Saturday, August 23, 2014

Millipedes and Efts

Spending a few days in the Champlain Valley with family, which always includes a hike up Mt. Philo in Charlotte, VT. Although not quite 1000' in elevation, the mountain offers great views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains beyond. Although yesterday morning when we hiked it was misting and socked in. This kept our attention on small things, up close. Two favorite sightings: red efts and millipedes, both favor damp days to move about and forage.

This common North American millipede is 3-4 inches long with a lovely pattern of reddish bands on its body and many legs.

We helped several red efts across the road that the serves as a hiking trail. One eft in particular caught our attention. Its belly was bulging and part of a caterpillar was sticking out of its mouth. This one caught a good meal. I rarely catch them eating their prey.
Always a lovely day on Mt. Philo, rain or shine.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Luscious Peaches

My grandmother (Gram) liked the word luscious. I think she used it when eating a lamb chop that she bought once a month when she got her social security check. Or maybe it related to a hot cup of tea. Two of her favorite foods.

I'm reminded of her this week as we are enjoying luscious peaches from our Red Haven tree.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Big Black Horse Fly

Last week seems serene now in retrospect. Afternoon and nighttime rains brought out many adorable, tiny spring peepers. I saw four in one day sitting quietly on leaves in our yard.
Equally delightful small red efts dotted moist woodland trails.
This week it was more about the insects. We often have insects flying or crawling about the inside of our house--bugs, flies, spiders, moths, and other smallish things that sneak in an open door or on the dogs or in a basket of harvested vegetables. They don't bother me. This week we found a lovely moth, with markings similar to a religious cloak -- I identified it as a clymene moth (Haploa clymene), a type of tiger moth. Cool, right?

Today was a little darker. After I finished some field work around midday, got into my car and rolled down the windows, I heard a low buzz. It sounded at first like a bee but then I saw this really HUGE fly (more than one inch long) on the hatch window. Well, I wasn't about to drive off with that buzzing about. I got out and took a few snaps through the window. This fly was all black and reminded me immediately of Darth Vader. Except, when I looked it up on the Internet after getting home (and after I allowed it to escape my car) I learned that it was a female black horse fly (Tabanus atratus). The males feed on nectar, while the females require mammalian blood. She was looking for a meal, but I escaped. Although, when she finally flew out of the car she zoomed around the car and me a few times; she could smell the CO2 in my breath. So, I jumped back in the car and zoomed off the other way.

Here she is....I was a little intimidated! 
I read online that they don't bite humans often, but when they do it is a memorable experience. I prefer the cute little peepers and efts.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An Oasis

Now and then we think about moving from the country into town. Our nearest store is about 5 miles, and anything else we might need or want is that far or farther. So we have to drive to get to things. Sometimes we dream about living in a place where we can walk to a store or library or restaurant. We could then use our car less, a good deed for the health of the planet.

Then we think about the good parts of living out of town, which, so far, have convinced us to stay put: the quiet road, nearby open spaces, dark night skies, and our yard, including all the plants and animals that we share it with.

Just last week, as I collected Japanese beetles into a soapy container and picked wild growing raspberries in our backyard, I spotted two spring peepers. They each sat quietly on a raspberry leaf, likely newborns from the nearby wetland, as they were smaller than a raspberry.
These guys are adorable and I take great pleasure in knowing they live in our yard. Our animal community is diverse and beautiful, including this lovely female goldenrod (crab) spider on a purple coneflower.
A family of hummingbirds visits our flower beds all summer, along with butterflies, bees and so many other insects. Deer, skunks, foxes, turkeys, and other small and mid-sized animals wander through. 

Our yard is an oasis. While neighbors spray and blow away every leaf from their yard, we tend to encourage the opposite. Each day we are rewarded with interesting sights and sounds--each a reason to stay in the country. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Potatoes, Beans, and Lots of Zukes & Cukes

In full swing here with summer vegetable harvest. The Red Norland potato plants are looking drab so I dug a few hills and uncovered the following for dinner....
I collected and will eat even those peanut-sized taters, but most were the size of lemons. Not bad. And we escaped the season without potato beetles. Yahoo, although the cucumber beetle adults and larvae were bad enough.

I also picked a handful of green beans today. Not enough for a meal so those went into the fridge. The few sugar snap pea plants that survived the early deer browse are producing a few (very few), but very sweet pea pods. Added to a green salad they are delicious, along with ones and twos of sun gold and cherry tomatoes.
The real producers right now (in addition to the steady supply of kale and Swiss chard) are the zucchinis and cucumbers.
Last week I passed off a few baseball bat-sized zucchinis to friends. They took them only because their plants were not producing yet. Plus, there is always room for another loaf of zucchini bread (have you tried adding mini chocolate bits?!).  Last night I set out a few zukes and cukes by the road with a "free" sign and was glad to see them gone by morning.

Next up--in a few days--eggplant.