July 28, 2015

Quote for the day / Que te vaya bien, Emily

Runner-up: Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I use GIMP.

Here's the quote in context:

My friend Scott Calhoun, who designs gardens in Tucson and knows about drought, once said to me (quoting someone else, and I’m sorry I’ve forgotten who), “How do you know it’s drought-tolerant if you water it?” 

And here's the source: The No-Water California Garden by Amy Stewart, over on Garden Rant. Amy lives and gardens in Eureka, California, which apparently does not share SoCal's monsoon season. (Hope she waters her trees.)

That last link reminds me that Emily Green, who needs no introduction to SoCal gardeners, is moving to the East Coast. We're not taking the news well.

See some photos of Emily's Altadena garden here. Her blog is here. Her influence is everywhere, though I think she'd protest that most of us (cough*I own a leaf blower*cough) don't seem to have learned a thing. California will miss her.

July 15, 2015

Garden, late afternoon

Before dusk.

"Summer afternoon" is just fine, thanks, but when it comes to the most beautiful words in the English language, "garden" and "early evening" and "dusk" are at the top of my list, right up there with "cabin," "western tanager" "orange grove" and "beagle puppy."

Think how many plant-related names would be on a Most Beautiful Words list. Chaparral. Sweet brier. Sage. Tall grass prairie. Cloud forest.

Speaking of dusk, or near-dusk, one of my favorite times in the garden is when the dreamy golden hour is morphing into the heure bleue and colors are beautiful, and the light is glorious. (A million iPhone shots used up, trying to catch it. In the photo above I'd just turned on the patio light.  West is to the left, and at this time of year the sun sets in an excellent spot.) Everything about the garden seems magical, and the amazing light fills my heart right up.

See the orange square in the background? As if you could miss it. It's a big metal street sign that I picked up for a few bucks at a local salvage yard. It says:


which seemed like a nice thing for the garden, as opposed to, say:


which was also available, in a much smaller size. I have no idea what I am going to do with the giant orange Prepare to Stop. It's leaning against the potting bench at the moment. Prepare to Pot? We'll see.   

July 14, 2015

Heartbreak Hotel

The fledgling.

This poor youngster landed on the cabin deck early last week. Parent birds keep an eye on fledglings like this one for some time after they leave the nest, bringing them food and doing what they can to help keep their offspring safe, but every so often there are extenuating circumstances (Fire Department to the Rescue! Happy ending!) and parents aren't around to help. This very young Red-breasted Sapsucker flew in at about nine in the morning, called for his family, preened a bit, pecked at the post, and looked tired. After a while he tucked his head under a wing and slept for a bit.

How I wish I'd offered him some food and water. But no, I was letting nature take her course [kicks self] and didn't want to frighten the parent birds, if they were nearby. They weren't. After several hours he launched away, fell to the ground, and died. 

I felt as if my heart would break, but a deceased fledgling can sometimes be a tiny bit of a deal, so like a good citizen scientist I placed the little guy's mortal remains in a baggie and put the baggie in a paper bag in the freezer. He'll go to legendary bird man Gene Cardiff at the San Bernardino County Museum. Mary Freeman, field trip leader for L.A. Audubon, was at the cabin on Saturday and wanted to take the fledgling to Kimball Garrett at the L.A. County Museum of Natural History, but I said no.  He's going to Gene. The fledgling will "play a vital role in advancing scientific knowledge," as the Smithsonian says. And his tag will always have my name on it, which is maybe the closest thing to immortality a provincial birder can hope for.

Side note: museum collections are awesome. They give me hope for humanity.

Local museums are usually happy to take bodies of wild critters of interest, provided said bodies are in good condition and have been frozen since the critter died. In other words, no mangled remains of something that has been lying on the road for a few days, ick. Unless it's an Archaeopteryx. Use common sense.

And finally, this was a new yard bird for me at the cabin. Such a sad way to add to the yard bird list, but at least it wasn't as bad as watching your life Mountain Quail being killed by a rattlesnake :~(

Here's a grown Red-breasted SapSucker, photographed by terrific local birder Tom Benson. I tell myself that the little one's spirit is having a great time flying around bird heaven.

Red-breasted Sapsucker