Monday, July 31, 2006

Dancing While the World Falls Apart

When Roger and I wed in 1992 we didn't have a song that in any sense was "ours." We had our particular romantics, but no song. We liked much of the same music, and often listened to our favorite oldies, only introducing contemporary stuff in small doses. In 1997, though, we heard a piece of music that became our song. We played it often on the stereo in our house in Santa Cruz, in the room we called the Fireplace Room, and we danced to it. It grounded us, it reminded us of our dreams, of what it meant to be alive and in love with each other. It reduced the chaotic noise of the world, and focussed our attention to just the moment, our dance together. It was a small sweet song (you might even think it's insipid), but it was ours.

In 2003 we sold our house in Santa Cruz and rented for a year while we both worked before we could move up to the house we had bought in Washington. We didn't listen to our song. The CD was packed away in a box, and we didn't have an iPod. Really, we were too busy and distracted to take the time. When we finally moved up to Washington, we bought an iPod and put nearly a thousand songs on it, but not that one. We were now living our dream. Our work was the work we did for ourselves. We were spending our days together. We were living and breathing what we had envisioned. Two years passed here without even thinking of it.

Suddenly the world fell apart. Not our personal world. It's never our personal world, but the bigger outside world that shreds our hearts. Ancient enmities hold the world hostage. Ancient beliefs justify everyone's actions. We sense the ultimate outcome of this macabre dance in the Middle East. There is no resolution but that one, and we see it and know it. That is why we ache with despair, because it seems inevitable.

Then, I remembered how dancing to our song assuaged our broken hearts. I hunted and found the old CD and updated the iPod. We played it for the first time in our house the other night, and we cried and danced. Slow dance. Loving dance. We let the world slip away and remembered that our small dream is sometimes all there is to sustain us while the wide world falls apart.

you and me
by Patti Larkin

you and me baby
we're impossible
who'd have thought that we could
you and me babe
we're nobody's fools
we are nothing but good
you and me babe
we're something else
who's to say we're not
you and me babe when all else fails
we have what we want

this is all i wanted
all i've waited for

you and me babe
we fell down laughing
couldn't get out fast enough
who's to say there's a
right or wrong way
we don't believe in that stuff
you and me took a breath of air
and spit out all the dust
others tire of their love affairs
leave em there to rust

this is all i wanted
all i've waited for
this all is wanted
all i've waited for

you and me baby
we know everything
and we have been everywhere
you and me babe we
grew a couple of wings
and flew away on a dare
you and me
in a silent room
we prayed for what we got
forever after will be too soon
cause we will have what we want

this is all i wanted
all i've waited for
this is all i wanted
all i've waited for

Friday, July 28, 2006


more about spiders! two days in a row!

i use these gloves for working. they keep me fairly safe from small scratches and scrapes. having gloves on is a reminder to be careful. just sliding a bare hand along a piece of wood is an opportunity for a splinter. i like to wear them when i'm weeding too; for protection from prickly weeds, but mainly protection for my skin. dirt is, as anyone who gardens knows, very hard on skin. the downside of gloves, for me, is heat. i break a sweat easily, so i want as much bare skin as i can manage. i have that north european skin, thin with age, freckled, easily bruised, subject to skin cancer or other less dangerous bumps. i need to wear a hat for sun shading, but wow, does that make my head hot.

here's the backstory behind the picture of a spider robin posted yesterday, captioned so well with a haiku that hinted at a bigger tale. i was pulling on my gloves as i was walking out the door to do something that wanted gloves. i felt something in the thumb of my right glove. not a pebble. softer. i pictured a bit of the cedar bark mulch covering much of our place. a bit of bark. i often find small bits of various grit in my gloves and i'll admit that if it's a small bit i ignore it and just work on. i decided, and all of this perception and deciding was almost subconscious, barely registering in my thoughts about weeding or shingling or whatever it was i had in mind to do, that this bit of stuff was too much at the tip of my thumb inside the glove. so i pulled off the glove and shook it out, expecting a bit of bark, or something of that sort, to fall out. imagine my surprise, he said in a cliche, when a live spider fell out!

it was a frisky spider, not holding still for portraiture, perhaps annoyed or panicked at being first jostled and shoved in its hidey hole and then shaken out to a wide open space with no refuge in sight. we didn't get a clearly focussed picture, but you can see quite a bit of detail of its body. i did flip it over and was relieved that it had no red hourglass on its underside. even though it didn't bite me. could have happened. we put it outside. still alive.

a day later i was moving stuff in our garage and found what looked to me to be the same sort of spider. this one sat quite patiently for me to get a perfectly focussed picture. i almost did. aren't those rug fibers in perfect focus.

enjoy your weekend. see ya monday.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

small things

Spider alert! For those of you who don't like to see spiders, skip the third photo.
a pollinator
can't live without the flower
sweet co-existence
splayed on leaf and water
we sink where they find surface
a tension balance
simple work routine
uncovers spider in glove
triggers a turf war

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


It feels absurd to post a pretty picture and write of this beautiful earth. This could be a rant, but it won't. What is there to say? We're afraid.
Do something for peace today.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


It's happened again. Only this time we were prepared for the abruptness of their departures. Some of our summer birds are gone. First it was the hummingbirds. I am still changing the sugar water for them, but it's already been several days since the last one sat at the feeder. It was a fluttery thing too, fanning those whirring wings every few seconds while it perched and sipped. It has a long journey ahead, and we're glad to see it stop here for a quick snack. We're like a little mom and pop convenience store for birds. Open 24 hours. Come for the sugar water, stay for the raspberries or sunflower seeds.
Then it was the swallows. It all happened so fast, one day they were here, the next day gone. First, we watched the alpha leave the nest. It flew out and took off. Right away it looked like all the rest of them, swooping and turning on a dime, and then out of sight. The beta stuck its head out of the nest box. It was smaller. Its little yellow mouth so tiny compared to the larger alpha. For two days it finally was getting all of mom's attention, and this one was much more gregarious than the other. Then it too was gone. We didn't see it make the necessary gesture, the flight out of the box. But there was no activity on Friday, and none on Saturday.
So, we opened the nest box and found it empty. Just the pile of twigs we watched them carry in, and all the feathers. A perfect feather bed. Now all of our swallows are gone. For months we've had a dozen of them dipping and diving about the yard everyday. No more. It feels slightly eerie, but then we remember that they arrive the same way-- unannounced and abruptly.

Monday was still very warm here. We went to the beach to see if there were cooler temperatures to be found. Nope. The only birds we saw were crows. Not an eagle anywhere. We checked the two places we almost always see them. Nothing. So the pair we saw the last time we took a minus tide walk (July 11) may have been it for the year. Some eagles stay in Washington, while others migrate. The pairs we've become familiar with leave. We may not see them again until February. But when they return it is with their dazzling amorous energy. Their calls to each other have become our new harbinger of the season, sounding even before the first daffodils break ground.

Are you seeing any signs of the changing seasons?

Monday, July 24, 2006


i thought that since we are covering our house with red cedar shingles i'd post a bit about cedar. the first thing i found is that in north america, or maybe just the usa, there is western red cedar, eastern red cedar, and white cedar. of course, each of these has many other local names. arborvitae, juniper (a hint of what i was to learn next), aromatic cedar, false cedar, port orford cedar, yellow cedar and on. you may have a "cedar" tree in your locale with a local name.

next i learned, quel surprise, that not one of these is a true cedar in the genus cedrus, family pinaceae, order pinales. the true cedars are cedrus deodara, from the western himalayan mountains, and cedrus libani (the cedars of lebanon!), from the middle east and up to turkey, which has several variations, one native to cyprus. true cedars have needles akin to pines or firs, and are in the order pinales, family pinaceae. there are no true cedars native to the new world.

from wikipedia:

The generic name Cedrus is derived from the original Greek name, 'kedros'. It has been mis-applied to many other trees with scented wood, including the genera Calocedrus ("incense-cedars"), Chamaecyparis and Thuja ("whitecedar", "Western Redcedar"), Cryptomeria (Japanese cedar"), and Juniperus ("Eastern Redcedar", "Mountain-cedar") in the family Cupressaceae; Cedrela ("Spanish-cedar") and Toona ("Australian Redcedar") in the family Meliaceae; and Tamarix ("Saltcedar") in the family Tamaricaceae.

western red cedar is an evergreen coniferous tree, Thuja plicata, in the cypress family Cupressaceae, order pinales. eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana, family Cupressaceae order pinales) is also an evergreen, but its leaves may turn yellow or brown in winter. eastern white cedar is Thuja occidentalis, family Cupressaceae. port orford cedar is Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, family Cupressaceae.

i'm starting to see why common names aren't sufficient to identify plants, or insects or animals for that matter.

the largest known western red cedar. it is near lake quinalt, wa. it is 19.5 feet in diameter
a cedar tree on whidbey island, which we will get to see this summer when we visit a friend on the island. it is 27 feet in circumference 9 (or so) feet in diameter.
the leaf structure of a western red cedar in our yard. not needles like a true cedar.
a close view of a shingle on our house. from a tree that is second cousin some removed from a true cedar.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Camouflaged Goldfinch

The temperatures are rising. It's supposed to be 93 today and 95 on Saturday. We are already wilting in the heat. There is really no place to hide from the oppressive sun. We try to work magic with the timing of open windows and closed blinds. Such are the modest strategies for comfort and survival. We don't have air-conditioning, but we do have a portable swamp cooler that we fill with ice. It blows cool, icy air on us for short periods of time, just long enough to relieve us of our heat delirium.
We've been watching the American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) from the window where the blinds are not yet drawn. It is delightful to see them eating the Coreopsis seed, even while the bird feeders are full of their favorite food. I love seeing them go for what the earth offers. They have not forgotten what is good and nutritious, and they still know how to find it.
They do make me wonder how successful Roger and I would be if we had to fend for ourselves in nature. How well would we survive? I think if it were hot, I'd probably just shrug and give up, but on a cool day I might actually be able find some food.

Will you be doing anything to stay cool this weekend? There are several lakes in the area to go swimming. Unfortunately, the lake closest to us is closed because of toxic algae blooms that killed three dogs last month. Is life weird, or what? We hope you have a great and safe weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Post 538: The Bums Go Out To Dinner

Planning for a vanishing point
We've been shingling the great wall. It's our longest stretch at 37 feet. The real challenge is keeping those lines straight. That falls to Roger, and he is unbelievably diligent at making sure the lines match up around the house. He does all the prep, and I do all the low shingling until we reach the design course of round shingles, and then he takes over. We bought a second pneumatic stapler. So, we've really streamlined the process. When I'm doing the low rows on a new wall that Roger has prepped, he's doing the uppers on the walls I've just completed.

We've been working so hard that we actually went out to dinner Wednesday night. If any of our friends or family members are reading this, they will be utterly shocked. Since we've retired, we hardly ever go to out to eat. People come to visit and offer to take us to dinner, and we always say, "No, let us cook for you." Tonight we yielded to exhaustion and let someone else cook for us. Literally, it has been seven months since we were in a restaurant for dinner.

We went to the Ajax Cafe (A little out of the way... Way out of the ordinary). These people can really cook. It cost what a week's worth of groceries would, but it was so worth it. We had a bottle of Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfindel. It was delicious. Roger had an appetizer of a half dozen oysters from Marrowstone Island (a local place we have explored). We split a salad, and one of their dinner specials of pan-roasted halibut with orange beurre sauce that was so perfectly cooked we were utterly inspired. The vegetables were excellent, fresh and real tasting (ever go to a restaurant and taste the veggies and wonder where such weird things grow?). After dinner, Roger had a glass of port. We made the requisite joke about a port in any storm, then we split a piece of Key Lime Pie. It was tangy and tart served with fresh whipped cream and a lovely yellow and purple viola flower garnish. Dining as art.

What a rare pleasure it was, one we probably won't do again until next February. But it was so good, we'll probably remember it until then. Do you have a favorite restaurant? A favorite dish? Do you order something when you go out to eat that you simply can't cook for yourself? I came away thinking I want to remember to put flower garnishes on our dinners.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

rattle those pots and pans

our favorite, or at least most used, cooking utensil. the stirring thing pictured in the pan is made of bamboo. i have had it for at least 30 years.

we have a reasonable assortment of pots and pans, even a wok we use. pots, saucepans, skillets, frying pans, or maybe frypans in some locales, steamers (which go in the pots), rice cooker. seems a lot when i list them. most are family things passed on from parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, step-relatives, siblings, even the next generation. anyway, most of our meals start with a large saute pan. in my world of words frying pans are cast iron, and this pan is stainless (ha) steel and aluminum on the outside bottom, something about spreading the heat. this pan came from our beloved sam, second husband to robin's mom. oh, we use the other pans too. the wok gets a lot of use, and an aluminum fry/saute pan from my grandmother's kitchen. we collect the ingredients from the garden and make our salad in a wooden bowl that robin's mom bought in 1947. we have purchased some new kitchen things. a large pot with a basket kinda insert we use to cook pasta. an electric rice cooker. knives.

back to our favorite pan: almost all our "recipes" (a recipe here is more a list of ingredients, which varies with mood) start with olive oil, garlic, onions, and red peppers. that's a base for italian, chinese, east indian, or thai cuisine, at least. could be pasta primavera, or curried chicken, or a stir fry. if we have steamed vegetables they are cooked in a pot from robin's family.

a picture of the aforementioned wooden bowl, with a bulb of this year's garlic harvest artfully arranged, on top of the maple burl cutting board on which all our food is sliced, chopped, diced, smashed (garlic). the faint yellow on the cutting board at left is from dicing fresh turmeric. the red splotch above right of the bowl from cutting beets. the board was cut with a chainsaw way off in the woods by a friend. i have had it for almost 30 years.

there is some sort of comfortable feeling, for me anyway, of using kitchen things i remember from my youth, things robin remembers from her youth, pans from our families, even utensils from our own young adulthood. i know that they are just things and could be replaced, and that even if they are actually old that the sense of continuity is in me, not out there in things. they are hand-me-downs or family heirlooms, depending on one's viewpoint, or perhaps on actual utility.

a dfifferent perspective of what we love about home than yesterday's post, but perhaps related emotionally. what's in your kitchen?

the title of the post is a line from an early rock and roll song. i heard it as "shake , rattle, and roll" performed by bill haley and the comets, when i was 12. bill cleaned up the lyrics for us white bread kids in the 'burbs.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Walk to the Mailbox

After the walk up the driveway, I turn right and walk down this road
Sometimes when I walk to the mailbox, I compose a blog post along the way. It's always brilliant. The words flow effortlessly, as I scan the ground for anything that catches my eye: coyote scat, an eviscerated lizard, a bright orange mushroom. I leave the camera home. I just want to look around, and let my imagination hold whatever I see, while I conceive the post that will explain everything. Not the personal everything, not even the everything of scat, lizards, and mushrooms, but the public everything, the times we live in, why I am a liberal and love my country, why civil and human rights mean so much to me, why I am anti-war, even though I am not a pacifist. It is not a long walk to the mailbox, maybe 1/6 of a mile one way, so I walk slowly to let the ideas take shape. I think about the country I grew up in, the same country as my right-wing friends. We both say we love our country, but the country they love and the one I love seem so different that I start to suspect we have merely fallen in love with our own ideas, and not the real thing at all. But I wonder if there is a real thing, an essential America that is not exactly what either of us think it is? So, I start a mental list of things that I love about my country:

-the bill of rights and 14th Amendment
-the constitution, of which they are part
-the Gettysburg Address
-the belief that my vote counts
-our representative government
-the taxes I pay for education, roads, police and fire departments, medicare, social security
-the sense that our nation's laws were founded on principle

Then I turn right again and walk down to the corner. Mailboxes on the left.
Suddenly there's a brown nose sniffing me. Bruno, the chocolate lab who lives in the house closest to the mailboxes, is leaning on me wanting me to pat his side and call his name. He's a great big friendly boy who often comes out of nowhere, reminding me to get my head out of the clouds and be here, where I'm walking.

I oblige him. But on the way back I can't help but wonder what would be on my right wing friend's list, or what would be on yours. I arrive home and think about what to post. Somehow the words never flow quite so effortlessly as they do when I'm just walking along.

Monday, July 17, 2006


This is a blue mama
Observers of life know how great it is to be wrong. It means we've encountered evidence that has brought us to our senses, opened our eyes, helped us to know the world more deeply.

So it is with great joy, I report we were totally wrong.

About ten days ago we noticed several young, dark tree swallows flying around the yard and nest box. We checked our Sibley's and the Cornell Bird site. We googled tree swallow juvenile images. We were convinced that these young swallows, which definitely were not adult blue, had to be the fledglings out of nest. What else could they be? How excited we were. Our first nest box with a successful fledge.
This one wants to be fed all day long
Then last Monday, we watched both parents flying in and out of the nest all day. They were busy, as we blogged last week, removing detritus from nest. But we noticed that upon their return there came loud and persistent chirping cries from nest box. We assumed that the babies had returned to the box, and had somehow regressed. They were demanding food from sun-up to sundown. Why weren't they out there flying, getting their own food? What could have gone wrong with them?
One of the parents stops by every few minutes
Well, nothing except that babies had not tested their wings yet. They hadn't left the nest box at all, and are only now making their little presence known in very obvious and vocal ways. They are small and noticeably immature. One baby is definitely an alpha. S/he never leaves the nest box opening, sitting there all day waiting to be fed. That little face only retreats when something scary comes its way, like me or Roger, or the hawk that made a dash for it last Friday. We know there's another baby in the box (maybe even more than one other). It chirps madly when the mother comes by and feeds the one sitting in the opening. Every few fly-bys the mother does go into the nestbox, and we assume that she is feeding the other baby in there.
Who is this on top of the box?
What confused us was the presence of dark, immature looking tree swallows. We now think they must be year-old females (although we could easily be wrong about that). We noticed that one likes to hang around the nest box, sitting on top of it, and once even perched on the opening staring straight eye-to-eye with the baby. It looked so much like "aunting behavior," a kind of practice at being mom.

So, we didn't miss the babies testing their new wings. They did not grow so large so quickly that they were expert flyers right out of the box. They have not ventured out yet. We're certain that will come soon. We plan to be ready to photograph it and anticipate that it will be beautiful. And we don't think we'll be wrong about that.

Friday, July 14, 2006


From Huffington Post: Israeli PM Orders More Strikes On Lebanon… Hezbollah Fires Rockets Into Israel… Iran Threatens “Fierce Response” If Israel Attacks Syria… Israeli Army Chief: “Nothing Is Safe” In Lebanon… Israel Bombs Beirut Airport And Lebanese Army Bases, Imposes Naval Blockade… Russia, France, Britain, Italy Criticize Israel's “Disproportionate Use Of Force”...
Meanwhile, a Spotted Towhee sings its heart out on a small branch beside the bay, and Bald Eagles mate for life.

Perhaps cooler heads will prevail, I was going to add, and sanity be restored by Monday, but how can something be restored which as yet does not exist? Have a good weekend, friends.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

In Between Risings

Cooper's Hawk drying his wings and hunting at the birdfeeder
Wednesday was a beautiful, rainy summer day. Warm enough for Roger to continue the shingling project, which was made especially comfortable for outdoor work by the overhanging roof in the areas he was removing the existing siding. This is a part of the project I don't contribute to, so I was left to my own domestic chores. Ah the zen of domesticity. I spent the day running errands, doing loads of laundry, and baking bread. In between risings, I photographed the birds in the yard.
Today, July 13, 2006 is Roger's oldest daughter's 36th birthday. This daughter has not talked to us for nearly a decade, but she has reached the age I was when I met her father so many years ago. Somehow that feels like a significant milestone to me. I know how old I felt at 36, how much life I had lived, how many miles I had traveled, the love, laughter, tears, and pain I had experienced. Now she has lived her 36 years. I think she must be as much of adult as I was then. And even if she is not, she could be, and that is enough for me to really let her go. She is a woman on her own terms. It is enough to know this.
So, I look out the window while the bread rises and watch the swallow mother bring food every few minutes to the hungry mouths that gape from the nest box opening. I often wish humans were more animal and less complicated mind-language beasts. I think, maybe it wouldn't be so bad if food and sex were all that we needed to sustain and fulfill us, and the libraries of our nervous systems were filled with the means and memory to find them.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

what was i thinking

i'm not exactly a veggie garden newbie. been doing it for years. whence this amnesia about plant size, every year? why are my plants all crowded together when i have beaucoup space? with the exception of the golden cauliflower in the greenhouse, all of the stuff in our garden was started from seed in small containers and transplanted. they're so small when i transplant them that one foot, 12 measly inches, seems sufficient, even grandiose. they look nice as small plants laid out neatly together.

just look at that poor broccoli struggling to survive with those huge collard greens shading it, and tomatoes close by on the other side.

here's the golden cauliflower and a zucchini beyond, scrunching a poor little basil plant between them. the rest of the green house looks like a jungle. i have to slide carefully by the things spilling out in the aisles.

broccoli on the left. each plant probably wants easily twice as much space as it has. and how do i expect to have onions develop big bulbs, or whatever the term is, when planted an inch apart. oh yeah, the rows are far enough apart, but the plants in each row are far too close.

tomatoes. three brandywine and four oregon extra early in the space that one, yes one, plant would occupy. the stakes are purely ornamental so far, as i have not gotten round to tying the plants to them. if i don't get to it soon the tomatoes will fall over and sprawl everywhere. not that i'm a strict tomato disciplinarian, but they do produce more fruit (fruits?) if they are pinched back.

kale and collard greens (how many greens can two people eat?) stuffed together. at least these plants will thrive anyway, not requiring room for flowers.

aha!! squash hills six (6') apart. they look lonely now. in a month, if it goes well, they will likely be crowding each other.

even my reckless disregard for plant spacing has not deterred the plants from providing us with provender. we have been eating zucchini, broccoli, beets, lettuce, mesclun (a mix of salad greens), carrots, onions, artichokes, basil, raspberries, kale, collard, snow peas (very prolific plants), garlic (we spaced that right, i had robin's help, and to give her credit where due, she did warn me about that basil plant in the greenhouse).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Little Things That Surprised Me

I always knew that rabbits eat greens. So, it did not surprise me when I watched this bunny munch down a very long piece of grass.
But I was really was surprised to see this one spend quite a bit of time chewing down dried grass, especially when there's still plenty of greens around for the taking. Interesting choice.
We watched the tree swallow babies fledge last week. They were all out of the nest box and flying around the yard. They were beautifully exuberant and artful on their first tries. We thought that once they left the nest, that would be the end of it, but they returned at the end of the day to roost. On Monday, we heard them in the nest box all day, chattering away. Both parents spent the day removing quite a bit of detritus from the box. Whenever they returned the babies chirped away plaintively. I could hear them from in the house! We were surprised that the babies stayed in, and mom continued to bring them food. We also were surprised to learn that once the babies are fully out of the nest, it may be early enough in the season for the parents to produce another family.
This sunset was so brilliant, so warm and penetrating on Sunday that the air itself seemed to turn pink and golden. I was surprised by the tangible color of air.
Roger planted the cauliflower starts in spring. The other day, when we were in the greenhouse, he pulled the leaves back on the plant and showed me this surprisingly beautiful golden cauliflower. We harvested it on Monday, and the taste was luminously delicious.

Have you been surprised by anything lately?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Pup Sitting

When we went to an Earth Day celebration back in April, we signed up to be contacted about volunteer work with the Marine Mammal Rescue network in our county. It seemed like a good thing to do with our time, to be trained to protect stranded marine mammals or to keep humans away from seal pups on the shore. We didn't hear from anyone until a week ago when we received an email asking if we were still interested. I wrote back right away saying absolutely we were still interested.On Saturday, we received a second email welcoming us and explaining that there would be a volunteer training some time in the future, but there had been some personnel changes, and things weren't happening as had been planned. In the email, they sent the above photo that they had just taken of a baby Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi) which had been born some time last week. The seal pup still had its umbilical cord attached and was asleep in a kelp bed right outside of the Marine Science Center. There was a post script asking if anyone was interested in pup sitting this harbor seal, keeping other humans from her, that very day. I called right away, but was put through to voicemail instead of a live human, so I left a message saying, sure we'd be glad to come out and pup sit.
We didn't hear from them until late Saturday, and by then they had taken care of the baby themselves. But after having taken one look at the seal pup photo, I was thoroughly smitten. I had to get down there and see that little one with my own eyes. So we drove over to Fort Worden on Sunday and found her right there on the sand, cordoned off from humans by orange "Keep Out" tape .
We watched her from the dock that leads to the marine center. She was right at the shoreline, and the tide was coming in. She didn't quite like when the water reached and washed over her, so she crawled farther up on shore, slowly, pausing to snooze between movements. She was just waiting for her very nutritious and yummy mom to arrive.
Oh yes, we are definitely hooked. We want to be part of a volunteer crew to protect these little ones. How could we not?

Friday, July 07, 2006

of all the gall

do two partial posts add up to one complete post? not really. so this is maybe 75 80% (see oops below) of a post.

wednesday we found thimbleberries (rubus parviflorus) with galls. hey. wayne at niches had a post about galls a bit ago, explaining that various insects lay eggs in various plants, and somehow cause the plant to form an enlarged, kinda cancerous looking bulge that houses, protects, and feeds the larva which hatch inside the gall. i grew up around white oaks and played with oak galls, or oak balls, as we kids called them, sometimes when throwing them at each other. they are very light. kinda like organic nerf balls. i had not, however, actually seen a larva in a gall. so i clipped off a thimbleberry vine with some galls and brought it in for inspection. a quick google informed me that the Diastrophus kincaidii wasp is the only insect to use thimbleberries thusly and it uses only the thimbleberry.

from the website of the salal chapter of the washington native plant society, in a piece titled "overwintering in the thimbleberries," by jay scott (scroll down a bit) he says, in reference to thimbleberry galls:

Dissecting the gall revealed the larvae and tunnels they had made through the plant tissue. Researchers have found this plant tissue rich in extra starch, glycogen, and protein. Outer layers of the gall contain tannin and phenolic compounds. The inside of a gall is therefore food for the herbivorous larvae. The outside is foul tasting armor against predators.

i sharpened a knife and sliced into the gall, expecting to find a pupa or larva. nada. just green stuff. oh well. i got another and sliced off thin slices, thinking i must have missed the critter in the first gall. still no indication of even an egg. this isn't very satisfying. not much of a post without a bug inside the gall.

galls on thimbleberry vines.

inside the gall.

oops! closer inspection of the photo above reveals this little guy, who moves when gently prodded. yikes. maybe all of the little cell-like things are nascent wasps.
science on-the-fly: abandoning early conjectures when presented with new observational information.
lazy editing.
either way, there's the bug.

thursday wayne posted a piece on rust . the plant parasite, not iron oxide. i knew of rust as a plant disease, but thought it was a simple fungus. i learned that rust is a complex fungus that uses two hosts, alternating in a growth cycle between them. wayne, of course, provided a complete and fascinating description of two rusts, their life cycles and hosts, with pictures. when i went out to weed today i found a rust on a dandelion. shazam, i said to myself, here's a post. i took pictures. i'll just go google "dandelion rust" and have this wrapped up. well. not so fast. i found no references for dandelion rust. another partial post.

rust on a dandelion (hope i got that right)

dandelion flowers on another part of the rusty plant in the photo above.

a larger view of the flower.

enjoy the weekend. we'll be back monday. unless something amazing requires our commentary before then.