Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Closing of 2013 ~ Gathering Moments Past Pixels and Pages of Wildlife

As Twenty-thirteen comes to a close, I happily begin my annual series of sharing precious highlighted encounters with wondrous wildlife here on my farm . . .  from the days, months, pages and frames of this last year, pixels will emerge revealing a shared wildness reaching inwards as it dances in the breezes gently floating through fields and forest. Plant, flower and tree memories will also resurface in the upcoming weeks . . . a lovely way to nurture the imagination and keep its rich soil soft and supple throughout the long freezing winter. I hope all visiting this blog might find the stories hopeful and inspiring too.

Gardening for wildlife is surprisingly, one of the greatest joys of my life . . . joys that are so intricately connected to my well-being and that of our earth. Surprising, still, to this day, for when I first put garden fork and spade into the dark loamy crust covering my land, I had a more painterly plan. Though loving birds and butterflies for most of my life, I had no idea of the numbers, the intricate beauty within the variety of species that would find Flower Hill Farm to their liking, satisfying their requirements for raising a family of their own.

My consciousness today has evolved as the gardens and land around me have taught me to listen and see more than what I first started out imaging a garden to be. Though many basic ideas and convictions, such as never using poison i.e. pesticides and chemical fertilizers, have remained constant and even more mindful, I have yielded to other more relaxing ways of living with my landscape and for many reasons, I am so much happier for surrendering.

Stepping out into gardens, fields and forest, and feasting on these startling and strikingly beautiful creatures, can be as thrilling as stepping out of a vaporetto onto old Venetian stones, or as powerful as standing before a vast ocean or orchestra. Sometimes it feels like a fairy tale, with all the macabre features thrown in, and yet it is the most intimately real of our reality and the most precious, as our children and grandchildren, to protect.

There were many new 'first sightings' for me this year along with some noted absences. Most noted would have to be the Monarch butterfly and marking the first year, since thirty have passed, of not finding the female's eggs or caterpillars to raise. In fact, I only had three Monarch butterfly sightings in my garden this past season, after years of reporting hundreds over the summer and fall. We all know now, that the entire northeast and more has lost, perhaps forever, the glorious migration of the monarchs due to round-up ready crops and sprayings along their migration route here in the US. I hope we are all planting milkweed and also calling our reps in Congress and that Monarchs will again fly into our gardens and fasten their eggs to milkweed. This absence is just an flicker in the huge flame growing in our warming world and hopefully we may see more urgent action taken to curb our carbon footprints and by investing in clean, green energy. 

There is much to explore and share over these coming chilly months bringing us into the New Year. 

2013 brought me a cherished grandson. It was a year of getting organized and of dear friends who made that possible, of being accepted into a manuscript group and beginning to put form to my book, 'A Bestiary . . . Tales from a Wildlife Garden'. I will continue to post a monthly installment, as I have done for the last two years, over at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. Lovely chamber concerts, painting workshops and walks along the sea have delighted me. Lots of improvements and finishing touches for the retreat and many, many wonderful guests visiting from all over the world have enriched my life. 

I have been writing here less and less, but my blog, and the connections I have made through it, is still very important to me. I am so appreciative of your kind words of support. Thank you! I will continue to write about this Western Massachusetts hillside paradise, but I will be moving my blog soon. I am working with a website builder in creating a new website for my retreat and my work. My blog will be moved to, the soon to be newly developed, caroldukeflowers.com sometime in the next month or so. I will, sadly, lose all the followers I have here, but hope to figure out a way to reconnect with you. I want to wish you all . . . 


Friday, December 20, 2013

A Winter Focus ~ Cedar Waxwing Ornaments and Long Nights Moon

The nakedness of winter's landscape can sometimes seem cold and lonely, when suddenly, whoosh, all together in flight, a flash of fluttering life lifts the spirit high towards outermost tips of a beloved Black Cherry tree. Offering light and enchantment to the lucky viewer, a flock, an 'ear-full', a 'museum' of over sixty Cedar Waxwings alight, sprinkled along the top of the skeletal cherry canopy, resembling delicate ornaments bedecking leafless limbs. 

A closer focus reveals hints of waxwing antics, patterns and forms. A group that may rest and then be off together, a burst of beaks, trebles and feathers, winging through the crisp air down to our crabapple orchard.

Surrounded by colors of autumn and captured through glass, so as not to frighten the timorous Cedar Waxwing, I cannot quite focus the bright yellow tip of its tail or the yellow wash covering its downy belly. Tiny apples are hanging temptations, little-bitty baubles, winter apples waiting to be plucked. Only these are nourishing . . . vital winter food for the waxwings, robins and wild turkeys too.

Every inch of branch, twig and dried stalk, wearing icy snow-coats all across the fields, groan of winter's beauty. 

During a storm . . .

After a partly sunny day . . . snowy mantles melt away.

Into wonder of long black nights, native cherry, charcoal raven touching crumbling cerulean sky, tickling the 'Full Cold Moon'. A joyous interlude between dark and light.

Rising up from swirling surf of clouds, following the setting sun, the 'Long Nights Moon' sails across the painted pastel sky.

Night folds us into our dreams until daybreak, shattering the dark, while scattering light and soft puffs of rosy pink, awakens a new day. An old, softened mountain slumbers still beneath a mantle of lavender smog, as days, nights and solstices dissolve one into the other.

Dreamy underwater illusions, a world of sediments worn down over millenniums, torrents of lava flows from time and crust torn apart. A deep plentiful supply filling an ancient tectonic rift . . . pressure forced up molding forms Native American-like silhouette looking up longingly, for millions of year, towards the sky. A segment of the Metacomet Ridge, of the Mount Holyoke Range dreaming since days of dinosaurs, within my view.

Presently, with placid anticipation, life moves through a calendar of months making what it can of each. Filling the hours minute by minute, spilling seconds by the spoonfuls. It is all over in a wink.

Winter Solstice 2013 is marked on our calendars for tomorrow December 21st, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, the exact moment is never certain, when the shortest day will give birth to the longest night of the year. After a few days, we will note the lengthening of light, as a rebirth, a celebration of our sun, leads us deeper into winter. Peace and Goodwill and Good Day to All.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Bouquet of Warblers Continues In Plumule Expanse

December sighs and drops whiteness about the land. The last few weeks of 2013 are at hand.

Another month unfolds and now a landscape covered in downy snow and ice lies across these hills of Western Massachusetts.
I have a new installment of my 'A Bestiary . . . Tales from a Wildlife Garden' up over at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens.

The Black-and-white Warbler joins the lively bouquet of warblers . . .  offering its striking plumage to the arrangement of songbirds. I hope you might click over and learn more about this unique new world warbler.

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