Sunday, June 28, 2009

Scorpions and Butterflies

I was making my bed this morning and heard an odd sound behind my pillow. I knew what it was before I even looked. Sure enough, there was a scorpion back there. I had a feeling there was a scorpion in the room. What I was not expecting was to find two more, one under my husband's side of the bed and the other beneath his dresser. We are going to spray again, but I think it's time to look into chickens. They are not too expensive and certainly worth the maintenance.

I have read that Texas scorpions are only deadly if the victim is allergic to bee stings. They create the same kind of allergy reaction. The scorpions I find in my house are always light colored. They blend in with the color of our carpet, unfortunately. Sometimes they have a black tint to their main body. I suspect that they climb up the vines on the outside of the house, slide down the chimney, or perhaps that they're actually living and reproducing in the ceiling. We seem to have an extraordinary amount of scorpions, though. My neighbors are all very surprised when they learn of our scorpion encounters.

My garden is blooming like mad. I planted tons of Mexican sunflowers just for the butterflies and as you can see from the pictures to the right, the butterflies are very happy. We have two main varieties out there right now. One is black with orange dots on the outer wings and a silvery-blue on the inner wings. The other is a deep, velvety orange. When I walk into the garden it's like a cloud of butterflies fluttering around. Sometimes I spread my hands out and hold very still and they land on my hands. The lizards seem to be enjoying the shade the flowers provide. I've seen many lizards darting in and out beneath the flower stalks.

I have seen four different hummingbird varieties in the past half hour. I thought they were more of a spring bird, but they have been swarming the feeder in the mornings and late in the evenings when the air starts to cool down to the 90s. I took a picture and managed to catch one in mid-flight, which you can also see to the right. I have to change the water in the hummingbird feeder every three days now because it's getting so much activity!

We also have a new addition to the family: A little chihuahua-like dog that we named Chewy. He appeared at our door during a thunderstorm, shivering and crying, just before I left for Colorado. We knocked on every door in all local neighborhoods looking for his owner, but no one seems to know where he came from. We even took the dog around in the truck, his tiny head bobbing up and down as he peeked out the window, but no one recognized him. He has no collar or tags. We placed ads in the local newspapers and they've been running for a month, but no one has claimed him. We've had a few calls from people offering to adopt him, but we've all fallen madly in love with him. He's very affectionate, but he also ducks quickly and shies away from hands as if he may have been hit before. I don't think he's a purebred. He is a little disobedient and struggles with house training. I am very suspicious that someone dumped him since we live at the end of a cul de sac. I don't know why God brought him to us, but we have opened our hearts and home to him.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dust Devils, Hawks, Crows and Snakes

I returned from Colorado yesterday. As I drove through the Texas panhandle just outside of Muleshoe I saw the most amazing thing. It was a dust devil so strong, so tall, that it reached up into the sky as far as I could see. At first, from a distance, I thought it was a tractor stirring up dust, but I couldn't figure out why the dust reached so high into the sky. As I grew closer, I could see that there was no tractor beneath it. It moved very slowly, almost imperceptibly, closer to the road and I could see that there was nothing beneath it that would cause the funnel. It was definitely a dust devil, and the tallest, thickest funnel cloud I have ever seen. It looked like a small, red tornado. I was on the opposite side of the road in the center lane and the lanes were full of traffic, so I couldn't pull over and take pictures. It was fascinating, powerful, and beautiful all at once. Dust devils are comparable to tornadoes, but rarely grow large enough to damage houses or harm people. I say rarely because it has happened. This particular dust devil was certainly large enough to harm any animals that might get in its way!

Once again, on my drive through New Mexico, I passed many crows along the sides of the road. They are a familiar bunch to me now. I love the way their shiny blue-black appearance contrasts with the bright New Mexico sun. They are often seen along the highway as if they are guiding traffic. They are fascinating to watch as they swoop through the air, or hop along the roadside, or simply sit on a fence post, staring at the cars. The American Crow is part of the Corvidae family, which also includes rooks and jays. Oddly enough, a group of crows is called a "murder," which seems more poetic than appropriate since many people adopt crows as pets. Crows have been known to imitate the human voice like parrots. My friend, Bernard, recently sent me a video that showed a crow using a tool to retrieve food from a bottle. Obviously these are remarkably intelligent gifts from God.

I also witnessed an event that I have only seen once before. As I left Fort Sumner, New Mexico I saw a hawk swoop across the road with a snake in its beak. It flew to the top of a tree and into a large nest where it dropped the food for its babies. I have seen this once before with a hawk, and numerous times with the bald eagle's nest that is near our home in Texas. When the baby eagles feed, onlookers can actually see their heads bobbing up and down in the nest.

Speaking of snakes, This morning I saw a large black snake with a red stripe down its back and yellow stripes down each side. I believe it is a garter. It drank from the pond outside my bedroom window. It saw me, but didn't seem too bothered by my presence. It kept drinking. It was resting on a rock beneath the cover of some branches I had set across the western end to try and shade the water. This afternoon there was a black snake with gray diamond-like patterns on its sides drinking from the same pond. I've been going nuts trying to identify this snake from internet pictures. I know I've seen it somewhere, but I can't remember it if is poisonous. It was weaving between the log fence I set up around the tree so I couldn't see if it had a triangle shaped head. Anyway, a few minutes ago I heard a rattling noise from the back porch and my husband ran out with a flashlight in time to see a large snake slither off the patio table and over the back wall. He didn't get a good enough look at it to identify it. This must be the year of the snake!

The sun left the sky as a fiery orange ball again. For the past three nights it has been a deep, tangerine orange with a magical glow that turns the clouds and sky into a citrus-flavored tapestry. I first noticed it on my drive when I realized the street signs were glowing. I looked into the rear view mirror and was stunned by the beauty of what I saw. I pulled the car over and climbed out just so I could get a clear look. Truly an amazing sight.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Stick Bugs!

There was a stick bug on the sliding screen this morning just outside our back door. We've seen these amazing creatures before in this same area. There are many live oak trees in the forested area behind our house, and roses in the garden, and I know stick bugs eat both roses and oak leaves, so that may explain why they live around my house!

This is a rather large creatures, about four inches long, so I believe it is a female since the females are larger than the males. It rocked back and forth when I was watching, as these bugs often do. Rocking back and forth makes them look like sticks moving in the breeze, and looking like sticks protects them from predators.

Stick bugs are relatively harmless. Sometimes, when attacked, they will emit a sticky substance that can burn the eyes or mouth of their attacker, but I'm guessing they are not attacked that often. They aren't particularly harmful to plants or trees so they are not considered garden pests. If they do lose an arm or a leg, though, they can grow a new one! They grow replacement limbs when they molt, or lose their skin, and sometimes they eat the skin they shed. Yum.

Stick bugs are not very active. They generally eat at night and sleep or rest during the day. They have sticky pads on their feet and are very good climbers, which explains how this one climbed up the screen door. They are fairly easy to care for since you don't have to feed them bugs, fish or mice like pet snakes, and people often keep stick bugs as pets in tall fish tanks. A male stick bug is not needed for reproduction, and stick bugs are perfectly content living alone. They will even eat lettuce, which makes them very low maintenance.

Even though they're not particularly active, I am fascinated by these blessed little creatures of God. It's rather soothing to watch them rocking back and forth, pretending to be a part of a tree. Their needs are few, and they seem happy and grateful for whatever God brings to them. There are about 3000 different stick bugs species and they are found all over the world, but generally in warm areas, like our home in Texas. I hope to see more of these wonderful creatures in the future, but I do realize I will have to look hard to see them in the trees because they look so much like twigs!