Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Earthworm Story

The recent rains and winds we've been having here in Mississippi finally took their toll on some of my Snapdragons. A week or so ago, they looked like this ...

After each battering by rain and wind, they became more and more bedraggled, and finally got to the point that they couldn't straighten back up. Poor things ... yesterday, I took them out of their misery and pulled them up and transplanted them in one big clump in the backyard.

Before I pulled them up, though, I cut some blooms and stuck them in a glass and put them on a table under our porch.

My "stick-in-a-glass-or-jar" bouquets usually turn out better than the ones I try to arrange, and I'm sure we'll enjoy these pretty Snaps all weekend.

I replaced the Snapdragons with a few Sunpatiens, and love the color they added to the courtyard.

While digging the holes to plant the flowers, I disturbed quite a few earthworms, and stopped to watch as they wiggled and burrowed their way back under the dirt. As I watched them, I couldn't help but wonder if my probings with my trowel hurt them, or if the bright sunlight hurt their eyes ... or if they even have eyes!

The more I thought about them, the more curious I became, and after doing a quick Google search, I came across the University of Illinois Extension's website, which provided some interesting facts about earthworms (comments in bold are mine).

  • A worm has no arms, legs or eyes.

  • An earthworm can grow only so long. A well-fed adult will depend on what kind of worm it is, how many segments it has, how old it is and how well fed it is.

  • There are approximately 2,700 different kinds of earthworms.

  • Worms live where there is food, moisture, oxygen and a favorable temperature. If they don’t have these things, they go somewhere else.

  • In one acre of land, there can be more than a million earthworms.

  • The largest earthworm ever found was in South Africa and measured 22 feet, from its nose to the tip of its tail. (That makes me shudder to think about it!)

  • Worms tunnel deeply in the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface, mixing it with the topsoil. Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants, and the sticky slime helps to hold clusters of soil particles together in formations called aggregates.

  • Charles Darwin spent 39 years studying earthworms more than 100 years ago.

  • Worms are cold-blooded animals.

  • Earthworms have the ability to replace or replicate lost segments. This ability varies greatly depending on the species of worm you have, the amount of damage to the worm, and where it is cut. It may be easy for a worm to replace a lost tail, but may be very difficult or impossible to replace a lost head if things are not just right. (I can't help but wonder what the "right conditions" are for replacing a lost head)

  • Baby worms are not born — they hatch from cocoons smaller than a grain of rice.

  • The Australian Gippsland Earthworm grows to 12 feet long, and can weigh 1-1/2 pounds (That sounds too much like a snake to me!)

  • Even though worms don’t have eyes, they can sense light, especially at their anterior (front end). They move away from light and will become paralyzed if exposed to light for too long (approximately one hour).

  • If a worm’s skin dries out, it will die.

  • Worms can eat their weight each day.

I learned a lot about earthworms as a result of my research, and I also discovered that there's no way you can capture a pretty picture of a worm (or at least, I couldn't). But that didn't keep me from trying.

One little worm was especially gregarious, and stopped wiggling and burrowing long enough for me to get a few closeup shots.

I told you it wasn't pretty!

Unfortunately, in most of the pictures, he looked more like a little snake than an earthworm (shudder, again!), and he was slimy and covered with dirt (well, after all, he was an EARTHWORM, right?).

To make matters worse, I couldn't tell which end was his head and which was his tail, but figured he would be burrowing with his head, so I focused on the "burrowing end."

In this picture, I was trying to get a close up of his "face" to see if he had eyes (he didn't) ...

And in this one, you can see his segmented body which contracts to help him burrow under the dirt.

Poor little thing ... he's probably burrowed his way halfway to China by now to escape my trowel and zoom lens.

But I'm glad I had the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about earthworms, and I like knowing that they are busy at work in my flowerbeds burrowing and loosening the dirt so my flowers can flourish.

And to leave you with a pretty picture for the weekend, here's another one of my "bouquet."


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Mighty Mississippi

The Mississippi River is getting a lot of attention in the news these days, but it's not good news. The "trickle down" effect is not only related to the economy, but can also be found at work in Nature, as river cities from Illinois to New Orleans prepare for what has been predicted as one of the worst floods in decades.

Its name means "Father of Waters," but in the next couple of weeks, a lot of people will probably realize why the river is also called the Mighty Mississippi.

The predictions for the river's crest here in Vicksburg, are holding steady, despite more than two inches of rain in the area recently. Yesterday, the river level was at 40.3 feet, and is expected to crest at 53.2 feet, the highest since 1937.

In 2008, the river topped out at 50.9 feet, and here are two pictures I captured of the river then ...

If current crest predictions hold, all riverside roadways in Vicksburg, will go under water according to a report issued Tuesday by the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners. The Warren County supervisors have declared a disaster ahead of the looming flood waters, and preparations are being made to house flood evacuees at the Vicksburg Convention Center, if the need arises.

Here is the way things looked yesterday when I made several stops along the river in Vicksburg.

The Water Front

The river is currently at the 40.3 mark, and is predicted to hit the 1937 level of 53.2, so you can see how much higher it will be on the gauge in this picture:

Scenes of the river from the Water Front:

The river banks on the Louisiana side ...

After leaving the water front, I headed toward the double bridges crossing the river, and drove up to the top of the parking garage of Ameristar Casino "to see what I could see."

We have been plagued by lingering March winds along with April showers, and the ragged edge of the flag atop the railroad bridge is showing signs of its constant battering by the wind ...

The Mighty Mississippi, indeed!

Look at the treacherous currents!

The Railroad Bridge

View from the Mississippi Welcome Center ...

The benchmark 1927 flood reached 56.2 feet on today’s gauges, and it would have been 62 feet had the levees held.

I'm glad I wasn't around to take pictures of it back then.

In the next few days,I'll try to capture a photo record of the river's water levels, and will keep you posted. Perhaps, we will get lucky and the Mighty Mississippi will become Ol' Man River by the time it gets to Vicksburg. We can always hope, I guess!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Master Gardener

Is this an exotic Orchid?

A prized Hybrid Rose?

A Blue Ribbon-winning Daisy?

A rare, lacy flower grown in an English garden?

The answer to all of those questions is, of course, "No."

The "exotic Orchid" is a Honeysuckle blossom, which can be found in abundance this time of year growing along rural fence rows and ditches ...

I found the "prized Rose" growing on the side of a country road near Vicksburg, its tangled vines climbing high up into the trees overhead ...

I was delighted with such colorful lagniappe, and braved the tall grass, ant beds, and briars to capture the beautiful little clusters of roses up close.

The "Blue Ribbon Daisy" was in the midst of this little clump of wild daisies growing around a bend and down the road from the wild roses ...

And that lacy flower wasn't growing in a fancy English garden. It, too, was on the side of the road, towering above a patch of red clover ...

This time of year, most gardens are at their loveliest, carefully tended by flower and plant lovers all over the world ... but none of them, no matter how grand and lush, can hold a candle to God's gardens. He is truly the Master Gardener of all time — and His gardens are open year-round, 24/7, and there's no charge for the tours. I hope you will visit one near you soon.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Odds and Ends

Just a few "odds and ends" pictures for today — some old, some new. You can click on them to get a closer look, if you'd like.

Big Red Barn, Rolling Fork, Mississippi

Watermelon Crape Myrtle Blossom

Ocoee River, near Blue Ridge, GA

Gossamer Wings
I love this one up close.

Mississippi Roots

Windsor Ruins, Claiborne County, Mississippi

Old Sycamore

A "Frowny" Cow

Mossy Rock

Ruins of a Mississippi Delta Church