Saturday, December 27, 2014

Peninsula Cooter lays her eggs

Pseudemys floridana peninsularis, through binoculars

Maceo spotted her first through the window, I was too busy making paper flowers. I think this was his first turtle. His posture was hyper-alert, a cross between sitting and crouching on his haunches, with his ears pointed forward and his eyes wide. At first I wondered why the turtle was wandering back and forth around the yard - seemed like odd behavior. Then I saw her attempt a few scrapes...she's going to lay eggs! Lucky for me, she settled on a spot right outside my rear window.

I took a few photos of her through my binoculars from the window, and also through the cattle gate at the rear of the Dirt Patch. I know some people have walked right up to turtles laying eggs before and didn't seem to bother them, but how do we know it doesn't stress them out? I decided to stay about 20 feet back while outside. I was a lot closer through the window, but the screen at least formed a bit of a visual barrier since it was so bright outside (and despite the cat staring at her through the window, she still chose to dig her nest and lay there).

She dug the nest with her hind legs and I could hear the eggs drop as she laid them. The eggs take approximately 90 days to hatch, so I'll have to remember to keep a look out for the hatchlings in late March.

After a while, Maceo found he had better things to do...

Scraping dirt on top of eggs...

...and laying another (taken through binoculars).

One of her scrapes

The nest - the sand on top is surprisingly hard-packed.

Peninsula cooters are most readily distinguished from other pond turtles by the presence of what are known as "hairpin" stripes on top of their heads. This photo was taken post-laying.


Update: I never saw the hatchling cooters leave the nest. There were several holes nearby, but I couldn't tell if the dog dug them or if they were escape tunnels for the turtles. I did see a few dried up pieces of what looked like reptile eggshell. Alas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Three-striped Mud Turtle

Kinosternon baurii

This little fellow was observed today on my afternoon walk through the backyard. He dove into the water when I tried to get a little closer. The three stripes on the carapace were clearly visible on this individual, but that is not always the case with this species. The shells of three-stripes usually max out between 4 and 4.5 inches in length, making it not much larger than the smallest turtles in the world.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rough Green Snake

Opheodrys aestivus hanging out in the Dracaena

The rough green snake is so-called because it has keeled scales. The 'keel' is a small ridge which runs the length of each scale. I accidentally poured fish emulsion on this poor guy, which tipped me off to his presence. He was nearly invisible in the foliage ("that's an odd vine...oh!"). What a gorgeous little snake! (And I really am sorry for pouring stinky fish water on your tail.)

The keel is clearly visible in this photo

It was a rather warm, humid day with a high of 79 F. A good day for basking in the garden.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Light of the Full Moon

My camera cannot quite capture the night's beauty

The last full moon was the night of the 6th. I sat in the Dirt Patch in quiet contemplation and burned things that needed burning. A rather restorative exercise.


These beautiful dwarf pak choi became a quick stir fry accompaniment to my dinner. Sesame oil, garlic, and a splash of tamari. I love pulling stuff out of my garden and eating it. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tiny House Comparison

Just a note, some people do not consider these tiny - just small. And that's my disclaimer to appease those individuals. :) Thank you!

Since I'm at least halfway there financially, I've spent some time comparing my current house (which I rent) to the tiny houses I'm considering building. The Bodega is my top choice and I have already purchased plans for it. The Marmara is my fall-back house should something suddenly happen and I find the need to build now (its biggest drawback is the micro-bathroom...I do need a bit of storage in there what with lady items and such things having to go somewhere). The Whidbey is what I would build should I need to accommodate an additional person in my life (my cynical side wishes to comment further... I will refrain because I do really like the Whidbey). 

Please note that the photos and information for the Bodega and Whidbey come from Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and the Marmara comes from Four Lights Tiny House Company.

Here's the breakdown:

Note: the loft square footage is in addition to the Total square footage. It is not included in the total because the ceiling height disqualifies it from being counted as a "room" in most building codes.

My current house is actually a studio, and using divisions created by my furniture, this is how I divided it (blue lines) for comparison to these houses:

Not to scale!

By comparison, (and according to what I value) these tiny houses are all an improvement in some way over my current house. All of the tiny houses have bigger kitchens than what I currently have. All can accommodate bath tubs (even the tiny Marmara using Jay Shafer's ofuro tub design), whereas now I have a 2.5' x 2.5' shower stall. All have more storage space, mostly thanks to the lofts. All have actual bedrooms in contrast to my current open studio space. One could argue that these "bedrooms" are just that...walled off spaces for a bed and that's about it. Lucky for me, I find this idea a little sleeping cubby...or a nest... comme ce est romantique! 

The downsizing of the Great Room in all of the houses is not a negative for me, either. The footprint of my current house may be larger than most of these, but it isn't well designed. This is just one of the reasons I find tiny houses so attractive. I much prefer the well thought out designs of these smaller rooms with the options of adding built-in furniture and using other creative ideas to make it feel more cozy. I do like my current house, but it is just one large space, without much design. My current "great room" feels a bit empty.

I'm on the fence about the tiny bathroom and lack of space for a W/D in the Marmara. Though if I did end up going with the Marmara, I could always later install an outbuilding for a W/D. I actually see no minuses with the other two house designs.

This comparison exercise turned out to be a great way to visualize what it would be like to live in any one of them. It's much easier to visualize, for example, a 7'5" x 7'5" kitchen after measuring and realizing that I currently have a 5'8" x 7'11" kitchen. I'm now able to confidently say...I'm looking forward to that! (And a real oven! Sigh!

PS - Bodega wins

Monday, December 1, 2014

Insects of the Day

Net-winged Beetle (Calopteron reticulatum) - Lycidae
Observed at Green Springs 12/1/2014

Stilt Bug (Stenocoris) - Berytidae
Observed at Green Springs 12/1/2014

The bug that got away...perhaps in the Lygaeidae? 
This was the only clear good shot I got of it - it could run!
Observed in the Dirt Patch 12/1/2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Quick Survey of my Backyard

Between the twin trunks of this large oak is the most perfect spot to sit, enjoy nature, and clear my mind

Really, it's my LL's backyard and I am lucky to have access to such a place. The property is bordered by a river, so it is pretty much all wetland - you can see the high water line on the trees in the above photo (let your eyes wander out of focus a bit). The water is very high right now after a soggy cold front stalled right over central Florida earlier this week. The area in the photo above (which was taken last weekend) is now under about two feet of water. The water is flowing - it is part of the river. The following photos are all from the "yard" taken within the last week or so including some of its inhabitants. 

Short boardwalk/bridge (after a storm)

Cypress knees and duckweed

Greenfly orchid (Epidendrum magnoliae) is a native epiphytic orchid and the only one to also occur north of Florida. Everything I've read (including FL based information) says their peak bloom time is usually summer, but here, this particular population of orchids say to hell with that - they bloom between November and January. Pictured here is one of the early bloomers, the others I saw were still developing their buds. 

At least this much jibes with the literature - it is perched here on a live oak. 
Resurrection fern behind it.

Megalodacne fasciata, the Pleasing Fungus Beetle 
(yes, that is its real common name)
Unsurprisingly, pleasing fungus beetles eat fungus.

This one is sadly deceased, perhaps a victim of the last cold snap. (Locally, it was in the 30s, even in Florida I think I can rightfully call that a cold snap ;) 

Cast-off cicada shell 
(the Genji geek in me must tell you its true name: utsusemi)

A tiny Mario mushroom
Really, I don't know what species it is, but doesn't it look like it belongs in a Nintendo game?

Mantid on cabbage palm

Look closely you are being watched...

Its friend took a wild nose dive into the water as I approached
They were between two and three feet long

The Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) overwinters in Florida. Smart bird, this is hands down the most glorious time of year.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Bloomin' Dirt Patch

The Johnnies are finally starting to bloom! 
Behind it are marigold and Black-eyed Susan vine blossoms.

Devil's Trumpet bloom a day before it opens

Syrphid fly on echinacea (something else has been munching on it)

Thread-waisted wasp on marigold

Thread-waisted wasps getting it on in the thyme

Dwarf pak choi...I'll be enjoying this in stir fry soon

Overall the Dirt Patch is enjoying the cooler weather...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Historic Gaffney House 1804

During a work-related trip this week to Gaffney, South Carolina I was, for once, rewarded for being unable to locate the Fed-Ex drop box: in the church/courthouse parking lot was this gorgeous little historic log house. Its style was common to the mid-Atlantic region of the country during the colonial/post-colonial era. Comparing its size to my current dwelling I can only guess that it is likely around 300 square feet, possibly less, not including its loft. From reading the signs, one gathers that the house has had some restoration work done and is not in its original location, but I'll let the signs speak for themselves...

Click on the photo to zoom in for reading

There were no signs stating that any furnishings in the interior were original to the house. Plexi-glass barriers at either doorway prevent one from walking around.

Mr. Gaffney may or may not have scoffed at such a sentiment, but this house is simply adorable. It makes me homesick for my own tiny house which has yet to be built (or actuality I have come across a historic house similar to this for sale...they are out there!). I console myself that I am past the financial halfway mark in reaching this goal (the goal being to become a montane forest hag with her very own tiny house :D).

...And after taking these photos and circling the block again, I found the drop box, woo!