Friday, August 31, 2007

Monarchs On the Move

Sometimes in the evenings, Romie and I will take a walk down to Blue Creek Cemetery, which is just a short distance from our house, and Simba, our dog, accompanies us. She's 13 years old, which is 68 in human years, and we like to exercise her like this every day while she is still able to do it. We decided to walk this evening because the weather today was just about perfect and I could take this all the way till Christmas. If only.

I meant to take my camera with me for our walk tonight, but as usual, I got distracted and I forgot it. And don't you know, I needed it when I was half a mile from home.
We walked into the cemetery to look at some of the old headstones and found one belonging to a man who was born in 1798 and passed away in 1850-something. Most of the older stones are time- and weather-worn and really hard to read, but this one has to be one of the oldest in there.

We'd noticed as we approached the cemetery that there were several Monarch butterflies darting here and there and the closer we got, the more there were. We craned our necks to watch them and realized they were congregating in a single tree. That could mean only one thing...

Migration has begun.

We are in one of the major corridors for the migration of Monarchs east of the Rockies to Mexico and while we've only played host to a migrating group once several years ago, I've spoken with many others who have had the privilege at one time or another. At approximately 41° latitude, the peak migration period for us is expected to be September 8-20.

Romie remained in the cemetery, watching the fluttering of the many Monarchs, while I ran back home for the camera. I drove the Beetle back, hoping they'd still be there, and of course they were, resting for the next leg of their trip south, and I started snapping photos.
The sun had just set, so the natural light was waning and I tried different things - flash/no flash, optical zoom/digital zoom. I managed to get a couple of acceptable images.

They'll rest overnight, then be on their way. I wonder where they were born and how far they've come already. Maybe they started out in Jodi's garden in Nova Scotia. Regardless of where they began their journey, they've still got approximately 1700 miles to go.

Meanwhile, I'm watching the growth of the Monarch caterpillar in our own garden, and it's growing very quickly. I actually saw a second small one on the milkweed plant we'd transplanted a couple of weeks ago (shown in photo at right), but sadly, when I checked on it a couple of days ago, it had died and was being consumed by other insects.

The big fat swallowtail cats have disappeared from the parsley and rue, and I just know they're hanging out somewhere in the garden. I will keep my eyes open for them and hopefully will get a chance to watch the pupating process of those or our little Monarch cat soon.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sign of An Early Winter?

Sitta canadensis

As I was coming back into the house after doing a little more cleaning up out in the gardens, I noticed this little bird at the small bird bath near the trellis. (I also noticed the bird bath needs cleaning.) The bird didn't look familiar to me and the sound it made didn't either.

I quietly opened the door to the house, slipped in, and quickly got my camera. I zoomed in on it through the window and managed to take just one picture before it flew off. Then I got out my Birds of Ohio book to see if I could identify it.

Page 165 has a photo of a Red-Breasted Nuthatch that looks like my little bird posed for it. I skimmed through the information given ― 4½ inches long, climbs down tree trunks head first, wedges seed in crevice and pounds on it to open it, seen in Ohio only in the winter but some winters not at all.

And I'm seeing this bird NOW? It can't be a sign of things to come, can it? I haven't even seen a woolly worm yet. The leaves haven't started to change. We haven't gotten the first ripe tomato from 'Mr. Stripey' yet. We had the air conditioner running two days ago. The kids just started back to school last week. And now I'm going to have to dust off the snow shovel?

I'm depressed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

American Gothic

Two weeks ago, as Romie and I were sitting inside Mom and Dad's gazebo with Dad, having a nice chat, I mentioned that I needed to buy a pitchfork. Dad asked why I needed one and I answered, "To turn my compost." He told me he had one he never used that I could have, and if he did ever need it, he knew where he could get it. Great! That's money that could be spent for something else. Like plants!

So he went to the garage and got the wooden-handled pitchfork down and handed it to me. "This belonged to your grandpa." Ohhhhhh... I can't describe the feeling I had when he told me that. You see, my grandpa has been gone for nearly 39 years. He died in a car accident on the eve of my 11th birthday in 1968, and I think about him often, even yet.

For the first three-and-a-half years of my life, I practically lived at my grandparents' house. Mom and Dad were busy working in their family businesses - Dad, as a custom butcher and owner of a small town grocery store and Mom, as owner and sole operator of a beauty shop at the back of the grocery store. We lived in an apartment above it all.

I would go to Grandma and Grandpa's early in the morning and then Mom or Dad would pick me up when they were done working for the day. I spent the night often. Grandma and Grandpa were farmers and life there was typical. I remember Grandpa in his overalls either driving the tractor or doing something in the barn (probably with that pitchfork). Grandma had her garden, and I remember her teaching me lots of things. She introduced me to poetry and at a young age, I learned to recite The Night Before Christmas (Clement Clarke Moore) and Little Boy Blue (Eugene Field) by heart. Grandma taught me how to read at age four and now at 92, she's still teaching me things.

There was the tin button box that I loved to play with. I'd take them all out and sort them by type or by color, then put them all back in. There was something about that collection of like things that at the same time were unique that fascinated me and the tin box was pretty cool, too. Sadly, I left the box out in the rain once, and the fabulous round tin had to be discarded.

Grandma saved the back pages of McCall's magazine for me, because that's where the Betsy McCall paper dolls were. Grandma would save the white cardstock that came in her packages of hosiery and we'd glue the pages to that, then I'd cut out the paper doll clothing. That way they'd last longer. This all was kept in a shoe box and I don't know what ever happened to them.

I liked to explore the out buildings on the farm and walk the cow paths out in the pasture to the south. There was a large oak tree in the farthest corner and I spent time under the sprawling branches of that tree, sometimes writing poetry. I still have one piece that I wrote and I laugh when I read it now, because I obviously was trying to emulate the Victorian style that I'd read. Even my handwriting had a flourish to it.

And then there were the cats. The wonderful, ever-changing family of barn cats. There was 'Friend,' who was the most docile, easy-going calico you'd ever want to meet. She had a couple litters of kittens and for what a sweetheart she was, she was not a good mother. Once this was known, I would imagine they had her spayed, I don't know. But there were others - Big Yella Fella, who was a long-haired yellow cat, and Blackie, a long-haired - wait for it! - black cat. There was a calico kitten that fell into a can of paint up to its neck. Grandpa saved it and cleaned it off as well as possible, but that cat never had normal fur after that.

When Grandpa and Grandma had their car accident, my life changed in a big way. It was the first time I'd ever lost anyone that I was that close to and for decades after that, I looked at things from the standpoint of "before Grandpa died and after Grandpa died." When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969, the thought went through my head in later years, "Grandpa never got to see that." When I got married and had our children, he never got to see that either. So many things that I would have wanted to share with him...

My grandpa taught me how to remember the colors of the rainbow. You know - the ROY G BIV thing. I could never remember it and always had to ask him again and again, "How does that rainbow thing go again, Grandpa?" And he patiently would tell me one more time. After he died, I never forgot it.

So as I turned the compost after I got home, I remembered all that and pictured Grandpa pitching cow manure in the barn. I'll bet when he was doing that, he didn't think about where that pitchfork would end up someday - in his granddaughter's hands, pitching a different kind of fertilizer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

One Week Later

It's been one week since we woke up to three inches of water in our basement and it sure seems like it's been a lot longer than that. Much has happened since the events of last Tuesday - some good, some not-so-good. Life seems to go on, but sometimes you just want the world to stop until you can catch up with it. (Like you ever would anyway.)

This is the same room as this.

As far as the mess in the basement is concerned, the family room is stuffed full at present with three rooms worth of stuff. At least we got that room cleaned up. We had taken the carpeting up, as well as the padding, and cleaned it and let it bake in the sun. Before putting it back down on the cement floor, we scrubbed the floor with Lysol, then sprayed the padding and the back side of the carpeting with Lysol spray. Just getting this room cleaned up went a long way in getting rid of the awful smell of things.

Next move was to shampoo the game room carpeting, which is glued to the floor. It's a type of indoor/outdoor carpeting, so it lends itself pretty well to being wet and being able to be cleaned fairly easily. We have not gotten to that yet, however, because we discovered that the middle room's carpet was emitting an odor that needed to be dealt with.

We thought it was put down directly over the existing padded vinyl flooring that came with the house when we bought it, but when I was down on the floor vacuuming around the edges, I noticed the bad smell. So Romie pulled it back and we saw the carpeting used as a pad under this small piece of carpeting. It was then that we remembered that we'd used Grandma's kitchen carpeting from her condo, which was pretty new, that she had taken up when she put in wood flooring. It was now sopping wet. All of that had to be taken up and cleaned and dried. More washing with Lysol and more spraying.

So now we're ready to move on to the game room, which we will likely do in the next couple of days. During all this, we have had my cousin Jody, from Texas, and her husband Jesse staying at our house. It has been quite awhile since we've seen them, and while Grandma offered to put them up at the Holiday Inn, we insisted they still stay with us. They'd dealt with Hurricane Rita and fully understood what we were going through. Besides, we hadn't had flooding on the two main floors of the house!

On Sunday, Grandma had taken us all out for dinner at CJ's HighMarks, a restaurant at Fox's Den Golf Course in Celina (yum!). After returning to Van Wert, the guys went golfing and the rest of us piled into Mom's car and headed to Ft. Wayne to see Jenna's apartment. Dad had just finished making bedroom furniture for her and we wanted to see it in her room there. It was also the first time Grandma had seen the apartment.

Her fiance Joe was there, too, which was nice, because he's a pretty busy guy working at Best Buy and going to school at IPFW. He gave Mom lessons on how to work her new digital camera.

After getting home from a very full day, we made a fire in the firepit, fully intending to roast hot dogs, but we couldn't find a single one in the refrigerator or freezer, so we made pizza rolls and other things and ate those while sitting around the fire.

It was a perfect night for star-gazing and staring at the nearly full moon. Out there, it was easy to forget the mess inside the house. Just what we needed. :-)

Total Lunar Eclipse of August 28, 2007

Time lapse: 5:02 to 5:52 AM

I Want To Play Too!

I'm jumping on the Tiny Tomato Train. I was impressed and amused by Carol's royal treatment of her Tiny Tomato, but then Chiguy beat her. Hers are piled in a thimble! So little and so perfect!

I've got a little one, too, and here it is, perched on top of a AA battery:

I know it's not the smallest in the bunch, but it's worthy of mention and certainly doesn't have to take back seat in the cuteness category. I have no idea if it tastes good or not, nor will I know personally, because I don't like raw tomatoes. Not even these, which are 'Sungold' and are supposed to be super sweet cherry tomatoes. Romie likes them and says they are indeed very sweet, so he'll taste test this one, too.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Journey Soon Begins

I wish you could have seen me on my hands and knees in the garden around 6:00 this evening. It's not unusual to see me like that in my garden at any given time, but tonight was unique. I was squealing with delight and couldn't get on my feet fast enough to run to Romie and step in front of him as he was mowing the yard, to share my excitement.

I'd been watching the swallowtail caterpillars - three of them - that we have had in the garden for about a week. Chomping away on parsley, dill, and rue, they were getting pretty chubby and I've wanted to keep an eye on them so I might see them pupate. I'd also been whining that in spite of lots and lots of Monarchs flying about, I'd not seen any caterpillars on the Asclepias, the only thing they eat.

And there it was.

No bigger than the nail of my little finger (if that), it was snacking on the buds of the orange butterfly weed, just like its ancestors did last year. I don't know if caterpillars can hear anything - let's hope not, because I let out a WOO HOO!!!! that scared Luna enough to send him running for cover.

Romie got off the mower when I told him we had a Monarch cat and came over to take a look. He couldn't believe I'd even seen it, it was so small. But I'd been looking for it, and those black tentacles they have help them to be seen easier than most, as well as the stripes - the tell-tale black, yellow, and white stripes. It was just adorable.

I think this is the generation that will make the trip to Mexico. Only the last brood of the summer lives long enough to migrate and with peak migration dates for our area at September 8th-20th, this has to be one that will be in it for the long haul.

You know I'll be out there every day several times, watching the progress and looking for more. Hopefully, I'll get to see a chrysalis or two, like Jodi in Nova Scotia. I've never seen one other than in photographs.

As I've said before, we are a certified Monarch Waystation and I no longer have to feel like we've failed to provide a good place for Monarchs to stop and eat and make little Monarchs.

After the Rain

Honeysuckle Leaf
(Lonicera x brownii 'Dropmore Scarlet')

This is what I'd originally planned on posting last Tuesday, before it was pre-empted by yet more rain. The title of the post could have remained the same, and yes, there's beauty in lingering moisture after the heavens let loose, but it just wasn't beautiful last Tuesday. These pictures were taken the afternoon previous to "The Flood".

White Pine
(Pinus strobus)

Sweet Autumn Clematis
(Clematis terniflora)

(Euphorbia marginata)

'Endless Summer' Hydrangea
(Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blushing Bride')

Hardy Geranium
This is supposed to be 'Purple Pillow', but it doesn't seem dark enough to me.

Dahlia 'Peaches 'n' Cream'

Nasturtium Leaf
(Tropaeolum majus)

Obedient Plant
(Physostegia virginiana)

Rosa 'Sutter's Gold

Chenille Plant
(Acalypha pendula)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

That's Hot

Helianthus annuus

This is what happens when you combine a sunflower with the sun in the sky at late day. The intensity of color makes it look so hot it might burn your fingers if you touched it. No, I did not change this photo in any way other than some cropping. The 'glow' is what made me run for my camera in the first place and I'm happy that it was pretty much captured by the camera.

At this time of the day, the butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are attracted to its fire, too, and all of them want to get a piece of it. When you see a flower looking like this, you can understand why it's called a sunflower.

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Blog Called "Sketch Life"

I love it when I come across a wonderful blog that I hadn't seen before, like I did today. Technically this blogger came across mine first. Lisa Mertins e-mailed me this afternoon to ask if I minded if she'd linked to my blog in her post entitled The Enchanting Gold Bug in her blog on the Orange County Register called Sketch Life. I visited the link she provided and was pleased and surprised to see that she had referred to my post about the Golden Tortoise Beetle.

While that certainly made my day, I was even more thrilled to discover her wonderful, charming, and sometimes quirky watercolor sketches. Her narrations are pretty good, too. In fact, I can't really tell if the illustrations came first, or the words that go along with them; they're both fun.

Watercolor is my first love when it comes to art. I actually did a watercolor of my own, once upon a time during an art class I took at Wassenberg Art Center in Van Wert. Well, it wasn't all my own, because I copied a watercolor print that was on the front of a Christmas card we'd received. Let me tell you, as someone who doesn't have an abundance of natural artistic talent, this was HARD! And that's why I only did one and may never do another as long as I live. I'll just admire the talents of other artists that do them, like Lisa.

Lisa is a journalist and illustrator for the Orange County Register in California and I've placed a link to her column in my list of Other Blogs I Read located on the left side of this page. I'll be enjoying her charming and amazing artwork on a regular basis. I mean, besides her artistic talent, she loves shoes too, and that alone makes us instant friends.

Lisa has also written and illustrated a children's book, Ginkgo and Moon.

Does This Make My Butt Look Big?

Black is supposed to be slimming. I like black. Not that I've really ever had to worry about my butt looking big (I'm lucky that way), but it looks better in black. I'm not sure even that could help the
Spined Micrathena though. I call them Big Butt Spiders.

You know them. When they stroll across their webs, the whole web shakes. They look like they're carrying all their worldly possessions on their backs. They're creepy and menacing-looking and these days, I run into them EVERYWHERE.

Most of our spiders around here are not dangerous and though the Big Butts look mean, they're not. Once you get past the spines and the mere fact that they're spiders, they're actually rather cool in a so-ugly-they're-cute kind of way.

I just wish they'd make their webs somewhere else, because they're everywhere you want to be.

Amazing Fact: Only the females build webs. When the sun goes down, she consumes her web except for the foundational threads. In the morning, she spins it anew.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Progress Report

As I woke up this morning, my nose reminded me of the events of two days ago. Our house smells like a locker room. Ick.

We've got several fans running down in the basement and two dehumidifiers, as well as the air conditioner.

It would be nice if we could open the windows to help air things out, but here's the weather report for today:

We're not going to rule out a clap of thunder or some areas of heavy rain but the big story today is going to be the oppressive heat and humidity. Temperatures will soar quickly into the lower 90s with dew points in the 70s. (Anything over 65 degrees is considered uncomfortable). We will continue to see humidity in the area through Saturday morning. A western front will take its time getting here and it looks like thunderstorms will linger into Saturday morning with humidities dropping by Sunday. The cooldown won't last long with temperatures up towards 90 degrees by the middle of the week.

The thought has occurred to me more than once that I'm glad this wasn't 100 years ago. I can't even imagine what people would have done to deal with this.

Yesterday, Kara and I went out to see the water levels immediately surrounding our area. Within the mile around our house, three roads were closed due to high water, and that didn't count the high water in front of our house.

Our house is the two-story gray one you can see peeking through the trees. The road has a dip here and the water level was about 12-15 inches at this point.

This is our neighbor's house and barn, just to our north. The 'lake' is the front yard of another neighbor.

This is county road 60, looking east towards Wayne Trace High School. School had started on Tuesday and this is one of the major routes the buses take. Not yesterday.

This is south of our house and there is a road that runs right through the middle of the picture under all that water. You can see by the debris laying in the road that the water was even higher.

The postmaster called and wanted to know if the rural carrier could make it through right in front of our house. Kara and I had made it through there, so I told her yes, but she'd have to come in from the north instead of the south as she usually does. Then our trash service called to tell us there would be no trash pick-up this week. There were too many roads closed in our area, so they weren't running their routes.

On the news last night, there was video footage of flooding in Findlay, which is an hour east of us and also of Van Wert, just ten miles south. Van Wert County has been declared a disaster area, making residents eligible for some state disaster aid. Paulding County was not included in the nine counties he mentioned, but unfortunately the flooding didn't magically stop at the county line, which is just three miles south of us. The postmaster had told me that some Haviland residents had water as high as their armpits in their homes. Our little corner of the state also made the national news.

I'm still irritated that our standard homeowner's policy doesn't cover our damage. I can understand it not covering anything had we not had preventive measures in place, but we did. The sump pump failed, and the flooding was a result of that. Like I said before, we've lived here thirty years and even though we'd certainly had many rains capable of causing our basement to flood, this is the first time it did - due to equipment failure. <>

We haven't decided whether or not to replace the pad under the carpeting in the family room. As we rolled out the carpeting to let it dry and walked over it, we didn't find it objectionable without the padding. We've had the pad rolled out in the driveway to let the sun dry it out, just in case we decide to put it back down. Once the carpeting is dry, we'll need to have a carpet layer come in and restretch it and fasten it down.

Outside, the waters have receded and in good garden news, we never had water laying in the flower beds. This was encouraging to me, because prior to this summer, we had several low areas that always had big puddles following a rain like this. All summer, I'd put any extra soil we had into these low areas and finally they're at a high enough level not to hold water.

Yesterday's mail had brought the solar fountain I'd bought on eBay, so I got that installed. Easy peasy and it works very well! It's one that stores solar energy so that it will still work even when the sun isn't directly shining on it. It's also got three different fountain heads for three different looks.

I continued to do laundry and got that done (I think). There isn't a single room in the house that doesn't have stuff sitting in it that doesn't belong there. That, I can deal with. The most annoying thing right now is the smell. I look forward to getting things dried out and things back to normal. This too shall pass, but it's going to be awhile.

blogger templates | Make Money Online