Friday, October 25, 2013

Great Gardens!

My father-in-law, Ansel Malcom is a fantastic gardener, and while we were visiting we enjoyed all the lush greenery.  Mom & Dad Malcom moved to their ten acre hide away over 30 years ago.  In fact, it is the same house and woods in which Jacob grew up.  Ansel started out with a more traditional vegetable garden, apple orchard, and lawn but the garden has progressed into a maze of native and ornamental plants.  When Jacob and I were first married, Ansel gave me two books that helped influenced his conversion to planting more natives and creating wildlife habitat: Bringing Nature Home: How you can sustain wildlife with native plants, and Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to your Backyard .  These books talk about how a traditional lawn is void of life, and how planting native flowers and bushes can attract lots of critters including insects, birds, and many other animals.

There are so many treasures in Ansel's gardens.  Both the natives and the exotic plants provide beautiful flowers and foliage.  Many of the exotic plants are tropical, and some like brugmansia have enormous night scented flowers.  The natives are not out done creating thickets of flowers.  I saw butterflies, bees, tons of birds, eastern box turtles, chipmunks, and squirrels. Another treasure were the 50 foot pine trees that Ansel and Mary Carol planted when they first moved to the property.  The apple trees in the orchard have all grown past their prime, and Ansel is letting the field go wild.  He has planted many native trees in the openings, lets the wild flowers and grass fill the area, and mows pathways through to create a variety of fun walkways for spotting birds, and bunnies.  When I see vast empty lawns and compare the rich life of Ansel's gardens, I wonder why more people aren't letting their places go wild.  

While I was in Virginia for this visit, I had a fun time following Ansel through his garden and hearing interesting facts about each of the plants.  I enjoyed getting advice about some of the plants I like to grow, and I left Virginia with twice as many plants as I started with on our move from Austin to Connecticut.

Some of the Tropical species include: Elephant ears, Banana Trees, Brugmansia, Bouganvilla

Animals below are Carpenter and Honey Bee, Milkweed bugs, a female Ruby-throated Humming bird, and Bambam

 Jacob next to a pine tree about the same age he is!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Settling in

It's been a while since my last post and posts lately have been very inconsistent.  The change in routine, preparing to move, and moving made it hard for me to settle down enough to write.  During this down time, I have receive quite a bit of encouragement to continue blogging and it's good to know that others enjoy my blog, too.  I really appreciate the encouragement and thank you for reading!

We are now in Chaplin, CT, and Jacob is working at UCONN in Storrs, CT where he is a post doc working on a frog genome.  We arrived on October 8th, about 2 weeks ago and I am finally getting a rhythm again.  However, the routine is subject to change as I in the middle of a job search, hoping for something in environmental education and with kiddos.  For now, I am going to be volunteering at a greenhouse on campus once per week and helping out with nature programs when I can at Goodwin Forest Conservation Education Center both opportunities should provide lots of blogging material.  

So far my I really like Connecticut.  It is very beautiful, and both Jacob and I are very happy to be in a rural community rather than the noisy city.  The trees are enormous with fall colors painting the landscape.  Farm fields with dairy cows and rock wall fences break up in the woods as you drive a narrow winding road.

The climate is much different than any I have experienced.  It is wet and there are mosses, ferns, mushrooms, and big leafy vegetation growing everywhere.  Giant Night Crawler earthworms under every rock (no more buying earthworms from Walmart for programs!).  Slugs and salamanders are also found hiding under rotting logs. Since, it is fall the weather is cool, cool enough for jackets and long pants, and it keeps insects in hiding.  An insect program here at this time of year would be a failure in contrast to Austin, TX where it is possible to find bugs in the middle of winter.  I am anticipating winter with a bit of apprehension since this will be the first 'real' winter I will experience with long nights, lots of snow, and average highs in the 30s.  But I just have to think of the endless summers with temperatures over 100 in Austin, TX to remember change is good even if it's a little scary. Stay tuned for to come in the Chaplin, Connecticut.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Asheville North Carolina

Growing up in Southeast Arizona gave rise to my enjoyment of the outdoors and its critters and plants.  However the species of desert grass and scrub lands are very different the Southern Appalachian Mountains.  For one thing Southern Appalachia is the salamander capital of North America while Arizona has is only one common species of salamander, the chunky tiger salamander, and it's found mostly in muddy cow watering holes.  The vegetation around Asheville, NC is extremely different from AZ with huge forests of deciduous trees, and mosses and ferns growing on every surface.  I really enjoyed the time we spent flipping moss covered rocks and logs looking for the small amphibians, and squishing around in the rain.  

Me in front of one of the only wild American Chestnut trees with a seed in my hand.  These trees used to grow throughout eastern US, but unfortunately most are now done due to a fungus blight.  
The American Chestnut

The source of all the lovey greenery; streams trickle over mossy rocks and over waterfalls.  

A big chunky Dusky salamander about 5 inches long was found under a log.  The next photo down has a baby dusky a water dog, but it's small with good camouflage. 

A red-backed salamander, plethodon sp.

This one's a Slimy Salamander.  It's really slimy, but that's it's name, too.
Here's a marbled salamander.

A red salamander who didn't want to posse for the camera! 

Jacob having fun looking for salamanders in the trees!  Just kidding!

A fantastic 2" snail that Jacob found for me! 

Hope to return soon!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Montgomery, and Asheville

The second leg of our journey took us to Montgomery, Alabama to see Jacob's grandpa and then northward. 

We enjoyed hearing stories, visiting, and seeing that gramdpa's home hadn't changed since Jacob's boyhood. 

We passed through Atlanta, GA and South Carolina to reach the Smokey Mountains and Asheville, NC.

It was so good to see mountains on the horizon and to climb up into the cool air, tall trees, and verdant plant life.  

My next post will include salamanders and other highlights from Asheville.