Ice Storm

During the sleet and freezing rain this morning we could see the shadow of a bird hunkered down in the bird feeder that, like everything else outdoors, was decorated with glistening icicles. It couldn’t have been a pleasant morning for anyone but we were curious to know who seemed to find permanent refuge in the feeder.

ice on feederSoon, up popped a head. It was an American Goldfinch. He was hunkered down eating and staying dry in the shelter of the feeder.

finchWhen he saw me at the window with my camera, he hopped to the side. But he didn’t leave. Soon the lure of food and shelter outweighed the fear of me watching him and he returned to his safe harbor snug in the sunflower seeds.

goldfinchThe American Goldfinch can remain in New Hampshire for the winter if there is a food supply. Not to worry, little fella. You came to the right yard.

Buckeye Bars

It’s been eons since I’ve whipped together this sweet for my children. Just hearing my daughter talk about making it for her children gave me a hankering for this super chocolate-peanut butter treat. It’s such an easy recipe with just 5 ingredients and no cooking! Is there anything better than the blend of peanut butter and chocolate?

Buckeye Bars

1 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (creamy or crunchy) + 3 tablespoons
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Melt butter by microwave and add to graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar. Stir until smooth.

Buckeye BarsAdd peanut butter (I love crunchy!) and mix well.

Buckeye BarsPress evenly into a 9 x 13 casserole dish. (Optional: Line the pan with parchment paper for ease of removal) Melt chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons of peanut butter in the microwave. Stir until smooth.  Pour over peanut butter in casserole, covering all of the peanut butter mixture. Refrigerate for an hour. Cut into small squares. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Take out 10 minutes before serving.

Buckeye Bars

I don’t mind winter but I hate ICE

I don’t mind winter. I don’t mind cold weather. I rather like snow. I don’t mind doing a little shoveling of the white stuff. Cold winds don’t bother me.  But I simply hate ice. I’m terrified of driving on it, walking on it, and hate scraping it off sidewalks and windshields. The Northeast has had a lot of snow followed by fast thawing, then freezing sleet and rain with more of it expected overnight tonight.  Even my cute little deck snowman has shrunk into a solid block of ice.IMG_7490We didn’t see icicles when we moved in March of last year but the ice stalactites we now see around Exeter, including our house, could be a scene from Virginia’s Luray Caverns. Take a look at the similarity of structures…

English: An image of the Drapery or Flowstone in Luray Caverns known as "Saracen's Tent". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wikipedia: Luray Cavern stalactites

icicle stalactites

Our icicle stalactites

When you have a freezing and thawing and freezing pattern, you can easily develop ice dams. This is all new to me but evidently our home inspector was wrong when he said our attic insulation was just fine and dandy. We developed ice dams that trapped water melted by escaping attic heat. Ice dams can destroy gutters and force water into a home. When we saw a drip inside, we knew we had to take action. We have now contracted to have the attic insulated much MUCH better but we found a trick from This Old Home that temporarily saved us.

We filled a stocking with a calcium chloride de-icer and laid it over the ice dam. It melted a channel to the gutter to help water to flow. We also sprinkled it on the ice along the gutter. It worked like a charm! All clear now and we know a lot more about New England ICE.

“Neither Snow nor Rain…”

Roads have been cleared enough for us to take a peek at our community and see how these folks are coping with the snow.

IMG_7347This was a common sight along our drive. We saw many homeowners who were excavating by hand, however two out of three vehicles we passed were trucks with snow plows. It’s a huge business here.

shoveling snow in ExeterSome people can’t wait for freezing weather. This family floods their front yard annually for a little ice hockey at home. As long as the weather holds, this rink is full of kids. In the warmer months, it reverts back to healthy green grass. How does that happen?

IceNeither the frigid temperatures nor the snow has had much effect on hardy New England shoppers… although it’s all single-file on the sidewalks. IMG_7356

The most unusual sight we witnessed was St. Nick heading toward his sleigh…err… car in a parking lot. Heads turned but we saw no one chasing Santa down to hand over a last minute wish 2We do admire these New England residents and their adoption of the unofficial US Post Office motto. As for us, we are back in the warmth of home, fire in the fireplace, Christmas carols in the background, a good book to carry us through the afternoon.

There’s just something about snow

There is something magic about the first snowfall of the season. It transforms the drab colors of fall into a pristine blanket of white. Somehow it transforms us, too. The stresses of daily life seem to fade, allowing our minds to slow down and simply enjoy the moment.

New Hampshire had the first REAL snowfall over the weekend, super timing for the weekend when most could thoroughly enjoy the experience. The snow fell softly through the night, covering bare branches and blanketing evergreen boughs, shrubs and the ground, allowing us to see nature in a fresh way. Mister gardener and I donned our boots, down coats, scarves and hats and enjoyed walking through the drifts to a neighborhood Christmas party where the excitement of the holiday season, enhanced by the falling snow, was contagious.

snow 12/14/1013In the stillness of early morning, we shoveled our way to the bird feeders to make sure our feathered friends were well taken care of and an ice dam had not frozen the food supply. And we sprinkled enough seed over the snow to assist the ground feeding birds.

Shoveling to the feedersWell-received by the birds is our new heated birdbath, not for bathing, but allowing a fresh drink of water in this frozen landscape.

heated birdbathAlas, the peacefulness of a snowy morning was eventually broken by the din of snowplows, jolting us back from the land of snow castles and daydreams and hot chocolate to the land of must-do’s and our endless lists of chores.

snow removalOh well. We’re back on the road again… but I’m thrilled that the weatherman announced that the accumulation of snow we received over the weekend guarantees us a blanket of snow for Christmas. Matter of fact, over half of the USA is covered in snow, said to be the most in 11 years on this date. It should be a white Christmas for many!

Ladybug, ladybug

As a youngster, do you remember singing, “Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away home…”, as a ladybug crawled up on your finger and flew away?  Well, little beetle, if you haven’t flown away home by now, it may be too late as the temperatures have dropped into single digits in New England overnight. In the fall, these attractive little beetles of the Coccinellidae family seek out warm spots to hibernate, such as under debris outside or under bark on a tree but one particular variety often seeks refuge inside our homes.

The ladybugs we see inside our homes are the Asian ladybug (Harmonia axyridis). When temperatures drop, they will congregate on the sunny side of a home, favoring lighter color homes for some reason, where they seek out any crevice to hibernate. If a crack or crevice opens to the inside, then they will come right in… sometimes by the hundreds.

For years, the insects were introduced as an aphid and scale control in a number of states across North America. But the insects did not do well. They were found in Louisiana in 1988, some say from a Japanese freighter, and have expanded to much of the USA and Canada.

There are two good identifying characteristics of the Asian ladybug. First, the black markings on the head form the letter M (or the letter W, depending on whether we are facing the insect), and the legs are reddish. The adults can be a wide variety of colors from shades of orange to tan to red, some with many spots and others with spots that blend together as a black ladybug. The ones with fewer spots are usually male.

Asian LadybugAlthough I can feel the small beetles occasionally nibble my skin when I hold them, the insects are not harmful to humans. They eat other insects so they have small chewing mouthpieces. The nuisance is the odor they emit and the yellow secretion they have when they are disturbed.

I have only seen a few of these beetles in New Hampshire, however, in parts of the country, it can be a mass invasion some years and other years not many at all. I can remember one year in Virginia, we had dozens entering through a window that didn’t shut properly. Solution? We swept them up, released them in the daisy patch where aphids lived, then simply sealed the crack.

Asian Ladybug

15 Days till Christmas!

The Christmas Season was well on its way before Thanksgiving however I didn’t venture into the shopping arena until Thanksgiving weekend. Our Portsmouth NH excursion two days following the big meal plunged us into the spirit of the season. The small city was packed with holiday shoppers or window shoppers or some just walking off overindulgence of Thanksgiving. The sounds of Christmas music resonated from corners, we found coffee shops and every store we entered packed with revelers, there were horse drawn carriage rides, tempting foods, and to top it off, snow flurries late in the day added much to holiday ambience.  I love the atmosphere of shopping in a city. Are enclosed shopping malls on the way out?

With the shortened shopping season, shoppers seem to be frenzied to make sure gifts are purchased and mailed in time. Today, December 9, gives us 5 days for USPS standard mail.

Click on photos to see larger images.

Beetle Mania

English: Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipenni...The emerald ash borer has officially arrived in New Hampshire. The larva of this bright metallic green insect has killed millions of ash trees across the country since being spotted in Michigan in 2002. The insect hails from China and it wiped out Michigan ash trees before moving south into other states. Officials knew it was just a matter of time before it would invade New Hampshire.

My son and his family are the owners of a wooded property surrounding their new home in Ohio. Visiting them this summer, he sadly pointed out the ash trees that were either dead or in deep decline from the emerald ash borer. These trees didn’t stand a chance against the invader and last weekend he removed 11 ash trees.

Two years ago at my daughter’s home in Portsmouth NH, I noticed several ash trees with declining canopies on neighboring properties and I told her she should check them for signs of borers. I don’t believe any signs of the borer were evident to her and the trees may have been stressed from other causes, perhaps a previous drought. They were so stressed that in a recent windstorm, one tree fell across the fence into her yard… now a rental property they own.

Ash Tree in Portsmouth NHShe says I must wait for the final verdict from the tree experts to learn what caused the ash to fall. Or if I’m pushy enough, she might let me visit and examine the bark myself.

Sadly, the ash is such a staple of urban life found in landscapes and lining city streets. They are beautiful and majestic trees that replaced the elm trees after Dutch Elm Disease wiped them out. The adult borer eats only the leaves of the ash but the female lays from 60 – 90 eggs in crevices on the bark. The larvae live beneath the bark for about two years before adulthood, becoming pupae in the inner bark the final winter… where a multitude of larvae and pupae interfere with the transport of water and nutrients to the tree’s canopy. In the spring, the insects chew their way out and the cycle repeats.

It’s just beginning in New Hampshire and precautions are being taken. Quarantines on firewood is the first step. Click here to learn about ash trees and exciting new biological steps being taken to find an enemy of the borer. Chemicals have become more effective in treating early infestations in larger trees, applied either by companies or the homeowners.

12-11-2013 Update:  The Emerald Ash Borer has now been detected in the town of North Andover MA. Click on the blog IPM of New Hampshire  for more information.