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.
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:
When I spotted the crab apple tree on campus, my brain started spinning. Sauce, jelly, pie… and free! Oh the possibilities! I set about reading about how to can, getting supplies, and picked some apples.
Cat: You are so ugly. I am sick of looking at you.
I was too cheap to get the $15 Canning Utensil set at Shaws, which I guess is $7.49 at Target… but was rewarded with a stop at Goodwill which found me the funnel and jar lifter for a grand total of $3. Instead of buying a canner, I used my big pot and made my own canning rack from this webpage.
Ready, set, go!
Finished Product. Three hours later a whopping two and a half jars. Thing in the back is the pillowcase I used to strain the apple mush out.
I kept reading online that everyone hated canning and that it was hard work. I will confirm some hard work, since I was using crab apples… But it really wasn’t too painful, just a lot of waiting for water to boil for long enough and more waiting for the jelly to gel.
Here are the tutorials I used:
And here’s the recipe:
I’ve found time over the past year to make these. Most of them I don’t actually wear, so if anyone is interested in having one…
Hangs long and asymmetrical:
Twisted rainbow seed beads:
Back in college, we were moving out of the dorms and my roommate broke her seed bead choker and left it in pieces on her floor. I strung it back together and added a leafy pendant as a final touch:
This big pendant makes me think of medieval times:
Seed beads take patience and a steady hand to work with, even for this simple choker:
I had fun making this long charm necklace with some single earrings and a skeleton key as the base:
A few years ago, I lost a nice gold leaf earring within or on the way home from Three Needs. So I re-purposed it’s lone partner:
Using my favorite Carrot cake recipe, I made some birthday cupcakes and expanded my melted-chocolate-drawing skills:
My roommate and her friend made Super Mario Bros. fireflower cookies using a playdough press in only ~5 hours (omg Google pixel cookies). Reminds me of my ~4 hour hidden heart pound cake fiasco.
This is a Giant Water Bug. The body is 7 cm long.
Also called a Toe-Biter, apparently has one of the worst insect bites in North America.
The speciman above was obtained in Corvalis, Oregon. I found it dead and let it dry, pinned to a board. I then found a glass ash try at a Goodwill and encased the bug in two layers of Easy Cast epoxy. I’ve had trouble with epoxy in the past, including bubbles, poor mixing/amounts (causing it to never harden), and embedded items floating to the surface. Luckily, it turned out pretty well this time!
The Giant Water Bug is in the order Hemiptera, shared with cicadas, leaf hoppers, and aphids. A defining feature in this order is a beak that is used to pierce plants to suck sap, or in this case, defend against curious human hands and pierce prey.
Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators that live in slow flowing water like ponds and lakes. They lie in wait for their unsuspecting prey which can range from other aquatic insects, to fish and frogs. When they strike, they grip their prey firmly with their front legs like a praying mantis and use their beak to inject a digestive enzyme and suck up the liquidy remains (*slurp!*). Here’s some youtube footage of a Giant Water Bug making a meal out of a goldfish.
A few years ago, I had two smaller (~3 cm long) water bugs as pets in an aquarium, like the one below (a different genus than the large bug above). They were neat, but I found I had to practically force feed them crickets held with tweezers (like this video). Also, to the distress of my roommate and guests, one mysteriously disappeared through the screen roof of the aquarium…
I finally took the time to practice my macro photo skills with my non-macro lens on these earrings I made with resistors my Mom found in the garage. I thought I was on to something new, but it’s all been done before. The second pair below is up for grabs!
I was in a baking craze after those lemon drop cookies and made a chocolate pound cake inspired by this recipe. I didn’t have a heart shaped cookie cutter, so I just sliced the hearts by hand, how hard could it be?
What I learned:
(a) Cookie cutters are helpful.
(b) Whole wheat flour really is different than all purpose flour, really.
(c) I will never make this again. Pound cake that took 3 times longer to make just to get a heart inside? Eh sorry, I don’t love you that much!
Instead of using tons of red food coloring for the cake, I replaced some of the sugar with red sugar sprinkles (which of course have no red food coloring..)
Crooked heart surprise:
Food blogs are all the rage these days (see foodgawker or smitten kitchen). Always complete with photos walking you through the entire recipe, and finishing with mouth watering macros of the finished product. So I thought, why not?
Perusing through Valentines Day recipes, I was inspired by this post, and made smaller chocolate hearts to place on these Lemon Drop cookies topped with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.
I learned that (a) it’s incredibly frustrating to feel like you should stop every 10 minutes to wash your hands and take a stupid photo to put on your blog, (b) I bake in the evenings, when the lighting is not ideal, and (c) for my first experience taking the time to neatly blop frosting on, I now have an appreciation for bakers at My Little Cupcake.
Making the batter:
My first time zesting a lemon!
Fish view of cooling cookies:
I tried downhill skiing a few weeks ago and it ended in some bruises. But like these nifty ski-themed magnets I’ve made, I plan to stick with it.