Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Colorful bugs, Butterflies, Doves and Squirrels, Snakeskin

Yesterday, I was outside taking pictures of the Hundred Year Plants in our backyard. These plants do not live to be one hundred years, but they do shoot up tall stalks, stalks that grow as much as six feet in a day, as they start to die, then baby plants begin to grow on their roots. It is a remarkable example of the circle of life. The stalk has buds on the end and these turn into flowers that are consumed by beetles. The stalk eventually dries out, then the plant dries out as all of the energy is sent to the baby plants.

As I was taking pictures, I notices some beautiful, colorful bugs creeping along the leaves of the plants. I saw these same bugs on the Prickly Pear cactus plants outside our back door. I took some pictures and posted them to the right.

I have been collecting flowers that I generally dry and use in flower decorations. Flowers such as Lamb's Ears, Dusty Miller, Lavender and Yarrow. At first, I concentrated on collecting as much as I could, then I began to notice how many of the yellow caterpillars were on these flowers, sliding up and down the stalks. I also started to notice the hundreds of butterflies on the flowers of these plants.

I took pictures of a few of these butterflies and caterpillars,as well. I decided it just wouldn't be right to cut down all the flowers and deprive the little creatures of food, so I decided to leave half of the flowers on the plants for the butterflies and bugs. I still had a huge harvest and will have plenty for my flower vases this summer.

Last fall, I cut some holes in a plastic butter container and hung it from a tree branch. I filled it with seeds for the baby squirrels in case they were too shy to come onto the back porch. I have discovered that the baby squirrels prefer my bedroom patio, in spite of the prospect of being disturbed by my chihuahua. Instead, the seeds are eaten by many white-winged doves. Often, when I look out my bathroom window, I see two or three of them at a time with their heads stuck inside the container, picking out seeds. As long as they are happy, all is well.

While collecting flowers, I glanced down and spotted a huge snakeskin under some plants. At first, I didn't realize it was just the skin. Instinctively, I pulled my hand back--it would have been wiser to hold still--and fell backward down the front slope. After I dusted myself off and located my shoes, I climbed back up the hill and found a very long snakeskin. I can even see where the snake's eyes and mouth were. I'm fairly certain it belongs to the large garter snake that has sat on my shoes on a few occasions.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Scorpions, Yellow Caterpillars, Lizards, Baby Squirrels

It was a long night last night. Just as I finished my yoga, I slipped my feet into my slippers and felt something sting or bite the back of my ankle. I immediately put a charcoal draw on the area and the pain left, but I still felt a little sick and head-achy. Then, as I prepared to get into bed, I glanced down at my slippers and noticed a baby scorpion creeping out! Because of my spiritual beliefs, I cannot harm a living creature and tried to capture it, but my husband got to it first.

He's feeling a little uptight about the scorpions right now. The night before, we were sound asleep when he suddenly jumped out of bed, shouting. He had a scorpion on his cheek. It didn't bite him, but it was incredibly fast and we had to chase it around the room for at least ten minutes before we caught it. Books, blankets, and the cat went flying everywhere as we tried to catch the little creature. I couldn't sleep then, either, so I did a little reading and discovered scorpions are actually considered a beneficial creature because they eat spiders and other insects that damage plants and get inside houses. I'm sure they have scorpions in New Mexico and I hope they're the same type because I already know I'm not allergic.

We now have yellow caterpillars everywhere. We practically have to walk on tiptoes outside to avoid them. They are much larger than the black fuzzy ones that brought the black and orange butterflies, and they are super-fast! They climb eagerly onto my finger when I try to assist them across the driveway so they won't get hurt, but then I have to rush them to a plant or they will crawl up my arm!

I have seen so many pregnant lizards lately. I think you can tell the difference because their stomachs are unusually large and flatten out very wide on the ground. I have accidentally dug up their eggs before, but re-buried them immediately and they hatched just fine. I noticed two red-tailed lizards on the driveway this morning and thought they were a couple, then they noticed each other and started chasing each other and wrestling around. It was kind of funny to watch, but I hope they didn't harm each other. They didn't appear to be harmed.

I think we have at least four brand new teeny tiny baby squirrels now. One has been appearing on a regular basis near the bedroom picture window. It climbs up and down the tree, is very timid, jumps when the wind moves a flower, and is absolutely adorable. I took some pictures of it today, but I have to take pictures of the squirrels through the windows and they don't always turn out very clear. I am praying that God will send me squirrels in New Mexico. I have never lived without squirrels and it seems to me that God has sent them to me for a reason. Squirrels tend to be intelligent and curious, and perhaps these are qualities God is trying to encourage in me, as well.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day Butterfly Swarm

I forgot to mention our butterfly swarm on Mother's Day! Last Sunday, we awoke to find the gardens filled with butterflies. There were so many that when we opened the doors to walk outside, butterflies would land on us and sometimes stay on out clothes when we went back in so we were catching them and sending them back out the doors.

There were yellow butterflies and red and black butterflies, black butterflies with blue spots and soft gray butterflies that only landed on the white, baby's breath-like wildflowers that grow near the road. I suspect that the red and black butterflies are from the fuzzy, black caterpillers that we've seen creeping across our driveways for the past few weeks. There are still many, many butterflies fluttering around our property, but I have never seen as many as we did on Mother's Day. It was a wonderful treat!

Elk, Squirrels, and other little creatures

I haven't written in so long! I was in Colorado visiting family. It was a stunning drive through New Mexico. As always, the crows flew alongside our truck as if guiding us to our destination. They always surprise me with their size and deep, dark beauty.

It snowed as soon as we reached Colorado. This was not surprising in one way. Colorado generally gets one last wet, sloppy snowfall in the spring, but this year, winter just seems to be going and going. We were surprised, however, to run across a herd of elk in town. Apparently, they have made themselves at home in a field on the outskirts of Loveland and are perfectly happy there. I posted pictures and discussed them on Facebook and many of my friends sent messages to tell me they had also seen them in smaller or larger groups. The herd we saw consisted of about ten or twelve adult elk.

We spent some time in Rio Rancho, New Mexico on the way home. I have been distressed about the move, worried about leaving all of our little creatures that live around our home in Texas and worried that I will not make new friends in New Mexico, but I was very happy to see lizards scooting about everywhere we looked, so I know there will be some friends for me there. I already know there are crows! We often see red-tailed hawks as we drive through New Mexico, as well. I suspect they also have raccoons, and know for certain that they have ringtails. The trick will be in finding the right house. I hope we can find some squirrels to make their home in our trees. I don't think I've ever lived without squirrels.

The young man who watched our house was diligent about keeping the feeders filled with corn cobs. I found many cobs scraped clean in the yard when we returned. As soon as I set out the seed, the animals returned and the gardens were filled with sparrows, cardinals, squirrels and lizards.

The day we returned we discovered a small lizard on the back screen. He was walking up and down, catching bugs. I told him he was welcome to keep this as his regular job. He stopped and cocked his head while I spoke to him. Then he let me pet his back, which really surprised me. He seemed to recognize my voice and I suspect he is the creature that has been living just outside my bedroom door, the one I feared might be a scorpion. He is very cute and dragony-looking with a white spot on his head. I think he was either beneath someone when they were painting or was pooped on by a bird.

The next day, my husband was working outside and the same lizard blocked his path. Steve tried to explain that he needed to get by, but the lizard wouldn't move. Steve finally knelt down and spoke with it a bit and after awhile, when it was ready, the lizard scooted into some nearby ivy. My stepson walked up a few minutes later, though, and the lizard ran out of the rocks and blocked his path. I think he's either being friendly or declaring his territory!