Critters


What’s written below, was written over two and a half years ago, but I guess I never published it.  I don’t even remember writing it, but I do remember the incident with the lizard and am glad he’s/she’s immortalized here.

So much has happened in those 2 1/2 years!  There’s been a whole lot more life and death in our garden and in our lives.  Both of my parents passed away, our first “daug-ter” died of cancer, and we got a new dog who has either solo or team-caught over 30 gophers and moles in the last six months!  What a great help.  We’ve also added five beautiful hens (their coop is the former mist-house of our former nursery) and now I carry aphids, slugs and snails down to them.  I am happy to have bugs to feed to the girls, and still amazed that they can take that stuff and turn it into “perfect protein” the next day.  And just last week I spotted two lovely long-tailed alligator lizards chasing each other through the citrus house.  Hurray, life over death!

So on a beautiful spring day, which happens to be our 18th anniversary, I’ll head outside again to check on the strawberry pot I just planted.  The pot was one thing I saved from my parents’ yard in those last minute decisions before the estate sale.  The bareroot plants were just purchased on our anniversary weekend trip, so together we’ve turned a tough memory into a good one.  I’ve learned a lot more about life and death in these last two years, and I’m sure God is not finished teaching me still more.

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About 2 PM today I realized I’d spent a good part of my day killing things.  What a revelation for someone who wants to grow and enjoy beauty and good food!  I guess good things come at a price.  It’s a few hours later and I’m still undecided on how to proceed.  Coupled with my murder-in-the-second-degree (it was an accident!) of a lovely alligator lizard last week who was hiding in my snail trap) I need to make some changes.  Maybe next year…

  • I will forget about trying to grow a winter garden of brassicas that are a magnet for cabbage butterflies and their green looper babies.
  • I won’t bother to start anything by seed directly in the ground so that the birds, slugs and earwigs won’t just eat them or mow them down before they even have a chance.
  • I’ll just wave the white flag to the gophers and voles.  Tracy claims that there’s only so much they can eat and that to be less stressed I need to accept a certain amount of “damage”.  The problem here is that gopher “damage” is usually terminal and since I’ve been the one catching them I know what we’d be up against next year if I had not done-in the 20 or more this year.  In this regard, a barn cat is looking ever more attractive to me if we can keep it from eating our songbirds poolside while they bathe…
  • I’ll fight the urge to squish every cucumber beetle and earwig.  So they eat the pollen in the flowers and notch the nasturtium leaves – they can have them (maybe).
  • I’ll stop stepping on snails and eco-baiting for slugs.
  • I’ll give up growing winter squash and pumpkins since they take up so much room and the gophers kill the plants.  We don’t even eat that much of these things, but it’s good for us and if I grow them we’re more likely to eat better, so…
  • I’ll just wait it out and whatever is left I’ll propagate more of and re-plant, maybe.

Well, it sounds good anyway, and certainly maybe worth a try…

As a special gift to me today, while watering the bed where I buried that lizard, another one scampered away from the spray.   Between that and the five tree frogs and the kale, sweet peas, roses and dahlias, there’s still plenty of life in the garden, too.  Nasturtium through balcony

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!