Fragments from Floyd Photos and Front Porch Musing from Floyd County Virginia Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:18:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 tEWWWsday (Snake)Tales Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:18:27 +0000 Continue reading tEWWWsday (Snake)Tales ]]> snakeCollage480
Collage was easy with the help of Fotor app for Mac.

EWWWW! Is a gut response usually reserved for spiders and snakes.  Somewhere deep in our collective memory we carry a native fear buoyant on a  deep layer of disgust when it comes to certain kinds of animal. Plants, not so much.

I, OTOH, rather enjoy having both spiders and snakes a part of our warm-season co-inhabitants and have recently shared a celebration in webs.

But what I am realizing here past mid-way through the summer of 2015 is that we are not seeing our herptile regulars–the brown water snakes that bask on the rock foundation of the barn or the black rat snakes that sun on top of the sliding doors of the barn [the one pictured here is Lumpy–with probable tumor not a hen’s egg.]

We are not seeing the colorful corn snakes that have startled me imitating rope in the shed or the queen snakes basking in the blackberry canes that arch out over the creek or the rough green snakes we see every couple of years. It’s been maybe since early June that we’ve seen a single snake.

So where are the snakes this year? Is it just here on Goose Creek (that is always a few degrees cooler than most everywhere else) that fewer snakes are showing up?

Graphic cobbled using Canva

Are you seeing MORE snakes this summer or LESS than you typically do?

What triggered the direction of this morning’s thread was this NatGeo article below that elucidates the exact physiology of death by constrictor. Now this has a certain EWWW factor, if you’re up for some informative videos and deadly details. You’re welcome.

Why We Were Totally Wrong About How Boa Constrictors Kill

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Put a Bug in Your Ear Mon, 27 Jul 2015 11:14:59 +0000 Continue reading Put a Bug in Your Ear ]]> I tried it and I didn’t care for it.

Fortunately, I was not alone, quite. Wife was just leaving for work at dark-thirty. I had been out on the back porch adoring the grand-pup who is officially boarding here while her family is traveling (vs the prior unofficial boarding overnight on our back porch more nights than not for the past few months.)

The yellow porch light draws fewer insects than a white light, but it only took one: a very tiny moth, enthralled by the lure of the bulb. Its erratic bumbling flight path took it just exactly into the waxy depth of my ear canal.

And thus contained inside my head it was not able in the tight confines of this dark orifice to create enough thrust to gain lift-off but only to propel itself deeper still towards my brain with unimaginably loud flappings and thrashings of its eagle-sized wings. Or so it seemed. And no head-shaking or banging with the palm, no amount of leaping or twirling would serve to do anything other than stir the lepidopt to even more panicked flailings.

The options loomed black before me. Do nothing: Leave the creature alone to flap until it died or succumbed to exhaustion; or Do Something: risk pushing it back even farther toward the eardrum with a pair of eyebrow tweezers–the only available tool suitable for this purpose in trembling hands in the poor light of the bathroom where the procedure took place with far too much emphasis for my comfort on speed–on getting the job done quickly so wife could drive off to work.

I am happy to report that things came out okay. Except for the moth.

Let Me Put a Bug in your Ear – Damn Interesting

Foreign object in the ear: First aid – Mayo Clinic

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Tomato Horn Worm: Gotcha! Thu, 23 Jul 2015 12:03:51 +0000 Continue reading Tomato Horn Worm: Gotcha! ]]> IMG_4481hornworm480Moveable Feast: Dinner is served.

As a matter of fact, dinner is almost done for the eggs embedded with great accuracy and intention by the mother wasp into this otherwise invisible garden pest–the tomato (also called the tobacco) horn worm. See the horn up top?

She found and then injected the host caterpillar many times with her hypodermic ovipositor  (at least as many times as you see white cocoons of eggs-turned-to-pupae). Those eggs have hatched, turned to tiny larvae who have eaten caterpillar juices and tissues, and emerged to the exterior to spin an external cottony capsule attached temporarily to the host.

Each of these wasp pupae will fall to the ground, hatch this season or next year into more tiny braconid wasps, who will patrol my garden for more tomato horn worms. They can find them before they do too much damage. The human eye, not so much.

I mean, lookit: Compare the color to the tomato leaves in the background. BAM! A perfect match. Compare the striations and diagonal lines on the caterpillar to those of the veins of the tomato leaves: BAM! Remarkable! Horrifying!

This sucker, got to hand it to him, is a marvel of camouflage, so I am indebted to the chemical tracking (I suppose) that makes easier wasp targets of such as this that would defoliate our ‘maters in no time at all.

Ain’t biology wunnerful?

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Webs Laid Low With Pasture Mow Wed, 22 Jul 2015 12:03:19 +0000 Continue reading Webs Laid Low With Pasture Mow ]]> For everything you get, you give up something.

We are very happy to have our pasture mowed. But that means that there will be no more spider webs festooned from the tall grasses, dew-covered and bejeweled, backlit by the sun when it finally crests the east ridge.

So here, two birds (er, spiders) with one rock: a brief tribute to our web weavers that will return after a few weeks of pasture uprising; and a subject to weave into a little story using a new media tool called Shorthand:social.

It really does offer a better photo-essay medium than the tiny width of this blog space for full-dimension images. Hope you agree.

Click image to VIEW STORY…


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Wasting Away in Margaritaville Mon, 20 Jul 2015 12:34:36 +0000 Continue reading Wasting Away in Margaritaville ]]> WellsParty480This unidentified couple is being sought by the ASPCA for blatant cruelty to animals–here depicted using a crude flame thrower to roast a live lobster in the shell.

Making matters worse, they forced a naive, innocent parrot to look on during this gruesome display of wanton disregard for the dignity of the local wildlife on a recent Floyd County evening.

Meanwhile, the human wild life probably wound on til the wee hours, while this pair stepped on a pop top and limped on back home.

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Built on Rotting Foundations: CyberInsecurity Thu, 16 Jul 2015 12:11:30 +0000 Continue reading Built on Rotting Foundations: CyberInsecurity ]]> July09_0124barn_480Now that I’ve lost you with the very title, let me say as little as possible so as to move onto other things.

I’ve been interested–and concerned–about the fragility of our way of life that, like it or not, has come to depend on the interwebs for commerce, finance, communications, strategic defense and essentially every aspect of life in the more advanced parts of the world.

The latest buzz is on the legitimate need for increased cybersecurity with a long list of corporate and governmental and utility hacks gaining entry (and stealing data and leaving behind various minor to major malicious bugs) that probably has impacted one or more of you-whether you know it yet or not.

But if increased cyber-security is all we focus on, the future of e-commerce, banking, all the rest of it: is crusin’ for a bruisin’.

Our existing rickety and incompetent digital infrastructure has its physical counterparts in the rotting bridges, foundations, water mains and power grids of the nation.  And we have continued to pile quick fixes for new major system functions on top of ancient code foundations and patches that will not forever support what is being placed on top of them.

When the wind blows, the cradle will fall. Last week’s simultaneous “hardware glitch” that variously impacted United Air, WSJ  and the NYSE seemed too much to be a coincidence. But it was. Probably. And if it was, it paints a disturbing picture of our nearsighted construction of a digital skyscraper on top of a chicken coup.

Not to draw the threat of cyber-attack with too fine a brush–take a look at the Norse Attack Map (which they say only shows about 0.01% of the actual exchange.

Further reading:

Computer glitches struck the stock market and United Airlines on the same day. Here’s why you didn’t believe it was a coincidence. – The Washington Post

Why the Great Glitch of July 8th Should Scare You — The Message — Medium

Cybercrime Blackout Would Cost U.S. $1 Trillion, Report – Fortune

Related articles

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One Man’s Junk: Info-Hoarding Wed, 15 Jul 2015 11:07:23 +0000 Continue reading One Man’s Junk: Info-Hoarding ]]> I confess to being a hoarder. My wife would say that my desk offers ample piled-higher-and-deeper evidence of that claim, but I actually need just so much disordered STUFF around me to make my mind seem like a relatively organized place by comparison.

The hoarding I am admitting to has to do with information. It started when I was a full-time teacher lo those many years ago (when xerox copies were all the rage.) It continued, digitally-enhanced of course, when I became a blogger in 2002 and ramped up a few notches when I went back to teaching a little at Radford U in 2004 and 2005.

The web scrapbooking persisted during the halcyon days of blogging whilst generating a wide-ranging newspaper column every two weeks for seven years (for the Floyd Press and Roanoke Star–once Star Sentinel.)

This blog post–should I actually hit publish rather than delete it at the last moment–began in my mind with the intention of actually pulling out several of the saved snippets from this month’s hoarding list– you can see a piece of the list in the featured image.

But now I have run out of coffee and also know I have exceeded the number of words that mark the end of a blog-reader’s tolerance for screen time without a cat picture or youtube video. My apologies for that. For both of you who are left standing, read on…

Today’s preferred method of info-hoarding  saves webpage title and url (via Firefox add-on called Fire Link) to a table created for this month for this purpose in OneNote for Mac. The green column is for tags to help me remember who sent the link or what I intend to do with it (blog, read, watch, send, research etc.)

If I collect a link that I want to read right away and annotate and keep permanently, then I save it to diigo and on the first reading, highlight pertinent terms, phrases and paragraphs with sticky-note comments.

Both OneNote and Diigo have very good search capabilities. So if I remember something I read six months ago about trilobites that would fit well with something I read today about loss of biodiversity,  I can go back and pull it up and think about weaving that into something interesting for–NAH.

Now mostly I just collect rumination-fodder of a morning and drink coffee until it’s gone. Someday, perhaps the thing I thought I was going to write in this space this morning.

OOH! Another link gathered from the Zemanta links to this post!

TeachThought – Learn better.

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The Worms Crawl In: The Marvel of Death Part One Wed, 08 Jul 2015 12:47:30 +0000 Continue reading The Worms Crawl In: The Marvel of Death Part One ]]> moleCarrion8480Walking back to the house from where the bear had left his calling card (in yesterday’s post), we noticed a commotion on the ground near the bridge over the branch. The ground seemed to be boiling with eyeballs–the dark spots on the white pronotums of broad flat beetles that were relative late-comers to the carcass of a recently-deceased mole.

The flies (in an assortment of sizes and shapes–look closely at the larger image linked here) had come first to the feast as they typically do when a creature makes the instant passage from alive to dead–an amazing transformation, really, that as much as any other phenomenon carries us some distance toward a “definition of life.” But more on that tomorrow, perhaps.

Not surprisingly, since there is an ongoing supply of dead things, there is a wrecking crew for that job–the beetle family Silphidae–that specializes in the location and disassembly of the cold corpus of recently-inanimate vertebrate animals. You can see at least two species here: the oval-shaped eye-spotted American Carrion Beetle and the more slender orange and black Tomentose Burying Beetle.

When you hunker down to gt a really close view of these lovelies (as I know you will now do the very next time you happen upon a corpse–if nothing else, pull over when you pass recent road kill for this opportunity!) look for this:

Tiny tan mites are often observed on the wing covers of the American Carrion beetle. Some suppose that they serve in a mutualism: they get a free ride to their next meal, and the beetle is kept free of surface bacteria.

But the story and the team-work goes much deeper than that. As soon as the flat carrion beetle lands at the work site, the mites leap off and begin eating fly eggs and even young maggots that compete with the beetle for the flesh of the frog, snake or roadkill possum.

The burying beetle, as you’ve already guessed, are excavation specialists. They dig beneath the carcass until it is in a trench, then cover it up after laying eggs in the meal, out of the reach of other beetles or flies. They will even dismember small bodies to make the burial go quicker.

I discovered with some dismay that there is a burying beetle that once was found over much of the country that is now endangered, found in only five states. Since there is still a steady supply of dead creatures, what could account for such a change for an animal whose dietary needs are always in adequate supply?

One piece of evidence apparently suggests that the extinction of the passenger pigeon may have played an early role in the eventual drastic decline of this particular burying beetle that looks very much like the ones feeding on this particular mole.

Hiker’s Notebook: American Carrion Beetle

Nicrophorus tomentosus – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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What Black Bears Do in the Woods Tue, 07 Jul 2015 09:34:36 +0000 Continue reading What Black Bears Do in the Woods ]]> IMG_4432bearpoop480The dogs–yes, plural, we still have our grand-pup with us: the one you can enjoy and then send home to the parents (neighbors)–were disturbed most of the day yesterday by something over on the barn side of the road.

They never went far to challenge it, and returned to sit up high on the driveway to keep watch, cautious and uneasy.

On our final loop of the day along the pasture path, we came across (almost stepped in) a sign of the source of their disturbance.

This bear scat probably weighed three pounds. It’s hard to get a sense of scale in this late-afternoon image. But you can tell that it   consists almost entirely of black raspberry seeds.  The blackberries are just now coming in.

So as I said yesterday, it has been a bountiful year. And it is not just the jam and jelly makers that are filling their bellies with berries.

And I ask you, fickle blog butterflies: where else you gonna go in the blogosphere to find pictures of poop? Come on back later this week and I’ll show you new base-levels of down-to-earth blog bio-topics–and then I’ll try to find something pretty for later in the week so I don’t run off yet another wave of visitors.

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Natural Abundance: For Good or Ill Mon, 06 Jul 2015 11:51:54 +0000 Continue reading Natural Abundance: For Good or Ill ]]> IMG_4389raspberries480Should we expect a hard winter this year to come?

That might be the conclusion of some Floyd County “plant by the signs” folks. If there’s lots of acorns, it’s Nature’s (or God’s–choose your source of Providence) way of making sure there’s the potential victuals laid by come winter for those busy ants or squirrels or home gardeners who plan ahead.

We’ve never seen the pasture grasses so high across the meadows and fields of Floyd County as they have been this spring and early summer. (Ours, unfortunately and yet for another summer,  is still awaiting those who want it but never get it while it is of any quality. Next summer, we’ll make other arrangements.If you want it and can cut it in early June, it’s yours.)

The black raspberries and blackberries are everywhere, coming slowly to ripeness without  any mildew. We don’t need more than we have already picked, but can’t bear to see them unharvested.  You never know how many more years it might be til there’s a crop like this again, and those winter cobblers are such a boost to one’s anticipation of summer sun from the short dark days of January.

We have this year the “goldilocks just-right” mix of temperatures and moisture to have a blessed abundance of vegetation and fruit–so much so that we joked yesterday that for our morning cereal, we though maybe we’d leave off the cereal and just have the blueberries, peaches, black raspberries and blackberries in tupperware on the counter among the Bran Flakes and Great Grains.

IMG_4390rhododendron480The white rhododendrons (Catawba) are the most beautiful we’ve ever seen in 16 years here, all blooming in unison across the dense “laurel hell” that covers the north slope of the gorge between here and sunnier places up top.

At the same time, we’re seeing an invasion of greenery that is not so benign.

Poison Ivy is showing up in so many places we’ve never seen it before. Same thing for multiflora rose. And the newer kid on the block, Japanese Stilt Grass, obscures the ground across almost all of the end of our valley. Thankfully, we have little threat of poisonous snakes being concealed therein, but stepping on a “harmless snake” invisible underfoot is something we would not want the grand daughters or a city visitor to experience.

No telling what the rest of the summer will be like in this decade of seasonal and regional extremes. But for now, as long as we can keep ahead of it and keep the house and yard somewhat distinguishable from rank field or forest, we’re benefitting from the blessings of enough but not too much providence.

We are beholding to the rains that fall on the godly and the ungodly alike. Wish we could send some of this moisture to put out fires in the northwest; or some of this fruit to the vast millions of round-bellied children around this feral planet.

One place understood–the nature and human community of one place appreciated moment by hour by season–should make us appreciate better all places and people in their relative abundance or poverty of rain or sun, goodness or evil.

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