Spring has sprung

… and it’s about time.

White violets

Look at the pretty purple veining.

Wild violets might be my favorite flower of spring, because they come fairly early on in the season. I have both purple and white violets at my house. I love the white ones the most, because when I was growing up we only ever had the purple ones in our yard, and to see a white one was really special. I have a lot of the white ones now.

The magnolias are almost done blooming for the year; they were in their prime last week. Now petals litter the ground, and a few final blossoms cling to the branches.

Magnolia petals

Petals blanket the ground at my friend's house down the street.

My own yard has a somewhat different carpet. I have the bane of many folks’ existence: dandelions and what I’ve always known as ‘Creeping Charlie’ (it’s also called ground ivy). I don’t mind them so much, though. The complementary colors of the lavender flowers in the ivy and the bright yellow are kind of nice to look at. Sometimes I almost forget they’re weeds. The violets that were the main floral focus have been over taken by this dastardly duo, though I can still spot a few (mostly white) violets here and there.

Weeds

My yard, meanwhile, is full of weeds.

One of my other favorite spring things is the lilac. My mom’s a big lilac fan; last year for Mother’s Day she and I went to the lilac arboretum and wandered around, sniffing and admiring the myriad varieties there.

Lilacs

Lilacs are blooming.

This year it seems like the lilacs are blooming a bit early. Of course, we had a really cracked out winter. I’m pretty sure the verylargeshrubbery that spans my front porch (um, it’s actually a huge forsythia), bloomed already this year, and very early at that. Now there are only a few flowers along the bottom of the shrub. Usually it looks something like this. I wonder if the lilacs will hold on through Mother’s Day. I usually take a few sprigs to my mom throughout the spring when they’re blooming …

The fuzzy little caterpillar

Note: I wrote this post Friday afternoon, and had meant to post it in the evening once I had a chance to get my picture from phone to computer. No dice. First chance I’ve had is today, which means you get to do a little time travel. Set your clock back to Friday afternoon around 3, and read on.

I am up too late; the constellations are different than when I’m usually out. And I’m a nerd for noticing.

That’s what my tweet was at about 3 this morning; I’d gone outside at a little after 2:30 and thought, Holy crap! Is that Orion rising?! (I usually notice the Summer Triangle and Cassiopeia most prominently in the sky at this time of year.) And then I listened to about an hour’s worth of podcasts after that before I managed to fall asleep. One of them had a little astronomy segment that mentioned — you guessed it — Orion. And so I felt it was fine, almost that it should have happened that way.

I woke up this morning shortly after 9, having been nearly trampled to death by one of the cats. She was hungry, and had gone probably a whopping 30 minutes without something in the food dish, because I remember feeding them before I went to bed. Cats.

After cleaning out a cupboard and doing a little catbox maintenance, I decided to head to the City Park. On a whim, I took the turn to drive up to Clark Tower, a three-story stone structure built in 1926. (Thank you, Google and Wikipedia. I’m not good with my county history.) I sat on a large rock and pulled out pen and paper (a purple Liquid Espresso pen and one of the pocket size Moleskine cahiers that I always carry around), intending to sketch a little, which I haven’t done in a very long time. I’d just started — the curve of the railing was the only thing on my paper at the moment — when I felt a little tickle on my leg.

I looked down before I tried to brush whatever it was off, and saw a fuzzy, pale grey caterpillar with funny little black tufts at either end. I tried flicking the cuff of my shorts, hoping to unseat the little bugger, but it only held on tighter and crawled to where I couldn’t see it. I stood up to be able to see it again and, after much persuasion, got it on the end of my pen, and stared it in what I thought were its eyes.

Having been attempting to identify a large, green caterpillar* the other day, I didn’t want to touch it, because I’d read plenty about stinging caterpillars. After a moment, I let it crawl onto the tree that was behind the rock, and it bolted up the trunk. (Seriously, it was very fast for such a little guy.) I did a quick (and very rough) sketch of it before it escaped, and took a couple of blurry pictures with my phone.

This crawly critter really tickles when its trying to crawl up your pants.

This crawly critter really tickles when it's trying to crawl up your pants.

When I left the park, I decided to get my Google on and figure out what that fuzzy little guy was. One of the first links I clicked on was not encouraging: Morningjoy ended up with a swollen hand after accidentally touching a fuzzy caterpillar, one not too unlike my own. I knew it wasn’t quite right and continued my search until I came across Halysidota tessellaris on BugGuide. (After What’s That Bug, BugGuide is my go-to insect identification site.) Halysidota tessellaris is better known as the banded tussock moth; if you look at the Wikipedia entry, you’ll see the pretty colors on the thorax and the tessellation-like pattern on the wings. I looked at a couple of other sites, and was inconclusive as to whether this was a stinging caterpillar (though I hear the rule “if it’s fuzzy, it stings” is correct most of the time). I haven’t noticed any red marks or swelling, so I think this one’s safe.

* I think it was either some sort of sphinx or swallowtail.

Evil shrubberies and Transfiguration

Clark Tower is a familiar sight (and site) to residents of Madison County. I drove up to the tower last Saturday with my lunch, with the intention of taking in some fresh air and just having time to mellow. From the top, one can see quite a distance, though the view is mostly trees.

Clark Tower in spring

Clark Tower in Spring

But on this particular trip to the tower I noticed something else, something more formidable.

The bridal wreath.

Bridal wreath at the tower

Bridal Wreath at the Tower

Sure, it seems innocuous. Someone told me today that the flowers smell nice. When I get near any bridal wreath, I can’t smell the flowers. I smell some strange musky odor, and then I can’t breathe. There are at least four houses on my block that have this evil shrubbery; one is even right next to the sidewalk. I have to hold my breath when I walk by (and I do walk by often, as that house is halfway between mine and my parents’) and hope the wind doesn’t blow the pollen my way. It’s an absolutely horrific plant. My dad just told me last week that he is sensitive to bridal wreath as well. And here I thought I hadn’t inherited any bloody allergies!

In other news, I applied and was approved to knit a Transfiguration OWL for the the house cup. My assignment is to practice Vanishing and Conjuring charms on my stash: Vanish at least 750 yards of stash yarn and Conjure finished objects.

Transfiguration OWL: ready to start

Transfiguration OWL: at the ready!

I think I’m ready to start knitting my lace scarves — I might even get wild and add beads to one. (And you know, just after I submitted my OWL application, I saw a really beautiful shawl that I might even have enough yarn for. There’s always next time.)