Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Find the Insect IX

Can you find the insect in the above picture?
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This is a Small Cabbage White caterpillar that is hiding in and eating our kale. This particular caterpillar is probably the most destructive of all of the caterpillars, devouring cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and kohlrabi. We also have Large Cabbage White caterpillars - you can see one in the picture below. It's surprising just how many caterpillars there are. However, there were an abundance of their associated moths all over our yard this summer, so I guess it stands to reason why there are so many caterpillars now.

The best solution is to remove the caterpillars by hand. This is what Emilie and I have been doing, as you can see in the picture below and this was just one picking session. We've done this numerous times and removed as many, if not more each time. Now, I bet your asking yourself what do we do with these pests once picked - well, Lucy, Ethel and New Honey absolutely LOVE them and devour them! We've also feed some to a couple frogs we found in our pool and kept for several days and they too loved them. I will need to make more of an effort to catch the moths next summer before they mate and lay their eggs...

Games and Puzzle Challenges

While vacationing in tropical storm riddled Marco Island Florida last month my brother got me hooked on doing, or at least attempting to do, newspaper games and puzzles, i.e. crosswords, jumbles, sudokus (my least favorites) etc. We’d pickup the USA Today newspaper each day and have at it.

Once we returned home this activity fell by the wayside. However, thanks to Al Gore and his Internet I now have 7x24 access to my favorite USA Today puzzles, which I've come to enjoy and have been fairly successful in doing. Word Round Up, Quick Cross and Up & Down Words are my favorites, booyah!

It’s good exercise for your melon and helps to keep it sharp - sharp as a marble in my case.

Click here to be taken to USA Today puzzles for online fun and excitement.

The "Blue Barrel"

And here is the aforementioned "blue barrel".

Used primarily to catch rain water.

* If you look close enough there is a Praying Mantis hiding in the Black-eyed Susan, just above the sedium.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Greek for "Fire-Lizard"

Eastern Newt - Notophthalmus viridescens
The eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) is a common salamander of eastern North America.

Emilie found this little Eft floating in our pool this afternoon, see picture above. This is an Eastern Newt, also known as the Red-spotted Newt. We scooped him out, checked him out and took some pictures. This isn't the first time I've come across one of these little nickers in our pool. Several years ago I came across one in much the same way that Emilie did today.

There are three stages to the Eastern Newt's life, one being the "eft" stage, which is what we caught The eft is found on land and is bright orangish-red or reddish-brown. It grows to over three inches. The eft stage has poisonous chemicals in its skin so predators will not eat them.

Newts and Salamanders Folklore:

  • Newts and salamander have been associated with evil and mischief. Salamanders have been linked to fire as far back as the times of Aristotle. The word salamander is of Greek origin, and translates roughly to "Fire-Lizard". It was believed that salamanders were immune to fire, and could extinguish fire with skin secretions. Although not proven indefinitely, it is believed that the correlation of salamanders to fire originated upon seeing salamanders flee from bonfires and fire pits when collected wood was set ablaze. Because salamanders inhabit cool, damp places, they may have been inadvertently taken home in collected fire wood. When the wood was kindled, the salamanders would attempt to flee to safety.
  • Salamanders and newts were also used for medicinal purposes. They were often burned to ashes, which were collected and used in medicinal formulas and concoctions.
  • The saliva of a salamander was believed to make hair fall out.
  • Even today, the skins, bodies, and body parts of salamanders are used in traditional medicine.
  • Torched newts are sometimes sold in Asia as aphrodisiacs, and the skins of certain species are said to cure illnesses.
  • Salamanders and newts were also negatively associated with cows. It was believed that salamanders or newts would suckle cows if they were caught laying down, resulting in the cows inability to produce milk from that point forward. The origin of this myth is though to come from sightings of dead newts and salamanders who might have released their milky fluid upon being squashed by an oblivious cow.

Stanley Out, Chamberlain In

It's only taken like 8 months but I finally installed our new garage door openers, hip hip hooray! We bought them in early 2008 and they've been sitting taking up space just waiting to be put to use. Well, with winter fast approaching I simply couldn't postpone it any longer. That and the fact that the old openers were starting to flake out - the light and remote stopped working on one unit and the second unit began opening itself up all on it's own for some unknown and strange reason and at random times.

Stanley, before

Chamberlain, after

The Stanley openers were 1/2-hp, chain driven and in place when we bought the house. Also, they were VERY noisy when opening and closing, especially with our family room above the garage. However, we became accustomed to the noise but the new Chamberlain openers are almost silent. They're 3/4-hp and belt driven and make a tremendous difference. Perhaps, not the best time to make such a change with teenagers...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pepe Le Pew Perhaps

We caught this skunk in our Havaheart trap last weekend - he too likes peanut butter. We didn't want to fuss with him and risk getting sprayed, so instead of trying to relocate him we quietly snuck-up and unlatched the trap locks and let him alone to work his own way out. He was gone not too long after. Since skunks eat mostly insects, many of which are pests to humans. They are therefore very beneficial to have around.

The trap has been reset in the hopes of catching more of the many (too many) grey squirrels that we have. I'm not sure where they've all come from but with the cold weather moving in we're all of a sudden overrun with the pests. We've already caught and relocated (6) of these earlier this year. Perhaps, I'll introduce them to the "blue barrel"...

Find the Insect VIII

Can you find the insect in the above picture?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Marital communication

While attending a marriage seminar on communication, Tom and his wife Peg listened to the instructor declare, “It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other.”

He addressed the men, “Can you describe your wife’s favorite flower?”

Tom leaned over, touched his wife’s arm gently and whispered, Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn’t it?”

The rest of the story is not pleasant.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Brown-Hooded Owlet Caterpillar

Brown-Hooded Owlet - Cucullia convexipennis

I came across this Brown-Hooded Owlet caterpillar yesterday hanging out and dining on a Pokeweed plant, also known as poke, pokebush, pokeberry, pokeroot, polk salad, polk sallet, inkberry or ombĂș. First time I've seen one of these critters in all my years. From the little research I've done, the moth that this handsome caterpillar turns into doesn't even compare - very blah and unimpressive. The larvae are known to feed on aster, pokeweed and goldenrod with the moths being active from May to September.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


It's been a while since I posted a "Bucket-O" photo, so I present to you a bucket-o peaches.

We didn't have good luck with our peaches this year. A large number of them began falling off the tree before they were ready, the ones that remained and ripened had a lot of defects although tasty just the same. Our rabbits were not bothered by the defects and enjoyed them immensely. Although, they had to compete with Emilie who insisted on collecting them in this bucket. However, unlike acorns peaches have a short bucket life, so the ones that didn't get eaten were relegated to the compost pile.

Find the Insect VII

Can you find the insect in the above picture?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Electronics Recycling

Sony Electronics Inc. and Waste Management Recycle America held a recycling event at Gillette Stadium (the home of our New England Patriots) this past Saturday, Sept. 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m - bring any and all old electronics and drop off for free. Not sure about your town but our town charges $10.00 per item to dispose of electronic devices, i.e. TV's, computer monitor's, AC's, etc. We participated and brought (2) old televisions and (1) old VCR, pictured above.

We saved a few bucks, helped the environment AND there are (3) less items in my dads house to be concerned with, hooray!!

Recycling Fun Fact:
  • According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 82 percent of the 2.25 million tons of old TVs, cell phones and computer products generated in the last two years ended up in landfills. By recycling old electronics products, useful materials – such as glass, plastic and metals – can be collected and re-used in the manufacture of other products. Since their partnership began, Sony and Waste Management have collected a total of 9.2 million pounds of electronic waste, and the companies anticipate that number will grow exponentially.

Weekend Harvesting

We picked and dug the following items this weekend: butternut squash and Yukon Gold potatoes. The butternut squash, as well as the pumpkins pictured below were planted in my dads BIG garden. He has space to let these vines grow as they need to. There may be more butternut but we won't know for sure until we pick the pumpkins and remove the plants - the weeds in and around these vines are just too thick. The taters and carrots were planted in our garden and boy do they love the rabbit and chicken compost! Tomatoes were also picked in preparation for the next canning session, yum!

Only 5...


To be harvested:
Danvers Half Long Carrots

6 to 8 Pumpkins

The end of the season is fast approaching, alas...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

From Mother to Daughter...

"From mother to daughter... a Kotex gift package"

My dad has begun the monumental task of going through and cleaning his house, starting with the closets. However, his cleaning methods, in my opinion, are suspect. For example, take the above Kotex box, which he presented to me when asking if I wanted it. You can image me first reaction and it wasn't, "Kotex is not my brand, I use Stayfree but thanks anyway"...

My second reaction was something altogether different when I opened the box and saw what was inside and it went something like this, "what the %@!&". Perhaps, I didn't say that exactly or even aloud but that's what I was thinking! Any ideas on what these might be? They're some sort of preserved, dried fruit or vegetable with a toothpick in many of them, odd.

*Anyone? Anyone? Rather odd I'd say. *Anyone? Anyone? Any ideas? *Anyone? Anyone?

Any idea or guesses on what these 'things' are, please leave a comment. I guess you could also say that my dad is making progress in cleaning his closets but on the flip side my basement is getting fuller!!

*Refers to the memorable quote from the Economics Teacher in the 1986 movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off ".

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ironic or Cruel Joke?!

Well, as you can see from the lobby register, pictured above, the "French's" have moved into my brothers building. Of course the residents are alphabetized by names versus by units - how ironic is that?! Damn those ancient Greeks and their "alphabet"...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Florida Invasive Exotic

Cuban Treefrog - Osteopilus septentrionalis
Here are a couple pictures of what I believe is a Cuban treefrog. We noticed him sitting in this rather unusual, hot and sunny spot one morning where he remained all day long. We didn't bother with him other than to take some pictures, so I'm not 100% certain it's a Cuban treefrog but he did have rather larger suction cup on the ends of his toes which is an indication of a Cuban.
We came across another one earlier in the week. This was was hiding in the folded picnic table umbrella beside the pool - a hiding spot my brother was aware of. When he opened it up, there was a HUGE Cuban treefrog peacefully hiding out! Well, he was huge as compared to the treefrogs found in Massachusetts - actually he was huge as compared to most frogs in MA. This one we caught, held and passed around to the kids and this one was DEFINITELY a Cuban Treefrog - no doubts and regrettably no pictures either!
However, at the time I wasn't aware that these frogs are considered an invasive species and the recommendation is to euthanize them. Had we known, perhaps we would have followed Florida's advice but either way these guys are simply awesome!

Cuban treefrogs are the largest treefrog in North America, however it is not native to North America. This species was introduced to southern Florida from the Caribbean and has continued to spread in Florida.

Cuban treefrogs are voracious eaters and unfortunately they eat Florida's native frogs, toads, and lizards, in addition to insects and spiders. In fact, Cuban treefrogs are SO successful at taking over habitat and eating Florida's native species that they are considered an invasive exotic (non-native) species - they are a threat to the biodiversity of Florida's native ecosystems and wildlife.

Due to the destructive effects Cuban treefrogs have on native species of amphibians and reptiles, many biologists recommend that Cuban treefrogs be euthanized/killed. A humane method of euthanasia is recommended. Just make SURE the frog you have is a Cuban treefrog before euthanizing it.

Freezing is a humane way to kill amphibians because their bodies go into a state of torpor - just as they do in cold weather outside, and after an extended time in freezing temperatures, the frogs die. Put the frog in a plastic ziploc bag, then into the freezer over night and out in the trash the following morning, done.

The distinguishing characteristics of the Cuban treefrog are:
  • Size of the adults (up to 5 inches in body length, much larger than native Florida treefrogs)
  • Enormous toe pads (larger than toepads of native treefrogs in Florida)
  • Bumpy skin on the back, like skin of a toad
  • Skin on top of head is fused to skull

Cuban treefrogs can be highly variable in color -- from pale tan/pale green without any markings to dark green or brown with an even darker color pattern on the back and legs. Sometimes they almost look white when they are inactive or cold.

For more information visit - UF Florida Wildlife Extension - University of Florida

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Testudines Crossing

With our Florida trip winding down we headed out of Marco Island, on our way to Miami, on “Alligator Alley”. Most of this highway traverses the Everglades, which was the plan.

We intended on taking an air boat ride but soon realized it was not going to happen - tropical storm Fay dumped too much water and the mosquitoes were vicious.

We saw all kinds of wildlife along the way, both, on the roadway and in pens and cages and tanks at several of our stops.

Here are a couple of turtle pictures we took. We stopped and caught these
chelonians crossing the roadway and checked them out. The kids got all excited and enjoyed them too. There was a third terrapin, a snapping turtle, attempting to cross but as we turned the car around and started back the person driving the minivan just in front of us swerved and hit it, alas.

This is a "Soft-shelled" turtle and amazingly fast for a turtle but I was still able to catch him without getting run over myself, crikey!

This is a "Yellow-bellied slider" turtle and was content to stay hidden inside his shell. Now, I've done some research, and although I was unable to find definitive proof, I'm pretty sure the preferred way to hold turtles is like how my brother is doing it above - your pinkie should be extended!

We moved these two guys to safety; away from the road to the waters edge and continued our trek...

Megacyllene robiniae

Locust Borer Beetle, Megacyllene robiniae

Emilie and I came across this little feller the other afternoon dining on one of the Goldenrods growing in our yard. This insect has a fondness for Black Locust trees which we don't have in our yard and come to think of it I don't recall seeing any in the neighbor's yard either, but it's safe to say there is at least one tree nearby.

Locust Borer Fun Facts:

  • The adult locust borer is a slender, "long-horned" beetle, about three-quarters of an inch long, with reddish legs and black antennae. Bright yellow bands encircle its jet-black body. A W-shaped band extends across the wing covers. Males and females are similar in appearance.
  • The conspicuous, brightly colored adult locust borer resembles a wasp or hornet being black with bright yellow markings and it often seen when the goldenrod is in bloom.
  • The borer attacks only black locust; the honey locust is not affected. Locust borer larvae tunnel into a tree's trunk and branches, weakening the tree and making it susceptible to wind breakage.

Monday, September 08, 2008

HowTo: Sex Eggplants

Q: What is the difference between a male and a female eggplant, and is one preferred over the other?

A: Male eggplants have fewer seeds and are less likely to be bitter. To differentiate between male and female eggplants, inspect the flower end. The male has a small, round, smooth end; the female has an irregular, less smooth end.

Courtesy of The Old Farmer's Almanac

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Family Addition

Here is the latest addition to our menagerie - an 8-week old female kitten. She doesn't have a name just yet, although Emilie is working on one and sometimes two and even three - I believe the name 'Daisy' is in the lead but it changes so frequently I'm prolly wrong. Emilie is absolutely thrilled and enjoys playing with her endlessly.

She came litter box trained and has acclimated just fine so far. We're working on introducing her to Lila, our other cat, which is gonna take time but should be fun to watch.

Yup, I need my head examined. I should have kept driving but nooooo! I just had to stop at the 'free kittens' sign and inquire (with Emilie in the truck). I'll never learn...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Monday, September 01, 2008

Tomato Canning 2008

and we're off...

Here is the first batch of canned tomato's of the year - 22 pints and 10 quarts!! Kudos to JoAnne, you go girl!

Me daddy-O delivered a 5-gallon bucket of his tomato's yesterday, which will be added to the 5-gallon bucket that remains of our ripe tomato's for canning another batch.

Plenty-O green tomato's out there too and once they ripen they'll become canned tomato's also.