Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Enchanted Forest: Down The Rabbit Hole

The very strange adventures of Alice... shrinking and growing.
Sounds like the modern everyday woman to me.
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does." ~ The Duchess, Alice in Wonderland
The gorgeous playhouse exhibition at Norfolk Botanical Gardens is only a few days away from closing. We have visited Jack and the Beanstalk, The Crooked Man, Red Riding Hood's Grandmother, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Old MacDonald's Farm. Only three more to go and this installment takes us on a wild adventure with strange mushrooms, rabbits wearing top hats and grinning cats that only show their bright smiles.

Looking in... what will they find? The Queen of Hearts or perhaps the Knave.

The house is bright, covered with red hearts and hats and grins and yellow-orange eyes and inside things are larger or smaller than they seem.. actually, nothing looks to be as it seems! I think this was the most colorful house of them all. And the mushrooms... the biggest most adorable mushrooms you could ever hope to see. I love how the little boy with the baseball cap just stood and contemplated those fake mushrooms for what seemed like forever.

Welcome... to Alice's Adventure in Imagination. Posted by Picasa

This is my entry for Ruby Tuesday... and what great ruby slippers there were inside. NO. Wait! That was another story, the one with a dog and a yellow brick road and a scarecrow I believe. So enjoy and if you happen to live in the Tidewater area... hurry on to the gardens to see them before they disappear off into children's back yards.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Mellow Yellow Butterfly Summer

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, sipping a little lavender nectar.
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"Bees sip honey from flowers and hum their thanks when they leave. The gaudy butterfly is sure that the flowers owe thanks to him." ~ Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds
Tiger swallowtail butterflies regularly visit the lantana and lavender for nectar around our house. They are larger than the black swallowtail and fly high into the trees of the preserve. Host plants for the caterpillars are primarily trees and shrubs such as the tulip tree, sweet bay, wild black cherry, ash, lilac, aspen, birch, or choke cherry and we don't have any in our yard, but at least one of these trees should be out in the preserve. After the experience with fennel and black swallowtails, I'm glad we don't have the host plants.

August is "butterfly month" Posted by Picasa

This has been a bumper year for butterflies here. Perhaps the heat, perhaps planting the flowers.. who knows exactly why, but there have been at least ten different varieties of butterflies in our yard... sometimes all at the same time. I love to sit on the deck and watch as two or three flit and dance together in mid-air or tease me by flying around my head. Unbelievable beauty in such a delicate package. Amazing!

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Skeletal Remains And A "Moving" Experience

Skeletal remains of the fennel with the culprits in plain view.... black swallowtail caterpillars.
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar." ~ Bradley Millar
August is "butterfly" month; the time of year when butterflies are in the passion of procreation at a heated pitch. Some are laying eggs to hatch and enter the chrysalis stage to overwinter and others are seeking to create the population that will migrate south. I am overrun.... with caterpillars. To date, we have had three batches of black swallowtails take flight.... total number 24. They have completely destroyed three dill plants and almost did the fennel in back in early July. The fennel rebounded after clever, or at least partially clever netting of the plant (Except for that one female that somehow found a way under the net), and by removing the eggs as soon as they were deposited. I also admit that I removed small caterpillars and put them in the bird feeder for the somewhat stupid goldfinch who can't seem to realize that they have a smorgasbord of live protein just a few feet from the thistle. Still when she moved to the parsley, I relented and we even bought parsley bunches at the store to take care of the caterpillars we brought inside.

In the last week, the swallowtails have gone nuts and I could not keep up with the monitoring and they have now destroyed the parsley, yes really, it is just sticks... no leaves. The fennel was on its last lap and loaded as pictured with caterpillars in all instar stages.

But it wasn't just the swallowtails.

Monarch caterpillar... a milkweed eating machine Posted by Picasa

To date we have had fourteen Monarchs emerge and take flight. Four are ready to emerge any morning now. The Monarchs only eat milkweed. I planted a bucket load of milkweed and different varieties. Some bloomed with orange flowers and had smaller plants and leaves. Others grew tall and almost bushy and did not bloom at all this year. Most of these I grew from seed. I put six groupings of plants in the flower beds and another three groupings of milkweed out next to the preserve. It took me most of the summer to be able to see the tiny single eggs the Monarch lays and it was not until July that we saw the caterpillars. I would look and look and suddenly there they were, large and eating up a storm. I have cut the milkweed back after they have stripped the leaves and it re-grows the leaves, but in the last two weeks the Monarchs seem to be in a frenzy, just as the others. So, I started bringing in caterpillars and setting up new houses and used an old cracked plastic fish tank and screen lid to start another and I have cut milkweed and cut milkweed and still they show up. In addition to the four chrysalides that are ready to emerge I have 18 in newly formed chrysalides and over 25 still eating. They can go through six large sprigs of milkweed leaves in one night. And still I found more and more caterpillars.

Monday it became clear that the milkweed would not make it through until the last group hatched and emerged and the Monarch left for migration. My largest patch of milkweed was completely stripped of the leaves and like the fennel, only skeletal remains of the stems were seen. Poor caterpillars were walking on the ground to try and find more milkweed. I called the Norfolk Botanical Garden and asked if they needed any.... no, but I could bring them and put them out in the outdoor butterfly garden. They had milkweed but they would have to fend for themselves in nature. I called the Butterfly Society to see if anyone else raising them had more milkweed... but no one answered my plea.

So, yesterday morning, Stephen and I went to the botanical garden. I took two containers with screened lids. I collected the black swallowtail first. They don't like to be handled so I cut the fennel they were attached to off into the container. I got them off the parsley and removed all the remaining eggs I could find. In total there were 32 black swallowtail caterpillars. Most were in the middle to late instars. Then I started gathering the Monarchs. I had told the lady at the botanical garden that I thought we had about 30 Monarch caterpillars still outside but I was wrong... really, really wrong. When I had collected all that I could find, they numbered 80.

At the botanical garden, they pointed me to the huge patch of fennel and we let the black swallowtails go on the leaves and on the ground at the base of the fennel. I think the sheer number of the Monarchs took the lady by surprise and she suggested we put them out in the wild butterfly maze. It was a different type of milkweed with large pods, native but invasive. The Monarchs are better behaved than the swallowtails and the caterpillars will walk onto your finger and then on to the plant. We tried to spread them out a bit but I know that within a few days that patch of milkweed will look dilapidated. Even though they had to endure a long moving experience and new and different tasting milkweed and even though they too have to brave the elements in their quest to become regal butterflies, at least they won't go hungry.

Of course, when I returned home, I had to clean out all the caterpillar frass (poop) from the (now) four butterfly houses in the sunroom and cut more stems and leaves to feed the ones I kept. In the process, I found five more that somehow hid away from me in the morning morning and magically appeared last night. I check every milkweed leaf for eggs and brush them off now.

Oh, some of the wild milkweed pods were breaking open, so I took some seed. The garden lady said this was "sneaky" invasive, so we are going to plant them out at the edge of the preserve... along the road and on the other side of our section. Perhaps then we will be able to handle the numbers next year.

(end of post)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Now That's A Spicy Hot Papaya

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya'... a real firecracker in the garden. Posted by Picasa

"It can be a fascinating game, noticing how any person with vitality and vigor will have a little splash of red in a costume, in a room, or in a garden..." ~ Edgar Cayce
We haven't seen the first cool weather of fall as yet, but it seems as if a change is coming. Many of the plants are past their prime and looking a bit ragged. Of course it doesn't help that the Monarch and Black Swallowtail butterflies have gone into overdrive with laying eggs on the milkweed and fennel and now the parsley turned into a bunch of straight leafless sticks as did the milkweed.... overnight. I expect the fennel will be gone by morning. I have called the botanical garden and the butterfly society and it seems that this is a problem everywhere. I don't have enough to take care of the final group of Monarchs... those that have to migrate south. So, probably this morning I will gather the 30 or so Monarch caterpillars on what milkweed I have left and the Black Swallowtail on what is left of the fennel and take them to the botanical garden. They said I can release them in the outdoor butterfly garden... they have plenty of milkweed and Queen Anne's Lace to go around.

As for my coneflowers, they are in the process of winding down as well. So far the finch have shown no interest in the seedheads. At this point the white varieties and this bright red 'Hot Papaya' are still blooming and drawing the butterflies. Thank goodness I haven't found any local butterfly species that love to eat coneflowers!

Plans are in the works to clean up some of the chaos that is my flower bed. I am going to take up ALL the mint and plant it in a large container. Spearmint and peppermint plants really get out of hand fast and try to take over everything. One of the lessons learned. Love the mint, just want to keep it under control. It is time to dispense with the sunflowers... the seeds are ready for the birds.... if they will just take notice. And, I really need to get on with my plant journal as pruning season is here for several of the shrubs and I need to figure out how and when and get going.

But for today, this is one of my favorite (they are all my favorite actually) coneflowers.... the blazing fiery red 'Hot Papaya'. I think I must put a few of these out next to the preserve next summer!

(end of post)
Ruby Tuesday

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Enchanted Forest: Down On The Farm

Old MacDonald's Farm.... the original song with no end.
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"Childhood is the world of miracle and wonder; as if creation rose, bathed in the light, out of the darkness, utterly new and fresh and astonishing. The end of childhood is when things cease to astonish us." ~ Eugene Ionesco
The Enchanted Forest exhibit of children's playhouses at the Norfolk Botanical Garden only runs for another two weeks. Then the playhouses will go to the back yards of a few lucky children. We have visited Jack and the Beanstalk, The Crooked Man, Red Riding Hood's Grandmother and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Today we take a tour of that most famous of childhood farmers.... Old MacDonald. His barn was voted "Most Sustainable" in the exhibit, perhaps from the small garden at the side or the presence of succulents growing in shallow dishes on the side roofs. Several buildings at the gardens have roofs with "living plant shingles" and these help keep the buildings cooler in the summer.

Farmer MacDonald breaks with tradition and has a lovely yellow barn.... we approve.

Hanging from the large trees in the barnyard are two swinging horses, hoping someone will let down that dangling bale of hay so they can eat. Stairs lead up to a loft. On one side are windows or stalls, for the horses and cows; on the other side is a small farmer's market stall. In the back yard there is the farmer's cow and a slide out the back of the barn... this is probably another break in tradition, I don't know of too many barns with a slide out the back.

A mellow yellow market, vegetable patch according to the alphabet, and MacDonald's cow.... where are the chickens?

I loved all the nooks and crannys and small side doors and long windows; many places for kids to climb in and out of. And those horse swings, when I was a kid I was in to horses although I never had one or even rode except on rare occasions. I had a stick horse until graduating to my bicycle which became my tall graceful black stallion that let me ride like the wind, even though the bike was blue and with my penchant to falling off it lacked a lot of grace. I would have been in heaven to have one of these hanging horses... and the large tree to support them.

Old MacDonald's barn.... wouldn't the old farmer be proud! Posted by Picasa

Only three more playhouses to go. All enchanting and I think the kids will be sad to see them go this fall. But, I am always curious to see what they will think of next... something wonderful I have no doubt! This mellow yellow barn fits right in for Mellow Yellow Monday.

PS: The correct spelling of MacDonald comes up... is it "Mac" or "Mc". I thought it was "Mc" but the designers chose the MacDonald version so we will just go with it. This children's song reminds me of the time my daughter took her teddy bear to church. Teddy was always with her, even in the hospital when she was first born. He was special. Press his tummy and he played twelve childrens songs... in a row. Old MacDonald was the first song. The thing is, if Teddy started playing he wouldn't stop... until the end. If you pressed his tummy again, he would simply start over... Old MacDonald. Well, her PaPa accidentally sat on Teddy after the hymn just before the pastoral prayer and the glorious strains of "Old MacDonald had a farm... ee-i-ee-i-oh" rang out across the silent sanctuary. Papa in his flustered state kept pressing Teddy's tummy to get him to stop and that only made him repeat "Old MacDonald had a farm"... over and over. At this point most of the congregation is in stitches, his face is red and we just had to take Teddy outside. He was going to play for about ten minutes. At least he didn't sing the words as well!

(end of post)


Friday, August 20, 2010

The Enchanted Forest: Simple Adventures

Childhood's simple adventures begin.....
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again." ~ Elizabeth Lawrence
Carmi's theme this week is "kids" and at this stop on the Enchanted Forest review we found lots and lots of kids. We have visited Jack and the Beanstalk, The Crooked Man, and Red Riding Hood's Grandmother. Today we find Huckleberry Finn setting out on his magical adventures on the Mississippi River. This stop is a little different than the others for you see, there is no house. Huck's raft was his house, but what a raft this is!

Huckleberry Finn's floating home

It is located in a clearing with a four way bouncing see-saw made out of wood as well as a rough hewn regular teeter-totter. The raft is made of wood, the timbers tied together and the raft base mounted on a stiff spring so that it floats above the forest floor and rocks as the children climb and walk over the surface. A cloth tent is centrally located... to protect Huck from the wind and rain on the rolling river. The large stick rudder is moveable but someone must always be available to control it, if not this raft might float off course. And what proper raft would be without a flag!

This attraction was never without visitors.... Posted by Picasa

This exhibit was voted the "Most Interactive" and while we were there it was always inhabited by children. Of course the most interesting things happened... kids started pretending and playing different parts.... making up their own adventure stories.... imagining. Yes, imagination was out in full force... isn't that wonderful? With all the video games and television the individual imagination doesn't have the chance to expand. Here it did. Kids imagined, interacted with each other and wove together beautiful adventures. What a great play raft.... as long as you aren't prone to be seasick. This raft really "rocked"!

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Carmi's Theme... "Kids"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lady In Waiting

A lady in waiting... an American Lady butterfly. (Vanessa virginiensis)
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"I've watched you now a full half-hour;
Self-poised upon that yellow flower
And, little Butterfly! Indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless! - not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!"
~ William Wordsworth, "To a Butterfly"
Early this summer our flowers were almost overrun by these lovely ladies, quite friendly, fluttering close to anything with color, even seersucker shirts. These are related to but slightly different from "Painted Lady" butterflies, (Vanessa cardui). The Painted Lady has four rounded "eyespots" on the under hindwing while the American has only two and they are slightly larger. There is also a slight variation to the red and black pattern on the underside of the forewing, most obvious is the small rectangular red patch with a central white dot that is typical of the American Lady. We have both here in coastal Virginia, but this year the American Lady was more prominent.

Clockwise from top left: Coneflower "Hot Summer", Lantana "Chapel Hill Gold", Lantana "Miss Huff",
Butterfly bush (Buddleia), and Coneflower "Fragrant Angel".

The information site lists the favorite nectar plants including goldenrod, marigold and milkweed. Yes, they did love the milkweed flowers, but as you can see they also adored the coneflowers, lantana, butterfly bush and the coreopsis (first picture). In fact, they feasted on most of the flowers in the beds this year. I didn't see any caterpillars on the sunflowers this year and I really didn't have any of their other favorite caterpillar host plants. It is just as well, since I am still overrun with black swallowtail and monarchs.

Coneflower "Twilight" and feasting American Lady. Posted by Picasa

The American Lady must be in between broods right now as their numbers are down a bit. Never fear though, these are very prolific and their numbers make them, along with the Painted Lady, the most widely spread butterfly in North America.

By the way, with all our rain the last two days, the butterflies have had to find shelter. We had a break in the weather for a few hours and they exploded... Monarch, Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Clouded Sulfur and Pearly Crescent were all gathering nectar at the same time. I had trouble deciding which one to photograph!

(end of post)
Color Carnival
Friday's Ark

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Water Out Of A Fish

In better taste than the typical... "water out of a boy" fountains.

"I still have a full deck; I just shuffle slower now." ~ Author Unknown
A minute ago the sun was shining and the large expanse of red and yellow and green on the radar had passed us by... again... and was headed off the eastern shore and into the ocean. I posted this picture with the title "A Fish Out of Water Or Water Out Of A Fish", but then something in the back of my mind kept saying... "you have already done this, you have already done this". I replied to myself, "No I don't think so. The picture didn't have an "x" under it and I always put an "x" under the picture when I use it, to avoid the double post." At this point, you know my day is falling into disarray when the best conversation I have had and second only to the one I had with the dog, is a conversation with myself. Well, my mind was right. I was wrong, sort of. I do have a previous post with the title... "A Fish Out Of Water" and it is a picture of this fountain... but at a different angle. So there... I was half right or half baked or half something. I still like this fountain and the patina and the old world look. I wish it were in my garden, but alas, it is too big... so I settle for the smaller, solar fountain with the "look" of bronze.

At this point, I was going to go take a picture of my bubbling little fountain sitting in the middle of the flower beds with the surrounding daylily and lantana; but, in the space of time I have typed this, the skies are dark and on the radar a blossoming patch of red and yellow and green has appeared just to our south and west and the sound of thunder is approaching. Alas, my little bubbling fountain does not bubble in this situation and I hear the rain on the roof.... so this will just have to do for my Watery Wednesday. Wow! It is really coming down out there... of course. I watered the plants yesterday!

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Enchanted Forest: On The Way To Grandma's House

Fairy tale that teaches a lesson...... (Click pictures to enlarge)

"Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!"
"The better to hear you with".
"Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!"
"The better to see you with".
"Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!"
"The better to grab you with".
"But, grandmother, what a dreadful big mouth you have!"
"The better to eat you with".
~ The Brothers Grimm Little Red Riding Hood
We've been exploring the current summer exhibit of imagination and fun for children of all ages that is open at our Norfolk Botanical Garden. The garden describes this display as follows: "Enter the magical world of the Enchanted Storybook Forest, a collection of eight storybook playhouses created by local builders, architects and organizations. Each house is based on a classic children’s story or nursery rhyme with a plant, garden, nature or conservation theme."

So far we have visited Jack and the Beanstalk and The Crooked Man. Today it is Grandmother's house from Little Red Riding Hood.

But where is Grandma... and more important, the Wolf?

It seems that the story of Little Red Riding Hood has been told as a folk tale in many countries and under many names including "Little Red Cap", "Little Red Hood" and "Little Red Hat". It has been modified through the years. One early version ends with Little Red Riding Hood being eaten by the wolf... she disobeyed her mother, talked to a stranger, dawdled in the woods, left the path and paid the price... the wolf won.

The Brother's Grimm changed the ending.. yes, both Grandmother and Red Riding Hood were eaten by the wolf, but the Woodsman happens by and opens the wolf's stomach. At this point, Grandmother and Red Riding Hood pop out, no worse for the wear. They fill the wolf's stomach with rocks and when he wakes, he is thirsty.. goes to the well for a drink, falls in and drowns. I really didn't remember the ending as much as the middle of the story. It seems a bit improbable for a wolf to have two whole people in its stomach, alive... but the point of the story was that children should not wander or talk to strangers and should always obey their mothers. Never mind the impossible details.

My favorite version has Red Riding Hood escaping the wolf and calling for help with the Woodsman saving Grandmother. Everyone wins except the wolf.

Grandmother's cute little cottage. Posted by Picasa

Grandmother's house was adorable with an upstairs loft, a piano and a nice little bed in the corner. Kids were poking their heads through the figures of Red Riding Hood and the Woodsman, parents were snapping photos, little ones going in and out of the house and each wishing the house was in their yard. I loved the signpost in the yard and the little white picket fence and those precious flowers.

(end of post)
Ruby Tuesday

Creamy And Yellow, Making Me Mellow

Hollyhocks in the butterfly garden. Norfolk Botanical Gardens
(Click picture to enlarge)
Posted by Picasa

"Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul." ~ Luther Burbank
I planted hollyhock this spring and they grew amazingly well... for a time. Then the other plants kept growing and the hollyhocks languished at the back of the bed, seemingly frozen in time. Now, I read that many varieties planted in the spring and through the summer will grow but not flower until the following year. These were in the botanical garden and it looked as if the bees and butterflies were really enjoying them... as are the tiny ants. Perhaps mine will do something next year.... another surprise package, as I have forgotten the colors they are supposed to be already. I do hope mine have this color mixed in somewhere!

This weekend we took down the flexible composite edging that I put around the flower beds when I started them last fall. We rented a bed edger that digs a shallow trench with one side at a 45 degree angle and went around the sunroom and deck and patio beds. We practiced on the beds out by the preserve as these are not that important and it was a good thing too. Home Depot had a video showing how to use it and yet, as with many do it yourself projects, it was both harder and easier than we expected. Harder in the fact that you had to pull and keep a lever pressed down at the same time as you are backing up and trying to stay even and not knock down the raised bed soil that is there; easier in that it really did a good job and took a lot less time than we thought. We did learn that you shouldn't re-trench a bed that has already had the process done... such as, around the trees. This thing will cut through roots... I could have used it last fall to lay out the beds in the first place. Anyway, after we did the trench, I went back and shaped the sides to slope down and then we mulched the sides and gently soaked them so the mulch wouldn't run down. So far, so good.

Now if only my hollyhocks were flowering as this one..... creamy yellow hollyhocks making me "mellow" on this Monday.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Enchanted Forest: Being Crooked Can Be A Lot Of Fun

The Crooked Man's House, Norfolk Botanical Garden
(Click pictures to enlarge)

Don't Let The Rain Come Down
"There was a crooked man and he had a crooked smile
Had a crooked sixpence and he walked a crooked mile
Had a crooked cat and he had a crooked mouse
They all lived together in a crooked little house

Uh-huh, oh no, don't let the rain come down
Uh-huh, oh no, don't let the rain come down
Uh-huh, oh no, don't let the rain come down
My roof's got a hole in it and I might drown
Oh yes, my roof's got a hole in it and I might drown

Well, this crooked little man and his crooked little smile
Took a crooked sixpence and he walked a crooked mile
Bought some crooked nails and a crooked little bat
Tried to fix his roof with a rat-a-tat-tat

Now this crooked little man and his crooked cat and mouse
They all live together in a crooked little house
Has a crooked door with a crooked little latch
Has a crooked roof with a crooked little patch

Uh-huh, oh no, don't let the rain come down
Uh-huh, oh no, don't let the rain come down
Uh-huh, oh no, don't let the rain come down
My roof's got a hole in it and I might drown
Oh yes, my roof's got a hole in it and I might drown."

~ Written & Performed by The Serendipity Singers (1964)

Crooked windows, crooked man, crooked cat and mouse doors.

This is the second in a series of playhouses built for the children who visit the botanical gardens this summer. Each is based on a piece of children's literature or poetry. The first we visited was Jack's House. Now we are focusing on a crooked man... or his house that is. From a distance you see a tall purple pipe sticking up from the very crooked roof of this house. Then it moves and moves again and the sun glints off of a shiny surface up top. What could it be? A periscope disguised as a stove pipe!

The house is crooked, the windows odd shapes and the front doors.... bright orange with the shadow... or silhouette of the crooked man. The siding is made wood shingles of different sizes and colors; cream, purple, bright green and ORANGE! On closer inspection, kids were hovering around the periscope... it really worked! And look there.... little doors in the wall cut especially for the crooked cat and the crooked mouse!

Up periscope!!! Posted by Picasa

As with all the playhouses, this one will be auctioned off at the end of the summer and a lucky boy or girl will have this in his/her backyard. It is bright and colorful and perfectly fitting for the Saturday ..... "orange".

Oh! Yes! This poem always reminds me of the song written and first performed in 1964 by a group of folk singers, The Serendipity Singers. I believe Trini Lopez also performed it later as well.

(end of post)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Behind The Blue Eyes Lies A Devil In Disguise

Sir Nicky... still skiddish after all these years.
(Click picture to enlarge those eyes.)
Posted by Picasa

"Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see." ~ Rene Magritte
Our feline friends are officially getting old.... as are we. Miss Clover and Miss Scarlett have already left us, leaving their siblings a little lost and sad. The ragdolls are fast approaching the ripe old age of 13 and are slowing down; although they were never very energetic, even when young. They prefer a slow pace of life... eat, sleep, sleep, sleep, eat some more and then sleep. Nicky here is still hiding. Such a timid fellow, he hides in plain sight. He thinks no one can see him if his nose and face are almost covered, but tends to forget that 14 pound body and long bouffant tail that sticks out behind him. Right now he needs a bath. We brush and clip and get enough fur to make a sweater for a small child this time of year, but he still needs a bath. If I keep saying he needs a bath, perhaps it will magically happen.....

Early on in life, Nicky had a bath at the vet. Perhaps that scarred him for life, or perhaps his irrational fear and paranoia that hits only when he sees water is simply congenital; though I don't believe the latter as his sister Willow is perfectly horrified but perfectly behaved in her bath, simply looking with a pitiful gaze as if to say... "why are you doing this to me?" Nicholas, on the other hand, ended up with a note on his permanent record that read in large letters... "NICHOLAS DOES NOT BATHE WELL!" His bathing behavior, which I decided to take on myself and which was not one of my better ideas, has become progressively worse. Time before last, he bit me... hit a vein and wouldn't let go. I got him loose, wrapped a towel around my wrist and almost drowned him in the sink while he thrashed water all over the laundry room floor. His bath was less than satisfactory and I ended up with a hematoma from my hand to my elbow.

I bathed him again a few months ago. This time in the large master bath shower. This time with a muzzle that also blindfolded him. This time with me outside the shower... at least to get him wet. His reaction was the same. He screamed and twisted and jumped. I have never seen him jump that high... straight up and then flopping down on the floor of the shower. Then I held his muzzled head on a soft wash rag fairly tight to the floor with one hand while soaping and scrubbing him with the other, then rinsing with the hand held sprayer until the soap was gone. Only at the very end did I run a bit of a soapy rag over his head and rinse that. Then I got out of the shower as quickly as possible and let him go nuts until he calmed a bit and realized that the water was off.

The strange thing is that as soon as I wrap him in the warm towels fresh from the dryer, he goes limp and is perfectly content to be dried and air blowed and brushed and combed. He simply closes his eyes and lays there as if at the spa. Looking at these baby blues... who could believe such a demon resides inside.

Sigh... like I said... Nicky needs a bath.

(end of post)
Friday's Ark
Carmi's Weekly Theme... Blue
Carnival of the Cats...at When Cats Attack

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Orange Fire

Coneflower "Tiki Torch". A view from our flower bed. Posted by Picasa

“If we were to imagine an orange on the blue side or green on the red side or violet on the yellow side, it would give us the same impression as a north wind coming from the southwest.” ~ Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein
I have a section of the flower beds dedicated to coneflowers.... red, yellow, white and shades in between. This bright orange variety is called 'Tiki Torch' and it is lovely.... the butterflies and bees love it too. I have much to learn about how to deadhead them and when to leave the cones for the birds to eat the seeds. All in all, for a first year, the flowers have turned out pretty good. Many are still going strong and a few have just begun to bloom. I have a few that won't make it for next year and some plants (mainly the mint) that I will dig up and put in pots before planting in the ground. I might just put the mint in a huge pot on the deck next year..... it REALLY gets out of hand and tries to take over everything. With our clay soil and trying to figure out drainage from the beds, it has been an experiment....a large experiment and as most garden beds go... a continuing work in progress.

In the spring, we wanted plants that would attract birds and butterflies and these have done both... some a little too well. That fennel and parsley and dill have attracted an almost non-stop deposit of black swallowtail eggs with associated caterpillars. As of today we have helped 24 swallowtails through the process and sent them on their way. The birds have also been happy... both with the feeders and with the insects it attracts. Our hummingbirds now spend as much time at the lantana, salvia and other flowers, as they do at the feeders. So, while a gardener's work is never done... I can at least call this year a success.... and will start looking ahead to the next years plan.

This is my 'orange' look for Carmi's theme... I am late posting again! I am going to blame it on the heat.... yes, that's my story and I am sticking with it!!

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