Monday, July 30, 2012

You Know You're Blogger When...

...your son comes in the house and says, 
"Mom, there's a Black Widow spider on the floor of the garage." 
and you grab your camera.

Either that, or you're fascinated with all creatures great and small.

Or both.

I consider myself in the "both" category.

This dying spider gave me the chance to help Quinn put aside some of his fears regarding her and her kind.
First, I flipped her over to show him he was right in his identification skills.

I looked all over the garage for her web to show him what one looks like.  
Our garage is a disaster, so I could easily have missed it.
I told him that black widow webs have nothing in common with what folks commonly think of when they think of spider webs.  She does not spin a tidy, spoked web like Orb weavers do (Think Charlotte's Web).  She makes more of a wandering-about-in-a-small-space sort of web.  There is no rhyme or reason to its construction.

I also assured him that BW spiders are very timid.  One summer, several years ago, we had a large hatch of them in our garage.  It seemed like there was a web in every window and corner.  Each time I'd approach a web, she'd skitter away to hide.  She had no interest in biting me.  I read that the only reason she may bite, is if you accidentally touch her web.  She rushes out thinking you are food.  

Scientist recently unraveled the DNA structure of the BW's web.  Turns out the "drag line" (what they use to make a web vs. what they use to dangle from a rafter) part of the silk is one of the strongest in the arachnid world.  They'd like to copy its strength for use by humans.

Regarding this dying spider.
She put up no fight at all when I flipped her over.
However, she was gone when I went out later in the day.
I'm hoping the chickens ate her.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Eyes on the Prize

"I don't think she sees me."

" I wonder how many meals I can make of this one."

"Mom is doing a good job of distracting her with the shutter clicking on her camera."

"Wait, do I have to get up to kill her?"
"Never mind, then."
"Mom'll get me some lunch later.  That's way less work."

Hobbes has been obsessed with the deer on our place since he was big enough to be outside.  He tried to get himself killed on his 1st birthday by a doe on our place that takes no prisoners.  There's just something about him that doesn't really process the size difference between him and large mammals until they challenge him.  He's scared of the chickens, but taunts the deer.  Of course, the deer have never pecked him on the head.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bakers Dozen, and Then Some

I was setting the table for dinner and looked out the window for a moment.
I spotted a caterpillar on the Mexican Milkweed.
And then another, and another,
 and another, 
 and another, 
 and another,
 and couple more, get the gist.
 There were many, but I couldn't tell how many through the window.

 I couldn't wait to get through dinner to go out and count.

 I also needed to figure out what butterfly these caterpillars belong to.

 First glance was "Monarch", but monarch cats only have two sets of tentacles (yes, that's really what they're called--I Googled it).  I've always called them 'horn thingies'.

 These all had 3 sets of tentacles.

photo credit: Brooksville Garden club
 Turns out they are Queen Butterfly caterpillars.

 What's interesting to me, it that the butterfly only lays one egg at a time.  That means Mrs. Queen either  laid a lot of eggs at one sitting, or several Queens stopped by the Milkweed nursery.  More likely the later, as these cats were all different sizes.

 In fact, after looking closely at these pictures, I discovered an egg or two that hadn't hatched yet.  Can you find it in the picture above.  Small and white.

The caterpillars are protected from predators in the same way monarch cats are protected---you eat a poisonous plant, you become poisonous yourself.  
Here's what has to say about it:
Some of the milkweeds contain cardiac glycosides which are stored in the bodies of both the caterpillar and adult. These poisons are distasteful and emetic to birds and other vertebrate predators.
In other words, if a bird eats one of these babies, they get to throw up.  

Sounds like reason enough to leave them alone.

These cats will spend 7-10 days in the chrysalis stage and then we start the whole cycle all over again.  

It's magic--right outside the window.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I May Never Go Home Again, Day 5

By now, you realize I went home, right?
The last day of our trip was very special.
I got to meet someone that I've known for four years.
"Wait, how's that possible?" you ask.
Blogging.  Plain and simple.
It's the updated version of Pen Pals.

Do you recognize this dog?  

How about this beautiful woman and her goats.
Recognize them?


about these donkeys.

Recognize them?

Recognize this stunning beauty?

If you read my blog, you probably read many of the same blogs I do.
You'll recognize all these critters as belonging to Danni from Critter Farm. 

Since Danni's place is close(ish) to Portland, it made sense to finally get to meet her, her family and her animals.
I was just thrilled that she invited me to do so.

We got lost trying to find her house, but she talked us in.
She and her son, Aiden, greeted us in the driveway.
So did Roxy!  
Sweet little dog that's seen more new species come into her life than she's probably ever dreamed of.
After exchanging hugs and introductions, Eric and the boys said goodbye.  
The Nike Employee store was calling and they had a pass to get in.
That meant Jenna and I could stay longer!

The first animal Jenna wanted to meet was Danni's newest addition.
Missy, the rat.
Missy was rescued off Mississippi St. in Portland by Danni, her son and son's girlfriend--literally.
Missy was running down the sidewalk and in and out of parked cars.
Danni could tell that she was no ordinary street rat.
Poor Jenna begged for another rat at our house for days afterwards.
They really are fabulous pets!

Danni then took us out meet the rest of her critters.

The chickens met us on the back deck (why don't I have any pictures of them??!!)
Next we met the ever charming goat brothers, Pete and Reggie.

Danni and Chet
We actually met Kai, the llama, but she wasn't really up for dealing with papparazzi.
She came, ears forward, and sniffed the carrot I offered.
I was told that was a big deal, as she often won't even come close to strangers.
Maybe next time I'll get to run my fingers through that amazing coat of hers.

Beau, "You got any snacks?"
Next were the donkey brothers, Chester (Chet) and Beau. 

You can tell the difference between Texas blood and Oregon blood--Aiden in short sleeves, me in a long sleeve shirt and heavy sweater.  It was 63*.

Beau, "Hurry, give me a carrot before Chet sticks his nose in here."

Beau says Danni is a fine kisser.  Especially when she puts down the camera and picks up the carrots.

"Do I smell carrots on your breath?"

Chet, "Word is, you've got something round and orange for me."

Kind of an odd picture, but I love it.  Aiden is talking to a friend and the conversation is something like this: "Yea, I'm out with my mom and her friends, hanging with Beau and Chet....".
I felt a little honored that stuck around after we got to the house, and then came down to the pasture with us.  He wasn't at all embarrassed to tell his friend where he was and what he was doing.

"Ma, stop talking.  I know you've got another bag of carrots.  I can hear the baggie rattling in your pocket."

 Poor Roxy was feeling so left out.  She is not allowed in the donkey pasture because a certain donkey (starts with C ends with HET) is a dog stomper.  In other words, he's not too fond of dogs.
Aiden finally relents to Roxy's pleadings and picks her up from her safe spot beyond the fence.
Here, the Burro brothers check to see if Rox has any carrots to offer.
Beau wants to be friends.  Roxy, not so much.

I'm not liking this attention one bit.  Can you tell?

Nope, not here either.

 The beginning of a good laugh for everyone but Beau.

 Beau doesn't mind anyone sitting on him.
Walking with someone on his back is another matter entirely.

 I thought I'd try coaxing him with a carrot.
It works in the movies.

 Chet decided that if Beau was going to stay put, he'd be happy to eat Beau's carrot.

 Chet even went to far as to lay his ears back.
"Beau, don't you take one step forward.  This is my carrot!"

Come on, Beau!

You can do it!

Just one step!

Just give it to me, dang it!


Come on Beau, lift that foot!

It was silly how we all cheered when Beau finally took this one step.
He took a few more after that, too.
Nothing bad happened to him, which I'm sure was a huge relief. :)

Good boy, Beau!!

Proof that Jenna was indeed, at Danni's house.
She's the photographer in most of these pictures.

Hey, someone new.  I'll bet she's got snacks!

You know when you try to coax your toddler into singing the ABCs for Grandma and the toddler clams up tighter than well, a clam?
That's what Beau did here.

 He flat out refused to "Play with the Cone" just for our entertainment, even though he does it all the time for Danni.

Chet decided since I wasn't doing anything while I was waiting on Beau to amuse me; that I should give him a good scritching on the behind.  
I was happy to oblige. 

I never saw the cats.
We even looked for them.
After meeting all the critters on Danni's farm, we went back indoors to partake of a wonderful collection of  homemade banana bread, other breads, spreads of all sorts, cheeses, and grapes.

My goodness, what a lovely, lovely day!
Thank you so much, Danni, for opening your home to us and showing us around.