The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

That Magical Time of Spring Has Arrived

 "Aren't roses a lot of trouble?"
Yes, if you chemo-bomb them all the time.
Veteran's Honor Rose - in memory of Peter Ellenberger,
military veteran, immigrant, proud American,
one of five in his family who served the US military.
We had a couple of cold snaps and one more seems to be on the way. After a short drought we starting having long, drenching rains, four and five inches at a time.

The mother of all Crepe Myrtles is preparing to bloom again.


Some plants begin to leave out a little later. One is the Crepe Myrtle, which seems to take forever to bloom. Once the blooming begins, the display lasts all summer, especially if it gets a second pruning.

Red-white blooms on the new CMs will be fun to watch.

The old plant was pruned of its seedy branches earlier, and five little twigs were planted at the same time. I bought three CMs on sale, and received five, so I have a row of four on the west side of the rose garden, one in the backyard to serve as the waiting room for the kitchen window birdfeeder. They received another rainfall last night.

I loved seeing the new Crepe Myrtles leafing out. Even though I soaked them in rainwater for 24 hours before planting, I had planter's remorse afterwards. They arrived in early February, so I have waiting for their leafing out for two months. Week after week I saw little sticks in the soil, but now the leaves give hope again.

Soil temperature triggers plant growth. I noticed the opportunistic weeds sprouting and feeding the bees from the beginning. The spreading mints are coloring lawns all over, including my little patch in the back, where it did not grow before. I seem to have a crop of ajuga, which spreads far too easily.

 Mountain Mint is a good mint,
loved by beneficial insects.


Bird Habits
The birds are comfortable with our proximity to their food. I can go to the kitchen sink and have a male cardinal close enough to touch - except for the window between us. He munches on a few more sunflower seeds and flies off, but he gets his food first. The birds are no longer so shy that they escape as soon as we are near.

The finches often line up on the sides of the hanging feeders, all of them feeding at once. They use the two swings all day, so that brings them even closer.

The birds have their favorite baths. Two ponds form near our house, in the street, so we see them splashing there after each storm. I keep three children's swimming pools clean and full in the backyard, plus numerous shallow dishes for birds and other creatures.

Whatever happens with the weather and plants, the creatures share it and make sure the food is used in many different ways. Birds eat and plant their favorite foods at the same time, so gathering places provide extra meals over time. If food is spoiled and not worth eating, smaller creatures will recycle it. Earthworms pull organic matter into the soil. Bacteria attacks soft cells and fungi burrow into more resilient structures.

The soil under the main feeder became so soft from the organic deluge that I placed some concrete blocks there so I could stand and fill the feeders. The earthworms began holding conventions there and moles showed up to eat and gather them.

That is one of the ironies of creature populations. The opponents clear up so many of them that the consumed populations have room to reproduce and re-plenish. Rapid growth of bacteria allows for quick decomposition, so protozoa and others move in to enjoy the bacteria, the staff of life for them. Bacteria have room to grow again because so many become food.

The root fungi reach out to burrow into wood and share the nutrients with plants. The plants demand certain items they need and give fungi carbon in return. Soil scientists realized this about fungi only a few years ago.

Wind in the Willows treated moles well.


In Seattle, everyone is agog about Bertha, the giant earth-moving machine that is boring a hole underground for a new tunnel. What engineering! What genius to create such a machine! And yet billions of earthworms do the same before we even ask how this can be. Inside each earthworm a team of bacterial convert the organic matter - food for the earthworm, food for the plant roots. The earthworm sweetens the soil with its calcium glands and adds nitrogen compounds the plants need.

Funny how people look at Bertha videos, take earthworms for granted, and despise moles. Their moles are also perfectly designed tunneling machines. Their fur allows them to swim forward and backward through the soil. Their digging is Herculean because they are all muscle and claw. By gathering earthworms into banks of a thousand or more, moles provide room for more earthworms and concentrate the nutrition provided by their bodies.

 The birds scatter the seed while feeding,
so they clean up the extra that lands on the window sill
or the ground. "Nothing is wasted" as someone observed
about the fragments gathered after the miraculous feeding.