Discovering Jean-Henri Fabre

3 Apr

I was giving my friend a tour of the St Mike’s library and we were perusing the shelves.  Of course, we happen across the entomology section, lined with books on bugs, bees, ants, and the like.  It was there, that I discovered this gem:


The Life of the Scorpion, written by JH FAbre, 1923.  Jean-Henri Fabre was a French scientist, best known for his studies in entomology.  Born to a poor family, Fabre received almost no formal scientific training and was largely an autodidact (self-taught).  He experimented, taught and wrote volumes of books on insects during the late 1800s to early 1900s.  Many agree that he played an monumental role in popularizing the study of insects and some also consider him the father of modern entomology.  Much of this popularity can be attributed to his unique writing style.  He tells the stories of the insects he meets in a biographical form, writing in first person, almost like a diary.

As I scan the first couple pages of The Life of the Scorpion, it indeed reads simple and fascinating, like a good story book.  To start, Fabre shares with us his first scorpion encounter, when he isout searching for centipedes for his thesis, he comes across a scorpion under a rock and is perplexed by such a formidable creature, it’s stinger gleaming up at him. He leaves the scorpion and returns home with his centipedes:

“Science! The witch!  I used to come home with joy in my heart: I had found some Centipedes. What more was needed to complete my ingenuous happiness?  I carried off the Scolopendrae (centipedes) and left the Scorpions behind, not without a secret feeling that a day would come when I should have to concern myself with them.”

Oh yeah, this is going to be good.  Stay tuned for more excerpts, the Science Witch has put a spell on me.



Just Because

23 Feb

Normally, I would not be an advocate of animals in costumes.  But for an amusing reaction and a quick photo, I think it’s worth it.  Here to show off my winter collection:

Jilly’s Christmas scarf kept her warm this winter in North Carolina, when they got a few inches of snow!



Tupelo sports his Christmas scarf, doubles for Valentines Day, and triples for a Where’s Waldo Halloween costume!



Gordon looks a little nervous about getting his new scarf dirty, but he’s ready for St Patricks Day!



Tucker decides his sweater doesn’t bring out the color in his eyes.



Gerrard isn’t happy the paparazzi are pestering him for a photo in his spanking holiday sweater.


Writing, Week 2

9 Feb

Assignment: Write five different story beginnings, each of them revolving around a description of snow. Try different points of view, settings, voices.

1. The flakes peck at my face, but miss my open mouth, gaping wide to the night sky for a chance at a nice, big fluff ball.  I laugh and bring my head back down to earth.  Snowflakes have collected on my lashes and they tickle so I brush them off.  I am walking side by side with my friends and we’re all dressed head to toe in our colorful winter outfits.  It is the first big snow so everyone’s excited to get out and play.  Carl hoists Marilyn onto his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and spins around in circles.  Marilyn’s voice is a mix of giggles and shrieks, “Carl! No!”  He laughs back at her and hurls her like a shot-put into a snow bank.  She goes in side ways so half her body disappears.  One arm has sunk deep and she flails her other arm dramatically.  I run over to her, pants swishing through the deep snow and grab hold of her hand, smiling as I pull.

2. The heater rumbles and kicks on to life.  You move to be in front of the hot air it’s spewing, blocking the cat in the process.  He looks grumpily up at you, clearly trying to show you his disapproval.  You smirk and relax into the warmth, it’s nice to feel your fingers again!  Your nose is still dripping from being out in the cold and you sniff it back in.  Stepping towards the window, you pull the curtain aside.  It’s still snowing out there and you hope it stops soon.  You just spent the last hour and a half digging out the foot that had already accumulated.  It’s a wet snow, so it’s a bit heavy and hard on your back to shovel.  It was a lot of work, clearing that driveway, but you know Harold will appreciate it when he comes back from the long snowy commute.

3.  John holds his shoulders up and tense, his hands deep in his pockets, “man this blows.”  Mark’s not sure he entirely agrees with his grumpy friend.  “Aw come on, what do you mean?  It’s not that bad.”  John shuffles along in silence as Mark rattles off their plan for the evening.  It’s a Friday night and John would much rather of stayed in and drank and been warm, but Mark wasn’t going to let that happen.  Not on a Friday night.  John’s shoes press through the slush and he can already feel the dampness seeping through to his feet.  They enter the first bar on Mark’s list and John brushes the snow off his hat and stamps his feet.

4.  The trees are shorter up here in the mountains, their growth stunted by the harsh climate.  Only the conifers draped in needles enjoy the view of the valley below.  It is winter now, so instead of pointed trees, they are now blobs of white frosting in a pristine white outdoor palace.  Lower down the mountain, the trees are taller, more spread out, and bare of leaves.  The snow falls in clumps and sprinkles onto the fur of a lone coyote, resting in the alcove of a boulder.  The coyotes ears perk, alert for sounds of prey, but finally bend backward and down.  He gives his coat a shake in irritation, tossing snowy dust everywhere.

5.  Settled in your chair, you sip your tea, and stare out the window into the backyard.  You adjust your glasses, the snow hides everything out there.  It covers and rounds out everything so that all you’re left with is wondering what’s underneath.  You know the old tires are out there stacked and that your good dog Roy is buried out there somewhere, but now you can’t tell where.  Even though the sun has set and it’s getting dark, the snow is still there and it’s just old news.

Ready, Set, Write!

28 Jan

AssignmentUsing third-person limited point of view and present-tense verbs, write a short opening scene (@300 words) from an unusual physical perspective.  Then write the same scene from a different point of view (@300 words).

Harrison’s limbs are stiff.  It takes a painfully long time for them to respond, as if some unseen creature is holding them back.  Move, move, move, he tells them, but they are sluggish and heavy, struggling against the weight of his clothes.  He feels the panic within him, yet if feels so distant, like it’s not his panic, but someone else’s.  He concentrates on staying above the water, tries hard to ignore the chunks of ice spinning and ricocheting off his flailing limbs, tries hard to ignore the darkness that has swallowed him.  He feels like he is trapped in the middle of Space Crusaders, that pinball game he likes to play at the bowling alley in town.  He is the ball, trying to escape through the bottom hatch, but he has no choice or control over his fate. 

He sees Paul and Geoffrey only a few feet away from him and he comprehends that the movement of their lips indicates speech, yet he hears nothing.  They circle around the hole in the ice, the hole he is treading in.  Throw the rope, throw the rope!  Harrison tries to say to them, tries to be them, so he can toss the rope to himself.  He knows the water is painfully cold, yet he is numb and only feels the growing weight of his body, pulling him downward.  Then, he sees the rope floating next to him, scattering the floating ice and he blinks automatically to avoid the water it flings at him.  He grasps the rope and his brain screams to grip it tightly, but his hands seem to ignore his urgency.  He senses Paul and Geoffrey’s voices nearby, or far away, he can’t tell anymore, but focuses intently on them, he so desperately wants to be at their sides. 

His mind is going numb, but it pushes his limbs again.  One last flail of the feet, one last tightening of the fingers.  The rope retracts and his body moves.  Again, Harrison feels the rope go taught and he begins to notice he is no longer surrounded by the never-ending blackness.  With another panic driven pull, the ice is supporting his hips.  His mind starts to shut down as his body automatically begins to roll sideways, across the fluffy white snow and away from the watery abyss.


The far-reaching whiteness of the ice is cold, but Paul likes it.  He likes how the wind flattens the ice and snow, making it look clean and crisp.  He barely remembers the blues and greens of summer, barely understands how this is the same place.  The pristine white is broken up by distant black specks, of fishers out for a long day on the ice.  Here, but a few feet away, is their hole, disrupting the vast white desert.  Instead of a perfect round black circle, it is jagged, and Harrison’s head is bobbing among the angular pieces of ice.  Paul can also see waves stirring, but traces of Harrison’s arms under the water.  Paul no longer feels the frigid cold air, for he is hot with adrenaline.  He watches Harrison struggling to keep the waterline at his neck, his face contorted in pain and panic.  Harrison tries to climb out, to be back on the white shores, and Paul calls to his friend, yearning to have him back at eye-level. 

Paul tears his eyes away to spy their backpack lying strapped to the sled just as they had left it.  He trips over Geoffrey, who is still frozen in place, and makes it to the pack.  Fumbling, Paul digs through their stuff, why do they bring so much stuff with them anyway?  He finds the rope at the bottom and pulls it out, their thermos’s, snacks, and extra mittens spilling out the sides of the bag.  “Geoffrey!” he urges.  Together, they untangle the rope and Paul swiftly throws the rope to Harrison, who is painfully slow at acknowledging it next to him.  “Harrison!  Come on!  You can do it!”  He and Geoffrey both call to Harrison, it is so close to him.  Harrison grasps at the black water and finally snatches onto the rope.  Paul and Geoffrey dig their heels into the ice and pull backwards in unison.  They exhale together and lean back again.  Their spirits lift as Harrison edges forward out of the enveloping blackness.  With another tug, Harrison is out of the water.  Paul is sweating and his breath is hot and steamy against the frigid air.

Bird Balls.

18 Dec

I thought I’d make some bird treats, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it considering it was -10 yesterday (nothing compared to the -30 I heard about in Island Pond!)

I loosely followed the recipes here: and here:

I wanted to keep it simple and didn’t want to use corn syrup or gelatin or lard. Basically I mixed the bird seed with tablespoons of flour and water until I got a nice sticky mixture. Then I compressed it down into cookie cutters, an ice cube tray, and balls with twine loops set inside. A lot of recipes called for baking the treats and using straws to keep holes in the biscuit for twine later on. I let mine sit out overnight and I didn’t have straws, so I used candles!


Bird ball:

In other news, I shipped my second Etsy sale out this morning in a reused altoid tin. Please pass on your used tins and boxes to me!

Merry Christmas:

Opened Shop

16 Dec

I’ve recently opened an Etsy shop to simply share what I make and to
help encourage myself to continue creating.  Right now I’m selling my
bottlecap magnets and a selection of earrings, but I plan to branch
out and include crocheted items, photography, and more jewelry
choices.  So let me know what you think and keep checking back!

Oil Beetle

8 Dec


I observed three of these guys, while visiting the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller park near Quechee, VT.  They were a little over an inch long, glistening blue, and immediately caught my eye.  Looking like big fat ants, they drudged along through the grass looking depressed or drugged.  Their stubby wing-pads (they are flightless) barely noticeable over their bloated abdomens.  I thought they resembled the dresses that used to be in style… a long time ago:



Reading online, I learn they are in the family Meloidae and get their name from the fact that they ooze an oily substance from their leg joints when disturbed.  Also, are apparently parasitic as larvae!  First, a female oil beetle will lay up to 1000 eggs (?@#$%).  When the eggs hatch, the larvae will climb up onto flowers and attach themselves to solitary bees.  They hitch hike back to the burrow, where they relax and feed on the bees pollen and eggs.  When it pupates, the adult oil beetle will continue to reside in the safety and warmth of the burrow through the winter until spring arrives.  Jeez!  Talk about a your uninvited, intrusive guests!

Here’s a video of oil beetles in action.  Even a hungover oil beetle at 1:56.




Halloween Crafts

1 Dec

Fall dream catchers:

Ribbon rolled and folded into flowers:

Painted jars perfect for a lit porch Halloween night:

Spiny Oak Slug Caterpillar

20 Nov

Behold! The Spiny Oak Slug Caterpillar:


It was hard not to spot, lounging on my friends parked car, 3/4” long with those brilliant pink and yellow stripes and spikes, as you can see. The slug caterpillars are a family (Limacodidae) of moths and some are indeed smooth and slug shaped, but most have a variety of spikes, spines, and warty obtrusions. Now apparently, most caterpillars have prolegs (hooks or “crochets”), but slug caterpillars are pretty unique in that they employ suction cup “feet”! The spines can also cause skin irritations and burns…


I identified this guy not with my handy dandy bug book, which is never handy. But by image googling, “spiny rainbow caterpillar.” Ah, google.

For further amusement:

Lookout spiny oak slug! There’s a mustache behind you! Slug mustache

Please be sure to check this youtube video I found of a caterpillar “walking.” Includes enticing caterpillar music.


Harvest Time

1 Oct

It’s finally getting colder out and the geese are flying. It’s time to start gathering some food for the winter!

Our friends in Swanton have beehives that needed emptying! The trays get taken out a few days earlier, after the bees have been smoked out. A heated blade is used to shave off the caps of the comb. The trays of comb are then put in a centrifuge and spun, cranked by hand. When the combs have emptied, the honey is drained out into jars. Voila! Don’t worry, the bees will still have enough for the winter.



When I was young, I took an edible wild foods course at the Audubon Center. I recalled learning that you could make tea from sumac. Soak the fuzzy red sumac berries in cold water and then strain them out. What’s left is a deliciously tart sumac tea, or Indian lemonade. Of course make sure you identify the correct sumac. I made an extra concentrated batch and put them in ice cube trays for later.




Speaking of ice cube trays, pesto too!



and some herbs:


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