The Suitcase Lady


August 14, 2018, 7:38 am

Even people who express a hatred of insects love the Lepidoptera, or butterfly family. We of the human species are simply suckers for beauty.

The words for butterfly in many languages are lovely as well:

Sommerfugl (summer bird)-Danish

We’ve had many butterfly visitors in our yard this summer and this is not an accident. We’ve lured them in by filling our acre with plants they can’t resist. It’s rare to look out the windows and not see some of these charismatic insects floating around checking out the drink options. Unlike butterfly larva who chow down more pig-like than pigs, butterflies daintily sip their nourishment of nectar and rotting fruit juices.

Now that it’s peak butterfly season, here are some fascinating facts about these beloved creatures:

  • Between 150,000 and 200,000 butterfly species are fluttering all around the globe except in Antarctica.
  • The largest butterfly is the female Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing. She is found in the rainforests of Papua, New Guinea, and has an 11 inch wingspan.
  • The smallest butterfly is the Western Pygmy Blue with a 0.4 inch wingspan. It is native  to the Western United States.
  • Butterflies dine with their wings closed. The pattern or colors on the underside of the wings is often a camouflage.
  • Butterflies taste with their feet.
  • The butterfly’s tongue is a long curled up tube called a proboscis.
  • Butterflies gather at wet soil to suck up salts and minerals that aren’t available from flowers. This behavior is called “puddling”.
  • Butterfly eyes have 6,000 lenses and they can see ultraviolet light.
  • The correct name for a group of butterflies is a flutter.

Here are some recent diners in our yard.





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August 7, 2018, 8:25 pm

In case you missed the great goat story a few days ago, here is a recap. Finding a humorous news item amidst our current daily deluge of bad news is most welcome.

The residents of an upscale Boise, Idaho neighborhood woke up last Friday to an amazing sight: 118 goats had invaded their yards. And the goats were all doing exactly what goats do best, eating all the vegetation in sight, the carefully tended lawns, bushes and flowers. Some homeowners must have wondered if the world was ending in a goat apocalypse.

However, the goat invasion had a much more mundane explanation. The goats were on the lam from a “Rent a Goat” service. Apparently, these businesses are widespread and profitable. The goats are trucked from job to job to clear out unwanted vegetation that is unsightly or a fire hazard. In other words, they are living lawn mowers.

The Boise goats were hired to chow down foliage around a water retention pond. When the menu there left something to be desired, they went in search of more upscale dining options and hit the jackpot.

Various news outlets reported that the folks in the invaded area took the incident with good humor. No N.R.A. Member got out his arsenal and “saved” the neighborhood with assault weapons….a small miracle in itself. The homeowners even applauded when help arrived and the goats were herded into their trailers.

Since I live in a rural area, the sight of sheep, cows or horses wandering around on a road occasionally happens. In fact, our town constable gives his report on how many farm animals he has had to round up and return at each monthly town meeting. It’s a highlight.



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Beads (Part Two)

August 1, 2018, 1:13 am

Last week’s blog featured the Vochol, a beaded Volkswagen. This week is about a more domestic beaded creation, an entire kitchen, and it is the work of one person.

American artist Liza Lou attended the San Francisco Art Institute where she was scorned for applying beads to her paintings. She subsequently dropped out of school and started using minuscule seed beads as her sole art media.

Her first major work was a life size reproduction of a suburban kitchen entirely covered in beads. This mind boggling project took five years (1991- 1996) to complete. Each of the millions of beads used was hand set with a tweezers.

Her next project in 1996 was entitled “Backyard”. It features a picnic table laden with food, a lawn mower, garden hose, flowers and grass. For this work she used help: volunteers came to her studio on Saturdays and worked on the 250,000 blades of grass. Overall, 30 million beads were used.

In 2006, Liza Lou went to Durban, South Africa for a two week visit to see Zulu beadworkers first hand. The ‘visit’ kept being extended and she has a studio there to this day. In it, Ms Lou employs both male and female African artisans. She, in turn, learns from them.

Liza Lou received a MacArthur Genius Fellowship in 2002. She is, indeed, a genius, and a very patient and generous one as well.

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Beads (Part One)

July 24, 2018, 9:50 pm

(This one is for Jenny)

Bead work is a beloved art form of people all around the globe, and the Huichol, an indigenous culture from the Sierra Nevada mountains of west-central Mexico, are among the most amazing practitioners of this art.

Descendants of the Aztecs, the Huichol strive to keep their culture alive with highly symbolic bead work and yarn paintings. Although each Huichol artist develops his or her own personal style, recurring symbols are maize, peyote, deer, candles, arrows, serpents, eagles and god’s eyes that point to the four cardinal directions.

The intricate artworks they create are petitions to their gods and links to the natural world around them. Sale of some of their work is also a means of economic survival.

The Huichol typically cover objects such as gourds, masks, bull horns, wooden jaguar heads and animal shapes with minuscule beads set in a special wax. However, in 2010, the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico initiated and sponsored a more contemporary version of this traditional art form with the aim of promoting more recognition for the Huichol artisans. Eight artists from two different families were hired to cover an entire Volkswagen Beetle with their stunning bead designs.

Called the “Vochol” a combination of “Vocho”, a popular name for VW’s in Mexico, and “Huichol”, the car was covered with 2,277,000 beads. The project took seven months and 4,760 hours of work to complete. After being displayed in museums in Mexico, the Vochol went on a world tour for several years. Currently, it is back home in Mexico.

Here are images of this fabulous car. For those of you who drive VWs, bet you didn’t realize you owned a potential piece of fine art!

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July 17, 2018, 9:27 pm

A few weeks ago, we were walking in a supremely beautiful and tranquil forest when the silence suddenly was shattered. My husband’s phone began shrieking an emergency alert. Since we live in a tornado-prone state, he immediately checked the message. “High flood waters in your area”, the robotic voice said.

At the moment we received the alert, we were standing on an eighty foot bluff. A short downpour had occurred earlier in the day, but our first thoughts were of relief as our farmers were badly in need of rain. Our smart phone was unsmartly calling “wolf” into the 50 mile radius around us.

We both concurred that some people with big brains are concocting electronic devices to take everyone else’s brains away. If we let electronic gadgets do all the thinking for us, we soon won’t be able to navigate our way out of a paper bag, let alone a real flood.

Examples of human deference to computer intelligence are rampant…the voice on the dashboard that supplants map reading ability, the ‘smart’ refrigerator that makes grocery lists, the cars that drive themselves and the medicines the are implanted in the body to release at prescribed times.

When some members of the wolf clan evolved into the creatures we call dogs, a large number of brain cells were lost along the way. That’s what happens when a master calls the shots.

I definitely think it is in my best interest to be able to figure out where I am on the planet, when my milk is running low, my pill needs to be taken and the river is at flood stage. Contracting out my brain doesn’t seem to be a winning proposition.

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