Archive for the ‘Nature’ category

Working in the Garden

July 24, 2012

We’ve put in three raised beds in our front yard this summer. Each one 4’x 8′, and one foot deep. They’ve worked really well as far as keeping weeds out. We’re growing peas, beans, radishes, eggplants, zucchini, dill, lavender, rosemary, tomatoes, basil, onions, carrots, swiss  chard, and chili peppers (tabasco and jalapeño). Owen loves to work in the garden.

The raised beds make it very easy for him to stand and harvest radishes. Fortunately they were ready to be harvested. He also deadheaded some live heads on the marigolds. Here is some of his handiwork, which became a radish tart later that same day, and his breakfast the following morning.

The “Ichiban” Japanese eggplant is coming along.

Hopefully my chili peppers will be coming along as well when we get back from two weeks on the road…


September 28, 2011

The first two shots are about a minute apart.  They’re 60 second exposures (it takes another 60 seconds to empty the buffer onto the card). If you download them and toggle back and forth you can get an idea of the movement of the auroral structures over time. You can also see the big dipper moving.

The View from my Window

August 10, 2011

We had zero yard in Dover. So, it was difficult to attract many birds near enough for observation. I did put up one of those suction-cup-mounted window feeders.  A purple finch stopped by for a snack pretty rapidly. However, our cats took to jumping at the window whenever he landed. So Mr. purple finch never stayed at the feeder for long. A wind storm knocked that feeder down, and an eccentric (most people would say crazy) man who kept the streets clean took it away before I could get it the next morning. It was nice of the eccentric man to clean our streets, anyway.

I was pretty excited to have a yard so the cats and I could watch birds from far enough away to not scare them off. I figured it would take a couple days for some avian visitors to find my new feeder.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when half a dozen goldfinches swooped in not ten minutes after I’d hung the feeder.

I like how one is hanging out sideways here:

This female landing on the cord is pretty cool too:

Narration by Beth (she didn’t know I was recording a movie ^_^).


January 19, 2011



Tricolor Bean Harvest

July 27, 2010

Our bush beans have ripened:

We planted a mix of three colors: green, yellow and purple. I’d never had purple beans before.

The purple color makes them easier to find among the leaves.

Despite appearances, they taste the same as green beans, are green inside, and, in fact, turn completely green when cooked. However, compared with the green beans (which I also love),  they seem to continue to taste quite optimally good even if they are picked a bit later than their earliest day of ripeness. I had read this about them, and now I concur. I declare the purple beans a winner; I will certainly grow them again.

We steamed these and ate them with no additional adornment. None seemed necessary.

Baby Seagull

July 19, 2010

Have you ever seen a baby seagull? I never had, but my family was visiting last week, and we saw this one on the roof of a building in Portland, ME:

They have polka dotted heads. I think the mother was clever in choosing a roof whose gravel pattern was similar to the coloration of the chick. I got some stills too:

Alpine Adventure: GEM 2010

July 7, 2010

Two weeks ago I attended the 2010 GEM (Geospace Environment Modeling) Summer Workshop. This was maybe the fifth time I’ve attended GEM. It is really a fun science meeting because it is always in a nice hikable western environment, and it is much smaller than many other meetings (less than 400 people). So it is easier to talk at length with many other scientists about a relatively small number of topics. I wish all meetings were around that size. The past two years this meeting has been in Snowmass, Colorado, which is a ski town across the valley from the perhaps somewhat more known, Aspen.

I brought my banjo with me to the meeting, despite the fact that I was flying United, and everyone knows that United breaks guitars. At first I wasn’t sure how to pack the banjo because I have just a soft gig-bag, and I was pretty sure I’d be forced to check it at least on the small plane from Denver to Aspen. However, I realized that I could easily pad the banjo if I disassembled it and stowed it in my internal frame travel backpack. It turns out that disassembling a banjo is really easy. I had the thing completely unstrung and disassembled in about 4 minutes. I hadn’t thought about that advantage of an instrument held together by bolts rather than hide glue. Here’s how the Deering Goodtime looked when I arrived in Snowmass:

Within 25 minutes it was strung up and tuned again—tuned to itself anyway; it was about a minor third flat until I downloaded a tuner.

On the first day of the meeting I decided to go on a hike up the mountain behind the hotel. In the middle of an awful headache the next morning I read that “to avoid altitude sickness when traveling to locations above 8000′ one should avoid strenuous activity and alcohol for 24 hours after arriving at altitude”. The views were nice though, and I found an impressive pile of snow at the base of a ski jump:

I also found a deer or elk print in the mud:

Where did this mud come from? It came from this gurgling mountain stream (such as might be referred to in a Coors Light commercial). Taste the Rockies (but watch out for giardia):

The meeting week also featured my favorite phase of the moon, the waxing gibbous:

I’ve always thought waxing gibbous could easily be the name of a primate species.

A Tour of Our Garden

June 19, 2010

We planted our first garden this year (well, first garden together). Our apartment in downtown Dover, NH is the most urban place I have ever lived. This is saying basically nothing since I grew up in suburban Ohio, and went to college in Amish country and to a grad school whose motto is “A voice crying out in the wilderness,” but still it’s urban for me.  I live about 100 yards from the railroad tracks (400 from the Amtrak station), and have deadbeat neighbors who yell at their kids and dogs and each other all the time. They might actually communicate with each other more than many suburban neighbors do, now that I think about it, but I digress.

Fortunately, we do have some space to grow stuff. It’s 3 feet by 12 feet at the end of our driveway, but it seems to be quite fertile.

We are growing snap peas, purple, green, and yellow string beans, french breakfast radishes, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers (for salads and for pickling), Chinese eggplant, onions, tomatoes, and marigolds. The peas have just flowered:

According to the seed pouch, these peaks can grow without support, but they don’t look that way to me. So I  staked them today. Peas behave almost like animals, wrapping their tentacles around climbable objects in very little time.

I’m pretty amazed at how they do that. I’d like to know how it works. Coincidentally, there was just a story on NPR that mentioned how Gregor Mendel had sent his notes on pea genetics to Charles Darwin, but Darwin never read them. It’s sort of amazing that someone figured out evolution at the same time that someone started to figure out genetics, but the evolutionist knew nothing about the genetics.

The tomatoes have also recently bloomed:

The tops of the delicious French breakfast radishes are starting to emerge:

I like these radishes sliced thin and mixed together with some cream cheese, quark, or butter and spread on a thick slice of brown bread. I also took some eye-candy of the lettuce. I don’t know what kind of lettuce this is. It came up on it’s own from lettuce that went to seed in our neighbor’s garden last year.

Woodchuck, or…Whistle Pig?

May 27, 2010

I wondered, are woodchucks and groundhogs the same thing? Yes. They are. They apparently are also variously known as “whistle-pigs” or “land beavers”, both of which I think are hilarious names. Wouldn’t Whistle-Pig Day sound more festive than Ground Hog Day? Or, Whistle Pig Cider, instead of Woodchuck™?

I saw this guy close to the location where the hawk vs. man attack happened yesterday. I think this ground beaver’s mass probably excludes him from becoming red tailed hawk fodder.

Close Encounter

May 25, 2010

I was walking from the student union building back to my office after lunch today when out of nowhere a HUGE flash of white and brown feathers passed from right to left just before my eyes. I felt something light and fast pass over my arm and chest. My friends Yi-min, Liwei and I all looked dumbfounded for a second trying to figure out what just happened.

We saw it fly into a rhododendron. In the darkness of the bush sat a red-tailed-hawk. A huge red-tailed-hawk.  Looking at it, I wondered for a second if it was an eagle–it was so big. It perched atop its kill. It had caught something in the air and had run into us with it! I think some of the prey might have hit me, too. The hawk hit me in the arm, but it actually hit Liwei in the ear. We checked out his ear and verified that it hadn’t removed any of him in the process. Then we watched it fly away, and I saw the impressive red upper side of its tail as it came out of the bush.

A few second later, some of my other co-workers who were slower leaving lunch came around the corner, and I said, “did you guys see what just happened?!” but they’d missed it. I was wishing I’d had my camera, but it happened so suddenly and was over so quickly, I doubt it would have been of any use. You can’t really capture the experience of being hit by a hawk in a picture.

Nonetheless, check out the huge talons on this juvenile red-tailed hawk (public domain photo released by Alison Philips):

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