Phlowers & Pheathers – April 30th, Growing in the Garden/The Hummingbirds Return

We have been seeing a small ruby-throated hummingbird for two weeks. It has been visiting the feeder of nectar I have outside the kitchen window. Every other day, I bring the feeder in, soak it in hot, sudsy water, and refill with newly boiled sugar water. (2 Cups water, 1/2 Cup sugar) Hummingbird feeders can spread disease or become contaminated with mold. A great article on feeding hummingbirds can be found at EcoSystem Gardening.

NOTE: Thanks to a reader for the great comment about cleaning with vinegar. I did a bit of research on it and this is a good choice for cleaning the feeder. Also, another good idea is to use a brush to thoroughly clean all the nooks around the feeder openings. Here’s a link to more ideas for cleaning a hummingbird feeder. How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder.

Mandevilla Vines come in a variety of colors. I chose to grow the pink flowers this year. These vines are beloved by hummingbirds. The vines bloom from Spring until Autumn, they do well in full sun, but also need to be shaded from the hottest late afternoon rays. I am growing the Mandevilla in a pot so that when summer is over I can bring it indoors for the colder months.

My mandevilla flowers are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day and also an entry in this week’s Skywatch Friday.

I have three hanging baskets a yard or two away from the hummingbird feeder. These are filled with plants I know hummingbirds adore. Blue Suede Salvia and Vista Red Salvia, also called sages, have the trumpet-shaped flowers that perfectly fit a hummingbird’s beak and tongue. These plants do great in full sun, but also can take a bit of shade too.

My beautiful Vermillion Cuphea, also known as Firecracker plants, are always a favorite with the hummingbirds. I grow them in the ground and also planted in pots. Last Autumn, the Firecracker plant I grew in a pot easily transferred to the house. It grew well all winter, and this week I placed it outdoors on the patio again. It is doing well, although some of the uppermost leaves, after growing in the lower light of the house, promptly became sunburned. Since I pinched the tops of these stems, new branching will soon leaf out and cover up the scorched top leaves.

Cuphea plants in a row will make a nice seasonal hedge. This plant is perennial in warmer climates.

Photo Challenges – Bright Dandelion and a Wildflower Walk

I love dandelion puffs. Backlit by the morning sun, the photo becomes naturally monochromatic. There are some interesting sparkles shining in the fluffy parachutes. The correct name for the fluff is pappus. You can find more dandelion information on Quora.

Today, I came upon a great blog called Good One God Challenge. My entry for the challenge is this beautiful dandelion. The dandelion against the sky is part of Skywatch. The square shape and the bright sunshine makes it perfect for today’s Life of B – April Squares Bright challenge entry. While not bright in color, the photo conveys a sense of brightness in the contrast.

I found the beautiful puff of dandelion on this week’s wildflower walk. These bright and beautiful wildflowers are blooming now in my Mid-Atlantic state of New Jersey. (Do squares in a square count as a bright square? I’ll have to ask Becky.)

Top to bottom, left to right, the wildflower names are:

1. Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) – An invasive groundcover in the mint family.

2. Speedwell Persian (Veronica-persicaiolet) – Very small flowers, but they capture the color of the sky. It’s everywhere at this time of year in NJ, but soon disappears when hot weather arrives.

3. Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) – This plant is invasive, but it also has the beautiful yellow petals of buttercups, and is in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae.

4 Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – Nutritious, the plant has many benefits.

5. Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) – Although it can be invasive, it is an important wildflower for early pollinators. In this photograph you can see a Cabbage White Butterfly feeding on the small flowers.

6 White Violets (Viola blanda) – These are lovely, but like many wildflowers, can become invasive and take over your garden beds and lawn.

7. Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) – I learned this wildflower is a wild edible, but also can be invasive.

8. Periwinkle (Myrtle vinca) – Not just a wildflower, this plant is sometimes sold in garden nurseries as an evergreen groundcover.

9. Indian Strawberry (Duchesnea indica) – The small strawberries are not edible. The leaves can be used to treat eczema.

Pheathers – Robins in Snow

It snowed again this week. February has lived up to it’s cold reputation in southern New Jersey. For two years in a row we had little snow; we are wishing for those days back again as more icy rain is on the way tomorrow, and then another storm could arrive a few days later.

Recently, at the start of another bout of snowy weather, I looked out the window and spotted a flock of birds. I couldn’t tell by their silhouettes what type of bird they were, but thought I saw a flash of orange breast.

Sure enough, they were robins. Poor things, they looked miserable hunched against the snowflakes and wind. When I took a close-up photograph I chuckled, but also felt some sympathy, one robin had an icicle beard. Brrrr…I’m with the robins, I want Spring to come and Winter to quickly end.

This photograph is part of Skywatch.

Praise – Charles Haddon Spurgeon/John’s Doxology Part 6 – Unguarded Praise

Praise matters…in the Bible, although in different versions the numbers differ, the word praise occurs approximately 250 times. In my own walk with the Lord I try to praise him several times a day. So often, as in the photo of the sunset, I praise him prompted by the beauty he has created. Other times I praise him for the beauty of his Holy Word and the assurance it gives me of his love. In the times we are living in now I feel the need to praise him more. Even though circumstances around me are rapidly changing, God never changes. He is the same today as he was yesterday, he will be the same in my future. I can trust in everything the Bible tells me about his love and his divine providence.

“Divine providence is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. He is sovereign over the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8). This doctrine stands in direct opposition to the idea that the universe is governed by chance or fate.” Read more at GotQuestions.Org

In this paragraph from ‘John’s Doxology,’ Spurgeon is speaking of John’s praise for Jesus in Revelation 1: 5-6. I’ve highlighted three quotes from the paragraph below.

“We shall see his inmost self here, for he is carried off his feet, and speaks out his very heart in the most unguarded manner.”

“…this man of doxologies, from whom praise flashes forth like light from the rising sun, is first of all a man who has realized the person of his Lord.”

“It is a grand thing personally to know the Christ of God as a living existence, to speak into his ear, to look into his face, and to understand that we abide in him, and that he is ever with us, even to the end of the world Jesus was no abstraction to John; he loved him too much for that.”

First, let us look at THE CONDITION OF HEART OUT OF WHICH OUTBURSTS of adoration arise. Who was this man who when he was beginning to address the churches must needs lay down his pen to praise the Saviour? We will learn the character of the man from his own devout language. We shall see his inmost self here, for he is carried off his feet, and speaks out his very heart in the most unguarded manner. We shall now see him as he is, and learn what manner of persons we must be if, like him, we would overflow with praise. It would be easy to talk at great length about John from what we know of his history from other parts of Scripture; but at this time I tie myself down to the words of the text, and I notice, first, that this man of doxologies, from whom praise flashes forth like light from the rising sun, is first of all a man who has realized the person of his Lord. The first word is, “Unto him;” and then he must a second time before he has finished say, “To him be glory and dominion.” His Lord’s person is evidently before his eye. He sees the actual Christ upon the throne. The great fault of many professors is that Christ is to them a character upon paper; certainly more than a myth, but yet a person of the dim past, an historical personage who lived many years ago, and did most admirable deeds, by the which we are saved, but who is far from being a living, present, bright reality. Many think of Jesus as gone away, they know not whither, and he is little more actual and present to them than Julius Cæsar or any other remarkable personage of antiquity. We have a way, somehow, a very wicked way it is, of turning the facts of Scripture into romances, exchanging solidities for airy notions, regarding the august sublimities of faith as dreamy, misty fancies, rather than substantial matters of fact. It is a grand thing personally to know the Christ of God as a living existence, to speak into his ear, to look into his face, and to understand that we abide in him, and that he is ever with us, even to the end of the world Jesus was no abstraction to John; he loved him too much for that. Love has a great vivifying power: it makes our impressions of those who are far away from us very lifelike, and brings them very near. John’s great, tender heart could not think of Christ as a cloudy conception; but he remembered him as that blessed One with whom he had spoken, and on whose breast he had leaned. You see that is so, for his song rises at once to the Lord’s own self, beginning with, “Unto HIM.

Skywatch Friday

Praise – Charles Haddon Spurgeon/John’s Doxology Part 3 – Pray Without Ceasing

I don’t know when I have prayed more than in 2020, and now I have carried the prayer over into 2021. This is a good thing, although the good has been prompted by a lot of bad. I combine my prayer with praise, with singing, sometimes with deep sighing for want of Jesus to meet us in the air. I pray as I go about my daily tasks. I pray when I wake up in the night. I pray when I walk around the block. I pray because the condition of the world concerns me—sometimes even frightens me, and I go to Jesus first for I know there is no other way. As Spurgeon says in this third paragraph of ‘John’s Doxology,’ “we may ‘pray without ceasing,’ if our hearts are always in such a state that at every opportunity we are ready for prayer and praise; better still, if we are prepared to make opportunities, if we are instant in season and out of season, and ready in a moment to adore and supplicate.”

Have you ever startled a bird at rest? They startle us right back with their instant uplift of wings and flight. I love Spurgeon’s analogy that tells us this is how our prayers should take wing. At the slightest nudge, good or bad, in this time of worldwide sickness, unrest, and rapid changes, we must see ourselves as Christ’s First Responders here on earth. When a flock of birds takes to wing the sky is filled with them. If we all pray together, if our prayers take wing heavenward, we will be in one accord.

Here’s a sweet oldie for your Sunday.

Paragraph 3 of John’s Doxology:

“This explains to me, I think, those texts which bid us “rejoice evermore,” “bless the Lord at all times,” and “pray without ceasing”: these do not mean that we are always to be engaged in devotional exercises, for that would cause a neglect of other duties. The very apostle who bids us “pray without ceasing,” did a great many other things beside praying; and we should certainly be very faulty if we shut ourselves up in our private chambers, and there continued perpetually upon our knees. Life has other duties, and necessary ones; and in attending to these we may render to our God the truest worship: to cease to work in our callings in order to spend all our time in prayer would be to offer to God one duty stained with the blood of many others. Yet we may “pray without ceasing,” if our hearts are always in such a state that at every opportunity we are ready for prayer and praise; better still, if we are prepared to make opportunities, if we are instant in season and out of season, and ready in a moment to adore and supplicate. If not always soaring, we may be as birds ready for instant flight: always with wings, if not always on the wing.

    Charles Haddon Spurgeon was known as the ‘Prince of Preachers.’ A terrific biography of him can be found on the Spurgeon Center’s Blog: Who is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 

This photo is part of Skywatch Friday.

Place – Richland Tree

In the town of Richland, New Jersey, between the Delaware River and the Jersey Shore, on Route 40, there stands a tree. Carved into a 235 year old oak tree that died in 2015, are scenes of trains, sawmills, clocks, homes, weathervanes, farms, chickens, people, roadsigns, etc. It’s an amazing sight.

The 235-year-old oak tree, centerpiece of the park, died in 2015. Instead of chopping it down, Richland hired chainsaw artist Brian Ackley to carve the town’s history into the tree’s trunk and branches. He expects to finish later in 2017, in time for Richland to celebrate its 150th birthday. ~Roadside America

We found this place on the return trip from Ocean City. Since Route 55 has been finished, no one travels the ‘old’ way ‘down the shore’ anymore. In the age of the pandemic, leisurely drives are making a comeback. It had been near two decades since we were on this road. We found a few surprises, the most interesting, The Richland Oak.

This post is part of Skywatch.

I’m so glad I found the site Roadside America. Who knew that near this old oak tree are also musical robots. I’m going to have to take a few moments tonight and browse all the interesting places for a drive in my area. Put some towns near you in the search bar, and find things you never knew were near to you.

Place – Sanibel Island/The Sea

Sanibel Island has warm water and strong surf. This helps bring up shells, and also sweeps them back into the sea. We were amazed a few times to find the beach, filled just hours before with thousands, if not millions of shells, swept pristine clean.

The waves are strong. I was knocked backwards once by one that caught me by surprise. Even strong swimmers need to be aware of the strength of the surf. I didn’t see any lifeguards while we visited in October. It’s definitely a swim at your own risk area.

We were able to see sunrise in the mornings from the beach in front of West Wind Inn, and in the evening, beautiful sunsets, featured in the photos above.

Captiva Island is next door to Sanibel. My  husband rented an hour on a sailboat at the Yolo shop located at the far end of the island. Yolo stands for ‘You Only Live Once.’ While my husband was having fun living life to the fullest, I had my only bad hour on the vacation. I watched from the beach in street clothes rather than a bathing suit, and by the time he sailed back to shore, I was about the hottest I have ever been. I will be wiser if we do the same thing in the future and wear a bathing suit and sit in the water to watch.

The Bubble Room, on Captiva Island, is an amazing restaurant filled with all kinds of interesting memorabilia. Despite the pandemic, and wearing masks upon entry, we were able to have a wonderful lunch of prime rib sandwiches.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday.

Photographs – Rainwashed Blooms

We had a hard rain, and afterwards came that splendid late-day light, breaking through the storm clouds, giving the rain-washed blooms gorgeous luminosity.

Cosmos

Dahlia

Zinnia

All three are common flowers, easy to grow, and found in many gardens, but washed in the rain and light they were as beautiful as any rare masterpiece on a museum wall.

Reminds me that while I am common, and really nothing special, I am washed in the blood of Jesus, forgiven, headed for heaven, and devoted to HIM.

Here’s a great old song with some timeless guitar. Are you washed in the Blood?

Thus post is part of Skywatch

Quote & Pheathers -The Hummer

Saturday evening, we watched two hummingbirds battling for rights over a firecracker plant. We were amazed at how long they dove and swooped at each other in the air. Finally, only one remained, and exhausted, he took some respite in the back yard pine tree. After the big battle with another wondrous flyer, an earthbound human didn’t seem very threatening to him, and he let me take at least a dozen or more photographs of him. What a wondrous little bird God fashioned when he created the hummingbird.

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
~ Psalm 104:24

This photograph is part of Skywatch.

Pheathers – Beauty & Rest

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” ~Matthew 11:28-30

Even in the midst of all the upheaval in 2020, there is beauty to be found, there is rest. May God bless you this day.

This photo is part of Skywatch.

Pheathers & Phlutters – On the Wing

I was able to photograph a few favorites this past weekend. The butterfly with the beautiful orange wings is an Eastern Comma Butterfly. I don’t see many of these and was pleased to find it posing prettily in my front yard.

Cabbage White butterflies are plentiful, but not easy to photograph with wings outstretched.

I saw the first Monarch Butterfly of the season at Fortescue Beach. I didn’t know I had captured it in flight until I downloaded the files. This photo is part of Skywatch.

I love the seagulls in Fortescue. They haven’t learned the bad habits of raiding picnic hampers and snack bags. In neighboring beach towns the gulls are formidable. Never walk across the boardwalk with uncovered French Fries. You will be dive-bombed and might lose them.

The funnel on top of the piling is there to keep the gulls off. The pilings without funnels are usually occupied by a gull.

I watched this Osprey fly over the bay, descend, and come up with a fish in its talons. They are excellent at fishing.

I enjoyed my weekend full of flyers of all types…except maybe the Greenhead Fly who bit my ankle. That flyer is now lying beneath the sand I kicked over it after I swatted it. Happily, the Greenhead was a solo flyer, and no others visited me while I fished off the beach.

Phlowers – Flower of the Day/Fan Flower

I love Fan Flowers (Scaevola aemula) for many reasons. The fan-shaped bloom comes to mind first. The ease in growing them and the way the blossoms cascade over the edge of a hanging basket is also a plus.

They combine well in their pot with yellow and black pansies, purple heliotrope and diamond frost euphorbia.

My plants are often visited by goldfinches. They pluck the ripening seeds from the lower branches of the plant, giving me many moments to admire their beauty as they feed. Fan flowers are one of many plants that attract and shelter backyard birds.

I have a pinkish fan flower, but it is not as vibrant as the purple. I like having more choices though, and this color combines nicely with other shades of pink and purple.

Fan flowers are one of my favorites for flower pressing. If picked just after they unfurl they retain their color perfectly. They combine well with other pressed flowers.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday and Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Project – Natural Birdhouse

The weather has warmed up. The birds are beginning to nest. It’s time to create a few birdhouses out of the gourds I’ve been drying throughout the winter.

I bought two large varieties in late Autumn, and grew the small one myself. They hung from my porch rafters through the colder months and grew some interesting molds on their surfaces. After brushing them with a light bleach solution, and leaving them in the sun for a few hours, I began my crafting.

I cut a small hole with a craft knife, pushing it in carefully at tiny intervals. Removing the seeds was easier than I had anticipated. I used a paint paddle, swished inside a few times, and all the seeds and fluff fell out. Two holes at the top were easy to drill for the hanging wire.  I also drilled several small holes in the bottoms to allow any collected rain to drain out. To stop larger birds and squirrels from raiding the nests, I used my glue gun and glued a border of pennies around the opening. I like the way the copper sets off the color of the gourds.

I placed one birdhouse on a tripod of sticks near my back window,  two are hanging on thin twigs. I am hoping the close proximity of the house, and the thinness of the twigs will keep squirrels from tampering with the houses. I’ll update later in the season.

This post is part of Skywatch.

Pheathers – Lion or Lamb

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“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” ~Charles Dickens

Beneath the blue skies of midweek it appeared March might come in cold, but beautiful and clear. I admired the migratory flock of birds dotting my neighbor’s tree. Host to an iridescent mix of grackles, red-wing blackbirds, cowbirds and starlings, the tree was the stage for a twittering cacophony of bird talk.

Unfortunately, winter has not reached its turning point, and March arrived wrapped in a mantle of snowfall. Regardless of its chilly start, I know warmer, radiant weather will eventually ensue and appease my winter-weary mood. March days will soon find me in my garden turning over the soil to once again welcome spring.

Pleasures – Warm Day Walkabout/Emerging Spring

We’ve had an up and down week, snow one day, gorgeous sunshine and a taste of springtime the next. A midday walkabout was just what I needed.

A glance upward revealed a blush of Venetian red maple buds against the blue sky.

In my yard I noticed the wisteria pods have been scavenged for food. Spring can’t come quick enough for the hungry animals.

The daffodils are pushing upward. I love the smooth texture of the spring green in contrast to the brown leaves, mosses, and dried grass textures of winter.

I checked on my winter sown containers. Nothing is sprouting as of yet. It’s time for me to take my permanent marker outdoors again and reinforce the labeling of the contents. I don’t want to try and guess what’s growing inside when it’s time to plant.

As always, the first bloom in my garden is this tiny yellow crocus. Every year, it’s a reliable forerunner of all the glorious flowers to come. Am I excited about this taste of spring? Oh Yes!

Praise – Gratitude

“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.”     ~ A. W. Tozer


In the winter, I’m grateful for the barrenness of the tree branches, for they give me wonderful views of the neighborhood birds. Even a humble grackle is a glorious representative of feathered beauty as he suns himself in the sunshine of a January morning.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” —Robert Brault


A nuthatch having breakfast on a pine cone thrills me, and my heart is filled with gratitude as I witness God’s providence for the birds of the air. God bless you on this Sabbath Day

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” —Robert Brault

This post is part of this week’s Skywatch.

Praise – Looking Up

“To bear witness to God the Father, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, and to be guided by the Holy Spirit.”
~ Parish of St. Michael the Archangel

I love the mission statement, quoted above, of the Parish of St Michael the Archangel. What an amazing goal and purpose for a church in this modern age.

We were on a drive and spotted this beautiful bird on the steeple of St. Catherine of Sienna. (Merged in 2010 with Parish of St. Michael the Archangel.)

““As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“There are joys which long to be ours. God sends ten thousands truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away.”
~Henry Ward Beecher

The modern world chooses not to honor God’s truths or hear his voice. In many churches world views contrary to God’s word are condoned in the name of love. I plan to keep looking up, my eyes and spirit focused on God’s truths, instead of being in agreement with what the world considers politically correct.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday.