Archive for August, 2011

The heat and the need to study are keeping me out of the garden today. I’m ok with that. There is a HUGE new vocabulary to learn for class and most of the outdoor plants don’t need anything but water right now. So, as I head off into a cool part of the house to learn about the chemical bonding habits of hydrogen molecules and why that matters to plants, I will leave you with a butterfly I met at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco when we were up there last month to visit Terri and Emily. Happy Sunday!

meet the Tiger Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius hecale)

I got to looking at the photo and noticed how well I could see the proboscis, which is a straw-like mouth, curled up and quite visible. It’s hard to get that in a butterfly photo since they usually flutter off when you approach. So, I enlarged the photo – I think this is a pretty awesome picture of a butterfly and she looks quite lovely against her green background:

...this one sat still for an entire photo shoot!


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Spiders have an exoskeleton. As they grow, the exoskeleton becomes too small and splits open and the new and improved spider leaves it behind. We do not kill spiders at my house – ever. So, as you can imagine, I run across quite a few exoskeletons. This batch of “Daddy-Long-Legs”, aka Skull Spiders (Pholcus phalangioides)was found during my last major cleaning sweep. It was in a wreath hanging over the fireplace which hadn’t been touched since last winter. They are tiny, maybe a centimeter across, and look like spider ghosts – make sure you enlarge the photo to full size for full impact. Very awesome.

...the discarded exoskeletons of the common 'Pholcus phalangioides'

It has long been believed, even by myself, that they are one of the most venomous spiders but are not dangerous to humans because they cannot pierce skin with their fangs. This has been proven false, thanks to the crew at Myth Busters.

It is true that they eat other spiders, which is why I leave mine alone. They are also quite skilled at catching flies and mosquitoes that make it into the house. They really earn their keep in late summer when the crane flies (we call them mosquito hawks) are in full swing. They don’t bite humans but they are big and gross and I’m eternally grateful to the spider I see has caught one.

It may seem kind of gross to think of all those spiders running loose in my house, but really there aren’t that many because when you leave Mother Nature alone, she manages to balance those things out. If there isn’t anything around for a Daddy-Long-Legs to eat, it will eat another Daddy-Long-Legs. Besides, I would rather have a lovely spider hanging out in the corner of the ceiling than breathing in a bunch of pesticide. Also, the ‘catch and release’ program is much better than killing something that doesn’t deserve to die. Hopefully I didn’t give anybody the creeps today!

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Yesterday was the first day of the new semester. Crashing the Chem152 class proved unsuccessful, so I’m sticking with the Botany class and lab. Next semester I will try to make up a few more credits with extra classes, but for now I can just focus on the subject which most interests me and pour all my scholarly love into the one class. Here’s our new textbook:

"Botany - Plants, People, and the Environment" by Linda Berg

I was also advised to order “Botany for Gardeners” by Brian Capon, which I did and can’t wait to get started on.

The syllabus mentions two field trips; one to Balboa Park and one to Florida Canyon, which is close by. We will be running around identifying plants. I cannot tell you how excited I am about the field trips! This class will build heavily upon the Botany class I took last semester, but with more hard science. We learned how to use microscopes yesterday and I got to look at plant slices on little glass slides. Let me just say that I’m totally in love already. Yay!

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“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.” ~ Dale Carnegie

the back yard through the yoga studio window

sometimes I abandon the yoga in favor of gazing aimlessly out the window

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…and the alligator lizard said, “Maybe we aren’t supposed to always feel like we belong. There are so many places you can be, so be in the place that makes you feel good.”

Alligator Lizard - August 14, 2011

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The Hummingbird

Came the spring, I picked a corner and
set my mind to making a flower
garden in the midst of this mass of
weeds unattended through
Winters toughening of the soil.
I tilled, and pulled, and turned, and broke, and bled…
The soil was perfect now…
But, alas! The puppy was fervent in her efforts to help me dig!
So I cut, and I sawed, and I nailed,
and created the most beautiful little picket fence with a gate…..
and planted a tree……
and planted my flowers…
and tended and watered and weeded
and nurtured all through the Spring and Summer months….
To this day, this perfect Autumn morning,
while standing in my doorway,
sipping that first cup of coffee….
I saw the fast-beating wings of that little faerie,
flitting from flower to flower…
was all worth it in that one moment.

~ by Christopher Griffiths

From this April 2011 - the Hummingbird nest outside the bedroom window - these two are only about an inch long and cuddling to fit into a nest the size of a walnut and made of mostly spider silk. They had a wonderful Mom.

And the humming-bird that hung
Like a jewel up among
The tilted honeysuckle horns
They mesmerized and swung
In the palpitating air,
Drowsed with odors strange and rare.
And, with whispered laughter, slipped away
And left him hanging there.

– James Whitcomb Riley
(from The South Wind and the Sun)

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When Someone Deeply Listens To You ~ by John Fox

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.

When someone deeply listens to you
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind’s eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!

When someone deeply listens to you
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.

Faded Rose - August 2011

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