Sunday, June 28, 2009

I saved a box turtle on the road this afternoon after the rain. I am on the turtle rescue patrol. Sometimes it is dangerous (not today) and people who deliberately run over turtles probably would not mind running the rescue patrol down either. But I know I am no better than the sadistic drivers who use turtles for targets, because I feel like killing the people who run over a turtle in front of me that I was trying to save. And I have had that happen more than once.
After hatching, a box turtle usually tries to stay hidden for 5 or 6 years. By that time it has grown enough not to be so vulnerable. Box turtles may live to 100 years, so some of these turtles you see on the road are older than you are, Bud, so have a little respect.The home range of a box turtle is about 750 feet, but occasionally it will wander further. If a road bisects the turtle's range, you can see this is a disaster waiting to happen. It memorizes its territory and when it is removed from its home range, it can be difficult for the turtle to acclimate to a new location and find food,water, and shelter. It may also be traumatized by being moved and unable to eat for days. So unless you are willing to take on the care and feeding of an animal who may outlive you, it is best to let them go their way in the wild. If a turtle is removed from the wild, it should be replaced as near as possible to where it was found.
There are several ways to sex a turtle and I usually check to see the sex of any turtle that I meet while on patrol. Interestingly, they are mostly male. The male plastron (bottom shell) is concave and probably aides in balance during copulation. The females' plastron is only slightly concave or flat. Males usually have red eyes and females have reddish brown eyes.

Euphemism: Passed

I dislike this current use of the word. In my opinion, people do not pass, they just die. Saying they "passed" does not change a thing. Cars pass,and sometimes the people in them give a perfunctory wave. A test is passed. Pass is what you do with gas. But people just die. Nothing can change that, certainly not giving death a euphemistic name like "passed". It reminds me of the story of a distant relative who was much to cultured to say worm, so she pronounced it wor'am.
There are many euphemisms in use. One is to call guns and bombs anti-personal weapons. I think that the use of these kinds of words is always an effort to hide the real truth, and I do not think concealing truth benefits anyone except crooks.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Hunt for Plants and Their Names

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Earlier in the week I made a trip to Cheaha and also to Anniston Museum of Natural History. I always enjoy the museum. Right now they have a great display of minerals on loan from the Smithsonian. But (Surprise!!) the gardens are my favorite part of the museum. There are always plants that I never saw before.
Several years ago when I went to the museum I saw the plant in the picture above. It was so unusual and had such great texture that I could not resist it and took a few seed. I planted the seed and several came up but I had no idea what it was nor how to find out. I posted the above picture on a website called Name That Plant, along with a description of where the seed came from . I did not receive a name right away but I heard from an acquaintance of the curator of the Anniston Museum. He sent me the email address of Dan Spaulding and sugg4ested that I ask him. I did, although I did not mention that I now had the plant myself, raised from seed taken secretly from the museum garden. I hreard back right away from Mr Spaulding, and he named the plant and said he had received the plant from a friend who got it on an expedition. He also offered me some of the plant so I did not feel so bad at having collected the seed surreptitiously.
This story is not so much about this plant is it is about finding information and people on the internet. If you have a question, do not despair: someone out there knows the answer and would like to tell you.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tomato Horn Worm

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This tomato horn worm was munching down a Dutura plant, one of the purple variety, when I discovered it. This is the larval form of the Sphinx Moth. These moths visit flowers in the evening (they are enjoying my evening primroses right now, but they also like white ginger lily flowers). The adults sip nectar from almost any flower, but they deposit their eggs on your tomato plants. They are out now, so better keep an eye out for those bare tomato limbs or spray with BT as a preventative measure. BT is a bacteria that causes the guts of the caterpillar to rupture, but it does not work as fast as picking them off and smushing them. It does affect every worm that eats an inoculated leaf though, no matter how small the worm is. BT is used by organic gardeners and is considered safe and not a pesticide.
I at first thought it was probably a deer that had eaten this plant and that the deer was lying somewhere dead as these plants are extremely poisonous if ingested. I should have known a deer would have more sense and it would not hurt these monster munchers. These Datura make spiny seed pods. They are first cousins to the Jimson Weed that used to grow in the corner of the cow lot. We never worried about cows eating them, because they just would not. They did have beautiful white flowers, but they did not smell very good when you even brushed by them.
Brugsmansia and Datura are both called angel trumpets, and both are very poisonous. They will both send you to the angels if you ingest them. However there is a difference in how the flowers are held on the plant. Datura hold their flowers erect and make spiny seed pods, while Brugsmansia flowers hand downward and they rarely set seed, at least in areas where there is frost. They are killed to the ground put reappear with gusto the next summer. They arre heavy feeders. The Datura is an annual and ensures it's survival by making multitudes of seed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Pot Lady Gets a New Outfit

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Remember in early January when I repurposed a lamp for a garden sculpture and I said I had plans for the shade? I finally did it! I made a sunflower hat for the Pot Lady.
She is very happy with her new outfit and smiles at all the passers-by.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Baby Sparrows

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A sparrow built her nest in a hanging basket in the old greenhouse. I keep both front and rear doors open for ventilation, so I guess it was an open invitation. I watered the basket sparsely and infrequently after I discovered the eggs and plan to continue till the babies fledge.Actually hanging baskets seem to be a favorite place for sparrow nests. I've had it happen several times. There were 4 eggs in the nest and she hatched all four. Only 3 are visible here, one is behind and to the right without an open mouth. I wonder what that droplet on its beak is and how it got there.
Hiram made this picture for me. If you click on the picture you can get a very good close-up.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ubiquitious Poke Weed

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This is photographic proof that poke weeds can and will live anywhere. How the seed arrived there is an interesting question but I guess it was deposited there by a bird. Birds love poke berries as much as I hate to see the resulting purple stains. If Poke were not so easy to grow we would probably all be trying to get it for our yards. It has beautiful tropical foliage which is edible, and pretty whitish flowers followed by lovely purple berries, and great red stems as it matures. It is so perennial that it would be unbelievable unless you have tried to dig a big ol' one up.
I have never eaten poke salat, but would like to try it. I have been told that it has to be boiled through 2 waters before it is safe to eat. Makes me wonder how hungry you need to get before you figure that one out. Berries are supposedly poison, but if they are, why are their any birds left alive? berries make wonderful dye for kids to make because it fades out by the next day. I'm sure there must be a mordant that would set it, but I do not know what. I have tasted the berries and they were mildly tart. I did not eat enough to suffer any damage (as far as I can tell).
If you have any of this poke weed in your flower beds, you better pull it out before it becomes deeply rooted. Every year the root gets bigger.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Night Blooming Cereus

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My night blooming cereus(s) (I have 4 or 5) had 4 blooms one night and 4 the next also. The second night I forgot to look at them and was sitting on the porch when I smelled their wonderful fragrance.This picture was made of the first night's bloom. I think this may be a nymph cricket on the bloom. These flowers cannot be open long before all sorts of critters are attracted to them, but none of the moths that pollinate them in their native habitat in South and Central America and the Caribbean. The next morning they hang limp and mushy after one night of glory.

Here is an overnight time lapsed picture series (40 sec)that shows how the flower changes through the evening.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Spontaneous (Sort Of) Blowouts

Years ago when my family was in the broiler egg production business, we hired a couple to help gather eggs and sort and clean them. The man was a midget with a sour outlook on life and his wife was a very fat and jolly woman. They parked their car in front of the egg house and one day it was just sitting there and one of the tires blew out Everyone raced out to see what had exploded and the dust was just starting to settle when a second tire blew out. As you can imagine Mr. Sourpuss took a very dim view of these events, but Ms. Jolly laughed till she doubled over.
Hiram has a cheap bike he got at Walmart. He is a large man and maybe should have had a better bike or at least wider tires. One day after he had come back from a ride and parked the bike a tire seemingly spontaneously exploded. I thought it was pretty hilarious, but he did not.
Virgil drives an 18-wheeler, and on a recent day the brakes on the trailer locked. He called in to the office and they told him to just drive on in and they would fix it. (What dummies!). He decided to stop by a farm supply after he had driven for a while. As he was climbing down from the truck, one of the tires exploded with a cannon blast. When he saw what had happened, he went in the store and while he was there, a second tire exploded.
The moral of these stories is to keep a close eye on your tires and don’t drive balloons. Oh yeah. And don’t drive with the brakes locked.
While it is lucky that none of the people in these stories was driving at the time of the blowout, it does seem odd to me that the blowouts all occurred after the vehicles were stopped. Is this serendipity or is there some law of physics at work here?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Farm Stories

Jack Busby had planted a sweet potato patch and it was time to dig those beautiful potatoes .He looked out the door and saw the pig in the sweet potato patch. That pig was rooting up those sweet potatoes and eating them just like…well- a hog! The pig was almost out of sight as it joyfully pushed further and further into the soil till only its rump was sticking up. Jack was so inflamed at the pig that he raced to the potato patch screaming “How long you been in here?” as he planted a number 12 in the pig’s behind. The pig launched forward screaming “Weeeek”.

Jack was trying to plow with a stubborn mule, who wanted to rest in the shade instead of plow. Jack would set the plow and swat the mule with the lines, but the mule just stood there. Eventually the mule looked back at Jack with its tongue sticking out, just a little to show his disdain. Jack was hot and tired and wished he were in the shade himself. He flung the lines down and ran in front of the mule, grabbed the mule’s tongue, and bit it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Spotted Wintergreen


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This bright little wildflower is always a pleasure to meet.
Spotted wintergreen , sometimes called pipsissewa, is a resident of dry woods. I found this group growing among the trees just a few feet from the driveway. I had noticed it in the winter when it was one of the few green things on the ground, but what caught my eye was the bright white of the flowers. It typically blooms in June. after I saw the first clump, I noticed three or four other clumps. It seems that that is often the case; after you see one thing you can see it everywhere. I guess this is known as pattern recognition.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) is one of my favorite flowers (I know, I say that about every flower).It immigrated to this country from Northern Europe with the first settlers, and it has made itself at home enough so that USDA classifies it as a noxious weed. It is a pest in pastures they say. I say that is just due to bad pasture management.It grows in dry ditches, along roadsides, and other dry areas. Although it is an immigrant it has integrated into the ecosystem. The caterpillars of black swallowtails eat the leaves, bees and other nectar drinkers and pollen eaters feed from the flowers, and lacewings and other predatory insects seek prey (aphids) there.
There is often a dark red to black flower in the center of the inflorescence, which may serve to attrack insects. It is a biennial which means it does not flower till the second year, and then dies after seed are formed. After a couple of years there will be both one and two yesr old plants growing together so that there will always be flowers.
The seeds of the Queen Anne's Lace have been used as a contraceptive in both Native American and Chinese cultures.
The root can be eaten when the plant is young, but it quickly becomes woody. It could be like dandelions. The foliage is said to be eatable when picked before the flower buds form, but around here dandelion flower buds appear with the foliage and MY! Are they ever bitter!! Also the Queen Anne's Lace can be mistaken for Water Hemlock, which is deadly poisonous. However water hemlock grows in-- you guessed it---wet places.
As a child I loved flowers as much as the name Queen Anne's lace. I remember walking in it when it was above my head, It may grow to 4 feet tall. I wrote a poem about it, but thankfully, the poem is lost.
I had an aunt who loved them too. She contributed to their spread by collecting the seed and spreading them along the road as she drove by.
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