Half a lemon times two

Some people consult the Farmer’s Almanac and moon phases for best times to prune trees. I don’t.

For me, there are two “best times“ to prune a tree: 2) when I feel like it, and 1) when the wife tells me to do it, as she did today.

So, log-handled loppers in hand, directed by her, squinting into the sun, I lopped off the biggest branch first. As it fell, so did a lemon. But when I picked it up, I found half a lemon — seriously, almost exactly half a lemon, neatly sliced lengthwise.

Where was the other half? You guessed it: still attached to a branch overhead.

lemon cut in half by loppers

What are the chances of perfectly cutting in half a lemon you didn’t even see?

Well — maybe greater than one would expect with a tree that seems to be trying to communicate with us.

 

 

More on the ladders

Just in case you were wondering if the ladders were really that bad, look at what was left on the chopping block after splitting seven steps from one into kindling.

bug-eaten wood from ladder, Urruguay

As you can see, much of the inside of each step has been turned to dust.

It reminds me of buying new rustic furniture in Mexico. Within days, you’d find coin-sized perfectly round mounds of incredibly fine wood dust on the floor beneath it, and have to apply some horridly toxic liquid to every square inch of its surface to kill all the tiny critters.

 

 

Treework

Amazing to watch tree workers in action. Yesterday (yes, Sunday) involved removing all the lower branches from pine trees at the house of friends.

Quite a show.

pruning a pine tree, Uruguay

His brother removing an acacia that was leaning over the roof. Not a bit fell onto the roof in the process.

taking down a leaning acacia tree, Uruguay

An old stump five meters high had a non-functioning light fixture on it. That was removed, stump cut down, and birds flew in to feast on the ants inside, mostly oblivious to me standing two meters away.

And another surprise: look at how the rings grew on that angled limb in the first two pictures!

I find it quite amazing that none of these trees has come down in severe windstorms during the six years the owners have been gone, but it seems much less likely now. And, a lot fewer pine needles to clear off the roof.

pruned pine trees, Uruguay

 

 

 

 

Ant hills

multicolored ant hills, Atlántida, Uruguay

The ants have been busy lately in our dog walk area. For some reason, sand beneath the surface is a different color, making the hills particularly conspicuous. I find it interesting how many of them have appeared.

I don’t think they’re always there. Do they appear and disappear, like the several kinds of frogs, from one day to the next?

We also spotted a little snake, ~ 25 cm long, that all six dogs (happily) didn’t notice. From a clump of grass, it zipped between my legs to the safety of a nearby hole. No photo. Happened in seconds.

So how many ant species are there in Uruguay? I’m not counting.

How many ant species do you think there are in the world? Seriously, take a guess, then click here.

 

 

Pine from pine

pine tree sprouting in dead pine, Uruguay

Pine trees don’t regrow from stumps, unlike eucalyptus trees. But you wouldn’t know that from looking at this. Apparently a pine cone sprouted inside the rotting stump. How it fares as the stump continues to rot will be interesting to watch!

 

 

Funny flowers

How else to describe them?

Strange flowers without leaves, Uruguay

They grow like little sticks out of the ground with no leaves, make pretty pink flowers, then go away. Until this time next year.

Do you have any idea what they’re called?

Los búhos

These guys like to let you know when the dogs get into their territory!

Watchful owls in Uruguay

Watchful owls in Uruguay

Taken with my Panasonic point-and-shoot camera, no tripod.

DTOTB

It’s been a long time since I posted Dead Things On The Beach, but today’s was quite impressive.

Dead sea turtle and dog, Atlántida, Uruguay

As was Benji’s response. Until I got close, I was convinced the turtle was going to move.

As usual, how and why of its demise remain a mystery.

 

 

 

 

Bee attack

I did everything exactly wrong.

First, I wore a dark shirt. Most days I wear T shirts, and since yesterday was hot and muggy, I chose one with the thinnest material — which happened to be dark blue. Of course, I had no reason to anticipate what was coming. Have you ever seen a beekeeper’s outfit? No doubt you remember what color it was. Hint: opposite of dark.

Second, I did not immediately identify the insect that was buzzing me. This happened a couple months ago, and then I also did not identify the molester, but that passed with no harm.

Third, I did what most people would do without thinking: I swatted at it with my cap, then with a branch from a bush. I knocked one to the ground and stepped on it. It looked like a honeybee, and there are hives nearby. We’ve walked right by them at times.

When the first sting came, I kept walking. I had the urge to run, but I was with two other people. Gotta keep cool, right (as if swatting at bees with a branch from a bush is cool)?

Eyes after bee attack

This morning, over twelve hours later, I awoke with my right eye swollen almost half shut. I might have gotten as many as three stings in the right temple area, definitely my left ear and perhaps another on the neck nearby, and up to three on my left shoulder and back.


So this morning I did some research. When bees start hassling you, they’re telling you to go away, which is a good idea. When you wave your arms around, they take the motion as a threat because they use vision primarily to detect motion. And then —

Once embedded in the skin stingers also release tagging pheromones, potent chemical signals that attract and arouse other bees. When released near a colony, these pheromones can provoke a massive defensive swarm from the females guarding the nest. “The chemical signal says, ‘Here, sisters, here is where I found a chink in the armor of this big attacking predator,’” Schmidt says. “It really arouses them.”1

So more bees will be drawn to sting in the same area as the first stings. And the dark color (bees see red as black btw) reminds bees of dark-furred animals they have evolved to recognize as a threat.

What I should have done:

  • worn a white shirt
  • not automatically swatted
  • gotten the hell out of there
  • and, after being stung, gotten the hell out of the as fast as I could

I enjoyed a dollop of local honey (this area is big into bees) in my oatmeal this morning, after getting up early and walking Benji on the beach at 7. I think that will be my dog-walking routine for a while. Once stung, twice shy.

 

1Summer Safety: How to Avoid Bee-Swarm Attacks.