Autumn in the Air, Confusion in the House

squirrel on trellis

Fall? How much time do I have to scavenge nuts and seeds?

According to my Old Farmer’s Almanac calendar, today is the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere. It’s officially known as the autumnal (fall) equinox.  It’s my favorite time of year.  Of course I say that on the first day of spring too.  I can never decide.

What’s fun when you blog, is you find yourself keeping up with people from around the world. Today I thought I was celebrating the first day of spring as well with Sarah the Gardener, The Contented Crafter, Teddy and Tottie, and the Road the Serendipity but further reading tells me that September 23rd is their official spring (vernal) equinox.

Our wedding day 19 years ago landed on the first day of fall, however it was September 23rd, not the 22nd. Now my head hurts. I checked out a couple of sites today and got differing answers:

An excerpt from Timeanddate.com says:

Fall is called autumn in many countries

Fall equinox, Northern Hemisphere:
September equinox 2014:
September 23, at 02:29 UTC

(USA & Central America, Asia, Canada, Europe, Northern Africa)

Fall equinox, Southern Hemisphere
March equinox 2015:
March 20, at 22:45 UTC

(Australia, New Zealand, South America, Southern Africa)

The Old Farmer’s Almanac website says:

In 2014, the autumnal equinox brings the fall season to the Northern Hemisphere on: September 22 at 10:29 P.M. EDT.

Math isn’t my strong point, so while trying to work this out in my head I discovered The World Clock – Time Zone Converter and now it all makes sense. Using UTC or Coordinated Universal Time, the first day of fall in California is technically September 23rd.

Happy Equinox, wherever you presently call home.

I’m going to rake a few leaves and then sit down with a hot cuppa.  All these math calculations hurt my brain.

 

Retrospective: My Year of Squirrels

As the year winds down, I’ve decided to create a few retrospectives.

Without further ado I present: My Year of Squirrels

Sure, they can drive you nuts while they dig up your bulbs, but their cuteness more than makes up for it.

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.

 

A Feast Fit For a Squirrel

squirrel in the fruit treeWhen you carve a lot of pumpkins, you end up with lots of pulp.  It smells divine!

We grow carving pumpkins, not known for their tasty flesh, so we usually scoop out the pulp, set aside some seeds, and compost the rest.  That’s how we got this season’s crop: via the composting bin.

On my way to the compost pile earlier this week with the pumpkin innards, I made a detour.  We have a nice clearing under the fruit tree, the perfect spot for snacking (if you’re a squirrel).  I dumped a big pile of pulp and seeds under the tree, figuring I could always move it elsewhere if there were no takers. Ha!

It’s been a busy week, so I temporarily forgot about it.  From the kitchen window on Thursday, a squirrel posed for me on the deck, but didn’t bother to wait for me to fetch my camera.  Not above a small bribe, I gathered a handful of raw almonds and headed out, camera in tow.  He performed some acrobatics in the tree, seen below diving to the lower branches before heading over the fence and away from view.

squirrel antics

“Flying” squirrel antics

I came back inside feeling a bit dejected, looked directly out the back door and did a mental head slap. While I was busy chasing a squirrel around the front yard, one of his friends was out back enjoying a feast.

squirrel eating pumpkin

Wow…this is good.

squirrel eating pumpkin

I know, I know…my diet starts tomorrow

I tiptoed outside, sat down in a chair, and snapped away. The visiting squirrel and I enjoyed the feast together and bonded over our mutual love of gardening. When he had his fill, he planted a couple of seeds on my behalf.

squirrel planting seeds

.I’ll plant this one over here…

squirrel planting seed

…and I’ll plant another one over here.

squirrel

Was that my phone or yours???

squirrel in tree

Sorry…I need to take this call.

squirrel in the garden

Gotta run. Thanks for the feast.

Cue the music: the circle of life.

Self-Seeded Pumpkin: Late Season Wonder

Okay, so squirrels aren’t always destructive. There’s a good chance that a squirrel buried one of last year’s pumpkin seeds at the edge of the lawn. That seed managed to survive all the activity around building the curb garden (twice), not to mention the proximity to the street.  You couldn’t ask for a clearer example of ‘survival of the fittest.’

I spotted the tell-tale seedling early on, but didn’t expect it to survive.  I let it be of course, and it gradually sent out true leaves and a few flowers.  Given the dense root system of the lawn, I figured it would overtake the pumpkin.  I removed chunks of lawn around the tiny plant without disturbing the pumpkin’s roots.  That did the trick.  Look at the progress of this plant in less than 30 days:

Curbside pumpkin plant, August 24th

Curbside pumpkin plant, August 24th

Curbside Pumpkin plant September 18th

Curbside pumpkin plant September 18th

I’m seeing the tell-tale signs of late season mold on the leaves, but the flowering continues. Hopefully we’ll have one more orange pumpkin to add to the mix before the vine retires for the season.

Be sure to check back for updates.

Pumpkin plant closeup

Pumpkin plant closeup

green pumpkin

Yep…it’s a pumpkin!

Frank and the Squirrels Who Loved Him

That sounds like a dime-store romance doesn’t it?

In this story we have no tragic heroine, just a sad pumpkin named Frank unable to live up to his potential after a careless gardener tossed him willy-nilly on to the walkway.  Poor, poor, Frank.

There are no villains either, simply opportunistic squirrels passionate about (eating) pumpkins.

After Frank went splitsville, even a hardy set of staples couldn’t keep him together for long.  The elements took their toll.  Frank flat-lined. It was time to remove the staples.

pumpkin with staples

Frank’s demise

After counting to three, I reached down and scooped up a mass of soggy pumpkin pulp and a handful of white seeds.  The rest was up to the squirrels.  They came and went for two days, but I never had my camera ready.  The stars finally aligned and I took a handful of photos, below.

squirrel eating pumpkin pulp

Passionate about pumpkin

squirrel jumping

Flying squirrel

dark squirrel eating pumpkin

Table manners

grey squirrel eating pumpkin

Plenty to go around

 

Metaphorical Sunflower

cat named mouse

Mouse *insisted* on being in the picture.

I planted an entire packet of sunflower seeds, but only one took hold. I’ve seen several fat  and happy squirrels around the ‘hood, so I’ve little doubt where they went. That said, I’m more interested in the lone survivor.

Thinking that the surviving plant needed company, I headed back the to garden center and bought six sunflower starters. For awhile the plants were all the same height, but at the three-foot mark, the starter plants set dozens of blooms. The lone survivor continued to grow.

Metaphorically speaking, I can relate. One summer in my middle-school years, I grew from average to tall and stayed that way.  Tall and skinny and very much in my own ‘shell’ I stood apart from the others. My pale English skin, tall carriage and bright hair were the antithesis of the California Girl. I was quiet, bookish, and painfully shy, and the occasional target of mean-spirited girls.

Today the surviving sunflower stands tall and straight. The proverbial late bloomer had her turn in the sun.  Large leaves attract birds of all stripes. Blooms attracted bees. Now laden with heavy seeds, those mischievous squirrels will be back, but guess what?  Times have changed.

This time, she’s ready.

alys and sunflower collage