Friday, June 29, 2007

Lawn Mowing Machine

With the arrival of spring, also comes lawn mowing. Of course keeping the lawn cut and manicured is a requirement of being a responsible and proud home owner but it's also an exercise in futility with very little return on the time spent.

Since the beginning of May 2007 here are the lawn mowing tallies I've performed through the end of June - just two month. This includes both my lawn and my dad's lawn.
  1. My Lawn = 11 times to date and counting...
  2. My Dad's = 7 times to date and counting...
While we're on the subject of lawn mowing, I am reminded of the following quote by Long Duk Dong from the 80's movie Sixteen Candles, which just happens to be one of my favorites -

"I love visiting with Grandma and Grandpa, and writing letters to parents, and pushing lawn mowing machine so Grandpa’s hyena don’t get disturbed."

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I don't believe this is a real sign but how appropriate these days!
There's nothing else I can add or say other than welcome to Boston.


Ash Gray Ladybird Beetle (Olla vnigrum)

Emilie came across this white ladybug the other day. We thought it unusual to see one like this so we took a few pictures of it pearched upon a leaf of our Cyclamen plant. Upon further investigation I have learned something new about ladybugs - believe it or not! You can too by clicking on the link below and once again wowing your family and friends.

The above picture is the larva stage of the ladybug. Interestingly enough I have seen a bunch of these things in the yard recently but had no idea what they were - if you can believe this too! It's a good thing I never squashed any. Ladybugs love to eat aphids, which we also have plenty of. We've seen them on our White Pines and our White Yarrow plants and I'm sure there elsewhere also, so ladybugs and/or ladybird beetles are more than welcome at our house. Chipmunks on the other hand are banded and violators of this policy will be dealt with.

For some interesting information on ladybugs, including ladybug superstitions from around the world, click HERE.

Sylvilagus floridanus

Eastern Cottontail

The rabbit hunters Steve, Terri and Bindi caught this little tucker in our backyard on Sunday afternoon. Ok, ok, actually it was Stephan, JoAnne and Emilie but crikey it was an adventure - rabbits rule!

Yup, we did, no kidding. We were able to corner this dude and net him. He will be relocated someplace far away from our backyard. We have too many of these wild rabbit in our yard alone and they've already worn out their welcome. Just ask our fennel plant, or our parsley plants or our spiderwort plants or some of our hosta plants or more appropriately what's left of these plants...err

For a complete overview of the Eastern Cottontail including characteristics, range, habitat, diet, life cycle and behavior, click here - NatureWorks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ant Party

I came across this orgy of tiny black ants on our pool patio deck the other afternoon. I've run across a gathering like this before - more often than you'd think. I am in the process of trying to identify what types of ants these are and why they gather like this. If and when I do, I will update you. I know the suspense will be trying but please be patient and understand that I am just one person...

One things for sure, when they gather like this it sure makes it a hell of a lot easier to spray the little bastards!

Here take a closer look -

Guess how many are here and win a free lollipop of my choosing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bachelor's Button

The Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) also known as Bachelor's button, Basket flower, and Boutonniere flower.

This is a picture of a single flower from one of our Bachelor's Button perennial. Typically I'd take a picture showing more flowers but sadly this is the only one left blooming; the others have already come and gone. I have "deadheaded" the spent flowers in an effort to encourage new buds. Time will tell if this works.

This guy is also located out back by the pool and adds to the nice variety of colors we have taking place. Some thinning out is in order come fall, as the Purple Cone flower plants are starting to take over. We'll just transplant some throughout the yard - not a problem!

Cornflower information.


I haven't had any luck selling this black and white male guinea pig of ours - no takers :-(

He's a little pecker-head and definitely has to go! He's worn out his welcome; he bullies the other cavies, has no personality and is too skittish. All this equals bye, bye.

I've been struggling with ideas on the best way to *re-home this little feller and as fate would have it I came across this interesting - very interesting, article this morning. It's given me a new idea...

Peru celebrates tasty guinea pigs

Click here for the definition of Cuy

* Re-home is a term used by many animal-loving-tree-huggers meaning to find a new loving, caring home. I've got to be honest here, my definition is different and I'll leave it at that.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Achillea millefolium

Red Yarrow

Here is a picture of our Red Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) plant. She's not quite reached her full deep red color just yet but eye catching just the same. We also have a White Yarrow and had a Yellow Yarrow also but this one didn't come back after the winter - we will replace it.
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 10
  • Height: 2 ft
  • Spacing: 24 in
  • Type: herbaceous perennial
  • Flowers: Pink, white, red and yellow
Common Yarrow is a perennial herb that has fern-like foliage and can be used as cut flowers. They grow in ordinary garden soil and full sun. Cut off old flowers to prolong the flowering period. Achillea may become a weed if not controlled.

Here's an interesting bit of information I came across when researching this plant:

Uses Ethno botanic: Several tribes of the Plains region of the United States including the Pawnee and Chippewa tribes used common yarrow. The Pawnee used the stalk in a treatment for pain relief. The Chippewa used the leaves in a steam inhalant for headaches. They also chewed the roots and applied the saliva to their appendages as a stimulant. The Cherokee drank a tea of common yarrow to reduce fever and aid in restful sleep.

Bovine Information

For your reading pleasure. You never know when information like this might come in handy.

  • Young cattle are called calves.
  • A young female before she has calved is called a 'heifer'.
  • A young female that has had only one calf is sometimes called a "first-calf heifer."
  • A young male is a "bullock." The term "bullock," or "steer," is also used to denote a castrated male, unless kept for draft purposes, in which case it is called an "ox" (plural "oxen"), not to be confused with the related wild musk ox.
  • If castrated as an adult, it is called a "stag."
  • An intact male is called a "bull."
  • An adult female who has had more than two calves is called a "cow."
  • The adjective applying to cattle is "bovine".

An ox is nothing more than a mature bovine with an "education." The education consists of the animal's learning to respond appropriately to the teamster's (ox driver's) signals. These signals are given by verbal commands or by noise (whip cracks) and many teamsters were known for their voices and language. In North America, the commands are:

(1) get up
(2) whoa
(3) back up
(4) gee (turn to the right)
(5) haw (turn to the left)

Oxen must be painstakingly trained from a young age. Their teamster must make or buy as many as a dozen yokes of different sizes as the animals grow. A wooden yoke is fastened about the neck of each pair so that the force of draft is distributed across their shoulders. From calves, oxen are chosen with horns since the horns hold the yoke in place when the oxen lower their heads, back up, or slow down (particularly with a wheeled vehicle going downhill). Yoked oxen cannot slow a load like harnessed horses can; the load has to be controlled downhill by other means. The gait of the ox is often important to ox trainers, since the speed the animal walks should roughly match the gait of the ox driver who must work with it.

See previous post dated Tuesday, June 12, 2007 titled, "Cattle".

Friday, June 22, 2007

Salvia; Scarlet sage

Not to be out done by the Asiatic Lily, check out this impressive Salvia plant!

This perennial is planted near our pool and adds some great color to the landscape and is one of several that we have planted throughout our yard. The bees and butterflies are a buzz and a flutter over this beauty.

House Sparrow

We have a bird house mounted to a tree besides our chicken pen that is home to a pair of House Sparrows. Let me start by saying that I am not a big fan of the sparrow, house or otherwise, in general. I find them to be a nuisance and very annoying. They're small enough to fit through the wire of the chicken pen and are often inside eating the chicken's food and pooping all over and honestly they're not the prettiest bird either.

I modified this particular bird house, before hanging it, so that one side could be opened and cleaned in the fall. Well, I opened it yesterday to have a look see knowing full well there were baby birds inside. There appears to be just two young chicks but it was hard to tell. Of course I took one of the chicks out just because I can and told it to nest elsewhere come next spring. You can see in the picture above that she isn't fully feathered yet and that she still has her pin feathers. They are cute at this stage but then again most animals are.

The picture below shows the visual difference between a male and female House Sparrow. So now you can impress your family and friends with this tidbit of knowledge.

Monster Garter Snake

I came across this monster yesterday when working in the yard - crikey. This is the biggest Garter snake that I have ever seen or come across in all my years. He was suning himself, here in the first picture, on the warm grass clipping of my compost pile.

The interesting thing here and I'm not sure if the average Joe or JoAnne can tell from this picture but it was pretty clear to me when I saw him. This dude was not only suning himself but resting after eating his meal. You can tell this by his large bulge, which I can guarantee you is no sock...

Being that he was so big I just had to catch and hold him. However, I knew that this was a bad idea. Not for fear of getting bit but rather for fear of upsetting him and having him regurgitate his meal!

Well, my selfishness prevailed and my fear came true, which are shown in the following two pictures. The amazing thing is that he regurgitated a mouse - a mouse! I knew Garter snakes were known to eat small rodents but I've never personally seen it but then again as I pointed out this is the biggest dude I've seen so he's more than capable at catching and eating mice.

Well, he'll be hungry again and I can only hope he nabs another mouse or small chipmunk. I hope he chooses to stick around too. I'd like to see him from time to time.

See my earlier posting on Friday, August 18, 2006 titled "Ecdysis" for detailed information on the Common Garter Snake.

Lilium - Asiatic Lily

This is what I'm talking about!
Take a gander at these awesome Asiatic Lilies of ours!
My efforts last year of ridding our lilies of the Lily Leaf Beetles were successful. I've not found or seen a single beetle on any of our lily plants! These pests can do a number on these plants in short order.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Black Swallowtail 2007 - UPDATE

Here's an update on the Black Swallowtail caterpillar we found on our parsley just 10 days ago.

We first noticed him on Saturday, June 9 and at that time he was extremely tiny, approximately 1/2". His size doubled to 1" by the following morning. He was now close to 2" by Thursday morning June 14th, Flag Day. This is when the 'changes' began...

He became very mobile and moved around alot, which is completely different on how he'd been behaving. We noticed that he 'purged' himself BIG time (yuk), which is an indication that changes were happening. JoAnne went out and fetched him a stick (good girl). By Thursday night at 6PMish he had chosen his spot on the stick and went to work.

In the first pictures he's swaying back and forth and securing himself with silk to the stick.

In the second picture you can see he's all secure - you can actually see the silk holding him in place. He stayed in this position, just like this and looked the same till Saturday morning.

When we woke on Saturday he had completed the process and was now a fully encased crysalis, see third picture. Now we wait...

See posting from Sunday, June 10, 2007 titled, "Eastern Black Swallowtail 2007"

Geese Get Revenge

*Ok, my pate de foie gras eating days are now officially over!

My brother sent me the following link from Yahoo News -

Geese get revenge: Pate may cause rare disease

* Actully, truth be told, I was so done eating this "delicacy" as I was eating it.

P.S. Please don't tell Vlad. I don't want to hurt his feelings.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Polish Rabbits

Meet the latest addition to our Lincoln Street menagerie.

This is a pair of Polish bunnies. The Polish rabbit is known for being a compact breed with the reputation for being high-strung...that's just great. However, it may be an interesting contrast to the mini lop, which is as calm as calm can be.

The black one is an 8 week old male and the grey one is a 13 week old female.

They're currently sharing the same cage till they get acclimated and a little bigger. This saves on space, time and cleaning.

Did we need two more rabbits?! Do we need our heads examined?! Are we GFP (glutton for punishment)?! I'm pretty sure you all know the answers to these questions...

While we're at it how bout some Polish Sausage?

Ox Skull - Wren Nest

This is a picture of the skull of a
Brown Swiss ox or steer. This dude came from my farmer friend. It's hanging on the fencing of my old chicken pen at my dads. Time is going by so fast these days that I can't remember just how long I've had this hanging there but it's been quite some time.

I do remember when this dude was alive and a part of an oxen team that my friend would use on his property. Actually, my first experiencing at 'driving' an oxen team was with this dude and his yoke mate. They were named ZZ and Top and once again I can't recall which one this is? Can you guess who they were named after?!?! I'll give you a clue,
a band from the 60's...

If I remember correctly, this guy died as a result of ingesting something metal. Typically, bovine have magnets placed in their stomach, their first stomach, to prevent this type of problem and subsequent death from occurring. Metal objects stick to the magnet, which prevent them from getting stuck when attempting to pass into their second stomach. But I digress...

The reason I began this rambling was to point out that a pair of
House Wrens have taken up residence inside this skull. This is why the picture was taken from the back. Unfortunately you can't see the nest from this picture or when standing directly behind the skull and looking in but they fly in the center hole and drop down into their nest. Interesting location for a nest, as well as an example of how things can be recycled even when you think there uses have passed.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Baby Bunny - UPDATE

Here are 5 of the 6 baby bunnies of ours. They'll be 5 weeks old on Tuesday 6/19 and Wednesday 6/20. The 2 tan ones on the left are from one litter and the others are from another. As you can tell from this picture the bunny on the right end is a monster. Perhaps, he is why the runt of his litter had little chance at getting a good meal.

Here they are again with the colors separated. Notice their long floppy ears. They will eventually drop, hence the name "lop" but at this age they're just all over the place, too cute.

Below is an updated picture of the runt from Salt & Pappa's litter and that makes #6 - all accounted for. This is the little one that we helped along by holding, both, her mother and Abbey (mother from another litter) so she could nurse. JoAnne has taken a shine to this litte one, so we'll be keeping her/him (too young to sex with any certainty just yet).

The "Bunnies For Sale" sign has gone up at the end of our driveway. We've had good luck with this method in the past, lets hope it continues.

See Friday, June 01, 2007 posted titled, "New Baby Bunnies - UPDATE".

Friday, June 15, 2007

Simple Mathematics

Food for thought, item #1 plus item #2 = item #3 below -

Item #1:

Item #2:
Bull Shit

Item #3:
*Cement Pond

* Just want to reassure you that the formula above is NOT the cause of our cement pond issues.

Compost Pumpkins

Here's one of our compost piles.

The plants growing inside are pumpkins.

We composted our Halloween pumpkins this past fall and here are the results.

We tried growing pumpkins several years ago but had no luck. The woodchucks (gophers) saw to that.

I will take some of these plants to my dad's and plant in his garden. The rest I will leave be to see what happens. We've not seen the woodchucks (gophers) so far this year. Of course that doesn't mean a darn thing but we'll keep our fingers crossed and if necessary call in Carl Spackler.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


One of these guy's is the producer of said "Bull Shit" from previous post...

Perhaps, if I we had Mike Rowe here from the Discovery Channel's program "Dirty Jobs" he could tell us exactly which one is responsible for said "BS" but we don't and can only speculate. You'd have to be a fan of the show to understand what I am referring to and even then it might not make sense but who give a (bull) shit...

Actually, these dudes belong to a buddy of mine. Many of them were bought as calves still needing to be bottle feed. That was in the late winter, early spring. They're all doing fine now, eating on their own and growing like weeds. He spent quite a bit of time bottle feeding these guys and as you can see it paid off.

Bull Shit!

I call em as I see em!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Eastern Black Swallowtail 2007

I ran out on lunch one day last week and hit a few local nursery's looking for Fennel and Parsley. We want to add these plants to what we call our butterfly garden in the hope of attracting MORE butterflies. This garden already contains a nice assortment of plants; (6) different color butterfly bushes, phlox, sedum, black-eye susans, daiseys, chives, columbine and a rose of sharon tree. The butterflies seemed to enjoy these plants last summer and were often seen fluttering from one flower to the next.

To my surprise I found both Fennel and Parsley at the second nursery I stopped at. I bought (1) Fennel plant and (1) 6-pack of Parsley. I've not had the chance to get these in the ground yet, soon. I was watering them, as well as our other plants not yet in the ground, Saturday morning and was shocked to see that an Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar had already taken up residence on the parsley, see the pictures below. You can see in the first picture that this dude is just about an insect long (picture taken Sunday AM); he was literally half that size just a day earlier - no kidding!

Stay tuned...

See my Tuesday, September 26, 2006 posting titled, Eastern Black Swallowtail. Also, my Monday, June 04, 2007 posting titled, Black Swallowtail - UPDATE.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Help - My Dog's Bum is Very Red

I came across yet another comical posting today while reading the 'Pets Community' on Craig's List. Each time I read one of these funny/odd postings it puts my issues into perspective and I realize things could be worse.

Hopefully this person will resolve the dog's problem but more importantly I hope, at a minimum, she has her carpet cleaned. I would lean more towards ripping it out!

Hi, I know that sounds like a funny title but it is true. When I took my dog out last night, I noticed that his stool was very hard and he seemed to struggle to push it out. Later that night, he was dragging his bum on my rug. I figured it must be worms so I was going to pick some up medicine today. But when we went out this morning, he again struggled to release his stool and again it was very hard. Now his bum is very red (almost to the point of some blood) and looks sore. I have never seen a stool softener for dogs, but I don't want to give him dewormer if it won't be effective. Is this worth a visit to the vet? Any advice would be great! Thanks!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Dusky Birch Sawfly

Cutting the lawn last night with Emilie and something caught my eye in one of our Birch Trees.

Emilie ran into the house to get the camera and here is what we saw. You gotta admit they are very unusual in how they gather and hang -

These critters are Dusky Birch Sawfly Caterpillars, which have a shiny black head and yellowish green body. Not to be confused with the Birch Sawfly, which have a dull orange head and pale yellowish green bodies with rows of black spots.

Sawflies in the larval stage look very much like moth caterpillars and belong in the group of insects which includes ants, bees, and wasps. They will appear in clusters on foliage of many species of birch. They may cause severe defoliation. All birch species, and occasionally alder and willow, are susceptible.

These critters, like the Eastern Tent Caterpillar, just don't do too well under the weight of a size 9.5 Timberland work boot...

See my Friday, May 18, 2007 post titled Eastern Tent Caterpillar.

Basket O Bunnies

Here are the (6) baby bunnies from the two litters we recently had.

The two tan bunnies are from one litter the rest from another.

They're approximately three weeks old in this picture.

Their eyes are opened; they're mobile and have begun to eat solid food.

Help "Humping" Problem Embarrassing

I came across this while reading 'Pets Community' on Craig's List this morning. It's reassuring to know that I am not the only one with problems and after reading this my problems don't seem too bad after all...

I need some advice. Can some one please tell me the most effective way to get my mothers dog to stop humping other dogs??? My mother has a Lhasa Apso/Shitz Tsu mix and I just got a Lhasa pup. Her dog is a really wonderful dog that is not neutered and he is 6 years old. Vets have told us that neutering him may not stop the problem and we are nervous to get it done just because he is a little bit older and why put him through it if it won't help. Is this a behavioral problem that we can train out of him???? We want to be able to use each other as dog sitters but this behavior is so bad I don't know what to do. He also did it to my friend's 2 year old daughter. He seems to do it to anything his own size b/c he doesn't even try it w/the bigger dogs on his street. Please help I need this to stop. We are planning on going away and were hoping my mother could dog sit.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cement Pond

We took the cover of the pool this past Saturday.

As you can see we have some work ahead of us to get to a swimable state - always fun times.

JoAnne's two favorite times of the year are: (1) installing the pool cover and (2) removing it! Me, well I am as cool as a cucumber and don't loose my temper at all and love these two times of the year too.

The blue font color represents the water color we're shooting for...

Giddy Up

Monday, June 04, 2007

Black Swallowtail - UPDATE

See my posting of Tuesday, September 26, 2006 titled Eastern Black Swallowtail for the beginning of this story.

The Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly finally hatched; the chrysalis stage lasted a couple days over 8 months, WOW! Here is the finished product - a beautiful female Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly, AMAZING!

Stage 4:

A male of this species has a yellow band near edge of wings; a female has row of yellow spots. The hindwing of the female has an iridescent blue band (Males have very little blue and more yellow).

Emilie is eager to let her go and now that the rain has stopped today is the day. We hope she chooses to stick around and stay close. We'll be planting some Fennel and Parsley in our butterfly garden in the coming days, which are favorites of this species of butterfly - some enticement to stick around.

You can see the difference between a male and female Eastern Black Swallowtail at the following location - Quick ID: Butterflies and Moths.

Forsythia Advantages

Forsythia - also known as golden bells.

One advantage of forsythias, according to some gardeners, is that they let you know when it's time to plant other early crops, such as radishes, peas, sweet pea flowers, and poppies. Once your forsythias are in full bloom, which will vary somewhat from year to year, it should be safe to put those other seeds in the ground.

In addition to just being attractive shrubs, forsythias are good investments for your landscape, as they’re long-lived and take little care beyond annual trimming. They perform well in most soils, but like many other plants do best in well-drained sites.

These lovely yellow-flowering shrubs foretell the coming of spring are hardy in Zone 4 (flower bud hardy to Zone 5). Forsythias grow and flower in full sun or in light shade. Pruning should be done immediately after flowering, as the plants bloom on wood produced the previous summer. Older branches can be cut back severely, and others trimmed to the desired length. Older plants that don’t bloom at all should be cut to the ground; within two years, they should begin to bloom again – stronger than ever.

Now, if I can just get my dad to by into this. He views Forsythia as he does Wisteria and White Pines. I need to keep him and his bow saw and loppers away from these plants...

See Sunday, May 6, 2007 posting labeled - George "Charlie" Washington.

Crimson Clover

JoAnne and Emilie came home from spending the day with her mom on Cape Cod with (3) new clover plants. They're unusual and not the typical clover I'm used to seeing in our area. What's unusual about them are the flowers, they're elongated and completely different than the White clover and Red Clover often found in yards and lawns.

After some research I've come to the conclusion that these are Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) plants. Crimson Clover is an annual and lives just one year. Grows quickly, blooms heavily, dies with first frost and can regrow the following spring if the seeds fall on bare ground. The species name incarnatum means "blood red".

Do not confuse this plant with the perennial red clover. Crimson leaves have a more rounded tip and both stem and leaves have more hair than red clover. Crimson plants have dark green leaves and grow to a height of 1-3 feet. Brilliant crimson flowers with long heads mature from top to bottom. Seed is rounded, yellow and about 3 times larger than most other clovers. Crimson clover may be the most popular annual clover planted for deer in the entire U.S.

Custom Miller Lite Wind Chime

I'll bet there's no other wind chime like this one out there! This is a one-of-a-kind. Custom made or rather custom repaired by my uncle from Tennessee.

Not sure if you can see it in the picture but the Miller Lite beer can is hanging from a fishing hook. In theory the beer can be changed as often as you'd like. This to give the neighbors the impression that you have, at least, one of the following: a drinking problem if you're using different brands of beer cans, too much money and you're wasting it on wind chimes or simply a wind chime addiction.

In any event, let the wind blow...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Variegated Iris

Take a gander at our Variegated Iris! It's first thing in the morning so the flowers are not opened all the way; you can see they're still folded over. Notice the dew glistening on them...

Variegated varieties of flowers peak my interest. Not only is a beautiful flower produced on these plants, but the interest of the plant itself, is held throughout the entire growing season. The plant's white or yellow edges cause a different look than the all-green variety, as well as having the capability of brightening up an area without even being in bloom. These plants are just as hardy as their green cousins, so no other care is needed to grow them.

Other variegated flowers and shrubs you'll find in our yard - Sedum, variegated Dogwood shrub and of course a variety of variegated Hostas.

New Baby Bunnies - UPDATE

Baby bunny UPDATE...

Salt & Peppa was mated to Jack and had 5 babies on Tuesday, 5/15: Sadly, one died about a week later, as the baby made it's way out of the nest box during the night and onto the wire cage where is was simply too cold. The other 4 are fine; you can see them in the first picture below. YES, these 4 are from the same litter - notice the size differences! As you can image the smallest one has a very tough time competing for mom's milk. The others are just too big and bully her out of the way. As a result we've moved to plan 'B', see the second picture below, which is to hold mom on her back and let the little one go to town and that is exactly what she does!

Abbey was mated to Loppy and had 2 babies on Wednesday 5/16. Both of her little ones are doing fine. Their eyes are open and they've begun to move about the cage.

Salt & Peppa's young'in from largest to smallest -

Here is me holding Abbey on her back and letting the runt of Salt & Peppa litter nurse. Salt & Peppa just doesn't have enough milk, perhaps because of the other fatties of hers but Abbey does. However, Abbey does NOT like when we do this; she's finicky anyways. In any event the runt is doing just fine and getting bigger and stronger.

Monday, May 21, 2007 posting New Baby Bunnies