What are these caterpillars thinking?!

I’ve been holding off on this post because there was the real possibility that I would murder these five innocent yet obstinate swallowtail caterpillars. Their collective attitude makes monarchs seem simple and angelic. As of this writing, (November 26- this will probably publish later) everyone is in chrysalis and seem safe.

Everything I read about swallowtails indicated that they would form their chrysalis and overwinter. I was in the habit of getting out of my car and taking a caterpillar head count before even going in the house after work every day. However as we edged into the end of October and actual ice in our rain on Halloween night, these guys showed no sign of decamping the fennel plant for their winter homes. October20198

I fully panicked  on November 2, when I came home to find two of them heading inside dead leaves in the grass. Two more were still hunkered down at the base of the fennel where they had been days before; and for the love of Pete, IT WAS COLD!

I found a shallow styrofoam tray in the recycling, dug up a clump of curled parsley, and some un-frosted dill. Yes, we had had at least one frost by this time. What are these caterpillars doing?!

I bundled everybody up with the plants in the pop-up environment and relocated them to my unheated garage. I was afraid that the heat in the house would further mess with their tiny crawly instincts. Additionally, I could not find an article that would clearly tell me how to proceed. Heated house? Cold garage? Stop messing with shit? Who knew.

At any rate, everybody ramped up their activity level within an hour of being in the garage. I really thought one in the leaf was dead.

November20192nopv2

November 2

However this arrangement lead to idiotic situations where I “needed to take my caterpillars for a walk.” I couldn’t just leave them in a dark, windowless garage all day! Plus the live plants needed the light as well. I would set them out in the sun and hope for the best before going to work every morning. There was one day where it turned extremely cold and rainy before I got home, and I found two of them curled up on the floor of the tent as if they had fallen.

IMG_8513

Miles gets it.

However the longer this went on, the more I worried about their time frame. I now theorize that reason that elementary classes use monarchs to raise and watch in the classroom is that monarchs follow a predictable timetable whereas apparently swallowtails do whatever the fuck they want. I’m not the boss of them!

Finally, I decided that maybe this was more about time than temperature. Everyone’s activity had slowed. One little guy had been in the same spot under the egg carton for days. Another had assumed what I considered the pre-pupal J position, but was not moving forward. I could see the anchoring silks near all of their heads and bums. Around November 10, I decided to bring them into the house to see if warmer environment helped to speed things along. Again, I could not find helpful articles that really spelled out what to do so this was just me rolling the dice. (Potential murderess  here!)

IMG_8549

Success came on November 16 and 17. One by one, I discovered them in chrysalis. The one on the stick was the first to go. However this is where I cut our ties. Some articles suggested keeping the chrysalis in unheated garages and even your refrigerator, but they also said that some swallowtails have stayed in chrysalis for over a year! I cannot maintain this level of stress or caterpillars in my fridge for over a  year. Also between climate change and Ohio’s multiple personality weather patterns, who knows what these guys will decide to do.

The one on a stick is firmly planted in a bush where I can see it. The other four are sheltered in a styrofoam and egg carton “hut” that gives some ventilation and an exit strategy if they decide to emerge on one of our freaky high 50’s “winter” days. Hopefully, predators and weather will let all five survive until late spring. Keep ya’ posted!

November20191chrys

November 16- 17

Miles Got Jesus

I’m not a terribly religious person. Too often, we seem to use religion as an excuse to berate, hate, stereotype, shut down, and exclude, but that’s a whole other conversation…or a presidential tweet, whatever.

With that in mind, I, unfortunately, hesitated to take Paint By Numbers Jesus when my sister and I went on the last raid of Gpa and Gma’s house before the auction. We were in the middle of Great Grandma’s room, the spare bedroom now, surrounded by open boxes waiting for bidders. I held the painting which was so much bigger than I remembered it being when it was on the wall, with the frame it measures 35 x 18 inches or about two Miles long, and tried to visualize where it could go in my house. I didn’t know why I wanted it other than Gma had painted it, and the kitsch value was off the charts. The mythology of Paint By Numbers Jesus says that Gma spent hours and hours meticulously working on filling in those numbers. There was no cell service to debate it with MomBert and my sister was hesitant to give a firm “yes.” We were both certain there was a smaller painting somewhere, but only found a velvet clown that clearly belonged in someone else’s house, not ours!

So I bypassed Paint By Numbers Jesus in favor of smaller sewing implements, some play dress-up jewelry, a pocket knife, and a cast iron weiner dog that was always at the front door.

IMG_E6010

Miles has a lot to consider here.

Gpa passed in August of 2017, but it took his children another year to argue about paperwork, possessions, and land before the auction was set for the house, contents, and a section of property. (Advice to those thinking about their descendants and what you want to have happen after you die, do not put faith in the “better natures” of your survivors and their willingness to “do the right thing.” Verbalized wishes mean squat, put it in the will. The end.)

When our father asked us if there was anything we wanted post auction, I inquired about Jesus. Miraculously, Paint By Numbers Jesus survived the auction! Not sure about the clown. I graciously suggested that he put a bow on Jesus and hand it to me at Christmas. I thought this was a no-brainer because it would be free and zero effort on his part, things he loves.

I did not get Jesus at Christmas. Whole bunch of fucking irony there.

Since there were no offers to just go get Jesus from wherever he was being stored- presumably NOT in a climate controlled, art friendly environment- I reiterated that I would like Jesus and, hey, my birthday was just around the corner! Alas the Amazon gift card I received could not purchase Paint By Numbers Jesus.

This is how it goes with our father. Things that you thought you agreed to, things that should be simple or straightforward, things that seem to be standard in other people’s relationships, become negotiations, traps, hostage situations with moments of begging layered with a coating of bullshit  because you want something that he has whether it’s informational, material, or Paint By Numbers Jesus forbid monetary. The newest fun game every visit is to ask us what we want to inherit while our stepmother chants from the sidelines that we don’t need to worry, that all the paperwork will be in place, and us kids (which includes her children as well) will be equally taken care of! No matter what we respond to him with, whether serious or sarcastic (with that tiny grain of truth), he laughs. During the latest round of this, I said I wanted Jesus. Dad went with his standard ploy of “not remembering” where the thing I wanted was, but relaying how many hours Gma spent working on it.

However about an hour and one trap later, I was invited to meet him to pick up Jesus. He literally waited until I left his house, and was driving out of town to call my cell and suggest this hand off. Jesus was hanging off a wagon handle in a large storage barn along with the other unsold items….and the dirt, mice, birds, weather, and mud daubers that were building tubed nests on EVERYTHING. It was exactly the environment where I expected to find Jesus eight months after hesitating to carry him away.

Paint By Numbers Jesus was my co-pilot home. Those in the know applauded the “I got Jesus!” text messages. Miles was more concerned than thrilled. When I told him the name of the painting, he was like “LAST SUPPER! WTF?! That’s no good!” His concerns for food outweigh concerns for relationships, art, and religion.

IMG_E6012

I  

Explosions

Our Fourth started with explosions, shrapnel, and screaming, which is a bit dramatic, but true nonetheless.

I slept too late having forgot an alarm and was still in a foggy dream state when I opened the microwave door and watched myself slow motion fumble a Fiestaware heart of newly warmed, wet cat food.

The exploding pottery sent Olivia and Birdie flying as Miles and Sookie froze mid bites. I also froze as I felt warmth spread across one bare foot—it was cat food not blood—and regretted not getting dressed beyond underwear. I safely maneuvered to some flip flops only to turn and find Miles unfrozen and ready to investigate pottery sprinkled lumps of cat food with his mouth. So the screaming began.

If there is food involved, the only thing that will get his furry behind hustling is me screaming at the top of my lungs. He is not starved. He is fed regularly, and he did not need to ingest food topped with tiny ceramic bits! Sookie, in a weird moment of obstinance or bravery, more or less said fuck this noise and continued to eat her breakfast from her usual under the cabinet spot. Unfortunately, she was out a few minutes later trying to suck up food particles and got the same yelling treatment as Miles.

img_5821

I suspect that I will be finding oddly located cat food crusties for weeks. The food looked like a blood spatter lab that our forensic class does every year. There were manageable lumps, but also a wide arc of minuscule fragments. The same could be said for the pieces of my former Fiestaware small heart bowl. This meant the dreaded vacuum!

img_5822

No worries though. Everyone has now been re-fed including me, and returned to their natural state of lounging.

I hate to tell them that there will be more booms tonight. Please keep animals safe inside; they don’t enjoy explosions even when there are food particles.

IMG_5761

Overcompensating

This is not a product placement situation.

This is me overcompensating because the crud has invaded my nose, ears, throat, and is making in roads on my chest; and I discovered that I only own 3 cough drops! I must have cleansed all the ancient drops in a fit of tidiness.

Tidying does no good if you don’t own cough drops when you desperately need them.

Like going to the store hungry, it suddenly all seemed like a good idea! Will this make my ears go back to normal hearing? Will this one make me able to sleep for more than three hours?! Oh, this was a sad basket of groceries yet no one commented. Professionalism I guess.

I’m hoping the Cloraseptic stuff is the solution to not choking to death on a cough drop in my sleep. Shut up! You know you’ve done it and a cough drop is the only way to hold the aching throat and sleep snot at bay. That and sleeping with a Kleenex shoved up one nostril to plug the “sneaky drip.” I had a cat who would get annoyed with my slow motivation to get up and feed him, so he’d yank out the Kleenex. It worked.

** Not pictured: magnificently large bottle of Jameson for pairing with the tea and honey.