Thursday, August 6, 2015

Moth magnet!

The place where I work is a moth magnet. Every late summer and fall, there are various moths that rest on the front porch or near it.

This morning, this very large moth, OMG, 6 inches across, was sitting on the ground, vibrating. Not sure what that's about!

Anyway just look. Oooooooh!

This guy with the big eye-spots (that's what they call them; I didn't make it up.) (I'll let you know when I make stuff up!) is called a Polyphemous moth, a kind of silk moth.

The lime green Luna moth is in the same family; they are both Saturniidae.

This is the caterpillar, an image from the Internet. The cats are big eaters! Seriously, they have to turn into that BIG MOTH!

The caterpillar can eat 86,000 times its weight at emergence in a little less than two months. But the result is amazing, right?

They eat birch, willow, oak, maple, hickory, beech, honey locust, walnut, elm and other tree leaves, so they are going to be found near heavily wooded areas. We have lots of woods near here. The caterpillars are inconspicuous at first, but at the fourth and fifth molts, then they get this bright green color. After coccooning up and becoming a moth, its eating days are mainly over.

Adults of this family of moths have only partial mouths, and they do not eat and only live as adults for less than one week. Sex is the name of the game, baybee. Find mates, have sex, lay eggs!

This particular moth was resting but also vibrating. As it turns out, these silk moths are so large that they must warm their flight muscles for a minute or two before they can fly. They do this by shivering, and after a few moments, they fly off.

Next picture:

I know you can't see this Lined Sphinx Moth very well, but he's striking at rest. In flight he's even more so! Fat-bodied, rosy hindwings, and hovers like a dragonfly at his flowers of choice. He floats around similar to a hummingbird, just quieter.

I told you it was mothy up here!

Painted lady, the butterfly, not the Victorian house

So, apparently, the Painted Ladies like the coneflowers, too, like the sulphurs do.

The genus name for these little beauties is "Vanessa." They are only 2-3 1/2 inches, but they are quite eye-catching.

They always have the upper corners of their wings in black-and-white, then the rest in orange and black/brown and a tan-colored fuzzy body.

I don't know the terms for all their body parts, but your local butterfly and moth nerd will know. Or any identification guide. There are great books at your library!

This butterfly is also very widespread, but unlike the clouded sulphur, it is international. It's found everywhere except Antarctica and South America.

It migrates, too, like the monarch. It migrates from North Africa and the Mediterranean to Britain in May and June, but they aren't seen on the return trip from Britain to North Africa, because they fly so high. For many years it was a mystery as to when and how they got back south, but it was due to their flying altitude.

There are some Painted Ladies which migrate in California, from one region to another, but their migrations are more erratic, depending on weather (El Nino!) and what is growing at a given time, which varies.

Another reason PLs have such good populations is because they feed from a large array of flowers; over 300 species are known to be dinner for them. They get the biggest smorgasbord!

A party of clouded sulphurs

Clouded sulphur butterflies are found all over the North American continent except for Mexico, northern parts of eastern Canada and the Gulf and Pacific coasts. It is widespread and common and even ranges north to the Arctic Ocean in Yukon.

These folk were avid for the cup plant flowers, the yellow ones. There were times that four of them were on a flower head, but I only got shots of three at a time.

They nectar on several milkweeds, butterfly bush, several coneflowers (as you can see), alfalfa, dandelion, clover species and a verbena. They lay their eggs on ground plum, a couple of vetches, soy beans, alfalfa, clovers, and black locust. There are three to five hatchings of them per year, depending on conditions and location. Three in the Arctic, and five in the southern reaches of its range ... So I'm thinking no wonder we always see these innocuous beauties!

Clearly they like other species to nectar upon, since the one they grouped up on is a Silphium perfoliatum, which was not mentioned as a nectar flower.

A photo I haven't gotten yet is the fluttering, apparently twinkling, clouds of them above the red clover on the spur road. But it is a shoulderless two-lane, and I'm less inclined to stop and shoot photos than I might otherwise be. But it's a sight to see.

Another place it's easily seen is at puddles, mud or wet soil, as the sulphur is an avid mudpuddler. These shots were in my driveway, many hours after a rain. Clearly there was moisture there. They can also be seen in clover fields or along roadsides. The growth of forage-crop production for livestock across North America has greatly expanded the range and numbers of this butterfly.

This is the dorsal view. Most of my photos are of the folded/ventral view.

Male clouded sulphur

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mullein is packed head to toe with goodness

This taller plant is a lead plant, somewhat past blooming, and a the shorter one in the foreground is a mullein plant that has escaped mowing in our front yard.

The reason I did it is to give you a good idea how small a first-year mullein plant can be, and how easy to miss.

The lead plant is only hip-tall, and the grass is unnecessarily tall. But besides the obvious benefits of not mowing, I also often get to find plants that I normally mow. This mullein got mowed five or six times before I neglected the yard enough to see it.

So what?

This is what. Most of the time, mullein's flowers and leaves are what's used herbally, but you can use the first-year plant if you have extra plants around and you need a little help with your back staying in place. You have to give the plant up completely because you need the root.

Mullein root tincture is some amazing stuff. Search for Jim McDonald's post about it. Seriously, it's worth it.

The point? This is the size to look for when you're looking for YOUR mullein plant to tincture.

Don't you feel better now?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

At my feet, on the outhouse, and under the leaves ...

So this is a new stand of purple coneflower at my house. There's so much rain, they are falling over.

I say a new stand, because a lot of my former PCFs got aster yellows and I had to *sniff* dig them up and *sniff* throw them away. There's no guarantee these won't get it, but I had to try.

This is a very beautiful crab spider that was hanging out on a cone for hours. You can see the same one in the previous photo. Such a little dot.

This is what a trumpet vine will do to an outhouse, if left to its own devices. We've been asked how we got it to do that, and I think it was just reaching toward the sun. We didn't really do anything.
This is looking upward from the sidewalk at the bottom of a milkweed leaf. We are relieved that the caterpillar decided to hide and avoid being seen.

And here it is, closer. It was cool this morning, and I imagine it was drowsy.

Adventures in draft horsing-around

So genealogy.

I've been trying to stalk my grandmother, Marie, but it turns out I need to stalk all her siblings, both spouses, and her parents in order to know her better.

Her second husband is an interesting character. By the time I knew him, he was on his better behavior, as it turns out, than in his younger days.

Here he is at about 24, when he signed up for WWI. Later he not only continued his farming life, but like most farmers, also raised livestock. He chose Herefords and was a member of the National Hereford Association.

And he raised and bred Belgian horses! I received some documentation on some horses he acquired and bred, at least those he registered, anyway. And after WWII, when the big shows started back up again, he had some contributions to make. He always talked about horses, but even so, this caught me by surprise. He died in 1981, and here it is 2015, and I'm reading about his work. It's belatedly exciting. Genealogy is so weird.

So anyway, when the Dairy Congress (that's a location) had the National Belgian Show, Ralph took some of his horses over to Waterloo, Iowa, to exhibit. What I DIDN'T expect was this:

Ralph loved a good joke, a good slice of pie, and apparently, a good jumping horse. Not the kind of jumping you might expect at a draft horse show; I can only guess at the story behind it.

Had he heard about someone doing this? Did he just have a horse who loved to jump? I've heard there are a couple breeds of cattle who jump like deer and are hard to fence due to their vertical abilities.

Anyway, I can see Ralph just loving this and enjoying talking to people about this. He always wore a big light hat; I assume that's the back of his head in that photo. (BTW, I'm shocked at the relative high quality of the photo, which I got as a pdf. Yay!)

Go Ralph! Can't wait to find out more about you! By the way, the reason I don't know this kind of info about someone in my very own family is because Ralph married my gran late in life. They were 60-something when they married.

And I still can't find out much about my grandmother, Marie. But the tangents are pretty interesting!

Fooling around is not all Ralph did that year, for sure. He was serious about his horses. Here is a quote from a book published in 1976:

"In October 1946, Ralph Prill showed a team of blonde sorrel Belgians with white manes and tails at the National Belgian Horse Show in Waterloo, Iowa. As three- and four-year-olds, the pair weighed 2200 pounds each, were perfectly matched and had plenty of action. The team placed second in the show, just below a team owned by the widow of John Dodge of Dodge Brothers Motors. The Dodge team had never been defeated in either the United States or Canada. Ralph kept his fine team until the next June, then sold them to a cattle feeder near Omaha for $675.00. Today (1976) the pair would bring $3,000. No other team from Holt County (Nebraska) was ever entered in the National Belgian Horse Show." -- "Before Today; the history of Holt County, Nebraska" by Nellie Snyder Yost, Miles Publishing, 1976.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

1955 reunion in BittieTown

So if my father had graduated high school where he grew up until he was 12 or 13 (I can’t be sure), he would have graduated at BittieTown, USA, which is on my way between my home in TinyTown, USA and MyHomeTown, USA.
I had been doing research in another small town that has a museum, and the one woman said, you should go to the BittieTown Alumni Reunion! I said oh, should I? Yesss!
She said the people who attend those may remember your family when they lived there in BittieTown. Well, I hadn’t thought of that. So I made a flier with all the photos I could acquire that had the people in question. I included some facts and my contact information. I printed about 30 fliers off. I lost the folder of fliers. I found the folder of fliers. And suddenly the Saturday of Memorial Day was six days off!
I called the contact person and the gentleman who answered was effusive that I should come! He was encouraging. It’s at the gym, he said. It’s easy to find, he said.
So about three days before The Day, they closed the road to BittieTown.
So I got out a map and found an alternate route. He never really told me where the gym WAS, but I decided driving around a town of 200, which I’d done a few times before, was okay. -- Well, it really was at the gym and it really was easy to find. I found a place where more than four cars were parked like they were attending something, and look, that could be a gym. Old folks getting out of cars. Yep, this is the place.
I went in and saw the guy I’d talked to on the phone. I greeted him. He said, you should talk to Mr. So-and-So, my brother! He wrote the BittieTown Scrapbook! I was thinking, noooooooooo, (I had already looked at that and there’s none of my family in there.) So I met Russ, who is a really nice man, and after 40 minutes or so, he both told me cool stories and found that I was not indeed, part of either of the two families he thought I might be related to. I had already figured that, but, you know. Researchers have to check for themselves.
It was a nice reunion of friendly people. The food was good, the presentations were good. I even checked with the woman who spoke for the Class of ’55, but she didn’t remember my dad, either. I did talk to a gentleman on the way out with a name similar to someone whom my aunt said “their house was in the J. Jones neighborhood.” I asked if that was him, and he said that’s my cousin, and it's over across from the Presbyterian Church. But at night is not the time to be rooting around for a house in a small town, so I took myself home.