Nightshade and nettle

(Solanum dulcamara)

I took a stroll around the pond once the rain stopped yesterday.  I wanted to see what’s out there.  What’s blooming, what’s finished blooming, what’s fruiting, and by the way, what level is the creek at after all the rain?  That kind of walk.

I spotted the pretty little purple and yellow flowers pictured above.  They were climbing and twisting amongst the cattails on the western side of the pond.  Having no idea what the plant is, I broke out the field guide on wildflowers and looked them up.  They are climbing nightshade, also known by a host of other names including deadly nightshade and bittersweet nightshade.  The vine is a native of Europe and Asia.  It was introduced to North America and is now considered an invasive and expensive pest.  It will sometimes end up in crops, and loads of dried beans have been thrown away because a few berries from the climbing nightshade were found to be harvested with the beans.  Nightshades are not usually deadly, but the key word there is “usually.”  The berries can be especially harmful to children who are small and don’t need much to be bowled over by things they shouldn’t eat.  Reactions to the toxins in the plant and berries varies by  weight, size, health, and a particular sensitivity/allergy.

The name Bittersweet comes from the fact that portions of the plant taste bitter at first which is then followed by a sweet taste.  It has been used as an herbal remedy.  I’m not sure I’d take the chance even though there are only a few documented cases of death by nightshade.  Back in the day (olden days), the English used the plant to counteract witchcraft.

(Solanum carolinense)

On the other side of the pond I found horsenettle, another member of the nightshade family.  The horsenettle is not a true nettle but it sure is prickly like one.  This plant also comes with warnings about its toxicity.  It is poisonous to human children — possibly to adults as well when you factor in size, age, general health, and sensitivity — and to animals, but lifestock generally avoid it.  Unlike the climbing nightshade, the horsenettle is a native species.  It’s also difficult to get rid of as it puts down very deep roots.  Hand-pulling can be painful because the spines penetrate the skin and break off when the plant is grasped.  Like many herbs and medicines that have some danger or toxicity to them (that would be most, I should think), the horsenettle does have a beneficial side to it and has been used as a sedative or antispasmodic.

The nightshade family also includes such edibles as the potato, the tomato,  and the eggplant (or aubergine).  Tobacco and petunias are also related.

(Fishingus bobis)

The fishingus bobis is not native to the acer saccharum (nor is fishingus bobis a real name).  One of the little fishermen who come round with their grandfathers to fish our pond must have gotten his fishing bob stuck in this little sugar maple  near the pond.  I think it makes a fine decoration for a small maple tree.

I’m not sure but I think the fellow pictured above is a common whitetail skimmer (libellula lydia).  It reminds me a bit of Uphilldowndale’s Big Beast.  This is the first time I’ve had any luck capturing one with the camera.  I actually managed to catch two:

Which may mean I’ve used up all my luck when it comes to these big and fast flitting dragonflies.

The crabapple and apple trees all have small, hard fruit on them now.  The meadows and fields are dotted with buttercups and clover.  The timothy grass is creating waves of purple when the wind blows (something very difficult to capture with a still shot).  Some of the peonies survived the pounding of the rain, having been protected by the trees that surround them.

I also encountered a stalker in the grasslands out there:

(Felis catus)

It’s one of the barn/feral cats that roams around the property.  I normally can’t get close enough to them for a photo.  This one was so busy stalking something that it didn’t notice me right away.  Click on the photo (or any of the photos for that matter) to see the larger version.  I particularly like this one with the cat.

(A long and low view of the pond.)

Near the house, the tiger lillies are in full bloom:

It was a good walk, all in all.  There is so much going on out there it is impossible to capture it all.  The place is, as they say, teeming with life.  It’s nice to see it all healthy and thriving.

And if you take a closer look at the pond…

… you will notice that our flamingo flock is growing.

Of Barn Cats and House Cats

Barney showed up during one of the coldest days of a cold spell this winter.  M had been out in the barn and noticed signs that a cat had been sleeping out there.  At some point he also saw the cat as it went running away from him.  He couldn’t get a close-up look and we still haven’t determined if Barney is a boy or a girl.

I suggested feeding Barney but M said no, he didn’t want to encourage it to hang around.  But hang around it did so on the second day, even colder and snowier than the first, M fed him/her.  He also set something up in the barn so Barney would have some warmth.  It was bitterly cold at the time and it seemed like the right thing to do.

I don’t know where Barney came from or how s/he came to be here.  At first Barney looked well-groomed enough that I thought perhaps someone had dumped the poor kitty out here in the country.  It was also possible that Barney belonged with someone nearby but got lost during the snow storm that brought Barney to us.

(The cat in the window.)

M and I have both tried to get close to Barney in hopes of taking her/him to the vet and/or to our local Animal Protective League, but the cat is very skittish and very fast, running away as fast as s/he can to get away from us.  That changed yesterday when I noticed Izzy and Bella spending time with Barney at the windows.

(Hey!  Watch that flash, would ya?)

I slowly approached Bella while she was checking out Barney.  As long as I was there with Bella, Barney was ok with me.   After a few times at this, Barney has allowed me to approach the windows without bolting for the hills (or the space under the porch).  M has moved Barney’s food and water to the top of the spiral stairs so we can watch him/her and s/he can watch us.  Barney has taken to sleeping on the deck at the bottom of the stairs today which seems pretty brave to me.  It’s also a warm spot, with the sun shining on it this afternoon.

Barney is small with beautiful blue eyes.  Up close (and through the window) the poor thing looks pretty scraggly with a bad scrape on its nose.  Cleaned up, s/he’d be a handsome little kitty.  I’m really not sure if Barney is a feral cat or a stray/abandoned cat.  From what I’ve been reading on the internet, feral cats generally take care of themselves pretty well whereas abandoned cats do not.  From the looks and behavior of Barney, s/he is having a hard time of it out there so perhaps s/he is abandoned.

Hopefully we will be able to somehow capture Barney in the next few days and see what our options are from there.  I don’t think Izzy or Bella would welcome another cat into the house so I’m not seriously considering that option right now (no matter how cute Barney looks all curled up on the deck right now).

In other news…

Well, there really isn’t any.  We’re settling back into the usual daily routine after our lovely vacation.  The mountains of laundry are shrinking and I’ll soon be able to call them hills.  Izzy and Bella are thrilled to have us back at home where they can harass us in the middle of the night.

And I’ve already lost two of the vacation pounds I picked up in Florida.  🙂

The Bogs are muddy and boggy with all the snow melt.  The vernal creeks are streaming towards the pond and the vernal pools in the woods are growing.  (To learn more about vernal pools, visit the Ohio Vernal Pool Partnership.)  M said he’s seen signs of daffodils pushing up out of the ground.  I haven’t braved the mud enough just yet to have a look for myself, but will head out there soon for a stroll around the property.  I have to locate my boots first.

I’m not looking forward to the time change this weekend (I always feel like I’ve lost an hour of sleep when we spring forward), but I am liking the longer, warmer days.

(This morning’s view of the pond.)