Saturday, July 22, 2017

Butterflies! Butterflies! and more Butterflies!


Above, the Before Picture"...


After about 12 days, the butterfly emerges from it's tight enclosure (on the lower left, above) with amazing speed, (like, 2 seconds) once it is ready. The swallowtail above was out for a few hours, since its wings are well expanded.

 After it has had time to dry off and expand, we take it--cage and all--outside. Sometimes they have to be coaxed onto your finger and lifted out, to fly away. Sometimes, they want to ride around on your finger for a while. They are surprisingly individual.


This one settled on a cone flower in the garden and sat for several hours, another perched in a tree for a while, others soar immediately and disappear.


When they first emerge, their wings are tiny.




Here is a glorious example! We charmed both sets our neighbors' visiting grandchildren with this venture.

The photos have all shown different butterflies--we've released about a dozen at least, by now. The one shown above was especially individual. After his/her purge, traveled around the cage for hours trying to decide where to settle; finally was happy with a place at the very top of the cage. Flew away immediately when the cage was opened; only had a second to snap his portrait.

The other day, I was on our deck--"the launch pad"--when a handsome large swallow tail zoomed into the yard, up to the deck and circled me twice before flapping away. Like, "Happy Mother's Day"!

Monday, July 10, 2017

...a Book by its Cover...Robert Hicks' "The Widow of the South"...


What an eye-catching cover design on this novel of historic fiction! So evocative of the second half of the 19th Century. But is it fiction? Partly: the story is a novel based on the life of a lady--almost totally forgotten now--whose name, Carrie McGavock--was practically a "household word" at the turn of the 20th Century.

In the tiny town of Franklin, TN (now part of greater Nashville; home to country music stars) late in the American Civil War, a giant gush of bloodletting took place called The Battle of Franklin. The South lost; even had they won the battle it would not change the outcome: the surrender came about 4 months later. For the number of troops and the length of the battle: about 5 hours, Franklin is considered perhaps the bloodiest battle ever fought by Americans; a hopeless charge by the South against entrenched Northern troops in the town.

At end of the day, about 6,000 Confederates were dead--all over town--along with 1,000 Northerners.
Countless were horribly injured, waiting to die in parlors, public buildings, churches---and all over Carrie's plantation farm, Carnton. (Northern dead and injured were quickly whisked away to Nashville and beyond.)

She and the others in town nursed the injured and helped carry off the dead to a common burial in a field near town. It took months until the scene was cleared.

Carrie became world famous because eventually, the farmer whose field was used for the burial, wanted to replant with crops. But Carrie and her husband organized an effort  to bring all the remaining dead back their own farm for burial in the family cemetery. She spent the rest of her life documenting the dead, answering letters from families who wondered if their relative was with her at Carnton and tending the large cemetery. It still remains today.

Carrie McGavock was so well-known in her old age (she died in 1905) that the story of her work was influential to Margaret Mitchell when she was crafting "Gone With the Wind".

We "accidentally" visited Carnton and the Cemetery years ago, about 1993: the house was a hulk, through the grave yard was maintained by a local group. Since then, the author was this novel and others in the Nashville-Franklin area have raised funds and renovated Carnton as it was before the Battle. It serves as a venue for special occasions, etc. as well as a tourist site.

Even if not for the history, the novel stands alone as an exciting story of courage--and even a little romance. It reminded me a bit of "Cold Mountain", my all-time favorite Civil War novel.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Update on the "Hotel"


A total of 11 caterpillars were found and brought inside away from the greedy beaks of the birds.

I was concerned the over-crowding would result in caterpillar fights, but they get along nicely together. Ignoring one another.

I clean the tank frequently. 7 caterpillars are actively eating now. 4 have purged, found a comfortable twig and formed their cocoons. That is a very interesting process to watch, too.

In a few days, we will have lovely butterflies to release. I will try to photo record them. I have plenty of nectar rich blooms to support them once they are free. I hope they hang around a while.

The only "down side": the messy tank and the overpowering "dill" smell. Otherwise, a fun experiment.




Monday, June 26, 2017

Our Butterfly Shelter Hostel and Resort (for Black Swallowtail Butterflies) is open for the Season!



A couple of years ago, we noticed the caterpillars on our dill plants; research showed they were of the Black Swallowtail type. To our horror, we observed that the little caterpillars were the perfect snack for any passing bird!

More internet research showed us how to bring the little guys (and girls) inside to a dry aquarium with paper towel on the bottom and several plastic contains for water to keep their food (dill sprigs) fresh. Cover the container with aluminum foil so the caterpillars don't fall in and drown.

You need a couple of strong twiggy branches in there too, for their last transformation into butterflies.

The caterpillars eat the dill and poop. So you need to get in there every couple of days, renew the dill and change the paper towel, maybe refresh the water.

The first year we tried this, we saved one butterfly. Last year, two. Downstairs in my butterfly hotel right now I have 8 or 10 specimens, in different stages of caterpillar-dom. Old Lady Fun.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Meh" Thrillers from (not-so) Great Britain...


The best books by John LeCarre may be behind us by now; but I keep on reading all I find.

Lately, that included "Single & Single", a post Cold War crime thriller, featuring violence, money laundering, vice peddling of all kinds, gun running and so on. A readable novel, certainly.

The relationship between the spymaster (or undercover agent runner, in this case) and his agent, the son of the money launderer who has "turned"is delved.  As in "Our Game", the agent goes rogue in former USSR Georgia; as in "The Night Manager", the agent flirts with love---this female character was stronger, more interesting than the ladies in either of the above.

Bad Bait:

I was interested to find a British novel, made and sold in the UK which somehow found its way to my local paperback exchange: John Harvey's "Good Bait". "No one in Britain is writing better crime fiction" gasps The Times on the front cover. I feel I was duped, or standards of crime fiction writing have declined in the UK. I enjoy fine British writers, etc. I was disappointed.

The novel was a standard, modern police procedural; the eastern Europeans are the bad guys in this novel, the police detectives felt quite contrived; one character was shamelessly used as a literary crutch, as the story limped along. The author peppers and pads the story with musical and literary references from mid-to-late 20th Century...that felt old, but that is because I've been there. I looked up the You Tube for the jazz selection "Good Bait"...I'm not a jazz lover.

This book was engaging enough to pass my "Thirty Page Test", so I was "trapped"; then the story fizzled for 300 more pages.  So I was not happy with "Good Bait" or John Harvey!


Monday, June 19, 2017

Lots of Renovation Projects in Paducah, KY


What a nice facade on this old retail and office building. I hope it will be saved.



Imagine the old hardware store in its prime. Clerks, customers, managers all busy; the place would have been brimming with stock. Look at those lonely shelves.



The old Public Market was converted into retail space and theater; lovely historic space.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Paducah!



Best "ghost sign" I've ever seen!






Paducah, KY is on the come back trail, I hope. After a long industrial past, the town is the center of a growing arts and touring destination, especially for people who enjoy or take part in, the textile arts.

I loved walking the main streets of the downtown, with many restored old store fronts from the various eras; many are in the process.

There is an entire museum dedicated to quilting; the art and workmanship makes this attractive to all but the tiniest children. My husband enjoyed it. No photography allowed inside the museum, or I would show some examples.

Paducah was fun.