Monday, May 28, 2012

Texas Caviar

We have had a lot of good food shared at potlucks with our fellow RVers. Here is the recipe to a super chip dip called Texas Caviar!  You'll notice corn in the pictured dip, but not in the recipe. This recipe is quite versatile.  We've heard of green beans being added sometimes. I wonder about water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, or heart of palms.  Have fun experimenting!

1 can blackeye peas with jalapenos drained
1 can field peas with snaps drained
1 can black olives (optional)
2 tomatoes chopped
2 buttons garlic chopped
1 red onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
2 avocados chopped (optional, but yummy!)
1 jar Italian salad dressing
Jalapenos (optional-We don't use.)

Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate overnight. Serve with chips. Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Exotic Resort Zoo

Roy and I recently visited The Exotic Resort Zoo in Johnson City, Texas.  The term zoo doesn't do justice to this 135 acre animal park in which the animals roam relatively free.  Half of the animals in the park were at one time on the endangered species list and near extinction.  Fortunately, because of zoos and animal parks like The Exotic Resort Zoo many are multiplying and will be around for future generations to enjoy.  Check out their website by going to our links.  The animal park has 5 rental cabins located out where the animals roam, but within a fenced area.  Wouldn't that be a fun place to stay!   
Open air trollies take visitors on a tour through the park for a fee of $12.95 per adult.  Large buckets of animal feed can be purchased for $6.00.  Checking out the previous tour for the best location to be on the trolley, I chose the back corner.  When this camel came running and extended its head high over my shoulder into the trolley,  I happily gave up my spot for one further in!
Although there was a tour guide telling about the animals, in the excitement of feeding and taking pictures I heard very little!  Roy fed the animals from his hands, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.
This ostrich was beautiful at a distance, but up close it definitely gave a sense of how large and fierce it could be in protecting itself.
Often as the trolley moved on, the animals would chase it a short ways.
Notice the Llama and deer that chased the trolley patiently waiting for seconds!
I  enjoyed watching this woman with her grandson.
This little girl may be destined to be a vet or zoo keeper someday.  She obviously loved all the animals and wasn't at all intimidated by them.  She hugged as many animals as she could calling them all Fuzzy Head.
All these baby Emus running for the trolley was quite a sight!  Note that all the babies seem to be about the same age.  The tour guide said that Emus share mothering duties and will sometimes leave their young in the care of a nanny.
Here's a mix!
Big deer!  Reindeer?  Magnificent up close!
I love this picture!  Roy and this guy seemed to instantly bond!  I think it is a white Reindeer.
Educationally a spot on the trolley near the tour guide might have been beneficial.  I don't know what this animal is, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of seeing it any!
Do you see the little legs and ears next to one of the Zebras?  
Here's what the little legs and ears belong to.  Awwww!  Isn't it cute?!
I loved the tour!
To top off a great tour, everyone was free to wander at their leisure through a great little petting area!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nature's Miracles

Although it was a bit tattered and appeared to be at the end of its one week life cycle, I feel fortunate to have seen this Giant Silk Moth called Polyphemus.  It has a wing span of 6 inches!
The big spots on its wings are used to mimic an owl's eyes. The Internet states that the moth usually keeps its wings closed so as to pass itself off as a brown leaf, unless it feels threatened. It will then open its wings to reveal the eye spots.  It creates the illusion of a blink by opening and closing its wings.  I think the eye spots would be be very convincing at night. 
I have been trying for some time to get a good look at one of these butterflies, but they always seem to be on the move. I was excited to capture this picture of it with its wings open! The butterfly is called a Red Admiral. The Internet states that these butterflies migrate to Texas for the Winter, breed, and the new hatch heads north in the Spring. 
This discovery has been a real mystery and truly one of nature's miracles! It took some serious inspection to determine that it wasn't a pinecone, but a cocoon made up of dried Live Oak leaves.  The awe sets in, when one begins to ponder how an insect could build such an amazing work of art and transport it or the materials to build it 7 feet up a fence!  Following are some internet pictures of the Bagworm's creations made from various plant materials and the unveiling of how the creation is made. 
The female Bagworm moth lays her eggs in the cocoon she created while in her caterpillar form.  Her life cycle ends.
The caterpillars that emerge from the cocoon begin spinning their own silky cocoons as they feed.  Their cocoons are open on both ends like a tube.  Each caterpillar places pieces of plant matter onto its silky cocoon as it drag it along.  The cocoons are constructed of leaves, stems, and even berries.  As can be imagined, a large number of these caterpillars would be very destructive to the host plant.  They are, therefore, considered a pest.  Great cocoon architects, though!
As the caterpillars ready themselves to pupate, they drag the cocoon upward to attach it. They seal the ends of the cocoon, and wait to awaken as moths.
The male moths leave their cocoons to mate, and the females prepare the cocoon they emerged from for the eggs they will lay.  The cycle then begins again!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stinging Caterpillars

Roy recently had an encounter with another stinging caterpillar.  This time he was sitting outside minding his own business, when a caterpillar quietly made its way up the outside of his jeans and onto his lap. When Roy unknowingly brought his arm down onto the caterpillar, he felt a burning sting.  He describes the intensity of the sting as being comparable to a wasp's sting, but coming on slowly.

You can see in this picture of the skin irritation the wiggle of the caterpillar, as it curled its body.  Despite washing the irritated skin right away with warm soapy water, his skin continued to burn and itch with some intensity for two days.  The itching has continued for a week or more, and the rash is still quite visible.

Here is the culprit to watch out for, although it appears that it's best to leave all the hairy caterpillars alone.  You can see long stinging spikes along the caterpillar's side.  When I enlarged the picture further, I could see three more rows of smaller spikes across the back.  I would assume there is another row of long stinging spikes along its other side.  My Internet research regarding stinging caterpillars states that the caterpillar can dictate the amount of venom it injects, and that in the process of stinging the venom injecting spikes and hairs break off in the skin.  Treatment recommendations include repeatedly applying and removing tape to the affected area to pull out the offending stingers.  Wash the affected area with soapy water, apply a baking soda poultice and an ice pack.  Oral antihistamines may help.  In the case of severe reactions a physician's care may be needed. 

These caterpillars were in abundance this Spring crawling across the ground.  It was funny, but then again, not funny that this little creature and its fellow crawlers had all of us big humans sitting with our feet off the ground and on high alert until they all got to where they were going!