The Natural Garden Coach

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Picture This - Abundant Harvest



Time is just slip, slip, slippin' away from me. I have so many blogs to visit, so many photos to get off my camera and into the computer, and so many posts to write. And all of a sudden I realized that today is the last day to enter this month's Gardening Gone Wild "Picture This" contest. The theme of this month's contest is "Abundant Harvest". When I first read that I thought "oh boy, have I got a slew of those photos". No, not from my incredibly prolific garden, ha! But from many of the farmers' markets I visit. When I travel, I love to visit a local farmers' market. It's a great place to see people and get to know a locale.

But my all time favorite farmers' market is the one we have right here in town. You see, I'm heavily involved in it, writing the weekly newsletter and occasional press releases, being on the executive board, and being all-around cheerleader. I believe this to be true - by working hard we volunteers have made a difference in our community and for our farmers.

So I'd like to introduce you to the fact that northern Louisiana has many beautiful peaches and peach orchards. In particular, these luscious peaches at the top of the post that came from the Dye's farm near Mer Rouge. Their white peaches are divine. During the height of the peach season we have three orchards selling their abundance in our little market! Needless to say, I've learned how to freeze peaches. :-)

Here's a few more shots I've taken over the last year and a half of the abundance at our market.

















I apologize if this was slow to load for you because of the number of photos. But I tell ya', I had a WHOLE lot more I could have posted!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Soggy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - Oct 2009



The torrential downpours have kept me from photographing anything in the garden lately. So I can only offer a couple of pics of some blooming plants from last week for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day hosted by Carol at May Dreams Garden. Go to her link to see what's blooming around the world today.

When we get the occasional sunlight, we get the occasional butterflies. At top is a Gulf Frittilary on Buddleia davidii 'Pink Delight' (butterfly bush). So I guess the butterfly bush is doing its job finally!



The Tagetes lucida (Mexican mint marigold) is finally blooming in front of the Salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage) and the rosemary. And on top of the bloom, one of my new favorite butterflies, the Pearl Crescent. They're not very big but they're awfully cute to me.

Looking out the rain streaked window, trying to ignore the plants that are now leaning on their neighbors or heads down in the dirt from the rain, I see other bloomers like 'Autumn Joy' sedum, Moonflower (though it only blooms at night), Pink Muhly grasses, ‘Whirling Butterflies’ gaura, very few blooms on the Madame Alfred Carriere and mystery red roses (normally October's a great month for roses here), garlic chives, Salvia 'Coral Nymph', 'Patrick's Abutilon', and Verbena bonariensis. We've gotten about 12 inches of rain in the first two weeks of this month. And a bit more than that in the last two weeks of September. So things are really not looking their best right now. Not enough sun and too much water. Normally October's a glorious month here. Ah well. At least I'm safe and dry!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chobe National Park


Pam at Digging has invited bloggers to post and write about their favorite national parks as a sort of tribute to the great PBS series on national parks by Ken Burns. Pam is collecting links to the posts and they can be found here. Pam's got some great posts as do others. I asked Pam if it was okay to post about a non-United States national park since I haven't been to a U.S. one since I went digital (and my scanner isn't working at the moment). She encouraged me to go ahead so this is my tribute to national parks.

The photo above is from Chobe National Park in Botswana. I was very fortunate to be able to go there 5 years ago. I had always wanted to go to Africa, ever since I began reading Jane Goodall's articles in National Geographic back in the sixties. Eventually my interest led me to study baboon behavior at a research institute in the U.S. but one thing led to another and all of a sudden I found myself in the software industry. And I stayed there for decades. But I never lost my dream of seeing those animals in the wild and so when I was finally able to do so, I went.



I could of course, show you zillions of photos of the animals we saw but I think that would be too much. Besides, it wouldn't tell you that much about this lovely park. The park is located in northwest Botswana along the banks of the Chobe River. The area was declared a national park in 1967 and is home to a great diversity of animals. We stayed about 15 minutes outside the park at a lovely lodge called Muchenje. This was the first of three places we would stay in Botswana and when we arrived I had a raging cold. I mean really raging. Something I caught on the plane. But I'll be darned if it was going to stop me from seeing anything! As soon as we entered the park I saw these fabulous baobab trees.



Then we immediately saw the national bird of Botswana, the Lilac Breasted Roller.



The area in that part of the park is kind of scruffy, as you might be able to see from the two pictures above. There's a huge concentration of elephants in the park (Wikipedia says some 50,000 today, the highest elephant concentration in Africa). That explains many of the trees being in sad shape, what with the pressures the elephants put on the trees. Here's a young male about to make a mock charge at us (thank goodness it was mock).



One day we took a boat trip on the Chobe River. This photo shows the river from our lodge. The far side of the river is the country of Namibia. You can see that we were there in winter (June) when there's still lots of water.



As we motored up the river we saw tons of birds and other wildlife. This crocodile was sunning himself on a sandbar.



All of a sudden we came upon about 20 elephants, mostly young males, playing in and about the water. It was magical. They were wrestling and swimming, all very quietly. Seeing such large animals be so graceful and quiet was stunning. We sat there for a long time.







It wasn't just elephants that were amazing. A huge number of hippo families were sunning themselves. I noticed our boat driver gave them a much wider berth than the elephants. I guess because hippos are supposed to be more dangerous in the water.



A lovely tradition on these photo safaris is to have a "sundowner". That's what happens at sundown out in the bush. Everyone has a drink, a little something to eat, and then sits down to admire the sunset. They were GORGEOUS there. I had just gotten my first digital camera and didn't know a lot about it but I couldn't help shooting right into the sun because of how beautiful it all was. If you look real closely in the top left corner of the photo below, you might be able to see two fishermen standing up in their boat.



We were lucky to see a lion in Chobe National Park. Apparently at that time it was kind of rare. At subsequent camps we saw many of them. In case you're wondering about the strange names of my kitties, seen on the right of my blog, they come from our trip to Botswana. Chobe is named after where we saw our first lion (this one) and Duba is named after where we saw our last lions (Duba Plains on the Okavango Delta).



By our last sundowner in Chobe National Park I was recovering from my cold. And I was in the moment. I have never been so present in my life. It was as if I didn't have any other life to lead but that one right there, right then.



If you ever have the opportunity to go on a photo safari in Africa, I encourage you to do so. For me it was life changing, life enhancing. (I think that's what visiting national parks is all about, right?) The country of Botswana is much more than what I've shown here. It is full of kind and wise people. And a stunning array of wildlife which they care about. I leave you with a photo of why I went - a couple of grooming baboons at sunset, the one on the left looking pregnant.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away



I was going to write a post a few days ago about some of the interesting insects I've seen around the yard. But that would give you a false impression that we've been having a nice fall here. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I captured photos of the insects during one of the rare breaks in all this rain. The little packages above contain some bulbs I bought at a sale about an hour east of here. They've been waiting for the ground to dry out.



The ground is super-saturated. I have to wear rubber boots to walk across the grass to the bird feeder. The rain comes down so hard that it overflows the gutter, as seen above.



Believe it or not, there are some oak trees that really aren't that great to have in your backyard. That's because they tend to shed limbs, as seen here. This is from a 3.5 story high Willow Oak, Quercus phellos. This limb was downed by some high winds during one of our storms. But the tree will also lose limbs just from too much rain. They can get soggy and then break from the weight. That's been happening all over the neighborhood. Although an important acorn crop for wildlife, I don't recommend it in your backyard.



Lucky for me it just barely missed the plants in one of my boxes.



My Mexican Salvia, Salvia leucantha, was almost flattened by the wind. And because it hasn't had a chance to dry out, it continues to lean over. I'm afraid it might not recover but I've got my fingers crossed. The forecast is for thunderstorms all week. ARG!

UPDATE: Yesterday the weatherman in the nearby big town said we'd had rain for 22 of the last 32 days for a total of 21 inches. No wonder I'm getting so sick of this!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall Light in the Garden

Photographing the garden in the fall is very different from summer. In the summer I must get out there early before Mr. Sun shines his death rays. But now the sun is very slanted and I face new challenges, for this beginner photographer anyway. Still, it allows for new perspectives and fall light has always been my summer savior.



Moonflower starts to stay open longer as the mornings cool down.



Grasses start to show off now. This muhly (Pink or Gulf; I'm not sure which as they were gifts) is not at its peak yet but starting to get there.



Inland Sea Oats seedheads, which were cut off right after this photo was taken to prevent too much self-seeding.



'Fireworks' (Pennisetum setaceum rubrum) is surviving the neighbor cat's constant chewing. Maybe next year I can get it to really shine. But I just gotta figure out the cat thing.



The slanting light is challenging my photographs of the woodland garden.



Speaking of challenges, can you find the two Cloudless Sulphur butterflies amongst the leaves? I'm not an expert butterfly ID'er but I think that's what these are. The butterflies are there, believe me.



The Gulf Fritillarys are all over. The challenge with photographing all butterflies, besides the fact that they don't stand still, is that they're mostly out in the bright sunshine of the afternoon.



I think I prefer the underside of the Gulf Fritillarys most. This one's on 'Victoria Blue' Salvia. I hope to capture more butterflies in the near future, if they'll only hang around a while for my camera. Wish me luck!