Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Few Interesting Trees in the Red Hills

We took a two and half hour hike with friends Saturday down trails in a local greenway that is in the outskirts of Tallahassee. This sign shows that both Red Oaks and red clay are found in the Red Hills region.


It was interesting and the scenery varied some as we wound through the woods alongside a road, but mostly not within hearing distance of the cars on it. We crossed a little stream a couple of times and could see where the water had raced on Thursday when we had almost 5 inches of rain in one day.

There were a number of trees that had fused together as they grew, creating interesting forms and holes.



The resurrection ferns were happy after the rain.


Look how the bark had slipped off in one huge piece and just stood there, supported by briar vines.


This pine tree had grown in a knot.


A walk in the woods is never boring.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday: Lighthouses



the overachiever!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Turn Around…. Recalculating…. Turn Around.


We took the new GPS in the car to the beach last Sunday. It was a little stressed as we approached the dead-end at the shoreline.  It kept saying: “Turn around…..recalculating….Turn around….”  The stop sign is a good idea, as the pavement has washed away during some storm or other and there is quite a drop-off.

It was a cold, windy day at the beach and the sun was weak so only a few other brave souls were out. For a time, we were the only ones there, sitting in the car drinking our tea and hot chocolate after getting chilled on our walk.




We walked out on a skinny little peninsula. On the inland side was a sort of brackish pond. All of the water had the tannins from the Ochlockonee River that comes into the bay there. The north wind was blowing it right out. The pure, white sand we were walking on on the peninsula dropped off steeply on the pond side and had been shaped by the waves and wind.


I thought the contrast and form was interesting.


When we reached the end of the peninsula, we had to take the advice the GPS had originally offered and…. turn around.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tedd Arnold’s Visit

Children’s book author and illustrator, Tedd Arnold, paid a visit to our school Friday. He spoke to grade-levels of children, varying his talk to the age group.  We got to hear him first, but the consensus throughout the day was that he was very entertaining.

He read a couple of his books to us. (He has more than forty books published to date.)


He talked about how he gets his inspiration.


But best of all, I thought were his drawings that he quickly created as we watched.



One of my co-teachers made herself some precious shoes that were supposed to be a frog from his story---complete with flies.


Tedd Arnold graduated from the University of Florida. At one time, he was a teacher in a local elementary school here in Tallahassee but most of his life has been spent in a small town in New York.

We took pictures of our classes with him.

Before he left he autographed a pile of books. Some were new and others we already owned. I look forward to getting mine back on Monday.

Friday, January 22, 2010

FETC Conference in Orlando

I went with a group from my school to a conference whose mission is to keep educators informed of the latest technology resources and strategies for working with our students. It is always held at the Orlando Conference Center, which is HUGE. So huge that people may use Segway type vehicles to get around inside.




It was a great conference and I learned a lot. Amazingly, the best presenter I heard was a young girl of only thirteen, Adora Svitak. She was poised, informative, and funny while doing a fast-paced hour-long plus presentation that incorporated the Promethean Board shown in this photo. Notice the toolbar down the right side. This commands this board by the use of a special pen. We in her class also used handheld devices that looked similar to TV remotes with keys for texting our answers which were then shown on the board. Sometimes her questions were multiple choice and then the a, b, c, and d would appear on our screens and we simply selected and it would again show the totals on the big screen, sometimes in graphs. Video clips were imbedded in her presentation and were streamed onto the same screen.

102_2445 Adora

Thanks to our wonderful PTA, our school is in the process of obtaining these incredible teaching tools that I have, no doubt, described  poorly. Some of our teachers have already begun their training and I will in the near future. From the conference, I learned just how important it is to use some of the new technology to get and hold the attention of kids who have been accustomed to it since the crib. It will still be much of the same content but the presentation will be the difference.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Wouldn’t Count On an Air Potato Famine

No, you don’t eat them. (Though they are in the yam family, they are toxic.)

They eat you.

Well, not really but they might smother you if you stood still long enough.  Dioscorea bulbifera is known for its rapid growth: about 8 inches in a day. The vine can reach 70 feet in length. They may have heart-shaped leaves, but there is no love for them in Florida where they were first introduced in 1905. They originated in Africa. Now they are listed on the Florida invasive species list.

Our son had his own battle with air potato vine at a student rental house in Gainesville. There is a vine at Newport that has covered trees and buildings, similar to kudzu. So we cheered when we saw it has succumbed to the cold.

The light was all wrong, so please forgive the poor quality of the pictures.100_9759


No doubt it will recover and come back from the tubers. (sigh)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

There’s Brown---- and Then There’s BLACK

With two weeks of ultra-low temperatures, a number of our garden plants have taken a hit. We expect that most of them will recover, including the shrimp plants in the butterfly garden. Unlike most of the plants that turn brown in the cold, shrimp plants turn black.


Anybody need flowers for an over-the-hill birthday party?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mailbox Monday: Kitties

The cat on this mailbox is the flag.

This mailbox has a cat on top of it. Gotta love the cat tracks on the side.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Frozen Fountain Fun

In a plaza downtown, there are several fountains. The water had been turned off, but not drained from the basins. With all the cold weather, the water had frozen. For Floridians, this is interesting stuff.


We found it funny that not only were there pennies on the bottom, there were pennies sitting on the ice.


And not only that; pennies could be made to stand on their edge in the ice.


Check out the patterns in the ice.



Saturday, January 9, 2010


Today was another cold one like many others recently. After it warmed up to 32, it pretty much sat there all day.   The difference was that it was Saturday and we did not have to go to work. So what do you do when it is too cold to do much outside? Well, we like to go for a drive because it is warm in the car or truck, especially on a sunny day. So we ended up going to the lighthouse and we were so glad to find that the signs that had blocked us from walking the bayside beach were no longer up. There were several different kinds of small, migratory birds foraging on the beach. This line of scrub on the right serves as a windbreak for that cold north wind and it was almost pleasant on the beach---in my scarf, hat, two jackets, boots, etc.


During the afternoon, we think we set a personal record for seeing 5 bald eagles. There were thousands of coots---no, really. There were more coots to be seen than I have ever seen in one location. There were lots of migratory ducks, too. In one spot, I counted nine great blue herons.

Here is a female anhinga warming in a bit of sun.


Those who could find a protected spot did pretty well.


But out in the open, it was enough “to chill a mockingbird.”



Thursday, January 7, 2010

As a Matter of Fact, It Changed Its State

One of the concepts we teach in kindergarten is the three states of matter. (And yes, I have read about plasma, but so far, I only mention it in passing to my students.) Water of course can provide a good example of matter changing its state. In Florida, our opportunities to see ice form naturally outside are limited---and to tell the truth, I am fine with that.

This week, though, we are setting some records for cold temperatures and on Monday morning, we went out to find our rain barrel with a sheet of ice covering it.

100_9744Today was our first day back to school with the kids. The rain gauge was frozen solid and the kids were ecstatic!

The swamps that I drive through on the way to school have been covered with ice the past two mornings. We were officially recorded at 16 degrees yesterday.

For a while, they were talking of snow on Thursday; that has been dropped to a sleet warning. Oh, goody.

What state are we in?

Guess we do live in north Florida!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Heads Up, Hobos!

B noticed this warning sign on the train tracks at Metcalf near the sawmill.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Last Tree Ornament and the Man Who Named It

B  worked in the garage as I packed up the Christmas decorations. Our tree was wonderfully tall again this year and even with a chair, I could not reach the very top to remove the last of the light cord and final ornaments. B came to help with a step ladder and discovered when he thought he was finished, yet one last ornament: a tussock moth caterpillar perched at the top, posing as an angel, I suppose. Or maybe a long, skinny star.


After I shot the picture above, it dropped and disappeared in the tree. We did not find it again until the tree was outside in better light.

It is a beautiful creature. I love the  coloring; the black tips on the long hairs are so striking.


I was having some trouble with the automatic focus and so we transferred the caterpillar to a different branch (that was fir) to take the picture below.


Again, I called on the IFAS rep to help me out with the identification. I had gotten as far as tussock moth. He took it further to a more specific, Dasychira manto. This works for our geographical area, as well as for the fact that their main food source for this larvae is pine. He said that they do not have stinging hairs, but still some folks seem to be sensitive to them. I won’t be touching it.

I noticed on a webpage that a person by the name of Strecker was credited with the name, dated 1900. So since I had not found much about the caterpillar, my mind wandered to who this Strecker person might have been. Below is a summary of what I learned.

Ferdinand Heinrich Hermann Strecker was born in 1836 to German  (no kidding!) parents who had immigrated to Pennsylvania. He began work following in his father’s footsteps as a stonecutter and sculptor. He must have been quite bright as he became fluent in several languages and as a young man, he began to travel extensively, especially in the Americas. As he traveled, he collected butterflies and moths. This became his true passion. His collection became the largest on this side of the Atlantic at its time: 200,000 individuals, including 300 new species and around 150 new subspecies. One of these, it can be supposed was Dasychira manto.  At his death in 1901, some of this collection was sold  to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Strecker also wrote and illustrated  a major work on this topic: Lepidoptera Rhopaloceres and Heteroceres, Indigenous and Exotic, with Descriptions and Colored Illustrations. He illustrated over 300 specimens in the book.

So, thank you, Mr. Strecker, for your many contributions to the study of entomology.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mailbox Monday: Christmas Critters

Here are three more my sister sent from Key Largo.






Saturday, January 2, 2010

Kid-Art Ceramics

Our public elementary school where I teach has a strong commitment to art.  While many of us have art experiences built into our regular classroom curriculum, we are also blessed with two fantastic art teachers.

Just before we let out for our winter break, there was an exhibit in the media center of ceramic pieces done by third through fifth grade students in their art classes. I took a few shots of some of my favorites.



I liked the background drawn to go with the ceramic fish.


The pieces above were glazed. These ceramic tiles are painted with acrylics in colors that really pop.  Some of the students wrote poems to go with their pieces.




Well done, guys!