Archive for the 'Backyard' Category


Underneath the bathroom faucet: a small, pale spider.

Rain Bug

That hard rain both cleared the air between us and cleaned up this thing pretty well, too.

Snug as a snail in a snail

I like the idea of one gastropod hanging out in the shell of another. You’ve seen this before: the Queen Conch shells I lugged home — not from the Caribbean, but from Dead Horse Bay’s eroding landfill — provide an excellent shelter for terrestrial snails. Cepaea nemoralis, the Brown-lipped snail. A new squatter, as an individual, but a familiar species.

View from the Back 40

March 26th.April 3rd.April 9th.April 16th.April 25th.

Overnight, and I mean that literally, since I took a photo yesterday afternoon, the lower levels of this ivy were mauled. Perhaps the hellions next door? The construction waste, knotweed, and even mulberry that filled the neighbor’s backyard was recently cleared out. Now screamers populate it. Not a net gain.

Pin Oak Unfurls

April 15th.April 16th.April 17th

Back 40 Mugwort

The Rock of Repose holds back the line of advancing Common Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). This sneaked in under the fence from the Mugwort/Knotweed jungle beyond, but you can find it everywhere in the city as it advances to cover the globe. I’ll say one thing for it: fresh (and uprooted) and dried out (in winter), it does smell good.

Back 40 Pin Oak

My squirrel-planted Pin oak (Quercus palustris) enters its second year. The twig-like sapling is 7″ tall; this terminal bud is about a quarter of inch long.

I had two of these last year in my Back 40. One I yanked accidently during a weeding frenzy. I replanted it when I saw what I had done, but soon enough it was overthrown. There was, however, another, which I left alone. It has come through the winter, such as it was. There were five leaves on it last year.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, that’s no Pin oak leaf! (Come on, say it.) I said the same myself until I saw some trunk-budding leaves coming off a verified Pin oak that looked just like these, not at all like the mature tree’s leaves.

Moth Fly

Friends! Are you troubled by little gray-black flies that, upon closer inspection (don’t be shy, get a little closer, the details are remarkable) look rather moth-like with their hairy wings and bodies? Do you wonder why they seem to be hanging around your sinks? Or, like this one, in the hallway, just waiting for my defenses to be breached?

Well, trouble no more, you’ve discovered the subfamily Psychodinae, the moth flies. Yes, it’s a confusing name, sort of like “spider beetles”. These are also known as drain flies since they breed in the rich bacterial slime that collects in home drains. (Ahem, present company excepted, of course.)These are just under 1/4th inch long.

Weekend Update

On various errands this rainy weekend. Still, there was no stopping the sights to be seen as soon as I walked out the front door. The tulip, that bulb-bundle of joy, is one of the few store-bought flowers I actually appreciate.The Amelanchier is in bloom. Traditionally, this means the ground is thawed out enough to dig graves (whence one of its commen names, “serviceberry”) and that the shad are running (“shadblow”). This is a cultivar, but it does make tasty berries, as both the birds and I agree. Two Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) have been planted on my street and, slightly later than the pink wall of them at the local playground, are about to pop. Younger trees usually have smoother bark than older ones. I find the distinctive bark of our London plane trees look like a kind camouflage when rain-slicked. Personally, I don’t know how my own skin has survived the rigors of the decades, but it looks so much better than what you see on that portrait I had commissioned some years ago. Must have been the kind of oil the painter used. I don’t even bring that damned thing out the attic anymore.

View From the Back 40

The Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) in a neighbor’s backyard today: A busload of girls from St. Flora’s trying to keep their pink uniforms from blowing away in the March wind.

The hazards of early blooming: tonight’s forecasted hard freeze may KO the ornamental fruit and magnolia blossoms that have run riot for the last week. Or, then again, our climate-manipulating city — i.e. the heat-island effect — will keep this neck of the woods above freezing.


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