Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Spring Flowers and Nature in Charlottesville Virginia

The first flower to bloom, Winter Aconite
It's going to be another early Spring in Charlottesville, Virginia. I recall such a Spring about 5 years ago. I didn't care for it much because EVERYTHING bloomed all at once! I prefer the gradual blooming that typically occurs. We may have one problem though, it looks like by the end of the week, temperatures may dip below 30 degrees! NOT GOOD for the thousands of Daffodils that are in bloom and budding in my yard on Forsythia Hill.

The first daffodil to bloom in my yard on Forsythia Hill
Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful to live in such a beautiful State and experience such a glorious Spring. It's year number 8 for us in Cville and several areas in the yard that we have "landscaped" are starting to form. The 2 new Forsythia shrub patches are coming along quite nicely. One has formed a clump as intended, the other has another 3 years to form the long serpentine hedge as planned. We now have 4 forsythia patches in our yard plus an additional outcropping along the property line that belongs to a neighbor (that I begged to not bulldoze - so far so good). Our neighbor across the street bulldozed their huge patch (I guess they didn't like yellow). "sigh".

Fat Bluebird ready to find a mate.
We had one big patch to the right of our house and we installed the serpentine patch to the left of the house and it now looks quite balanced. It's becoming a riot of color in the Spring with my neighbors strip of mammoth white Bradford Pear trees and my blinding yellow Forsythia and splashes of thousands of Daffodils. I wonder what my neighbors must say as they drive by -- "Wilbur, hand me my sunglasses - PLEASE" or just "Please make it stop"! I do love the shock value of such plantings.

Little miniature white and yellow Daffodils
Up next will be the Tulips and Iris along with creeping Phlox and other ground covers. I did notice the blue Vinca Vine is blooming. A plant that I tolerate but don't care much for except in the Spring when it blooms. The Naked Lady foliage is looking like water fountain sprays at the moment, a freeze could do them in. Luckily the blooms spring up much later in the season after the leaves have died back.

Once again, Historic Garden Week in Virginia occurs during my Birthday week. I can't wait to snag a catalog and start planning a trip somewhere in the State!

I'm fearless when it comes to transplanting!

~ Rebecca

Monday, January 9, 2017

Dangers of a common antibiotic Levaquin / Cipro / Fluoroquinolones

First snow of the season!
We finally had SNOW in Charlottesville, Virginia. I've been a busy bee all winter long selling mainly on Etsy and Ebay. It's my peak season so I tend to not have much time for anything else.

I did run into some health troubles after Christmas. I'm not sure if it's from working online so extensively or if something else is up. I've been experiencing lasting, severe red eyes that my eye doctor said was severe dry eyes (which worsen in the winter and are due to RA / Sjogren's Disease which I've had now for 15 years). I was diagnosed by my general doctor with a Sinus Infection and prescribed Levaquin, the generic for Levofloxacin. It is in the family of drugs called fluoroquinolones along with Cipro among others. These drugs are the most prescribed antibiotics in the US.

Mr. Squirrel appears with the first flake panic eating bird food!
Before taking Levaquin I read the warnings... tendinitis or even a ruptured tendon. I'm so used to hearing the laundry list of possible side effects on TV that I've become numb to them so I proceeded to take this drug, thinking my doctor certainly knows best. I never thought that I would actually experience any of the side effects (three doctors have told me that it's quite uncommon). I was given a course of 1 pill for 14 days and on the 6th day my calf muscles began to feel stiff. I talked myself into thinking that it was just psychosomatic so I took another dose. The next morning I could hardly walk from the bed 10 feet to the bathroom. My calf muscles were so tight I could not bend my ankles. I was dragging my feet on the floor for 2 days so as not to have to bend them. I made my husband stay home from work as I was unable to go up or down the stairs. On day 4 I decided to rake a few leaves and my heart began to race (5 swipes of the rake) and stopped. I began to research this family of drugs more online and based on consumer comments, the potential damage is extensive.

Sure, people do have reactions and when I read a handful I don't worry but when there are pages and pages of accounts then I start to worry. There is even a tag line given to it called floxing or I've been floxed.

My neighbors horse in the snow.
It's been a week since I stopped taking this drug and my legs have improved but my tendons still feel like a rubber band being stretched. I can now go up and down the stairs but I'm fearful of putting any additional stress on my tendons and am not taking my daily walks down the street which was my form of exercise for the health of my body and bones. I've not pushed much exercise but my heart has not raced with normal daily activity. It has been mentioned that tendons have ruptured months after stopping this drug and especially if a lot of stress is put on the tendon, like in running. Interestingly, a friend mentioned she took Cipro without any issues and then it dawned on me that months ago she complained about peripheral neuropathy, another possible side effect of this drug that she never equated to taking it.

Please, please, please have the sense, because I did not, to ask you doctor for something less powerful if they attempt to give you this line of drugs. I would classify this line of antibiotics as one to take when all others fail. I have not taken an antibiotic I would estimate in 10 years and another one with less side effects could have been prescribed. I wish I had taken the risks seriously given I already have health issues. Now I have to wait for months and possibly years in fear of rupturing my Achilles or developing something worse. Read this and especially the comments from Consumer Reports if I have not convinced you, too risky to take.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Annual Virginia Master Naturalists North American Butterfly Count

Butterfly Count in the forest at Kemper Park
It was an privilege for me to be able to participate in the North American Butterfly Count for Albemarle County. Today 2 teams of Virginia Master Naturalists (for the exception of a few of us) headed out at 9 am to count butterflies. I was assigned to the team that went to the amazing Kemper Park nature trail that traverses up to Monticello. When I left the house it was 77 degrees, when I returned after noon, it was 97! Needless to say, it was a hot day. We were very fortunate to be able to walk deep in the forest to escape the oppressing heat. The other group was dispatched to Crozet, another area in the county.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Thistle, parking lot Kemper Park
The official numbers have not been tabulated but it was obvious that the numbers were lower this year. The most commonly spotted butterfly, and one of the largest, was the yellow with black stripes Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Of all the butterflies in Virginia, it probably is the most recognized.

I found this photo amusing given our addiction to cell phones. This little American Snout is trying to grab the attention of one of our young nature lovers that was on the count. Almost to say, hey you, get off that thing and pay attention to me! Check out the unusually long snout on that guy.

The small Silvery Checkerspot
There are many reasons for a species to decline. One of the best ways to encourage butterflies in your yard is to plant natives and other trees, shrubs, and flowers that caterpillars like to eat or that butterflies prefer for egg laying. I finally have a little patch of three Paw Paw trees that are coming along nicely in my yard. This attracts the stunning Zebra Swallowtail, one of which we saw today but it was so high in the tree I could not photograph it.

Cardinal Flower and Joe Pye Weed
Not only do we see wonderful Butterflies but also interesting plants and little critters. We were lucky to have a budding entomologist along that magically spotted unusual insects that I had never seen before. It's a thrill to see something new. Of course being on the trail with Master Naturalists, most plants are also identified.

My first sighting of the Hackberry Emperor
It was a hot day but when your mission is to "spot the butterfly" it some how takes a backseat to your quest to find the next elusive beauty. Especially when you find a species that you have never seen. I was happy to see a Hackberry Emperor complete with a crazy pattern and many "eyes". All designed to confuse predators and make it blend into the environment.

The Kemper Park group
Training prior to the event was prepared by Nancy Weiss and Terri Keffert of the Rivanna Master Naturalists. Many thanks to both of them for their dedication to this effort and to our team leader, Laura Seale.

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