Monday, April 03, 2017

The Sap is Rising...and the Sapsuckers Are Visiting

Three days ago I noticed a pair of woodpeckers fly over to one of our pignut hickories (Carya glabra).  These deciduous trees are always late to leaf out, waiting until the azaleas are basically done blooming, most of the spring bulbs are finished, and the laurel oaks (Quercus laurifolia) have lost their old leaves and regained fresh, new ones.

We have 3 reasonably good sized pignut hickories in our backyard.  As a group, they are a great advertisement for the benefit of open-pollinated, seed grown trees:  none of the three does anything at exactly the same time as the other two.  These three trees leaf out at different times, develop fall color at different times, and drop their leaves at different times.  For a while I even began to wonder if they were actually three different species!

The big, terminal buds of the tree that the woodpeckers chose this weekend are swelling and just starting to break open.  The other two "sibling" hickories are still quiescent.  I'm not sure I would have noticed the changes in this tree if the woodpeckers hadn't shown up....

But show up they did - and they put on quite the show for several hours.  My first, fleeting impression was that this wasn't a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers, which are our common species here.  I've also seen downy woodpeckers and northern flickers in the yard, but this pair was obviously too big to be the former, too small to be the latter, and too "blandly colored" to be either of those species anyway.

So I got my binoculars and took a closer look.  A pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers!

At first I thought the two were mating.  They would climb up the tree trunk almost in tandem for a while, then one would jump the other and they would tumble head over heels, dropping from 10 to 30 feet, hitting branches as they dropped.  Eventually they'd disentangle, right themselves on the trunk, and start climbing up again.  This went on over and over again, for several hours.  I presume they took breaks from their acrobatics, but I wasn't able to watch the entire time, so I don't know for sure.

Finally, in the early afternoon, the male flew away and I haven't seen him again.  The female remained on the tree, though, and was there again all day Sunday, busily tapping away on the trunk.

I don't have any photos of the pair, as I didn't want to interrupt their "dance" by getting too close.  I was able to get some photos of the female on Sunday as she worked on digging her sap wells and I worked on weeding the garden bed nearby.

I've since decided that this pair was probably fighting over food, not mating.  Yellow-bellied sapsuckers don't nest here - their breeding range is much farther north.  I don't think they'd actually be copulating this far south, long before they've completed their spring migration and found a breeding territory, let alone constructed a nest.  I think the sap is rising in this individual tree, based on the swelling buds, and these two birds were simply fighting over whose "territory" it was going to be while that was going on.   They just happened to be a male and a female.

Now it's going to be interesting to see if any sapsuckers stay around to feed on one of the other two hickories in the yard, as their sap starts to rise and their leaves unfurl later in the spring.

How can anyone get bored in a wildlife garden?!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Using It Up - Common Buckeye Caterpillars

In early spring, lawns around here sprout a pretty little native wildflower known as old field toadflax (Nuttullanthus canadensis).  An annual, it is here and gone almost before you realize it, but it is considered a "lawn weed" and, as such, it is not considered desirable by most homeowners.

I find this dainty little flower enchanting.

Old field toadflax is related to snapdragons, which you can see in the shape of the bloom...if you take the time to look closely at it before you mow it down.  Perched on the ends of long, slender stems, the tiny blossoms would really have to occur in huge numbers to make a show of any sort, but my "selective wildflower vision" zeroes in on them and magnifies their attractiveness to enjoyable size.

Given my propensity to enjoy what shows up without any effort on my part, I've let the toadflax grow where they appeared in my front flowerbeds, rather than weeding them out with the oak seedlings and dewberry.

When I went out to do my occasional bed weedout on Saturday morning, I noted that the toadflax were done blooming and I thought that perhaps it was time to pull them out to "neaten up" the bed.  On the other hand, if I let them remain a bit longer, I could more reliably count on new plants next spring....

As I was weeding and debating this weighty question with myself, I noticed a black caterpillar on the ground near one of the plants.  Hmmmm.  Another, larger caterpillar was on a nearby plant.  Looking a bit further, I noticed a third caterpillar munching away....

By the time I looked at all the plants, I'd found 7 caterpillars! 

They were all the same species and they were all either on or right beside the old field toadflax.

Looking at the flower spikes, I noticed that the lower flowers had set seed, dried and were releasing seed.  The remains of the upper blooms were still green, but obviously seed was forming.  Since these are annual plants, as soon as all the seed is set, the plants will basically dry up and wither away.

When I went inside and looked up the caterpillars in my handy-dandy caterpillar guide, I decided that these were probably common buckeye cats (Junonia coenia), a highly variable species of (butterfly) caterpillar that is known to feed on plants in the snapdragon family, including toadflax.

This discovery lifted up my spirits all weekend long.  Isn't nature simply amazing?!  This relatively small annual plant blooms, sets seed, and then dies.  Rather than waste all that great plant material by simply having it dry up and blow away, Mother Nature arranges to have mama buckeye butterfly stop by and leave a couple eggs.  The eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars who, just as the plant is finishing with the foliage, eat up all the leaves and change the plant material into butterflies.

Beauty in flower form turns into beauty in butterfly form.  I call that pretty amazing.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Blooms in the Beginning of March

Sometimes a gardener just wants to share some pretties from their garden...and I guess that's where I am tonight.  So here goes....

In early spring, it's always fun to see the bare branches of red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) transform from sticks to feathery fans, highlighted with big, blowsy, red bloom spikes.  Hummingbirds apparently love red buckeye blooms, which are rumored to open just as hummingbird migration begins, but I rarely seem to plant mine where I have an opportunity to watch that interaction.  I've got my hopes up this year, though, as I just found out today that hummers have been spotted along the Gulf Coast in the last few days.

I have no idea which violet (Viola sp.) this next little guy is, but I really enjoy its plucky blooms.  A small group of these came in as "stowaways" in a pot with the white baptisia that is towering over it.  They've done very well.  The diminutive size and long, narrow, arrow-shaped leaves are quite different from most violets I am familiar with.

Not far from the plucky violet is an Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis), whose richly serene, blue blooms are being regularly visited by the little southeastern blueberry bees (Habropoda laboriosa) these days.

How about a perennial that blooms for 2 1/2 months and counting?  The downy phlox (Phlox pilosa) have been blooming since before Christmas and they show no signs of slowing down.  In fact, I'd say they are prettier now than ever. 

I have 4 of these beauties right now - and I'd really like at least another 3 or 4.  In Kansas this plant ran through the beds quite a bit for me and it didn't last very long.  It seems to be acting quite differently here, staying in place and getting stronger, not weaker, as time goes on.  The foliage is nice, too, even when the plant isn't blooming.

Under the large southern magnolia tree out front, next to the sidewalk, was a bare spot that makes the term "dry shade" seem optimistic.  The magnolia roots are so thick in the area that finding pockets of actual soil was a challenge.  I knew the root competition would be fierce, but still I was hoping to find a plant that would give this garden bed a little more "sidewalk appeal".   The golden ragwort (Packera aurea) has really performed like an ace here. 

The flowers aren't, to be truthful, my favorite, but I love the rounded, shiny, dark green leaves that look good throughout the year.  I'm guessing that within 2-3 years, the 6 individual plants will start growing together, giving a more cohesive feel to this patch.

Azaleas are in full blush and the camellias are just finishing up, but the ones in my yard are rather ordinary, to tell the truth, so I'm not going to share them.  Typical foundation plants, the majority of them are placed - literally - about 18" from the foundation and have, in the not too distant past, been pruned into ungraceful, flat-topped boxes.  I haven't decided what to do about them yet, but will probably begin by giving them a "rejuvenating prune" as soon as they're done blooming this spring.  The azaleas, that is.  I don't think camellias can be chopped back like that and survive.

We put in daffodils last fall;  the early ones bloomed nicely, but they're still at the individual bloom stage, so I think I'll pass on sharing those as well.

There is a blue-eyed grass that has been springing up unbidden in the lawn area and I've been leaving the individual clumps to see what they look like.  They've suddenly spread out and started to bloom, allowing me to identify them as annual blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium rosulatum), a distinctly not-blue flower. 

Although the dainty little blooms are rather attractive, the plants have started developing yellowing, spotted leaves, so I've decided to root them all up and just dispose of them.  This is not a native species, so it's only causing me a little bit of angst to be so ruthless.

Many gardeners get upset about wildflowers springing up in their lawns, but I'm not one of them.  I actually enjoy seeing what gifts nature provides.  For example, I've been enjoying this little pink blooming oxalis that appeared, as if by magic, under the magnolia in the back yard. 

I'm not sure whether this is the native violet woodsorrel (Oxalis violacea) or the non-native pink woodsorrel (Oxalis debilis);  I haven't figured out how to tell the difference between the two yet - but I'd always prefer to have the native, of course.

With perennials, it's always nice to have some great foliage for visual interest so that you don't have to rely on just blooms throughout the year.  While I was initially attracted to the light blue flower spikes that lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata) has, now that I've grown this plant in my yard, it's the red-veined, hairy leaves with their purplish undersides that I'm finding appeal to me most. 

I'm beginning to think of this plant as a hosta replacement, with the twist that it's native and it grows well down here.  In my mind, the occasional seedlings that spring up in the grass are a perk as they transplant readily and allow me to establish new plants elsewhere in the garden beds, giving some cohesion to my newly evolving plantings.  If I ever get tired of them, they uproot easily and will be no problem to simply weed out.

For now I'll leave you with some blueberry blooms (Vaccinium sp.).

I love the rotund, lacy, little pearls that are blueberry blossoms.  Although it doesn't seem like I have very many on my 7 blueberry bushes, I am seeing a pleasing number of blueberries beginning to swell, so I must have more blooms than I realize.  The blueberry bees are keeping busy, for sure!

Azaleas, Unbound

I don't often blog about exotic plants, except perhaps to whine about exotic invasives, but this seems like a good time to share my love of big, fluffy, flashy, southern indica azaleas.

You don't see very many of these beauties around any more.  Oh, the plants are here, all right, but they've been pruned into a more "controlled", "acceptable" size and shape - they're now green meatballs...or meatloafs, to phrase it another way.

I don't like green meatballs, even if the meatballs have a smattering of color in them during the springtime.

Give me the big, old-fashioned puffballs, vibrant with color, rich with romance, shaded by statuesque live oaks, dripping with Spanish moss.....

Now that's a southern landscape!

Damn the Torpedo Grass, Full Speed Ahead!

We made an unpleasant discovery a couple days ago:  our lower terraces, next to the water, are infested with a particularly nasty invasive grass called torpedo grass, Panicum repens.  This stuff is like huge Bermuda grass, on steroids.

From 10 feet above the surface, that doesn't look all that bad, I guess.  But, up close and personal, this stuff is wiry, open, 2+ feet tall...and ugly.  You can see that it's almost completely covered the east terrace in the above photo, taken on October 4th last year.  Frighteningly, when I looked a bit further back, here is a photo I took from the deck stairs only 3 1/2 months before the photo above.

In late June, the torpedo grass was only claiming about half of the eastern lower terrace.  Where DID this horrible weed come from?

It's not that I didn't know the terraces were full of "weeds", it's just that I didn't realize how invasive one of those weedy plants actually was.  I am particularly in debt to National Invasive Species Week this week, because it was a post made about torpedo grass by our local Extension Office during this educational event that made me look a little more closely.

Believe it or not, I believe this was one of those serendipitous events in life.  I've been working down on the western terrace, weeding out the dewberry, Vasey grass, countless oak and hickory seedlings, a popcorn tree sapling, and remnants of ragweed and Bidens alba so that I can actually start making some garden beds in the area.  Here's the area I've been working in, taken last June....

...and here it is 5 days ago, after I put down my garden gloves for the day.

I had just found a rhizome of what I now know is torpedo grass, growing under a big clump of Vasey grass near the water's edge, and I was too tired to tackle the big clump without a break.  So there is some torpedo grass on the west side terrace, too.  I won't know how much until I get back in there, tackling the rest of the early successional vegetation that has established, but at least it's not a pure stand, like it is in the east side.

I am so glad that the article on torpedo grass came when my awareness of what was growing on the lower terraces was fresh!

Now I want to echo David Farragut's famous cry, "Damn the torpedoes!  Full speed ahead!" and start planting in this area!  Common sense, however, tells me that then I'd have nice plantings that would still be infested with torpedo grass.  Soon they would look like very nasty plantings, indeed.  The first line of business is now to get rid of this invader as soon as possible.

Research on this unprepossessing plant is not reassuring.

Like so many other really unpleasant invasives, this one was purposefully brought to our country by the agricultural community to provide "better forage" for livestock, probably in the late 1800's.  It certainly grows without pause.  Unfortunately, however, it turns out that grazing animals don't actually like it much, unless it's really young and tender.  Meanwhile it, apparently, really likes life here in the Gulf Coast region, where it has no known enemies or constraints on its growth habits.

One suggested common name for this grass is "creeping panic".  The Loyola Center for Environmental Communication says that it's "akin to Attila the Hun" once it's established.  Dan Gill, a gardening columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune put it this way, "Torpedograss is not difficult to eradicate: It is nearly impossible to eradicate."

Have I mentioned how unhappy I am to have found this plant on our property?

There are photos of this monster growing in deep water on the web - up to 6' deep, according to the sources.  So far I haven't seen signs that it's in the lake behind us...yet, but it's right next to the sea wall.   If we don't get it stopped now, it will be in the lake in the very near future.

According to various experts, manual removal is almost impossible because it (like so many others) will resprout from any tiny bit of rhizome left behind.  The rhizomes can grow as much as 2' below the soil surface.

Chemical treatment is therefore suggested, with the standard array of herbicides listed, but multiple treatments are apparently almost guaranteed to be needed.  I hate using chemicals, but we're breaking down and trying them, in a very targeted way.  Greg mowed a few days ago (before we realized what was there, actually), then burned the center.  This afternoon, he treated the edges that hadn't been burned with concentrated Roundup.  We'll watch for green-up in the burned area and/or in the edges and then we'll re-treat, probably in about 3 weeks. 

One idea I'd love to be able to try, if this didn't feel like such a dire emergency already, would be controlling the torpedo grass with a different plant, an aggressive native that might be able to outcompete it.   I was reminded of that option when I saw this post, by Nancy Lawson, The Humane Gardener:  "How to Fight Plants with Plants".  Her experiences made me remember that Greg and I noticed ragweed outcompeting field bindweed, many years ago, in an abandoned soybean field after we seeded it to native grasses and forbs.  Right now, the biggest problem with using plants to fight plants for handling our torpedo grass problem is that I have NO idea what might outcompete it.  Unfortunately, I just don't have time to experiment, either, if I'm going to keep the torpedo grass out of the lake.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Southeastern Blueberry Bees

When you see something like this small mound of sand, with a single, perfectly round hole in the middle of it, in the center of your lawn, what do you think?

How about if you see a group of such structures, scattered throughout your lawn, as in this public area near our house?

I used to puzzle over this type of hole, wondering what made it and what lived in it.  Big ants?  Spiders?  Tiny snakes?  Mole crickets?

Nope.  Not even close.  It was many years before I realized what I was actually seeing.  Mounds like this are the work of solitary bees, those wonderful little pollinators that most of us barely even know about.  As I walk around my neighborhood, I see quite a few of these tiny sand piles right now - but only in the yards where the grass is just so-so.  Thick, lush lawns - which can only be maintained through chemicals down here - have absolutely no little bee mounds.

So, wouldn't ground-nesting bees be a bad thing?  What about the possibility of bee stings?

You don't have to worry at all.  There's really no problem.  The key word is SOLITARY.  Each hole is the work of one little female bee, who visits hundreds of flowers to collect pollen with which she makes little balls of food, one ball per egg.  She will only produce a couple dozen eggs in her lifetime - and she'll work VERY hard to do that and to provision each one with enough food to ensure survival.  This little bee doesn't have time to worry about keeping anything away from her nest.  In fact, you'll rarely catch her there.  If she were to sting you, she'd die - and then there would be no more eggs laid.  She's not going to waste her life that way.

So why do people like these little solitary bees so much?  What makes them special?

Native solitary bees are the pollinator workhorses of this continent.  They evolved with the plants on North America to efficiently pollinate their flowers, producing fruit, nuts, and seeds.  (Honeybees were brought over by European settlers.  The native plants here would survive just fine without honeybees.)

Right now, in very early March, I'm only seeing one species of solitary bee at flowers.  As I look around, I'm also only seeing one type of solitary bee nest, consisting of this dainty mound of fresh sand with a perfectly round hole, about 1/4" in diameter, in the approximate center of it.  I have not yet seen a bee come out of one of these holes, but I am guessing that the two belong together, that these are the nests of the bees that I'm seeing.

It's been a little tough to photograph and identify these small, solitary bees as they zip from flower to flower, though.  They don't stay in one place for very long.  To my "naked" eye, they look like little bumble bees, but they are much faster and warier than bumble bees.  Most of these solitary bees seem to be a bit less than half the size of a typical bumblebee - or carpenter bee.

After several days of stalking these little guys, though, I've been able to come up with enough photographic evidence to identify them, at least to my satisfaction.  I believe they are southeastern blueberry bees, Habropoda laboriosa

If you raise blueberries, these guys are superheroes.  They buzz pollinate, which involves buzzing in a special way and at a particular frequency to get the pollen to drop.  Blueberry flowers are rather hard to pollinate, actually, and these guys are specialists at it. 

Apparently a single female southeastern blueberry bee will visit up to 600 blueberry flowers to collect the pollen to make a single ball of food for one of her eggs.  Through her pollination activity, over the course of her lifetime, she is estimated to be responsible for producing an average of 6000 blueberries. That's a lot of blueberries for a little bee like this!

Although these bees are primarily known for "working" blueberry flowers, I am also seeing them at both azalea blooms and at spiderwort blossoms.  Here's a female with legs full of (white) pollen at a spiderwort bloom.

Of course, only the females carry pollen, so if you see a little bee laden with full pollen baskets, it's definitely female.  The males of this species have a large white patch on their face, like the individual in the (blurry) picture below, so it's actually easy to tell the sexes apart, even if there's no pollen to see.

So if you have blueberry bushes in your yard, keep your eyes open for small "bumble bees" working your blueberry flowers.  They are about the best insurance you can have for getting a good crop of berries later in the year.  Best of all, they're free!  Be sure to leave some areas of open soil or scraggly lawn for them to nest in, though, because you can't have southeastern blueberry bees without places for female southeastern blueberry bees to provision and raise their young.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Winter Walkout 2017

Labeling my walk this morning as a "winter walkout" seems like lying, but the calendar rules, so that's what I'll call it.

Leaving my front door, the first thing I noticed was this American flag.  The flag is not, technically, in my yard, even though it's visible from my front door, so I don't think I'm breaking the winter walkout rules by including this vignette.

Since I see it every time I leave my house, this algae-stained and sadly weathered flag has become symbolic to me.  The folks who display it are staunch conservatives; I'm sure they consider themselves to be displaying their patriotism.  I, however, see many other layers of meaning in its treatment as well.

Passing by their garden this morning, along the sidewalk in front of their house, I noticed a red camellia bloom with multiple centers:  colorful, perfectly imperfect, brightly shining for a few days...and then gone forever.  How's that for reading meaning into the natural world?!

Looking up, Spanish moss draping from the trees silvered the sand live oak canopies, which were silhouetted against the crisp blue sky.  It was truly a gorgeous morning!

Across the street, a painted concrete ball added a touch of whimsy to an otherwise classic, if rather off-kilter, driveway pillar.

Why a soccer ball?  I have visions of sports-mad teenagers living in the house, but I have never actually seen any activity beyond a single parked pickup truck in the driveway.

As I passed under the sand live oaks whose finery of Spanish moss had caught my eye, I looked up into the interior of one of the trees, relishing the texture of the heavy, sinuous branches with their finely textured leaves against the sky.

Live oaks, sand live oaks, burr oaks, cottonwoods, prairie elms - I love statuesque, gnarly trees with character!

Despite the February date, azaleas are in full bloom around here - about 3 weeks earlier than normal.  It always amuses and entertains me to imagine how azaleas mirror the personalities of their owners.  This big, beautiful plant feels like a woman with her hair down, relaxing in the sunlight.

Across the street, however, an azalea hedge separating two houses has a much more "buttoned up" appearance, sacrificing blooms and density for formality and "neatness".

As I pondered the character-predicting capabilities of azalea shrubs, I heard a large bird calling loudly up above me in the tree canopy.  Frustrated by my rude intrusion as I stood stock still on the sidewalk just below her perch, a red-shouldered hawk squawked at me from a tall pine for several minutes before finally flying off, unwilling to tolerate my presence any longer.  As she flew, I mentally thanked her for allowing me to capture her picture, despite her irritation.
Continuing down the sidewalk, I couldn't pass up a picture of this evocative rope swing, taking advantage of a meandering sand live oak branch in someone's front yard.  I just wish there had been several small kids playing on it while I passed by!

Not too far away, another large oak was in obvious decline, being strangled by a rapacious English ivy vine scrambling up its trunk to compete for the light above, while its roots competed for water and nutrients below.

Even as I was aiming the camera, trying to get a good angle on the ivy vine and oak tree, I registered calls from the red-shouldered hawk again.  Looking up, over a house roof and into a back yard, I saw a huge nest with its raucous owner standing guard nearby.

I had known there was a pair of red-shouldered hawks nesting in the area, as I'd seen some of their mating displays from our backyard, but now I know where their nest is!  Even a short walk can uncover some pretty amazing discoveries.

"Hawk Street" ends in a cul-de-sac that borders the local golf course.  I couldn't resist a quick photo of these blooming azalea bushes along the golf course fence, framed by oak trunks and overhung with Spanish moss.

Continuing around the cul-de-sac had me heading back towards home.  As I walked past a quite neglected (but obviously once loved) front yard, I noticed this little concrete cherub.  Nestled down in a mix of variegated English ivy and fern fronds, he was a warm love note amidst the ragged remnants of the overgrown landscape.
As a contrast to the earlier "interior landscape" of the sand live oak tree, I snapped a quick picture looking up into a fairly young southern magnolia.  They are both native trees, but there is such a different quality of light, color and texture in their forms!

Hearing a variety of different bird calls, loudly rattled off in sequence, I wasn't too surprised when this mockingbird flew over to a hedge, then up onto the electric wires.  It was so nice of him to pose for me!

Across the street from the mockingbird, more "buttoned down" neighbors are obviously careful to keep their azaleas from looking too wild and crazy.  These shrubs are probably younger than the earlier hedge, in a sunnier location, and pruned more frequently, so there were more blooms and a thicker appearance overall.  Still, I prefer my azaleas to be free.

Rounding another corner, I was looking at a highly squared off azalea when I noticed the trunk of the southern magnolia shading it.  What causes this braided appearance?  Pruning up of the branches earlier in its life?

Speaking of pruning, why was it necessary to pollard this poor tree, looking like hell in the hell strip?  I didn't recognize the species from just the truncated remains of the branches and the bark alone, so I'll have to keep an eye on it and see what the leaves look like when the poor thing finally manages to push out a few.

As an aside, though, the bark on the trunk had obviously been a favorite place for yellow-bellied sapsuckers to feed over the years, bearing a textural pattern of holes that could almost be used to create a modern art piece.

Now I was completing my small neighborhood loop, looking at the streetscape, ornamented by sand live oak trees, with the light behind me.   Aren't these trees wonderful?  It was the presence of these trees that attracted our daughter to this neighborhood, 5 or 6 years ago.  (Then 2 years ago, she and her husband and our grandbabies attracted us to the same neighborhood!)

In the foreground of the photo above, you can see the soccer plinth and a stump in front of it.  That stump is the remnant of a large popcorn tree, an invasive species (in the Euphorbia family!) that was, thankfully, cut down a year ago.  The stump is beginning to sport an accent of frilly fungus as it starts to decompose, but it was the deep blue of the spiderwort blooms that caught my eye.  I'm a real sucker for blues of this hue.

As I approached the end of my walk, I couldn't resist capturing this quintessentially southern scene, again from the garden across the street from us.  Oak trees provide structure, high shade, and a catch-hold for graceful Spanish moss.  Underneath those picturesque giants, tall, dark green camellias and lower, rounded azaleas bloom brightly, skirted by fallen camellia petals and ferns.  Can't you just hear the whispered southern accents and the clinking of ice in tall drink glasses?

Thank you for coming on my winter walkout with me.  It's been fun to share my regular haunts with you - and I've loved seeing where everyone else is doing their winter walkouts, too.

As I finish, though, I have to wonder what it would be like for different people to walk the same route and share what caught their attention.  Wouldn't that be a fun way to compare and contrast how each of us sees the world differently?!  Another project for another time, I guess.  I hope you're enjoying the world around you, whatever season your weather is bringing these days, wherever you're planted.