holiday. We spent it in Quebec visiting my family and it was below zero every single day. I am one of those rare creatures who enjoys a good cold winter, but this really put a damper on our fun.

This was one of the warmer mornings. Our dog loves the snow and the cold, but it was too much and really hurt her paws. We brought her to be fitted with dog boots. A total failure.

None of the boots fit her stumpy legs and big, pudgy paws. In this photo, she was patiently letting the sales person put on a fourth pair, without success.

Oh, and on the first morning after we arrived, she made the mistake of licking a metal doorstop. I recounted this story to colleagues at work and they begged me to stop, so I will just leave it there.

Another fun thing that happened was that our windshield washer fluid, the one I buy in Canada that’s good to 40 degrees below zero, froze solid in the car, so we were unable to clean our windshield at all, and neither could anyone else.

There were no walks in the woods and no skiing. We sat around inside, eating too much and trying not to get on each other’s nerves. I had a good novel, which probably kept me sane.

So it was with some relief that we headed south after the holiday, back to Rhode Island where winters are balmy by comparison – until a blizzard hit just a couple of days after we returned, followed by sub zero temperatures.

This was the view from my office during the storm. But we made it through unscathed, and we are cozy in our house despite the cold outside. It’s been a challenging couple of weeks, though.

Happy New Year!

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More New York Christmas

Photo dump from my recent trip to New York City. Times Square was crazy as always.

People were shopping for Christmas trees. Many of the trees were tiny little things for tiny little apartments. These were about 3 feet tall.

The weather was absolutely perfect. This is the outdoor eating area next to the Union Square Christmas market. We stopped for a bite and took in the atmosphere.

This man was walking six dogs. I asked him if I could take a photo and he said it was fine, as long as I didn’t try and talk to the dogs. There was a cute corgi in the group, but he/she hid under the bench. Note the extreme stink-eye coming from the little dog with the muzzle. Yikes!

This is the Met Breuer museum, where I saw the Edvard Munch exhibit: Between the Clock and the Bed. Most people know Munch for a version of this:

But my friends and I were very moved by his other work, which, I must add, was wonderfully curated.

This is a self-portrait of the artist in Hell. There were several self-portraits in this show, which I appreciated for their  honesty. I know that Munch has been endlessly described as a “dark” and “tortured,” but look at this:  “Starry Night 1.”

I will end on a superficial note. This is  “soca,” a chickpea flour pancake adorned with fresh sage leaves and parmesan cheese. It is a specialty of southern France – Nice to be specific, and it is served at one of our new favorite restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen.

I wish all of my readers a fun and relaxing holiday. I’ll be back at it in January.

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New York’s Christmas markets

New Yorkers love their Christmas markets. (We should have more of those here in Rhode Island, I think.) I was visiting recently and they weren’t too crowded yet. This is the Union Square Christmas market, a mix of crafts and food, most of it high quality. I bought some really cute handmade earrings here – for myself.

These inflatable dog-models caught my eye. They were wearing raincoats, which might be great for some dogs, but my corgi don’t need no stinkin’ raincoat.

On the sidewalk next to the market, a man was selling these beautiful, hand-made painted eggs. They were all lovely, and I managed to choose one, for only $10.

Next, we went to the market inside the magnificent Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.

The architecture,  Gothic and Romanesque revival, is jaw-dropping.

This was a very high-end market. Both the crafts and the displays were stunning.

Shoppers browsed, glancing up occasionally at the soaring vaulted ceiling and the stained glass windows, which are numerous and awesome.

My final market was at Grand Central Station. A little more crowded, a little noisier,  but still fun.

The aisles weren’t too cramped and there was room to browse comfortably. Last year I went to the Bryant Park holiday market, so I wanted to check out some different ones this time. If you go, very early December seems like the perfect time. Festive –  but not yet frantic.

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Back again

See what happened to my MacBook? The lithium battery failed and pushed the mouse pad right out. If this ever happens to you, do NOT try to charge it, because it can explode, or at the very least, release noxious gases. The catastrophe was spontaneous. I looked over and saw the lid was open and when I opened it all the way, this is what I saw. The price of fixing it is more than the computer is worth, so I bought a new-ish MacBook at a sale at one of our local schools.

Here’s a closer shot of the carnage:

The old computer is in our garden shed until I can get it to the computer repair place where they can safely remove the battery and dispose of the computer. It is not a good idea to keep it in the house.

Here’s a link to more information about this scary and dangerous phenomenon:


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My terrarium

I have had this small terrarium sitting on my desk at work for about five years. I am not near any windows, so the only light it receives is artificial, from above. (yuck)

The maidenhair fern growing inside is the sole inhabitant. There isn’t room for anything else, except for a couple of pebbles and a miniature sheep – the small white thing perched on a stone. The entire terrarium is only about eight inches wide.

When I go in to the office, I take off the lid for a few hours to let it breathe. If it needs a bit of a drink, I give it a little water and pop the glass back on. Over the years, moss has grown on the soil, making the little scene even more attractive.

If I can’t get in for a few weeks to water it, as long as the lid is on, everything is fine. I do have a base of gravel at the bottom for drainage, and a layer of charcoal under the soil.

Here’s another shot, which gives you a better idea of what the fern looks like. (Pardon the sheep, which had toppled over.)

Terrariums have been trendy in recent years, but I’ve always been into them. When I was a little girl, I would create them in large jars. Please don’t succulents in terrariums – exactly the wrong habitats for plants that like things dry. Stick with small plants like ferns that will enjoy all that humidity.

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More late bloomers

I was on my way to my local egg purveyor last week and came upon this gorgeous wildflower meadow in someone’s yard. I pulled over and snapped a few shots. Can you see all the sweet alyssum?  The scent was surprisingly strong.

Then on Thursday night, the temperature plummeted to 19F, so I’m pretty sure all those plants are reduced to a dry, brown crisp now.

Likewise this salvia border at my favorite nursery, which was still going strong before the killing frost.

This border, which is planted next to the parking area, always blows my mind. It’s all annuals, but the variety of salvia cultivars, with verbena bonariensis mixed in, is not only stunning, but buzzing with pollinators. I am going to try and replicate it in one of my beds next year.

Winter came to Rhode Island very decisively this year. I’m heading out now to toss the annuals onto the compost pile.

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Late bloomer

I always forget how late pineapple sage, or salvia elegans, blooms. It doesn’t get going until October here in Rhode Island. Of course, the foliage of this plant, a perennial in Zones 8 to 10, is worthy of admiration with or without the flowers. As the name implies, pineapple sage smells like pineapple, and its leaves are sometimes used in herbal teas or as cocktail garnishes.

For those of you who have never grown it, this is what pineapple sage looks like in the flower bed. It needs full sun and good drainage, and it has a relaxed but not sprawling habit, growing up to 4 feet tall. I’ve read that gardeners in Zones 7 and even 6 have kept theirs alive over the winter by mulching the crowns and crossing their fingers. I’m in Zone 7 so I’m going to try to overwinter mine.

Of course the Ruby Throated hummingbirds have left by the time this plant begins to flower (irony!)) but I figured passing stragglers would be drawn to the strong red flowers. I haven’t seen any hummers in the plants, though.

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