Saturday, March 30, 2013

Impatiently Waiting For Spring

Peek-a-boo



Hallelujah, tiny signs of spring! We've had a couple of false starts this month but the past week has been snowy again. We, however, were in Tennessee for spring break and missed the refreshing of our piles of snow. We have gone to the Washington DC area for the past few spring breaks and it's usually cool-ish. So this year we thought we would go south, so off to Chattanooga we went. And yes, big cold snap with snow flurries for Chattanooga. That's our luck, though. One July we headed to Niagara Falls as we figured it would be a bit cooler "up north". But, as our luck would have it there was a record heat wave that year for Niagara Falls. Anyway, we knuckled down and ignored the cold in Chattanooga and had a good time. I just want to mention that my Zippy is a natural at climbing and the zip line adventure at ZipStream Aerial Adventures was no problem for her. Turns out the actual zip line was the easiest part of the course and I like to think that the whole going down the zip line backwards thing was just an example of my Amazing Skills. Anyway...






Now I'm really anxious for spring, partly because, you know, I'm not a winter person. When I first moved north from Texas I thought that if I took up winter sports I would like winter much more. Then it occurred to me that if I took up winter sports I would be outside and I would, you know ..........  get cold. Even though I enjoy a good hike anytime and cross country skiing is actually pretty nice, I'm mostly done with winter by, oh, mid-January.



We also have some landscaping plans for this summer and I'm anxious to get going. We have lived in our house for 17 years and a great deal of the landscaping was done within those first few years. It used to be quite pretty.






But now things are getting to be a bit overgrown and out of control. That means our landscaping plans mostly consist of beating the yard back into submission, to something more manageable. It's a time issue- other priorities have laid claim to our time and so we need to bring the yard into compliance with our schedule. I daydream of retirement, when I can build all sorts of garden follies and trails and pretty flowers beds. But for now.....









....not so pretty. And if anyone knows how to keep paint on asbestos cement board siding, please let me know. We have tried everything. The cement board is actually the third layer of siding on our old farmhouse and this side is the weather side, so it looks extra bad. But paying for asbestos abatement is not part of the plan right now and since it's OK to leave it, there it is.
ANYWAY (again)....

 






We had some extraordinarily nice weather a couple of weekend ago so Big 'Un and I spent the day ripping out shrubbery. Even though we kept the bulbs and peonies, the shrubs don't figure in my new "vision" for the back of the house and I wanted to get them out before the birds started building nests in them again. I didn't get them out in time last year and ended up with several shrubs that I had to abandon half chopped back as I found that the wrens and sparrows had already set up housekeeping in them.










And now we're all cleaned up and ready to go. I'm hoping to get on this project soon in order to scratch it off the list and will share the "After" with you when it's done.






So this is what I wanted to show you today before I go. This crispy, fluffy little blob of dried protein is a praying mantis egg case, called an ootheca. The female mantis will lay her eggs in mid-autumn, right before she dies, and the case will winter over until spring. The eggs, all 100 - 200 of them, will hatch after a few days of warmth. We have watched and watched egg cases over the years but never managed to catch the young in the act of hatching. They emerge from the layers of the case, which you can see here .....




... though the appearance of the case does not really change much after the young have emerged. The babies crawl out and will hang by a thread of about 2 inches until they dry and will then scamper off into your garden. The entire process takes about an hour. Of the original 200 or so that hatch out, perhaps 5 of the mantis will live to adulthood. It's kind of like with butterflies: tons of eggs, tons of new caterpillars, tons of pillaging and eating, even cannibalism, so that in the end only a few survive.



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These tiny little cuties, which begin life chasing down aphids, can grow to be quite large and while generally beneficial in the garden, they do have a dark side. I mean, when they get to be several inches long, they require something more substantial for a meal than aphids and so anything that they can catch and handle is fair game.



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How embarrassing for the gecko.



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And my favorite praying mantis photo .....




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Hallelujah, right?


 
I'm sorry of some of those photos were a bit much. I tend not to be too squeamish about that sort of thing, though a praying mantis is kind of a freaky thing.

 

OK, that's it for today, except for a pic from The Butterfly Garden at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.






Have a great day and I hope you'll stop by to visit again soon.




Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A New Butterfly Friend- Rice Paper Butterfly


File:20070414 idea leuconoe strandberg crop.jpg
Image by Per Erik Standberg via WikiMedia



Well, it's been some time since I've posted and even longer since we've met a new butterfly. I alluded to the butterfly at the end of my last post so here it is. Today, meet the Rice Paper Butterfly, also known as the Paper Kite, the Wood Nymph, or the Large Tree Nymph butterfly. This one is a simple and elegant butterfly, marked by it's slow, gracefully floppy flight. It's size and slow flight make it a popular attraction at butterfly conservatories the world over, though the Paper Kite originates in Southeast Asia. A member of the subfamily Danainae, Paper Kites are considered to be distasteful to prey because of the host plants it feeds on, just like it's subfamily cousin the Monarchs which feed on milkweed. I've always heard that the yucky tasting butterflies can get away with a slow flight and the yummy ones have to flitter and dart about to avoid being captured.


I found this video on YouTube that gives us a look at the lovely movements of the Rice Paper butterfly. The video was posted by Wei├če Baumnymphen.





Because of the Paper Kite's distinctive wing pattern, she is popular not just an a striking addition to butterfly conservatories but also to artists. OK, I use the term "artist" loosely when applied to myself- I'm more of a "goofing-around" type. At any rate, here's my latest paper cutting adventure:





I cut the butterfly first, from a heavy black paper, and then sprayed it with a light coat of black laquer to strengthen and stabilize it.










The I cut a piece of white glitter paper to fit exactly under the wings and used a light stain of watercolor to give the wings their yellow color at the junction with the body. I framed our gal by layering first a white background, then the glitter paper, than a layer of clear acrylic. I put the cut out wings on top of the acrylic then covered with glass and it all went into a simple frame.









I have decided that I need to make another one, sort of a positive-negative thing, after I saw how the wings looked before cutting them away from the black paper.






But that's a project for another day.



Hey thanks for visiting the jungle today. I'm looking forward to spring and healing things but right now I'm off to shovel snow.