December 30, 2018

Twelve of My Favorite Things (2018)

For several years now on this blog, I've created end-of-year lists of my favorite garden and nature "things." They help me appreciate each moment and each season in its time. 

Every day is a blessing, and here are some "favorites" of the past year that I hope to experience again in 2019.


In January, I look forward to a few mild days for winter hiking.


Perhaps the potted Purple Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis) will bloom again in February.


Will the garden Rhubarb poke through the soil in March?


I'll have to remember to cage or spray (with organic methods) the Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) before the rabbits eat them.


Sauteed Fiddleheads (Matteuccia struthiopteris) will be on the menu in May. (Note: Some Fiddleheads can be toxic, so do your research before consuming them.)

(Clockwise from top left: Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium), 'Little Henry' Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Woodland Pinkroot (Spigelia marilandica), and 'Pearl Glam' Beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.).

How to pick a favorite flower in June? Impossible!


July (and earlier!) will provide plenty of opportunities to search for monarch eggs on various Milkweeds (shown here Asclepias syriaca). I'm sure I'll captive-raise a few caterpillars/butterflies, for the pure joy of the experience and to help the species.


Our friends, the sandhill cranes, likely will cross our paths as we hike the local prairies and woodland openings in August.


I'll spend hours observing the acrobatic ruby-throated hummingbirds in September before they all depart for points south.


In October, I hope to have 'Explosion' Dahlias and Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) blooming until the first frost.


If I'm lucky and prepared, I'll be able to refrigerate and display a few Zinnias in early November arrangements.


Finally, in December, I'll enjoy the late afternoon shadows and light effects over the lake.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

These simple pleasures, and many more, promise that the year ahead will be bright. Each month carries its own unique, simple blessings.

I hope you, too, will find many "favorite things" and gifts that will bring you much joy in the year ahead.

Happy New Year!

December 18, 2018

Fresh Air for a Fresh Perspective

waterfowl 1

I took a hike along the Lower Yahara River Trail last week. We're having mild weather lately in much of the Midwest--mild for us, anyway. The day of my hike, the high was around 40F, and I actually felt warm, wearing my parka and winter boots.

I know some of these photos look cold, but it was very comfortable, after weeks of below-normal temperatures in October and November.


Part of the trail includes a long boardwalk bridge with excellent views of Lake Waubesa. It's now one of the favorite hiking/walking areas of many Madison and McFarland residents. I've posted about this trail before, showing what it looks like in autumn.

ice fishing 1

The view was rather misty, likely because of evaporation from the warmer air.

ice fishing 2

I was surprised to see these people setting up for ice fishing, as it was rather late in the day.

waterfowl 2

Waterfowl tend to congregate in the area where warm, moving water empties into the lake from the Yahara River.


Were these ducks finding fish, or other tasty morsels, just below the surface of the slushy ice?

sun setting

The view to the southwest portended a pretty sunset, with light clouds on the horizon.


Higher in the sky, the moon stood watch over the beautiful day. It felt great to move comfortably outdoors, and to get some much-needed fresh air.

December 06, 2018

Herbs, Lettuce, and a Repurposed Plant Stand


It's winter, but that doesn't mean the end of growing things, even in a cold climate.

wine stand

My daughter was ditching a wine rack that she didn't need anymore, so I asked her if I could repurpose it. She said, "sure." So...


I planted some lettuce seeds in window planters and put them in the bottom. (I need to thin them out, but otherwise, they're growing well.)

wine holders

I thought about doing something with the wine holders, but that would block the sun from the lettuce. Stay tuned for future ideas, or please share them in the comments.

Most of the herbs are taking off, too...






I placed the plant stand in a south-facing window in the sunroom. The room is only partially heated, so it's a little cooler in there than the herbs would prefer. But there's plenty of sun! As the days get longer, I expect even more success.

How about you? Do you grow herbs and edibles indoors during the winter?

November 26, 2018

My #Shortdays Challenge


Are you on Instagram? I'm finding it's a fun platform for sharing the simple little pleasures of life.

To encourage myself to appreciate every day instead of wishing away and crabbing my way through the winter, I started my #shortdayschallenge on Instagram. I'm challenging myself to post one special thing every day, from November through February.

Feel free to join in! I'd love to follow you on Instagram, too. My handle is @plantposter. What's yours?

It's amazing how special each day is when we make an extra effort to see and appreciate the simple gifts around us.

November 08, 2018

What Gives You 'Oxygen'?

Common Buckeye

As airline passengers, we're instructed--should there ever be an emergency--to put on our own oxygen masks first before helping others. It's a physical reality that if we can't breathe, we can't help.

The same advice is used in the self-care field to illustrate how we must ensure our own emotional, spiritual, and physical health to be able to help others. All of us face difficult challenges and times in life--times when the burdens, stresses, and sadness are so great that we feel pushed to the limits.

This year has been one of those times for me--the personal and other challenges have been really tough...too complicated and difficult to share here. But we all face these times. Of course, I know I'm not alone--family, friends, and faith provide "oxygen" to help me through. I know others go through these times, too.

Another thing that provides oxygen for me, personally, is chasing butterflies. A few hours of hiking with a camera, snapping photos of butterflies, and later reporting them to citizen science sites can serve as balm to my challenged soul.

This post includes a few of the butterfly photos (and a couple of moths!) I collected during the past spring, summer, and fall. Reviewing them reminds me of the difficult thoughts on my mind as I was taking them. It also makes me happy...because I know how cathartic it was to see each butterfly, and to live in the moment of its unique beauty.

I don't include all the photos here--there were hundreds. Some were reported to citizen science organizations* even though the photo quality was poor. Others, particularly the Monarchs and the Viceroys, were so plentiful this season that I only included a few. Not all the butterflies, nor the photos, are perfect...but that's the point. They were real, they were flying free, and they provided great comfort. I include them here, generally, in order from spring through fall, but not necessarily in exact order. (Click on any image to enlarge it or to navigate through the Flickr album.)

monarch 9

tiger swallowtail 2
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

monarch 2

giant swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail

wood nymph 1
Common Wood-Nymph

red admiral 2
Red Admiral

tawny emperor
Tawny Emperor


eastern tailed blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue

wood nymph 2
Common Wood-Nymph

monarchs on zinnias

chickweed geometer
Chickweed Geometer (moth)

Monarch that I raised and released

clouded sulphur 2
Clouded Sulphur

pecks 2
Peck's Skipper

red sp purple 2
Red-Spotted Purple

tiger swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

eastern comma
Eastern Comma

buckeye 2
Common Buckeye

monarch 7

red sp purple 1
Red-Spotted Purple

pearl crescent
Pearl Crescent

summer spring azure
'Summer' Spring Azure

monarch 5

red admiral 3
Red Admiral

corn earworm moth
Corn Earworm (moth)

monarch 4

viceroy 2

red admiral 4
Red Admiral

monarch 6

summer spring azure 2
'Summer' Spring Azure


red admiral
Red Admiral

monarch 8

silver-spotted skipper
Silver-Spotted Skipper

viceroys 2

monarch 1

clouded sulphur
Clouded Sulphur

monarch & sunflowers

skipper flying
Silver-Spotted Skipper

How about you? What gives you "oxygen"?

*Here are just a few of the North American citizen science organizations that welcome reports of butterfly sightings:,,