May 2010


The last few months the camera has been capturing a few strange things we’ve discovered while we work on our property.  I never cease to be fascinated (though sometimes I get a bit queasy!)

A month or so ago I saw what looked like a drunk crane fly flopping around the air on our front porch, then it landed on the house and I took a ton of photos hoping one would come out well.

Snakefly

I didn’t know what it was so I asked our trusty agriculture office and received Dave’s quick reply:

“Awesome picture!  Yes, I know that one, can’t be mistaken for anything else.  It’s a snakefly, order Raphidioptera, closely related to the lacewings (Neuroptera).  The larvae hunt in leaf litter with snake-like movement, hence the name.  Both young and adults prey on smaller insects, adult is a voracious aphid predator.  Doesn’t that brighten your day?”

It was certainly great news to know that those pincher jaws were going to be working hard for us!

Awhile later Tracy came from burning some fallen pine tree debris and opened his hand to show me this beauty.   We believe this is the larval form of nature’s stump grinder, one of the larger kinds of beetles known around here.  Wow!  and it really puts a visitor to Africa’s tale of being offered grubs for dinner in perspective.  Like I said, sometimes I can get kinda queasy…

As usual, the weeds/unwanted plants are getting way ahead of me.  We’ve had a lot of rain and a very cold spring, so the weeds are growing, but it’s not good weather for mowing or even being outside much.  However, last week I had an hour or two to weed after work (I just love these late sunsets), and I was thinning out the forget-me-nots and the blue borage in the front bed by the rosemary.  I should have been more observant, but thankfully stopped before going too far.  Deep underneath the borage and rosemary, built on top of the lavendula, was this beautiful nest of blue and brown speckled eggs: It  turns out that we actually have our own type of White Crowned Sparrow here in Humboldt County, and our property is definitely home to many of them.  Every year they find an interesting place to nest.  Usually it’s in a rose bush, which was problematic when Tracy was regularly spraying the outdoor roses (thankfully for all of us those days are over).  This year we can practically watch these ones hatch from the front window.  Despite my garden clean up I haven’t discouraged mom or dad from nesting, so that’s good, and I readjusted the remaining borage over the top of this to keep it somewhat sheltered and hidden.  It seems we’ve rarely had more than two eggs in a nest before, so if all of these ones hatch we’re going to see some very tired parents trying to keep them all fed!


Many people have asked us if we planned to hybridize our own roses and we always said no and went on to explain that it takes about ten years to save seeds, wait at least a year till they rooted and bloomed, then select varieties, test them in various climates, and finally propagate enough of them to meet the demand from a well-advertised (expensive) marketing campaign.  That said, we’ve firmly remained against starting a hybridizing program, but back in 1997 Tracy did hand me a Rugosa rose hip and told me to try my hand at hybridizing if I wanted to.  I think I left that hip in the refrigerator for at least a year and then broke it open and tossed the seeds in a flat of rooting medium in the shade.  A few plants came of it, but not until this year have we seen flowers!  Here I can introduce the first two of our very own rose babies:

Rugosa Baby #1

5 Hearts

It is rather exciting to realize that these two roses would never exist if we hadn’t saved that particular rose hip (which was pollinated by a particular bee, with pollen from other specific rose plants) then planted it and had patience to see what would develop.  There are three more plants yet to bloom, so we’ll have to wait and see what they turn out to be.  Time will tell if any of these plants are worth keeping around, how big they’ll grow and how they’ll do outside, but Rugosas tend to be a very hardy breed and good as hedge shrubs.