Monday, December 24, 2007

10 Blue Bird Boxes

Christmas Eve

All of us here are nursing our swollen bellies after a pre-Christmas feast delivered by Faye and Anthony yesterday. We had a relaxing day of food, drink, walks in the field and football. We wish we had more time to visit friends and the rest of our family, but Cymande is on-call for Christmas and we spent our vacation time early in the year. While Cymande is at the clinic I will spend some of my day tending to our newly hatched chicks. Finally, we have a broody hen that also is interested in caring for her chicks. In fact, she is not conviced that we are entirely benign entities and we are treated with a great deal of skepticism. Cymande has a small wound on her hand repesenting this relationship. I guess she (the hen) doesn't remember the daily rations of scratch and fresh water which has been generously supplied by humans. Charles and I built a developmental staging system for the coop. This is to avoid some harrassment and hazing activities that adult chickens like to subject upon the youngsters.

A couple photos here are a peak (pun) into the YL'S recent project, but the birdhouses are my creation. If you don't know who the YL'S are then I won't ruin it for anyone and they will remain a cryptic oddity of the rural south. There are also some images of the night sky and moon. We welcome the return of longer days and our migratory winter residents. Which reminds me that we recently went on the Hamilton County Christmas Bird Count. We identified 67 species and hung out with some truly great people/birders. If you ever find yourself in the rural south and are feeling alone or marginalized because your interests are...well...outside the local dominant paradigm...then you will feel better in the company of southern birders. A great moment on the bird count: Birder:"Have you seen any kestrels today?" Nice farmer on tractor:"Kestrels?" Birder:"Tiddly hawks." Nice farmer on tractor:"No tiddly hawks today."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Florida Crowned Snake

Tantilla relicta

Description: A small – 7 - 9 in (17.7 - 22.8 cm) – slender snake that is tan or light brown with a black head, chin, and back of neck. A light spot occurs on each side of the lower neck, and the belly is uniform whitish-yellow. Scales are smooth, and the anal plate is divided. This species is most easily distinguished from the similar Southeastern Crowned Snake (Tantilla coronata) by geographic range and by lack of a distinct, unbroken light ring on the back of the neck .

Range and Habitat: The Florida Crowned Snake is primarily restricted to Florida and has only been found in a few locations in extreme southern Georgia. They are found in well-drained sandhills and hammocks and are often associated with longleaf pine or turkey oak scrub habitat.

Habits: Crowned snakes are almost exclusively fossorial (living underground) and are seldom seen. They may be found under rocks, logs, leaf litter, and other debris and are reported to occupy pocket gopher and gopher tortoise burrows. Crowned snakes lay several elongated eggs in the summer. This species provides the principal prey for the rare Short-tailed Snake (Stilosoma extenuatum).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

October/November 2007

In October we went on an overnight trip to Orlando. We saw Cat Power at Firestone and it was truly unforgetable...a few distracting on-stage breakdowns, but otherwise a superstar performance. We shared the hotel with Ursus was interesting and strange! We also watched cable!

We completed the exterior of the laundry room and wired the interior. Progress continues... We also bought faceshields which we now refer to as helmets. It protected me from a screw laden board that fell and struck my helmet instead of my vulnerable head. It didn't protect my extremities when I fell from a step stool. I'm now nursing a sore left knee, but in the tradition of noncompliance I've done next to nothing to make it better.

The chickens are well and we have two juvenile chickens (a cockerelle and a pullet) and we have a chick. One of our broody hens sat on her eggs to the bitter end. We tried to break her, but she ended up getting weak and finally died. The cockerelle escaped the coop last week and Buckley found him. Good boy.

We also enjoyed the week of Thanksgiving off from work. We realized that we hadn't had a vacation since our last trip to San Fran 9 months ago. This explains the exhaustion. We cooked a Thanksgiving feast and hosted Anthony and Faye. We took a couple laps around the field and napped after. Autumn has arrived in Florida and the almost all the leaves fell from the trees today.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Common Name: Giant Intestinal Roundworm

Ascaris lumbricoides
Host: Humans
Portal of Entry: Mouth
Mode of Transmission: Ingestion of egg through contaminated food
Habitat: Small intestine
Size of Specimen: 6.5 inches
Prevalence: 1.5 billion people worldwide, primary in Asia and Africa, but areas of the US, specifically the Gulf Coast are endemic. This includes a little town north of Lake City where the above specimen was happily living in a 3 year old.
Description of Disease: Ascariasis is a human disease caused by the parasitic roundworm, Ascaris lumbricoides. Perhaps as many as one quarter of the world's people are infected, and ascariasis is particularly prevalent in tropical climates and in areas of poor hygiene. Infection occurs through ingestion of food contaminated with fecal matter containing Ascaris eggs. The larvae hatch, burrow through the intestine, reach the lungs, and finally migrate up the respiratory tract. From there they are then reswallowed and mature in the intestine, growing up to 12 inches in length and anchoring themselves to the intestinal wall. Infections are usually asymptomatic, especially if the number of worms is small. They may however be accompanied by inflammation, fever and diarrhea, and serious problems may develop if the worms migrate to other parts of the body.
Treatment: Mebendazole

Sunday, September 09, 2007

On Spontaneity

Well. We left the farm for once. Without warning, we shunned housework and ran off to the beach. We could have checked the weather. Perhaps we should have checked the weather. I barely had time to contemplate the fact that I was sitting on the edge of a continent when blammo! A squall. Being a professional planner, I had of course already decided upon an emergency protocol to be used in the event of a tsunami (1. shoes, 2. camera, 3. car key, 4. run, 5. go shopping). When the umbrellas lifted straight up in the air and began to tumble down the beach, I took it as a sign that the tsunami protocol could be used for squalls as well. We went for fish and chips, then to anthropologie for odd Japanese perfume in a fancy bottle.

An aside further into the umbrella incident: the sky darkened, the wind began to blow, I stood up, at the exact moment that I stood, the umbrellas, propelled by the wind, shot straight up into the air, tumbled painlessly across my back and continued down the beach at which time i shouted "Babies! Children!" because man, those things were dangerous. Gregg and Charles ran, saving several lives. We were at the beach for like, 20 minutes total. Overall, a good day.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Eggs, Ticks and the end of the NHSC...

Though the PBS fund drive is taking its toll on our daily routine we have managed to accomplish a handful of things around here (except pledging to PBS). Once, there was a decrepit leaky shack built onto the rear of our house which housed our washer and dryer; now, it is no more. Slowly rising in its place is the new structurally and aesthetically sound laundry room. It has been a slow process because Florida in August is ridiculously hot and full of ravenous parasitic insects. I'm a big fan of symbiosis in most of its forms, but I freely exercise my evolutionary advantage when it comes to ticks. Buckley and Lula are just collecting them.

The Chicken update: Morrissey, our beloved coiffed chicken, has disappeared and is presumed to have become fox, coyote, bobcat or owl food. He was at a disadvantage because his hairdo blocked his vision. Cymande hopes he became baby owl food because that's a cuter image. Mr. Wonderful, the alpha cockerel, also met his end one afternoon to some stealthy predator. That was okay because he was kind of mean. Two more roosters met their end to a less stealthy predator, We invited a friend to show us how to do such a thing and he talked me through most of it. It was surprisingly simple and not very disturbing at all. I was comforted by the fact that the cockerels were starting to fight and were harassing the pullets...too many cockerels in the pullet house. We had cockerel and vegetables from the garden for dinner that night. It was wonderful, and no one got sick! Also, the egg laying has begun and as of today we have a broody pullet proudly sitting on 13 eggs. The roosters that are left are like professional birthing coaches: they squawk proudly when a hen lays an egg.

Our friend David stopped by on his way to his new home in Pittsburgh. He completed his contract with the National Health Service Corp on almost the same day that we did (August 16!). We celebrated surviving the past three years as NP's "serving the underserved" and did some debriefing (the occasional HIPPAA [or whatever] violation included). David has elected to flee Florida. We will soldier on, but henceforth WILL take time for lunch and WILL NOT tolerate entitled belligerence from anyone great or small. So, more time in the field...more time on the porch...more time with the chickens...more time with friends...more time for leisure.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Common Name: Cow Killer

Dasymutilla occidentalis
Description:5/8-1", antlike, antennae beadlike, thorax and abdomen above: red, covered with short erect red hair, body below and head: black, males winged, females wingless.
Habitat: meadows, forest edges, clover fields.
Range: New York to Florida (Old Wire Road) and Gulf States west to Texas.
Food: Adult drinks nectar. Larva feeds on bumble bee larvae.
Life Cycle: Female searches for bumble bee nests and drops 1 egg beside each brood chamber. Larvae invade brood chambers, feed on bee larvae, and pupate in victim's brood chamber.
Behavior: Run quickly and fight ferociously. They get their name from their painful sting which is so severe that many people claim it could kill a cow.

Monday, July 16, 2007

June and July

The rattle of the dirt road jalopies have only been drowned out by the annoying drone of four-wheelers and a dump truck mysteriously delivering dirt to our neighbor; such is July in Columbia County. Thankfully, the summer thunder storms have arrived and the transformation from dust to dirt is complete. The absurdity never ends though. While I'm on hiatus between albums Charles has been laying down the latest tracks for his second record and Cymande is beginning her bathymetric quilt all whilst wearing our pedometers. Call David and Allison for an explanation of the pedometer wearing.

My parents visited and then left us, but only after we enjoyed a creationist birthday cake (apes and dinosaurs cohabiting the cake surface) that somehow incorporated backwards g's (giving the appearance of 666); truly a sight to behold. Buckley, the dog, has continued to grow and grow and grow, but let me repeat, "he is not long for this world," as evidenced by his need to cross the road and bark in the face of canine mortality. Speaking of mortality, we lost a couple chickens and rooster to two pitbulls, but such is the life of free ranging poultry. Buckley and Lula attempted to stop the slaughter, but it was too late.

David, Allison, Cymande and I all celebrated the end of our NHSC contracts with wine and sangria and food food food. Of course, I was on-call and I attempted to manage my supreme grumpiness with minimal success, but...ahh, more rain.

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