30 June 2014

the spreading board

I have already told you about my experimentation with the killing jar. It is only the first step in the very precise process of insect taxidermy, and now that I feel confident in my ability to use it, I have at last got up the courage to attempt using a "spreading board" -- the next, and highly necessary, insect-mounting step.

To be used while the insect is still soft and pliable--so preferably right after leaving the killing jar--the Spreading Board is for positioning insects so that they dry out the way you want them to. In the case of butterflies and moths, with their wings fully spread out to give an aesthetic shape and to reveal all the markings. My makeshift spread boards are nothing special: merely cardboard and sewing needles, with masking tape and little strips of paper to hold the limbs and wings in place. Not professional, but workable. I plan to invest in a proper one as soon as I can get it (this site has really cheap ones!)

By tomorrow, my specimens should be dry enough to be removed from the board. I'm excited to see how well they turned out! It's yet another step in this practice, and being a hobby that I value, I want to do it correctly. Mounted insects can be beautiful. I want mine to be.

27 June 2014

for this hot week :

these insects added to the ol' mounting board
Tiger Swallowtail
Mustard White
Summer Azure
Common Ringlet
Virginia Ctenucha
Northern Bluet

this new dress

 a first attempt at sun tea

a discovery that the forest beds have been nibbled down to nubs by some wild thing

these songs
"I've been hanging on your every word/Under blankets and covers." - Mounties
"When you wake what is it that you think of most?" - Tegan & Sara
"Soft hair and a velvet tongue/I wanna give you what you give to me." - The White Stripes
"I didn't know I was lonely 'til I saw your face." - Bleachers

25 June 2014

first summit, 2014

Coming from the middle of the Canadian prairies, mountains are a novelty. Despite being merely three hours away from Alberta's portion of the Canadian Rockies, my hometown is completely flat, with no inkling whatsoever that there are mountains anywhere near enough to get to. I hold those handful of times in the year that I get to see them/breathe them/climb them as very precious. I try to keep them vivid in my mind for as long as possible, until the next time--which, in every case, can never come too soon.

Over the weekend, K and I went to Jasper. We set up camp. We hiked through and around Maligne Canyon. We swam in Lake Edith. We purchased a growler of beer from the local brewery. We even encountered a bear.

But, in all of that, it's always the mountain that yields the highest level of satisfaction. On the first day of our trip, the summer solstice, we climbed Roche Miette.

It was not an easy venture--it was downright painful at times. The scree at the top threatened to shower down on us; we burnt our faces (forgot the sunscreen) and our legs still ache. But what did we gain? We stood on the top of a goddamn mountain.

I love all of it: the sheer distance away from other people and wifi, the idea that the only things you own at that time is what you carry on your back, the distict smell of rock in the sun, the constantly changing view, the good quadricep pain, the feeling of intense satisfaction when you reach the top...

There's nothing like it.

Even so, I am no pro. I'm not even hiking-fit. This is only the second mountain I've ever climbed. But last year, after climbing Mount Lady MacDonald in Canmore, I fell in love with it. I needed it. And this one, though more difficult, was even more satisfying. I can hardly wait for the next one.

And what better activity is there to do with someone you like a real lot? K is the best mountain-conquering partner I could ask for.

19 June 2014

that kind of girl

We're going to Jasper this weekend. Would it be weird if I told you that the triathlon wetsuit K bought me as an early birthday present (for swiming in Lake Edith) made me swoon more than if it had been a diamond?

12 June 2014

killing jar

Obviously, telling people that I kill butterflies is like saying, "I destroy beauty and snuff innocence." Even though spiders and beetles and wasps are swatted at without the least twinge of conscience, a butterfly is different. More free, more whimsical and seemingly symbolic of all things innocent. People like butterflies. So what can I say? I kill butterflies.

I use a killing jar: priming it well by sealing in three cottonballs soaked in ethyl acetate (a chemical in nail polish remover) until the fumes have created a sort of warm, damp presence. I then cover the cottonballs with a cardboard platform and add the insect. After a few flaps and shudders, it just falls asleep: curling its legs beneath it and calmly laying its wings open.

There is never anything sweet about death--even the death of an entirely unrelatable, strange being like a bug--but I still don't feel like a "killer." I don't feel cruel. I don't feel that there is anything about this that I should be ashamed of. Mounting insects isn't exactly a common practice, but it is a practice. And a good one. Insects are beautiful and fascinating: they're worth preserving for closer study and appreciation.

And I appreciate them greatly. Aren't they marvelous?

09 June 2014

from the fire pit

Rain and rain and raaaiiin. All last week has been utterly soaked to the bone, and this one is starting out the same way. My bike has only been ridden once since the snow melted, the local outdoor pool has not been visited, and my summer tan has barely been started. Still, we managed the first bonfire of the year over the weekend--we fit it neatly during a calm between two storms--and it has made me feel like I have accomplished something. It may be strange to take something like this so seriously, but having as many bonfires as possible is one of my goals for the summer. I found last year to be very lacking in this regard, which was a bit of a let-down for me because I think bonfires are highly important for the structural integrity of a successful summer. There is nothing more summer-oriented, socially inclusive, and utterly enjoyable than building and having beer around a bonfire. I am excited for more to come.

Oh, and while we're at the subject of goals, have the rest of my summer to-do's; for my own accountability if nothing else...

train weekly for August triathlon - 2 swims, 2 bikes, 2 runs
successfully mount a butterfly (third time's the charm!)
read Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury
track swamp tadpoles during transition into frogs
go see The Room at the Garneau Theatre
go on three camping trips (minimum)
hold a garden party per month
sew a garment per month
achieve epic tan
attend festivals  
save money

05 June 2014

rhubarb sprouts and a terrarium

So it looks like the first sprouts of the forest beds have finally come up. Rhubarb!

Every day this week has been hot and lovely, ending with a storm. Lots of sun and rain for the beds! K and I also contributed this week by collecting rocks from the field to make a little garden border. The sprouts finally became noticable on Tuesday, even among the confusion of weeds (we plucked carefully around them).

Inbetween, K  has also helped me with my terrarium. I chose a 40oz growler rescued from the junkyard, first layering the bottom with small gravel rocks, then garden dirt, then crushed bits of soft rotting wood from a fallen tree, then bits of the moss growing on that same tree. A little water, then the cap. Ta da! We'll see how that goes.

In other news: the tadpoles are bigger (we had to transfer them into a larger tank, even then letting some go free into the swamp to allow more room) and two of the painted ladies have hatched. It's difficult to get pictures of these things, but I will continue to try. Perhaps you shall see them soon!