Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday morning...

...I woke up to the sound of something being dragged slowly down the hallway. I didn't have to open my eyes. I knew it was Michael.

Michael's been known to move chairs, tables, large bird's just something he does. Over the years, I've learned to pretty much ignore him when I hear him in one of his furniture repositioning moods. From experience, I know there is nothing I can do to make him stop because you can't a stop a turtle from doing what he wants to do, a turtle can only stop himself.

But watching this six foot ladder move slowly toward me, while I was still in bed, that was something. How much longer was he going to keep this up? What was he up to?

When he got to the bedroom door and knew that I had finally seen him, Michael made a determined right turn and left that ladder behind...

...far, far behind because he was on his way fast to get to the back door in the kitchen so he could get the heck out.

Message delivered. It was time to get up, go out and let a turtle do whatever he's compelled to do as soon as possible. Forget about sleeping in when there's a turtle wanting to do something else.

Really, just forget about it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Last Saturday it rained. It thundered. It hailed. It flooded. There were microbursts of wind activity and of course, there was lightning. I was spending the afternoon safe indoors at Redbud Ranch but once things cleared up, I drove to my spot in Kansas to see what the creek looked like after a great big giant rain.

It was late when I left Redbud Ranch. The sun was starting to set behind some lingering storm clouds and of course I had to stop and take a picture of what was happening in the sky.

By the time I got to my Kansas land it was quickly becoming dark, but I was not disappointed with what I could see when I finally got out there.

That creek was fast. It was loud. It was something.

It didn't take long for Aussie and Bella (and Elvis) to show up. Bad weather will never stop those three from helping me witness whatever is a couple feet from my face.

The next morning I drove back out and everything was calm and peaceful and bright and serene. Elvis decided he needed to lie down and wait in the creek while I looked around to see what was new in the landscape.

The water level had dropped about 12-18 inches overnight.

After watching the power of that water the night before, I was surprised anything could survive it. But here's some grass, still rooted, on its way to becoming upright again.

I looked down to see one little crayfish very still in the water.

Usually these guys bolt as soon as you blink in their direction, but he stayed still for me to take a picture of....I guess, both of us.

Bella came by and as she plodded through the water, the little crayfish turned and moved a couple feet closer in my direction. Odd. I think the crayfish was probably just too worn out from hanging onto who knows what and for how long while the water raced over and around him after last night's deluge.

It just goes to show that even if you live underwater and under a rock, bad weather will still find you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Don't ask. Don't tell.

Because the soldier beetles were busy "doing it."

On every single sunflower in the field.

Every single one of them.

Sometimes even as a double double.

This was just too much for what should have been a peaceful late Sunday afternoon so I headed for the woods. No sunflowers in the woods=no soldier beetles in the woods.

A Ground Beetle (Dicaelus purpuratus) raced, and I mean raced like in a full-on sprint, across the cement.

Bella's nose got right in there but it could not keep up with that beetle.

I managed to chase him into some leaves where the beetle then covered his head, apparently thinking I had now gone away. As soon as I carefully moved aside the leaf he was tucked under, that beetle was off again and just like that, gone. But then a solid black beetle, exact same size and traveling the exact same mph, tore at us from another direction.

I have no idea what got those guys racing like that....but I soon got distracted with more peaceful and calm bugs.

This Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycsteis) allowed me to photograph him...and photograph him. I took so many pictures and got so close that every photo after that, once I got home and put the photos on the computer, had a big smudge in the lower left corner. But then, maybe that smudge on the lens didn't come from the butterfly, maybe it came from Bella and her nose.

Nearby was another one of those leaf-footed bugs in some sort of bug yoga stance.

And then I almost walked into this....

A spider acrobat on a line tethered to her yellow-tipped feather prize.

It was starting to get dark so I thought I'd call it a day but not before taking one last look at the yellow flowers to see if they were still covered with those yellow beetles. Hmm, this flower looks like it's not in use...

But one peek behind that errant petal.......

...yet another soldier beetle pair. No surprise there. And when I drove myself home... was no surprise to find yet another soldier beetle pair in the car with me. Out the window they went and I'm sure one was still clutching the other when they finally arrived at the end of my toss.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Last Friday was a gorgeous long day, not unlike today, or yesterday for that matter, but last Friday was the day I chose to drive to the Overland Park Arboretum. You can see beautiful landscapes like this...

...but for some reason I was completely entranced with a yellow flowering weed/wildflower I was seeing on the trails throughout the woods. This plant was a couple feet high in the shade...

...but it was huge (huge!) when it was growing in sunny huge it couldn't keep itself upright.

The flowers were either spiky balls of green or spiky balls of yellow or spiky balls of yellow with a few attached long petals.

Some of the flowers had all of their petals but I sort of preferred the crazy and unbalanced look of just a few petals attached randomly to the center.

I'm pretty good about paying attention to flowering weeds (or wildflowers if I like them) but I don't ever remember seeing this particular plant before...and a lot of these plants were 8 feet tall! Turns out the name of this plant is wingstem (or Verbesina alternifolia). I don't fully understand why it's called wingstem, something about wings on the stems. I'm not going to think about it too much because the reasoning behind some plant names is just too bewildering.

But the other thing I really liked about this plant was that there were so many butterflies visiting the flowers. It was like they were in a trance because they were so focused on all the yellow around them. This silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) had no problem ignoring me and my camera.

I think this is the first monarch I've seen this year. She was pretty patient with me and my camera too, calm enough to turn away after I took this picture. I think this is the only one I got that has her head in it.

This is more in line with what I got, another butt shot.

That wingstem, when it covered a large area of ground, was just so amazingly crazy with its over the top yellowness. Everything else in the woods was starting to brown up and give up for the summer but not the wingstem. It was making quite a loud statement of yellowness in contrast to everything else around it. I decided I needed to grow a lot of it (even if it does look more like a weed than a wildflower). I could not get over all that yellow...and the butterflies!

On Sunday I went to my land in Kansas and found lots and lots of yellow there too. Sunflowers, brown-eyed Susans, goldenrod....

...but way, way back....far away from everything else...growing near the entrance to the woods... was one single wingstem plant. Small, well eaten and with just three or four flowers, but I had one wingstem growing on my land! What a happy discovery. Seriously, I was so happy to find that weedy looking butterfly magnet growing there.

This little soldier beetle is clutching his chest with perklemptness because he too had made a wonderful discovery. So much yellow. So many flowers!

Or maybe he's clutching his chest from a bad case of heartburn......

...because there's soooooo much yellow and sooooooo many flowers.

And even more to come.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rex checked.

Sarah needed more chickens.

Why? Because Sarah didn't have any hens that laid chocolate colored eggs.

So last Monday, Sarah, Rex and I drove out to a chicken ranch south of nowhere to pick up four more chickens. We went late in the day because Sarah's chickens had to be tucked safely in their coop for the night. The other part of the strategy was that hopefully, when all the chickens woke up the next morning, they would not notice that four new hens had spent the night with them.

By the time we got there, the sky was looking like this...

...and very soon it was total darkness. It's only because of the flash on my camera that I could see the peacock on the garage roof.

We could barely make out the geese and ducks that were putting themselves to bed for the night.

They got themselves tucked in by themselves because they were pros at doing this but they still had a lot to talk about. They may have spent yet another day all together but apparently there were more things to bring up and honk about before they settled in and called (or honked) it a night.

We had one flashlight to help navigate ourselves around the coops but that piece of equipment got into Rex's hands as soon as he saw it. Try keeping a flashlight away from a two year old. Ha! By this time we were in almost total darkness (luckily the moon was full) except for the random spots that Rex lit up...which were usually not in the direction we were going...more like his feet or some tree in the the right....but behind us....or the sky....and sometimes not at all because the "off" button can be just as dramatic as the "on" button.

I really wanted to see the chickens since one day, chickens will be living with me too. And these chickens were very beautiful...if you could see them. Luckily I had my camera and its flash so I took pictures just to see what we were looking at.

This is a Silkie, a chicken with lots and lots of fuzz feathers.

She was introduced as a Dr. Seuss chicken and she certainly was an odd looking (but pretty!) little hen.

I think those chickens were wise to cameras though because almost all of my shots were back views of chickens...

...or chicken butts.

Or something.

Anyway, four very big chickens were eventually put in a carrier and driven to their new home with us in the car while Rex yelled "HI!!!!!!" and Sarah honked at the train traveling next to us. Because that's what you do in the country. You say hi to everyone you meet (I keep forgetting that). The chickens were completely cool with their adventure though...even when we stopped at Culver's to eat something. Rex got a corndog and couldn't figure out why it was called that because it didn't look like corn and it didn't look like a dog. Sarah started laughing and said, "Welcome to my life" because she had no answer for that one. And neither did I.

Anyway, the next morning after our adventure, Sarah sent me this photo because it looks like the new chickens are completely happy with their new digs. Success. The first Redbud Ranch chocolate colored egg.

And no, they are not chocolate colored inside and no, they don't taste like chocolate. Otherwise intelligent adults have asked.