Fledgling Hummingbirds, Baby Squirrels and an Unexpected Pumpkin

I’ve been meaning to update you on the baby hummingbird we rescued in June. You can read the entire story here. After caring for her overnight, I drove the little darling to an animal rescue organization where they immediately placed her in round the clock foster care.  She thrived. Within a few weeks our fully fledged little Ana started her new life in the wild.

hummingbird in homemade nest

Temporarily fostering a baby hummingbird

I think I exhaled out loud once I knew she was okay. Hurray for second chances.

On the subject of second chances, check out this baby squirrel.

squirrel crouched with tomato

Baby squirrel enjoying a fresh tomato

We’re taking part in the occasional back yard release of urban squirrels who are either orphaned or injured before they can make it on their own. The first group of squirrels high-tailed it from our yard last fall without a backward glance.  This second group of six are staying closer to home. One in particular is incredibly trusting. I keep startling her when I round a corner at my usual brisk pace, only to find her nibbling on tomatoes.

squirrel with tomato

Holding a cherry tomato

I inwardly smile at my own double standards. I’ve been disappointed  in the past when squirrels eat the vegetable garden. It’s especially disheartening when they take one bite out of a pumpkin, leaving the rest to wither on the vine. Instead I snag the camera and happily watch her nosh away at the tomatoes while I point and click.

Two years ago, nasty squash bugs moved in. They arrived uninvited with family and friends in tow. Most of that year’s crop fell victim to the vermin. I harvested two surviving pumpkins, but the rest of the fruit succumbed to the ravages of that pest.

pumpkin with squash bugs

2013: Adult and juvenile squash bugs

Last year I moved the crop to our front deck so I could cleverly outsmart the little juice suckers. All seemed well until the plants set fruit. No amount of handpicking or pruning could slow down those squash bugs and again another crop went belly up.

pumkin with squash bugs and pantyhose

2014: Squash bugs ride again

This year I decided to skip planting altogether, hoping to send future generations of repulsive squash bugs packing. Then we entered year four of this punishing drought so I skipped planting anything all season.

This brings me back to the squirrels. I think they may have planted a pumpkin. Last fall I sheet mulched part of the lawn. At the edge of the path, an all-volunteer crop of tomatoes took root, circling a single pumpkin. They’re all happily growing in a dry dirt patch without a drop of water!

pumpkin and tomatoes

At first I refused to invest any emotional energy into a crop that would surely expire after the first heat wave. The pumpkin plant did indeed wilt, but then it  did something else: it pumped out one small, starting to turn orange pumpkin. Within a few days, the fruit shriveled and died, snapped clean off the vine. I left it there for future noshing and went about my business. What a tease!

Then this happened:

green pumpkin 2015

An as yet, undisturbed foot-long pumpkin

How can you ignore that?!

So I did what any self-respecting gardener would do: I encased the pumpkin in a leg of pantyhose.  I found a box of extra-large pantyhose on clearance at a local drugstore.

pantyhose for pumpkin

Just my (pumpkin’s) size

pumpkin under cover-001

Pumpkin secured inside the leg of a pair of pantyhose

pumpkin under cover

Dear rats, squirrels and other foraging critters, Please eat the tomatoes and leave the pumpkin. We only have one. Thank you, The Gardener

The ample material gave me plenty of wiggle room to cover the pumpkin and to allow it to continue to grow. I’m not the only one that hates pantyhose. Apparently that nylon irritates rats and squirrels as well. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Not that I care or anything.

Because…I don’t.

😉

It’s What’s for Dinner if You’re a Worm

Boy that title has a lot of apostrophes. I hope I got them right. I’m guilty of overusing’ them when’ they’re’ not really necessary.

Okay, that was a little distraction before I present you with this first picture: it’s what’s for dinner in the worm bin.

kitchen scraps for the worms

Kitchen Scraps for the Worms

worm bin

Salad for the Red Wigglers

I had a worm bin going for a few years, courtesy of my friend Liz. It was an informal set up: an old bucket, some straw and kitchen compost. It worked well until  an unwitting painter tossed it aside when they repainted our house. Once I realized, it was too late. The worms were gone. Hopefully they slipped out in the dead of night once they realized the garden had more to offer.

worm bin red wigglers

Red Wigglers

Within a few weeks something wonderful happened. A neighbor asked if I wanted a worm bin known as a Wriggly Wranch™. His brother in-law set one up, but then lost interest in maintaining it. I enthusiastically agreed. He assembled it for me under our orange tree. He gave me half of his worms to get started.

wriggly wranch worm bin

Wriggly Wranch Worm Bin

I read the manual cover to cover and frankly was a bit intimidated. Had I been doing it wrong all this time? They make it sound as though the worms are quite temperamental.

Feed them just enough, but not too much

Keep them cool and moist

If it’s hot, add ice cubes

If it’s cold, bring them into a sheltered area

…and so on.

worm bin with paper

The ‘ranch’ is now closer to the house so I can keep an eye on things

The worms did fine before the fancy home, and I heard no complaints about the food. I’ve chosen to relax, feed them once a week, and trust that they’ll do just fine. I’m practicing for when my son leaves for college. Baby steps, folks, baby steps.

Tonight the worms are eating organic tofu and cantaloupe. That’s what my son had as well. So far, so good.

Purple Garden Palooza

garden triangle may

Purple garden palooza

Peter Piper may have picked a peck of pickled peppers, but I’m picking purple petals from my perfect garden. It’s a purple palooza.

Ha! Say that three times.

The small corner garden near the walkway to our door looks like royalty. It’s awash in three shades of purple, with dots of orange and green accents. Last year’s sweet peas re-seeded and came back in a royal flush.

sweet peas

Sweet peas

sweet pea flower gives way to seed

Sweet pea flowers give way to seed pods

They’re in good company too. Love-in-a-Mist scattered seeds everywhere and now lines the sidewalk in a purple haze. Pay no attention to the dying grass in the background. The lawn is on its way out.

love in a mist lining the sidewalk

Self-seeding love-in-a-mist line the walkway

The Statice flowered early this year, showing pearly white blooms in the center of the calyx.  I love the way they compliment each other.

statice with flowers

Statice: calyx and flowers

One California poppy grows at the edge, but I fear a dog is lifting its leg once a day as the foliage is looking a bit…tired. The plant is still hanging in there though. Go Team Violet! Go state flower!

california poppy

California poppy wrapped up for the night

love in a mist closeup

Love-in-a-mist blooms and seed pods

Things you many not know:

(I didn’t)

The word ‘purple’ comes from the Old English word purpul which derives from the Latin purpura, in turn from the Greek πορφύρα (porphura), name of the Tyrian purple dye manufactured in classical antiquity from a mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex snail.-Wikipedia

Today, science has revealed much more about purple than our ancestors ever realized: Purple is the most powerful visible wavelength of electromagnetic energy. It’s just a few steps away from x-rays and gamma rays. – Color Matters

The color purple is a rare occurring color in nature and as a result is often seen as having sacred meaning. Lavender, orchid, lilac, and violet flowers are considered delicate and precious. –Bourn Creative

Contentment

curb garden purple flowers

Scabiosa ‘Vivid Violet‘

con·tent·ment
/kənˈtentmənt/
noun
a state of happiness and satisfaction
The gardener spent a lovely 45 minutes working in the curb garden today.”

Gardening brings about a unique contentment: The work is satisfying, the results are rewarding, and the time spent with my face towards the earth grounds me like nothing else.

We had a nice breeze today, keeping the temperatures manageable.  Once finished with my appointments for the day, I spent ‘drop-in’ garden time at the curb. I love working the curb  garden. I can take care of the entire box in about an hour, then continue to enjoy the fruits of my labor from my kitchen window.

curb garden snap dragons, freesia

Snapdragons, Freesia, Cilantro and a self-seeded yellow annual

curb garden love in the mist, gravel

Love in a mist volunteering around the edges. Wooly thyme slowly filling in over the gravel.

curb garden yellow pest

Can you spot the visitor on this yellow flower?

The last of the daffodil foliage looked tired and spent, so I trimmed the bunches down to a few inches and tidied up the rest of the bed.

I spotted one or two lady bugs visiting the aphids. The ‘ladies in red’ generally consume a lot of aphids in one sitting, but they are currently outnumbered. I snipped off a few of the heavily infested branches and hope the ladybugs will tell their friends to return at dusk and take care of the rest.

curb garden pests aphids

Aphids!

My son pointed out a small wasp’s nest inside the hollow ceramic bird perched in the center of the garden. The ‘bird’ used to be part of a ‘self watering’ system but it broke off at the base. I put it at the top of the small trellis over the winter for a bit of color. Since wasps eat garden pests too, I’m going to leave the nest undisturbed. I know many people have aggressive wasps that chase them around the garden, but the ones that nest near our house are fairly mellow. Case in point: I lifted the ceramic bird, spotted the nest and one adult who simply hovered nearby till I replaced her nest. I guess she’s content too.

curb garden yellow bird

Ceramic bird housing a wasp’s nest

Did you find contentment today?

curb garden mint and daffodils

Chocolate mint escaping the confines of the box

Sowing Mysteries and Garden Sprawl

Have you ever planted one of those seed assortments that promise extraordinary results with no effort?  According to the package, a jaw-dropping butterfly garden will appear within a matter of weeks. All you have to do is scatter the seeds in the soil, cover, water and enjoy.

I’ve fallen for the sales pitch twice now and I should know better. It seems irresistible when you see the photo on the packet with 100 square feet (30 meters) of wildflowers. In my experience, ‘thousands of seeds’ turn out to be one, maybe two hardy plants. The end.

Or is it?

I present to you, garden sprawl.

Both Love-in-a-mist

love in a mist at the sidewalk

Love-in-a-mist edging the sidewalk

love in a mist lining the walkway

I love this self-made border

love in a mist, poppies, statice

Love-in-a-mist fills in all the space around the Sweet Peas, California Poppies, and Statice

and Four o’clocks

four o'clock buds

Four O’clock, time to wake up

four o'clock long view

Four O’clock, the long view

have sown themselves throughout the garden. They’ve traveled from the front to the back of the house, filling in the spaces in between. I even saw a few in the neighborhood on our evening walk. Those seeds get around!

They’re all welcome in my garden, with their tender greens, pops of yellow and soon, love-in-a-mist lavender blooms.

We’re on strict water restrictions as we work our way through year four of the drought. So far, the seedlings are getting by on morning dew and an occasional watering. We’re turning off the sprinklers to the lawn completely and hope to eventually replace lawn with a native alternative.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying these unexpected gifts and their presence in my arid garden.

What’s the water situation in your neck of the woods?

A Little of This and That

I’ve been puttering in the garden here and there over the past week, but I still haven’t put together a plan for the summer. I pruned a hedge and pulled a few weeds but my busy schedule hasn’t allowed for much more.

William and Kate hyacinth

The purple hyacinths have now taken the place of the pink ones. The dark pink freesia is still in bloom

As we enter year four of our drought, water restrictions are increasing. According to the state water agency, 44% of residential water use is outdoors. We’re now restricted to watering once every three days, using the odd/even method based on home address, and we can only water before 6 am or after 6 pm.

I’ve left both vegetable beds empty for now. My original plan was to leave one box empty and plant some tomatoes and basil in the other. I love fresh tomatoes and basil and know that we’ll eat them all summer long. The tomatoes, however, have sprouted all over the garden, self-planting like they did last year.  Instead of moving the plants, we’re going to add drip irrigation to the viable plants and see how it goes.

tomato in gravel

Self-planting tomatoes

Last fall I sheet-mulched one half of the lawn, but the process is still ongoing. The grass died off as planned and much of the material is decomposing, but with so little rain, it’s taking longer than planned for it all to decompose. It’s not very pretty, is it?

sheet mulch march 20

Sheet mulch in process

Comically, I have a pair of potato plants growing in the midst of the sheet mulch. It will be interesting to see if the plant flowers since it’s in the shade most of the day.

potatoes growing in mulch

Potatoes volunteered in the mulch

As the bright yellow daffodils begin to fade, a second group of plantings are taking their place. They’re two-toned and a bit shorter, but just as lovely. I’ve had great success with bulbs once I figured out what the squirrels don’t like, namely narcissus (daffodils), and hyacinth.

daffodils in the curb garden

Daffodils transition in the curb garden

pale yellow daffodils

Narcissus in the curb garden

We had a bit of rain overnight, and woke to a refreshed garden. That was a wonderful surprise. I only wish I hadn’t slept through it.

I hope your week is off to a good start.

Blogging 101: Branding Your Image?

daffodil altered 2015Today’s blogging 101 task asks us to extend our brand with one of the following: a custom Blavatar, a custom image widget, or a fan page.

Since I already have a Gravatar and lacked the energy to create another Facebook page, I opted for the image widget.

It was fun playing round with my photo using a (mostly) free app called PicMonkey, but the idea of creating a brand is a bit lost on me.

You can see the image widget on the right side of my blog. Of all the lessons over the past few weeks, this was the most challenging, mostly because I just couldn’t see the point.

Have you used the image widget on your blog? How about PicMonkey?