"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." ~Wendell Berry


Monday, December 15, 2014

The Wisdom of The Swing

Sometimes I tend to over think things, but not near as much as my husband does.  He was concerned about conducting a prescribed burn on 3 acres just south of the house this year because of the potential for killing the young, tender sprouts, so he decided to find a used hay rake and rake off all the duff instead of burning this year.  He finally found one and, after replacing the missing teeth on it, we made it fully functional. 
Looking at it brought back many memories from my childhood.  As a small child, I vividly remember chasing my Grandfather (PawPaw) across the field and trying to deliver his lunch that my Mawmaw had prepared for him as he cut and raked the hay on our old farm.

MawMaw & PawPaw Pippin - circa 1970-72
Later, when I learned to ride a horse, I would run into the field and catch "Red" and with nothing more than hay baling twine as a bridle, find a stump, jump up on his back and ride out to my Grandfather as he mowed then raked, season after season.  Funny how an inanimate object can bring forth such vivid memories isn't it?  I miss them both - they were strong, driving forces in my life.  As my Mother and Father divorced and the battle raged, MawMaw and PawPaw were the one constant in our lives.
MawMaw was a devout Christian - a member of the local United Pentecostal church and used to take my sister, my brother and me to church every Saturday night, Sunday School on Sunday morning and if we were still there Sunday evening , we went to church that night too.
PawPaw on the other hand, whoooo boy!  PawPaw was a moonshiner and a gambler.  I remember the story of his cooking moonshine out in the woods and the time his still was trampled by cows.  He and my father had gotten word that the local sheriff knew where their still was and was forming up a posse to destroy it and arrest him.  When he and my father got to the still, they found several cows laying around the area, sprawled out on their sides with their eyes rolling back in their heads.  Apparently, they had decided to have a taste of the moonshine and had broken up the barrels in their eagerness to drink the stuff.  There was not much they could do for the cows, so they hauled the equipment away -they never were arrested for it.
My grandfather was also a troublemaker.  And a brawler.  He loved to fight, especially with his own kin.  You know that meme, "nature or nurture"?  Well, I was never sure if I inherited his personality or if he nurtured it, but for many years, I was his favorite grandchild and he kept me close.  I learned my multiplication tables and ABCs at his knee every morning when he was drinking his coffee, preparing to go to work.  During the winters, I would learn in front of the fireplace.  But in summer, we would take to the swing.  The thing I learned from him that I thank him for every day is my ability to be honest with my friends.
Once when I was in high school I sat on the swing with him and cried my heart out.  I was devastated that I didn't have a lot of friends and while I knew the reason, I couldn't figure out how to change it.  I was too honest with my friends, sometimes to the point of being brutal.
PawPaw listened, then told me, "Always be honest with your friends.  If they leave you, they weren't worth keeping around.  If they stay, they are your true friends."  That has stuck with me always. 
Me & PawPaw - 1989 - he moved his swing out into the yard.

PawPaw - 1989
All this from an old, used rake we purchased.  The original intent of this post was to tell you about the pale purple coneflower, prairie blazing star, purple praire clover, common milkweed, New England Aster, rough Blazing Star, Aromatic Aster and Ohio Horsemint that I planted after raking over 5 acres in our field the last two weekends, but I ended up instead on Memory Lane and suddenly, that seems such a minor thing right now.  Funny how that happens.  I miss you MawMaw and PawPaw.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The FOB - Part 2

Now that I'm on vacation this week, the continuation of building the FOB has been my highest priority.  I do not want to wait until March and have to be doing this out in the snow!
As mentioned in my last post (http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-freeze-owl-block-fob.html ), I had cut a couple of 18" arms to which I could test-mount the fencing.  It worked, so this past weekend, (and after sending Mr. Freeze back to the hardware store to get the right size nuts that I needed), I was able to cut and drill the rest of the arms and mount them to the gourd rack.
I then remounted all the gourd arms and made sure the nuts were tightened down so the arms would not rotate and allow the gourd to tilt downward.
The extra 18" angle arms are added to help extend and keep the fencing off the fronts of the gourds on the ends.  Holes drilled in the end of each 18" piece will be used to secure the fencing.
I then mounted the 6' aluminum angle arms between the main arms and carefully measured where I would drill the holes that would allow me to mount those without having to cut more metal, yet it would sit securely on the ends without slipping off.  Okay, I lied - I don't "measure carefully" unless Mr. Freeze insists that I need to.  And he said I didn't really need to, so I didn't.  I SWAGged it and it worked out.  I drilled a hole on each end of each arm and mounted them, butting one against the other.
The 4, 6' aluminum angle pieces are strapped down using zipties after drilling a hole in each end.  The pie-shaped top for this section was cut so that there would be no jagged edges.  They may overlap with the next piece a bit, but that's ok.  I'll also cut some 4"x4" holes in the top.
Right now, everything is secured using zip ties to ensure the design will work.  I haven't decided yet what the permanent solution will be.  I want to put this baby into practice and see what or if I will need to change something to accommodate my propensity to move quickly when doing nest checks while at the same time, not having to brush against mite-infested gourds.
I had been dreading facing two other challenges - figuring out how to get the maximum coverage from above without having to do a lot of cutting and what to use to cover the 'nibbins' when I cut out 4"x4" squares.  Today, the clouds parted and it all became clear.  Once I realized that I needed a 45 degree -pie-shaped section of fence and to do that, I needed to "cut two across, down one", I tossed the ruler, the square and the angle-thingy that Mr. Freeze gave me and started cutting.  I now have a roof over the top that will prevent the owl from dropping down inside the cage.  And I can secure it to the 6' angle arms, that I mounted earlier to keep it from floppin' around.
As for the covers of the nibbins in the newly cut 4"x4" openings, I have Mr. John Barrow to thank for that idea.  I am not ashamed to say that yes, I consult with a lot of friends to 'brainstorm' when I don't have a clue how to proceed.  John sent me some suggestions and armed with that information, I went to our local hardware store.  After the laughter died down from my trying to explain what I needed, they helped me find exactly the right material - easy to cut and cheap!  This trim is used to help start siding - commonly called "undersill trim".  I cut out a piece to try it and it snaps right on.  The best part is it doesn't try to rotate or pop off!  My hardware store sold me a 6' length for $2.50.  Yep, nothing like shopping "local"!  Thanks, John!
I have lots more cutting and some fine-tuning to do and I need another roll of the wire to finish, but basically, this is what my purple martins will return home to.  I'm only now starting to feel a lot better about their return next year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fall Treasure Hunts

“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
― Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot'

I love Fall.  There is just no other way to say it.  It is my favorite season.  As Stephen King notes, summer is treacherous.  Drought, heat, painful sunburns, ticks and chiggers, dry & crunchy grass, and bugs that look like they're from alien planets.  Did I mention that I really hate ticks and chiggers?  Don't get me wrong.  Summer brings with it lots of good things too - many different flowers, butterflies, bees and of course, my favorite birds, purple martins.
But there's nothing like Fall - not too hot, not too cold - it's just right!  Unlike the quickening we feel in Spring, Fall brings a feeling of a slowing pace.  It feels as if we have reached the end of this year's marathon race and now it's time to catch our breath, clean up the mess that was summer and prepare to tuck everything into bed for its winter's rest.  One of my favorite activities in the fall is to take a stroll down dirt roads and wander off through the trees to see what summer has wrought.  Where once stood bushes and briars covered with spiders, ticks and chiggers standing guard with their nasty bites as their weapons, waiting to leap upon their prey and leave behind bites that wouldn't heal for months, there are now dead leaves and cold, dead grass.  It is exciting to take in the colorful beauty of the leaves on the trees even as they are slowly dropping off.  The varieties of colors against a clear blue sky give me pause and I love to stand and listen to them rustling in the wind and take a deep breath of the cool, clean air.
Often times, people are oblivious to things that are happening in the forest as they zip to and fro down the highways and back roads around this county.  So, I feel like I’m harboring an exciting secret as I venture forth on a hike with Nikki through the woods, as if we are adventurers and we’re off to discover great secrets hidden in the deep, dark forests.  Well, it may not be “Indiana Jones” type adventures, but it is still quite exciting for us to find the unusual things that we come across in the forests.
This tree died long ago from possibly a lightning strike and Nikki and I stop to watch the opening to see if there are any creatures taking advantage of the large opening through the middle of the trunk.

The growth on the side of this tree is so oddly shaped, it deserves further inspection and the zoom lens.  Now, what in the world could have caused such an oddly shaped growth?
It looks to be perfect for a future home for some creature.  A bit of work to remove the rest of the dead debris and an enterprising, ambitious squirrel or bluejay could make a nice nest site out of it.  It even has a nice view of the nearby road.
Nikki sniffs out our next treasure.  This is her most preferred type of dog walk - one where she is allowed to stick her nose to the ground and follow every scent in Texas County.  If I let her off leash, she would eventually get lost because she, much as a hound, follows her nose everywhere.
And her find is a doozy.  A tree trunk twisted by some violent, incredibly strong force and rotted down the middle.  
 It's fun to ponder what must have happened to this tree. A tornado, perhaps?
But the hunt isn't over yet.  There are more treasures that my guide must sniff out!
Back on our own property, this mulberry is one of my favorites.  It was unfortunately (mulberries like full sun, but do okay with partial sun) planted by a bird, likely perched on the branches of the nearby oak under many other big trees.  Its limbs desperately reach for the sun, just at the edge of the savanna. 

After trimming this Easter red cedar tree, we noticed that someone had been very busy keeping the bugs under control.  Our likely bug hunter is either our very sweet little Downy woodpecker or our Yellow-bellied woodpecker pair.  They left some very interesting patterns too!
 Lastly, my river birch with its peeling bark of many colors.  Dolly Parton had a coat of many colors.  Well, so does my river birch!  I love these trees.  The trunk is as smooth as a baby's butt and the different colors of peeling bark add to its interest.

Here in the mid-west, fall is over as of this writing.  It seems that every year, things change in our natural environment.  I'm finding that I'm changing with it too.  I'm noticing these types of things more often and I find that walks in the woods have a strange, deeply calming effect on my soul.  I'll be doing more of it this winter when the snows fall and create another entirely different world.  One that still has no ticks or chiggers.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Yellow-Bellied Pirates

Yes, I have pirates in my yard, in the middle of Missouri.  Thieven' little scoundrels, that's what they are!  Today, I went to gather some pale purple coneflower seeds and found I was almost too late to the party.  As I identified the first coneflower head from wince I could harvest seed, my eyes, now-trained-for-finding-coneflower-seed heads, scanned the field, looking for more.  I waded deeper into the weeds and wondered why I wasn't finding more seed heads.
I listened as my ever-present Goldfinches twittered overhead and finally landed in the nearby oak trees, noisily letting me know they were not happy about my presence in their favorite feeding area.
Then I slowly put two and two together.  The reason I have less coneflower seed is because of the flying, yellow thieves that were chiding me from the safety of the trees!
My friend Aya Katz, defines "pirates / piracy" in this article (http://theodosiaandthepirates.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-karankawa-indians.html ) as:  
This brings us back to the meaning of piracy. Piracy would mean preying on your own. Privateering means preying on enemy ships. The whole difference between the two is where you draw the circle. If the Spanish are your allies, then preying on them is piracy. If they are your legally acknowledged enemies, it is privateering.
I am the goldfinches' ally and they are taking advantage of my goodwill (and my seeds) and committing piracy!  Yeeaarrrggghhhh!!!  There is a plentiful bounty of rattlesnake master and prairie blazing star seeds to satiate the Goldfinches so I don't feel badly about confiscating the coneflower seed heads.
 
I was able to find a few seed heads and I quickly cut them off and moved them to a safer location so that I can break the seeds loose and redistribute them this winter.  Of course, if you examine these seed heads closely, you really do have to admire the skill that it takes to get the seeds out without poking their little eyes out!
Harvested seed

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Freeze Owl Block (FOB)

Finally!  For a couple months now, the weather has been too hot to go out and start the cleanup of all the gourds and housing.  This past week has been much cooler and, feeling more secure that the mites and other creepy crawlies have drifted into their winter slumber, I ventured out to start the cleaning process.  With dirty gourds removed, Mr. Freeze is now more willing to help with the implementation of the new owl block whose plan has been changed countless times and under much discussion for months.
Mr. Freeze's 5 points of resistance were:
1. Wind.  Well, we do get lots of it here in Missouri.  My response was, the materials are lightweight and plenty of holes (ie, minimal surface area to catch wind).
2. Weight.  My response was again, the materials are lightweight and it's a 3" pole.
3. Our view.  We bought this property specifically because of its fantastic view to the south and who wants big cages permanently mounted in their direct line of sight?  My response, ok, we won't put them all the way up to the top, permanently mounted.  We can't really reach that high anyway.
4. Cost.  My response was, I've spent a lot of , ahem, a few bucks on these rigs to host purple martins and by comparison, it's not going to be that bad.
5. Why now?  Well, because Mr. Freeze, I don't want to go out in the February / March freezing temps and snow to try to measure & figure out the proper configuration for my racks.  Besides, you don't want to be out there then either, freezing off your wee knees right?
Thanks to Aprils Owl Guard pictures and a few emails back and forth with April, we were able to come up with a plan.  We found aluminum angle iron (36" long and 6' long pieces) at the local Lowe's store and the 2"x4" welded wire fencing (4' high) at our local farm store.
The 36" angle arm pieces were cut to 18" each then marked so they could be drilled to fit the already pre-drilled angle arms.  Since the angle arms are 1/8" thicker, we also purchased more bolts that were 1/8" longer to accommodate both the gourd arm, the original angle arm and the new one in the inner-most hole.  I thought we were being so smart to think of that.  But after drilling all the arms, I realized that I hadn't allowed enough room on the inside / underside of the new angle arm for the nut. So I had to move the small gourd arm to the outside and put the nut on the outside.  I can't think of a reason why that's bad...just aesthetically, it would have been better inside I guess.
2 pieces of fencing temporarily hung to ensure sizing is correct and the gourd won't be too close to the fencing.
The nut would not go on the inside as the hole was too close.  Every other vertical will be cut out to make 4"x4" openings.
Out at the opposite end of the arm, we drilled 2, 1/4" holes just in a bit from the end so that we can run #9 wire through the top and middle of the fencing to stiffen it, then bend the end of the wires downward so they can drop through these holes.  This will also allow me to remove the fence panels if needed during the season.
The #9 wire has not been weaved through the fencing yet.  Hung only temporary here to ensure proper sizing.
Right now, until I see how this is going to work in practice, I also plan to use the full height of the wire fencing - 4', hoping that will help discourage the owl from trying to fly up under it.  Once I wind the gourd rack down, I'll still be inside the cage and since I'm so short, I can move from section to section without removing the panels, unless I really need to.
I'll also be cutting out every other vertical wire to make the holes 4"x4".  I really wish I could find some pre-fabricated wire of that size that is made of this same light-weight material, but my searches have yielded nothing.
The 6' long piece of angle iron at the top will be used for support and to have something to which I can secure the top layer of fencing.
The 4' height of the fence may be too much, but I will leave it for now.
Lastly 4, 6' pieces of angle iron will be added across each set of arms at the top to support the welded wire fencing that will need to be spread across the top of the openings, so that my favorite Great Horned Owl can't just drop in for dinner from above.  Right now, there are no plans to enclose the bottom.  I'll monitor the rack and if he ever does decide to try to fly up into the cage, I'll deal with it then.  My preference though for now is to allow the martins an open bottom through which they can fly out and if the owl lands on top - which I'm sure he probably will - if they do panic & fly out, I don't want to find a bunch of birds hung up in the fencing in the morning.  Construction and ideas continue.  I will post more pictures as it develops.
(see Part 2 here: http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-fob-part-2.html
see Part 3 here: http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-fob-part-3.html)
The top will be enclosed with the fencing.  It will be secured to the 6' length of angle iron.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Recovery of E049

While doing the fall cleanup on the east side of the house today, something glinted at me from the rock garden. Earlier this summer, Bob had found an owl pellet just below our deck railing and had laid it on the rocks for me to take a look at later.  I had forgotten about it.  Until today.  Something shiny drew my attention back to it and my heart sank as I knelt to investigate.
I had been meaning to pull it apart, but with all the issues I had this summer, I couldn't bear to do it, fearing I would confirm what I dreaded most.  But nature has a funny way of exposing herself sometimes.  The rain did for me what I was unable to do and lying there in the owl poo was a little silver band, demanding my attention.

Federal Band # 2501-29649 recovered from the owl pellet
As I pulled the pellet apart, I noticed the tiny white bones in the mix.  I read the Federal Band number: 2501-29649.  This Second-Year (SY) male was born here at my site on June 13, 2013 in Troyer Gourd #35.  He was banded on 6/24/2013 at 21 days old.  He was resighted here on May 4, 2014 and was courting an SY Female in a Troyer vertical gourd on a different rack from the one in which he was born.  I have no further records where I spotted him this year, so I have no idea at what point he became a meal.

As I poked through the pieces, I knew it was inevitable that I would find the yellow band but its appearance still broke my heart.  His Missouri Band number was E049.
To think, this guy flew all the way to Brazil and back during the fall & winter of 2013-2014, only to arrive at my site and die as a meal to a GHO.  It makes me sad.

I am so grateful that I have always spent a lot of time out with my martins and could detect when something was wrong.  Even happier that I followed my instincts when I knew something was wrong.  Otherwise, the damage may have been a lot worse.  It doesn't make it any better for E049, but it did for the rest of my colony.
I am so grateful that my martins headed back to Brazil in mid-July as this year was exhausting and stressful.  I haven't been around my gourd racks yet, except to lower them for a storm.  Soon, when the weather cools, I'll be taking measurements so that I can start putting our planned design together for the owl protection that we will need for next year.
I know the owl has to eat too, but he really could go catch some of the annoying and very large moles we have here.  They would certainly make a heartier meal for him.  Have you seen our Missouri moles?  Perhaps I should put some bells on the moles that I catch so that they can keep my owl distracted next year.  Bad, old owl.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Monarchs Meet the Government

This summer, I was so thrilled to see a beautiful, strong crop of Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) appearing along both sides of Highway 137.  There have been efforts in the last few years by Missouri Department of Conservation (MODOT) and Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to increase awareness of native wildflowers and grasses in our state and we have been seeing increasing amounts of the tall Indian grass, Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Compass Plant, Blackeyed Susans and many, many other native forbs and grasses growing along all the highways this summer. 
Native Big Blue with flowers on 8/24/2014.

Native Indian Grass with flowers on 8/24/2014.
I was keeping a particularly close eye on the Common milkweed that was popping up everywhere also, as I really wanted to harvest some seed from the pods that were forming this year.
Then, about 3-4 weeks ago as Bob and I were driving down the highway, he almost drove off the road as we rounded a corner and I cried out in dismay.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The roadsides where I anticipated seeing the tall, beautiful native grasses weaved in amongst all the tall, seed-laden Common milkweed had been mowed down by MODOT.  A broad swath of the roadside - 16’ wide up into the ditches and up the other side – had been closely clipped by a finish mower.  There were less than 10 milkweed plants remaining in the whole 3 mile stretch.  I was horrified.  I was incensed.
Monarch caterpillars on their native food - Common Milkweed.
Where there were at least 200+ milkweed plants, now there are only 6.
As we continued our trip, the realization of the deeper impacts of the mowers’ blades began to dawn in my brain.  Not only had they mowed down the plants that were forming their seeds, they had also likely just slaughtered hundreds, if not more, Monarch caterpillars and thousands of eggs.  What a Greek tragedy. 
Approximately 200 milkweed plants mowed down along this stretch.
My head was reeling from the senselessness of it all.  The Monarchs would have been better off if the plants had never been planted there, forcing them to go to safer areas to lay their eggs.
At a time when environmentalists and even the President are warning us of the decline in the Monarch population (90 percent decline and now in the “near-threatened” category according to this article: http://biophiliccities.org/building-community-and-habitat-in-the-city-of-st-louis-through-milkweeds-for-monarchs-the-st-louis-butterfly-project/), MODOT is spending money on a program called “Roadside Beautification”, buying and scattering native seeds, at what I’m sure is a great cost to the taxpayers.  Then, before the plants can complete their cycle, make their own seed heads, and scatter themselves naturally (at zero cost to the taxpayers), they mow it down, victims of the government, in the name of "beautification".
100+ milkweed plants were mowed down through this stretch.
Unfortunately, these plants aren’t “beautiful” all year.  They can be ugly and look weedy at times.  However, even at their ugliest phases, they are still beneficial and still performing a vital function. They mowed these plants down at the absolute worst time of year, likely killing the “last generation” of Monarchs that would be part of the Great Migration that would be returning to Mexico and returning the next season.
Another similar story came across my desk (linked here: http://www.newtondailynews.com/2014/08/11/early-mowing-contributes-to-monarch-butterfly-decline/arkeeup/ )the next day and it made me wonder; how much of the decrease in the monarch population is being caused by this type of activity in the latter part of summer all across this country?
Another 50+ plants mowed down through this stretch.
Apparently, in many people’s haste to plant milkweed due to the growing popularity of the Monarch butterfly, they have failed to learn more about the care & environment needed for the milkweed and its importance as habitat for the caterpillars.  As it often does, the government, in its haste to “help” and with all good intentions, actually did more damage and wasted our money.  Are we surprised?  No.  But now, the mower blades need to be stilled and the government agencies that just want the roadsides to look beautiful, need to stand down.  They could easily wait until the end of September when there would be no damage to the population of Monarchs.  We continue to pursue those who can do something about this idiocy, but it’s much like the journey in “The Wizard of Oz”.  Only instead of a Yellow Brick Road, we have to wind our way through the government bureaucracy to discover who is responsible first.  Responsibility & government – now there’s an oxymoron.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mom Said, Go Forth, Eat, Poop, and Be Free

This past month has been extremely busy for me, but I was happy that I was still able to go and wander among the milkweeds, stand on my head and search for Monarch caterpillars on what is left of the end-of-summer plants.  In the last 2 weeks, I've found 27 caterpillars so far.  One disappeared, apparently, becoming an appetizer for an older caterpillar (or as my husband calls them, "worms") that I had in the same container.  Another lesson learned - put the teeny, tiny fellers in their own containers!  One died while trying to shed his skin, so I currently have a crop of 25.
After losing 6 out the first 9 that I found much earlier this year, I learned another lesson; separate them into smaller groups, just in case you do develop a case of "Black Death".  This disease is rather nasty and can spread quickly, killing most of your cats if you're not careful.  So, while I do have one of these Monarch enclosures (http://www.livemonarch.com/store_enclosures.php) (the ones showing as "sold out" are listed as $1000 - this is incorrect and I've let the webmasters know that price will scare the highlights out of some people's hair!), I am still using containers to group them into small groups, by age, so that my first instar cats don't become an appetizer for a fourth instar.

With plenty of fresh food that I'm supplying them with (sometimes twice a day!), they are growing quickly.  I am so excited!
My only one in pupa stage right now.
 I am fascinated by the little gold flecks on the chrysalis.  A very appropriate color for what's inside though - pure gold.
8/13/2015-Guy/Gal #1

8/15/2014 - Guy/Gal #1, 2 days later with his new suit and definitely having a bad hair day.
See the little legs in the skin he shed (pic above)?

8/13/2015 - Guy/Gal #2 - shed his skin a day earlier (on side of tissue).

8/15/2015 - Guy/Gal #2 - ready to do it again, and he did 2 hours later.
With every 'shed' / instar their antennae are definitely growing too!

8/13/2015 - 6 Guys/Gals - 2nd Instar aren't those little trails so cute?!?
I love the adorable little trails that they leave as they munch, and munch, and munch their way through each leaf.  Even their frass is cute at this stage!
8/13/2015 - 6 Guys/Gals- 2nd Instar - different view.
I think the 6 Guys/Gals are writing hieroglyphs in their leaves.  Maybe it spells, "more fresh leaves, please!"?
8/15/2015 - 6 Guys/Gals - taking much bigger bites now.  Num, num, num!

8/15/2015 - 6 Guys/Gals - the rest of the gang (Mr. Bashful is on the back of the leaf).

8/15/2015 - These guys are new additions.  One is guilty of eating a first instar and won't fess up.
 One of the new additions above ate a first instar and won't fess up.  My fault, lesson learned. 
8/15/2015 - Bright & shiny after adorning his new coat this morning.

8/15/2015 - Found this guy yesterday on a plant that I had missed in my previous searches

8/15/2015 - I have 12 of these little first Instar guys now.
 It's difficult keeping track of the first instars.  I thought it would be easy to put them in a Tupperware container and they would stay put.  Last night when I did my last check, there were 2 missing.  I looked under the paper towels and under the container.  Finally, I saw one of them climbing the house wall and fetched him up with a small paintbrush and put him back on his leaf.  I found the second one this morning in a container with another single cat.  Guess he decided to go keep his neighbor company?
8/15/2015 - A couple more of the 12 little guys (2 more on the back).
Each day, I get up, fetch new leaves, wash them, then check my guests' health as I replace their leaves and their bedding.