Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Painted Turtle

Yertle the turtle came wandering across the road. Some nice people stopped, rather than run it over, and put it on the other side of the road, which happend to be our front yard.

I think it was a "painted turtle". It was also, literally, painted, because it had the letters "PBR" painted on it's shell in pink nailpolish. What does that stand for anyway, "Pabst Blue Ribbon"? Stupid people.

Since we didn't think nailpolish remover would be such a good idea for a turtle, we gently chipped it off with our fingernails. My husband, Dave, my best friend, Joanna and I. It seemed pretty calm about the whole procedure.

We then put it into a galvanized washtub with a big rock to crawl on and some lettuce and peas from our garden to eat. We placed it in the sun. It seemed pretty content.

The next day we brought it to a nearby lake and let it go.

Bye Bye, Yertle. Hope you have a nice turtley life. Posted by Picasa

Look at that turtle go, Bro!

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Frog that came to visit.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006


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Monday, June 12, 2006

Giant Ichneumon Wasp

The other day I found a very interesting insect which I had never seen before. It was a bedraggled cat toy for the hordes of feral cats that my next-door neighbor feeds. I examined it and found it still alive. It was some kind of very large wasp, with a long tail. I guessed (correctly) that the "tail" was not a stinger, but an ovipositor. I examined it, took some pictures of the poor half-dead thing, and released it in an area with fewer feral cats.

Since the pictures didn't come out very well, I decided not to use them on my blog. The very next morning, as I was leaving for work, what did I find but another one of these weird bugs, right on the hood of my car! I went into the house and grabbed the camera, and here it is!

A little google searching taught me that the female giant ichneumon wasp uses it's long ovipositor to drill into a dead tree and lay it's eggs which then parasitize the larvae of another type of wasp living in the wood. The ichneumon larvae keeps the host larvae alive, while eating it from within. Something which has apparently been disturbing theologians for a long time.

As Annie Dillard wrote in (one of my favorite books) Pilgrim at Tinker Creek :

Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and insects, it seems, gotta do one
horrible thing after another.

Still, this living thing was not alien to me, however distasteful it's behavior might seem from a human point of view. Perhaps the mystery of life is not the seeming cruelty or indifference of nature, (the universe, God, etc...) but our own mammalian empathy and compassion. We are the anomaly. Yet we too are part of the this strange mix.

I love nature, and I love the Creator, but I try not to romanticize either. We can't know. Life is bigger than us. That is a hard truth to accept sometimes. Still, it is interesting to study, discover and wonder, in our limited way.

This insect actually looked directly at me, it's head and eyes reminded me of a praying mantis. It looked intelligent, but alien. It's job is necessary. I found it beautiful.

But I'm sure glad I'm not the wasp larvae it will be parasitizing. Posted by Picasa


I've often thought that I would like to paint giant landscapes framed by car windows. This is how we see the landscape now. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 04, 2006


These came from our garden, and I wish you could smell them. They smell *so good*! I had never grown peonies before, but the people who owned the house loved them and planted them all around. When they bloomed that first year I was amazed, and I still feel that way every spring.

Peonies are fleeting. The blooms are over-the-top fabulous for only a week or so in early June, and then they shatter and turn to lots of wet pink kleenex all over the place. Very messy. But I think they are well worth it. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 03, 2006

It's Nettle Time Again

I began this blog a year ago at nettle time. One of my first posts was about gathering nettles at my friend Liz's house last May. Here I am again! Last weekend I went to Liz's to get some more nettles.

Don't they look lovely and healthy? And nettle tea helps keep me healthy. I knelt down in the grass to meditate and communicate gratitude to the plants. I gave them a pinch of tobacco. I felt a little self-conscious, since Liz stood nearby, and I know she doesn't share my view of plants. But even so, I felt the plants' particular energy. Having drunk nettle tea all year, it was easier to tune in to their beauty.

As I gathered them I wore gloves, but my arms were bare. Liz was surprised that I wasn't bothered by the stings. I got a few on my wrists and forearms, but they were mostly just itchy to me, like mosquito bites. I guess to her they are very painful.

She shook her head at me as I went about my work. I showed her (again) how the dock plants growing nearby can be used to stop the nettle stings. She commented that she was always trying to get rid of the dock and how hard it is because it has such deep roots. I told her that the young dock greens could be cooked for food and how the roots could be tinctured. I told her they were nutritious and excellent for building iron in the blood. Her son, Joel, who is 8 stood nearby. He said: "Those are weeds. We don't eat weeds". I could tell that was Liz's view too.

On the other hand, Joel seemed interested in my little ritual, and asked if he could give the plants a pinch of tobacco too, so I showed him how. Despite his declaration about the "weeds" maybe he will see another perspective later on.

I asked Liz if she had tried eating any of the nettles last year, or making tea out of them. She said no, and told me that after I left, her husband would mow down this patch with a weed wacker. I was kind of upset by that, but she said "Oh don't worry, they grow back. That's prob. why these are so healthy, they get mowed all the time!" And I guess I can understand that she doesn't want them to spread, since her kids play in the yard.

Then we went inside to make some mint tea (apparently a "weed" that makes acceptable tea!) and brought it outside to drink under the tall lilac bushes. We observed a little bird going in and out and discovered 2 nests in the bush. I don't know what kind of bird it was, maybe a flycatcher? It was too quick for me to get a picture. We also watched a swallowtail butterfly in the lilacs. Our kids played together. We had a nice visit.

I like Liz, and I like her land. I do appreciate her sharing it with me. I hunt there in the fall too. We've known each other since High School. We used to always talk about having a farm. We both have big vegetable gardens. Liz studied sustainable agriculture in college. She worked with the Heifer Project in Africa.

But I feel sort of bad sometimes when I realize that she probably thinks I'm a little crazy. Well, I suppose I am. But not as crazy as I may seem. The things I do are things our ancestors did, it's only recently (in span of human existance) that we don't do these things anymore and we find them strange.

While I keep a garden, I guess I am also incorporating a kind of hunter-gatherer spirituality in my life that seems alien to most people in our culture. Maybe she thinks it's phony or something. It's not phony to me, though. It seems like the most natural thing in the world to me. The more I express my true feelings and self, the more strange I must appear to others. Even those who I thought would understand.

Oh well, I guess that's part of getting older. Things that are in us just have to come out eventually, whether or not other people find them odd.

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nest 1

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