Sunday, August 30, 2015

Thankful Sunday--August 29, 2015

I am thankful for peaches.

When we moved into our present house, 17 years ago, we were happy to find a peach tree. The thought of fresh peaches in the backyard was exciting for everyone. But, alas, it was not to be. We just couldn't keep ahead of the pests. When we were lucky enough for the tree to set more than a couple of peaches, they rotted long before they were ripe. There was one bug in particular that would burrow in as soon as the fruit was setting. And if any got close to ripening, a squirrel would take a bite out of each one before it could be picked. So after several years of trying, we gave up and just appreciated the beautiful blossoms in the spring. But this year Mother Nature decided that just like the locusts every 17 years or so, ripe peaches would appear. While we are still competing with the bugs, squirrels, and deer, we have harvested and eaten several ripe peaches with more to come. And for that, I am thankful.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Second Look--August 26, 2015

I am going to continue last week's talk about caterpillars with the mention of a wonderful book, The Secret Life of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar by Laurence Pringle, I found recently at the library. It is centered on the life of Bella, a woolly bear.

The The Secret Life of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar strikes a good balance between simple text and beautiful pictures while telling Bella's story and can be enjoyed by all ages. With the very young, the stunning pictures provide ample opportunity to talk about woolly bears, plants, and other animals. With older kids, you can either read the text to them or they can read it themselves. And while a lot can be learned from the actual story, there is a two page summary with vocabulary in the back that is useful for older kids and adults.

From a woolly bear post from two years ago. I guess I've been
interested in woolly bears for a long time.
One of my pet peeves about some children's books about nature is that while the generalities are correct, the details may not be--like putting the wrong kind of leaves on a flower. This book avoided that by being reviewed by entomologists from the Smithsonian, Carnegie Melon Museum of Natural History, and the University of Florida.

So, can you tell I liked this book? If you're looking for a fall nature study or just want to know a little more about the fuzzy caterpillars that are supposed to predict the severity of the winter, this is a good place to start.

Now onto the business at hand.

Here are a few things I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

Day lily


I have seen a lot of goldfinches around recently both on the feeder and on their natural feeders--coneflower seed heads.Can you find the one in this picture?

This is the same picture as above but zoomed in around the bird. Now do you see her?

Flower longhorn beetle, This was a fairly large bug measuring around 1 1/4"


The last couple of days we've had low humidity and blue skies. Wonderful.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Thankful Sunday--August 23, 2015

I am thankful for the trees in my yard.

The other day Wally was visiting and we were taking a Second Look around the yard as he likes to do. When we saw one of the walnut trees, he commented how much fun that he and Theo and their friends used to have with it. The game was to throw a stick up into the tree and the person who knocked down the most nuts won. That made me smile because of the pure simplicity of it. Then we saw the old tree house and remembered all that used to happened up there from battles various kinds to picnics to doing homework. On the way back to the house, we passed by where Theo's tree used to be.* When Theo was a kid, this was his hiding tree because the leaves were so thick that he couldn't be seen from the ground.  If we couldn't find him, he was usually up in this tree. Then there were the maple trees and the oak trees and the piles of leaves they made to jump in. Of course, Wally also remembered the stick pick up before mowing, the leaf raking even when they didn't want a pile, and the hauling of the pruned branches. Those things were not quite as fun as knocking down walnuts, but were an important memory also. This was one of the ways he and Theo learned about the value of hard work.

I feel fortunate to live in a place that had trees for Wally and Theo to experience while they were growing up. And for that I am thankful.


*A few years ago, a sapsucker killed Theo's tree and we had to have it taken down. 

Here's a poem Theo wrote about his tree when he was nine.

My Climbing Tree
Up in my tree,
I'm as happy as can be,
Without a care or a worry.

With leaves everywhere,
Twigs and branches in the air,
Up here, there is no hurry.

With wind on my face,
And astounding grace,
Up my tree I scurry.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Second Look--August 19, 2015

August has been living up to its reputation with very hot and humid days. A few things are thriving, but many plants are stressed under the heat and just biding their time until some cooler weather comes. That's my strategy at the moment also.

This week has been my time to learn about caterpillars--bagworms and oakworms to be specific. Last week I showed you a bag worm that I found on one of our juniper trees and said that I needed to investigate. Well, I did and found while there were several bags on the tree, there had not been a lot of damage. I thought I would just pick off what I could reach and the tree would probably be in okay shape.  I decided to put the bags I removed with the yard waste that would be picked up the next day. They would soon be ground up with the rest of the branches and be gone. That way I didn't have to worry about any kind of pesticides.

One of the attached bag worms.
That plan was based on some assumptions that weren't quite right. Although I had never seen a bag worm, I assumed that it must be some kind of caterpillar. And the bags were its chrysalis. That was right. Sort of. You see, the bag worm just doesn't go into the bag as a caterpillar to turn into a moth, it lives in the bag only to come out to mate and die. The eggs hatch in a bag, grow up in a bag dragging it along as they eat their way into bigger and bigger caterpillars. They use it for protection from both from the elements and predators. They can open and close the top and use silk to attach it to things when they want to rest or hide. Quite ingenious, actually. And I learned all of this the hard way.

The next morning after my picking, Ward went outside to take the recycling to the curb and called me to come see something. Bag worms were all over the bins and cans and some of the near by plants. Some were sealed inside their bag and some were crawling along half in and half out of the bag dragging it along. Very interesting to watch, but now I had to pick up all of the escaped bags and squish them with my shoe. Or who knows what kind of infestation I might have spread. Next time, I will handle things a bit differently.

The story of the oakworm is not nearly so exciting. I saw an interesting, brightly colored caterpillar crawling across my patio yesterday. A little investigation revealed that it was an oakworm that uses oak leaves as its food source. However, they usually don't do permanant damage to the trees, so I let it go along its way. While we have a lot of oak trees around, there were none close by. That little guy had a lot of crawling to do for its next meal.

Here a few things I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

Day lily

Geranium, Rozanne

Hydrangea. I have two hydrangea bushes and one one of them hasn't bloomed for the last two years. However, this one has continued its pattern of a few blooms every year. 

Blanket flower. Can you find the stinkbug on it?




Oakworm caterpillar

Bagworm and bag crawling on the trash can. I find it interesting the way it has not only used juniper needles for its bag, but has also used juniper berries.

Monday, August 17, 2015


As you know, our cat Lucy is sick. Working with the vet and using many of your great suggestions, we are trying to treat her maladies. This endeavor is occupying much of our time, energy, and emotion. At times, I am encouraged and think we can get her to a stable place and enjoy her for a while longer. At other times, I think that I should deal with reality and enjoy her for the little time she has left. So far, she is sending us no clear messages. Last night looked grim, but this morning looks better. And so it goes. In the meantime, I am reposting a "Day in the Life of Lucy" from a couple of years ago to remind you what Lucy looks like. So you can have a face with a name or some fur with a name, so to speak. :)

A Day in the Life of Lucy

A Day in the Life of Lucy

Lucy started her day with a little breakfast.

Then she decided to join Wally who was still in bed.

After her nap with Wally, she joined the family in 
a game of Scrabble.

She soon became bored with Scrabble and decided 
to play cards instead.

All the game playing tired her out, so she took another 
nap with the rest of the cats.

After her rest, she tried her paws at some arts and crafts.

The tedium of the arts and crafts made her nervous, so she chewed on a box to calm herself before her next nap.

When she woke up, she was hungry and demanded to be fed.

After eating, she decided that she would watch some TV with me and Annie, but soon fell asleep.

With her last burst of energy for the day, she caught a "mouse."

And she fell asleep for the night beside Ward.

The end.