The Underdogs of Foliage

All the old Vermont post cards depicting fall foliage had on the back the phrase, “ablaze with color!”

Ever since I had a tiny bush at my then-house go ablaze 20 years ago, I’ve looked for the underdogs during foliage season.

Look at this runty little feller, admired by none.

Virginia Creeper, I presume.

Truly sad. But it’s happy you’re looking at it!

This is some kind of weed. But ablaze.

I love this thing. No idea what it is. Wait –there’s an app for that (“Seek”)!

It’s a Smokebush. I highly recommend. Obviously can stand nasty winters and summer drought. Doesn’t grow too quickly.

It drops mini tumbleweeds. And it’s turning…maroon.

Surprised you made it this far.

Every dog has its day? Not always, IMHO, but today they did.

THANK YOU from the underdogs of foliage.

The Little Engine That Could — And Did

Our small church in Randolph, Vermont, which takes “our hands doing the work of God” seriously, undertook a risky initiative early this summer. No religious affiliation was required.

Myrhorod (pronounced by Americans as MEER-A-GWOD) is our Vermont town’s “sister city” in the middle of Ukraine, 5,000 miles away. When the invasion began, concerned people from our town who had traveled to Myrhorod decades ago got in touch with its residents.

Our fretting town learned that the residents were gearing up their hospital because the city was becoming a haven for refugees from areas under attack (refugees currently number 30,000). Ukrainians that had left home with only a backpack and the clothes on their back.


So, during Lent, our church got the crazy idea of shipping medical supplies, clothing, and other critical items from Vermont to a cargo ship in New Jersey, across the ocean, and on to the Poland-Ukraine border. The Myrhorodians would take it from there (1000s of miles across land, under threat of piracy).

The incredible outpouring from our community over the weeks, including corporate sponsors who donated manpower and supplies, made me bawl. Vermonters of all ages with very little money of their own dropped off blankets or a stuffed animal or bandages, writing checks for 10 dollars. The church filled with supplies. With 93 year-old goddess Irene at the helm, volunteers sorted and boxed it all. The Youth Group painted beautiful messages of hope on the boxes. I bawled more.

I remember Lee at church first saying when she proposed this “Project Dove” to the congregation, “How likely is it that our shipment will make it all the way there? We don’t know. So we can either not try, or… try…and see what happens.” Well, here’s what happened:

Miracles happen. Keep trying. You just never know.

The NBC NBs

Here we go. The Night Blooming Cereus night blooms once again! It reminds me of women giving birth in the back of a taxicab.

Ah, the guts are becoming visible.

It’s like the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau in there. Or another planet. Or a concert with the diva star out front.

Can’t photograph the smell.

(Photo courtesy of Chris.)

Nitey nite!

Thanks for the show, NBC, after your harrowing 80-mile ride.

You’re a tuffie. We LERV you.

NBC Mission: Impossible

The NBC did NOT bloom last night as I badly needed it to before I skipped town. Unable to leave her to bloom unobserved, I enlisted a kindly neighbor to get her in the car, knowing full well how unlikely the bud would hang onto the plant during my drive east. What with my crap suspension system and Vermont roads and all. She is buoyed by an old printer, a pillow, a beater bathing suit, and a back rest.

We stopped at my favorite gas station in the world, Irving (Hello!). I added an ugly brown fleece to the support system.

There is no way I am the only nutter in the history of the world to take a blooming cereus on the road rather than let it bloom alone. Hopefully another nutter will report in.

Praying this one makes it to New Hampshire, but if it doesn’t, hell, we tried.

I have never named the plant. On the drive it came to me: Luna.

We made it to New Hampshire. Thank you, Forces!

My hosts and I took a celebratory pond dip. Heavenly.

See the fraying tip?

IT’S HAPPENING.

It’s uncertain, though, because the stem is too bent where it comes out of the leaf, due to sag during the drive. I’m afraid to adjust it. We’ll report in as able, Luna and I.

Fingers crossed!

NBC Readies For Launch

Couple days ago.

I was told that when she starts to turn pinkish, the big moment is coming. She’s been pink for days, but I know two things. The bud has to be FATTER, and the very ends of the bloom begin to FRAY right before it’s time for BLAST OFF.

Not there yet.

Last night. The stem, if you will grows directly out of the leaf somehow (you can see this, like, feeder vein in the leaf). It starts to bend upwards.

The stem also gets PHAT. To send all those nutrients, fluids, energy, and LERV to the bud for Show Time, one night a year.

This morning.

This is the first year I noticed how much the stem bends into a J shape, just like the Monarch caterpillar before it spins its chrysalis.

Sacred geometry? Sacred Spelling? Who know, who cares…something’s coming, something good. Maybe tonight, maybe tonight….maybe toniiiiiiiiiiiiight!!!

Meanwhile, Back at the Monarchs

There has been a series of hatchling batches over the last few weeks, so they’re different ages. I missed my shot with this big fatty elder-pillar who was perfect to bring indoors in a container to do its chrysalis thing.

But I was going out of town and didn’t want to drag the poor thing along. I only hope it wasn’t eaten by a bird.

The milkweed plant serves several purposes. A place to hang your hat, a buffet to be ravaged, and…

And a latrine.

I’m not sure where they sleep, but they climb down the milkweed well before dusk. Surely napping not far from their beloved milkweed plant that provides All. A home you can eat!

Hoping to show you a chrysalis from one of the now-toddlers one day soon.

The Annual NBC Nail Biter Continues

As the bud got heavier, the angle of the dangle went from up to down. You should know that sometimes the bud falls off–OOF.

So it’s looking a little precarious. I’ll need to support it. Wheels are turning.

To heighten the tension, due to circumstances beyond my control I may not be here when she blows and miss the Grand Finale. We cannot have this.

GROW BABY GROW! You’re on the clock.

I remain hopeful.

Update on the Night Blooming Cereus

Daily, the bud elongates and gets fatter and fatter. When I return from work, it has grown! Stretching and swelling and becoming more defined, it seeks to grow and bloom just as we crazy humans do.

This is a couple mornings ago.

And this was yesterday morn. Boom!

More on her precarious positioning later. Every year it’s dicey, and for a different reason. Not sure how to solve this year’s dilemma, or if I’ll even try.

Sometimes we just let nature run its course, no?

Thar She Blows – Night Blooming Cereus 2022

Night Blooming Cereus: ugly duckling, protector…then entertainer for one night a year.

Protector? There were some sketchy things going on in my neighborhood. My NBC shot up a new leaf, the tallest it ever has, which bent towards the window.

She looked like a cobra (see shadow). I snickered and thanked her every time I saw her ~ for menacing evildoers out in the ‘hood.

Yesterday, her first bud appeared. August is her month, normally, so I’ve been looking.

It never gets old!

Looks like the bud is giving us the thumbs up, no?

The bud grows hourly. Stay tuned!

Monarch Babies Coming to a Drought Near You

The corn is as high as an elephant’s…ankle…and so is the monarch butterfly’s food source, the milkweed plant. Bad drought. We’ll see how many plants are left for the monarchs to hang their cocoons from once they’re done chowing, as the milkweed is now short, with very few leaves.

Up close these guys are cute, about 1/4″ long, but friend Meg said years ago how she always hated Chicken & Stars soup because there were “too many of them” (stars). This could be too many baby caterpillars for you. I understand.

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