Thigmo-what?

LAH_5161My pole beans, which got a rather late start, are finally climbing their way up the strings on my bean tower. I’m always impressed that the plants know just what to do. Those reaching tendrils that come into contact with the string immediate start to coil around it, securing themselves to the support. A few plants were still free, waving in the light breeze. I tucked them between the two strands of twine, so they too could wind their way upward.

A few rows over, my pea vines have their tendrils securely wrapped around the netting I put up for them. We all know that pole beans climb and pea tendrils wrap, but I wondered how they knew to do so. After all, most plants don’t have this ability.

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Bird Photography: Light

12 x 18 Crowned CraneThe word “photography” means “writing with light,” and the right lighting can make the difference between a ho-hum snapshot and an award-winning photograph. But what is the “right” lighting? And how do you take advantage of it?

In general, photographers think of light as coming from one of four directions—from the front, side, back, or overhead. Each of these has pros and cons, with widely varying results. Then there are different qualities of light, such as bright or soft. Different combinations of these conditions will greatly affect your results.

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Seeds to Sprouts

Lettuce seedling_LAH_9671In spite of the snowstorms this week, spring really is on its way. If you’re starting seeds indoors, it’s time to be sowing tomatoes, peppers, and other crops that take about eight weeks to reach transplant size. (Hold off on the cucumbers, squash, and melons—here in Colorado they should wait until early- to mid-May.)

Even if you’re waiting for warmer weather to plant, you may already have your seeds. Just think—that one little envelope might hold hundreds of zinnias or carrots, or thousands of zucchinis (at least)! How does something so innocent and seemingly lifeless turn into a magnificent flower or an overabundance of squash? How does that seed know to bide its time until it’s planted? What actually happens down there in the dirt?

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Bosque Birding, Part 2

(Be sure to see Bosque Birding, Part 1.)

Snow Geese_BosquedelApacheNWR-NM_LAH_6273It was pitch black, and our motel room was uncomfortably cold, despite the noisy heater that had run all night. I groped my way out of bed, half asleep but excited about the coming day. We were in Socorro, New Mexico, just north of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. In less than an hour, I’d be taking pictures of some 30,000 Snow Geese flying into the dawn sky.

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Bosque Birding, Part 1

Question: I’m a birder and nature photographer living in Colorado, with a limited budget for travel. Where can I go for fun and photos at this time of year?

Answer: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge!

Geese and Cranes_BosquedelApacheNWR - NM_LAH_7495Just a day’s drive south of Colorado Springs, Bosque del Apache is the place to go for anyone interested in birds and/or photography. The week we visited, right after New Year’s, the refuge was home to 8,100 Sandhill Cranes, over 32,000 “light” geese, and a whopping 57,000 ducks! With such numbers, spectacular photos are pretty much guaranteed.

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Merry Christmas!

xmas-lights_colospgs_lah_5805

How to decorate the yard for Christmas? It seems that every neighborhood has a few residents who go all out. They must spend days putting up elaborate displays to ensure that theirs is the most illuminated house on the block. We only hang a string of white “icicles” across the front of our house, so one of our Christmas traditions is to drive around and enjoy the lights around town.

The last photo is not one I took. It actually appeared last year on a blog called “I’ll Treasure This” but is once again making the rounds of the internet. Maybe you haven’t seen it yet—it sure made me laugh. Now why didn’t we think of that?

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Winter is for Houseplants

philodendron_home_lah_2724-1Are you missing succulent green foliage, fragrant flowers, and that humus-y smell of living soil? It may be too cold to garden outside, but it’s a great time to focus on houseplants.

My indoor plants tend to be a bit neglected over the summer. Wintertime is a different matter. I fuss over them, washing the leaves, moving root bound plants into bigger pots, refreshing compacted potting mix, and just generally tidying up. This is the time of year I notice which plants have thrived, which survived, and which really need to go to that great compost pile in the sky.

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