Sunday, September 16, 2018

Our Butterfly Nursery

This story is from an e-mail my husband sent to his friend:

Cynthia and I are anxious every day about our many monarch caterpillars, chrysalises, and adults.   They are in all sorts of states.  But this is pretty much the end of the nursery.  There are barely any uneaten milkweed leaves left.  Today I stepped on, or rode my bike over, a mature caterpillar on our driveway. Broke my heart. When they stop feeding they begin a long journey away from their feeding area to a high place—such as the ceiling of a porch-- to form their chrysalises . We have a high stool under our porch mailbox that they really like.  It has about 10 chrysalises hanging from under the seat right now.  When a mature caterpillar finds a place to its liking, it fastens one end of itself to this spot, releases its hold at the other end and hangs for a day or so.  While hanging, it forms a “J” shape.  When it's ready, it forms its pale green chrysalis seemingly instantly.  I've never seen it happen.  I look, and it's a hanging J, and 10 minutes later I look again, and it's a fully formed chrysalis.  After about ten days the chrysalis turns black and in another half day or so the adult butterfly emerges.  It stays put for some hours, drying and flexing its wings.  And then it's gone. Off to Mexico. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

An Unwelcome Guest

I did not take this picture of our guest, and he wasn't this pretty.  He was just an ordinary-looking big-city pigeon, who showed up on our porch one Saturday three weeks ago.  Why he picked our porch we didn't know.  What if his friends and relatives were to follow him here?  What would the neighbors say then?

My husband spotted a band on his leg.  Maybe he was someone's pet.  He was wary of our approaches.  You couldn't get close enough to catch him, but even if you could, the print on that band would probably be too small for old folks to read, even with their glasses.

We e-mailed the 700 families that live in our neighborhood: "Has anyone lost a pigeon?"

No one had lost a pigeon.

I tried chasing him. He would just waddle away from me as fast as he could and then fly up on the roof.  That answered another question.  It wasn't an injury that brought him to our door.

We went to a movie.  When we came home, he was gone.  We were delighted.

The next morning he was back. He'd apparently roosted overnight in a nearby tree. He began strutting around as if he were thinking of moving in for good. He hopped up on the porch furniture, appraising his new hang-out with beady red eyes. He dropped a calling card on the plastic upholstery. He reminded us of the wicked penguin in the Wallace and Gromit cartoon.

"Well, maybe he's ours," we said, after four days.  We set out a dish of water and scattered some seeds on the ground.  We got almost teary-eyed watching the cute little guy drink.

Then, a day or two later, he was gone.  He never came back.  Maybe the seeds and water gave him the energy to go home.  I gotta say we kind of miss him.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

At Our Cabin in Ohio

Over Memorial Day weekend, we went to our cabin in Ohio. We started a day later than planned because, on Saturday night, my husband sank deep into our daughter's super-soft sofa and later had to struggle a bit to extract himself.  The next morning, on the day we planned to leave, he woke with an aching back.  So we drove to Ohio on Memorial Day instead.  It's a nine-hour trip. 

This picture from last year shows a couple of American chestnut plants. The American Chestnut Foundation is trying to breed a blight-resistant chestnut. My husband has planted over thirty seedlings near our cabin. Of these, over 20 seem to be blight- resistant, but he's had to destroy a half dozen that became infected with blight. The only thing he's planted so far this year were geraniums a his parents' gravestone at the chapel cemetery. 

The pink and purple wildflowers--dames' rocket--were very pretty, along with a profusion of yellow buttercups and white multiflora rose. I admired what I thought was a blossoming tree on the bank behind the cabin. Turns out  it was not a blossoming tree at all, but either a walnut tree or a tree-of-heaven with multiflora rose weaving its way through its branches.

A pair of phoebes built a nest on the eaves under the porch. While the female sat on the eggs, the male entertained us by catching flies mid-air and hovering over the nest to bring them to her. Their song was the only one we could separate out from the cacophony of birdsong at the cabin. 

We don't have the internet at the cabin and our cell phones don't work either. We have a TV, but we're not hooked up to cable or satellite, so it's just for watching videos.  We listen to WKSU, the FM station operated by Kent State University. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Review: A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second time I have read this book. The first time was in fourth grade, because I remember our teacher telling us about Madame Defarge and her knitting. I read it this time because I had just returned from a 2-week vacation in London and Paris. I wanted to hold on to the two cities a little while longer and also to get to know them better. Nine days in London and five days in Paris barely let you scratch the surface of these two magnificent capitals.

As I recently reread this book, I wondered how educators back in the dark ages (late 40's) managed to abridge this novel into a classic suitable for children. There were scenes of unspeakable horror in the original. There is simply no way to explain "droit du seigneur"--the exercise of which set the whole plot in motion-- to a 9-year-old. I enjoyed the story as a story, but it raised more questions than it answered. So, to find out more, I have added two books to my already-too-long reading list: Alistair Horn's SEVEN AGES of PARIS, a popular history I found at a recent used-books sale, and Thomas Carlyle's THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. The Carlyle book promises to be tough going. It may take me to the end of my days as a reader to finish it. We'll see. I really want to find out what London thought of Paris while the guillotine was falling. The French Revolution, after all, followed hard on the heels of the American Revolution, the one that ripped the colonies out of British hands.

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