Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Wildlife Wednesday March 2019: The Squirrel's Tale

It's Wildlife Wednesday and for March 2019 we have a garden mystery solved.

My curiosity was piqued when I spotted a number of freshly trimmed green-leaved oak twigs on the ground.  Dropped branches and twigs typically turn brown before the wind or age takes them out.  But not these.


It took several weeks to identify the perp as a Fox squirrel newly moved in among the oaks above our deck.


I had heard her chattering whenever we went outside.


She also fussed at the cat daily.  The cat didn't care.


She has definitely taken over the territory.


Those twigs on the ground were the product of nest building.  She scampered along the limbs to a suitable twig and gnawed around it with her teeth.


After acquiring the twig she ran back along the branch and climbed high into the tree to add it to her nest.  (She's camera shy so I couldn't get a good shot of her with a twig.)  If the twig dropped along the way she just started over leaving the lost twig on the ground below.  From the looks of all the dropped twigs, I think she must have lost half of them.


We had fun observing all this activity.  It's been a while since we've had squirrels in the garden.  Both male and female squirrels build the nest though I'm pretty sure we mostly saw the female.


Apparently squirrels can damage trees by chewing bark although we won't miss a few small twigs.

Last month I showed our squirrel friend going after the bird feeder.


She broke the dome (it was brittle from the sun) and we need a replacement.  In the meantime we decided to try recycling plastic bottles.  She managed to get down the wire but couldn't perch on the feeder with the new topper there.  So she decided to go back up--not so easy.  She caught her head inside the top piece and tried to push it up.  After a short time she dropped to railing below and scampered off.


We haven't seen her at the feeder since!


"You lookin' at me?"


In deer news, the Whitetail bucks will drop their antlers ahead of new fawns arriving this spring.  Would love to find these on the ground.  It's not easy since they often drop antlers in the brush and smaller mammals will haul them off to chew for mineral content.


Wildlife Wednesday is hosted by Tina at "My gardener says..." on the first Wednesday of each month.  You can read more about wildlife in the garden by checking out the comments on her blog or, even better, participate by posting about wildlife in your own garden.



Friday, February 22, 2019

Another day in the garden?

Just us sitting around the kitchen table....


.....with a TV crew and mics on!

Photo by Steve Maedl

We made our garden available to PBS show Central Texas Gardener (CTG) on short notice due to a cancellation.  It was one busy day because a freeze the night before had us running around covering and uncovering plants.  Since the temps were barely above freezing the interview (which is normally conducted outdoors) was obviously moved indoors to the kitchen with my favorite view of trees through the back window.  We put on the coffee and I somehow found time to make a coffee cake (mix) to welcome the crew.  Ed Fuentes, director of Central Texas Gardener (CTG) is Technical Director at Austin City Limits and also does the location camera work for CTG.  Producer Linda Lehmusvirta is across the table doing our interview.

Ed on the porch, Photo by Linda Lehmusvirts

The "Bottle Branch" was inspired by Lori in Austin whose garden I visited in 2017.  (Note: The branch was already dead.)

My view of Ed on the porch.  It was cold out there!



Steve Maedl worked with Ed.  Steve is originally from a cold climate so he looks remarkably comfortable.


With our appearance on Central Texas Gardener airing this weekend I thought it would be fun to give you a bit of background on the tour.

In addition to short notice we had to put many plants under cover and then run around replacing them as the temperature dropped below freezing.  Some plants like begonias and orchids remained indoors so the usually full outdoor shelves were a bit bare.  What you see on the video is pretty much how my garden looked if you had stopped by unexpectedly on that day in early November.

Check out the CTG video here:



Like most gardeners, I kept thinking how much better the garden would have looked had they arrived a few weeks earlier in October.  Through my blog I can take you back in time to my October garden tour post.

In front it all looks pretty much the same year round.


The back garden is a different story with many perennials that die back.  Fortunately our plants behaved for a few hours just long enough to get enough on camera.  The light was terrible with bright cloudless sunlight piercing deep shade.   Linda and crew did a great job.  Still I couldn't help but think how it all looked just a few days earlier.

Linda's photo of the tank garden


That same view just a few weeks earlier!



I've known producer Linda Lehmusvirta for a number of years so I (mostly) stayed out of the way and trusted she would work her magic.  And she did.  We loved the resulting CTG on tour segment!

I'll give a few examples of areas we discussed in the interview.  I like to soften the spikiness and rocks with native perennials, wildflowers and grasses.


Wildflowers and spikiness.  Here I give credit to friend and fellow blogger David Cristiani of "It's a Dry Heat."    If there's one thing I forgot to say in the interview it was that these wildflowers volunteered themselves.  Once we decided to put out the welcome mat, wildflowers started to appear on their own.



I mentioned those evergreen bright blooming Damianita replacing Lantana which dies back and looks terrible in winter.  Here they are in full bloom a few months ago.


Two years ago I pulled out a ton of messy liriope and planted sedges.  That's Berkeley Sedge on the left of the path and locally native Webberville Sedge on the right.  They look very close in texture so it works.  This stuff takes a long time to fill in!


How we built our Texas style shed from scratch is outlined in this post which has become one of my most popular posts.  No surprise there because when we went looking for how to build our own shed we couldn't find much help online.  So there may be a lot of copies out there -- glad we could help!


We talked about our deck renovation and you can find our deck "Before and After" here.  That's native Ironweed and Turk's Cap in the bed along the deck.


To learn more about our vintage D'Hanis brick walkway, check out this post.


If you'd like to know more about our landscape process my  "Zeroscape" post shows how we got started.


We even recruited our neighbor Karen Guz of SAWS to do the studio interview!  She is such a pro.



It was so much fun hosting the CTG crew and absolutely love how the show turned out.  Thank you Linda, Ed and Steve!

Linda's blog post on our garden and the show is at this link.  I'll need to read it again because I was overwhelmed with her beautiful photos and text.




Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wildlife Wednesday February 2019

Good morning Fox!  Does he know our name is Fox?  Or is that Foxes meet Fox?  We have several fox families living along the creek behind our house and despite the reddish coloring they are known as Gray foxes.  They do love to climb trees.

It's Wildlife Wednesday and I'm joining Tina at "My gardener says..." to share a roundup of wildlife on this first Wednesday of February.


Just a few feet from the back door and these photos were taken through the window from inside.  They are curious and generally friendly.  Kitty is hunkered down under the table so she's not taking any chances.


When she's not hiding from the foxes, Kitty is keeping an eye on our new resident Ms. Squirrel who has figured out how to defeat the bird feeder baffle which eventually broke off and will need to be replaced.


An anole was just getting warmed up first thing one morning.  It's not unusual this time of year to find immobilized lizards in the chill morning air.  I was surprised to note it is darker brown and rougher in texture than the usual Carolina anole we see.  After some research it's possible this is an invasive brown anole arrived from Cuba by way of Florida.  There are reports that they crowd out our adorable native Carolina anoles.  That would be a disappointment as I love watching our anoles in summer.


We are hosting Caracaras again this year.  Their habit of walking around when hunting is quite surprising as there are plenty of predators back there.


I often post about the deer we fenced out several years ago.  The photos mostly show one are two deer standing still.  This month I have captured the herd of marauders in the act on video so you can get an idea how they can be so destructive.  Note one is trying to grab vegetation through the fence!


Check Tina's blog for her discussion of native plants for birds and more Wildlife Wednesday posts.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Moment for Wildlife Wednesday January 2019

I almost missed this amazing wildlife moment.

On the weekend before Christmas I attended a family event with my cousins in Houston.  To avoid driving back in the dark I stayed at my sister's home in a rural area outside the small town of Chappell Hill, Texas.  It was dusk when I pulled into their drive intending to grab my stuff and head inside.  Fortunately I heard a sound which caused me to turn around and look.


Hawks!  Possibly a hundred or more roosting in a row of trees highlighted by sunset.  All those dots in the trees are hawks and even the tree on the far left is filled with them.  This behavior is known as "communal roosting" and it is common among smaller birds like starlings.  Very little information is available regarding communal roosting on this scale for larger territorial hunters like Hawks and Eagles.  While I was not certain they were hawks that evening I did observe many hawks hunting over the nearby fields the next morning.

My still photos did not turn out well due to darkness but I did get several videos with audio of the gentle flapping sound that alerted me to this spectacular moment.



Then I moved a little closer





As we head into 2019 I wish for more moments like this.

Wildlife Wednesday is hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says...." on the first Wednesday of each month where you will find more blogger's wildlife posts linked in the comments section.  Today she shares her memories of a stunning photo from space which made us all stop and see our planet in a different way some years ago.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy 2019

2019 could be "the year."  Meaning it looks like we'll be on bloom watch for the huge Agave ovatifolia which has anchored the front landscaping for nearly a decade, and presented an opportunity for decorating during the holiday season.


At 6' diameter this silvery agave has grown well past the advertised standard 4' range to reach its known maximum width.  The middle has noticeably thickened in the last year or so.  This spring will mark nine years in the garden and I'd estimate it was five years old when planted in 2010.  Agaves can live longer than 15 years but we've had a lot of rain recently which has forced blooms in many agaves around town.  


Shortly after beginning my blog in 2011 I had the bright idea to drape blue lights on the agave.  Two strands of 60 LED lights covered its three foot diameter and it made a nice photo.  


I've decorated it with blue lights every year since.  For several years I used blue and white snowflake lights for fun while thinking I would never see real snow in December.  The joke turned real in our bizarre early December 2017 snowfall.

The snowflake lights quit working shortly after the big snow so I switched to fairy lights.   This year I needed three 10m strands of 100 fairy lights which works out to over 90ft of lights!  Could it be the last year for this agave and that many lights?

Not to worry though, I have one in waiting, about three feet diameter.  Cue Lion King circle of life....


The original arrived with a rare pup tucked (the one shown above) down among the roots.  We carefully removed and nurtured it the last eight years or so.  A few years ago we moved it to full sun so it will be ready just in case.  Obviously smaller at this point, it is larger than the original when we planted it and I'm sure this baby will grow into the beauty its parent has been.


No point in being blue about it.  As disappointing as it will be, Agave bloom watch for 2019 (or hopefully later) is the realistic view.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

On this Merry Christmas Night!

A little Christmas fun.  The train belonged to my parents.  One thing led to another and so we ended up with a Christmas village and train beneath the tree in the kitchen.  The tree is decorated with cookie cutters--some quite old, some new.


Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!  Woo-Woo!