We went to a graduation ceremony today. We knew a few of the graduates but it was Timothy’s family that specifically invited us so I picked their picture for today’s post. Congratulations, Timothy and all the best for your year ahead. We’re mightily proud of you. Well done also to the rest of his graduating class, Jessica, Emily, Micaela, Seth, Emmalee, Evan, Jacob, and Justin.
Monthly Archives: June 2012
We helped organize a surprise roller skating party for my sister-in-law this morning. Albert went through some pretty involved steps to provide an excuse for use to pick them up at 9:30 and then to drive towards Baltimore. We “took a quick detour to run an errand” and managed to get pretty close to the rink before she was on to us. Even then, I think she was surprised by the number of people that had gathered to celebrate her birthday. We all had a good time skating. After a slightly shaky start, it came back to me pretty well and I felt comfortable enough to take my camera out on the floor. I took some with flash and some without and I like the blurred pictures that show motion best, although this one is arguably a bit too blurred to qualify as a great picture. It is Cathy, catching up with me. It was particularly nice to have the rink to ourselves for two hours so it really wasn’t at all crowded.
There are balloon hats and balloon hats. This, however, is a serious balloon hat. We had absolutely perfect weather this afternoon for a church picnic and we made the most of it. Thanks to Hannah for making balloon hats as usual, to the cooks who grilled burgers, dogs, and chicken, and most of all to Jewell for organizing the entire event.
A couple years ago I planted an oakleaf hydrangea in a reasonably shady spot in our front yard. It’s doing well and has been blooming for a little over a week now. The flowers are an antique white sort of color and are in large panicles about a foot long. This shrub is only about four feet tall but it’s growing nicely and should fill in over time. I particularly like the fall color of the leaves, which is a rich, deep, claret color.
Like a lot of people, I was excited about the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. Knowing that the chances of me living to be 157 are pretty slim, I figured that this was my one chance to see it. When I woke up this morning and it was mostly cloudy, I thought, well, you never know what the sky will look like in twelve hours. As it turned out, the clouds got heavier as the day wore on and I had pretty much given up hope of seeing it. When I got home I decided to take some pictures in the yard and while I was doing that, the sun peeked through the clouds for less than two minutes. Since I had my camera in my hand, as well as a tripod, I was able to move out from under the trees and get a few pictures before the clouds covered it again. Of course it was too bright and I was working too fast to really see what I was doing. I just set the camera to an exposure of 1/8000 second at f/32 and this is what I got. It’s not all that sharp and I’m sure we’ll be able to download pictures that are much better but I took this one, so I’m happy. You probably won’t be able to see it until you click on the image to enlarge it. Venus is just to the right of 12:00 just under the upper edge of the sun. It only started its transit a little after 6:00 local time so it hadn’t gotten very far by 6:39, when this picture was taken.
Since I thought I had been denied the chance to see Venus silhouetted against the sun, I decided to take a few pictures in the yard when I got home. While I was doing that, Cathy came out and we chatted about this and that, going over our days. I sat in a lawn chair which happened to be near the driveway and while we were talking I noticed this little white moth on the side of our car (which, as you probably guessed, is red). At first I identified it as a Mimosa Webworm Moth, Homadaula anisocentra, which is native to Japan and China and was first found in the U.S. in Washington D.C. in 1943. After a little more research, though, I decided that it’s much more likely to be an American Ermine Moth (Yponomeuta multipunctella). As it turned out, I was able to get a picture of Venus, as well, even if it wasn’t a particularly great picture.
As the sun was getting ready to set this evening I happened to notice how it was lighting up the tops of the trees in the back yard. The lower parts of the trees were dark but the tops were a beautiful, bright green. We all went out back to enjoy the colors and then it started raining. It wasn’t a heavy rain but just enough to let you know it was there. We moved to the front yard to see if there would be a rainbow and sure enough, it appeared. It wasn’t a particularly intense rainbow — the rain wasn’t strong enough for that — but it was there. It’s in the upper right, just above the trees, in case you can’t see it right away. The roses in the bottom of the picture are ‘Perle d’Or’.
It was the last day of school today and Dorothy is now a junior. She and some friends have a tradition for the last day of school. They get together and burn homework from the year. Here they are after their annual homework burning.
I love the color of leaves when the light is coming through them. I could sit or lie on the ground for a long time and just look up at the leaves against the sky. They are only more beautiful in the fall when they turn all different colors but even when they are all green they are such a huge collection of colors that it’s spectacular. In this case, I was sitting at a little picnic table outside my office looking up through mulberry leaves. They were not in full sun, so the shadows were not sharp edged and the brightness range was manageable.
I’ve posted a picture of one of these before (see Thursday, April 05, 2012) but I like them quite a lot. They are a little tricky to get a good picture of because they are so small. Even with my macro lens focused all the way in they don’t come close to filling the frame. This is an uncropped shot, though, and it’s about as close as I can get with that lens. It helped that there was not the least bit of wind because it means that the plant was not moving, which only adds to the level of difficulty. The fly in this picture is on the stamen of a campanula of some sort. They seem to like this plant quite a bit, as there were a bunch of them about. While the adults feed on nectar and pollen, the larvae are “voracious predators of aphids, thrips, small caterpillars.” Any predator of aphids, thrips, and small caterpillars is a friend of mine.
I posted a picture of a syrphid fly on a campanula stamen but thought it might be nice for you to see the flowers as well as the flies that they attract. Cathy got these from Janis last year or the year before and they are doing well in a spot under a large silver maple in our back yard. It’s in open shade and gets a fair amount of light although not a lot of direct sun. This was taken this morning before the shade of the tree fell on them and I think they look lovely against the blue of the sky. Fortunately the grass wasn’t too wet, as I got down on my back to take this.
The plants are about four feet tall and don’t seem to need any staking. From our kitchen window they are seen against the grayish brown trunk of the maple, which helps them show up, particularly in the early morning and late afternoon when the slanting rays of the sun hit them.
So, if you are looking for something to brighten up your garden, you could do a lot worse than getting some campanula. I’ve even grown it from seed in the past, which is about the easiest and cheapest way to grow anything (short of having someone else give you the plants and put them in the ground for you, of course).
As you can see, Cathy is fond of them.
It was graduation Sunday at church this week and we recognized two high school graduates. We were at Timothy’s graduation on June 1, so he’s already had his picture posted. This is a picture of the other graduate, Jenny, with D and Donna.
All together now, “Jenny’s in the middle, ha ha ha ha ha ha!”
In general, I don’t see the point of growing roses that don’t have any fragrance. If nothing else, how do you stop and smell the roses if they don’t have any smell? On the other hand, azaleas and camellias don’t have any noticeable smell and we grow those. Also, if you have a lot of different roses, having a few that are fragrance free is fine, I suppose, just as you might grow some that bloom only once rather than all summer long.
These rose flowers, which are almost too red for the sensor of my camera, are at my mother-in-law’s house. I have to admit that they are quite beautiful, particularly when they are covered with flowers. They are “in between” flushes right now, but they will come back and bloom again and again until it gets too cold, probably well into October or possibly even November. It’s hard not to like a plant that blooms so well, even without the fragrance. And what a red.
I am really fascinated by reflections but they are surprisingly hard to turn into good pictures. There are some that are reasonably easy, a glass building or even trees and the sky reflected on a clean and shiny car. Puddles are a bit harder, I find. It rained quite hard today and there was a fair amount of water on the parking lot at work. This picture was taken looking almost straight down. The dark area is actually a reflection of me. I think of it more as an abstract, though, a pattern of light and dark and texture.
Here’s a second rain-related picture for today. As I mentioned, we had a good bit of rain today, although I hardly noticed. It’s been very busy at work and I’ve been struggling with a particularly tricky bit of code. It’s working now and I took some time after work to stop and smell the roses, metaphorically speaking. This is a day lily growing just outside our back door. It’s a pretty flower on its own but the water droplets add to it’s beauty, I think. A man once said that if there is any magic in the world, it’s contained in water.
Lysimachia clethroides, better known as gooseneck loosestrife, is described in one plant catalog as “vigorous to the point of invasiveness.” That’s actually a little bit of an understatement. At our old house we had this and St. John’s wort growing together just outside our front gate. Cathy thought it would be interesting to see which would do better. I was constantly pulling this up to give good old St. John a fighting chance. We have it in a few places in out new yard. Cathy actually dug some up this year, not to replant it but to make room for something else. It doesn’t like to share its space and will basically choke out anything and everything else. But it does have these elegant little flower spikes.
Dorothy was invited to another formal dance this evening. She didn’t really feel like having her picture taken before leaving but I insisted. Of course I’m her father, but I think she looks very nice.
On Tuesday, May 22, 2012 I posted a photo of Asclepias curassavica (Mexican Butterfly Weed) which I initially labeled incorrectly as Asclepias tuberosa. It has a beautiful bi-color flower with orange corollas and yellow corona lobes. It is really something beautiful. That’s not to say that Asclepias tuberosa isn’t worth having, as well.
In general it’s flowers are a sort of mottled orange with the same color on both corollas and corona lobes. This variety is called ‘Hello Yellow’ and as you can see, is a bright yellow version.
We have both this and the standard orange version in our back border and they are doing very well. I particularly like this yellow version, though.
I think at some point I’ll get very close and take a few pictures of individual flowers or parts of flowers. The problem with doing that outside is that the slightest breeze makes it nearly impossible to get it into focus long enough for a good picture.
Also, I need to figure out how to get the color temperature set right when I take pictures of predominately one, bright color. Pictures of a blue sky with only sky and clouds tend to come out an unnaturally intense blue. Pictures of bright yellow flowers also shift the auto-white balance unnaturally.
Although it’s continued to be busy at work I decided to take the time to go out and take a few pictures early this afternoon. In the empty lot beside my office are a bunch of redbud trees and they are now covered with seed pods, which make for a pretty, green picture. I also noticed the raspberries are nearly ripe (I found a couple that were ready to be eaten, so I ate them). I’ll definitely need to go out next week, as there should be a lot of them.
What a treat it was to go hear Fernando Ortega this evening in a benefit concert for Rockville Pregnancy Clinic. He has such a beautiful, smooth voice and his songs paint wonderful pictures in my mind. I just made a CD with MP3 versions of all of our Fernando Ortega and Chris Rice albums and put it in the car on shuffle. It’s surprising (or perhaps not) how often one of his tunes comes into your head. I suppose that’s a function of how well you know his songs, of course. Anyway, if you have the chance to hear him, I recommend you act on it. This was our third time and by far the least formal. I had a great time with great friends and wonderful music.
It doesn’t have to be a Renaissance sculpture to qualify as garden art. Here, with a couple pieces of stone, a metal pole for hanging plants, and a plastic dinosaur head, we have a whimsical creation to attract you attention and provide a focal point to the garden.
I’m pretty sure this is a work by David Cudney. It had fallen over and when I picked it up and reset it in the ground about a million ants crawled out of the dinosaur head. They were not happy. Apparently they appreciate art in a different way to us.
It was a beautiful day today and we spent some of it out in the yard. I pulled weeds for a while, doing battle with the Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). To paraphrase Sonny Curtis, “pullin’ weeds in the hot sun, I fought the lawn and the lawn won.” Anyway, this swallowtail was fluttering around the various flowers and I was able to get a few reasonably good pictures as she landed on the aptly named butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in the back border. Much easier to get the picture here than later in the summer when they are on the buddleia, which puts them mostly overhead.
Dorothy spent much of the day with her friend Kendra, who met her at grandma’s house. She rode over on her new bicycle.
We dropped Dorothy off to go to camp this morning. It was nice to visit, however briefly, with a few parents we haven’t seen in a while. Naturally I took a few pictures, including this one of Dorothy and four of her friends. Everyone was excited, including some parents who were taking advantage of a week without kids. Of course we had to go from there to work, which did put a little bit of a damper on our enthusiasm. Still, they do pay me for my work, and I’m quite happy to have a job, if truth be told.
I like the reflections in my office building. I know I’ve posted them before but they seem to look a little different from day to day and particularly from month to month. Here’s what they look like now. Nice and green and shady. Of course, at 9:00 AM it was already close to 90°F so it’s not as pleasant as it might be. Still, better in the shade than in the sun.
I’ve said before that I love all the various shades of green in spring and summer tree leaves. Although it was pretty hot, I decided I would go out and take a few pictures early this afternoon. I had hoped for pictures of raspberries which are coming on to ripeness. Actually, I was a bit surprised that there were not more. There were nearly ripe berries last week but I think birds are eating them as fast as they are ripening.
This picture was taken looking up into the leaves of a redbud tree.
I grow a number of different allium species in my garden and their flowers vary, ranging from purple through blue to yellow and dark pink. These white flowers, though, are from a red onion being grown for eating. I planted a bunch of seeds last year but dealing with sun chokes (Helianthus tuberosus) from the previous year made it practically impossible to grow anything else. There are still a few chokes coming up this year but not so many that it’s a huge problem. This is one of a few onions that survived last year.
There were a lot of these flying around the Asclepias tuberosa flowers today, along with a lot of bees (both honey and bumble varieties). I believe that this is a female of the Condylostylus sipho species group. There are a lot of very similar flies and I’m not an expert, by any means so if you are reading this and know better, please leave me a comment. Anyway, it’s almost certainly a longlegged fly (Family Dolichopodidae) and quite pretty.
I had a nice time at the graduation ceremony and party for a friend named Tim. At the party, some of the younger kids thought it would be fun to chase some of the older kids with swords. Who hasn’t thought that, after all. Here, the guest of honor is being chased around his back yard by someone who may speak softly but who carries a big stick (or sword).
We picked up Dorothy from her first driver’s ed class this evening (be afraid, be very afraid). From there we were driving through town, just a little after sunset, and the reflections on this building were nice. Dorothy commented on what her teacher would say about taking pictures while driving. I was stopped at a traffic light and had plenty of time, I assure you.
If there was a bit more light I might be able to get this with a little more depth of field. I may try to get a better shot of a bumble bee on the coneflowers in our back yard. For now, this will have to do.
I have a feeling we’re going to be getting a lot of bee pictures over the next few weeks. The short-toothed mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) is just starting to bloom and it’s about the best bee magnet I know of. Other plants may attract them as well but I don’t know any that attract a wider variety of bees. Expect to see them soon.
For now, we have one more picture of a honey bee (Apis mellifera) on the Asclepias flowers.
I went out with my camera on a tripod to take some bee pictures around the mountain mint this afternoon. There were a lot of bumble bees and a few tarantula hawk wasps around. For all their size, the tarantula hawks are quite shy and are hard to get close enough to. I’ll get them eventually but didn’t today. I did find this little wedge-shaped beetle, a Macrosiagon limbata, on one of the flowers. It’s about a centimeter long. I don’t know about this species in particular but some members of the family Ripiphoridae are parasitic on bees and vespid wasps. So, waiting on the mountain mint was probably a good choice.
It isn’t particularly original, I know, but this was pretty much the story for today. Obviously this isn’t the official temperature, it wasn’t really this hot except over black paving that was in the sun all day. On the other hand, this was at about 5:00 PM. It actually read 110°F at one point but I wasn’t going to try to take a picture while moving. The air conditioner in my car barely keeps up in 90°F heat, so it was only marginally cooler in the car on the way home this evening.
I have friends living in a part of Africa where it sometimes cools off to this temperature at night. Still, for those of us used to a temperate climate, this is extreme and not very comfortable. I’m very thankful for air conditioning.
The lack of posts here hasn’t actually been to lack of electricity. Our power went out for about 30 seconds and flickered pretty severely for about another minute but that was it. So, we were among the fortunate. When I looked out in the back yard, I expected to see lots of branches down but there was very little and nothing bigger than about an inch in diameter. At that point I thought the storm wasn’t as bad as it sounded, which was pretty ferocious.
When we went out, however, we didn’t have to go far before we saw a little more of the extent of what had happened. Just getting out of our neighborhood took a little doing. Traffic lights were out all over so I figured it was better to stay off the main roads as long as possible. Of course that meant negotiating fallen trees, some of which closed roads off altogether. This is a few blocks from our house but it is a scene that was repeated all over the area.