Devious Adventures in Gardening

April Showers bring Chive Flowers

Aging is a work of art. But every creation goes through that awkward phase.

Tacit sorrows: Is it weird that my onion made itself cry? Raindrops on an unopened chive’s allium flower/seed pod.

Manic Magnolia — Magnolia season is already at an end. Boo hoo. Like the cherry tree, their beauty and bloom are short and to be appreciated before you miss it–Mono No Aware!

Once upon a time, I was an adventurous gal, always outdoors, hiking or cycling mountains or traveling. Now that I’m not able to do those things, I find adventures in my back yard. We planted our garden last year filled with a variety of drought tolerant native plants and some exotic plants. A lot of the hillside we planted with simple ground cover of drought & heat-tolerant Myoporum and Wild Lilac (in this photo above). But then, adding new plants become addictive so I kept buying them, you know, to bring the adventure to me. Because, hello, a once-active person with Lyme disease who can’t be active will always find something to occupy herself, maybe obsessively.

Mr. Wild Dingo tried to put his foot down, “No more plants! And no more pots!” “Yes dear,” I told him.

When we planted last year, I preferred the look of the Myoporum over the Wild Lilac since it wasn’t in bloom. But now that the Wild Lilac is blooming, it’s hard not to love it. On a macro view, it’s a complex, gorgeous bloom. Over the winter, it out paced the Myoporum, which did well growing in the cold, unusually heavy-rain winter, but half didn’t make it in the short heat wave we had in March. So we ordered more Wild Lilac to replace it since it seems to do well in extreme hot or cold conditions. While planning replacement plants with our gardeners, I changed my mind about how the space should be used. Simple ground cover is just not adventurous enough for me. So I converted the hillside into a smörgåsbord for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. I added 7 new species of flowering plants to the landscape to feed the pollinators and nectar eaters. I also added 2 new pots. Ssh! Don’t tell Mr. Wild Dingo. I bet he won’t even notice.

“I have no idea how those plants got there, dear.”

 

April Fools

I don’t know about you all, but I’m feeling nostalgic for the days of when wearing Mom Jeans was the big scandal in Washington. (Thanks Obama!) It’s exhausting waiting for this administration to implode. Of all the changes that this administration is doing, climate change policies and EPA-gutting seem the most serious to human beings. Everything else that has been done to make America less great can be undone by the next administration (including civil rights for women, immigration, LGBTQ, education policies, banking regulations–not that they aren’t important). But there’s no fixing the long-term damage that this administration’s climate change policies can do. Personalizing this, vector borne infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and several other tick disease (including the deadly Powassan Virus) will increase as tick population is directly affected by global warming. The hundreds of thousands in this country alone, already sick with the chronic form of Lyme, have difficulty processing common environmental toxins that most people can process in a healthy body, will also have an increased in toxic burden on their health, further hampering their recovery. If only Silicon Valley could code an Ice Age.

And you thought this post was about the hyacinth in bloom, huh? April Fools. Sorry-Not-Sorry.

Random Reflections

A redwood reflection in the bloom of the nectarine tree. This tree in flower bloom is superb! I had no idea.

The boy in the blueberry bush bubble. The cracker photobombed me again. He just has to be the center of attention. Nothing wrong with that!

Fairy Facts

The Bay Area housing crisis has finally affected Fairies. Fairy condominium complexes have sprung up all over Santa Cruz Mountains in tight locations trying to pack in as many fairies as possible. If you’re looking for Fairies, here’s a brilliant, highly-scientific article about finding fairies nearby with excellent advice for how conduct yourselves among fairies.

For example, did you know you must be spiritually connected to Mother Earth to find fairies? If you are a skeptic or non-believer, or have ill intentions, they will not show themselves to you. If you do not care for the well-being of the earth, they will also not show themselves to you. When they do show themselves, never say “thank you” as those aren’t words in their vocabulary and it may offend them. Also, if you see a fairy ring, you should never step into it or they will trap you and you will lose your mind. Wow. There’s just so much I don’t know about Fairies!

Based on the Fairy Facts found in this real news article, this new US Administration with its roll-back of climate change policies and the EPA is no friend of Fairies. The Fairies are pissed! I’d be scared. Fairy retaliation is a bitch. Maybe we’ll get lucky and 45 will step into a Fairy ring.

Days of our Chives

Life is is filled with infinite choices. With  Lyme disease, your choices are ruthlessly limited. I’m always measuring how many matches are in my book and deciding on how to use them. I don’t get to cram in as much as a normal person can in a day. Instead, I basically have to choose one or two activities per day. And that’s better than most people with Lyme can do. The upside is, I can blame Lyme disease for the laundry piling up.  Continue reading “Days of our Chives”

Nectar Belly

This big boy kept me company every day this winter. During a long down time from Lyme disease, I’d lay on the sofa and watch him. He’d sit on this perch for hours, as long as the nectar was flowing. We named him Norm, because, well, he looks like Norm Peterson.

“Norm! What’s shaking?”
“All four cheeks & a couple of chins.”

Have a drink, Norm. It’s never too early for nectar.

Bloomin’ Magnolias

Our Saucer Magnolias are in bloom. It’s hard not to smile a mile wide when you see a magnolia in bloom. Downtown, most trees are in full bloom, while ours up in the mountains are still opening. The history of the ancient species magnolia is as fascinating as it is beautiful. Fossilized specimens date back 20 million years ago, and other plants belonging to the family date back to 95 million years ago. I can’t even wrap my head around this.

Magnolias appeared before bees and thus evolved to encourage pollination by beetles. The leaves are extremely tough to withstand the damage from beetles. They do not produce nectar but produce large quantities of pollen, high in protein for beetles to use for food. The flowers are protogynous: the flower opens with female parts first, then closes and reopens with the male parts (stamens) ready to shed pollen. This adaptation increases likelihood of cross-pollination, rather than self-pollination and widens the gene pool. Magnolias produce cone-like fruit in reddish-brown, containing red seeds that mature in autumn. The seeds are a favorite food for song birds and great for migrating birds as the seed is high in fat providing an excellent source of energy for a long flight.

There are around 210 species of magnolia, this one is the Saucer Magnolia, created by crossing the lily magnolia (Magnolia liliflora) and the Yulan magnolia (Magnolia denudata). These are super hardy trees that have survived millions of years and various climate changes. Even my brown thumb can’t kill a magnolia!

Careers in Gaslighting

I don’t know about ya’ll but I keep holding my breath waiting for Sean Spicer to lose his shit on National TV.  I get dizzy watching him spin on every episode of “Survivor: The White House.”   Any bets on how long he’ll last?

Guisseppe and Luca

Giuseppe the Green, turned to me abruptly. He and his cousin Luca were busy snacking on the Mexican sage and I clearly annoyed them. I always knew katydids were omnivores but it surprised me to see them chomping on the white petals none-the-less. Maybe the this time of season brings a down turn in a carnivore’s food supply. There are fewer insects out and about in the colder weather. Heck, you have practically bribe me these days to get outside myself. On the other hand, maybe he just needed a little extra fiber in his diet. One never really asks these personal questions, especially at the dinner table. He did take an unusual interest in me. Perhaps he considered me as a main course.

This is Luca, Guissepe’s cousin, caught with a mouthful of fusion Italian-Mexican-Californian cuisine, Salvia Bianco. Luca is one of those radical millennial crickets who doesn’t eat anything containing GMOs, pesticides or gluten. Naturally, his diet is totally raw and organic. Today’s crickets belong to a group of strict progressives dieters who probably invented the “Eat This, Not That” trends found all over Internet, such as Paleo, low carb, no grain, no sugar—all those dismal diets lacking instant satisfaction on the opioid brain receptor. But I guess if you’re a cricket who spends the majority of his short, year-long life mating or trying to mate, you’re gonna want to be fit, not gassy. One thing’s for sure, girl crickets don’t dig gassy dudes. They go ga-ga for dudes with big spermatophores (“food gifts” that contain sperm and nutrients for females and off-spring). And that takes a whole lot of raw, organic, GMO-free paleo nutrients. Right after this dish, Luca’s gonna hit the night scene for some action and a different kind of satisfaction.

Jumping Jack Flash

You never forget your first photo shoot with a jumping spider. I saved Jumping Jack Flash, who’s only about 4 mm and looks like a piece of lint to the naked eye, from a fatal encounter with the mighty monster Hoover. It’s not like I’m a super hero (but I won’t stop you from referring to me as one). I saved him for my own selfish macro-geek desires. I whisked him into a private Dixie cup limo for a short ride to my studio where I could take his portrait before releasing him back to nature. He was not fond of the flash, hence his name, Jumping Jack Flash. I nearly jumped out of my own skin when he jumped out of the frame while I was shooting him. It’s amazing how a mere 4 mm insect can turn a person into such a nervous Nelly!

There are over 5,800 species of the jumping spider ranging 1-25 mm in size. They’re generally recognized for their unique eyes and by far are the cutest of the arachnids. With four pairs of eyes, they have the best vision among the arthropods and use it to court, hunt and navigate. Jumping spiders are found throughout the world. They don’t build orb webs or hang around waiting for a meal. Instead they use their unique ability to jump up to 50 times the length of their body. Even jumping 8 times the length of its body, as one slow-motion video of a jumping spider portrayed, is like a human being jumping the length of a school bus, without a running start. Yet, they have extremely weak back leg muscles. To jump, they increase the blood pressure in their legs which causes them to propel through the air. Prior to jumping, they attach a silk thread as a safety anchor to climb quickly back to its perch if needed.

Insects with excellent vision, such as the jumping spider, often do an elaborate courtship dance to attract mates. If you need entertainment, check out Internet videos of jumping spiders courting a mate. It’s better than watching a basket full of kittens.
Jumping spiders live for about a year. They are carnivorous, eating other insects, but some feed on pollen and nectar. These tiny spiders are capable of ambushing and killing insects much bigger than themselves, such as a honeybee innocently gathering nectar.

At first, I didn’t know if Jack was a he or she, but after reading about the size of the pedipalps of males and female jumping spiders, I am guessing that Jack is male. The males have bigger pedipalps than females, which are located in front of their fangs. The pedipalps are used for grabbing prey and mating. Once they catch their prey, they inject their venom and consume it right away.

Jack wasn’t very happy being confined at first. You would think the little fella would be grateful for the rescue. Instead he was sarcastic: “Thanks for saving me,” he said. “Being stuck in the belly of the monster Hoover would have really sucked.” Great. A jumping spider with a punny attitude. With that, he continued to run around in circles trying to escape his Dixie cup prison.

When he finally settled in and gave up on an escape, and accepted defeat, I took his portrait. Just look at how sad he looks in this portrait!  The detail and the uniqueness of such a small creature is astounding. It would be very easy to suck him up in the vacuum without a thought. I’m glad I took the time to get to know Jack, who was happy to be released onto my lavender plant just outside the front door.

Seeing Red

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Between the holiday season and the political backlash, social media is ablaze with divergent sensation. Here’s my contribution.
 
When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead, feed your head!
 
And that’s your ear worm for the day! Good song to sing to yourself in these depressing times. 
 

Droplets of Disillusionment

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Tears. Disillusionment. I want to run away. Hide my eyes. Cover my ears. But I won’t. Instead I will continue to use my free voice against hatred, bigotry, racism, illiteracy, misogyny, sexism and vulgarity, all of which America voted into office. In the mean time, pot is now legal in CA. There’s always that.

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My bubble is burst. Stories of hatred surround me. No matter how much these stories anger me, hurt me, quite literally bring me to tears, I cannot feel good about regurgitating ignorance and violence into the world. It doesn’t relieve my pain nor stop the problem. It leaves me frozen. It’s not that I didn’t know this hatred existed. It’s just acknowledging the sheer quantity, density and depth was much more than I would have believed possible from a land of people created by immigration. My bubble is burst. Now more than ever it’s time to support those who need it most. Love in the face of hate. Act, not react.

Breathe. Love. Act.

Purple Rain

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“You’ll miss the best things, if you keep your eyes shut. ” ~ Dr. Seus

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Last Monday was IVIG day. Saturday I got gussied up and went to dinner. A rare event. I threw caution to the wind and had a glass of wine and gelato for dessert. The last hour of dinner, I felt like a bomb exploding in my head. Nobody noticed. I kept a smile on my face and saved the expletives for my better half on the car ride home. I paid for that bit of wine, gelato and all that conversation all day Sunday. Lyme disease won’t quit me. It’s time to put voo-doo, witchcraft and the coo-coo on the table. Something. Anything. Anybody want to put a spell on the spirochetes in my brain? Because they are the devil and I need them exorcised.

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“I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.” ~ Dr. Seus  This is stuff I need to say to myself in sobering reality.

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Nature’s fleeting prism, suspended in time.  That time I try to pen something poetic, but I got nothing.

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Look!  I found a pleonasm! Juicy succulent.

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Raindrops are like kisses.
Some are small and instantaneous, as pecks on a cheek.
Others are voluminous and lasting, as a romantic encounter.
Then there’s that one, intruding and unpleasant, as an inverted dog butt photo-bombing your drop.

Dances with Hummingbirds

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Each day I see Twig, the hummingbird, perched upon a fruit tree tree. Sometimes he chooses the plum tree, other times the apple tree. His feathers soaked from the down pouring rain, weather makes no difference to Twig when there’s territory and precious sage nectar to defend from his rivals. I move toward him and he chirps his annoyance. I look away, pretending not to notice him. He quiets. I take two more steps down the orchard path steps, with my camera in hand. Just a bit closer. I want to capture the details in his jewel-toned feathers. More curse words are chirped. One more step and I raise the camera. I fire off a few shots. Twig curses again and dive bombs by my head to teach me a lesson. “Chirp! Chirp! Chirp! You are very rude to take my photograph without my consent!” He darts off to the Salvia plant, soaked in rain water. The nectar must be at its prime in this humidity. “Chirp! Chirp! ” He cusses wildly between slurps of purple rain. I move away from the plum tree toward the sage to try for a few shots of him feeding. But my human speed is no match for the Indy-500 of Mother Nature. Before I raise my camera to shoot him at the sage, Twig is perched back upon the plum tree. I turn to sneak my way back down the orchard steps toward him again. Our dance not yet over. Continue reading “Dances with Hummingbirds”

The Original Angry Birds

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“Nothing ruffles my feathers more than other hummers poaching my nectar.”

All summer, it’s a regular Hummar War around my house. I always see photos of hundreds of hummerbirds happily sharing meals on one or two feeders all over the hummingbird forums that I read. Not at my house. Nothing but guarding and all out wars among them.

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“You don’t forget the face of the hummer who ate the last drop.”  Yup, they may have inspired not only “Angry Birds” but The Hummer Games, err, The Hunger Games.

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He spotted a rival just below him, plundering the sacred nectar. Family-style meals were not his thing. HBO words chirped between them.  “Take one more sip of that nectar and it’s lights out for you,” he threatened.

See? Hummers are badass.

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Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for this ALL summer long! I bought this rather loud-looking birdbath because so many people on the forums showed how successful they were at attracting tons of hummingbirds as well as other birds to it. But none of my local hummers took a modicum of interest. Finally, a hummer shows up to take a bath–in cold weather.  Hummers do whatever they damn well please.  They must share genetics with Huskies.

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“Why are you having me mount this silly swing,” he asked. “They will never use it,” he said.  Husbands know everything.

Charlene the Crab Spider

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Charlene, the flower crab spider, sits contemplatively upon the black midnight basil plant. Normally found on goldenrod or other flowers, the flower crab spider (genus Misumena) is generally white in color but camouflages itself by secreting a liquid yellow pigment to match the flower it lives on. Crab spiders don’t spin webs to catch food, they hunt by camouflage, then grab their prey as it comes near to feed on the nectar of the flower. Bees and wasps are a crab spider’s favorite meal. While Charlene’s yellow camouflage doesn’t do much to disguise herself on the pink and eggplant-colored basil plant, I do often see bees enjoying the nectar of this particular flower at dusk when I’m watering. Her hunting location is not such a bad choice after all. At a mere 5 mm in size, Charlene sits, and waits. She has ALL the time in the world to wait for her favorite cuisine. With a beautiful sun set to enjoy, it’s worth the wait. Continue reading “Charlene the Crab Spider”

Stuff I Kill in my Garden

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Alyssum does not love me. I can kill it faster than I can squash a bug. Not that I actually squash bugs. I’ve tried watering, not watering, full sun, part sun, some shade and a lot of shade. Nadda. It goes from the pot to dead in 3 seconds. I’m not taking it personally. There are plenty of plants in the nursery. I don’t need no stinkin’ Alyssum. At least this hoverfly got in some good tastes before I killed its food supply. Continue reading “Stuff I Kill in my Garden”