Posts filed under ‘Nature’

An Application of Autotomy

Here’s an amusing stock photo captioned by the “It’s Like They Know Us” Tumblr Blog.

I’m getting so much work done. Toddlers are easy.

For those of you with computers and without small children, it’s funny because it’s not true. My children, in particular, have a keen sense of when I’m working on something really important on the computer. They will both drop everything and approach my machine, sticky fingers widespread.

Autotomy - Me Spass Me Want to Delete Production Data
Me Spaz. Me Want to Delete Production Data

When I see them tettering my way, know what the first thing I do is? I quickly unplug my USB mouse. While they are distracted moving that around and doing futile clicks, I have just enough time to sign out of the production database server, save important documents, or move the laptop to a higher elevation. By the time they realize the mouse isn’t doing anything, the laptop (and all my production data!) are safe.

Autotomy - Autotomy in Action
Distracted by USB Mouse

I was enacting that one day and I realized I’m wasn’t particularly inventive. I was employing the exact same defense mechanism salamanders and seemingly other “lower” creatures have used for millions of years.


I drop the USB mouse to distract the predator. The salamander drops its tail. : )

Salamander Dropping Tail (Photo by Gary Nafis of California Herps)
Distracted Modern Day Predator

September 19, 2014 at 10:19 am 1 comment

Anne Frank and Views While Nursing

For many of those early nursing sessions with my second son, my view was exactly the same. I would be sitting on the floor of our dimly lit bedroom. Next to me, there was small crack in the closed curtains which provided the slightest sliver of outside. During the daytime, I could see the my neighbor’s crepe myrtle blooming and above it, the blue sky. Often I would see clouds and sometimes a black vulture would silently glide through my view.

I was reminded of Anne Frank.

This is by no means to say that breastfeeding is as bad as the Holocaust. I find it to be quite the opposite, in fact.

In her diary, Anne Frank mentions a horse-chestnut tree (Fun fact– Horse-chestnuts are actually in the same family of trees as buckeyes and are not closely related to the American chestnuts) three separate times. One of those mentions:

Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs, from my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.

In those hectic first weeks with a newborn where days and nights blur together, used diapers accumulate in little piles by the bed, and your own body doesn’t even feel like its your own anymore, my fatigued eyes found that little sliver of nature to be particularly peaceful. I could appreciate how meaningful and powerful a view of the outside can be, even if it is just a small glimpse. And if it meant that much to me, I can only imagine how very precious it was to Anne Frank.

Now that my son is older, we are getting out and about more. We are happily continuing our breastfeeding relationship and taking in a variety of views along the way. Last week, I started collecting shots of the things I see while nursing.


View while nursing.  (Leesylvania State Park)
August 25, 2013 – Potomac River, Leesylvania Park

Tonight's view while nursing (Rockledge Mansion)
August 27, 2013 – Rockledge Mansion, Occoquan, Virginia

8/29/2013's View While Nursing...Sagan and Ryan play while we wait in the examination room for Dyson's Two Month Checkup.
August 29, 2013 – In the Examination Room Waiting for the Pediatrician

8/30/2013's View While a Steak and Shake eating supper.
August 30, 2013 – Eating Supper at Steak and Shake, Fredericksburg, VA

8/31/2013 View While the seashore.  (The dark blue object at the bottom is a chair pad I propped up to provide just a tad more privacy)
August 31, 2013 – At the Seashore, Virginia Beach, VA

September 2, 2013 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Recommended Viewing: Questing Ticks by MYRMECOS

Three years ago, Ryan and I got to witness the miracle of life. Some eggs we had in a specimen jar hatched and we became the adoptive parents of hundreds of baby ticks. (We weren’t good parents, mind you, our charges all perished). Although our hearts raced at the thought of the vial breaking in our home, we still were fascinated by the behavior of the little ones. They always wanted to be high up, so they would climb to the top of the vial. We would flip it over and they could climb back up and so on. In Ryan’s post “Fun with Tick Clockwork“, he described the phenonmenon as “like some twisted version of an hourglass, appropriate for some Tim Burton film.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the verb for what the ticks were doing is called “questing”. I learned this from the blog MYRMECOS where Biologist and Photographer Alex Wild managed to make this creepy behavior look beautiful. He posted some Tick Questing pictures last week. I recommend a look-see!

Enjoy and may your summer be free of real-live questing ticks. : )

April 25, 2012 at 1:00 am 1 comment

Waka Waka Waka – Fountainhead Regional Park

When we were looking for pawpaw trees at Fountainhead Regional Park, we saw another example of a Pac Man in Nature.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Pac Man Mushroom - Waka Waka Waka
Mushroom Pac Man

September 27, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Take a Child Outside Week – Pawpaw Hunting and Sagan’s First Hike

Saturday was the first day of Take a Child Outside Week!  It was also National Public Lands Day.  And in case we needed another reason to get out, late September – October is also pawpaw fruiting season. 

George Washington was quite a fan of Asimina triloba, North America’s largest indigenous fruit. He declared “chilled pawpaw” to be his favorite dessert. Although I rather enjoy the taste, I wouldn’t quite go that far. It would be hard to top crème brûlée!

Ryan and I have been growing some pawpaw seedlings for a couple of years now.  It’ll be a while before those trees fruit, so we thought we would see if we could locate some more established trees near our new home.  During National Walk in the Woods Day I took a shot of a small pawpaw tree near a creek at Fountainhead Regional Park.  Figuring where there is a small tree, they may be bigger ones, we decided to retrace our steps and see what we can find.

We brought little Sagan along, fulfilling the requirement of taking a child outside.  This journey would be Sagan’s very first hike!  He pretty much slept through the entire thing.  🙂

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Sagan and Trail
Sagan’s First Hike (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Had Sagan been awake (and had fully developed vision), he would have seen a squirrel, a daddy long-legs, a crayfish nest and a heron flying overhead.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Crayfish Nest
Crayfish Burrow

Flora – Pawpaws
It didn’t take us long to get to the creek. We saw plenty of small trees without fruit. It didn’t look too promising until a small grove near the creek shoreline caught my eye. Upon closer examination, we found fruit laying on the ground!

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Vicky and Sagan with Pawpaw Fruit
Vicky and Sagan with Discovered Fruit (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Then we looked up and saw examples of pawpaw fruit still in the trees.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Pawpaw in Tree
Pawpaw Fruit

The non-bug infested fruit wasn’t quite ripe yet, but we still got the thrill of the hunt. It was also nice to establish that the favorite dessert of our nation’s first President was still alive in well in Northern Virginia!

Flora – Fungi
Between Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and various other storms, this area has had more than its fair share of rain. It may have had its miserable moments at the time, but on Saturday we sure profited from the extra moisture. The trail has what Ryan deemed a “mushroom explosion”. We had plenty of neat fungi to marvel at while we walked.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Mushroom Explosion
Hillside with Scattered Mushrooms

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Coral-like Mushroom
A Coral-Like Mushroom

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Orange Mushrooms on Log
Bright Orange Mushrooms

Sagan’s first outing was definitely a brief one. I doubt we even traveled a mile round trip. But I find myself very satisfied with everything we saw in that short journey.

More pictures of our hike at Fountainhead Regional Park are on my Flickr site.

Additional Pawpaw Posts
2009 Pawpaw Hunt
My First Pawpaw Tasting

September 26, 2011 at 11:04 am 3 comments

Reminder – Take a Child Outside Week!

This year Take a Child Outside week is September 24th – September 30th, which means it starts THIS Saturday! T.A.C.O. Week is a favorite of mine and I have been observing it since 2007. This year promises to be a little different though. It’s the first year where I don’t have to borrow a child to participate! 🙂

Need ideas? Here are a few from past adventures Ryan and I have shared with children:

Wedding Weekend - Rowing Newport News Park - Ann and Vicky Relay while Penn and Gwyn RowRowing Canoeing Merchant's Millpond - Ryan and Jacal's Boat - Vicky, Tyrek, Ryan in Action
Maple Park - Jacal Signs Log Book
Hunter Street Water Fight - Filling Up
Water Fight!
Hunter Street Badminton - Tykee Watches Dontori
Elizabeth City - Hunter Street- Tykee on Bike
Falls Ridge - Xavier has a Snail
Jet Skiing - Jamonte and Armani on Shore

If you are in the Blacksburg, Virginia area and need some hiking ideas, check out my “Off the Beaten Paths: Hikes for T.A.C.O. Week” post which highlights five child-friendly trails in the area.

Whereever you are, have a great Take a Child Outside Week! Perhaps you’ll luck out and get to see a black bear like five-year old Penn and I did in 2007. If not, don’t forget there is adventure to be found in the little things– as young Xavier demonstrated when he discovered a snail in 2008.

September 22, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Cougar Mountain – Nature Taking Over [Nature]

With trees donning ferns and moss, there were ample examples of nature taking over nature during our Cougar Mountain hike.

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Ryan Ducks Under Fallen Tree
Ferns Taking Over a Fallen Tree

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Life Starts Again on Stump
Stump Squatters

My favorite though is this determined tree we saw on the Licorice Fern Trail:

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Determined Tree on Tree (Far)
Determined Tree

If you look closer, this tree is growing on the remains of a deceased tree. Those determined roots had to descend the entire tree trunk to reach soil!

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Determined Tree on Tree (Close)
Look at Those Roots Go!

Nature impresses me yet again.

More pictures of Cougar Mountain can be found on my Flickr site. For more detailed trail descriptions of Cougar Mountain hikes, I highly recommend the Weekend Hike blog.

June 6, 2011 at 1:00 am 1 comment

The New York Botanical Garden – Nature Taking Over

When you are inside the Conservatory at The New York Botanical Garden, you know that the environment you are taking in was architected by humans. Still, you get to catch glimpses of what nature wants to do if left to its own devices– take over. : )

New York Botanical Gardens - Vines Climb Pillar (Far)
Vines Climb Up a Pillar in the Conservatory

New York Botanical Gardens - Determined Vine on Stairwell
This Determined Vine is Squeezing Itself Into a Home in the Stairwell Handrail

More pictures of The New York Botanical Gardens can be found on my Flickr site.

May 24, 2011 at 1:00 am 2 comments

Heart in Nature – Bulgaria

Special thanks to Maya Karkalicheva for permission to use this photo. This shot depicts a lake in Bulgaria. Do you see the heart?

do i see heart in the lake ..
Photo courtesy of .:: Maya ::.

For more gorgeous pictures of Bulgaria, I would highly recommend Maya’s PhotoStream.

November 30, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Tentacle Beards in Nature?

When I first encountered the Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) in Douthat State Park, I thought it looked like a Koosh Ball.

Karyn at Boulders 2 Bit uncovered another fungal look-a-like this past June at the NC Museum of Life and Science— Cedar-Apple Rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae) and Davy Jones from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean!

I highly recommend checking out her post to learn more about Cedar-Apple Rust and see part of its lifecycle in action!
I’m Galled By It: Cedar-Apple Rust

November 23, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

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