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December 4, 2011

Book Review: "Wildflower Wonders"

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This is truly a gorgeous book. Aside from the informative text and marvelous photographs, the book itself is a simple masterpiece of printing. On the small side for a coffee table book, it still has heft and gloss. The paper for the pages is of decent weight to encourage flipping through; and not unimportantly, it smells good. Oh, not like wildflowers; it smells of good ink and high-quality paper, as a book ought, in these days of e-readers and Kindles.

Beyond that, what a book! If you're any kind of gardener, or even simply like seeing pretty garden flowers, you will enjoy this. The author, Bob Gibbons, wrote this almost as a travelogue, outlining prime wildflower areas in over four dozen locations on five continents (nothing listed in South America, and unsurprisingly, nothing in Antarctica).

"Wildflower Wonders" is divided into wildflower sites on each continent. There is a heavy emphasis on European locations, with over half the sites described being on that continent. That said, it would be difficult to point to any of the published European areas to leave out, in favor of wildflower areas in other world locations to include. (One might be sorely tempted to try to bring some of these beauties into his or her own garden, but that would necessitate contacting the USDA...)

The book is laid out by continent and region. Each section starts with a thumb-nail sketch, including location, reasons to visit the area, best times to visit, and protected status. Several pages of information--geographic, climatological, biological, and historical--follow... This may sound very dry and overly-scientific; however, it's anything but! The body of each section is really a compendium of what makes each particular area a natural wildflower site. Well-written, interesting, and just enough information to pique the interest.

Oh, yes, and the photos. Nothing I say would do justice to the lovely photos--not just of wildflowers, but also local fauna and an amazing variety of geographic details. But the flowers are the stars of this show. Author and photographer Gibbons justifies his world-renowned reputation with the images included in this book. And really the only way to understand this is to get the book and look for yourself.

Easy to pick up, browse, read all the way through, or just enjoy the photos, this is one book that you'll be glad to keep in your favorite reading spot, whether it's by the comfy chair, on the bedside table, or in the magazine rack in the reading room. I highly recommend Wildflower Wonders, and congratulate Bob Gibbons for creating such a beautiful book.

By the feeders and the bookshelves,

Mrs. CapeCodAlan


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January 31, 2011

Amaryllis Stop-Frame Video and Other Stuff

For you frequent readers of this blog, you've noticed that I haven't been around much lately. This is a function of our new updated blog software. Anyone who's ever used a computer knows the frustration of updates and automatic updates and we have suffered right there along with you. Hopefully we've got everything working. Time will tell... But I just didn't want you to think that I had fallen off the edge of the earth. Expect a spate of posts to make up for lost time.

So here is a video we made in the down-time of on Amaryllis blossoming. To be honest the blossom wasn't that great and ditto for the entire vid... But at least it's something.

Part of the problem was that the plant kept growing, and as a result I kept having to shift the tripod around to keep up with it. Add to that challenge the issues of changing light, changing camera settings, a final sudden growth spurt and moldy blossoms, and we do not have perfection. Such is life... I did however learn a lot. (In particular, I learned that I'm even less talented with moving imagry than I am with still...)

Let's see, what else is new? It looks like we're in for another large storm. Obviously, we hope you're prepared...

And then there are the small birds... They've been particularly active... Lately we've noticed the chickadees, titmice, downy woodpeckers... I think we even had juncoes... In general the wee ones have been very hyper, particularly in the morning and afternoon. We seem to have this kind of hightened traffic just before a storm. Oh goody...

Well, I'd better stop now and see if I can actually publish this post... Ah yes... Upgrades... And you thought you were the only one to get bitten.

See you by those persistent feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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October 3, 2010

Tiny Slice of Heaven

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Yeah, the lawn needs work, the garden is small, we've got a scrap birdhouse (occupied by a downy) and we're growing flowers in a rusty old BBQ grill. Still, there's a peace there. In fact, there's almost a Shaker echo to the place. My guess is that Thoreau would approve - just stark enough to enjoy "close to the bone", but still "where life is sweetest."

There's an interesting story behind the photograph above... By the time I had a chance to take the snapshot, by all rights it was too late in the day. In fact, there was so little light left before dusk proper that I didn't even bother with the tripod. My reasoning was that at least I could take some sample pics to find the best angles, and then come back when the luminous energy was a tad more cooperative. And that's exactly what I did. Figuring I had nothing to loose, I fussed with the various camera settings and pretty much ended up with the expected - dark blurry mush, but with one exception. On a lark, I set the camera to "Sports" mode, braced myself, drew my breath, and pushed the button. I heard the standard shutter open, but not close for a good two seconds. This seemed totally counter intuitive in that by my way of diminished thinking, a high shutter speed would equate to a high shutter speed. Anywho, the end result is what you see - a pretty respectable image taken under dim conditions. Now you shutter bugs out there can scoff, and rightfully sneer that I just don't understand aperture, ISO, and the Tao of the Canon. So be it.

Maybe the takeaway is that this is a bit of heaven, and it takes a bit of serendipity to capture it...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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August 13, 2010

The End of Summer in Sight?

I hope the summer is winding down! This has been, without a doubt, the hottest, most oppressive, most miserable summer I can remember. Right now (late night) it's 61F outdoors. Hallelujah! Granted, summer has given us some beautiful stuff...

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But enough is enough. And given these temps, heaven help us if a hurricane puts Cape Cod in its cross hairs - we'd probably be talking about something on the scale of the storm of 1938. Oh goody.

I guess the best we can hope for is something along the lines as the following from Emily...

As imperceptibly as grief
The summer lapsed away, --
Too imperceptible, at last,
To seem like perfidy.

A quietness distilled,
As twilight long begun,
Or Nature, spending with herself
Sequestered afternoon.

The dusk drew earlier in,
The morning foreign shone, --
A courteous, yet harrowing grace,
As guest who would be gone.

And thus, without a wing,
Or service of a keel,
Our summer made her light escape
Into the beautiful.

The heat isn't over just yet, but my money is on Ms. Dickinson...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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November 8, 2009

Fall Flowers, Another Turkey Attack, New Recipe

Hi all,

Well, here's a nice way to start a post...

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Nothing like a beautiful hydrangea to get the ball rolling. And let's keep it rolling with a cape rose...

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It might seem a little unusual to have blossoms like these so late in the season, but on Cape Cod, you just never know. (BTW... You do know that there are over 1,000 images like the hydrangea and the cape rose in our library free for the taking... Makes for fine wallpaper. And if you can't find what you're looking for, just holler. We've got a pretty respectable selection of the local birds.)

Onward...

Once again, the turkeys didn't "play well with others", and one of the ruffians charged me again today. Now that I've seen this behavior a few times, I'm beginning to wonder if the creatures are actually charging, or on the other hand just rushing forward to be fed by hand. I certainly hope it's not the latter. It's one thing to put feed in feeders and then leave the wild animals alone; it's entirely another to try to make pets out of them by hand feeding. In any event, this is wearing thin. Thankfully, we keep a comfy cushion on the deck - it's as harmless as a nerf ball, but looks positively "turkey menacing" when it flutters down from on high. If I scare them away forever (yeah right), so be it. I'd rather they re-gain their natural fear of humans than have one of them (or a person) get hurt.

What else?

Hey! Real quick... Remember that killer pork recipe? Well here's something even easier that's destined for the grill. Mix up a quarter cup of A1 with a like amount of Italian salad dressing and set that aside. Next, take a one pound pork tenderloin and butterfly it. Plop the pork in with the A1/salad dressing melange in a vacuum bag and using one of those kitchen air-sucker gadgets, asphyxiate the whole deal. Refrigerate for a day. Grill 'til thoroughly cooked and enjoy.

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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July 30, 2009

Another Bird's Ears and a Flower

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Since the last post was so popular (it included a photo of a bird's ear), here is another shot. (Maybe the wife should dump the kayak more often. The more we put the old Olympus C-2100 to work, the better it looks. Take a look at the butterfly bush below...)

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Butterfly bushes are great--they're virtually un-killable. You cut the bare wood down almost to the ground in the dead of winter, and by July, the bush is fully leafed out, blooming like mad, and about eight feet tall. Plus, of course, the hummingbirds and the butterflies love it, it provides shade and shelter to the other birds who come to visit the bird bath. It also happens to be fragrant and quite beautiful.

Butterfly bushes also come in different colors and sizes, so there's likely a perfect choice for you. Consider adding one to your garden this year. You'll be glad you did, and so will the birds who visit you.

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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June 8, 2009

Flowers and Ruined Chowder

Hi all,

What follows are a few pictures from the wife's garden. The first is a Sea thrift in all its translucent glory. I like the almost pearl sheen...

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The next is of a Wild chive blossom. Gotta love those purple spikes!

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The last is of an Iris. It seems like a sad plant - I guess it's just the droopy yellow and purple...

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Anyway, the flowers (like birds and cooking) offer a pleasant diversion. And speaking of cooking (nice segue ay?)... I cooked up that batch of clam chowder I promised, and in retrospect I really should have done something just slightly more productive like painting all the door knobs with "white out" or trying to mow the lawn with fingernail clippers - the chowder was an abomination. It started out well like all the others in that I followed the old family recipe as always, except that I used canned clams. Wow, was that a phenomenal mistake... Four cans of chopped clams (read that clam mush) does not a chowduh make. As soon as all the ingredients were added, and the simmering began, tasting flagged a culinary train wreck. We're talking bland, off-balanced, slop that was to food what an electrical fire is to odor. So I panicked and added shrimp, more clam juice and cream. "Doom! Doom!" I say. (I might as well have been adding spiders and toads...) And in a final homage to St Jude, I dumped in a mess of Tabasco. The saint could not be reached for comment.

So now what do I do? There's no way we can eat the stuff. I can't put it out for the crows because that might be animal abuse. I guess I'll just dig a hole and bury it out back.

Now there you go... When you have a winning recipe, don't stray... Right now, I think I'll just go look at the flowers.

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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