A week ago or so Forest and I were headed out to daycare and work down the driveway and I startled one of the local barred owls out of the swamp chestnut oak. It swooped low over the car and floated onto the electric pole on the property line. I stopped and got my phone out to take a few photos to show Forest since he was situated in a position that he couldn’t see the owl.
Then, a few nights ago as I was working in the edible garden another owl (maybe the same owl) hooted from the woods down the way. It wasn’t terribly far as it was still rather loud. I answered its call and we continued a back and forth conversation for a few minutes until I got tired of hooting. Later I heard another owl further distant as dusk began falling.
I hope “we” (beyond our control, but ya know) can keep the patch of woods across the street so that the owls continue to have a safe place to escape and enjoy their own life.
I’ve come to enjoy seeing the oleander aphids in the garden when they colonize the milkweeds and their allies. Of course they also feast on oleanders themselves but I don’t have oleanders so I’ve never seen them colonize on an oleander but then next time I am near one planted in a landscape I’ll give it a look. Oleander aphids are parthenogenic, which means the females basically clone themselves (I’m simplifying here but if you want to delve deeper you can read more here. I did a few papers on parthenogenesis in college on tardigrades and parthenogenesis and found it fascinating!) and can be winged or wingless. It looks like most of the ones in my photos are wingless, though I think I see a few winged ones on the milkweed in the first photo.
The first photo is a milkweed, probably swamp milkweed, but the rest of the photos are from a Matelea gonocarpos, an anglepod vine, that is in the Asclepiadaceae family and naturally started growing in the garden. I’ve left it where it is and it either rambles along the ground or it finds plants to climb nearby as it has done this year. It’ll die back a bit in the winter and comes back gangbusters every year. We have a few other places in the yard that it also occurs along the fence line.
I don’t find oleander aphids to be that pesky of a problem, though if you get annoyed with them on your milkweeds just knock them off with water or you can smoosh them instead of spraying them with a chemical. Honestly, the peskier problem on my milkweed tend to be the milkweed beetle, Labidomera clivicollis. Even the large milkweed bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus isn’t as problematic.
Lately the flower garden has taken a backseat to any work as I’ve been continuing to work in the edible garden on the soil solarization as well as other projects but a closer look through of the flower garden and some much needed attention is due so I’ll be inspecting just what is happening with the life there soon!
Foxglove season has come and gone, late April and early May was peak blooming around our garden. In those early days of the spring garden the tall flower spikes of the foxgloves were a welcome sight to see as all of the other plants were growing and working their way into filling in. It helps that the deer steer quite clear of the foxglove so we never have to worry about an impending bloom being eaten and coming home to a disappointing scene. The only downside to foxglove is their biennial nature but such is the way the garden goes—sometimes you have to be patient to wait for a tiny window of blooming beauty.
We’re out of foxglove seeds, other than what our plants may have produced. Time will tell if any new plants will germinate but in the meantime I need to order or buy some seeds to get sown for future blooms!
Instead of my usual ‘Life Lately’ posts I thought I’d go through and share photos I’ve taken, mostly from my phone, the last few months. I may not have been writing much here but there’s been quite a bit going on.
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Back in May I started working on removing several inches of dirt, mulch, debris, and weeds from the garden path in preparation for soil solarization. I had been out there working one afternoon on my lunch break and as I was about to leave I remembered I wanted to snap a photo of my work. After I turned around I noticed something flittering in the dirt and thought it was a bird at first, going after a worm or bug that I’d turned over. Turned out to be a bat! I have no idea where exactly it came from but we do have a small bat house on a pine tree on the east side of the garden. Whether it fell out and flew down or it fell out of another tree adjacent/above the west side of the garden, I do not know. I took some photos and videos and the bat continued its meager attempts to start flying. After that second video I went to look for a long stick so I could help it grab on and I could lift it higher onto a tree but when I returned I didn’t see the bat. Either it scurried up the tree faster than I imagined or it managed to take off from the ground, which isn’t something they usually do. It was an odd encounter!
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Mid-May brought a little flash flooding to the area. We ended up with some tornado warnings after everyone in the office had gone out to lunch to welcome a new person to the office and when we returned and went back to work for about 20 minutes, the downpour got stronger. And then we had water rushing across the parking lot and down into the creek below. Another coworker narrowly missed having his car flooded and/or flipped into the ravine area below and moved it just in time!
I was feeling particularly good about my hair and outfit this day! I don’t think it photographs very well but to me my hair was falling well and the shirt was new and well, new clothes make you feel nice usually, right?
Ignore all the junk in the carport—this deer. For those who haven’t been reading here for many years, we have four feral cats. That’s after having inherited about 15 when we moved in 2012. (TNR experience here and yes, I’m aware of the issues with feral cats.) So, with that, we feed the cats. Chris had fed the cats one morning and said that one of the deer had poked her head through the side of the carport and started helping herself to the cat food! We thought it was funny the first time or two but then she continued! I pushed the cat bowls further into the carport (they are usually behind the lawn mower and in a much easier place to sneak food) and saw that she didn’t care and tried to walk in. I scared her off before Forest and I went to work/school. Later, Chris moved them further in. I had thought maybe the situation was solved but one evening I went to feed them and saw her come around the building. She looked at me and continued to walk around and into the carport! I was at the door to the shed where we keep the food and she walked to the middle of the carport with the four cats sitting there around their bowls and I’m five feet away. After a quick look at me, she bellied up and started digging in! The audacity! I scared her off and moved the bowls further over and between a bunch of other stuff in the carport so she would really have to work for it.
My parents were here for a few days recently and my mom said our deer friend was still trying to scope the situation out but didn’t enter the carport! The last thing I need is a too friendly deer. Chris recently relocated a racoon that was becoming too friendly and I have no idea what you would do for a deer other than shoot it and I’d rather not go that route.
Chris was out of town last week in Pennsylvania so Forest and I entertained ourselves early in the week before my parents came down. On Tuesday we grabbed dinner and headed to Spring Creek Park. I’d thought maybe we’d head to Kleb Woods for a hike but Forest wanted a playground and a hike and Kleb Woods doesn’t have a playground. After Forest had his fill of playing we drove to the back of the park because I wanted to find Spring Creek and check it out. There wasn’t a direct trail but we did manage to find a clearing and climbed over some piles of debris and then down into the creek. It was rather peaceful down there and much more narrow in this section than further downstream at Burroughs Park.
Our anniversary was on the 14th and I had only recently heard about the Van Gogh exhibit at the MFAH and knew it was on the tail-end of its exhibition. We took the day off work and went to see the exhibit! I believe I have seen one or two Van Gogh’s at the Kimble in Fort Worth but it has been so long that I do not remember. It didn’t matter, this was a fantastic exhibit! It was very crowded and you had timed entries but once you were inside the main exhibit you could stay as long as you wanted. I really loved his sketches and studies, sometimes more than his paintings. There was a lot of emotion for me, I think, as he has always been one of my favorite artists. Of course, a Dr. Who episode, Vincent and The Doctor, came to mind when I looked at his portrait and later read more about his mental health deterioration in association with a few of his paintings and you can’t help but wish you had your own TARDIS to reach through time and show him what his work would become.
Plumeria seedlings! Our plumeria trees put on pods at the end of last summer and only finally ripened and opened in early May. A quick Google search gave me the low-down on how to sow them and now I have five seedlings out of quite a bit of seeds. I’m glad it is only five though, not sure what I would have done with 30 plumerias.
About half of the soil solarization work. I’m just now starting to remove the second half so when these are done in about a week I can move the plastic over to the new area. We’ll put fresh mulch down in the other area.
Beach read! I’ve had this on my shelf for years now and I finally cracked it open. Randy Wayne White has several series based on, well, Florida being Florida, in the same vein as Carl Hiaasen. This one took a bit to get started but once it got rolling I was hooked and read it rather quickly. A few things annoyed me, mostly in regards to places being labeled as near each other in the book but in reality are in completely different areas. I know this was done for plot but it drove me nuts.
The beach looks lovely here but what you don’t see is just how much microplastic was in the water! I couldn’t believe it. So many tiny pieces of all sorts of plastic. It made me sick. I’ve also been on a doom and gloom kick regarding plastic and climate change recently and this didn’t help.
In May I managed to get some field time in, including a couple of rides on an airboat! It’s been a long time since I’ve been on one and being in the marsh brought back a lot of memories. I just needed a Publix sub to complete the day!
And Forest proud of his alligator/dinosaur shoes! We had seen them at Target but they didn’t have his size. After scouting another Target and finding the size he’ll need in 6-9 months I told my mom to check out her Target. She found them and mailed them to him and he was so happy!
Well, that’s a synopsis of life these days. Bits and blurs…and summer is moving right on by.
I thought I’d dig through some photo archives to showcase some fabulous lepidopteran pollinators this week for National Pollinator Week. I originally had a couple of non-moth and butterfly pollinator friends but then realized that I’ve not had a great track record of taking photos of them over the years so there aren’t nearly as many. So, we’ll make it all about Order Lepidoptera today! Someone with more time on their hands would spend time giving a little information about them all but I’m doing good just getting this out! Here’s a small assortment of beautiful moths and butterflies!
Zebra swallowtail, Protographium marcellus – Central Florida. So, remember when I wrote about seeing a zebra swallowtail back at Huntsville State Park in March? And I knew that I’d likely seen one in Florida but couldn’t remember. Well, I gave myself a good chuckle when I went through my Flickr photos and found this! Yep, I saw them! I’m pretty stoked that it was a decent photo, too.
There were many more I could have incorporated and maybe I’ll do another separate post soon!
I forgot, I should include our attempt to get the ghost orchid pollination by the giant sphinx moth back in 2008. Several people have been attempting to get better video and photos for actual species identification the last couple of years and we suspect that it will happen soon due to the amount of people trying to get it done!
Spring monarch butterfly season is now several months in the past but I thought I’d take some time to write about how it went overall. This season I opted not to use the tent mostly because I didn’t have a lot of tropical milkweed left from winter and by the time the monarchs started flitting through here we didn’t have a lot of new growth due to a late freeze in March. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop two females from egg bombing what milkweed I did have and I had somewhere between 40-50 eggs when I counted.
I started the season attempting to be hands off. Most of the milkweed I had was in pots from cuttings I’d begun rooting back in the summer and fall last year. There was a smidgen left in the garden but not enough to feed a bunch of tiny baby caterpillars. Around the corner in the empty lot where a lot of the green milkweed grows, I’d been checking frequently for any signs of milkweed emerging. Finally it seemed as if the lot went from no milkweed to full stems of it in about a week. Right on time! Just as the tropical milkweed was basically devoured down to stems I had a flush of green milkweed available.
This meant once to twice daily stops to the milkweed field to take cuttings. I started off by putting the milkweed in my floral tubes because the caterpillars were not as voracious but after a few days I started just sticking the cuttings straight into the pots because they would be eaten within hours. In all this time the caterpillars and milkweed were still contained to pots in a small section of the garden near the potting bench. It was accessible and I didn’t need to clean the cage! Sure, it was open to predators but I wasn’t going to worry about that in the beginning just because I knew I didn’t have much milkweed to feed them all.
Finally they started pupating. One by one they wandered off and I managed to keep track of many of them. Some went to the cypress trees Chris is growing out, others crawled across the path and onto the house or into other areas of the garden. I’d catch a glimpse of one in a J or even a chrysalis as I’d walk by the garden—they are sneaky—Forest even found two for me that were hiding out on empty pots under the potting bench! Because we were going to have the house painted in early April I kept an eye out for some of them that may not have emerged before the house painting but luckily we got through all of the eclosing before that became a worry. Though, I did end up moving a few who went to some poorly planned places like the lip of a trash can on the porch and some that were on the edge of Chris’ air compressor and some other odd items on the porch. I tied them up with floss onto the brugmansia above where the milkweed pots were.
Now we are several months out and the monarchs are mostly up in the northern part of the US and southern Canada now. I haven’t seen a monarch in weeks—I even looked at the butterfly garden at the zoo last weekend which is where I would normally see one year-round if I was going to. I haven’t seen any gulf frittilaries yet, though there is an abundance of other butterflies. Dragging my camera out to take photos hasn’t been something I’ve thought about doing the last few weeks so I’ll need to think about doing some butterfly stalking soon.
If you’ve got 17 minutes today, hit play and watch.
I have a lot of thoughts about this that I’ll have to expand on another day so I’ll leave it at this.
Right after we moved into our house we planted trees for our niece and nephew, Zoe & Grayson. I’ve taken photos with them over the years though we hadn’t done one in a while so when everyone was here for Memorial Day weekend I had them go out and take photos. They are growing up so fast—the trees and the kids!
Zoe is heading for sixth grade and middle school this coming year and Grayson is going to third grade! Time flies! My own kiddo will be 5 soon and thank goodness he gets one more year before heading to kindergarten.
*blows dust off of WordPress*
Hello there! There comes a point when I take these long breaks from writing here (which I haven’t taken one this long in many years) that at some point I start having a contest with myself to see how long I can go without writing. A week? Can I make it two? Two? Why not go a month? Paired with the sporadic posting from the previous two months before, well, the blog hasn’t really been a priority. Honestly, it still isn’t but I figured I shouldn’t let it lay here floundering in the internet wasteland.
So, let’s go back to early April when we made an afternoon trip to Burroughs Park when rain thwarted our plans to head to a different park on the east side of Houston (I wrote a bit about that here). One odd thing we saw that I didn’t take a photo of for some reason were these weird piles of white powder that appeared to look either like powdered sugar or boric acid. It seemed to be attracting ants in the areas it was on the ground and there was some splattered on trees. It was weird.
There wasn’t a whole lot going on but I did really enjoy the water elm (Planera aquatica) swamp at the back of the park. It’s always a great spot for photography and reminds me a lot of pop ash and pond apple swamps in Florida.
Hemp Dogbane, Apocynum cannabinum —I thought this was a milkweed when I saw it but only redring milkweed (A. varigated) appeared close when I compared but that is not a wet species. Next up was dogbane which is a relative to milkweed.
With that, maybe I’ll get back to sharing the rest of our spring trips, sights, and gardening soon.
Last fall our daycare announced that they were going to have an outside dance school come in to teach dance classes to those kids and families who were interested. Forest saw the sign and I mentioned it and he was enthusiastic about it. Because it was going to be taught during regular school hours there would be no need to shuttle him around to a dance class after hours or on a weekend—it was a win-win for us! So, we signed him up and for the most part I think he’s enjoyed it. We’ve barely been able to get any info out of him about it but I’ve asked the director at the daycare about it since she sees him every day and she said he always has fun in class.
And of course at the end of the season of these types of things are recitals! It was our first performance of his to see which meant it was pretty special! I think the hardest thing was convincing him that he had to wear the costume. Paired with him recuperating from a stomach bug over the two previous days, he wasn’t that enthused about going to his recital yesterday evening. To persuade him into putting on his costume I told him he would have a surprise after the performance and that seemed to entice him.
Once we arrived at the theater he perked up because it was a new building plus the photo booth situation at the beginning. And then the other kids started arriving including a friend of his whose sister was going to be in the recital. Dropping him off with the other dancers was a smidge hard but he managed to go back there by himself and we had to hope for the best!
Forest looked so grown up in his costume and my little baby is turning into such a big kid! Afterwards he talked about how much fun it was and I think he really enjoyed it. In addition to the the entrance of the dancers and the final bow at the end, he and his pre-K classmates had two separate performances. The recital was a conglomeration of other kids from a variety of other local daycares so there were plenty of kids we did not recognize.
We’ll see if he decides to go forward with dance class again if it is offered next year but I will say this was a success!
*If reading this via email or a reader you may have to click through to the website to view the video. Or view it at Flickr here*