Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mystery Photo 26: Cape of Good Hope.

     Yes, indeed, these photos are of the Cape of Good Hope at the southwestern most point of Africa. One would think that the Cape would be at the southern most point but it is not. The southern most point of Africa is called Cape Agulhas. It is further east. But when sailors rounded the Cape of Good Hope which was just known as The Cape, they no longer kept sailing just south. They began to sail more east than south. Apparently that is why the Cape of Good Hope became more famous than Cape Agulhas. Cape Agulhas means "The Cape of Needles" due to the rock formations on its gradual incline. Currents in the area produce huge waves and the prevailing winds of the "Roaring 40s" (latitude) which we heard about with the recent disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 into that area of the globe, make shipping hazardous. Therefore that southern tip of Africa is more similar to Cape Horn, than is the Cape of Good Hope.

      Some geographers define a Cape as a point of land where one ocean meets another. In the vicinity of the Cape of Good Hope it would be the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. But it turns out that that exact point of the meeting of these two bodies of water can be figured out and it vacillates between the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas depending on ocean currents, temperatures, seasons, and other unknown factors.

Aerial photo of Cape Town in the foreground, Signal Mountain right foreground stretching into Lion's Head; Table Mountain in the middle ground, Devil's Peak to the left of Table Mountain, and the Cape Peninsula stretching toward the top and left of the photo ending in the far distance.
      Below is a map that shows the lay of the land at the southern tip of Africa. Variously they show the location of these two points of land (Cape Point and Cape Agulhas) and various jutting points in between.

Cape Peninsula on left with Cape Town north on the coast. False Bay to the right of the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Hangklip on the eastern side of False Bay. Then comes Danger Point, Quoin Point, and finally in the center of the map, Cape Agulhas.
The Cape of Good Hope National Park in South Africa, encompassing almost the entire Cape Peninsula,has several interesting stops to be enjoyed.

     First we drove to Cape Point. This is a jutting rocky promontory on the east side of the tip of the Cape Peninsula. There is a high large lighthouse and then further down the promontory, difficult to reach by foot, is a smaller white lighthouse that was visible in one of my original photos in the previous post. A parking lot is located below the promontory and we took a narrow gauge railway to the large lighthouse. The following photos are taken from around that large lighthouse.

Looking up from the parking lot to the lighthouse on top of Cape Point.

Railway to the top.

View of  Cape Point parking lot, and the road back up peninsula to Cape Town.

Some of the walkways around Cape Point offering wonderful views.

Large lighthouse on the Cape Point.

Signpost offering various distances.

Looking to the tip of Cape Point.

Small lighthouse on the tip of Cape Point.
Looking to the west across Diaz Beach to a lower ridge on the Cape of Good Hope.
Looking east across False Bay to Cape Hangklip, Danger Point, Quoin Point, and in the far distance perhaps Cape Agulhas.

An aerial view of the end of the Cape Peninsula, Cape Point in the center, and the Cape of Good Hope jutting to the left. It is possible to visit the Cape of Good Hope by driving back towards Cape Town and then taking another road down behind that ridge jutting to the left in the photo.
     Our next stop is at the actual Cape of Good Hope which is at sea level. We are on the west side of the ridge of rock that is the Cape of Good Hope. This viewpoint can not be seen from Cape Point because it is behind the Cape ridge of rock.

Looking from Cape of Good Hope, west and north up the peninsula coast.

Same as above, just a close up of the little unnamed bay here.

     There are several interesting inhabitants of Cape of Good Hope National Park and they are readily seen along the roads. In the following photos you will see several of those inhabitants.

Ostrich at Cape of Good Hope

The sign portends our next sighting.

A baboon troop along the road.

      Driving back up the Cape Peninsula, we stopped at Boulders Beach because another ubiquitous resident of the area can usually be seen there.

You can see why this is called Boulders Beach. These birds are cormorants.
But Boulders Beach is protected primarily for this inhabitant: the African penguin.
     Boulders Penguin Colony was established and protected in 1983. An estimate count of African penguins in the world in 1956 was 150,000 breeding pairs. By 2009, the estimate had fallen to 26,000 breeding pairs. This is an 80% drop in 50 years. This colony had 3100 breeding birds in 2005 but that number had fallen to 2500 breeding birds by 2011. Habitat loss, human activity, and probably many other unknown causes have led this bird to be extremely endangered. These birds do seem to be tolerant of human activity. But there are boardwalks to keep people from getting too close, and signs everywhere warn people about coming any closer to the birds. These are little penguins but as you can see, they are quite cute.

Another common African bird is the guinea fowl.

We have driven back to Cape Town. This is the northern end of Signal
Mountain which is called Lion's Head.
View north from Table Mountain, with the Lesser Swartberg Mountains in the distance.

Lion's Head from top of Table Mountain.

The Fynbos on top of Table Mountain.

       Well, I hope you have enjoyed my photos. My husband is my cameraman (except for the aerial views for which I credit Wikepedia.) I think you should have an idea of the lay of the land in the Cape in Africa. If you have a hankering to see some of Africa but not a lot of time, fly to Cape Town. See the environs of these photos. Enjoy the vegetation of the Cape area called the Fynbos (fine or little forest). Table Mountain alone has 2200 species of plants on and around it, (the UK has only 1200 species.) Then take a driving trip north out of Cape Town. You will be able to visit wineries, caves (Congo Caves), beautiful hills and countryside. Depending on how far inland you would like to drive, you can make it as far as the Great Karoo, an arid area created by the rain shadow of the southern African coastal mountains. This desert area has many succulents in its southern portion where ostrich are raised. In its northern portion there are sheep and goat farms. Again the flora is quite distinct and unusual. And if you would like to see some of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and Cape buffalo) without having to take malaria prophylaxis, arrange to stay at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge in Oudtshoorn on the so-called Garden Route. There are elephants, hippos, rhinoceros, giraffe and Cape Buffalo and over 200 bird species. The lodging is in luxury permanent tents along a lovely lagoon. The food is marvelous. It is about a 5 hour drive from Cape Town through the areas I have just described. The land owned and operated by the Game Lodge is large enough to offer several hours of game drive safaris twice a day, and you will feel like you are almost in the Kalahari, even though it is in the lower inhabited Klein Karoo. Have I stimulated your travel itch?
A beautiful view of Cape Town from the top of Signal Mountain. Our hotel was right at the base of Signal Mountain. Lovely!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mystery Photo 26: The Ends of the Earth -- which one?

       My husband and I have traveled all over the world. My readers know that we have visited almost 100 countries, and all 7 continents. We have also been to the Ends of the Earth. What do I mean by this? Well there are several places in the world which are thought of as Earth's End, or Land's End, or truly the end of a large body of land. Below are three photos of one of these Ends of the Earth. Can you figure out which End of the Earth it is. It has a well known name. The third photo should be a huge clue. Come on all you readers -- send me some guesses.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Personal aging complaints and Writers and Posts on Agiing.

      Recently I celebrated a 70th birthday, the beginning of another decade, the 8th decade of my life. Something has happened to me since that 70th birthday. I have been having a lot more difficulty with aches and pains. Given a past personal history of temporal arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica, both representations of an autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation of blood vessels, I have difficulty sorting out what pains are to be expected for my age group and what could be a flare of my autoimmune disease. Recently I have gone through at least a minimal workup for other causes of my aching back, burning knees, sore muscles in my thighs and in my upper arms, and disabling stiffness when I try to become active after sitting or lying for a long time. Through a few tests and consults with doctors, I have come to the conclusion that it is not my previous autoimmune disorder. The blood tests for that have continued to be negative. Also a severe onset of neck and upper shoulder pain after overdoing this spring while sawing and clearing some buckthorn in my garden prompted  xrays which showed severe arthritis in my neck. I haven't had other joints xrayed but I had an MRI of my left knee years ago after an injury and there was already degenerative arthritis then in that knee. Putting these facts altogether, and as a doctor recognizing my own symptoms, I am sure that what I am suffering are the aches and pains of degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis. And those symptoms are now at a level that interferes with my activities. Now I understand what my patients always complained of. What does one do about this? I am sure I am not at a stage that joint replacement should be considered. And the sites of my pains are multiple and can not all be solved by surgery anyway. Even if I had one joint fixed surgically there would be the others that would still be limiting. Facing continuing discomfort of this limiting degree, I need to figure out how to deal with it, how to continue to be active, and what I can do about the discomfort.

     The Internet is a natural place to turn for suggestions on aging from those who are already there. In various magazines such as the AARP quarterly magazine, and others, there are useful articles in this area. There are many new websites and blogs which can be helpful. But there are also some older resources that I have found useful.

     From the AARP magazine from April, 2009 an article tells of various folks writing in a blog about ways to deal with aging problems as well as articles just to help others through difficult times. There follows a couple examples and then a few websites that you might find useful.

     Retired educator Susie Wilson thinks more parents should talk with their children about sex. So the 80-year-old New Jersey resident offers conversation starters -- what to say about the latests philandering public figure, for example -- on her blog, or online journal. Wilson is part of a growing group: nearly 450,000 American 65-plus post their own blogs. And free publishing sites such as and make it easier than ever to get started.

      More and more "mature" people are starting their own blogs in which they are sharing their own wisdom that they have gained through their life experiences. Perhaps you as a reader here might wish to start their own blog on this topic. So what can you write about? Anything. After losing her husband to dementia, Sheila Weinstein, 73, started blogging for to help readers manage their own grief. And whereas younger bloggers may write to gain recognition or a paycheck, older bloggers often want to share their wisdom. "In my own way I am making a difference in the world," Wilson explains. "it is a feeling I never dreamed I would experience.

     Susie Wilson in the past wrote a regular feature for NewJerseyNewsroom 

     She particularly feels compelled to use her wisdom to help young people with their sexual lives, to try to reduce sexually transmitted diseases. She apparently ceased writing for this publication in 2011 but has contributed much to not only her concerns about adolescent sexuality, but also has added her voice of wisdom to other topics of aging.

     Sheila Weinstein, being a writer, and after losing her husband wrote for herself about getting herself out of the funk that this great loss created. After looking at what she had written, she realized that these writing might be helpful to others who have lost their spouse. The resulting book, "Moving to the Center of the Bed: The Artful Creation of a Life Alone." will be of great help for many people who have lose their spouse. Sheila has a blog site dedicated to the same goal:

     Sheila says that she has a poem that she lived by when she started to get over her loss:
          You cannot be given a life by someone else
          Of all the people you know in your lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave or lose
          To the questions of your life, you are the only answer.
          To the problems of your life, you are the only solution.

     Ms. Weinstein's articles on aging and the various life events that we encounter during its last act have mostly been written in Psychology Today, a magazine which is available to lay people but was also sent as a so called "throw away" magazine to we physicians. At the following website, you may find many of Ms. Weinstein's articles.

     Another blog for mature people:

     And yet another:

     As far as the aches and pains of aging go, there are several other sites that give you an idea about what to do to treat and distract you from these chronic pains. Others give ideas about prevention, and treatment. I have listed them below. I have learned that unfortunately it is an activity which I dearly love which is adding to my grief. That is my gardening. You have seen all I have written about my gardening habits in this blog. To lose this activity will be very difficult for me. But it does appear this year that I am paying too high a price for this activity. I will likely have to cut down on the size of the beds that I maintain.

     I have found that water exercise in the form of my Water Aerobics class and then some time in the hot whirlpool afterwards help relieve my aches and pains for a day or two. By the third day I need to go do these activities again. The relief is by no means long lasting but it does give me some respite.

    I know that another contributor has been my recent weight gain. I admit I have put on about 9 pounds. I know as a physician that that much weight can make a dramatic difference in how arthritic structures respond to weight bearing. So it's back on the diet. My hope is that a return to my previous weight or maybe with luck a few more pounds loss can also significantly reduce my aches and pains.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Lazy birdwatching, Adirondack chair style

     In my last post, you read about my aspen grove and my Adirondack chairs. To remind you of the scene, hear is one of those photos reproduced.

      This year while working on my fairy garden, every now and then I decided I wanted a rest. I would be sitting in the Adirondack and I would hear a bird. As the spring progressed, I heard and saw more and more birds as the warblers came through. I learned that when I went out there to garden, I should take along my binoculars and my bird book. What a wonderful way to birdwatch. A very lazy way but a very comfortable way. If you know a little about birdwatching, you may know that warblers are colorful little birds that are in constant motion through the trees, catching insects. So if I see a fluttering of movement through the trees, especially before they have leafed out it is almost certainly a warbler. The only exception to that rule is so-called pseudowarblers. Those are the chickadees because they do a lot of quick fluttering from branch to branch as well. But they almost always sing, chickadee dee dee while they flutter. This year I identified the following warblers come through while just sitting with my head back in my Adirondack looking through my binoculars. Sometimes they came so close with my phishing, that I didn't even need my binoculars.

     Black and white warbler, black throated blue warbler, magnolia warbler, yellow rumped or "myrtle" warbler (very common), Canada warbler, chestnut sided warbler, pine warbler, yellow warbler, palm warbler, Tennessee warbler, Nashville warbler, common yellowthroat and the ovenbird. Other years when I have walked around my property birdwatching, not just sat in one place, I have also seen the blackburnian warbler, and the bay breasted warbler. And on local bird watching walks, I have seen a Wilson's warbler.

The following is a very long URLed blog which is however a wonderful site with many photos of some of the birds I have mentioned and will mention in this post. I am not the bird photographer. Most of the previous photographs that I have posted at various times were my husbands photographs. He has not photographed our local birds with the exception of the eagles and the turkeys. Check out this blog for many very nice images and for pages that can be used as a field guide for the warblers.,d.aWw&psig=AFQjCNHDH0IUs8X9ZaCQeDNrbWOefadOpQ&ust=1404499757990229

     I also keep track of the birds that nest on my property or on properties immediately adjacent to us. Commonly we have cardinals, robins, wrens in many of my wren houses, catbirds, mourning doves, blue jays, crows, white breasted nuthatches, ruby throated hummingbirds, red winged blackbirds, chickadees, chipping sparrows and song sparrows. We have goldfinches regularly visit our feeders in small flocks, and we see cedar waxwing flocks, but I don't think they nest on our property or adjacently. We have cowbirds at our feeders and I know the female has probably parasitized some other bird's nest here. Usually in this location it is the chipping sparrow that is affected. Down on the Lake Michigan bluff and down on the beach, we have had cliff swallows, great blue herons, mallards, song  and chipping sparrows, as well as common coots nest. Of course, I always have at least one house with tree swallows. They only nest once a summer and they took the bluebird house in the back near the Lake. This year a pair of bluebirds chose a house that our neighbors recently put up. My concern was that it was just nailed to a tree trunk without any kind of predator guard. But I believe they were successful and fledged their young already. A pair has now been considering some of my bluebird houses in front of the house. I don't know if this is the same pair now attempting their second nesting or not. They built a beautiful deep nest in one of the bluebird houses and I was indeed sitting in my adirondack chair watching them. I love to listen to their soft bubbly song that somehow manages to carry long distances. But a wren stuck some sticks in that house on top of the grass bluebird nest and the pair disappeared. Now about 10 days later they are back again and are trying to nest in another nest box which I had cleaned out recently where a wren has already completed a nesting cycle. I hope the male wren now leaves that bluebird nest alone.

     Early in the season, I found a dead chickadee in one of the bluebird boxes. Though a wren could have been the culprit, I blamed the house sparrows. I have accumulated quite a few of them. So early this spring as they were beginning their nests, I began a trapping chore. I managed to catch two males and destroy them. I still have one pair around and they were nesting in my purple martin house. In all the years that we have had that house up, I have not been able to attract purple martins, even with decoy bird figures, and playing their morning song daily. So I decided to let that pair work on their nest and even begin to raise their young. It would keep them busy and out of my other boxes. But then prior to when I thought the young might be ready to fledge, I lowered the purple martin houses and emptied all of them. I will not let house sparrows fledge on my property.

     Over the years we have had red headed woodpeckers nest near our property and the adults brought the young to our feeders. This year two red bellied woodpeckers have been regular visitors to our feeders and I believe they are nesting nearby. I occasionally hear them calling. We have some dead branches on a couple of our tall cottonwood trees and I think they might be up in a hole in one of those snags.

     House finches regularly nest in a light fixture on our back stoop. This year they started that nest very very early and had fledged their young by early May. I didn't have the heart to remove them. But now that they have fledged, I plan to nail that fixture cover back in place. It is kind of messy to have them over our heads as we leave the house through the back door.

     We regularly see Coopers hawks and I have heard commotions in the vicinity of a robins nest along our driveway. I don't think they are nesting on or adjacent to our property but certainly they are in the vicinity. Also we have a pair of red tailed hawks who on East wind days hang in the air over the bluff looking down while in one place in the wind, hunting for rodents on the bluff.  I always investigate when I hear the crows and even other birds making a fuss. Often it is a red tailed hawk perched in a tree. Some years ago such a commotion called my attention to a snowy owl perched on our neighbors patio. One day a couple of weeks ago their was such a hubbub
  of other birds going out back in a cottonwood tree near the corner of our house. I went out to search with my binoculars, and low and behold, there was a peregrine falcon sitting in the tree. Blackbirds and crows were giving it a hard time. I have never seen a peregrine in this area. It sat for some time in our tree just looking around. I went to the Internet and learned that there is a box nest site at UWM which is directly down the lake front from us, though it is about 7 miles away. I read that peregrines do range as far as 12 miles when they are feeding young. The peregrine pair at UWM is monitored and sometimes seen on camera. I would bet that the one in my cottonwood was the female from there, as it was quite a large bird. Female falcons are usually a third bigger than the males. Anyway, that was an exciting bird day at our home. 

       Of course, our bald eagles are still nesting (for the 5th or 6th year) about 7 lots south of us in what is now a Ozaukee-Washington County Conservancy. We see the parents periodically flying along the bluff. Over the years we have seen the young fledgelings taking one of their early flights. It is quite amusing. One year we saw a young one fly over the neighbor's back yard, put down his/her landing gear (legs) to try to land in one of our trees. But then it decided that it wasn't going to make that landing and it put its legs back up. After a couple circles it finally landed on our rail fence. I could envision this young birds thought processes as it lowered and raised its legs until finally it picked a spot it decided it could make. Apparently flight is not such a easy thing for a bird the size of a bald eagle.

     I just checked out the Decorah Eagles. This year's eaglets have fledged of course. They actually fledged already a couple weeks ago. They have had some difficulties this year. It is thought that the bad weather and the rains have been hard on the family. One eaglet was downed with a broken wing and apparently some sort of infection of its tail. Another was found down and captured and examined. It appeared too weak to fly but ate quail at a rehab site where it was taken and soon became strong enough to fly and was fitted with a radio band locator. The experts who monitor the Decorah nest think it has been difficult for Mom and Dad eagle to find food and to find the eaglets in order to feed them due to the weather and flooding. Also gnats were very bad in the area and some consider that perhaps this has led to slightly early fledging of weaker eaglets. Anyway it has been a tough year for us humans and also for the eagles.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Aspen Groves and Fairy Gardens: Summer of 2014

     Well, this year I am truly and thoroughly hooked. Spent a lot of time this spring and early summer, before our two weeks of fog and torrential rain, working on my gardens. In fact, I had my beds in pretty good shape with weeding and planting until this last 1 week of rain. Now the weed seeds that remained seem to have sprouted and grown a foot. I just made a tour of my gardens this morning. It is foggy and kind of dripping. But finally all of my peonies have opened. There are still some iris blooming. My poppies have popped and are now done. And it seems to be a very good year for clematis. Everything looks a little bedraggled after the rains but all will recover, I am sure. Then it will be time to pull up dame's rocket from my beds by the house. If you let them go to seed you have an overwhelming invasion the next year. I will soon have to deadhead the finished iris and also, for sure, the chives. They become invasive also if you allow seed formation.

The last of my irises.

      My first ever foxglove from seed is blooming. It survived the winter under about 4 inches of wood chip mulch. It looks pretty spindly but there is a bloom. Maybe by the end of the summer it will look like the huge potted foxglove that I purchase in full bloom and plant, treating them like annuals. This year I am trying two new foxgloves that are supposed to be perennial in our Zone 4 climate. We will see.

The foxglove that grew from seed and survived winter.

Supposed perennial foxglove as opposed to biennial.
     But mixed with all the planting and weeding, I always ended up in my Fairy gardens. At the street end of our long lot is a small quaking aspen colony. If you don't know what that is, let me explain. Populus tremuloides, the most widely distributed tree species in North America, also called American aspen, quaking aspen, and white poplar among other names, grows in clonal colonies. This means that a single tree is the eventual source of a whole grove of these trees through sprouting of new shoots from the root system of the parent tree. Aspen seeds do not always sprout easily so reproduction within the grove from seeds can be rare. Also aspen trees are either male or female and the whole clonal grove is of the same sex. Therefore within the grove, seeds which require the presence of both sexes of trees are unlikely to form. When we moved to our house on Lake Michigan there was a small grove of very small aspen, the tallest which were about 10 feet tall, growing along the road. Many of the trees were shorter but all were about the same size within a couple feet. In areas of aspen groves, forest fires used to burn the trees above ground but the whole grove would resprout from the preserved roots beneath the heat of the fire. Through various scientific methods, including genetics, which I will not go into, it is possible to date the length of existence of a grove of aspen. Indeed, there is a 43 acre stand of male aspen growing at about 8,000 feet altitude in Utah which is estimated to be the heaviest living organism in the world weighing about 6600 tons. This stand of trees has been named Pando (Latin for "I spread", also called The Trembling Giant) and its root system is estimated to be at least 80,000 years old, therefore being the oldest living organism on the earth. Some scientists even think that this male aspen organism may be as old as a million years.

     Knowing these facts, I think that the lady that had lived in a small 1950s ranch house where we built our house decided to let this area of the lot "go wild." And what grew were the suckers of an older aspen root system that had probably been cleared as part of fields that were once located on the lakeshore. Perhaps there had been a local fire but I could not find any records of that. At any rate, I now have an aspen grove that is the home of my fairy gardens. I do admit that there is some buckthorn in my aspens. But I have been slowly working to get that invasive species gone from there. And at the edge of the main grove of aspens, I do see aspen suckers growing. You will see two of them in the following photos.

     Here are two photos of my aspen grove and of the entrance to my fairy gardens, in the first photo located just to the right of the central two aspen trees.

     Over the years of living at this site on Lake Michigan, I have planted prairie plants adjacent to my aspen grove and have established, neglected and recently again established paths through this wild area that my husband calls "the jungle." I also have a clearing where I have put two "very expensive" plastic Adirondack chairs and footstools. I hang a couple pots of blooming impatiens in the shady clearing. Daffodils blossom at the clearing edge before the trees leaf out. A large cluster of Virginia bluebells has spread beneath a boxelder near the edge of the aspen grove. I love to sit in my Adirondack and enjoy those spring blossoms.

My Adirondacks. Fairy vignettes to right and left of path.

Fairy vignette at base of a boxelder tree covered with wire as deer protection.

      Last year I got hooked with fairy gardening. I posted a few photos here of those first attempts. Well, my addiction has grown. This year I have 6 vignettes where fairies are thriving. If you are a frequenter of garden stores, you may have noticed that apparently my addiction is not uncommon. Most now have a section which is actually maintained throughout the year with miniature plants, ceramic fairy figures, and every miniature garden accessory that one could think of from tiny rakes and shovels, to croquet sets, tiny bird houses, bicycles, and even a charcoal grill. One can really sink a lot of dollars into all these little effects. In my case, I have done that, but I have also crafted many of the little items that are in my gardens. And I have robbed other places in my house for items that resemble a full size garden essential but in miniature. Many people place their miniature fairy gardens in pots, or in bird baths or other containers. Under those cultural habits, they can bring them indoors during our winters and therefore can use little houseplants and succulents as the vegetation. In my case, I have placed these vignettes right on the ground either surrounding a tree trunk, or along my path. For this reason, some of my plants are perennials and I will leave them in the ground this fall. Others are not hardy in this reason and I will have to bring them back indoors. Most of them are still in the pots which are sunk in the ground. So far with all this rain, keeping them watered has not been a problem. But ask me about that in about mid August.

     Below is a photo of my welcoming fairy vignette as the visitor enters my path into my aspen grove.

     The miniature house in the center has two solar powered LED lights inside so that at night the green tinted windows in front light up. That should certainly indicate to other fairy visitors that this is a nice fairy landing place. To the right of the back corner of the house is one of those aspen suckers which is about a foot tall now. If I continue this vignette in this site for too many years, we will have a large aspen trunk as a background. Underneath the aspen sucker is a coleus plant. The small leaved plant at the front right corner of the house is lemon thyme. It has nice small leaves of the proper scale for this scene. To the left front corner of the house is a wood pile and then a miniature sedum that looks like spruce in this scale. A stone path leads to the front door. Scottish moss grows across the front of the fairy property. To the far right is a tall (for the scale) light green tree which is a lemon cyprus standard. This "tree" is not hardy and I will have to bring it in this winter. So I can simply pack up the house and the fairy figure and the lemon cyprus and bring them in for the winter.

The "tree" to the right is a lemon cypress, not hardy.

  One might think that fairies are gentle and serene little folks, right? Our childhood stories would lead us to believe that. But I found the 'marble' sign pictured below at a garden show in Indianapolis while visiting my son's family and it would seem to indicate otherwise. It serves as a blunt warning to all who enter my pathway into the fairy world.

     The next vignette is the Hobbit Hole. I made this façade out of balsom wood and polymer clay so that it looks like a stone front, with a wooden door. It is partially buried with a mound of dirt behind it covered by natural moss. There are ferns growing naturally here and I have also planted Irish moss and a small sedum. The façade is propped up for stability now because of all the rains we have been getting. To the right of the entrance ramp are two deer figures and two rows of miniature corn.

     At the east end of my aspen grove is a large boxelder tree. The complex trunk of this tree with all of its suckers both young and old has provided space for two fairy doors placed up against the trunk. On the ground in front of these two doors which I made of craft popsicle sticks with polymer clay hardware, are two large layouts with fairy figures, pebble paving, "grass", and garden plots. there is even a bicycle that one of the fairies uses, and a croquet set for the fairies' leisure time.


     Deer, rabbits and voles are constant threats to my little creations. Here is a photo of the two vignettes around the boxelder tree covered with protectors made of chicken wire.

     There is even a "chicken house" which I made with artificial leaves and a piece of tree trunk along with chickens from my own Marx farm playset", part of my toy collection.

     Fairies like orbs. Here is one made of willow twigs. It contains a sleeping fairy youngster.

 The next vignette is the "castle" home of the queen of the fairies. This "castle" consists of an old butterfly house with a copper roof. The back has rotted out but the front served as a mounting board for a door and a window made of blue polymer clay with clay hardware. It appears that the fairy queen is having someone over for lunch because the table out front is set with dishes. There is a grassy area with a bench, birdbath and hummingbird feeder to the right of the castle, and a pond with a pier and a fairy sitting next to the pond to the left of the castle. And further left, is a glass conservatory (really a small glass bucket turned upside down.)


     The next vignette is set against the trunk of a large cottonwood tree near the edge of the aspen grove. For this scene, I used some balsom wood to make a door shape and then used a woodburning tool to outline the boards and also to carve some fairy "runes" over the top and along the side of the door. There is a small stream that runs along the front of the scene, made of blue flattened glass marbles, and a bridge made of pieces of bark to cross the stream. Another outdoor dining table is set for one person. A fairy girl kneels doing some gardening along the stream. The miniature arbor vitae standard on the right will be hardy, but will grow into a large plant. I will have to trim it periodically to keep it very small like this. Other plants are Irish moss, miniature house plants, a miniature "rubber tree" and to the left hardy epimedium. Naturally occurring Virginia creeper climbs up the cottonwood trunk to provide the greenery over the door. In the left foreground is a lemon cypress tree. There was also one in the Queen Fairy castle vignette. This is not a hardy miniature tree and I will have to bring both of these inside for the winter, as well as the reddish plants on each side of the bridge. They are a variety of Oxalis and are not hardy.


   The final vignette is located deeper inside the aspen grove. I call it the "Wild Wild West" of fairyland. It consists of three cold ceramic buildings which I painted and shellaced. There is also a plastic horse and cart with a gun battle going on. This area is not complete yet. I purposely put it down a path and in the distance, because the scale is much smaller than the rest of my vignettes. Hence it is meant to be viewed from afar.