Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fall's Here...

Happy Fall :-)


In keeping with the "Bucket-O" series, here is a beach buck full of acorns.

We filled this beach bucket at least 3 times yesterday. Emilie has quite the acorn collection going. She has a 5-gallon bucket full, plus half a large box and they're still falling and she's still collecting. She loves to collect them - not sure if she's inherited an OCD trait of mine or an anal (obsessive cleaning and neatness) trait from JoAnne - but she loves to spend time in the yard, content as could be, filling her bucket.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Unusual Relationships

Here are some interesting pictures I took not too long ago that shows the odd relationship between aphids and ants.

Let me begin by apologizing and reluctantly admitting (too lazy this morning) that I am not sure what type of aphids and ants are in these pictures. Furthermore, I've been unable to identify the host plan they're on, which I will use as an excuse for not identifying these pesky insects as this is crucial for determining the aphid species.

Aphids, also known as greenfly, blackfly or plant lice, are minute plant-feeding insects. Aphids passively feed on sap of phloem vessels in plants.

Fun Fact #1:
About 4,000 species of aphids are known, classified in 10 families

Fun Fact #2:
Some species of ants "farm" aphids, protecting them on the plant they eat, and eating the honeydew that the aphids secrete; this is a mutualistic relationship. Aphid honeydew is rich in carbohydrates, of which the aphids ingest an excess, being phloem-feeders

Fun Fact #3:
"Aphid" is also the NATO reporting name for the Soviet/Russian Molniya R-60 air-to-air missile

See previous post titled, "White Pine Aphids"

Friday, September 21, 2007

National Do Not Call Registry

Attention people, may I have your attention please!

Now listen up, numbers that were placed on the National Do Not Call Registry list, starting in June 2003, are valid for five years. For the millions of people who signed onto the list in its early days, their numbers will automatically drop off beginning June 2008 if they do not enroll again.

Today, and this could change but I wouldn't hold your breath, you must re-register your phone numbers every five years.

You can register your home and cell phone numbers or file complaints by calling 1-888-382-1222 or

I just re-registered mine and it's good till 2012. You might want to do your numbers too!

Click here to read the article - 'Do Not Call' Registrations Set to Expire Next Summer

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Diner Time...

I took this picture at my dad's of a Jumping Spider eating a hornet it caught.

The jumping spider family (Salticidae) contains 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.

Jumping spiders are generally recognized by their eye pattern. They typically have eight eyes arranged in three or four rows. If you look close enough you can see at least 4.

Jumping spiders capture their prey by jumping on it from several inches away, and they may jump from twig to twig or leaf to leaf. They can jump many times their body length.

Their eyesight is much better than that of other spiders and most, if not all, insects. Most other spiders will only eat prey that they have captured live because they are unable to see dead prey (with some exceptions) but jumping spiders will eat flies that have been killed for them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

American Dagger Moth Caterpillars

"Say hello to my little friends" (Tony Montana, Scarface).

These little guys are American Dagger moth caterpillars, Acronicta americana - Ain't they just precious?!

We've found several of these fur balls crawling around on the chicken pen. A little on the daring side if you ask me, one slip and the chickens have themselves a fuzzy snack.

Another experiment of ours - to see and experience what these fur balls turn into and come out as. They're sharing a terrarium-type cage with the three Giant Leopard moth caterpillars we have. Everyone is getting along and doing just fine.

Range - East of the Rockies
Season - Flies April to September & Caterpillar seen June to October
Food - Larvae feed on leaves of alder, ash, birch, elm, hickory, maple, oak, poplar, walnut, willow and other deciduous trees

Tomato Hornworm - Part III

I took these pictures last night. See my previous post titled, "Tomato Hornworm" to see how this dude has grown in just over one week - it's amazing.

The smaller one I posted about in "Tomato Hornworm - Part II". This is the little guy that had the parasitic wasp cocoons all over him. However, as you can see in the picture below these cocoons have all fallen off but you can see the marks or tatoos left behind where they were attached. Now this little guy appears to be eating just fine but not growing much at all. Perhaps, the cocoons did some damage before falling off.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Supersonic Hi!

Hello, welcome to SFrye732_Blog!

Lavender Guinea Keets - UPDATE

I've got some sad to news to inform you all - the Lavender Guinea Keets have died, or should I say murdered :-(

I introduced them into the chicken pen on Saturday. They were getting too big to be kept in the cage I had them in, plus they were getting too stinky and needed to be moved out of the garage. I felt the chicken pen was the safest place - boy was I wrong.

I knew the chickens would peck them and give them a hard time but felt since Guineas are more on the gamey side that they'd be able to fly up on the roosts to get away to a safe spot. Well, I was wrong. The chickens actually killed them and it wasn't too pretty a site either. Of course if that wasn't bad enough Emilie was the first one to see the carnage. She was SO excited to go see how they were doing. She was completely devastated and terribly upset and still is today.


Earlier posting titled, "Lavender Guinea Keets"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Eastern Goldfinches

The Eastern or American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis), also known as the Wild Canary.

Above is a picture of a male goldfinch perching on a thistle plant and helping himself to the seeds.

Here is a picture of a female goldfinch. She's not to far from the male and patiently waiting for her opportunity to get at the thistle seeds.

We're fortunate enough to have these beautiful bird spending a good portion of the summer and fall in and out of our yard. They love eating the seeds that come from our Coneflowers, Black-Eyed Susan's and Thistle, which we have an abundance of. With the colder weather starting to move in these guy are filling up and will be moving out.

Tomato Hornworm - Part II

In my previous posting, just one week ago today, see link below, I introduced you to the Tomato Hornworm. The pictures showed a clean hornworm; one without any parasitic wasp cocoons on him.

Well, my dad found one on his tomato plants and this one did have parasitic wasp cocoons on his back, which you can clearly see in these pictures here.

We still have them both and it's amazing how much they can eat and how big they're becoming. The first one is easily double in size, close to 4". The second one is doing fine also, as most of the wasp cocoons have fallen off while we were transporting him and in the process of cleaning the cage their in - with their voracious appetite also comes their frass; a lot of frass.

The plan is to see if they'll turn into a chrysalis and experience that process too. They better get a move on as the weather is starting to get colder - fall is right around the corner.

See previous posting titled "Tomato Hornworm"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Peeping Crow

We were sitting by the pool the other day when we noticed that we were being watched! Now there's a little voyeurism in us all but crows are typically more skittish and allusive and seldom let you get too close or stick around too long once people are about. However, this one was acting differently and didn't seem to mind us; he was too busy checking us out - not sure if he was a boob fan or an butt fan but once he got his fill he flew off.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Small Carnivorous Mammal

*** WARNING - The following picture is rated PG by the SFrye732 Picture Association of SFrye732_Blog and may not be suitable for some younger viewers. Parental discretion is advised.

The following is a picture of a weasel; err, umm rather a dead weasel that was found in my dad's yard. Now in my 30+ years...OK, OK 40+ years, I've never seen a weasel at my folks house, never. Even with all the critters we were raised with, never have I seen one or been bothered by one - go figure. This goes back to what I've said in many a blog posting, "that just because you don't see one (an animal) doesn't mean they're not there".

Obviously, this particular vermin met Sabrina and didn't fare too well. Sabrina is the stray cat that has taken a shine to my dad and has decided stick around. If I recalls, she's been there for close to a year now, maybe longer. She had been bringing dead chipmunks and mice up on the porch all summer long. Perhaps she culled these rodents down and needed a new challenge - a weasel.

I'm sure there's more out there and perhaps we'll be lucky enough to spot a live one tooling around the yard but until then this is all you get...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Tomato Hornworm

I was out picking tomato's on Sunday afternoon and noticed the large, black droppings (frass) lying on some of the tomato leafs. Once I saw this I knew what produced them. It was now a matter of finding the little nuisance. Now some of you might ask, just how do you know what frass looks like and how would you notice something like that and what produced it. To that I will say I just do and leave it at that.

Here are a few pictures of the little guy. I found him directly above his droppings, hiding on the underside of a tomato leaf. He's not fully grown yet, prolly only 1.5 - 2" in length. This one also was clean and didn't have any parasitic wasp cocoons on him.

Horn worms are voracious eaters and can consume large amounts of both foliage and fruit. The adults are fast flying hawk moths, which in flight are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds. They have a wingspan of about 7 - 8".

Water Scorpion

I found this insect floating in my pool yesterday. At first I thought it was a walking stick, however, after checking with my sources I've confirmed this not a walking stick but rather a Ranatra, also known as a water stick-insect or water scorpion.

All I can say is COOL...

The Ranatra is considered a predatory insect. They can be found in swimming pools, ponds and lakes. They can also fly. They use there front legs to grasp prey and eat tadpoles, small fish and other insects, which they pierce with their beak and inject a saliva which both sedates and begins to digest their prey.

The walking stick on the other hand is not a problem as a pest either to farmers or to ordinary people. These creatures spend their days motionless hanging from leaves and branches waiting until dark to feed. These peaceful insects are strictly vegetarians feeding on berry, cherry and a variety of other leaves.

Pig Work

As I mentioned in my earlier post I visited my farmer friend Tim yesterday to lend a hand and help him out with a few things, which is a great break from my desk job. He lives about an 1.5 hour drive away so I don't get down to see him as often as I should or would like.

Anyway, the main task, our goal, was to separate the 8 American Landrace piglets in the above picture from their parents and the other adult pigs and move them to a new pen, which is used for housing and raising the youngsters. Oh, almost forgot to mention, they needed to be castrated first; well 7 of the 8 needed to be the other was a female.

To set the stage these piglets weigh approximately 40 to 60 pounds and are surprisingly strong at this age. They have good size teeth and can bite - their bite is like a dogs, so when they grab hold it's almost impossible to get there jaws opened unless they want to. However, the biggest danger is their parents and the other adults. Once the piglets start screaming, whether due to being grabbed and moved or cut, the adults get riled up and rush to their aid, which is why we move them to a safe location away from the adults.

I won't go into details on the process other than to tell you it takes 2 people and a razor blade; one (me) to grab the piglet by the hind legs, flip him on his back and sit on his belly while maintaining a firm hold of his hind, piston-like, legs. The other person (Tim) is, well, performs the emasculation.

Tim's an old-timer who was raised and taught in the old school ways. 'Fixing' the pigs makes them less aggressive, fattens them up faster and the meat isn't as tough as a boars.

This is a picture of "JackO". He is the big daddy and protector of Tim's pig menagerie.
  • Young female hogs who have borne less than two litters are known gilts
  • Female hogs who have borne more than two litters are known as sows
  • Intact males are known as boars
  • Castrated males are known as barrows
  • Young hogs of both sexes are known as pigs or piglets

Click here for a List of domestic pig breeds

Coyote Tracks

I went to visit my farmer friend Tim yesterday to lend a hand with a few things - more on that later in another post.

He's had an issue with coyotes for years now killing his animals from the small ones like chickens and geese to the larger ones like goats. This year, again, is no different. Since they're allusive animals it's hard to know just how many there are. Occasionally you'll catch a glimpse of one and as a matter of fact the last time we were down visiting one crossed the driveway in front of us as we were making our way to one of the animal pens and it was a good sizes one too.

Even though you rarely see them they can be heard at time howling off in the distance and the above picture is proof that they're still around and doing just fine. I took this pictures just outside of one of the animal pens in the dusty driveway (we need rain).

Friday, September 07, 2007

Bunny Update

Here is another bunny update on Abbey and Salt & Peppers litters. They'll be 5 weeks old this weekend.

Salt & Pepper's litter of 6 above at 1 week old.

Salt & Pepper's litter of 6 above at 5 week old.

Abbey's litter of 2 above at 1 week old.

Abbey's litter of 2 above at 5 week old.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Oh Deer III

Another backyard visitor...

This little guy decided to come for a Labor Day visit. At least I think it was a 'he'. He was surprisingly bold or perhaps it was curiosity but Emilie and I were able to get awfully close to him. He couldn't have been more then 20 feet from us. We tried to coax him closer but his instincts were too strong and he kept his distance.

In the first pictures he's standing right beside one of our raised strawberry beds. They don't look like much now with the lack of rain fall but come to think of it they never really recovered from the 'trimming' a deer(s) did earlier in the summer.

There was a second deer hiding in the trees and bushes not too far from this dude. Not sure if this other one was simply too shy or too preoccupied but stayed hidden regardless. I'm guessing they're litter mates and prolly off on their own as I didn't see or hear any others.

They sure are beautiful up close so we didn't chase them off which is really what I should have done. I certainly don't want to encourage them to come and eat our plants but they're welcome to visit once in a while. Good thing we have our new Guinea Hens a grow'n, as I'm sure these visiting deer will be bringing ticks with them too and they are NOT welcome for sure.

See previous postings titled: "Oh Deer" and "Oh Deer II"

Monday, September 03, 2007

Bucket-O-Field Mice

Here is an interesting picture of a mother field mouse and her 5 babies. Believe it or not this mouse made her nest in the hole of a spare fence post. There were two post standing side by side with just a small opening exposing the fence rail hole. Well sure enough when I moved one aside there she way staring out at me wide eyed. I am very surprised at her choice of nesting locations, after all with 5 babies they would have outgrown that spot in a about a week.

I emptied the contents of the hole into a bucket - the first picture below. You can see the mother and her little pink newbies.

Here you can just make out a couple of the babies -

Here is the mother staring me down in her new (temporary) home -

We're planning on keeping them for a little while to observe the process. She has already adapted well to her new home/cage, as she has her original nest pulled back together and is curled up inside nursing the babies. Let hope she isn't to determined to escape just yet. Since the top of this cage is plastic I don't think it would take her long to chew her way out, however, I have two things working to my advantage - one, she can't reach the top (I think) and two, she has young'n.

It has yet to be determined the future of these varmint - catch and release elsewhere, way elsewhere or swimming lessons...

Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillars

I came across these two caterpillars while working in the yard today. They look very similar to the Woolie-bear without the rust colored band.

They have a coat of black bristles and red bands between its segment, which can be seen when the caterpillar is rolled into a ball. You can see this better in the second picture.

After taking their picture I went out in the yard and picked them some plantains, which they eagerly began eating. If they continue to eat we may hold on to them to see what the chrysalis stage is like.

The Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia), also known as the Eyed Tiger Moth, is a moth of the family Archtidae. It is distributed throughout the Southern and Eastern United States from New England to Mexico.

This species has a wingspan of 3 inches. The wings of the moth are bright white with irregular black markings, some solid and some hollow. The abdomen is dark blue with orange markings, the male has a narrow yellow line on the sides. Its legs have black and white bands.

The caterpillar eats a variety of broad-leaf plants such as broadleaf plantains, dandelions and violets.