Is Mother Nature Sharing Her Own Version of Menopause?

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Mother Nature is on some kind of roller coaster, or she is issuing her own version of menopause upon us this winter. One day she’s hot, the next day she’s cold, and in the most unusual places.

Perhaps she is trying to tell us something.  Is she setting down signs?  Does she want to warn us to take better care of our earth? One has to wonder why she is so moody this year.

While some of the winter conditions this year have been traditional, other conditions have been unexpected or unusual.  And many places have experienced drastic ups and downs in temperatures from one day to the next.

As we are all well aware, Atlanta was hit with an unusual winter storm event earlier this week resulting in traffic nightmares beyond comprehension.  People were stuck in their cars over eight hours in some cases – and struggled as they spun their wheels (literally) over ice covered roads only to move a couple inches, if any.

One news story indicated a father walked six miles to retrieve his child from the school where many students remained overnight because of the inability to get a way home through the traffic jams.  Another story showed two people handing out bottled water and bananas to people waiting in their cars on the highway. As the couple proceeded to the next vehicle, the lady fell right onto her back onto the roadway as her foot lost grip of the road.  It was even dangerous to help.

Yet, the Atlanta people will have a reprieve from their frustrating weather incident almost immediately as their local temperatures returned to the 50’s this week, and is expected to rise into the 60’s by the weekend.  They may not have to think about a winter coat, spinning tires, ice scrapping, or shoveling for quite some time – if ever again this winter. Granted their politicians will be thinking about these scenarios for a long time due to their role of managing “Mother Nature” inappropriately.  But other than that, hopefully this weather struggle will be a far away memory for them.

For us New England’ers, however, the struggle of dealing with cold temperatures will continue for days if not a couple more months.  And Miss Mother Nature will continue to remind us of her controlling powers as we deal with each day of the chilly temperatures and gray skies, with an occasional sunny day to enjoy as a treat or gift on her good days.

It doesn’t help matters that we hear the constant chatter on the weather television stations about how cold it is every day. This only serves as a continual reminder.  In fact, it probably makes us feel colder.  We can’t seem to get it out of our minds.  Each time there is a drop in the temperatures, the news stations seem to go into a frenzy of how awful it will be to deal with, and while we need those forecasts to prepare for our day, we could use to hear a little bit of the plus side of the cold, but gosh, what is it?  It certainly can be challenging to answer that question.

Additionally, there hasn’t been a great deal of snow to play with.  Sometimes the dull-drums of the winter blues can be easily cured with a snowshoe walk on a wooded trail or with a day of sledding with your children on your favorite hill. Perhaps a chance to forget for an hour or so of how the cold temperatures are. You can go skiing, ice fishing, or skating if that is your fancy and this will ward off the Mother Nature blues for the time being.

But, unfortunately, it feels like we are seeing continued brown landscapes, lack of sunshine, and experiencing cold chills the minute we walk out the door. We are still pressing the auto-car start buttons for our vehicles, grabbing our hats, gloves and scarves, and bundling up when we go outdoors.  And our pets certainly let us know, the best thing to do is succumb to it, curl up on a blanket, and sleep it off.

On the occasional sunny, clear skied days – there is a bit of – well “sunlight” to enjoy. This makes cold temperatures a bit more manageable to endure.  And if you are lucky enough to break away from work to visit a greenhouse on a sunny winter day, you can capture the warmth of the sun even more while you are inside the greenhouse.  This will provide immediately relief, which is highly recommended.  You may even feel the inspiration of spring while you enjoy this type of greenhouse spa treatment.

Sometimes, on a really cold day, if our blessed sun is beaming towards you or your house, take a moment to face the sun and close your eyes just for a few minutes. Imagine it is the sun of the summer for as long as you can endure the frigid temps if you do this outdoors.  While you stand there, please tell Mother Nature that you promise if she stops playing these games, we will be kinder to her fellow partner, Mother Earth.  Promise her this, and maybe offer her a foot rub too, to help her cope with her version of menopause temperature swings.

And don’t forget to mention, that you do remember her powers as depicted in the old  70’s Chiffon margarine television commercials.  Don’t you all remember?  The commercial reminded us that…

 “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.”

Happy Friday Everyone.

Stay Cool – I know it won’t be difficult.

Cathy Testa

Spotted at a Greenhouse in Old Wethersfield, CT - Comstock Ferry

Spotted at a Greenhouse in Old Wethersfield, CT – Comstock Ferry

Greenhouse Pics_0002Somehow these roots gives us hope to the warm season to follow.  They certainly seemed to enjoying the sun’s rays!

Butterfly Conservatory Breaks the Winter Blues

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If you suffer from a seasonal disorder in the winter, where you need to get out to break from the winter blues, may I suggest a visit to the “Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens” located on 281 Greenfield Road in South Deerfield, MA?  It will be a place of warmth, sunshine, and lots of color.  I visited yesterday with my sister and niece, and here are the photos I took along the way.

Favorite shot

Favorite shot

I think this one is my favorite photos of the day.  If I am reading the butterfly id chart correctly, which I purchased for $1.00 at the entrance ticket booth, this is a Brown Clipper, Parthenos sylvia.  I don’t know much about butterflies other than they are beautiful in the garden – serving as nature’s living art – so hopefully I have the right names written with the photos I took yesterday.

Tithorea tarricina

Tithorea tarricina

Again, not sure but this one looks like Tithorea.  Love the long antennae and legs.

Japanese Lantern

Japanese Lantern

There are many tropical plants at the conservatory and this one was probably my favorite of the lot.  A Hibiscus schizopetalus, Japanese Lantern bloom with a long stamen dripping down in such an elegant fashion.  Just love the look of this bloom and the next butterfly photo is a perfect color comparison.

Hey Mr. Postman

Hey Mr. Postman

One of the things I noticed was many of the butterflies did have some wing tears, which made me a little sad.  This one is Postman, Heliconius melpomene.  He matches the Hibiscus photo above in coloring.

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant

My niece asked me what this plant was, and of course, it is a type of pitcher plant.  I didn’t see many plant labels at the conservatory, and it would be nice for them to offer a plant identification key like they offer for the butterflies.  These types of plants are found in tropical rain forests, and many know they get their nutrition by capturing insects in their pitcher.  I saw a television show recently that also indicated a new discovery of some larger species luring small rodent-like animals, and they go for the nectar while on top of the pitcher, and guess what drops out the animal’s back end into the pitcher?  Yup, their poop – another source of energy to the plant.

Shrimp Plant

Shrimp Plant

This is a plant I’ve grown in my container gardens.  Pachystachys lutea.  There were many of these at the conservatory for the butterflies to enjoy.  You can see why it is called a golden shrimp plant as the common name.  The flowers are not the yellow parts you see here; these are the bracts.  The white flowers extend from these, and in my container garden, the hummingbirds loved them.

Justicia

Justicia

There were a few Justicia plants, the common name for this one is shrimp plant too.  It is a broadleaf evergreen shrub, and I adore the style of the flowers.  Very exotic, and this one had a deep hot pink color, but the one I used in a container garden was a softer pink – both are spectacular, and loved by hummingbirds and butterflies.

Justicia carnea

Justicia carnea

This photo was taken of my container garden in early September about two years ago. The large pot is combined with a Coleus, Ajuga, Delosperma, Alternanthera, and Sambucus.  The container on the table has a Sedum in it with a Creeping Jenny trailing below.  Justicia carnea (shrimp plant) in the large pot bloomed during the summer and into fall, and paired up perfectly with the Sedum blooming around the same time.

Ow Butterflies

Ow Butterflies

Here’s two owl butterflies, Caligo eurilochus, were having a little mating fun.  And it is obvious why they call them “owl” butterflies, used to deter predators.  This is the type that landed on my shoulder for quite some time later, see video below.

Name this plant

Name this plant

Okay, I know I’ve seen this plant before – but I can’t remember the name?  Help me out tropical bloggers – what is this called?  It is so beautiful and the plants at the conservatory trailed all the way up to the ceiling.  I would have loved to capture a butterfly on it but no luck.

Morpho peleides

Morpho peleides

I did have luck capturing this Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides.  Got to thank iPhones for the quick clicks.  I had to reach up a bit to get the shot, but was so glad he was in a rest state and didn’t fly away.

Purple Passion

Purple Passion

There were mostly tropical plants at the conservatory, which I enjoyed because they are one of my passions – yet, later when I got home, I thought it was sad they didn’t have natives for the butterflies to enjoy – and to showcase.  We have many in CT and MA that would suit the feeders.  Also, I noticed outside, they had a border along the front of the building enclosed in posts, and it was all old evergreen shrubs, the soil didn’t look too healthy, and I thought, later – when I got home, how wonderful it would be to fill that bed with some native plants.  Too bad I don’t work there – LOL.

More help please?

More help please?

More help please.  What is this plant?  It looks like a Peregrina bloom?  But not sure, the foliage is soft and fuzzy, but the orange flowers are my main attraction.

Sculpture

Sculpture

Just a shot of the sculpture in the gardens at the conservatory.

Arch

Arch

There was an arch/trellis at the entrance, and if you look closely, you can see a butterfly flying right in the center.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to capture the hundreds of butterflies circling your head.  As I stood here, taking some photos, one landed right on my shoulder.  I used the rotating feature on my iPhone to get a video of it.  Here it is…

And one more butterfly shot to share, this one is Cairns Birdwing (male), I think.  Love the florescent coloring.

Cairns Birdwing

Cairns Birdwing

Some tips if you decide to visit this place:

Recommendation:  If you happen to be visiting MA or CT, this is a fun trip with kids, or if you are into photography.  There is food sold at the sight, but I enjoyed the restaurant at Yankee Candle right down the road.  Go early, as if it is school vacation season, it will get busy quickly.

Special Occasion:  If you have an engagement to announce, this could be a great place to go with a photographer for some fun shots, but be prepared to get hot – it is humid and warm in the conservatory.  Wear light clothing.

Location:  281 Greenfield Rd. (Rt 5 & 10) off of 91.  If traveling north, take the exit 24 noted for Yankee Candle.  If traveling south, take Exit 25.  South Deerfield, MA.

Hours:  Per their pamphlet, they are open year round 7 days a week.  Summer: 9 am to 6 pm.  Fall/Winter/Spring: 9 am to 5 pm. Closed on some holidays.

Website:  www.MagicWings.com

Name of place:  Magic Wings

Cost: $14/Adults, $10/Kids

Butterfly Key:  I recommend you pay the $1 for the key, my niece immediately wanted to use it as we strolled along.  She had a big desire to identify all the butterflies.  I wish they had a key for the plants, but I don’t think they did – or perhaps I missed it somehow.

Camera:  Bring your camera of course.

And last but not least, when you enter the exhibit, you first enter a room of insects in tanks.  They reminded me of “Indiana Jones” bugs, large and yucky.  And to finish off this informal quick post, here’s a photo of “Hissing Cockroaches”….Yuck.  But fun still for the kids!

Container Crazy Cathy T

Hissing Cockroaches

Hissing Cockroaches