Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wasp Moth and Seedlings

Scarlet-bodied Wasp Moth (Cosmosoma myrodora) on a marigold

Whilst planting the winter seedlings today (yes, I'm a bit late...) I was graced with the presence of this beautiful wasp moth (Family Arctiidae). You can see the marigold through its clear wings in the photo above, a trait not shared by all wasp moths. The moths mimic wasps in their general form and shape and imitate either the flight habits or resting positions of wasps. Some feed on poisonous plants as larvae and attain the added defense of integrating the host plant's toxins into its body as a deterrent against predation. Bright coloration is a warning of the moth's toxicity, however this particular moth is banking on everyone else instilling the fear of indigestion on would-be predators since its larvae do not feed on toxic plants; it merely uses the bright colors as a bluff. Both pretending to be a wasp (in form and behavior) and utilizing false warning coloration are examples of Batesian mimicry...pretending to be bad-ass when you're not. Perhaps there is someone you know who employs this same type of defensive strategy. ("You're not fooling anyone, you know..." ~MP)

Winter seedlings in their trays

A row of newly planted Johnny jump-ups (Viola tricolor)

The winter seedlings are just over a month old and most are about an inch all around in size - tiny! Since I was so late getting these started, I decided to forgo the process of "growing out" in a pot. Along with the aforementioned Johnnies, I've planted:
  • blue lobelia 'Crystal Palace' (Lobelia erinus)
  • giant red mustard (Brassica juncea)
  • purple ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea)
  • dwarf pak choi 'Toy Choi' (Brassica rapa)
  • leeks (Allium ampeloprasum)
  • pink-ish calendula 'Zeolights' (Calendula officinalis) 
  • flat leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
  • feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
  • carnation 'Siberian Blue' (Dianthus amurensis) and 
  • Stoke's blue aster (Stokesia laevis)
The latter three I don't expect to bloom until spring. Tomorrow, because I demand they grow quickly, I'm going to douse them with fish emulsion. In the meantime, the Devil's Trumpet and marigolds have been blooming like crazy. They certainly didn't do that over the summer, but they're lovely now.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Must be that time of year...

They may as well be playing with unicorns...

I drew this on the dry erase board at work Friday afternoon in response to the epidemic fever I have witnessed and the myriad mascots which mysteriously appear/vanish/reappear in this very spot. I guess I feel left out! Besides, Fantasy Football needs a mascot. I'm looking forward to its reception at the Monday morning meeting (tee-hee).

(I don't follow sports if you hadn't already picked up on that).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Devil's Trumpet & Black Racer

Devil's trumpet, Datura metel var. Blackcurrant

What a glorious thing to wake up to on a Saturday morning! I have been waiting for its blooms since the seed was sown in April of this year. This is the first to open, but there are several buds on what has become a small shrub. This plant, Datura, is often confused with Brugmansia, the Angel's trumpet, which is closely related. In fact, members of the genus Brugmansia were once included in the genus Datura. The main differences: the flowers of Devil's trumpet point upward, whereas Angel's trumpets are pendulous and point downward (hence their names); Devil's trumpet has herbaceous blackish-colored stems and is a short-lived perennial, whereas Angel's trumpet has a woody stem and is hardier and longer lived. I have a Brugmansia in the Dirt Patch as well, but alas, it is not as happy as the Datura. I think it gets too much sun.

I was being closely watched as I photographed the gorgeous Datura...

 The black racer (Coluber constrictor) visible to the right of the trumpet lives in the siding of my house and I consider him a most welcome neighbor, though the feeling is not mutual.

My friend did not appreciate his portrait being taken and reared his head and neck back in an 'S' curve - that's Snake for "you are totally pissing me off and I will totally bite you." He flicked his tail in a rapid vibration evoking his more dangerous cousin, the rattlesnake (something Colubrids are wont to do when feeling threatened). I backed off and he slithered away into the palmettos. Black racers are non-venomous and completely harmless. For those not sympathetic to snakes, I will drop my anthropomorphism for a moment and hope you will see this encounter from the snake's was terrified of the giant lumbering creature that intruded upon its quiet morning bask and so threatened to defend itself with the only weapon it has, its teeth. What it wanted to do most was get away.

Ah, lovely Datura...alas, no fragrance!

On a parting note, the black racer may not have any venom, but this plant is extremely poisonous! 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lino Printing Day

My cluttered work space made even more cluttered with fresh prints!

My day job makes it rather difficult to keep up with the lino printing, or anything else, really. Sometimes, though, you've got to put your foot down - and so I've designated today Lino Printing Day (I've been meaning to get to these for a month now...and is it wrong of me to be singing "Lino Printing Day" to the tune of "Weasel Stomping Day" from Robot Chicken? I want you to know I wholeheartedly disapprove of weasel stomping). 

Then perhaps next weekend I can work on something new, Hoorah! Sometimes the fact that I know I need to make more lino prints prevents me from starting something else...a bit of human psychosis I can acknowledge but can't seem to work around. Brains are strange things. 

Today I will print from four already established blocks. I begin by setting up all of my inking "plate" (a sheet of acetate), a tube of printmaking ink, a brayer (roller), pre-cut mulberry paper, my "baren", a damp towel and screen to help keep the ink from drying out, and of course the blocks I intend to print.

The ink is rolled out on the acetate so that it is in an extremely thin layer. The consistency of the ink matters greatly, if it isn't right I will end up with ink caked into the lines or the print will be too spotty. A little spottiness is normal, however, and gives the prints a nice "vintage" feel (like a well worn design on a T-shirt).

The ink is rolled out in thin layers onto the lino block using a brayer. 

The block is then placed firmly on the paper, so the ink sticks a little. Then it gets flipped.

Using a "baren" (my baren is a rounded plastic magnet - by far the best thing I have ever used for this purpose), I rub the paper into the block to transfer the ink from block to paper. I have used a real baren and a press before, but find this method gets the best results for me, perhaps because I consistently work on such a small scale.

...slowly peel the paper off the block...

...and here's the Peat Weasel taking a nap next to the butterfly magnet that serves as baren. The only thing left to do now is to stamp it in red ink with my signature seal.

And this is the real Peat Weasel. Photo courtesy of J. Peat Weasel has the right idea, it's time to be lazy now.

Maceo Makes the Bed

Maceo enjoys fresh linens as much as I do...

"I have conquered this Task"