Thursday, December 15, 2016

December...Snow and Cold Temperatures

Tom took this photo on Tuesday evening.  Snow fell almost all day, sometimes big fluffy flakes and sometimes smaller ones as the temperatures sank.

Wednesday morning was beautiful.

Our old-fashioned lilac bush.  Tom's dad gave us the original bush.

The garden phlox.  My mother gave me the start from which these have grown.

We enjoyed watching the birds from our dining room window and were glad we were inside.  It was 11 degrees Farhenheit outside.  Last year on this day, the temperature was 60 degrees Farhenheit.  Both temperatures are unusual for December in southwestern Ohio.

 One of the Chickadees, picture by Tom

One of the White-breasted Nuthatches, picture by Tom

One of the Dark-eyed Juncos, picture by me.  My camera didn't give me a sharp photo under the conditions I had but I like to look at these tuxedoed fellows.  We start seeing them sometime in October and they leave by April.

There were other birds, too... Mourning doves, English sparrows, a Song sparrow, House finches...

This morning the temperature on our thermometer was 8 degrees.  Usually the official temperature is lower so we may break the record for low temperature this century.  I will know when I listen to the Dayton weather on the news tonight.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Bountiful Harvest from Tom's Garden on Legs

Monday morning I harvested the vegetables from Tom's garden.  The weatherman was forecasting a possible freeze during the night.

His garden has been bountiful. I've lost track of  the number of  times we have had vegetables from his garden this year.  He put in a soaker hose this year.  Maybe it helped that he watched the water supply closely.

In late July and in August, he harvested red beets.  They were a nice size and sweet, just the way I like them.  We had a couple meals of beet greens, too.  When I was a child, Mother fed us beet greens from her garden, using the leaves from the beets she pulled when she was thinning the row.  Sometimes she served us cooked beets with butter on top.  Other times she pickled the beets.  I liked them, no matter how she prepared them.

Lately, we have been having Swiss chard, green peppers, and green beans.

On Monday, I picked a mess of Swiss chard.  Tom planted spinach the first couple years he had his garden.  Then a neighbor told him Swiss chard was better.  It didn't go to seed and it was hardier.  Fewer insects bother it.

My Grandma and my Aunt Audrey always referred to a large picking as a "mess".  It is a country term from northwestern Ohio. It seems to me I have seen the term in books I have read about Kentucky also.

I also found a mess of green beans and seven green peppers.  This is the first year that Tom's pepper plants have done well in his improvised garden.

We didn't have a freeze or even a frost Monday night so we may get even more vegetables before the plants are finished for the year.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Lion in Winter, Play by James Goldman, Presented by The Drama Workshop

Cast: Front Row...Karen Romero as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England,  Wallace Johnson as Henry II, King of England.
         Back Row...Rick Hunt as Richard (The Lion-hearted) and oldest living son of Henry and Eleanor, James Gilhooley as John, the youngest son,  Michael Gettinger as Geoffrey, the middle son, Robert Hyer as King Phillip of France, and Hannah Goodman as Alais (French princess, sister of King Phillip).

Just by looking at the picture you can see one of the play's conflicts, the conflict between the young and the old.  The young are rising into power and the old are determined to keep their power.

Despite this being primarily a drama, there plenty of funny lines  These lines often have to do with the attitudes of  parents toward their children and attitudes of children toward parents. And in the case of  Eleanor and Henry, you will recognize the attitudes of married couples toward one another.

When Eleanor and Henry had a serious conflict, he used a solution available to kings. He put Eleanor in prison. Out of the goodness of his heart, he has let her out for Christmas.  Needless to say, they have strong mixed feelings for one another as well as for their sons.

Alais, the French princess adds turmoil as young pretty women do.

 Both Henry II and King Phillip have plans involving increasing their power and lands and so the Hundred Years War limps along.  The display in the lobby shows the lands  under dispute . To get a better look at the map , click on it. All in all, living as a ruler in  the twelfth century was like a game of chess.

Fortunately for me, the playbill also  included a time line of  English historical events which led up to this Christmas celebration.  (The Christmas celebration is actually an invention of the playwright as a setting for the drama.)

By the end of the play, Henry thinks he has solved his problems but we know better.

The play is directed by Francis Boyle and produced by Dennis Murphy.  Under Boyle's direction, the veteran members of the cast, Wallace Johnson and Karen Romero shine as powerful, opinionated royalty.  The supporting members  play the parts of unique and evolving characters who will rule the next generation.

As always, the refreshments at intermission reflect the content of the play.  There are tiny Yorkshire puddings and English Royalty Cho-Chip Scones as well as tidbits that honor French cooking.

The play is being performed on the Thrust stage option so the action is close to the audience and three-dimensional.  Here, a member of the stage crew is changing details of the set for Act 2.

As always, there is a long list of team members who provide the support which makes it possible for the actors and director to accomplish their magic.

The play will be presented again tonight, October 21, 2016, as well as tomorrow night and Sunday afternoon.  Check The Drama Workshop website:

 or call the box office at 513-598-8303.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Busy, Busy, Busy Weeks...Fall...And Then...Brr

We have been busy the last couple weeks.  We usually do a lot this time of year because it is difficult for Tom to get out when the weather is bad.

There has been the usual yard clean up, the hose to store, the generator to check out.  The grass is growing more slowly.  I haven't mowed since the tenth of October.  So far I have been able to "rake" the yard by using the mower to blow the fallen leaves up around the trees.  We will have to get out the old fashioned rake in a week or so.

The last time I mowed I noticed there were quite a few hardy plants sending up a flower or two.  There were a very few late New England Aster blooms on the plants we bought at the Aullwood Farm and Nature Center a couple years ago.

I checked out the other New England Aster, a cousin-in-law gave us many years ago.  The original came from Wisconsin.  It is different from Ohio's plants.  It doesn't begin blooming until the Ohio version is finished blooming.  The buds were still closed.

On October thirteenth we took a walk along the Miami County Bike Trail.  We walked  across the Great Miami River on the bike trail bridge for the first time.  Tom was hoping to find colorful foliage.  This is what we found...just a little bit of color.

We made a trip to northwestern Ohio last weekend to visit friends and relatives.  We also visited the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art.  The leaves were more showy up there.  This one was beside the parking lot.

As we headed back south, we continued to see colorful trees.  And the next morning when we looked across the street at the neighbor's yard we saw this.

In the backyard the last flowers were gone from our "Ohio" New England aster but the "Wisconsin" New England Aster looked like this.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Almost, Maine by John Cariani Presented by the Troy Civic Theatre

Almost, Maine.  The set...the stars are in the sky and the snow is on the ground.  The stage crew were pleased with the opportunity to try out the brick painting skills they learned at the Ohio Community Theatres Convention in Cleveland over the Labor Day Weekend.  There is a door to the left as well as to the right.  The set was perfect for expressing love in its many aspects in a little crossroads inhabited by people who are like people everywhere.

The play consists of eight skits plus a prologue, Interlogue, and Epilogue.  The last three are parts of one complete skit but also sum up the theme of the entire play.

There are plenty of opportunities for gentle laughs, for remembering when we have our own problems with this thing called love.  Sometimes the skits caused me to think, "I know where this one is going."  Sometimes I was right.  Sometimes I was surprised.  Some of the questions explored are "How  do you measure the size of love?"  "How does hope affect us?"  " How can something be sad and glad at the same time? "  "How does a person know whether something hurts?"  "How do we know if we are actually seeing what is in front of us?"

There is a bit of almost magic woven into the community of Almost, Maine.  Sometimes things are a bit different than real life.  But they are only a little different.

My daughter called this "an actors' play" because each cast member has an opportunity to portray several characters with varied personalities.  The play can be performed by as many as nineteen individuals or as few as four.  The Troy Civic Theatre's version has a cast of  nine.

Almost, Maine is a relatively new play, first performed in 2004.  It only played in an Off-Broadway theatre for a month but has steadily increased in popularity.  All types of theatre groups from high school to professional produce it.  For many years it has been one of the top ten plays performed in high schools.

If you choose to see Almost Maine, you will leave the theatre with happiness in your heart and perhaps, a rueful smile.  It takes us so long to learn about love and there is always more to learn.

The cast for Troy's production includes...

Beth Shrake as Glory/ Rhonda and Steve Dietrich as East/ Phil/ Dave

Jennifer Kaufman as Marvalyn/ Hope and Sydney Edington as Ginette/ Waitress

Jenny McClain as Sandrine/ Deena and Doug Lowe as Jimmy/ Lendall/ Man

Braden Stafford as Pete/ Steve

Niccole SueAnn Wallace as Marci

Tina Hayes as Gayle/ Shelly

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Brukner Nature Center Butterfly Transit, September 11, 2016

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) Wingspan 1.75-2.40 inches (4.4-6.1 cm)

Thank you, Jim for this photo.

When I looked at my photos I realized I had not taken one photo of a Silver-spotted Skipper.  I could not believe it.  There were so many Silver-spotted Skippers that I didn't think of taking a photo of one.  It didn't seem important.  There would always be one more.  And then I entirely forgot to get that one photo.

"Oh, well, Phil probably took a photo."

But, no, he didn't.

There were lots of Silver-spotted Skippers the week of  September 3, and also the week of  August 28. But on September 11 there were so many that we were overwhelmed by their numbers.  The final number decided on for these skippers was approximately 127.  There could have been many more.  Every time anyone moved a few steps along the lane, he or she would report, "Another Silver-spotted Skipper, No, there are four, five, six."When a vehicle was driven up or down the lane, the skippers rose in uncountable  numbers from the vegetation.

Though we saw a multitude of Silver-spotted skippers, we saw only one of each of the following.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) Wingspan 2.25-3.0 inches (5.7-7.6 cm)

The butterfly is named for the two tiny silver markings on the underside of its hind wing, a curve and a dot.

Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)  Wingspan 2.0-2.4 inches (5.1-6.1 cm)

The comma has a commar shaped silver line on the underside of its hind wing.

American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) Wingspan 1.75-2.40 inches (4.4-6.1 cm)

This is a butterfly we rarely see.  I think it is the first one we've seen this year.  Ruth circled the distinguishing dot on the underside of the front wing.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)  Wingspan 3.5-4.0 inches 8.9-10.2 cm)

We are beginning to see a few Monarchs in the area.  They are arriving a little later than usual.

Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis) Wingspan 1.4-2.0 inches (3.6-5.1 cm)

This was a new butterfly to me when I started helping on the Butterfly Transit.  Its habits are similar to those of the Pearl Crescent (below) and looks much like it.  However the Pearl Crescent doesn't have the white spot surrounded by white on the hind wing.  Ruth marked the spot witrh an arrow.

Pearl Crescent(Phyciodes tharos) Wingspan 1.25-1.6 inches (3.2-4.1 cm)

This Pearl Crescent has a shadow across its hind wings but it is clear that it doesn't have the white spot encircled by black as the Silvery Checkerspot does in the photo above this one.  The Pearl Crescent is much more common in our area than the Silvery Checkerspot.  We saw 6.

We saw 2 Gray Hairstreaks.  We don't see them often and often we  see only 1.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) Wingspan 1.0-1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm)

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) Wingspan 1.5-2.0 inches (3.8-5.1 cm)

This is a butterfly we often see in the fields and on fallow land as we drive by.

Summer Azure (Celastrina neglecta) Wingspan 0.80-1.25 inches (2.0-3.2 cm)

Our final count...
   Silver-spotted skipper...approximately 127
   Pearl Crescent...6
   Summer azure...2
   Silvery checkerspot...1
   Gray hairstreak...2
   Eastern comma...1
   Question mark...1
   Clouded sulphur...3
   Cabbage white...3
   American Painted Lady...1

We three photographers managed to get at least one photo of each one except for the Clouded sulphur.  I am pleased.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Walking the Brukner Nature Center Butterfly Transit with Steve, September 4, 2016

I didn't feel up to walking the Butterfly Transit on Saturday with the Brukner group.  Instead, Steve and I did our own Butterfly Transit walk on Sunday afternoon.  I gave Steve the notepad and pen to record the butterfly species and I concentrated on getting photos.

We looked hard for caterpillars and insect eggs as well as for adult butterflies.  We found the cluster of eggs below on a common milkweed plant near the Interpretative Center front doors.  We were primarily looking for Monarch butterfly eggs but they don't lay their eggs in clusters.  I don't know what these eggs will hatch into.

We found a tiny yellow lump.

It seemed to be a tiny insect.  One of the great advantages of the new cameras, even a relatively simple one like my Olympic Tough is their ability to magnify tiny objects.

An anglewing flew past, not stopping so we could identify it as a Hackberry or a Tawny Emperer.  Probably it was a Hackberry because we usually see them near the front of the Interpretative Center.

We were hoping to find butterfly caterpillars.  We didn't find any but we found other things, a  ladybug...

and  a black and white and tan spider.

We found webworms on a redbud tree.

Near the log house , Steve spotted this  Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar.

Steve used his pen to point out an interesting bug.  I have seen them before but I'll have to go through my insect field guides and see if I can find a similar one.  It has an interesting light and dark pattern around its abdomen.

This butterfly teased us at Catface Pond.  We thought we were seeing one of the dark swallowtails but when I enlarged it on my camera we could see that it didn't have any tails.  It was a Red-spotted Purple.  It had no tails and the blue pattern on its wings with the black line across matched the photo in the butterfly field guide.

We saw the first Pearl Crescent of the day along the pond shore also.  We saw 15 total on the Butterfly transit.

Our first "gold mine" of butterflies was on the land bridge between Catface Pond and the meadow.
We saw at least 20 Silver-spotted Skippers as well as 3 Hummingbird Moths And a Hummingbird.  All of them were feeding on tall thistles.  A ragged Great Spangled Fritillary flitted past also.

Just as we were about to walk on toward the meadow, Steve found this fierce fly.  Look at those big eyes and pointy mouth.  It's a robber fly which flies out, stabs passing flying insects and inserts a chemical which paralyzes the insects and turns their insides to liquid.  He can then find a resting spot so he can sit and sip his meal.  Most robber flies have a hump behind their head and large eyes with a dip between them.

We found Pearl Crescents, Cabbage Whites and 1 Tiger Swallowtail in the meadow.  We also saw quite a few more Silver-spotted Skippers.

On the Hickory Ridge section of the Transit we found this caterpillar which is probably a moth caterpillar since it is hairy.  In the overgrown prairie patch we found more Silver-spotted Skippers and a few Pearl Crescents.

It was along the paved lane as we walked back to the Center that we found what really pleased us...5 Monarchs.  Here are photos of two of them.  Notice the Silver-spotted Skipper in the second photo. We saw huge numbers of them along the lane.  I'm sure we didn't count all of them.

One sat on my wrist.

Then it flew to Steve where it stopped a moment on his pants.  The skipper was gone by the time I
turned to take that photo.

It was along the lane that we found a third caterpillar, fuzzy so it, too, was most likely a moth larva.

At the Butterfly garden, we saw more Pearl Crescents and also a little blue butterfly, either a Eastern Tailed-blue or a Summer Azure.  It flew into a tangle of flowers and leaves before we got a good look at it.

We also saw a lot of honeybees and bumblebees on the flowers.  Steve especially likes bees so I took pictures of them, too.

We tallied our finds when we returned to the van.  We discovered that we had counted at least 56 Silver-spotted Skippers.

We were amazed by the huge numbers of Silver-spotted Skippers but we were happiest to see the Monarchs.  We haven't seen many this summer.

Our "official count" was
   Silver-spotted Skippers...56
   Tiger Swallowtail...1
   Red-spotted Purple...1
   Pearl Crescent...15
   Cabbage White...10
   Blue (Azure or Eastern Tailed-blue...1
   Hackberry Emperor...1
   Friterllary (probably Great Spangled)...1