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Weekly Puzzler Answer #144

Did you know last week’s bubbling bird song? If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’ve probably read posts about this bird. It’s one of my favorites–the Carolina Wren.


One of my favorite posts of all time was about the wren–called 4 Things we can learn from Carolina Wrens. 

This baby wren keeps falling asleep!

This baby wren keeps falling asleep!

Another post I like is about surprise gift that I found one day when I was tidying up for visitors–called a gift from wrens and still another, this one a weekly quote about resilience and telling the story of wrens that nested in our yard. And then ONE more! about a wren making me smile.  (Because he kept falling asleep even though he was supposed to be fledging)

You can attract wrens to your hanging a bird feeder, especially one like this* that has room for suet. (Here’s a recipe for making your own suet, though putting it out in the hot months of the year is not recommended)

I hope they make you smile, and that you enjoy your Sunday. See you again soon.


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Weekly Puzzler Answer #143

The leaves are edible

The leaves are edible

So last week’s puzzler was a video, showing a lot of one plant on a bank beside a stream. Were you able to recognize it?

Here’s a clue… perhaps you’ve eaten it! Those plants are RAMPS, an edible plant that has a mild, garlicky flavor that is highly prized among those who collect wild edibles.  Both the green leaves and bulbs are edible. Ramps, also called wild leeks, are native to the forests of eastern North America. As you can see from the video, they are one of the first plants to burst out of the soil in spring, filling the otherwise drab woods with glorious green. They will not last long, turning yellow long before the trees get their first leaves.

They do not last long!

They do not last long!

Have you tried them? Here are a few recipes if you find some in a forest near you.

Rampy Ramp Risotto

Grilled Ramps

Asparagus and Ramp soup with yogurt

and finally, Loaded Vegetable Spring Quiche

If you Google ramps you will find LOTS more recipes. And one more thing–if you do find a patch of ramps, please don’t harvest them all! It’s best to practice sustainable harvesting so the ramps will continue to grow for many years to come. Here are a few pointers on harvesting ramps:

  1. Never take all the plants in a bunch. At most, take half of the leaves, leaving some of the older ones to grow.
  2. If you’re going to harvest the bulbs, do not use a shovel as this unnecessarily disrupts the soil. Instead, use a small soil fork or trowel with a knife. And just like the leaves, do not take them all. Taking all the bulbs is a sure way to end the profusion of ramps in the future in that spot.
  3. Be careful where you step so as to not stomp down everything in your path on the way to get the ramps.
  4. Make sure you have permission if the land is private. Most homeowners do not appreciate someone coming onto their land and digging something up. And if it is in a national park or state land, know the rules before you pick. Different parks have different rules about edible plants and it’s definitely not always legal.

The New York Times wrote an article about over harvesting ramps a few years ago–in some places it has become a problem and is banned.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about ramps! Do you have a favorite recipe? Do you pick them? Do you like them? Use the comment box below!

Here’s the next puzzler.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #142

Hello friends! Happy holidays. Isn’t it amazing the month of December is nearly over and another year is about to begin? I wish you and your family a happy and healthy New Year filled with all things that make you smile and bring joy to your heart.

rnsnake-3580Did you know the snake in last week’s puzzler? It is a ringneck snake, also known as a ring-necked snake or Diadophis punctatus. Of course when you see the whole snake you can understand how perfect this name is for it as it has a ring around its neck and a gorgeous yellow/ yellowish-orange belly. There is a northern and a southern ringneck snake, differentiated by a row of black in the middle of the yellow underside in the southern species. Northern ringneck snakes lack this row of black. These snakes are found throughout the eastern two-thirds of the United States and into Canada.


It is a little snake, growing only 10-15 inches long. It is my favorite snake because it is so easy to handle and my experience with them is that they are very gentle–so perfect for letting kids touch them–and proving once and for all SNAKES AREN’T SLIMY! Salamanders are slimy. Snakes are smooth and dry.

The best place to find them is under logs or fallen trees. Have you ever seen or handled one?

Ringneck snakes lay eggs–2-7, in early summer. 6-8 weeks later the babies hatch out, crawling off in search of food. Ringneck snakes eat slugs, salamanders, earthworms, baby snakes, insects and other invertebrates. Want to learn more about snakes? Check out some past posts about them, including cool things you may not know about snakes, are you afraid of snakes? or 10 things you may not know about rattlesnakes and lastly, what do you know about copperheads.

Perfect for holding!

Perfect for holding!

So on another note, I have, as you may have noticed, been writing less often these days. Since early November and the election, I have been in a pretty dismal state, lacking the energy and enthusiasm to do even the simplest of things. I feel that it’s my place to be inspiring and positive but these days I lack hope. Thus, I have decided to take some time off from my blog posts, perhaps a couple of months during which time I will do some traveling as well as some soul-searching and will hope to return when I have something worth sharing.


…until then, my fondest wishes to you and yours for a joyful and safe holiday. Happy winter…see you next year.


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Weekly Puzzler Answer #141

turtle-5558The scute and shell in last week’s puzzler is from a common snapping turtle–Chelydra serpentine. Did you recognize it? One of my readers guessed snapping turtle but wondered if the shape of the shell was right. She may have been thinking of the other kind of snapping turtle–an Alligator snapping turtle, which has a shell with three distinct spiky ridges on top rather than the smooth shell of the common snapping turtle.

You often only see the head of the turtle--the rest is underwater!

You often only see the head of the turtle–the rest is underwater!

Common snapping turtles are found throughout North America east of the Rocky Mountains and evolved 40 million years ago! Wow, they have been on earth for a long time! Males are larger than females, weighing in the wild up to 45 pounds. Captive turtles can weigh up to 75 pounds, an incredible amount for an animal that is only 19 inches long. Common snapping turtles are omnivores, feeding on pretty much anything they can find and catch, including, insects, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, dead animals and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic plants. Snapping turtles will also eat other turtles.


A snapping turtle buried in the mud.

Common snapping turtles live up to 30 years. Most of their time is spent underwater, in a freshwater pond, or lake. They prefer bodies of water with muddy bottoms and lots of vegetation. They are known to burrow into the mud with only their eyes and nostrils visible. This is a good tactic for staying hidden and grabbing some unsuspecting prey when it comes along.

Snapping turtles venture out of water to lay their eggs. (Here’s what to do if you find a turtle crossing the road) Females lay a single clutch in sandy soil, with 25-45 eggs. These look just like ping pong balls! turtle2-0009But are soft with a slightly rough surface. The female will lay the eggs, then leave them and return to water. Eggs are often eaten by animals–especially raccoons. Baby turtles hatch out 75-95 days later. And guess how the sex is determined? By temperature. That is, eggs that are incubated in soil/sand that is cooler will be males and in warmer soil will be females. This does make one wonder what will happen with global warming–will it be too warm eventually to produce any male turtles?

Check out the next puzzler here–it’s another reptile… do you recognize it?

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #140

First off, happy weekend to you all! And congratulations to Arden whose name was drawn for the free puzzler prize giveaway. I will be doing another contest again in the near future.

pu-5561So did you know that the ridged-rectangle in last week’s puzzler was from a scute from an Eastern Box Turtle? Have you ever looked closely at the shell of a box turtle? The top, curved part of the shell is called the carapace. The bottom is called the plastron. Both are covered with scutes– bony plates that are made of beta-keratin, the same substance that is in bird feathers and beaks, reptile claws, porcupine quills and human finger nails.

Eastern box turtle scutes can be incredibly attractive, as one of my subscribers noticed, saying she would like to use it for a piece of jewelry. The color varies according to each individual, but all are attractive with their yellow and black design.

The top of the shell is called the carapace

The top of the shell is called the carapace


The bottom part of the turtle’s shell is called the plastron.

If you look closely at one you will notice it most likely has ridges on it–a bunch of lines that radiate out from the center, around the entire scute. These are a bit like the rings of a tree–each year it adds a new one. However, in the case of the turtles, this isn’t necessarily an accurate assessment of age, since turtles can live for MANY years. An average Eastern Box Turtle lives 50 years! And some can live over 100 years! So as you can imagine, fitting 50 or 75+ rings on that small scute is not going to be easy. Box turtles have 38 scutes on the carapaces and 12-16 on the plastrons.

So both Tennessee and North Carolina have designated the Eastern Box Turtle as their state reptile. Do you know if your state has an official state reptile?

Know how to tell the sex of a box turtle? I did this as a puzzler way back at week #9. Wow, that was a long time ago! I suspect very few of my subscribers have been with me since then. If you have, I’d love to know it! Use the comment box below to drop me a line! Also, want to test your knowledge about box turtles? Then check out this post featuring 10 things you may not know.

Click here to check out the next puzzler–another one about turtles.

See you again soon!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #139

Did you recognize the nuts from last week’s puzzler? They are black walnuts from the black walnut tree, Juglans nigra.



Black walnut trees can grow up to 150 feet tall and are native to the eastern and central United States. The bark of a black walnut tree is blackish to dark gray with deep furrows. The leaf is a compound leaf that can be 18 inches long.

nuts33-6142An interesting fact about black walnut trees is that they produce this toxic substance called juglone in its roots and leaves that can kill other vegetation growing nearby. Thus, sometimes you might see black walnut trees growing all alone in the middle of a field. Some plants, such as morning glory, rose of Sharon, pansies, black raspberries, plums and squash,  are immune to this toxin and can still prosper there.

Here is the next puzzler! And this is your LAST CHANCE to be entered in the quarterly drawing as I have decided I want to give away my holiday DVD to the winner and want to send this out before the 25th, thus, not waiting until the 21st to pull the winner. If you want to be entered in the drawing, use the comment box below. All correct responses will be eligible. Good luck!

And have a fabulous weekend!!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #138

m3-6725Were you one of the people who knew the answer to last week’s puzzler? The beautiful low growing plant with bright red berries?

It is Cornus canadensis –Commonly known as Bunchberry, Bunchberry Dogwood, Dwarf Dogwood, Canadian Bunchberry, Dwarf Cornel, or Creeping Dogwood.

In the spring and summer it has lovely white flowers which resemble those on our flowering dogwood trees, hence the name of Bunchberry Dogwood. You can see a photo of these flowers here.

Here is the next puzzler!

See you again soon.

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