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

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.


  1. That's just awful - poor you. I don't know how your country's laws are - but he'd be in quite a bit of bother over here. I hope it all works out ok for you - I shall be sending positive wishes your way.

    It's lovely that your dedication to the butterflies has been rewarded though.

  2. I don't really know what the process will be, but I'm thinking he will--or already has been--arrested for leaving the scene of an accident. Beyond that, I'm leaving it up to my insurance company. The adjuster is coming out this morning to look at the van. The photos don't really do it justice; it is worse in person. I'm glad we weren't injured.

  3. Ouchy ouch .. boy, lucky not to get hurt. Accidents scare me - both to cause one and to be the victim.

    (I could send some fennel ...)

  4. Hey, RG. It was pretty scary. No fun at all. Tonight I am sore all over and feel as though I have been beaten up.

    I did get the netting on the fennel today. It will keep the birds from snatching up all the caterpillars, but the many varieties of small wasps still have access. Maybe a few will survive. I might have to take you up on your offer of fennel if all those little guys make it!

  5. Oh my goodness, how terrible! I had no idea when I sent you those pix this morning. It could have been so much worse.

    Glad you are ok, although your van looks pretty bad. I hope the police throw the hit and run guy in jail. Maybe you can sue and get lots of $$.

    Call Alan Shore to represent you.

    I think you guys should get a limo and hire a driver. Have RG take up a collection to help out with expenses.

  6. Great ideas, BL. Alan Shore would surely manage to get me lots of bucks. Although a collection initiated by RG would be good, too.

    Hey, maybe that guy had mad cow disease!

  7. So we have even more in common: Huntspatch, Madison County Lake, Bones and now Boston Legal. What else is lurking in the shadows waiting to pop out?

  8. Oooooo eeeeeeee (scary movie music). Who knows BL? Who knows? Denny Crane? Denny Crane.

    Do you remember that salmon fishing trip that DC took AS on? How funny!!

  9. I'm glad you are in one piece. That's a terrible experience. I think (hope) that guy should lose his license for that. My kid is studying for his learner's permit now and leaving the scene of an accident suspends/revokes your license in MD. This guy might already have a record and is fleeing to avoid more trouble. An honest person wouldn't act like that.

  10. On the insect diets. There may be an insect diet that can be made. There is a compendium of insect diets for many critters raised in the labs. It probably is not available to consumers. If I can find info, I'll let you know. I used to raise moths. Actually, your university entomology department or agricultural extension might have the info. Insects can be very particular about diet and conditions. They may only feed upside down. Some must have food in a particular shape/form. It may be tricky.

  11. Gilding--I think the man will probably lose his license. He appeared to be in his 70's and seemed not quite aware of what was going on, although not what I would call disoriented. He did not hit his head. The policeman said maybe it is Alzheimers. My son said alcohol. I tend to agree with the cop or think maybe meds, too.

    Thanks for the insect food comments. I really thought that Callaway Gardens would have some information, but it might be that the species is really particular.

    What kind of moths did you raise? Silk producing ones? I got some cocoons a few years ago, but ended up just using them for display/ed purposes at the museum.

  12. oh gosh sorry to hear that! Glad you're okay.

  13. Wow, your story really incensed me Melissa. I would have been furious about such a dreadful thing. I am very glad no one was hurt. Thank goodness for those people who photographed him. I always keep my phone handy if ever something like that happens to me.

    As for the caterpillars and butterflies - keep up the good work!

  14. That is so awful Bunnits! I'm so glad you're fine. I hope that man gets slapped with a hefty fine and even some "hard time" would be good. I'm so glad you got pictures and he didn't get away. And people were there to help. I've never had an accident...I hope not to ever, but there's so many people out there that don't pay attention.

    I'll be growing fennel. Also Dill will attract butterflies too, I think. I have not seen one Monarch this year. Have you?

  15. So sorry to hear about this and hope those aches and pains are gone!

  16. Melissa,
    I just talked to Evelyn and she mentioned that you had been in an accident. I'm so glad that you weren't hurt. What a horrible thing to happen to you. I'm sure it was very frightening especially trying to deal with the crazed person that hit you.
    Hope everything works out for you.
    Take care,