Chris spotted this tiny snake in the driveway. It was maybe 6". He asked "What do we do when we see a snake?" Of course, the answer is: Take a picture! It looks like the western terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegans). There are several subspecies of this snake, so the appearance is quite variable. It was part of a live birth along with 5 to 17 siblings. At this stage it is eating invertebrates, but as it grows it may consume the occasional vertebrate using a combination of mild venom and constriction.
Fresh food! The second picture is a radish i found growing on one of the berms.
The third photo is some kind of buckmoth caterpillar in the Hemileuca genus. It was crawling around outside Allerton Abbey. The spines will sting and can leave a welt that is visible for weeks.
Those caterpillars are evil! A squad will crawl across the concrete and up your pants leg while you sit obliviously in a lawn chair under a sycamore tree. And I can tell you that it is not only the visibility of the welts that lasts for weeks->months. Nasty!
Yesterday eight of us staying here at Wheaton Labs took a field trip to Mike Oehler's place in Northern Idaho. Paul was awesome and let us use his van so we didn't have to take multiple cars. Mike took time out from writing and working to get already written books published to lead us on a tour of his place. He showed us all the different underground and earth integrated houses (along with the Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse) on his 45 acres. Some had been lived in for many years, some were never completed and have already started to collapse, and one was still under construction. It was quite a treat to see the structures i've seen in books and videos in real life. Mike answered our many questions during and after the tour. The Ants had questions that will help them finalize their designs. It was neat to see things that inspired Paul's design of the Wofati.
The first photo is of the $15 house. No one has lived in it for quite some time. Mike said it has one small leak in the roof. He was pointing out the young forest that has started growing on its roof, and thought one leak wasn't bad after so many decades and so many trees.
The second photo is Mike sitting in the $500 addition to the $50 house. It smelled a little musty, but not bad for no one living there for so long. It wouldn't take much to make it livable again.
A large portion of the ridge house is unfinished, but i thought this bit of well fitted lumber was a nice touch.
Here's a few more pictures from the day we went to Mike Oehler's.
The first is the sunrise from the top of Allerton Abbey. It had rained the previous evening and everything was shrouded in fog as we ate breakfast. After we made it over the pass into Idaho, all the fog suddenly was gone and we were in the bright sun.
The second photo is of Townsend's Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii). These bats have a 12" wingspan and enormous ears. The feed mostly on moths. The can live up to 20 years.
The third photo is of a Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla). These frogs can change their color from green to brown as the season's change. As tadpoles they are vegetarian feeding on algae using special scraping beaks and pollen that lands on the water. As adults they feed on a wide variety of insects and other arthropods. Sometimes expanding their bodies because they've eaten something almost as large as themselves!
Both the bat and frog are present in Montana and i hope to see them around the Lab someday.
Today's three photos are of Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola). It opens a round of blooms for one day then a couple days later is covered in dandelion like parachutes. Then it will do another round of blooms and so on. It is also called compass plant because the leaves will twist themselves to face the sun. It is fairly bitter but the young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds can be pressed for a possibly edible oil that is also used for soap making, paints, and varnishes. A milky sap flows from wounds on the plant. The sap from flowering specimens is collected and dried to be used medicinally to relieve migraines as it is a mild sedative. It has also been used for treatment of insomnia, anxiety, and hyperactivity in children.
An easy way to tell this plant from Wall Lettuce (Lactuca muralis) is that it has 12-20 ray flowers (each petal is a separate flower) but wall lettuce has only 5 ray flowers.
Today's photos are all of Daikon Radish (Raphanus sativus). It has been re-seeding itself and there are many of them in different stages of growth. Daikon are know for being able to use their massive root to break up compacted soil. If you leave it in the ground to rot it will be a channel of organic matter deep into the soil.
The first photo is of the flower. After you see these the root starts to get tough.
The second photo is of the seed pod. These are a delicious radishy snack. You can also add them to whatever other vegetables you are cooking. Leave some on the plant to mature into seeds.
The last photo is of the root harvest! I plan to make some kimchi with a couple of these. The tops are edible too and are best a little cooked.
I was looking through a folder and found a few photos from a while ago that i missed posting.
The first photo is a seed pod that was forming on one of the mini hugles here at basecamp. I'll have to pay attention earlier next spring to get a photo of the bloom. It has unusually twisting leaves, but still couldn't track the species. It was growing in almost pure sand (the hugle berm wasn't finished yet).
The second photo is a spider web from a foggy morning. It was probably built by a basket web weaver in the genus Calymmaria. They are nocturnal and stay pretty hidden during the day. At night flying insects will run into the sorta random upper web and fall into the basket below where the spider will pounce on it.
The third is another unidentified flower growing on the top of wofati 0.8.
The first photo is Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). These flowers always seem to have many different kinds of bees and wasps visiting them. It is a pioneering herbaceous perennial that is strongly rhizomatous. It doesn't compete well with trees and won't tolerate much shade. The young leaves and stems are edible when cooked. Different parts of the plant have been used to treat burns, prevent infection in wounds, treat Candida, urinary tract problems, and sore throats. It can be used to make mustard, orange and brown dyes.
The second photo is Creeping Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens). It has nice yellow flowers in the spring that can be used to make a lemonade like drink. The berries are edible, but usually too sour to eat fresh and are often made into jelly. They taste better after a frost. The root and root bark have been used for pain relief, clear the lungs, and treat fever. A lavender dye is made from the berries, and a yellow dye from the inner bark and roots.
The third photo is Rocky Mountain Beeplant (Cleome serrulata). This one was being guarded by an ant that wanted the nectar. The bumble bees that came to it couldn't land and just hovered around the edges collecting pollen from the stamen. It is drought tolerant and prefers sandy soil. It is growing on the berms around the teepee. The leaves, flowers and shoots are edible when cooked. The seeds are edible raw or cooked, or dried and ground. It has been used as a fourth sister that helps attract pollinators to a three sisters garden. It can be used to make a yellow-green dye. A black paint is made by boiling the whole plant until thick.