Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Blogging from an undisclosed secure location

I was just sitting down last night to answer comments and say that all was well, when our power went out.

We went to bed early, which was good because I think I woke up 50 times during the night. Lots and lots and lots of wind! Not sustained, but gusty, and strong. It was scary.

Half of Alabama is without power. There are more homes out in central Alabama than down in the Mobile area, which is strange, but maybe just because more people live here.

We may be some of the last to be restored, since it's only us that's out nearby - everyone else in our area has electricity.

So it may be a while before I can post again.

Everyone is fine, though! It didn't even rain that much. I'm not sure of the amount though, because we have a crazy dog who likes to play in the rain and she knocked over the gauge.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Happy little creek

Happy little creek at different times of the year, from the same vantage point (approximately):

Late March.


Now. (Pre-Katrina.)

Flood stage, early April.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Holy Moly!

Hurricane Katrina slowly strengthened until it reached level 5, and meteorologists started comparing it to Hurricane Camille. When you hear Camille in the south, images of destruction are the first things that spring to mind. Camille is not a term that's bandied around lightly.

Read about Camille here and here. It came calling in August 1969, and was the worst hurricane ever to make landfall in the United States.

They think Katrina may prove to be worse.

Here is the Unisys page of 2005 Atlantic hurricanes. Scroll down to see currently updated information for Katrina.

As I write, the pressure there is 906 millibars. Yowza.

Some of the computer models project the hurricane to head our way after making landfall, and others show it staying to the west.

If you're the praying type, say a little prayer for New Orleans, which is actually below sea level and protected by levees that are only designed to withstand a category 3 hurricane.

Every time there is a hurricane, TV stations send out "on the scene" weather reporters. They stand out in the rain and wind, I guess to give you a better idea of "what's really going on". I think it's stupid, and that one of them will someday be killed. I hope I'm wrong.


Edited to add:

A Very, Very Scary Message. (Thanks to local TV station ABC 33/40's blog.)

I don't think I've ever seen a National Weather Service statement quite like that one.

Friday, August 26, 2005


It's hard to fix a clock with a cat trying to supervise.

In other repair work news, vehicle #1 has been in the shop for several days. Is this the busy season for car repairs? They might be able to get to it by Saturday. Early estimate, $795. Especially ouchy when there's still one broken-down truck to go.

"Still better than car payments every month," is the mantra I keep repeating.

When looking for pictures of the furniture last week (still for sale, by the way), I came across this picture of myself taken about 20 years ago.

I need some major restoration as well.

For people who've known me only in the past 10 years or so, it will be a shock to discover that I was ever this skinny. I can hardly believe it myself.

Between then and now I've quit smoking. Several times. I can't recall what year it was the first time I quit, but it was during the month of February. I remember that because I ate an entire box of the just-arrived Girl Scout cookies that first smokeless day. It's been all downhill from there.

Although I doubt I'll ever be this skinny again, I could definitely be in much better shape. I need to get to work on that. I'd be embarrassed to post a present-day picture of myself because I've gained SO much weight.

By the way, the cat in the second picture was Chester, a.k.a. the best cat ever.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Summer blooms

Remember the Frost flowers from earlier in the year? This is how they look in the summer:

White crownbeard
(Verbesina virginica).

Heal-all or Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris).

A thing that looks like Blackeyed Susan, but may actually be a type of Sunflower, but I'm not really sure.

Passionflower or Maypop (Passiflora incarnata).
The fruit is edible. I tried it once - it tastes like lemonade. Like a pomegranate though, it's somewhat difficult to eat.

Mimosa pods. For a horrible alien invasive they sure look nice. (And at least they stick to the edges.)

Some other very interesting flowers. Really, they're quite unique. Click to see what I mean. I can't decide whether I like the pitcher plant or the nautilus shell the best. If you happen to have several thousand extra dollars just lying around, you can surprise me. Oh and wouldn't a Venus flytrap be great in this series?!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Chicken update

It is with great sadness that I must report the loss of the final Ms. Lakenvelder.

You may remember her antics from the Proof that Chickens are Crazy post or the Chicken Chronicles. She and her sometimes cream-colored eggs will be missed.

In happier news, many of the pullets have started laying! (And just in time too, with only four of the older hens remaining.)

Aside from the white Leghorn egg in the upper right, these are all from the new chickens.

Looking at the size of the white egg, you can also see how much smaller these "pullet eggs" are.

What beautiful colors, though! It's a little hard to tell from this picture, but the Easter Eggers' eggs are actually blue or blue-green instead of the very green ones we had from the previous hens.

The darker brown eggs are from the Marans, and the lighter brown ones and pinkish one are from the Rhode Island Reds. There is more overlap here than I would have imagined though - I'm not sure who's laying the midrange brown eggs.

Here is a link to pictures of the young chicks when they'd just arrived in March. You may notice I'd said we were fostering the Rhode Island Reds for someone else. Well he never paid for them. Though I probably wouldn't have ordered them on my own, I like them a lot more than I would have suspected. I would not have paid extra to buy a rooster on purpose though.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Car trouble & sea urchins

If you have three vehicles for two people, you are always explaining that well, they have different uses. And besides, if one is broken then you don't have to scramble, because you still have two working vehicles.

I now believe that if you repeat that too often, two vehicles are bound to break down at the same time.

Back before we had so many critters, we took a trip now and then. We always took the big truck, because it was the most comfortable to ride in, could cart around a lot of stuff, and could be slept in if necessary.

The truck has a cubbyhole space just below the dashboard on the passenger's side. I'm not sure of its intended use, but it's become a sort of mini museum of our travels.

Interesting seeds, cones, feathers, and fossil rocks share space with an old binocular lens cleaner, faded ticket stubs, and the most important of all travel accessories: 6 feet of Bubblegum.

My favorite things though, are the Green Sea Urchin (Stronglyocentrotus droebachiensis) tests (shells).

There were several more, but I've given them away to other nature nuts who expressed an interest. Here are some nice pictures of what the sea urchins looked like when they were alive.

We found these on rocky beaches on our trip to Nova Scotia 5 or 6 years ago.

I'd seen pictures of rocky beaches before, but had never thought about what they sounded like. I'd never heard anyone wax poetic about the whispery clatter of a rocky beach. But now it's one of my favorite sounds. The rocks are very smooth, and tumble against each other with each wave. A beautiful noise.

A few sea urchin facts:
They are circumpolar in northern waters.
I really like the word "circumpolar".
Sea urchin means sea hedgehog.
They are pentamerously radially symetrical.
The raised bumps are where the spines were attached.
Pentamerous is my new word of the day.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Catalpa worms

Poor little guys.

Almost every Catalpa worm (Ceratomia catalpae) on this tree had been parasitized by a Braconid wasp (Apanteles congregatus). The wasps lay eggs beneath the skin of the caterpillars, and the larvae feed on the them until they are ready to pupate. (The white cylinders are cocoons, not eggs.)

The wasps do the same thing to tomato and tobacco hornworms, amongst others, so are considered beneficial.

Poor little Catalpa worms, though.

Mightily encumbered.

More than you ever wanted to know about Catalpa worm anatomy is here.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Used furniture

We are trying to sell some furniture through ads in the classifieds. It's becoming an interesting tutorial in human nature.

"Hi, can you tell me the dimensions of the entertainment center you've got advertised in the paper?"

"Yes, but I'm in the car driving right now. Can you call me back in about 15 minutes?"

"Yeah, sure."

No call back.

Or the one who left a message. I tried her back twice, and she never called again.

Why? Why would you go to the trouble of answering an ad, and then not follow through?

Is there something in my voice that makes me sound like someone that you wouldn't want to buy furniture from?

Then there are the blank emails, or emails with the wrong return address. (They can't hear me, so that shouldn't be a factor.)

I'm beginning to think that everyone else has 50 million things going at once too. Three jillion things to cross off their "to do" list. Maybe they forget to call back, and then figure it's already been sold.

But it hasn't.

Begin Bloggomercial!

If anyone local (near Birmingham, Alabama) needs some lovely teak furniture...

These are pictures I saved from the ad circular when I bought the furniture, and are a little scratchy (the pics, not the furniture).

It's not politically correct to buy teak anymore, since most of the time it's not grown in a sustainable fashion. Of course it's fine to buy used teak.

If anyone would like to give our furniture a new home, email me... we just don't have room for it.

End of bloggomercial!

Thursday, August 18, 2005


A green dragonfly seemed fascinated by a scrap of paper on the deck:

A slightly more aerial view of him:

I was creeping closer and closer, when a cat decided she needed to see what was going on, and kind of ruined the moment.

I think this is a Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphidae), but there are several greenish ones that look almost exactly alike to me.

This one was easier:

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa). We see these all the time.

In looking up the dragonflies, I found a nice web site with lots of good nature pictures. The emphasis is on Georgia wildlife.


For your biweekly bird fix, visit the new I and the Bird!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

How they've grown

Close-knit: Dusty, George, and Ginger.

Kitty triptych.

(Click for a larger image.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Our swamp:

(Click for a larger image.)

It's not technically a swamp I guess, though it is definitely swampy.

More like a pond gone totally wild.

This is where the majority of the frogs congregate. With a similar area on a neighbor's property, when they're particularly loud (the frogs, not the neighbors) we're treated to stereo croaking.

When the real estate agent originally gave us a tour of the place, we had the distinct impression that she was trying to avoid showing us this part of the property. I guess most people would not be that happy to own a swamp. Little did she know that it would be one of the main attractions for us!

My husband saw a Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin) snake here about a week ago. I'm a little afraid of those snakes, since
a. They are venomous,
b. I've seen them act agressively, and
c. I'm don't always watch where I'm going the way that I should.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Trumpet creeper

Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) progression:

Hummingbird temptation

Baby pods

Ripe pods

Friday, August 12, 2005

Guest snake pictures

I'm still not feeling quite up to par. But Eleanor of Purple Pen has offered up a Copperhead picture in lieu of the one I took last year that I still can't find. And, she's thrown in a rattlesnake for good measure!

These were both taken at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Great Pictures, Eleanor!

Copperhead snake (Agkistrodon contortrix)

Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Chicken Noodle Soup

I'm feeling a little under the weather.


3 chicken breast halves
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cans cream of chicken soup
6 - 12 ounces (dry) dumpling egg noodles
salt & pepper to taste
minced garlic to taste (can use 1 teaspoon minced garlic in a jar)
1 Tablespoon butter or margarine
1 teaspoon granulated chicken bouillon

Cook chicken in a large pot, approximately 3/4 full of water. After chicken is cooked, remove from pot and set aside to cool. Using the chicken broth in the pan, add the chopped celery and carrots. Cook until tender. Add the noodles to the broth and cook until tender. Stir in the cans of soup. Chop the chicken and add back into the other ingredients. Add the butter and other seasonings.

I'm not sure where the recipe came from originally. My friend B.J. made it for us one time when we were both sick. Her friend Pat had made it for her, and so on.

Last night I made it for myself.

I used the lesser amount of noodles, which is about half of a package. The more you add, the thicker the soup becomes. I normally add mushrooms also. And if I'm feeling picky I like the chicken torn rather than chopped.

The butter and the bouillon probably aren't really necessary but I add them anyway most of the time, just in case they contain extra healing power.

The first time I made it, the "large pot" instruction frustrated me a little... How large is large? I use my 4.5 Quart pot and it works out just fine.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Dragonfly on a wire.

Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos).

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Pictures of me

Here I am on the farm.

Here's my "go to town" look.

Here's how I look when I'm asleep. My hair gets a little messed up. I think I snore.

Via the South Park Character Generator.

Thanks to Happy and Blue 2 for the link.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Snake, it's a snake!

Art Lad, the talented 6-year old son of Magazine Man, started a blog recently. The post that started it all is here. (It's great, go read it!)

"I need to find that picture of the Copperhead that I took last year," I told my husband. "I'm going to make a post about how much Art Lad likes snakes, and send some people over to see his new blog."

Only I couldn't find the picture. I'd evidently put it somewhere really good. I just wasn't sure where. Dagnabit.

In between picture searches, I happened to look at my blog's statistics page. My traffic had exploded! Wait, they're all coming from... Art Lad???

Turns out he'd been mentioned on BoingBoing, one of the oldest and most popular blogs on the internet. He was getting thousands of hits, and since he'd linked to me I was basking in the reflective glow.

So, it's not like he needs the exposure now, but go visit Art Lad anyway.

Oh yeah, I still can't find the Copperhead pic. But here's a couple of Black Racers we saw yesterday.

Hubby found this one, curled up off the path.

His close-up.

I found the second one.

OK, I almost stepped on him.

He seemed darker than the first one.

I believe they are both Northern Black Racers, Coluber constrictor constrictor. Despite the name, it's not a constrictor!

The second one slithered away so fast that I was reminded how they got the name Racer.


Edited to add:

Thanks to commenters Jenn and Ron, who pointed out that the first snake is probably about to shed its skin! Besides the lighter color, the milky eye is apparently also a clue.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Summer blooms

I just can't get as excited about summer blooms. I play favorites. I like the spring ephemerals so much better. Probably because they come at the end of winter, when I haven't seen flowers in such a long time.

But I do love the American Bellflower (Campanulastrum americana) that's blooming now.


Go see the Friday Ark for your weekly critter show!

Thursday, August 04, 2005


We took the cats to the vet the this week.

"Guess what," the vet said, "George is a girl."

Well we kind of already had a clue, since she had gone into heat. She is only 5 months old, so the vet wanted to wait another 3 weeks until her operation.

So now her name is Georgia, but we're still calling her George for short.

The vet said that Ginger is definitely a male. Hubby kept trying to change his name to Bear or anything else more masculine. Finally I showed him a picture of Ginger Baker, who used to play in a band called Cream. So he was satisfied that a man can have that name, and Ginger gets to remain Ginger.

Dusty is a female, as we thought. So in kitten sexing, we did not do very well: one out of three correct.

The younger kittens were born right around tax day, so they are about three and a half months old.

Jasmine gets along with all of them, except at feeding time, when she thinks that all food is her food.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Hot heron?

OK, we've established that chickens pant in the heat. But do wild birds do this too?

I guess so.

Or maybe he was just hoping that a fish would hop right on in.

We've gone for the "natural look" around the ponds this year, can you tell?

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).


Edited to add:

Leave it to Swamp Things to know that this behavior has a name: Gular fluttering! I looked it up, and it's not exactly the same as panting: the bird is rapidly vibrating the floor of its mouth and upper area of its throat. According to what I read, this does not require as much energy as panting, and is exclusive to birds.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Wild potato vine

I don't normally venture onto this part of our property early in the morning, so I didn't realize we had any Wild Potato Vine (Ipomoea pandurata) until my husband mentioned it.

It was still, as they say, o'dark thirty.

I knew the common name of the flower, and that it was a type of native morning glory, but that was about it. I researched it and learned several things:

The root can reach the size of a man's leg and weigh over 30 pounds.

Pandurate means fiddle-shaped. (The leaves can also be heart-shaped, as in this picture.)

Sweet potatoes are a type of morning glory.

Moquitoes are really, really bad in this area early in the morning.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Dog days

In the dog days of summer, Jasmine spends a lot of time under the porch. She's developed a bark-in-place policy.

During the daytime she only budges if you open the door to ask, "What in the world are you barking at?" Then she'll take off like a rocket towards the interloper (heron, rabbit, cow).

Lately I've wondered about hooking a walkie-talkie up to her collar so I could ask her the same thing when she's barking beneath the bedroom window at 3:30 am.