Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Afterglow of Memories

 Aster 'Paten'
First of the asters to bloom

Maybe Phylloporus rhodoxanthus, commonly known as the gilled bolete

Swallowed Up!

Winterthur viburnum


In the desert of Nevada, there was a time in my childhood, when the month of August was always the rain month.  It rained every week, and the wide streets of that small town we called home turned into rivers on each side during the heavy storms.  If there was no lightning, we were allowed to play in the rain and street-rivers in our swim suits.  In the winter months we always had snow that came up to the knees of a little child.  In dry weather hellacious wind storms were common.
During one of these wind storms the sand was blowing so furiously, Mom pulled all the shades down and the draperies shut to block out the dust that was filling the rooms and causing us to cough.  The electricity was out, so being the self-contradicting demurely pushy child I was, I put on a sock puppet show with a magical made up story off of the top of my head, so to speak.  The puppets were Cecile, a dragon I made, with button eyes, thick black washer nostrils, red felt inside mouth with a forked tongue, and a felt zigzag fin down his back.  The other would go down in childhood history as the one eventually forgotten…poor creature.  My sister loves this memory.

I’m sure we ended the day playing canasta in candlelight, as it was the one card game mom loved and taught us all to play as her rivals and partners.  Another time, I took a play from a magazine, and talked my siblings into memorizing their lines and making their own costumes.  We preformed it in front of mom and dad, and maybe others; I don’t remember.  I even was their school teacher during one summer, having them sit at makeshift desks and doling out mathematical and spelling problems to solve.  My sister says she loved it, as I made it all so much fun, but I’ll never know if the others agreed.

Sometimes these memories give me a strange feeling of wanting to be there once more, to take in the sights and sounds as I remember a time when life was hope and innocence.  When exploring the world was my backyard or taking the path that one street over led through the grade school playground, past the small house division of Lake View (although the view of the lake was a myth only a telescope could disprove), and up that sandy desert road that soon meandered through the town's smoky and smelly mounds of burning garbage dumped and onward towards the foothills of of that almighty looming Mount Grant. 


American Dogwood Tree next to trunk of White Ash Tree

American beautyberry and Jeana phlox

Florida predatory stink bug nymph, a species of carnivorous shield bugs.
Here it is eating a plant eating shield bug.
It is considered a beneficial insect.

Black walnut husks left by squirrel

Grey squirrel eating seeds hanging on American hornbeam

Euonymus americanus

Going to seed

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Saturday, September 4, 2021

"Our summer made her light escape into the beautiful."

 A late summer garden has a tranquility found no other time of the year.

      I walk my garden today. 

      Dark and dank

      With a heavy load

      Of clouds overhead

      Swollen with rain,

      Ready to burst forth

      When that first roaring rumble

      Gives its signal.


      The squeaky swinging bench

      A respite in this summer heat,

      As late afternoon settles over a garden

      No worse for wear

      Than this old worn out human.

      Birds call in short crisp notes,

      Then a silence settles in

      As if doom itself has entered the fold.


      Tree crickets begin their high pitched chant,

      As a group of house finch silently appear,

      One by one, to fill the feeder edge

      With beaks ready for seed

      Then that rusty red Toyota Solara

      Drives in to stay the night

      As husband exits and harnesses the dog

      To walk, out racing the sunset.


      I walked my garden today.

      No different than any other day

      Meandering muddy pathways

      Tilted plants rough with old age

      Clumps of flowers half spent

      A few falling leaves in rustic colors

      But the heavens are silent as the rains burst forth

      Over a garden already soaked from the day before.

Young Red Oat Nuts

  Dogwood Leaf falling from drought stress between rains.

Solomon's Plume under stress between rain storms

Phlox beat to ground by thunder storm

Underside of Blue Jay Feather

With the help of Traude, these are a puffball mushroom.
Upon more research, these could be Lycoperdon perlatum,
because of the multiple pore holes.
I could be wrong :)
I don't think I have enough time left in my life to try and identify
 these fungi from the thousands out there, although
 I would love to know the identity of these tiny white ones below.

Each of these mushrooms is about 1/8 inch in diameter.  
They appeared after a rain and disappeared in two days
 when the soil wasn't wet anymore.
Trooping Crumble Cap (Caprinellus disseminatus)
Thanks to David Gascoigne for looking them up.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Jeana Phlox

Old Ladies
Clematis seeds becoming hairy to float away on the wind  

Unwanted intruder

      As imperceptibly as grief

      The summer lapsed away--

      Too imperceptible at last

      To seem like perfidy--

      A quietness distilled 

      As twilight long begun,

      Or nature spending with herself

      Sequestered afternoon--

      The dusk drew earlier in--

      The morning foreign shone--

      A courteous, yet harrowing grace,

      As guest, that would be gone--

      And thus, without a wing

      Or service of a keel

      Our summer made her light escape

      Into the beautiful.

            ~Emily Dickenson

Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)

I'm pretty sure this is Heartleaf Drymary or Tropical Chickweed
(Drymaria cordata)
Super aggressive!

Forgot the name of this phlox
 that usually has flowers whose petals bend backwards.
The soil always needs to be moist, or wilting will begin.

Blackberry Lily
The clusters of the seeds of a flower look somewhat like a blackberry.

Joe Pye Weed hanging over the rain garden area.
Who knows why it is called a weed.
It is a lovely, somewhat monstrous plant.

Rudbeckia maxima

Spicebush berries
I read their taste is likened to black pepper when green,
and more like allspice when red.
I tasted a green berry and while it was peppery, 
a resin taste was also present.
The red berry was nasty...the way I would imagine a gulp of turpentine to taste.


Growing up I never thought much about them, except that the cute jumping spiders were collected in a water glass and let go outside, cockroaches mom stomped on to crush, and I, too squeamish to consider that, tried to beat them to death with a broom…quite unsuccessfully, I might add.

Daddy long legs sent me into a panic, while black ants were always on a mission to take over the kitchen counters, and as one poisoned red ant nest passed on to oblivion, others began scouting out the yard to set up another.

Horse flies were hungry monsters, and a dive bombing western bumblebee would send even mom running for cover.  You already know about the exploding grasshoppers from a previous post, but sow bugs rolling up into tight little balls were playthings for us children.

Life in a garden is so much more complex than I ever imagined it as a child growing up.  I was never fascinated by all the goings on in the early years--those years of tackling a ground of heavy clay soil that only a sharpened steel shovel and garden spade could penetrate.

My fatal attraction with insects manifest itself when my focus changed from ordinary suburban gardening, to all out wild gardening that soon became wilderness enough to sustain all things in balance.  Acquiring a smart phone that took amazing photographs was the icing on the cake.  

I’m amazed at the complexity of so many details on an outrageously magnified photo of an insect.  It has captivated me more these past two years than anything else in my entire life’s span.  If I’m asked what feature surprises me most, it’s the multitude of different kinds of hairs that appears on them all.  Their smooth appearance to the naked eye is so deceiving.

In another lifetime would I take this same path again?  I hope not!  I'd buy a cottage in the lush countryside where no city rules applied and just chill out while nature did all the work.  But then again, in another lifetime I might also be a blade of grass in my neighbor's front yard with my head mowed off every Saturday morning before breakfast.  Perhaps it's best to be content with my two gimpy knees and an armchair that loves me.

Common Green Tree Cricket
on storm door glass backlit by the foyer light

Skipper Butterfly

I think this is the same type of skipper butterfly, but the lighting is different.

After a cicada exits its underground home, 
the outer shell is split open and the mature cicada emerges from the top back.

Annual Cicadas , whos life span is between 2 to 5 years,
emerge every year throughout the summer.
The entire insect is from 2 to 2 1/2 inches long
with green and black (sometimes brown) coloring.
They camouflage well in the leaf canopy.

Killer insect profile: The "assassin fly" or "robber fly"

More than seven thousand species already identified
 Size: 0.2 – 2 inches

This one is about 1 1/2 inches long

From the Smithsonian's website
If you are squeamish, forget about reading this.

According to Torsten Dikow, curator in the entomology department at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, assassin flies are “aggressive, visual predators that perch on vegetation and rocks to look for insects flying by. Once an assassin fly spots its prey, it follows and attacks it in flight by grabbing the insect with its legs, biting it on its back or side, and injecting it with venomous saliva that kills the insect almost instantly. The assassin fly is able to hold on with strong, bristly legs that form a basket to carry its prey to a perching site where the fly can eat at its leisure.”

“The saliva not only kills the insect, it liquefies its insides too, which the fly sucks up through its mouthparts,” Dikow explains. “Once it’s done eating, the fly leaves the empty carcass behind and starts looking again for more prey.”

Common Green Bottle Fly

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
About 3/4" to 1" in length
I read that males have a lighter patch on their face,
but I've never noticed.
I'm on the lookout now to discover the males,
if the rains ever stop. 

Houses in Tennessee are built to resist termites and carpenter bees.
Since our garden is a wildlife sanctuary,
I don't particular care to kill these lovely creatures of nature,
as they will just be replaced by more.
Nests are usually in the porch rails or fence rails.
I can live with that.
We also provide 4x4 lumber in certain areas and dried tree logs.

Males can't sting and females rarely do.
They just intimidate the hell out of you, 
if you happen to be too close to their nest.
It's a bit unsettling to have a pair of these big babies 
chasing after you and circling you like they're coming in for the kill
in the springtime.
They'll hound you until you escape to the house,
or the other side of the yard :)

Okay...after I read that males have a light face patch, 
I tracked down two after the rains and the patch is different on each one.

Leafcutter Bee - a solitary bee that lives on its own

Common Garden Sage

Winterthur Viburnum berries turning from white to pink.
You may notice the birds are already eating them.

Red Oak leaf in rain

A pocket of water on the rocks

Dustin will be fourteen years old this November.
He's been the best friend ever.
He's in the early stages of kidney disease.
Near the end of this month, 
his system will be flushed out with fluids, 
his teeth cleaned, 
then his system flushed out again by twice as much fluids.
This is to give his kidneys 
a fighting chance to slow down the progress of the disease.

Daylily without a name
Blooming early spring and again in late summer

Swamp Rose Mallow Seedpods

Beautyberry with white fruit

Clematis Arabella still blooming

Blue Lobelia in rain garden

     There is a voice that doesn't use words.



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