Monday, September 26, 2016

100 Years of Summer-tude

Some encouraging signs of fall this week! A few changing leaves.

The green acorn favorite!

The sudden reappearance of white-tailed deer in the yard, every single afternoon.

They've been sleeping in my iris beds...I've found deer-sized depressions among the greenery.

Despite these signs of fall, we're still waiting for the temperatures to drop.  How can it be so close to October and still 90 degrees every day?!?!?  It's so quiet birds singing, few visible insects since the last of the summer flowers have gone to seed...

It's like everything is laying low and holding its breath, just waiting, waiting, waiting for fall.  Oh, I still see the occasional lizard running across my office window screen...

...a few isolated spider webs...

(Here is the owner of that web!)

...and a few late-season grasshoppers, lethargic in the heat.  But mostly it's just quiet. 

The cats are fed up with the weather too.  They've been protesting by staying asleep most of the time...

...with occasional bouts of naughtiness.

(Bosewichte sneaking out, then complaining about the heat)

So I'm staying inside, knitting, and trying to be patient.  I just knitted these quick fingerless gloves.  I went down 2 needle sizes because I have really small hands, but they still aren't quite as snug as I'd prefer.  Still, they fit pretty well, and will be put to use if winter ever comes!  The pattern is Pawkies by Kate Davies on Ravelry, knitted with Rowan Felted Tweed. 

I've also thrown myself into fall baking, making batches of cookies and cupcakes for Todd's office every week.  I try out new recipes on them, and in this way I discovered a new favorite cookie recipe.  Repeat after me:  Iced Browned Butter Pumpkin Oatmeal cookies.  Recipe here.  By pressing the excess moisture from the pumpkin, you get an amazingly chewy cookie.  I added cinnamon chips (of course) and extra spices, and they were so good. 

See those brown flecks?

Those are from the browned butter.  It adds a richness and nuttiness to recipes and is the absolute star of this cookie.

So those of you who have weather in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, enjoy!  I really hope to be joining you soon. 

Have a great week! 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Fire Ant-ics

I'm defying the heat and spending more and more time outside.  I've been really excited about the number of insects I've been able to find pretty easily.

Carpenter bees are never hard to find around here!  I think they're so pretty.

So is this Ailanthus Web-worm Moth, but it's a minor garden pest, although like the carpenter bee it does assist in pollination.

It's the time of year for spiny-backed orb weavers, and they've made huge webs in our front yard, anchored from the hemlock branches to the ground.  Situated as they are by a flower bed, they catch a lot of bees and other small insects.

Another favorite of mine is the crab spider.  Look at its creepy pose...ready to give a fatal hug!

Crab spiders like to hang out on flowers to surprise pollinating insects.  If you want to find one, have a look for its discarded food.  This dead moth was directly beneath this flower head.

If I'm still for long enough, hummingbirds will come. 

We have mountains of lantana blooming, although the butterfly bushes are about done.  The chives are up, though, and drawing lots of insects.

The orange ginger lilies, too.

No real autumn leaves yet, but at least we've got some pretty berries.

Elsewhere in the yard, I still find the usual lizards...

...and southern toads. ants!  I've had my first bite, obtained when weeding in the yard yesterday.  Just one bite on the inside of my index finger, which promptly swelled.

Within a few hours, the swelling had reached my ring finger and I couldn't make a fist.  There was no pain, though, and the swelling is mostly gone today. 

No offense to the fire ants, but we've had a very welcomed visitor for the past 2 weeks.  Percival Wemys is back!! 

Was it two years ago that he started spending nights crouched on our front porch ledge?  Well, he's back again.  Carolina wrens have a 6-year lifespan, so it could be the very same bird.  He's a bit of a late riser, so sometimes Todd has to use another door in the morning to take the dog out!  :) 

In other news, I've been working like crazy on my quilt top.  Three more blocks to sew, then I have to 'square up' each block and sew them together.  Then, of course, I have to 'baste' the quilt and then do the actual quilting.  I'm really nervous about that part but I'm taking a class to help me prepare.

Otherwise, it's just lazy cats sleeping through hot summer days.

Have a great week! 

Monday, September 12, 2016

I Spy, Identify (Or Try...)

As I arrived home after the gym this morning, I was mentally working through my large list of things that needed to get done today.  Then I saw this really cool mushroom when I got out of the car and immediately cleared the morning so that I could take a few pictures.

I can't help it.  It's been so miserably hot and we've both been cooped up in the house for so long, so on a day when there's actually a breeze, and the temperature doesn't start with a '9' or a '1,' I have to get outside.

It was a great day to do so.  Anoles have been everywhere lately, especially the babies.  They're quite skittish, but if you watch for unexpected movement on leaves or in bushes, you can usually find a few.

I even saw one on the window ledge in my office yesterday!

I love them!  Of course, lots of moths and butterflies this time of year.  Identifying the common ones, like the tiger swallowtails, is really easy.

Or if they have distinctive coloring, like this Agraulis vanillae...

...or this red-banded hairstreak...

...identification is a breeze.  But what if they're just...brown?

I have to go by the shape of the 'snout' and the wings.  Still, the best I could do on this particular moth was guess that it was in the family Noctuidae.  

Same with this beautiful Xylophanes tersa.  Even with its unusual size and beautiful markings, doing a search for an "orange-ish moth" will not bring you an identification. 

In my mind, the most distinctive attribute was the graceful wing shape with the peek-a-boo eye.

Studying wing shape in moth pictures by family helped me to choose the correct one, and then searching within the family enabled me to make the right identification.  I really love the challenge of it!  Still, I see insects all the time that I just can't identify, like this giant mosquito-like one from this morning.

In my walkabout, I also spotted a pregnant praying mantis... eastern leaf-footed bug...

...a gorgeous double-banded scoliid wasp...

...and evidence of a recently-departed cicada.

Our beautyberry bushes are laden with fully-ripe berries... I decided to pick some to make a bouquet.  You have to be careful, because there are almost always stowaways!

I love these plants.

They make gorgeous bouquets!

Hopefully this cooling trend continues and I can have many more productive walks.  Have a great week!