Friday, March 31, 2006


I had to run out and try to plant some wildflower rescues before it rained. But I was stopped short by a very pretty black and yellow snake at the edge of the woods.

"Hello, little snake. You're very pretty. Thomas will definitely want to see you. Don't go away. Stay right there!"

He didn't listen to me though. By the time I got back with the camera, he was gone. I tried calling him, but it didn't work.

"Come back, pretty snake!"
(Snakes are above flattery.)
"Thomas will be so disappointed!"
(Snakes are impervious to guilt.)
"I'll make you a big star!"
(Snakes don't suffer from vanity.)

Oh, well. As with Thomas and his recent misadventures, things don't always work out like you plan.

OK, so what do I already have a picture of, that a first grade boy might like?

Maybe this.

Teeth on a deer skeleton.

Guess who dragged it into the yard.

Yep, that's who.

OK, Monk is coming on. It's the Halloween episode - I have to go watch Danny's house!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wednesday, March 29, 2006



Keep all your fingers and toes crossed.

Send out all good thoughts to me today.

I'm working on the dreaded taxes.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The thing

We found this... thing... on a walk.

Hubby says it is "obviously" the remains of a bug - one of those hairy caterpillars - and it does look like that, from this angle especially.

I tried looking up various combinations of the words dried hairy/spiky alien caterpillar exoskeleton on Google Images but didn't find anything that matched it.


I did think it was a plant pod of some sort at first. But it was the only one around. It was fairly glued to the tree.

Also, I just remembered a dream I had last night.

In the dream, I discovered that we had a basement that I hadn't previously realized was there. There was even a retractable clothesline that I thought would be perfect for drying quilts. I was ecstatic! I could finally wash the quilts!

(Yes I have a yard as big as all outdoors but I also have a dog who'd make mincemeat out of an heirloom quilt in very short order.)

(Yes I have the most boring dreams known to man.)

Monday, March 27, 2006


"A poor drainage area is usually defined as an area where water will sit in puddles for several hours after a heavy rainfall."

When this picture was taken, it had not rained in 4 days.

As you might guess from the lovely cover crop of weeds and standing water, this is our garden spot.

Everywhere we went, my husband ogled piles of dirt. "Look at that dirt! That's good dirt. Where do you think they got that dirt?"

I feared he'd have a wreck and I'd be left tearfully explaining to police officers that dirt envy did him in.

When piles of really good dirt suddenly appeared at a neighbor's, it was the last straw. We screeched to a halt. An investigation was conducted. We obtained a telephone number.

And voila!

I'll never use the phrase dirt cheap again. Dirt is actually much more expensive than you'd think.

Stay tuned for part II, The Quest for Compost...

The ducks, who were very interested in the whole process.

Opening quote from Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A special place

One of my wildflower society friends took us to explore her friends' land.

There were hundreds of young Trout Lily leaves (Erythronium americanum).

Close-up of the bloom.

Shooting stars! Tons! (Dodecatheon meadia.) I've never seen so many in one place.

So cool.

I wasn't familiar with these, but was assured that they are Carolina Lilies (Lilium michauxii). Not blooming yet.

Not your ordinary ginger. Shuttleworth's, I think. (Hexastylis shuttleworthii.)

Cranefly orchid leaves. (Tipularia discolor). Waaaay more than usual.

I'd heard of Yellowroot before - it's a traditional medicinal plant - but had never seen it blooming. I love the burdundy color. (Xanthorhiza simplicissima.)

Also in the area...

No idea what it is, except a pretty white tree.

Bloom where you're planted...? Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta).

A Verbena, growing in a roadside ditch.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Critter cam - new location

We moved the critter cam to a new location that appeared to be on a game trail, and got this shot on the first night.

I felt a little guilty, because from the look of the leaves in the area, the flash really scared the poor deer. The poor dear.

The camera has a little memory card, which I forgot to return after downloading this photo. The camera will continue to take pictures, store them, and write to the card later on. But the quality doesn't seem the same... you can see in this shot of my dear husband, just before he sprained his ankle. He was returning the memory card that I forgot to put back in the camera. Whoops.

Friday Ark

Before I forget... the Friday Ark is up, with all new critter pics!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I'll miss you

I can scarely believe that the Bloodroots are almost gone. Every year it seems I haven't spent enough time with them.

Closed up for the night.

I visited a really special place with some of my fellow wildflower nuts. I'll share it once I can get Blogger to start cooperating better... I'm having a little trouble uploading photos at present.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The evidence

Keep your fingers crossed that they're not aiming to turn the driveway into a beaver pond again.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Recent activities

New bass and catfish were added to the ponds.

If we'd known you were dropping by, we'd have cleaned the bucket.

Looking for a way out.

It's been stormy and has rained a lot.

The wind chimes have already been stored away twice due to tornado warnings.

Watch your step.

Life has been busy, but we always try to find time to sneak away for exploring.

Remains of what was the biggest tree in this area.

I wonder who lives here?

Flower time.

Friday, March 17, 2006


Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

We have an area that floods whenever it rains a lot in the spring. It was pretty grown up, so Hubby cut a couple of paths through it with the tractor.

Look what popped up on one of the paths!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fossil week, day 4

Alethopteris? Pecopteris? Neuropteris?

I think it's some type of seed fern, but a) the fossil isn't that clear, b) it's missing the top and bottom portions, and c) I think I'm in way over my head at this point in Fossil Week.

I believe I found this one at the in-laws' old lake house in Winston county. There was a nice little beach with lots of shale - great for onsite fossil hunting. But after pointing this out to a few of the prospective buyers, I realized that most people's standards of what constitutes a really cool house feature are just not the same as mine.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


We interrupt Fossil Week to bring you this important bulletin.

A phlox bloomed.

A migrating Louisiana waterthrush sang.

A snake slithered.

Butterflies fluttered by in numbers.

Crabapple trees were planted.

Mosquitoes have been slapped and ticks have been pulled.

Shorts have been worn AND frosty car windows have been scraped.

In other words, it's spring.

Fossil week, day 3

I haven't been much of a fossil nut until just lately. But I am something of a packrat.

When I was 10 or so, my friend who lived in Reece City (Etowah county) said, "Let's go pick up some fossils." We thought they were dinosaur bones, which they aren't, and I shudder now to think how close to the road (and the speeding cars) we were when we picked these up.

These are fossil Crinoid stems - most of them anyway. After looking at the picture I started wondering if maybe the one in the middle wasn't something different.

They're sometimes called sea lilies, which is confusing since they were not plants. They're echinoderms, related to the starfish (which is not a fish). Anyway, they floated around gracefully while anchored on stems like the above. The stem fragments survive in fossils a lot more than the rest of them.

Although that's the only time I've ever found them, they're apparently pretty common. And cheap. A whole box can be yours for only $3.40.

Fossil links:

More about Crinoids here, here, here, and here.

An interesting fossil ID tool (ID by shape).

Some nice posters with line drawings of Pennsylvanian period fossils.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fossil week, day 2

This one is one of my favorites - a pith cast of Calamites, the ancient horsetail tree. (Compare to images here and here.)

Like the fossils from yesterday, it's about 300 million years old.

Most of north central Alabama's fossils are from this Carboniferous period. (Map.) Here is a nice color-coded map for the whole US. (You can see part of Canada as well, although as usual it's shaded darker, as if nobody ever goes up there.)

My bad mistake with this fossil was not noting where I found it. But I believe it was either at my in-laws' old lake house (Smith Lake, Winston county) or at one of our old birdwatching spots (Jefferson county).

Monday, March 13, 2006

Fossil week

Updated: see below.

While posting recently about the rocks here, I mentioned that the red ones often contained plant fossils. By request, here they are.

I'll post more fossil pics later this week and try to come up with some IDs.

These are possibly leaves of Lycopods - Lepidophylloides maybe. Like this and this. The ancient lycopod tree had different types of leaves, and the grass-like ones were called Lepidophyllum. I believe that would put them in the Pennsylvanian period, about 300 million years ago.

But I'm not sure about that. I've never found any more entire leaf impressions than these. So if you know differently please tell me.

They could possibly be from the other clubmoss tree, the Sigillaria, or the horsetail tree, the Calamites. (They are all from roughly the same time period.)

Updated: I found this at the Virtual Paleontology Lab, which explains why the leaves can have a different scientific name than the rest of the plant:
Because we don't always know which leaves belong to which seeds when they are first discovered, we use the convention of form taxa. When organs are found isolated (not in organic connection), each type of leaf and seed is given its own binomial name (genus and species name according to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature), without making any assumption about what belongs to what. To use the example discussed by Oliver and Scott (1904), leaves were described as Lyginopteris (genus only for brevity), seeds as Lagenostoma, and stems as Lyginodendron. The similarity of the first syllable gives a hint that the describing paleobotanists (others besides Oliver and Scott) suspected some relationship, but were unable to make a strong inference link. The last syllable of each name gives a hint to the organ type: "dendron" = stem, "pteris" is often used for frond-like foliage, "stoma" = seed. However, after Oliver and Scott's recognition of the unique glands on Lagenostoma lomaxi and species in the other organ form genera, they were able to make the whole-plant link with greater confidence. The whole plant then takes the name of the organ first described, in this case Lyginopteris. When you are writing, take care to make clear whether you are talking about form taxa (organs) or whole-plants.

Also, this is what the globe looked like 300 million years ago. Plate tectonics! Continental drift! Gotta love it.

If I'm right about what these are, the fossils pre-date dinosaurs. Pretty cool.

Here's what it's thought to have looked like around here at that time, more or less. There are modern relatives of some of these ancient plants, such as the plant-rescue ground cedar I tried (unsuccessfully, as it turns out) to transplant here last year.

Sue the T-rex? Sniff. Ho hum. My fossils are older than that. Almost five times older! Now if I could only find somebody to pay me $8 million for them...


P.S. I have learned so much since I started writing this blog - looking all this stuff up so I can pretend like I know what I'm talking about.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Friday, March 10, 2006

Rocks in my head

Sometimes we find rocks made of rocks.

I tried to get a snapshot showing how rocky it is near the top of the hill.

But maybe this closeup of the old logging road bank shows it better. It's limestone at the bottom of the hill and sandstone near the top.

Hubby has started building these little rock towers everywhere.

The creek bed has huge boulders in some places, but this pebbly area is better for wading.

I made a little rock collection near the edge. The red ones often have plant fossils in them.

When I was a kid I was convinced that these were moon rocks.