On the Run

Let’s say you are getting off the exit at Paper Mill Road off 309, Springfield Township. You look to your right as you come up to the light.

You look some more.

You look some more. What is that dangling from the branches of that tree? Some new kind of fruit, just now revealed by the leaves falling?

Look one more time.

OK, I’ll explain. Behind that fence someone had planted gourds in a garden. The vines left home and traveled up that tree perched in the no-man’s land at the highway exit. Gourds like to hang as they grow, so the vine made a great decision.

I love seeing the triumph of ingenuity and the motivation of hope, no matter who is exercising it!


Another Haven

About 15 minutes from my house are the Whitemarsh Foundation properties, preserved land that includes an open space area, a historic farm, and the Dixon Meadow House. This farm is privately owned but protected from development; the open space is for the public to wander and enjoy; the house is used for various activities related to the land.

This location is very near Chestnut Hill College, Morris Arboretum, and the beginning of the Green Ribbon Trail. All of these locations lie in or near the watershed of the Wissahickon Creek.

Earlier this week I took a short trip to this peaceful spot. Here’s a view from the house, where I parked the car:

and here is the view from the opposite site of the open space – you can see the house off in the distance.

There is a boardwalk across the wetlands section and I saw a lot of milkweed.


I also saw a LOT of large milkweed bugs. The season is coming to an end for them.

Whitemarsh #7 10-3-17002


Whitemarsh #6 10-3-17001

I noticed tiny orange insects on a few pod stems.

I did a little research and I think these are milkweed aphids. Opinions seems to be that they are not harmful, or maybe they are a little harmful, but what it takes in getting rid of them is more detrimental. It also seems that not much is known about these insects. Maybe people are paying more attention now that milkweed is being grown on purpose, rather than being seen as just a weed taken for granted. Monarch butterflies have friends and friends of monarchs like milkweed, so I have the feeling there will be more information coming along.

I am happy to have this location for me to enjoy and for the monarchs, other butterflies, grasshoppers galore, and lots of birds to have a place to thrive.

Bur Oak Update

The bur oak saga continues. Look here for our initial meeting…

I put the acorns into a bucket of water for 24 hours, as advised by some research my husband did on the internet about planting them.

The idea is that the ones that sink to the bottom, well, they are eligible for planting. The ones that are floating after 24 hours, sadly, will not germinate.

After the time was up, four of the acorns were sinkers. OK, on to round 2!

Once again, guided by the internet, we put them into a plastic bag with some dirt, and stored them in the refrigerator until we can plant them. Maybe in the next day or so. My husband said he will get a few deep pots for them – apparently these little guys put out a tap root that requires room. No shallow yogurt containers will do.

Here is the refrigerator scene. We will see what happens next…

Seeds of the Present

My husband and I took a walk in the Morris Arboretum on Saturday, August 12, a muggy, gray day. We didn’t spend a lot of time, about an hour; we wanted to walk around the wetlands area and see what things looked like.

We visited the arboretum about two weeks ago, and the wetlands section really caught our attention.

We circled this pond and then ventured out to the creek – a walk of about one and a half miles.

Two themes emerged: seeds/nuts, and insects. Let me start with the first category. I’m going to show what I saw. I don’t know the names of any of them, except for the walnuts and milkweed. I just liked looking at the seeds in their various incarnations. See what you think.

I think this tree may be called “button ball” but I am not sure. From our observations, the balls start off green, turn red-orange, explode into white, and then fade away in brown. Obviously they are attractive to bees.

I do not know what tree this is, but I have seen these brilliant red leaves on the ground later in the fall. Here are berries and one early-turning leaf.

Dangling seed pods. I LOVE the look of these.

These grasses were near the creek. I love the woven look of the seedheads.

I don’t know what these are. Are they related? I photographed two different trees and didn’t pay enough attention as I was doing it.

These look like they should come from a maple tree, but they don’t. Look at the leaf.

Walnuts! Walnuts! I love walnut season. I love kicking them with my toe as I go along the trails. Walnuts!

Now that I recognize milkweed, I see it everywhere in the wetlands. The broad leaves stand out almost horizontally; I liked how they captured the rain. And those seedpods…

What is this? I don’t know. I saw it next to the parking lot.

I am intrigued by the variety of seedpods and nuts and I am interested to see how these plants progress through the autumn. The shapes and forms are beautiful and functional. Plenty to look at here, isn’t there?

Now, how about a few insects I met along the way:

I would love to have shown some of the many dragonflies I saw, with their electric blue features, but they were too quick for me…

I am intrigued by the variety of seedpods and nuts and I am interested to see how these plants progress through the autumn. The shapes and forms are beautiful and functional. Plenty to look at here, isn’t there?

Tiny Travelogue

I don’t go far from home. I don’t travel much. I like being home. And lucky for me there is a seemingly endless supply of things to explore right under my (geographic) nose.

Today we decided to explore the Morris Arboretum. It was established on the grounds of Compton, the summer home owned by the wealthy Morris family starting in 1887, who collected plants and were interested in furthering horticultural education; it is now part of the University of Pennsylvania. Not located near the main campus, though – it is only about 15 minutes from my house.

We became members not too long ago – I thought it might be a good place for walking, especially for my husband, as he continues to gain strength after his knee injury. Believe it or not, in almost 40 years of living close by, I had never visited the site, though I had often thought of doing so in recent times, because I drive past it on my way to Chestnut Hill College (of poetry marathon fame!) all the time.

It is expensive for a single visit, but a membership could pay off for the two of us after three visits – and being members makes a quick stop just for a walk much more likely. I signed us up.  Today was a reconnaissance mission.

It was a stunning day – sunny, warm, and low humidity. We parked in the lower lot – other people had the same idea as us to visit the gardens on such a nice day – and walked up the hill to the main building. I noticed I could see the roofs of Chestnut Hill College across the way – it is next door.

We walked around the upper areas following paved paths past manicured lawns and many trees. I found some details interesting:

Small structures dotted the area as well as sculptures:

There were other attractions, such as a garden railway exhibit and a treehouse/walkway structure; fernery; rose garden. Today, these areas were crowded with families; even if they hadn’t been, they didn’t much appeal to me. If this had been all there was to the place, I would have been lukewarm on it. I will say, though, the level paths would make a nice circuit for an easy walk (or run, if you came on a non-crowded day).

We made our way back down the hill to the wetlands area. This section was deserted and quiet. Just birds, insects, trees…

Now I was interested. Look at this milkweed.

A bee was working very industriously at this flower head.

This dead tree’s stark appearance amid all the greenery made it a landmark.

Mowed paths guided us through this section. There was so much to look at.

My assessment of the arboretum: I thought the main area tame and uninteresting. The wetlands, fantastic. I could see visiting that section often just to see the changes in the landscape. I much prefer walking on grass to asphalt. Wilder to manicured. Full of detail to edited. I’ll come back and concentrate my attention on this area, I think.

It would be a great spot for a walk after a poetry marathon session or for my husband to visit during lunchtime. I’m glad we checked out the arboretum.

Garden and Garden Spirit

Our yard is large, long and narrow. Our house sits up at the front of it, very close to the street. The back yard is by far the bigger share of the acreage and it seems even larger because it backs up to a creek and a wooded slope beyond that. We have plenty of wildlife passing through, deer, foxes, groundhogs, and lots of birds.

We have a small garden about halfway back, fenced in so that the deer don’t eat up whatever we put in there. The idea was to grow vegetables, but that fell by the wayside a couple of years ago. Then we planted flowers, mostly sunflowers and zinnias.

garden 1 9-15 small

With my health issues over the past three years I have lost the habit of gardening – I don’t even mow the grass anymore but pay someone to do it. I’ve lost interest in this garden, too. My husband planted it this year. I don’t go in it anymore because with all the flowers there are many bees, and a wasp colony has taken up residence near by (I know because I was stung earlier this summer and my hand swelled up in a frightening way for a week).

Next year this will change. I’m mulling over ways to enjoy the garden – maybe move it so I can see it from the house, away from the wasps. Because I do love the flowers – and I like the idea of how good it all is for the birds and insects and for a happy feeling for us all. It will be a good winter project, I think, the planning and the anticipating.

Anyway, I took some pictures the other day of the glorious tangle of flowers and vines. Thank you to my husband for doing this for me.

garden 3 9-15 small

I noticed in this picture that my shadow seems to be doing a sun salutation or maybe I’m imitating the sun by forming a circle with my arms? No, I have raised the camera so as to see over the fence – but my shadow doesn’t know that, does it?

Happy garden.

Claudia's shadow in flowers 9-15 small

Figurine and Books

A couple of days ago I was at Lorimer Park and noticed that there is now a Little Free Library set along the Pennypack Trail. What a nice surprise. It’s right off the parking lot and next to the chief ranger’s house.

I happened to see the chief ranger a little bit later on and he told me that the LFL was a Mother’s Day gift for his wife.

I have talked to this lady as she worked in the beautiful flower gardens she has created along the beginning of the trail. They are a marvel to look at and over the few years the trail has been open they have grown to stretch a good distance – it takes a couple of minutes to walk past them. This time of year they are full of irises and I see a few foxgloves blooming as well.

So the LFL is a tribute to her and her love of flowers and books. I think it’s great.

I left a figurine there today. My husband and I were there for a walk and I wanted to say thank you for the LFL and the gardens. I also set a couple of books in the LFL, because I am sure I will be taking some from this location as time goes on.

A Clean Start

Do you remember the Sunshine Project, Day 56? Of course not, and I’m not surprising you with a quiz. The reason I bring it up is that my husband and I visited the same site yesterday for a different purpose.

First of all, the location is that of a local florist. I’ve gotten flowers from here as gifts and I have bought them for others, too. Our family also has purchased flowers to plant in our yard from this shop for many years. It’s a local landmark and I love to see what displays they have set up for the current season.

But the reason I came here was to visit the Little Free Library located on the side of the building. I left a sunshine here on Day 56 – it’s gone now, as I expected. That’s great.

Little Free Library, Penny's Florist.

Little Free Library, Penny’s Florist.

This time I brought some books to add to the library. I’ve been doing some cleaning out. Many things in my life have changed and I have realized that my home and mental spaces both needed some clutter reduction. It’s been a good experience for me. And I hope that these books will go on to find new readers.

I have put a bag of books in my car. I plan to leave them at this location and at another one in Mondauk Park over the next couple of weeks, as I pass by.

And doing so will give me a reason to take the time to enjoy the flowers and the colorful, cheerful atmosphere of this place.

Flowers! Outside!

Flowers! Outside!

Happy Spring!

Sunshine Project – Day 83, Labyrinth, Philadelphia, PA

I’ve been wanting to visit this site for some time, but the weather has not permitted it. Now that the snow covering the ground has melted, I was able to take a sunshine to the labyrinth on the campus of Chestnut Hill College, about fifteen minutes from my house.

Banner CHC 3-13-15

Chestnut Hill College is a small Catholic college founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Originally it admitted only women; now it’s coed. Many nuns who taught in the Philadelphia Catholic schools were educated there and today it’s a popular place for teachers in public and private school systems to get their education degrees, BA or MA.

I was interested in this labyrinth because I’ve walked several of them in different places, and I find the experience to be calming and meditative. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has a clear path to the center. The repetitive movement and the slower pace help turn the walker’s mind toward reflection. Some sources I’ve read have compared it to a symbolic pilgrimage.

I wanted to leave a sunshine there and to take the path. So I went over to the school and parked. A very nice security guard assured me that I had found the visitors’ lot and would not get towed – the first step toward a leisurely visit! I walked across campus. to the labyrinth, which is located at the edge of the campus behind the sisters’ motherhouse building.

Holding the sunshine in my hand, I walked the path to the center and set the sunshine in the middle area.

After I finished, I looked around the area a bit. I noticed a small tree with a dedication at its base and a whole crowd of buds in the branches just waiting for the right moment to leaf out.

And I looked up at this ornate clock tower above the labyrinth – what a beauty.

clock CHC

I decided to take a stroll through the campus on the way back to the car. I had not been inside the buildings at this school, so I thought I’d see about going inside. I was able to walk all through the main buildings on campus. They are somewhat severe on the outside but the insides were dignified, comfortable, spacious, and full of detail.

My last stop was the cemetery where many of the sisters are buried. It’s at the edge of campus behind the area of the library, very quiet and peaceful. Each sister’s headstone contains only her religious name and date of death, and the phrase “Rest in Peace”. Very different from public cemeteries with their elaborate monuments.

As I walked into the parking lot I noticed the girls’ softball team was getting ready for practice. As I watched they started off on some laps around the field. Once again, a sign of spring.

Softball CHC

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, March 13, 2015.

Sunshine, March 13, 2015.

More about the Sunshine Project here, or look in the category “Sunshine Project”.

Sunshine Project – Day 73, Park, Erdenheim, PA

Continuing my thoughts about the upcoming change of seasons, I remembered this park about 10 minutes from my house. I’ve been there many times and it occurred to me that it might be a good spot for plein air painting when warmer weather comes. So I stopped by Cisco Park and took a sunshine with me.

Cisco Park sign

This park could be the template for a community park. It has everything you could want – trees, ball field, walking path, fishing pond (frozen over right now), plenty of benches, picnic tables, a tot lot, gazebo, and two bridges. In the summer it’s shady and pleasant here.

Even now there are people using the park. I saw this man walking his dog.

Man walking his dog.

Man walking his dog.

I set the sunshine on a raised garden bed.

I know that in the summer this bed is full of flowers and leafy bushes, but right now, we are still waiting for winter to loosen its grip on the earth. Nothing showing yet as far as anything growing.

I noticed that the Boy Scouts have done some projects in the park – tree nametags and installing bird boxes.

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, March 3, 2015.

Sunshine, March 3, 2015.

There is more about the Sunshine Project right here, or you can search the category “Sunshine Project”.

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