Saturday, October 8, 2011
I love to look at shapes in nature. This one.. Indian Heliotrope or Turnsole (heliotropium indicum) I believe... doesn't it remind you of an octopus' tentacle?
Heart-shaped, bell-shaped, metaphor of form.
Is it symmetry or silhouette,
A reminder of shapes of the past,
Or simply individual expression of beauty?
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
On my return from a trip four days later, Emma greeted me with: "Mama! The most amazing thing happened!" It seemed that the pupa had transformed into a moth, which Emma had discovered drying its wings next to the empty cocoon. It had flown away by the time I got home, so we didn't get to photograph or identify the moth or butterfly, but it could have been a diamondback moth.
Pupa, Chrysalis or Cocoon?
A pupa is an insect undergoing transformation. If it is a butterfly pupa, it is called a chrysalis and is surrounded by a hard casing. Moth pupas most often change inside a cocoon of spun silk, though some species burrow into the ground. Pupas of other insects change inside the exoskeleton of their final larval stage, or in a nest or shell.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Armed with new birthday catching nets and bug boxes we went to explore the creek. It was bursting with animal life! Diving beetles tootled leisurely through the water as pond skaters gathered in little groups around the edges. Tiny fish came into sight when we stayed very still then flitted away the second a small foot disturbed the silt. A 10cm long stick insect brushed my nose as I ducked under an overhanging branch. Two crawfish were enjoying a little sunlight in a shallow, sandy spot and dragonflies flew abundantly overhead.
But it was one particular insect that caught my attention. Under almost every stone we found the same clear-coloured crawling creature with a split tail from a few millimetres to 2cm or so, including a couple of larger outgrown skins outside the water. I think they were mayfly nymphs. Mayflies live up to a year under water in the larval stage, then crawl out of the water and in their last stages of moulting, emerge with wings. They then fly around for one day only, during which time they mate and lay eggs on the water's surface, where they sink to the bottom to repeat the cycle. Whatever they were, they made interesting creatures to watch.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
We've since seen this bug many times, always under maples. They are not especially fast moving, which makes them attractive to Alexander. Every time we see them he tries to outmatch his own record of how many he can hold in his hand at any one time without any flying away or being squashed. I try to share his joy while secretly encouraging escape.
Despite the occasional mishaps, the bug does now have the honour of having renamed this route home from school. It is now called "Box Elder Way".
Monday, August 29, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Alexander was delighted to discover them today in our garden too, on wisteria, which prompted me to research them. This little bug was first seen in the US, or in the Western hemisphere at all, in October 2009. It was discovered right here in nine counties in north Georgia and in a year had spread to over 60 counties. Now Megacopta is also a resident of North Carolina and South Carolina. The rapid spread is particularly worrisome to agriculture, since the bugs are voracious eaters not only of kudzu (which grows equally fast and does not seem to be unduly damaged by the pest) but other legumes too - especially soy beans.
Soy being, in my opinion, one of the most heinous of all crops in terms of contribution to the proliferation of cheap processed "foods", I had a fleeting thought that this little beetle army might be on a divine mission to save us from ourselves...
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Back home the children and I tried to crack it. The husk came off relatively easy with a knife. Immediately the flesh began to oxidise and turn brown. After rendering inoperable a heavy-duty and formerly rather nice nutcracker, we conceded that black walnuts are, in fact, rather hard to open. We also noticed that my hands were turning various shades of yellow to dark brown and black, as was the counter top, and ... it didn't come off. Emma wondered if this is why it's called black walnut. We took the stubborn nut outside and pretended we were hunter-gatherers, smashing our dinner open with a rock. Success! Tasty, but hard-earned. No wonder they are so expensive to buy.
Having already discovered the dyeing properties, we then decided to dye something for real. Using a piece of white cotton fabric, the result was an earthy dark brown. Not a colour en vogue this year, but it would be perfect for camo gear. Thank you Evan for inspiring an afternoon of fun and discovery!
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Animals too favour the beginning and end of the day. As I sat with a new group of friends with the magnificent backdrop of the setting sun, for a short while the trees came alive with birdsong. It gradually darkened and the evening grew still. Then, a deer gingerly stepped out of the bushes followed by another. As we continued our gathering, the does moved closer browsing in the long grass for shoots and fallen fruit. Their babies followed and the usually shy animals munched away, stopping now and again to nurse or bleat a message to one another. I was entranced. For this special time between day and night, deer and people shared time and space.
Photo credit: http://www.woodlandmarketingmanagement.com/
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
On the big day, it was hard to contain their excitement. Six little girls and one little brother made shell necklaces, played musical mermaid rocks then sat on their rocks for a tea of seaweed, kale chips, tuna crackers and "rainbow fish" cake. Outside, water beads awaited discovery in the paddling pool, and finally a treasure hunt for a take-home mini treasure chest of sparkling gems. The theme continued until her actual birthday two days later when Emma received her present from Mama - a beautiful mermaid of her own!
Sunday, July 31, 2011
While there he noticed the dogwood berries just beginning to form and was quite intrigued about what might eat them. Not content with "squirrels and birds", he wanted to know what kinds of birds. I said we'd have to wait until they are ripe and watch to find out. He wanted to wait there until they were ripe but looked like he just might reconsider when I said he'd have to sleep in the tree for many nights. A warm bath did sound preferable, after all.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
It was quite large - maybe 2cm. Plump and black, with a fuzzy body, huge eyes and a curious pattern on its wings. We couldn't tell if the wings had patches of white or patches of see through.
Finally a few days later we found a picture of the tiger bee fly Xenox tigrinus . Emma astutely pointed out that tigers have stripes not spots and why wasn't it called a leopard bee fly? Apparently they lay their eggs in the nests of carpenter bees and their hatching larvae then eat the bee larvae. The white stuff on the window screen wasn't eggs, then.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Unable to contain my curiosity any longer, I peeked into the kitchen and was crossly dispatched back to my bedroom. It was worth the wait.
A delightful healthy breakfast, beautifully presented and prepared with pride by an almost-6 and almost-3 year old, awaited the family on the dining table.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
It sat on the window sill in a glass of water for a while until we'd had a chance to be sure of the identification, then I cooked some and cautiously sampled. Yep, tasted the same. Into the soup it went! Who doesn't love free food?
Reading some more about it, it seems that the seeds too are edible and very nutritious. It's closely related to quinoa, one of the only complete proteins. The plant can become very tall - up to 3m - and as it ages, the stems become woody enough to be used as walking sticks! I think I feel another gathering trip coming on.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
this spring and summer. A slight movement caught our eye in the garden, which turned out to be a tiny fluffy bird cowering under a bush in our garden, freezing whenever we came close but bravely venturing a few hops if we sat quietly for long enough. Our gourd bird box has hosted not one but three sets of baby wrens. They tweet so loudly when mama arrives with food, you can hear them right across the garden. A robin nest high up in a tree is just close enough to see little beaks clamouring for food whenever a parent flies close.
But Emma wins the award for the best bird discovery. She was sitting on our front steps when she noticed a little bird clutching the side of the step. On closer examination there were two of them, baby Northern Flickers. These are a kind of woodpecker and we watched them over the next two days as they progressed from hopping on the ground and step to clinging to the house wall, then climbing up the wall and finally taking their first flights. Amazing to observe!
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Recipe for Sun Tea
Chamomile tea "brewed" in the sun, muddled with fresh mint and orange slices and sweetened with honey. Quite delicious!
Saturday, June 4, 2011
This smaller snake was about 18" long. We spotted it in the woods by a different stretch of the river.
Northern Water Snakes and Slider Turtles abounded at the school picnic, causing delight among the children and reactions ranging from mild interest to terror in parents.
But impressive though the larger creatures were, it was a tiny baby frog that really captured the children's attention.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
THE stall turnout at the outdoor market was disappointing. But in the car park I spotted some bushes laden with fruit. Perhaps we wouldn't go home quite empty handed after all. They were wild plums, about the size of cherry tomatoes, and very delicious. We picked several bags full. After snacking on them all day, the haul yielded four jars of ginger plum chutney.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Thursday, May 12, 2011
The notes in the picture describe the insect and were dictated by Emma: fuzzy bits on its head, big black eyes, long grey body with orange stripes, delicate wings, 6 legs with 2 little feet on each leg.
We never did discover the identification but it was exciting to witness its birth!
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Before modern development began destroying the habitat of cattails, American Indians used the nutritious plant in a myriad ways:
- When peeled, the white heart of the shoot is similar to heart of palm and can be used in stir fries, soups, salads, or sauteed as a side vegetable.
- Immature flower heads can be eaten like a corn cob.
- The super-nutritious pollen can be added to flour for baking.
- The jelly-like substance found between leaves can be used medicinally to heal wounds.
- Dried leaves can be twisted or woven into cordage, baskets, thatched rooves, toys for children.
- The empty seed heads keep insects away when burnt on a fire.
- The fluffy white seeds make good stuffing for additional warmth in bedding and clothes.
That's pretty impressive for a single plant.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
What do caterpillars do? Nothing much but chew and chew.
What do caterpillars know? Nothing much but how to grow.
They just eat what by and by will make them be a butterfly.
And that is more than I can do, however much I chew and chew.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Slowly, slowly, they return
To the small woodland let alone:
Great trees, outspreading and upright,
Apostles of the living light.
Patient as stars, they build in air.
Tier after tier a timbered choir.
Stout beams upholding weightless grace
Of song, a blessing on this place.
They stand in waiting all around,
Uprisings of their native ground,
Downcomings of the distant light;
They are the advent they await.
Receiving sun and giving shade,
Their life's a benefaction made,
And is a benediction said
Over the living and the dead.
In fall their brightened leaves, released,
Fly down the wind, and we are pleased
To walk on radiance, amazed.
0 light come down to earth, be praised!
Throughout our stay in California's Sequoia National Park, all I could think of was the song "Great Trees" which I recently had the pleasure to sing with a small group. It can be heard here by another group. The majesty of these trees quite takes your breath away.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Nowhere has the influence of topography on weather and land use been so apparent. As we came out of the mountains into the valley, citrus and nut groves and vegetable fields dominated the landscape. It was hot.
Then began the climb back into the mountains. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains are marked by scenic oak woodlands, abundant wildflowers and streams. As we ascended, the temperature dropped.
By the time we reached the lodge in Sequoia National Park at 6,500 feet, the land was covered in 12' of snow and giant trees stretched up to the clouds.
The journey back east took us through Nevada's Mojave Desert then into Arizona. This mighty landscape of dry earth, cliffs, scrubby grasses and cactus extended as far as the eye could see for hours and hours. Incredible. I thought I had no awe left in me until we arrived at our final destination, the Grand Canyon.
In the context of such natural majesty, individual people are so insignificant. We have, however, learned to live in an astounding variation of habitats.