Sunday, May 30, 2021

Our (New) House

My wife, Heidi, and I moved into our new home in Leavenworth, Kansas on May 17. Our house is a very, very, very modest house, with a front yard and a back yard, and a detached garage. It will take some getting used to, as our former townhouse in Colorado Springs had little outdoor space we could truly call our own, and it was maintained by a homeowners’ association (HOA). We have not yet met our human neighbors, but have become acquainted with the wildlife.

While we are still cramped by unpacked boxes here and there, it has been the weather that has been most frustrating and depressing. Colorado Springs boasts over three hundred days of sunshine per year. Here, in a little more than two weeks, we have had two full days of sun. Otherwise, it has been overcast, dreary, often raining, and unseasonably cool. Yesterday it barely made it over 60° F. Heidi insists it is warm and humid, I say it is cool and damp. On the days when it has been dry, my allergies to grasses and spring trees have made my mood just as miserable as the cloudy and wet days.

Back yard, before mowing. The federal penitentiary is visible behind us, and brightly illuminated at night.

Despite the inclement weather, we have been exploring our property and keeping a list of the animals we find. While unloading the U-haul, Heidi tallied thirteen species of birds. I turn the porch light on at night, and on two occasions deployed a blacklight, and many insects have revealed themselves. Our accounting now numbers over 190 taxa (anything from phylum to species, depending on our familiarity with a given organism).

Tiny, adorable weevil, Lechriops oculatus, on the back fence.

So far, our home seems to be spider city and weevil central. We appear to have a resident Eastern Gray Squirrel inhabiting the huge oak tree in the front yard; and American Robin and Mourning Dove often bask on the wires over the garage and back yard. Reluctantly, we mowed what passes for our lawns, but kept the cutting level as high as we could, leaving the herbaceous vegetation along the fence line in the back as intact as possible. We have Ground Ivy, clover, dandelion, and even some violets growing among the grass and leaf litter.

A nomad cuckoo bee, Nomada sp., on a dandelion in the back yard.

Leavenworth is a rather quaint town, the residential neighborhoods being almost literally the All-American communities one thinks of in the “fly-over” states, but no one has been overly welcoming, let alone ringing the doorbell with pies and other foods in hand. I imagine that the continuing pandemic has something to do with the abortion of traditional greetings and offerings, but I also suspect a growing pall of suspicion and distrust that has always been there, but is now pervasive and….normal. Is everyone on the block talking about us on the Nextdoor app, speculating about why I am prowling around with a camera, and stretching a sheet and a UV light off the front porch?

Small, horned darkling beetle, Neomida bicornis, drawn to the front porch light at night.

Driving around in the course of picking up items for our household, and running errands to establish our residency in the civic sense, it is apparent that the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing, and the county of Leavenworth, have a good deal of untamed greenspace among the agricultural fields and commercial enterprise districts. It will be interesting to explore, provided the weather improves.

Bumble bee-mimicking robber fly, Laphria flavicollis, alond a paved trail in 10th Avenue Park, along Five Mile Creek.

I was telling a friend back in Colorado Springs, one of the few people we saw immediately before we left, that I feel cheated by the pandemic year. I had an entire twelve months where I saw almost no one outside of my spouse, and now I am being swept away without having much in the way of meaningful parting encounters.

A male White-jawed Jumping Spider, Hentzia mitrata, on our front porch railing.

Here I am now, knowing no one but my in-laws, and having met a couple of Heidi’s high school classmates briefly, two years ago. Being a sudden stranger is hard, folks. I am likely to retreat to the comfort and familiarity of the insect world where I actually recognize some old friends.

An ornate pomace fly, Chymomyza amoena, related to the "fruit flies" that hover over the bananas in your kitchen.

UPDATE: Concerning my health, my respiratory issues have almost completely resolved themselves. The cause was apparently a severe allergy I developed to our pet bird, a budgerigar (“budgie”). My wife’s parents visited us in Colorado about three weeks before we moved, and we sent the bird away with them. My symptoms of coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath vanished almost immediately. I will sincerely miss the sweet tweeting of our “boy named Sue,” but am grateful to be sleeping soundly, in our bed instead of a chair, with no need of an inhaler.

Green Oak-slug Moth, Euclea incisa, at our porch light at night.


  1. It _was_ strangely wet here the last couple weeks.

  2. Love the pics. Sending wishes for the two of you to enjoy your new home (and yard). If I was closer, I'd share some of my plants with you. Not sure what will grow in your area, but I love my Bee balm (Monarda sp.), Pineapple sage, Catmint (Nepeta sp.), Nasturtiums (they're edible), and Indigo Spires Salvia. ALL of these bring so many various pollinators and are easy to maintain. Moving is also supposed to really help with allergies. I'd be relocating if I could. Mine have been terrible this year.

  3. Eric, Congrats on the new house! Is your wife working in the area now? Another zoo?

    1. With all due respect, I'm keeping my wife's business private. Thank you for understanding.

    2. I do appreciate your interest, and congratulations on the house! Thank you.


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