Ok, I'm trying something new. I've started reviving the Spark blog (non-password-protected stuff) and in the interest of not double posting and increasing traffic over there, I'm sometimes going to have a teaser here that links to the full post over there. We'll see how this works.
So, if you have ever wanted to see the "birth" of an adult ladybug emerging from its pupal case, read on over yonder...
Can you imagine how thrilled I was to see a pasta version of the life cycle of a butterfly come home in Griff's backpack? And just as we've been talking about larvae and instars and chrysalises here at home! Fab! I don't have a photo of the paper-plate creation, but I've photoshopped my own similar graphic.
For anybody wanting to do this at home with their kids, the materials are:
paper plate/circle fiori/flower pasta (eggs) fusili/corkscrew pasta (larva/caterpillar) conchiglie/shell pasta (pupa/chrysalis) farfalle/butterfly pasa (adult/butterfly) pen to label each stage craft glue
(If you really wanted to get into it, you could discuss instar stages and make your cycle more entymologically accurate with a little fusilli col buco or something.)
Perfetto! I think this would be a great project to put together while the pot boils for a butterfly life-cycle pasta primavera. Buon appetito!
As always, the yard is providing us with all manner of learning opportunities.
First, I've noticed as the fig trees have leafed out that one of them has lots of bulbous nodes, each shaped very similarly to, well, a fig. Having relatively little experience with figs, I hadn't really stopped to consider before how a fig flowers and develops its fruit. I assumed that these nodes were actually some kind of immature flower bud that bore a resemblance to the later fruit, and that would bloom sometime soon. Into a rather big flower. Had I ever seen a fig flower? What does a fig flower look like?
Certain that it would be a large white thing not unlike a zucchini blossom (?!?), I googled. And learned that those bumps on the branches actually are figs. And that figs are but false fruit. Slanderous! But true. Apparently each fig is a syconium - an inflorescence kindof turned inside-out, with the stem all around it on the outside. My figs, judging by their leaf shape, could be mission figs, but what I remember of the one ripe one left hanging on the tree the day of closing (unfortunately loaded with ants), the coloring of the ripe fruit is more like a brown turkey fig. Time will tell.
The first discovery was vegetable and the second is animal (perhaps we need a mineral one to round it out? I'm on it!). These funky bugs have been crawling all over the porch and plants. The kids were the first to notice them and called them to my attention. Reese and Xander wanted to pet them, but since I didn't know what they are, I asked them to hold off. Their appearance says "don't touch," don't you think?
...well, turns out you only have something to fear if you're a teeny garden pest. These fearsome creatures, known by some as "aphid lions", are ladybug larvae! Specifically, they seem to be the fourth and final instar form of Harmonia axyridis, the multicolored Asian lady beetle. Fierce, but not dangerous. Unless you're an aphid. Rawr.
More May Day madness. While hosing pollen off the porch, I scared up a big beetle and before I ID'ed it, I called Reese over to check it out...then realized it was a cockroach. Ugh. He eagerly picked it up and petted it. Double ugh. Although really, do roaches deserve such a bum rap? Are they really any grosser than any other bug? (internet survey says: no) I'm rather charmed by the way Reese has no fear or loathing of any bug. While he cuddled his pet ("he likes it! it tickles him!") I ran for the camera.
The flash went off and I took a second shot without it...just as he lifted it to his lips to give his little friend a kiss. Ew. But, as one of my (non-roach) friends said, cockroaches need love, too!
*no cockroaches were harmed in the making of this blog post. The cockroach in question was submersed in soapy water by a 3 y/o who thought maybe it needed a bath, but it survived the cleaning and skittered away to hide under the railing of the deck.
I somehow came across the blog everyone needs a rock yesterday and it put me in mind of this beautiful smooth one that I rediscovered in a box of knicknacks the other day. It is currently living on our mantelpiece and before we moved, it had taken up residence on the counter above the kitchen sink alongside my orchids. I think Reese brought it home - from whence I do not remember, if I ever knew. It is just the sort of thing that he would pick up and carry, enjoying its weight and its smoothness. Yesterday I carried it in my coat pocket and cupped it in my hand from time to time. Reassuringly, all this recent worrying about Reese has served to highlight some of the ways he and I are alike.
Xander is following in his nature-loving elders' footsteps as well. Every chance he gets, he's off on a hike, and we have little choice but to follow. Today he led the way while I carried my camera, trying to find clover to photograph. He pointed at magnolia droppings on the sidewalk, yelling "cone! cone!"
The enjoyment I get from our mahonias seems endless. Today I spotted this lone blossom clinging to a rainy stem, looking like a miniature dancer or one of the fairy folk. Nearby fallen petals were strewn over leaves as if over stairs leading to an elven ball.
There are at least two very fat squirrels who think otherwise. I caught one in the act the other day, munching on the last of the seed. His technique is impressive; he actually hung upside-down from his feet on his initial approach. Later, perhaps feeling more bold, he just crammed his entire snout into the feeder.
I considered buying a baffle for the feeder to keep the rodents off the pole, but upon looking at several models of squirrel-defeating feeders, I decided that they all seemed a little mean. After all, I enjoyed the squirrels as much as I enjoyed the birds, Xander probably enjoys them more than the birds (he yells "cat! cat!" at them), and it strikes me as a bit silly to spend money on chickadees but snub the vermin. Free food for everyone!
Two years ago at the botanical gardens, I saw a tree full of these fantastic little birds, but never could ID them.
Well, the neighbor's holly tree, loaded down with berries, attracted a flock of 'em last week, and I finally figured out the right google string (songbird crest mask) and now I know, they're cedar waxwings. Pretty little things, apparently they descend on an area, pick it clean, then leave. Which is exactly what they did. The holly tree is awfully bare.
They had some help; they were preceded by an enormous and ravenous cadre of robins. I was initially thrilled to see them perching on my balcony one morning, and snapped a bunch of photos while they ate from the tree, but later that day I was muttering about "flying rats" when I saw the mess they had left behind. Maybe it's not such a bad thing that we're getting rain this weekend...
I have a small treasure trove of stuff from the last two weeks that I'm finding now that the viruses and bacteria have left us alone.
Moss makes me happy. It's such a tiny and amazing thing. I remember using a spoon to drip water onto dry mosses on the oak trees that came through our porch in California, and watching them bloom as they soaked up the moisture. I loved seeing the mosses in my parents' yard on Ridge Road send up their setae and opercula. When we lived in Columbia, our back yard couldn't grow more than a handful of scraggly grass but mosses luxuriated, so I tore out the grace and cultivated a mossy carpet. I adore the word bryophyte. The idea of a moss terrarium tickles my fancy.
These are living in our back yard, and I hope to see many more of their cousins.
lately, reese often slips out the front door to explore the yard. i keep my ears perked for the sound of the latch and peek out at him every couple of minutes, wanting to support his independence but not yet ready to let him go fully solo.
he was interested in the slush yesterday morning, and as a cooped-up afternoon with his sick mama and baby brother wore on, he wanted to return to the cold and willingly donned socks, boots, and coat. i watched him out the windows, and as i did, i realized that the freezing rain had formed icicles all over the trees and bushes. he discovered this at the same time and called me to come see.
i love it when he shares discoveries with me. he is a much more private person than griff has ever been, and when he seeks me out, when he is not guarded and shares a personal delight with me, it feels like a special kind of gift.
head cold and feverish baby or not, i could not say no. i bundled xander up, put on my coat and gloves, and joined reese in examining the frozen droplets on the leaves. he plucked them like berries and sampled them. xander begged for a taste, too. ice in the shape of leaves came off in our hands and went into our mouths.
this morning we opened window shades at dawn to see fog and crystalline trees. to think, i've been wishing for snow, and had forgotten about ice.
This week has been cold, rainy, and generally dreary, but when Reese and I took out the trash yesterday, we discovered that this is an awesome place to be after lots of rain.
I've been googling and googling to figure out what this plant is, it has leaves a little like holly and these gorgeous stalks of buds.
The misty alley beckons us.
Reese begs me frequently to take a picture of him, but thinks that he must stick out his tongue in every photo, so I have lots of this:
After picking Griff up from school we went on a puddle-jumping walk and jellybean picnic in the alley. Boots and saddles, men! The boots go on the walkers. The saddle goes on the mama for the littlest brother.
Off we went on our expedition, stopping first for a bit of sustenance and the discovery of a spring.
It is so hard to get a posed faces-forward picture of them. "Show me how you love each other," I coached them during a jellybean break, thinking of happy faces pressed cheek to cheek. Griff stepped back and gave the I love you sign to Reese, who gave a thumbs-up back.