Monthly Archives: September 2013

Hello, Apatelodes!

By | Insects | One Comment
spottedapatelodes

I’m fluffy!

Unless my Bug-Guide-fu fails me, this is Apatelodes torrefacta. He will turn into a really freaky looking moth, the Spotted Apatelodes moth (seriously, look that thing up! They’re freaky!)

He’s a new one for the yard list, and a weirdly handsome little devil.

Serious Anole Is Very Serious

By | Animals | One Comment

You are not serious enough to please Serious Anole.

srsanole

Do you think that life is all butterflies and delicious slugs? No!  SERIOUS ANOLE WILL HAVE NO MORE OF THIS FRIVOLITY.

(That handsome plant, by the by, is Camphor Pluchea, a weirdass native wildflower that I grew on a whim, which reseeds readily, if not frighteningly, and about which pretty much nobody knows nuthin’, beyond the dutiful listings in databases. It is an annual and plops itself into various damp spots around the garden, but doesn’t seem to do much beyond that. Bees don’t even know what to make of it, but teeny little weird pollinator flies think it is AWESOME.)

Hedges Against Despair

By | My Garden | One Comment

The world depresses me easily, O internet. The government spends so much time squabbling over idiotic things and I kind of want to yell “You guys do realize that if we don’t fix the bee problem, we’ll starve to death, right? Okay, just so we’re clear. No, no, go on, make your fifty-millionth symbolic attempt to defund Obamacare. I’m sure that’s much more important.”

So I go and wander around the garden, which is tired because it’s fall and things are dying or dried or weedy or spindly. (Well, in the backyard. The front yard is extravagant. Amazing what six inches of topsoil and five years can do.) And I have to go traveling soon, which is increasingly not my favorite thing to do. I need some downtime when I am not living toward the next time I have to get on a plane.

At times like this, I pull out my yard list.

It is a weird coping mechanism, I grant you, but there it is. It is a list of every species of bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian, butterfly, and dragonfly that has entered the yard that I have managed to identify. It is a list of all the stuff that got a home or an overnight rest stop or at least one good meal because once upon a time, I looked over the lawn and said “Yeah, we can do better.”

Birds — 66

Mammals — 6

Reptiles/Amphibians — 21

Crustacean — 1 (AND HOPEFULLY WILL STAY THAT WAY)

Butterflies & Moths — 33

Dragonflies & Damselflies — 7

Random Bugs & Spiders — 20*

I don’t even try to do plants, although I will note that two species of native orchid persist on the property—one in the foundation planting where there used to be a rather enthusiastic boxwood, no less. (Crippled cranefly and rattlesnake plantain orchid.)

It’s a weird OCD sort of coping mechanism, I grant you. It has no weighting, and counts a single ebony jewelwing sighting the same as an active breeding population of bronze frogs. Still, the numbers are oddly soothing, and reading down the lists of names is hypnotic. Carolina wren, blue gray gnatcatcher, mourning dove, pine warbler, American goldfinch, summer tanager, yellow-billed cuckoo, great crested flycatcher… ringnecked snake, brown snake, broadhead skink, Carolina anole, eastern pickerel frog… spring azure, pearl crescent, American painted lady, falcate orangetip, cloudless sulphur, luna moth, imperial moth, snowberry clearwing hawkmoth…click beetle, American ladybug, yellowjacket hoverfly, red velvet mite, huntsman spider, predacious diving beetle…

It’s not a huge nature preserve, or even a terribly large garden by many standards. It’s what one woman who isn’t too particular about weeds can manage. In some ways, it even makes less impact, out here in the woods, then it would in the city where it would be an oasis.

Nevertheless, when everything in the world feels horrible or stupid, it makes me feel like in some small way, I’m holding the line.

 

*There are undoubtedly way way more than twenty species, but I limit myself to ones I can ID by at least genus or common name, and critters like “jumping spiders” all get lumped together, even though there’s probably a gazillion individual species. I am almost embarassed by the scope and relative paucity of this list, which lumps wasps with dung beetles with millipedes with nursery web spiders.

Trip to the Botanical Gardens

By | Insects | 3 Comments

I love the NC Botanical Garden. When I’m traveling too much, going there makes me feel like I’m home and things are normal and I have a routine.

Also, y’know, critters.

That's Sessile Blazing Star and a bee very very covered in pollen.

That’s Sessile Blazing Star and a bee very very covered in pollen.

paintedlady

American Painted Lady on some kind of swamp sunflower.

flowerbeetle

Some type of flower longhorn beetle, I think.

Winding Down…Or Up…

By | My Garden | 3 Comments

Five years gardening here now and I still am never entirely clear about fall in North Carolina. In a normal climate, we’d be revving up for harvest, bringing in the sheaves, all that good stuff. (It is, in fact, the Harvest Moon next week.) The heat is oppressive, though, and under normal circumstances, we’d have another few weeks of summer before fall came along.

We are not under normal circumstances. This is the weirdest damn year most of the locals can remember.

I do feel better for having gone to the farmer’s market and talked to my local farmers. What’s happened in my garden is dead normal. Everybody’s tomatoes were meh, everybody’s cherry tomatoes went nuts and then petered out fast, everybody’s squash got the blight and fell over and died. Most people don’t even have as good a tomatillo crop as I do, and tomatillos are so rugged that they would probably grow on the surface of Mars.

It’s still kind of depressing to be under the harvest moon and have maybe a handful of grape tomatoes, a load of basil, and a bunch of beans.

The leaves are starting to turn, but that could be drought. From tropical rains, we’ve got to “normal” summer weather—humid without rain. That wouldn’t be a big deal, except that it was too wet early on and all the plants got shallow rooted and huge and now they can’t really cope.

There are little green acorns pattering down everywhere.

It was, despite the vegetable garden, a fabulously productive year in the garden. There are woolly-bear caterpillars on the weeds (there are still a lot of weeds, despite intense efforts in recent hours) and Fledgling Count 2013 hit a whopping 14 birds. At least one spicebush swallowtail survived to adulthood, and our tiger swallowtail count was off the charts. My new groundcover of choice, Hypericum buckleyii “Appalachian Sun” is kicking butt and taking names in the backyard. So I shouldn’t complain too much.

Theoretically we’re moving into fall planting season…probably…but I’ll be honest, I don’t have the faintest idea what’s going on with the weather, so I’m a bit leery of plunking down more perennials. Perhaps I will simply let the season wind down with little gardener supervision, and hope that next year is a little less peculiar.