Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cool Caterpillars

The moment we discovered caterpillars marked the beginning of a whole new world of natural history exploration for us. They are so varied, so colorful, so fun to find and so incredibly important to the natural food web. And, that's without mentioning they become the magical butterflies and moths we all love! Wow.

It's a good thing Steve noted this Saddleback caterpillar on his shoe before getting stung on those many spines. They're supposed to deliver one of the most potent stings of all caterpillars - a great defensive technique for sure. What a beauty! This guy is homegrown. All our wildlife plantings are working!

Here's another homegrown caterpillar on one of the roses in our old field. The long-winged dagger moth feeds on many woody plants including rose, blackberry, cherry, oak and more. We have all of those!

While hiking our long hike at Mohican State Park we found more cool cats. Our quick moving feet stopped at every caterpillar crossing the trail, which surely contributed to our long rest times which added up over the day. What are you to do though when you love to look at nature stuff?

The hike started quite cool (note our knit hats) so many of these caterpillars were quite sluggish. We can't imagine being cold blooded and at the mercy of the air temperatures!

The white-blotched heterocampa wandered the trail and caught our eye with its rosy coloring. According to David Wagner in Caterpillars of Eastern North America, this caterpillar turns pink when prepupal. Probably by now this caterpillar is coccooned and will perhaps over winter in this stage? This caterpillar feeds on oaks.

The gold moth caterpillar feeds on crownbeard, wingstem and perhaps others in the Asteraceae family. We found this caterpillar on the edge of the woods near the clear and cool Clear Fork branch of the Mohican River. This seems a perfect place for its host plant to grow.

The green-striped mapleworm turns into one of the prettiest moths - the rosy maple moth - pleasingly colored in yellows and rose.  They feed on maple, box elder and oak.

The pink-striped oakworm is super cool and is one we've not seen before. They feed on oaks.

The asteroid always turns up in old fields in fall due to its love of aster and goldenrod flowers, which are in full bloom this time of year. It's a colorful caterpillar fitting the vibrant autumnal hues of the season. forecasts some great weather in the 10 day so more caterpillar findings are a sure bet. You know we will be outdoors looking!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

One Happy Chicken

Why Are We Smiling?:

Well, we got this little chicken who had been attacked by a dog and, from that, had one foot that was curled up into a ball and essentially useless for walking purposes. Once she was named (Anna Lee) and part of the family we just couldn't tolerate what had happened to her foot and set out to fix it.

Using a plastic lid, a piece of scrap cedar wood, some small screws, some pop rivets, a hinge and some masking tape we fashioned a little shoe that we hoped would fix her foot. Sounds unlikely doesn't it? Yeah, that's what we thought too but, lo and behold - it worked!

Here's how it went - first, we cut the rim off of the plastic lid and refined the shape with a pair of scissors. Here you can see Annalee and the fitting process (I've un-curled her toes and forced them into a flat plane for the fitting):

Next we attached a small hinge to the plastic base using pop rivets and, to the other  side of the hinge, we attached a short piece of wood. The latter we sanded very smooth as it would be in direct contact with her leg. Then, using masking tape, we attached the wood "strut" to the back of her leg and the plastic base to the bottom of her foot, positioning the leg and foot strategically as we went.

The moment of truth! It wasn't  pretty but this little shoe allowed us to un-curl and secure all of her toes back into a flat plane:

She took to using it right away. We left it on for just one week then removed it and, believe it or not, the toes stayed put and Annalee has been walking around like a champ ever since!

This would have cost us who-knows-how-much money if we'd even been able to find a vet that would bother with this issue. At times like these we are glad to be able to use our noggins rather than our wallets!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Data Plan

Our Data Plan has absolutely nothing to do with smart phones, tablets, apps or the web. Our Data Plan is all about unlimited elevation profiles, unlimited miles on the trail and unlimited vistas witnessed.

Today we got some good data (see our  Plan's "device" below), not the least of which was 19.6 trail miles at Mohican State Park! That is the longest hike we've ever taken in one day and we were surprised to find that we maintained a 2.2 MPH overall average. Not bad considering minimal training and that we both carried about 10 pounds or so in our packs.

We hope that your Data Plan includes your own source of unlimited inspiration.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Homemade Kick Plate Saves Doors and $$$

A few years ago we salvaged some nice French doors and used them in our small green barn for a main entry. While the paint held well on the upper 2/3, it peeled badly on the bottom - primarily due to de-lamination that had progressed before we got them. Like most things, a simple fix is possible under the "where there's a will, there's a way" philosophy. Here's how we fixed it for pretty much free:

1) Scraped off excess peeling paint:

2) With a handy oscillating tool, cut a downward-sloping groove just above the peeling zone:

3) From some old sheet metal fashioned kick-plates the top of which would fit into the groove and the entirety of which would cover the peeled zone:

4) Using some roofing screws left over from another project, attached the new kick plates:





Now we can run a bead of clear caulk along the top to seal the groove and then touch up the remaining, but minor, peeling zones. A bit of weathering and we will have that sought-after "patina"!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

It's the Little Things: Ray Spider Egg Case

We found so many of these little egg cases while hiking not long ago. Thanks to the Tracks and Sign of Insects we identified the little case to belong to some type of ray spider. 

The cases are so tiny and so whimsical...all these little ornaments adorning the woodland greenery. 

How cool it is to live and experience the wonders of nature!