Sunday, July 14, 2024

Serendipity Failure

Well, this topic wasn't what ProfessorRoush had planned to blog about next, even if I'm due for a blog, but I'll take serendipity as a motivator for a blog entry.  Or at least I'll try to "take" serendipity, although sometimes the latter is often reticent to be captured in an optimal manner.

I was out at 6:27 a.m. this morning, watching Bella as she went about her morning bodily functions, when I saw the bumblebee above feasting on this newly-opening bloom of 'Beautiful Edgings'.   Immediately, I thought "wow that would make a great picture" and I quickly reached into my pocket and grabbed my iPhone, opening it to the camera app as I moved closer, focused,! the picture above.

It was at that point that the perfectionist inside took over the agenda.   I knew I'd gotten the bee's best side in good focus, but I also knew instantly that I had clipped off a corner of the daylily in the frame and I so wanted the perfect photo.   So I tried again, waiting until the bee lit upon another nearby blossom, taking the photo at left. 

And, as you can see, just as I pushed the button to take it (is it still a "shutter" button when it's an iPhone?), the bee took off.  Drat, nice action and now I have the whole flower in the frame, but my "shutter speed" wasn't fast enough for a "sports-action" shot.   So I waited for it to settle again and went in for another shot.   

Once again, before I could snap a photo, it was taking off into blurred flight!  And with that, it was gone for good.  Those of you who take a lot of photos in your garden can, I'm sure, sympathize with the frustration of getting decent pictures of bees and other creatures, even if you can't sympathize with the "it could be better" attitude of the pathologic perfectionist.   As an orthopedic surgeon I practically live by the motto "the enemy of good is better," a self-reminder during fracture repairs that trying to make it perfect is often counterproductive to efficient surgery and good bone healing.   If only I could learn to apply that same sentiment to my photograph efforts!

But I can't.  I tried to redeem myself later while mowing later this morning when I spotted a gorgeous big swallowtail on a purple butterfly bush, but, despite 5 minutes of trying while the mower idled and contributed each second to my carbon footprint, I was unable to even get a poor shot of the swallowtail sitting still.  Such are the trials of an amateur trying to live up to a perfectionist's world-view.  

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Hawk and I

ProfessorRoush set out this morning to face a dreaded chore;  bush-hogging the pastures nearest the house (on this side of the draw where it's semi-safe to drive a tractor).  I only do it once yearly for the primary purpose of mowing down noxious weeds on the prairie; foremost among which are the thistles, with the Wavy-Leaf Thistle, Cirsium undulatum, most common here (upper right).  I grew up mowing bull thistles on the home farm in Indiana and, as I've mentioned before, my maternal grandfather always said to mow them on June 21st to control them.   I'm a little late this year, but years of observation has convinced me that the purpose of the date is to mow them near bloom and before these biennials set seed and I'm still within that window.

I dread the annual pasture-mowing for a number of reasons.  First, I don't trust my inherited tractor on the Flint Hills; it's top-heavy and too powerful for its weight, with a tendency to want to jump as you let off the clutch.  I'm extra-darned careful with it and don't trust it for an instant.  Second, it's normally hot and miserable out there this time of year and mowing takes a full afternoon.  Third, I don't want to mow because it alters the prairie ecology, cutting down forbs before they bloom (particularly stealing milkweeds from the migrating monarchs).  But its a necessity to control the sumac and thistles.

This year, however, I had a close observer the whole time, watching the every move of the loud green machine and tired primate riding it.  Watching me, literally, like a hawk.  To be specific, watching me like a red-tailed hawk, hoping, I'm sure, that I would flush out dinner in the form of a nice prairie mouse or rabbit.

I first spotted it atop my barn gate about 1/2 hour after I started mowing.  Since I always have an iPhone handy, I stopped and opened the camera app, only to be immediately disappointed as I zoomed in and it began to fly away ( 2nd photo, left).

Thankfully, it came back, again and again, first on the same gate as seen in the 3rd paragraph (I'll leave you to decipher the meaning of the Greek language "Molon Labe" sign), then on a fence post (4th paragraph, on the left), and then on a native Mulberry tree (here, right), always nearby as I went round and round the pasture.  I apologize for the pictures; I wish they were clearer, but alas, the iPhone was all I had available, placed at full zoom, and held as still as I could on a vibrating, roaring tractor.  And the stark, full sunlight in a cloudless July prairie sky also isn't good "photo-quality" lighting.

I could only pray to see it catch something, and so Hawk and I were both excited as it swooped down on something in the tall grass next to a just mowed area (5th paragraph, right).  I hadn't seen anything bounding into the tall grass, so I was hoping to see Hawk rise up with a snake, but Hawk, clearly disgusted by a miss, looked back at me as if it was blaming me for its lack of success.  I'm sorry, Hawk.

While still on the ground, it did give me this last profile shot, however, the best glimpse yet of the red-tail feathers of its name.  And then it took off again, returning to its vigil, a sweeping shadow passing back and forth over me for the duration of my mowing, hunting prey, I surmise, in each pass.  Hawks will be hawks and I appreciate my moments spent with this one.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Daylily Delirum

'Raspberry Eclipse'
Okay, ProfessorRoush tried to be cute here, but the blogging program just wouldn't allow me to format the text below with the pictures.  I couldn't even get the font of "Wisteria" to show up right.  Sometimes, the correct formatting just isn't worth the time it takes.  I gave up after spending hours of wasted effort.

But I was trying to let you know I just can't stop taking pictures of daylilies this year!   Click on any picture to enlarge!

'Rocket Man'

'Timbercreek Ace'

'Redmon SDLG 08-25'

'Storm Shelter'



'Laura Harwood'

'Sonic Analogue'

'Swallow Tail Kite'


'Beautiful Edging'
'Alabama Jubilee'

'Awfully Flashy'

(Raspberry Eclipse is my newest daylily.  I purchased it ready to bloom this week and it was the most pot-bound plant I've ever seen.)

 ('Rocket Man' was a dazzling red surprise to me and quickly became a favorite.  It's not large, but it has a striking presence, orange-red to a burnt red eye.)

('Timbercreek Ace' is a consistent performer for me, full of flowers and a treasured gift from a client.)

('Redmon SDLG 08-25' is the designation I think goes to this one, from a local breeder.  I have a weakness for spider daylilies.)

('Storm Shelter' has a fabulous coloration with the petal edges matching the darker eye.)

(Isn't 'Wisteria' just subtly gorgeous?

(I don't know what this one is but it's planted next to 'Laura Harwood' and makes a striking contrast of form and complimentary color palette with her. A happy accident.)

(It's easy to stop and stare at 'Laura Harwood'; fetching lass, she is.)

('Sonic Analogue' is uniquely marked, right?) 

('Swallow Tail Kite' takes my breath away with her lavender eye.)

('Bestseller' is a daylily I lost after planting and then found again when it bloomed because of its unique coloring.)

('Beautiful Edging' is, to me, the most beautiful of all on the right day in the right lighting.)

('Alabama Jubilee' is quite a striking bit of orange, eh?)

(A fitting end picture,'Awfully Flashy' is just that, isn't it?)

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Yes, They're Here

'Prairie Dawn'
Those who know ProfessorRoush and his blog well have probably been wondering; why hasn't he said anything yet about Japanese Beetles?  Does he not have them? Are they late?  Has he given up the good fight and surrendered to inevitability?

Surrendered?  Never!  I will never surrender to
these shiny-helmeted alien invaders!   Vile creatures they are, ugly, immoral, bereft of a purpose in life, content only to defile and despoil that which is beautiful and pure.   Patrick Henry stirred a nation with the words "Give me Liberty or Give me Death".  To stir a nation of gardeners, ProfessorRoush loads up the poison bottles and cries "Give THEM the Death they deserve!"

The beetles came early this year.  I first noticed them on June 15th, a few stray males (males are smaller and emerge first) which I handpicked and dispatched under the heel of my boot, gleefully grinding them into the nearest landscape edger.  I then took the nuclear option and malathioned every rose in the garden, creating in essence a chemical border fence to repel friend and foe alike.  My apologies to the bees and ladybugs of my region, but war is ugly and accidental casualties are as unavoidable in the garden as they are on a human battlefield. 

'Marie Bugnet'

All was well for a few days, but a couple of nights ago, I noticed the beetles were beginning to return, right on schedule with the bottle instructions to spray every two weeks or, "in severe cases, weekly applications may be necessary."   I guess it was necessary, but I waited until today, mowing day, to reassess and reinitiate the wholesale carpet bombing of my garden.

'Prairie Dawn'
One of their usual victims, 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup', seemed free of beetles but Ms. Hastrup is not quite herself this year, recovering from a major surgery to remove a self-seeded clematis and rough dogwood from her interior. I first found beetles today on 'Prairie Dawn', a dependable, tall, pink Canadian rose bred by Harp in 1956. I've not written much about 'Prairie Dawn', but she's been there with me, all this time. You have to look closely, in the first picture above, to see the beetle in the flower above the pristine 'Prairie Dawn' bloom.

I was more concerned when I found the loathsome creatures nibbling on 'Scabrosa'.   I've had trouble getting this rose going well and this specimen, at 2 years of age, is still barely knee-high, less than 2 feet in diameter, and she surely doesn't need the extra burden of beetles.

'Marie Bugnet'
It was finding beetles on 'Marie Bugnet' that strengthened my resolve and prompted me into immediate action.  My poor, innocent, virginal 'Marie Bugnet', now just a backdrop to a recreation of 'Caligula', beetles frolicking in mass orgy, 8 or 10 to a flower and in positions that are, frankly, not describable to civilized ears.    I can't fornicate in my garden, public nudity laws being what they are and lacking a good high solid fence, and I'm not about to allow the damned beetles to crap their frass on my beloved Marie while they madly make little beetles.  There are no doubts about what these beetles are doing, I'm just not sure if they know or care who's on top or underneath.

So, spray I did, wetting down the garden and beetles in a frenzy of rage.  The results are pictured at right, leaves dripping with insecticide and beetles glistening.  I can only hope I did some good, 3 gallons of toxic brew later, but it's hard to say.  I would feel better if the insecticides acted quickly and fatally, but soaking wet beetles continue to copulate with abandon right in my presence until I am forced through disgust and decency to look away.  It's only now, hours later, when I see fewer beetles and feel I've made some headway to keep Marie's flowers free of fornication and frass, that I feel better in my despair..


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