Hickory Tussock Moth

I was collecting some Black Walnut leaves for the Luna Moth Caterpillars I am raising (that’s another story!) and I came across what I thought was mold. After taking a closer look – they are caterpillars! A lot of them! Turns out I think they are Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillars and will only eat the leaves from black walnut, pecan, hickory and butternut. They can cause mass destruction and if they eat too much earlier in the season, they could cause permanent damage to the tree, even killing it. Most research says to kill them but I will keep my eye open for more masses and spare them for now. I have only seen this one patch.

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Happy Saturday!

Terrible background but what can you do – focus on the amazing right in front of you, that’s what you do! Enjoy this Red Spotted Purple Butterfly -Happy Saturday! 

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Pretty Cranefly resting on some grass. Don’t worry, these big insects to not bite like a mosquito and are harmless. They only live 2 weeks or so in the adult stage, some feeding on nectar and others on nothing at all.

Fun fact: when you find the larvae in the creek it is always fun to watch the reaction of kids (and adults alike) when they realize that the gills are located on it’s back end. Therefore … It breathes out of it’s butt. 🙂


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New Dragonfly 

Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time. 

I barely even saw this one as I was walking up our power line path because it was resting on some tall green grass. Look how much it blends in! 

Luckily I startled it just a bit and it moved. We have lots of dragonflies here – mostly ones with black stripes on their wings (Widow skimmers) and they are jumpy and almost nervous (which isn’t really a surprise because of the anatomy of their amazing eyes!). This one would fly up, reperch, fly up and reperch. Thank you for allowing me to get such a good look at you and to experience your beauty first hand. This is a new species find for me on the property! An Eastern Pondhawk Dragonfly! 

Turns out the Pondhawk gets it’s name because they attack their predators in the same way a hawk would. They can eat insects larger than them and even other dragonflies. When they leave the water and molt for the final time, the emerging immature adult is dull olive green but over the course of a few hours, the abdomen becomes bright green. Over the course of their adult lives the green of the male is gradually transformed into a duller shade of blue and finally a powdery bluish-grey. This one is either an immature adult or a female.

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We are constantly finding random things around here. Great Uncle Dick lived here to help take care of his mother as she got older. He was very much a “collector” of things and mostly just let them lay where he used them. We have found pitchforks, car radios, fuses and more car parts than I care to mention. This weekend Paul found this 5 foot chain as he unknowingly ran over it with the lawn mower and it shot out from under the mower deck. No one got hurt and it didn’t even tangle up in the blades. We have a saying around here when we find these things – but it has to be done with hands and fists in the air and of course always said with love. “Damnnnnn you Uncle Dick!”


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Save the Monarchs!

Look who decided to make an appearance earlier this week! I have been looking and looking for eggs and caterpillars with no luck. Seems like when I least expect it, they show up. There is something about the wonder of this whole amazing metamorphic process that still is hard for me to wrap my head around. It is to the point that I just sit back and admire the beauty and complexity in each stage. Welcome to our property little one.


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It’s too HOT!

I came home to find 12 workers with machetes clearing some of the new tree growth on the power line. At least they are doing as we requested and not clear cutting again. It was a terrible day here to do this job with high humidity and a dew point in the 70s. They were in boots, hard hats, long sleeves and jeans and had to be miserable. We told them to stop down when they were done and thanked them with some good old fashioned freeze pops.


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We Honor You

Make a Wish

By Sgt. Charles Leo Michaud (my grandfather) ▪️ May 2017

Did you ever wander on an evening when the air was still and cool,

Down by the rippled pool and little garden stool, 

While the moon was palely gleaming – did you abide by Nature’s rules? 

Well, I took one of those nighttime strolls through the garden, glowing bright

On a starry night – under a silver light. 

I heard the cricket on the knoll and saw the firefly in flight. 

It was as I chanced to glance above me that I saw away on far

A flashing bar – a shooting star.

And it fell into it’s home, the sea, where it’s fallen brothers are. 

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The Ultimate Camoflauge

Her spots will keep her safe … 

She is safe, she is hidden & mama is nearby. I love the book Lost in the Woods by Carl Sams & Jean Stoick. Gives such wonderful information about these young ones with amazing nature photos. 

Some think that a fawn that is laying alone is in need of help. Take a look at this infographic for more information. When in doubt contact your local wildlife rehabilitator for advice. If you are in Pennsylvania visit www.pawr.com to find the rehabber closest to you. 

Here is the first little one we found just this morning. Look at how the spots really help her blend in! 

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The Mayapple Quest

It all started one morning, on my way out to start my day, when I noticed a patch of emerging mayapples. The tree and shrub leaves had not fully awakened from their winter slumber making the new patch of plants easy to see. The young students that I teach lovingly call this plant “the umbrella plant” due to its very umbrella like shape! There are many fascinating facts about the mayapple including that it is poisonous to humans and that it also has some cancer battling properties! Another interesting thing about this plant is that they are all connected underground with a rhizomal root system – where you see a patch, to put it simply, they are all a family.
One evening after the spring warmth and rain had visited and made all of the flowers come alive, I decided it was time for a walk to investigate the Mayapples that I have finally noticed on the property. I am sure they were there last year and it was only my observation skills that needed a refresher. I decided that instead of visiting the path on the driveway I would head up on the back side of the house where I had seen some earlier in the week (after we did a quick owl prowl one night – that’s another story!). I found a HUGE patch of the plants and then went to look for the flower.
In order to have a flower you need a plant that has 2 “umbrellas” out of one single stem. In this large patch, there are no doubles. They are all single plants. My mind is confused and not understanding, to the point where it tells my body that “you just aren’t looking hard enough, maybe you should lay on the ground and look through the field of plants, surely you are just missing it!” So yes, after some time on the ground, I still only see singles. I move to another patch, and another and yet another all on the upper side of the property. All single stems. No flowers. I decide to head down to the stream bed and back to the original patch I saw. (Please note that this is about an hour later and a mile of walking, laying on the ground and scratching my head!) I should have just gone to that patch first – there are some flowers!!!
But it still lingers in my head – why so many plants with a single stem and no flowers? Why so many plants in the colonies on the upper side of the property? There had to be a hundred in the first colony I found. I need to also remember that I have only had the opportunity to explore about 5 acres of the family’s 70.
IMG_20170509_200727It turns out that the single stemmed plants could be young plants and this could be a young colony. Once a seed is dispersed to make a new colony (one article says that the Box Turtle is the primary seed distributor along with squirrels, grackles, white footed mouse, fox, raccoon and opossum) it will take at least 5 years for the plant to grow and another 8 years for those plants to produce a flower. After the plants flower they have decreased rhizome growth and a decreased chance of being forked and produce a flower the following year.
So, now the questions are
1. Do we have very young colonies OR
2. Do we have older colonies that produced fruit last year?
Only time will tell.
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