Red-osier dogwood

Red-osier DogwoodIn the gray and brown landscape of early spring, it’s heartening to see these clouds of red stems. They like wetlands, and these are in the wetland border along the Charles. The  bark responds to the increased light of spring by becoming brighter red. Native people used it for all kinds of things, like making dye from the inner bark and brushing teeth with peeled twigs. Native throughout northern and western North America.

Red-osier dogwood, red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Robin splash

The only actual wildflower I’ve seen blooming is the skunk cabbage, but there are other signs of spring. The herons are back on their nest. And this robin had a bit of a bath! It looked so happy, dunking itself and flittering its wings. A blue jay shouldered its way in and this little one hopped out, but as soon as the jay had its drink and left, the robin popped back in.


Pupping season

The nice thing about a hilly backyard is, you can be lying in bed considering waking up, and still see a coyote trot by.

coyotes in Needham, MA

It went out of sight, and then came back and surveyed the prospects from the front yard, but it was morning rush hour so that road was not crossable. It wisely turned and went to the backyard again and disappeared.


They have their pups in mid-April so this is a time when they’re territorial about their dens, and apparently they are often show themselves more at the this time, just to make it clear to you. However, I think this one was just passing through. I wonder why. Glad to see it looking so healthy. Sorry the woods are less and less and it has to concern itself with things like crossing Central Avenue at rush hour.

Peeper time at last!

Heard the peepers first on the night of April 10, coming from the Charles River, only a week later than last year, even though spring feels so late this year. Then today went for a good listen. It was silent at a pond that still had snow on it, but frog party-town at the adjacent one that gets more sun… It’s peepers and wood frogs — wood frogs are the ones that make a clacking sound. So good to hear some spring!

Underneath the snow

On my calendar is a note that in 2012, this was the evening of the first peepers of the year. This year we still have a couple of feet of snow and spring is still frozen out; peepers seem a long way off. I hope they’re sleeping well. Here is a short video by Alert Flowerophile Brian with pictures of the loads of snow we got this year along with the flowers we hope to see again someday (and hidden after the credits, nice snowdog action!):

Winter Share from Powisett Farm

PowisettWinterShareThis year we were members of the Powisett Farm CSA and we loved it. When the season was over we signed up for winter shares, which was about 4 pickups in November and December. People would ask what could we be getting in mid-December?! This was the last share: squash and beets, carrots and sweet potatoes, parsnips and garlic, potatoes and kale, turnips and radishes, kohlrabi and celeriac, cabbage and onions and hot peppers! Love that place!

Collecting Bittersweet

Collecting BittersweetWe’re having a blizzard, so I’m reminiscing for a moment about wildflowers and photos I meant to post. Here’s one from November– the annual ritual of collecting bittersweet for a wreath. Bittersweet is a woody ornamental vine native to Asia, but since arriving in the US around 1860 (and in Massachusetts by 1919), it’s been invasive and destructive. Has yellow flowers and brilliant orange berries. Most important factor in seed dispersal: frugivorous birds. (Cool new word!)

Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)

Eastern Wahoo in Autumn

Eastern Wahoo in AutumnAll the wildflowers have gone to fruit and seeds. This shot is from November 19. Wahoo is a Dakota term for this plant, which means “arrow wood.” Native to North America, related to bittersweet and also to the non-native invasive kind of euonymous.

Eastern Wahoo (Euonymous atropurpureus)


DSC_0015Lucy and I were walking at Charles River Peninsula and I was surprised to see a vining wildflower running rampant that hasn’t been there for the last two years, the years I’ve been paying attention. It’s a vine with showy pink clusters of flowers, growing in the moist edges of the meadow. Why did it appear this year?

It has edible tubers (similar to potatoes but apparently way more nutritious) and beans! The shoots and flowers are edible too. It was a staple food for Native Americans, who called it Hopniss, among other things… They prepared it boiled, peeled and dried, made into sweet preserves with maple syrup, or as seasoning… many ways! Apparently Europeans learned all about using groundnut as a food source from Native Americans and it was a major help for those early (1600s) colonists like the Pilgrims. It’s commercially farmed in Japan.


DSC_0013Thoreau: “In case of a famine, I should soon resort to these roots.” Maybe we’ll need to try them. The best time to harvest them (for sweetest flavor) is after a frost, but before the ground freezes. Native.

Groundnut, Wild Bean, Potato Bean, Indian Potato, Hodoimo, Hopniss (apios americana)