Friday, January 30, 2009

Comfortable sleeping positions

Cats have funny ideas about comfortable sleeping positions. Trouble is, I always wake them up, trying to take pictures.

I haven't managed to photograph my favorite yet. Sometimes I'll glance over towards the chair, and just see a paw (or two, or four) sticking straight up in the air.

Then I usually wake them up by laughing too loudly, before I can even get the camera.


Submitted to the Friday Ark.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Animal tracks

I don't even know why I have an animal tracks book.

I'm so rarely able to figure out what anything is.

If I were a dedicated animal tracker, I guess I'd have hopped right down there in the mud, and planted a ruler next to the tracks.

But I wasn't carrying one, it was more than a hoppable distance, and I didn't want to get my good shoes muddy. And it probably wouldn't have helped, anyway.

If you know, please put me out of my misery. I'm to the point of imagining snickering little critters, roaming the creek banks at night. They've painstakingly carved no-such-animal mystery tracks onto the bottoms of their gaily painted miniature stilts.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Poor dear

My husband phoned on his way home from work. "There are two Great Pyrenees in our driveway!"

Not Jasmine and a new friend, as he'd first thought, but a neighbor's dogs. They wagged their tails, but retreated across the ditch when we approached.

We were puzzled, until we spotted the dead deer lying in the water. We figured he'd been hit by a car on the highway, then wandered over onto our property to die. There was a cut near one knee, but otherwise no obvious injuries.

I thought we should try to keep the antlers. As it turned out, we didn't begin the boiling-the-excess-meat-off process (that the internet recommended) until two days later. In hindsight, I probably should have guessed that the process would best be suited to the outdoors at that point.

Oh, the stink. I am not completely sure that I'll ever get that stench out of my nose. It was revolting. Fetid. Malodorous.

I am unable to find a word that means, "my brain clings to that hideously repulsive odor like flypaper, and brings it back fresh (ugh) to memory every time I even think about a deer".

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Spongy black fungus

What the heck is that thing?

I don't know, but it sure looks weird.

Back home at the computer, it's Tom Volk to the rescue again.

This is a specialized type of Sooty mold, Scorias spongiosa, that appears only on Beech trees.

Here's another page about it.

I first learned about sooty mold when I took the Master Gardener course. Certain plant-sucking insects excrete honeydew, a delightful name for what really amounts to sugary poop. The sooty mold lives off of it, and that's the black stuff you see on leaves (and other things).

I hadn't realized they came in such specialized varieties, though.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Historic day

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

But it's so much earlier than I ever thought possible.

Today they'll be swearing in a President who's...

younger than me!



I love Google Trends.

How else could I have known, that on Inauguration day, there were only two other pressing issues on America's mind...

... a good snow cream recipe, and free makeup.


Click the screen capture to see it writ large.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Swamp rabbits

We see this a lot in the woods...

I always wondered why rabbits climbed up on top of things (stumps, logs, rocks) to deposit their scat.

It wasn't until I started writing this post, though, that I learned something interesting.

Apparently, only Swamp rabbits do this.

I was aware of Swamp rabbits (Sylvilagus aquaticus) before, but hadn't really thought they'd be here.

There's bottomland, but it's not really what I'd call swampy.

We've never seen rabbits swimming.

But elevated poo platforms don't lie.

To detect the presence of Swamp rabbits in areas without suitable "latrines", you can make your own!

Now I'm curious how widespread this type of rabbit is. Let me know if you've seen this rabbit sign in your area!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Husband humor

Hubby: I think I'll go up and get my hair cut.

Me: It doesn't look that long.

Hubby: Mmph. [Still moving towards the door.]

Me: But what if I want to run my fingers through it?

Hubby: I'll have them put it in a bag for you.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Monkey cigars

Several Catalpas grow here. They're a native tree, but these were planted by previous owners, to attract the catalpa worms that are such good fish bait.

One of its country names is Monkey Cigar Tree. Ever since I learned that, the long pods always bring to mind those old smoking monkey toys.

Inside the pods are several seeds, all fringed on the ends.

Looks like twins. (They all do.)

I posted about Catalpas, aka Catabas or Catawbas, and their worms before. They grow naturally by streams, so they don't mind getting their feet wet - the trees in the flood photo last week (on the right) were catalpas.

I thought I'd read that repeated defoliation by the worms didn't harm the trees. Usually, not every tree is defoliated every year. But one that seemed the worms' favorite is now dead. Could just be coincidence though; I don't know how to perform tree autopsies.

The spring we first moved here, I found a hornworm on the porch, and mistook it for a catalpa worm. Oh, so gently did I carry him over to a branch, thinking I was helping him find his true home. I want to slap my head now, remembering that piece of idiocy! It's ok though — confusion to our enemies, and all that.

I wondered if people actually ever lit up the pods, which don't seem very smokable to me. No firm evidence, but I thought it was hilarious that the search turned up an article by my blog friend Ron as the top item. Small world!

Monday, January 12, 2009


Several members of my wildflower group are already itching to get out in the wild. They're dying to dig.

Unless it's a rescue, I'm more of a looker than a digger. My thrill is in the hunt. I do enjoy garden tours, but to me, there's nothing like finding the flowers in their natural environment. (And then leaving them there!)

Anyway, I wouldn't recommend digging in January or February. But this Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium reptans) is one of the plants you can scout early - it's probably easier to spot the green now.

The plant's a lot taller in the spring, but some of the lower leaves stay green throughout the winter here. I'm not sure if that's the case in the north or not - maybe someone will comment and let me know.

There are several different types of Jacob's ladder, in almost every state and several Canadian provinces. But reptans is the only one in the south.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Further adventures in bad bird photography

Once again, my digiscoping skills leave a lot to be desired.

Enough, though, to say about our new yard bird: "Yep, that's a Wigeon!" (American Wigeon, Anas americana.)

When I first spotted him, I thought the Hooded Mergansers had finally returned. (We haven't seen them all season, and usually they've arrived by Thanksgiving.) But a new yard bird is more exciting, even if he didn't stay long.

According to the Cornell birds site, they're a species that's increasing. (They don't say why.) I haven't watched enough Wigeons to say whether its nervous-seeming behavior was normal, or whether this individual was just anxious at being alone. He darted this way and that, in an unsettled fashion, mostly in areas where the water was too deep for dabbling.

Judging by range maps, not a lot of Wigeons winter near here, though I've seen them several times at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. Wheeler's bird list calls them "abundant". Oh boy, is that right - I remember once searching through what seemed like a million little green baldpates before finding the one little brown one belonging to the Eurasion Wigeon vagrant in the crowd. Then after moving the scope, I never found him again.

While searching for range maps, I came across this site that has transmitters tracking Wigeons. Fascinating! Such a high mortality rate though, so sad. I don't know why I was so surprised that the survivors all returned to the same North Carolina refuge they started from, but I was.


P.S. Bonus points if you know why this bird makes me think of pineapples.


In other birding news, it's almost an all-feathered NFL playoff! The Charger-Steelers game isn't over yet, but no birds there anyway. The others teams in the semi-finals though, will be the Philadelphia Eagles, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Arizona Cardinals. Or as we like to call them, the Arizona Pyrrhuloxias. (They don't actually have cardinals in Arizona, but the Pyrrhuloxia, which does live there, is a close cousin.)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Diluvian New Year

Holy cats, has it been raining!

We had 4.5 inches one night, then 2.5 inches fell the next day. (That's about 11.5 cm and 6.5 cm.)

I'm a few days late in posting these pictures, and the ground is still boot-sucking soggy.

If "beaver-drowning rain" isn't an old country expression, it should be. Driving towards town, I saw two dead beavers on the side of the road. You know it's a lot of rain when that happens.

It's hard to complain about this much rain after 3 years of drought. But it was starting to become worrisome.

Jasmine fretted. She whined. She barked at the water!

Just starting to recede.

Ahh. Much better.

This is a little drainage ditch that hasn't had water in it for 3 years or so.

This was the last time the water was so high. That was in the spring (when you expect that sort of thing), almost 4 years ago now.

They say it's going to rain again tomorrow...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

100 years ago

I was bitten by the genealogy bug.

I was also bitten by the 19th century fashion bug. More precisely, the bug pertaining to the period of fashion between 1840 and 1920. (The better to date old photos.)

The side effect is that I have become one of those people who wants to shout out historical inaccuracies in the middle of movies.

"They won an academy award for this?! Women didn't wear bustles in 1900!"

Or, "That sleeve wasn't invented until 1880!"

Even, "That dress has an 1840s bodice and a 1910 sleeve!"

And so on.


The photo was taken in northwest Georgia, a little over 100 years ago. Judging from the baby's age and the plant growth: around September 1905. The two men in the middle (wearing bowties) are my ancestors three and four generations back. The older woman is my great-great-grandmother Martha, born in 1852. She's the daughter of Julia Ann of the broken heart.

The baby in this picture, Ennis, died in a Typhoid outbreak in July of 1921. A relative wrote:

"During the huckleberry season, about 9 people in our community had typhoid fever from drinking water from the stream in the mountain. Grace and I recovered." Seven others died.

My Mom told me that they normally started picking huckleberries on the 4th of July every year. Ennis died at one o'clock in the afternoon, on Sunday July 17th. He was 16 years old. (Antibiotic treatment for typhoid would not be available for another 27 years.)

I imagine his family had been frantic, calling two different doctors to see him. He had two death certificates, filled out by different doctors. The first began treating him on July 10th, and the second on July 13th.*

I love collecting stories about relatives from the past, but they are often so tragic.

The inscription on Ennis' tombstone reads, "Just in the morning of his day, In youth and love he died." This was apparently a fairly common saying to put on a young person's stone, and I wondered if it was from a poem.

I found in "Hymns for Christian Devotion" (copyright 1853!) one called "Death of a Scholar". It includes the lines,

Death has been here, and borne away
A brother from our side :
Just in the morning of his day,
As young as we he died.

I believe this was later changed in some churches, to this version I found listed from another tombstone:

Death has been here and born away
a brother from our side :
Just in the morning of his day,
In youth and love he died.

I also found "so fair and young he died" as an ending for this epitaph. It seemed to have been common to use just the last two lines.


* A historian at the Georgia State Archives told me that she'd seen two death certificates for the same person before, but never from two different doctors.