Sticks and Seeds
Amongst the holidays I seemed to have lost a week! Lots of time with the family, friends, and a bit of travel thrown in for good measure. It’s what the holidays are about, right?
Things finally calmed down, the weather warmed a bit for January, the clouds cleared, and I finally got a chance to get outside and do a bit of exploration with my camera. My goal was to just take a small walking trip around the neighborhood to see what I might see. Armed with my trusty camera and the warm-hearted companionship of my middle son, we left out the back door and I started keeping my eyes open.
Nature walks in the city are always interesting. You have to change your expectations quite a bit. The chances of stumbling upon a herd of deer or a catching a glimpse of a fox is just not going to happen. Regardless, there’s plenty to observe. For starters, the squirrels were taking advantage of the break in the weather and were out in numbers everywhere. Quick flickers of movement helped me spot the sparrows and occasional cardinal. Our walk carried us towards the nearby park where he took advantage of the play ground while I wandered around with the camera.
Dried winter weeds always fascinate me with their left over seed pods and stalks. The stark sometimes sleek quality of them brings out the zen in me and I could spend hours photographing them.
We spent probably an hour at the park wandering around. A good chunk of that was spent by me trying to capture a shot of an elusive cardinal that was sitting nestled in amongst crowded branches. It was a difficult shot with the bird being slightly backlit which lowered my shutter speed and the numerous branches throwing off my focus. The fact I don’t have a shot to show you is evidence of what the final outcome was of the time spent. The weeds, however, were far more easy to work with and without knowing I fell into that zone that hits artists where time falls away and all you know, all you are, is the work.
An escaped dog, free from his ten year old captor, ran past me and startled me out of my trance. I collected my own youthful companion and we headed back towards home. On the way, he pointed to a large collection of seed pods that rose up along a chain link fence of a small house. He wanted to grab a few so he could bust them open. They were fun, he said.
With a grin, I said yes and told him I was going to grab a few myself. “Why?” he asked. “Cause they’re fun,” I grinned back, “and because they’re milkweed pods and I’ve been looking for some of these.”
Milkweed is a wide ranging plant with over a hundred different species and a huge source of nectar for those insects that gather it. (Tons more info can be found here via Wikipedia.) I’d been looking for the milkweed pods for one particular purpose.
A few years ago I experimented with raising monarch butterflies. Monarch butterflies exist on one plant only; milkweed. In order to attract monarchs and to collect their eggs you need a fairly decent patch of milkweed. And now, I had two seed pods to gather some seeds. I might not have the time to raise Monarchs but with these seed I could grow a nice patch to attract them to our yard.
So, armed with our simple little treasure, we headed back home. My plan is to keep the pods up to early Spring and then get the seeds within them planted. Hopefully, in late Summer, we’ll see some Monarchs. I will, of course, keep things updated here.
We also managed, on the way home, to get in a rousing game of “kick the stick.” If you’ve not tried it, I recommend it.
It’s the simple things that are the key