Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tidbits from the Merry Month of May

As the old song says, it's the "Merry, merry
month of May," and nothing could be merrier
than having both granddaughters complete
exemplary kindergarten years.  Brianna
celebrated earlier this month and Friday was
Claire's big day.  This picture will forever be
etched in our memories.  And she's movin' on!

Just in case you missed Bri's big event, here
she is in all her golden glory.  Ready for anything.

Our most recent addition to the tree house
is a library, chock full of irresistible books.
Including joke books, song books, and story books.

If your tree house isn't equipped with a
library, I highly recommend it.
It'll truly make it a magic tree house.

And in other recent action,
here's Roy Rogers (Evan), heading out to
pursue bad guys.  The shirt, gloves, and gun
are holdovers from my childhood.  The hat
and horse are not nearly that old.  And the
boots are pure Evan.

Sometimes, pursuing bad guys entails crossing
deadly gorges.  That's Dale Evans (Judy), Roy
Rogers (Evan), and Bullet (Claire).  It's amazing
what a smart dog can do with paws.

Claire and the others have all been creating
with this magnetic building set.  Not
surprisingly, it belonged to Jennifer and Amanda.

On a Saturday when the medical offices next
door were closed, we took our bikes and trikes
up for some smooth pedaling.  That's something
our yard isn't too great on.  Go Bri!  Go Hunter!

Bri and Grandma play a little catch with 
their scoopers.

Let me show you how it's done, Grandma.
(At the tail end listen to Hunter: "Grandpa,
you're not watching me!")

Later, at the tree house, Bri shares some
new jokes from the "library."

And hard-working Hunter can enjoy the jokes
while tidying up the joint a bit.

Later on, we stop in the play yard to set up
a ramp for some races.  For a while we race
all the toys that have wheels: dump trucks,
race cars, locomotives.  And finally Hunter
decides to race the steam engine with the
Berenstain Bears' tree house.  Go figure.
(The locomotive won, but barely.)

This was the first day I pulled out a bag of
army men and tanks for the kids.  They loved
it.  I showed them how to use blankets to make
caves and hiding places (like I used to do).

They're much more imaginative than I ever
was.  I never would have thought of having
Daddy Tank, Mama Tank, and a slew of
talking baby tanks.  Oh, what fun!

Let's shift to nature.  I don't really need to
do a snake alert, because I have no pictures
of the small hognose snake or the skinny
black rat snake I saw this week.  Both of
them eat bugs and small rodents, so they're

But I do have pictures of a grosbeak that
dropped by our window feeder.  This picture
was taken from indoors, and doesn't show
the colorful wingbars or the iridescent blue
of its feathers.

This is the same bird in sunlight.
Now you can see what makes it distinctive.

In the center of this picture, note a solitary
wasp perched on a small mud nest he had
fashioned.  I was privileged to observe him
carrying a green inchworm, stinging it as
he flew.  Then I watched, astonished, as he
stuffed the deadened inchworm into the mud
nest for a wasp larva to feed on when it hatched.

This is just a five second video.  Barely
got a glimpse of the wasp departing.

Sometime later, the wasp sealed the hole,
with the MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) in place.

Brianna and Hunter observed as scientists
when I broke open the nest a couple of days
later, to reveal not one . . .

. . . but FIVE inchworms!  Amazing.
And I know I'll catch some flak for ending
the life of a baby wasp, but we have plenty 
more, and I don't like them building nests 
on our toys!

Out and about around the Loyd place, more
flowers are now in bloom.
Such as the waxy yellow blossoms of the
 prickly pear cactus.

This dainty three-petaled flower may be a
type of iris.

The blackberries may be green now, but
they'll soon be turning the color we like!

The rich clumps of Bellwort or Trinity are
in full bloom on the cool mornings.  They seem
to be the main attractors of honeybees, which
are much more numerous than a year ago. 

I prefer the name Trinity:
three petals for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In case you missed my Facebook video
of honeybees feasting on Trinity plants.
I delight in this every morning as I do my
knee exercises on our front ramp.

And kudos to Mary Anne Johnson for this idea.
In times of drought, honeybees can safely sip in
shallow basin filled with stones.  There are many 
surfaces to cling to, whereas many bees drown
trying to drink from bird baths and puddles.
Just an old pot lid (stolen from the kids' play kitchen)
and a couple of pounds of pebbles.  Just add water.

Sweet peas are another native favorite we
are blessed with.  The pollinators love them, too.

And we like their unpredictable multi-
colors even better.

The pipssissewa (my Indian name from Camp
Cherokee) is slow to open but will be in full
bloom in June.

Our Firepink is one of our favorites.  Every
day we spot one or more new ones in different
locations.  Last year the deer fed on them, eating
them down to nubs, but they've recovered nicely.

Every day holds the potential for something
we've never seen around here.
And that could refer to both nature and grandkids!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Our Good Old Cozy Little Country House

Judy and I are totally happy in our
good old cozy little country house.
It's good (for us).
It's old (about 100).
It's cozy (but not cramped).
It's little (but bigger than a breadbox).
And it's country.

When you have a little house and the weather
is beautiful, it's a blessing to have lots of
surrounding land to ramble about on. 
And I did a bit of that today.  Now I get
extra credit for exercising my knee.

This is Royal Fern, found at the stream.

This ocean of Bracken Fern is on the dry sandy land
between our stream and a natural wetland.

Our Orange Milkwort spreads a bit every year.  Once
I identified it, I've been careful to preserve and
nurture it on the path to the stream.

Cinnamon Fern.

A blackberry patch on the path to the stream.
Though it grows larger every year, birds and deer
beat us to the harvest.  But that's okay.

Our 100 year-old pear trees appear to be laden
with a bumper crop of old-fashioned pears this year.
Last year looked good, but they mysteriously disappeared.
We suspected squirrel, but will be observing closely.

These pears are hickory-nut size, quite promising
for this early in the year.

Ebony Spleenwort is a small but sturdy fern.
Like Bracken fern, it does fine in dry areas.
Ferns are quite diverse, including habitat.

The proliferating Prickly Pear Cactus is oblivious
to the fire ants in the midst.  And vice versa.
The cactus will abound with waxy yellow blooms soon.

This blackberry patch is at the roadside, and last year
the deer left it alone.  It helped Judy to a summer of
cobblers and muffins, with a few left over to freeze.

This unusual plant is Cranefly Orchid, which I first
got acquainted with on the Farm Life Nature Trail.
As far as I know, this is the only patch of it on our
property.  The violet or purplish underside of the
leaves aids in identification.  The plant produces a
single leaf each year, and some years, a single flower,
which resembles a cranefly on a stalk.  But to me,
the most interesting thing about the orchid is that it
lives from fall to spring, when the leaf withers, and
the plant remains dormant during the summer heat.

Pipssissewa, or spotted wintergreen, is one of my
favorites.  As nature instructor as Camp Cherokee,
I chose this little plant for my Indian name.
In June, its tiny white flowers will open wide briefly.
 Some of our favorite plants grow right
around the house.
This cool-weather loving plant is Bellwort.
But it's also known as Trinity, due to its trademark
three petals.  I have told the grandchildren how that
stands for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each
of them has taken a specimen home to plant.

Judy adores the Sweet Shrubs that provide a
lovely fragrance to her prayer garden.

We hope to get a lot of blueberries from this bush
in the prayer garden.  But we may have to share
with the deer.

This Coral Honeysuckle is not as sprawling as wild
honeysuckle.  I dug this up in the woods years ago,
and it continues to thrive.

Another of our most fragrant plants is Mock Orange.
We are thankful to be the beneficiaries of past
residents who planted lots of old-fashioned varieties
not available at most garden centers.

Can you blame us for spending so much time outdoors?
At least until it's time to head back in to our
good old cozy little country house.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Some Days are Better Than Others!

And this day was one of the best!  One of
those rare days we had all four grandkids
together.  The chemistry is remarkable, no
matter what combination they arrange
themselves in.

Before Claire and Evan arrived, Bri and Hunter
entertained themselves in the playroom.

In the wink of an eye, Hunter had created this
magnetic machine.  Wow, did he impress me!

Our timing was perfect to see tree cutters across the
road doing some of their most amazing work.

Jennifer carried on a family tradition, reading
Uncle Remus's "Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby"
to the kids.

The boys soon headed out to the swings to try
to set some new records.
 Evan loves to play Roy Rogers, and suggested
that I be Roy, senior; Hunter be Roy, junior,
and Evan be "Baby Roy."
Then I came up with the idea of having "training"
for my boys.

This included learning how to find where
bad guys hide, climbing obstacle courses,
pulling heavy loads (like a cousin in a wagon),
and weapons competition.  I'm not sure Roy
ever used a light saber, but who cares?
Yep, bad guys hide behind fallen trees sometimes.

Roll 'em, roll 'em, roll 'em,
keeps those wagons rollin'.

Eat your heart out Luke Skywalker
and Darth Vader.  You, too, Robin Hood.

Obstacle course, climbing wall, and
martial arts (punching bag).
Interestingly, both boys say they want to
be policemen when they grow up.
They sure pass the "Roy Rogers" test.

Later, the boys re-discovered the colorful millipedes
that populate our water meter.

Hunter captured several and shared with Evan.

The boys are big enough to try out these Nerf hoops.

Part of the afternoon was spent at the tree house
and rope swing area.

The girls, in particular, love this swing.

It was back to lumberjack watching before the
afternoon ended.  These guys were terrific cheerleaders
for the hardworking laborers.  Instead of "Timber",
Hunter called out "TIM-BO!" It was too cute for
me to correct him.

These admiring fans cheered the workers on
to victory.

At times it seemed more like Stoneybrook than a workday.

With just a few minutes left, the boys watch some
vintage Spiderman cartoons.

Jennifer continues the B'rer Rabbit story on the
good ol' porch swing.

Until Claire hears that the Green Goblin is battling
Spiderman.  Then everybody decides to watch!
Yes, days like this are to be cherished.