Saturday, June 26, 2010

Slime Molds?

While rummaging scrumptious Yukon Gold new potatoes out from under the mulch, I found these two distinctive beings. Some sort of fungi, probably slime molds? Very small. I would not have noticed them except for being down on my hands and knees, and the striking colors.

The black and white one covered quite a large area--perhaps a foot in diameter. Everything within the boundary was encrusted with the black-tipped white spikes...dry leaves of the mulch, potato vines, sticks. It did not seem to other the plant, but time will tell. The red one was just in the bits of straw.

LOVE the macro feature on the camera! Thanks, Dad!

Why toads are fat

These two handsome creatures have been sharing the garage with me for several weeks now. They like the low water dish I keep for Toss.

Tonight I really got to hang out with them for awhile, with the camera. That's when I realized they are dining on june bugs and other large beetles...between them, at least 6 beetles met their demise in the space of about 15 minutes. They position themselves near the doors and wait. If I throw a beetle on the floor near them, it's gone in moments, faster than you can see, even.

The camera does not fire quickly enough to catch the act, but I have a nice before and after set. Sadly, Blogger decided to display them in the reverse order from which I chose the top photo is actually the "after" photo for the second photo. The fun "leapfrog" photo occurred moments after they both squared off on a beetle, and then the big one got it.

After the big one downed the big hissing polyphylla hammondi june beetle, the toad intermittently writhed and gagged for a few minutes. I would think so, swallowing one of those big (>1" long) thrashing scratchy things whole, on top of several smaller beetles! The Spotted Grape Beetle and smaller common brown june beetle didn't seem to bother the toads.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Light Show

One of the things I love in the new ordering of my life (living in the basement and garage, while a young family occupies the main living quarters) is that I am encouraged to use the privy (outhouse). Changing potty habits is not easy, but the results are worthwhile in this case.

It rousts me from the bright, cheerful clutter of the house, for one thing. Instead of separating myself from the land, and the Community of Life that inhabits it, I must go out into it at all hours. I am not a morning person by nature (or genetics), but once I'm outside on a quiet summer morning, when the sun is still behind the trees and the grass is soaked with dew and every spiderweb is a diamond tiara, I'm oh-so-glad to be there. A good start to a good day.

My last walk out, late in the evening, is a fitting reward for a day's work--a resplendent light show in dazzling silence, courtesy of the fire flies. And now is the season for them! Is it Disney World that ends each evening in a grand finale fireworks display? Mine is better, as peaceful as a lullaby.

Tonight's show was especially entrancing, because the fireflies in the trees west of the back yard are flashing in synchrony...or is that harmony? The trees are nearly dark for a few long moments, then it starts: at the north end, a sudden twinkling like fireworks, only silent. And instead of showering to the earth, the bright flickers of light sweep from one end of the tree line to the other! Over and over, in cadence, this sideways cascade of scintillating pinpoint lights occurs.

I could think it was for my benefit, but it is not. The only audience for this show is the female fireflies, wherever they may be. I am just a lucky eavesdropper on their luminous concert.

How rich I am! My first gainful employment (at about age 6) was to catch fireflies and sell them ($1.00 per 100? or maybe it was only $.25) to researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab. I suppose the fruit of that labor was eventually, by some round-about path, the glowing light sticks that children of all ages amuse themselves with at night-time events.

Now I breed them for fun, and don't harvest. Neither do I have any use for the phony light sticks. The shimmering trees are much better.