Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Peacocks in the Goat Pen

There are peacocks that live in the goat pen that I pass on the way to and from school each day. One morning recently, I heard them screaming as I stopped at the four-way stop. And there was a beautiful blue one and, for once, I had my camera.

I was driving off when I spotted the white one. I occasionally see it, but have never had the chance to photograph it. 

One time when I was passing, I heard it scream: I turned and watched as it hopped down out of a live oak. Now, that was a sight!

Over the weekend, B had to stop his truck to allow four of these peacocks to cross the road. Do they make "peacock crossing" signs?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Give Me a Dirt Road Most Any Day...

And if it is a canopy dirt road--meaning the trees grow together over the top-- so much the better!

We can take this road to our garden plot. It is an old cotton wagon road. Roads near our  home used to  look like this, but they have been paved and with that lost much of their charm. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mailbox Monday: Old, Moldy Frog

This is part of the series of boxes from the California ones my son sent. This one is "decorated" with a large rubber bullfrog and some other animals. (That is enough to make the mail carrier croak.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Indigo Blues

We have been spotting some indigo buntings in our community vegetable garden over the past few weeks. They are not common here and fairly shy. My first attempt at capturing them in a photo was pretty sad. My new camera wanted to focus on the wild grapevine and left me with a beautiful blue blob. The bird was flitting all around and presented quite a challenge and I ended up with this one shot below. 

On my second attempt, I just sat in the truck and waited to see them. There were three or more and I was able to catch one male feeding in the hay seeds that have sprouted in one garden after being used for mulch last summer.

I will keep trying. They are such gorgeous birds!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Shocking Pink

One recent Sunday afternoon, B and I took on the task of removing some goldenrod, spiderwort and crossvine from a butterfly garden. These are plants that you give an inch and they---well, you know. They had certainly expanded their territories during the late spring and it was time to tame them back a little. In fact, they had grown so dense in there that it would not have surprised me at all to find a snake hiding in their shade. This has happened on several occasions in this very flower bed and I always seem to be the one who disturbs them enough to get them moving before I am ever aware they are even there. The gray rat snake was huge and, for that reason, shocking. But there have been cottonmouth moccasins, as well.

So I had B out there with me for reinforcement and another pair of eyes as we cut. (But he has probably learned not to stand behind me in these situations!)

What my eyes found was not a snake--- but even more shocking: a pink katydid.

B discovered a second one while I was taking pictures.

I did a little research and sent the pictures to an entomologist who found them interesting, too. From him I learned that this is most likely the color these will be throughout all of their life stages and that it has nothing to do with their diet. It is called erythrism, meaning odd pink colors that show up occasionally in animals. This is related to a recessive gene, similar to albinoism. Pink katydids were first described in 1887 and are said to be as rare as 1 in 500, which does not actually sound all that rare to me!

I also learned that with katydids, unlike with crickets and cicadas, both male and females make noises by rubbing their hind legs together.  In those other insects, only the males make sounds. They hear with ears on their front legs! Imagine if our bodies were designed that way:  pants would need ear holes.

I already said we were gardening: hands get dirty when you garden!

One in the hand is worth two in the bush!

I went back the next night and caught one and put it in a jar and took it to school with food. Folks were amazed. I said to the art teacher, "If we were told to color a katydid, how many of us would think to make it pink?" After determining that the University of Florida did not need it for research, I decided that we can grow enough plants for the pink katydids to eat and us to enjoy as well: I put it back where I found it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Don't Try This At Home!

As I pulled out of the driveway to go to school one morning, I noticed a large katydid on the windshield. I took its picture when I stopped 2 blocks later.

Nine miles later, it was still hanging on when I drove in the school parking lot!

Car surfing--- even for katydids--- is dangerous! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Lighthouse Grounds

There are the most wonderful oaks on the grounds of the St. Augustine lighthouse. What they lack in girth, they more than make up for in form.

We loved how the branches of this old tree grew over the garden wall and onto the ground, only to rise and drop again.

So beautiful, don't you think?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Seeing the Light: Patterns, Patterns Everywhere

We went on an outing with our new grandson and his parents. After lunch, we went to the St. Augustine lighthouse.

We had already bought our tickets when we discovered that the baby was not permitted to be carried-- even in his harness carrier that fits snugly on his parent's chest--up inside the lighthouse. So B and I went on and they went for a walk to a public dock.

This is the lighthouse entrance. We were told there are 1.25 million bricks in the lighthouse that stands 165 feet.

We began the ascent.

Here is looking up.

There are 219 steps with six landings.

This "two-man" wrench was used at the top to adjust some really big nuts. 

This was above the top exit. I was holding up the line to get this shot; I wish I had been able to get some closer.

At the top is a platform catwalk.

It was more than a tad windy up there, but the views were fairly spectacular.

This wood stork flew past.

We were able to spot our little family on a dock far below.

They took our picture, too!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Peacock Pictures: Strutting Our Stuff

We have been learning about birds at school. I had shown my kindergarten students the peacock pictures I had taken a few weeks ago. About the same time, I came across a picture on Pinterest that showed a child-made peacock picture. Well, clicking on the link did not take you to the information about making the picture, but to a different technique. So I made it up.

First the children painted "pretty papers," like Eric Carle does for his popular children's  books, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar. When those were dry, I pressed them flat by putting building blocks on them. Then each child traced and cut out feathers from the cool blues and circles that fit on the feather tips from the red-orange paper.

I painted each child's hand and they stamped it on white paper. I cut those out and the blue necks and the white of the eyes. The children used their fingerprints to add texture to the necks and colored a white Avery sticker red and black for the iris and pupil and glued that on the white eye part. The children did all of their own assembly and here are two of the products. 

I think they are fabulous!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Butterfly Ballet

This is a hairstreak butterfly. In the right light, the grey patch between the orange ones (that looked red at the time), was bright blue.  The scales of butterflies do not have pigment, but show their colors by optical effects, such as refraction, diffraction and interference.  So it really is all about the light with butterfly colors. 

There were two, and sometimes three, of these butterflies that were quite entertaining as they flitted and danced around our little bed of coreopsis in the backyard for more than a week in the late afternoon sun. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Power of Green Stamps

I took this picture in the parking lot of an old private airport (of all places) just outside of Tallahassee. The sign seems to always catch my eye whenever I drive past--which is not often. It brings on waves of nostalgia. You see, I am a licker, and before you give that too much thought let me explain that this tongue has licked a lot of stamps. I can still taste the almost minty gum that had to be moistened in order to stick the stamps into the books. Today, I would most definitely use a damp sponge;  those were different times. And who knows, all that glue may explain a few things about me.

The books came from the stores that gave out the stamps as an incentive to shop at their establishments. The customer received stamps based on the dollar amount spent.

Now, there were three different kinds of stamps in my small town: green, yellow and plaid all competing for your business. Yellow came from Quik Chek, which eventually became Winn Dixie. Plaid stamps came from the A & P grocery, which incidentally had the best toys at Christmas. But the green stamps came from Publix, as well as our Standard Oil gas station, which at that time was selling gas--none of this unleaded stuff---for $0.30 a gallon.

The green stamps were considered the best value. Once licked and stuck into the books, they could be redeemed at the Green Stamp Store.

Our closest was in the next town, perhaps 15 miles from our house. There was a color catalog printed each year to help with choices. Mama let me lick and stick and then, usually, I was allowed to choose what we would spend them on. There was an array of choices: glassware to card tables, any kind of linen to framed pictures for your wall, Bibles to fans, cameras to trashcans, radios to pots and pans, irons to garden hoses.  It went on and on until you reached a new car. Yes, each year, there was actually a new car in the back of the catalog that for a bajillion books, you could actually order.

According to Wikipedia, Sperry and Hutchinson began their green stamp program in 1896. (Just want you to know, I was not on the planet quite yet!)  "During the 1960s, (OK that is my era) the rewards catalog printed by the company was the largest publication in the United States and the company issued three times as many stamps as the U. S. Postal Service." By 1999, there were fewer than 100 stores issuing Green Stamps and now the plan has been modified to offer "green points" for online purchases.

I still own things that came from the stamp store!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Seeing Red

We have a pair of red-shouldered hawks that live on our school grounds.  One year, someone told me about the site of their nest and I took my students where we could hear their baby demanding to be fed. 
This morning, I finally took their picture in their usual spot: a very high television antenna, a remnant of by-gone technology, repurposed into a perch ---with a bird's eye view, no doubt!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mailbox Monday: California Dreamin'

Our son took some mailbox pictures for me when he was in California. This long row of mailboxes had some pretty unique ones. Some of them will show up better on future Mondays.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Snake

B and I spotted this diamondback rattler at the same time. We stopped and watched it cross the road.

We did NOT get out of the truck. The new camera has a nice zoom.

A small truck came barreling through and straddled the snake as it coiled and lifted its head and about a foot of its body. I got excited and missed that shot, pushing  all the wrong buttons on my new camera!

After that, it slowly moved on.

Looking at the picture, we think there are four rattles and a button and that sounds about right for the four feet of length that B estimated. But, goodness, it was thick!

Once it was on the grass, it disappeared entirely.