Category Archives: Life

Bountiful Butterfly Garden

A male monarch butterfly sips from a tropical milkweed flower in my neighborhood butterfly garden. Just a few weeks ago, almost two dozen Monarch butterfly caterpillars were feasting on these milkweeds. Is this an adult returning to his nursery before heading off to begin the journey to a winter in Mexico?

A male monarch butterfly sips from a tropical milkweed flower in my neighborhood butterfly garden. Just a few weeks ago, almost two dozen Monarch butterfly caterpillars were feasting on these milkweeds. Is this an adult returning to his nursery before heading off to begin the journey to a winter in Mexico?

As summer draws to a close, our neighborhood butterfly garden is now a flowering paradise finally crowded with bugs and animals. During June, July and August, the garden reminded me of a dinner party where few of the guests showed up, despite the mass of plants that bloomed all summer. We did get a lot of rabbits, who found the young plants very tasty and ate them almost to the dirt.  Joan, one of the hardest working neighborhood gardeners, built cages around the tender coneflowers and tropical milkweed plants so that they’d have a chance to provide food for other animals, and of course to be beautiful for our enjoyment.

A Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed flower in the neighborhood butterfly garden.

A Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed flower in the neighborhood butterfly garden.

I’ve seen many types of butterflies in the garden this week.  The two species I plant specifically for are the Monarch Butterfly and the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.  We plant food plants for the caterpillars and lots of flowering plants that butterflies and other pollinating insects prefer for nectar. For Black Swallowtail caterpillars, we plant bronze fennel and parsley. Monarch Butterfly caterpillars will only eat milkweed, and they sometimes are picky about which kind of milkweed.  Tropical milkweed is the most popular milkweed in our Kansas City area garden, and it has lovely scarlet and yellow flowers, too. Unfortunately, it’s an annual in our climate so it has to be re-planted every spring. I buy my plants from Monarch Watch on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas, at their plant sale in May. Monarch Watch sells a lot of plants for butterflies and other pollinators.  Their butterfly garden is worth visiting.  They also have an open house in September every year.

Protecting and fostering pollinators is good for the environment and for our food supply. A large percentage of our food plants must be pollinated to produce a crop. On a recent visit to the garden, a ruby-throated hummingbird whizzed by me. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, which are also pollinators, also visit the feeder at my house.

The Monarch butterfly population is in serious decline, so I would encourage everyone with a yard to plan a butterfly garden.  To find out more click on this link: Monarch Watch.

In the upper left is a Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The lower left is a Painted Lady butterfly. Can anyone tell me in the comments what the other two butterflies are? Can you see the insect lurking or resting under the petals of the coneflower?

In the upper left is a Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The lower left is a Painted Lady butterfly. Can anyone tell me in the comments what the other two butterflies are? Can you see the insect lurking or resting under the petals of the coneflower?

In the top left photo, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel. In the lower left photo, a crowd of Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley. In the upper right photo, two Monarch butterfly caterpillars thrash around as their antennae meet. In the center right photo, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar eats Tropical Milkweed. In the bottom right photo, Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs glisten on the narrow leaves of a bronze fennel.

In the top left photo, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel. In the lower left photo, a crowd of Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley. In the upper right photo, two Monarch butterfly caterpillars thrash around as their antennae meet. In the center right photo, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar eats Tropical Milkweed. In the bottom right photo, Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs glisten on the narrow leaves of a bronze fennel.

Here is a collage of photos from the founding days of the neighborhood butterfly garden. The top photo is from 2012, a hot summer in which I had to bring gallons of water from my house to water the new plants, because the sprinkler system didn't provide enough water. The bottom three photos are from 2013.

Here is a collage of photos from the founding days of the neighborhood butterfly garden. The top photo is from 2012, a hot summer in which I had to bring gallons of water from my house to water the new plants, because the sprinkler system didn’t provide enough water. The bottom three photos are from 2013.

An empty Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a butterfly bush.

An empty Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a butterfly bush.

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Filed under Butterflies, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Photography

Happy Birthday From Google

Happy birthday to me from Google. This was the Google Doodle on my Google Chrome homepage on my birthday. Thank you, Google. (I think...)

Happy birthday to me from Google. This was the Google Doodle on my Google Chrome homepage on my birthday. Thank you, Google. (I think…)

The Google Doodle changes every day.  Yesterday, when I opened my Google Chrome home page I saw that the Google Doodle was composed of birthday cakes. I thought “Well, isn’t that a coincidence, today’s my birthday.”  Well, there are no coincidences with Google. When my mouse passed over the Doodle, I got a birthday greeting.

Of course, Google knows my birthday. And pretty much everything else about me. Yikes!  I can’t complain, because I’ve willingly given Google my information so that I can use its services.  I haven’t told Google my cell phone number, yet. I’m sure Google knows that, too, though.

I checked my husband’s Google home page yesterday, and his Google Doodle was different from mine, the one for the ordinary non-birthday people.

Usually, I don’t pay that much attention to the Doodle except when there’s a fuss over the Doodle subject. Google sometimes features obscure and controversial figures rather than major events and holidays. I guess that’s a way to keep things interesting. It got my attention!

Next year, when I’m expecting a birthday greeting from Google, Google may ignore me!

To learn more about Google Doodles, check out this blog post from my friend Planetjan.

About Google Doodles from Planetjan.

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Filed under Commerce, Communication, Humor, Internet, Life, Technology

Historic Valentine Diners

I first saw a Valentine diner at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico. The museum, in the Rio Grande River Valley, is a collection of antique gas pumps, neon signs, soda machines, oil cans, vintage trucks and cars, plus plenty of other items.

I first saw a Valentine Diner at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico. The museum, in the Rio Grande River Valley, is a collection of antique gas pumps, neon signs, soda machines, oil cans, vintage trucks and cars, plus plenty of other items.

I grew up in the Wichita, Kansas, area but it wasn’t until I visited a museum in New Mexico a couple of years ago that I found out about a hometown industry — the Valentine Diner. My family moved to the Wichita area because of its biggest manufacturing business — airplanes — but somehow I missed this smaller manufacturing cousin.

The diners were manufactured in Wichita by Valentine Manufacturing, Inc., from the late 1930s into the mid-1970s. Sales of the buildings expanded nationwide, and soon Valentine diners were installed all over the United States. About 2,200 of the portable diners, in a wide range of sizes. Some served only a handful of customers, while the double deluxe versions were as large as many restaurants with added areas that featured several booths, tables and a long counter with stools.

Numerous Valentine diner buildings are still in use today, but many are no longer diners, but serve as headquarters for other types of businesses, such as used car lot offices and dog grooming salons. One 8-stool Valentine building was converted to an Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police Substation

Menu of Terry's Diner, which has maintained the sign and location of Brint's Diner in an historic Valentine diner building in Wichita, Kansas.

Menu of Terry’s Diner, which has maintained the sign and location of Brint’s Diner in an historic Valentine diner building in Wichita, Kansas.

One Valentine diner still serving delicious meals is Brint’s Diner in Wichita, where my mother and I enjoyed a meal. The red and white checkered linoleum tile floor, the red vinyl booths and bar stools and the aluminum trimmed interior provide a delightful vintage atmosphere.  The diner attracts a loyal following. The Brint’s building is a double deluxe model.  The diner concept was based on railroad dining cars, but with a parking lot and the addition of porches and other extras they settled in as permanent residents of their neighborhoods.

The Grinder Man sandwich shop in Wichita, Kansas, is an A-frame model of a Valentine Diner.

The Grinder Man sandwich shop in Wichita, Kansas, is an A-frame model of a Valentine Diner.

This Valentine Diner building in Wichita, Kansas, formerly a Lil Joe's Dyne-Quik, is now closed. Sign says that the building was closed due to unsafe conditions.

This Valentine Diner building in Wichita, Kansas, formerly a Lil Joe’s Dyne-Quik, is now closed. Sign says that the building was closed due to unsafe conditions.

Brint's Diner (actually Terry's Diner) in Wichita, Kansas, is a Double Deluxe model of a Valentine Diner building.

Brint’s Diner (actually Terry’s Diner) in Wichita, Kansas, is a Double Deluxe model of a Valentine Diner building.

Vintage Diner Interior Poster

Interior of Brint’s Diner.

For more about Valentine Diner’s check out these links:
Kansapedia: Valentine Portable Diners in Kansas

Valentine Diners Along Route 66 and Beyond.

Arthur Valentine’s Portable Diners.

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Filed under Food, History, Kansas, Life, Photography, Travel

Welcome, Spring!

Daffodils, blooming early in my neighborhood this year (February 2016) . Always a cheerful sight.

Daffodils, blooming early in my neighborhood this year (February 2016). Always a cheerful sight.

Our 2015-2016 Winter hasn’t been harsh, very little snow, so I won’t complain.

Magnolia blooming at Boone Hall Plantation, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

Magnolia blooming at Boone Hall Plantation, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

However, that doesn’t stop me for wishing for the flowers of Spring! I’ve already seen daffodils in bloom in the neighborhood, so I’ve gotten part of my wish. Here are some photos of blooms from previous Springs from my travels in different parts of the country.

Wisteria In Bloom At Loose Park Bridge Poster

Wisteria in Bloom at Loose Park Bridge, Kansas City, Missouri.

New Mexico Apple Orchard in Bloom Poster

New Mexico Apple Orchard in Bloom.

Texas Bluebonnets
Texas Bluebonnets near Tyler, Texas.
Gazebo on Azalea Trail
Gazebo on Azalea Trail in Tyler, Texas. For more Azalea Trail photos, click on the link below.
https://catherinesherman.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/the-azalea-trail-in-tyler-texas/

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Filed under Gardening, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Photography

A Love Story

Turkish Angora Cat with Odd Eyes Poster

Paddington, the cat with the BIG personality! Here he is giving me one of his “I don’t care what you’re doing, stop everything and brush me now!” stares.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” — Anatole France

It’s been six years since I updated the tale of the Brothers Angora — Paddington and Bones. Where has the time gone? I’ll pick up where I left off in 2009. You can read their earlier history in the links at the bottom of this post, including newborn photos.  Cute photos!

Paddington was a very brave kitty at the vet in September 2015. On the left he waits on my lap, in the upper right he patiently endures shots and prodding. In the lower right, he explored the room. So many wonderful toys!

Paddington was a very brave kitty at the vet in September 2015. On the left he waits on my lap, in the upper right he patiently endures shots and prodding. In the lower right, he explored the room. So many wonderful toys!

In September of 2010 after a year in San Francisco with Cynthia, Paddington returned to live with us when Cynthia moved to South Korea to teach English for a couple of years.  This time, I wasn’t letting him go!

Paddington and his brother are Turkish Angora cats. Paddington was renowned for his one blue eye and one amber eye, and Bones is deaf, both are traits sometimes found in white cats.  According to descriptions about Turkish Angora cats, these cats often choose a particular member of the family to be their constant companion and are very protective of their person. This was true with Paddington.

“Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.” ― Colette

After Paddington returned to my house to live in 2010, he was a bit standoffish, since Cynthia was his person. And he’d been a wide traveler, too, with many frequent flier miles. But he grew attached to me and soon was demanding his daily brushing.  He would follow me around and stare at me until I got the hint. Whenever I sat on the sofa, he would jump on my lap. When he wanted to be brushed, which was often, he would stretch out, placing his paws on the sofa arm.  He turned so that I brushed every section of his beautiful white fur. He especially loved to have his cheeks and neck brushed.  There was no better job than being his masseuse and groomer.

Paddington supervises my artwork as I prepare to paint an Airedale Terrier for friends.

Paddington supervises my artwork as I prepare to paint an Airedale Terrier for friends.

Paddington’s bed was next to my desk upstairs, where we had many conversations.  At night he’d always appear at my bedside as I was getting into bed.   Even when I thought Paddington was sound asleep in his bed, he’d often wake up as I passed by and dash down to my bedroom before I even got there, ready for his nightly chest rub. When I was settled in, he jumped on the bed for a nightly petting, which included a chest rub. As I rubbed his chest, he would paw the air “making biscuits.” It was so adorable!

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” ― A.A. Milne

When Paddington and Bones lived with my daughter and Cynthia in college, the brothers would hang out together, but not so much after their most recent separation.  In November 2015, Paddington started hanging out with his brother more.  One night, my daughter heard a strange yowling cough and thought the two brothers might be fighting (yes, they did get into some tussles with Paddington usually the one starting the spat), but when she went into the room, she found Paddington limp on the bed. We rushed him to an veterinary  emergency room, but he couldn’t be revived. He must have had a heart attack. He crossed the Rainbow Bridge on November 18, 2015. We were in shock.  He was only eleven years old. We thought we had many more years with him. I miss that little guy so much.  So far I haven’t been able to remove his bed, which is still matted with his white fur.  There will always be a cat-shaped hole in my heart and life. Take no one for granted, not your family, nor your friends and not your little furry companions.

Paddington, left, and Bones snuggle on a bed. Though they were littermates, they couldn't be more different in personality. Paddington was the BOLD one.

Paddington, left, and Bones snuggle on a bed. Though they were littermates, they couldn’t be more different in personality. Paddington was the BOLD one.

“Animals are such agreeable friends ― they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” ― George Eliot

The Brothers Angora, Chapter One

Gone to California.

Malcolm was my first love.

Malcolm is a Norwegian Forest Cat, Cat of the Vikings!

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Filed under Cats, Life, Photography

I’ve Gotta Crow!

My third-place ribbon in photography in the 2015 Visions of the Flint Hills art show at the Buttonwood Art Space in Kansas City, Missouri.

My third-place ribbon in photography in the 2015 Visions of the Flint Hills art show at the Buttonwood Art Space in Kansas City, Missouri.

I started entering art shows this year.  Got in some, shut out of others. My latest entries were for the Visions of the Flint Hills show at the Buttonwood Art Space, 3013 Main St.,  Kansas City, Missouri, which runs through November 27, 2015. This time, two of my photographs were accepted, and one earned a third-place ribbon in photography. Hurrah! The opening event was part of Kansas City’s First Fridays art walk.

But the real story isn’t about me, but the gorgeous Flint Hills of Kansas, which is the true star of the art and photography show.

For seven years Buttonwood Art Space has supported the Flint Hills area of Kansas and its unique place in our greater regional ecosystem through this annual art benefit. Visions of the Flint Hills Art Benefit and Sale is a juried exhibit featuring art of the Flint Hills. Sweeping paintings of sky and native prairie grass dominate the show, but sculpture pieces, fiber works and photos are also featured. The art is on exhibit October and November, in Buttonwood Art Space.
Proceeds from the event will benefit a non-profit organization, Friends of the Konza Prairie, a 501(c)3 organization which is involved in supporting the Konza Prairie, an 8,600 acre research and educational preserve south of Manhattan, Kansas. The Flint Hills are the continent’s largest remaining tract of Tallgrass native prairie which is also one of America’s unique places.  This unique geographic area once swept over 170 million acres of North America and was home to huge herds of buffalo and elk.  It is now a vanishing area. It harbors a wealth of adventure, beauty, and history. The region’s sweeping horizons and carpets of wildflowers captivate artists and enchant visitors.

I took these photographs at a photography workshop at the Cowboy Way Ranch near Westmoreland, Kansas, organized by Craig McCord and Jason Soden. My photographer friend Lynn told me about it and drove us there, so without these photographers, I wouldn’t have experienced this prairie burn. I am in their debt.

My photo, of a Kansas Rancher Starting a Controlled Burn, is on the left. The photo on the right shows a controlled prairie burn at night. Art patrons can choose a best of show. Voting continues!

My photo, of a Kansas Rancher Starting a Controlled Burn, is on the left. The photo on the right shows a controlled prairie burn at night. Art patrons can choose a best of show. Voting continues!

“At sunset, three riders hurry to an area to be burned in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Smoke already fills the skies and plumes rise in the valley beyond. Ranchers replicate natural fires when they burn the prairie, which preserves the grassland.” I was sitting on a flatbed trailer, bumping up a hill as the truck made its way to the next burn area, when I saw these three riders.  It was smoky, it was getting dark dark, it was hard to focus and steady my hand, but I did get this one shot.  The rider in back holds onto her hat as they race across the prairie.  The hat had flown off her head on another day, so she was taking no chances.

Photo on Visions of the Flint Hills website here:  Three Riders in the Kansas Flint Hills

“A rancher on horseback starts a controlled burn by dragging a fiery tire across the prairie in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Ranchers replicate natural fires when they burn the prairie every few years, which preserves the prairie as a grassland.”  This happened so fast that I almost missed it. Several others at the workshop captured it, too.
Photo on Visions of the Flint Hills website here: Kansas Rancher Stating a Controlled Burn

Buttonwood Art Space.

Crossroads Art District First Fridays

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Filed under Art, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Photography

Iguana Take You Home

A land iguana reaches for some leaves to eat on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.  Land iguanas were introduced to North Seymour Island in the early 1930s from the nearby island of Baltra, where they were dying out. In 1954, land iguanas went extinct on Baltra due to habitat loss and predation from introduced species, but they have been successfully re-introduced.

A land iguana reaches for some leaves to eat on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Land iguanas were introduced to North Seymour Island in the early 1930s from the nearby island of Baltra, where they were dying out. In 1954, land iguanas went extinct on Baltra due to habitat loss and predation from introduced species, but they have been successfully re-introduced.

The land iguana is a relatively new inhabitant on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Until the early 1930s, no land iguanas lived on North Seymour, even though it’s the perfect habitat. Land iguanas had thrived on nearby Baltra Island, but they were dying out due to a number of factors, including predation by introduced species and loss of habitat from voracious goats, and in the early 20th century the construction of an air base hastened their demise.

The Hancock Expedition (see link below) moved land iguanas to North Seymour, which had a similar environment to Baltra. Nearly 2,500 land iguanas now live on North Seymour, according to a 2014 census by the Galapagos National Park (GNP). North Seymour Island hosts the largest nesting site in the Galapagos of the magnificent frigate bird.  Blue-footed boobies also nest there.  Sea Lions and marine iguanas make their home on this island.

Land Iguana, North Seymour Island, Galapagos

A land iguana seeks shade from the fierce midday sun on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos

In 1980, several iguanas from North Seymour were brought to the Iguana Center on Santa Cruz for breeding and in 1991, the first 35 young land iguanas were reintroduced to Baltra, where they now thrive as the habitat has been greatly improved.  We saw one of these Balta iguanas when our airport shuttle bus stopped to allow one to cross the road.

According to our guide, iguana eggs and young iguanas are removed from North Seymour and taken to Baltra, but the older iguanas will live out their lives on the island. Eventually all iguanas will be gone from North Seymour Island, he said. I haven’t found any information to confirm this, although it seems reasonable that conservationists would want the island returned to its original state as much as possible.

On islands in the Galapagos where tortoises and iguanas live, prickly pear cacti have evolved tall, tough trunks, making it harder for these animals to eat the pads and fruits.

On islands in the Galapagos where tortoises and iguanas live, prickly pear cacti have evolved tall, tough trunks, making it harder for these animals to eat the pads and fruits.

One of the foods that iguanas eat is the prickly pear cactus. On North Seymour, where there are no tortoises and only recently iguanas, the prickly pear cacti are low to the ground.   On other islands where tortoises and iguanas are native, the cactus trunks are tall and tough, an evolutionary change that makes it harder for iguanas and tortoises to eat the tasty pads and fruits.

The iguana population is being restored to Baltra Island in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Baltra is a small, flat island, which was used as an air base and is now the home of the main airport for the Galapagos.

The iguana population is being restored to Baltra Island in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Baltra is a small, flat island, which was used as an air base and is now the home of the main airport for the Galapagos.

Iguanas live in Simon Bolivar Park, Guayaquil, Ecuador, where they are fed every day by the park staff. Here, they enjoy some lettuce.

Iguanas live in Simon Bolivar Park, Guayaquil, Ecuador, where they are fed every day by the park staff. Here, they enjoy some lettuce.

http://www.galapagos.org/newsroom/land-iguanas-north-seymour/

http://www.galapagos.org/about_galapagos/baltra/

http://www.galapagos.org/about_galapagos/north-seymour/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Allan_Hancock

”The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”
– Charles Darwin

http://www.galapagos.org/blog/darwin-animal-doctors/

Trio in Iguana Park, Guayaquil, Ecuador Postcard

A trio of iguanas have taken a prime spot in Simon Bolivar Park in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Hundreds of iguanas live in the park, where they are fed and taken care of by park staff.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Life