July 2011


I didn’t take any photos today, so I’m going to post one I took while I was in KY. This is a mimosa blossom:

Mimosa

Mimosa


These do not grow in New Hampshire, and I don’t recall ever having seen one when I lived in Virginia. But they do grow in Kentucky and in Arkansas.

Mimosa trees were one of my favorite “toys” when I was a kid. The branches form very low to the ground and angle out at 45 degrees or less. This makes it incredibly easy to climb, and I spent many hours in the branches of these wonderful trees.

When we lived in Arkansas (from when I was four until I turned eight), whenever Mom would come home from the grocery store with bananas, my brother Steve and I would each grab one and run to the nearest Mimosa so we could pretend we were monkeys.

The nearest mimosa was in Mr. Ham’s yard. He was a widower who lived in the house next door, and I don’t think I’ve ever met a finer man. Mom was worried we would break a branch, so she hollered for us to get out of his tree. Mr Ham heard this and hollered back at Mom, “If they break a branch, I’ll just saw it off! You let those boys play in my tree!” What a guy!

We moved away from Arkansas after four years, as Dad was transferred to Grand Forks, ND. We moved back to Arkansas again four years later, but Mr Ham had died while we were up north. He was as much my grandpa as my real grandpa’s were.

The leaves of the mimosa are bipinnate, and the little leaflets can be easily stripped off and turned into whatever a kid’s imagination calls for. Soup anyone?

The flowers are fantastic, and they smell great too. The one in the photograph was growing at Virginia’s Dad’s place, and as you might be able to tell, it really took me back. A great deal of my childhood revolved around the mimosa.

We set out for home this morning. As I was packing the car, I noticed a huge moth on the window of the room next to ours. I had to think twice before sticking a camera up to the window of a hotel room that someone else was checked into, but I figured the huge moth would serve as an adequate alibi.

Huge moth, from the top

Huge moth, from the top


I have made no attempt at an id yet. Here it is again from the side:
Fat and juicy

Fat and juicy


I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a moth as fat and juicy looking as this one. I estimate the wing span at three inches, so its body was about the same diameter as my index finger.

We made good time, and made it all the way to Wythville, VA by about 6:00pm. We checked into a hotel, and told Beth about the giant pencil we knew was in town. I looked it up on the Internet, and saw that we were less than two miles from it (though there were no geocaches near it, which really surprised me). Beth and I got in the car and drove into town. We set up this shot:

Forced Perspective

Forced Perspective


Beth really liked the pencil. Here’s another perspective of it:
20 foot Pencil

20 foot Pencil


I almost wrote the caption as “20FT OIN” but that would not have made sense without an explanation. They are doing a bit of roadwork on the side roads surrounding I-81 in VA, and they warn truckers of this by noting the width of the roads on the signs. The first sign read “10FT OIN” all in one font. I didn’t get it at first, and was puzzling over its meaning. What is an oin? Maybe a letter fell of the sign? Loin doesn’t make any sense either, so it can’t be that. All of that flashed through my brain over the span of a couple hundred milliseconds before I realized that OIN was zero inches.

Duh…

The next two signs warned of an 11FT oin, and a 12FT oin. I guess the oins just get bigger and bigger the farther north one goes!

Today was our last day visiting in Kentucky. In the morning we will hit the road and begin the long journey home again. Here are a few shots I’ve taken over these past few days:

Unknown milkweed

Unknown milkweed


This is some sort of milkweed, but I don’t know the precise species. It could be swamp milkweed, but I’m not sure enough to make the call. I found it at the edge of a ditch near the hotel.

Another unknown

Another unknown


There was lots of this near the hotel too, and I have no idea what it might be. At first I thought it might be some sort of a mint, but the leaves were most definitely not minty smelling. I plucked one and held it against the sky to better capture its general form:

If anyone out there on the interwebs knows what it is, I’d love to hear it.

We spent our last evening at my parent’s house. Dad has a hummingbird feeder set up there, and he has reported that the hummingbirds have at times landed on him while he was refilling their feeder. I figured that if they were that unafraid of humans, I might as well try to take advantage of that.

I stood by the feeder for several minutes while these tiny little mosquitoes tried to carry me away. Seems the females were more brave than the males, as several of them buzzed me.

Female ruby-throated hummingbird

Female ruby-throated hummingbird

I eventually backed away a bit and used my camera’s crappy zoom. It did better than usual:

Miss Ruby

Miss Ruby


I usually reduce the size of the images I post here so I don’t have to wait five minutes for the photo to upload, and chew up all the bandwidth in the house. This one is not reduced at all though – just cropped. Same effect on the bandwidth though.

I really enjoyed spending time with Mom and Dad, so it’s kind of sad to be heading out in the morning. However, the temperature at my house is 59 degrees right now, and I am looking forward to that again.

Here’s another unknown plant blooming in Va’s aunt’s yard:

Unknown Asterid

Unknown Asterid

The common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) from yesterday is an edible plant. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

At night its leaves trap carbon dioxide, which is converted into malic acid (the souring principle of apples), and in the day, the malic acid is converted into glucose. When harvested in the early morning, the leaves have 10 times the malic acid content as when harvested in the late afternoon, and thus have a significantly more tangy taste.

So naturally (and being confident of the id), I sampled it this morning with the intent of nibbling on a little more later in the day. The morning sample was tasty indeed, but I was not able to try it in the afternoon.

And of course, my Dad knew what it was. He said they would pick buckets of the stuff and feed it to the pigs. The pigs would eat all of that first, and as a result, they used to call it “pigweed.” Wikipedia lists “pigweed” as one of its common names, but pigweed is an epithet used for many other plants as well.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll get a shot at eating some later-in-the-day purslane/pigweed/Portulaca oleracea.

Buttonweed (Diodia virginiana)

Buttonweed (Diodia virginiana)


Here’s a plant that I first found two years ago at the hotel we’re staying in right now. It’s still growing here, but I could not remember its name. I went through my photo tags and found that it is Buttonweed (Diodia virginiana). It reminds me a lot of bluets, but these are hairy, and they’re in bloom in mid-July.

While I was outside this morning (it was already in the 90’s at 7:00am), I spied this plant too. It is unknown to me:
Unknown species
I’ll try to figure it out when I get home. I’m pretty sure this is common purslane (Portulaca oleracea).

I also found some dock that had gone to seed:

Dock (Rumex spp)

Dock (Rumex spp)

Before it got too hot, we went to visit Va’s aunt. She had yet another unknown plant blooming in her yard:

Another unknown species

Another unknown species


I feel that I should know this one though. It seems very familiar.

They go all out for the employee of the month at this random McDonald’s. Employee of the Month

Somewhere along the way we stopped and I spotted this unknown specimen.

Unknown species

Unknown species


The bloom was about a quarter inch across. I did not bring any of my field guides along, but I guess I could turn to the Internets for an ID. Maybe later, or maybe when I get home again.

We crossed into TN and stopped at their welcome center. They had a geocache hidden there, which I nabbed. I had also found caches in MD and WV, so I added three states to my caching tally yesterday (as did Beth). She was sure she already had a cache in all three states, but I assured her she did not.

At the rest area in Tennessee, Beth liked the giant guitar across the interstate. So I captured it as the background for this image:
Beth with a giant guitar

We stopped for the night about 40 miles before Knoxville. We will make our way across I-40, stopping at an outlet mall along the way. I expect we’ll be in Dawson Springs, KY this evening sometime.

I got home from the ACSDR conference yesterday afternoon, and this morning I set out again – this time with Va, David, and Beth. We’re headed for Kentucky to visit family. Jonathan stayed home so he could work, and he agreed to take care of Penny while he holds down the fort.

We stopped in Pine Grove, PA for the night. While I was at the front desk registering, Va noticed some rabbits in the parking lot. So naturally, I went over to take a picture or two.

Little Bunny Foofoo

Is Bunny smoking?


This is not the same one Va had seen. When I approached that one it left the parking lot and went into the grass. I got a couple of shots of it, but they were slightly underexposed. Then I noticed another rabbit in the grass and took aim at it. This is one of those. Beth came out to look at them too, and she spotted two more that I missed.

Nice!

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