Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A rose (of Sharon) by any other name....

We've had some pretty torrential rains lately. In between the flash flood warnings and lightning strikes, even the squirrels have taken shelter to get out of the wet...

Sometimes, though, it's AFTER the rain when the action really starts. A few days ago I went outside after a particularly heavy downpour. It seemed that only one bedraggled squirrel was stirring...

...but I knew better. The broad, sturdy leaves of my Rose of Sharon bush provide great shelter for many interesting creatures.

A common blowfly (Calliphoridae) vibrates his wings to throw off any clinging drops of water.

This fly, from the Dolichopodidae family, waits silently for the sun to re-emerge. Dolichopodidae are beneficial to have in the garden...besides adding a little beauty with their lovely iridescent bodies, they also eat invasive insects like aphids.

One of my favorite spiders, the daring jumping spider, maneuvers its way around the puddles of water on a leaf.

Male daring jumping spiders have shiny blue green fangs, called chelicerae. They use them, in part, to help attract a mate. This spider's fangs are brown, meaning that it's a female.

She's a beauty!

Crouching beneath another leaf is this common brown spider. She's waiting for things to dry off so that she can construct another web.

Another small web weaver has already gone to work, snagging a gnat for now...

...and one for later.

A colorful leafhopper sits motionless near the center of this leaf.

Look closely. These tell-tale 'horns' give away the identity of who's hiding beneath this leaf.

An earwig!

Underneath another leaf I found a snout moth, Microcrambus elegans. Snout moths are so named for their feathery antenna that appear to make a long 'snout' in front of the moth's face, instead of riding atop their heads. I love snout moths for their antenna, but also for their funny bulging eyes.

Water droplets make beautiful patterns on feathery-leaf plants like my bronze fennel.

The frequent rain and alternating hot, humid days have caused rapid growth of these plants, which are slowly unfurling...

...and getting ready to open.

Insects hide here, too, like this green bush cricket (Tettigoniidae).

This tiny slug might be the reason why my zinnias are so nibbled this year!

It looks like there's been a little too much action for this small spider, who came out for a look around but quickly headed back where he came from! I love all the life that hides just beneath the surface in my back yard.

Speaking of spiders, I just finished these socks recently. They were a gift for my mother-in-law, so I couldn't post them before I'd given them to her! The design is a pair of garden spiders on the back of the socks...

...and various vines and leaves on the front.

This was a challenging project for me...toe up socks, and for the first time I had to work off of two charts at the same time (one for the front and one for the back of the sock). I finished the first sock and had to take a 2 month break before tackling the second one!

Because it's been so warm, I decided to make a light, summery dessert last week. Strawberries are in season...

Strawberry Summer Cake
from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 8 - 10

6 tablespoons room-temperature butter
1 1/2 cup white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound strawberries, cleaned and halved

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In another bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar together for about 3 minutes. Add egg and beat well. Add milk and vanilla and mix until just combined. Gradually add your flour mixture and combine until no streaks are visible.

Grease a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. Place strawberries in a single layer on top, cut side down.

Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, then reduce your temperature to 325 degrees and bake until golden, 40 - 55 minutes (depending on your oven).

This is so good and just perfect with a dollop of whipped cream.

I'm not a big strawberry lover, but this was delicious. The cake was moist and sweet, with a nice crispy top. It was absolutely wonderful. YUM!

I hope you give it a try. Have a great week!

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