Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wildlife Festival

LOOKING for something fun to do as a family this weekend, we came across a wildlife festival that sounded interesting.

They had all kinds of stalls with various connections to animals - from Native American handicrafts that showed how previous generations respected animals by 'using' every part of them and not wasting anything, to fishing and hunting organisations, to animal rescue and welfare groups. We saw and touched alligators and boas, porcupines, pot bellied pigs, horses, hawks and much more. We learned how skins were tanned, bones used, and various aspects of the circle of life that we'd never thought to question. We bought a hand crafted bird and squirrel feeder and learned about the best way to observe these animals in the back garden.

And Emma got to be a monkey as the littlest person on the biggest slide.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's That Bug?

OH dear, now I'm really in trouble. After finding out that our digital camera's auto focus feature is what is preventing me from photographing some interesting spiders we've found, I had to go online and scroll through images from memory rather than go through usual identification channels (search by colour, habitat etc.). In doing so I came across . As if I needed another site to get lost in. It's quite odd to be so fascinated (and amused) by something that you simply cannot stop reading, even when it's ridiculously late and if you have to still be up, you have real work to do... AND the pictures make your skin all crawly. Thomas just rolls his eyes. The problem with this is that there are 13 pages of spider info, and I've only got through page 3 so far. And that's just spiders! There's so much more on this site.

The photo is one I had to steal from the web since my photo is out of focus, but we have this interesting spider in our back garden. It's a Golden Orb Weaver. The zigzag shape in the web is called a stabilimentum and is believed to be a camouflage mechanism.

Where the Wild Things Are

AFTER being somewhat boring in our weekday walks for a week or two, Emma, Basil and I decided this morning to hit the swamp. Where we walk is not actually swamp itself, but adjacent to real swamp and is certainly, let's say, a more adventurous hike than others in our local repertoire. In Spring and Autumn it's perfectly pleasant, but the humidity levels in Summer rise like crazy causing even the small group of hardy dogwalkers to abandon the spot for pastures greener and pleasanter. So the paths get overgrown, it's impossible to walk without hitting a spider web every few feet, and even the toughest bug spray is no match for the swamp's superbeasties.

Having said all that, it's really fun! There are tons of logs to balance on and scramble over, since no-one else is there Basil just runs wild and has a great time, and you really feel like you're in the midst of a tropical rainforest. The crickets chirp so loudly, other insects buzz and hum and you can imagine all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures hiding up in the trees. Like wasps. Well okay, those ones are not so wonderful, especially when the daft dog disturbs a nest and just goes round and round in circles attracting more and more of them, his protective mistress trying to save him while trying to keep Emma far away. I know it looked comical. I swear I heard a family of monkeys laughing at the entertaining scene. To cut a long story short, we escaped relatively unscathed and went on our wild way.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Two Drinks Today!

AS a Brit, it's a sad and rather odd thing that rain should be so remarkable. But alas, here in Georgia it really hasn't happened much this year and for some bizarre reason, whenever rain hits the city it really does manage to avoid our neighbourhood.
So as usual we were out watering our few remaining annuals and vegetables this morning, not knowing that the afternoon would bring some of those precious drops from the sky. When late afternoon we did have a short shower, Emma was so excited, she rushed to put on her raincoat and boots so she could go outside and splash in puddles. Then a thought occured to her: "Mama, Mama! Flowers happy! TWO drinks today!"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Birthday Bugs

HAPPY third birthday Emma! One of her coolest and most unusual presents was from Grandma and Grandad, and was a solar powered bug box. This lights up at dusk to attract various night flying insects and has a viewing window at the front. The insects can fly in and out as they please, so it is up to us to make it conducive for them to stay a while so that we can see them! We've been trying various combinations of recommended plant material and sugary concoctions but so far the cosy insect hotel remains a well kept secret among the insect population, visited only by a few.
We'll keep trying and post our progress!

Thursday, August 7, 2008


IT never ceases to amaze me how many things we are taught in school are really learned way earlier, or at least can be, at home. I was in another room late afternoon when Emma called me excitedly from the kitchen to come and see her shadow. I couldn't imagine where there was enough light to make a shadow at that time because usually the only shadow play we do is outside on a sunny day. But walking across the kitchen she had noticed a faint shadow thrown onto the white kitchen door, and was quite fascinated. She walked backwards, watching her shadow growing, then forwards and it shrank to her own size. Then backwards, and forwards, and so on for a good 10 minutes, all the time giving me a running commentary: "Look Mama! Big Emma shadow... Mama! Tiny Emma shadow...Mama! Emma shadow getting big!"

Then we had to repeat the whole process with a giant Mama shadow - then because all this movement and excitement was too much to just stand by and watch, the dog bounded up to join in too. By that time the shadows turned into a blur. We found the light source to be a window at the other end of the house, where the sun was low in the sky. "Night night, sun."

My Shadow - Robert Louis Stevenson

I HAVE a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Flowers & Fairies

AS we went out this morning to see what's new in the garden, Emma decided she wanted to wear her fairy crown. This is a fun wreath we made at a friend's house with a twirled vine and coloured crepe paper.

We found little purple flowers blooming in the shade in the wooded part of the garden, but I've not been able to identify them. If anyone knows what they are, drop me a line! One interesting fact is that when Emma picked a couple with no stems, we put them in a bowl of water and a few hours later the beautiful violet colour had faded completely and they were all white.

Our crape myrtle is now in full bloom. It seems to bloom a little later than other varieties you see all over the place here, and we love it because there's not much colour left in our garden in late Summer.

A Nest With No View

EARLIER this year, Emma and I searched the whole garden looking for a bird's nest whose development we could follow. I was particularly inspired by a friend who posted an incredible photo of a mother bird feeding its baby birds in a nest in their yard. Unfortunately, our search remained somewhat fruitless. As we were trimming some monster branches, Emma and I did find two nests in our American holly bush in the front garden, but though we took great pains to not disturb anything, I fear we might have thinned the birds' thick leafy cover too much, as we never saw any birds there. The tangled honeysuckle vines were another good prospective site, and again we found two nests but no sign of life. Then again, they could have just been old abandoned spots. We have lots of birds in the garden, so next year we'll have to entice them to nest here too by leaving out some good building materials.