Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Creature Comforts

I love the life I'm seeing outside every day.  Not too many butterflies yet, as we're in between flowering plants, but I've seen evidence of them.  This wing is from a Tiger Swallowtail:

I've seen our resident heron in the pond:

...and in the driveway just below my office window!

I'm happy to report that the anole lizards are out!  I saw a few over the winter when I walked over the leaves in the backyard, where they had their little nests, but I'm glad to see many out sunning themselves on a pretty regular basis.

They're only about 6 inches long and Tabitha was able to catch one fairly easily when she escaped through the patio doors this week.  She brought him back into the house to toy with before the kill, but I think I rescued him in time. 

More and more turtles:

And, of course, we have our beaver.  I see him nearly every day, bringing twigs and branches to the nest he's so thoughtfully building on our bank.

Todd bought some chicken wire to wrap around our trees for protection!

I've been seeing these strange creatures all over for a couple of weeks. 

They're about an inch long, with a strange, spiky back.  I found out that despite their size, they're ladybug larvae!  After this stage, they pupate and become the ladybugs that I'm so familiar with.  Speaking of ladybugs, do you know where they got their name?  In Europe they were called Our Lady's Beetle, referring to the Virgin Mary, who was frequently depicted in a red cape.  That became Lady's Beetle, and we here in the states changed it to "ladybug", even though it's a true beetle.

Speaking of beetles, this may be the most amazing one I've ever seen.  It's over an inch long and absolutely shimmers in the sun.

It's a Caterpillar Hunter Beetle, and was brought over from Europe at the turn of the last century to deal with our gypsy moth infestation.  They are wonderful to have in your garden since they eat all sorts of pests and grubs.

I left a bundle of roots in the back yard...

It is absolutely swarming with bumblebees!

They're chewing on the roots.

Bumblebees can nest in the ground or in grass clumps, so I wonder if they're excavating a new home?

I've been keeping an eye out for spiders.  I was rewarded this week with not one, but two of my favorite spiders - the daring jumping spider.  I know that I've gone on ad nauseum about them, but I'm so fascinated by the different types.  One is even called the audacious daring jumping spider - so charming!  I like the idea of an audacious spider.

This particular daring jumping spider has a lovely downy coat of a soft grey color:

...while this one has a hard abdomen streaked with yellow.

As different as they are, they both have the typical eye pattern - the line of eyes wrapping around the front and both sides of the head.  Here a female - easily identified because the chelicerae, or fangs, are not the telltale iridescent green color - holds up her front legs to warn me that she's a very dangerous spider and not to be trifled with!

Speaking of spiders...I've been keeping an eye out for a fairly common spider here, the black widow.  We have a white plastic deck railing on the back of the house, plus a small landing and stairwell off the sunroom, and it was absolutely gritty and grey with dirt after the winter.  It showed up slug trails nicely, but was disgusting to touch.  It had spiderwebs everywhere and big clumps of dead leaves.

It took hours of scrubbing to get it clean.  As I was cleaning, I was nervously making a mental note of everything I knew about the black widow spider:  "Makes messy webs.  Shiny black with hourglass shape on back?  Under abdomen?  Hides in leaves.  Bite can kill."  I couldn't believe it when I looked up and saw a black widow spider casually clinging to the side of the house.  I looked closer.  It was bigger than I expected, with no hourglass shape, but it was shiny black and had some kind of markings.  I normally leave our spiders and insects alone, but I killed this one with my broom.  I found out later that the size indicated that it was probably a female, the most venomous sex.  Apparently they aren't aggressive, though, but I still don't want to be too close to them!

I am keeping an eye out for more creatures every day!

I was pleased to see a bed of Japanese irises rise from the side of the house like magic this week!  The bed looked like this earlier this spring:

I wasn't sure if they were daylilies or irises...or something else...but I'm so glad they're in bloom!

They're such a nice, vibrant color.

I haven't baked - at all.  I've been so busy with my regular routine, plus work, plus the upkeep of the house and the yard, that Todd has been eating an awful lot of loose meat sandwiches and tortilla chips.  I hope to get back to baking soon, once I've gotten things around here in "maintenance mode".  However, I have been knitting and making cards in little snatches during the week.   One card that I made recently for Mother's Day was especially fun. 

I took a big lilac stamp and a hydrangea paper punch:

I stamped the image and then cut out flowers from various sheets of purple construction paper.

I filled in the purple border with the flowers:

...then made a little banner for the top.

This idea, sadly, was mainly cribbed from Pinterest.  But when things calm down, I plan on creating some things from scratch!

Now it's time for me to get a little yard work done before the house cleaning, supper prep, and eBay work.  I don't mind the work, though, especially when this is my canopy:

Have a great week!

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