Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Heigh High-ho, cherry-oh.

They didn't taste all that wonderful to me, but I thought for sure this deer was going to go tippy-toe to reach the cherries.

Tick problem? Hah! This is nothing. I've managed an even poorer* photo wherein the afflicted deer's ear looks like a pimple ball. And then there was that poor buck in velvet that one year... Ooh-ooh-ooh. (Velvet=high blood flow tissue for growing the antlers.) Interesting how some deer have can have a terrible infestation (and on just one ear) and others are nearly tick-free.

* Sorry for the poor quality: taking deer photos is difficult enough--why do the birds see only the yard reflected in the windows but the deer can see through the glass so well they see me when I'm half way across the room???--but it would have helped at least a little if the windows had been clean.

Monday, July 26, 2010


But leaves are better.

Even allowing for the fact that the local ungulates, while not yet so populous as to have a grazed a browse line around my acreage, will still eat--or at least taste--any vegetation within reach (I have an ok photo of a whitetail enjoying ripe wild cherries straight off the tree that I'll post at some point), I finally realized that I may lean more towards houseplants rather than landscape plants simply because the tropical stuff has such fantastic foliage. Well, houseplants are green all year 'round, too. (Assuming I can keep them alive.) That's their real attraction. But still, how can you resist leaves like these?

The Monstera is becoming, well, truly monstrous. The new leaves (of which there are now another half dozen and more) are at or just beyond 15" and I don't think they are done yet.

Caladium. I had tried these once before, years ago; can't remember if I started the tubers myself, but I'm pretty certain that the plants never made it through the summer. This one is already twice as tall as it was when purchased, and may need to be potted up. Again.

Also a Caladium. A really tall caladium; 37" this morning, no telling how much height it gained today. As it is, it's tied up to keep it out of the way. And what's with the runners? Aren't tubers good enough? This one will soon need potting up. Also again. And I might need to scatter little pots about in which to root the plantlets popping up on the ends of all of those blasted runners... It was starting to send out a few when I purchased it, but I was more concerned with keeping the entire dratted thing alive, period, not about it taking over my front steps. (Could be worse: some caladium species, appropriately named Elephant Ears--which this one was tagged as, actually/eep--have leaves a couple of feet across.)

Cyperus. Another wetland plant posing innocently as a houseplant. This is going to be a tricky one to keep the cats out of when it comes inside...those leaves will be way too tempting. I had a decorative cage I was going to use for whatever protection it would afford, but this one took off as well: the tallest frond now rises a good 28". I don't know if the dove cage gets enough light to see the cyperus through the winter; the budgie cage does, but I fear those little blighters would shred the plant to bits even faster than the cats.

Philodendron selloum, aka (Lacy) Tree Philodendron. This is a young plant; the newer leaves are each coming in "lacier" than the ones before.

Oh, I haven't yet mentioned my lapse of a few weeks ago, have I? But I simply had to have this beauty. Hey, they don't climb or vine! They, um, just grow sideways... (This one isn't as large as it looks; it's still in its gallon growers pot sitting on the blue pot into which it should, maybe, fit when I get around to repotting it. Hmm.) But my mother had one that stayed beautifully self-contained for many years! Yeah, so I discovered before I rescued this one from a local grocery store that a high-school classmate has had one for the past 23 years and it takes up half of his rather large living room... Your point??? Surely I've mentioned before that I have no self-control or will power whatsoever.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Getting ready...


Variegated Fritillary caterpillar, found in Wildwood in a pot of pansies, transfered to a more rural setting and supplied with native violet leaves.


Chyrsalis, Day One.

Thursday night I happened to notice that the chrysalis was faintly streaked with orange instead of being more of a pure pearly white as it had been. Friday morning it was definitely dark, and the wing pattern showed up beautifully--in the macro flash photo, at any rate. (Over forty, remember?)

Chrysalis, Day Seven.


Go, go, go...!!!
[video coming soon Google changed its video uploading... I don't want a YouTube account!]

Of course I did what any self-respecting naturalist would do even if they aren't working in a career even remotely related to wildlife: I took the little sucker to work with me so I had a passing shot at getting the above photos and video. (If you have never seen it happen, butterfly emergence happens quickly. Really, really quickly. Two minutes tops, perhaps?) Luckily, I happened to look down to check on the chrysalis just after the now-butterfly had freed its head. And the phones had stopped ringing for a spell, so I commandeered a co-worker to hold the lid it was on while I took the (lousy and poorly edited) video. We both cheered, but if I'm really, really lucky I actually figured out how to edit out the video's sound...


Too bad the only chance I had at an underwing photo was through the plastic container. It was even more gorgeously subtle and ornately patterned on the underside than it was on top. (The white is a paper towel put in the slick plastic container to give the butterfly a better surface to hang on to.)

I then contacted my neighbors, practicing naturalists both, requesting the use of their property for release of a brand new butterfly... Why their place and not my own, you ask? Well, what self-respecting butterfly wouldn't want to take its first flight and taste its first nectar in an acre devoted to, planted and maintained for wildlife, a mere (ha!) little "backyard"--with a sightings list of well over 50 butterfly species?

*sigh* My fritillary, who promptly flew up, up, up and away...

Many thanks to the Suttons, folk extraordinaire, for graciously inviting us in to their incredible backyard. If you are in the area in the next month or so, Pat will be conducting tours of their place and other amazing gardens in Cape May County; the tours are sponsored by New Jersey Audubon's Nature Center of Cape May and you may find the garden tour program info at their website.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Yesterday, I stood in the rain until I was soaked to the skin.

Purposefully went out into it and stayed out the entire length of the summer shower, actually. (It couldn't quite be called a thunderstorm, although there was some quiet rumbling off to the east.) And it felt wonderful! Hadn't done that in way too long a time, although I have been meaning to for at least three rainstorms now. I love summer rainstorms.

It would have been simply stood in the rain in my skin but I'm a bit nervous about running nekked around my yard these days. (Have I mentioned how much I love living in the sticks?) Even though the old man who lived next door and used to wander back to check on me if he hadn't seen me in awhile has passed on (that one time I had on a very long t-shirt and socks, not that the socks covered anything important) and I'm enough of a hermit that acquaintances haven't dropped by unannounced to introduce me to their sisters in many years (luckily, I had the towel upon which I had been sunbathing), and the family with adolescents who had the house built practically in my front yard a few years back packed up their stuff lock, stock and barrel a couple of weeks ago and disappeared (which reminds me, I need to find out who holds the lien on the place and for how much). But there are still the guys in the house at the far end of my drive; I didn't want to risk that they'd decide to come talk about the now-empty-but-for-the-house acreage between us on the one day I was out appreciating nature, um, naturally…

Too much info? Ah, well, whatever. This is who I am, baring (ahem) a bit of my soul. One reason I was able to get along with Huston for a time was because I don't exactly march to the same beat as most of the rest of the world, either; I'm just not so inclined to advertise it as often and as obviously as he… Indeed, he once told me that my backing up and stopping to take off my shoes in order to squish my toes in a mud puddle I had just stepped around was the clincher to him asking me out.

Yesterday, while wonderful and not regretted, would have been absolutely perfect if not for an overabundance of garments and lack of a good mud puddle.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


And freaky, and weird, and just plain skin-crawlingly… inexplicable and strange, the way they get to be butterflies, anyway.

As larvae, the caterpillar phase of a butterfly can be pretty cool (although there are some freaky ones of those, too—like the bird-poop mimics, or the larger-than-life view of the little lovely from a few posts back), and although there are some pretty darn drab examples, most people would not argue the sublime beauty of an adult butterfly. But the process of getting from one to the other? Eeew, eew, ick, how the hell do they do it?, and yuck! I'm not going to post the photo I took of the Variegated Fritillary caterpillar beginning its transformation to the adult butterfly the other morning, and wouldn't even if it had been in focus. Gaaack.

On rare occasions, though, instead of being hidden within a plain-as-dirt cocoon, that metamorphosis is cloaked by sheer magnificence:

Ok, perhaps the grandeur can even possibly be overdone in the attempt to make you ignore what is actually going on inside… What these shots fail to show clearly is the pearly iridescence of this chrysalis. It literally looks like the mother-of-pearl lining of a shell. Oh, and then there are those metallic coppery-gold touches.

How could any butterfly possibly compete with that?

(Even after devouring a few violet leaves, the caterpillar never grew very much after I brought it home, and indeed, one online reference has quite a broad wingspan range for the butterfly. To give you some idea of scale, the black background is a piece of craft foam less than an eigth of an inch thick, held up behind the chrysalis for contrast.)


You remember my friend, Big Fat Toad (The First)? Lives in and amongst the potted plants on my front deck?

Don’t ever try to tell me that animals are merely instinctual, animated machines without capability of rational, conceptual thought or abstract thought and feelings. This isn't the first time this toad has come out to sit on the deck and watch the sun go down.

PURPLE, Part 2.

Pickerelweed. Aquatic emergent masquerading as a potted plant on my front deck.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


And my, aren't they pretty…

I finally ID'ed the dainty wee wildflower (photo many times life size; a dime would easily cover the petals from tip to tip) that has been blooming all over one end of my stone drive this summer. It is a Deptford Pink, genus Dianthus. Now that I know that, it does indeed resemble a simplified version of the nursery-bred plants you can find for sale just about anywhere in spring.

Figures that it is doing very well this year, yet I only found two plants of the equally dainty and lovely Blue Eyed Grass, a micro-miniature native iris with grass-like leaves and flowers about the size of the pink's… *sigh* There used to be many more clumps of the wee tiny iris, but my side yard is being taken over by a lethal combination of honeysuckle (*grr*... another alien) and shade.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Hee hee hee. I'm rubbing off on my co-workers! One of them made sure to point out this lovely to me when she noticed it in a pot of pansies on the front porch of our office the other day:

Variegated Fritillary. A Deep South species and therefore considered more of a migrant to the Mid-Atlantic than an established local breeder, but adults (butterfly form) can be commonly found in New Jersey according to the county butterfly checklist.

Now if I can only stop my co-workers from freaking out over spiders…

Ed. Note: I didn't say anything orignally, but upon initial consideration of the above photo and then an ambivalent but corroborating comment from my mother (my biggest fan and biggest influence: she never said "don't touch," just "wash your hands afterwards…"), the reason my coworker when "ooh" instead of "agh!" over this little lovely was because at the time and life-sized, it wasn't so noticeably, well, um, large and shiny and, ah, fleshily-spiky… Don't think I'll show her this pic. Or take the caterpillar back to work, which is fine because it finally decided to eat the violet leaves I gave it when it ran out of the pansy leaves I brought home with it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Hosta blooms are purple (white washed with purple? purple fading into white?), not blue as previously stated.

My bad.

PS: The toad from the previous post turned out not to be the same toad from an earlier post; the first one showed up in the pots on the steps while the second one was still wedged in its pot on the bench. And that one wasn't stuck (leave it to my mother to ask); it was too dark to get a photo of it as it perched contentedly on the bottom back rail of the bench. Leave it to my mother to also ask if I had porch lights that might be providing said toads with an overabundance of sustenance leading to their excessive rotundness. (Well, she didn't use those exact words.) Um, oh, yeah, I did pick up a bunch of little solar lights that are stuck into pots all about the deck...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


At least, that's what I supposed at first: the things critters do can be just plain strange and inexplicable.

Let me set up the situation. Here's my front door, located on the backside of the front deck of the previous post. You may recognize the giant house (ha!) plant. Please excuse the condition of said door; I live in the back of beyond, it doesn't* matter what my door looks like as long as it works. Please take pity on the poor twiggy hibiscus; it didn't survive the winter inside half so well as the Monstera. Please note the little leafy thing sitting on the bench behind both of the other plants...

Here, let's take a closer look:

That little pot, there. I was watering some plants that I didn't get to last evening, and checking on (and topping off) plants I had watered, when I noticed something pale and bloated in the pothos pot.

Eew, what is that…?

Oh, good grief. You again? And how on earth did you get up here, you crazy beastie? Yes, toads frequent the deck; the steps, presumably, have a rise low enough**—and toads apparently nimble enough—to ascend even if your legs are quite short and stick out more or less sideways from your body. The location of the previous photos of toad-in-pot was only two steps up. Granted, it was a tallish pot for something so short as a toad, but this pot was all the way up the deck, and then up the bench. And then the little bugger had to smush itself in amongst the stems…

Wildlife is weird.

But I finally realized that the pots on my front deck are the only place in the surrounding acres where water—and even merely moist soil—can be found with any consistency lately, given the recent lack of rain and frighteningly hot (80°F at 8am and rising rapidly), sunny, windy weather. Still, there are at least half a dozen pots more easily accessible. (Not to mention that the deck itself and likely the nice cool dark space below the deck had received a brief soaking yesterday as the over-watered pots over-flowed in nice little tinkling cascades.) I suppose wildlife will be weird if it’s a matter a survival.

Or perhaps I am inadvertently and unknowingly sending out signals?

This season's flag. Ok, right family, wrong genus, but you'd think I'd pay more attention to things like this—I mean, look what the snowflake flag brought me this winter… (I still maintain that I am not superstitious.)

And the promised photo of the very happy hosta-in-a-pot. (With this and the coral bells being so pleased to be in pots instead of what tries to pass as topsoil in the yard [happiness which may have everything to do with being watered consistently], I'm thinking to try all sorts of "land"scape plants in pots.) Too bad the lovely blue blooms ended up too washed out in the picture to be appreciated as they deserve:

*sigh* Note the awesome piece of pottery I found at the store a few months ago…

I'm in love with a Big Blue Frog—

::snicker:: If you aren't humming, you aren't the Peter, Paul and Mary fan you thought you were!

A big blue phrog loves me…

* Oh, my. My spell check actually wanted to use the contraction "don't" here. I'm still in shock…
** Hee-hee.