Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Carousel Surprise

I love carousels and the art of carousel animals. My favorite carousel ever is the one at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The carousel in these photos is located at Bridge Street Town Centre, a shopping complex here in Huntsville. Here are a few of the wonderful animals that are on it. Click on the photos for more details.

Numerous examples of the equine family

Another fiery steed or two, a really cute little bear, and a fierce lion

Tiger and panda

A very horsey seahorse

A cat with a fish! This is for my friends Rabbits' Guy (RG) and Bunny Lady (BL) over at "A Houseful of Rabbits." I know RG really likes this one and would love a closer view.

RG, you know you just have to click on this one to enlarge it and get an even better look.

Now hold on, RG, the best is yet to come. . .

Can you see it, RG?

A bunny!!! A carousel Bunn! I was delighted to see a rabbit carousel animal. I don't recall having seen a rabbit on a carousel before, but most of the really neat carousels I've ever seen were long before my rabbit days and back when I was still horse crazy, so that's mostly all I paid attention to. Now I'm wondering how many times I've missed rabbits on carousels. I'll certainly be on the lookout for them in the future.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Well, there's good news and then there's...

I discovered Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on the fennel today. I am really pleased to see them. The reason I grow the fennel is to attract the butterflies. The last few years I have seen hardly any caterpillars munching on the fennel and that means fewer butterflies.

The first year I grew fennel, there were caterpillars for several weeks. Sometimes there would be fifteen or twenty of different sizes one day, but the next day about half of them would have disappeared, probably as a result of birds and wasps. Each day there would be fewer and fewer, until I could find none at all. The next summer I decided to make a butterfly house out of tulle netting and embroidery hoops to keep a few of the caterpillars in. They had ravenous appetites and I had to buy more fennel to keep them fed. I called the butterfly folk at Callaway Gardens to see if there was any butterfly mush that I could make to feed them. The kids had raised Painted Lady butterflies in second grade and the caterpillars had been packed in cups with a green gooey mush for them to feed on. No such luck for the Black Swallowtails, though. The Callaway Gardens folk told me I'd just have to get more fennel.

It was fascinating to watch each caterpillar grow large and fat and form a chrysalis, then eventually get to see the lovely butterfly emerge. I would release them from the butterfly house and place them on the fennel plants as soon as their wings dried. I decided that I might try putting some netting over the fennel to keep away predators this year. I headed off to the fabric store to buy tulle, but I didn't get the fennel covered.

Here's why:

I was T-boned on the way from the fabric store to the office supply store before heading home. The driver of the other vehicle just broadsided us as we were traveling west in the right lane. We ended up headed southeast across both lanes. The force of the impact made us skid into an arc during which the van almost flipped over onto the passenger side. We made part of the skid on the two wheels on the right side of the van. As it tilted, I wondered how we'd get out if it ended up on its side because I was pretty sure my door would probably not open. Fortunately, it righted itself before we had to figure that out, but the door did have to be opened from the outside. It also damaged the right rear wheel rim as the initial impact pushed the van into the curb.

The original position in which the van came to rest after impact.

Another view after I moved the van out of the lane of traffic and into the turn lane while trying to decide where to move it to wait for the police.

The man was driving a maroon GMC Acadia. When the man saw me get out of my vehicle, he drove away. I ran after him on foot while my son called the police (this portion of street runs between two strip malls where it dead ends, so I wasn't running down an extremely busy street filled with traffic). Eventually he turned around and came back. However, he was no help and very uncooperative. There was only minor damage to his front bumper and two strips of metal trim were knocked off. Oddly, he threw those into my van. He claimed he never hit me, got back in his vehicle and drove off again after almost running over me as I stood in front of his vehicle to try to keep him from leaving and trying to get him to pull into a parking space to get information from him. My son got a picture of the man's license plate with his cell phone--thank goodness for camera phones! Another gentleman in a jeep followed him and photographed it, too. Finally, while we were talking to the police, another man drove up with a good photo of the man's vehicle. I am very grateful to those men for their help, neither of whom actually witnessed the collision. The police ran the license number and got his name and address, so they know who he is and where he lives. In the meantime, I've called my insurance company.

The damaged right rear wheel rim.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scenic North Alabama: Water Garden

The water garden is one of my favorite places at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pants and Towels

While bringing in a load of laundry, I spied Pants (Pascal) sound asleep on some freshly washed towels. He just couldn't resist curling up on those clean towels. So peaceful. It seemed a shame to have to move him. I snapped this photo with my phone, so apologies for the quality.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Twinkie in the Window

The inside cats are having a wonderful time enjoying the air and the outdoor sounds since we've been keeping the windows open. At first they seemed to compete for the choice spots, particularly this small den window that Pushkin claimed as her territory for several days. Now they seem to rotate from one location to another every few days. I caught Twinkie relaxing in the den window this afternoon and managed to get a photo of her with my cell phone.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beware the Hidden Dutchie

Here is Mopsy, our Dutch bunny, in one of her favorite spots--an empty cat litter container (not the litter box) converted into a bunny nook out in the playpen. The violets have grown since the last rain, so she feels especially concealed in her little hidey spot.

It just goes to show that there are good things about cat litter. Pretty useful, huh, RG over at A Houseful of Rabbits ?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Argiope

This lovely Argiope aurantia (Black and Yellow Garden Spider) has taken up residence in the irises. This photo shows her just slightly larger than the actual size she is at this time. When I first spied her, there were two females and two males, all rather small. One pair disappeared after a couple of weeks, leaving this one and her mate. He has since disappeared due to unknown causes. These spiders are often preyed upon by a variety of wasps, flies, and birds. The other three may have ended up as dinner or may have moved due to web disturbances because my husband and son were cutting tree limbs July 5th and kept dragging the branches against the edge of the iris bed as they carried them down to the the street for trash pickup. I was afraid that might mean the end of the argiopes, so I asked them to try not to drag the branches through the irises, not to mention the fact that it wasn't doing the plants much good. I was happy to find all four of them still in the iris bed once all the tree trimming was done. However, lately I've only seen this lady. I could not find her for a day or two, then this morning my oldest son asked me to "move this thing so that it won't be in my face when I go out the door. She had moved her web from the irises at the end of the front porch to the upper corner of the front door facing. I got the broom and gently relocated her to the iris bed. I don't know if she will stay there.

The argiope are orb-web weaving spiders that are known for creating zig zag patterns in the centers of their webs. The pattern (stabilimentum) may serve to attract prey or to camouflage the spider. One of their common names is "writing spider" because the stabilimenta look like writing. The spider eats the web each night and builds a new one every morning, taking up to four hours to make a new one. The photo above does not show the web construction very well. It was difficult to get good photos due to the slight breeze.

This photo shows the lovely lady as she begins the construction of a new web for the day.

These spiders get quite large, but I have not seen any Argiope aurantia that were a great deal larger than the size of this enlargement (larger than her current actual size). These Black and Yellow Garden Spiders are also sometimes called banana spiders, but are a different species from the Banana Spider (Nephila clavipes, also known as the Golden Silk Spider) found in Florida and other southern coastal areas, which are the largest non-tarantula spiders in North America. Both of these species are non-aggressive. The bite is not harmful to humans and is reportedly less severe than a bee sting (although I have never found bee stings to be much fun). The name "Banana Spider" is also applied to the highly venomous Brazilian Wandering Spider (Phoneutria spp.) whose bite is harmful to humans.

When I was trimming up the unruly holly bush at the other end of the porch last week, I spotted another argiope. This was during the time that the others were in the iris bed at the other side of the house. I was pleased to find the spiders in two locations. They are great insect pest consumers. I have not seen this one since I disturbed her while I was working on the holly. At the time, she retreated further into the foliage. I hope she's still there.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bad Kitty!!

Just look at this ball of wool roving! I found it on the floor after Pascal (aka Pants) got into the basket and chose it as his plaything.

Here he is pretending to be innocent to avoid getting scolded. How could you be angry at that sweet face?

Now he is trying to be cute to distract me from his dastardly deeds. Of course, I fell for it.

All I could really do was laugh. I haven't even rewound the ball of roving yet. I'm keeping it like that for a while to remind me of how much enjoyment we can derive from simple things.

Scenic North Alabama: Butterfly House

We went to the Huntsville Botanical Gardens on my birthday (July 2). I had not been there in several years and was amazed at the beautiful new butterfly house they have built. The old one was a rather temporary affair that has now been refurbished and turned into a lovely bonsai exhibit. My favorite areas used to be the Japanese water garden and the wildflower trail. I have to add the butterfly house to my list of favorites. Here are some photos of the pool and waterfall.

Of course, the batteries in my camera died right after we arrived, so I made almost all the photos for the day with my cell phone.

There were lots of turtles enjoying the fine atmosphere. This was made from the overlook above the waterfall.

This is a view of the terraced waterfall from turtle level. You can see those two guys on the log enjoying themselves.

You can walk under the waterfall. I couldn't resist trying to get a photo from underneath.

Keepin' Cool

While we wait for the air conditioner to be repaired, the cats have discovered the delight of open windows. Here is Pushkin stretched out to the max and keeping cool.