Saturday, July 28, 2012

Joe-Pye Weed with Bees

Because it's been so hot and humid lately I've not spent much time in the garden. The last couple of days have been much more tolerable, and this afternoon I wandered out with camera in hand to see what I would see.

My main backyard garden bed is a mix of vegetable space and perennial flowers, with a fair amount of weeds and grass in the mix.

Today I noticed that I have several tomato fruits developing, my peppers have pretty, bell-like flowers but no fruits yet, and my cucumber plants have been nibbled badly and are not faring well.

But mostly I noticed the flowers and the bees. On a mass of flowering thyme, tiny bees were in constant motion. Purple coneflowers are flowering in abundance, and the phlox is now in bloom. And on the giant Joe-Pye weed, standing well over five feet tall, there was a bee on almost every flower cluster. I saw one bumble bee, as well.

Joe-Pye weed (genus Eutrochium) is well known as a wonderful attractor for bees, butterflies and moths. It is native to the eastern United States. It's a pity that it has "weed" in its name (as quite a few valuable wildflowers do, including the milkweed so important to our monarch butterflies), as it may sound less appealing to add to gardens, but it's a terrific native plant for this area, supporting our pollinators. This page about gardening to support wildlife in Minnesota has a helpful list of other flowers, shrubs and trees that will encourage our native insects and birds.

I don't know whether any of the bees I saw today were standard European honeybees, whose mysterious declines we have read so much about, or whether they were all native bees. Whichever kinds they were, they were all busy with the vital work of pollination, and I thank them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Five-year Blogiversary for Penelopedia

An earlier header image for Penelopedia

Five years ago today Penelopedia was born, with the inaugural post This Is My Garden. From its initial focus on the local food movement and vegetable gardening to the birds-and-nature blog it tends most often to be these days, this project has led me, more than anything else it has done, to learn about the things that I observe so that I can write about them.

Later header image

The blog has carried me through five pivotal years personally:
  • A stint as a single mother living with my young son in a rented duplex with a patio garden (the subject of that first post)
  • My eldest daughter leaving for college and emerging a beautiful, independent, competent young woman with a passion for art
  • Joining Facebook and greatly expanding the circle of people I feel connected or reconnected to
  • Getting married again and acquiring two cats along with my birdwatching, cat-loving husband, Dave
  • Moving back into my former house with said husband and son
  • My second daughter moving with her Dad to St. Paul so she could attend a performing arts high school there, then eventually graduating and going off to college herself to further develop her musical gifts, which were showing themselves by the time she was two
  • Deciding to adopt a kitten for my son and coming home from the shelter with not one but two young cats, for a crazy total of four, without whom life would be far duller
  • Saying goodbye soon afterward to my dear dog, Jennie
  • My son finishing elementary school, suddenly shooting up and developing a man's voice, and completing a year of middle school (and becoming quite a good birdwatcher along the way).

Current header image

Over the course of 618 blog posts, I have become a more knowledgeable birdwatcher myself, and a somewhat better photographer with my simple point-and-shoot compact camera. I've also made "blog friends" I've never or rarely met in person.

I have had the delight of people occasionally letting me know that they get pleasure from my blog, or learn from it, or both. I generally write without thinking too much of who may read my words or see my images, so it is beautiful to know that they do sometimes land where they are appreciated. Thank you for that.

The main point of this blog is to celebrate that which is all around us but apart from the human routine. Combat nature deficit disorder. Walk in the woods. Hear the dawn chorus. Hear an owl. Observe patterns. Stretch your legs. Put up a bird feeder and see who comes. Breathe clean air. Watch the ever-changing sky and feel the wind on your face. Marvel at the web of the garden spider and the migration of the birds. Smell the sweet meadow and the ozone of the rainstorm. Touch the rough bark and the smooth stone. Walk in the softly falling snow. Blow the dandelion fluff. Taste the ripe berry by the side of the trail.

Notice, and learn, and celebrate, and respect, and tread lightly. That's what I'm trying in my small way to do.