Groovy Links of the Month: Outdoor and nature sites

This month’s Groovy Links are blogs and websites dedicated to outdoor adventures and being in nature, whether it’s hiking, gardening, painting—or flying!

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta got started Saturday morning bright and early with a spectacular launch of colorful vessels. We enjoyed seeing details of the balloons on tv, then going to our kitchen window and looking at the tiny dots on the horizon through our binoculars. That’s right, we could see the balloons flying from 50 miles away! Sunday we got a chance to go see the evening Balloon Glow, when all the balloons return from their afternoon flights. The festival runs through October 13 this year.

Beauty in the Backcountry is the blog and website of Canadian hiker and Ecco Ambassador Morgan Kwan. Morgan writes about her backpacking adventures (most recently to Macchu Picchu) and gives tips to beginning and intermediate outdoorswomen about hiking, packing, and looking groomed and staying comfortable while on the trail.

Gail Eichelberger writes the blog, Clay and Limestone. She has planted her garden with native wildflowers and plants that attract native pollinating insects and animals. Her blog focuses on the special challenges and joys of wildflower gardening in middle Tennessee. She hosts the monthly Wildflower Wednesday link party, which allows garden bloggers from all over to virtually visit some beautiful gardens and see gorgeous wildflowers from different parts of the US and the world.

Artist and illustrator Debby Kaspari’s blog, Drawing the Motmot, features her sketches and paintings of wildlife and nature. Her specialties include birds and animals of the tropics.

Christine Novak Kane is an artist and hiker in the Chicago, IL area who writes the blog Let’s Paint Nature. She offers lots and lots of tips and tutorials on plein air painting! Great stuff for artists who want to learn more about working outside on location.

Pam Johnson Brickell lives and paints in South Carolina’s Low Country. She shares the luscious watercolor pages of her sketchbook on her blog, South Carolina Low Country Nature Journaling and Art. Besides the tips, tutorials and inspirations offered on her site, Brickell leads workshops and classes on nature journaling and calligraphy.


Hummingbirds are on the move!

Don’t take down your hummingbird feeder just yet!

A rufous hummingbird resting in a juniper tree in the author's yard.

The rufous hummingbird has been a frequent visitor to my backyard feeders this summer. In full sunlight, that black patch on his throat flashes an iridescent scarlet like a traffic light!

After a summer of sipping nectar from North American wildflowers and gardens, hummingbirds begin their migration south in September and October. They very much need the supplemental fuel provided by your garden feeder as flower and insect food become scarce in the cooler weather.

Male calliope hummingbird sipping sugar water from a backyard feeder.

The calliope hummingbird is another desert hummingbird species we have enjoyed watching through our window this summer. Notice the long feathers decorating his throat, almost like a beard, or ornate collar.

If you missed out on attracting hummingbirds to your backyard this spring, fall is an excellent opportunity to set up a feeding station to observe these cheeky little warriors up close.

Calliope hummingbird at a feeder, with violet feathers catching the light.

This shows off the violet iridescent color of the calliope hummingbird’s feathers.

The classic sugar : water ratio is 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water. As the weather gets chillier, I like to bump that up to 1/3 cup sugar per cup of water. This gives the little birds an extra boost to keep warm and build their energy stores for the long flight ahead to South America.

Learn more about hummingbird gardens here:

Learn more about hummingbird migration here:

My mother’s thumb is viridian green

My mother is quite a gardener and plant whisperer. Her house is full of 6-foot philodendrons and unusual succulents received as gifts and raised from tiny teacup pots to unruly giants.

My mother has raised a coffee tree for years, but you need many beans to make a cup of joe!

Juan Valdez and his coffee farm in the Colombian Andes have some competition from my mother, who grows her coffee tree in her bedroom in the foothills of the Ozarks.

Despite her advanced age, she still manages a minimal version of the massive garden she once cultivated with my stepfather. She now admits that on days she works in the garden, she no longer feels guilty about not taking a walk.

A basket of ripe tomatoes and cucumbers from my mother's garden.

My mother and stepdad no longer raise the entire seed catalog of vegetables, but tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and peppers are still a must!

She still keeps a flower bed, and laments all the beautiful shrubs she had to leave behind when she and my stepdad moved to be closer to my step-bro.

Coleus and out of bloom tiger lilies take up much of my mother's flower border this year.

Doesn’t that coleus look like an advertisement for the Burpee seed catalog? Tiger lilies on the right are over 6 foot tall!

No one else in the family has quite the same gardening skills as my mother. My older sister comes close. If my mother has an emerald-green thumb, mine is ivory black, as I have killed a rain forest of houseplants over the years.

I always love visiting my mother and stepdad in the summer!


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