Thursday, July 30, 2015

...missing her, still...




It's been a year now...sometimes it seems like just yesterday. On my morning walk, I came to the corner where the tree with the tiny leaves stands. As I rounded the corner I looked up and was greeted with a shower of yellow leaves ...just like the day we took one of our last walks together.



Wherever I went, she was not far behind. She would sit out on the back porch and scan the garden. 




She always rearranged the dog cover on the couch.



If I went out on a quick errand, 
she would be waiting for my return.


She would sneak up on the bed and hide.


She loved to walk!


I miss her, still.....

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ants!

While the rest of the country has been deluged with pouring rain, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, the summer of 2015 in Southern California will go down in history as the fourth year of bone-dry drought conditions and the invasion of ants. Yes! .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..ANTS!
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  Those pesky, teeny-tiny, little creepy crawly insects that send out half a dozen scouts to scope out new territories to invade. If the scouts are successful in returning to the troops, they regroup and head out. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Hundreds.....no, wait.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. THOUSANDS.. .. .. .. .. .. sneaking into homes across the south land.. .. .. .. .. .. stealthy appearing without notice.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..marching in droves! 
                                        ANTS! ANTS! ANTS! ANTS! ANTS!
With the lack of rain and now, the mandated restriction that dictates when and how long we can water our gardens, we knew we were in for an uncomfortable summer and a possible ant invasion. 

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed several tell-tale scouts, scurrying from here to there, checking things out.  Two on the kitchen counter .. .., three on the window sill in the bathroom .. .. .. several on the pantry shelves .. .. .. .. .. .. .. OK! It was time to plan our defense!  I grabbed the spray bottle of Simple Green and went after the scouts. Morning, noon and night, I would crouch down to eye level of the counters and watch for movement .. .. .. .. .. .. if I saw a scout .. .. .. he was toast! We were proactive! We made sure all trash/garbage was taken out before going to bed. We wiped down all the counters after dinner each night. All standing water was rinsed from the sinks and the dish tub dried. We ran the garbage disposal. We washed out the coffee maker. We eliminated every possible attraction. As time passed, the scout patrol seemed to evaporate. And, we relaxed. 

Saturday morning I made raspberry scones. There were plenty left for Sunday, so I pulled out one of my tins, lined it with wax paper and packed the scones. The lid was secured. Sunday, we had more scones and still had a few left, so I put the lid back on, wiped the tin down and placed it back on the counter. 

Monday morning came and I was awakened by the sound of something heavy hitting the floor. Still half asleep, I made my way downstairs to find my husband on his hands and knees. At first, I thought he might have fallen. "Are you ok?!!" I asked. "ANTS!!!!" he proclaimed .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. OMG! .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. He wasn't kidding! ANTS.. .. .. .. .. .. EVERYWHERE!!!!! 
    ANTS! ANTS! ANTS! ANTS! ANTS!
From the ventilation vent in the pantry they had marched under the pantry door, behind the refrigerator and up the side of the counter to the tin of scones. Focused on making his lunch, Charlie had opened the tin, thinking he would take a couple of scones to work to have with his coffee. Inside he discovered a kabillion ANTS .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. crawling all over the remaining scones! For the next half hour, we Simple-Greened the entire kitchen! We were ruthless! We watched for any type of movement. Stragglers hurried up the wall. Several tried to escape along the back of the counter .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. without success!  
 
Charlie left for work leaving me in charge of Operation Ant Annihilation! .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  I continued to survey the counters. I watched (and destroyed) the ones left behind. I showered, dressed and returned to the kitchen .. .. .. and found a few more renegades attempting to find a way out. 

Needing a break, I went for my morning walk. This ant-thing totally creeped me out. I can handle spiders, crickets....the occasional fly. But, .. .. .. .. .. .. ants?! Yuck! I totally blame our weather and the condition of our gardens for this infestation.  I can't figure out how they got INTO that tin. I've used it for years to store shortbread, cookies, scones, muffins....and never, ever had an ant anywhere near it much less IN it!

When I got back from my walk, I checked again for intruders and saw none. The following morning, Charlie checked again for ants....still....no ants! I came downstairs a while later and found three .. .. .. two were on the rim of the jar that had an avocado pit rooting in water and one .. doing the back stroke in the water. Needless to say, I dumped the water (and, the ants .. .. ..), refilled the jar, dried it off and put it back in the window. What puzzles me is why the jar now? That avocado pit has been sitting in that little jar of water for weeks .. .. .. not one ant had approached it until now. 

We still find the occasional scout...and I'm sure we will have more before the end of summer.  We are standing by .. .. .. .. with Simple Green in hand! They just creep me out!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Parched Summer for Sure! 2015





...and so the drought continues... The wildlife and foliage have been seriously compromised. Lawns across the state are a wispy brittle brown...dead, actually. Gardens struggle to stay alive. No more showy blooms of summers' past. Even the drought 'tolerant' and native plants are struggling as we try to relearn how to water our gardens. They tend to get more water than they need because we go on auto-pilot ~ watering when the ground looks dry instead of actually looking at the plant or sticking our finger into the soil. Everything is struggling.


Nasturtiums are supposed to love the heat and thrive in crappy
soil with very little water. Well, the challenge is ON! 

This little plant was 'drought tolerant' and
doing so well...I cut back the spent branches
(there were tiny leaves already forming at
the base)...apparently, the flowers on this
plant did not see the humor.
July is not here yet...it seems like its late August/early September. Dry, hot, and not very pretty in our garden.  

This barrel should have a plethora of Marigolds and
Lantana and 5' tall Russian Mammoth Sunflowers.
Rather pathetic results, I think.....

Halloween-y Violas are happy in the old log out front.
I absolutely adore this little plant!

New Lantana seems to be acclimating nicely. I may just plug in
several more and let them go!

The wildlife is finding it more challenging to find food. And, so, the circle of life is quite active. This morning, I again heard the heartbreaking cry of the mockingbird; one that is repeated almost daily now. The sad squawking can be heard all over the neighborhood ~ the hurt, the anger, the grief as it sings it's sad song after discovering it's nest has been raided and the babies taken.

  
Mockingbird on power pole singing her sad song.
Ravens and hawks frequent the trees above. Both have been know to snatch the little birds from the hidden nests in the tree tops. A young hawk has made several visits here lately. He (she?) swoops stealthy into the branches of our Italian Stone Pine tree looking for something to eat. The birds in the branches below and on the feeders are pretty savvy and somehow escape in one big cloud before the hawk can attack.


Two black ravens watch our garden from above.


A mockingbird and hawk face off in the Deodor tree across the street.

Occasionally (and, sadly) the hawk is successful. I will find a scattering of little feathers beneath the tree. There are several feral cats that have claimed this neighborhood ~ a fluffy tabby (we call him Pumpkin) and a light grey (Earl Grey). They, too, stalk the feeder area, hoping to grab a snack. 


Security!
When there is a cat nearby, we usually get an alert from a squirrel who is sitting on a tree limb, the top of a fence or perched on the power pole. The urgent barking continues until the cat moves on. Any time I hear the alert, I go out to check what's going on. Many times I find the rouge cat and chase him off. Then, a reward is due, so I get a handful of peanuts and toss them to our security squirrel!


Our Security Squirrel Squad is always watching from wherever they are hanging out!


There is some good news, though. With the relentless heat, the bees have discovered our little fountain in the front yard. How lucky for our garden! (If you look closely, you can see the bees on and around the stones). We fill the fountain daily for all of the wildlife to enjoy. While the plant life is shifting, the watering hole is a constant for the birds and the bees...and other creatures that might be thirsty! The tall pine tree towers over what is left of the garden, offering shade and a safe haven for all.



Drought tolerant plant. Not a native. And, I've just learned,
drought tolerant and native don't necessarily mean the same thing!
'Hawaiian Blue Eyes' seem to thrive nicely...so far...
This is a rock-something flowering plant...and will do well with
very little water once established. We bought six!
These are Juliet Grape Tomatoes.
I think we chose the wrong soil this year...while they are
slowly growing, by now we should have a
boat load of tomatoes!!!
This is where Mousekin lives...though, I think he's on vacation.
I haven't seen him in a while.

This is our resident garden rabbit.
He is patiently waiting for the garden to break out
in colorful blooms and foliage.
Patiently being the operative word......
In an attempt to add some color to the shriveled-up landscape,
he is sporting a new collection of brightly painted Peace Sticks.
That works for me.

There is a 'prediction' of an El Nino this fall...a lot of buzz...maybe 30"! Could this be just another crystal ball, wishful thinking forecast possibility? I guess we will have to just wait and see......Film @ 11.


...maybe I should look into an ark?





Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Christmas Earrings



One of my all-time, most cherished Christmas gifts I have received was from my son 22 years ago. He had gone with his 1st grade class to the church Christmas boutique. There, they had a special table for children to shop for inexpensive, homemade trinkets. 

He came home with a little box, tied up with green ribbon and gave it to me before Christmas. "You need these now!" he said. His anticipation was electric. I slowly opened the box, and inside were a pair of tiny jingle bell earrings. Each one had three bells ~ red, green and gold. I have worn those earrings every year since!

And, then, one year not too long ago, probably while taking off my jacket or scarf one day, I lost one of those earrings. I was heartbroken....it was like losing a diamond.

Thinking about the joy on my son's face as he gave me his gift those many years ago still warms my heart. That will always be one of the best gifts I have ever received!


Post Script ~
Last year, while reorganizing the bedroom, I found my missing earring behind the dresser! You can only imagine my delight in finding that little treasure! Merry Christmas! 


Thursday, August 7, 2014

....A Week Later....


The house is too quiet ... the silence ~ deafening. I desperately want to hear the jingle of her tags as she shakes, stretches and rearranges the blanket on her bed in the night's darkness. I miss her calm, even snore as she settles back into a deep sleep.

The morning routine is anything but. Her eyes are no longer watching my every move....from the bed...to the shower...from the floor of the closet while I'm getting dressed. I walk down the stairs solo....there are no mighty paws at my heels.

I miss her sitting by the front door, patiently waiting for me to put on my shoes and grab the phone and lead. I miss her eager anticipation of walking out onto the porch to discover the tiny treats Dona has left for her.

Stealth dog is not laying where I can trip over her ... she's not here to snatch up the bits of food that have hit the floor while I cook. She no longer magically appears as I butter the raisin toast. She is not here to lend an ear when I want to confide in her....or, to give me juicy kisses....or, to paw my leg when she wants a treat. And, she isn't here to walk with me. Yep. It's too damn quiet.

The 'new normal' leg of my journey has begun  ...and it sucks.

I miss her so much. 

My Roxie Girl.


Roxie and I try a "Selfie"




Friday, August 1, 2014

You stole my heart, Roxie Girl...♥

Sometimes, they are only in our lives for a short time. 
For us, it was love at first sight.
We are so glad you came into ours dear, darling Roxie. 










                                            




                                               
                                                            She was my girl.





                                             
...I miss you, Roxie Girl.

Adopted April, 2012
February 1, 2001 ~ July 30, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mockingbird Serenade

"Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, 
but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
~ Atticus Finch
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been serenaded by two mockingbirds. On 'opening night', one had found a perch on the top of the power pole just outside our bedroom window. His repertoire was not only absolutely amazing...it was quite loud and continued for what seemed to be hours. As I lay there listening, I was fascinated with all of the different songs it knew; how many of them had choruses in groups of three and how there was little repetition. He even had the bark of a squirrel down to a tee!

After two nights of this gig we had a brief reprieve. However, it now seems the show has been extended indefinitely. Charlie is threatening to take action if it doesn't take the show on the road! This reminded me of the quote above...of which I gently shared with Charlie. I will admit it is hard to ignore the serenade. Shortly after we are asleep, the songs begin and we are once again awake. While sleep eluded us, I laid there listening...thinking...and remembered a story about some mockingbirds that were in our garden a few years ago.

June ~ 2006

We spent the weekend working in the garden. It was going to be another hot day ~ 90 degrees! So, we started early hoping to beat the heat. While I was busily snipping and dead-heading the climbing rose bush (next to the patio), birds were squawking everywhere! I looked up and discovered a brambly stick nest with three baby mockingbirds ~ mouths wide open ~ peeping merrily.  Behind me, hanging on the string of party lights was the parent, watching my every move.

                


I carefully, but quickly, backed off...all the while apologizing to him/her. The parent buzzed in, deposited bits of something into each mouth and was off again. The babies went silent until the parents returned. This continued all afternoon...peeping and eating.

Several nights later, I looked out the dining room window and saw a little puffy, rolly-poly bird standing on the driveway, beak in the air...peeping softly...almost in question form, while watching the sky.


Snippet from my garden journal...

I called to Charlie and told him one of the baby birds was out. He went out back to check the nest and discovered the birds had left the nest! We heard one by the wall fountain, we knew one was on the driveway...where was #3? I went back to the bush and there he was...straddling two small branches next to the nest, obviously not keen on jumping just yet!

I returned to the driveway to check on bird #1...and came around the corner just in time to see him hop under the gate to the front of the house! Cat central!!!

...another snippet from my garden journal...

 

So, I followed him. He found a nice, dark, cool place just to the left of the gate by the corner of the wall. There were several large bags of mulch and potting soil next to the wall. On the ground, kind of behind/under the stack of bags, there was a bunch of old leaves, dirt and dog fuzz that had collected over the winter. In went the bird...and again the peeping began. 

As the sun set, I went out to take roll one more time before bed. The driveway bird had returned from his brief and daring trip under the gate and was now under the stack of plastic chairs between the garage and log rack...and still sending up 'peeps'. The bird in the brambles hadn't moved and the one by the fountain could still be heard...nighty night, little ones!

The next morning, before leaving for work, I purposely closed the gate that separated the driveway from the back garden so the dogs would remain in the back yard and leave the little bird alone.

When I returned home, I headed to the back garden to see if the birds had regrouped. I opened the back door and Pete jumped up to greet me. Annie was lounging on the walkway, sitting like the Sphinx...with her front paws crossed. In between her paws lay one of the baby mockingbirds. Annie looked at me and without thinking, I said loudly, "No, Annie! OOHH!!!" Of course, remorse immediately set in; she didn't know why I was upset. She was taking care of the baby bird. I think she thought it was someone to play with. Unfortunately, the little bird was loved to death. 

I'm not sure which bird Annie had, but she was guarding its limp little body as if it were her own baby.

The Circle of Life ~ Nature's way of checks and balances...necessary, sure. Still, I was saddened to know one of the birds wad dead. And, my heart went out to the parent birds. They had worked 24/7, flying back and forth with food to the nest. One was always close by, keeping an eye on the kids in the nest.

While we didn't see the remaining two babies again, we did hear them in the distance, peeping their signal to their parents for a few days more. Then, the silence that followed told us that the babies had taken flight. This story, while bittersweet, continues to remind us that there is always something going on in the garden...and we need to take the time to stop, watch and listen. There are many more stories yet to come!