Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bring me penguin dust

My book on tape mentioned ostriches, and I suddenly realized that I dreamed about them the night before. Like the zombies from last week, I don't remember much about them. Except perhaps the suggestion that one of the ostriches was wearing a saddle.

I'm not superstitious, or not much anyway. I believe it's actually very difficult to have no superstitions at all. Still, I don't really believe in omens or portents, except maybe in a vaguely poetic sort of sense.

But when I started the day by finding the mailbox smashed to smithereens, I was somehow less surprised to learn that the only toasty sub shop within 30 miles had closed. Less forlorn that the search for a certain wildflower came up empty (due, I think, to deer appetites). And less angry than usual that the cats decided to divide a one gallon loosely-potted plant and all its dirt between the table, the upholstered chair, and the floor. And ground two weeks worth of mail into it. And attacked and chewed nearly to bits the charming tea towels. (After dragging them through the dirt.)

Better luck tomorrow.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wildflower garden

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

Wild ginger leaves (Hexastylis sp.)

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and little friend

Oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Carolina Lily (Lilium michauxii)

Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

New bridge

Celandine poppy leaf (Stylophorum diphyllum)

Brown-eyed Susans and little friend (Rudbeckia sp.)

I would never have believed that moss could capture a leaf

But it can

Thanks for visiting...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Soap stuff

The soaps I make now are all made from the same recipe. The oils I use are olive, palm, coconut, avocado, castor, and stearic. Only the scents, colors, and additives change from bar to bar.

But lately I've been playing.

Red palm soap
It's made from red palm oil (virgin palm oil), which makes it turn this cool yellowy-orangy color. Other oils are coconut, olive, rice bran, shea butter, castor, and stearic. It's scented with a mixture of Ylang Ylang, Patchouli, and Ginger essential oils, and I got cutesy and stamped it with a Red Palm (dipped in mica).

Hemp soap
The oils for this one are olive, palm coconut, hemp, shea butter, castor, and stearic. The scent is a mixture of Vetiver and Ylang Ylang essential oils, and the color comes from French green clay.

Island soap
The oils are olive, palm, coconut, macadamia, shea butter, cocoa butter, castor, and stearic. I used red Moroccan clay and scented with a mixture of Rose Geranium, Ylang Ylang, Lavender, and Patchouli essential oils.

Sunflower Shea soap
I think my new stamp is kind of defective. It's supposed to be a sunflower but the middle portion is sunk very low and doesn't come out on the soap. Bummer. I decided the outline of a sunflower was better than nothing at all, then towards the end I worried that anyone who'd seen The Ring would be afraid to buy it. Argh! The soap smells great, though - Clary Sage and Rose Geranium essential oils. I used Rose clay, and the oils are olive, plam, coconut, sunflower, shea butter, castor, and stearic.

These are all experiments. I've been playing with this idea for a while - to make soaps using pricier scents and ingredients. I'll have to sell them for more $$ so we'll see if people are willing to pay more.

I heart my infrared thermometer, it's one of my favorite soapmaking tools. But guess how many times I've headed off to town with that in my pocket instead of my cell phone.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More ducks

I had to work the garden hotline yesterday and was exhausted by the time I got home. It was a day full of characters, which was interesting but not exactly relaxing. So, no time for new pictures, but here are a few more of the ducks.

My original description of Duckie's top-knot/crest/pouf is here. Basically it's a skull deformity. (But a cute one.)

Here are some views from other angles. Yes, it's very soft! But the capturing nearly gives her a heart attack, so we don't feel it too often.

I mentioned the other day that male ducks like to grab onto the crest for umm, balance, so she'd lost a few feathers. Here is the other female Runner duck, Runt, who's missing a few feathers herself.

Poor dear. Chickens do this too, by the way. Roosters seem to know their business better, though. It's quickly over. Ducks I've observed in the wild don't mess around either.

Our ducks however... well, maybe they need a how-to video. Boss-duck, and especially Tuxedo, sometimes just walk back and forth across the backs of the female ducks. Up and down, circle around, back up, back down, etc. Quacking the whole time but not really, well, doing anything.

Often the female gets tired of waiting I guess, or tired of being stepped on, and manages to escape. Sometimes they are caught again within a few steps, and the process starts all over again.

I'm not sure if all domestic ducks are this way, or just Indian Runner ducks. Or just ours.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I'm still getting used to the new camera. There are a lot of buttons.

And the print in the owner's manual is very small.

Last night when I was trying to take a picture of the peppers Hubby had strung up, the camera refused to operate, and kept flashing an odd symbol at me.

About the time I started suspecting that the symbol meant, "You're an idiot," I realized that it was actually telling me, "You took the memory card out of the camera and forgot to put it back." Which I suppose amounts to the same thing, really.

So, which picture of Dusty looks best on your computer? Or can you tell a difference? Does it matter? The first one is straight out of the camera and the other two are lightened a bit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Duckie update

"Well," Hubby said, looking out the window at ducks chasing each other across the yard, "Duckie is definitely a girl."

Oh no, not already.

"Yep. And they're using her topknot to hang on. I think she's missing a few feathers."

Just in the past day or so I'd noticed that Duckie wasn't clinging to Bluebill (Mom duck) any longer. In fact Bluebill made another nest and is sitting on eggs again. So is the female Muscovy, but I think she's already been off the nest too long. She seems to think, especially in the first few days, that it's ok to sit on the nest half the day and then walk about the other half.

In other news, I have a new camera! But in the rush to take pictures before the light faded last night, I didn't adjust any settings, and most of the pictures turned out blurry. (Really, the light had already faded.)

Please let me know if this picture looks too dark on your computer screen. It looks fine on my laptop, but pictures seem darker on our other computer and I'm not sure which one is "normal".

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cut flowers

My gardening group was approached with a project: to grow cut flowers for Hospice.

At heart, I'm a fairly practical person. Whenever I take a personality test, the results always come back the same: Logical. A realist. Pragmatic. A huge skeptic. So why I tend to have such grandiose visions in the planning stages of all my own projects, I have no idea.

I really needn't have worried how many times a week I'd have to drive to town to deliver the multitude of stems I'd be producing. (A boundless bounty of beauteous bouquets, I was sure!)

Oh, the hours I spent, researching the intricacies of each possibility. Was it a good cut flower? (Did the bloom last?) Could I grow it from direct seeding? Did it fare well in the south? Did blooms emerge within a reasonable time frame? Did googling the botanical name produce pictures that looked even remotely like the glossy catalog photos?

Finally I had my list, and ordered 15 varieties that seemed the most promising. We were late planting everything this year, but since we have such a long growing season that's not a problem.

Apparently though, the only thing I can grow is Zinnias. And a sunflower or two.

Technically I did have one California poppy. And there are some African daisies and Cosmos plants that have lots of foliage on them, if no blossoms yet. But mainly, just Zinnias.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Ark

Whoops, almost forgot the Friday Ark.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Frog sounds

Sounds from the frog pond on the neighbor's property. (Sorry I don't know how to make just a sound file.)

There are at least three types of frogs and/or toads I think, but Bullfrog is the only one I'm sure of.

The picture I accidentally made with streetlights:

A red satellite passed before the big dipper, but the current camera was not good enough to capture that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wooly Pine Scale

Snow? No. (It's Alabama in July.)

A heron's been sitting overhead? No. (Above us only sky.)

The strange white goop on this small Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) turned out to be Woolly Pine Scale (Pseudophilippia quaintancii).

According to ACES (Alabama Cooperative Extension System), small periodic infestations are not harmful to unstressed trees.

Of course due to a late spring freeze and the recent early summer drought, pretty much everything in north Alabama is stressed.


Pine Needle Scale (Chionaspis pinifoliae) is another scale insect that looks like white gunk on pine needles.

Monday, July 16, 2007

World Snake Day

Just another vine hanging out on the fence... nothing to worry your pretty little heads about, my sweet little tweetie birds...

I was going to post this tomorrow, but I found out from Bug Girl that it's World Snake Day today so I had to put it up a bit early.

I wrote about Black Racers earlier this spring. (Still not sure if this one is Coluber constrictor constrictor or C. constrictor priapus.)

He didn't like me standing so close. I raised my arm to point at a Green Heron flying over and VOOM! The Racer was gone.

Recent Game Cam action

I swear they look more like cheap plastic toys than real animals, but they dig enough foxholes for a whole regiment of green army men.

Masked bandit who looks like she's been on a diet. (I dreamed I was about this thin last night, but when I woke up it wasn't true.) We had a lot more raccoons when we lived in the suburbs than we do here out in the country.

Looks like frost on the grass, doesn't it? But this is Alabama, not Minnesota. The camera hasn't moved, but the previous photo was before all the recent rain, and this one was just a few days ago. What a difference in the grass!

Why are you so skinny? You've eaten all but two of our chickens!


Wayne has been showing some recent pics from his Cuddeback too. He's got a different version than we do.

I'm not sure what type Linda has, but there's been a lot of action at her house!


I forgot to post a link to the Friday Ark on Friday. So go visit now if you haven't already.

Friday, July 13, 2007

If it were up to me...

Somebody should combine Japanese drums (Taiko):

with Stepping:

What a great new artform that would be.

It should probably also include some of the facial expressions of a Maori Haka:

I checked to make sure that such a thing did not already exist.

I found the Awa Odori:

But no, that's not it.

I'm afraid it will just have to be invented.

Oh, and I also think that all professional sports teams should be required to do it before games.

Better choreograph your own, though. The All Blacks don't like it when you steal their Haka.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Surprise visitors

I looked out the window and couldn't believe what I saw.

Oh! Oh oh oh oh oh!

A wild turkey with four babies! (Meleagris gallopavo.)

I was grinning from ear to ear all afternoon.

Sorry everything's a bit blurry - I never wash the windows. It cuts down on the number of birds that break their necks trying to fly inside. No, really! That's why. Really.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Still raining

The only problems with all this rain... a dirty dog and a grassy garden.

Oh yeah, and the yard can't be mowed because it hasn't dried out yet.

But I'm not complaining.

There won't be any such thing as "too much rain" for quite a while - we're still something like 20 inches below normal rainfall for the year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gray Tractor Frog

We aren't the only ones who've been glad of the rain.

One thing I love about Gray Treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis or maybe Hyla versicolor) is how amenable they are to posing. I'm not sure if they're smart enough to know that we don't want to eat them, or if they're just very laid back.

Hubby took this picture over the weekend while I was elbow-deep in soap. I don't normally work on the weekends but I'd gotten a little behind, and it was raining all day anyway. (I can't seem to quit saying that.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Lucky 07/07/07

An inch and a half of rain yesterday! This system shown arrived in the wee hours this morning, and since then we've had a long steady rain for a total of 1/4 inch so far.

We are such happy campers!


1.5 inches = 3.8 cm
.25 inches = 6.4 mm


Other lucky things recently:
-Bobwhite quail singing in the yard (we've had that luck every day lately)
-Ran across the same turtle (I think) from the post of June 19, and got a pic of his plastron this time (coming soon to a blog near you)
-Old high school friend came to visit
-Cousins came to visit



The radar image almost 12 hours later.

Ahhh prolonged precipitation. Deep drenching. Slow sustained showers. Recurring relentless rain!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Tired Geckie

One sacked-out Leopard Gecko, basking under the heat lamp.

I love the way she sometimes turns her little feet up like that.

She's going through one of her not-eating phases, and this one has lasted a long time. She can live off the fat she stores in her tail, but as you can see it's getting pretty slim.

I don't think she sees very well, poor baby. She's about 7 or 8 years old I think, but LGs can live to 25 or so in captivity. If her eyesight gets any worse I'm not sure how we're going to feed her.

She used to prefer crickets, but now seems to favor mealworms.


Find more critters at the Friday Ark.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Squash update

Man oh man are Zephyrs good! I had a little slice raw and thought "ok". But the flavor really comes out with cooking. Mmmm. Here's the recipe I used:

Cut the tip ends off, and boil the squash or zucchini until the skin pierces easily with a fork. Slice in half lengthwise, and make a few light cross-cuts on the open faces. Spread with melted butter or squeeze margarine. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and a little Parmesan cheese. Broil until the cheese is browned, about 5 minutes.

I wrote about this recipe once before - click there if you want to see a picture of the finished product.


I worked the garden hotline last week, and one of the calls was about problems with squash. The caller asked if she should put Sevin dust (Carbaryl) on the leaves. A lot of people don't realize that Sevin is extremely toxic to bees. And bees pollinate squash. So no, I wouldn't recommend it! The bees seem to be having a hard enough time lately as it is.

If you must use an insecticide on your squash, apply it at dusk, when it will probably harm beneficial insects the least.


There is an interesting Cucurbit Disease key by Vegetable MD online (from Cornell).


The other squash in the picture is a pattypan or scallop type squash, Flying Saucer. Haven't eaten it yet - review on that one later!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Zephyr squash

Our first Zephyr squash. Should be ready to eat tonight!

I may have mentioned before that it's an experimentation year for squash. I planted eight different varieties, plus had one come up volunteer in the compost pile.

That volunteer squash turned out to be an acorn squash, sort of. It's either a not-true-from-seed hybrid or it's from the seed of a cross-pollinated one, because it was white-fleshed and not tasty at all. It was a pseudo-vegetable.

I have high hopes for my Zephyrs though. I'll let you know how it goes!

(As you can probably see in the picture, the grass in the garden really took off with the recent rain.)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Guadalcanal Diary et al.

It has come to my attention after reading the comments on the last post that some of you are lacking in proper alternative rock and/or janglepop musical education.

Yes there was a book and a movie of the same name, but Guadalcanal Diary was also -- not just a band as FC put it -- one of the best bands of the 80s. (Oh great Murray Attaway please excuse him, FC's a Jimmy Buffet fan.)

YouTube is a lot less fun now nowdays and this is the only Guadalcanal video that hasn't been yanked. It's not my favorite of their songs but it's still good: Watusi Rodeo.

I'm not sure what they are up to nowdays but I hope they kept themselves a few copies of At Your Birthday Party (not the Steppenwolf one) to sell on Ebay.

Another of my favorite bands whose name you could confuse with a movie, They Might be Giants:

Birdhouse in Your Soul

This next one requires slightly more effort. I can't embed it so you'll have to click here: Bearing Witness. But you should, you really should. It's a song from one of the most perfect albums ever made, Rough Night in Jericho. (Yes, another movie title, I know!) They broke up a long time ago but band's name is Dreams So Real. It occurs to me that there's a remote possibility Wayne or Glenn might know the singer, Barry Marler. In a "Oh you both work at that place with 10,000 employees so I'm sure you must know him" kind of way.

It messes with my continuity here since as far as I know there is no movie by the same name, but you should also see Blue Rodeo, if you haven't already. They are often called alt-country.

Trust Yourself

Got all that? Quiz next week.


Update: Here's another DSR video, this one for Rough Night in Jericho.


P.S. FC, I really don't have anything in particular against Jimmy Buffet. But I had a good friend in college (from Florida, big surprise!) who would only play Jimmy Buffet, so I had enough of that to last me for the rest of my life. I hear that Jimmy's sister's restaurant is mighty fine.