Zentangle® in the Transom Window

In my September 1st blog post, I talked about the large Zentangle I was making on window film…and then forgot to include the photos of the segments taken before it was huge (from right to left). So here they are now –

My husband helped me attach the window film to the transom window above the French doors in our breakfast area. I cleaned the window thoroughly before wetting it a little then positioning the plastic film and using a shower Squeegee to smooth out the air bubbles. The matte white film with Zentangle patterns is very effective at making our dinner table less sunny! I wish I would have thought of doing this sooner. If I get tired of the patterns…I can take it down and make another.

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This is prompting me to think about what I might do with window film for Christmas.  Right now I’m thinking: red Sharpie for the patterns and the same type window film….for the narrow windows on either side of my front door.

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The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

Polyphemus Moth - Macro

I posted about the battered Polyphemus moth shortly after I found it. This past weekend, I spent some time photographing the moth at closer range than I could when it was alive. The hindwing is almost behind the forewing now. It’s easier to see the antennae are somewhat feather-like but not as big as a male’s antennae would be.

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Turned over – some of the legs have already broken off. The abdomen is drying. It may be that the moth laid all the eggs she had before her death.

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A close-up of the thorax and abdomen reveals scales that look a lot like hair.

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The same is true of the wing.

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I put the clip-on magnifying lens on my cell phone. The magnification shows scales although they appear to be much narrower that butterfly scales and don’t lay as flat.

I noticed that even though I was trying to be gentle – the antennae had broken off.

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With additional magnification, the antennae seem to have joints. They may look somewhat like feathers but not when viewed closely. These are sensory organs.

Since the specimen was battered and had already lost some lower leg parts…and antennae – I decided to take a closer look at a hindwing separately. The wing was already brittle and breaking almost every time I touched it.

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I decided to use a jeweler’s loupe rather than the clip.

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The ‘eye’ structures on the wing are clear in the center (the green paper underneath the wing shows through). The scales still look hair-like much of the time…not as fitted together as the scales of a butterfly.

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I found some pictures of Polyphemus moth scales from a microscopy magazine that look similar at the same magnification I was used…and then includes a more magnified view (figures 4 and 5).

Monarch Caterpillars

This has been a disappointing year for Monarch butterflies in our neighborhood. I haven’t seen many butterflies and only two caterpillars…and it’s relatively late in the season. I first saw a medium sized caterpillar on the milkweed in my front flower bed (the milkweed came back after I pulled it earlier in the season). I took pictures of it two days in a row…eating away. On the third day I couldn’t find it. I hope it will reappear at some point although I am wondering if something is killing or eating Monarch caterpillars.

I found a bigger caterpillar on a milkweed plant behind the bushes (maybe the location of the plant is protective). The caterpillar was actively eating and is big enough that it will make a chrysalis soon.

The milkweed plants look OK but not as good as I remember them from the 1990s. The leaves sometimes curl and deform and there are a lot more aphids. It looks like there may be some parasitoids of the aphids which are beginning to control the population.

It’s frustrating to have host plants but so few caterpillars. Are there just too many factors leading to the Monarch decline? It’s worse than last year.

New Laptop…Rearranged Office

August was a big tech purchase month for me….I bought a new laptop and monitor. My old laptop was going to run out its 4-year warranty in mid-September and I used the Labor Day sales as my excuse to buy the new one a few weeks early. I ended up buying the new and improved version of my old laptop – a Dell XPS 13. The new model (9380) has double the RAM and SSD size…more processors. It is the same size as the old one. I bought a Dell Business Thunderbolt Dock TB16 to make it easier to get everything attached to the laptop via one plug (the thunderbolt). I also got a bigger and better monitor – a Dell UltraSharp 27 Monitor (UP2716D); I’ve graduated from one monitor to two in my home office. It took me very little time to get software installed and my files copied from the old laptop.

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I used the interruption of the new laptop to rearrange my office. I’ve been using the same office furniture for about 25 years (since we moved to our current house). At first the furniture was 3 pieces attached to each other. About 5 years ago I detached the longer table. Now they are all independent. The corner piece is my computer work area complete with Swopper chair (bouncing so I am never sedentary for long at the computer), two monitors, the laptop on the far fight, my phone in a metal bowl under the monitors….a lamp in the background. I’m experimenting with a scarf at the front to protect the edge of the table….after 25 years the finish is worn.

There is a window to my right….with a view of trees. My office is the room with the best view in this house

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Behind me is a long table where I work on major Zentangle projects like the transom window film. There is another lamp there and a charging station for items like the iPad and pencil. I have a narrow-shelved case to sort materials for projects.

I’ve enjoyed my home office from the beginning…but the new arrangement hones it for the things I do now rather than when I was in the thick of my career.

Battered Moth

Earlier this week when I was heading out to a volunteer shift at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit, I noticed something moving at the base of the red oak tree near our mailbox. I got out of my car to see what it was. There was a large moth flapping around on the ground among the remnants of day lily plants. I took several pictures with my phone and continued to Brookside.

When I got there, the staff helped me identify what I’d seen: a Polyphemus moth (read about the species at Maryland Biodiversity Project and Wikipedia). It’s a female because it doesn’t have the feather-looking antennae. It looked very battered and it died sometime after I left. I collected it when I got home and have it in my freezer…trying to decide what to do with it.

The caterpillars require about 60 days to grow enough to make a cocoon to go through the winter…so this is going to be cutting it close for the eggs this female probably laid in our oak tree. Some of the leaves on our oak (a food plant of the caterpillars) are already beginning to turn reddish brown. None of the branches are low enough for me to see any of the caterpillars in action unfortunately. I’ll still be watching the tree hoping to see one as they grow larger.

Ten Little Celebrations – August 2019

August 2019 was busy – but not as overwhelming as July. I savored the recovery time before the busy fall field trip season volunteering and my own travels. It was still easy to find little celebrations this month.

For three weeks of the month, I celebrated two mornings with Howard County Conservancy summer campers. What great experiences for me and (I hope) for the campers. Fossils, water and flight….interesting themes of high interest to the 5-12 years old groups. I could have counted 6 little celebrations but opted to count each week as 1 larger celebration since I had so many other things to celebrate.

Celebrating Coursera course Bugs 101: Insect-Human Interactions from University of Alberta (which I hope to finish by the end of the month). It was wonderful to have time to dig into an online course again.

Montessori teachers in the Wings of Fancy exhibit. A group of Montessori teachers in training came through the exhibit one morning (when it wasn’t too hot) and I celebrated conversations and that the method is still popular. My daughter certainly thrived in that type of pre-school.

Finding lots of botanical print books. Just when I think I am about to run out of online botanical books, I find a lot more…..and celebrate.

Getting a new laptop ordered. My old laptop is almost out of warranty and, even though it has a new battery and seems to be working well, I ordered a new one. I’m very excited about getting it all set up by the end of the month.

Flavorful cantaloupe. The CSA had very sweet cantaloupes this year. I celebrated melons that were as good as my memories of childhood cantaloupe from my grandparents’ farm.

Office rearrangement. I celebrated a new arrangement of my office furniture and general tidiness of my home office…in preparation for a new laptop.

Photographing a living cicada. Usually the cicada’s I photograph are not living – or are too cold to move. I celebrated seeing one fly into a tree and photographing it…while it was singing.

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Favorite Summer Foods

I have two favorite foods that are new-to-me this summer.

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The first is one I started when my freezer was close to overflowing with frozen veggies from the early weeks of the Community Support Agriculture (CSA) season (while I was traveling). I started making green smoothies for breakfast: vanilla soymilk, frozen ‘greens,’ frozen banana, protein (peanut butter, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raw cashews).

I put them all in the Ninja without measuring exactly; the consistency is thick shake to soft serve ice cream…always cold and yummy. Perfect for summer mornings. The past few weeks I have been getting cherry tomatoes at the CSA. I freeze them…and combine tomatoes and greens. Then the banana can be room temperature. The smoothies are a great way to start the day.

The second favorite for this summer is tomatillo salsa. This was the first year for tomatillos from my CSA. We’ve had two weeks where the share included a pound of tomatillos. I had to so a little research to decide what a wanted to do with them. I decided on salsa. The husks of the tomatillos are star-like…I enjoy the shape before putting them into the bin to go out to the compost pile.

I pan roast most of the ingredients in a skillet first.

After they are cooked and cooled – I put them into the Ninja along with the cilantro (one time I used parsley because I had a big bunch of it) to make it into salsa….and then store in glass jars left over from other salsa or preserves. It lasts for a least a week in the refrigerator. The salsa goes fast since I like it for salad dressing, stir fry sauce, a topping for hamburgers, or dip for chips/veggies.

Savoring the flavors of summer!

A Gray Tree Frog

Last weekend, my husband pulled the cover off our gas grill – and discovered a frog on the shelf to the side of the grill. He took some pictures with his phone then turned on the grill thinking the frog would jump away. Instead it backed up and down into the crack between the grill and the shelf. Not good. We did want to cook our dinner – not the frog. I got a card and threaded it up into the crack behind the frog to encourage it to jump away. It jumped back onto the shelf and then away to the deck when I nudged it gently on the rear. (sigh of relief)

I identified the frog as a gray tree frog – noticing the bright yellow patches on its hind legs when it jumped. We probably have a lot of them around in our trees…but not usually on the gas grill.

Flowers on Table

I have been enjoying the cut-your-own flowers from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this summer. It’s great to have the color on the table – changing every week. A small bag with scissors for that part of the share pickup has been added to the larger bags for the heftier veggies. I often get some herbs as well. Fresh oregano and thyme are my two favorites. I rinse the herbs and put them on a small plate on the counter using it up in a few days or letting it dry so that it crinkles easily into a steaming pot of sauce or stir fry.

Blue Jay at the Birdbath

I was pleased to see a Blue Jay at our bird bath. Back in July, my husband I had found blue jay feathers to the side of our house and we didn’t see or hear them for several weeks. A week or so ago, we started hearing them again and then one came to the birdbath! I liked this picture because it shows the wing feathers so nicely…the blue with white bars on the flight feather, the more down-like feathers covering the top of the wing and the neck.

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This week is at the Howard County Conservancy Camps is about flight and I’m going to bring this picture and the feathers for the campers to look at closely….flight feathers up close. It’s a great supplement to the rest of the activity I have planned.

Laptop Trauma

My laptop is almost 4 years old…the warranty expires in mid-September. The only trauma I experienced with it up to this point was right after I got it and the Solid State Drive (SSD) turned out to not be compatible with Windows 10. A technician came to the house and installed a new drive. But now there are several things that have gone wrong.

The first was the machine not booting. It isn’t clear what happened overnight, but the upshot was the SSD was no longer bootable first thing Thursday morning. It was a horrible way to start a day. My husband had a thumb drive that we booted from and decided that the easiest way to recover was to do a Windows Reset. The positive aspect of that strategy is that it preserves the data files. The negative is that the applications are uninstalled. Aargh!

Another problem then became evident. While we were working directly with the laptop itself on the recovery process, we noticed that the mouse pad is bulging….a sign that the battery underneath is swelling – which is not a good thing at all.

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I’m not sure how long the problem has existed. For the past few months I’ve been using the laptop with a monitor and external keyboard (note the letters worn off the keys of the keyboard…it’s a good thing I am touch typist).

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I called Dell and will be sending it in for battery replacement and general hardware checkup and cleaning…the last (and only second) warranty work on the machine. It should be back by Wednesday. My husband has graciously said I can use his laptop until mine is returned and I have my external drive with everything I need ready to go. Still – I am a little discombobulated at being without my (up until now) very dependable laptop.

Sometime this fall, I’ll probably buy a new laptop…maybe the top of the Dell XPS 13 line. It’s what I did last time and they’ve gotten even better in the last 4 years.

Nature Finds During Yard Work

A week or so ago I was doing yard work and seemed to find interesting subjects to photograph at every turn. I took breaks to get pictures.

A katydid on the mint…and mint flowers…in one flower bed. I was cutting the mint because it had escaped the flower bed and was blocking the path to our front porch.

A black eyed susan and spiderweb filled with dew a few feet away. I noticed both when I was cleaning out the bird bath and filling it with water.

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I was cutting day lily leaves from around the oak tree…noticed the way the leaves curve around the stem of the flower. There was a rustle in an area I had already cut….a toad. I left the remaining leaves and hope I didn’t disturb the toad’s home too much.

There was also a very small black rat snake among the remaining leaves. I didn’t stay around to get a picture. I’m pleased that the leaves have provided shelter and ‘home’ for wildlife in a suburban setting!

Deer Treat

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Earlier this week I trimmed our cherry and plum tree – one long and horizontal branch from the cherry and a lot of little branches from the red-leafed plum. Both were low and making it more difficult for my husband to mow underneath the trees. I took the cut branches to the back of our yard (the edge of the forest).

The morning after my pruning – I noticed a doe and her fawn feasting on the still green leaves of the cherry branch where I had left it near the forest. It must have seemed like quiet a treat to get tasty leaves that were previously too high for them to reach. I took some pictures through the window of my summer office. They enjoyed the leaves long enough for my husband to see them too. Before they left, the doe sampled the plum leaves too; those leaves must have not tasted as good as the cherry leaves since the duo continued their amble back into the forest.

Ten Little Celebrations – July 2019

July 2019 was a busy month with two weeks of the months a way from home and volunteering. We’re in the thick of summer!

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4th of July. There is the holiday celebrated with fireworks and food and family early in the month. I was in Texas rather than at home.

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. It’s thrilling to see a heron that I don’t see all that often…a serendipity sighting during a hike to celebrate.

Easy drive through Arkansas. I celebrated that the road through Arkansas on my way back to Maryland from Texas was a lot better than I expected – good road, no construction, no accidents.

Marigolds. I savored the flowers available for cutting when I go to pick up my CSA share every week. Marigolds are among my favorites….but the sunflowers and amaranth and zinnas are good too.

Pittsburgh to Springfield MO in a day. It was a long drive with my husband and I caravanning. We both celebrated when we arrived – tired but otherwise unscathed.

At home again. After being away for 2 weeks (not concurrently) I had several days celebrating just being at home again.

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Prius Prime. I celebrated my car that has excellent range and is easy to drive. It still feels a little new and it’s 2.5 years old! These recent road trips have added quite a few miles.

Surviving a very hot Wings of Fancy shift. I celebrated that having something cold at each break (grapes, popsicle, Gatorade) and drinking lots of water enabled me to be fine at the end of the shift….and even relaxed in my air conditioned car on the way home.

Summer campers making butterfly Zentangles. Celebrating sharing an activity with campers….enjoying their creations as much as they did.

Toad under the oak tree. There is a toad that is making its home in the day lily forest under the oak tree. I celebrated that our yard is providing suitable habitat (there was a very small black rat snake there too…which I am choosing to celebrate too…but I didn’t take time to get a picture).

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Zooming – July 2019

I probably use the zoom on my camera for most of my pictures. It allows me to frame the picture the way I want and to ‘see’ the environment better than I can with just my eyes. Sometimes I am at the limit of what my camera can do. For example – the tiger swallowtails are particularly numerous in my back yard this summer and I kept seeing then flying under the maple tree where my compost pile is located. I used my camera like binoculars to see that the swallowtails were ‘puddling’ in the compost pile after a rain. They must have been enjoying the nutrient rich water!

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There was a smallish robin that fluttered down from the maple and sat in the grass – just looking around for a few minutes before returned to the tree. It didn’t look or find a worm! Probably a fledging.

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On the hottest day of the summer (so far), a wasp got a drink from our bird bath. Sometimes I find wasps that have drowned in the bird bath but so far it hasn’t happened this year. Maybe they are getting better as just getting the drink that they need.

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Now enjoy the slide show of other zoomed pictures from this month:

  • Plane tree

  • Fireworks

  • Pocket prairie plants

  • Yellow crowned night heron

  • Great egret

  • Female cardinal

  • Fawn

  • Goldfinch

Red-Bellied and Downy Woodpecker Juveniles

A week ago, I saw two juvenile woodpeckers come to the bird feeder handing on my deck.

At first, I saw an adult Red-bellied Woodpecker coming to the feeder, get seeds then fly back to the maple tree.

Soon it became obvious that there was a fledgling because it followed the adult bird to the deck. The fledgling got as far as the railing and then flew back to the maple without attempting to get seed from the feeder. A few days later, I heard the fledging again and it seemed to still be following the parent…with a little more skill.

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There was a juvenile Downy Woodpecker at the feeder on the same day as I saw the fledgling red-bellied woodpecker. It is a Downy rather than Hairy Woodpecker because it has black spots on the white outer tail feathers.

I had seen a juvenile downy woodpecker back on June 9th which must have been from an earlier brood. It had the same clumsy flight pattern as the one I saw on July 19th.

The woods behind our have been good places for the woodpeckers this summer!

Blue Jay Feathers

One morning when my husband and I were working in the yard, we noticed quite a few blue jay feathers in the grass beside our house. I picked them up to photograph. They were not in great shape so had probably be on the ground for a few days.

Some of them had bands on only one side…probably indicating which side of the bird they came from. This group has bands to the left of the rib.

And these feathers have bands on the right.

There are too many feathers for this bird to have survived probably. We have quite a few blue jays that come to our yard for the water and the trees. Sometimes singly but more often in small groups. During some seasons they are very noisy but recently they have been coming through silently. Smart birds since there must be a predator around.

Battered Squirrels

On two days that I was home and observing from my summer office window in June – I noticed two squirrels that looked like they had survived a predator. The first one sprawled on the deck railing long enough for me to realize some fur on top of it head/neck was missing, and the fur looked matted.

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I zoomed in. It looked like the injury might be healing already.

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A few days later, another squirrel was on the deck (or I think it was another one) with a much larger area of missing fur that looked infected. There was also a wound near its nose.

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There seem to have more than our usual number of squirrels this year. Did a juvenile hawk decide the area was easy pickings for a meal but was not adept enough to get its prey? At least twice?

Gorman Farms CSA

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I am overwhelmed with the weekly bounty of vegetables from the medium share from Gorman Farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). My freezer is full because I have made two road trips from Maryland to Springfield, Missouri since the season started – eating very little at home during those two weeks. Now I am closer to home for the rest of the season and anticipate keeping up better week to week…so much good food to eat! I love green smoothies for breakfast (frozen greens, frozen banana, soymilk, peanut butter) on hot summer mornings and there are plenty of frozen greens in the freezer. The farm also has pick-your-own flowers and herbs. Marigolds (the orange flowers in the picture) are pretty….and edible. I ended up just putting them in the center of the table as a little bouquet.

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Each week the message board at the CSA highlights some of the veggies. This week the shishito peppers and tomatillos are new to me. My plan: roasting them and making green salsa.

The share board lists the contents of the share for the week. The picture below is the board from this week. There was a choice between purple and white onions ….and I picked purple since I had white ones left from last week. The melon choice was watermelon or cantaloupe. I picked cantaloupe because I had just bought a watermelon in the grocery store. From the choice section I chose turnips since the last ones I got were great for snacking. I’ll cut them to use for dipping the tomatillo salsa. There were enough reusable bags in my totes to contain the summer squash, cucumbers, eggplant, and tomatillos for weighing… I am avoiding single use plastic entirely when I pick up my share.

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The cabbage white butterflies were thick on one segment of the cut-your-own garden and I went to check what plant was attracting them – catnip! I cut some for my cat and he enjoyed the CSA share this week too!

As in past years – the CSA is providing great food…and the satisfaction of eating produce grown very close to home in a sustainable way.

Fawn in the Backyard

Back in mid-June not long after I moved into a new home office that doesn’t get as much afternoon sun (and get hot) during the summer, a fawn moved through the backyard and stopped log enough for me to get a picture. I didn’t see any other deer around but maybe the doe was just out of my field of view.

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The fawn still had lots of spots but was sure footed enough to not still be in the ‘hiding’ stage of its life. A few days before I had seen a doe move through the yard with a large belly that seemed to move a lot; I wondered if she was in labor and hoped she made it back into the forest before giving birth.

Our area has a significant overpopulation of deer that is impacting our forests and yards; we are plagued by deer tick borne Lyme disease. For those reasons, I am in favor of the deer control measures the state and county governments are implementing…but I enjoy watching them move through our yard from my office window and have resigned myself so never having the day lily buds fully bloom.