Tag Archives: butterflies

Defying Certain Death In Three Acts

Please, no autographs right now. I know I star in this blog, but I have to go play. Or climb something. Or both.

Please, no autographs right now. I know I star in this blog, but I have to go play. Or climb something. Or both.

Well, Memorial Day weekend got off to a big start Friday, with three death-defying acts:

Act I
When Amelia Shows She Can Climb

We had three grandkids overnight, and no, exciting as that is, it does not count as a death-defying act. After a morning bike ride with Amelia, Audrey picked up Nikayla at preschool, and we headed off to Willow Park in Marion for a picnic lunch/child handoff.

Where Amelia, unsurprisingly, defied death.

They have a climbing wall thing at that badly named park (badly named because there was no willow in sight at Willow Park) that consists of four plastic climbing walls, and two different types of side ladder things, one a metal spiral, the other I don’t recall but it doesn’t enter our story anyway.

The climbing walls lead to a platform perhaps 5 feet off the ground. The walls seem built maybe for kids ages 5 to 8. Amelia turns 2 today, and is small for her age, but nonetheless, she had little trouble scrambling up the climbing walls, even if it was a bit scary to watch her. Still, that was not yet defying death even if the action sequence was a bit exciting.

Once she was atop the mountain, the idea was to get down and repeat. The metal spiral ladder thingie was her chosen route. Now, we’re ready to defy the ultimate demise.

Amelia grasps poles on the platform with either hand, and slips her body off of the platform. She’s now hanging there by her arms. She stretches her legs out and finds the spiral with her feet. It’s a rather long reach for her peanut-sized body. The first time she got into this position, she accepted her mother’s help to move her arms to the spiral metal ladder, which she then descended on her own.

Of course, having survived once, her goal was to do it again immediately. Up the climbing wall, onto the platform, over to the spiral ladder, precariously hang there, swing your feet out, barely reach the spiral and then prepare to move a hand across the abyss, which requires you to stretch your arms to their maximum reach.

Amelia’s mother offered her aid, again. “No!” Amelia declared emphatically, and shook her head for emphasis—then she groped across space, finally securing a finger hold on the spiral. She then used said finger hold to lift her whole torso so she could move her other arm. All onlooking adults were poised for disaster, breaths held—but Amelia was unconcerned. She latched on, and quickly scrambled down, climbed, hung, groped, reached, scrambled down, climbed, groped, reached … etc.

Death was successfully defied. At 2, she has not learned the meaning of fear. Everyone who knows her has.

Amelia at park.

Amelia on the platform. In front of her are the two poles she will hang onto and dangle from. It may be scary to watch, but she’s not worried a bit.

Act II
An Act That Is Not Toni Safe

Fair warning, there definitely are creatures with multiple legs.

That afternoon, Audrey suggested that we take the kayaks out for the first time. It was a cool morning, but it was a nice afternoon, so Ben and I agreed. Ben and I loaded the kayaks and equipment while Audrey packed sodas. And we’re off to Pleasant Creek Recreation Area Lake near Palo.

The water was super cold and the lake a bit choppy. Ben and I went out first, and we headed west to the cove where a canoe rental area was once located.

We don’t know if it’s because the water is high this spring, but Ben and I found that the western cove extends to a narrow waterway that is apparently this lake’s turtle club. We saw multiple turtle sunning themselves on partially submerged logs—about a dozen in all, including one log crowded with six turtles. Many of them slid into the chilly waters as we neared, but we still got pretty close, and it was pretty cool to see.

The waters of the lake were very clear, and we could watch many fish swimming around. We saw a rabbit guarding the woods, a lone goose that we wondered about (others seeming to be more social) and a large bird that at first we thought was a hawk, but as it got close appeared not to be a hawk, but was fun to watch, whatever it was, anyway.

All in all, a fun first kayak outing. And, despite chilly waters, wind and some waves, not really death defying, but it serves as prelude. Cue ominous music.

After Audrey and Ben went kayaking, we drove home, and while Ben and Audrey went inside, I unloaded the kayaks. Ben came out to help carry in the other stuff, such as the towels.

Then, I went into my bedroom to change into a lawn-mowing outfit. My plan was to mow before taking my post-kayaking shower. As I was picking out my blue jeans, something tickled my right ear. I reached up to brush off the ear, and felt something moving on my neck. Again, reflexively, I brushed my neck with my hand, and something plopped to the ground at my feet.

Something with eight legs. Something that was rather large with eight legs. Sorry, Toni, but true story.

Now, the odd thing is that I didn’t scream like a girl or like a bonobo or like an owl or like any other creature. For some reason, the appearance of a Very Big Spider that had, let me remind you, been crawling on my neck didn’t disturb me at all. My reaction was to call Ben—not for rescue, but because I knew: A) He would want to see the spider and B) He’s a more experienced spider wrangler than I am.

That’s right, blog fans, sometime between my childhood and now I’ve become so blasé about arachnids that when I find a huge one which has been tickling my ear, my first reaction is: “How can I safely release this one?”

So, armed with a magazine and Tupperware, Ben trapped said spider, which he then released on our deck. And post release, I snapped its picture as it was escaping to the other side of a planter.

Yes. The spider defied death. Honestly, I was not at risk. It was not a brown recluse or black widow, blog pals, so I was really never in any danger. It was.

Spiker on planter.

Yes, it was big. Yes, it was on my neck. Yes, it was safely released in the wild. Later, we watched “Ruthless People.”

When I Mow and Plant and Trim The Dangerous Tree

We’ve arrived at our final death-defying act, friends. I mowed. Ben and Audrey, meanwhile, went to Home Depot to buy geraniums, and while there were kind enough to get me a new butterfly bush.

I had two in the front garden, but neither survived the winter. Butterfly bushes are touchy plants in this climate—they normally die down to the soil line, but usually come back. Not this year.

But, I do like this kind of bush, partly because its flowers are cute, but mostly because it does live up to its name and attract pretty summer fliers. I can’t say the butterfly bush defied death since it actually died, but hold on, blog fans.

The drought last year, followed by a long winter, was a bit rough on some plants. Of 10 Arbor Day trees planted last year, three survive this spring—a maple, a sweet gum and a dogwood. That’s OK, because I am not short of trees.

The butterfly bushes expired. Some other bushes in back survived, but have more than the usual level of dead limbs. It was a tough year. See more of my May 24 garden photos here.

And in the front yard, 2/3 of the hawthorn tree bit the dust. So, after mowing and planning my new butterfly bush, my goal was to cut off the dead top of the tree.

With old rusty bush trimmers, which meant holding the tree and gnawing at it for a while. It’s a hawthorn tree, so called because “haw” is an old name for “berries,” and this tree is supposed to bloom and produce decorative fruit. The other half of the name is because this pretty flowering tree sports 2-inch spikes of death, which I defied by cutting 2/3 of the top of the tree off.

Luckily, no blood was shed. And yes, I consider cutting the top of a hawthorn to be a much more dangerous act than having a giant spider climb on my neck.

Hawthorn tree.

The tree, trimmed despite it’s thorns of death.

So there you have it. Friday was a good day. The grass is mowed, the turtles seen, the spider released, and Amelia still showing her monkey skills.

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Butterfly Bush Guests Include Wasp and Bird

I have a few minutes before a family outing, so I’m in a rocking chair on my front porch, Nikon in hand, long lens in place, hoping for butterflies.

I’ve seen Monarchs and large yellow exotic-looking creatures here before, but on this warm afternoon, the visitors seem a bit more mundane, some skippers and a painted lady to spice it up.

I can’t help but move. I want to be closer, to see the little visitors in more detail, although I can’t get less than five feet away and have my camera focus.

I shoot photo after photo. Digital photography seems like such a blessing and a curse—so easy to shoot and shoot and shoot.

There, the painted lady is facing me. Oh, now a side view.

Then, two butterflies are on the same cluster of flowers—will I capture them both?

Wanting a short break and a change of scenery, I wander over to check out a drought-stricken hydrangea that is just now coming into bloom. I see a medium sized black wasp and raise my camera, but it’s gone.

So I go back to the butterfly bush, where I discover what the wasp is up too-sucking nectar from the same bush as the butterflies.

Well, I’m glad the Japanese beetles are departing, leaving this bush to the wasps, but mostly to the butterflies. A butterfly bush is delicate—it dies to the ground each winter—and it’s not particularly showy. But it lives up to it’s name, and that’s enough.

Maybe tomorrow a monarch will deign to visit …


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Chasing the Bright, Elusive Butterflies and Bees


Morning shoot found few critters, but stalking the back yard was the neighbor's cat.

As we were getting ready for Amanda’s Baby Shower on Saturday, I snuck out for a while to photograph the gardens.

My idea was to capture some bugs on the flowers—we have cone flowers and butterfly bushes that attract a lot of visitors.

New gnome

New little gnome, gift from sister for watering her gardens during her trip to Boston. I plan for this little fern to be in the Times office at MMU, so new gnome won't get quite as weathered as many of his garden pals. Does gnome count as garden creature?

The bugs were not so interested. I got some nice flower photos, and cute pictures of granddaughter Lizzie playing in water on the back deck, but few bugs.

Well, it was a cool morning. Later that same day, after the shower, there was more bug life to see. Got some new monarch photos, a moth on the neighbor’s wall and some bees.

Cool. Good pictures come to those who wait. I’ve photographed monarchs before, but had the longer lens on the Nikon, and I think I got some better pictures. Besides those flickr images, here are more on Facebook.


Monarch on butterfly bush. More on Flickr in link at end of narrative blog post.


On neighbor's house, a month. Not the cat neighbor, other side.

And a bee ...

Final image, a bee.

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University Flowers and Butterflies, Too

Have not checked yet, so I don't know the kind, but one of many butterflies on flowers blooming in gardens near Basile Hall and Donnelly Center on Mount Mercy University campus.

Today, for a class exercise with my freshman “portal” course, I snapped a bunch of photos around Mount Mercy University’s main campus.

Most were of building parts or people freshmen should know, but since it was me and they were there, of course I shot a few flowers and butterflies, too.

Another butterfly, different type, again I have not yet checked. There was quite a variety, but they were moving fast and only got these two clear shots.

The butterflies were all in a garden just east of Basile Hall, right outside the Basile Beans coffee shop. The flowers are getting past prime, but still draw plenty of nectar sucking insects.

Just a short post—the semester feels likes its’ kicking into high gear and I must get to bed soon. But, I hope you like one more illustrated flower post.

Hibiscus in bloom near campus map sign that is at entrance to Warde Hall parking lot.

Planter outside Donnelly.

Rose of Sharon or other Hibiscus vareity beside steps outside Basile Hall.

These are growing near the "pit" parlking lot door to the Hennessey Rec Center.

OK, not a flower, but has the right vibe. The Grotto pond.

Former President Dr. Thomas Feld supported the Art Program's efforts to restore the grotto. His daughter JJ died young, and the new Grotto pool was named in her honor--and many of her shells were incorporated into the restored Grotto. Here is one on the Grotto bridge.

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A Trumpet Will Sound Soon

Trumpet flower bud on clotheslline. No leaves nearby because, before Audrey draped it on the line, this particular vine branch was on the ground, where Mr. Rabbit ate all the leaves. First flower on vine years after it was planted.

No, it’s not the end of the world, no matter what GOP Tea Party candidates might say. It’s the biggest news in my gardens since, well, since I discovered how photogenic coneflowers are.

Anyway, despite Cate’s experience at her and Paulette’s previous house, were neighborhood trumpet vines attempted to take over most of the Plain States, I planted a trumpet vine near my clothesline.

Around 2003 or so. Maybe 2004. A while ago.

I was hoping I can keep it contained, since it’s isolated from other gardens or ground. It stubbornly keeps sending up numerous root sappers, but—and this is the only good think I’ll say about Mr. Bunny—they apparently taste good to rabbits and have not been hard to control. True to form, the trumpet vine has been a vigorous grower. However, it has never bloomed, until now. There are now two isolated clusters of buds swelling, and, as you can see, the vine will officially bloom this year. My vine is blooming a month later than every other trumpet vine in Cedar Rapids that I’ve seen, but I am comfortable with late flowers.

A tree addict can’t be too picky about when things bloom.

No butterflies, but some pretty coneflowers. Gallery below will feature day lilies and more coneflower shots.

Anyway, I have a minor bit of camera envy. A former student posted a pretty butterfly picture on a coneflower as her Facebook profile photo. She used a Nikon SLR to capture a butterfly perched on the flower. Nice shot, Mickey.

I would love to have a digital SLR. I’ll have to do something really impressive to get one for Christmas or birthday next year—and, unfortunately, it’s not the only beyond-regular-gift budget item I’ve been coveting these days (ever since the Continental died, I’ve wanted a racier bike, which would cost as much if not more than the swanky camera I also want).

As Sheryl Crow sang, however, it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you have. My little auto Kodak digital toy doesn’t do everything I would like, but it’s a game little camera.

Of course, I’ll have to post some trumpet pictures later when the vine actually blooms—I hope it won’t wait until I’m at camp in Tennessee. We’ll see.

No cute butterfly on the coneflowers. There’ve been a lot hanging around, but I’ve not captured them in a digital file. Today, I was reading a biography of William Randolph Hearst while swinging in the backyard, camera at the ready, glancing up just in case now and then, but no dice.

And Hearst needs more direct attention than that.

Hanging in a swing, waiting for a butterfly that never showed up, being berated by a small bird—what a great way to spend some time on a warm summer afternoon. Afterwards, I’m afraid, probably comes lawn mowing.

Still, I hope you enjoy yet another set of flower pictures from my gardens.

Daylilies in back yard, similar shot later of simliar lilies in front by mailbox.

Hydrangea in front. One by oak in back is not blooming yet, but the hydrangea tree Ben gave me last year is.

Daylily in the side "wall" garden in front.

Daylilies, same type as in back, but by the mail box. Also below.

This bird may be nesting somewhere in my side gardens or in a very nearby tree. When I approach the east side of my back yard, he's there to berate me. Fear not, young dinosaur, you are immune from any harm. If you were a wasp on my deck, I would wait until sundown and then kill you. Luckily, you're not a wasp--something that makes both of us happy.

Coneflower, final image. A butterfly would have come in handy.


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