Category Archives: Wildlife

Welcome Spring!

“It is Easter morning.
Children who are still gentle as milk,
wake to its wonder.”
Caryll Houselander, “Souer Marie Emilie”, The Flowering Tree (1945),

It’s Spring!

 “Autumn arrives in the early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.”
Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart (1938).

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Forsythia is …pure, undiluted, untouched joy.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Bring Me a Unicorn (1971).
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Flowers and plants are silent presences; they nourish every sense except the ear”.
May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep (1968).

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Have you ever looked into the heart of a flower? …I love their delicacy, their disarming innocence and their defiance of life itself”.
Princess Grace of Monaco with G. Robyns, My Book of Flowers (1980). 

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“Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day – like writing a poem, or saying a prayer.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From the Sea (1955).

“Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.”
Ellis Peters, The Summer of the Danes, (1991).

 

Spring is a time of reflection and hope for new beginnings (SMB).

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It’s Spring !
Welcoming sun’s warmth on bare arms;
tilting  faces up to tree branches ablaze with pink and white blooms;
bending to touch nature’s  yellow and red living lights on bushes,
gathering a bouquet of smiling faces pushed up amidst grass and rocks.
Witnessing a joyful display for the senses this Easter! (SMB).

Sue Marquis Bishop,2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Raising Seafood in the Midwest! What?

“Indiana could become the shrimp capitol of the world”, according to the  Brown family, who raises shrimp in a land-locked farm.  No!  That can’t be!  Can it?

My family moved to the flatlands of southern Indiana from the mountain state of West Virginia when I was a teenager. Neither of these states is situated near the coast for easy access to all kinds of seafood, with the exception of lake fishing.  In the Midwest, corn and soybeans are common crops.  Is Indiana, in the heartland of America, on the way to becoming a major center for farming shrimp? Really?

I didn’t know about the rich variety of seafood available when I was young, as there was a limited selection of seafood available at the local Kroger store  in Madison, Indiana where Mom did her weekly shopping. (Changes in distribution and frozen foods have increased seafood choices in the Midwest from the years when I was growing up.)

 I learned to cook a variety of foods from my mother who was a good cook.  Mom prepared a full sit down dinner every night, and our family of six ate together in the dining room. Our plates were stacked in front of Dad who sat at one end of the table, and he dished the plates with food and passed them around.

Our meat entrees included pork chops, roast cooked with vegetables, hamburgers, chicken and turkey.  Mom bought a lot of ground beef each week and we helped her patty them out with a wooden hamburger smasher.  My younger brothers were picky eaters and hamburgers were one thing they would eat without complaining. We had potatoes every meal – usually baked potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, or homemade French fries.

We also enjoyed mom’s desserts – pies, baked custard and ice cream most often, and she always baked each of us a birthday cake for our special day.

Our culinary fare in seafood was limited.  We ate our share of tuna salad sandwiches, baked salmon loaf made from canned salmon, and as children we seemed to like the fish sticks that mom heated from a frozen food package.  What did we know?  We were kids.  Grouper? tilapia? Never heard of them or knew what fresh salmon or tuna filets looked like .   Lobster? Never saw a live one up close.  We would have likely said “yuck” when we saw the insect-appearing critter anyway, just like we refused to eat frog legs someone gave our family.

When I moved to Florida, and later North Carolina, as an adult, my love affair with all things seafood began, and I learned to prepare a variety of delicious foods for my family that were harvested from the sea.  How wonderful that they are more healthy than the heavy dose of red meats I grew up eating each week.  In her senior years, my mother enjoyed new seafood dishes in my home that she had not tasted before.CIMG3146

Tonight, I prepared a simple dinner with baked tilapia… seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon, rolled in panko crumbs, baked and topped with sour cream/dill sauce.  We also had baked sweet potatoes, grillled zuchinni and cooked cinnamon apples. Comfort food on a cool September day.

New technology is creating seafood farming options for land-locked areas of the country. The Brown aquaculture farm, one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, is becoming a leader in the inland farming of shrimp in the U.S, and is one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, seven added just in the past four years. The Browns who previously raised hogs before switching to shrimp, hope to expand to tank farming of oysters, talapia and crawfish (Popular Science, 2015).

 An article in the October Popular Science (2015), entitled “The Midwest is Our New Ocean”, describes the low-tech methods developed by Texas A & M that is enabling land-locked areas to enter seafood farming. Basically, the tanks don’t need to be filtered, as bacteria held in a liquid suspension keep the tanks clean and with no need for antibiotics. The article states that this sustainable method of in-land farming may be critical for our future, as our “ocean is dying unless we change our ways”.

It’s exciting news that research has devised a way for in-land farming of seafood in cost-effective and healthy ways in the Midwest, with other possibilities on the horizon.  This new technology creates jobs and provides healthy food for a growing population.

But, I can’t be so cavalier about the oceans becoming toxic. It will not be so simple to have any quality of life on the planet if we destroy our oceans, even if we increase the farming of seafood in the Midwest. Reducing over-fishing and curbing pollution remain huge environmental concerns.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2015

It’s Spring at Spring Park! Flo Builds a Rabbit Warren

AS I SAT IN THE SUNROOM reading yesterday, I witnessed an AMAZING scene.  I was in the right spot, at the right time, to see a busy rabbit prepare her Spring burrow.  What a privilege to watch!

THE RABBIT SELECTED A LOVELY SETTING for her den underneath a patch of purple groundcover in the backyard.  She worked diligently digging out a cavern with first her front legs.

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THEN SHE STRETCHED HER LONG, BUNNY LEGS straight out and dug some more and pulled the dirt away from the growing hole ballooning under the flower bed.

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I ADMIRED HER DEDICATION to her task.  I named her Flo.   She finally excavated a hole with an opening about the size of a softball.  (I regret I didn’t get a picture of the entrance before she closed it).

FLO PULLED GRASS AND CLOVER and carried it in her mouth to the rabbit warren…  I supposed she was making a soft bed for some baby rabbits she was expecting.

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WHEN SHE HAD CARRIED enough grass to suit her, she entered the rabbit cave, and began to pull the mulch surrounding the flowers over the opening, until it was completely covered, and she was no longer visible.

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I DIDN’T HAVE THE HEART to chase her away before she took up residence.  I guess I’ll need to fence my vegetable garden and protect the young flower shoots a little.   Maybe there will be enough for all of us.

SPRING IS EVERYWHERE NOW… bringing industry and enthusiasm for new beginnings.

BRIGHT PINK DRESSES cover the bases of our trees,  making an appearance just in time for Easter this year.

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SOFT PURPLE SPRAYS  tossed in the air by other trees.

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CAROLINA JASAMINE waves its branches in  the April wind…decked out in lemony yellow and whiffs of lovely.

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IRISES are popping open their showy beards in colorful array.

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THE MALLARDS ARE PAIRING for their seasonal selections of mates.  Annie stops by each evening with the two drakes she has accepted for this year.  They are always at her side … her mate and his wingman (wingdrake?)   They wait patiently while she eats her fill, and protect her when other drakes come too close   They stay about 15 minutes, begging for a corn  handout before flying back to the pond across the way.

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OBSERVING SO MUCH  industry outside, I am motivated to work on my own Spring “to do” list.  Let’s see, I have cleaned out the sock drawer…

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… and had the chaise lounge in the sunroom re-upholstered.  What’s next? (The chaise is my favorite place to read, make lists or just enjoy the flowers, birds, and other critters at play and work in the back yard.)

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Happy Spring!

Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

Sammy Squirrel, Shamrock Cookies and Brown Cows

IT’S  84 F DEGREES with scattered clouds and Carolina blue skies in Charlotte.  Buds are swelling on the trees.

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WE CELEBRATED St. Patrick’s Day by sitting on the patio with shamrock sugar cookies and a cold Brown Cow.

THERE ARE DIFFERENT RECIPES for a brown cow.  One calls for a chocolate liquour, milk,  whipped cream and chocolate syrup… a refreshing  drink really.

OUR BROWN COW is a drink we had as teenagers in Indiana.  The Black Cow of my adolescence was made with coca cola and ice cream.  The Brown Cow that I loved best contained root beer, vanilla ice cream, a dash of chocolate syrup and sometimes whipped cream on top. Hmmm!

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MY HUSBAND HAS BEEN FIGHTING what is likely a losing battle with Sammy squirrel trying to keep him out of the bird feeders.  We have a large wind chimes just outside the sunroom door. When we’re in the sunroom, we can see  the back yard with the various feeders.

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ONE FEEDER IS beside a tree.  The cardinals and woodpeckers love this feeder.   Sammy climbs up and jumps on the roof of the feeder. He then climbs down and and hides his body inside the feeder,  with his fluffy tail hanging out giving him away.  When my husband sees Sammy’s bushy tail hanging down from the feeder, he opens the door and rings the chimes.  The squirrel runs like the wind two or three yards away.

WE SET OUT oranges cut in half for the Baltimore Orioles and a suet, peanuts  and mealworms cake by the sunroom window hoping we would attract Bluebirds.

SAMMY must have smelled the peanuts in the mealworm cake hanging at the top of the tall pole with a big hook at the top.  It was too high for him to jump up and there was no tree nearby.  He was soon struggling to climb the shepard’s crook.  After sliding down many times, he finally figured out how to get on top.

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HE STOPPED AND STARED at me through the window, like he was thumbing his nose at me.

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I GOT THE IDEA to grease the pole to inhibit his climbing.  I greased it well with butter.  It didn’t take long for him to attempt the climb again, sliding down each time. SO FUNNY.   I wish I had a picture of him sliding down the pole holding on for dear life.   He left finally, deciding to forego the peanut treat – at least for today.  I have no doubt, he will be back.   Sammy is clearly the clever clown of the back yard.

Happy Spring!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

RedBirds, Southern Snow and Lebanese Porkchops

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WE’VE WAITED ALL WINTER for a decent snowfall in the sunny south and it’s finally arriving.  It was dark when it began to snow, and I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the snow coming down in huge snowflakes, blanketing our world outside.

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OUR 3-4 INCHES OF SNOW will melt in two days, but we enjoy it while it’s here.

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THE SHOWY REDBIRDS  gather at the backyard feeders as the snow  begins to fall.

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THE RED BELLIED WOODPECKER family visits to sample the peanut suet.

TWO CROWS stop in briefly and the small birds arrive and walk under the feeders catching the fall out.

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TIME TO THINK ABOUT DINNER. The slow cooker is a welcome fixture in my kitchen, especially on a cold winter day, when I want to prepare an easy meal.  I decide to make Lebanese Pork Chops. Each Lebanese cook creates her own mixture of spices, based on family tradition.  This is my version of Lebanese Seven Spices Seasoning, modified from a recipe I found several years ago in The Week (no author).

5 Tablespoons  Allspice

5 Tablespoons Cloves

3 1/2 Tablespoons Cinnamon

4 Tablespoons Ginger

4 Tablespoons Greek seasoning

4 Tablespoons Nutmeg

3 1/2 Tablespoons Pepper

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COAT THE PORK CHOPS well  with the Lebanese Seven Spices mixture and rub into meat. Brown each side In a hot skillet with a splash of olive oil to seal in juice

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MOVE PORK CHOPS TO CROCK POT (slow cooker). Wash and cut sweet potatoes into large chunks and add to crock pot.

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ADD ABOUT 1/2 CUP OF ORANGE JUICE.  Cook on low for 3-4 hours until pork shops are done.  Then, I peeled apples and cooked them with butter and brown sugar in the microwave oven. (Sometimes I  add the apples to the crock pot later in the cooking  time )

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WHILE THE PORK CHOPS WERE COOKING,   I  baked some mini apple caramel cakes for dessert by adding diced apples and spices to a cake batter and topped with a caramel topping.

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It’s difficult to catch the woodpecker with the camera, but I finally caught him two days later, as the snow melted away.

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Sue Marquis Bishop February 28, 2015

Ducklings Rescue at Spring Park Pond

On a warm Summer Day, a family of resident ducks went for a stroll. This duck family needed help from the Fire Department before the day was done.

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Our new neighborhood has a community pond that has been adopted as a home base for several families of ducks.  Some are mallards with their beautiful green necks.

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Some are domestic ducks.  They come in all color combinations.  The black ones with white necks and chests remind me of penguins as the drakes waddle along, typically in a group.

One of the black hens with white markings we named Henrietta.  Every day, she brought her brood of ducklings to rest under the red maple beside our sunroom.  We had a front row seat to watch the ducklings grow from day to day.  We gave them fresh water, but took feed to the pond each day.

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The ducks wander about during the day throughout the streets of the community when they aren’t swimming at the pond.  Ducks are monogamous during one mating season, but  may choose another mate the next season.  When the ducklings are very small, the drake stays nearby for a short time.

After a duck was killed by a car, the homeowner’s association installed speed bumps in the neighborhood to slow down the traffic and they moniter speed to keep our community safe for children, walkers and ducks..

Some of the ducks have markings like abstract paintings with varied patterns of brown, tan, cinnamon and white stripes… some have a formal looking tweedy vest, and some have black  polka dots on their white chests.

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Some of the brown mature ducks have a navy blue stripe on the sides of their  wings. The baby ducklings are various shades of black and white and brown….with tiny black bills.  Some have yellow on their necks and upper breast when they are young.

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Occasionally mixed into with a large brood, there are 2-3 butter yellow baby ducklings with orange bills and orange  webbed feet.. They are storybook gorgeous.  My husband names them Marilyns.  They seemed to be the first to disappear.  I wonder if large predator birds or turtles can see them easier?

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Mother ducks would never be accused of neglect.  Ducklings stay with their mothers for 6-8 weeks, trailing along after her.  When they are small, they gather under mother’s body, so 18 or more can be completely hidden.

As they grow in later weeks, the mother hen hustles to stay up with them, but she keeps them together.  They continue to sleep a lot when young and to sleep in a heap touching one another.

I noticed that only a small percentage of the ducklings tended to survive …. maybe 5 or 6 only from large litters of 18 and 21.   An internet check revealed that this is typical for wild ducks.

One  afternoon this Summer,  Ethyl and her brood went for a fateful stroll… The ducklings veered off the sidewalk  to the edge of the street, and one by one, followed their siblings  down the sewer drain.  An alert neighbor called the fire department and Engine 28 responded…our heroes to the rescue.

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I snapped a picture of one of the fireman with his arms and torso stretched down inside the drain as he searched for the ducklings..

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Success!  He kept at it until he retrieved all but one of the ducklings.. and they were pulled out to safety and an anxious mother duck..

The duck family was  soon on its way back to Spring Park pond, apparently none the worse for the experience in the sewer.

The neighbors expressed their gratitude to the Fireman for the rescue.   I sent them some tomatoes from the garden, with a pound of bacon, to make bacon and tomato sandwiches for their lunch in the Firehouse .

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And the ducks went on their way back to Spring Park Pond.

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2014