Thursday, April 27, 2006


I'm about to leave for a gardening conference and don't have time to look up this caterpillar. If you know the ID, feel free to leave a comment. See you next week!


In the meantime, check out I and the Bird!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Red admiral butterfly on Sweet cicely. (Vanessa atalanta on Osmorhiza longistylis.)

This is the same type of butterfly from last year's butterfly wrangling post.

I know that they are widespread, but somehow it still surprised me to see a picture of one on a blog from Israel that I ran across recently. (Lots of nice flower and cat pics there too.)


Technical note: Yesterday's bluebird post was MIA for most of the day due to Blogger problems, sorry!

It will probably be Rurality Lite for a while due to several things (none of which are bad news). Some obnoxious bragging coming up soon about one of them.

Monday, April 24, 2006


And so remember this,
life is no abyss,
Somewhere there's a bluebird
of happiness.


Eastern Bluebird (of my happiness), Sialia sialis.
Song lyrics by Edward Heyman and Harry Parr Davies.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Who besides me is thinking of Bladerunner now?

For more critters, visit The Friday Ark.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The best thing about spring

Wild hyacinth

Golden Alexander

Wild geranium

White spiderwort

Fire pink


Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I'm not sure what happened to spring. The days are consistently in the 80°s now. It's been over 90°.

(That's about 30°C and 33°C, respectively.)

I want to go wading.

I'll probably have to wear my shoes though, or buy some of those sock-shoe combos made to wear in the water. The creek looks idyllic, but a lot gets washed into it. More rusty metal and glass than you'd think.

My grandfather lived by a small creek when I was a kid. There were even concrete steps leading down to it, which I loved. You could sit on the steps and still dangle your feet in the water. Back then the biggest worry about wading was the slippery rock problem, which often led to a soggy backside problem.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Chicken update

Our last remaining Buff Orpington:

We didn't get new chicks this spring. If we don't have too many predator losses we really won't need them. But if the chickens start disappearing at the rate they did last spring, we'll be short on eggs for a while.

Why the coyotes/bobcats/hawks don't go after the roosters, I don't know. We've lost three chickens so far this spring - all hens. We're back to the too many roosters problem of last year.

I'm afraid I've spent too much time with them to use the previous solution. Our sweet Easter Egger rooster will eat out of my hand. Even the Rhode Island Red is nice, if a bit stand-offish. (Email me if you're local and want one of those two!)

Current chicken count:

1 mean Easter Egger, "Stewpot"
1 nice Easter Egger, "Eagle"
1 nice Rhode Island Red, "Big Red"

1 White Leghorn
1 Buff Orpington
5 Easter Eggers
1 Dominique
3 Marans

I think that one of the hens is a Dominique. She may be a Marans instead - they look very much alike.

The Marans eggs are lightening over time, and are not all they're cracked up to be in the "really dark eggs" department. Also, they're smallish. But we do get a few speckled eggs from them, which is kind of cool.

The last Rhode Island Red hen got snatched a month or so ago. I guess I've finally stopped crying over missing chickens.

Monday, April 17, 2006


We found this in the woods. I wonder if it has anything to do with Dave's unsafe socks.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006


fallen dogwood

Friday, April 14, 2006

Country living

No, we didn't get cows. These are the neighbor's cows, back for a visit. Again. For the 50 millionth time.

Jasmine knows they shouldn't be here, and chases them. That scares the cows, and when they're scared they have a little runny-poop problem.

Maybe it's a defense mechanism and they're hoping that the pursuer will slip on it. Maybe it makes them lighter and it's easier to flee. In any case, Jasmine was a little too close. You can't see it well in this picture, but she has it all over her right side.

So guess what I spent a lot of time doing yesterday. Thanks a lot, neighbor.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Solitary sandpiper

He was really far away. Exceedingly far away. He was in the place where we sometimes see Spotted Sandpipers this time of year. He was bobbing, as they do.

Him: "He's not bobbing."

Me: "Yes he is, see there, he just bobbed."

Him: "He's not bobbing enough to be a Spotted."

Me: "Maybe he just got tired of bobbing."

Of course Hubby was right. He went back and got the scope. No surprise, it wasn't a Spotted Sandpiper.

It was a Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria).

I really like the French name for this bird: Chevalier solitaire. Lone knight! Makes him sound very suave and sophisticated. The Spanish name is Chorlito solitario. It's probably just the fact that I haven't eaten yet, but that sounds more like a breakfast sausage.

They nest in the far north of Canada and Alaska, in the abandoned nests of other birds, in trees. (Only one of the other 80+ sandpiper species does that - most nest on the ground.) They don't migrate in flocks like other sandpipers. Their favorite song is most likely "I've Gotta be Me".

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Trillium cuneatum

When they say that Trillium cuneatum is variable, they ain't kidding.

Two different sized cuneatum behind two Trillium decumbens.

Some have very dark petals.

Some are lighter.

A few are really light.

Even fewer are mostly green.

Close-up green.

Some can't seem to decide.

Petal shape can vary too. Tall and skinny... practically pudgy.

They can be tall...

Or very small. (One this small is unusual - probably due to growing conditions.)

And leaf patterns can vary even more.

Three shades.

And I didn't even get into how some of the leaves are droopy, and some are held high... Or leaf shape... But you can see some of those differences in the pictures too. Can you tell that I'm obsessed with trilliums?!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Unfit mother?

Everyone will tell you how prolific muscovies are. "If you have a pair, you'll soon have dozens," they'll say.

But this makes at least the third time that our gal has failed to hatch a single egg. (Not always her fault - Jasmine found and ate all the eggs once.)

This time she laid about ten of them, in the chicken coop. She sat on them all night, wandered around off the nest most of the day, and then finally abandoned them after a week or so.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Water snake

I finally got a snake to pose for me!

Northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon). Click for a larger picture.

This rocky little beach was the perfect camoflage for him.

I didn't even seen him at first. Then I briefly thought that he was a Copperhead.

I tried going down to the beach to take a closer picture, but he didn't think too much of that idea.

There are four subspecies:
Nerodia sipedon sipedon, Northern water snake
Nerodia sipedon pleuralis, Midland water snake
Nerodia sipedon insularum, Lake Erie water snake
Nerodia sipedon williamengelsi, Carolina water snake

My ancient Audubon reptile book shows only the common sipedon subspecies in this part of Alabama, although some websites suggest there should only be the Midland version here. The pleuralis is supposed to have "dark back markings narrower than spaces between them," which this one does not.

They don't lay eggs, but have live babies instead.

Friday, April 07, 2006


My Mom gave me the recipe for this yummy shrimp dish last time she was here.

1 1/2 T garlic, chopped
1 medium onion
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
8 oz can Italian whole plum tomatoes
(We used 15 oz can diced tomatoes instead & added 1 tsp Italian seasoning.)
1 lb cooked shelled shrimp
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
8 oz crumbled feta cheese (we used less than this.)
8 oz uncooked linguini
salt & pepper to taste

Cook linguini in salted water.
Saute garlic & onion in olive oil 3 - 5 min on Med High heat (until tender).
Add cooked shrimp, saute for 2 min, remove from pan but leave garlic & onion. Add tomatoes & liquid & stir.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Add shrimp, oregano & basil, salt & pepper. Simmer 3 - 5 min. Pour over drained linguini & toss.
Add crumbled feta cheese at the table.

I think this would also work well with tofu instead of shrimp, if you're a vegetarian.

Friday Ark

Don't forget the Friday Ark for all your weekly critter-viewing needs.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Intruder alert

Jasmine alerted us to the presence of an intruder last night in her usual manner (by barking like a crazy dog).

Just on the other side of the tree line we found a possum. A.k.a. a Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), a.k.a. North America's only native marsupial.

He didn't roll over and play dead, but he sure did a good job at playing frozen.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Cannot be measured

There's a line from the beginning of the movie Dances with Wolves in which the lead character says, "The strangeness of this life cannot be measured..."

I think about that whenever something good happens that is just so far out of the blue that it could never be predicted.

Like when your chicken takes you to Hollywood.

What a fun story! And it couldn't happen to a nicer family. Congrats to the Millers of Sugar Creek Farm.

You can click here to see the results of the contest, or here to see all of the pictures.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A little rusty

We couldn't work in the garden at all over the weekend, because it rained so much Friday night and Saturday morning.

It rained hard - the creek is always muddy when that happens.

I'm not sure exactly how much it rained... our old rain gauge cracked, and Jasmine apparently thinks the new one is a chew toy. Some areas got 2 - 4 inches.

After it stopped pouring on Saturday we went for a walk to see if we could see any migrant birds. But I got a little distracted.

I had a feeling that it was cedar-apple rust, which I'd read about but never noticed.

The bizarro-alien-invader-looking things were only on cedars.

They were easy to spot since they were so bright orange.

These roundish ones were the oddest looking, but there were also little sleeves of orange gelatinous goo on twigs, and bunches of it in clusters like this:

Here's what that one looked like the next day after drying out:

Big difference!

The roundish ones looked slightly less creepy when dry.

I didn't get a shot of the sleeve-like parts when wet, but here is a dry one.

If I've read this chart of rust differences correctly, the roundish ones are cedar-apple rust, and the others are cedar-quince rust.

It's an interesting fungus - it has to go back and forth between hosts (cedars and apples) to survive. Which is why the old timey remedy, if you're trying to grow apples, is to just cut down all the cedars! Hmm.

The other remedy is spraying fungicides. But since we're not trying to grow apples, I don't think it's worth it. I had a sad thought for all the crabapples I just planted, but since all the animals roam in those areas I'd rather not be spraying anything.

Monday, April 03, 2006


The hepaticas have already finished flowering.

Bluebells are waning.

A few anemone groups are still hanging on.

Little umbrellas are opening all over the place.

Another umbrella.

Construction projects have begun.

There's one in every crowd.

I can't believe I missed yet another snake. This time I had the camera, but the snake was faster.