Monday, September 28, 2015

Butterflies Are Free

Always on the lookout for new experiences (and ways with potential for getting lost, hurt, looking foolish, ending up on 'Cops' or any combination of those things) I saw an ad on Facebook for 'Monarch Butterfly Taggers'. The Madison Audubon group was asking for volunteers to go to the Goose Pond Sanctuary in Arlington to capture, tag and release Monarchs for the folks at who track their migration to Mexico each year.

Goose Pond is gorgeous and the fields were blooming with goldenrod and fall asters. It was a little breezy, but warmed up quickly. Couldn't have picked a better day for capturing the Wee Beasties.

After a short how-to on how to capture, tag and release we were off!

That's 'Capture' (see the net??)...

'Tag' (that little sticker on the wing)

And 'Release'
You'd think for sure they would just fly in circles with that sticker on their wings but they don't. Experiment complete. You're welcome.

There was also the part about recording the number from the sticker, whether is was a male or female and what flower you found them on. 

The little buggers are a lot feistier and more difficult to catch than you'd think. It's almost impossible to catch them out of the air-they have to be on something and even then, if you don't get them on the first swoosh, they fly straight up out of reach.  And with the strong breeze they're a half a mile closer to Mexico before you realized they aren't in the net. And don't get me starting on the fact that they clutch the net with their little sticky fingers so you have to disentangle them leg by leg, and usually discover as you're unsticking the last little leggie that they have started reattaching the first ones you just untangled back onto the net. They have six total! Told you! Tricky! 

Once you got a proper hold of their wings, (that 'don't touch them or they can't fly thing' is an old wives's tale, by the way)  and get them out of the net, they do an alligator death roll/ toddler-throwing-a-tantrum thing that would be off putting to say the least were they a bit bigger....  and not a,...well... butterfly!

Once we were in the groove, people were tagging and releasing like crazy, I was a little slower because I had to name each one of mine, give them pep talk and a tiny kiss before I let them go. Mexico is a long ways away you know! I like to think they appreciated the encouragement!

My team adamantly refused to tag the orange and brown leaf I captured, although, in the end they  agreed that it did (somewhat) resemble a monarch. They MAY have been placating me. We can't be sure.  I lost a bit of time there because I spent 5 minutes sneaking up on the dang thing to catch it. 

We only caught one that we had tagged already which is pretty good. Last year the folks down south of the border found three that had been tagged at Goose Pond. The three were all in the same patch of trees in the same small sanctuary in central Mexico. Pretty amazing.  I will be doing this again next year, but on my own. You can order the kits and do it yourself and I have a prairie at the end of my street with lots of milkweed in it. How cool would it be to get a note from Mexico for a butterfly you tagged yourself! And own your own butterfly net! not to mention that now I can add 'Butter Fly Tagging Technician' next to 'Marsupial Relocation Technician' and 'Salamander Transportation Specialist' to my lengthy resume! Score! 

So if you're looking for fun and adventure, and you love insects, I highly recommend helping Madison Audubon and Monarch Watch out next fall. Too! Much! Fun! 

Friday, September 25, 2015

I Saw This Thing on Pinterest: Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

I saw the same ads you all did a while back; the ones for the baked donut pans and accompanying paraphernalia for making a 'healthy' alternative to the fat-laden breakfast treats. I thought it looked cool but wasn't willing to pay $19.99 for them because nothing EVER works like it does in those infomercials. My Momma's so proud she din't raise up no fool!  But then I found the whole kit and caboodle, still in the box, a couple of summers ago for $1 at a yard sale. Well now. I won't ruin $20 worth of ingredients on a $19.99 pan but for a $1..... Maybe my Momma should reconsider,

They've just been sitting in my pan cupboard since then. I KNEW they would be awful so why bother! (I know, don't try to figure out the wonky thought process. I've long since given up.) But then I poked around Pinterest. Dog help me, but some of my greatest successes AND failures have started with the phrase 'I saw this thing on Pinterest'; a phrase that's the female equivalent to 'Here, hold my beer and watch this!' Anyway, there was a recipe for 'Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts with Sea Salt Caramel Glaze'. And since nothing screams 'Healthy Alternative' like a baked doughnut slathered in a cream, butter and sugar sauce, I knew I had to try it.

The batter was a basic pumpkin muffin one. It had copious amounts of sugar and veg oil, Trying to get the fairly thick batter around the rings in the pan was a little futzy and challenging, but not so bad. 

They smelled heavenly baking. Below is a scratch and sniff photo. (If you fell for that my Momma isn't the only one raisin' up fools!)
Even though these were for others, I just couldn't see covering them in that caramel glaze, as scrumptious as it sounds, so I just waited until the were a little warm still and shook them in a little sugar mixed with a little pumpkin pie spice.

They were delish! Were they a Krispy Kreme or a Dunkin'? No. Were they just a round muffin with a hole in the middle. No, surprisingly, not really. They were some magical combination of both. I had one and my company and neighbors scarfed the rest. I am of the opinion that they would be best served fresh but there were no leftovers on which to test that theory.  

I'm anxious to try one or two more of the 8 gigabillion recipes for different flavors on Pinterest. If they are as successful as these, I will start scouring garage sales and Goodwill for more pans. I only have the one regular sized pan so it took a couple of hours to bake the entire batch off- 6 at a time. But they would be great for brunch or to take in to work.  So bottom line, if you've wanted to try them and haven't because you think they won't be good, you're wrong!  Give them a try.  If you try the gooey sauce, let me know how they are!

Molly Bee and The Really Really Big Mushroom

While out and about last Friday, I saw this peeking out of the tall grass under a big tree over by Farm and  Fleet. I suspected it was a giant puffball.  I had seen several from afar and lots on-line, but never gotten up and personal with one, so of course I trudged across the field and picked it.  Here it is in the trunk of the car.

As I approached it in the field, I thought I had been mistaken. This is the top and it looked like a giant blog of that liquid insulation stuff...we were by Farm and Fleet, a giant hardware and farming equipment store,after all.

But the minute I touched it (and smelled it) I knew it was the real deal.  It grows on the ground so it took me a few minutes to evict the myriad of creepy-crawlies that lived on the mushroom's underside. 

I brought it home and set it on our patio table, It was significantly larger than a basketball, and a solid, fleshy 5.7#!  I knew that the scuttlebutt on my Nature group on-line has said that they were edible but I wasn't that crazy so I went on the group site and advertised it-first come first serve.  There were two folks interested but they were way Up North and I wasn't willing to drive up there or even meet them half way, so that was out. They sent me recipes and encouraged me to try it but with my luck, uh-uh.

I showed it to Neighbor Mike, who was standing in his yard with the rest of the neighborhood guys. They gather there after work to shoot the breeze and most cool evenings find them all out there in their lawn chairs around the fire pit. They were all enthused, passing it from person to person and prodding at it like a bunch of monkeys with a coconut. They badgered Mike to fire up the grill and test it out. I told them that I was only 97.4 percent sure they wouldn't die, so before they set out, they should find a more qualified person to go over their plans with.  They scattered. One went for the phone to call his sister ('She'll know what to do!), while others went for matches and knives,  When I left to go to knitting, they had an enormous slice of it on the grill and were all poking it with sticks.

Driving down the street after Knit Night I tried to prepare myself for the ambulance traffic that was sure to surround Mike's house when I got home; sure that I'd killed them all by gifting them a giant poisonous mushroom, but all was quiet, This was a good and a bad sign. Most other nights when I come home, they are around the fire pit. Tonight, Mike's house was dark and deserted.  But at least there was no Emergency Personnel. Hmmm.

The next morning, I was walking Ben and intended to ask Mike, who is ALWAYS in his yard on Saturday morning tinkering on his truck or what not, how the mushroom was,  but the house was closed up tight. Nary a sign of him or any of his friends. Uh oh.  The next several hours were tense and I cased the neighborhood, looking for any signs of life.  Finally, I saw Mike in his yard! I think he was a little surprised when I rushed up to him and yelled, 'YOU'RE ALIVE!'  

He said that they had tried it, but it was pretty anticlimactic. The boys tucked in with gusto but it didn't taste like mushroom or anything else really. Kind of rubbery and bland, like tofu. So they didn't eat that much of it. But they had fun taking pictures of it, poking, prodding and cutting it up, so there was that. And, of course, the adrenaline rush that comes with surviving eating something you're pretty certain will kill you. (Not to mention the adrenaline rush that comes with being fairly certain that you killed half the men in the neighborhood and you can't be sure that it could be ruled 'accidental' since you foisted it on them and then told them it was probably edible.)

So several things were learned. Giant puffballs, while non-poisonous and technically  'edible' are not all that yummy. They ARE wicked fun to find and to have around for a conversation piece. And last but not least Farm and Fleet really does have EVERYTHING!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Diva Challenge 253 Stripes

This week's Diva Challenge was to just draw stripes across the tile as a string. Never one to follow directions, mine are curvy instead of straight but there you go. This was definitely a therapeutic tangle for me! Thanks for the challenge, Laura!

Molly Bee and the Very Very Scary Thing

I got my safe, secure, little world rocked to its core this week. I stopped at a local gas station to get an iced tea and a bag of peanuts on my way to work. I had been working at home all morning while a handyman installed our new storm door and had rushed out afterward forgetting lunch.

As I entered the store, I heard a loud gentleman, with a pronounced Southern accent, talking to some people on the other side of the store. The only reason I noticed was because of the strong accent, not that they were yelling or fighting or anything. I got my iced tea and nuts and proceeded to the front of the store. The man with the accent was now alone. He grabbed my arm and asked me if there were any restaurants around here within walking distance. I pointed out a few, while trying to gently extricate my arm. He tightened his grip and said that they were too far away for him to walk, and that he wasn't from around here, and that I would be driving him. Still trying to be reasonable and half thinking that this must be some kind of a practical joke, I asked him to please let go of me and tried to tug my arm away.

At this point his face turned red and he let go of my arm  only to put HIS arm all the way around my shoulders like a cage. Whenever I have envisioned being grabbed, I always saw myself kicking, screaming, biting and yelling my way to freedom. I had grand visions of not letting the perpetrator go without lodging  a size-six Adidas firmly into his nethers.   This guys was 6'7"+ tall and weighted 300+ pounds.  I totally froze. All scenario rehearsals in my head and in the defense classes I'd taken over the years were nowhere to be found.  As he's talking loudly and hauling me toward the door saying that I'm taking him to a restaurant, I finally found my voice and loudly told him to LET GO OF ME.  

The two clerks working were (thankfully) good-sized guys and they came right over and hauled the guy off of me.  All the while he's yelling that I said I'd drive him to a restaurant.  The clerks are trying to talk him down and asking me if I wanted to call the police. I said, 'No, I'm fine' and even kind of laughed as I launched myself out the door and into my car.

I started the car and my first thought was 'That was weird'  and chuckled.  The closer I got to work, the more upset I got and by the time I parked I was shaking like a leaf and on the verge of tears. I went to get out of the car and realized that I had driven the entire way with the peanuts clenched in a death grip in my right hand and that I hadn't paid for them or the iced tea! Grand theft snack food on top of the mayhem!

As soon as I got to the safety of the building, I kind of lost it. My coworker took me in the back room and we talked it out. I felt so stupid because I was fine, nothing 'happened' to me aside from a few fingertip-sized bruises on my arm. My mind was going a thousand miles a minute though. How could this happen at noon in a well-lit, busy gas station? What if I had been somewhere more secluded? What if the clerks had been woman and not able to tackle the man? What if? What if? What if?

I shut down the what-ifs pretty quickly because that can drive you nuts (and I already had the nuts which I'd pilfered from the gas station).  I pulled it together and worked the rest of the day. I thought I was fine until I tried to go to bed. Awake does not begin to describe my state. The what-ifs were back in full force and they'd brought their friends, the 'I'm never going anywhere alone again-s'  and 'the world is never going to be safe again-s' with them. I read and Zentangled all night long.

 Blearily, I went to work the next day and purposely stopped at the same gas station to pay for my ill-gotten gains from the day before, and learned that the man was a trailer truck driver from down south with an extensive record for assault and battery-I got very, Very,VERY lucky. The clerks asked if I wanted to contact the police and I said no. I didn't want this man to know my name or where I live or ANY information about me. They already know he's bad news, they can deal with him without my input.

I know it doesn't seem like much of an' incident', but in terms of shattering my security, it did the trick quite nicely, thank you. I had been in a safe place in the middle of the day and something had still 'happened'.  Given an couple of day's distance, I am actually glad it happened. I wasn't hurt and I realized that I had grown complacent and had been taking chances by nonchalantly putting myself in harms way when walking and hiking in more isolated places; simply not thinking about the potential dangers, not being 'afraid' of anything, and 'knowing' I could handle any incident that might arise. I had stopped being vigilant. On the one hand, that's a sad state to have to live in-looking for evil everywhere, but today, it's a survival skill and a necessity and I won't be caught unawares again.

I hope if you are reading this, that it reminds you to be aware too. The majority of people are good, but there are bad people out there too, and things can happen in the blink of an eye-especially if you're overly self-confident and oblivious to the world around you. Put down your cell phones and burst out of that bubble of self-absorption and pay attention to your environment. You don't have to be scared of the world, just be vigilant! I do these experiments so you don't have to!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Meditating on Meditation

I took an Intro to Meditation class at the local library tonight. I've meditated a bit in the past but wanted to get an overview of some of the different methods available. The class started at 7PM.  The room was so heavy with patcholi incense that I wasn't sure I was going to be able to stay.  My nose plugged up and my eyes watered, but I finally lost my sense of smell and then it was somewhat OK. But by 7:15 I had failed the course completely. My mellow was so thoroughly harshed that it's lucky I didn't hurt someone.

In what universe do you sign up for a 7PM MEDITATION course, show up 10-15 late and then enter the room, gabbing loudly on your cell phone,  asking people to move so you and your equally tardy and talkative friend can sit together, and asking what you missed?  And it wasn't just one or two people. It was about ten, one or two at a time, spaced in intervals that exactly matched when we'd just got calmed down from the last idiots that crashed the calm. 

OK-So by 20 after we're all there. We start the first meditation which just requires quiet breathing and a check of your body from toes to the top of your head. This was all explained before we started. The teacher quietly and gently led the exercise starting at the toes....moving up the ankle...and the shins....only to be interrupted loudly by an old lady who screeched that she was deaf and couldn't hear the teacher. The teacher explained that it wasn't necessary to hear her.  Just breathe and check in with your body starting with your toes and ending at the top of your head.  We started again.  All went smoothly for about 3 minutes until the old lady bellowed, 'Are you guys at your hips yet?!' Sigh.

We started the second exercise that the teacher explained to the class (and then more loudly to the elderly lady), that this one involved breathing and chanting 'ROM' in unison. Apparently there is a lot of confusion as to what 'in unison' meant which led to a cacophony of discordant 
'Rama-lama-ding-dongs' all over the room. Real calming.

The final exercise was to do a weird-a** fingernails-on-chalkboard noise three times (which over half of us refused to do-I must admit I was proud of us.) and then chant ROM three times each from the body center, our heart center, and our head center and then finish up in the body center again.. Of course over half of the group had no idea what that meant (oddly enough, the old lady caught right on the first time) so it was a 10 minute diatribe descibing the locations of the centers, then  giggling at where the 'body center' is (below your belly button and between your hip bones.  Hilarious.What are we 5 years old?) Then another 5 minutes to explain that these were really IMAGINARY spots and you couldn't identify them in an x-ray and no, the glowing orb of light that you were supposed to imagine there wouldn't show up either,

The fertilizer really hit the fan though when the teacher stated, "Make sure the last one you do is in the body center....because that's where you want to end don't want to leave anything behind." Holy Carp! Pandemonium.  That can happen?!?!?!?

 I just looked at the lady beside me and said 'Glad I don't have to clean up after this tonight.'
'Yeah,' She said drolly, 'No ectoplasmic containment system.' Then we both said 'Who ya gonna call.' and laughed, The teacher gave us a pointed look. Yeah, Like, WE'RE your biggest problem! *Eye roll*

Based on tonight's experience, maybe meditation isn't for me.  When the library has a MEDICATION seminar, I'll be the first to sign up...if I can beat the teacher to the front of the line.