Category Archives: insects

LIFE IS FUN

          Life is fun — the things you take in stride, the things that flip you out.  Sometimes neither make sense which is what keeps life hopping with laughs — the weird idiosyncrasies of each an every personality that make it unique.
         I am like most females, I like cute little things like kittens and bunny rabbits.  I have learned to tolerate spiders on my front porch, but anywhere else I want them demolished.  I don’t freak out over most rodents, but I am reasonably cautious and don’t want them invading territory they shouldn’t.
          That leads me to my Sunday encounters.  I went outside to mow the lawn.  I was putting gas in the rider, which is backed up to my house.  Suddenly there is this flash of movement from the area behind the mower.  Something jumps out and naturally I jump with it.
Life is Fun
          Now you have to admit, when you are not expecting it those cotton-tailed bunny rabbits can be pretty ferocious looking when they are scampering out from a hidden spot and making a mad-dash across your lawn.  Once I realized what it was I decided it was safe to proceed with my plan of mowing the lawn.  I am here to tell about it, no further attacks.
          I was riding the mower along a fence line where the ground angles, so you have to stay close and battle any tree or bush limbs hanging over.  As I am traversing the path I apparently disturbed a black hornet or wasp (I can’t tell the difference) and he was flying around and at me.  I do not like those creatures, they are not nice!  To keep him away I automatically swatted at him, which I had to do twice before he finally left.  Then the mind does weird things…what if he goes to get his friends and gangs up on me?  What can I say, I grew up when all the “killer bee” movies were out.  Luckily I didn’t have to relive any movies, he stayed away.
          So I turn the corner in the front yard and bump!  I drive through a weird depression or hole that hasn’t been there before.  I have no idea what it was, and I did not get off to inspect, but of course I wondered…was it from a snake, a gofer, a mole?  Who knows.  I’m not going to ponder the possibility.  Hmmmm, could that be the reason I decided not to rake this week?
          So now that I’ve been blasted by bunnies, hassled by hornets and bungled by bumps the rest of the week should be a breeze.  What other creatures could possibly invade my personal space?  A spider.
           I was driving my car down the road and get a glimpse of something.  It was a very tiny, microscopic spider strolling along the inside of my windshield.   Now I must say that compared to the ones that typically live on my front porch, this one was so tiny it almost isn’t worth mentioning.  However I feel the need to point out that not only did I not flip out, but I just shrugged my shoulders and went “oh well” and let him enjoy his stroll.  Attempting to kill a spider when driving down the road is probably not recommended.  As I am writing this I do have one thought though.  I let him remain inside my car….what if he grows?  That is a thought I do not want.  Hopefully it gets hot and he dies of heat exhaustion before that happens.
     So as you are going through your day and encountering the various creatures of the wild, laugh at your own goofy, stupid, exuberant reactions to things and let the good times roll.
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Filed under backyard, bugs, Coping, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, habit, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spiders, summer

My Life is a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama

Murphy's Law - one line quoteAfter reading that title you are probably going huh?   If you think about it you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Murphy’s Law — if anything can go wrong it will.  Comedy — finding the humor in anything and everything.  Drama — something serious and/or with conflict.  Put those altogether and what do you have?  My life this past week.

Picture Lucille Ball, Home Improvement, and Grace Under Fire all wrapped into one and you’re probably coming close.  Of course it all didn’t seem comical at the time, there were some pretty good moments of stress, but overall you just have to roll with the punches.

Monday actually started the week off pretty good.  I was busy at work, but afterwards spent a nice evening at home.  Maybe that should have been an indication that all good things must come to an end.

Tuesday evening about 7 pm my phone rings.  “What are you doing?”

“I’m in Rochester at a my Freelance Writer’s meeting, why?”

“Oh shoot, that won’t work.  We were on our way to Ann Arbor and Rob’s car just died on us, we’re in Detroit, but you’re too far away.  We’ll call his mom.”

My daughter, her three young children and her boyfriend, stranded more than an hour from where I was.  I wasn’t really familiar with the area they broke down in, but let’s face it, stranded in Detroit is not a good thing.  She is 32 and capable of handling things on her own, but as a mother and grandmother you worry.  I received a text that Rob’s aunt, who lives in Detroit, went and picked them up right away because the area they were in was a bad section.  Rob’s mother was on the way to pick them up from the aunt’s house and transport them back home.  At least I knew they were safe.

Before they left the vehicle the first time Rob told Carrie to gather up absolutely everything out of the inside of the car, and she was smart enough to even empty the glove box so there was no revealing information about their residence or anything left.  When the aunt took Rob back to the vehicle an hour later it had been trashed – windshield smashed, battery stolen, and inside destroyed.  He popped the trunk and retrieved the diapers and other items they had just purchased and left the vehicle there overnight.  Not worth repairing, the next day they borrowed a friend’s car hauler and towed it to the junk yard, where they got a whopping $168 for it.  Now he is looking for something used, affordable and able to transport him and kids.  In the meantime he is driving my single-cab pickup truck my husband used to use for scrapping.

Caroline came to my house and picked up my extra car, a Ford Fiesta, later that night to borrow because her SUV was in the shop.  Wednesday afternoon I get a call,  “Mom, your car has no oil in it!”

“What do you mean it has no oil?   I just had it changed two weeks ago, drove it home from the dealership and it has been sitting in the drive ever since.”

“The oil lights came on and it made a funny sound, I pulled over and checked the oil, there is nothing in it.”

I called the dealership, they didn’t think it made sense but said not to drive it, they would send a tow truck.  I called my daughter to let her know what was happening.  Okay, moment of emotional breakdown here — my daughter’s SUV was at the dealership having repair work done on it for the third time, which was the reason she borrowed my car after her boyfriend’s car died, my Ford Fiesta she was borrowing is now being towed, my 2-year old granddaughter was at a day care approximately 25 miles from home, my daughter was going to be without any vehicle except for my pickup truck.  It wasn’t looking good, two adults each with jobs in totally different areas, three young children and down to a single cab pickup they were borrowing from me.

Her voice cracked, “Mom, I have no car to drive.”

I took a deep breath to hold it together.  “Where is Alex’s day care center?  If needed I’ll  leave work early and go pick her up.  Am I on the list?”

Stress, Stress, Stress.

The good news — my daughter’s SUV was done and ready for pickup by the time she and the tow truck arrived at the dealership.  The next morning I received a call that my car was fine, they forgot to hit the reset button when doing the oil change and the synthetic oil is clear so it can not be seen.  My daughter had put a quart of oil into it, thinking it was empty, so it was now over filled.  The dealership flushed it out and re-filled, no charge to me.

Thursday I get a call from my daughter’s boyfriend, “Was there a warranty on the brakes for the pickup when Ron had them done?”

“I don’t think Ron had the brakes done, and if he did I have no idea where he had them put on.”

As it turns out, the pickup, which is used mainly for gathering and hauling metal scrap, went quickly from the brakes seeming fine to showing they needed to be changed.  How bad?  Rob pulled into a shop to look into purchasing a set and before he could do that one fell off.  It had rusted off!  He purchased brakes, borrowed tools and changed that particular one right there in the parking lot.  The other one he did later that evening at home.  Good to go, maybe?

The next day Rob was driving the truck about 60 mph when the hood suddenly pops open, comes back and hits the windshield.  The hood latch had rusted through and given out, so now a new hood and new windshield are needed.  They are on a junkyard search for a hood.  Windshield will get replaced.  Did I mention I had just purchased new plates/tabs for that vehicle on Wednesday and this happened one day later?  Ever feel like your life is moving as if you’re on a steep hill standing on sheer ice?

What the heck, might as well finish off my Thursday mowing the lawn, which is on a riding mower so old it is Montgomery Ward brand.  No grass catcher, so it always leaves a nice trail of mowed grass and doesn’t get super close to the garden borders and fence so a lot of areas that always need to be trimmed, but not enough time to do that all in one night.   Hence I finish off my Thursday with a mowed lawn containing rows of mowed grass heaps and a fringe of long grass along all the raised borders, fence, etc.  plus other areas that the rider can’t go into that are still long because they must be done with either a push mower or weed wacker.  Just call my lawn Hillbilly Haven.

So I’ve verbally dealt with brake endangerment and/or replacement, the mowing of a lawn, and decide to take a well deserved rest in the hot tub.  I wear my new bathing suit, one of those tankinis.  Normally I’m a one-piece wearer, but I figured the look of a one-piece, convenience of a two piece, what could go wrong?  Little did I know.  Removal of a bathing suit top in a dressing room v. when it is wet are two different things.  When wet the back of the top feels like it is suctioned to my body and won’t let go.  So here I am in my bathroom trying desperately to extract myself from a bathing suit top that seems to be attached to my body with glue and I’m trying to figure out how to raise the back for removal without destroying the thing.   I can only imagine I must have looked like a really bad contortionist trying to remove myself from the grips of spandex.  I was about ready to break a sweat when I finally got that thing to let go of me.

Friday, sweet Friday.  Buried at work so I stay until 8 pm getting things done, run home and grab a quick dinner than head up to boat night — a huge event in Port Huron every year.  It is the downtown party on the eve of the Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race.  Upon my arrival I decided to “go live” on Facebook for the first time ever.  Shouldn’t that come with an instruction manual?  Watching the video later it was pretty comical.  I thought I was pausing the “live” part but apparently I wasn’t.  We have the phone being moved erratically, complete darkness when I put it into my pocket for a short period of time. and a view of everyone’s feet walking around.  Guess I should have looked around for an 8-year old to give me instruction before publishing that lovely documentary.

I arrive home from Boat Night about 11:00 pm.  As I’m walking into the house I feel something hit my head.  Hopefully not a spider — they tend to inhabit my front porch at night.  I walk into the bathroom and there on my head is a lime green creature.  It resembles a grasshopper with very long skinny legs and antennae.   I grab a tissue and try to grab it, but miss.  It must fly.  I located it on the wall behind me.  It doesn’t hop, it crawls.  Rather bizarre creature.  Guess I should have taken a picture, but at that particular moment I didn’t think of it.   I grab it in the tissue, throw it in the toilet, and flush.  End of bug….or not.  The next morning I go into that bathroom and guess what — the green bug is dead but floating in the toilet.  I use the facilities, flush and walk away.  A few hours later I go in to again to use the facilities and everything flushed down the toilet, but the green bug is back and floating in the bowl.   This happened at least three times.  It was the dead bug that wouldn’t go…it was haunting me!

Saturday went well, probably because I stayed inside doing paperwork all day.  Not too much tragedy when one is firmly planted in a chair — except when you sit too long and the tendon in your left arm tightens up and your foot falls asleep.  I must say the advantage of living alone when you are hobbling along on a foot that is asleep while trying to straighten and shake out your left arm is that no one is there to witness or video the moment.   I had the movements of a monster in a horror film.

Sunday, sweet relaxing Sunday, a day of rest and leisure.  Who am I kidding, my Sunday was far from that.   I spent several hours doing paperwork, then went outside to work on weed-wacking and raking the lawn.  Well, the batteries for the weed wacker only run about 30 minutes each, and one for some reason died after about 15 minutes, so didn’t get a lot done.   I still have a lot of fringe around the edges of my lawn.

It has been so hot I decided to see if some tree branches that fell in the spring and didn’t get cut up were dry enough I could break them into pieces to put in a lawn/leaf bag for collection.  They were, so there I was He-Woman breaking those limbs down with my small, garden-gloved hands and shoving them into the lawn/leaf bag.  Some of the larger ones required a bit more, so I would stand on one end and bend the other end up toward me attempting to break it off.  Only lost my balance a couple times but with some wild karate chop maneuvers managed to regain my balance and stay on my feet.  Poked myself in the stomach with the end of a branch once, and didn’t scream when I almost grabbed a spider off the ground.  Maybe there is hope for me yet.

So I’ve wacked the weeds, bagged the branches, and now I’m ready to gather the grass.  I like hot weather but it is no fun when trying to rake and sweat is running off your forehead and into your eyes, which makes your eyes sting.  By the time I got to the backyard I wanted to get it all into one bag and be done with it.  It was one very full paper lawn and leaf bag.  No room to roll the top over.  I pushed the grass down as much as I could, but it still was full right to the top.  It wasn’t heavy to carry from the backyard to the end of the drive, but it was awkward because I had to be careful so I didn’t trip and spill it.  Hopefully no one was watching as I did a waddle-walk with the bag gripped between my hands in front of me as I walked the length of the drive.

I decided to sweep off my front porch.  Spiders come out at night, so I am constantly sweeping and/or spraying away the webs.  I’m walking along, sweeping the porch and walked right into one of those fine spider webs you can’t see, all over my face.  Ugghh!  It feels like you have this sticky substance on your face and you just want it off.  There I am, wiping my face with my hands frantically trying to get this web substance off me.   Why in the world must spiders build there webs where people intend to walk?  Can’t they stay away from houses and leave us humans alone?  Apparently not.

Those aren’t all the things that went wrong during my week.  I’ve only blessed you with the highlights.  So how did I get through a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama week without falling apart or killing someone?    I look for the humor in each situation.

Picture a favorite comedy show character and/or show….I Love Lucy, Tim the Tool Man, Grace Under Fire, Sienfeld, or any other show.  Picture the main character in one of the above situations.   When reality is not reality but a comedy show it is funny.  When you’re having one of those weeks and living the reality, look for the humor in each  situation.  Try to relax, go with the flow.  It won’t be a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama week every week.  At least I hope not!

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Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  If like me you enjoy taking photographs of flowers and/or nature, this is a wonderful place to visit.

Matthaei has several options to fit everyone’s needs or desires.  There are several trails that are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, plus the conservatory, garden store, lobby and display gardens are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Admission is free; they do have a donation box inside the conservatory, and there is a reasonable parking fee of only $1.50 per hour or a maximum of $5.00 per day.  With the size of the venue I opted to pay the daily rate immediately._DSC6631

I arrived at 8:30 am.  It was quiet, with only a few people quietly walking out onto some of the trails.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and decided to walk the Sue Reichert Discovery Trail, which circles Willow Pond.   This trail is only 4/10 of a mile, which they estimate to be a ten minute walk.  I meandered slowly, taking pictures and stretched it into almost an hour, taking time to sit down a couple times on benches that were available.

The difference in time is whether you walk like the average person or walk like a nature photographer, skimming the area for possible subjects to photograph.  Doing so can make a fast walk take quite a while and is why I prefer to partake in such places either alone or with other photographers who understand the time frame needed to fully enjoy the area.

I decided to do the outside gardens first, and in looking over the map not only did I not go up into the Children’s Garden, but I also missed the Perenial Garden, Grower’s Garden, MiSo House and Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I started in the Gateway Garden, a relaxing spot with benches, rocking chairs and fountains.  I took photographs of flowers there, in the Marie Azary Bock Garden and in the Sitting Gardens before meandering down the Commons, which are bordered by two other gardens on the east and bench seating on the west.

The commons leads you into the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden.  Here you will find chipmunks scampering back and forth amongst the plants and sometimes climbing up on them as well, but trying to capture them in a photo is difficult.  They are quick little guys!  Once I completed my photo rounds of the herb garden I strolled between that and the perennial garden and went through a vine/plant covered tunnel which led to the opening of the children’s garden.  I had the option of going up into the children’s garden or taking a nature trail around the children’s garden.  What I opted to do was take a short trail not shown on the map into the Oak Openings Garden.

There was nothing to attract my photographer’s eye in the Oak Openings Garden with the exception of wild strawberry plants that had begun bearing fruit.  It was the bright red of the fruit that grabbed my eye as I looked down to scan the ground for photo subjects.  I followed the trail through the Upland Woodland Garden and across into the Wet Woodland Garden.  Unfortunately the hot weather we had been having left nothing  wet, it was, on that day, better termed a dry woodland.  Nothing caught my eye for photographs, so I proceeded into the Great Lakes Garden, which led me into one end of the Prairie Gardens, then the Coastal Gardens and back up where I started in the Gateway Garden.   Unfortunately a group was there partaking in the rocking chairs or I would have grabbed one for a nice relaxing break.

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By now I had been wandering for a few hours and decided to take a snack break before visiting the Conservatory.  One thing to keep in mind, the conservatory does not sell meals, only a limited selection of snack food, candy and beverages.  If you plan to be at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for several hours you may want to consider packing a cooler with beverages and lunch or snack food.   I had not planned that far in advance, so I purchased a small trail mix and flavored water.  There are one or two small tables where you can sit inside to consume your snack, and there are also tables available outside on the deck.  Food and beverages are not allowed inside the conservatory.

The Conservatory has three main areas, the Tropical House, the Temperate House and the Desert House.  Here you will find many plants and blooms to view and/or photograph.  On this day there was a water Lilly in full bloom, Cocoa trees, pineapples growing, sausage trees with their “fruit” hanging in abundance, and numerous other flowers and plants.  The Desert House has the majority of their cactus growing in raised display beds, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the wide variety.  I’m sure this was also done to preserve the fingers of little ones who may be touring with their parents.  Some of those cactus spines are pretty long and wicked looking!

I spent about five hours touring the trail, gardens and conservatory, and I didn’t see it all.  Keep in mind I was walking slow, took several rest breaks on the numerous benches that are available throughout the property, and was taking photographs.  The average person might tour it at a much faster pace.

I would like to go back and walk some of the trails I chose to skip, plus with anything growing outside the gardens and trails are a constantly changing canvas with growing seasons and weather.  If going they do recommend appropriate footwear for walking the natural areas and that you stay on paths due to poisonous plants such as poison sumac and poison ivy growing in natural areas.  The Massauga rattlesnake also inhabits the area.  I did not encounter any slithering reptiles, but did enjoy the “music” of unseen frogs as I walked around the pond.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I highly recommend a visit to University of Michigan’s Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, Botanical Gardens, bugs, Discoveries, education, environmental, exploration, flowers, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, summer, tourism, travel, vacation

Caffeine Addicted Ants

Saturday morning I was standing at my kitchen counter when a small ant walked by…just one, strolling along nice as you please.  Well he was, until I ended his tiny little life.  I wondered where he came from but didn’t give it much thought and went on with my day.

That evening I saw three ants on the counter.  What the heck!  I don’t have any open food, nothing to attract them.  Just who do they think they are invading my kitchen, and for what purpose?  It isn’t as if I have a feast laid out for the taking.  More like starvation mode when it comes to open food availability.  Yet there they were.  Were, as in past tense, I ended their lives abruptly.

Easter Sunday and the troops have gathered.  A little march of several ants daintily prancing across the back edge of my counter.  Time for major action.  I get out the bottle of Clorox Cleanup, their lives and trails are about to come to a chemically abrupt halt.  I plan to start my cleanup where I saw them.  They’re gone!  Where did they go?  Did they some how have a sixth sense about what my plans were and went into hiding?

Not to be deterred I started at that end of the counter and began my chemically enhanced assault on their chosen trail.   I began a clean and search mission to determine what was attracting them.  My first thought was the catch trays on the toaster.  Nope, no ants there, but they are now clean and empty.  They weren’t attempting to invade my candy dish of Werther’s Originals, nor were they near my dish of York Peppermint Patties.  These ants obviously don’t have a sweet tooth.

I’m working my way across the counter, moving things, spraying with Clorox Clean-up and wiping everything down.  The smell of the bleach in the product should help to deter the ants, at least for a small while.   I haven’t seen a single one as I’m cleaning.  Where did they go?

Then I move the coffee maker to spray the counter underneath it.  Wow!  Numerous ants under the machine happily milling around.  When I had a pot of coffee run over there must have been some on the bottom of the machine when I moved it back into place, and it had created a dried puddle of coffee on the counter.  That is where the ants were congregated.

I would have never suspected ants to be congregated in mass proportions under a coffee machine.  Is it the coffee they are attracted to, or the caffeine?  They were not inside the coffee grounds, only under the machine.  How were they consuming or transporting that sticky residue?  Does the caffeine give them a nice burst of energy like it does some humans?  One thing I do not want is ants operating on high energy in my house. Ant drinking coffee

Those ants experienced a very sudden chemical bomb delivered via spray bottle filled with Clorox Clean-up.  If anyone feels sympathy for them, it was a very quick death so suffering would have been minimal and death instantaneous.  In fact the ants died much faster than the removal of the stain.  As difficult as it was to clean up, I can’t imagine how those ants were getting any benefit from it.

The good news is I have not seen a single ant since Easter morning.  Either I have killed them all off (as if I really believe that), or they no longer have a purpose in traversing my counter.  Of course they could be lying in wait, hoping for another coffee run-over.

Summer hasn’t even started yet, so I doubt I will be lucky enough not to see those pesky little critters again.  When I do the first place I will check is the coffee maker, chemical bomb in hand, ready to inflict mass destruction on their invasive little bodies.   I think a killer instinct in me has emerged.

 

 

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Filed under bugs, Cleaning, death, Discoveries, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, spring, summer

Master Bath Guests

Our Master Bath has special guests that come for a short visit every spring and every fall. They must not like weather change because they arrive when the temperature warms slightly, then again when the temperature turns cold. They must eventually adjust to the change because their stay is generally short, only a week or two, and then they disappear until the next season.

What we can’t figure out is where the flies come from.  They just suddenly appear and generally stay up on the ceiling or near the lights.  An occasional visitor may be seen near the sink or floor, but not often.  They only come in small groups of three to six at a time, and seem to be lacking in energy.    They don’t fly around, normally just sit on the ceiling or wall.  We rarely find a dead one anywhere, they just suddenly disappear one day and don’t return until the following spring or summer.

house flyWhat attracts the flies to our master bath?  They do not appear anywhere else in the house.  What is even more bizarre is we always leave the door to our bedroom and our closet open and the bath is right between them, but the flies are never seen in either of those rooms.  What we have is the bathroom fly mystery.  Where do they come from?  Where to they go?  We may never know.

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Filed under bugs, home, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, spring