Tuesday, August 28, 2012

bugs: cute? or scary?

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Would you look at the size of his forearms? He’s like the Popeye of little green flies. I have already submitted this to bugguide, and I’ll bet by the time I’m through drafting this post, some bug nerd  afficionado will have provided an ID. GOD, I love the interwebs.  Nearby, another flower had a visitor of its own:

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I thank the lord that I am much larger than most insects I come across. They are truly terrifying, if you think about it. But also?

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Sometimes kind of cute. I watched this little one groom itself with its back leg. And look at that fuzz! Don’t you just want to hug it? No?

The other day was apparently a spider hatching day. I let three gray-and-black spiders out of the house. I might have accidentally vacuumed others in a frenzy of cleaning. See, there goes my bug ambivalence again.

Annnnd yes, we have someone out there who thinks that Popeye fellow is an ambush bug - Phymata pennsylvanica. A type of assassin bug. I was just reading about assassin bugs. Apparently at least some of them have these long stabby things they use to suck the innards out of their prey. Yeah, I’m back to being scared. At any rate, the overlords of Bugguide will check into it within a few hours – those folks are serious.

What else can I report…I visited a tree I only got properly ID’d this year as a type of non-native dogwood – “cherry dogwood”. Now I know why it’s called that:

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That’s a water droplet on the end – it’s been flirting with rain over the past day. I’ve been living here at dave for five years, and this is the first time I’ve noticed the fruit on this tree. Just goes to show – there is ALWAYS something new to see. (By the way, “dave” = the name of this property. That’s why we’re called “musings from dave”. Read about it here.)

Any other news? Oh, a trillium gone to seed.

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Last but not least, we went out to a fundraiser tonight to help with long term recovery efforts after That Bitch Irene – today is the one year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene, which as you may recall, did a number on us here in Vermont. The fundraiser was a by-donation-only showing of “Singin’ in the Rain”. What an awesome movie – long one of my favorites. It’s a movie, within a movie, within a movie – just like “Inception”’s dream within a dream within a dream. Only with better dance numbers.

Monday, August 27, 2012

in which I sneak up on things

Remember the flower that vanished yesterday, and how I was going to do a drive-by this morning and sneak up on it? It worked. Purple flowers up the wazoo.
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This plant was nearly as tall as I am. Crappy, overexposed shot – let’s show you the color a little better:
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It’s keying out as a type of aster, much to my surprise. I don’t know why I’m so surprised – purple things with lots of petals are frequently asters – there are so many types of asters, in fact, that my New England Flora instructor in grad school didn’t bother ensuring we could identify any particular species.

[Correction! My Devoted Blog Fans have kindly pointed out to me that this is chicory (Cichorium intybus). Thanks, Devoted Blog Fans!]

Did Reiki at the hospital for the first time in a month today. WHEW.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

life = plasmic goo

On a run this morning, I noticed one last batch of a lovely purple-blue flower at the top of a hill about a half mile from the house. I’ve never photographed it before, so this afternoon I went for a walk to investigate. Much to my consternation, when I got to the spot where I was sure I’d seen it…it was gone. Vanished! Vamoose! Maybe it’s like my neighbor’s morning glories, which are, in fact, glorious, in the morning, and less so, in the afternoon. I don’t know. I plan on a drive-by tomorrow morning, if only to prove to myself that I did, in fact, see something there.

In the meantime, there were other consolations in the late afternoon sun.

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This, for instance. And…

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My first ever (around here) monarch caterpillar! Munching away happily on a milkweed leaf.

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It’s hard to imagine how this creature will turn into…


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…this creature.

But we can all hope, can’t we? To be transformed? It’s that mushy part in the middle that’s the tricky bit, isn’t it. The part where the caterpillar is ensconced in its cocoon, and literally dissolving into plasmic goo.

In other news, the white baneberry, or Martian Eyeballs, as Kevin calls it, is turning fire-engine red:

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…while the lily of the valley berries ripen.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

thistle hurt if you’re not careful

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Asters, all done and ready to cook up seeds.

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A solo diner.

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[I had to prop this thistle flower upright to get this shot – you can see they’re all drooping in the last shot – and that’s my t-shirt wrapped around my finger at the upper left. This thing did NOT want to be fondled.]

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Mmmmm…thistles. I think that might be spider webbing between all the spikes. Spiders: nothing if not enterprising.

Friday, August 24, 2012

random scenes from recent days.

It’s been a whirl of travel and work since my last post. Visits with lots of old friends. Followed by a ton of work. Today I delivered mass of permit applications I’d been immersed in for weeks on end to state offices (for my job), and then handed out samples of yogurt to college freshmen (also my job) for a few hours, and drove a total of six hours to make all this happen. I’m so tired, I’m in my PJ’s…at 7:20 pm on a Friday. YESSS!!!

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Here’s that weird day lily leaf-stamen thingy again. This was our last day lily. Tis a shriveled mess by now.


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A purple-flowering raspberry. As tasty as it looks. Let’s not forget that fruit…is fruit. By which I mean, that stuff we eat? That’s flower-bits. In this case, you can see the original burry bud that originally held the flower…and an unripe fruit to the right.


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A chipmunk carrying something up an ash tree. It was so alarmed at our presence that it rushed up and up and up, and dropped its payload. Turned out to be a chunk of mushroom. Sorry, little buddy! I’m sure you’ll retrieve it later when I’m not looking…

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Indian tobacco, aka lobelia.

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Pale smartweed. Tiny guy. You probably have some of this in your lawn.

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Ah, the mysterious Closed Gentian. Mysterious, because it demurely never opens those flowers. Lord only knows how it gets pollinated. Well, I’m sure botanists know, which means the google borg knows. But let’s leave it as a Great Unknown for now. Hey: I’m in my PJ’s. You can’t expect me to work.

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Hog peanut, how kinky thou lookest this fine eve.

Yawn. Yay, weekend!

Monday, August 13, 2012

15 minutes x 15 square feet = plenty to see

Part One: They are not called day lilies for nothing.

While we were traipsing around Pittsburgh last week, the day lilies at the side of the house were going great guns, leaving us only one flower, and one bud, to enjoy upon our return

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Note the weird extra stamen thingy seemingly attached to the edge of a petal.

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Today. All shriveled up! Just like that!

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That extra stamen thingy is poking out. Still hoping to get lucky, I guess.

Part Two: Camouflage and Ambush

I sat in the grass just outside the front door, hoping to lure crickets or grasshoppers near me with the sheer innocence of my intentions. That didn’t happen. I figured if I trained the macro on some nearby tiny daisies, maybe I’d be happily surprised.

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Indeed, I was. A spider!

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Might there be others, on nearby flowers? Why yes!

A fly came in for a landing. 

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Within a nano-second s/he was waving its legs menacingly at it. I wasn’t fast enough to get the fly on camera.

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Unsuccessful, it backed around to the underside of the flower.

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Better luck next time, sweetie.

Part Three: Speaking of Lunch

While all this was going on, I was also admiring some sort of long damselfly-type fly resting on the tip of a blade of grass. I got closer and closer.

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It was when I saw little legs waving around futilely that I realized there was more going on here.

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I watched them wrestle for a while.

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To the tune of several dozen photographs, which I’ll spare you.

Part Four: Back to the Mysterious Asiatic Dayflower

They’re back! This time, I swear, I shall pay more attention day by day.

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The Side View.

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The Top Down View

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The Indeterminate (Before, or After, Flowering?) View

Saturday, August 11, 2012

a bridge too far.

Hello Sports Fans! It’s time for my biennial bitch about the road signage in Pittsburgh. Or, as a high school classmate of mine observed, “what signage? where?” In short, Kev and I went on a road trip this past week, to visit family. We drove across the scenic Undulating Plateau that is southern New York state, into the unforgiving maw of Pittsburgh and environs, where I grew up. 

Our mission: to visit my Sainted Mother. During the days, I worked (because hallelujah, I work from home anyway, and it is easily transportable.) A few months ago, when we hatched the idea of this trip, we decided to take in a baseball game at PNC Park because hey, it’s a beautiful park, Kevin’s a baseball geek, and what’s not to love about the Pirates?

On our way from my hometown to downtown, we passed my favorite sign in all of Pittsburgh. IMG_0625

I managed to get off a crappy shot from my cell phone. Don’t worry if you can’t read it – you’ll get a chance to see it again soon enough.

I’d brought the Nikon D3100 with me, but I don’t have a telephoto lens yet (I’m too obsessed with the macro stuff), so when on the way to our seats we passed this guy, I was suitably impressed.


THAT’S a camera.


I’ve never sat so close to the field before!


We settled in to our awesome seats and took in the view.


Ahhhh, a bridge. We’re going to be talking about a lot of bridges in this post. This picture makes me feel all nostalgic for our short visit to the ‘Burgh. Because this photo was taken before I lost my enthusiasm for Pittsburgh’s many, many bridges.

I’d also brought the Panasonic Lumix – a point and shoot with more zoomy zoom zoom than the Nikon – and turned it over to Kevin. He had fun with it:


I could probably show him this picture and he’d remember the play. All I can tell you is, “it’s one of their guys”.


Ah, but even I know that this is Andrew McCutcheon, a hot shot for the Forces of Good. We all booed when the Diamondbacks’ pitcher chose to walk him when we had guys on second and third.


As evening fell, so did the Pirates’ prospects. Many so-called fans started to leave in the seventh inning, when the D’s got a home run with two guys on base, and even more in the 8th when the same guy got another home run. We stayed til the bitter end: 10 – 4, them.

Was it because we were mourning our loss that we missed the teensy sign indicating the detour/left exit that our route home called for, due to Pittsburgh’s endless construction? All we knew was, we were suddenly on side streets. I fired up the “oh shit, where am I?” app on my iPhone and we followed the bouncing blue dot (it tells you where you are on the map), until we struggled out of the surface streets and back to the Ohio River Boulevard, where we wanted to be.


Oh hey, I know where we are! And look, they light it up at night!

It was shortly after we got onto the Boulevard that I noticed – and how I wish I had a picture for you – two signs right next to each other. One was a “no left turn” sign. In a spot where there were no opportunities to turn left. Or right, for that matter. Right next to it was a sign saying “Rt 65” [which is the road we’re on] with a right-hand arrow – the universal sign for, “if you want to be on Rt 65, you should turn right now”. In a spot where a) you’re already ON 65  b) it’s not going anywhere and c) there are no opportunities to turn right.

Here’s a tip: if you have extra signs lying around, how about storing them in oh, say, a maintenance garage somewhere? Rather than out on the roads, randomly?

So that was Tuesday. On Wednesday, we hung out, nothing special, enjoying time with my mom, and watching the Olympics. A whole lot of diving, as I recall. On Thursday, we plotted our route across the state for the Poconos, where we planned to visit with Kevin’s extended family for a day.

We decided to take a route that would, in keeping with the Hypotenuse Theory of Navigation, cut a load of time off our journey. See, we needed to be on I-80, but Pittsburgh is an hour or so south of 80, and if you take the direct north-south route (which is I-79) to get to 80, you miss all kinds of interesting potential hypotenuses. So we picked the best-looking hypotenuse. It involved going down the beautiful scenic Rt 65, aka, The Boulevard, home of the Bellevue-Live-Worship-Shop sign, until the edge of the Allegheny River in almost-downtown Pittsburgh, taking a left, and going up the left bank of the Allegheny until, pretty much, I-80 itself. Piece of cake. Note: no bridges involved.

Can you guess what happened? We missed a turn. Once again, a poorly-marked left-hand exit. The next thing we knew, we were shooting over the West End bridge. And as we all know, once you go over the West End bridge, you are screwed, because if your reflexes aren’t up to the task, you’ll find yourself on some parkway going god knows where, with no opportunity to turn yourself around. Fortunately, I had actually run over the West End bridge in the 2011 Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I sorta remembered how – and the Oh Shit app filled in the details –  to get us turned around towards the South Side, which has plenty of bridges to get back towards where we started.

It took two bridges to do that: one from the South Side over the Monongahela River into downtown, and another from downtown, over the Allegheny River, to where we wanted to be. Victory! We proceeded up the hypotenuse.

That’s when my phone rang. It was my mom. I’d left my work laptop on her dining room table. We’d have to go back to pick it up.

You will recall that once you are on pretty much any Pittsburgh road, there is no getting off that road. It took a couple of miles to find an opportunity to get turned around. And you’ll never guess what that entailed…a bridge! Our fourth! Over the Allegheny, into downtown. Through the Strip District to … wait for it… bridge #5, to get back to the Ohio River Boulevard.

My consolation at this point was that I got a chance at this sign from a THIRD direction.IMG_0653

Sigh. Although hey, it’s a nice, crisp shot this time!

Got to my mom’s. Picked up the laptop. Kissy kissy bye bye. And then, done with all hypotenii, we took I-79 due north to I-80 and kept going til we got to the Poconos. We had a lovely time with Kevin’s family – too short a visit, in fact – and came back yesterday. And I’m not getting in the car all weekend. You can’t make me.