Scenes Around the Garden

Spring is the best time in our mountain garden. The cruel hot summers can be a challenge to gardening so we generally choose heat-tolerant plants that will bloom in heat. Catmint is generally a hardy plant for heat but when it comes to gardening and me, Murphy’s Law always applies. If it’s hardy, it’s going to give me a hard time. And boy has Catmint given us a doozy of a time. Everyone else with Catmint? No problem. Their shrubs look fantastic. Ours always struggle. Continue reading “Scenes Around the Garden”

Damsels and Dragons in the Garden, Oh My!

If you plant it, they will come. Finally! I’ve been waiting to see a damselfly or dragonfly in my garden. This is a dameselfly. With all the walking I do with the dogs, I get to see them often throughout the mountains but never carry my big lens with me on a dog walk. Plus, one needs a ton of patience to get the shot. I’ve been watching them hunt in my garden for a few weeks now, flying over my head in repeating patterns, sometimes even buzzing my head to check me out. I’d wait 30 minutes and still no touchdown. This one happened to land just above where hundreds of newly hatched mantids were released. Sigh. I’ll just pretend that this guy or gal just eats aphids, leaf hoppers, and destructive beetles. It all balances out. Continue reading “Damsels and Dragons in the Garden, Oh My!”

Lifeguard on Duty

In our fountain-pond, we used to have floating flowers so bees and birds could enjoy the water without drowning. Unfortunately, they didn’t hold up to the harshness of the winter or changing temperatures. So now I’m a lifeguard. Every night, I fish out one or two bees who’ve accidentally found themselves in the pond with no way out. Sometimes I feed them sugar water in case they need some extra juice to fly away, but most of the time, they just want to dry off and leave, with the exception of bumble bees. These guys hang out and stay all night long. I often find them staying the night on one of my zinnias, unmoved, until the morning sun reaches them and then they fly off. It’s such a strange behavior because bumbles are harder to shoot than other bees because they are fast movers. I often think they are dead when I find them on top of a flower in the evening but they aren’t and will give me the claw to tell me to back off.  “Giving the claw” is a bumblebee’s way of saying “back off.” She’ll raise one of her front limbs as if to say “stop” and of course we respect that! After all, I didn’t save her to annoy her! Yes, Mr. Wild Dingo and I are those wacky people who rescue bees. Continue reading “Lifeguard on Duty”

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.

Mad Garden Skillz

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I may be world’s worst vegetable gardener but Bonnie, the hoverfly doesn’t care. She enjoys the fruit of my bolted lettuce labor just days before I pulled that inedible useless ball of green and tossed it in the compost pile. Who knew lettuce could flower? Stuff you learn when you kill a plant. At least someone ate it! Continue reading “Mad Garden Skillz”

Fire on Loma Prieta

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Creepy. Filled with dread and oh so terrifying. I had just got back from the dog walk when I saw the news about the fire on Loma Prieta last Monday, I walked outside to see how close it was. This was the sky at 3 PM taken with my iphone.  It was literally under 10 miles away.  I never like the feeling of fire in the air, despite the amazing light it produces. You can feel terror even at a distance. Mr. Wild Dingo had to leave for a business trip. He thought about staying but I’m glad I made him go. It was an important trip and he made a good presentation. But that meant I had to stay home, cancel all my many medical appointments and be ready to evacuate. If I had left and I couldn’t get back to the dogs, well, I just couldn’t live with myself. So I stayed glued to the Internet, and watched the news,  praying it would never come our way although not really loving it was burning in any direction at all either.  All it would take is a change in the direction of the winds and our house would be toast.

It started with a huge volcanic combustion (I have no problem speculating that it was meth-lab related as there are reports of armed gunmen in that very deserted area and both legal and illegal pot growing farms). In 90 minutes it burned 200 acres. It’s frustrating to live in this area of California because it sometimes really is the wild west. Every man for himself. If you cross someone’s property accidentally (there trails are rough up there) well, let’s just say they don’t adhere to the gun laws that say you can’t shoot someone leaving your property. Other issues is the land management wars between people who think they’re doing good to “protect the redwoods” by passing laws that don’t let people log their property responsibly with the county who doesn’t seem to want anything to with it. The truth is, most of the property up here is in horrible state and it desperately needs logging to prevent exactly this kind of thing, despite it possibly being an illegal operation that caused it in the first place. Even on our own mere 22 acres, I’m mortified whenever a tree falls due to errosian. There’s only so much we can do to handle it financially and thankfully our property is zoned for redwood logging, which we will get to, but those who don’t have that kind of zoning cannot afford to have redwoods removed to keep the forest healthy. It’s expensive enough to take out junk tan oaks and madrones that are basically just timber for fires. Every time I walk Nitwit trail, it pains me to see how poorly the land was managed before we moved here, how people destroyed it with illegal dumping (which we’ve cleaned and paid for ourselves) and how the creek is a disaster due to downed trees and poor erosian. It doesn’t take a forester to know that this is no way to manage property in a high fire zone environment. And now as the fire is about to be completely contained by Saturday the stats are:  4,474 acres burned, 12 residents destroyed, 16 buildings destroyed and 1 husky dead. Yah, the dead husky pisses me off.

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How a Lymie packs for emergency fire evacuation. Photo does not include refrigerated meds, dogs or a set of clean drawers, all of which are also packed. I made piles for all my computer equipment and camera equipment as well and had an empty suitcase ready to stuff. 

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For days the helicopters passed over my back yard every 5 minutes.  Typically the hum of a helicopter overhead gives me an eerie feeling. But hearing them every few minutes brought and overwhelming sense of gratitude and comfort. I’m grateful that I had people step up to help me with the pups should I have needed it, but I didn’t. The firefighters did an amazing job. I just wish drug law enforcement were as efficient as the firefighters. Some arrests have been made into the illegal grow up there since the fire and now the fire really has cleared a lot of the land, it’s a lot easier for surveyors to see illegal activity.

For amazing photography on this fire (plus you get to see one dude desperately trying to save his crop) check out Josh Edelson’s portfolio on Facebook. He did an amazing job covering the fire. You need a Facebook account to see the portfolio, but it’s publicly available, you don’t need to be friends with him. You can also see them at Getty Images.

Thank you readers who wrote in concerned about me and the doggies. I’m sorry for the late delay in reporting. I was stressed and glued to the Internet that week and NeuroLyme is passed relapse into back full-on. I’m due for another killing spree but it has to wait until the end of October.

Really, It’s O.K. to be Cliché

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Sometimes I don’t pick the flowers on my black night basil plant just so I can be the cliché macro photographer. Oh and the bees tend to like them too. Oh yes I did shoot a water droplet! But it was after watering the garden, not on purpose so it’s o.k., to be cliché. Who am I kidding? I’ve got cliche all over my photography. But that’s why I’m an amateur, not a pro. Continue reading “Really, It’s O.K. to be Cliché”

What Kind of Gardener Am I?

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I tried vegetable gardening this year. Aside from my tomato plants and most of my herbs, it was less than stellar. All my lettuce bolted. My cucumbers were pathetic. None of my squash fruited. I mean, I have to be a complete doofus not to produce a single zucchini, right? So I ripped it all up and and put in flowering herbs, edible flowers and pollinating plants for the hummers and bees. But I left this pepper plant because for whatever reason it loves me and keeps putting out great peppers, even after harvesting the first round. I don’t know why but this plant makes me smile. It’s as if it’s telling me to “hang in there.” Next year, I’ll keep a few peppers around, because even if they don’t produce, the plant looks pretty on it’s own. World’s Worst Vegetable Gardener, But Peppers Galore! Continue reading “What Kind of Gardener Am I?”

Hi! I Missed You Guys!

Juno lounges while I garden.

Oh Internet and readers, can you ever forgive me? I never write, I never post pictures. I could be dead in a ditch for all you know. But I have a reasonable excuse. As you know, last month I had a relapse and decided to do a 3 week course of IV antibiotics (Invanz for those who are wondering) targeting one specific pathogen that seems to be hanging on.  It basically threw me under the bus. I walked around looking like a drunkard most of the time. Continue reading “Hi! I Missed You Guys!”