Friday, June 27, 2008

Turtle identification made extremely difficult

Jasmine was barking like crazy at something in the middle of the back yard.

It was a turtle, laying eggs in a not-so-secluded spot.

I shooed the dog away, took a few pictures, and left her to it.

I went out later to try to find the egg site, but couldn't relocate it.

It finally did dawn on me later, that some previous mystery sites (small wet shallow holes) were places where turtles had recently laid eggs. Aha! I felt so smart. I mentioned this to my husband, and he said something along the lines of, "Of course, didn't you know that already?" Well, maybe I just forgot.

Anyway, this happened a few weeks ago. I found the turtle pictures again when moving some photos off the camera's disk. So I set out to identify the turtle.

I found a couple of good ID sites. One is the Turtle Field Guide. But it asked a lot of questions that I didn't have the answers to.

Then there's the Turtle Identification Guide and Checklist. I like that one better, because you don't have to know each answer before moving on to the next question. Plus, there are the drawings, and satisfying little check boxes.

But I'm still not sure which turtle this is. That would have required
1) Washing the turtle off, to try to make out the pattern on her back a bit better, and
2) Turning her over, to examine the pattern on the bottom.

Doing either of those things would fall into the "harassing wildlife" category though, I think.

I checked as many boxes as I could, but still came up with 11 possibilities. I think she may be a Florida Cooter, Pseudemys floridana. Or she could be a slider... Maybe a painted turtle. But I'm leaning towards Cooter.


Submitted to the Friday Ark.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More spiny caterpillars

I had a difficult time identifying this caterpillar. It looked a lot like an American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis), but not exactly the same. I couldn't find anything else that it resembled any more, though.

It's been a big year, as far as spiny/bristly caterpillars go. On the driveway today I spotted a Yellow Bear. Also a tiny, tiny shrew or vole. And me without my camera.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why don't we do it in the woods?


No wonder we weren't getting any eggs.

We had an idea that this was happening. We kept hearing that chicken-laying clucking noise far from the coop. That cliché you always hear about hen talk? Buck-buck-buck-buckAH! That's how it really sounds. I keep thinking that it's the poultry equivalent of "Ow! Ow! Ow! This really hurts!" But I'm probably just imagining things.

I'd tried to investigate earlier, but that thicket has a poison-ivy carpet and is packed with those mid-level leafy shrubs that ticks love. I had on shorts and no hat, and I'm a little wimpy about that kind of thing, so I didn't get far. Hubby found it later, underneath a brush pile, a lot closer to the edge of the field than I'd thought.

Hubby removed these eggs, and put fresh straw in the coop's laying areas. Success! The Easter Egger found it suitable and laid an egg there yesterday. Since she was the instigator of this little revolt, I'm hoping the Marans will follow suit.

Monday, June 23, 2008

June Garden Tour

It's really too hot in June to be touring gardens in Alabama.

I didn't want to miss this one, though. I'd previously only seen it in the fall, and knew if would be great in full bloom.

Consider the lilies...

Consider the drumstick alliums too!

My calendula never looked this nice.

He said this was Brazilian verbena, but it must be a cultivated variety. The wild version here isn't nearly as full.

Still considering lilies...

I have no idea what most of these plants are called. Obviously this one is a hydrangea, but I don't know the type. (I can probably find out if you're curious about anything in particular.)

Love those coneflowers.

The gardener said he'd lost a lot during last year's drought, but the garden looked fantastic to me. We got a lot of good spring rain, but it has tapered off severely in the past month. I'm afraid we're in for another dry summer.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Green and black cicada

Tibicen linnei

Newly emerged Linne's Cicada, Tibicen linnei. Looking pretty spiffy, especially considering the dirt nap.


I think that this is Linne's Cicada, but as you can see here, the Tibicen cicadas are very similar.

Go here to hear some of the songs.


Submitted to the Friday Ark.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Luna Noctiluca


The moon illusion doesn't work very well here.

We're in a valley, and Selene is already well on her journey before she rises over the mountain.

The clouds played hide-and-seek, and it was all quite lovely anyway.

The moment the first shiny diamond chip of a moon slipped over the top of the trees, it was as if a cue had been given, and coyotes began howling in the distance. Chillbumps and laughter!

I suspect the show continued all night, but we slept through it.


We woke just in time to see her making way for Eos and Helios, early this morning.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Solstice moon

I almost forgot! It's the solstice moon tonight, the last full moon before the summer solstice. See if you can catch the moon illusion. Let me know.

Solstice Moon strikes me as a pretty good soap name, actually. (I'm always on the lookout for good soap names!)

Last fall I called one of my newer soaps Scorpio Moon. Supposedly, being born when the moon was in Scorpio means that you experience deep emotions.

I can't say I really believe in astrology though... Scorpio just sounds better than any of the other zodiacal signs when paired with moon!

Hummingbird vine

My sister was sold this plant labeled as Hummingbird Vine.

I knew right away that it wasn't what most people call Hummingbird Vine. (That would be Cypress Vine, Ipomoea quamoclit, shown below.)

I suspect that what she bought was actually Campsis radicans, a.k.a. Trumpet Vine, Trumpet Creeper, or (my favorite) Cow Itch.

Looking around the internet, some people do apparently call the first plant Hummingbird Vine. But it's certainly not the preferred name. Not here, anyway.

I was all ready to blame Walmart or Lowe's for the mistake, and tell her to demand a refund. But it turns out she bought the plant from the Birmingham Botanical Garden's plant sale. (Whoops.)

Trumpet Vine is native here, but many people consider it invasive in the garden.


Cypress vine photo by Janice Waltzer via Flickr.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rush hour in Blount county

Cute little guy, but he wouldn't let us anywhere near him. A little girl was making friends by throwing something edible at him, so we left them to it.

That is a belt around his neck, which I did think was a little strange.


Updated: After a few emails, I can see that it is not obvious for people with those nifty little lightweight, but tiny-screened, laptops. That is a GOAT in the road!

By the way, you can always click on any of the pictures to make them larger.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Alabama Soap Meeting

Darlene was selling Shea butter fresh from the calabash, so her hands were greasy.

Darlene: Just put it in my pocket.

Jen: What do you mean I have to get change?!

Sadly, I did not win the grand prize on either day. Friday's was a $250 gift certificate from Snowdrift Farm, and Saturday's was a "Tank" cutter donated by the soap meeting itself. DebbieT is demonstrating hers in the picture above.

Debbie also organized a business card swap, and made the cutest little card holders I've ever seen. Isn't she brilliant?

I think I changed a setting on the camera by mistake (I took Hubby's since it's small), so a lot of the photos didn't turn out well. All the ones I accidentally took of my feet were perfect, of course.

Mar crowned (and knighted!) our new President, Sandi, while our outgoing boss, Jen, was giddy with joy. She's been our President, our benevolent dictator, and fearless leader for the past 11 years, and has never steered us wrong.

We were so lucky to have Anne-Marie from Brambleberry as our main speaker. She taught us how to make massage candles, and also spoke on the topics of Goal Setting and Rules to Succeed in Business. She should know, because she had a company grossing over $1 million when she was only 25 years old! I believe that was about six years ago, and her success continues to build. She is smart, smart, smart, but also very personable, kind, and sharing.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Soap gathering

This is how I spent the day yesterday: putting together the goody bags for the annual Alabama Soapmakers meeting.

To start, I make stacks of all the printed materials. Magazines and heavy catalogs go first, business cards and coupons on top.

Persnickety, me? All liquid and possibly-melty things must be segregated in ziplocks! (It's rare that something leaks, but you never know.)

This takes me all day.

My feet are really tired when it's done.

But it's worth it!


Our 10th annual meeting is this weekend. Anne-Marie from Brambleberry is coming! I'm hoping some of her energy will rub off on me.

I wrote about our soap meeting once before here.

I'm so thankful to all our sponsors, who donated door prizes, samples, catalogs, coupons, and all manner of cool stuff. As Vendor Donations Coordinator, I've begged, pleaded, beseeched and harrassed them for the past three years. This year, the economy has sagged. I heard "no" (or silence) more than usual. I can relate -- everybody is pinching pennies. But I'm especially thankful to those vendors who came through for us this time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Special care

My sister's miniature rose.

My sister, demonstrating the special care needed for the rose (nothing).


I can't remember if she didn't know the name, or if I just forgot to ask. Maybe she will email or comment and let me know.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Holes in the story

At my sister's house, insects lined up for dinner in order of descending appetites.

At my sister's house, mice held a Scherenschnitte party, but it was interrupted at an early stage.

At my sister's house, pixies were unhappy with their needlework, and unthreaded all the leaves.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Writing in books

I was well into my thirties before I could sufficiently suppress my upbringing, and dare to write in a book. Even now, it's almost always for practical reasons. Notes in field guides: how to distinguish similar birds, where wildflowers grow. Corrections to genealogies.

Maybe it's because it's not my habit. Maybe it has to do with being forbidden, or that it's hidden away beneath the covers. But I get a secret thrill every time I find someone else's handwriting in a book. All kinds of handwriting.

Straightforward: AUTOGRAPHS
Many Things Have Happened Since He Died and Here Are the Highlights
This wasn't an early printing. Someone -- I picture a tightfisted typesetter grumbling about the price of ink -- chopped the legs out from under the title of this lovely book.

What a fun surprise though, to find an autographed library book. I wonder about 14-year-ago Elizabeth Dewberry (Vaughn at that time), and what brought her to sign it.

Did I miss her reading at Springville Road, my old library? She grew up in Birmingham. Was she bored enough on a trip home to sneak between the stacks and practice guerilla signings? Maybe she just donated the copy.

And why does it say "teen readers"? It wasn't in the Young Adult section, and it certainly didn't strike me as a teen book.

Perfectly acceptable: GIFT DEDICATIONS
Holiday Tales
I'm not Jewish, but I enjoy reading about religions, so I was bound to gravitate towards this book.

But when I opened it up and found it already dedicated, to me, it sealed the deal.

I'm filled with questions about this other Karen. How did her book travel from South Africa to a thrift store in Boaz? She would have been almost exactly five years younger than me -- surely she's not dead. (So young!)

But why, after bringing it all that way, would she give up this book? Did she lose her religion? After moving to Alabama, was she overrun by Southern Baptists? Did she tire of musty old pages from her young adulthood? Or did she just lose it in a move?

The Day I Became an Autodidact
I read updates on this author all the time. She's Kendall Hailey, who's married to Danny Miller, the blogger behind Jew Eat Yet. Talk about your fated relationships... before they ever met, her book fell on his head! I bought my copy from Ebay, since it's out of print now.

The previous owner liked jotting comments in the margins.

Rather smarty-pants comments, most of the time.

But he ran out of steam after my favorite one:

I'm assuming it was at this point that the scribbler decided he was funny enough to write his own book. Wonder what it's called?

Friday, June 06, 2008


Why are you waking me up...

...when it's so clearly time for sleeping?

Oh, ok.


A green tree frog (Hyla cinerea) was napping in the crevice of a post that needed to be moved. He got moved too, but wasn't too happy about it.

It reminded me of the Green chair frog from a few years back.


Submitted to the Friday Ark.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Reptiles in the garden

Me: Look at this plant!

Friend on garden tour with me: Wow.

Me: The leaves look like they're made of scales. What do you want to bet that it's got snake in its name?

Friend: Or alligator!

We asked our hosts, and sure enough, it's Microsorium musifolium, Alligator Fern.*

Cool! I think I would have used snake, though.

Speaking of which, I spotted a big rat snake sneaking under the chicken coop yesterday. (Actually he was just sitting there, but he had a very sneaky air about him.) I ran for the camera, but he had slithered away by the time I got back.

We've been using golf balls as laying enticements. They say, "lay your egg here, this spot is great" in language that chickens almost can't help but agree with.

Lately though, the golf balls have disappeared. That snake had a suspiciously round lump near the end of its tail. And a stomach ache, I imagine.


* Also known as Crocodile Fern. You will also see the botanical name as Microsorum musifolium (without the last "i" in the first word).