Sunday, August 13, 2006

Birth of a Cicada

Nature study hit a payoff yesterday, when DS discovered a Cicada coming out of the ground 
getting ready to hatch from his old skin.
Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider that the things do this only 
infrequently, and that in my DH's entire life living here, he has seen this happen maybe three 
times before, you soon realise that yes, it IS a big deal! 

The first step was to see the nymph coming out of the ground, and climbing to a point where it can shed it's skin.  The nymphs tend to eat roots of trees, and various underground things... there was already an empty skin nearby, so obviously their food source is nearby!

We quickly captured him and placed him in a safe place so we could see him.  He was not obliging enough to change then and there, so we left him overnight, and were greeted with this the next day.

Here you can see the newly hatched Cicada adult, and his discarded skin.

He then proved to be VERY obliging, and posed nicely atop the discarded skin so that I might take pictures from every angle.  These photos are vastly reduced in size, so you cannot see the detail they really captured!

HOW he fit in the old skin I am not sure, but a close look at the pictures of the nymph allow you to see the adult beneath the surface.
About five seconds after this photo, he flew clumsily off to the pawpaw tree for sustenance.  When we saw him still there a few hours later, we shooed him to another tree... lest he defoliate that one (with the pawpaws still in evidence, albeit rather small!)

All we have left now, is the 'dry fly' skin left behind by the growing adult... perhaps a fascinating addition to a nature table :)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tomatoes galore

Or there would be if the bugs and kids didn't get to them first!
Yes... my beautiful HUGE tomatoes are ripening, and the bugs keep biting them and the kids keep picking the green ones.

That's OK though, because I took the opportunity to make that wonderful Southern dish Fried Green Tomatoes which was surprizingly easy.

Take the green tomatoes your over-eager two-year-old picked, and slice them very thinly, composting the top and bottom slices.
Get a bowl of buttermilk or soured milk (which you can make with a little vinegar in milk) and a bowl of seasoned cornmeal (add salt and pepper to taste).
Heat a 'skillet' (frying pan to those from the UK) and melt a little butter or heat a little oil in there.
Dredge the slices in the milk first, then coat with the cornmeal mixture. Fry on each side until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes.
Cool slightly, then eat!!


Also spotted in the garden... a monarch butterfly, suspected of being one of our caterpillars (now gone), a black swallowtail butterfly (also suspected of being one of our disappearing caterpillars) and one lone black swallowtail caterpillar.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Garden Wildlife

The hot summer days seem to have promoted growth in the garden... the bugs are booming, my tomatoes are growing (although not ripening they are definitely HUGE) and new flowers bloom and surprise me! I have spotted a number of volunteer plants in the garden, including this beauty...

A volunteer morning glory. I get them every year, they just somehow appear here... and I never planted any. Not to worry, I pull most of them up, and let just a few bloom!

Dh and I think they are pretty, so it really doesn't bother us too much!

Other willing volunteers in the garden, are BUGS.
I am sure that these guys are up to no good... my field guide says that they eat peaches... I have yet to check ours. I doubt any are left between them and the squirrels!

These fellows are rather friendly though:

not only do they keep the bugs away from us, but they have made friends with the kids...

Up close, they can be absolutely stunning!

He was rescued from the soapy water, rinsed and left to dry... and he actually recovered and flew away!

But the real showstoppers in the garden right now, are somewhat of a pest... these little guys are defoliating my fennel. Trouble is, I LOVE the butterfly that they become!

They are black swallowtail caterpillars, and you'd swear they were my daughter's raison d'etre since she dresses herself in shoes and hat each morning to "See papiwwas" (That's caterpillars in 2 y.o.)
I on the other hand, was much more thrilled to see these fellows on my butterfly weed/pleurisy root. (That's the orange bloom in the photo).

This is a monarch butterfly caterpillar... and pleurisy root is a member of the milkweed family, and a beautiful caterpillar haven. Normally I get some of the questionmark caterpillars on here, but this year, I have monarchs. Now if only they stay there!

Finally, a recent photo of my son's garden... he has done a great job this year!