Good Earth, Good Day

Happy Earth Day!
Today, the Jane Goodall Institute  encourages supporters to

take action to improve the world for people, animals, and the environment we all share.

Founded by renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, the Jane Goodall Institute is a global nonprofit that empowers people to make a difference for all living things. Our work builds on Dr. Goodall’s scientific work and her humanitarian vision. Specifically, we seek to:

  • Improve global understanding and treatment of great apes through research, public education and advocacy

  • Contribute to the preservation of great apes and their habitats by combining conservation with education and promotion of sustainable livelihoods in local communities

  • Create a worldwide network of young people who have learned to care deeply for their human community, for all animals and for the environment, and who will take responsible action to care for them

Today, on this wondrous place we call earth, I’m working to improve my little corner of the world for people, animals, and the environment.

People

I bought these adorable tins at the garden center last weekend, then planted them today with some garden cheer.  They’re a surprise for a friend.  Her life is difficult on a daily basis, but she remains upbeat and positive.  I admire her strength and courage. I wish her life could be easier.  With love, these are for her.

potted flowers

Left to right: Lysimachia ‘Goldi, Osteospermum ‘Mum’, Behind, Marjoram, right, Zonal Geranium

planting tins

Planting tins closeup (I love the vintage vibe)

Animals

I’m always loving up the kitties in our home, and welcoming the strays.  Like many of you, I adore all animals, even the squirrels that dig up the yard and the snails that eat my basil.  That’s the easy part.  The hard part is working in the ‘trenches’ and dedicating your life to improving the lives of great apes.  Goodall continues to do so as she turns 80 this year.  I’m impressed.

Today I’ve donated to ‘jane’s wish 2014‘.  I hope she achieves her goal.

Environment

This one’s easy when you’re a gardener.  I’m planting sunflowers and pumpkins today (more details to follow).  As they grow, they attract birds, beneficial insects and bees, all critical to the health of our world.

Wishing you a joyous earth day, in whatever way you celebrate.

Birds of Wisdom: A bit of Goofing Off

DSC_0017I’ve been working extra hours these past few weeks, so when my client called to cancel this morning, I was (mostly) relieved.  I decided to treat myself to a much-needed thirty minutes of goofing off.  I sat in a chair facing the garden, played a game on my phone and within minutes had a sleeping cat on my lap.

It wasn’t long before my eyes drifted out to the usual wildlife antics.  Foraging squirrels raced around the garden, so round and full I’m amazed they can still move.   It looked as though they were working as a team.  You don’t see that every day! It’s usually ‘every squirrel for themselves.’  The light grey squirrel moved across the lawn, into the shrubs and then used the camellia trellis like a ladder.  I should have jumped up for the camera then, but I was busy goofing off.  Right behind him was a dark, brown squirrel, following his every move. It looked like a game of follow the leader.

Just  outside the window, a small bird flew from branch to branch in the maple tree.  Then he turned and appeared to be looking in the window.  How could I ignore an invitation like that!?

Camera in hand, it was still incredibly challenging getting his picture.  He darted from branch to branch, up, down, back up.  Then he flew to the neighboring yard, and within minutes was back again.  Perhaps he could see his own reflection, though he never went for the window.*

I’ve decided he was keeping an eye on me, making sure I stuck to my goofing-off schedule before getting back to work.  Meanwhile, he was keeping plenty busy for both of us.

Are you taking some time to goof-off during this hectic season?

*It’s disheartening to hear a bird fly into a closed window. One theory is that the sky reflects in the glass, and to the bird thinks it can fly through. These clever decals Window Alert: Protect Your Songbirds act as a ‘stoplight’ for the birds.

 

Sentinel Kitty: Guarding the Garden

White kitty with gourds

Kung-Fu Fighter, leg at the ready
Guarding the Gourds

There is a terrible rumor going around. You may have heard it. It implies, in unkind terms, that cats do nothing but sleep all day. It’s simply untrue.

I know how these rumors get started. To the untrained eye, there is a kernel of truth. The reality, however is this: they’re on stealth guard. What appears as slumber is a clever ploy. Friends (and foes!!!) tiptoe around them to insure undisturbed sleep. Kitty keeps her eyes tightly closed but ready to pounce at a moment’s notice, all the while keeping a close watch on garden treasures.

The next time you see a slumbering feline, take a close look at what’s nearby. Sentinel Kitty might be guarding the Crown Jewels, or something really important, like Sacred Tulips.

Lindy guards the house plants

Lindy guards the house plants

Halt!!!  Who goes there?

Halt! Who goes there?

Black cat with tulips

Slinky Malinki, Stealth Kitty

Crown Jewels aka Tulips

Crown Jewels aka Tulips

Smile! You’re On Gardening Nirvana

Some days you get lucky.  Today was one of them.

Like the felines in the house, many of the garden visitors put on a show till the camera comes out. Then they’re off, lickety-split.  Today I was able to snap some cuties.

First up, this dark brown squirrel.  Most of our native squirrels are grey with a white belly.  This little fellow is dark brown with an amber belly, pressed up against the fence. He’s been busy stashing peanuts in a corner behind a rock. They nab the peanuts from our neighbor’s yard, then head over our fence to either bury them or eat them.

Dark squirrel with amber belly

A dark squirrel with amber belly hugs the fence

Stashing his peanuts behind the Daphne

Stashing his peanuts behind the Daphne

Peanut Wasteland

Peanut Wasteland

A more typical gray squirrel passed through with a peanut in his mouth.  Isn’t he adorable?  He jumped into one of the planters when he saw me, then ran back to the lawn to squirrel away his peanut.

Grey Squirrel with Peanut

Grey Squirrel with Peanut
I wanna hold your hand!

We enjoy frequent visitors at our hummingbird feeders.  Today I ‘searched’ the orange tree with my camera lens to see if I might spot a nest. In retrospect, given the number of squirrels and rats that visit each day, the tree is probably far to active for nesting. I followed the bird’s flight with my camera lens and captured a few shots of a hummingbird new to our area.  I’ve never seen one like it.  My research says there are a dozen hummingbird species in California, but none of them resemble this little one.  Take a look at this species list and let me know what you think.

DSC_0014

It’s been bitter cold for several days, down to freezing most nights.  I’m keeping the feeders topped off, especially after learning that the non-migratory birds are nesting from now until May or June.  I wonder where they go to stay warm?

I originally planned to hang bags of laundry lint for nesting material in the spring.  Since learning that hummingbirds are nesting now through May, I plan to hang lint tomorrow.

In my fantasy world, I have an invisible cloak like Harry Potter.  I would spy on all the wildlife up close without fear of detection. Would you like to join me?

Garden Social: If Only Squirrels Had Facebook

My favorite part of the holiday season is all the visiting. Friends stop by or invite you out for lunch or drinks. Calendars fill with parties and Facebook is abuzz with everyone’s photos.  It’s that wonderful social connection that makes us human.

Today, the sun came out and I noticed the socializing spilled over into the garden. I couldn’t make out all the conversations but the body language was pretty clear. We humans aren’t the only ones socializing. Wouldn’t it be great to have one of those Universal Translators from Star Trek so you could understand what the birds and four-legged critters had to say?

Three different squirrels raced around the pine tree, then disappeared into the neighbor’s yard for another peanut. It was hard to keep up.  At times they appeared to be chasing each other, but it wasn’t always clear.  There was very little squirrel chatter and trust me, when they have something to say, it spills forth loud and clear.  It was near impossible to capture the activity, and I’m wondering now why I didn’t take a video clip. I ended up with lots of shots of empty tree trunks.

Squirrel hide and seek

Squirrel hide…

Squirrel hide and seek

…and seek

Hummingbirds don’t seem to mind the rain, so we’ve seen them visiting the feeders all week.  It was more pleasant taking pictures, however, on a clear day.  A pair of hummers seemed to dance midair, less a courtship than a race to the feeder.

Hummers dancing

Hummers dancing

Our neighbor Roger stopped by with his adorable pooch, Freckles. Will you look at that face? Freckles had a few choice “words” for Mouse the neighborhood cat who also came over for a snack. Mouse is awfully brave most of the time, but he cleared the deck for Freckles.

Freckles the Dog

Freckles, why are you licking your lips?

Kitty has something to say

Oh no! Not that dog again!

Garden snails were playing hide and seek under the strawberry plants and a tiny slug figured out the best hiding place ever: inside a peanut shell, dropped through the hole of a garden pot.

Slug in a peanut

Hide and seek in a peanut shell

As kids we too loved to play hide-and-seek or chase for hours.  We stayed out in the cold, teeth chattering.  We didn’t want to risk going home for a coat, only to be called in for the night. They say play is the work of children. I would like to add that the garden is the playground for all creatures.

I’m off to see if one of those squirrels left a Facebook status update.

Cats in the Garden: The Holiday Addition

Our afternoon temps were in the mid-sixties (F) this weekend, with skies bright and clear. What a perfect, late-autumn day. I planted tulips, raked leaves and swept the patio, happy to have the time outdoors One by one the cats joined me in the garden. They vie for my attention, while avoiding each others wrath.

Over the years I’ve had a few cats that got along, but mostly my feline companions merely tolerate each other. The current pecking order is as follows: Lindy is ten, and has lived here the longest. She mostly gets her way. Sadly, she’s been terrorizing Slinky, who backs down every time. I’m convinced that if Slinky “stood up to her” things would improve. Before Slinky, Lindy got along with all cats, including the visitors.

Lindy-Lu

Lindy-Lu, we love you

Lindy spies Slinky behind the trellis

Lindy spies Slinky behind the trellis

Top Cat

Top Cat

Beijing, once a stray, joined us three years ago. She’s an aging cat with arthritis and kidney troubles, but she behaves like a brute and takes no prisoners. She makes us laugh. Beige is always looking for a lap and will settle into one the moment anyone sits down. She’s in love with my husband, and I think she wonders where he goes all day.

Beijing

Beijing or ‘Beige’…cause she’s neither white nor orange

Slinky is young, semi-feral and just now spending most of her time indoors. It’s been a long process, with a few setbacks. She enjoyed the late afternoon in the garden as well, hiding from Lindy but keeping her eye on me. By evening she came indoors where she is enjoying her new digs.

Slinky takes a bath

Slinky takes a bath

Slinky Keeps Watch

Slinky Keeps Watch

I can’t begin to imagine a world without animals, nor my life without felines.  Their (mostly) serene presence soothes the soul.

 

After the Rain: Fresh and Fabulous

A couple of decent-sized storms moved through the area over the weekend, drenching communities up and down the state. I love being indoors listening to the rain and winds, but it was a bear for those who had to drive.  We were lucky to be home.  Several large trees went down in the storm, but I don’t think anyone was hurt.

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

Maple leaves in the fountain

Maple leaves in the fountain

Winds and rain stripped the remaining leaves from our Chinese Pistache but the more sheltered Maple continues its colorful show.

The vegetable beds and the surrounding barrier look none the worse for wear.  In fact, the cauliflower crowns are forming.  They looks so cute at this stage.  Something’s been eating the outer leaves, though I couldn’t see any sign of the anonymous nibbler this morning. I’m hopeful that is the only damage.

Broccoli Plants

Broccoli Plants

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

It was disappointing to find so much standing water in the worm bin, and worried I drowned the lot of them.  Fortunately, the layer of straw gave them a place to go so all is well. I got out the drill and put several holes in the bottom and sides so this doesn’t happen again.

Otherwise, the garden survived the storm and looks refreshed.  Here is one last look:

Prettty and Pink

Pretty and Pink

Begonias

Begonias

Fruit Cocktail Tree

Fruit Cocktail Tree

Mystery Balloon Comes Down in the Storm

Mystery Balloon

It’s one of the laws of physics: what goes up, eventually comes down.  If only balloons could talk.