Friday, May 29, 2009

Wild Connections Butterfly Farm

Last week I organized a field trip to Wild Connections Butterfly Farm in Dripping Springs. We were so lucky to share our day with so many friends and it really was a great little farm with loads to do. Many of us arrived early to explore the farm, play with Ava the farm kitty,
do a scavenger hunt and eat our picnics. Then we sent the kids inside for a short film on the butterfly life cycle and off we went to the butterfly house. It was really quite impressive, eggs, caterpillars and butterflies everywhere, not to mention some really gorgeous plants! However, nothing could really compare to the two little snakes fighting over a fish in the creek! Go ahead, you know you want to click on the pic to get a better look! Afterwards we took a short hike, enjoying the Hill Country scenery. This century plant was amazing!
It was so nice to spend time enjoying nature with so many of our friends! I really couldn't have asked for a better day! And although there were butterflies galore, I only got one decent photo so here's my best butterfly shot!


A sure sign that summer is here at last! Red, juicy and delicious, dripping down our chins! Turns out they make perfect chairs for Piglets!

And they allow Monkey's to show off their strength!

We LOVE watermelons!

A new garden friend!

Every year we have some sort of spider that takes up residency between my ligustrum tree and my germander bush. It must be a prime bug-catching location! The Monkey Man is always excited to find the new friend and immediately proceeds to name it. Our first spider was a yellow garden spider that he named Nancy. She was a beauty that could spin a web beyond compare! She was a welcome addition to my front bed.

This year we have the pleasure of entertaining a different type of spider in the front bed, a Jewelled spider or Spiny Orb Weaver It's a really neat little spider that also has some amazing web-building capabilities. This little thing managed to weave a web that went from our Ligustrum to the neighbor's oak tree, about a 10 ft. away! I am amazed at its prowess! The Monkey Man of course had to name our new spider and I was pleasantly surprised by his choice. You see, we have been studying ancient civilizations and not too long ago we discussed the ancient Africans and we read stories about Anansi Spider, the trickster. Since this spider was so clever as to bridge a 10 ft. gap with his web, the Monkey Man felt he was a rare trickster and should henceforth be Anansi Spider! And so Anansi Spider is building webs and helping us control our pest population and we are eternally grateful! I just hope the cardinals that are scoping out the ligustrum for their nest leave him alone!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Of love and marriage...

I had the absolute joy of watching two of my dearest friends join in marriage this past weekend. It was a touching ceremony, full of love and tears and great emotion, joining two remarkable people and two wonderful families. You couldn't imagine two people more in love and it showed! I am honored that my little family was able to share in their special day! I smiled, thinking of their future and reflecting on my past.

Almost 15 years ago, I took vows very similar to those they took. I don't remember being quite as emotional, I think I was just too young to REALLY appreciate the significance of those vows and the promise I made to love this man forever. I loved him of course, but it was still that silly 23 year-old, infatuated love. Love that hated to be apart for a moment, love that had to know where he was always, love that longed for that glance from across the room, love that burned. And that is a wonderful kind of love, the way every true love should start, but then, if you're lucky, it grows into something so much more. A love of comfort, a love of friendship and respect, a love that aches in your heart when you see your husband comfort his crying son or scoop up his elated baby girl after a long day at work, a love that feels safe and secure, a love that is HOME. This is the kind of love I hope for my friends, for this is the love that lasts forever!

So, while I'm sitting here, reminiscing over my past and looking forward to a bright future for my friends, I get a news pop-up stating that the California Supreme Court has upheld the ban on same-sex marriage. Sadly, I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed. I am grateful that they saw fit to allow the 18,000 couples that lawfully married before the prop was passed to stay married, BUT... it is still a sad day for the state of California and for the many, many gays and lesbians and the people that love them across the country. Love cannot be mandated, you love who you love and so long as that love exists between two consenting adults, it should not matter whether they are straight, gay, transgendered or whatever! Why is it that I am allowed to marry the person I love, but my mother is not? Would the sanctity of MY marriage be compromised if she did marry her girlfriend? No, in fact, I think I would feel more secure in my marriage knowing that it was a right afforded to ALL Americans regardless of sexual orientation. I'm so tired of all this "holier than thou" shit I could die. This country saw fit to adopt a principle that separated church from state, so put your money where your mouth is. Same-sex marriage is questionable based on a religious ideology. Well if we've separated church from state, why are we even having this discussion?

I am trying to keep positive. I am hoping that in the near future our government will see that marriage is a contract between two adults, regardless of sex. I am hoping that soon my mother and many of my friends will be allowed the same rights that I enjoy sheerly because of my heterosexuality. I want my mother and my friends to feel the same joy and connection as I did 15 years ago and as my friends did 2 nights ago. I want this country to get its head out of its ass and realize that FAMILY has many faces, and HOME is different and special for everyone! Now is the time for equal marriage rights.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Two of my favorite Palmetto shots

I know I posted a whole camp report already, but I just couldn't resist posting these two pics separately. I love the way they turned out so "Oh Brother Where Art Thou"!

Good old-fashioned fun!

Draped in moss.

Palmetto State Park--Camp report

Finally I was able to pry my man away from his work for a long weekend camping with the family! We all needed this SO bad! He has been stressed with work, I have been so over-worked, over-booked and over-taxed for weeks now and the kids, well, a change of scenery is always a good thing! We packed up on a late Friday morn and headed down to Palmetto State Park. This was our first time there and it sounded great. A friend had warned me that this place was infested with snakes, but I'm not freaked out by snakes, they generally would prefer to get the hell out of your way. However, I'm not stupid and we stopped at the sporting goods store for a snake bite kit, just for good measure. What is it they say, "An ounce of prevention..."? I did laugh though as one of the first things we saw was a big sign stating, "WATCH FOR SNAKES!" The Monkey Man and I felt this was a challenge and decided to seek out as many snakes as we could. In a 3 day trip, we saw 10 snakes, here is a photo of snake #10 who is probably a Texas Rat Snake!

The campsite was awesome. Although there were quite a few other campers, it was quiet and nice, the sounds of birds in the air. But in addition to snakes, this park had an ABUNDANCE of mosquitos and poison ivy, or oak, I'm not sure. But there was LOTS and LOTS of it! We're an adaptable bunch and we spoke to the kids about the 3-leafed menace and slathered ourselves in bug repellent! I have to admit, the constant buzzing in my ears did drive me a bit crazy. We finally had to break down and go buy some citronella candles to place around the campsite. Bugs and critters aside, Big Daddy treated us to a most marvelous steak dinner. He grilled, I made a salad of fresh greens left over from the garden and we stuck a can of baked beans onto the fire. That turned out to be a little messy, but I didn't have to wash a pot! This meal would have made even the biggest carnivores happy!

After setting up camp, hiking, playing and cooking, we took a short walk over to the little pier to check out the canoes and just enjoy the outdoors.

We turned in early that night but I was awakened around midnight to the sound of coyotes and owls. I tried to wake the Monkey Man up, but he was in that "dead to the world" sleep stage that only a child can attain, so I let him be and reveled in the night noises alone.

The next day I had promised the kids a canoe ride on the little lake. This was one of the reasons we chose this campground. I had to go to the front office to pay for the canoe only to be told that I could take no more than 3 people in one canoe. I tried to explain that this was impossible with the Piglet. There was no way for me or Big Daddy to manuever that big 'ol canoe alone with a toddler on board. But they held strong, informing me that the "obvious solution" was for me and the Piggy to stay on land and let Monkey and Big Daddy take the canoe. Yeah, because watching Daddy and Bubba go on an adventure while being stuck on land with Mama would have gone over SO well with the mild-mannered, even-tempered toddler! I was so pissed, I asked to call the main Texas Parks and Wildlife office, at which point the snotty lady at the desk got on the phone, called someone and finally said, "Fine, all four of you can go out, but the kids HAVE to wear lifejackets!" Ummm, duh! Like I was gonna take my kids on a body of water without them! Anyway, we finally had permission to take the kids out, so we piled into the canoe and off we went. Check out those sexy orange life vests, oo la la!

The lake was really more of a glorified pond, but we did see awesome things. We counted 7 of our 10 snakes in that little lake. One was a large water moccasin hauled out on a log sunning itself. Impressive. And we saw several diamondback water snakes swimming around the edges of the lake looking for prey. Snakes are AWESOME swimmers!

We took several hikes over the weekend and saw many cool and wonderful things. The area was completely odd for central Texas, it was very swampy, with Palmettos everywhere (henceforth the name of the park I assume). There were odd vines and great tangles of branches, and moss hanging from the trees. I found it strange that an environment that was so perfect for snakes seemed to be snaky in its very essence!

I wonder who lives here?

And I was highly impressed at the fungus among us at this park! Who knew mushrooms could be so lovely? Pretty as any flower I've ever seen! The Monkey Man was beside himself with this discovery, he also had no idea mushrooms could be so cool!

As it so happened, after dinner Saturday night, we decided to go take much needed showers. Oh such a big mistake in so many ways! First off, camp showers suck! And trying to persuade your toddler who is mortified of bugs to come into a shower with dead millipedes all over the floor is damn near impossible. I admit, even I was a little unnerved by the whole experience! Note to self, when camping at Palmetto, just expect to stay funky and bypass the shower! But on our way back to our campsite we came across something that literally took our breath away... hundreds and hundreds of egrets roosting in the trees around the lake!

This photo only shows a portion of them, the trees on one side of the lake were practically covered with these guys! They were gorgeous and noisy as hell and skittish! They reminded me of the pigeons at Zilker Park, something would spook them, they'd take flight and circle around, then settle again only to be spooked again and start the whole process over! I have always loved egrets, and I feel so lucky when I see one here or there in a pond, but I have never in my life seen them flock together like this. It was truly a magnificent sight!

All in all this was a great family trip. I could have lived without the hag at the front desk, but I suppose you have to deal with assholes no matter where you go. I could have also lived without the skeeters, but you really can't get away from them in Texas, so you learn to live with them. The snakes were actually a perk for us, but if you're not into them, probably not the best camping spot for you and your family! The scenery was nice, the campground and facilities were clean and well-maintained (except for the millipede infested shower stall), just be aware of the poison ivy. But it really was an interesting, swampy, viney, snaky place. It was an easy drive from Austin and we had the pleasure of driving through Luling on the way home and getting a great watermelon, the perfect end to a rockin' weekend!

Monday, May 18, 2009

In the garden...

I have been so busy the last few weeks that I have completely neglected to post about my little urban farm! Last I posted, I had moved two beds to the back of the yard with the help of Big Daddy and the neighbor kids. I still have one to the side as I just couldn't bear to rip out all that beautiful lettuce while it was still producing! What can I say, I'm a sucker for lettuce! Anyway, the kids and I immediately got our hands dirty planting all three beds!

In bed #1 we planted four varieties of tomatoes. The Monkey Man LOVES tomatoes and the stranger the better! We chose grape tomatoes (hoping they will yield as well as the Sweet 100's from last season), Golden boys (a succulent, sweet, delicious yellow variety and the Monkey's favorite), Mr. Stripey's (red fruit with yellow stripes) and Black Krim's (an heirloom variety that is mostly a deep reddish, purple). I cannot wait to start harvesting tomatoes, NOTHING is better than a vine ripe tomato in the summer! Mmmmm! Along with the tomatoes, we planted 4 varieties of basil (African blue, sweet Italian, Thai and Spicy Globe).

Basil and tomatoes were just made for each other and both are thriving! In fact, I have more basil than I know what to do with! Have basil... will trade!

In bed #2 we planted Ichiban eggplant, peppers (serrano, pimento and jalapeno) and a row of green beans. I decided to do legumes this year as I couldn't grow squash to save my ass last year! Damn squash borers, curse you all to hell! I was a little perturbed though, I didn't read my seed envelope correctly and it turns out I bought bean bushes and not climbers. I hear the bushes produce well, but now they will take up more room than I was expecting and I won't have those lovely trailing vines!

And in bed #3, the lettuce finally keeled in the heat, so I quickly planted half the bed with okra and half with black-eyed peas!!

I can feel some gumbo and hoppin' John comin' on! Things were planted less than a month ago and other than the eggplant, things are going great. I don't know what's up with them, they are puny and the leaves are mottled and spotty and they aren't getting any bigger. They may get pulled so I continue adding green beans to the bed. I can plant the beans every two weeks until July 15 to have a longer harvest period. We'll see. So all is well in my little victory garden. I'm just trying to be diligent to keep on top of any infestation, watching it grow with intense satisfaction and looking forward to harvesting the fruits of my labor!

Rainy days and domestic bliss, sort of.

Finally RAIN! An entire day of life-affirming, garden-nourishing rain! My garden and lawn are SO happy right now! And although I was thrilled to get the rain, I was a little bummed that it happened on a Saturday. Why oh why can it never just rain like hell on a Monday or Thursday? But I took advantage of the soggy weather to clean my house and to work on some projects.

Yes, the house. It seems no matter what I do it is in a constant state of disarray! Bionicle and Lego pieces in every nook and cranny, paper (half colored with the latest masterpiece, then forgotten when the attention span ebbs and something else looks more enticing), shoes on the stairs, in the entryway, behind the chair, in the bathroom, play dough in the window sill and dinosaurs... EVERYWHERE! So what does one do? Send the nasty little buggers upstairs to play and knock out as much of the downstairs as possible, then wait until they are in bed to work on the upstairs! It's a fact, cleaning up after children is much like shoveling in a snowstorm! But I'm happy to admit, things are a bit cleaner and semi-organized. At least to the point that my eye doesn't twitch everytime I walk through the house!

Luckily, my entire weekend wasn't all Swiffers and vacuum cleaners. I managed to set aside some time to finish one of the Piggy's little shirts AND to start and finish a new dress! I happened to be at Jo-Ann's last week and picked up some CUTE fabric and a couple of new patterns (yes, I'm delving into patterns now, scary)!

This specific pattern was considered to be a 1-hour EASY, for me it was more of an 8-hour, HOLY SHIT AM I DOING THIS RIGHT! But I did finish it in one weekend, so not bad! I will start a new one today. I'm thinking I might like to take a sewing class or something in the near future. I haven't really sewn, other than half-assing Halloween costumes, since I was in Home Ec in high school. I need a refresher! But I'm proud of my work, it's not perfect, but it's done and it's wearable and she seems to like it!

Little pink shirt!

Little "A" cut dress, it's cute, right?

All in all, a fulfilling weekend. Getting things done, feeling that small sense of accomplishment, and honestly, feeling fairly motivated for the week! Nice.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another project done!

After a friend's bridal shower I was given about 6 pots of little succulent plants. They were super cute, but I had no idea what to do with them and they were drying up and not thriving in the little pots. So I had this great idea to buy a strawberry pot and plant them in there! It turned out SO cute! I had been looking for something interesting to put out front and this was the perfect size and I love it! If you care to re-create something similar, I used various types of sedum and an orange bulbine at the top!

My Best Shot--Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I've got the too damn hot for lettuce blues!

I had to buy lettuce at the store yesterday (the horror)! As I picked up that big, fat head of leafy green lettuce I sighed and a small tear escaped down my cheek! No more of those soft, tangy, luscious greens that blessed my table for months! Greens that children liked to eat because they weren't super chewy, greens that came in a variety of colors and textures that made each salad it's own little work of art! I really need to figure out how to grow lettuce in the summer. It's like Mother Nature is mocking me. Never to have a juicy, ripe, dripping with goodness, heirloom tomato on a bed of scrumptious, delicate leafy greens! Oh the irony! I will probably finish off the last bit of it in the next day or two and then where will I get my fix? Sigh.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stand By Me

This just made my morning a little better! Enjoy!

Click here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Once there was a moth...

As many of you read in an earlier post, we had the great fortune to share some time with two Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies and a Luna Moth. We were then left with one lonely cocoon, counting the days. Much to my great surprise, we found our beautiful Polyphemus moth (named after the Greek myth of Polyphemus the Cyclops) one Saturday afternoon after our garage sale! We must have just missed its emergence as it was still damp and its wings were very limp. So we left it alone for several hours, planning to enjoy time with it in the evening before letting it loose after dark.

I was completely amazed at the sheer size of this thing! Not only did it have a huge wing span but it was fat as a town rat! And although it fluttered like crazy and crawled all over the floor, the bed, the windowsill, the boy, me and anything else it could climb on, it never flew! I just chalked it up to still being new and not yet comfortable with it's moth status!

We hung the moth outside in the maple tree with it's enclosure open so it could leave at it's leisure. We wished it a fond farewell and good luck in finding a mate. Little did we know what we were getting into! The next morning I sent the Monkey Man out to retrieve the empty enclosure and was informed that the moth was still in it! At first I thought it was possibly dead and I immediately began to question if we had handled it too much and I was so worried! I emailed my friend Mr. Ohlke in Canada to find out what the hell. He told me if I had a female, she likely would not fly away but stay there and emit pheromones to attract a mate to her as she would probably be too fat to fly. Well, as I mentioned before, this thing was fat as a rat! He also stated if it were female, she would have thin antennae, which ours did. So, the Monkey Man named her "Polly" and so began "The Great Polyphemus Adventure of 2009"!

Here is the Monkey Man admiring his beautiful Miss Polly! We still couldn't get the Piggy to hold it, oh well, maybe next year!

So as it turns out, silkmoths have an approximate life span of 7-10 days in which time they find a mate, do their business and lay the eggs of the next generation. The clock was tickin'! I waited patiently for fellow co-op members to call with news of a male arrival. The first male was brought to me, his name was "Peter", I think, but he didn't fair well. I don't know if he heat stroked or had some reaction to the transportation but I believed him to be dead within the first 24 hours. So the search began again. Luckily another fine male specimen emerged and I transported him home successfully and "Wally" was introduced to our Polly. I was informed by my friends that it seemed as though I was running a house of ill-repute for lusty moths, or a mothel! HeeHee!

The male was going berserk at this time, I assume sensing the female.

Then I dumped him into her enclosure and I officially had a mothel! Wally is at the top, showing Polly what a handsome beast he is!

After 3 nights, I decided to let Wally free to pursue other options. I managed to get a great shot of him in all of his splendor before he flew off into the night! Is he not a most magnificent creature?!?

But alas, my poor girl was in sad shape by then, on her 6th or 7th day, she had been laying eggs all over the place and her wings were falling off and cracking, it was a sad sight to see. She would never be fit for the wild. So I kept her until she finally died on day 14 and I placed her under my germander bush. Now we wait and see if any of the eggs were fertilized, then I'll go from a moth bordello to a caterpillar nursery!

And on a side note... that first male that died, well, he surprised us all! I kept him as he was in perfect condition, wings outspread and beautiful and my intent was to lay him with Polly under the germander bush. But as it turned out, several days later my mom-in-law picked him up to show the Piggy and she laid him on his back and rubbed his feelers. At which time, he started to wiggle his abdomen and legs and freaked everybody out! Now he was never quite the same, he never flew and never moved much, so I just considered him my "special needs" moth and let him live his 7-10 day life in peace. And, yes, he was re-named "Lazurus" for obvious reasons by his original family! ;)

A good place to chill out... literally!

On a scalding hot Earth Day, the kids and I left the park, totally wilted and dripping with sweat. I fully intended to go straight home, but one wrong turn led to another and I ended up across the street from the Kawaii's Hawaiian Shaved Ice in downtown Round Rock. How could I pass that up??? The Monkey Man chose lemon ice and the Piggle and I shared a pineapple-coconut ice. It was so cold, so smooth and insanely yummy! I had heard it was pretty expensive, but it really wasn't too bad, about $5 for the two ices. Of course at that given moment, I was so stinkin' hot I might have paid $10 for one! My bunch gave it two thumbs up!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hard work pays off!

Well, it's week 3 of the Monkey Man's poop-scoopin' job and I have to say, I'm proud of this kid! He grabs the trash can, locates his shovel and rake and proceeds to scoop without even being told. In fact, he usually informs ME that it's his poop-scoopin' day. He also informs me every Saturday that it's PAYDAY! Tomorrow he will get paid and since he has been a frugal boy and not spent any of the $$$, he will have $15. I think he will probably race right out this weekend and purchase a much coveted Bionicle. I'm cool with that... he's earned it!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Best Shot--Palmetto State Park

Shepherd of the Trees singing to his flock.