Friday, April 30, 2010

Butterflies are Starting to Appear

While I was birding Central Park with friends, I spotted this gorgeous glowing sunset of a butterfly. I looked in the Butterflies of North America book and think it is a Hackberry Emperor.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Single Tulip Blossoms

I love tulips but so do the deer, groundhogs, squirrels, and, oh yes, the chipmunks. Years ago, I planted a few knowing it was futile. Although they struggle to come up every year, this year I actually have one bloom. Since there is only one; I enjoy it all the more.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Jersey Porcupine

I have seen plenty of dead porcupines, after all they are nocturnal and slow, not a good combination for our fast paced world. But the only live ones I have seen were in Alaska. Imagine my surprise when I spotted one on Clinton Road early one evening.

I was creeping along with the windows down listening for birdsong from any early migrants when I drove past this porcupine along the side of the road. "Huh, porcupine, that's interesting," I thought to myself. I was less than a mile up the road when it suddenly hit me. "Porcupine! A live NJ porcupine!" I turned the car around and drove slowly back searching the roadside for it. I drove up and down several more times and was about to give up, when I finally saw it again. I got out of the car without closing the door, so as to not alarm it. As I approached, it raised it quills, then as I didn't come any nearer, lowered them again and continued munching on the tender shoots of wildflowers. It ambled around often aiming its prickly backside in my direction.

I often use Clinton Road because it cuts through the Newark watershed. It's great for birds and now porcupine viewing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sassafras is about to bloom

The green blush on the trees has changed from hint of lime to a richer spring green. Tiny leaves and buds are opening in the warming days. Walking the slope at the top of the property, I ducked under a branch then backed up. It had a cluster of buds about to bloom. I twisted the slender branch in my hand then glanced up at the tree. Ah, the sassafras. The tiny yellow flowers are just starting to open up.

Better know for its distinctive leaves, the sassafras has oval, mitten-shaped (right or left thumbed) and three-lobed leaves all on the same tree. It is also the host plant for the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly. Historically it was used as flavoring with sarsaparilla, for root beer. That practice has since been discontinued, once the FDA banned it. The leaves are dried and ground and made into filé powder used in Gumbo.

The sassafras tree is common in eastern North American and loves the dry soil up here on the mountain. The trees produce suckers from its roots though and would colonize if I let it. I keep this one pruned at the base. I am fond of this tree. I put the wren house in it every year.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rear-ended again

This is the third time I have been rear-ended. The first time I was stopped at a stop sign. The second time I was stopped in heavy traffic. And now, it was parked in an off-site lot at the airport while I was on a business trip to Atlanta. I returned from my trip to be told that one of the shuttle buses had backed into my vehicle. They offered to fix it the next time I came in to park. They "know" a guy. Um, no thanks. I called the cops and waited for an hour and they never showed up. Finally, I filed a complaint and took the phone number for the owner of the lot. Unfortunately, his voice mail is full. sigh. The estimate on the damage is $1441.87. I turned it over to the insurance company to deal with it.

What is it about silver cars that people can't see? Next time I buying black!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sneak trip to the Georgia Aquarium

I blame my mother. Mmm, perhaps blame is the wrong word. But I think having a fish tank as a child has greatly contributed to my love for aquariums. There is something peaceful about walking through darkened room with blue walls of colored fish. The big tanks are my favorite part: the sunlight twinkling and sparkling through the clear water; large schools of fish darting ahead of lazy circling sharks; eels snaking their way along the sand, and rays winging by.

When I discovered that the Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world, was only a few blocks from the hotel, and had 4, count them, 4 whale sharks, and a Manta ray, I dashed off to spend a few hours one morning. I had never seen a whale shark or a Manta ray.

With a quick perusal of the map, I headed straight to the Ocean Voyager exhibit. At 6.3 million gallons, this tank was amazing!! I followed the crowd through the clear acrylic tunnel.

I stepped off the people mover to scan the ocean depths looking for a Whale Shark. Someone behind me muttered about it being feeding time. As if on cue, the biggest fish in the seas, glided past.

I was there for the 10:30 feeding. Small rubber dingys were hand pulled across the surface and brightly colored scoops swirled the food in front of the shark. The whale shark sucked in the water and food like a giant vaccuum. Since their throats are only the size of a quarter any fish that gets sucked in can just swim back out.

It was amazing to watch.

The other exhibits are lovely too.

I was particularly struck by the garden eels. When a fish swims by they all slide back into their holes. Then when the cost is clear, out they pop.

And, of course, there were seahorses and jellies, which are always fun. If you want a lot of seahorses, though, you need to go to the Shedd in Chicago. It is another terrific place.

I have to been to loads of aquariums across the country. They all have something a little different. Next time you are traveling check to see if there is an aquarium nearby.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Beverly Soda

"Hey, we are going up to the tasting room, do you want to come?"

I was at the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta for a reception. I had no idea that there was a tasting room. So, up I went thinking well, coke does taste different in Central America, maybe it's true else where too. The tasting stations were arranged by continent. We tasted our way through Asia and Africa. Some of them were fruity, some citrusy, some frankly nasty, none a cola beverage. When we got to Europe, imagine my surprise to see Beverly soda, from Italy. It apparently is used as an aperitif.

Well, I had to try it, didn't I?

It has quinine in it, so it tastes a little like tonic water. I liked it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cherry Blossoms

Everyday for weeks I have been slowing down at the curve just before Ringwood Manor to see if could catch a glimpse of the pink clouds of cherry blossoms on the trees in front of the mansion. Finally yesterday I saw that they had bloomed. Is there anything more incredible than to walk in a shower of floating pink petals?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


It has been unusually hot on the mountain for the past week or so and the early daffodils have burst forth in all their golden glory two weeks ahead of schedule. I adore them and have thousands planted. Are things blooming at your house?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eggs and Rocks

One of the best things about Easter on the mountain is the rocks. I know you are scratching your head thinking, "Um, Ok." But when it comes time for the annual egg hunt having three rock walls in which to tuck the hidden treasures makes the game for exciting.

Now that the youngest guests are older, the egg hunt can be a little harder.

But even with three rock walls, there were still eggs cowering in flower beds, floating in the bird bath, trying to squeeze into the bird house, hoping to blend in with the daffodil leaves and one hiding in plain sight under the table.

I love the kids running around the yard; peering into the shrubbery, poking into the emergent foliage, delving into the crevices.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Strawberry Glacé Pie

I make this pie almost every Easter.

Baked pie shell (I usually make a buttery tart shell.)
1 1/2 quarts of strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup of heavy cream, whipped
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Wash, drain, hull and crush 1 cup of berries
Combine sugar and cornstarch, add to berries and water.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking and stirring over low heat 2 minutes. The mixture will be thick and translucent. Reserve from the heat and stir in the butter. Cool.

Put whole berries in the pie shell. Pour cooled mixture over berries and chill at least 2 hours.
Put whipped cream over pie and garnish with nice whole berries.

Friday, April 2, 2010


As I drove over the mountain today, I noticed that the coltsfoot was blooming amidst all the pea gravel that had been deposited over the winter. Thrusting up through leaves and road debris they cast a cheery smile and shoot their feathery fist at old man winter.