November 27th, 2007

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Beauty and the Weird

Yesterday in the field I photographed a Green Lacewing (late in the season, I thought, but no--there were plenty--but in broad daylight?) and a Harvestman (Daddy Longlegs). 


Lacewings are in the Order Neuroptera; they're tiny, ethereal-looking insects.  This one was a lovely green, with an opalescent shimmer to the wings, and blood-red-bronze metallic eyes, a vivid enough dark red to be seen in real life without magnification, though it was so tiny.  The color combination was striking.   In the closeup of the head, you can see a dark red stripe as well.  Other Neuroptera include Owlflies, Dobsonflies, and Antlions.  All very strange looking.

Next (quite a while later, actually, with some birds in between) was the Harvestman.   Though eight-legged, these guys aren't spiders--the body is all in one, rather than divided into cephalothorax and abdomen.  Again, it was unusual to see one out on a bright sunny day, though it was on the edge of the woods.


On the left, this gracile, shy scavenger has been spooked into the light by my attempt to photograph it--those long thin legs tickle if one walks on you.  On the right, one of the two eyes is visible at about 11 o'clock on the body close-up.  INotice that the legs aren't obviously hairy or spiny, as most spider legs are.   Harvestmen use their second pair of legs as feelers more than locomotion; in the first image, you can see tha the animal is facing to the upper-left, the first pair of legs are on the ground in front, and the second pair are out to the side--feeling around.  I had a Harvestman for a biology project once, and discovered that if the habitat is set on the bass speaker of a stereo, and the right music is on (that Harvestman did this only to certain classical pieces--it was apparently quite fond of Beethoven's 5th Symphony),  it would "conduct" with its second pair of legs, holding them up and waving them in time with the music. 

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Walnut Olive Bread

The idea for this came to me in San Francisco last year, when I was eating walnut bread from a famous bakery (name escapes me--you SF natives will know which it is, I'll bet) and had also bought some kalamata olives and a bit of hard sausage (and a cheese which turned out to be all wrong with that particular sausage, alas.)   Kalamata olives and walnut bread were a great combination, so I thought that someday I'd try them in a bread.  But first I had to figure out how to make the walnut bread.  My walnut-seed bread isn't like their walnut bread but I like it--it's a good sandwich bread, a good toasting bread, and a good bread to eat by itself. 

Well, this evening I started a batch of bread and decided to try it with kalamata olives in it.   They are, so far, my favorite olives.  Out of three loaves in the batch, I added olives to only one, just in case it turned out awful--we'd still have two loaves of walnut-seed bread.   The walnuts and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, and pine nuts) went into the batter before it became dough, as usual.  I took a likely amount of the pitted olives, dried them, then rough-chopped them (some were in two pieces, some in three, etc.)  and dried them some more.  Then after the first rising, when I divided the bread to shape the loaves,  I took one lump, hand-flattened it to maybe an inch thick, and studded it with about half the olive pieces, pushing them into the dough.  Then folded the sides over,  turned it, flattened it that much again, and studded the top surface with the rest of the olive pieces, folded the sides over again,  and flattened it out with a rolling pin (my usual way of shaping a loaf: roll out to roughly a half-inch thick, in a long oval, roll up like a jelly roll, tuck in the ends, and into the pan it goes.) 

The result?  Half that loaf is gone already.   One slice was not enough.   Butter isn't right for it--cream cheese is.  By itself with nothing is good, too.   I can see taking a slab of it into the field, with maybe a hard boiled egg, for lunch.