Archive | October 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I’ve been watching the news all morning, and I have to say that even being a native of a very hurricane-prone state, this storm is just unbelievable.  Of course, the damage is compounded by the fact that it hit such a highly populated part of the country.  It’s horrifying to see the destruction left behind, and to think of those who have lost so much, and have so many days ahead before life can even begin to return to normal.  I am sending prayers, healing energy, and my very best wishes to everyone who has been affected by Sandy, and who might still be in harm’s way.  Now is the time to donate to organizations like The American Red Cross.  People with no homes to return to will need that help desperately.  (Like the residents of the EIGHTY homes that burned to the ground in part of New York.)  My guess is, there are a lot of people with nothing left but the clothes on their backs, and my heart goes out to them, as I’m sure yours does, as well. 

It’s just a sad, sad time for so many. 

And for those of us lucky enough to have been spared Sandy’s wrath, a healthy sense of gratitude wouldn’t be amiss!

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Why???

The perfect garden

(Click to view the full splendor!)

Why doesn’t my garden look like this?  Is that too much to ask??  Do any of yours look like this?  (If so, maybe you shouldn’t tell me.  I’m feeling insecure enough as it is!!)  But isn’t it a pleasure to look at it?

Catching Up, Again!

Hi, folks!  Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted here.  Some of you know, I’m writing a book (a first-time experience for me), and it has definitely caused me to neglect both of my blogs a bit.  I’m trying to figure out a way to balance my projects, but it’s tricky.  So please bear with me for a little while, if I’m running a bit behind now and then.

Just to let you know, I’ve been seeing the little box turtle in my garden nearly every day.  The dogs track her down, rushing around with their little hound noses pressed to the ground until they find her hiding spot.  They bark and poke.  She closes up shop and waits.  So far, Turtle 23, Dogs Zero.  I do make them stop as soon as I see them barking at her, because I don’t want them to harrass her, but I don’t think they can do too much damage.  For one thing, Potter’s front teeth are almost gone, sadly, and I’m sure he can’t bite even the EDGE of her shell.  And Maks is more about the noise, anyway.  He never bites at anything.  Still, I like for the turtle to have some peace and quiet as she wanders around.  And I’ve got my fingers crossed that she is finding enough food and water in my overgrown beds.

Haven’t seen any fall migrants yet, but I do need to pick up some fresh sunflower chips this weekend.  As soon as I start seeing goldfinches, I will know it’s time to be watching closely for things like painted and indigo buntings, cowbirds, and the occasional rose-breasted grosbeak.

Not too much going on right now, though both Belinda’s Dream and Abraham Darby are blooming like crazy.  My little clump of muhly grass is putting out a few feathery pink blooms, but it really needs to be in a spot where early and/or late sun shines straight through the blooms.  That’s what makes them glow like sparklers.  Here are pictures of mine, though not very good ones, I’m afraid.  You can get an idea, though, of how pretty the blooms can look when the sun hits them.

muhly grass in bloom

I have a couple of pictures of my cassia tree in bloom I’ll post soon.  Sadly, last night’s wind and rain beat it halfway to the ground.  I hope it will straighten back up as it dries out, but I’m doubtful.  I may have to cut it way back.

Critters In The Garden #3

Florida box turtle

Florida Box Turtle

(Click to zoom)

I was tickled to find a Florida box turtle, which is a subspecies of the eastern box turtle, in my front yard last week.  Florida box turtles tend to have more colorful markings than some of their northern counterparts, as this beauty does.  I think it looks like someone painted flowers on his shell. Or maybe they look like little suns, as drawn by a kindergarten artist.  What do you think?

Florida Box Turtle Shell Patterns

 I think this one  is a male, but will have to double check next time I catch him. I checked online for all the ways to tell the difference, and found that besides the shape of the carapace (top of the shell) and plastron (bottom of the shell), there is a difference in eye color, and tail size and width. 

Because he has a healed injury to his shell, I decided to move him into my fenced in backyard, where he can graze among the flower beds.  I may regret this later, but I don’t think one turtle can do anywhere near the damage the squirrels do daily, so I’m taking my chances.  Besides, it’s just so cute.  You can see the old injury on the front edge of his shell, just below his head in this picture.  (Click to see it full size).

Florida subspecies of eastern box turtle

He seems to be making himself at home out there.  Of course, Potter and Maks found him yesterday and again today.  He pulls inside and shuts his shell down completely, and they bark and poke him with their noses, jumping back instantly as though his shell is red hot.  I don’t think they can hurt him, but I still bring them in every time I see them barking at him.  For his part, as soon as he’s sure they are gone, he comes out and hightails it at a surprisingly high rate of speed…for a turtle, anyway.

Side View Florida Box Turtle

I really like this little guy, and hope he will be okay in my backyard.  I think he’s fairly young, but I will be doing some more research on him.  And I don’t want him to be lonely out there.  May have to look for a companion for him.  Don’t want him to become lovesick and sad.

Critters In The Garden #2

Southern Flying Squirrel

Southern Flying Squirrel

(Did you ever see such a cutie in your life?)

My yard is overrun with grey squirrels.  Probably no fewer than 20 to 25 race around my big trees at times.  They are very clever, and I do admire much about them, but they are big, fat pests at times, too.  I’ve had to go to great lengths to keep them out of my bird feeders, for one thing.  However, there is another group of squirrels living my trees, and until this past summer, I never even knew they were there.  The southern flying squirrel is almost completely nocturnal in its habits, so unless you sit up late at night with a big flashlight close by, watching for movement in the trees or along the ground, you probably wouldn’t know they were in your yard, either.

I knew we had plenty of them in Florida, since I’ve seen them often when canoeing at night, gliding between the trees along the creek and sometimes “flying” across it.  But it never occurred to me that they were also common in our urban landscapes.  I found out differently when  Mark discovered a nest on the ground after a storm, while I was away for the day.  When I got home, he told me he saw a “bug-eyed critter” of some sort scurry away from the nest and climb up the side of a big oak.  And when he looked into the nest, he saw these tiny little baby “things,” which he had no clue about.  As soon as I looked in the nest, I knew they were baby flying squirrels.  The fold of skin that runs from their front legs to their back legs was clearly visible.  They looked a lot like this:

baby flying squirrel

When I volunteered at Florida Audubon many years ago, I hand raised orphan birds squirrels, and other critters by the dozen, but never flying squirrels.  I researched a bit online and found out they were very different from grey squirrels in their needs, and could be very tricky.  Since we could not put the nest back where it came from, I called a local rehab establishment clear across Orlando from us for help. She agreed I shouldn’t try to feed them on my own.  We ended up taking them out to her first thing in the morning, and spent some time watching her feed our little ones, and the other baby flyers she had.  Some of the orphans already being cared for were a bit larger, and so adorable!  They were more like these pictures:

Baby flying squirrel

Baby Flying Squirrel #1

Baby Southern flying squirrel

I can’t tell you how happy I am to know these little guys are around my house.  I’ve thought about waiting up long enough at night to catch them coming out to forage for food, but I’ve never managed to stay awake long enough.  As you can probably tell from the pictures, these guys are MUCH smaller than grey squirrels, and their fur feels very different, too.  It’s silky and soft.  But the most endearing thing is the sweet expression on their faces.  Those enormous eyes, which help them see at night, are so expressive and adorable.  If I weren’t pretty much against making pets out of wildlife, generally–and I didn’t have a house filled with hungry cats and hounds–I’d be sorely tempted to get one.  But I know I won’t.  It’s better for them to live outside and do their thing. 

I have a few more pictures to share with you, and then some links to the websites where I found them.  There is a lot of information available on these interesting animals for those interested in learning more.  One thing I can pass along is that in addition to acorns and other nuts, they also eat insects, and fungi.  In fact, one article says they will come down on the ground and dig up some types of fungi, going down deep to get the entire stem.  I have found evidence of something digging and eating mushrooms in my yard, and now I think I know who the culprit might be.  I wonder if they ever glide down to my grey-squirrel-proof feeders from above and help themselves to sunflower chips.  I hope so!

Flying squirrel

Flying Squirrel in Action

Southern Flying Squirrel

Look at those BIG eyes!

For more info on flying squirrels, check out these interesting sites:

Flying Squirrel Rescue

Southern Flying Squirrel

Hello, Friends!

perennial morning glory vine

Perennial Morning Glory

SO sorry I haven’t updated this blog in a few days.  I haven’t forgotten you, honestly.  I’ve just been really busy with lots of projects, around the house and in the yard.  I’ve also been working on my…ahem!…book.  Yes, I’m finally writing one, and let me tell you, I have a whole new respect for anyone who has gone through this process from beginning to end, and actually produced a book.  Even a BAD book.  It’s HARD, time-consuming work.

But it’s really not an excuse to neglect my blogs as much as I have been, so I’m hereby promising you a post later today.  Probably another one on critters in the garden, just for fun.  And also because not much is blooming right now.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share a picture or two just to make you smile.  Enjoy!

Kitchen Cabinets

Another project that kept me busy.  Painting cabinets and replacing hardware.

I’m much happier now!

white bird of paradise

Found this “bird” on my white bird of paradise last week.

It was hidden in the middle of the plant, and I almost missed it. 

It’s the first bloom in 8 years that I know of.

More Blue In The Garden

abraham darby rose with blue bench

Abraham Darby Rose With Blue Bench

(Click to Zoom)

Roses in central Florida usually bloom all year long, throughout the fall and even the winter.  Abraham Darby is full of buds right now, and I just like how it looks arching over one of my blue benches.

This is the time of year when I remember the PLUS side of gardening in a state that’s so hot in the summer.  Me, thinking:  “Oh, yeah.  That’s right!  We get to garden all winter!”   I will have to try to remember that when I’m trapped inside every year, during sweltering July and steaming August.

It’s still not feeling like fall, here, but it IS starting to cool off a tiny bit at night.  It was 94 degrees Saturday afternoon, though, so I’m going to keep reminding myself every day that I do get to garden all winter.  Since I can’t change the summer temps, I should just be grateful for that, and stop complaining.  A bit.  🙂

Look What Mark Built!

Stacked brick bird bath

My New Brick Birdbath

(Click to Zoom)

After showing Mark the article on using bricks in the garden in that South African e-magazine which featured our pond, we decided we liked the stacked brick birdbath pictured.  We also decided we needed to add a few more birdbaths in our garden, too.  (I’m convinced one can never have too many!)  Since we have enough salvaged brick to build a second house piled here and there in the pot ghetto area of the back yard, we didn’t have to buy a thing!  We also have several stacks of salvaged slate from a demo job in downtown Orlando, too.  So Mark built one of brick and one of slate.  I love both of them, and best of all, since the bricks and slate are just stacked up, they would be easy to relocate or take down completely, if we wanted to make changes.  It only took him about an hour on each one, to be sure every layer was level and neat.  I’m all smiles!

Stacked slate birdbath

(Click to see Full Sized)

This makes at least five birdbaths in my backyard, alone.  How many do YOU have?  Even birds that don’t use feeders need water, and will usually make use of a birdbath, even if it’s just a shallow bowl on the ground.  And watching them bathe is so much fun!