Old guy, new nature leaf

I’m an amateur naturalist and a pro (technically, I’ve earned $5.81 on Adobe Stock so far) photographer, with tons of photos and years of personal observation of what’s going on in the ever-fascinating world of nature.

So I’m going to post a pic and a bit of text every day. I hope you find it interesting, or enlightening or refreshing.

Any comments — and I’d love to hear your thoughts — can be directed to me at bobqsix@Verizon.net.

Pictured is Opie, our precious 17-pound rescue dog and best woods buddy ever.

Enjoy and please come back often.opie edit (640x426)


Trump’s katagelophobia is doing a number on those of us who are actually human.

It was my bad luck to stumble across that Access Hollywood clip last night, where the Giant Pustule made his grab them by the pussy comment.

That and 12,000 other examples of behavior behind the pale again reminds me how the GOP leaders — an oxymoron if there ever was won — have abdicated their constitutional responsibility by refusing to stand up to the Puke-in-Chief.

What has this got to do with nature?  Even nature produces a few fruits so rotten they have to be squashed, so the rest of the crop — us — isn’t contaminated.

Trump is, truly, some form of sociopath. He really doesn’t feel empathy towards other people. He is as sick a human being as I have ever had the misfortune to fuck up my life.

Yet he’s president and he might be elected again!   Sad, beyond sad.

pussyHere’s an old piece on this, all dated of course, but the premise is still relevant I think.

By Bob Quarteroni


Donald Trump has it bad, so bad that it’s one of his defining psychological traits and explains so much of why he acts the way he does.

Katagelophobia is the fear of ridicule, being put down or embarrassed, according to common-phobias.com, which says “The origin of the word kata is Greek (meaning put down), gelo is Greek (meaning laughing) and phobia is Greek (meaning fear).”

We’ve seen this in Trump since this unexpected political polyp first emerged, in the offense he takes at anyone or anything that makes fun of him, from SNL’s Alec Baldwin to filing a suit against comedian Bill Maher over a joke suggesting his mother was an orangutan.

No, a sense of humor is not a big Trump trait. As MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski said, Trump has “no humor. This is a guy I’ve never seen laugh.”

But this is his crowing k-phobia moment: His decision to not attend the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

Yes, the Big Frown has decided to pass on the yearly Washington “Nerd Prom,” where the rules are relaxed and journalists and the press take on each other, sometimes lightly, sometimes pretty close to the bone, and where the high point is always the president’s performance in this saucy give-and-take.

This has become an honored tradition in the Capitol and the sitting president has attended every year since Ronald Regan in 1981 and he had a pretty good reason for not going. He was recovering from being shot in an assassination attempt.

What’s Trump’s excuse? Excuses, rather.

Well, first of course it’s that thin skin, fat ego and self-importance. Trump doesn’t laugh, he just scowls. And as Oscar Wilde said, “It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.”

And boy, does he take himself seriously, so seriously that the idea that he might be made fun of, even in a respected, time-honored setting has led him to decide to take his ball and go home: He’s not going to play because the other kids are so mean to him.

And, of course, he’s never gotten over the skewering he took at the 2012 Correspondent’s Dinner when then president Obama had a field day with Trump, who turned increasingly red and who seemed to lose his neck as the grilling went on.

Referring to Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice television show, Obama said: ‘You fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir. Well handled.”

All to loud, sustained laughter, which was like acid rain to Trump.

Those fears are mingled with his unhinged loathing of the press, railing at “fake news” and the “failing New York Times” and his tweet that the “press is the enemy of the American people.”

Such a distorted view of the Fourth Estate – compare it to Thomas Jefferson’s “If I had to choose between government and a free press, I would choose a free press” – is just another example of his inability to accept anything that he doesn’t agree with.

It’s human to want to be liked, but that desire is not what is needed in a president of the United States, who needs perhaps the thickest skin in the world to do his job right, and not be put off – or worse, distracted – by the slings and arrows of others.

As President Harry Truman so famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

But Trump’s psyche is apparently so fragile that he can’t stand being embarrassed or ridiculed – or even accept the possibility that it might happen.

He’s not a convent girl, but the most powerful man in the world, and what this fear says about him is beyond scary, it’s perverted.

To have someone with such a huge load of psychic baggage leading the nation – and always in the presence of the “nuclear football” – is the stuff of nightmares, only it’s happening in the light of day.

And no one in the position to deal with this – especially the alleged GOP leadership – is doing anything other than making nice and quietly hoping he’ll go away on his own, which he won’t.

How far will this damaged pseudo-tyrant have to go before they drop the blinders and see him for what he is: A dangerous narcissistic with far too much power?

Pray we find out before we have to head for the fallout shelters.

As for me, I have my own fears and quirks and there’s one phobia that is very central to my being, and it’s been working overtime recently:

Again, according to common-phobias.com, “Tyrannophobia is the fear of tyrants. The origin of the word tyrann is Greek (meaning dictator) and phobia is Greek (meaning fear).”

Of eagles and the antichrist of the environment

An old article on eagles and that mad dog, Ryan Zinke, that is I think worth another airing. If the Republicans keep going the way they are, we may not have much of an environment left to worry about soon.

By Bob Quarteroni

“The Department of the Interior protects and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage…” DOI’s Mission Statement

And it does that, apparently, by seeing how many more bald eagles – and other birds and animals — can be killed legally under its guidance.eagle

Yes, a true Trump department, seeing the world through its own peculiar, destructive lens. As well as playing “last tag” politics. So venal and childish.

Bald eagles have been dying in enormous numbers because of lead in bullets.

Researchers at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge autopsied 168 bald eagles. Their tests found nearly half the birds had detectable levels of lead in their livers

Worse, 21 percent of the eagles most likely died from exposure to the toxic metal, its study found.

That sad story is repeated nationwide, including in our backyard. In January, a sick four-year-old female bald eagle found near the Frances Walter Dam in Luzerne County died.

A vet at Companion Animal Hospital in Tamaqua tested the eagle and “found very high levels of lead in its system, the highest she’s ever seen,” according to WNEP-TV. An X-ray showed a metal fragment, possibly from a piece of a bullet the eagle ate.

That’s what kills most eagles and other birds, including condors and: Ingesting lead shotgun pellets or bullet fragments.

They also ingest the bullet fragments while scavenging animals that have been shot but not recovered or by feeding on the entrails of game animals, like deer, which have been “field dressed.”

And it is not just eagles in the crosshairs.

“As many as 20 million birds and other animals die of lead poisoning each year as a result of the nearly 100,000 tons of lead that hunters, fishers and other sportsmen use, according to the Center for Biological Diversity,” according to the Huffington Post.

And we wingless birds aren’t in the clear either.

In England, an estimated 100,000 birds die annually from lead, causing Lord Krebs, emeritus zoology professor at Oxford to say, “People who eat wild game regularly, particularly young children, are at risk of some adverse effects. We don’t allow our children to chew on toys painted with lead paint, so why should we be allowing them to chew on game that contains fragments of lead?”

Because of this heavy metal carnage, hunting with lead bullets on federal lands was scrapped by the Obama Administration, that touchy-feely bunch of do-gooders, on its last full day in office.

But Hi-Ho Silver! Here came the Lone DeRanger to the rescue, actually riding a horse named Tonto (I couldn’t make this up if I tried, believe me).

Probably trying to impress Trump with his Putin like manliness, the new head of Interior, Ryan Zinke arrived at Interior his first day at work wearing a cowboy hat and riding, yep, Tonto.

No word if he bared his chest, ala Vlad the Displayer.

But this is tame stuff for Zinke. If you look into his background you’ll find stuff that would make him ineligible to be a circus clown.

According to Mother Jones, in 2014 the then Montana congressional candidate “…. made waves last week when, speaking at a campaign stop, he called Hillary Clinton the ‘Antichrist.’”

And he hosted an event for General Paul Valley, who, according to inlelligentdisconent.com, “called for a coup against the federal government (and) prayed for a terrorist attack against the United States to lead to the overthrow of President Obama.”

So, even before his spurs cooled, his first action on his first day in office was to scrap the Obama-era ban on hunting with lead bullets on federal lands.

A rather interesting interpretation of that “protect and manage” in DOI’s mission statement, one would say.

What was his rationale? He said the change would increase hunting, fishing and recreation opportunities on lands managed by Fish and Wildlife Service.

It would? That dog don’t even hunt a little bit.

Rather, it was to placate, who else, the National Rifle Association, ears still ringing from their backing of the insane “Hearing Protection Act.”

“This was a reckless, unilateral overreach that would have devastated the sportsmen’s community,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action “…This was not a decision based on sound scientific evidence — it was a last second attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage.”

Who cares that as many as 20 million birds and other animals die each year from lead poisoning, according to The Center for Biological Diversity estimates.

Or that it “should be a no-brainer” to switch to nontoxic ammunition to save the lives of thousands of birds and other wildlife, prevent hunters and their families from being exposed to toxic lead and protect our water,” according to Jonathan Evans, the CBD’s environmental health legal director.

But it’s just another day, another environmental massacre for Team Trump, piled on top of denying global warming, attempting to gut the Clean Air Act, approving unnecessary oil pipelines and on and on ad infinitum.

Perfect. The Lone DeRanger, Tonto, No Reason Anywhere, all guided by the yellow-haired big chief of environmental madness. What could we possibly have to worry about?

Well, maybe what Tonto said in “The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold”:

“Sheriff have sickness in head— cannot fix with medicine.”

Three late October field finds….

Just a little time at the soccer fields yesterday and found three interesting plants, including a brand new one for me, mile-a-minute vine.

So three pics and a bit about each.

Since I haven’t tamed the wild Wore Press yet, the pictures, of course, wouldn’t show up in the order I wanted. Instead it’s burdock, mile-a-minute and bur cucumber,  while the text is different. Nothing’s easy.

First, one-seeded bur cucumber. Looks awfully aggressive close up.

July to

Habitat of the herb: River banks and damp yards.

Edible parts of Bur Cucumber: Leaves – cooked. They can be cooked as greens. The fruit is said to be edible. Possibly the seed is edible but there is no flesh on the fruit, it is just a bristly skin around the seed. The fruit is about 1cm long and is borne in small clusters.

Propagation of the herb: Seed – sow in mid spring in a greenhouse. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle. Make sure the compost is fairly rich and grow the plants fast. Plant them out after the last expected frosts and consider giving them some protection such as a cloche until they are growing away actively. The seed can also be sown in situ in late spring, though this sowing might not produce mature seeds and fruit in cool summers.

Next, Burdock. Yum. Yum?  We normally just curse at it for sticking to our clothes; I’ve got a doozy of a set on a pair of running shoes right now, but it’s also edible. Really.


Burdock root is an underground tuber which is used as a vegetable and medicinal herb. Roots are normally slim, fleshy, tapering roots similar in shape of carrot or parsnip, which grows up to 120 cm long and 3–4 cm across. Roots are brown in color with white colored flesh inside. Roots are sweet, mild, and pungent flavor and have taste similar to parsnips, scorzonera or Jerusalem artichokes and features crunchy texture along with gummy consistency. Nearly all the parts of the plant are being used either for cookery purpose or as a curative medicine for certain medical conditions.


The fruits are achenes and are long, compressed, with shortpappuses. Seeds are brownish-grey, wrinkled, about 1/4 inch long and 1/16 inch in diameter.


And a big thank you to Kenneth Klemow for Id’ing this for me as mile-a-minute vine, a new one for me. it’s a little bedraggled looking but I got this pic of the very last bunch of berries I could find so happy with it. Name comes from the fact that it can grow six inches in a day.

Mile-a-Minute Vine Fact Sheet

An annual herbaceous plant with triangular leaves and blue fruits, mile-a-minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata) can grow up to 26 feet long. It was accidentally introduced from Eastern Asia.

The Problem

It grows rapidly, covering and smothering native vegetation.

The Solution

For small populations, hand pulling and repeated mowing can be effective. Pre-emergent herbicides may prevent seed germination. Systemic herbicides also work when applied as a foliar spray. Biocontrol organisms have been used to suppress populations, with some success. It may be found growing in areas subject to the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act; anyone planning control measures in such areas should first check with the local conservation commission, and only apply herbicides registered for use in these areas. Always read and follow the directions on the label when using herbicide.


Yipes! Frost on the grass this morning and 28 degrees!

Well, that pretty much takes care of the flowers that were still in bloom in my yard.  Seems awfully early to be so cold.

Fits in, though, with piece I’m writing on nature in winter and here’s another small segment of it:


Winter isn’t all black and white and slushy gray. Not three blocks from my Swoyersville home this Euonymus Wintercreeper is eye catching with its shiny green foliage and colorful fruit.

Wintercreeper is native to China and was introduced to North America as an ornamental ground cover in 1907. It has escaped cultivation and, as pretty as it is, it’s considered invasive, since as a climbing woody vine it forms a dense cover, blocking out native vegetation. It can grow to an astounding 70 feet, climbing by means of small rootlets on the stems, like ivy.

Wintercreeper colonizes by vine growth and its pink-capsulated seeds spread by birds, small mammals, and water. If allowed to grow out of hand, the vine will spread over anything in its way, even overtopping trees.

Euonymus fortunei is an evergreen perennial vine that was introduced as an ornamental groundcover. It is native to China, Japan, and Korea.
Leaves are opposite, glossy, dark green, oval, slightly toothed, with light-colored veins, about 1-2.5 in. (2.5-6.4 cm) long.
Flowers are small and greenish with five petals on long branched stalks.
Fruits are small round pink-red capsules that split open to expose seeds with red-orange arils.
Ecological Threat
Euonymus fortunei is a vigorous vine that invades forest openings and margins. It grows across the ground, displacing herbaceous plants and seedlings and climbs trees high into the tree canopy by clinging to the bark. Forest openings, caused by wind, insects or fire are especially vulnerable to invasion. Euonymus fortunei has been reported to be invasive in natural areas in most of the states in the eastern half of the U.S. It can tolerate a broad range of environmental conditions ranging from full sun to deep shade, and acidic to basic and low nutrient soils, but it does not grow well in heavy wet soils. Look-alikes are the native Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) and the invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and common periwinkle (Vinca minor).


The fork in the wind

forkTook my swollen Achilles tendon — physical therapy starts today, thank goodness — to the Wyoming soccer fields where a Category One storm was blowing — or it least felt like it. But the golden sunshine made that ok.

Found a few nice things, including mile-a-minute vine, which I didn’t know I had found until a Wilkes biology professor identified for me on Facebook.

Also still blooming happily along in late October was Forking Catchfly, with its unmistakable ten-ribbed calyx sac.

Two views of the little forker.

Silene dichotoma is a species of flowering plant in the pink family known by the common name forked catchfly.[1][2] It is native to Eurasia and it is known in other parts of the temperate world, such as sections of North America, where it is a weed that grows in disturbed habitat. It is an annual herb growing up to 80 centimeters tall. The lance-shaped leaves are up to 8 centimeters long on the lower stem and are smaller farther up. Each flower is encapsulated in an inflated calyx of sepals lined with ten dark veins. It is open at the tip, revealing five white to red petals, each with two lobes at the tip and sometimes taking a curled form.forking

Opie and an uncaring universe: How do we reconcile the two?



By Bob Quarteroni

A long essay on how both beauty and cruelty can exist simultaneously…..and the wonder of Opie. For Harrisburg.stairs


‘We are alone, absolutely alone on this chance planet; and amid all the forms of life that surround us, not one, excepting the dog has made an alliance with us.”

Max DePree

By Bob Quarteroni

In my world, everything is cinders and emptiness. The universe is indifferent, uncaring and aloof. And I am an insignificant dust mote in a vast fathomless mystery, here for the merest eye blink.

Right, my glass is not only half empty, I don’t believe I have a glass, or that glasses even exist.

I believe life is essentially a meaningless riddle, something that we, with our finite understanding, could never possibly begin to understand even if there was something, the unmoved mover of my King’s College theology classes, to explain it to us.

It would be like teaching differential calculus to a flatworm. You could try but….

As J.B.S Haldane said, “The universe is not only stranger than you imagine, it is stranger than you CAN imagine.”

So I see life as the ancient South Sea islanders proverb goes: “We are born, we eat sweet potatoes and we die.”   Simple. Short. Absolute.

Or as Albert Einstein said, in a spirit and total acceptance that I understand, “Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world.’’

Me too Al.

In this aloof universe, we find unfathomable pain, cruelty and wanton destruction. We know not why. But we know that we all suffer. It’s there, but I can’t tell you why.

As Shakespeare knew, “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.”

I know, don’t invite me to any parties, it wouldn’t work.

So, born, suffer, blink, die. Pretty simple.


Except that there’s Opie, a 17-pound doggie miracle that I cherish but am a loss to explain, or slot neatly into my nihilistic world view.

Opie is the soul mate of my life, a small dachshund/min pin mix with a skin problem and a personality and soul that has totally enraptured me.

He is slightly smelly magic. To look into his bottomless brown eyes takes my breath away: It’s like looking into the beginning of time, the center of the cosmos.

I know this sounds silly but what can I say, It’s real. In 70 years I don’t think I’ve ever felt this immense emotion before and that even includes – and this would probably keep a psychiatrist busy for decades – my human relationships.

I don’t know how to reconcile my bleak, random view of existence with the presence of a creature who is to me, pure beauty, total innocence, a rebuttal of all my negative beliefs.

For me, Opie is a miracle, inexplicable and total. His joy in life, the radiance of purity that emanates from him, his sheer sweetness and total Opieness are an ineffable gift that I do not understand, but fully treasure.

He is everything that, essentially, I don’t believe in.

But the fact is that he is here and is beauty, grace and pure happiness incarnate.

This question of explaining the wondrous beauty of the world co-existing with the most awful evil has been bedeviling me my entire life.

A lifetime of searching and I don’t have clue one.

It’s been puzzling thinkers for millennia and it’s the central question of Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” the single, incandescent book that has had a huge influence on my life.

“Cruelty is a mystery, and the waste of pain,” she writes. ‘’But if we describe a world to compass these things, a world that is a long, brute game, then we bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and delight, the canary that sings on the skull.”

That mystery of why both cruelty and beauty – aka Opie – exist is — to torture Winston Churchill’s description of Russia –“a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, inside a mystery.”

“Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them,” Dillard wrote. “The least we can do is try to be there.”

So that’s what I do. I let my nothingness recede and I focus on the little dog on the couch, miraculously rescued from a high-kill shelter in the south and sent to me by some mysterious force to open me to a sense of wonder and, improbably, happiness.

Opie is a simple doggie and does simple doggie things that I see as joy incarnate on four paws. He is a magical mystery pup, and while I can’t explain or understand this mystical bound, I understand, as did Norman Maclean in “A River Runs Through It,” “We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.”

Opie, I love you.

The gall of this insect

Well, it’s a nice problem to have: too many assignments. gall First is expanding the short Opie post from yesterday, but also working on this one about stuff in autumn….

GOLDENROD GALL BALL. Knock, knock, yes someone is home, snug in this goldenrod ball gall. A gall is an abnormal outgrowths of plant tissue caused by parasites, insects or mites.

A fruit fly causes this particular gall. Each gall contains a single plump larva, which overwinters Inside the gall.

The quarter-inch-long larva slows its metabolism and utilizes glycerol as an antifreeze. If undisturbed by predators, the larva tunnels to just short of the surface, goes back to the chamber to form a pupa, and emerges in a few weeks as an adult fly able to pop through the thin-walled porthole, clearly visible in the photo.

After all this, the adult Goldenrod Gall flies do not eat and last only about 10 days, living only to mate and produce a new generation of gall-causing young.

And here’s a ton of background. I should point out that these are VERY common so if you’d walking through any grassy field that has goldenrods there if you just look you are bound to see a bunch of them.

Goldenrod Gall Fly Life-Cycle

The goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis) is a common and widely distributed insect found coast to coast in the central part of North America. The adult flies emerge from their galls in late spring. In Manitoba they emerge mid to late May, or even early June. Remember, the goldenrod stems have to have emerged first. Adult gall flies are small (about 5 mm), clumsy and are poor fliers. (They have difficulty righting themselves if they fall on their backs!) They do most of their traveling by walking.

Adult flies only live about 2 weeks, during which time they mate and the females lay their eggs. They deposit them at the tip of the emerging goldenrod stems, and they are pretty choosy about which goldenrod species they use. Of the many different kinds of goldenrods found in Manitoba, the flies are known to use only two, graceful goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) and late goldenrod (Solidago gigantea). The former of these two, graceful goldenrod, is by far the most common host for the gall flies in Manitoba.

The female may lay several eggs per stem, but each stem tends to end up with only one larva in one gall. In about 10 days the eggs hatch and the larva burrows down into the plant stem. The larva’s chewing and the action of its saliva, which is thought to mimic plant hormones, results in the production of the galls which provide the larva with both food and protection. There they feed and grow, passing through 2 larval stages. The 3rd stage larva reaches its full size by late summer; this is the stage that will over-winter and is freeze tolerant. One of the last things the larva does is to excavate the exit tunnel that it will use to escape from the gall as an adult the following spring. The larva scrapes out a tunnel from its central chamber right to the edge of the outer wall of the gall, leaving only the plant epidermis (skin-like layer) remaining. It doesn’t eat the material it scrapes out, which accounts for the debris usually found within the central chamber of the gall.