Butterflies emerging!

What a celebration we had for the first beautiful warm day after a horrendous stretch of pounding rainstorms, hail and cold — two of our swallowtail butterflies emerged!

Anise swallowtail butterfly

Anise swallowtail butterfly

Number one came out in the morning.  He’s an anise swallowtail butterfly that we raised from an egg we found on fennel in our garden.  We let this guy sit inside for a bit, then after his wings had firmed up, we opened the cage and away he flew.  Anise swallowtails are interesting, because they don’t emerge according to a set timetable (as monarch butterflies do).  The swallowtails stagger their emergence, possibly to insure that some of them at least emerge at a time when there will be plenty of food for them.  We have some swallowtail chrysalises in our butterfly nursery that date back more than 2 years.

Swallowtail chrysalis

Swallowtail chrysalis

You can tell they’re still viable because there’s movement inside if you touch them.  After checking some of them, George noticed that another chrysalis had darkened, which they do when they’re getting ready to emerge.  And shortly after that, number two came out!

I only got a few shots of these guys, but if you want to see my photos of the life cycle of the anise swallowtails, go to this gallery in my smugmug website.  I have closeup shots of the entire process — from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly.  Oh, and we haven’t seen any monarch butterflies in our yard yet, and we don’t have any of them in our butterfly nursery, but you can see my photos of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly at this gallery.  Happy Spring!

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Zazzle

Recently I started a gallery on zazzle.com.  I have been trying to add a small panel to this blog showing some of the products, but haven’t been able to do that yet.  I think my web genius friend, Nadine, is going to solve this problem for me.  I know just enough about websites to know that there’s tons I don’t know.  Anyway, zazzle.com is a print on demand company that lets you put your own images and designs onto the products that they then print and ship.  I was won over to zazzle by the fact that you can make your own SNEAKERS!  In fact, I won a “Today’s Best Award” at zazzle for one of my sneaker designs that I made from a photograph of a zebra I took at the Oakland Zoo.

The other unique product you can make at zazzle is a tie.  I ordered one for George, and wasn’t ecstatic about the quality.  They’re polyester, and I’m used to my own perfect prints on silk or soft cotton, and I wasn’t impressed about the slight lack of sharpness they achieved with the polyester.  But I’ll probably order another to make sure.

Otherwise, you can get the normal products that other print on demand services offer, including custom postage, cards and prints, mugs, t-shirts, buttons, magnets, etc.  I’ve been very impressed with the quality of everything I’ve ordered other than the tie.  I have gotten several t-shirts, mugs and postcards.

For me, the strength of the zazzle website is in instantly seeing how my designs look on different products.  It’s incredible that you can just click the template for a product, upload your design, and see how it would work as a sneaker!  Getting a gallery is free, and you choose the amount of the royalty you want to get from anything that sells.   If you have a gallery and you order your own products you pay a basic rate.  They have a somewhat complicated discount program that I’m not even going to try to explain.

Their customer service is incredibly good.  I have called and emailed questions and get responses very quickly.  I bought some of my own things to sell and wanted to use my tax exempt status, since they’re in California.  They responded almost instantly with a clear and easy explanation of how I could do that.  I remember trying to use my tax exempt certificate with smugmug about a year ago and being told they weren’t set up to handle it.