Peculiarities – The Difference a Day Makes

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Yesterday was so warm I went outdoors and weeded one of my gardens without a coat or jacket. The only winter apparel I wore was a brimmed hat, and that was to keep the brilliant sun out of my eyes. I’m amazed by the tough arugula still growing. They self-seeded in the Autumn from plants I neglected, and are growing strong.

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This is the same patch of arugula today. We are in the beginning stages of a strong Nor’easter.

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The bright snow is the perfect foil for the cardinals visiting my yard.

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The strong winds ruffle even the most demure little lady-bird’s feathers. I’m glad I’m inside, but I’m sure around noontime, after hours of birds feeding, I will brave the storm and go out to refill the feeders.

 

Phascination & Peculiarities – Supermoon

 

img_3982Over the past few days, I’ve been watching the moon’s position in the sky through late daylight and early evening hours. I’ve enjoyed the nightly broadening of the moon’s surface into a brilliant Supermoon. The trees in my backyard often obscure my early evening view of the moon, so I begin scanning the sky as soon as the sun begins to wane. The photo of the moon was taken Sunday evening, November 13th, near 7:00 Eastern Standard Time.

This is the closest Full Moon since 1948. There won’t be another one this close, or closer, until 2034.

Peculiarities – Graveyard

I am reblogging this post from 2013, one because it still amuses me when I remember our first sight of this graveyard decor, and second, the graveyard itself is in a beautiful setting in Belleplain. Third, it is the perfect entry in Jennifer Nichole Wells – Halloween Challenge.

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This angelic shelf on a tree gave us quite a laugh…especially since it was mounted on a tree bordering a graveyard!

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Peculiarities – Featherless Cardinals

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Last year, I was surprised to see a male cardinal with a patch of feathers missing atop his head. The exposed skin resembled a “flattop” haircut. This year the same bird seems to have returned, or another with the same condition, showing a head completely bare of any trace of feathers. My sister thought she saw the same bird in her yard, but it had a jaunty feather still attached like an ornery cowlick. I researched the condition and found an article on the phenomenon of cardinals losing their head feathers.

“Seasonally, a few birds are attacked by feather mites, tiny arthropods whose feeding destroys feather shafts. Normally, the birds would divest themselves of these mites by preening, but birds cannot effectively preen their own heads. Once the mites have destroyed their food source on the birds’ heads, they must either move on to a new victim or place themselves in jeopardy on another area of their host’s body.”
~Buffalo News

There is so much to see and discover in the amazing world God has created. Take a walk, sit and swing, look out a window today and enjoy the wonder of nature all around you. You might even spot a cardinal with a flattop haircut. ūüėÄ

Peculiarities – Ambergris

A few years ago my son took a trip to Hawaii. Knowing my love for rocks, he brought me home two pieces. One turned out to be¬†a piece of coral, but the other was odd, and had a funny texture when we held it in our hands. I can’t remember when the waxy feel of the rock joggled the little snippet of memory I had on ambergris, but it did, and I suddenly realized the texture pointed to the rock being ambergris. I did a bit of research, and yes, it had a definite ocean smell. It also had bits and pieces¬†of squid beak and sand mixed in…yes, I had a real piece of ambergris. I was elated.

How to Identify Ambergris

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“Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish colour produced in the digestive system of sperm whales.
Freshly produced ambergris has a marine, fecal odor. However, as it ages, it acquires a sweet, earthy scent commonly likened to the fragrance of¬†rubbing alcohol without the vaporous chemical astringency. Although ambergris was formerly highly valued by perfumers as a fixative¬†(allowing the scent to last much longer), it has now largely been replaced by synthetics.” ~ Wikipedia

 

As with any treasure, the quest was on to find more, and I did. The next piece of Ambergris was found in the opposite ocean, a piece of ambergris floated to me on a bed of seaweed, this time a gift from God. This piece is greyer in texture, not as aged and sweet as the first, but still a welcome find. It also has pieces of Squid beak embedded within it.

As you can see, my pieces of Ambergris have been cut in half. The other halves are with my nephew now, who was so intrigued by my treasures I was happy to give him pieces of them. I loved the fact that when I shared the piece from Hawaii, the resulting half resembled a heart. Somehow, in the sharing, the piece became even more special to me.

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If you find a piece of “funky” stone on a beach and don’t know whether it is ambergris or just something yucky and gross, do the hot needle test on it. An example of how to perform¬†this test can be¬†found in the following Youtube video. Happy Ambergris hunting…who knows…you might find the biggest piece ever!

Peculiarities – Horseshoe Crabs

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Horseshoe crabs are becoming a common sight once more along the beaches of the Delaware Bay. At one point in time they were severely endangered due to being used as fertilizer and bait for eels and whelks.

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A female lays between 60,000 to 120,000 eggs in a season. These eggs are important not only to further the population of horseshoe crabs, but also to provide food for endangered migratory shore birds.

Horseshoe crabs breed in shallow waters and lay their eggs along the beach. They easily upturn in the surf and it is not an uncommon sight to see dozens on their backs along the shoreline. Volunteers gather during mating season to turn the horseshoe crabs right side up again. You can read about their efforts here: Volunteers Saving Horseshoe Crabs

Although we weren’t part of a group, last year my cousin and I flipped all the upturned crabs we found back on their feet, or would that be legs…or claws? Anyway, we turned them right side up again. Unfortunately, several flipped onto their backs again with the next incoming wave. Still, I’m sure a few survived because of our efforts.

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We were really hungry after our rescue mission, and went to a terrific little bayside cafe called “The Landing.”

Peculiarities – Verbing Anyone?

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Does the photograph above have anything to do with the title of this post. Well, yes, it does. The next photograph might be explanation enough of my moment of “Verbing.

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“I just “smithereened” that plastic egg,” I mumbled as my shoe encountered and “smithereened” yet another Easter Egg. The grandchildren and I have had a good time with plastic Easter Eggs. Usually they are scattered all over the floor. The little ones like to open and shut them. The older boys enjoy using them for an egg toss game. Next week I will gather up every Easter Egg, take them outdoors, and with the grandchildren “bomb” the front yard with a rainbow of eggs. Flinging the eggs and letting them stay where they land creates a random and dare I say, “natural” look to the arrangement of eggs on the lawn. In the meantime I will try to tread softly and not “smithereen” anymore eggs to bits.

Here is a terrific explanation on the ins and outs of verbing: What is Verbing?

Place, Peculiarities & Phun- Block Island Mud on Clayhead Beach

Block Island 2013 278 One of our very favorite beaches on Block Island, Rhode Island, is Clayhead Beach. The bluffs on this beach are one of the first sights you see when you approach on the Point Judith Ferry. Within these bluffs is a clay that gives the beach its name. Those who pass by often take a handful of the clay and spread it on their bodies. Clay packs draw out toxins and are beneficial to your body. These girls were so sweet and allowed me to photograph them as they applied the clay. Block Island 2013 279

Here are the girls again before their walk back up the shoreline to Mansion Beach. Cute!

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Here is a bit of information about Clayhead Beach and Preserve: Clayhead Beach and Preserve

Peculiarities – In Love with Bugs/Dragonflies, Hoverflies and Bumblebees

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Dragonfly on Stick

I’ll admit I’ve always been in love with bugs. They are fascinating. Many of the ones I’ve included in this post are beneficial to have in your yard. Dragonflies, beyond their amazing beauty, are voracious mosquito-eaters. Hoverflies, besides sipping nectar from flowers, are a predator of aphids. Bumblebees, in their velvety jackets, are amazing pollinators.

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Peculiarities & Phascination – The Intruder

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This week I was surprised by an uninvited guest in my home. A brilliant green praying mantis, measuring about an inch and a quarter, somehow found its way into the house. Even though this amazing bug has outstanding predator qualities, and I am sometimes bothered indoors by the occasional mosquito, spider or stink bug, I knew he belonged outside.

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A good way to remove beneficial bugs from your home without harming them is to use a glass and a sturdy piece of paper. Place the glass over the insect and slide the paper between the bug and the wall. Voila…Captured! I try to release any bug that is an asset to a garden or to man into the garden.

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The mantis exploring his new home on an Echinacea flower.

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Peculiarities – Tiny Tadpoles/The Final Edition

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My tiny tadpoles are both a success and a sob story.

Success РThe tadpoles have flourished in a small container being fed boiled romaine lettuce. They are quickly metamorphosizing into frogs or toads. I still have not figured out which species they will ultimately become.

Sob story – After a July 4th weekend camping trip, we arrived home to a small toad clinging onto the side of the rock. I was captivated by the small scrap of life. He had only a stump of tail left, and I knew he would soon have the ability to begin jumping. I resolved to place the container into the garden in a shaded place the next day. The next day arrived only to begin with the discovery of the body of the first toad to morph. I realized that on the screen porch he had begun to need insects to eat and there were few or none. I immediately placed the container outdoors in a sheltered spot and added more water, rocks and a piece of wood that reached the top of the container.

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Success РThe rest of the tadpoles/frogs seem to be doing fine. I boiled up some more romaine for those who are still  in the in between stage of development and checked on the ones who are near total metamorphosis. Every tadpole seems to be doing well right now. Hopefully, in a few days I will have an empty container and be happy in the knowledge that the small toads/frogs are alive somewhere in my yard.

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Can  you see the almost developed frog/toad on the end of the wood, and the still developing tadpole on the rock?

Here’s a close-up of the frog/toad. My final thoughts on the adventure. I’m very glad I saved the tadpoles. When I first observed them in the puddles I also saw red-winged blackbirds plucking them out of the water as an easy meal. I knew that in their quickly evaporating puddle not many would survive. ¬†I’m glad I saved a few. I feel bad about the one that didn’t make it, but have high hopes for all the others. Would I do it again? Oh yes!

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Phascination and Peculiarities ‚Äď Tiny Tadpoles Part II

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The tiny tadpoles I collected from a mud puddle are thriving and growing. Their legs are developing. Yesterday I moved them to a larger container, and filled it with about an inch and a half of pond water. I added two rocks, a round tall stone, and a flat pebble. The pebble is partially submerged in the water and balanced on the taller rock. This will let the tadpoles become accustomed to the change in environment before they are ready to become a land dweller rather than live in the water. When the time is right they can crawl out onto the flat pebble and take a look at the world from a new vantage point. I will still keep the container on the porch. I am sure the hungry birds in my yard would make a quick meal of the little swimmers if they had access to them.

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I also cooked a batch of food to add to the fish food flakes and slimy leaves I have been feeding them. I boiled romaine lettuce in water until it was broken down a bit. I froze a few of the pieces in ice cube trays and gave the remaining pieces to the tadpoles. Within a few minutes they were devouring the boiled lettuce.

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The tiny tadpoles are doing well. I will update their progress in a few days. To read the original post go to this link: Tiny Tadpoles Part 1

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Phascination and Peculiarities – Tiny Tadpoles

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On a visit to the Jersey shore town of Strathmere last weekend, my husband and I parked in a huge puddle on the side of the road. When we returned to the truck after a day on the beach, I noticed that the puddle was filled with hundreds, if not thousands of tiny tadpoles. We have been having daily rains and the side of the road has become a river beside the concrete barrier of the curb. Knowing that the asphalt quickly heats in the summer sun and dries the puddles up, I immediately felt sorry for the tiny swimmers, knowing they probably wouldn’t make it to maturity.

I’m not sure what type of frog or toad these tadpoles are, but I am thinking most likely they are garden toads or tree frogs. I couldn’t resist saving a few and scooped them up with my palm and carried them home in a water bottle. (I say I did this for my grandsons to watch, but must admit, I still haven’t lost my childhood fascination for bugs and such.) A week later, most are thriving, although I think I did lose two or three. They are beginning to develop legs and the shape of their head is changing.

I found a good site explaining how to care for the small amphibians. A good way to feed them is to boil green lettuces until they are pulpy and place bits of it in the water. I am also lucky to have an outdoor pond that is filled with algae right now. (Hmmmm….not so sure that is lucky for me, but certainly is for the hungry tadpoles.) A little pond water added to their puddle water seemed to create the right environment for them.

Funny how quickly a person becomes protective. I am wondering what is the best solution for them as they morph into their final shape. I am thinking lawnmowers and hungry birds, and….well you get my line of thinking. What’s a person to do? Sigh….

Here is a terrific page on how to raise tadpoles to maturity.

Raising Tadpoles

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Peculiarities and Projects – Hanging Basket Hook

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In the photograph above you might think you are looking at a typical hanging basket…and you are of course! Look a little closer at how the basket is hung and you might see the purpose behind this “Peculiar” post.

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Yes, what you are looking at is a gigantic fishing lure. I found this a few years ago while beach-combing. After I carefully picked it up off the rocks of the Block Island coastline, I dropped it into my collecting bag. It hung alone from the rafters of my porch ceiling for a few years, a reminder of a happy day. This year, however, while looking for the ever elusive S-hook for attaching my hanging baskets to the chain, I came up with the idea to use the lure. It worked great, but just to be on the safe side I wound a bit of floral wire around it too. I’m very pleased with my unique hook!

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Peculiarities – Seventeen Year Cicadas

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We recently camped in Belleplain State Forest amid the “singing” of seventeen year cicadas, or in technical terms, Periodical Cicadas. My husband and I both thought the sound they created was much like an old Sci-Fi movie when flying saucers descended upon the earth. I’ve included a version here of the sound. You can read more information about the cicadas here:¬†Periodical cicadas

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The cicadas leave behind their eerie exoskeletons after emerging from the ground.

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The ground is covered with holes from which the cicadas emerged.

You can hear their song on the video I took amid the trees of Belleplain.

Peculiarities – Pareidolia

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What do you see in the photograph above? I see an owl staring back at me from the piece of wood. I found the weathered piece of wood on the beaches of Block Island, Rhode Island. I instantly saw an owl’s face when I gazed at it laying upon the sand. Seeing faces or shapes in clouds, wood or other objects is known as pareidolia. The dictionary defines pareidolia as:

Pareidolia – The imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features.

I often find faces in rocks. A favorite of mine is pictured below. SPOOKY!!!!

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If you have a few minutes to spare, and want to view more images, type pareidolia into google images.

Another place my husband and I often find strange pictures is on the underside of an oyster shell. I took our oyster shell musings a bit further when I painted the watercolor below. Do you see what I saw and tried to portray? Fun.

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Watercolor on Ampersand Aquabord, Winsor and Newton Paints, Size 5 x 7

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Peculiarities – Strange Centerpiece

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I’ll be the first to admit this is quite a strange centerpiece on my dining room table. If you look closely you can see the bettas that live inside the vases. The bettas thrive in these conditions, no matter what you might read to the contrary. In their natural environment wild bettas live in clogged rice paddies, and do not have long, trailing fins. The bettas above have been bred for captivity. My bettas do well, and are long-lived. One is nearing two years old. Their vases are on the large side and set close together so that each fish can see the others. Occasionally they will puff up their fins and display a bit of aggression, but in my opinion this keeps them interested and more active, which means a healthier fish.

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