Apr 30, 2011

An Unexpected "Adventure" Part 1

The last few days have been quite an unexpected "adventure".  Adventure is the word I use to descibe it to my children.  It started in our playhouse ( the downstairs closet), continued as a pseudo camping trip (living in our house for 2 days without power), and now continues as a mini vacation with my in-laws safe in Tennessee. 

I supose the adventure began much earlier than the playhouse expedition.  For the kids and I it started on the ride to school.  School had been delayed for 2 hrs. so the morning storms could pass.  However, as I came within sight of the school, the tornado sirens let out their unsetteling moan.  Looking back, I can find a glimmer of humor as this must have been the only time I remember teachers actually telling children to run.  When my husband brought the kids home 3 hrs later because of an early dismissal, I learned they had spent the hour after I dropped them off in their "safety zones".  Afterwards, they managed to have class for a little while before being sent back to their "safety zones" to wait out another warning for nearly 2 hours. 

I also waited out this second warning, with my youngest and a visitor.  The Cook's Pest control guy had stopped in to deal with the ants that annually pleague our home.  The sky turned dark and ugly so quickly I encouraged him to stay.  I'm thankful he did as it was nice to have someone to share the tension with.  We watched the news coverage as reports were called in of a tornado on the ground nearby, and numerous reports of circulations passing overhead.  He called his wife often to check on her and their son who is about the same age as my youngest.  Eventually the skies cleared, he went home to his family, and my own family came home to me.

For the next hour or so, the weather was nice.  The sun even came out, which is the worst possible scenario on a tornado day.  It seems that by 3:00, the sirens were blairing again.  by 4:00 the kids were in their playhouse, (the closet under the stairs) and by 4:30, we'd lost cable and were relying on the weather radio. 

It was sometime around then that I remember looking out the back windows.  I knew there was a tornado on the ground nearby.  The weather reporter had told me that much.  The sky had an eerie green cast, the clouds dark.  I watched the horizon through the leaves of the sycamore, whose branches overhang our patio.  The little guy didn't want to be in the closet anymore and I knew if I let him down I'd never catch him if the need arose.  So I held him, rocking and bouncing him so he wouldn't fuss while I strained to hear the latest from the meteorologist. 

I remember thinking how odd the sky looked, how the clouds were one solid blanket except very close to the horizon where there was a band of light on either side of a central dark area.  I didn't worry because the winds seemed calm.  I noticed the fuzzy dark area shifting to the north.  Just clouds moving.  The wind picked up, the rain beat down with a new ferocity and the sycamore branches danced violently.  Then came the unique noise from our back door which always startles me.

For some reason, anytime a very strong wind at just the right angle blows past our back door, it's like a mixture of a whalesong and someone blowing a very low sour note on a bassoon.  Needless to say, I scurried myself and the little guy into the closet, closed the door and crouched down with the older kids. 

Today, I saw pictures on the TV (at the inlaws) of the tornado that was on the ground in our area at that time.  Although I imagine it was 5+ miles away, I feel certain that the dark area on the horizon that I saw was that tornado.  Seeing the destruction caused by that tornado as we left town today I can only say we are very blessed to have not been in its path.   

Soon after that, my husband made it home for the day.  We ate peanut butter and jelly for dinner and were soon back in the closet waiting out another round.  By the time power went out, the worst was over.  We made camp in the living room floor.  I read a chapter of Rascal to the kids, called our parents with our cell phone to let them know we made it but had very little juice in the phone, then settled in with the radio and my earbuds to find out when the lights might be back on.  I think I drifted off shortly after that, Maggie the cat snuggled at my feet.  Family safe and sound. 

Apr 29, 2011

Gettin' out of Dodge!

This morning, after being without power since Wednesday around 5:30 ish?  We cleaned out the fridge, packed up the menagerie of animals, kids, and all the necessities and headed off to stay with family out of state, just like the local authorities had recommended.  Local utilities predict that power will be out for another 3-5 days at best.  School is cancelled through Monday, possibly longer, and at least here the kids can have some sense of normalcy.

The following are the images I captured on our way out of town today.  They are solemn reminders of just how lucky we were.

One of the shorter lines for gas. We found out this station didn't even have the pumps working, but were expecting a generator "SOMETIME".  People still lined up.  In our town Kroger was selling gas.  It had 2 police officers standing guard and a line about 1/2 mile long. 

That odd tower is where the doppler radar used to be.  Next to it was a church.  20 people sought shelter in the basement and survived.

One reason we don't have power.

Several more reasons we don't have power.  There were too many downed poles to count.

See that pile of garbage back there?  That was a house.

If you look closely you will notice the metal legs of this billboard bent like pipecleaners.

Apr 27, 2011

They just get cuter with age.

Now that they're growing up, they aren't as creepy.  Whooo hooooo!!!!!! 

8 days old

10 days old.
My 7 yr old LOVES them!
Just like wiggly teddy bears. 

Lazarus has risen!

Yesterday, I wrote about my 3 dead silkworms.  I have no idea how it happened, but this morning, I discovered that the fellow who plunged to his death, the one I dropped, was crawling around happy as can be.  Well, as happy as any worm can be in the dump.  That's what I'm calling the container where I keep all the muck from cleaning out the silkworm habitats.  It doubles as a graveyard and will later be used for compost.  

Lazarus chomping on chow
Not to sound calluous, but it escapes me how this little guy  survived.  Of the three, he was the one who I felt absolutely certain was dead.  So now I'm left pondering is this a miraculous wonder, or am I now in possecion of a ZOMBIE silkworm? 

Apr 26, 2011

Silkies beginning the 3rd instar and some sad news


Three of our little silkworms are dead or dying.  I suspect the first was  moved from his silk pad before he could finish molting.  

The second tumbled off the brush as I was moving him to cleaner quarters.  Sigh......  I feel awful and am certain, that they are holding a trial in their little container to see if I'm guilty of wormicide.  

The final fellow is a  mystery.  He became very lethargic and took on dark brown color.  I also noticed a spot of what might be vomit on the mesh in front of him.  In the fear that it was a bacterial infection, I removed him from the group before he passed.   Everyone in his container is now in quarentine and will be watched very closely.  I am moving them to larger quarters as they finish molting and will sterilize the container before any silkies move back in.

As for the survivors, the first day hatchlings are now finishing their 2nd molt and begining their 3rd instar.  It's been fascinating to watch this process.  You can see 2 silkies below.  The one in the back has just started to molt.  He's not been in the prayer pose long.  He'll stay this way for about a day.  Then slowly slip out of his skin and look like the one in front.  Notice the guy in front looks faceless in comparison.  I think he's still waiting for his "face" to fully harden.  After crawling out of his skin, he gets back into the prayer pose and sits there a while ( maybe 1-3 hrs.)  before going off to look for food.   He is now considered to be in his 3rd instar. 

Prayer pose

Loosing his "face" (that shiny black thing hanging off his head)

I call this guy the acrobat.  He's still eating upside down, tail in the air through the mesh while everyone else is a statue.  I think he was a later hatch. 

This last picture is of the first 3 silkies to reach their 3rd instar.  They finished molting last night (day 8 for them) and recieved the honor of making the trip to school with the kids.  About 40 more finished their molt over night. 

Apr 24, 2011

6 Days of growth

Thought it would be neat to see what the first 6 days of growth looked like.  Since my silkies hatched out over 3 days, there is a pretty good variation of size.  Lucky for me, I seperated them into boxes by their hatchday, so I can easily compare a day 1-3, 4-6, etc.  Took these pictures yesterday.  Lots of growth for only 6 days.

  From right to left: hatchling, 1 day old and 2 day old    

6 day old, 2 -5 day olds, 4 day old.  Notice how much the day 5 silkies vary in size.  There is a variation among all of the days, which I am attributing to hatching earlier or later in the day. 

Apr 22, 2011

From Joy to Ick! or 5 things about Silkies that creep me out!

I suppose I must preface this by saying yes it is true I don't care much for insects.  The fliers I don't mind , but crawlers, slitherers and wigglers do tend to give me the heeby jeebies. 

 "So why on earth are you raising silk worms?"  you may ask. 

Silk fiber to spin.  I mean have you seen the price of it lately?  Sure, there is an element of overcoming a challenge that I like.  And I love being able to say "why yes, I have raised silk worms." That works into the spinning discussion of my historical impression after all.  And it is a great experience for the kids.  But the true root of it is I wants me some silk to spin and possibly reel. 

When I started this endevor, I researched, saw the pictures, and heard all the horror stories of serial killer type illnesses that can destroy an entire crop, and I knew at some point there would be an ick factor.  Still, there are a few things I just was not prepared for.  So in an effort to edify others who might try this little endevor on their own, I present the following:

those little specks are frass(poop)
5 Things about Silk Worms that CREEP me out!

1. The Smell.  Eww!  Silkies themselves don't smell.  Silkworm chow has a very herby somewhat metalic scent which while potent is not too bad on it's own.  However, if you mix that with the warm plastic styrofoam aroma of the incubator, it is just discusting. 

2. They kind of look like maggots, at least the ones that haven't molted yet.  I'm hoping as they begin to look more like caterpillars, they might become "cute".  Until then, they're just icky.

3. The molting process.  The actual shedding skin part is fine, it's what happens leading up to it that I have issues with.  It's called the prayer pose.  Imagine if you will, 100 maggot like larvae lying statue still for nearly a day with their backs arched, heads lifted toward the heavens as though awaiting orders from an unseen force. It's like a scene straight out of the 80's horror flick Prince of Darkness.  And what makes it worse is that at this point, they have very unsetteling flesh like color.  Upon the first shedding, the flesh color is replaced by a morbid grey color. Doesn't that sound nice?

4. After they molt they have no faces!  O.K., so that's a slight exageration.  In reality, you just can't see their faces.  When silkworms first hatch, their bodies are flexible and soft and their heads are a shiny black ball that doesn't stretch.  As they grow, the body can expand to a point, but not the black head or "face plate".  When they shed their skin, the face plate pops off and until the new one has a chance to harded, it is the same color as the rest of the worm making it look like it has no face.     

5. They're trying to escape!  I had read that until they start to cocoon, they would be happy in their little container, and not try to crawl out.  This morning, I awoke to the following sight.  I know it's not a massive jail break, but it's enough to "bug" me.  Forgive the pun.

Butterflies and Easter egg cupcakes

Today was the last day for the student teacher in my big kid's class.  The students organized a party for her.  Those kids are super sweet.  I made these cupcakes for her party since they've been studying butterflies.

I love the little butterflies.  They are printed on a special edible paper made of potato starch from a place called Fancyflours. http://www.fancyflours.com/site/index.html  My sister-in-law got me a giftcard to them last Christmas.  The prices are a bit high, but if your into decorating cookies or cakes, you have to check them out. 

The little guy likes them too.

Happy Earthday!

In honor of Earthday and because I needed some exercise, I walked with my little guy to the store instead of driving.  On the way I found this fellow hitch hiking.  Unfortunately, he didn't quite understand that when one hitch hikes, one should stand beside the road, not in the middle of it.  Since we were hardly out of our own driveway, I carried him home, got a box (to make the ride in the stroller basket more relaxing) and gave him a lift to the  nearby pond.  He must have been in a hurry because he hardly gave us time to say bye before he slipped off into the water.    However, I did manage to get this quick picture before he completely disappeared. 

On our way back from the store, we noticed his buddies sunning themselves on the shore. 

Apr 20, 2011

The Zen of Silkworms

It's been 3 days since the first hatchlings emerged.  If I counted right, 108 hatched that first day (Sunday).  About 30 more hatched the day after, and maybe 15 more yesterday.  Right now, There are 16 eggs left and although I will give them every chance to prove me wrong, I don't think they'll make it. 

The silkworms that did hatch are all still in the incubator at about 79 F.  The humidity fluctuates, but is in the 75-80% range.  They'll stay there until they outgrow it, or are ready to cocoon.  I'm checking them 3+ times a day making sure they have food, and removing the dried up food and frass (silkworm poo).  It is amazing the quantity of poo the guys can make considering how tiny they are. 

To get an idea of just how fast these little guys grow,check out this picture I took yesterday. 
The coin is a nickle.  The silkworm on the left is 2 days old.  The one in the middle  1, and the one on the right has just hatched . Notice, their black shiny bead of a head stays the same size even though their bodies have grown.  The head won't change size until they molt.  When they shed their skin, they'll get a larger head and a looser skin that they can grow into.

This is the 2 day olds next to a pencil. 

Here they are at 3 days.

And this is my sericulturist (silkworm farmer) in training.  He's a very eager learner.

Apr 17, 2011

In the words of the Scarecrow from the wizard of OZ....

Oh Joy! Rapture!

At least that's how I think he put it.

It's a happy day today. Our silkworms eggs are hatching. The kids are super excited! As I write this a swarm of intsy wintsy silk moth hatchlings are leaving behind their pearly egg shells and wriggling their way onto the thread like ribbons of silk worm chow.  That‘s the green stuff around the edges of the paper.  Silk worms only eat mulberry leaves.  Since I have no mulberry tree, my silkies get to eat "chow", reconstituted powdered muberry leaves.  

The grey dots are eggs that should hatch within the next 24 hours. 
The pearly white dots are the empty egg shells.  If you look closely, you might be able to see the hole in the shell where they crawled out.
Each egg is about the size of a steel sewing pins head.  The hatched worms are about 3-4 mm long.

At the moment, our little guys are living in a little creation I like to call the Silk-O-Bator 2000.  It’s an incubator I made using a Styrofoam cooler, household thermostat, 40 watt light bulb, extension cord, duct tape, and a broken CD case for the window. It may not be pretty, but I feel pretty good about it seeing as how the house hasn’t burned down yet. 


Here’s the inside. There is a thermometer and a hygrometer in there to make sure the humidity and temperature stay where they should. The humidity drops when lid is opened, but there is a cup, filled with a wet paper towel, under the light bulb, so it should return to normal when the lid closes. The other clear container is for the eggs that have hatched or are close to hatching, and the blue one is for those that are clearly lagging behind.  With luck will hatch tommorrow.

Apr 16, 2011

The Elusive WHAT?

If your not familiar with the term, a bobbin is a cylindrical item that thread, cord, wire etc. are wound upon. Think of it as a tiny spool. In various shapes, materials, and forms they are used for lace making, tatting, spinning, machine sewing, etc. It’s the sewing machine bobbin that I make reference to. Those who are familiar with them will understand just how elusive they can be, and on occasion those who love us and our obsessions are forced into an awareness as well.

Recently ,one Saturday morning as I was sleeping in, my husband was transferring the laundry from the washer to the dryer.

Yes, my husband actually lets me sleep in on Saturdays and sometimes even does the laundry!

As he pulled out the wet clothes, he noticed a thread loosely tangled amongst them. He attempted to remove the thread by pulling it. As he did, it cinched tight around the wet clothes. He struggled to untangle it only to find that once the clothing was free, the thread kept coming and coming until it snagged on another wet article. This process was repeated several times until sufficient clothes and thread were removed from the washer to locate the source of his misfortune. A small shiny sewing machine bobbin still wound half full of thread sat at the bottom of the tub.

Since then, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect just how symbolic that little bobbin is. We wind it up with our best intentions. Put it in a safe place and everything is fine until we loose sight of it. The next thing you know, we’re trying to make sense of the chaos.

Or better still, what about all those bobbins that accidentally roll off the table and just out of reach. They leave that one daunting tail of a string and even though you should know better, you still grasp at it thinking you can pull it toward you. In reality, all you succeed at is unraveling more thread and sending the bobbin rolling across the floor in the opposite direction.

This happens to me every day in a cognitive sense. I loose my train of thought (easy to do with 3 kids) and while I’m grasping at threads to find it, it just rolls away. Before my third child, this drove me crazy. Now, I‘m more relaxed for better or worse. I tell myself that if something is important, it will resurface, or perhaps someone else might find it (hopefully not in the wash). Sadly, the truth is that sometimes you just have to take a moment, get up off your tush, and go find your lost bobbin yourself.