Soft Rains and Healthy Brains

While enjoying the sound of a soft rain outside my window, I looked for articles that explain my sense of euphoria with each passing storm.

hummingbird-in-the-rain

Anna’s Hummingbird having a drink at one of the feeders

Apparently I’m a pluviophile!

According to an article in LifeHack

People who love rain bask in their experiences. They can describe the rain in vivid detail, from the mesmerizing pitter-patter sound, to the hypnotic way each drop magnifies and changes the scenery on the other side of the window pane. Pluviophiles appreciate the scent of a fresh storm and the delicious feel of water dripping down their skin. They even know the taste of fresh drops as they look upwards with arms outstretched and welcome a cool drink from the clouds.

It’s nice to be understood. There are dozens of articles on the mood-altering effects of rain, most of them describing how people feel sad or out of sorts when it rains.

curb-garden-variegated-plant-in-rainIt took some digging to find an article supporting my rain-loving ways. I quickly forwarded a copy to my older son. He’s home from college for the Thanksgiving break, and heads out the door every time it rains. He loves it as much as I do.

My garden certainly appreciates the rain. The plants stand a little taller, grateful for the cleansing rinse. Leaves brighten to a shiny green as the plant’s roots welcome the long, steady drink.

sweet-peas-after-a-rain

Sweet Peas, blooming for the second time this year

This Anna’s hummingbird took a shower from the branches of the Chinese Pistache. Apparently he’s a pluviophile too.

Anna's hummigbird in the rain

Male Anna’s Hummingbird enjoying the rain

Post-Election Processing

I read a blog post this weekend that resonated with me, so I’m sharing it here. Martha Brettschneider writes of the benefits of mindfulness to help us process and move forward in a positive way.

She described the election outcome as triggering a sense of “social mistrust.”

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains that social mistrust is a stress response to not feeling safe, respected, or valued in our community. It’s a deeper, more toxic level of stress than your normal everyday stress, with even stronger physiological impacts on our health and well-being.

You can read the full article here.

Martha discusses ways to transform your stress from “paralyzing to empowering.” If you’ve been struggling with this as I have, than this article is for you..

I’ve done a number of things in the past ten days along these lines. I’ll share more in a future post.

Hummingbirds, Spiderwebs and My Left Foot

hummingbird in flight

Anna’s Hummingbird at the Feeder

Hummingbirds flap their wings about 55 times a second!   The resulting sound is soothing, like a constant heartbeat. We have three feeders in our garden, in addition to several of their favorite flowers. When the plants are in bloom, the Anna’s Hummingbirds enjoy Salvia (we have four) and Abutilon (we have six).

While taking pictures of my lemons for a different post, I could hear one flapping over head.  I took a few shots near one of the feeders, before she flew past me into the shrubs. For the first time, I saw her dip her beak into a spider web. I managed one shot before she flew away.

hummingbird gathering spiderwebbing

Anna’s Hummingbird Gathering Spiderweb for her Nest

Did you know that hummingbirds line their nest with spider webs? They also eat soft-bodied insects when they’re feeding their young. The prospect of a nest of hummingbirds nearby has me feeling giddy.

Footnotes

It’s been almost three months since my foot surgery. If you’re new to my blog, you can catch up here.  Dr. Sheth said I’m actually “ahead of schedule.” She kindly added that she thought my positive outlook and my commitment to following the healing protocol all worked in my favor.  So while I still have some pain and swelling, I have the all-clear for walking again.  I’m one happy woman.

Quenching a Thirst

California’s drought is taking its toll on thirsty wildlife. Many sources of fresh water are depleted.  Birds and mammals are struggling to quench their thirst.

So while I’m happy to let my lawn die while at the same time watering trees with my bath water, I’m choosing to share some of our fresh water with the critters that need it most.

Our small, re-circulating water fountain continues to flow.

new water fountain

This thing weighs a ton. It took all three men in the house to move it from the car to the back patio

water fountain closeup

New fountain closeup (the copper fairy is a gift from Boomdee)

We have a bird bath hanging from a branch of a maple tree

water wiggler in fountain

Bird bath and water wiggler. The wiggler keeps the water fresh and discourages mosquitoes

and the newest addition: a pair of dog food bowls.

squirrel drinking water

Quenching his thirst at the water bowl

Last week I spotted a squirrel on the patio umbrella, sipping from a rivulet of water formed by the morning dew. I filled a plastic bowl with water and wedged it into the rock wall. Within minutes the squirrel was having a drink.

squirrel on umbrella

Squirrel drinking from a small rivulet of water

A few days later, a mourning dove swooped in for a drink from our bird bath. They’re large birds, so she couldn’t land on the small bird bath and instead sent the bird bath swinging and sloshing water.

Over the weekend I bought two, heavy-duty dog watering bowls and placed them outdoors on the hutch. The bowls are sturdy enough that they can’t tip over, but accessible to larger birds, opossums and squirrels. As you can see, above, the squirrels found them immediately.

As we draw to the end of another long, hot summer, I’ve become acutely aware of the value of every last drop.

Nothing in all Nature is more certain than the fact that no single thing or event can stand alone. It is attached to all that has gone before it, and it will remain attached to all that will follow it. It was born of some cause, and so it must be followed by some effect in an endless chain. – Julian P. Johnson

If you live in California, I would like to issue a small challenge: The next time you stop to quench your own thirst, think about sharing a bowl of water with the creatures in our midst.

Resources:

Then and Now: California’s depleted reservoirs

Wildcare: Live well with wildlife

Water Wiggler: attracts birds while keeping mosquitoes at bay

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.

😉

Blooming Thursday: A Quick Walk Through the Garden

I’m finally feeling like myself again after a week and a half of vertigo. It was nice to walk through the garden on this unseasonably warm day.

I met a brave squirrel while crouched taking photos.

nonchalant squirrel

Nonchalant squirrel

He spotted Mouse-the-cat and wandered off, but he really wasn’t in any hurry.

mouse the cat

It’s all about me, right?

After refilling the hummingbird feeder, I enjoyed this little darling in flight.

hummingbirds irradescent back

Ana’s Hummingbird lands on the feeder

hummingbird at feeder jan 2015

Hummingbirds need to eat every thirty minutes

The garden show stopper this time of year is the Hardenbergia Violaceae. Who doesn’t like a gorgeous vine that flowers in winter?

hardenbergia long view 1-29-2015 9-43-54 AM

Hardenbergia growing along the fence

hardenbergia close up

Flower closeup

No need to raise your hand.

I found this lovely description along with a bit of history from San Marcos Growers in Santa Barbara, California:

Hardenbergia Violaceae ‘Happy Wanderer’ (Purple Vine Lilac) requires little water once established. The species is widespread through much of Australia and can be found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania where it grows from along the coast to up in the mountains. It was first described (as Glycine Violaceae) by the Dutch botanist George Voorhelm Schneevoogt in Icones Plantarum Rariorum in 1793 from cultivated plants that were thought to be from seeds collected in the Sydney area in the first few years of that settlement. Glycine is the genus of the related soy bean (Glycine max) and this plant was later combined with Hardenbergia, a name Bentham used in 1837 when describing Hardenbergia ovata. The name for the genus honors Franziska Countess von Hardenberg, sister of the Baron Karl von Hugel, a 19th century Austrian patron of botany who collected plants while on an expedition to Australia in 1833. The specific epithet is in reference to the typical color of the flower. Other common names include Purple Coral Pea, Happy Wanderer, Native Lilac. Because the long, carrot-like root was reportedly used as a substitute for sarsaparilla by Australian aboriginal bushmen, it also has the common names Australian Sarsaparilla and False Sarsaparilla. The Australian aboriginal name for it is Waraburra.

Don’t you love learning new things?

I hope you enjoy your weekend, rain or shine, snow or thaw. I’ll see you next week.

hardenbergia buds 1-29-2015 9-54-39 AM

Hardenbergia leaf and bud

Hummingbird Haiku

Anna’s hummingbird
with effortless charm and grace
nature’s perfection.

male anna's hummingbird

Iridescent Gorget

Iridescent gorget
visible in the dappled sun.
Handsome little bird.

anna's hummingbird tongue

A wisp of a tongue, a moment’s rest

I followed closely
as you flew from tree to tree
at last a small pause.

hummingbird scratching

Satisfying an itch

Soft, quiet feathers
So glad you’ve stopped for a rest
and to ease that itch.

Anna's hummingbird at rest

Always in style

Gorgeous hummingbird
your feathers are always in style
white tushy, dark eyes.

humminbird bottom

The End

When You Garden You’re Never Alone

Though gardening often feels like a solitary activity, I’m never alone for long. Our mostly indoor cats can’t resist the view of me kneeling on the ground.  One, two and maybe even three of them will venture out to see what I’m up to.

Thursday, as I planted and pruned, mulched and swept Lindy was on the scene.  She sits on the warm stones and keeps an eye on things, moving when I move to other parts of the garden.

lindy on the stones

Lindy keeps watch

After tending to the basil and tomatoes on one side of the garden, I moved to the fence line to prune the dead growth on my fern. As I stepped down from the rock wall, I heard a loud fluttering.  I’m used to the sound of bees and hummingbirds, but this was different.  Within seconds of focusing on what looked like a huge moth, a hummingbird swooped down in the same direction.

Oh darn…where is my camera when I need it?

As the hummingbird flew away, the ‘moth’ settled into the clippings of my recently pruned fern.  Not wanting to lose track of the visitor, I looked over my shoulder for my camera, then walked backwards to get it.  Camera in hand I attempted multiple shots of the wings in flight.  That thing moved fast!  It zipped around the garden, plant to plant and finally disappeared behind the flax.

moth

Hovering moth

moth at rest

Moth at rest

Now I’m full of questions.  What was that winged visitor? Was it food for the hummingbird or prey?  Was it just a coincidence that they flew at each other, before they both moved away?  Where is my backyard manual when I need it?

I finally managed a few shots, then continued with my work.  That’s when a squirrel in the pine tree started telling me off.  It isn’t a sound you can ignore.  I made my cluck-cluck-clucking sound but he wasn’t impressed.  There was nothing left to do but take his picture and walk away.

squirrel

Garden patrol

As I packed up my tools and readied for my appointments, I tried to imagine things from their perspective.  They spend far more time in the garden than I do.  Suddenly a middle-aged red-head with long green gloves and sharp tools is bobbing up and down among the plants. I am the interloper, not them.

Lindy was back inside by now, preferring the soft rug and the cooler temps.  Or, maybe she took the hint. The moth and hummingbird were probably working as a team, hoping  to chase me off.  When that didn’t work, the squirrel started shouting from the tree tops: “Can’t you take a hint?”

Excellent team work. I wonder if they think they’re rid of me for good?

Have you ever been told off by a squirrel?