Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

We had two and a half more snow days from work last week, and in all the quiet time at home I’ve become strangely obsessed with animal cams.

Through the wonders of modern technology, I can use the web browser on my device to access a webcam attached to a branch hundreds of miles away to watch the apes at the San Diego zoo swing in their trees. They also have panda, elephant, koala and polar bear cameras there too (scroll down). You can watch the giant panda at the National Zoo eat his bamboo, sponsored by Ford Motor Company. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, has a webcam above their sea otter enclosure, and yesterday the Mister and I happened to check on them during their zookeeper presentation, so we got to see them being fed and doing tricks for the live zoo audience. I’m sure there are hundreds more, but these are the ones I have bookmarked for the time being, and I feel the need to check on them periodically to see what they are doing with all of their free time.

The camera I am most fascinated by, however, is not at a zoo or aquarium and the animals don’t do tricks for buckets of shrimp.

This camera is attached to a tree in Hanover, Pennsylvania, (wherever that might be) and watches the nest of a pair of beautiful bald eagles. The female is just sitting there now, warming her eggs, which are expected to hatch (according to the website) on or about March 21. You can bet I’ll be watching when I can.

Last night I was trying to think of a reason why I like watching this mother eagle so much, and I realized that it’s a calming sense of focus. This female eagle hasn’t left her nest in weeks – maybe months. She was covered to her neck in snow during the last storm, and still remained at her post. She’s simply sitting, protecting her eggs, with the instinctive knowledge that this is the task of highest importance, and that all other things can wait until this one thing is accomplished.

She isn’t worrying about the state of her nest. She isn’t worrying about what’s for dinner or what anybody else thinks of her personal decisions or appearance. She trusts that her mate will return with enough food to keep her alive; that her babies will develop and hatch as they should, when they are ready; and that the necessities in her life will be cared for. She doesn’t care about the wind or the cold or the cars passing on the road in the distance or the time passing as she waits. She only waits.

Something about that is so reassuring, as I work to finish all my assignments on time. She is propped up on my iPad by the desktop monitor, where I can check on her from time to time, and she is still waiting. Somehow that reminds me that I can slow down and do each task one at a time – I don’t have to be a whirlwind of anxiety at every moment – and everything will get done, even if it’s not all done in the next ten minutes.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34; NIV)

Happy Monday.

Constant Carnage or Conquered Cohabitation?

The first thing I do every morning when I climb the stairs to our kitchen is peek around the corner to see if I can see ants in the floor and then  flip the light on and check the sink and counters for more intruders. More mornings than not there are at least a few scrambling around somewhere. A good day is a few. A bad day is a full sink. Or a trail coming down from the ceiling. That’s happened too.

If they’re in the sink I just flush them down the drain and watch as their on-counter companions retreat in droves for the nearest tiny exit hole. Probably one I’ve already sprayed or plugged with bait half a dozen times.

You see, that’s the thing about the ants here: they don’t care. I spray them with poisons (even one type of poison outlawed in the United States because of its effects on humans); the first few die and the others climb over their fallen comrades and continue their raid. I spread tasty Combat-brand ant bait around all their favorite entry points; they eat it and say “thank you” and continue on their way after my garbage disposal. I use traps; they ignore them. I scatter piles of ground cinnamon on the window sills (because I’ve been told by many that that works); it doesn’t; it just makes my kitchen look dirty. I squish them, stomp them, vacuum them and drown them and they just keep coming!!! Short of burning the house to the ground, I don’t know what else to do.

We’ve determined that they mostly come in after water, since I do keep the kitchen clean and the sink mostly empty. But we haven’t had good rain in months and they mainly congregate around the faucet so that has to be what they want.

Which brings me to the following confession: I am learning to live with ants.

There are always a few scattered on the kitchen counters, but as long as they aren’t directly in the way of me preparing food, I leave them be (my rule of thumb is about 15. More than that and I bring in reinforcements). We also have ants downstairs in our bedroom that come in under the window every night at around 9ish and follow a set path underneath the dog kennel, in front of the bathroom door and underneath our entertainment center, where Meera has lost a few bits of dog food that I just can’t reach with any cleaning utensil known to man.

I was going on a tirade every night around 10, vacuuming and stomping and spraying until nobody could breath in the bedroom and everything with more than four legs was deader than a door nail. However, that gets really old after a while and, like everything else, it doesn’t work. So I’m learning to just step over that particular line of grout where they walk and go about my business while the tiny scavengers go about theirs. They’ll get what they came for and be gone by morning anyway.

It’s gross, I know, but sometimes things have to be sacrificed in the name of personal sanity.

So, do you ever just throw up your hands and let nature have its way or are you a fight to the death kind of person?

Top Ten Thursday – Local Flowers and Plants

There are so many types of flowering plants here, some I’ve seen before and many I have not. So this week’s top ten Thursday will focus on pictures of those I think are most interesting or most popular. This is not a scientific list by any means, it’s based mainly on which types I have pictures of. I’m sorry I only know the names for the ones I’ve actually seen in the botanical garden; the others just grow wild.

paper flowers near the ocean

1. First of all – my parents have a tree in their backyard that has all these dull yellow, papery flower sacks and we always thought it was weird looking. Well, here, those same papery flowers come in a variety of bright colors and grow on bushes that are often used as hedgerows. Here are photos of a few bushes on campus. 

 

bright pink paper flowers  light pink paper flowers  purple paper flowers

P1150158 2. This one is called – can you guess? – a Hanging Lobster Claw. I’ve only seen them growing in the botanical garden here at Caribella Batik, but these fruits (I guess you could call them that?) are often cut off and used as table decorations. They look a little like odd orange bananas all hanging in their bushes.

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3. I have no idea what this thing is.

P1140845I’ve only ever seen it growing in a giant bush near the dorms here on campus. The brown pods at the top right are the bursted-open version of the green ones at the left. They have tiny red seeds inside them and are fuzzy on the outside, a bit like a kiwi.

                                           P1140850  P1140848

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4. This is one of my favorites. I don’t know what it’s called, but it grows in these big clumps on trees. The flower clumps often cover the tree to the point that it looks like the branches are on fire.

 

 

 

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5. The plant above is very similar to this one, called a Flame of the Woods. This one has a little bit different petal configuration and grows on low bushes rather than on trees. I love their fiery colors though.

6. This type of flower looks like a pile of purple ice shavings. So light and feathery, you can barely feel it when you touch it. It grows on bushes and the tiny feather petals tend to rain down onto the ground beneath it, making it look like purple snow.

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7. This flower (I think it’s a flower?) grows in

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short stalks close to the ground and has sharp points at the ends of the pods.

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8. This bush has feathery flowers that grow vertically up from the leaves. I think I’ve seen something similar in the States.

 

 

 

 

 

9. Then of course there is a classic Caribbean hibiscus,

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which is the type of flower we often tend to associate with the islands and the beach. Or at least I do.

 

 

 

 

 

10. And finally, while not technically a flower, the Lipstick Palm Tree is pretty cool. It’s a shorter-type palm tree whose long leaves turn bright, highlighter pink at the ends. I’ve been told that the tree’s sap will stain your skin the same neon hue.

P1150172And just as a side note – if any WordPress users have some tips on easy ways to incorporate pictures into posts like this, please let me know. This entry took me an hour to figure out how to format! Thanks.

 

Bug Catching 101

We’ve all had those moments in our lives when your gut tells you to run and grab a camera, but you don’t, so instead you end up kicking yourself for days over the priceless photo or video footage lost.

Well, when the egrets started chasing the lawn mower, I knew it was going to be one of those moments.

snowy white egret

This is an egret. (Picture courtesy of Google)

egret standing on a car

This is an egret standing on top of a student’s car on campus.
(Picture courtesy of me)

Egrets are funny-looking birds that hunt through the grass on their dinosaur feet looking for bugs. And what is a lawn mower really but a bug-spewing machine?

You have to admit, it is pretty smart for a bird to learn the order in which the campus lawns are mowed and then congregate on those lawns early in the afternoon to wait for the mowers to appear. You see, they know that those noisy contraptions will not only shoot bugs into the air, but also clear away the excess grass, effectively uncovering any tasty morsels still hiding on the ground.

The Mister and I stood outside for about half an hour watching the process. The mowers cut a strip of grass, taking no caution not to run over the watchful birds, and the egrets scurry around the mower catching bugs and trying not to be run over. They know how close the mower can get before they need to run away (which is surprisingly close, seeing as how the Mister and I were very sure a few were going to lose their lives).

What’s REALLY funny, though, is how the birds never expect the mower to go backwards. They know how close they can stand in the front and to the sides and will eagerly run in behind to snatch up bugs once the machine has passed, but when the mower goes in reverse it throws the whole flock into disorder and you can see panic in the ranks. It’s hilarious.

There are also times when the egrets get caught up in a particularly plentiful patch of freshly-mown grass and forget to follow the mower to the other end of the yard. When this happens, one or more of the birds will look up and realize the bug machine has left them behind and will take to the air, flying at full speed toward the unfortunate maintenance man on the mower. Some overshoot their target and have to turn around. Several nearly landed on the man’s head. He caught us laughing at his predicament and just shook his head, clearly understanding that he was part of the entertainment.

So island lesson for last week: Egrets love yard mowing day, but yard mowers do not love egrets. We’re pretty sure he was even trying to run some of them over. But alas, they might not be the smartest birds in the world, but they do know how to scurry frantically away from an approaching lawn mower.

So live to chase another mowing man, egrets. And when you do, I hope to actually have camera in hand to document your antics for the off-island world to see.

Ahoy there! Cheers from the West Indies!

Well, we are officially “on island” and it’s…. different. I don’t know if I’ll have time for a real post this week, what with all the new-country orientation stuff we’re doing, but here is a link to our brand-spanking-new Flickr photo stream for my first batch of pictures from our new home to tide you over until I can type up all the details.

Enjoy! http://www.flickr.com/photos/chesnuthouse/