What’s Black & White and Red all over?

It’s a Meadowhawk dragonfly! New Hampshire is full of these handsome critters.

Every morning, coffee and camera in hand, I sit on the deck watching the shadows being slowly chased away by the morning sun. Sharing space with me are my cat reclined at my feet, a multitude of birds at the feeders, hummingbirds and insects scurrying here and there.

My favorite of all the insects right now are the dragonflies. In the dryness of late summer, the yard is alive with iridescent greens, blues, yellow, orange and brown and these wonderful bright red dragonflies that light on any and every sunny horizontal surface. Like tiny helicopters, they hover, they flit here and there, backwards, forwards, up and down… and occasionally land on me. Some dragonflies are skittish but not my bright red Meadowhawk friends. They see my camera and actually seem to pose.

MeadowhawkFrom checking ID’s online, I believe our little dragonflies are Cherry-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum internum), one of the skimmers. It’s a confusing business with several look-alikes so I could be quite wrong. The true ID lies in examination of the genitalia. Starting out more brown in color, the male above turned bright red at maturity. The majority of his life has been spent in water as a nymph, but at maturity, his destiny is to eat, mate, eat, mate, and die. What a life.

Abundant species in New Hampshire, but not in the Tidewater area of my home state of Virginia, the Cherry-faced Meadowhawk ranges from Alaska east to the Hudson Bay, from areas of California east to Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia.

With damselflies, dragonflies are members of the insect order Odonata, ‘ondon’ meaning tooth in Greek. Both use their formidable jaws, never to bite us, but, to eat a variety of insects… including ones we don’t want around, like mosquitoes and flies. The easiest way to tell a dragonfly from a damselfly is how their wings rest when perched. Damselflies hold their wings together above their body and the dragonflies, like our meadowhawk below, will spread their wings open when at rest.

Hello handsome. Is he taking a bow?

 

Summertime Blues

Someone told me today that we have about 6 more weeks of summer weather in New Hampshire. Bummer!  By mid-October temperatures drop, days are shorter and the leaf peepers will begin to stream into the state.

I will miss the warmth of summer. The August calendar filled quickly.  We have traveled. We have entertained house guests. I’ve made pickles from garden fresh cucumbers. We’ve frequented farmers’ markets, celebrated the youngest grandson’s first birthday and the oldest grandson’s 18th birthday, enjoyed a big family gathering, and continued our walks.

I visited public gardens, wandered through garden nurseries, met with a landscape architect, planted a few shrubs and pulled a few weeds and crabgrass, but no real gardens on this property yet…. except for my newest garden endeavor…. container gardening!

I loved making my own, pictured somewhere below but I’ll never tell. It was also fun to photograph different planters throughout the summer travels as I passed by with my handy iPhone. It seems as though the healthiest container plants were often the tried and true hot petunias, chartreuse or purple sweet potato vine and coleus in variety of shades and variegation. I was also surprised to see pots of healthy impatiens as most good nurseries did not sell them around here because of a mildew problem.

Any favorite color combinations for you?

Some were interesting but could use a little help…

And others had gone to plant heaven.

Happy Bridge Day!

Visible from the bridge, the sign, “Happy Bridge Day!” sums up the party atmosphere at the opening of the new $81.4 million Memorial Bridge linking Portsmouth NH with Kittery ME. Sister cities in two states were reunited yesterday and it felt good.

It was a time for the two communities to celebrate the teamwork it took to secure the federal grant for the nineteen-month bridge building project.  Following dignitary speeches and the ribbon cutting by 95-year old  Eileen Foley who cut the 1923 Memorial Bridge ribbon when she was just 5-years old, hundreds of pedestrians and bicyclers from each state passed each other as they made the trek across the bridge over the Piscataqua River.

The WalkMassive chains and concrete counterweights balance the weight of 64 cables that lift the center span of the bridge. As the span is raised the counterweights descend.

Designed by Ted Zoli, structural engineer with HNTB Corportation, is very well-known in the world of bridges for combining structural integrity with bold and elegant designs. The Memorial Bridge is the first non-gusset truss bridge in the world, the first to incorporate cold bending of steel and the first to have the machine rooms beneath the bridge. In designing the bridge, he honored the past by reflecting the look of the original 1923 bridge designed by John Alexander Low Waddell.

Steve DelGrosso, project manager of Archer Western Contractors, his crew, subcontractors, and DOT workers were big a part of the celebration, many of whom worked 140-hours a week for the past month to complete the project by the August 8 Bridge Opening Ceremony.

News crews were on display….

… along with numerous dogs, some vocal,

… perhaps just singing to the nearby brass band.

Brass BandSome of the strongest advocates for the connection to Maine were the cyclists, plenty of whom were on hand to show their appreciation and to entertain the crowds.

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Maine and New Hampshire residents were temporarily divided again during a bridge opening for…

… the lobster boat, Amy Michele, that traveled beneath the bridge on her way to the Atlantic. The lift went off without a hitch to hearty applause from onlookers.

IMG_5491After visiting Maine, we turned and walked the short distance back to the historic city of Portsmouth. What a day!

From Kittery ME to Portsmouth NH

No matter how you slice it…

…nothing says summer like a juicy ripe garden tomato!Oh so good!

They are the most delicious and most versatile fruit of the season. During the tomato season, either cooked or raw, tomatoes are a perfect accompaniment to any meal at our house. Whether raw in a salad or sandwich, roasted, in a sauce, on a pizza, in soups, stuffed, or in tarts, pies and even preserves, we can eat tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, appetizers, dinner and snacks. There are as many tomato recipes as there are varieties of tomatoes.

In Virginia, mister gardener grew 18 different varieties of the fruit. He depended on the tried-and-trues and experimented with the heirlooms and the unknowns. It was great fun to see and taste the differences. We had purple tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, orange tomatoes, speckled tomatoes, and some shaped like pears! There are no tomatoes in our New Hampshire garden. Instead we can select good variety from what is offered at local farmers’ markets.

Tomatoes!!!One of our favorite meals is mister gardener’s fresh gazpacho soup. With newly picked young cucumbers, onions and green peppers from farmers’ markets, mister gardener makes a large quantity of gazpacho to last us a few days and enough to share with family. Life would definitely be better if the fleeting tomato season would never end!

See a couple of mister gardener’s heirlooms in Virginia.

gazpacho

Hail to the Queen!

On our morning walks, I love seeing rich pink flowers of ‘Queen of the Meadow,’ Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (E. maculatum). It is just coming into bloom along the paths we regularly take each morning. In the midst of Queen Anne’s Lace and Grass-leaved Goldenrod, the rich pink of the blooms and the deep purple of the stem clearly mark the native Joe-Pye as royalty. Among its subjects who present themselves to polish off some royal nectar are butterflies, including the swallowtail butterflies, Monarch butterflies, the skippers, plus all sort of bees, wasps and perhaps a hummingbird or two.

Spotted Joe PyeSpotted Joe-Pye-weed, a member of the aster family, has ‘the widest geographical distribution and greatest morphological variability’ of all Joe-Pye weeds, according to the New England Wild Flower Society. A different variety grew with abandon in my mother’s Virginia garden but none of Joe-Pye grows in mine as it has a tendency to invade. I prefer to pay homage in meadows along my walk.

The ‘Queen of the Meadow’ will continue to delight into fall. The leaves will fade from green to a nice lemony yellow and the stems remain a spotted purple shade. The blooms will fade to a fluffy brown seed head attracting goldfinches and other birds to dine.

Actually, no one really knows for absolute certainty how the plant was named Joe-Pye but if you’re curious, click here to read one of the most interesting studies of who Joe Pye might be.