They were one of the first sounds from nature that I learned to identify.  Those, the “cheer-up” of a robin and the whistle of a cardinal.

They are the sounds I listen for after a long winter.

They are…spring peepers!

Along the back roads, their springtime song permeates the interior of the car.  It drifts through closed windows and doors.  Marshland, grassy swamps, and seasonally wet ditches reverberate.Peepers-GreenCircleGrove

Do you know what spring peepers are? I was sitting around a campfire Saturday night and the discussion turned to peepers.  Most didn’t seem to know that tiny male frogs, singing their throats out, make all the noise in an effort to impress their lady loves.

These little brown members of the tree frog family, like many other amphibians, spend winters tucked down deep in muddy pond banks or in leaves under logs. Peepers hibernate in a semi-frozen state, waiting for the ice to leave the waterways.  As soon as possible in the spring, the males begin looking for mates.  They sing their one-note songs loudly, strongly, sometimes singly and often in large groups –in fact, they are also called “chorus frogs”.  Females choose mates based on the speed and strength of the song.

And how do they sing?  The little frogs have vocal sacs on their throats –loose skin that they can fill with air.  When the air is released, the “peep” is made…sort of like letting the air out of a balloon.

Photo: A spring peeper frog. Harbinger of spring, calls of male spring peepers fill the evening air to entice females. Photograph by George Grall national

Photo: A spring peeper frog. Harbinger of spring, calls of male spring peepers fill the evening air to entice females. Photograph by George Grall national

It’s hard to find a spring peeper.  They are tree frogs, but they aren’t usually in trees.  They are tiny, maybe an inch or so long.  They are nocturnal –and the spots they can be found are wet and cold.  Peepers-GreenCircleGroveAny little movement frightens them.  Try walking close to the edge of a pond some early spring night.  All that noise suddenly STOPS!!  Move away, and gradually the noise begins again.

I’m glad I know what makes the noise.  I don’t care about catching one – I like to lie in my bed at night, with the windows finally open again, and listen to the springtime chorus.

I remember my dad telling me that spring would be here for good when the peepers had “frozen up” three times.  On cold nights –and there will still be some—the little frogs don’t sing.  It’s still early in the year, but tonight…tonight there’s a chorus.

Want to know more?  There’s good information HERE in an article from the Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette.


This post is shared with Simple Life Sunday blog hop.

Popcorn Trees

One of the first signs of True Spring around here is the blooming of the





Indian PearGE


Serviceberry TreeGE


Before other shrubs bloom, and before the trees are leaved out, the fluffy white flowers of the genus Amelanchier show up along the edges of woodland and pastures.  I remember looking for them as a child, and wondering why they were called “Juneberry” when they obviously bloomed in May. My first daughter, as a tiny girl, called them “popcorn trees”—and since the clusters of white, five-petaled flowers do, when seen from a the backseat of car traveling the rural roads, look very much like a tree full of popcorn—that’s what our family has called them since.GE

My books and resources tell me that there are at least seven species of this woody plant growing along the North American East Coast into Appalachia and up into Canada, and some of the species are quite rare. I think it’s the Amelanchier canadensis that grows along the paths here in Western New York. It grows tall and treelike and has a smooth gray trunk, and is found in swampy areas as well as along the edges of woods.GE

The tree has a sweet berry that appeals to all sorts of wild—and domestic—life.  The fruit is ripe in June (Ah ha!! JUNE BERRIES!!), and is supposed to be comparable to blueberries.  (In fact, Cornell University has a bulletin promoting Juneberry orchards as a realistic alternative to small-farm blueberry growing.)  The small purple fruits, in the wild, are usually gobbled up by birds and small mammals, but I’ve always hoped to find enough to make a relish called “spiced berries”—a recipe that can be found in one of the first foraging books I collected, Grace Firth’s “A Natural Year” (There’s a nice story here.)  Native Americans knew the value of the tasty, nutritious berries; they dried and combined them with melted fat, dried meat and nuts to make a jerky-type food called pemmican.

Native Americans also used the berries medicinally and the hard wood for arrow shafts and implement handles.  I suppose yet another name for the tree, “Indian Pear”, may have come from the sweet flavor of the berries.

The blossoms usually appear in early May or late April, here in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  The name “serviceberry” or even “sarvisberry” was given because it bloomed at the same time the early roads were passable, no longer snow filled and muddy. Church services could be held again. At the same time, the migratory shad fish were making their first run up the rivers and streams…thus the label “shadberry” or “shadbush”.GE

The bloom on this tree is a sign of True Spring, and this is a tree with a history.  The names remind us of earlier days—when Native Americans traveled the land, when communities waited for months to gather for spiritual comfort, when young people took up their fishing rods again —even to the days, not quite so long ago, when a little girl looked at a blooming bush and was reminded of popped kernels of corn.


I found these sites helpful: Shadbush-Chesapeake Bay, shad bush in MD, Juneberries, Shadbush, Service Berry.


This post has been shared at The HomeAcre Hop and at Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop.

Springtime Soap Winner!


Green Circle Grove Handmade Soap Winner!


Check out the wonderful selection of soap available through Green Circle Grove’s Etsy shop!

Congratulations to Kristi from Let This Mind Be In You!   You’ve been chosen as the lucky winner of three of our Springtime scented soaps: one bar each of Easter (hyacinth), Etta’s Dream (berries & grass) and Faerie Princess (violets, vanilla, apples and a hint of berry and glitter).  The soaps will be in the mail to you today!  Thank you for participating–be sure to check our Etsy shop and our soap listing on our blogsite, too.

A special thanks to Lisa from The Self-Sufficient HomeAcre, Jenny from Black Fox Homestead, and Carol from Everything Home With Carol for hostessing the HomeAcre Hop and for promoting our products, too!  It’s great to have friends like you!

Green Circle Grove on Etsy


Cleaning With Cards!?!

I love having a clean house! Ah—to know that anyone can just “drop in” and I won’t have to scramble to clear off a chair for them to sit in, wash a cup for their coffee, pretend the kitchen floor isn’t really spotted with spills and cooking slops and…Oh! Is that chicken poop someone tracked in?

I love the idea of spring-cleaning, too! Flinging the windows open to let the breeze freshen the air, washing the windows, airing the bedding—fresh sheets! Sparkling blinds! Lemon oil and … notice I said I love the IDEA of spring-cleaning.  Unfortunately, all too often, I start cleaning and then have to rush through to get to an appointment, or get bogged down sorting photos, become side-tracked putting things away in one room and forget that I’ve stripped the beds in another.

I was telling some friends about this the other day—ok, I was complaining and whining about needing to clean my pigsty of a house—and one of them said, “Oh! I do it with cards!” And another one said, “Oh! I need to get my cards out again!”  And I thought—“Cards??? They clean with cards?  Like…a game?”cleaning with cards-GCG

Well—not exactly, I discovered.  Although, it is a little like a game—there’s a start point and a goal and, yes, you use cards—although these are 3 x 5 cards.  My friends suggested I find a book written by two sisters, Pam Young and Peggy Jones, titled “Sidetracked Home Executives”.  When I saw that it’s subtitled “From Pigpen to Paradise”, I knew it was something I should read.

Now, I’m a pretty organized person, for the most part.  I put things back when I get them out, for example, and there’s a specific place for them to go.  I do put things away, but I had been just shoving them into the closet, cupboard or drawer.  And, I haven’t had a routine.  I cleaned house when company was coming (and people know they need to LET ME KNOW AHEAD OF TIME if they are coming to visit).  The rest of the time, I picked up papers and dirty dishes everyday, scrubbed the sinks and shower when it looked like they were developing some sort of scum on them, mopped the floor when my feet began to stick to it, and used clothes from the “clean” basket so I didn’t have to put them away. And sometimes I noticed something like flies in the light fixtures or fingerprints on the switches and then I would take care of that and feel like I’d accomplished something great.

I’m confessing all this because I read “Sidetracked Home Executives”, and I now have a routine! cleaning with cards -GCG

As suggested in the book, I bought a recipe box, 3 x 5 cards in different colors, dividers, and then spent an evening writing down every single task that it takes to keep a household functioning.

Card file, with divisions for days and months

Card file, with divisions for days and months

My yellow cards list daily tasks like “wash countertop in kitchen” and “scrub bathroom sink and faucets” and “take out kitchen trash and replace bag”.  There are green cards for weekly tasks: “dust furniture and window sills in living room”, “clean dishwasher door”.  White cards are for monthly, seasonal and yearly tasks: “clean furnace vents”, “wash blinds in bathroom”, “clean garage”. And then there are the pink cards – I use them for tasks that I need to accomplish like writing (!), walking the dog, groceries to pick up, phone calls to be made.  The authors of the book suggest transferring your address book to the card file, noting what’s in storage boxes, even marking what’s in the Christmas gifts you’ve purchased and wrapped ahead of time!  I haven’t gotten that far, and I likely won’ with cards-GCG

What I may do, however, is slowly transfer my notebooks full of lists (“Christmas Ideas”, “Bills to Pay”, “Meeting Agendas”) onto cards and into the file.  I believe the sidetracked executives would approve.

In the “old days” (last month), I spent mornings getting ready to begin.  I checked email, drank coffee, slipped my boots over my bare feet and my coat over my pajamas while I fed the chickens, drank more coffee, checked the email again, thought about taking a shower, checked my list of Things To Do Today and possibly did one (or crossed off “feed chickens”), looked for something to wear…and then realized most of the morning was gone.

These days, I set the alarm.  I shower first, do the outdoor chores, check the email quickly and respond to anything important, and then move on to the daily cleaning jobs.  The first week was the worst, since many things had not been done in…well, a long while.  Who sorts and cleans the cupboards in their bathroom, or polishes their kitchen sink DAILY, or takes the knobs off the stove and soaks them unless they are so greasy the numbers don’t show?  (I do, now, and after the first time the job doesn’t take as long the next.)

I’ve discovered that the Card System works.  I take the cards for the next day out of the file at night so I know what’s in store, and I really enjoy replacing cards in their proper places in the file when I’ve accomplished a task.  By spacing out jobs, there’s usually only one or two “weeklies” or “monthlies” that need to be done, and I’m even getting my spring-cleaning done because I’ve put the “seasonals” in the file for April and May.  If I have something else to do one day, I just move the “dailies” to the next day and the ‘weeklies” to the next week.

Now, I don’t know that this system, as set out by the ladies who wrote “Sidetracked Home Executives”, would work for everyone.  My own daughters, for example, have several small children and hold down demanding full time jobs.  But, just as I didn’t take all the advice set out in the book, some of the ideas could be used and adapted. Even small children can (and should) be encouraged to help, and the authors suggest this, too.  My husband, soon to retire, has begun receiving his very own Weekly card with suggested tasks on it. (Ok, that’s not working out so well, just yet, but he did rinse out the sink the other morning because he’d been noticing how shiny it was.)

Is this new routine going to last? Honestly, probably not, at least not the dedication that I have to it now.  Once I’ve accomplished the whole house spring-cleaning, the gardening is in full swing, the grandkids come for their weeks of“summer camp”—I expect I will become more lackadaisical.  But who knows? It takes just 21 days, we’re told, to develop a habit.  And, I know that the Card System works (and the cards are all written!), so even if I lose momentum this summer, I may well be back in the swing of things for fall.

In the meantime, the floors are mopped, the sinks shine, I’ve discovered that I have a lot more clothes, and if you stop by, there are plenty of cups for coffee (and they are clean)!  Come by anytime!  You don’t have to call ahead!

cleaning with cards-GCG


This post is shared with Katherine’s Corner–Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop 86.





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