It's been an emotional week going back to school and seeing the teachers for the first time since I turned in my letter of resignation. It has helped that they have given me their support and understanding! I've been hoarding boxes from the cafeteria and packing in between teaching the Health and Human Body unit to the students. I still can't believe I'm having to leave the room and position I've loved for 13 years, but I guess all good things must come to an end. I'm grateful for the time I had with the students and staff!
On Sunday I went to Knoxville with my friends, Charlie and Roseanne. We had planned to do some outdoor nature photography, but Mother Nature had other ideas. Her "liquid sunshine" made us go to Plan B. We went to the East Tennessee Historical Society in downtown Knoxville (on Gay St.). Although I've lived in this part of the state for over 30 years (including 4 years in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee), there was a lot I didn't know about the history of the area. I learned about the people behind the names of some of the schools where I have done my science outreach classes, such as Bonny Kate and Horace Maynard Elementary schools. This area has a rich and fascinating history!
It quit raining later in the afternoon, so after we celebrated Roseanne's upcoming retirement (she is the school nurse where I teach), and my "embarkation" on new career possibilities, we headed to a near-by park to see if we could find some interesting wildflowers. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to reveal the location for fear of poaching of the Pink Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium acaule). These wild orchids are fascinating flowers. They are like a "floral maze" because the bees that pollinate them have to enter a hole in the pink, sac-like structure, then they exit at the top through an opening near the round pollinia. Here is a website that better describes the process: http://www.museum.appstate.edu/kimmem/2001/ladyslipper/pages/lady.shtml Enlarge the photo at the right to see the illustration of the flower structure.
As we were leaving I noticed a pretty little blue flower that was planted in a garden near the visitor center. It turned out to be a wildflower that I had wanted to see for many years! It is called Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna). It is in the Figwort or Snapdragon Family. I've seen this flower in several wildflower books, but never growing.
On Tuesday this week I was out in my yard looking at the plants in my gardens when I spotted this funny fuzzy fly. I enjoyed watching it wash its face with its front feet. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you'll notice the fuzz between the fascets of the compound eyes.
Ok, now for the "baby butterflies"! Often when my students catch a small butterfly, like a skipper or an Eastern Tailed Blue, they'll run up and show it to me in the jar and exclaim, "Look Mrs. Light, I caught a baby butterfly!" I remind them it is actually just a small adult since "baby" insects don't have wings. The female Monarch butterflies laid their eggs on the leaves of the Common Milkweed in my yard 1-1/2 weeks ago, now they are starting to hatch. We also have Milkweed in the Secret Garden at my school outside my room. I stayed busy finding caterpillars to take to the classrooms (in between teaching and packing!). This has been a tradition at my school for over 23 years since I took a monarch caterpillar to my son's kindergarten teacher. I was very excited to find a tiny caterpillar that had just hatched, it was still eating its eggshell, its first meal! The butterflies often lay their eggs on the underside of the leaf to better protect them from the elements and predators. The caterpillar in the photo on the left is a few hours old (and only about 1/16" long) and had already eaten the eggshell, I had to put it on a different leaf to get a picture of it. After the caterpillar eats the eggshell it begins to eat the tiny hairs on the leaf, next it starts to eat the leaf. An easy way to find caterpillars that are a day or 2 old is to look for small holes (1/4" or less) in the leaves; turn the leaf over and you'll probably see a tiny caterpillar. I'll try to follow the life cycle of a caterpillar and post the photos during the next couple of weeks.