Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Skinny On Our Snakes

Last week while I was away, B called to let me know he had killed a young moccasin in our yard.

Last night, he found this old snake skin. It is larger than the snake he killed last week, but last year we had several different kinds of snakes, including too many moccasins.


I have never identified a snake skin and so I am not sure about this one. I do know that moccasins have keeled scales and there is a line through the middle of each scale on this skin. This skin is about two feet long (but the tail is not complete) and rather wide for its length. Its head is not complete but it might be the right shape.


Look at the pattern on the top of the head of this moccasin I photographed here last year. I think it looks similar to the head skin pattern. You can also see the keeled scales.

“I’ve got my eye on you!!”


I’ll keep an eye out for you, too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grabbin’ Green Fruit and Grasshoppers

I mentioned in a previous post that I have been spending some time with my parents. I was also with my brother and sister (and her husband).

One evening, Daddy asked me if I wanted to go out to a citrus grove with him and pick little green fruit. So off we went. It was a pleasant evening with a breeze off the lake and not too warm.

These are some young trees and it is better for the first few years to remove any of the fruit early so that the energy can be used toward tree growth. These little fruit can grow so heavy that the limbs break. So the task is to grab them and pull them off and drop them on the ground, trying to get them all. They can hide surprisingly well.


But there were other things hiding in the trees--- but not so well: BIG grasshoppers! Some of them were just huge. They were mating, so if there was one, there were two in the tree. If there were two, there might even be four. One little tree had six.


This it the eastern lubber grasshopper, Romalea microptera. Of the pair, the larger is the female.


These grasshoppers are very destructive to the citrus trees, and must be taken out.


I was good at spotting them and Daddy did most of the removal as I didn’t have gloves. I knocked a few out when he was not beside me to get them. We did about 16 trees before it was time to go.

I read about these grasshoppers when I got back home and learned that they are toxic to birds and mammals that eat them, as the bright colors would seem to warn. They also can release a foam that is an irritant and they can make hissing sounds.  They are not long jumpers and do not fly, though they have wings. When they are young, they are most always entirely black.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Birthday Girl

My mama was the youngest of eight children born to the same parents over twenty-five years. Her oldest sister was twenty-five when Mama was born! She is the only survivor of that Kentucky family. Mama did not marry until she was thirty and I was her second child. Her father had waited longer than that to marry her very young mother. So you can see we are a very stretched out family. So stretched, in fact, that her father—my grandfather—was alive during the Civil War. Today is Mama’s 92nd birthday.

Mama loves buttermilk, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, Jesus, her family, flowers, writing poetry, the Gators AND the Seminoles, the Rays, the Magic, dragonflies, and her crocs.


Happy Birthday, Mama!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Flag Day

I have been absent on leave to care for my parents for the past few days.

Last Sunday was Flag Day. Part of the bylaws for the Elks’ Club is that they will have an annual ceremony recognizing Flag Day. The Elks’ Club is the sponsor for B’s Boy Scout Troop and so they always ask that the troop participate in their ceremony.

A history of the American flag is read as each flag is presented.


After the inside program was complete, a flag retirement took place outside.


It was blazing hot but the ceremony was a good one and the boys enjoyed the hamburgers and hot dogs they were offered afterward.

Patriotism is a worthwhile value to teach and learn and practice.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Am the Light….

When I walked early Monday morning, the sun was still low (and thus cooler out!) As I passed a neighbor’s house, I was interested to see their banner was backlit by some rays of sunlight and it was positively glowing.


This morning, I saw they have replaced it with their hummingbird banner.

So timing is everything.

I am thankful for blessings, large and small.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Blueberry-Pecan Crumble

Blueberry-Pecan Crumble

1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a few pinches of salt
1 stick butter or margarine, cut into small pieces

4 cups of fresh blueberries
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Put topping ingredients in large bowl and rub with your hands until mixture sticks together in small coarse clumps. Set aside.
Pour blueberries into a 9x9 inch baking pan (or similar size)
Squeeze lemon juice over berries.
Sprinkle on flour and sugar and toss until berries are coated.
Spread topping over berries in an even layer.
Bake until topping is golden brown and berry juice bubbles through it.
Check it after 30 minutes to make sure it is not burning. Can cover with sheet of foil if getting too brown. I also have to reduce the temperature to 325 on my oven. Original recipe says 45-50 minutes, but I have never needed that long.
Serve crumble hot with vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Picky, Picky, Picky

100_7587Our son was here for the weekend and so we three went down to a local blueberry farm and proceeded to turn our teeth blue.


We arrived there reasonably early, about 8:30 and found the parking lot fairly full. By the time we left an hour later, we estimated more than 30 cars were in the grassy lot. I guess we have not been on weekends in the past, but we were surprised how many folks were there.

This is a rather large blueberry farm. The thing we particularly appreciate is that the bushes are planted on mounds so that you are not stooping to pick, but rather as our son put it, “giraffe-ing” at times.



We came away with two gallons. This year the price is up to $12 a gallon. Ahhh, and we can remember when it was half that. Most of these will be frozen and used throughout the coming year.

This morning, I made a blueberry crumble: think blueberry pie with pecan granola on top. Served with ice cream, it is a tasty treat.


Yup, we all got the blues.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Frog Rescue System


This is our little goldfish pond that is just by our front door. As we sit at the table in the kitchen, we can observe it and our bird bath and bird feeder and hummingbird feeder, as well as, the butterfly garden. It keeps us entertained. B enjoys feeding his “girls,” the goldfish. We get visitors at the pond: crayfish, squirrels, the occasional snake and, of course, frogs and toads. Recently, B had to rescue a toad that was stuck in the pond. We have found drowned ones before. B determined to try to solve the problem with a floating stick. Well, today, I discovered the system works.



So glad to know another one didn’t croak!

This appears to be a River Frog which can grow to be five inches. My frog guide states that they have foul-smelling, toxic secretions that serve to protect them and caution should be used when handling them. In which case, you might possibly be the one croaking.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Shell Game

Working in the garden this morning, I came upon this very small grasshopper shell. It’s rather ghostly, I think.


I have seen their leaf damage and, occasionally, see the grasshoppers themselves.

I have found many, many cicada shells in my time but never a grasshopper. So until I found this shell, I had given no thought to how they grow. Off to Google I went. It turns out that they are like many other insects: they grow and shed their old skin when it gets too tight. The old exoskeleton is what I have found.  Some grasshoppers go through six stages of adult development, each time growing into a larger grasshopper, all within three months of hatching from eggs in the ground.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mystery Bird

This little bird and another one like it came visiting our yard this week. It was so tiny that it made the titmouse look quite large. I took these pictures through double-paned glass that is not ideal. None of my bird guides helped to firmly ID it so I sent pictures to a friend who is a local bird guide.






This morning I received his response. It is a male Northern Parula, also called a Parula Warbler. My difficulty was that it does not have the bright yellow breast shown in my bird guides but the wing bars and rusty spot on the back and yellow bill all work. Supposedly they are common here and nest in Spanish moss. Cute little guy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quite a Toolbox

Jumping spiders make up the largest family of arachnids. There are over 5000 different species. They are particularly colorful and some are quite hairy, as seen here on B’s toolbox. 100_7551crop

Spiders use their hairs and some pits and slits to sense their world. Unlike most spiders, jumping spiders also have good eyesight. The hairs are used for tasting and sensing vibrations and holding on to prey and mates; the pits and slits help with memorizing directionality, moisture and temperature detection and body coordination.  Some tarantulas use hairs around their mouth to make whistling sounds to warn attackers or attract a mate. (Wolf spider whistles?) Some spiders actually fling their barbed hairs into attackers, allowing escape.  Some of these tools that spiders employ through their hairs give a whole new meaning to “having a bad hair day.”

Monday, June 8, 2009

Family Heirloom


This double daylily came from a small farm in Estill County, Kentucky.  Six of the eight children my grandparents had were born In the house on that farm. The oldest and the youngest (my mother, who is turning 92 this month) were born in other houses in the area, but the farm stayed in the family for many years afterward. In the early 1990’s, we were there while attending a family reunion. The farm then belonged to the county and the house had been condemned and was later torn down.  B dug me a small bag of these daylilies and we brought them home to Tallahassee. When we moved to this house in 1996, we made sure we brought them with us. Like the family of my grandparents, they have multiplied and spread. Every year the daylilies blaze in the summer garden and remind me of my Kentucky roots. (Pun intended.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stunning Fungus

We have had rain every day this week. While spraying some poison ivy Saturday morning, B and I discovered a small oak log with beautiful fungi growing on it. I was not able to identify it, though it might be an Exidia.  These are jelly fungi. There were three  on the same log.


Below is the same fungus from the other side.


The little specks are tiny insects that I assume are feeding on the fungus.

This one was not so well formed, but it was interesting to see the tiny snail (in the middle) also feeding on it. That may account for its rather sad, squishy look.


But this one is formed much like a double camellia:



Saturday, June 6, 2009

It’s a Sign!

Seen over a local barbecue place:


Swine Flew!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Got Taters!

B went to Gramblings (seed and feed) early in the spring and got some seed potatoes to plant in the yard. We have not grown any in years, but obviously he has not lost his touch. The tops of the plants have been slowly dying (indicating they are “done'”) and today he dug up the rest of the crop. We had eaten some once before.


I collected only the babies for supper tonight. All of these are less than 2 inches in diameter.


After I boiled them, I put them in a white sauce for creamed potatoes. I added a sprinkle of rosemary on top.



Monday, June 1, 2009

Did You Hear the One About the Pole….?

This just seems to be another example of bureaucracies not communicating.

Here we have a turn lane.


And here we have a wooden utility pole.



I guess that whole plan eliminates the need for a stop or yield sign or a sign that reads, “No turn on red.”

The lane is blocked at both ends. But you will note that the road was paved, curbed and painted with the pole in place.

Good grief.

When I was young, the poor people from Poland were singled out and were the butt of many a Polock joke. I had all but forgotten this until I began to think about how ridiculous the placement of this pole is. This time the joke is on us.