House Sparrow Fledgling

The only wildflower I’ve seen this spring is skunk cabbage, but a morning walk at Rocky Narrows (Sherborn MA) was so full of birdsong, it really felt like spring. Saw this little sparrow on its penthouse roof deck and also a few gartersnakes out catching rays.

Bonus video: The peepers are out and loud at Ridge Hill Reservation in Needham. Peepers are “chorus frogs,” and can live in breeding groups of several hundred. Their bodies can be less than an inch long or up to about 1.5 inches. It’s only the males that make the sound (to attract their women). They hibernate under logs and leaves, and can survive being mostly frozen. Then in spring, you hear them especially in vernal ponds and other temporary wetlands. They lay their eggs in the water, and then live on land the rest of the year, feeding on insects. You can also hear wood frogs in this video — they’re the ones that sound like ducks quacking, or loose banjo strings getting plucked.

Violets… no, wait, it’s my tips for buying a used car

Axie Breen Photography BostonOkay, I know this is off topic. But when I went through the process of buying a used car, most of the relevant advice on the internet was general, from big corporate sites — not much in the line of personal experience. So I want to add what I learned to the google zone.

So first you figure out the kind of car you want and the budget you’re allowing to buy it. Then look around online to see who has some in stock. Then zero in:

1. Identify the car you want. Look at Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book online to get a sense of market value. Look at Carfax for deets on that particular car.

2. Call the dealer to check availability and make an appointment to drive it. Check the asking price and what it covers: If the car is advertised as Certified, does the listed price cover certification or is it actually extra? (Get alert to any bait-and-switch at the outset.) Is this a negotiable price or is this a no-negotiation shop?

3. Test drive. Don’t be too positive. Reserve judgment and keep in mind any flaws.

4. Negotiate. I read that an advertised price includes a “20% gross margin,” so to open your negotiation at 15% below… and come up to maybe 10% below, or what your research indicates is a reasonable price for that car. I’m not sure about these percentages — with a new car, you can find the wholesale price, but with a used car, it’s not clear cut.

Don’t take it personally if they act insulted at your offer. You have to pretend you do financial negotiations all the time, just like they do.

Do NOT reveal what you’re really willing to pay, because they will immediately clamp onto that figure and start working upwards from there. (When I revealed that number, I felt the balance of power shift.)

Work out the car price deal first before considering the value of any trade-in, because the figures get fast and confusing when they mix them together, plus there is lots of opportunity for them to discuss all the negatives of your trade-in.

Be ready to walk if you are not coming to an agreement you like, or if you feel like they’re trying to mess with you. Or ask for a few minutes alone (with your calculator) to recover from their patter, look at the figures and formulate your plan.

Also, this can take a long time, what with them consulting with their manager, etc., so be ready for that too.

You might be thinking to use CarMax or another no-negotiation car seller to avoid all that hassle, but if you are willing to do the homework and negotiate, I do think you will end up with a better deal than at a CarMax type place. (I know I did, comparing the similar cars and prices at those dealers with what I got.)

It’s nice to have someone go with you, if possible. In my case, for awhile they kept trying to deal with my husband, but I was actually steering this particular purchase and they eventually figured that out (as B got out a novel to make it clear he really was not the negotiator) and they had to talk to me. We inadvertently had kind of a good cop, bad cop thing going on, because he was more ready to buy and I was seriously ready to walk, and I do think that saved us some money.

Good luck!

Okay, we can have a bonus photo from nature: lettuce at Powisett Farm, Dover, MA.

Axie Breen Photography Boston


Pink water lilies

DSC_0118I photographed this lily, but look closely at who else is in this shot!


That’s right, a little frog has its nose stuck up there. And when we started looking for them, we saw loads of little frogs, still wearing their tadpole tails, enjoying their new ability to breath air, sunning themselves on the lily pads. (I can’t help but think, heron snacks.) I think these might be juvenile bullfrogs. There was a bullfrog at this pond with a call like a great foghorn.


Water Lily (Nymphaea sp.)

Bonus photo: Lucy investigating the beaver lodge, which is about twice as big as last year.

beaver lodge

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!):

False Solomon’s Seal (fruiting)

False Solomon's Seal fruitIn the spring, white flowers. In the fall, red berries. (The berries can have a laxative effect. Also, apparently native people made a tea of the leaves for use as a cough medicine and a contraceptive!) Ruscus family. Native.

False Solomon’s Seal, Treacleberry, Solomon’s plume, False Spikenard (Maianthemum racemosum)

Good-bye to summer

DSC_0006It’s September already. Makes me want to think about a day in July, in the Meadow of Wonders, when it was so full of flowers!  Mostly yellow coneflowers, bee balm in many colors, mugwort, thistle, crown vetch… Lucy looks like she’s enjoying the fragrance of the flowers, but she’s probably carefully considering the question, “When did a deer last pass by here?”





Each flower lives only one day, but each plant produces 20 or more flowers per stem. The sap has a viscous quality and can be stretched between your fingers like a thread of spider silk. The stems, leaves and flowers are edible, raw or added to stew. The flowers can garnish your salad!The Lakota made a blue paint from the flowers and a poultice for insect bites and stings from the crushed leaves.

(The spiderwort genus is named after John Tradescant, who was a gardener for King Charles I of England (1600-1649). His son brought spiderwort seeds or plants from Virginia to England in 1637. It became a popular exotic plant. Native. (Photo June 4.)

Spiderwort, Cow Slobber, Widow’s Tears, Trinity Flower, Indian Paint (Tradescantia virginiana)

Garlic Mustard

Newly blossoming at Centennial this week. As far as I can tell, this is Garlic Mustard, which sounds good, but evidently it’s a terrible weed that crowds out native plants. (Introduced from Europe.)

“Garlic mustard poses a severe threat to native plants and animals in forest communities in much of the eastern and midwestern U.S. Many native wildlflowers that complete their life cycles in the springtime (e.g., spring beauty, wild ginger, bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, hepatica, toothworts, and trilliums) occur in the same habitat as garlic mustard. Once introduced to an area, garlic mustard outcompetes native plants by aggressively monopolizing light, moisture, nutrients, soil and space. Wildlife species that depend on these early plants for their foliage, pollen, nectar, fruits, seeds and roots, are deprived of these essential food sources when garlic mustard replaces them. ” -Plant Conservation Alliance

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)