Resourcefulness in a very tiny package

6 08 2008

Here’s another (but probably not for long) unidentified critter in my backyard garden. I noticed a web being spun in the top of a tomato cage about a week or so ago. Next, in the middle of this highly intricate web appeared a curly cone-shaped dry leaf, suspended in mid-air like a tiny chandelier. Upon closer inspection, I saw a little spider hiding inside. This afternoon, just before the rains came, I caught him wrapping up a nice and tasty black ant, which he then lowered into the web “pantry” (to eat later, I suppose). My friend Jeff happened by after I got the shot and when I pointed out how strong the outer part of the web was, he informed me that spiders can vary the strength of their webs: stronger fibers for the outer walls and then sticky, lightweight skeins for the interior (for catching prey). That skill, combined with recycling a perfectly curled leaf as a protective home base, makes this a pretty resourceful creature, wouldn’t you agree? I couldn’t get any closer without damaging the web, and since he was so tucked into the leaf, I couldn’t see much detail to help identify it. To give you a sense of scale, the leaf is about 1/2 inch long. Any takers on this one? (And yes, I’ll still be offering prizes!) Dalogan? Care for another prize?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Little bud, little bug

6 08 2008

Class, I cannot identify this tiny little beetle-like bug for you. I’ve looked through my various bug identification books and online, to no avail. Any takers? First to identify wins a prize (honest–I’ll think of something!).

He (she?) was traipsing around the passionflower blooms and was less than 1/4 inch long (making it hard to focus that close, too).

NEWSFLASH! We have a winner—Dalogan responded with an identification. My beetle is a Spotted Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata). This beetle is considered a major pest of many field crops, but since I have no field crops, and he’s the only one I’ve seen this summer, I think we can co-exist. Thanks, Dalogan!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

You Decide 2008

4 08 2008

The September/October 2008 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine is in production now and we’d like your input on which cover idea you favor the most! Post a comment with your vote on this blog or e-mail me at and state your preference (#1, #2, or #3). I have designed and produced the magazine (and shoot most of the covers as well) for almost three years for the HLAA.

Our “cover guy” on this issue is Patrick Holkins, a senior at Harvard University, and currently an intern at the Hearing Loss Association of America national office in Bethesda, MD. He is generating interest for a HLAA Young Adult Group, and is working on launching a social networking site through the HLAA. If you’re interested in learning more about this project, please contact Patrick at

The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) opens the world of communication to people with hearing loss through information, education, advocacy and support. The HLAA publishes the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine, holds an annual convention, sponsors Walk4Hearing (a national walkathon), hosts online learning with the Hearing Loss Academy, and much more. The HLAA has more than 200 chapters and 14 state organizations. For more information about the HLAA, visit their website here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

My Passion(flower)

4 08 2008

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

I photographed this beauty in my garden this morning. I love the “bokeh” in this photo (especially the light coming into the back fence).

And I know you’re wondering what in the world “bokeh” is, why you should seek it out, and how you can create it in your photos, so check out the following links:

Here’s a simple explanation about what “bokeh” is on the Your Photo Tips site…

…plus more details on bokeh from The Online Photographer site

…very well researched and tested information (with lots of examples) from Rick Denny

…and finally, bokeh easily explained by Ken Rockwell.

WAIT! Learn how to create it in Photoshop using Layer Masks at Beyond Megapixels.

There are more than 500 known species and several hundred hybrids of passiflora. Most are vine-flowering, although some are shrubs, and a few are herbaceous. Just nine species are found in the U.S. and Southern Asia has the most native species–17. The most common species in the southeastern U.S. is the Maypop, Passiflora incarnata. Its edible fruit is sweet, yellow, the size of a chicken’s egg, and few pests bother it. It is the larval food of a number of butterfly species and important to local wildlife. Carpenter bees are important pollinators of maypops.

For more information on passion flowers:

Passiflora Online is a comprehensive website with growing tips, FAQs, plant ID, hybrid and species images, pollinators, and much more.

Plants in Motion has videos of a Passion Flower in bloom at also short clips of bees visiting the flowers.

Tradewinds Fruit has a great database of Passion Flower blossoms. Click on the “related species” section on the left of the site to see a wide variety of Passion Flower plants.

Gina’s Passion(flower)

4 08 2008

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

I found this link that has a brief description of the passion flower and its fruit, as well as some poems and work from a few haiku poets. I think Gina’s Passion Flower is “Passiflora Incense.”

Clouds of children in Utah

4 08 2008

“Clouds of children in Utah”—this was a search someone did today and somehow they were directed to my blog. I know I’ve posted photos of my travels in Utah, so that makes sense there would be a connection to that word. But clouds of children? Curious!

Gina’s crimson sunflower

4 08 2008

Gina grew these plants from seed. (I’m so proud of you, grasshopper.) This might be the “Velvet Queen” variety—one of the darkest of all sunflowers with hues of burgundy, mahogany, chestnut red, and bronze with a very dark center. The flowers are 4-6 inches across and the plant can grow as high as 6 feet. They’re a magnet for goldfinches, which Gina can attest to—she has seen goldfinches picking at the seeds for a week now. What I wouldn’t give to be able to photograph a goldfinch landing on this flower…with the red, bright blue, and yellow. One can only dream…sigh…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Desktop poetry: In my garden

4 08 2008

© Cindy Dyer, 2008. All rights reserved.

Tiger lily

3 08 2008

Sigh…another (later-blooming) lily that I must add to my lily collection. These beautiful tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) were blooming in Karen’s garden this weekend. It is one of several lilies that go by the common name of Tiger Lily. It is considered one of the earliest lilies to be domesticated.

See my original posting on Karen’s memory garden here. Her garden is lush and full these days. I’ll post some overall shots I did (with the comparison photos next to them) later.

I found a beautiful poem about tiger lilies here. Here is an excerpt:

Tiger Lily
Gray are the gardens of our Celtic lands,
Dreaming and gray,
Tended by the devotion of pale hands,
On barren crags, or by disastrous sands,
That night and day
Are drenched with bitter spray.
There rosemary and thyme are plentiful,
Larkspur that lovers cull,
Love-in-the-mist that is most sorrowful.
Flowers so wistful that our teardrops start…
Scarcely one understands that regal, rare,
Bravely the tiger lily blossoms there,
Bravely apart.
—Walter Adolphe Roberts, 1920

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.