Friday Read | Disconnecting & Social Media


Why is the US So Susceptible to Social Media Distortion? via the New Yorker.

Sarah from the Pantsuit Politics podcast mentioned this article in their episode today–and it is a good episode to listen to because they talk about this issue as well as a variety of other pertinent topics from this week. As I read this article it reminded me of the pre-social media email forwarding/chain emails that used to be so prevalent—this was how memes and ‘fake news’ was shared back in the day. It just morphed into a larger platform with social media.

I have thought time and time again how glad I was to have been off of Facebook during the election, having quit in the spring of 2015. I’ve been tempted to go back a few times because it would be easier to get on some local mom groups to sell baby items and because I do miss some updates from friends, but I’ve been reminded how much better off I have been not to have been subjected to the crap that was put into Facebook over the last several years. The times I’ve read over Chris’ shoulder at something I have been utterly dismayed at some of the things people I know have been sharing. It made me glad that I wasn’t seeing that side of them on a daily basis because I’m not sure I would be able to have stayed friends with them on the Book of Faces. I’m also reminded about what role Facebook played in this election (as well as Twitter) and that also deters me in wanting to return. Pod Save America covers this today on their episode, starting around the 38 minute mark.

I only recently quit Twitter as well and I was rather sad to do so. For the longest time during the campaign/election, it felt like a bit of a beacon of hope, getting news straight from journalists and investigative reporters but over time it turned into a massive dumpster fire. I nearly left last spring after I was bombarded by trolls, real and otherwise, after I quote retweeted my reply to a journalist’s article about the potential loss of grants funded by the EPA during those first few weeks of T’s being in office.

I mentioned, thinking that I was really just tweeting to the people following my feed, that I’d had a previous job that had been funded by an EPA grant and was worried about the ramifications for that grant being taken away. Well, said journalist then retweeted my quote to her followers and I had never seen that many likes or retweets or comments to any of my tweets before. It started off innocuous but quickly ballooned out of control to the point I started blocking people. A couple of people who replied me seemed like genuine humans, but they were far right-wing and you could tell no amount of actual clarification would assuage their fears of Big Bad Government funding someone’s job. Others I could tell were bots. It got to the point where I locked my account and deleted the tweet. I laid low for awhile after and honestly didn’t quite recover from it. Twitter was a huge turn off for me after that and I finally had enough this summer. I do miss being on there, keeping in touch with a few people, but it also feels much healthier taking myself out of the rage cycle and instead choosing to find good news sources to stay informed.

Sidenote: Not that I consider Yahoo!’s front page a good news source, have you seen it lately? It’s gone seriously downhill since they were bought by Verizon and I’ve seen what look like legitimate headlines by Yahoo! News itself turn out to be completely misleading. That doesn’t even consider the amount of ‘articles’ in their lineup that lead to crap websites. So, say you are Mrs. Jones checking her email, you probably think Yahoo! is supposed to be a fairly truthworthy source to read something, and if you glance at a headline without reading the rest of the article, you might well believe that Michelle Obama assaulted someone. Yeah, I read that one yesterday. It seemed really real at first…until you read the article and realized it was a huge click-bait and was a total spin on not a story of Mrs. Obama assaulting someone. Very dubious and shoddy ‘journalism’. I’m afraid of *that* becoming more common.

Which brings me to a couple of quotes from the article at the top:

The Trump-Putin breed of celebrity authoritarianism operates on a crude double strategy—control the media you can, muddy the rest. The Russian disinformation campaigns are based not just on promoting the viewpoints that it wants promoted but by destabilizing entire systems of meaning.

The parameters of social-media conflict are difficult to grasp because Facebook posts seem irrelevant when compared to war or geopolitics—one is an online amusement, diversion, and sometime news source, while the other is life and death. But Marshall McLuhan predicted that the Third World War would be “a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation,” and that’s exactly what it has turned out to be. America seems more vulnerable than other developed countries to the kind of distortion that Facebook and Twitter bring to news and politics. Arguably, the social-media distortion affects America more profoundly than other countries because of the very specific, even unique, way that Americans make meaning. This gullibility is a consequence of the country’s ancient faith in self-determination as an all-encompassing guiding principle.

What’s being made abundantly clear is that even if you think you aren’t being swayed by some meme or ad on social media, constantly seeing something puts that inkling of doubt into your head. It’s probably also why people are so quick to use false equivalence (and its sibling “both siderism”) when trying to shift around blame, too. The real problem is how all of this is being used by a foreign government to infiltrate and disrupt another government, ours.

I guess, all of this has been building in my mind anyway, this need to slowly un-tether myself from various social medias, loosen the ties to my smart phone (I don’t have many apps on it, try to not use it all when I’m around a computer and can look things up on that, keep my phone on silent/vibrate, no notifications, keep my phone in my purse, etc etc.) and be a little bit more conscious. There are plenty of articles and research you can find showing the affects smartphones have on our brains—and that doesn’t even count what social media has done.

One final article by writer Cal Newport, Are you using social media or being used by it?

Just me here, thinking about the broader societal issues we’ve got these days.

Life Lately | October 2017


+In My Head

I was folding laundry last night and had queued up my Jefferson Airplane station on Pandora and Buffalo Springfield came on with For What It’s Worth and as I was listening to the lyrics I thought, man, you could easily just transport that to the last couple of years and it would easily apply to current times. I guess Beyoncé is our protest music these days?

+Watching
I may have binged season 2 of Stranger Things last weekend. And it was still just as good as season 1 and incredibly high on the 80s nostalgia. I recommend a good binge—it’s only 9 episodes so it doesn’t feel as drawn out as a 12-15 episode binge. Do it! BINGE!

Outlander….oh Outlander. I was really loving this season for the most part but I for the life of me cannot figure out how they are going to cram the rest of the book into the remaining episodes without screwing some things up. I was upset with this latest episode because they screwed with some things and that episode was the very first time I looked at Jamie and didn’t like him. Usually, despite his outlaw Highlander ways I could find a way to forgive him because he’s been dealt a bad hand, but how they wrote his character for the episode made it hard to empathize with him any longer. And they gave Claire some crappy lines. I have a lot of mixed feelings right now!

Big Bang Theory is going well this season. I was wondering why Bernadette was pregnant again but the actress is pregnant in real life so it worked as a plausible scenario. Still a good show!

This is Us has been bringing their A game as well but I don’t like where they are going with Kevin. Is this a treatise on the current opioid epidemic?? I just hope they don’t screw with that storyline too long.

Movie wise I found Miss You Already on Amazon Prime last night and really enjoyed it. I mean, Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, not much wrong about that. I may have spent the last 30 minutes crying soooooo, get Kleenex if you watch it!

+Outside My Window

Currently it is raining but we needed a bit of the wet stuff as it has been a while. Last weekend was our first really chilly weather, down to the mid-30s, but the only thing I saw with any kind of damage was the sweet potato vines. They were volunteers anyway so I didn’t particularly care. Otherwise, we’re back to our typical seasonal weather of lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s or low 80s. My kind of weather!

+Making

I’ve been working on two crochet projects the last month but haven’t actively done much with them in the last week. The first project is going to be a ripple crochet rug for my studio using a backlog of acrylic stash yarn I have. The second is going to be a scarf, I think, with some yarn I bought on clearance recently. I need to get back to both of those projects this week as well as start some holiday crocheting soon.

+In The Garden

Honestly, I haven’t been doing as much in the garden and the recently cold weather has had me huddling inside. I’m also enjoying just letting autumn do its thing, letting the garden senesce a bit, and letting the leaf litter pile up a little. The leaves are good in the garden anyway as some extra winter protection. I do need to finish up mulching the edible garden paths and get back on getting the flower garden paths weeded so we can get a new layer of decomposed granite laid down.

+Reading

I’m on the last chapter of What Happened. I have so many thoughts about this book and I’m debating whether it deserves its own blog post or keep it with my monthly reading wrap-ups. I honestly wish I had a copy of my own because there was so much I wanted to highlight. The best part about reading this book was it showed me that I really didn’t know a lot about Hillary. I mean, I knew about her, but life from her perspective, the very difficult life her mother had, and all sorts of things in between. Being as she was updating this with new information up until it was sent off to the publishers, there were some things in there that have obviously changed—like we’re managing to get somewhere with the collusion investigations with the indictments over the weekend.

Like I said, so much to process that I’ll have to come back with more later! Very much worth reading if you’ve been thinking about adding it to your to-read pile.

+Loving

My friend Chel has been writing her Hurricane Irma story. She lives on Marco Island and due to some health issues with her husband was unable to leave the island. They chose to ride the storm out in her parent’s condo and hope for the best. Marco Island was incredibly lucky with the storm surge and unfortunately the more economically depressed area of Everglades City and Chokoloskee took the brunt of it. It was good to read her perspective, though!

I’ll be chomping at the bit for daylight in January but right now I’m loving that it is dark early. I’ve been doing some workouts and yoga in the evenings while Forest plays and I’m hoping I can start doing some studio time as well. Chris has been nursing a really bad upper respiratory infection the last week so I haven’t really had much off duty mom time so maybe I can get a little bit of that soon. Time change is this coming weekend so it will be dark even earlier and we’ll have to escape outside before dinner for a few minutes if we want that play time and garden time!

What’s up with you?

October In The Garden


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Leaf rollers on my false nettle. I ruled out the three species that are known to use this plant so I’ve got an unidentified caterpillar using the plant!

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I feel like, no, I know, I did not take nearly as many photos this month of the garden. I’ve been out there fairly frequently but have never brought along the camera for extended periods of time to document anything. I know last month I mentioned being ready for things to slow down outside just a bit, and they certainly are. Weeds are finally not germinating nearly as much and I’ve been making slow but steady progress on getting mulch down on the edible garden path.

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Chocolate plant, Pseuderanthemum alata

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Before I took down the cowpeas—will not grow this variety again, they did not produce well at all.

The mulch is coming from a now empty lot catty corner to our house. There used to be a house there until March of 2015 when it burned down. I can’t remember if I wrote about that or not, but Chris had gone to work a little early that day and Forest and I were still asleep and just waking up around 7am when I recall smelling bacon and eggs. I just figured my mind was playing tricks on me and didn’t think much of it. We went downstairs and I began getting Forest ready for daycare and on my way back up I peered out the porthole window in the stairwell and saw the house across the street burning down!

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The beds are much fuller now!

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Florida broadleaf mustard

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There was a truck in front of the house and I could see traffic beginning to scope things out so I didn’t bother calling the 911 because I knew our small community cops were likely already on their way. Instead I called my neighbor who lived directly across the street from the house and then called Chris. He came back home to make sure no one needed help with anything and then we went back to work. Thankfully no one was home but we did find out it was intentionally set and was drug related. Yeahhhh. Anyway, the city now owns the lot—it regularly flooded and they didn’t want anyone building on it again—and the lot has been used as a debris dumping area for when they do brush or tree removal around the city. Just so you understand, by city, under a typical circumstance this city would qualify as any kind of large subdivision development, so it isn’t a city in what you would typically think of. In fact we have zero commercial services within the bounds of the city—no gas stations, no shops, nada! Just homes.

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Sometimes it sucks in the garden.

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Anyway, that pile of debris eventually got shredded last winter/early spring and has been sitting there for awhile. I asked Chris if he thought it was worth using for mulch on the paths and he thought it was fine so I called the city office up to make sure it was kosher with them and I’ve been wheelbarrowing mulch to the garden by the loadful at lunch the last week or so. I have a couple of areas to still work on removing weeds and cleaning up the leaf litter that had piled up but I’m hoping I can wrap it all up this weekend or early next week. Then, the garden will look a little nicer as we head into winter.

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Gulf frittilary egg!

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Oleander aphids on milkweed

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Encyclia tampensis

Speaking of winter, we may get a frost tomorrow night. It looks like it will get into the mid-30s here so we will be shuffling some plants in that will not enjoy that temperature. I brought the remaining monarch chrysalises inside to stay warm and took cuttings of my variegated Cuban oregano as well as made additional tropical milkweed cuttings. A lot of the plants on the potting bench that will need a little protection got shuffled under the chairs on the porch tonight and will be fine there at those temperatures. I’m kind of curious to see what gets hit back this weekend. We shall see!

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It’s about time I start going through our seeds again and re-cataloging them and even looking to see what tomatoes I want to start in December. It’s never too early to plan for spring gardening—-February will be here before we know it!

Piecing Together Trails at Pedernales Falls State Park


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A late blooming Castilleja indivisa

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I think this is Sorghastrum nutans, yellow Indian grass.

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The end of September marked our first camping trip of the season. We drove out to Pedernales Falls State Park, somewhere we hadn’t been since the spring of 2016. Forest was only 1.5 at the time and definitely a little more difficult to deal with camping but this time around he was much easier and definitely more fun!

We didn’t end up doing as much as hiking as I envisioned we would this time around and instead we spent more time at the river and hanging out at the campsite, too. But when we did hike, I wanted to head to the south side of the park and piece together some trails that we hadn’t seen before.

We parked near the SW corner of the park near the trail/road intersection of the Madrone Trail and began walking east on it until it joined near the road again. Forest didn’t want to ride in the backpack at first so he lead the way down the trail. He was a little pokey at times but we managed to walk the 0.79 miles in a decent time frame. Being as it was named the Madrone Trail we were hoping to find some madrone trees! Chris said he had seen photos online of the trees in the park so he knew they were there somewhere but for the beginning portion of the hike were were mostly enjoying ashe-juniper scrub!

Finally we found several small sapling madrones before coming across our first decent sized madrone tree before we arrived at the road crossing and took a break. It had been a cool-ish morning but had warmed up by the afternoon, however we hadn’t really felt the warmth of the sun while in the junipers. Sitting out at the road crossing for a short break made it evident Forest would need a hat and I kicked myself for not putting sunscreen on him before we left. Hopefully he wouldn’t burn!

He was still game for hiking himself so we crossed the road and used the south equestrian loop as a connector trail to get to the Juniper Ridge Trail. We had some options on routes, depending on how Forest was doing with the hike. We lost our shade when we crossed the road and I was glad I had grabbed Forest’s hat for the hike because now it was quite open and while it wasn’t incredibly hot, the sun did warm the day and reflected back up to us off of the limestone road-trail. We stopped briefly at a windmill where the equestrian backcountry camping was located and continued on our way. The equestrian loop was supposed to parallel the second utility ROW corridor but we found a weird turn at the first corridor and were uncertain where the trail actually was. The second corridor was open and walkable so we opted to use it as a connector and we would be able to see where the equestrian trail crossed back over north bound. Worst case scenario, we could stay on the ROW until it intersected the Juniper Ridge trail.

The walk down the ROW was entertaining but it was not graded for hiking and was actually a little steep. Forest had fun climbing up the hills and it was a bit difficult to walk down the slopes because the limestone fill material was not totally stable in some areas. Nevertheless, we wound up finding the equestrian trail crossing and hopped back on it. Thankfully the shade returned not too much further down the trail and it wasn’t long before Forest asked to sit in the backpack. He almost immediately got very sleepy and laid his head on the pack to rest for awhile. At this point he had probably hiked a mile and a half or closer to two miles—not too shabby!

The Juniper Ridge Trail was peaceful, shaded primarily in junipers, of course. We came across a few other day hikers and mountain bikers along the way. Eventually the trail wound down to Butler Creek which turned out to be a beautiful creek filled with wonderful plants like maidenhair ferns. We kept an eye out for chatterbox orchids, too.

What goes down must go back up, and so we wound back up the trail towards the tops of the hills. We’d had in our mind to head into town to Dripping Springs to find some ice cream after our hike so that put the spring in our step for the final stretch back to the car.

Hopefully the next time we return to the park Forest’s trail legs will be developed a bit more and we can explore more of the trails on the back side of the park!

September and October 2017 Book Report


I’ve been reading quite a bit and I’m actually reading a paper book right now! Forest finally got a big boy bed so we’re trying to switch up bedtime routines which means hopefully more paper books are in my future. I do like the ease of hopping into the Kindle and browsing the library for books, though, so that won’t go away.

Lots to review, let’s get to it!

Completed

  • The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks: As I said back in August’s book report this was a sort of sequel to The Widow of the South. It’s post Civil War and freed slaves are attempting to adjust to live as free people, getting a foothold into society, and making a life of their own. It’s a wobbly time, right when the early forms of the KKK and such are beginning to form. The story is told from the viewpoint of Mariah Reddick, a former slave of Carrie McGavock, TWOTS, and is about her son who was going to attempt to run for public office in their small Tennessee town before he is brutally murdered by a mob while giving a speech. It’s a complicated storyline involving a former assassin, a black man born free in the north, who is hired by a white man in this town to murder another man. There’s a plot behind that reason and of course a larger story, but I was reading it on the heels of the Charlottesville and easily found far too many parallels to current situations. Worth a read and can easily stand alone from TWOTS.
  • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit: This actually belonged in August’s list but I forgot to add it! You can read the title essay here.

    Yes, guys like this pick on other men’s books too, and people of both genders pop up at events to hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories, but the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.

    Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

    The term mansplaining evolved from the title essay. Definitely a book worth reading—it is a compendium of her other essays, too.

  • Euphoria by Lily King: What can I say, I was snagged to read this book because of its cover, a very colorful rendition of a rainbow eucalyptus!

    I loved this book, more than I imagined I would. It’s a little slow and confusing at first but after the first couple of chapters, it moves quickly. It’s loosely based on the life of famed anthropologist Margaret Mead and two of her husbands but the book does not follow her life after the story in the novel. It takes place in New Guinea, where anthropologists are studying the local tribes, some of which had only recently stopped with cannibalistic rituals. It takes place in the 1930s so there is still a feeling of remoteness and non-contact with some of these tribes. I highly recommend this book!

  • Ilsa by Madeleine L’Engle: My first L’Engle novel and I am intrigued to read more. This book was actually out of print for half a century before recently being republished. I think it was worth bringing back for the public to read. While the setting was never specifically stated there are plenty of references with habitat and a couple of other cities that made me think this is set somewhere near Jacksonville, Florida, or very near the Florida/Georgia border. It follows the life of Henry Porcher—the narrator—and Ilsa Brandes. The Porcher’s are a rich and connected family while Ilsa lives with her scientist father near the beach. It takes place in the early 1900s, before, during, and after WWI. It’s one of those quiet novels that you can really get into but the ending just ends and you are left wanting more. My only complaint would be that you never really get to know Henry’s inner workings—which may be the point. I also really enjoyed this one.
  • A New Garden Ethic by Benjamin Vogt: I’ve been a fan of Vogt’s Deep Middle blog for several years now and have enjoyed seeing his yard transformation from standard suburban nothing to wild prairie landscape. I’ve not always agreed with some of his hard stances when he’s written about native plants on other blogs, but I enjoy being challenged to think about plants and gardens differently. When I saw he was publishing a book I looked forward to reading it and was happy to see that the library had it digitally. This book pairs nicely with Bringing Nature Home by Dr. Tallamy and The Humane Gardener by Nancy Lawson. My only complaint about the book would be that it needed to be broken up into more chapters and it would have been good to see some sort of “plan” or guidance for gardeners. It’s more of a philosophical book, something to get you to think outside the box and reevaluate some of your gardening principles.
  • Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel aka Modern Mrs. Darcy: I was expecting something a little more when I started reading this book, however if you are new to personality typing this is a great book for beginners. If you are wondering what I’m talking about regarding personality, then you might want to read about the Myers Briggs personality test and you can take a test here. I am an INFJ, a type that is considered to only make up about 1% of the population. Yes, I’ve taken the test multiple times and through different platforms because when you see the rarity of the type, you want to make sure that’s correct. And here I am, INFJ. I’ve often wondered if I’ve mistyped and I’m supposed to be an INFP, also a not-so-common type, but Bogel’s chapter in the book explaining the different cognitive functions for the types really sealed the deal. Reading about the cognitive drivers in the past has been confusing and Bogel really made it clear and understandable. And then further reading into the Ni-Ti Loop—the introverted intuition and introverted thinking loop—that we can get into really hit home. Yep, that’s me! Could grief can I dig myself into a hole when I get into my head.

    The rest of the book talks about other personality typing strategies such as Enneagram and Love Languages. It’s really a book about learning about yourself and your friends and family—figuring out how they work so you can work together in your relationships. Since they were both published near each other, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies was not covered in this book but she does mention Rubin briefly. I would be interested to see an updated edition in a few years that adds this into it. Gretchen has been on a ton of podcasts and has her own podcast if you are interested in learning about her framework—obliger here! Take her quiz here

    Currently Reading

  • The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham: loving this one so far! Reminds me a little of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood.
  • Plant Dreaming Deep by May Sarton
  • What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton: So, so good! Also, makes me so damn angry at so many people and sometimes I read a few pages and have to put it down because it is so upsetting. The first 30 pages put the day after the election back into my head and all of those tears came back. I have words, some of them filled with f-bombs. Let’s just say I’ve finally made it to the anger section of the grief cycle. I don’t know if I will ever get to acceptance because EFFFFFFFFFFF it all. This is me throwing the book at the wall because I’m so pissed off now. Ooh, better stop writing and save the rest of my anger for the final review next month when I finish reading the book.

What are you reading?

Paectes abrostoloides moth caterpillar


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Yesterday after work Chris decided he was finally going to attack the two pine trees that fell into the pond during Hurricane Harvey. He’d been contemplating how he was going to deal with them since they fell—they aren’t in any good position for total removal. Finally he decided he would just cut them near the shore and let them rot for several years in the water and allow them to be turtle and fish habitat in the meantime. Maybe the beavers will decide they like pine wood and chew on them, too.

So, that’s what he opted to do before dinner and after work yesterday. Forest and I were out front where Forest was playing on the front porch and I was attempting to nurse a headache and pull weeds in the flower garden path. Chris wanted Forest to stay with me but Forest saw what Chris was going to go do so I decided we’d all just go down to the pond and watch while Chris worked on the pines.

We set up our chairs about thirty feet away under some sweetgum trees and hung out for a few minutes. Chris had some problems when his chainsaw got stuck after the first pine tree adjusted itself after the initial cuts so there were a few minutes of logistical complications. Eventually Chris got everything unstuck, after taking apart the chainsaw, and proceeded on his way. Somewhere in the middle of that Forest began having a freak out and asking me what was on his hand. It started off as a simple “What’s that, Mom?” before quickly morphing into tearful panic before I could even address what he was talking about.

A caterpillar had fallen on his hand. I quickly told him it was a caterpillar and then moved it over to my hand while I began explaining that it was just a caterpillar and it wouldn’t bother him. We haven’t come across too many poisonous caterpillars yet so I haven’t had to broach that topic and honestly, I didn’t think about the fact that this thing could have been something even I shouldn’t have been touching. Luckily the caterpillar didn’t do any stinging and I sat there until Chris’ chainsaw stopped and told him we had a new caterpillar to identify.

We’ve seen luna moths around here a few times and I knew they used sweetgum as their larval host plant but this looked to be an an early instar, I thought, so I wasn’t quite sure if that was what we were dealing with. Once Forest settled a bit I got up to move the caterpillar over to a low branch of the sweetgum and instantly saw another caterpillar on the leaf I was going to put the one I had on. Now I was in find-all-the-caterpillars mode!

We sat back down and I looked over to the ground and spotted a green blob moving quickly across an oak leaf on the ground. I lept up and grabbed it and held onto it until Chris was finished with the second tree and then went in and grabbed the camera. I didn’t get a chance to look up the caterpillar until later in the evening but it was most definitely not a luna moth caterpillar. After nixing the luna moth idea, I did the next best thing and searched “caterpillars who use sweetgum” and searched the image results. Voilà! I found it! It was a large paectes moth caterpillar! My other searches show that the eyed paectes moth caterpillar is similar but I’m leaning towards this particular find to be the large paectes.

Another great find in just a few days! I have an unidentified caterpillar that was using our false nettle a few weeks ago—super, duper fast and definitely not one of the three that are typically supposed to be using false nettle—red admiral, question mark, or eastern comma. No idea, I couldn’t even figure that one out!

Now I will be on the hunt for more caterpillars to identify around here!

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) caterpillar


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Yesterday I bailed from work before lunch because I wasn’t feeling well. At some point I knew I wasn’t going to be able to power through it and hope I’d feel better. I came home and spent a few hours watching tv, taking a nap, and slurping some soup. Around 3pm I walked outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air and to enjoy the sun; it was far too nice of a day to be cooped up inside as I had been. I grabbed my camera and decided to go for a walk around the garden for a few minutes. I was almost done and heading back to the monarch tent went I stopped to admire the Senna corymbosa. The flowers were slowly fading and seedpods had begun forming. And then my eye caught something I hadn’t seen out there before—a new caterpillar for the garden! I went inside and flipped through my caterpillar book. I hadn’t really studied the caterpillar but I had narrowed it down to a cloudless sulphur or an orange barred sulphur. Once I opened my photos up to look a little closer and compare to Google Images it was evident it was a cloudless sulphur! I had been noticing a lot more sulphurs around here but I never really identify which ones because they are such flightly butterflies and don’t sit still long enough for one to really inspect them. I’m glad to know that they have decided to start using my senna to start laying eggs! Since I wasn’t feeling well I didn’t really inspect the entire plant to see if there were more but I suspect there may be! Now I will be paying attention to see if I can find when it decides to pupate!

Lucky find!

Pumpkin Harvest


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These two pumpkins have been orange for several weeks now. I had done some reading about when to harvest pumpkins earlier this summer when I knew that the vines were setting fruit but I had to take a dive back into my reading to verify myself about the proper time to harvest. Being as this was my first experience successfully growing pumpkins, I wanted to be sure. So, I took Forest to the garden with me and we cut the pumpkins off the vines—me with my garden clippers, Forest with his Handy Manny saw.

Now that I’ve had some pumpkin success, not without a scare from Harvey’s flood waters, I’m tempted to try another variety or two next summer. I had to dig back into my archives to remember when I sowed the vines, but it looks like early June was when things happened this year. I think I’ll try that time period once again next year as *crossing fingers* the squash vine borers seemed to have been less problematic later in the summer than they are in the spring. Or maybe it was that the Seminole pumpkin vine was just good at standing up to the bugs!

On the agenda this weekend is to make a batch of pumpkin butter with these two pumpkins. All of my research says that home canning pumpkin butter is a no-go so I found that freezer recipe from Ball. I made pumpkin butter maybe two or three—was it four???—years ago. I can’t remember if Forest was around yet or not. I remember it molding pretty fast in the fridge, mostly because I had too much in a jar and couldn’t get through it fast enough. This time around I’ll do half-pint jars and only keep a small amount in the fridge at a time.

This weekend I plan on trying to catch up on some photos I’ve taken over the last few weeks and maybe getting some posts written up for later this week. I write in my head all of the time I just never have the energy or time (hello, bedtime stalling from a certain preschooler) in the evenings to get much done.

Happy Saturday!

The September Garden


sideyard
A view of the side yard garden from the front

starfish
Stapelia gigantea

senna
Senna corymbosa

Did it seem like September sped by with nary a time to take a breathe? It did for me. Harvey seemed to push us straight into September and the week+ off of work made it feel even more odd to start September. Chris was out of town for Forest’s birthday and Forest turned three and honestly, I’m not quite sure where the weeks went between that and Chris’ birthday which was just this last weekend.

lycoris
Lycoris radiata

firewheel_1
Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri

brugmansia_1
Brugmansia

The tug to do just a little bit less in the garden is great but the weeds are telling me not to get to cozy inside just yet. I’d like to get everything really cleaned up weed-wise and some more mulch put down in the edible and flower gardens in addition to more decomposed granite on the flower garden paths. I’m more than annoyed with whatever is digging up our flower garden mulch that I had put down back in August. Was that August? I can’t even remember now. Maybe it was September. That’s beside the point—something is rooting around and driving me insane!

blackberrylilies
Blackberry lilies

banana
Musella lasiocarpa

For about two months or so I had noticed a hole being dug underneath our front porch adjacent to the stairs by our walkway approaching the house. I thought maybe it was the work of raccoons but my dad happened to see a opossum scurrying down the hole one night when he went to walk Daisy, my parent’s dog. Ok, probably a good clue as to what is digging around the garden, especially because it tends to only dig the bed directly in front of the house.

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Monarch caterpillar

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Pink banana

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Love bugs, Plecia nearctica

The rest of the flower garden is slowly senescing, well, the plants that will do that this time of year. Some are in full blooming glory like the brugmansias, daturas, flowering senna, and just now coming into bloom, the pineapple salvia. I think this year I will dry some of it to use in teas. It also might be an interesting addition to kombucha.

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Senna corymbosa in the side yard

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Brugmansia

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More of the side yard

I started a variety of seeds for the flower garden on the potting bench last week in hopes I could grow some out over winter and get them into the ground in the spring. I was hoping to get a head start on some of them because many of them I have trouble getting big enough to avoid the deer nibbling on them—the deer just nibble the entire plant down to nothing, so my plan is that maybe I can get some big enough that the deer won’t destroy in one bite. Yes, this is wishful thinking but I’m going to do it anyway.

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Seminole pumpkin ripening

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Future Seminole pumpkin!

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Cowpea jungle

In the edible garden I sowed a lot of seeds about a week and a half ago. Most have germinated but some have not—I suspect they are waiting for cooler soil temperatures. I’ll give them a few weeks and might have to resow. So far the ones doing well are the bok choy, Florida broadleaf mustard, and kale, but plenty of others are coming up too.

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Future cowpeas!

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Tiny Sumter cucumber

The okra are waning and I will take them down next week. I didn’t grow a bunch this year because I still had some frozen from last year and know that next season I will plant more than the few little rows I did. The cowspeas really decided to start flowering over the last two weeks and I thought I was about to have a good harvest but the peas stopped forming and shriveled up mid-way through. No pollination? Not sure what happened there. I am getting cucumbers in now, which is a perk for my salads. I can’t wait to get carrots harvested, too, but that’s a month or so away.

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Okra

beans
A small bean harvest

It’s monarch city around here with eggs, caterpillars, and adults galore! In addition, the gulf frits are here, too. BUT, I’m super stoked about this, I finally saw something using my false nettle! I suspect it is the red admirals but I couldn’t get any caterpillar interested in escaping its leaf tent. I even tried in the evening to see if any were out and about, but nope. I was pretty ecstatic to see leaves rolled up finally!

dinner
A bok choy and squash blossom harvest.

leeks
Leeks

cotyledon
Bok choy seedling

Garden goals for October: Weed all the things, start planning what we want to plant in an area we’re going to move some irises out of, get some trees planted that we have sitting on the potting bench, and resow a few seeds out in the edible garden.

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