Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why We Buy (George money)

My new favorite t-shirt.

It's wrinkled, because I had to dig into the dirty clothes for it. I guess I should be ashamed of such a slipshod photo, but I couldn't convince myself to iron a dirty shirt.

One of these days I suppose I ought to start acting my age. I imagine even now, people point and whisper behind my back. Since my hearing's not what it once was, I just don't notice it.

Will I still be wearing zombie t-shirts when I'm 60? I don't know, maybe. I don't have any children to embarrass, so it's likely.

One of my friends calls the upcoming US tax rebate her George money. We plan to be good citizens and help the economy, by spending our George money instead of saving it. (Uh-huh.)

I started a little early. I've bought this zombie shirt and pre-ordered the new Charlaine Harris book. I'm already listening to my new REM CD. (I slipped up and bought a Teddy Thompson CD too, before I realized that he's British. To be a solid citizen, I should concentrate on US products only I guess.)

I also ordered this Zebra/UPC t-shirt but haven't received it yet.

I plan on buying a coffee press.

I want Annie to throw me a few bowls (if she ever gets around to pottery again).

Mmm, what else?

I've been meaning to read This Republic of Suffering and Peter Sagal's book. I want all of Elizabeth Dewberry's books. (Ack! Elizabeth Dewberry, you are brilliant, but you really need a website.)

When I told my husband I might spend all my George money on books and CDs, he thought I was kidding, and laughed.

What are you doing with your George money?


The shirt is all Twinks' fault, by the way. I'd never have know about shirt.woot if I hadn't read about her Nessie shirt. I have a feeling I'll be spending lots of money there in the future.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fire and Ice

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus).

Captured during his unannounced guest appearance at the Fire and Ice show1.

Alabama Power's indiscriminate and ugly tree-removal policies have saddened me every time I drive this road.2

But when the sun warmed that questionably broad path, I was surprised at what popped up.

Wild hyacinths (Camassia scilloides). They dot the woods beyond the power lines, but this much sun exposure (and no late killing frost this year) caused a population explosion.

I doubt they'll last here long -- brush will dominate within a year or two, choking out anything this small.

But obviously, they can lie dormant, waiting for the day when they feel the sun again.


1Fire Pinks and Wild Hyacinths

2They don't practice quite so much dogwood-twisting tree torture in ritzy lawyer-heavy Birmingham suburbs, but out here in rural areas, I'm sure they figure no one of importance will mind.


Friday Ark.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Limestone glade

We discovered a small limestone glade. It's not near our place, but it's in the same county (Blount county).

Plants in these glades thrive in unusual conditions: very thin soil on dry rocky ground.

A rocky pocket. From above, these flowers bring starfish to mind.

Widowscross, Sedum pulchellum. A.k.a. Pink stonecrop.

Most of them were white rather than pink. Definitely, they fit the description of "locally abundant".

Drifts of sandwort surrounded the sedum. I believe this is Glade sandwort, Minuartia patula.

In the shadier areas, there was a little Miami mist (Phacelia purshii). (Sounds more like a soft drink than a plant to me.)

I love the fringed petals.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Chickadee nest

Carolina chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) have made a nest in one of our bluebird boxes. It's apparently not an agreeable spot for bluebirds -- none have nested there in three years -- so I'm glad the chickadees found it.

I was surprised at the amount of cedar tips cushioning the nest.

There's a little blue feather on the lower right of the first picture, and I wonder where it came from. Did bluebirds start the nest, and the chickadees just finished it? Or maybe a bluebird stuck his head in to see what was going on, and left a calling card.

The chickadees could have just picked up a pretty soft blue thing as building material. We see swallows picking up duck feathers all the time, so I know some birds "feather their nest" with other species' feathers.

One of the first birdsongs I learned was the Carolina Chickadee's. A friend and I chased all over her property for a frustrating hour before we finally pinpointed the bird who sounded exactly like a rusty porch swing. You can listen to him here.


Friday Ark is up!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fire Pink

Shady masochist.

Don't wanna be rich.

Looooove it when you treat him bad.


Fire Pink, Silene virginica. (Map.)

"Pink" refers to the zigzag pattern, as if the petals were cut with pinking shears.

Here it flourishes in the driest, rockiest areas. The previous owner laid down a narrow chert road through the woods. Fire Pink popped up along the edges and multiplies every year, fashioning its own version of a red carpet.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Anatoli the Anole

My husband rescued a baby Carolina Anole (Anolis carolinensis, a.k.a. Green Anole) from certain death. He recovered nicely, and is now living in Geckie's old cage.

He's much more swift and agile than Geckie, and unlike a leopard gecko, he can cling to the glass sides of the aquarium.

We named him Anatoli. Yes, that's Anatoli the Anole, in keeping with our ludicrously juvenile reptile-naming scheme.


See FC's recent post on Mood Lizards for a great series of pictures of a Green Anole changing colors.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stupid cows

Stupid cows.

Stupid cows.

Stupid cows!

Ack! The neighbor's stupid cows are back! The game camera was full of pictures of cows.

Actually the cows aren't stupid. They're pretty smart -- they know their owner doesn't maintain his fences. I'm just saying "stupid" because I don't want to cuss on the blog.

I was gone all day, so the cows had plenty of time to do some real damage. Then they came back again overnight, and were in the garden before it was even light outside. (Nocturnal cows!)

I considered myself lucky not to have to wash the dog this time, though.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jack in the Pulpit

We're lucky enough to have more than one type of Jack in the Pulpit growing wild on our property. This is the most common, Arisaema triphyllum spp triphyllum. (Triphyllum = three leaves.)

Technically speaking, the "jack" is the spadix, and the "pulpit" is the spathe.

One of these days I'm going to memorize plant anatomy so I don't have to look it up all the time. I always feel dumb when I ask a question, and the answer involves so many technical terms that I feel like Gilligan, with all the Professor's lofty knowledge floating away right over my head.

At that point I never can decide the best course of action:
1) Nod and act like I understand,
2) Look confused and hope the expert will realize that I don't understand,
3) Admit outright that I don't understand, or
4) Look around frantically for another interesting flower, so I can shout "Ooh pretty!" and run away just as soon as the expert's lips quit moving.

Usually I opt for something between #1 and #2. "Hmm..." combined with a thoughtful look -- neither too confused nor too satisfied. A look that should convey, "Although I'm not a total idiot, I didn't quite catch your meaning, because obviously I'm not as smart as you are."

Here's Arisaema triphyllum ssp quinatum. I could only find one that was in bloom already.

Up close and personal.

There is another type here, but I couldn't find it blooming yet, so I'll write a "part 2" later.

Jacks are easy to confuse with Trilliums sometimes, especially before they bloom. The lighter colored leaves in the lower portion of the photo are Jacks:

In a garden I toured recently, the owner showed us what she called a "Japanese Jack in the Pulpit":

See how long the spadix is? Note my friend's fingers at the top of the picture below. She's holding the tip of the spadix! And that's the spathe way down on the ground, underneath the leaves (that look more like our Green Dragon's leaves).

I believe this variety is either Arisaema urashima or Arisaema thunbergii. (They're similar.)


More information:

Wildwood Park's look at Jacks.

Primrose Path's page on American Jack varieties.

Paghat's Jack in the Pulpits and Cobra Lilies.

Arisaema Info.

International Aroid Society.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bee fly

bee fly
Major bee-fly, a.k.a. Greater bee-fly, Bombylius major.

Bee flies are what they sound like: flies that resemble bees. This one is the one we see most here, though there are several similar species in the family Bombyliidae.

See photos of several of them at Giff Beaton's site. (You know there are a lot of members in the family when there's a World Catalog of them.)

They hover about like small cute bumblebees, and they don't seem to mind drawing attention to themselves, the way they'll hover in the same position for quite a while. I've also seen them dart back and forth between two positions a foot or so apart -- if it were a bird, you'd say it was a mating dance, though I would assume that flies don't do that.

According to this site, "Its larvae are brood parasites and are found in bees' nests. Adults feed on nectar, using their long proboscises whilst hovering beside a flower." The whilst there should give you a clue that this fly is also found in England.

BugGuide has a species account here with more details, and some nice shots of them hovering.

I haven't found any one article detailing information about this bee-fly, but there are lots of links highlighting certain aspects of their behavior:

Drawing up sand or sawdust to coat eggs (here).

Comparing them, as generalist pollinators, to more species-specific pollinators (here).

Wingbeats in B flat? (here)


Friday Ark is here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Felder Rushing

Yesterday some friends and I traveled to Tuscaloosa for a seminar called, "Gardening in Dry Times".

But really, we went to see Felder Rushing. That's him posing with his hanging salad garden ("I don't even have to bend over to eat it!").

He's one of the more entertaining people you'll ever hear speak. Whenever his name is mentioned, you'll notice that four or five folks will automatically chime in, "Oh he's such a hoot." And he is, but you learn a lot too.

His traveling truck garden. Seventy miles an hour, and everything is fine.

Not your grandfather's notion of truck farming.

Flamingo #1.

Flamingo #2.

The whole of it. Note the wind chimes on the right. "If you see whiteflies, just drive faster."

My favorite bumper sticker.


Check out his website for more great unusual gardening ideas, photos of previous incarnations of the truck crop, articles, and more.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Trillium flexipes

Trillium flexipes blooms concurrent with the emergence of poison ivy in this area.

The flowers aren't always standing up proud like this one -- sometimes they're considerably more droopy.

But the more erect version is generally considered "standard". People generally like it better, at any rate, when they don't have to go poking under the leaves to find the flowers.

The flowers never point up though - always out or down.

I like to note botanical names of things here, but most of the time I have to look them up. I'd love to go around referring to everything in Latin, but honestly, I haven't committed many of those names to memory. Except with Trilliums.

This flower's most common everyday name is Bent Trillium, though I've often seen it referred to as Nodding Trillium, Drooping Trillium, or White Trillium. But there are two other similar Trilliums (rugelii and cernuum) that are also sometimes called by the very same common names. I do like the evocative terms Toadshade and Wakerobin, and if they were used consistently I'd be happy to employ them. But to avoid getting lost in the common name mire it's always best to use Latin for Trilliums.

Most of the maps don't show this Trillium here. Flowers don't read maps though, and I've found Trilliums to be poorly mapped in general. That USDA distribution site pretends to take reports, but in my experience they just ignore them.


Nice Trillium reference page here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Cedar-apple rust

cedar apple rust

Extension agents probably hear it a lot this time of year: What the heck is that alien orange thingy in my cedar tree?!

noodly appendages or medusa head?

Check out those gelatinous telial spore horns (noodly appendages).

It's Cedar-apple rust, and it's caused by the fungus Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae.

If yours doesn't look quite like this, it might be one of the similar (related) rusts: Cedar-hawthorne rust or Cedar-quince rust. Check the chart of rust differences.

Basically, the Cedar-hawthorne rust's noodly appendages are short and stubby (as opposed to the long and thin ones on the Cedar-apple rust gall shown here). And Cedar-quince rust is mainly just orange goo on bark and twigs. You can see pictures of the latter on my previous posts on the subject here and here. The photos at the first link also show how the rusts appear when they're not quite so wet.

I can't seem to stop writing about these rusts when they make themselves so obvious in the spring. The way they alternate hosts, and of course their appearance, is so unusual.

Fungi expert Tom Volk has written about Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae too, in a much more scientific fashion, here.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Who invited him to this meeting?!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Confessions of an unfit baker

Me: I can't find my hand mixer. Can I just stir cookie dough with a spoon?
Mom: Sure, we did that all the time before electricity.

Me: Is it ok if I melt the butter instead of waiting for it to soften?
Mom: Well, your grandmother always did that.

Two hours later:
Mom, why are my cookies all run together and flat as little pancakes?!

The horror!
(These tasted ok, they just looked ridiculous.)

Triple threat: run-together, flat, and burned.
(These had to be tossed.)

At least these are round.

I searched the internet and found that three things could make for flat cookies. I had done all of them.

1) Too much stirring.

2) Too much baking soda.

3) Melting the butter.

I took a plateful of the least stupid-looking ones to my meeting, and prayed that my friends wouldn't laugh. When I went to retrieve my plate at the end, I could hardly believe it. They'd eaten all the cookies!

Maybe their grandmothers always melted the butter too, and they were nostalgic for flat cookies.

Just don't tell Cookie Jill, ok?