Showing posts from July, 2015

Goodbye to July

Images of July. Sunflower with bee. Sunflower without bee. Giant Swallowtail caterpillar on lemon tree. Black Swallowtail caterpillar on dill. A friendly spider. And spider lilies. A gerbera. Another gerbera.  And yet another gerbera. Gulf Fritillary butterfly. Giant Swallowtail butterfly. Male Monarch butterfly - you can tell by the two black dots on his hind wings. Sulphur butterfly on anisacanthus. A green anole displaying his throat pouch to assert his territorial rights and maybe entice a mate. A little green treefrog - just chillin'. A southern leopard frog, chillin' in his own way. And, of course, Bertie, the new addition to our household. It's been an eventful month. I wonder what August will bring.

The Blue Moon cometh

The expression "once in a Blue Moon" refers to an event that is very rare - as rare as having two full moons occur in the same month. That rare event will happen tonight when the second full moon in July will rise over the horizon. Don't expect to see an actual blue moon tonight. It'll be the same beautiful silvery orb that we see every month. An actual blue moon does sometimes occur when there are certain types of dust particles in the air, but such an occurrence is even rarer than...well, than a Blue Moon. There are actually two accepted definitions of a Blue Moon . The one most generally used - the one that I use - is the second full moon within a month. The other definition is that a Blue Moon is the third full moon of a season when four full moons occur in that season. In actuality, that third full moon will generally be the second full moon in a particular month so the first definition seems to make the most sense. If the weather and the clouds cooper

Rainbow's End by Martha Grimes: A review

Rainbow's End by Martha Grimes My rating: 4 of 5 stars I've recently been somewhat disappointed by the books that I've read in this series - a series that I have, on the whole, found very enjoyable. So, it makes me happy to report that I found Rainbow's End to be quite entertaining. Perhaps the summer heat has addled my brain, but I liked it very much. This book is the thirteenth in the long (and continuing) Inspector Jury series. As in the last book, The Horse You Came In On , we find Jury being persuaded to take a trip to the United States to follow up on potential clues regarding the death of an American who died at Old Sarum in England. The woman was a silversmith from Santa Fe, who created amazing works in silver and turquoise. Her death at first seems to have been from natural causes or an accident, but District Commander Brian Macalvie doesn't think so. From our previous acquaintance with Macalvie, we know that he's NEVER wrong. His instincts regardi

Backyard Nature Wednesday: Joe Pye Weed

It's high summer and the Joe Pye weed is doing its thing in my backyard garden. Eutrochium purpureum , commonly called Joe Pye weed, is a herbaceous perennial member of the aster family. It is native to the eastern and northern United States and grows in the wild or in gardens from zones 4 to 9.  It requires a moderate amount of water to do well but will tolerate some dry periods, however its leaves will scorch if the soil dries out completely. Other than that, its maintenance requirements are practically nil. Joe Pye weed can grow from 5 to 7 feet tall and spread from 2 to 4 feet. In my garden, it has reached its potential width but is not that tall - possibly four feet. It will grow in full sun to part shade. Mine is presently in part shade, but I have plans to transplant part of it to a sunnier area this fall. Joe Pye sports its mauve pink blooms from July through September so it is at its showiest just now.     The main reason for growing Joe Pye weed is that it is very

Esperanza: Hope for the summer garden

Tecoma stans , or Esperanza, has been designated as a Texas Super Star plant, meaning that it can take just about anything Mother Nature in Texas throws at it and keep on ticking, keep on performing its role as a mainstay of our summer gardens. The most common variety that one sees is the yellow form, popularly known as "Yellow Bells." I have a couple of those plants in my garden but both got pruned back severely in late spring and they haven't produced blooms yet. I also have two plants of the variety shown blooming here which is called "bronze." It has a touch of orange or rust in its bell-shaped blooms. Both varieties, the yellow and the bronze, are greatly loved by bees of all kinds. The flowers provide abundant nectar as a reward for their pollinators. These plants generally grow 3 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, although one of my yellow plants gets up to ten feet tall by the end of summer. In addition to lovely blossoms, the shrub also sports very

Poetry Sunday: A narrow fellow in the grass

Perhaps not so many people find poetry in snakes, but then the Belle of Amherst was no ordinary person or poet. Emily Dickinson wrote with empathetic feeling of the "narrow fellow." As one who admires snakes, I find her poem quite expressive of their nature. A narrow fellow in the grass (1096) BY  EMILY DICKINSON A narrow fellow in the grass Occasionally rides; You may have met him—did you not His notice sudden is, The grass divides as with a comb, A spotted shaft is seen, And then it closes at your feet, And opens further on. He likes a boggy acre,   A floor too cool for corn, But when a boy and barefoot, I more than once at noon Have passed, I thought, a whip lash, Unbraiding in the sun, When stooping to secure it, It wrinkled and was gone. Several of nature’s people I know, and they know me; I feel for them a transport Of cordiality. But never met this fellow, Attended or alone, Without a tighter breathing, And

This week in birds - #166

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The Cactus Wren is an especially raucous member of that large and raucous family.  It favors hot, dry, rocky habitats, the same kinds of places where cactus is found.   The wren is well-named for it builds its large, untidy, distinctively wren-like nest in cacti, where it should be well-protected from most predators. Clever birds! *~*~*~* A study of Cooper's Hawks that is under way in New Mexico is showing that the abundance of these hawks that prey on birds is tied to the availability of prey, not exactly an earthshaking conclusion I would think. The type of prey that they favor is exemplified by birds like the White-winged Dove . This explains why I have a Cooper's Hawk year-round in my yard and I see it most often when White-wings are prevalent in large numbers. My resident Cooper's Hawk waiting in hiding (he thinks) for an unwary dove. *~*~*~* National Moth Week is winding down bu

The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton: A review

The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton My rating: 3 of 5 stars This series was recommended to me recently because of my interest in archaeology and my love of reading mystery series. Since this is billed as an archaeological mystery series, it certainly seemed like the perfect fit. The Xibalba Murders , the first book in the series, seemed especially promising since it is set in Mexico and involves a mystery about a Mayan artifact and archeological dig. I've been fascinated by Mayan history ever since my long ago college days when I did a research paper about that culture for my Cultural Anthropology class. And so, I settled down to read the book with some enthusiasm. On the whole, I found the book to be mildly entertaining. There were things that I liked about it and things that I didn't like, but considered as a whole, it was okay. What I liked about it could be summed up as the Mayan aspects. The author names every chapter after a day in the Mayan calendar and she relates th

Throwback Thursday: The summer of magical thinking

Five years ago, in July 2010, I wrote a commentary on the political discourse of that summer. Reading it today, I realize that the old adage that "the more things change, the more they remain the same" was never more true. Here's that post from July 14, 2010. *~*~*~* The summer of magical thinking There are certain groups in our country who seem to honestly believe that if they say a thing is true, no matter how outlandish it is, that  makes  it true. That, I believe, is clear proof of a faith in magical thinking that bedevils our national discourse this summer. You might also think of it as the "Tinkerbell philosophy." If I close my eyes and believe real hard and clap just as loud as I can, then I can make it true. Thus we have highly placed members of the Republican Party claiming with a straight face that reducing taxes for the richest people in the country will not increase the nation's deficit and that it will stimulate the economy. They make

Backyard Nature Wednesday: Rue the caterpillar!

On my inspection walk through of my garden a couple of days ago, I noticed that my little rue plant was looking decidedly the worse for wear. I looked for the reason for its disheveled appearance and it didn't take long to find the culprit. And here he is - a big, fat Black Swallowtail caterpillar! It was obvious that he had been feeding on the plant, unnoticed, for several days, and he is now very near to the end of his life as a caterpillar. Soon, he'll find a place to spin his cocoon and pupate. And then, with a bit of luck, I may meet him in the garden in his new form as a beautiful Black Swallowtail butterfly.       This was a Black Swallowtail that visited my garden earlier this year. Perhaps he was an antecedent of my present-day caterpillar. The rue will grow new leaves and the caterpillar will move on to the next stage in its development. And so the circle of life continues.

The throwaway kitten

We have lived in this neighborhood for 27 years. During those years, especially the early years, there have been a number of animals, mostly cats or kittens, that have been abandoned here or have found their way here after being abandoned. I came to think of them as throwaway kittens, a prime example of humanity's inhumanity. They were animals that had been betrayed and abandoned by the humans who should have cared for them. We did our best to care for them and adopted many of them. When our children were growing up, hardly a spring or summer went by without them bringing another throwaway kitten home. The last of those adoptees finally died last year at the age of 16. Four years ago, we adopted Beau and Bella who had been rescued by our younger daughter along with one of her friends when they turned up, abandoned, near that friend's house. Since then, we have not had the occasion - or the necessity - of adopting another animal. Until last week. Last Tuesday, as I was get

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indriðason: A review

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indriðason My rating: 3 of 5 stars I'm being generous in giving this book three stars. Two-and-a-half would probably be closer to the mark. I think much of my problem with the book lay with its translation which seemed particularly ungainly and clumsy. So, I guess I'm giving the book the benefit of a doubt in thinking that I might have liked it better if I could have read it in the original Icelandic. I don't think I would have liked Inspector Erlendur any better though. Really, every time I begin to warm up to the man, he does something stupid and outrageous which just makes me want to punch him in the face. He suddenly gets hostile and angry for no apparent good reason. He is cold toward his adult children who just want him to be a part of their lives. He makes assumptions about people and evidence presented to him on his cases - assumptions which blind him to being able to see clues that are right in front of his face. Frankly, he's not a

Poetry Sunday: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Searching for a poem on the theme of summer, I found the Bard himself.  Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (Sonnet 18) William Shakespeare ,   1564   -   1616 Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,  And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.  Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,  And often is his gold complexion dimmed;  And every fair from fair sometime declines,  By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;  But thy eternal summer shall not fade,  Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,  Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,  When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.      So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,      So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. *~*~*~* Now, where I live "summer's lease" is decidedly not too short. In fact, our "summers" are sometimes six months long and quite ofte

This week in birds - #165

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The Red-tailed Hawk  may be the most ubiquitous raptor in North America. It lives virtually everywhere on the continent in many different types of habitats and feeds on diverse types of prey. It is almost equally at home in urban, suburban, or rural areas. It is the raptor that you most often see sitting on utility posts as you are traveling along highways and byways throughout the country, and it is perhaps the most easily identifiable raptor. Although it comes in many different color phases, from almost black to almost white, each one of them will always have that eponymous red tail. *~*~*~* Moth lovers, rejoice! This is your week. It is National Moth Week, July 18-26 , a week set aside to celebrate these often overlooked critters. There are citizen science projects going on in which you can participate. And just in time for their week, a new family of moths has been discovered and described. *~*~*~* The dr

To read or not to read "Go Set a Watchman"

My daughter says she doesn't think she can read Go Set a Watchman , the just released first draft of Harper Lee's beloved book, To Kill a Mockingbird . Both of my daughters grew up with To Kill a Mockingbird and the image of a morally impeccable Atticus Finch. He was one of their heroes. That heroic image was enhanced by the wonderful movie in which the sainted Gregory Peck played Finch to such perfection. It is hard to think of that image being tarnished and changed by the knowledge that the author initially had an entirely different profile in mind for Atticus Finch, and I understand that many of those who loved Mockingbird are very troubled by that. I feel quite ambivalent about it myself. But having now read several reviews of Watchman and more about the history of how it came to be, I think I better understand what Alabama writer Harper Lee was trying to do with her first draft and why her editor in New York wanted her to change it to focus on the voice of the young