Showers N’ Flowers

Today I am sitting at my desk at work, contemplating why I even attempt to re-ink a stamp. The frugalista in me says, “Why buy a entire new stamp when a bottle of ink is three dollars?” The realist in me says, “Every time you re-ink a stamp, you end up looking like you were booked and fingerprinted MULTIPLE times in the county jail.” I now have ink on my desk, my face, all of my fingers, my pencil cup, my mouse, and the book I was reading. Luckily, I wore a black shirt today.

But let us discuss more pleasant and pretty things. My yard, for example!

This spring was chilly all the way into the first of May. Not that I’m complaining, HOWEVER, my corn I planted never came up and my cream peas were lackluster. My tomatoes were sad and took forever to grow. Even so, now that it’s warmed up, things are filling out. Let’s take a look around:

View from our porch. It rained today for the first time in a MONTH, PTL! I was already tired of watering.  Yarrow and daylilies are at the forefront:

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View of the house. The front porch will eventually be screened in the front, and closed on the sides with big screened windows. I call it my future three season room. You can see that the blanketflower (on bottom left) really took over. It is all over our yard now.

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Front left side of porch. From left: Indian hawthorn (covered in blackberry I can’t kill), blue/black salvia, daylily, and then my lemon trees I grew from seed five years ago. Also, a couple of geraniums.

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View of what I call “The Salad Bowl”. Jason leveled the front yard, and this required making a hill around the driveway. I have really been working on this hill with tomatoes, wildflowers, asparagus, and Drift roses, among many other things. Trying to keep it covered to prevent erosion. Also, it is 100% ‘sugar sand’, so I am slowly digging out sand and replacing with compost. The flat ground is where we will plant big thing like corn and okra, and you can also see my sad peas and my rows of green beans. The flowers are brown eyed Susans, which I love!

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Raised metal bed that Jason built. The plan is to trellis indeterminate tomatoes here. This is a 10′ bed, but a 20′ is in the works. I will put anything vining or trailing on these.

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Prime-ark Freedom blackberries! Only 2 yr old vine and producing tons of huge fruit. I love this berry!

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Backside of the ‘rose garden’. Time to clean up the old bulb leaves. Once they are brown, they are fine to remove.

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Iris bed with orange, purple, and white irises. Also have some daylilies and crocosmia planted.

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The ‘rose garden’, with a few unidentified roses, but also has “Trumpeter”, “Electron”, Mutabilis, “The Fairy”, and “Dolly Parton”. I put assorted impatiens in the empty spots just to fill space.IMG_20180520_190023805

Another view of the iris bed. You can see the lighter green crocosmia taking over, but it’s so gorgeous here in a few weeks, who cares? The little tree on the right is a lemon tree that I planted from local seed. There are two lemon trees in Jacksonville that I know of, and both are ancient. I got seed from both trees about five/six years ago, and one tree is just now fruiting! We are sooooo excited. BTW, the Coors can you may see isn’t mine; it’s for the slugs. Yes, I am a bootlegger for slugs. Only kidding…slugs are apparently addicted to cheap beer and they will come by the hundreds to a beer-filled dish only to party and subsequently perish. Try it for yourself if the slugs are driving you crazy!

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Hope you enjoyed the tour! In the next month, things will start getting crispy out there and I’ll only come out “when the sun hits the pines”, which is to say, either before sun up or after sundown!

 

Cat In Glasses, Weird Dog, and Walk Your Chicken Day

We recently discovered that our cat, Milo, loves to be dressed up. That is, he doesn’t resent it very much. Okay, fine, he doesn’t hate it and tolerates it more than ten seconds, which could indicate ‘love’ for a cat. Anyway, Milo was dressed to the nines this week, all while sitting in a tiny wicker rocking chair with a doll blanket on his ‘lap’. Amazingly enough, he never objected to any of this treatment and we all came out of this photoshoot with no bloodshed. Maybe in all the spare time I have (HA), I’ll make a cat calendar. Then again, probably not.

 

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Later in the week, Nancy ‘remembered’ an old trick of hers: Bring us the dog food bowl and whack us on the legs with it until we fill it. It’s cute when it really is ‘cookie time’, but can get slightly annoying when, thirty minutes after she eats, she is already beating your ankles with her bowl. Still, I have to say she is a smart dog who knows what’s important in life. (FOOD)

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We ended the week by putting a chicken in a dog harness and seeing what would happen. Things can get monotonous in the country sometimes, so you have to spice it up a little. As you can see, Rae did very well for his first walk. Really, it’s much like ‘walking’ a cat, which is to say, you put it in a harness, pray it doesn’t go berserk and scratch out your eyes, and follow it wherever it wants to go. Again, no bloodshed other than at the 0:11 mark, my child is attacked by fireants. We awarded Rae with a cabbage leaf covered in baby cabbage worms, and yes, he ate it down to the rib.

 

Have a fabulous pre-Thanksgiving weekend friends! I’ll be decluttering more, bathing dogs, and probably walking chickens.

 

 

Facebook, Redneck Trees, Creepy Garden Dwellers, Sewing, and Hygge…

and this is how the past week rolled here on the farm!

I had started week two of Facebook freedom, and it dawned on me that I did not have any way to contact a particular group of friends other than Facebook.

Sigh.

Feeling fairly defeated, I have logged back on. BUT, I have only been checking it twice a day. I think that is better than my former record 4,537 times a day and every time I went to the bathroom.

Do I still think it is possible for life without Facebook? ABSOLUTELY. I now realize that I didn’t have a good back-up plan for contacting folks (other than Facebook) which I have been working on correcting this week. I have only been looking at my group of friends page, and not my feed. Otherwise, I’d be back to spending a ludicrous amount of time on there.

Moving on!

I finally found a sign that I love after a four year search for the ‘perfect’ sign for my kitchen wall. It also helped that it was 50% off at Hobby Lobby! On the very same day, my food order with Mary Jane’s Farm  arrived. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was. I have been an official “Farmgirl” with Mary Jane for five years, and following her site/magazine subscriber for eight. I had never tried her food before and I have no idea why I hadn’t before. I also had forgotten that as an official Farmgirl I get free shipping! Hello!

So, I got a sampler pack that lets you try the Budget mix (think: Bisquick on a heavenly, organic level) and then a couple of instant meals that you just add water to the bag! They are intended for on-the-go or for camping/backpacking. All I can say is: WOW. Simply…amazing. In fact, I have already restocked yet again. More on that later.

Here is my sign and some of the food items.

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Then the next day, I planted lots of pansies and violas in my gardens. I am not sure why I never (!) have planted pansies before but I love them so much!

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And as I stepped out to check on the garden that evening, I saw these critters. We have a cute little toad and a massive spider. I have only seen three of these spiders in the nine years we have been here, but counting his legspan, it is easily as wide as my palm. Ack! It’s a good thing that I like spiders. Perhaps even more creepy is how well this little feller mixes in with the background…

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With all of this extra time I now have (thanks to my Facebook reduction), I decided to get back to sewing. I have a love/hate relationship with sewing. There are times when that’s all I want to do, and then when it gets frustrating, I want to throw my sewing machine and all the fabric and sewing notions right into a burn pile. I had to use my seam ripper more than someone SHOULD on this dress. To be quite honest, I had to go to the store to get another seam ripper as I dulled my first one, if that tells you anything. Anyway.

It is a Dottie Angel design; Simplicity 1080, if you’d like to see the pattern. I plan on throwing on some leggings and doing farm work in it. I had read several critiques of this pattern and they are not unfounded. There are definitely parts of the pattern which just seem overly complicated. I still have to hem it and then figure out how to fit it properly so I don’t have the ‘back bunching’ that I have going on now. Losing 10 pounds would help, but until then, perhaps some well placed darts will do.

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Later in the week, influenced by my dear friend “Big Rig”, I went to the dollar store to get some holiday “day-core”, as we say. Of course, all of the fall/Thanksgiving items were gone with exception of a lonely package of plates, some fall napkins, and a vinyl tablecloth, despite the fact it was only the first week of November. Actually, I want to say it was November second, perhaps? So a word to the wise, if you need autumn ‘day-core’ at the dollar store, you’d better head up there in August, I guess.

Even though I was pretty peeved that it looked as though Father Consumerized Christmas had just upchucked his wares on half of Dollar Tree, I just could not pass up the gold glitter deer head. So then I had to pick up a tiny dollar tree, a tiny strand of LED lights, and some gold ball things in the floral section. I grabbed a roll of gold glittery tulle (hint: UNWRAP IT OVER A TRASH CAN, unless you want your entire house coated in gold glitter). Yet, one deer head was just not enough.

Then it was a trip “up to the Wal-Marts” for more deer heads and tiny pinecones. All told, it was under ten dollars for my little redneck tree and I love it.

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To finalize my week, I have been re-reading about the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hue-gah’ or ‘hoo-gah’, depending on who you listen to). I had looked this up several years ago, being the trendsetter that I am and all (NOT), and I love love love the idea of hygge.

What is ‘hygge’? From what I gather, hygge is:

  • Snuggly blankets
  • Fireplaces
  • Wool socks
  • Cinnamon buns
  • Cake
  • Hot tea/coffee
  • Candles…many candles
  • Friends
  • A purring cat
  • Soft lighting (read: more candlelight)
  • Books
  • A cozy chair
  • Togetherness
  • Unfinished pine wood
  • Anything you can find at IKEA, surrounded by purring cats, lit candles, friends and family wrapped up in ‘cosy’ blankets wearing wool socks in front of your roaring fireplace, shoveling cinnamon buns and cake in their mouths while drinking hot tea/coffee and reading long, engaging and meaningful novels in a room preferably with either unfinished pine walls or an unfinished pine table.

And that, friends, is ‘hue-gah’ for you! So I would like to present my little snippet of farmhouse hygge to you. We have a purring cat in his cozy bed in an IKEA bin. Please note that this IS in a room with unfinished pine walls (unseen in photo).

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For more hygge ideas, there are now a bajillion books, e-books, and websites dedicated to this 2017 word of the year, or, you can simply order a free IKEA catalog, curl up on your couch with a warm blanket and hot coffee, and peruse the pages at your leisure.

Until next time!

A life without Facebook: Week One

The Question:

Can it really be done? Can you still live in today’s world without the constant updates, “Vague-booking” posts from friends and relatives, those famous family Facebook fights, mindless scrolling, privacy-invading user tracking, and endless ads?

Yes. Of course you can.

The Issues:

Do you ever find yourself going to check “just one thing” on Facebook and then you look up from your Facebook fog and it’s two hours later, your coffee is freezing cold, and you’re still in your pajamas?

Have you ever been scrolling along and you see a friend/family member post something so offensive to you that you wondered how you could ever be in the same room with them again?

Did you ever find yourself in a heated comment debate with a random person (or maybe not-so-random) and you wished for a magical moment in time where you could reach through the screen and slap someone?

It’s not worth it.

I have wanted to leave Facebook for years, but I stayed on, mainly because of my direct sales customers. However, this changed early in 2017 when I decided to take a break from direct sales altogether so I could focus my time and energy on family and our homestead. This made my decision to quit social media much easier.

My Reasons:

  • Facebook Drama and the Resulting Stress: If the 2016 election taught us anything, it was that the old saying “Never discuss politics or religion” still needs a place in our society. I saw some of the most venomous things ever come from the keyboards of Facebookers. Another source of drama: Posts from family members/friends that you don’t quite agree with. Not necessarily my own family/friends, mind you, but this is a very real cause of stress that I have seen/heard about ever since the beginnings of Facebook. Many things…A GREAT MANY THINGS…are better left unsaid.
  • Wasted Time: I would be utterly embarrassed and ashamed to tell you the amount of time I spent on Facebook in a day’s time, so I won’t. However, I can tell you that in this last week alone, I have accomplished things that have needed attention for months and even years. Let’s just leave it at that. And if you enjoy research, look up dopamine and Facebook, and why it is so addictive.
  • Endless Sales Pitches: From the annoying side ads to sponsored posts to direct sales requests from our dearest friends…it is all just too much. Don’t even get me started on sales groups and being added without my permission. I can’t even touch on that without a bad word. The fact of the matter is, I am a frugal person trying to pay off all of my debts. Even a dollar spent on something that is not a debt is slowing down my debt pay-off progress. I LOVE to support small businesses and friends in any way I can, BUT, financially I just can’t do that with any regularity. This leads us to the last reason, which is:
  • GUILT: Whether it’s not being financially able to support your friend in her business or seeing the endless parade of homeless animals that are within hours of being euthanized and that you would love to adopt, but cannot, there is that awful emotion of guilt. As a mother, I already have to deal with Mommy Guilt. I really don’t need any more to add to my day. Then there are the events you are invited to, and can’t attend. Or perhaps it is a fundraiser for a great cause, and you were added to a FB group, but you have no extra funds or even a desire to donate. There is that dang guilt, just waiting around the corner.

The Wrap-Up:

I once read that the most annoying Facebook post is the one that says, “I’m taking a break from Facebook.” If that’s true, I apologize for being annoying. Still, I hope that you will consider perhaps taking a break from social media if you find yourself in a similar boat! I’ll be right here in my own happy corner of the web, living (mostly) guilt-free and working on my fall garden.

Vacationing with no Facebook updates (ahhhhh!):

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Year nine on the farm: Older, fatter, and furrier

October 2017 marks two milestones for our family; we have now been on the farm for nine years, and I turned forty.

Turning 4-Oh

Something about turning forty has changed me. With any luck, I hope to live another forty years. It would be a gift of another lifetime! With that, it got my little pea brain churning, thinking about:

  • The importance of living every day to the fullest
  • Celebrating every birthday, and that sending birthday cards to family/friends is no longer optional
  • Planning for a life we’d like to live after the kids have moved out
  • Becoming debt-free so we can work minimally and live to the max
  • Maintaining our health so we can enjoy life to the fullest

I also think about how I have already lived four years longer than my own grandfather did, and how every day is truly a blessing.

On a funnier note, I am trying to understand why, at forty:

  • My body has begun to cling to every single calorie like a person dangling from the side of a cliff
  • God decided that visible nose hairs are not optional just because you are a woman while simultaneously they become more prevalent/darker…yet at the same time, I am losing the hair on the top of my head
  • Any new hair I DO happen to grow on my head is either white and silky or a thick and extremely unruly black menace that sticks straight out
  • I can throw out my back by simply standing up and moving my leg half-inch in the ‘wrong’ direction

These are the things I ponder now.

 Year Nine on the Farm

With this year, we are still working on paying off our debt, maintaining the home and grounds, and now we are downsizing.

While I did keep some baby chicks hatched this year, the new goal is to continue to downsize the flock until we have a nice number of laying hens. Let’s face it: I do NOT get $100 worth of eggs a month that I’m paying for the feed at this point! We do have some older layers as well as several hens who are more like pets, but as usual, we also possess a disproportionately large number of roosters who are getting fat on my dollar.

Now for a review in photos!

October 2016:

That time that everyone got ticked off after playing Sorry:

November 2016:

The cold and wet beginning to our square foot beds:

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Our living room/library area after bringing in the ferns for the winter:

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Fall foliage:

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December 2016:

A beautiful winter sunset!

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From 65 degrees to 48 in 47 minutes!

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January 2017:

One day, as I was hanging laundry, I looked up to see this ‘mackerel sky’. I made myself pretty dizzy trying to take a good pic.

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This year marked the beginning of new beds and a new gardening method: Square Foot Gardening. I love it!!! Jason built the beds. The soil you see was just, well…crappy, but it’s all I had. Now it has much better soil.

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2017 was the Year of the Annoying Ladybug/Asian Ladybeetle invasion. Here is a group in our barn, but there were hundreds in the house. Yuck. Glad they do eat aphids, but it would be lovely if they would hibernate outdoors like REAL ladybugs!!!

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February:

Being sensitive to sodium nitrate (Read: gives me major migraines), I can only eat uncured meats. Let’s face it, when you live in the sticks, things can be difficult to find. Our local Wal-Mart decided to stop carrying ‘my’ bacon, so I was forced to drive thirty miles to find some. Jason came to the rescue with my Valentine’s gift!

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Ladybug invasion continues in the warm sun:

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A true ladybug! I found several Twice-Stabbed ladybeetles on our pear trees. Yaaaay!

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March:

Another ‘true’ ladybug, the Convergent Ladybeetle. I probably learned more about ladybugs this year than in my last 40 years!

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April:

April showers and all of that!

May:

May’s warmth brings out the reptiles! Anoles and rat snakes are in full force!

June:

A cicada emerges!

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Swedish strawberry cake:

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A new friend emerges from the woods! My first photos of Eleanor, the wild cat.

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July:

Happy Fourth!!!

We add another new family member. Meet Esther. Note: Esther is the one without the beard.

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August:

Esther enjoys robes and hiding in the mini pantry. This behavior was not endorsed by yours truly. No one likes cat hair in their cereal.

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September:

Another new family member! Meet Milo:

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2017, so far, has proved to be the Year of the Cat! I also have declared it the year of Returning to the Homestead since I have now deactivated my Facebook account and suddenly have hours and hours added to my day! Amazing, isn’t it? Hope you enjoyed this year’s re-cap.

On to 2018!!!

Life is funny.

Tuesday, 5:20 am:

We are both dead asleep.

Suddenly, there is this loud “WooooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOO” sound, somewhere between a kid trying to pretend to be a ghost and a toddler crying. Jason sits up and says, “What? WHAT?” I mumble, “Was that for real?” Then he is calling the kids names out loud. I’m trying to, unsuccessfully, swim out of my sleep and then I remember that the dog slept in our room. I somehow manage to make it to the end of my bed and onto the floor.

Francesca is lying on a pillow with a look on her face like, “What?”. Yes, apparently dogs can have nightmares, too. Who would have thought. Here’s your 5 am adrenaline alarm/wake-up call. Thanks for the semi-heart attack.

Thursday, 8 am:

I’m in bed, trying to decided whether or not to get up. Jason comes running back into the bedroom hollering, “Oh my GAWD! UGH!!!!!” Of course, I’m saying, “What? What? WHAAAT?”

Turns out, Nancy the dog rolled in a dead chicken carcass and has jumped all over his clean pants. Now he smells like rotten dead animal and has to take another shower, not to mention that the whole back half of the house stinks to high heaven. I go ahead and get up and try to locate the dead chicken who was slated for burial today. As I’m walking around the yard, I step/slide in Nancy’s fresh steaming pile of crap.

Have I mentioned that I am more than a little tired of having dogs? Okay, not Fran, because she doesn’t count. She’s the most un-doggy dog there is. I even bought her a stroller for our vacation. But anyway…

Life on the farm has been busy as always. We are further along in our plan to pay off debt and travel. We are now the proud owners of a beautiful 1 ton truck to pull our travel trailer that we don’t yet own.  I finally broke down and took Fran to get all her vaccines so she is ‘travel legal’. It’s time to plant fall veggies (even a bit late), but I can’t bring myself to plant in September when it is so God-awfully dry. I have been decluttering like mad and try to make progress every day. Been reading Getting Things Done by David Allen and implementing his productivity ideas in my own way. I bought a Pioneer Woman crock pot (LOVE) and have decided to rehome my 20 year old one with the sad broken lid that is taped together with packaging tape. The puppy I posted about last time is on his way to a rescue in Washington state (PTL!).

How is Life on your end?

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I am sorry.

I am sorry that your former ‘owners’ did not feel it necessary to provide you with the most basic of preventatives, resulting in at least a hundred fleas on your emaciated body, and so many hookworms that you became severely anemic. In fact, you were so anemic that the second day you woke up here, you fainted during your potty break and the vet said a blood transfusion would be the most optimal course of action. Your gums and skin were so pale, they were the color of milk. In all my days as a veterinary assistant, your coloring was one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

I am sorry that you probably had never really slept due to the parasites that ravaged your skin day and night. With twenty dollars, I have ensured that you will not have to worry about them for at least a month, and I will continue to provide you with this peace of mind as long as you are here with us.

I am sorry that, to try and find some kind of relief, you scratched and chewed away your skin until it was raw, scarred, and bloody. So much so that in several places you no longer have fur and the vet even tested you for scabies, “just to be sure”.

I would be lying if I told you that I did not lose sleep over this. I stayed up until the early hours of the morning wondering how someone could look at a dog in this condition every day and do nothing to correct it. And from that point, how could anyone ignore any animal or another human being without having the slightest bit of compassion?

I don’t believe in coincidence. God sent you to us because he knew we would help. Even though I cannot keep you permanently, I will continue to work on healing you until you are ready for your new home.

Can you pray with me? Can you pray that a wonderful home opens its doors to Charlie? One that will allow him to sleep inside, spoil him rotten, make sure he never has to go hungry or fight fleas and worms again?

Thank you.

Signed,

The Dogmother

 

 

 

The danger of visiting animal shelters

is that you may end up with a few more animals than before you walked in.

Meet the new farm cats, Eleanor and Esther! We have been working hard on the “cat room” over the past week. Today we got in the giant cat tree from Chewy.com and we love it! Whether the cats will enjoy it or not is another question. 

Here is Esther, who is 4 months old:

And here is Eleanor, eyeing the monster cat tree:

It’s a Polistes party!

If you know me well, you will know that me + wasps are not an equation with a happy solution. Usually, this equals me running away, losing a shirt, or pretty much shoving someone out of the way (a la George Costanza) to escape said wasp.

I know wasps have their place. They eat tons of caterpillars and garden pests. I get it. God made them for a good reason. Okay, fine. What I don’t get is why they have to single me out of a crowd to dive bomb me and make me look like I’ve lost my mind. Despite this fact, when a wasp decided to built its nest on one of our windows at eye level, I decided that this might be a good thing. After all, how often do you get the chance to study a wasp nest safely through glass?

So it’s been a few weeks now and the little nest had two new members. Honestly, I’d pretty much forgotten to check it out but I decided yesterday to snap some pictures. When I got back with my camera, I just so happened to hit the wasp watching jackpot! This was better than the Eagle Cam! (Okay…so maybe not.) There was some activity happening in one of the cells. Let’s tune into the Wasp Cam to see what the excitement was all about!


The nest was buzzing with excitement:

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Here’s a little biology review so you know what you’re seeing:

 

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The excitement builds!

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Could it be? Could it be someone’s…((gasp))…birthday?

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And after the birthday party for Carl, Cheryl had volunteered for the clean-up committee, so she meticulously removed the cell’s cap, balloons, banners, and hats, and put them in the proper recycling bins.

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Yes, Cheryl, Claire, and Carolyn got a new nest member, whom we shall call “Carl”. Carl is a male, as you can see from his curly antennae and yellow face. Now you know! Of course, I had to name the wasps. It somehow makes them slightly less disturbing if I know their names are Cheryl, Claire, Carolyn, and Carl.

I will admit to you that as I was working on my photos, I got a little nauseated. No, a lot. A lot nauseated. Wasps have that effect on me. I was sitting there, trying to put up cute little banners and balloons on the nest and I honestly wanted to throw up my hummus and chips all over this laptop and call it a day. But I suffered for YOU, readers! So that YOU might be able to join in the wasp party, too!

As I was working on this post, this went down:

Jason: “Hey, come here a sec!”

Me: “Hold on, I’m trying to photoshop birthday hats on some wasps!”

Jason: (dead silence), then, (chirping of crickets), then, (a lone wolf howls)


So, there is just a peek at life in our household. Hope you enjoyed the Wasp Cam 2017!!! I’m not sure if I can stomach another year of wasp watching.

Oh! And as for the title of this post, these wasps are Polistes metricus, or,  the metricus paper wasp. I always called them the Black-butted wasps, but what do I know? See, I learned something, too!

 

Flutterbys and more Buzzy things

Today I did something I don’t often do. I got up before 9am. I even made breakfast hash by 8. Yes, it was an amazing day. I also had the chance to plant some seeds and take some nice pictures for you before the wildflowers turn brown and crispy like someone hit them with a blowtorch. April and May are glorious in Texas. June is getting ‘meh’, and from July through September, the grass blades are so dry and crunchy that it’s like stepping on glass shards. It’s the time of year I am willing to move ANYWHERE that has rain. But since we still have flowers, I still have some pretty pictures for you!

First off is the very rare Maydelle Carpet butterfly.

Kidding.

Yes, my dogs peed on my entrance rug and apparently this poor, misguided butterfly enjoyed it. I would think nectar would be nicer, but what do I know? So while I was waiting to finish the rest of the laundry so I could wash a ‘dog’ load, this little critter decided to stop and sniff the dog rug. Whatever. This is called a Red Spotted Purple:

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Mmmmm, urine! (((shudder))) Okay, the rug had already dried out, so let’s just hope it was something else.

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In another disturbing butterfly pic, we have a Spicebush Swallowtail feeding on my compost pile. Gosh, you probably only thought they ate nectar! Sorry to spoil your beautiful butterfly images.

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After the “Finding Butterflies on Disgusting Things” session, I moved over to the flowers. Here we have a weird, green eyed buzzy thing. It had huuuge green eyes and looked bee-ish.

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Now we have a carpenter bee on some white arrowhead clover. This is very popular with the monarchs and some of the bees so I am glad that it reseeded so well.

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This little pollinator was super tiny and adorably coated in pollen.

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Now this pretty green ‘bee thing’ is, I believe, a sweat bee. It’s a terrible name for such a beautiful critter. Why not the Viridescent bee or the Emerald bee? Sweat bee? Seriously?

Yes, they are attracted to human sweat. He was either too interested in this flower to notice me, or maybe it was just that my sweat smells like bacon? I’m not sure. (YES I EAT A LOT OF BACON. JUST SAYING.)

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And now we come to our friend, the honeybee. You will see the orange things on her rear legs. This is called “pollen baskets” and the little bee stores the pollen she collects right there on her legs until she gets back to the hive. Pretty awesome, don’t you think? Scroll up and you will also notice that the sweat bee has them, too. I am always glad to see bees with full pollen baskets!

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I hope you enjoyed this week’s garden tour! Well, I’m off to eat a BLT, heavy on the mayo. But not before I wash my dog rugs!!!

Pond-ering

One of the main things that sold my husband on this property was that it had a pond. He had two requirements: a shop and a pond. Oh, and a house. So I guess that makes it three, although I feel that the house was third on the list. Shop, one. Pond, two, House…a distant three. That’s just the way men’s minds work.

The pond has been a long struggle for us, especially the first seven years. It would go almost completely dry every summer when animals needed it the most. The dam leaked and was situated in the wrong spot. There was no emergency spillway; instead, it had two metal culvert pipes to attempt to take the place of a spillway. Tip for those of you thinking about building a pond: Do not use metal culvert pipes in your dam. Just…no.

Things really started shaping up when Jason brought home his new girlfriend. I am not jealous. She weighs about 16,000 pounds. I suppose you could say she is blonde if you consider “construction yellow” to be blonde. I’ll give her this; she is a very hard worker and never complains. They spend many hours together, but he always comes home to me. Yes, the backhoe is really more of an ally to me than an adversary.

Now that we had a dirt-mover, the pond could be repaired. We found that most of our dam was not clay, but trash covered in clay. A stove, car batteries (!), glass bottles, tin….you name it, it was incorporated into the dam. Nice. Tip #2 for dam builders: Do not use trash to make your dam.

Now that Jason has removed Appliance World from the dam, water tends to stay in it. This year has been great for the fish. We have largemouth bass…big ones! They have spawned and make jillions of babies. We stocked with bluegill, ‘shellcrackers’, and fathead minnows. There is an abundance of life in our pond that I can’t even begin to document for you, but I will give you a little bit today!

Let’s start from the “less frightening” to “most fear inducing” critters. That is, at least for most of my readers. I don’t want to scare you off!


I caught this dragonfly in mid-molt. Did you know that they begin life as an aquatic creature? In fact, most of their life is in this larval form. They are only in this adult phase for two months or so. The shell you see at the top was the old exoskeleton that Mr. Dragonfly (or Mrs.) crawled out of, just like a cicada does.

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My daughter took this picture of a baby Red Eared slider. Now that the pond stays full, they have been breeding. I love sliders! They live a long time, reaching ages of 30+ years in the wild. They eat water plants, but also snails, insects, tadpoles, etc. and are considered omnivorous.

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Another photo by my daughter. This is another slider, but I am having a hard time deciding if it is a Yellow Belly or a Red Eared since I can’t see the red on the head. Either way, it’s a female. We call her Bertha. Bertha loves fishing corks and chases them when you go to fish. She will eat top floating fish food if you don’t spook her off first. You can tell a female from a male because male sliders are usually smaller and they have “Freddy Krueger” nails on the front. They are very long, whereas the female’s are short. And now you know!

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Last spring, we had a plague of bullfrog tadpoles. I do not know why Spring 2016 was the year for these, but we had so many it was a little scary. The pond was fairly BOILING with huge tadpoles. If you have ever seen adult bullfrogs, you know that they are huge and prehistoric-looking. Yes, they are slightly intimidating. I snapped this picture of one in our new secondary pond and when I went to check the photo, I was happy to see that it still had its tail. Pretty cool!

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Now, for everyone’s favorites! The snakes. Oh wait…you mean it’s just me? Oh well, I’m used to being the black sheep!

These were, again, snapped by my daughter. She calls this one “Camo”, because of its interesting pattern. We only have four venomous species of snakes in the US and they all live in Texas, which is no surprise to those of us who live here. We are one step away from living in Jurassic Park. If you don’t like scary, venomous, or poisonous things, I wouldn’t recommend moving to Texas. This brings me to a point: Poisonous and venomous are not the same. Don’t call snakes “poisonous” and all herpetologists and reptile enthusiasts will clap with glee and throw you a party. Just kidding! I mean, about the party thing. However, we might clap and give you a button or something. Poison must be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested to harm you. Venom is injected in some way. So when people say “poisonous snakes” it is technically incorrect. Sorry, but my inner nerd is now pleased and now you know the difference. Moving on…

Camo. Yes, “Camo” is a broad-banded water snake. We have quite a few in the pond and sometimes in late summer they will head up to my house at night to eat the baby toads and frogs. Many people mistake them for the moccasin AKA cottonmouth, but moccasins are not brightly colored like this. You can also see the round pupil here, as opposed to the ‘cat-eye’ slit pupil of the moccasin. They can grow up to three feet long and eat small fish and amphibians.

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This is a photo of a baby broad banded water snake that I almost stepped on. When I first saw it, it looked like a goldfish (from above…I could only see the eyes/head). I had just read that goldfish will tear up your pond and make it a muddy mess, so I scooped it up. Then I was like, crap! It’s a snake! But it did give me a great opportunity for a good close-up! We then released it and let it on its merry way. It stayed in the shallow plants.

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The next two pictures are of a Yellow Belly water snake. These are very often mistaken for a moccasin because of their drab coloring and the fact that when they are frightened or cornered, they will flatten out their head and body, which unfortunately even MORE resembles the venomous moccasin. So, a lot of them are shot for no reason. Again, in the second photo, you can see the round pupil and also that they have a bright yellow, non-banded tummy.

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So, life is good at the pond now! We see new baby animals and that means that adults are calling the pond their home, which is exactly what we wanted to happen.

I hope you enjoyed this mini-tour today!

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