Thursday, June 17, 2010


JUNE in the south is strawberry time! A fun time was had by all when picking but the real fun began later in the kitchen. Smoothies, jam, pie, mmh mmh good!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Surprise Foraging

SO there we were looking for stumps or pieces of wood that could be used as fairy houses, and we came across blackberries! That is, I thought they were blackberries, but they did look a little different from those I gathered in my youth. The leaves were narrower, the fruits were smaller and longer. Also the berries were all down low, hidden under leaves, instead of up in the sunlight out of reach. But they tasted like blackberries, so I figured they must be some New World variety and I remembered reading in Wildman Steve Brill's book that all the blackberry lookalikes are edible, so we picked away, munching merrily as we went. At home I looked it up - looks like it could be dewberries we found. They are very similar to blackberries but grow on a low vine instead of an upright cane. Or are they just one of the 15-20 species found in the south? Whatever they are, there were plenty that weren't ripe yet, so we'll certainly be back for more. Maybe better dressed for brambles and poison ivy next time! Mmmh, blackberry and apple pie tomorrow?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Veggie Reclamation

ANOTHER successful reclamation from the landfill! Actually, from the compost heap this time. I have discovered a new love, which most people throw away - watermelon rinds. A long time ago I enjoyed watermelon rind pickles in Japan and have looked for a recipe several times since then. It turns out these are also a southern US delicacy, but there are other things to make with a watermelon rind too! In fact, there is a whole website dedicated to this: ! Today I enjoyed a watermelon smoothie (flesh and rind together). It was naturally sweet and very refreshing. It was a little too textured for my taste, but a few turns through a cheesecloth fixed that. Watermelon rind salad was delicious and crunchy. Will try my hand at the pickles tomorrow, I think.

Monsters in the Woods

WE are so sad! We got to our favourite piece of woods where we can let Basil off his lead without fear of ever meeting anyone, and found it had been devoured by giant metal monsters! Beautiful trees ploughed down and tossed aside while huge ugly tracks leave no doubt which way the beasts went. Heavy of heart we followed the tracks to see how far the destruction stretched - and indeed it was throughout the small tract of previously natural land. So sad...

If there is a silver lining, the tracks were curvy and looked like they may be making the way for a trail rather than clearcutting for construction or similar. There seems to be a trend in Atlanta of installing boardwalks and asphalt paths through lovely forests where previously only the vaguest of dirt trails existed. Clean tidy nature. Great.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Good Morning Little Red, Red Bird

RIGHT after making a little 'red bird' finger puppet to use in our circle time, we saw a red bird of our own. Beautiful red Northern Cardinals are common in our garden but this was a different bird. It was far away up in the trees, in woods along a river. We couldn't see it well, but it was definitely a different shape from a cardinal, and accompanied by a grey female. We found the Summer Tanager later in our bird book. Here's an interesting fact from
"The Summer Tanager is considered a bee and wasp specialist. It usually catches a bee in flight and then kills it by beating it against a branch. Before eating the bee, the tanager removes the stinger by rubbing it on a branch. The tanager eats bee and wasp larvae too. It first catches the adult insects and then perches near the nest to tear it open and get the grubs."
Well I never.

Good morning little red, red bird
Red, red bird; Red, red bird
Good morning little red, red bird
Oh so red.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Baby Birds Abounding

THIS is the time for baby birds! We were delighted to welcome a family of house wrens to our gourd bird box and watched the parents build the nest, then bring tasty tidbits to their young. If we timed it just right - after the parent had flown from the box but when the babies were still clamouring for food - we could just see their tiny beaks begging for the next delicacy behind the stick wall. They were loud! Both the babies and the parents, whose joyful song turned to a fiercely protective clicking whenever we went in that part of the garden. Then we observed the babies fledging, hopping from low branch to low branch as the parents watched, encouraged and warded off danger.

But that was not all. Around the garden and on walks we noticed baby birds on several occasions. First noticeable by the little cheaping noises, the babies are not obviously smaller but are definitely fluffier and tend to sit or hop closer to people rather than fly away. This week a baby robin allowed me to approach for a photo while its parent watched suspiciously from a tree. We then watched the mama bring food to her baby in our climbing tree continuously for two hours. Then on a walk we saw a red-bellied woodpecker mama and baby high up in a tree and a family of Carolina wrens hopping around in a bush.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Mulberry Fairy

AS a gift to Emma's teachers, each family made a little figure or item to go into a basket of goodies for the classroom. Since there are mulberry trees in the play yard and the children have been coming home with purple-stained smiles, Emma and I decided a mulberry fairy would be fitting. We drew inspiration from the flower fairy illustrations by Cicely Mary Barker. This jolly little fellow will have lots of fun in his new home, I think.