Category Archives: myYard

dawn redwood tree

Next to the new house is a majestic tree that was unknown to me. My tree guides were all packed away so I searched the internet with a description of the reddish, cedar-like bark and luckily I found it fairly quickly. The tree is a Metasequoia, or the Dawn Redwood Tree. Native to China, it’s in the same family as our towering redwoods and considered a living fossil. I love that name, Dawn Redwood Tree. Here are a few pictures I took today.

The Dawn Redwood Tree in front of our house.

The Dawn Redwood Tree in front of our house.

She’s a pretty big tree! Even though the smallest of the redwoods, they can grow to over 150 feet tall. So, my feeling is that this tree is the guardian of our place. I took a closer picture of the bark. When it rains, the red of the bark becomes a fiery orange-red. This picture does not do it justice.

Metasequoia bark

Metasequoia bark

Since moving to this house, I’ve been getting up rather early each morning and this morning I was greeted by a stunning dawn sky outside my kitchen.

Morning sky

Morning sky

Settling in is slow going. Unpacking is daunting (so many boxes of books!) and figuring out where things go takes time. As I get used to the flow of the house, I have to tweak and make changes. The other morning, Brni asked, “So where are the glasses today?”

We also don’t have a clothes dryer yet so I made Brni dig a hole and plant a clothes dryer. I haven’t hung clothes outside in a very, very, decades-long time. I kinda like it.

no dryer yet

no dryer yet

devils in my yard with bees

I have a tiny backyard that is mostly wild and out of control by design. We do minimal maintenance, almost no weed pulling since I tend to encourage weeds for their beauty, free food and medicinal uses. I tried early on to set aside space for vegetables but the yard is too shady and the deer, squirrels and chipmunks too plentiful.

I also like to take pictures of the things that grow in our tiny, wildish space. One of the plants I’ve been fascinated by this year is the massive Devil’s Walking Stick that moved in two or three years ago. It’s grown to be quite tall–at least 15 ft or so and it’s produced a whole crop of babies that are blocking the path down to the gully.

Devil’s Walking Stick, or more formally, Aralia spinosa is indigenous to the Eastern United States and is quite formidable in that it has very sharp thorns that grow all along the woody trunk and along it’s  umbrella-like compound, pinnate leaves. It is a serious plant – no fooling around with this one. It’s flowers are tiny, delicate things that grow in huge creamy white clusters at the very top of the plant.  I hear they smell like lemons, but they are too far away for me to sniff. From the frenzied activity of the bees and other pollinators, I suspect they smell heavenly.  In the fall, it produces berries that are an important source of food for birds.

Here are some of the photos I’ve managed to take, despite the distance and my inability to hold my largest lens steady.  This first one is the largest plant sending out it’s first leaves of spring. If you look closely, you can see the start of all the extremely sharp thorns that adorn this plant.

Devil's Walking Stick © Linda Saboe

Devil’s Walking Stick © Linda Saboe

The next shot shows the budding flowers already attracting pollinators.

Devil's Walking Stick with Bees © Linda Saboe

Devil’s Walking Stick with Bees © Linda Saboe

Devil’s Walking Stick in full flower. If you bring up the large picture (just click on it), note the round disk like things…those are the berries forming. They will turn purple when ripe. This is the second largest plant, but you can see the leaves of the grandmother plant in front of it.

Devil's Walking Stick in Flower © Linda Saboe

Devil’s Walking Stick in Flower © Linda Saboe

I wish I could manage a picture of the entire plant from the ground up, but my small Poke forest (Phytolacca americana) is in the way, obscuring the first several feet of the trunk.

One of the not so good closeup shots of the bees flying around the flowers came out a little surprising. I do think this might be something other than an insect. Possibly a fairy?

Possible Fairy © Linda Saboe

Possible Fairy? © Linda Saboe


buds and bolts

Spring has been unusually hot this year. This week we’re looking forward to our first heat wave with temps up into the 90s and lots of humidity. Thunderstorms are in the forecast too. I know I shouldn’t complain about the weird weather because, well, after all, our congresscritters just held a vote declaring that climate change is real but it’s not our fault. Humans had nothing to do with it. So there.

In the meantime, random climate change has caused some of my plants to flower and bolt early. Here are a few in my yard that are well into summer even though it’s only May. Even though it’s not our fault.

First to bolt was my lovely sorrel, which I planted in a deck pot last spring. She rose up with gorgeous, lemony leaves, of which I managed to eat two or three before she bolted practically overnight. She puts forth such delicate little buds on long, gangly stems that it’s a pleasure to look at her instead of eating her.

sorrel buds

sorrel buds

The arugula saw the sorrel bolt and decided it was done and sent up these pretty little flowers.

arugula flower

arugula flower

Of course, the tomatoes should be sending out flowers — I just hope fruits follow quickly.

tomato flower

tomato flower

I swear there were no flowers on the nettles yesterday but today there are plenty.  I guess this year’s crop will be harvested for seed instead of leaves.

nettle flowers

nettle flowers

I’ve never had so much yellow dock spring up and immediately bolt than this year. There’s gonna be a lot of root digging later on.

yellow dock

yellow dock

And this little pennycress is included because she’s just the cutest little thing. I love that she has pods and buds all at the same time.



new lens and old, shaky hands

I bought a new lens a few weeks ago. It’s a largish (for me) zoom lens (Sigma 70-300mm).  As soon as I opened the box, I ran out to play with it.

and was very disappointed.

Not in the lens so much as the fact that I couldn’t seem to hold it steady enough to get a decent shot. It’s been a few years since I had a largish zoom and apparently, my ability to hold a steady grip has diminished as my years have advanced.


After much discussion and reading and research, I’ve been trying to play with the ISO, shutter speed and other settings in hopes to compensate for my pitiful hands.

two things that i used to be proud of was my exceptionally sharp eyesight and my steady hands. both are in decline and it makes me sad.
but anyway…

So today I spent the whole day working on this and I think I’m making some progress. I don’t like using a high ISO because I hate noisy photos, but I may have to learn to live with that in order to get reasonably good shots without hauling a tripod all over.

Here’s the best of the bunch from today and a few using smaller lenses from last week.

These three are of a cardinal who was very busy with his mouth full of seeds or bugs or something. I think he was trying to impress the little female who was flitting all over the yard.

cardinal on a wire

cardinal on a wire

This last one is my favorite.

cardinal on a wire

This hanging basket is over on my neighbors deck. I shot it through a little gap in the bushes and trees that are between our yards.

hanging flower basket

This is from the other day/same lens. This is also the iron hook that fell off the deck and smacked me good. Luckily, I turned away and just got a nasty bruise on the side of my body and not a cracked skull.

iron hook

And the rest of these are of flowers in the front yard, shot the other week using a smaller zoom, which apparently I’m also having trouble holding steady. <insert frowny face here>

white/green tulip

very tiny daffodils

orange tulip

philadelphia fleabane

philadelphia fleabane

yellow/green tulip

stuff in my yard and a new lens

I have this lens that a dear (but sadly departed) friend sold me many years ago. It’s a Sigma zoom 28-300mm and it was my favorite lens. And then it broke. No more zoom. So, this many years later, frustrated by not being able to zoom and wanting to get close to the things in my yard, I impulsively bought another lens. This one is a Sigma 70-300mm. It’s a relatively cheap lens as lenses go, not as versatile as my poor broken one, but I think it will serve my purpose. I’m not a “photographer” by any means and I barely know what I’m doing (never quite getting the whole f-stop thing). I just like to take pictures.

So, without further ado, here’s some test pictures with the new lens of stuff growing in my yard.

Cherry blossoms in the gully.

cherry blossoms


more cherry blossoms

Variegated Solomon’s Seal among the Pachysandra.

variegated solomon's seal


A tangle of violets taking over the side bed in the back yard.

tangle of violets


Some chickweed in pots on the deck.


And of course, the lovely potted Elder sending out her leaves.

elder leafing out

And, the stately but thorny Devil’s Walking Stick (there are several varying in height from about 3 ft. to possibly over 10 ft. I can’t tell. I’m too short.

devil's walking stick


And here, for no other reason than to show the world that even though these guys owe their very existence to me (I did sculpt them, afterall), it doesn’t stop them from judging me. *sigh*

gnome and gargoyle

spring is sprunging…er…spranging…er…it was nice out today

It was a very nice day out today. I managed to assess the winter damage, put the grotto to rights, turn compost, ready the container garden on the deck and even uncover the back walk. And even even take some pictures of the feats.

Deck containers are ready for planting.

Daffodils!! The story goes that my maternal grandpop won prizes for his daffodils.


Elder budding


more elder buds. This is the artsy stuff. See the artsy shadow?


Purple crocus!


Witch Hazel needs some help. It was a hard winter.


Feverfew will grow anywhere. Even in macadam.feverfewdriveway

And, of course, my favorite spring friends: dandelion and dock.dandiliondock

Not everything was all that wonderful. Winter was strangely harsh this year. Not a ton of snow (except in March) but a lot of frigid temps that killed off or distressed some of my plants and unfortunately, more than a few animals.

Upstream doesn’t look so bad, but…


Downsteram was a mess.


And then I found a dead fox that made me very sad.dead fox

And the catbird skull which now lives in my office.


Winter’s leftovers will be dealt with next weekend.


close avian encounters of a surprising kind


Having finished planting some tomatoes and peppers in the deck boxes, I was leaning on the railing, contemplating nature and stuff, when a young blue jay swooped up from the gully and landed on the railing about 4″ from my elbow. He looked at me, I looked at him, and then a big male robin bombed him and a lightning quick scuffle ensued.

Blue jay beat wings to the other side of the deck with a broken tail feather and the robin, beak full of feathers, perched on the telephone wire and pooped his displeasure.


in the aftermath of irene

Hurricane Irene garnered immense media coverage. The local television stations preempted all programming to bring us non-stop coverage of the storm before it happened. The weather dudes were all over this. Honestly, after watching hours and hours of the hurricane forecasts, I may have enough hours to get a degree in meteorology. This storm was huge and the news coverage was huger. Really huger, and I totally meant to type huger. Irene even eclipsed good grammar.

I sat transfixed as the anchor and pretty co-anchor on Action News reported as we saw a live picture of the Philadelphia skyline, “You are now seeing what so many are experiencing right now. Gray skies and lots and lots of rain.” The pretty little co-anchor then exclaimed, “Pelting rain. I experienced this myself today.” A stunning example of the in depth and truly gutsy journalism we were subjected to.

Our fearless leaders all over the Mid-Atlantic worked tirelessly to close down the cities, evacuate citizens and shut down mass transit in anticipation of the devastation to come. New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York City and other locales up and down the I-95 corridor declared states of emergency before the first raindrops fell. Not only did they shut down everything, they were kind enough to explain to the frightened public exactly what to do to prepare for the worst. This was not just your average bread, milk and eggs run on the grocery stores, no this was all out, hunker down in the bunker with three days worth of water, canned goods, and toilet paper.

Here in the suburbs of Philadelphia, people were out in droves making preparations to weather the biggest hurricane in 50 years. I’m embarrassed to admit, we started our preparations too late. A full day before the storm hit, there was not a battery or flashlight to be found at Home Depot, CVS, or even ACME.  As I spent my time hauling all our deck furniture, plants, bird feeders and other potential projectiles down to grotto under our sunroom, Brni secured the trash cans and tested the gas generator. We even identified the safest place in the basement to hunker down in case the hurricane spawned tornadoes. But we forgot to get D batteries before the stores sold out.

I was terrified.

Now that it’s all over, I feel it important to record pictorially for posterity, the damage in the aftermath of this massive and deadly storm that we suffered in my tiny quarter acre of suburbia. We feel lucky to be alive.

There is a stream at the edge of our property. Not only did it flood its banks, but it started creeping up the southern side of the gully. We feel lucky that it only dislodged a couple of discarded bricks.

Lost harvest
lost harvest 2
Tomato on the ground and half eaten by a nearly drowned chipmunk.

Birdbath destruction
birdbath destruction
Not only is this birdbath on its side, but all the water has been spilled. This was a prime mosquito nesting site. Lost. All lost.

Fallen twigs and leaves
deck devastation 2
Would you look at the size of that twig? We’re lucky the deck held.

weird projectile
This pointy tree-thing could have put out someone’s eye!

downed twigs 2
Thank god no one was standing on the walk when these came down.

Fallen rake
fallen rake
We will pick this up!

Yes, there were areas hit with more severe flooding, power outages, damage and sadly, some loss of life. My heartfelt sympathies go out to those who have suffered, and I am truly grateful that we got away easy on this one. Almost makes up for the media overkill.

missing my yard

I’m starting to think that I’m either missing something very basic, something that is maybe key to everything or there’s something I’ve lost. I think this because recently I’ve been plagued by disturbing dreams at night and then during the day I sometimes find myself standing in the middle of a room with the distinct feeling that something is missing.

My life feels out of focus. The world seems to be all blurry around the edges. Just a little over a year ago, things were crisp and very clear to me. All the parts of my life were fitting nicely in place — the irons were in the fire and the ducks were all lined up neatly in a row.

and now they are not.

This morning I decided that part of this feeling of loss is being made worse because I haven’t been able to lose myself outside. When I work in the yard, I enter a place that is private, wordless, sensual. It’s the same place I go to when I sculpt or paint. I lose myself in the yard and feel more present, more alive, more connected. Losing myself is where I find my place. But, we’ve had so much rain lately, that it’s been impossible to do any yard work. The few times I have gone outside, the mosquitoes have been relentless. I haven’t been able to spend more than a few minutes in the yard without being eaten alive. And ya know those all-natural-no-toxic insect repellents? They are not fooling these mosquitoes, no way.

So since the day today was so lovely — warm not hot, dry not humid or raining, I took the opportunity to clean out the grotto of accumulated junk. The “grotto” is just the bricked in space outside the basement door in the back, which I believe was the original brick patio which is located under our little sun room, which was the original back porch. One of these days, I want to turn the grotto into a cool, romantic outdoor room but right now it’s the place where we keep the lawn mower, garden tools and other assorted junk that we probably don’t need.

but first, i sprayed my whole self with deet.

and then i took some pictures of my yard.

my tortoise sculpture peeking out


jimsonweed flower


%d bloggers like this: