30 July, 2009

Patio and Flower Beds

After all the black dirt was distributed, the guys loaded the bobcat back onto it's trailer and drove it away, taking the excitement with it. You can see the tired shovels below, leaning against the wall.

I took a day off from work today to go buy plants and get started on the planting. I went with herbaceous perennials. Below is a about 1/4 of what I got set out today. Lungwort is a new plant for me. I planted 2 different kinds. Then I got dark pink and white astilbe, which I have always liked. I can't remember the name of the other plants that you can see at the extreme right of the photo, but they have a lovely little purple-ish flower that is quite orchid-like. I still have a lot of work to do, but it will wait for the weekend.

29 July, 2009

It's a patio!

We have been working on home improvements for a while, most recently was the demolition of our old rotting deck and its replacement with a patio and a retaining wall to change the water flow off the hill behind our house (the cause of said rot). This process started last October (!) and the end is now in sight. :-) I have some of the older photos of the progress in a Picasa web album (http://picasaweb.google.com/lulalaney/DeckToPatio20082009#). Below I have some of the more recent photos.
More tomorrow. I'm too tired just looking at this to write more tonight!

26 July, 2009


You know it is bad when your Friday morning has you trying to figure out if your computer is on or is it off, crawling under your desk to check connections, pushing buttons in all combinations in fruitless attempts to get something -- anything! -- to happen. Various green lights were on all the components, but nothing displaying on the monitor. Even pushing the green-lit "off" button on the CPU couldn't make it change color or power off. The last resort - pull the plug from the wall. Well, that did the trick; at least it shut fully off. Holding my breath I plugged it back in. Yea! It boots and even let's me log on!

I'm still trying to recover from this especially tiring and trying week, so just a short post today with a few shots I took in our yard this weekend of monarch caterpillars and a butterfly.

The caterpillars spend their time on Butterflyweed, a milkweed species (Aesclepias), eating flower buds and leaves.

They extrude the most massive turds; you can see one coming out of the back end at the left of this photo. Both ends of the caterpillars have appendages, so it is hard to tell if they are coming or going, except when they are "going" like this one is. A couple of older turds are on the leaf below the caterpillar.

These are very fleshy and very flashy caterpillars, flashy to advertise their unpleasant flavor from the milkweed.

There really is a gorgeous monarch butterfly in this picture, hiding amongst the orange and purple of the coneflower. (Click on the picture to see it bigger.) Not that they need to hide. Like the caterpillars, the butterflies also advertise their unpleasant flavor to potential predators with their strikingly colorful black, orange, and white markings.

22 July, 2009

Come fly with me

Do you ever have those days? You know, the ones where you just aren't quite quick enough on shutter to capture that bird or bug before it takes off and zooms out of focus or even field of view? The series below are some of my "near misses". Some are in focus, most are not, but each one is its own little mini-adventure. The one just below is a beetle that had been happily feeding on the daisy until I disturbed it with the sonic autofocus one too many times. A "Focus Too Far", so to speak.

The next picture almost worked, but I was basically unprepared. I was taking pictures of the various insects on the coneflowers, when up zoomed a ruby-throated hummingbird. I had no idea they would feed on coneflowers. I caught this shot seconds before the hummer spotted me. Usually I take time to focus, but this time I just aimed in the general direction and pressed the shutter button; classic off the hip shot. With hummers, you take what you can get.

Below is what the hummer looked like after it spotted me. It flew toward me with its throat patch displayed and then zoomed away into the trees. The autofocus found the brick wall, not the hummer. :-( But I love the shot anyway because it captures the essence of a male ruby-throated hummingbird -- hovering, displaying, speeding away.

The moth below was super-fast, frenetic really, and super-sensitive to the autofocus. I saw it for a split second at rest, and the wings are a dull medium grey with no significant markings that I could detect. But its body is a magnifecent metallic azure blue and its head is bright orange; all of which is hidden when the wings are closed.

I was trying to get these dark indigo blue wasps that were flitting around the garden pond. I took dozens of photos trying to capture the dark blue iridescence, but no matter what I tried, they just looked black. I was focusing on this one as it sat on the rock next to the pond and just I pressed the shutter button it took off. But look! You can see some of the gorgeous blue iridescence on the head and abdomen and on those long, extended back legs.

I will leave you with the image below of a honeybee that flitted from one aesclepias flower to another as I took the picture. I picked this one for last because it is at least in focus. ;-)

19 July, 2009

Garden Treasures

This is just a quick post with a handfull of garden photos to close out the weekend. I've seen so many perfect butterfly photographs posted by many of the bloggers I follow, that it is with some reluctance that I am posting the next two pics. This one was so intent on feeding, that I was able to get quite close and take a number of shots that are better than most of my butterfly attempts.

Meanwhile, over in the lily garden I found this little spider hiding on the underside of a lily petal. I normally don't a use a flash, but fortuitously I had the camera settings on "portrait" and the builtin flash lit the underside just enough to counterbalance the bright sunlight without creating distracting dark shadows; put a real twinkle in all four eyes!

Finally, here is a gentian seedpod looking like a pot of gold, or at least a golden pot, at the end of the rainbow. But each time I look in the pot, I see little blackened, shrunken, knobby heads rather than treasure. Click on the picture and check it out. Pretty cool, huh?

And now I will leave you with that cheery vision. Hope your upcoming week is full of real treasure.

18 July, 2009

Work and Rewards on a Cold Summer Weekend

We are having unseasonably cool weather for the past 2 days and on into next week. The only good thing about the cool temp is that it is wax in my ears to deafen me to the siren song calling to me from outside. "Why is that good?" you may ask. It is good because I have loads of work to finish by Monday -- damn deadines! Taking the time to write this post is my reward to myself for being able to cross 3 things off my must do list; now only more 4 to go. :-(

So, how to make the most of my reward? I think I will post some of my favorite photos that I have taken around our house or nearby so far this summer. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed capturing them and writing about them.

This first photo should have been in last week's lily post. Look at how the light shines through the delicate tissue paper of the sun-dried daylily petals.

We planted 5 coneflowers about 5 years ago and they have propagated to form a huge mass that has taken over the flower bed at the front of the house. I love the coneflowers, but they have outgrown their spot. Later this year we will transplant them to areas in which they can go wild in their abandonment. I took the next 2 shots in our front yard just after sunrise. I was drawn to the dewdrops on the spikes at the center of this lovely composite flower. I lose myself in the symmetry of the whorls, sliding in between the whorls with my arms spread wide to touch the dewy spikes on either side.

When Dennis and I were walking along the Zumbro River earlier, a butterfly landed on his sweaty arm and could not be persuaded to leave. I was able to get some good photos of it, including the 3 below.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger. The eyes and furry-looking head are quite impressive in the shot above. That is my finger in the shot below, trying to persuade it to move and open its wings, but nothing doing. (Not a bad shot for holding the camera one-handed, though.) Dennis' sweat must be sweeter than even I had realized! ;-)

This fly was also photographed on our river walk. I was amazed at how beautiful it looks with its pewter sheen. Seriously! Enlarge it for yourself and take a look at the delicate wings, the cool spikey black hairs, and the rich kidney bean eyes. Up close it does not have yuck factor that they normally do when flitting about your dinner.

Below is my best shot so far of a damselfly. It looks so metallic, like mini-robot.

Milkweed was in nearly full bloom. These flowers are so opulent and overblown, almost indecent in their voluptuousness. Yet, in the second photo, you can see how each floret is pristine, almost prissy in its individual perfection.
On the other end of the showey spectrum is this lovely grass flower head. Its beauty lies in its elegant simpicity. If you look closely, you can see several insects and strands of a delicate spider web; an entire world of life and death on a 5 inch stem.
And with this I will end this post. I think I may need another reward before the weekend is over, so visit again soon.

11 July, 2009

Lily Therapy

What a week this was; too busy at work to even take a deep breath. On top of that, computer issues kept me from posting. So now it is Saturday and I have a chance to take a deep breath or two (in spite of working 4 hours earlier today), my computer is doing just fine, and I got a chance to get outside and take a few more photos. Time to compose a post!

I admit it; I am in love with lilies. I love their texture, their parts, their sensual shapes, the insects they attract, the way raindrops and dewdrops cling to their petals, their rich colors, their delicate colors, their beginnings, their ends. If you don’t like lilies, go ahead and stop now or be brave -- see if you are able to resist these lilies ...

Green and pink buds with a newly opened pink lily. These pink lilies seem to emit a soft, warm glow.

Velvety brown anthers cupped in a yellow petal

A choir of anthers surround the creamy stigma of this blood red lily.

The green grasshopper nymph contrasts sharply with the red of the lily.

This little guy was very sensitive to the autofocus mechanism of my camera. I chased it slowly around the lily while trying to focus on it instead the petal. I finally did get a couple of good shots, though.

It has white bands on its dark antennae.

I will leave you with this photo of the end of the flowers. The petals are gone, but the form remains simply elegant, especially when seen against the backdrop of a stormy sky.

05 July, 2009

A Slow Stroll Along the Zumbro River

Our walk along the Zumbro River path yesterday was excellent. I have never before seen such a profussion of wildflowers in that area. Lots of good insects and birds, too. We walked perhaps a mile total there and back, taking about 90 minutes because I was taking so many photos; 212 in all. After deleting the failures, I still had 146 photos. So that works out to about 97 photos an hour; pretty rich, I'd say. I was quite taken with this shiny green metallic beetle. If you use your imagination, you can see the reflection of my camera in the carapace of the second one.

The mullien was abundant along many sections of the path. I hadn't realized before how delicate each individual flower in the spike is. The anthers are wonderfully hairy!
I was glad to have my long lens with me to get this shot of a deer on the opposite river bank. At some point after I took the photo, it got spooked by something and we could hear it snorting and stamping and crashing through the undergrowth.
I'll be posting more photos from that walk in the days to come. But don't worry -- I won't make you look at all 146! ;-)

04 July, 2009

Independence Day

Ben Franklin proposed the wild turkey as the national bird for the USA. In honor of that near miss, here is a photo of a wild tukey hen and turkey chicks (exploring our new retaining wall and soon-to-be patio) on our July 4th holiday. The bald eagle won the honor of national bird, but so far we have not had the pleasure of a visit from one. ;-)

03 July, 2009

Independence Day Weekend

July 4th falls on Saturday this year, so Friday July 3rd is a holiday for most of the USA. It was a great day for taking photos in the garden. Tomorrow I hope to take more photos along a path that follows the river. But for now I will post some of the highlights from today. I was out just after dawn to get shots of the daylilies. (red)

And the white moth in the dew-coated grass. (white)

This moth is gorgeous. I hope someone can help me identify it. Please excuse the quasi-double exposures; It just wouldn’t hold still long enough for a good photo. (blue)

I honestly didn’t plan the red, white, and blue theme. It really just happened spontaneously and I went back and added the colors after I laid out the photos.