Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Walk on the Wild(life) Side!

I'm constantly amazed by the bustle of activity in our small back yard. At first glance, everything seems calm. The branches of the lilac bushes might be swaying gently in the breeze, and there might be a butterfly or two dancing by, now together, now apart, in their search for food.

But look closer!

We called these "leafhoppers" when I was a little girl. When I looked online, I discovered that they are, indeed, called leafhoppers, and they come in an astonishing array of bright colors, like Amazonian tree frogs. This particular type is called Graphocephala coccinia, and they are destructive to plants. I don't want to kill them, though, unless they start causing a great deal of damage. They're quite beautiful.

This little guy is a young Pholcus phalangioides, or as I call them, granddaddy longlegs. I don't like spiders, even harmless ones like these, but I'm fascinated by them.

Even flies can be beautiful if you look closely. These are common Calliphoridae, or blow flies. They get their colloquial name from old English, where meat laden with fly eggs was dubbed "flyblown." Before you lose your appetite, just remember what an important job these creatures play in helping with the rapid decomposition of dead animals.

This might be a looks bigger than a typical yellow jacket. I love his bold stripes. He's got a personality to match!

I left these tall, grassy plants in one of my beds, even though they're considered weeds, because I like their wheaty tufts. What a surprise to see this little bee-like insect busily collecting pollen there!

There's nothing common about this common orange butterfly. Just look at those beautiful colors!

This female house sparrow is having a little breakfast at the feeder...while beneath it, a squirrel gathers up the leftovers.

There's evidence of even more activity, as unseen inhabitants leave little clues to their existence.

Surely a carpenter bee (Xylocopa) lives above this sawdust pile. They make 16 millimeter holes, unbelievably and perfectly round.

A vole probably made this hole. I filled it in a few weeks ago, and it was neatly opened up again several days later. I've seen no evidence of vole damage, though.

I'll continue to keep an eye out for more backyard wildlife!

I'm loving the cool greens of early summer, like this hydrangea...

...and this young goldenrod plant.

This wave petunia adds a bit of cool color.

I've finished my Snapdragon Tam. I'm very satisfied with how it turned out, and I've already started on the matching mittens!

Today I'm making authentic French baguettes--yeast-free, using sourdough starter. I'm absolutely fascinated by this delicate bread that must be eaten the same day it's baked or, as author Nancy Silverton warns, it will only be good for making toast. I'm planning on freezing the baguettes and thawing them out as needed. I have a feeling that will happen pretty frequently!

Baking bread in the summertime can make you feel a bit wilted, however. I thought I'd showcase a recipe that's perfect for a humid summer day. It's quick, easy, and healthy, too. It takes five minutes to go from this:

To this:

I buy 5 pound bags of mixed frozen fruit - blackberry, raspberry, and blueberry - at Sam's Club. It's easy to use fresh fruit, but remember to throw in a few ice cubes to give it the right consistency. Yogurt can substitute for milk.

Perfect Fruit Smoothies

1 1/2 cups of frozen fruit

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons sugar

Place all ingredients in your food processor and blend until smooth.



  1. I saw your post on RAK, and thought I'd take a wander over...

    This post reminds me of a little girl I used to teach when I lived in Belfast. She was the type of child who had a real understanding of the natural world around her... almost a fairy child. She spoke differently, acted differently, and yet, was so intriguing. This makes me think about how she saw the world, in her own eyes.

    Lovely work. Keep it up!

  2. Thanks so much for your kind words! I believe a real secret to happiness is taking your small pleasures as you can get them, so I always try to keep an eye out for these unexpected things. :)

  3. Your macro photos are amazing. Such gorgeous clarity and color. Would you consider posting what settings you're using for some of your sessions for those of us trying to teach ourselves? Thanks!

  4. Thanks, Jodi! Up until now, I've strictly been point-and-shoot. I've got a Canon Powershot S2 IS that I really like, but I just ordered my first SLR camera - a Canon Rebel XSi with interchangeable lenses - a telephoto and a macro lens. I am so excited! As for how I have gotten some good shots to date...I just take shot after shot after shot. For every good shot, I've got 50 terrible ones!