Friday, September 30, 2022

It's Wasp Season

European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula

European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula

European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula) ♂

So why have I posted three different individuals of the same species?
  1. They are beautiful.
  2. They look like yellowjackets, but they aren't.
  3. They are the only wasp in North America that has orange antennae.
  4. Their eyes! Please click on the photos to see them full size and see those eyes.
  5. They feed caterpillars to their babies .
  6. Adults sip nectar.
  7. They are all male! We can't figure out why. Male wasps curve their antennae. The last wasp antennae may look straight, but he was feeling his way through the ground litter and straightened them for a second when I shot it. We could not find a female wasp! I suspect it has something to do with the season. 
These photos were from last Sunday at Jody's gardens. Jody has discovered a love of wasps and she doesn't even know why! We had three missions on that day: find bees, either social or solitary; find syrphid (flower) flies; and find as many species of yellowjackets as possible. We found 3 species of bees (one bumble, one digger, and one small carpenter), one odd individual syrphid, only one species of yellowjacket, and like a million wasps.

This is wasp season. They are, literally, starving because their food sources are almost gone so they are aggressively looking for any last bits of food they can find.

If you want to learn more about wasps, I suggest Eric Eaton's blog, Bug Eric. He won't remember, but he has helped me many times with identifications and by answering questions. He is curator of the Facebook group Wasp Friends, and has just published another book, Wasps: The Astonishing Diversity of a Misunderstood Insect. His book, Insectpedia: A Brief Compendium of Insect Lore, is lots of fun.

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Saturday's Critters at
Viewing Nature with Eileen


Thursday, September 29, 2022

Sunday Night over New Haven

Over New Haven, Connecticut
Sunday night, September 25, 2022

That is, basically, what my daughter, Anna, saw over New Haven Harbor as she stood on the second floor porch of her house on Long Island Sound. I made a GIF of the extremely short video because it hurt my eyes and the GIF does not (I don't know why). Anna's iPhone could not handle the data from the sky well. We quickly learned that this was a SpaceX Starlink satellite train. Each satellite has a life of only 1-5 years. A SpaceX rocket had taken off in Florida that day and was deploying dozens of Internet satellites 500 km over the earth. Humorously, just before I found this information, Anna derisively mentioned it was probably some Elon Musk "thing" that she saw. And so it was. The trains have been seen, and videoed, all over the world, but we had not heard of it until Anna showed us. 

During the week, another daughter, Amelia, found this article about "strange lights" over Vermont—that were from the same SpaceX launch. 

The video below is the most interesting and informative one that I found about Starlink, but it was produced in 2019, so it is out of date. However, the astrophotographer clearly explains this controversial project.


The video  below is more technical (2019, also). When I watch information like this, I learn what I am able to understand and ponder the rest for the future. I admit that I love the mathematics involved. Be sure to tell your children and grandchildren that they will be set for life if they become mathematicians. 😉


I have not been able to learn if the individual satellites, like the ones Anna saw, are physically tethered to each other when in orbit or at launch. 

One and a half hours later, Anna sent us three videos of storms that came in off of the Sound. She was hoping to get a lightning video, but that didn't happen. I merged the three to one, below. 


Perhaps some will enjoy and appreciate a GIF of our favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, which one child of mine used to express her understanding of Starlink:

May all of your skies be clear this week!
Skywatch Friday

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

A New Furnace

The new furnace waiting to get into the house.

I own a big 121-year-old iconic Vermont farmhouse that has been added to decade after decade. It is drafty and cold, with granite boulders as a foundation that were quarried from Barton Mountain behind the house. The original part of the house was built with no windows at all on the north side to keep out the cold! My husband was renovating the house, but he only was half done when he died.

I've had years of severe problems with the old furnace. It required $1,000-$2,000 of repairs each of the past two winters. With the cost of heating fuel the highest I can ever remember, this is causing severe hardship. This summer I was finally able to get a new furnace. The problem was that all the home heating companies here are swamped with furnace repairs and replacements, so I had to wait in line. Monday, September 26, was the day it was finally installed!

The old furnace was a combination wood and oil burner. Most people here have these, but I didn't want another one. John burned wood for 10 years here with wood harvested from our land. It was a tremendous amount of work. 

Here are photos of the old furnace that the technicians somehow managed to drag out of the cellar. It had holes rusted through it. The old cast iron fire box was in bad shape. My husband had repaired a lot of it during his life. 

It took two days for them to install the furnace, balance the heat ducts, replace some duct work, and make a new cold air intake in the kitchen. The upstairs is heated by gravity: in the old days, they cut holes in the downstairs ceiling and let the heat rise. And the last addition to the house had no heat at all until John ran a duct over to it. 

I love this furnace. It is so quiet that when I came home from school today I thought it had stopped running. There are no more roaring, cracking, or screaming sounds from the cellar. The heat is even throughout the house now. My new thermostat is digital and tells me the room temperature in real time. I'm running it cooler now, set to 65°F (18°C) all the time. I'll see if that is sufficient when it is -30°F (-34°C) this winter. Well, I'd rather not see that, but it will happen. 

I finally found my lost step stool
that belongs in the kitchen!

For Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for a stress-free winter with no worries to what I will find when I come home from school. Good riddance, old furnace!

Thankful Thursday at
Brian's Home


Wordless Wednesday: Great Spangled Fritillary

Speyeria cybele

Wordless at
Comedy Plus


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Sweet Pea

There is a tortie cat in this video that is not Sweet Pea.

My Anna's Sweet Pea passed today. Anna shared an iPhone Pet Friends video of Sweet Pea. Sweet Pea has been ill with diabetes for about two years. Anna and Aaron have worked closely with their veterinarian all this time.

Sweet Pea came to Anna in 2008 on a Hartford, Connecticut city street. A drug dealer had a kitten and wanted Anna to buy her from him. Anna said fine, she'd pay and the addict handed the kitten to her. Anna then walked away without paying. He threatened her but she said loudly so all could hear, "I've rescued this cat from you, you motherfucker. Get the fuck away from us." Anna is my formidable daughter. 

Sweet Pea has been with her ever since. 

🌈💔 Rest gently, Sweet Pea. We all love you. 🌈 💔

Happy Tuesday: A Good Weekend

Maple Hill Road, Barton, Vermont
Sunday, September 25, 2022
The mountain in the background is Owl's Head in Québec
The farm raises beefalo. 

This is the road I take to Orleans Village to see Jody and to go to church. On Saturday, I did both: the Women's Fellowship had its Fall Fling and Jody went with me. The church is across from her house. We entered the raffles and we each won! I got my Pioneer Woman Mini Dutch Ovens (which are stainless, not cast iron), and Jody won a peanut butter bird feeder. I got a bag of doughnuts, also.

Jody's bird feeder

My mini Dutch ovens

After the fair, and after Jody had tended to the potatoes in the church garden that she created and manages, we went across the road to her home gardens to photograph insects in the beautiful weather. Those bugs will be in another post, but just to show you how good an iPhone bug photographer Jody is, here is a long-jawed spider that she found. It is unedited. I love the piped icing framing its abdomen. I'm an amateur, but it looks as if this species has its abdomen mimic a head so that predators don't bite its head off! That is common is butterflies and moths.

Long-jawed Spider
Genus Tetragnatha

As for me, I got my own Lifer bee, among many other bugs: 

Orange-tipped Wood-Digger (Anthophora terminalis)

We ate our doughnuts with water in the garden as we watched the wasps and bees.

Orleans Federated Church
Orleans Village, Barton, Vermont

Sunday was busy, too. First, to church back in Orleans. Then Amelia and Dori came to help me with housework, and I began cooking: macaroni and cheese, chili, bread, and brownies. We all ended the weekend trading our newest family photos of the grandpuppies.

Amelia's Dori in Orleans

Anna's Stewie and Milo (the Devil Dogs)
in New Haven

I have not had such a normal, brilliant weekend in years.
I hope your weekend was as happy!

Happy Tuesday at
Comedy Plus


Monday, September 26, 2022

Monday Sparks: Anger

We can all help our children understand their anger (when they are calm) with this poster. Often, children (and adults) can identify anger as their only emotion.  Their stress can become less when they learn that is not true. I want this poster up in my office. 

Monday Sparks


Awww Monday: Nell's New Biscuit Blankets

Oops! Not for you, Lucy!

When I visited Soma's blog, Ink Torrents, I found that she makes fleece cat blankets. I said AHA! My Nell, who was an orphan, loves my fleece blanket for biscuits but it's not on the bed all the time. So I searched Amazon and found Furrybaby double-thick fleece blankets in a few different sizes. I wanted it double thick to withstand multiple washings and to keep it soft. I wanted a larger size so that Nell can sort of share with Lucy. I wanted pink because Nell is a girl. And the blankets have come: one for upstairs on the bed, and one for downstairs on the couch. 

Last night, Lucy thought the blanket was wonderful. But then Nell wandered into bed and found it:

The best biscuit blanket ever.

After a few minutes of biscuits, and very relaxed, Nell washed Lucy's face and they both curled up on the blanket for the night. That was exactly what I wanted for them. 

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Awww Mondays at
Comedy Plus


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Photo Sunday: Stairs

Fender and foster kittens

My daughter, Amelia, fosters kittens at times. One night, while she had these two rascals, she and her husband went out for some evening alone time and left Fender in charge. This was the sight when they returned home. Fender has obviously had enough of these little tornados.  

Photo Sunday with
Noah Clark


Friday, September 23, 2022

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Thankful Thursday: The Awful Eagle Day!

I got up late this morning and was half an hour late to school. On the way out, I found that I had run out of heating fuel! In the car, I found that the car was nearly out of gas! The spoon for my breakfast fell on the car floor. Ewww! They had not made my copies for my first class as I had texted, so I did them and messed them up so that someone else had to re-do them for me. 

But all my classes went very well today and that was a blessing. I could spend all my time fretting about the cost of heating oil. I got the car filled with gas ($65) and I noticed that the sheep were out in a field nearby, so they would be my simple photo of the day. I ordered oil, paid for it (I can only afford 100 gallons at a time anymore; it is $4.42 a gallon now, which is down by over $2 from the summer). 

But I also had to visit other blogs! I haven't done so for days and I am thankful that nobody has complained.  And then…I turned the corner to go around the north beach of Willoughby Lake, and there they were. Four bald eagles. FOUR. Someday I will tell you about my bald eagle sighting debacles, but they are long stories, so they can wait.

Until just a few years ago, maybe just ten years ago, bald eagles were extirpated from Vermont. Every neighboring state and province had them except us. Since they have returned, all of my friends and children have seen them. I have only seen them when I staked out a site that has been told to me by others. I am now infamous for not-finding-an-eagle. But no more!

There were a couple of other people, and a cyclist, there at the lake, but they didn't seem to care. My bug camera, which would have been perfect for eagle shots, was at home warm and dry. Well, at least it was dry. Not warm. So all I had, again, was the cell phone. 

I uploaded my report to iNaturalist, where one should be staid, sedate, and professional. Yet, this is what I posted in the notes on my observation:

Today was a wonderful day despite every other awful thing that went wrong. You can't buy anything as good as that awesome feeling when you watch eagles soar. Thank you all for your patience with my blog visits this week, for your visits, and your marvelous comments. I'm sure I will miss days again and again during school, but I sorely miss all of you and the stories of your lives. I will catch up and visit your posts that I have missed! Oh! And thank you for reading this entirely too long post!  💓

More thanks at
Brian's Home


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Review: Egg Drop

Egg Drop by Mini Grey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We read this book in the K class for our aeronautics unit. It was fun, and sparked a lot of conversation and imaginations. But not even I was prepared for the sad ending. Yes, a sad ending in a picture book. But after that, we talked about how air can help you come down slowly if you can capture it in some manner. The class remembered the parachutist that they saw jumping out of a hot air balloon basket in their last section of the unit and engineered parachutes of their own. It was a great time!

View all my reviews

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Wordless Wednesday: A Past Release

Sophie's Monarch
Granddaughter, 8 years old

at Comedy Plus