Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Black Creek Park :: Soaking up the Early Morning Sun

This stand of trees is eagerly soaking up some early morning sunlight at the outset of a hazy summer day. With Black Creek at their feet and sunshine streaming through their leaves, it seems like there is little more a tree could ask for. Perhaps a songbird or two, rather than the mimicking squawk of a mockingbird.

Copse of Trees at Black Creek Park, Fultondale, Alabama

Monday, July 30, 2012

Black Creek Park :: Yellow Crowned Night Heron Stalking the Creek

Juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron :: Black Creek Park, Fultondale
There are two varieties of night heron found in North America. To the left is a juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron, which can be distinguished from the Black Crowned Night Heron in a number of ways.

Juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron :: Black Creek Park, Fultondale
The Yellow Crowned Night Heron has a shortish, stubby bill; limited pale markings on its wings; and clearer markings on its underside.

This juvenile is fishing for the small fish that frequents the shallow waters that run along the stony bottom of Black Creek at Black Creek Park in Fultondale, Alabama.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thomsid Crab Spiders, commonly Flower Crab Spiders

Typically neon in color, thomsid crab spiders are often found on the leaves or flowers of plants, where they wait to ambush unwitting prey; as such they typically do not rely on web-building for capture food. Thomsid crab spiders are also commonly known as flower spiders.

Because of the nature of the insects that thomsid crab spiders eat, they are considered beneficial to people. Thomsid crab spiders live less than one year, with the females hatching one generation of young in the autumn months.

Misumena vatia, the Thomsid Crab Spider

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Boneless Pork Chops with Coffee Dry Rub

My wife and I cook pork loin or boneless pork chops fairly regularly, so the other day I went in search of a new recipe to change things up a bit. And what I found was a dry rub that involved coffee grounds, and which I had to adapt somewhat for the spices I had available. And just to spoil the surprise, we couldn't have been more pleased with the results.

Ingredients - this will make enough for 2 pounds of meat, or maybe more depending how liberally  you apply it.

·  4 teaspoons salt
·  4 teaspoons ground coffee
·  4 teaspoons chili powder
·  2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
·  1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
·  1/2 teaspoons onion powder
·  1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
·  1/4 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)
·  1/4 teaspoon ground mustard (or subst. ground coriander)
·  1/4 teaspoon parsley flakes (or subst. tumeric)

Mix your ingredients thoroughly, using a whisk or large fork, in a bowl large enough that you will be able to lay each chop (or loin) in the bowl and cover it with the rub. Although I found that the rub stuck to the meat well enough, some may want to use an egg wash or first dip it in milk to increase the stick-to-it-tiveness.

I prefer to apply the rub several hours before I'm going to cook it, so as to give it some time to marinate and absorb a little more of that flavor. So apply the rub to both sides of the pork, put it in a suitable bag or container, and replace it in the refrigerator.

If you're going to grill your pork chops or loin, several minutes before you're ready to put the meat on, turn the grill on a medium heat, so that the grill temperature will rise to about 500 degrees. Depending on your grill the thickness of your meat, the pork will likely need about 7 minutes on each side, though the second side may need less time. Hopefully, your results will be as tasty as mine.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ten Day Hiatus

Because I am taking the Bar Exam in Alabama in a week, there will be a short hiatus on blog posts. I will resume posting in the second half of next week, hopefully less anxious and definitely with some new material.

For the last couple of months, significant portions of my days have been spent looking a lot like this. But that will soon be remedied.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dog Day Afternoons with Darby

Here's a snippet of what life is like for Darby and me while Anna is at work - while the cat is away, the mice are at play. Originally, I set up this time lapse video with my GoPro HD HERO2 camera so that we could find out what Darby does while we're gone and she's left to roam the house, but since that was so incredibly uneventful, there's no need to share it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kudzu, Invasive Species or Harbinger of Apocalypse

Kudzu reaching for the Moon :: Fultondale, Alabama
In some indeterminate post-apocalyptic future, there are those few who have survived the wars and destruction and remain living, if it can indeed be called living, in what was once the southeastern United States. But now there are no more entities, no governments, only remnants. Remnants and a vast green desert. A desert comprised of vines a foliage but which has strangled out the lives of all other plants, most of which would not have survived the fallout anyway.

But along with the cockroaches, the kudzu persists, an invasive species, without natural predator in this transplanted habitat and able to withstand of barrages of unnatural predators that have annihilated everything else. It persists, thrives, swallowing up forests, buildings, towns, the last vestiges of humanity, climbing, reaching ever higher, endeavoring even to ensnare the moon with its greedy, finger-like, green tendrils....Or at least, that's what I envision the future looking like, because this Kudzu is everywhere, covering more than seven million acres in the South and capable of growing up to a foot a day in the summer. And most herbicides are known to cause it to grow faster, and the singular one known to kill takes years to do so.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nosing about the Wild Sweet William

Apparently, Wild Sweet William (phlox maculata) are quite the tasty treat for bees. All through the summer, they can be seen bumbling from one flower to the next collecting pollen. But I wasn't the only one to notice; Darby sat by and watched with her usual intent curiosity, nosing as close as she dared without much concern about the possibility of being stung.

Carpenter Bee pollinating the Wild Sweet William (Phlox Maculata) :: Gardendale, Alabama

Darby eyeing the bees on the Wild Sweet William :: Gardendale Alabama
Of course this wasn't Darby's first run-in with bees, as can be found here: The Carpenter Bee, a Victim of Curiosity. My first post regarding Wild Sweet William can be found here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Phlox Maculata, also called Wild Sweet William

Phlox Maculata, under the common name of Wild Sweet William, is a perennial that is readily found throughout the eastern halves of the United States and Canada. While available in numerous colors, these lovely pink ones can be found in my mother-in-law's flower garden.

Phlox Maculata, also called Wild Sweet William :: Gardendale, Alabama

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Harvestman Stopping for a Drink

Harvestmen, commonly called Daddy Longlegs, are arachnids, like spiders, but they differ from spiders in several key areas: they have no venom glands; the have only one body segment, rather than two; and they have two eyes that sit atop the fore front of their bodies, rather than eight. Harvestmen live only one year, dying in the winter when they are beset by cold.

Around my house, harvestmen are a pretty common site. And because of the insects that are drawn to my small vegetable garden, they are a welcome site. I beg them to prey on the six-legged critters to their belly's content (which probably isn't much since harvestmen only grow to be 1/4" long, excluding their legs of course). After watering my peppers the other day, I noticed this fellow stopping for a drink, and who can blame him, with as hot as it's been.

Harvestman Stopping for a Drink :: Fultondale, Alabama

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Life Cycle of the Knockout Rose, a Composite

Knockout roses are pretty popular in this part of the country, and for any number of reasons. They require virtually no maintenance and are disease resistant. They grow well either potted or planted. Knockout roses resist drought well, particularly important in the dry Southern summer months. They produce many flowers and will continue to do so until the first hard frost. And besides, they're real pretty.

When I last posted a photograph of the knockout roses we have growing at our house, someone commented to me that he was surprised I hadn't put together a time lapse yet. I had already been thinking about it, and have even attempted it, but wasn't getting the results I wanted. So I carried it out a different way. So here's the knockout rose from bud to blossom to withering.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lizards on the Run, or the Tale the Golden Monster

Among the communities of the Blue Tailed Skinks and Carolina Anoles, the legend of the Golden Monster continues to grow. She terrorizes stray lizards, not discriminating between young of old. Any who are so careless as to be found out in the open are subjected to her slow, torturous but playful manner of slaying them. When she trees one under a shrub, she begins to stamp her great, golden paw paw, attempting to drive out the victim through tremors and fear. Upon being captured, the reptile is paraded around the yard, loosely but securely held in her clenched jaws; often the monster executes more than one victory lap in search of the first location at which the playful terrorizing will begin. 

Upon finding that spot, she lays down and lets the victim loose; as he tries to burrow or scurry away, she paws at him, reigning him in. Perhaps she even lets him stray far enough to hope of escape, only to pounce, and cart him to another part of the yard. She will then let him go again, only to roll on her back and nip at him while upside down or roll over him, smothering him in golden fur. But eventually, their tailless bodies are broken between teeth or beneath a paw. Either their will or ability to live, or both, is extinguished. Occasionally, one will be so bold as to defend himself, biting back, attaching himself to the monster's sensitive lips, but even that only serves to hasten his all-too-certain death.

A few have been rescued and survived. But for the others, all that remains is scales and skeletons, the rest having been claimed by ants. For the most part, the skinks and anoles have begun to make themselves scarce. They are not safe on the ground or under shrubbery, but only high up on walls and fences. And even when they're out, they're skittish, scurrying with abandon from anything that is large and moves, particularly Darby, my golden retriever.

Blue Tailed Skink on the Run :: Fultondale, Alabama