Archive for the ‘Nature/animals’ Category

Following a rather busy June and early July, I decided to make the most of some much appreciated down time to just be me.

This, of course, translates easily into me wandering off to explore nature.

So it was on an overcast Saturday afternoon that the I opted for a walk at the Dean Nature Sanctuary in Oak Brook.

The sanctuary is a wildlife habitat – hidden in plain view. It was through the generous endowment of one of the early founding residents of Oak Brook, Dorothy Dean. With the assistance of the Conservation Foundation, Dorothy Dean generously donated this expanse of land to the Oak Brook Park District.

The story of this sanctuary is an interesting history lesson as well as a unique example of land preservation and stewardship. It also provides insight into the personality and foresight of Dorothy Dean, who used the advance of the Illinois Tollway system to her – and now our – advantage and resulted in the large pond at the site which is a refuge to waterfowl and wildlife. The story is rendered with more perfection than I can do here on my little blog. I encourage you to click on the link below to learn more.

Under the threat of rain, I parked the car, and scurried to one of the paths to make a quick loop around the pond and to rejoice in midst of a riot of prairie bloom! Cone flowers and bergamot, Culver’s root and brown-eyed Susan were bending in the breeze – or stretching toward sunlight, while a

 pair of mourning doves shared a branch high atop of tree.

As I walked, I noticed plant stems bending ever-so-slowly to the will of pollinators; bees and wasps and butterflies spreading the secrets of summer. From stem-to-stem they worked their way among the blooms of the sanctuary, while a heron stalked the edge of the pond and red-winged blackbirds taunted each other.










While I often walk the paths of the Dean Nature Sanctuary, it seemed particularly special for me on Saturday afternoon. I enjoyed getting some exercise, clearing my mind, and observing the living things surrounding me. A dog was walking its master while a gaggle of pre-teen girls passed by, giggling at something on one of their phones. Something splashed loudly in the pond and a hawk circled overhead, looking for dinner, I supposed. I needed to head home to do the same so headed to my car feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Later, at home, checking out the website for the Dean Nature Sanctuary, a visual caught my eye. Oh! Bee Parks Honey. The Oak Brook Park District was selling honey harvested from the Dean Nature Sanctuary! I prefer to use local honey whenever I can, as you may recall, and dug a little deeper into the site. I sent an email to the Park District, and promptly received a very nice response thanking me for my inquiry and informing me that I could buy the honey at the park district office. All honey money (my term) will be used to support their universal playground project. I wish them well in this endeavor. Parks that are accessible to everyone benefit all of us.

Guess where I went the next afternoon?





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On the first Sunday in July, Elmhurst Garden Club members begin to monitor the weather forecast. The Garden Guide has gone to print, posters and yard signs have blossomed like daisies in the summer heat, and a “buzz” is in the air. Up and down the streets of Elmhurst, inside businesses, on fences  and road signs, visuals remind locals and visitors alike that this annual gardening event is about to bloom. Phone calls, emails and texts inquire “where can I get a ticket” as boutique vendors replenish their inventory of plants, jewelry, yard art, and all things garden related for the elegant Faire in Wilder Park.

Proceeds from Walk benefit worthy students of horticulture and science related studies, as well as many local endeavors. To date, the Elmhurst Garden Club has raised more than $150,000.

Streams and ponds, a Sears Roebuck kit house and a “scrabbled” vegetable garden are features amid landscape, hardscape, plantscape and more to provide a feast for the senses. There is something for everyone on Sunday, July 8th at the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire.

If you are in the Chicagoland area on the second Sunday in July, July 8, please join us for An Afternoon in the Garden.

Information: Elmhurst Garden Club

Is there a garden walk where you live? 

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There we were, two pilgrims, on the southbound side of a narrow road, looking to catch the sunset. We were stopped at a cross road at a red light. There was a cemetery and Long John Slough to the right. Cook County Forest Preserves and Crawdad Slough hung to the road on the left. All but the cemetery are a part of the vast acreage of the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

I was first in line when the light changed, with several cars lined up behind me. I accelerated at a good clip as I crossed the road, only to see something in the middle of it. We both let out a verbal volley of “what’s that” as I swerved into the northbound lane, grateful no cars were coming from that direction, and slowed to just shy of a stop.

“Is that a turtle” and “Yes, I think it is” was exchanged while backed-up motorists were wondering what was going on.

Slowly, ever-so-slowly, I crept past, propelled by a stanza of “ohnoohnoohno“. Turning the car around, I parked close to the embankment. We each tumbled out of the car, waving our hands in a universal gesture of “stop”.

As if on cue from Central Casting, a marked vehicle pulled up. “It’s a turtle” said I while my other half, a patch on one eye from a medical procedure, assessed the slow moving situation. “I think I can pick it up from behind.

Is it a snapping turtle?” came from the marked vehicle, which I thought was a police car.  “Ummmm” and then “Yeah. It’s a snapper” as we watched the now angry turtle snapping and turning, round and around, in super slo-mo. Mr. Turtle was smack dab in the middle of here to there, with cars come from everywhere, an anxious granny and her antler man and some sort of officer, armed with a shovel and didn’t seem to know what to do anymore than we did.

Should we contact a forest ranger?” said the granny.  “I AM a ranger” piped the shovel brandishing, rather indignant one.

(Well, really, how was I to know? We seemed to know more about rounding up turtles than HE did.”  This tale at this point is one almost worthy of Aesop.)

I emptied a box from the trunk of the car and put it gently atop the turtle, who thrashed and pushed and did what turtles do, relieved himself just missing my foot.

Just then, a motorcycle zoomed past – and then came to a stop. In one snappy motion, the young man was off of his bike, handing his helmet to his riding companion, and crossing the road. “What’s the problem?” said he, staring calmly at a box toting granny, a man with an eye patch, and a ranger with a shovel standing at attention.  It was almost, not quite, American Gothic.

The young cycling chap approached Mr. Turtle, escaped from under the box and snapping away. “Well now, I’ll just pick him up from behind and walk him over there to the shore” – and he did! He grabbed the turtle and held him out far enough to escape the turtle’s aim. Slowly, but surely, the easy rider and the turtle crossed the road, went down the slope of Long John’s slough, and snip, snap, snout – this tale is told out!



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When I noticed a few “dots” on the leaves, I guarded myself against excitement. I had been fooled many times before. Still-in-all, most mornings and afternoons, in between raindrops and temperature variations, dawn or dusk, I tiptoed around the milkweed. I was hoping no one could see me amid the giant ferns and parked car, in my pajamas and yellow rain slicker, or my Sunday best. The neighbors are accustomed to my quirky behavior. If they noticed me, on the very first morn, hopping about and squealing with glee, they have not mentioned it – at least not to me.

On that first, dewy morn, huddled inside the yet un-opened leaves, were two, very small, Monarch caterpillars! They were slowly, methodically munching away, feasting on milkweed, an early June surprise.












As you might imagine, I followed their journey, my camera in hand. From leaf to leaf., often together, they munched. They also ventured, separately, to other milkweed plants. Like Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, they ate and ate and grew, doubling and tripling their size. From June 2 until June 12, they ate, in what is the larval stage. On July 12, at dusk, I found them both at rest on separate leaves and on different milkweed plants.


Early in the morning,  on July 13, I could not find them. They might have been frightened by my newly acquired mosquito repellent.

I went inside, made a cup of tea, sweetened it liberally, just because, then went out again, in search of the caterpillars – and I found them!  Can you?


Here is one, closer up, on the floor of the garden.

They were not far from each other, but much harder to see as they traveled, inch by inch, looking for the perfect spot to enter the next stage. Chrysalis.


Last night, June 13, and again this morning, the two caterpillars are nowhere to be found. I have carefully, but unsuccessfully, looked for a chrysalis. All I can do is hope that they have both found a place to hang out for a bit, to grow, change, and emerge.

Here’s hoping to see a Monarch, or two, flitting about in a few weeks. I promise to let you know.

In-the-meantime, I am carefully watching what I DID find on the meadow rue – a swallowtail caterpillar!

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Conspicuous Crannies

It seems to always rain when the peonies open; not slowly and reverently in a soft spring shower, but rather as headstrong as a toddler wanting his way.

The newly potted plants needed water after the 90+ degree temperatures we’ve been experiencing, so, I couldn’t complain as the rains did the watering for me. I did wince a wee bit and wring my hands for our peonies had just bloomed and were resplendent in our front gardens; pinks and purples and mauves of magnificence.

The “wringing of hands”, of course, accomplishes nothing, so, out I went, clippers in hand as the sky darkened and threatened to let loose at any moment. A snip here, another there, a gentle shake of the petals to hopefully release whatever ants were still on doing their springtime chore of opening the petals and, voila, a bouquet was in hand to brighten the kitchen counter.

We weathered the storm, though the roof sprung a leak just as we sat down to supper – and a supper it was with leftover everything! I reflected, a bit, on how fortunate we are for others around the world are battling storms and fires and eruptions that are horrific, devastating and life-threatening. A leaky roof and water-logged peonies are small drops of worry when one looks at the bigger picture.

None-the-less, early this morning, in my typical, fashionable style, I rushed out in my jammies, carrying my cell phone while the teakettle waited to whistle. I was anxious to capture the photo above while the light was just so. I cannot recall her name, but, she puts forth the most marvelous, wispy blue blossoms at this time of year and looks her best in the morning light.

As I was attempting the shot, swatting mosquitoes, my eye caught something else nearby. A spot. A spot on a plant that the Antler Man almost pulled, thinking it was a weed. Actually, it is a weed – milkweed – and it has lodged itself in a conspicuous cranny near a spot where Monarchs laid eggs last year. Upon closer inspection I found the spot to be not a spot at all, but, rather, a hole.

A hole in a milkweed leaf!

Slowly, ever-so-slowly, holding my breath, I held the leaf. I turned it around, cautiously, carefully, and this is what I found.

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If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze
that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house
and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,
a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies
seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking
a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,
releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting
into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.  – Billy Collins

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What better time to add a chapter to the adventures of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Vase than Mother’s Day, celebrated here in the States on Sunday, May 13 this year.

The vase has traveled some this past year, filled through the seasons, occasions and just because, but, it had taken a bit of a hiatus until it reappeared once more this weekend at a visit to Jennifer and Jason’s house!

What a pleasant surprise it was to be greeted this Mother’s Day with the latest traveling arrangement! Nestled inside the clear, round vase were small wooden eggs, repurposed from a forgotten display. The eggs helped to hold up stock, Hypericum berries, and glorious calla lilies whose velvety petals added to the allure of the presentation.

Not only was I honored to be the recipient of this sweet arrangement, I was also impressed at my daughter’s floral creativity . . .

. . . and, her culinary flair. Jennifer has always employed an inherently unique ability to put a tasteful array of ingredients together that whet one’s appetite in flavorful bliss. Rosemary coated chicken breasts sat on a bed of sautéed arugula with lighted warmed grapes! Topped with shavings of Gruyère, it was quite delicious.

We ate, we talked, we checked out J & J’s emerging garden, and we visited a nearby gardening center before I headed back home, my vase travelling with securely on the floor of the car. I was sated, content, and grateful for a most “motherly made” afternoon.

The saga of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Vase begins here.

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