Thursday, March 31, 2005

Wild Critters

Today it's raining buckets, so here are some pictures from earlier in the week.

Male Falcate Orange Tip butterflies jousting for the attention of a female.

A green anole that kept a close watch on me. Like a chameleon, he can change color in the blink of an eye (from drab brown to bright green). This one was not willing to demonstrate.

Some tiny snails in the creek. I don't have a book that descibes snails but if anyone knows their name please leave a comment or email me.

These muskrats were too far away to get a good picture. I really should learn to tie up the dog if I'm going to try sneaking up on wild critters.

If you look closely you can see the very long tail of the one on the left - it's shining in the sun.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Chick progression, week 3

Americauna (Easter Egger)

Rhode Island Red

Here are the little darlings at week 3. I made my husband call them that (little darlings) yesterday as he was picking them up. It calms them down, of course. He was saying it in a tone that was rather too sarcastic for my taste though.

They are going through an awkward stage. Growing into their feathers.

Yesterday it was time for their introduction to the great outdoors. We put chicken wire around some trees and let them run around in the sun.

They weren't interested, at first - I had to literally shake them out of the box. Even then, a few of them clung to the side, desparately trying to scramble back in.

Birds just don't like change.

But once they were outside for a little while, they realized that they might be having fun.

There's still a lot of leaping going on, only now with wing-assist. So it's actually a flying leap.

They enjoy taking flying leaps at each other and play-fighting. I believe they're establishing the pecking order.

Jasmine had to be locked up for a little while because she wasn't behaving.

And even though my husband had told me to watch my head, I didn't. I was concentrating on picking up chicks instead, and wondering why they always seem to think that we're out to kill them.

So now I know what it feels like to be whacked in the back of the head with rebar. (It hurts!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Broody hen

She didn't seem very dedicated at first. She kept changing her mind about which eggs she wanted to sit on.

So we put her to sitting on some golf balls for a while.

She wouldn't give up though, and finally settled down into a spot she liked.

We relented and gave her three eggs to try hatching.

Not listening to the advice of the folks on my Homestead email list, I didn't mark the eggs. Next thing I knew, she was sitting on about 10 eggs.

When she was getting up briefly to go eat or drink, other hens were sneaking in and laying eggs in her nest.

The whole Star Trek "go where no one has ever gone before" concept is alien to chickens. They want to lay where lots and lots of hens have lain before. I've even seen then waiting in line.

I had to candle the eggs to see which ones she'd been sitting on longest. She would have left the others anyway, once the first chicks hatched out.

Instead of using a candle, I closed myself up in a dark closet with a flashlight, but it worked - I was able to see dark blobs in the eggs that had growing chicks inside them.

I'm trying not to get too excited about the whole thing. I've heard so many things from more experienced people that make me think this little experiment won't work. (Most people said that we needed to put her in a separate space if we wanted her to hatch out chicks, but there just wasn't anything available.)

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Flower walking

Saturday morning was sunny and warm, and we had a chance to walk around a bit before the bad weather set in.

In places, the ground was a carpet of toothwort.
(Cardamine spp.)

Mayapples were sprouting up everywhere. Soon the woods will be full of their little umbrellas.
(Podophyllum peltatum)

Deciduous wild ginger made its first appearance of the spring. The flower part isn't open yet.
(Asarum canadense)

Trillium cuneatum was popping open too, so thick in some areas that you could actually smell them. The scent is meant to attract flies as pollinators, so it's not exactly pleasant. For me, latin names are best for most trilliums, since their common names seem to be used so interchangeably (wake robin, sweet betsy, toadshade, etc.).

Wild Blue Phlox is just starting to appear.
(Phlox divaricata)

A small first year mullein plant. The story goes that if you use this for uh, wiping things in the woods, you'll regret it... It looks soft but has irritating hairs. It's an introduced plant, classified as a noxious weed, that has been in the US since the 1700s. I've read that a single plant can produce over 100,000 seeds, which can remain viable for 100 years or more.
(Verbascum thapsus)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

My mother's daffodils

Hope you had a happy Easter.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


"Wow," said some rich person who happened upon this blog via strange googling, "if she had that fancy $8000 Canon digital camera, I'll bet her photos of the moon would look a lot better."

The anonymous rich person, in a display of uncharacteristic generosity, ordered the camera straightaway and had it sent to the poor blogger.

There was much rejoicing.

And then I woke up.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Plug week continues

After recently recommending some Canadian "e" friends, I thought I'd better plug some real-life Alabama friends, before they beat me up.

Ron Dometrovich is a local musician and co-founder of the "soap for CDs" program. I'm a big fan of his music, which is sort of folk, sort of country, sort of singer-songwritery. Two of his earlier CDs, A Good Mechanic (is Hard to Find) and A Place With No Name, are available at CDBaby. He has three others that you'll have to buy at one of his shows, or email him for. Of them all, I think The Grander Scheme of Things is my favorite. It should be on CDBaby as well, hint hint Ron.

Ron's lovely wife Kim has just started Sewing By Kim. The site is still under construction - I think she only has her About Me page up at this point, so check back soon. She's done costume work for the Alabama Ballet and several local theater groups, and is a real sweetie who also knows a lot about plants. I think Kim was one of the first people we met when we started doing craft shows. Of course we like her because she always praises our soap to potential customers when she's in our booth. But she was also nice enough not to get mad when I let slip about something that she had bought Ron for Christmas. (Oops.)

Marcus Lusk is the artist and creator of the comic book Tales from the Bog. You may notice that his web site is woefully out of date... yes I'm hoping to shame him into updating it. To buy back issues of Tales (and other comic book and art things), visit his EBay store.

"Every penny you spend will help bring the Bog back sooner," says Marcus, "And it helps feed my two kids, too!" (I'm sure I hear violin music playing somewhere in the background.) But really, they are astonishingly cute kids.

If you need a decorative mailbox, Debbie at All for Katie is who you need to see. She has lots of other pretty painted things too, but I'm partial to the mailboxes. (We have one with pansies.)

She's very talented and in person, is what you'd call a hoot and a half. That's her daughter Katie pictured on the website. She's even more of a stunner nowdays; I'm sure her mother is having to beat the boys off with a stick. Order a lot, because as Debbie says, "Teenage girls are very expensive."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Our dog, the comedian

Jasmine loves sticks. Chewing them, chasing them, playing keep-away.

One of her favorite things, while out walking, is to find a really long stick.

The beavers are her associates in this game. They cut down a lot of saplings and leave them in the path.

Once Jasmine finds the big stick, she nonchalantly picks it up to chew on a bit.

Then, after you walk past her, she'll run ahead with her big stick and hit you on the back of the legs with it.

The first several times this happened, we chalked it up to an accident. An exuberant young dog not watching where she's going, and not realizing the breadth of such a long stick.

At length, when it kept happening, it finally dawned on us - she's doing it on purpose.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Chick progression

Someone asked for pictures of the chicks as they age, and since I definitely take requests, here are the little sweeties at week two.

I made a mistake and took the pictures in light that was a bit dim, so I had to work on them a little. The monitor on my PC doesn't always show true color, and when I have to do digital construction work on photos, they sometimes end up looking slightly "off" on other computers. Please let me know if the pictures ever look odd on your screen.

One of the Rhode Island Reds. She is a little nervous about being up off the ground and is crouching instead of standing up. Look how much her wings have grown!

I wonder if palm readers can gain any insight from that picture...

One of the Americaunas, settling down for a little nap. They still have a lot of their baby fluff at this point, but are developing feathers at a rapid rate.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


At the bottom of the crumbling, rotted tree that woodpeckers and moss had assaulted and transformed into a pyramid of decaying wood chips, grew this tiny, tiny mushroom.

I Heart Canada

These days I'm not as likely to know pop stars as, well, to know their mothers.

But an up and coming Canadian artist whose music I love is Stewart Reynolds of Brittlestar.

His song The Long Weekend has been flirting with #1 for the pop/rock downloads for a few weeks now. Click here to download it yourself and help push it to the top.

(I think Gasoline is actually my favorite song on the album... and you can download that from the Amazon site too.)

I met Stewart because he's a fellow Lilac Time fan.

Another Canadian I like is the very funny Doug Gordon, a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio. He works for one of my favorite radio shows, To the Best of our Knowledge.

He created the three-part New Audio Showroom, my favorite part of which is This Canadian Existance.

As you might suspect, it's similar to one of my other favorite radio shows, This American Life, except... it's about Canada.

I met Doug because he's a fellow John Wesley Harding fan.

My other favorite Canadians are a trio of bloggers.

Maktaaq writes some of my favorite blog entries ever, even when she's feeling low. There's no use trying to write the best blog entry ever... Maktaaq has already written it. I have to keep checking back in, I never know what Crenguţă the hamster might be up to next. (Maktaaq is possibly not technically a Canadian - I'm not sure - but she lives there now and that's good enough for me.)

The irrepressibly funny Happy and Blue 2 almost gave up on blogging because of the many recent Blogger troubles, but was persuaded to continue by the pleading comments of his many fans.

The impossibly tall, handsome young FORMS, well known in Starbucks throughout the land, has been busy, traveling to Russia, going undercover at the Canada's Next Top Face auditions, and playing water polo.

I met the bloggers because of their blogs, or because of this one. I don't even know any of their real names. It doesn't matter.

Geez I love the internet.

I don't really know any of these people, except in an online sort of way, an "exchanged a few emails or blog comments" kind of way.

As for experiences in "real life" with Canadians - my husband and I went on an extended driving vacation north of the border a few years ago. We loved it. We ate a lot of lobster and poutine.

Oddly, we felt at home there, in a way that we hadn't at our other stops in Washington D.C. and Maine.

Are Canadians more like people from the southern US than the northern US? Or do Canadians just make everyone feel at home?

We also happened to catch the entire run of Twitch City while in Nova Scotia. Since that time I have loved Don McKellar in particular and all other Canadians in general.

Monday, March 21, 2005


Resurrection fern (Polypodium polypodioides).
The latin name really seems to stress the fact that the plant has "many feet". It's an air plant that can play dead - click the link for more info.

Fungi. I haven't delved into trying to figure out the names of fungi yet - I think this is a type of shelf fungus. (If you know the name please leave a comment.)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Kid party

My niece, cutie pie birthday girl.

I had another picture showing the face of this other cutie pie niece with flowery knees, but her mother didn't want me to show it on the internet.

Not related, but cutie pie still.

Birthday girl in a little pique, after having been told that some broken toys had been thrown away. (She got over it.)

Logan the dog was a big hit.

More like a baton

I don't normally do these things. But when Jenni asks, I can't say no.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be:
One that's hidden.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
In high school I had a crush on Strider (from the Lord of the Rings series). More recently, I liked Daniel Pecan Cambridge from "The Pleasure of my Company" (Steve Martin).

The last book you bought is:
"Trilliums" by the Cases is in my shopping cart right now.

The last book you read:
Girl with a Pearl Earring.

What are you currently reading?
"Gardening Life" by Lee May. Also trying to read through 50 million magazines so I can get rid of them.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:
1 - a book on the natural history of the island
2 - a book about how to live off the land on an island
3 - a book of poetry thick enough to stun an ox
4 - an encyclopedia of similar size
5 - a book about how to get off of islands

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?
Anyone who wants it, have at it.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Minty frog

American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)

I had to look this one up, and was a little surprised that she turned out to be a bullfrog. Not enough meat on this one to bother with gigging for fried frog legs.

No, I don't do that, but my grandfather did. As a kid I thought that eating frog legs was a real treat.

This one is a female; on a male the tympanum (external eardrum) would be much larger than the eye.

I imagine that this gal has no problems with bad breath, living in the ditch amongst the mint.

Friday, March 18, 2005

My sister's house

I sometimes accuse my sister of getting all the good genes.

She definitely got all our mother's good domestic ones: cooking, cleaning, neatness, general household industriousness.

I got the ones that need glasses and tend to gain weight after marriage.

She got the decorating gene too. And the one with green thumbs.

front porch

above a kitchen window

in the dining room

dining room again

back door

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Lions, Lambs, and White Flowers

Between cool snaps and dark windy days, there are a few warm, sunny, glorious hours. Spring is sneaking in.

We've seen a few swallows, a bat, and lots of mosquitoes and gnats. (I've had two itchy bites already.)

It's not really planting time yet though. At the gardening conference, I tried tying my hands behind my back to keep me from buying any plants so early.

But they had Sun Golds. Last year after reading a book about a New York couple's adventures in market gardening, I looked everywhere for Sun Golds, the cherry tomato that they had praised to the heavens. No joy. I could find the seeds, but they need to be started indoors and there's just no room.

So when a vendor at the conference had Sun Golds, I had to get them. And then I figured I might as well get a few other things as well.

While the tomatoes are in an aggravating "outside during the day - make sure they're out of doggie reach - remember to bring them in at night" arrangement, the lettuce and broccoli could go in the ground right away.

Which of course was a powerful signal to mother nature, to unleash a hail storm and days upon days of rain.

I took these pictures last weekend, before all the bad weather came to town. If sound were an option, in the background you'd hear a husband and a dog begging me to hurry up and quit taking so long.

Bloodroot. One of my favorite spring wildflowers. Even the latin name has blood in it: Sanguinaria canadensis. It looks dainty, but it must be tough if it has the name "Canada" in it and can live in Alabama too.

Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides or Anemonella thalictroides). A magnified bloom. In real life it's less than an inch (2.5 cm) across.

Toothwort. The genus used to be called dentaria, alluding to the roots that look like teeth, but was changed to cardamine. (If you know why, clue me in.) There are lots of species of toothwort. I think this one is Cardamine concatenata. I've read that you can eat the peppery roots, but I haven't tried it.

Toothwort close up.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Southern butterflies and you

With a few days in the 70s, the butterflies have popped in during the past week.

We've seen:

Spring Azure
Falcate Orange Tip
Pearl Crescent
Hop Merchant (a.k.a. Eastern Comma)
Cabbage White

Butterflies have such cool names.

Even when the butterflies themselves are nothing to write home about, the names are often fantastic.

Thumbing through my field guide, some names I love include:

Satyr Anglewing
Hoary Comma
Ringless Blue Cracker
Mexican Eighty-Eight
Cloudless Sulphur
Question Mark
Antillean Dagger Wing
Flashing Astraptes
Malicious Shady Skipper

and my favorite:

Redundant Swarthy Skipper.

There is an interesting Hans Christian Andersen story about a butterfly who wished for a bride.

It contains the sentence, "The pea-blossom pleased him most of all; she was white and red, graceful and slender, and belonged to those domestic maidens who have a pretty appearance, and can yet be useful in the kitchen."


After having "been too long choosing, which is always a bad plan," the indecisive butterfly winds up stuck on a pin in a box of curiosities.

"Now I am perched on a stalk, like the flowers," he says. "It is not very pleasant, certainly; I should imagine it is something like being married; for here I am stuck fast."

I really have to wonder about Hans Christian Andersen sometimes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

More chick lit

They are so tiny when they first arrive. This one is just two days old. I love the racing stripes but I'm trying to resist the temptation to name them all after Formula One drivers.

One of the most fun things in the world. To hold out your hand and have a horde of warm fuzzy little bodies crowd around to eat out of it.

A chick can't stand being left out of something important. And they're not as gentle as you might think. If one can't muscle her way in, she'll make a flying LEAP onto the pile of chicks in front of her. This goes for feeding time as well as nap time.

Their favorite way to sleep is all together in a little chick scrum. But they all want to be in the middle. So if one is late to the game, she'll LEAP into the middle of the pile. It seems hard to get much uninterrupted sleep if you're a chick.

The Marans are the shy ones in this group. They almost never leap, they just run around and around and around the outside, looking for a way in. They wait to eat until the others are finished. They sleep on the outer layer of the scrum. You want to send them to a Dale Carnegie course for a little self confidence.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Bluebell evolution

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are one of the first wildflowers to bloom in this area.

The leaves appear first, then spread open to reveal the buds.

The stalk gets longer, and soon the buds are too heavy to stand up straight.

Bud color goes from pink to purple, then the blue flower opens. When it fades, it will turn pink again.

Every now and then there will be a flower that is pink or white instead of blue. None in this bunch so far.

A stalk with several open flowers.

Among friends.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Chicky babies

We got our chicks!

Rhode Island Reds - we ordered these for someone else, but will probably foster them until they get a little bigger.

Cuckoo Marans - They seem to look a lot like Dominiques. But the eggs they lay are very dark brown. "Marans" is both the singular and the plural name.

Ameraucanas - Actually "Easter Egger" chickens. They all look different because they are bred for egg laying color (blue and green) instead of looks.

Cute huh?

Click the links above to see what they'll look like when they're older.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Gardening Conference

I'm at a gardening conference. Today we heard about "The Sensuous Garden" by Lee May, who's one of the best speakers I've heard in a long time.

The line for getting signed copies of his books was quite long.

We were also lucky enough to meet Penny McHenry, a real character, who founded the American Hydrangea Society, and had a hydrangea named after her. She brought several slides of her garden.

I learned a lot of new things about heirloom shrubs, hydrangeas, and roses, which wasn't difficult since I knew almost nothing at all to start with.

Tomorrow, it's the solar aquatic system for cleaning waste water, bamboo for gardens, and bulbs, corms, and tubers. Maybe they'll make a gardener out of me yet.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

In the absence of flowers

I took a walk but couldn't find much blooming yet. There were two bloodroots coming up, but they were a little battered by the storm.

I had Jasmine with me and she battered one of them even further. She became very interested in whatever I was looking at. I don't think she sees the point of stopping to look at flowers.

Here are a couple of musical pictures from earlier in the winter.

Treble clef - I took a picture of the locust bean when the light was harsh. I continued my walk, thinking I'd come back later and get a better shot. But by the time I returned, a squirrel had stolen it away.

Quarter notes - Sycamore seed balls.