Baby Porcupines. What? Yes. I Said: BABY PORCUPINES.

We thought it was cool watching big adult porcupines lumber around our place. But that’s nuttin’ compared to baby porcupines (pups? cubs? kits?), two of whom made special appearances this weekend.

First, Brendan spotted a Lil Spiny chomping down on some black locust leaves, only a few feet from the cabin. Then, while we were out walking, another even more teensy one was ambling around on the road (a thankfully very rural road). I scared the spiky butterball up a tree because I couldn’t resist taking photos of him. (Having learned I can never be too prepared for great blog fodder, I had the camera loaded and ready to go.)

I mean, seriously. This is just redunk:

I can now attest to the fact that young porcupines move verrrrry slowly as they make their way up a tree (their preferred habitat), perhaps because their armor is intimidating. Sadly, it’s not intimidating to cars — their major threat these days, of course.

As absurdly adorable as this is, I didn’t take too many photos of the spiky dude/dudette above, because Brendan didn’t want me to spend all evening harassing him or her. And, earlier, he had let me take a lot of photos of the slightly older spiny piney that was already up in the tree — as long as I stayed about 30 feet back.

(Yes, Brendan is my handler. Otherwise I would try to go pet the porcupines and feed them Charlie’s food. While frustrating, I follow orders: It’s a relationship not unlike The Crocodile Hunter‘s and his wife. And we all know how that ended. I do not want to cross the sweet rainbow bridge with porcupine spines embedded in sensitive areas.)

reaching for the stars?

If we were proper naturalists, we would have known to keep an eye out for porcupines on our black locust trees. They are the last of the tree species on our property to sprout leaves in the spring/early summer, so the porkies head to them now that their other beloved trees are past peak deliciousness.

hang on baby

The porcupines lust for young leaves makes them prone to falling from tiny branches not equipped to deal with North America’s second largest rodent. Moments earlier, this bruiser was walking on the high side of this branch, then slipped. Brendan and I both gasped, and I saw the Hang in There Baby poster in my head.

where's the spiky waldo

The little spikester recovered. And yeah: Even in the summer, when their coats don’t match the young tree leaves, they still blend in pretty darn well.

oh yay a deer

Oh yeah, we also saw lots of deer. *snores*

I Flew in a Glider! (That’s an Airplane with NO Engine!)

‘Highway to the danger zone…’

I’m late in posting this, simply because I haven’t had the time to devote to doing a good job reporting back to you, dear readers, on one of my most exciting experiences lately: flying in a glider.

Not far from our casa upstate is Wurtsboro Airport, which lets regular folk like you and me go up in a glider with an experienced pilot. Brendan was awesome enough to spring for a gift ride for my birthday.

Why go up in a glider? Well, duh, it’s freaking cool. And, we had watched dozens if not hundreds of gliders soar in circles above our property, so it was time to find out what they saw. I mean, did we need to worry that they could tell our lawn needed mowing and our retaining wall looks a little iffy? Or worse, could they see me toodling around the garden, talking to chipmunks?

First you might be wondering what the heck these things are. Gliders are long, lightweight airplanes that lack an engine. They float on thermals — warm updrafts of air created under certain conditions, like in valleys between friendly mountains. We live in an area with good thermals, hence the glider airport nearby.  While some gliders do have engines, most of the ones flying near us are silent, and move kind of slowly. [By the way, raptors (hawks, eagles, vultures) are basically biological forms of gliders, and are often out soaring near the glider airplanes, like little bird flying buddies. As seen in a previous post of mine.]

Without an engine, gliders gotta get up in the air via a less-than-majestic tow ride, usually little single engine prop planes. And all that’s attaching you to the tow plane is a little rope. This is the glider and tow plane that went up before me.

It’s a surprisingly smooth ride, not unlike going up in a passenger jet.

Where do retired U.S. army planes go after they’ve left the service? Well, now you know. That’s the town of Wurtsboro and the Shawangunk Mountains in the not-so-distant view.

As the tow plane lifts you higher and higher, your pilot will put you in charge of one important role: releasing the tow rope. All I had to do — on his signal — was pull a lever and boom! The rope fell away. The tow plane also dove down, headed back to the airport. We, on the other hand, started gliding. Weeeeeee!

This was my view not long after we said good-bye to the tow rope.

My pilot began hunting for little pockets of clear sky — sun beams breaking through the clouds create nice thermals, keeping us aloft. The design of gliders, by the way, mean it’s really hard to lose control, even if the thermals wimp out on you.

After spending a few minutes soaring amid the mountains, I asked him if we could head over to our home, to get a closer look. He ascertained the thermals were OK, and he begun a turn. However, he had a warning: Being in a glider that’s turning,  along with looking down, is basically the fastest way to feel motion sick. Grrrrreat. I already felt queasy, but really curious. It’s a strange combo. I tried to stop looking down. But couldn’t.

Our house! From the air! I kind of want to vomit!

I texted Brendan and asked him to come outside. I could just barely see him waving at me. But I also felt more queasy, as texting and taking photos while gliding? I was apparently wearing my Bad Idea Jeans. I did at least find out that most pilots probably can’t see our property too easily.

At this point, stomach somewhere miles behind me, I decided to chill — telling myself, just enjoy the ride and stop trying to take photos. That helped, except when it comes to having more blog fodder: Therefore, we’ll have to cut short to the landing.

Fortunately, this was easy-breezy! As smooth as an plane landing I’ve experienced, plus with the added bonus of being able to immediately exit the plane and runway.

Thank you Wurtsboro Airport! It was a blast.

It’s the Season of the Snaaaaaaake! (& cute froggy frogs)

Last year, we sporadically saw reptiles and amphibians. This year, hoh boy, they’re coming out of the brickwork.

Literally.

We have a crumbling decrepit brick wall in our garden area. It’s perfect for sneaky snakes on the hunt for dragonflies or whatever little snakes like this eat. Tiny mice?

He always makes an appearance when the sun comes out.

But he moves fast on the hunt for cover. In this case, under some lilies I yanked out. (We have waaaaay too many lilies.)

Who wants a kiss?

Along with the snakes comes the toads and frogs. We’ve also got gazillions of ’em this year. They’re strangely not shy about being photographed:

You never notice these guys until you *almost* step on them. He’s an Eastern bull frog, and we found this one kind of far from the water. We also know we have gray tree frogs (their crazy trilling call forced us to look up the sound on the internet), but so far they’ve been to shy for a blog post photo. Their loss, right?

That’s just the garden-ish area. Let’s take a little drive over to the swamp for more slimy critters.

Nearby us is the fantastic flora and fauna of the Basha Kill wetlands. So many critters hidden deep in these plants….just waiting to surprise you.

Hatched turtles? Snakes? Who knows.

If garter snakes are common in gardens, Northern water snakes are easily found in bodies of water. We’ve seen these dudes in our creek, and easily spot them when we visit the Basha Kill.

For whatever reason, I’m always compelled to get a tongue shot. (And you better believe this guy disappeared as soon as he was approx 1/42nd of an inch below the surface.) Who wants to go kayaking?

This beautiful pickerel frog was about to hop into the water, but he stopped to pose for this photo. We’ll end on this pretty frog, in case you’re all totally creeped out now.

2nd Annual Girls’ Weekend: Manicures Gone Wild

A few weeks ago I hosted 50 Shades of Purple Girls’ Weekend, which I’m happy to report looks like it’s well on its way to becoming a thing we do at least every year. In 2011, the weather was foggy and damp, and though we still had oodles of fun, we missed the sun.

This time, there was nary a cloud in the sky and the temps were a perfect 80 degrees. Not only was this perfect basking weather, it’s great for making sure your nail polish dries fast. And we needed that badly, because no one likes to squeeze a lime into their cocktail with wet polish, amirightoramiright?

So, without further adieu, girls weekend summed up in three photos:

We each brought out nail polish collections to the cabin, then proceeded to go absolutely berserk — with not just our manicures but our consumption of junk food. We all seemed to own at least several shades of purple, hence our new name.

Our stunning handiwork. One of us was gracious enough to sacrifice photographic evidence of her hands in order to hold the camera.

While he is not genetically female, we still allowed Charlie to attend.

Welcome to Heron Heaven

I’ve visited the Basha Kill wetlands dozens of times, and I love that I never know what sort of wildlife encounters I’ll have. On my most recent visit, I was treated to this idyllic scene unfolding:

We spotted this great blue heron, and thought “pretty!” I started snapping photos. And s/he didn’t like that.

So s/he took flight. We thought that was the end of things.

But no! S/he headed for another heron, who was in the middle of a fish dinner.

And together, they took flight.

 

 

 

 

What’s Prettier than Mountain Laurel?

Are you kidding me? Nothing is prettier!

Mountain laurel along the Ice Caves Hike at Sam’s Point Preserve, NY. (Thank you Nature Conservancy for preserving this lil slice o’ heaven!)

Me & the mountain laurel – a love story.

My darling sis-in-law took this shot with her far superior new iPhone.