Wednesday, June 26, 2013

seed 'n feed

Last week, I bought a new bag of bird seed.  Todd left it on our side patio, by the feeders.  It did not take long to become a major attraction.

First came the squirrels, who ripped open the bag...

...and indulged freely.

The chipmunks were next.  Look at those stuffed cheeks!

The birds made off with the leftovers...chickadees and tufted titmice, mostly.

The cats thoroughly enjoyed their undisputed status as mighty hunters from a safe distance!

We bought a patio set this weekend...

After a while, I noticed something lumpy on one of the umbrella supports.

It was a tree frog!

A nice surprise!  We've really enjoyed the patio set and occasionally eating outside.  The wonderful smell of the gardenias wafts up, and the mimosa tree by the pond is in bloom.  It is so beautiful.  The flowers look like tiny flames in the sun.

(Many thanks to Todd's point-and-shoot camera for these pictures...I've had some issues with mine!)

I bought an interesting indoor plant recently.  I'd never heard of bog plants, but these carnivorous pitcher plants looked so different that I couldn't resist.

They need to rest in water at all times, and need full sun (fingers crossed that my greenhouse window will provide enough light).  They catch small gnats and other insects.  I bought two varieties that have official Latin names, but I am not motivated enough to run and check them.

I have the "short, round" variety:

And the "tall" variety:

I always like a little diversity, so I'm really happy to have them!

I haven't been outside as much.  It's been very hot, and the mosquitoes are pretty merciless.  Instead, I've been working inside, on puzzles.  I have one set up at the far end of the dining room table at all times, and I absolutely love taking a spare minute to put a few pieces together.

As soon as I finish one, I start another.

I'm finishing one per week, or even a little more quickly.

I used to do puzzles all the time when I was younger.  I'm so glad to be back in the saddle again!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

the itsy bitsy spider

If you're squeamish about spiders, I'm sorry about the following photos.  I actually felt the same way you do.  Growing up in the country, we had loads of big, hairy wolf spiders everywhere, especially in our garage (where I liked to play) or around the wood pile.  My grandpa and I had an insect collection and even though spiders aren't insects, we pinned several of them to the collection board.  I shuddered every time I passed by!  I felt the same way about praying mantises.  But I forced myself to learn about why I didn't like them.  I read about them and photographed them, and while I certainly don't like to be surprised by either one, I've developed a grudging admiration for them.  

Let's face it - spiders are EVERYWHERE.  They spin beautiful webs and eat a ton of bothersome insects, like mosquitoes (some estimates show that an average spider eats over 2000 insects per year!).  Although I'm still not a fan of big, hairy spiders, I do enjoy looking at the smaller ones. 

This little spider has made a comfortable nest in one of my nasturtium leaves.  He's got a nice mottled body and translucent legs, and a pretty nice setup for catching gnats and other tiny insects!

I spied this tiny green spider curled up in a cluster of hydrangea buds.

He's a green jumping spider (Lyssomanes viridis), also known as the Magnolia Green Jumper.

His eyes are on top of his head in that reddish spot - see them?  They have terrific vision, like all jumping spiders.  I think he's a beauty!

This Opilione rests in the heat of the day under a basil leaf.

He's a harvestman, a creature I've always called a "grandaddy longlegs".  However,  while Opilione are in the class Arachnid, they are not considered spiders.  They have a solid instead of segmented body, do not spin webs, have just a single pair of eyes, and no venom glands.  Their bodies are actually nicely colored, like a pebble:

I have to admit, they still creep me out.

I finally got a good shot of a Venusta Orchard Spider abdomen:


Even if you don't see a spider, they are most likely close by.  Living in the woods, we have lots of webs, even between the boards on our deck:

This little house spider spun a web on the outside of one of our windows.  She made her egg sac, which hatched yesterday:

Still, I'm glad this is outside and not inside!

I've obviously had spiders on the brain lately, and this dragonfly nearly gave me a heart attack last week when he landed on our back first glance, I thought he was a spider!

We've had more great rain lately.  Mushrooms are springing up everywhere.

My ferns are loving it.  I have three kinds.  This I call "bronze"...

This is "alligator":

This is "maidenhair":

The hosta flowers are starting to open up.

My hydrangea is budding out more and more, in a beautiful deep blue.

The clearance hydrangeas I bought at Lowe's all died.  I left them in the ground, though, because sometimes... get lucky and they come back.

The rain has caused some significant yellowing of the gardenia flowers.  Hopefully some sun will bring them back.

My little toad has moved from the side to the front of the house!  I stumbled over him in the front path.

I've done some indoor crafting because of the rain.  A friend's older son was getting braces and I decided to make him a card.  I'd seen this grill "pinned" as a Father's Day card on Pinterest.  I liked the way it looked and decided to pun with it.

The grill was easy to make.  A circle cut in half, with a brad in the corner for a hinge.  Construction paper flames.  The wheels were the eyes from my owl paper punch.

The inside:

I used a clear embossing marker to draw on the braces and heat embossing powder to make them shiny and raised.

Get it?  Grill?  I was very amused!

Hope you can do something creative today...have a great week!

Monday, June 10, 2013

when it rains, it pours

Most people knew that a tropical storm was passing south and east of us, but as I don't watch T.V. or read newspapers, I was completely oblivious.  I did notice that we had - and continue to have - days and days of heavy rain.

We've had torrential downpours, during which I throw open all the windows and the doors to catch the fresh air, followed by brief periods of blazing sun, during which I run around, shutting everything to keep the humidity and mugginess out.  Thankfully, we haven't had any problems with a leaking roof or pooling water.  Everything runs downhill into the pond. 

During the brief dry periods, I've rushed outside to take photos.  Pre- and post-rain tends to offer the best light, and I always try to take advantage of that, since the skills needed to manipulate light with camera dials continues to elude me. 

That bush in the corner of our fenced-off garden is a hydrangea.

It's blue, too, which is my favorite hydrangea color.

With all the rain, I've found plenty of mushrooms.  This is a mushroom that looks a bit like a morel...

I found a whole grouping of unusual-looking mushrooms...

 I was hoping they'd have a clever name like "candy corn mushrooms", since that's what they look like.

Alas, while there is a candy corn mushroom, this isn't it.

Oh, the magnolias!

We have several of these deciduous trees with lovely leathery green leaves, but we've had few blossoms.  Maybe the spring weather has just been too rainy.  But I pick them whenever I get a chance.  They're huge!

Here's a nearly CLOSED one, next to a dime for scale.

Since they're so large, I only need one to add a little something on the nightstands.

These flowers close up at night (even the cut ones) and open in the morning, opening progressively wider and wider until they're the size of dinner plates.  It's so beautiful.

The nasturtiums I planted are opening up...

I've had plenty of chances to photograph their beautiful leaves, which hold water droplets so nicely.

The mystery berry bush below my office window is putting out blossoms in preparation for fall berries...

The hostas are sending up stalks...

...which will open into pretty flowers.  I've got other pretty leafy plants coming up, but I'm not quite sure what they are.

We have a series of bushes in the back yard with dark green, waxy-looking leaves.  Five or six of them flank the back driveway and a couple of them are at the base of our patio.  I knew they were going to bloom soon because of all the swollen buds...

I like a wild and natural look, so I took some clippers and spent some time trimming back the leaves of both these bushes and the berry bushes, which hung gracefully over the patio steps.  I carefully trimmed back individual leaves so that there was some draping but a person could still easily pass through.  I don't think my husband was on board with 'graceful draping', because the very next day, I looked up from my computer to see him cutting down huge sections of the bushes with his clippers.  I rushed to the window to stop him, but the damage had already been done.

Chop, chop...


I couldn't believe it.  I know he meant well, but oh, the humanity! 

Anyway, a day or so later the remaining buds opened and it proved to be a gardenia bush.

They're so beautiful, and the smell is amazing.  When the windows are open, the smell drifts in.  They're supposed to bloom all summer long...I hope so!

We've seen a lot of wildlife lately.  Even though only Todd's point-and-click camera has zoom and therefore the quality is fairly poor, I've enjoyed catching these animals in their natural states.  We have a lot of white-tailed deer here...

...but so far we haven't had any trouble with them getting into the garden.

We have a family of red foxes too!  I often see them trotting across our driveway...

...and through the yard of the empty house next door.

When I was going across the side yard, I thought I saw a toad ducking into a big hole.

Since the hole is just outside of my office window, I've been able to pay close attention to it.  Indeed there is a toad living there. 

Oh, isn't he a beauty?  He's a Fowler's Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri).  Fowler's Toads have a prolonged nasal call:  click here

They are known for burrowing into the ground and I think he's got himself a pretty sweet spot there.  I've actually become very fond of him.  Every time I look outside, he's perched on the edge of his hole without a care in the world.  I hope he stays awhile!

Hope you're finding some new life in your neck of the woods.  Have a great week!