Sunday, October 31, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

October's End

The above photos were taken by my daughter for a visual arts project at school around the theme of "together we can." She visited my after-school knitting club and tried to capture how learning to knit often involves one-on-one instruction-- sometimes with "teaching hands" and "learning hands" wrapped up together with yarn and needles. This knitting club has been one of the bright spots of my October.

October also brought several challenges. This entire school year has been a rocky ride that has eaten up what used to be little bits of free time. I used to blog several times a week! Lately, I only seem to manage a few posts per month.

All of October's challenges, however, were not daunting. Some of the pleasant opportunities were:
  • Taking a weekend trip to Birmingham for the Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (Sarah Campbell, a writing buddy and fellow traveler from Jackson, wrote a wonderful description of the conference here;
  • Learning how to cook Chicken Tikka Masala, Baighan Bartha, Naan, and Aloo Gobi Masala with some good friends;
  • Reading Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder with my daughter and thinking about "common magic;"
  • Watching both of my children participate and progress in their Tae-Kwan-Do classes;
  • Reveling in rain after a long time without.
With less than three days left in this month, I'm anticipating:
  • Enjoying cooler, more fall-like temperatures;
  • Carving two, large pumpkins and three, small pumpkins to welcome hallowed haints and saints;
  • Strolling through the neighborhood in search of fall colors peeking out here and there.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Giant Swallowtail

This Giant Swallowtail visited our backyard, butterfly habitat today. I spent an hour hunting down information on the internet to identify it. For a while, I thought it might be a Thoas Swallowtail, but its range is South America through Texas (only sometimes in Oklahoma and Kansas), so that didn't sound right. This set of photographs helped me correctly identify it as a Giant Swallowtail (I LOVE the internet). The difference is the number of spots on the trailing edge of the forewings. Thoas has 4 marginal spots on the trailing edge of the forewing; whereas the Giant has only 3.

Can you count the spots on the separated wings in the enlarged photo below? You can also see some damage to its left forewing.

This butterfly did not want me too close. In fact, it flew away over the fence twice while I was trying to photograph it. If I had not been able to zoom in on my photos, I probably could not have identified it. I hope it returns this afternoon. We see Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in our back yard every so often, but this is the first Giant Swallowtail.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Sleeping Bees

One evening last week, I went outside to gather some flowers from our overgrown, butterfly garden to bring inside. We had not had rain in a while along with record breaking high temperatures, and the plants were showing their weariness. I wanted to save a few before they all dried up. (Thankfully, we now have some cooler temperatures to give us a hint of autumn).

Did you know that bumblebees sleep on flowers during the night-- like little black and golden fairies? I counted and photographed at least 11 bees that I could see around the perimeter of the garden. I turned to the computer to do some research and discovered that male bumblebees indeed sleep on flowers -- especially late in the season when the temperatures begin to drop at night and when female bees refuse to let them back into their underground nests. Apparently, they are no longer needed for making baby bumblebees. Poor things. They attach themselves to flowers and hang out all night until the sun shines on their backs to warm them up for another day of pollen gathering. In our garden they preferred the lantana, flowering basil, and butterfly bush flowers for beds.

How could I live for almost 42 years and not know this?

Once inside, the bunch of flowers (lantana, zinnias, and some mysterious plant that the nursery told me was milkweed but that I have doubts about) quickly became the center of attention for curious cats. They smelled, rubbed, and chewed on the flowers until I moved the mason jar vase to higher ground. Those cats!

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