30 October 2010

"I'm not dead!"

Cue Monty Python:

Basically, we're working a lot. And occasionally sneaking a coat of primer after work, but usually the time is spent with our own little R2-D2. Unless we're watching the World Series(!!!)

...the kitchen is in a constant state of drop cloth, disarray and chaos. At least sometimes there's food involved. As for our personal washbot? It lives in our, uh, laundry room. Yeah.

Well, it's not really a 'bot so much as a spinning barrel. My biceps are amazing, by the way. Technically the beast is a Wonderwash and it does pretty well in terms of capacity. Three loads fills up about half of our clothesline (maybe 50' or so?) and I seem to run out of clothespins and hangers before I run out of line.

Overall, aside from gravity and wind being constant battles, the line holds up pretty well. It's the lack of humidity that's so awesome - we can hang things out overnight and (barring abnormal weather) it'll be dry in the morning.

For other adventures, check on our Big Bend blog because it is getting more love than this one is. We knew that would happen, but we didn't think it would be so drastic.

17 October 2010

little house

The long-awaited photo upload... our little house 'up the hill' in Marathon:

These are all 'before' photos (other than the painting and the puppy); I'll spare the termite video for now. 'After' photos may take a while, since the moving-in has happened in the middle of the fixing-up. For now let's just say that a bit more than half of the house (inside) has a fresh coat of paint, most of the unfinished wood trim now at least has one coat of varnish, the kitchen now has a stove and other projects are progressing nicely, if slowly.

Most importantly, in all of this painting and varnishing and fixing and otherwise revitalizing... we're back together as a family.

Anakin on his bed - thanks to Aunt Kindli for the old red sleeping bag.

15 October 2010

birth of a blog

It's official. In order to keep Marathon a bit more updated, and to keep our personal lives out of those updates (as much as observers can, anyway), BigBendTX.blogspot.com has been created. The Groove-billed Ani sighting already has its own post, along with a giant lump of Semptember sightings.

Now we just need to get the butterflies and moths in there as well...

yard swap

Here's the official yard list, in chronological order, for the house at 5th and F:

(Date range was from July 2 through September 15, 2010)

Turkey Vulture 7/4
Eurasian Collared-Dove 7/2
White-winged Dove 7/2
Inca Dove 7/5
Lesser Nighthawk 7/7
Common Nighthawk 7/2
Black-chinned Hummingbird 7/4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 7/4
Vermillion Flycatcher 7/2
Ash-throated Flycatcher 7/2
Cassin's Kingbird 7/3 nesting
Barn Swallow 7/2 nesting
Cactus Wren 7/5 heard
Northern Mockingbird 7/2
Curve-billed Thrasher 7/2
European Starling 7/4
Canyon Towhee 7/4
Great-tailed Grackle 7/2
Bronzed Cowbird 7/2
Orchard Oriole 7/4
House Finch 7/2
Lesser Goldfinch 7/2
House Sparrow 7/2
*domestic red junglefowl 7/3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 7/20
Western Tanager 7/26
Bell's Vireo 7/30
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 8/8
Say's Phoebe 8/8
Rufous Hummingbird 8/20
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 8/20
Barn Owl 8/20
Upland Sandpiper 8/25
Summer Tanager 9/1
Bullock's Oriole 9/4
Blue Grosbeak 9/9
Empid Spp 9/9
Wilson's Warbler 9/9
Cedar Waxwing 9/11
Spotted Towhee 9/15

Additional vertebrate observed in that time:
bat spp 7/4
spadefoot toad 7/9
chorus frog ? (?)

Queen 7/2
American Snout 7/4
Sleepy Orange 7/4
Lyside Sulphur 7/4
Gray Hairstreak 7/4
Texan Crescent 7/4
Western Pygmy Blue 7/4
Reakirt's Blue 7/4
Orange Sulphur 7/5
Question Mark 7/6
Definite Patch 7/13
Theona Checkerspot 7/13
Bordered Patch 7/18
Fiery Skipper 7/20
Dun Skipper 7/20
Mexican Yellow 8/2
Pipevine Swallowtail 8/24
Eufala Skipper 8/25
Southern Dogface * pre 8/25
Variegated Fritillary * pre 8/25
Common/White Checkered Skipper * pre 8/25
Goatweed Leafwing 9/1
Funereal Duskywing 9/3
Monarch 9/4

And species not in our yard, but observed in town during that time:
Cliff Swallow 7/4
Western Kingbird 7/4
Cassin's Sparrow 7/7
Black-throated Sparrow 7/7
Great Horned Owl 7/27
Yellow-headed Blackbird 9/26
Scott's Oriole 9/30

08 October 2010

Agapema anona

alias Mexican Agapema, alias Greasewood Silkmoth, alias William H. Bonney....

Heidi gave me a call this morning:
H- Matt, get your butt up here and get the camera out of the jeep
me- okay, okay.... , I am working in here.
H- alright, just hurry
me - okay...., what is i -


Great find, Heidi!

Agapema anona
is a member of the family Saturniidae, or "Silkmoths". The members of this family are our largest moths, however they are not always humongous. This particular individual's wingspans might be slightly longer than two quarters stacked side-by-side.

Absolutely spectacular male on a very cool morning. I can tell this guy is male due to the crazy feathery antennae. This attribute detects the subtle fragrance of a pheromone released by the female. This is intentional on her part, and is in a way.. a "call ." With a breeze, this male may be able to detect a "call" from half a mile a way.

A. anona larva feed on various condalia (Condalia spp.) and Greasewood (Sarcobatus spp).
Certainly some of that around. Adult females spin the cocoon in the branches of these host-plants.

This species is thus far known to range from SE Arizona, S New Mexico, and far-west Texas.

We are happy to range here too.

Edit: this lovely fellow was found early in the morning out near the public laundry room at the Marathon Motel. -heidi

06 October 2010

Post Park inhabitants

September 5th was when these photos were taken, and yes, other older photos will start to pop up on the blog, now that things are settling down.

Ah, tent caterpillars...

Post Park, also known as Fort Pena Colorado Park, or The Post, is a county park about 5 miles south of Marathon. The birding is fantastic. So are the butterflies (not to mention moths; we found a Poplar Sphinx there!) Anyway, while the juv Canyon Towhee seen begging earlier in the season was still begging, we found a few other juvies being a bit less dependent:

Young Vermillion Flycatcher out over the pond.

Young Zone-tailed Hawk on a yucca.

The Zone-tail was first seen up in a high cottonwood tree, Matt found it and pointed it out to me - we immediately assumed Common Black Hawk due to habitat and, well, it was perched. Zone-tailed Hawks never perch (common knowledge). Once we realized that the tail was not particularly banded, we quickly wavered over whether or not this could be an insanely dark Red-tailed Hawk... wing length vs. tail length and a solidly dark back helped ease our concerns. Finally when it flew we had a perfect Turkey Vulture mimic; Zone-tailed it was! And one short, adult tail feather was growing in, so as it cruised the area we were able to reassure ourselves that the ID was correct.

Only one tarantula was seen at the park on the 5th; one of those bound and determined to get to wherever it was going, not stopping for photos nor introductions. The bright abdominal fuzz was so attention grabbing that I crawled along for quite a while just trying to get a decent angle while it ran southwest. Trying to lure it onto my hand just resulted in it trying to find a detour. Such pacifists!

(Note: it shows up a bit larger than life-sized on my screen... it's really a bit smaller than my hand.)

04 October 2010

lurking in the shadows

One month ago, late into the night, Matt and I heard a large flying-insect type noise in our bedroom. We thought nothing of it, as moths were regular visitors.

The second night that we heard it, Matt had turned on the light and saw a huge, fluttery, shadowy beast. How this visitor entered the house, we do not know. We do know that the amusement factor was directly proportional to the amount of shadow chasing.

What invertebrate lurked in the shadows of our bedroom?

...a praying mantis, of course.

02 October 2010

Tuna Juice is pink

Mmmm, tuna juice. No, seriously, the fruit of the prickly pear is called a tuna. Nopal is the green pad. So juicing a tuna isn't nearly as bizarre as it sounds... but it does confuse people when you talk about going around town picking tunas to juice. Especially when you live in pretty much a desert!

The juicing setup: buckets of tunas, a huge rinsing tub, a chopper/grinder thing, bucket for juice, press, screen, clean containers. You can see where this is going, right?

Tuna puree! Of course, since I ended up helping after snapping these photos (and I wasn't thinking about it during the 2 weeks we sipped upon a small fraction of the harvest), this is all the evidence I've got for the juicing of the tunas. Most of the juice was frozen, to later be turned into margaritas and wine, but what was consumed fresh was also consumed with care - apparently it has enough antioxidants to mess you up if you drink more than 1/2 a cup or so per day. Just sayin' (one of the guys there ended up drinking about 3 cups and Did Not Feel Well). Oh, and it is like magenta henna if it gets on your skin. Not to mention clothing!

Exciting factoid: cochineal yields an identical magenta dye. You are what you eat, no?

While on the topic of pink things:

Strawberry Tres Leches - does not transport well. Tastes like heaven. Except for the crazy pink stuff on top, that was concentrated sugar with sugar extract and more sugar. And maybe a funky strawberry flavor additive. But overall, we felt good knowing that our purchase for the bake sale would help fund prom for Marathon High. Rumor has it the graduating class this year is four.

(This post's photos were taken around September 3rd)

Eumorpha vitis

Vine Sphinx

Found first thing this morning in near-perfect condition floating in the courtyard fountain at work. Drowned.


First one since Junction, Kimble Co., TX in summer 2009.

Spring Valley Elementary. in Hewitt, TX, had one of these guys in '09, too.. link.
That one, a McLennan County first.

Nothing nicer than a sphingid first thing in the morning. Well, not a whole lot. Some things. More than some. A few?

Like what?