thanate: (bluehair)
A few years ago, I put out peanut feeders and only got native birds. Then I added sunflower seeds in hopes of seeing something else, and while I do occasionally get goldfinches (yay!) I also get all the house finches (invasives from the other coast) & house sparrows (little english jobbies that are now invasive just about everywhere). They even come to the peanut feeders.

We refilled the peanut feeder on the deck on Christmas, and there were cold puffy sparrows mobbing it this afternoon, and then I looked out and discovered that one of them had got his head stuck in the hook that holds the feeder onto the porch. I have no idea how, but his neck slid too far down between two 1/2" steel bars, & he was futilely pushing with both feet and a wing trying to get out.

I was on the phone with my mother at the time, so I lifted him back out one-handed, told him he was an idiot, and did not attempt to put the phone down to snap his neck (the textbook recommended form of most humane sparrowcide.) He was very polite about it, too; not visibly afraid, just stared up at the big scary creature who was holding his entire body in one hand, and then fluttered down to the ground long enough to straighten out his flight feathers before departing.

I'm still both utterly amazed at the idiocy, and trying to decide if not dispatching a sparrow while I had the chance is compromising my principles or not. On the one hand, invasive bird gangs; on the other, killing things shouldn't be comfortable.

Xposty from dreamwidth.
thanate: (bluehair)
A few years ago, I put out peanut feeders and only got native birds. Then I added sunflower seeds in hopes of seeing something else, and while I do occasionally get goldfinches (yay!) I also get all the house finches (invasives from the other coast) & house sparrows (little english jobbies that are now invasive just about everywhere). They even come to the peanut feeders.

We refilled the peanut feeder on the deck on Christmas, and there were cold puffy sparrows mobbing it this afternoon, and then I looked out and discovered that one of them had got his head stuck in the hook that holds the feeder onto the porch. I have no idea how, but his neck slid too far down between two 1/2" steel bars, & he was futilely pushing with both feet and a wing trying to get out.

I was on the phone with my mother at the time, so I lifted him back out one-handed, told him he was an idiot, and did not attempt to put the phone down to snap his neck (the textbook recommended form of most humane sparrowcide.) He was very polite about it, too; not visibly afraid, just stared up at the big scary creature who was holding his entire body in one hand, and then fluttered down to the ground long enough to straighten out his flight feathers before departing.

I'm still both utterly amazed at the idiocy, and trying to decide if not dispatching a sparrow while I had the chance is compromising my principles or not. On the one hand, invasive bird gangs; on the other, killing things shouldn't be comfortable.
thanate: (bluehair)
I had a ridiculously stressful dream last night in which grauwulf decided we were moving to some place in western Maryland with a house on a small lake that he was trying to convince me was better because it was twice as big, despite the neighbors having paved over their entire lakefront edge. And just as I was sort of getting resigned to the idea (or at least doing some research to figure out what the local amenities were) he up and said, no, we had to move to Detroit for work. (In real life, his company is in Baltimore.) And there we were looking at this weird rectangular tower building that was kind of like a small apartment complex, only supposedly a single family home, and I was desperately trying to think if I knew *anyone* even remotely close to Detroit when I woke up. I have been trying to convince myself all day that actually, nobody I know has any desire to move to Detroit.

---

It was a glorious day yesterday, and we were out in the yard for a bit after naptime when the robins started chirping their little heads off around the quince-I-think bush where there's a nest. I went over to see what the fuss was about, and discovered a black rat snake with its head in the nest, eating eggs. I saw the lump of at least one going down its throat.

This is the essential problem of wildlife gardening: at some point, you'll be called upon to pick whose side you're on.

In this case, this or some other batch of robins had already lost one nest-full (which they *may* have made in the gutter, based on the fact that one of the two splatted egg w/ most of a nestlings we found was on the back porch) and the snake had definitely already gotten at least one of the eggs. Also, I am prone to meddling. So I pulled the snake's head out of the nest, and peeked in to confirm that there was at least one egg left. The snake, tail still coiled firmly in the bush, stared at me for a bit and then headed off into the azaleas. (At this point the Megatherium had climbed up the steps to the porch and wanted me to go let her inside, so I wasn't inclined to further snake wrangling.)

Four or five robins, a mockingbird, a house sparrow, and possibly another bird or two danced about on the fence & bush tops yelling for several minutes thereafter, presumably until the snake departed. Then one of the robins began chasing off the mockingbird, so presumably that was the end of the excitement, and Ms Robin returned to her nest.

The moral of this story is that if we ever find someone who will return our calls so we can pay them to build a larger back deck, I will be putting up nesting shelters suitable for robins & mourning doves. They'll continue to ignore them and nest where the snakes can get them, but at least I'll have tried. (I like snakes. I want them to eat rodents & decrease the tick population, not go after birds' eggs. So picky.)

Xposty from dreamwidth.
thanate: (bluehair)
I had a ridiculously stressful dream last night in which grauwulf decided we were moving to some place in western Maryland with a house on a small lake that he was trying to convince me was better because it was twice as big, despite the neighbors having paved over their entire lakefront edge. And just as I was sort of getting resigned to the idea (or at least doing some research to figure out what the local amenities were) he up and said, no, we had to move to Detroit for work. (In real life, his company is in Baltimore.) And there we were looking at this weird rectangular tower building that was kind of like a small apartment complex, only supposedly a single family home, and I was desperately trying to think if I knew *anyone* even remotely close to Detroit when I woke up. I have been trying to convince myself all day that actually, nobody I know has any desire to move to Detroit.

---

It was a glorious day yesterday, and we were out in the yard for a bit after naptime when the robins started chirping their little heads off around the quince-I-think bush where there's a nest. I went over to see what the fuss was about, and discovered a black rat snake with its head in the nest, eating eggs. I saw the lump of at least one going down its throat.

This is the essential problem of wildlife gardening: at some point, you'll be called upon to pick whose side you're on.

In this case, this or some other batch of robins had already lost one nest-full (which they *may* have made in the gutter, based on the fact that one of the two splatted egg w/ most of a nestlings we found was on the back porch) and the snake had definitely already gotten at least one of the eggs. Also, I am prone to meddling. So I pulled the snake's head out of the nest, and peeked in to confirm that there was at least one egg left. The snake, tail still coiled firmly in the bush, stared at me for a bit and then headed off into the azaleas. (At this point the Megatherium had climbed up the steps to the porch and wanted me to go let her inside, so I wasn't inclined to further snake wrangling.)

Four or five robins, a mockingbird, a house sparrow, and possibly another bird or two danced about on the fence & bush tops yelling for several minutes thereafter, presumably until the snake departed. Then one of the robins began chasing off the mockingbird, so presumably that was the end of the excitement, and Ms Robin returned to her nest.

The moral of this story is that if we ever find someone who will return our calls so we can pay them to build a larger back deck, I will be putting up nesting shelters suitable for robins & mourning doves. They'll continue to ignore them and nest where the snakes can get them, but at least I'll have tried. (I like snakes. I want them to eat rodents & decrease the tick population, not go after birds' eggs. So picky.)
thanate: (bluehair)
We have a hummingbird moth. It looks somewhat like a fluffy flying lobster, has been visiting the front garden for at least a couple weeks now, and has finally been caught on pixels. Practically in focus, even.





Xposty from dreamwidth.
thanate: (bluehair)
We have a hummingbird moth. It looks somewhat like a fluffy flying lobster, has been visiting the front garden for at least a couple weeks now, and has finally been caught on pixels. Practically in focus, even.



thanate: (bluehair)
I've spent a bunch of the last week or so reading books & avoiding my computer. Not deliberately or anything; I just plugged it in up in the loft, and then didn't go up to visit it. Anyway, the bedroom windowsills are finally actually finished & installed, instead of just cut out. I opted not to resand & third-coat them, on the grounds that windowsills designed to be wide enough to hold cats or tea mugs are probably better off not being silky-smooth.

I went down to the Green Spring Garden Day last weekend and got a bunch of things including a baby birch tree of the sort that I could hypothetically make birch beer from when it gets big enough. (Betula lenta) I put it in along the side yard in what was probably the worst soil in the yard when grauwulf bought the place (um, with the possible exception of the back marsh which is pretty much a fine layer of awesome soil mixed with gravel, over gravel & cinder block bits. The cattails are thriving in it.) and discovered that three years of leaf mulching, planting stuff, and application of mycorrhizial slow-release fertilizer has turned it from dry clay & gravel to something dark and moist and really quite lovely. It's so nice when this garden stuff actually works the way it's supposed to.

Of course, I also put in the poor long-suffering persimmon tree in a nice large hole in the ghastly compacted post-construction crap, so I really hope it'll be ok when it gets to the edge of the amended bit. At least it didn't immediately begin looking miserable the way it did the last time I tried to plant it, so that's a good start. Now I am trying to pull out the periwinkle around the base of the main oak tree and replace it with creeping phlox, and the oaks are bombing us with acorns. They bounce and roll quite impressively off the new bedroom roof, particularly in the middle of the night.

We continue to get back promising results on the various baby pre-screenings. I haven't felt the kid move yet (though she obviously does quite a bit of it, at least during the ultrasounds) but I've noticed my body temperature go up recently-- whether actual or perceived I'm not sure. Progress is also being made on the baby quilt top; I've been taking pictures, but they're still all on the camera. Quilt piecing is one of those subsets of sewing in which there's even more "and now this is the boring part" than usual-- but once you've assembly-lined all the cutting & partial piecing you also have a point where suddenly everything turns from odd shapes into pattern in a very few seams.

I had a thinky post about parenting with regards to girls in particular which may re-emerge at some point, but at present perhaps I should go look up how to do the rose-motif thing I want for the quilt center.

Xposty from dreamwidth.
thanate: (bluehair)
I've spent a bunch of the last week or so reading books & avoiding my computer. Not deliberately or anything; I just plugged it in up in the loft, and then didn't go up to visit it. Anyway, the bedroom windowsills are finally actually finished & installed, instead of just cut out. I opted not to resand & third-coat them, on the grounds that windowsills designed to be wide enough to hold cats or tea mugs are probably better off not being silky-smooth.

I went down to the Green Spring Garden Day last weekend and got a bunch of things including a baby birch tree of the sort that I could hypothetically make birch beer from when it gets big enough. (Betula lenta) I put it in along the side yard in what was probably the worst soil in the yard when grauwulf bought the place (um, with the possible exception of the back marsh which is pretty much a fine layer of awesome soil mixed with gravel, over gravel & cinder block bits. The cattails are thriving in it.) and discovered that three years of leaf mulching, planting stuff, and application of mycorrhizial slow-release fertilizer has turned it from dry clay & gravel to something dark and moist and really quite lovely. It's so nice when this garden stuff actually works the way it's supposed to.

Of course, I also put in the poor long-suffering persimmon tree in a nice large hole in the ghastly compacted post-construction crap, so I really hope it'll be ok when it gets to the edge of the amended bit. At least it didn't immediately begin looking miserable the way it did the last time I tried to plant it, so that's a good start. Now I am trying to pull out the periwinkle around the base of the main oak tree and replace it with creeping phlox, and the oaks are bombing us with acorns. They bounce and roll quite impressively off the new bedroom roof, particularly in the middle of the night.

We continue to get back promising results on the various baby pre-screenings. I haven't felt the kid move yet (though she obviously does quite a bit of it, at least during the ultrasounds) but I've noticed my body temperature go up recently-- whether actual or perceived I'm not sure. Progress is also being made on the baby quilt top; I've been taking pictures, but they're still all on the camera. Quilt piecing is one of those subsets of sewing in which there's even more "and now this is the boring part" than usual-- but once you've assembly-lined all the cutting & partial piecing you also have a point where suddenly everything turns from odd shapes into pattern in a very few seams.

I had a thinky post about parenting with regards to girls in particular which may re-emerge at some point, but at present perhaps I should go look up how to do the rose-motif thing I want for the quilt center.
thanate: (ragamuffin)
...and then (yesterday afternoon) this happened:

Baby wren #1, investigating that place where the food comes from.


Falling! )

Baby wrens on the ground disappear very nicely, except for the cheeping:


Oddly enough, though, one of the parents is feeding someone in the birdhouse this afternoon. I don't know if this is a seventh slight latebloomer, or if they decided the nest was a good place to hang out in the heat of the day. They were wandering about the back garden en masse this morning, enjoying the aftermath of the giant thunderstorm from last night. (We had rain! 0.4" of it! (which is, sadly, more than we've had in about a month and a half) And crazy winds which did not knock over any of our trees, and I have a nice full pond again. Classy. The frogs are pleased.)

Xposty from dreamwidth.
thanate: (ragamuffin)
...and then (yesterday afternoon) this happened:

Baby wren #1, investigating that place where the food comes from.


Falling! )

Baby wrens on the ground disappear very nicely, except for the cheeping:


Oddly enough, though, one of the parents is feeding someone in the birdhouse this afternoon. I don't know if this is a seventh slight latebloomer, or if they decided the nest was a good place to hang out in the heat of the day. They were wandering about the back garden en masse this morning, enjoying the aftermath of the giant thunderstorm from last night. (We had rain! 0.4" of it! (which is, sadly, more than we've had in about a month and a half) And crazy winds which did not knock over any of our trees, and I have a nice full pond again. Classy. The frogs are pleased.)
thanate: (ragamuffin)
This was yesterday morning:


"La, la, la!" (except that often when they are doing this they're not making any noise at all.)

baby wrens are ridiculous! )

Also, the doves are watching you:


Xposty from dreamwidth.
thanate: (ragamuffin)
This was yesterday morning:


"La, la, la!" (except that often when they are doing this they're not making any noise at all.)

baby wrens are ridiculous! )

Also, the doves are watching you:
thanate: (bluehair)

Rare sighting of Mrs. House Wren, poking her head out of the birdhouse.

wrens & ponds & things: )

Xposty from dreamwidth.
thanate: (bluehair)

Rare sighting of Mrs. House Wren, poking her head out of the birdhouse.

wrens & ponds & things: )
thanate: (Default)
Butterfly weed (milkweed family, great feeder of monarch butterflies) with hidden lightning bug:



more blooming things including exciting alien flowers! )

Xposty from dreamwidth.
thanate: (Default)
Butterfly weed (milkweed family, great feeder of monarch butterflies) with hidden lightning bug:



more blooming things including exciting alien flowers! )
thanate: (bluehair)
Some year or other I will actually post pictures as I take them. This spring was not it; therefore there will be three of this post.


Ms Froggy! (photo taken May 18) It's not particularly clear in this picture, but she is a female Northern Green Frog, which I could tell because a) her tympanium (the big round spot below the eye, here obscured by a root) is smaller than her eye (same size or smaller is female, larger is male) and she has a pair of "dorsilateral ridges" running from behind her eyes down her back. (If she didn't have those, she would be a young bullfrog.) At this point she's got a pondmate who I haven't managed to get a good look at, so I don't know if they're two alike or what.

pond, snail, edibles, & sundrops )

Xposty from dreamwidth.
thanate: (bluehair)
Some year or other I will actually post pictures as I take them. This spring was not it; therefore there will be three of this post.


Ms Froggy! (photo taken May 18) It's not particularly clear in this picture, but she is a female Northern Green Frog, which I could tell because a) her tympanium (the big round spot below the eye, here obscured by a root) is smaller than her eye (same size or smaller is female, larger is male) and she has a pair of "dorsilateral ridges" running from behind her eyes down her back. (If she didn't have those, she would be a young bullfrog.) At this point she's got a pondmate who I haven't managed to get a good look at, so I don't know if they're two alike or what.

pond, snail, edibles, & sundrops )
thanate: (bluehair)
The last speaker at the Lahr Symposium (Thomas Rainer of Grounded Design) had an interesting talk about the disconnect between lawn service people and native plant people, and ways in which to try to bridge it. I am terrible about this sort of thing; I completely fail at contagious enthusiasm, to the extent of just not talking about things I might have to explain to "normal people." This goes for plants, environmental stuff, fencing, the SCA, dolls, sewing, knitting, writing fantasy... pretty much anything interesting I do I'm unlikely to bring up in conversation with strangers because I hate that blank look and the need for a two-sentence explanation on the fly. Generally I regard this as a Bad Thing, but I haven't worked out much of how to get over it, and it leaves me doing things like blinking bemusedly at people who say, "oh, I don't like native plants!" (er, how can you just say that categorically?) and completely failing to give what might be good gardening advice to people who express a desire to *have* gardening advice, but are thinking in a tidy-little-neighborhood HOA context.

I've added a "garden" tag, and am attempting to resolve to do a little more talking about these things I think are important, and make them a little more accessible. We'll see how that bit goes, but at very least it'll be good as a spiritual exercise on my part.

According to Mr Rainer, the lawn-service public sees native plant people as weed-growing hippies, and therefore all "their" plants as only suitable for weedy-looking unplanned gardens. This rather ties in with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's experience; they began with meadows and natural habitats, but eventually had to put in formal garden designs as well (not that this is a bad thing...) to keep visitors from being upset by the lack of "gardens." (Incidentally, I recommend visiting there if you're ever in the Austen, TX area; they're pretty cool.) Now, after spending a few months flipping through library garden books, I can tell you that I'm a fan of the semi-untidy English Garden look, with riots of color and odd bits of statuary buried in it, so I am perhaps not the best person to present alternate garden ideas to people who like a tidy landscape. But sometimes it takes another voice at the right moment, and on the whole even if I'm one of those voices that came before so that someone is ready to hear the right voice, that's ok by me.

In any case, there's a lot of good stuff on the grounded design blog: a series on unhelpful myths about native plants (ie, "you can't use them in formal arrangements" or "they don't need watering"-- great until you put a wetland species in the middle of your dry border); another series about landscaping with perennials, including how you actually get them to the point of looking good; for the gawker, there's also a gallery of stupid landscaper tricks. I suspect I'll be poking around at the backlog of this for a while, because I keep turning up things I'm finding interesting and potentially useful.

My main take-away from the talk, though, was the idea of design principles that take a space from scanning as "forest floor, unplanned" to "somebody put this here." Admittedly, I didn't greatly care for most of his examples, but the ideas are fairly sound. Pick a "look" and then, instead of trying to slide in everything in the plant community you're being inspired by, pick two or three main plants to work with, and then plant masses of them. Make it look like you meant it, not just like you're collecting a plant here and another one there. This, of course, could apply to any planting design, but I'm presently using it in my maze design, and trying to curb my meadow-ish border plans so I don't end up with more swamp milkweed squashed between the giant aster of giantness and the mad beebalm, as the front garden seems to have this year. (In fact, the swamp milkweed hasn't even come up yet, poor thing.)

Xposty from dreamwidth.
thanate: (bluehair)
The last speaker at the Lahr Symposium (Thomas Rainer of Grounded Design) had an interesting talk about the disconnect between lawn service people and native plant people, and ways in which to try to bridge it. I am terrible about this sort of thing; I completely fail at contagious enthusiasm, to the extent of just not talking about things I might have to explain to "normal people." This goes for plants, environmental stuff, fencing, the SCA, dolls, sewing, knitting, writing fantasy... pretty much anything interesting I do I'm unlikely to bring up in conversation with strangers because I hate that blank look and the need for a two-sentence explanation on the fly. Generally I regard this as a Bad Thing, but I haven't worked out much of how to get over it, and it leaves me doing things like blinking bemusedly at people who say, "oh, I don't like native plants!" (er, how can you just say that categorically?) and completely failing to give what might be good gardening advice to people who express a desire to *have* gardening advice, but are thinking in a tidy-little-neighborhood HOA context.

I've added a "garden" tag, and am attempting to resolve to do a little more talking about these things I think are important, and make them a little more accessible. We'll see how that bit goes, but at very least it'll be good as a spiritual exercise on my part.

According to Mr Rainer, the lawn-service public sees native plant people as weed-growing hippies, and therefore all "their" plants as only suitable for weedy-looking unplanned gardens. This rather ties in with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's experience; they began with meadows and natural habitats, but eventually had to put in formal garden designs as well (not that this is a bad thing...) to keep visitors from being upset by the lack of "gardens." (Incidentally, I recommend visiting there if you're ever in the Austen, TX area; they're pretty cool.) Now, after spending a few months flipping through library garden books, I can tell you that I'm a fan of the semi-untidy English Garden look, with riots of color and odd bits of statuary buried in it, so I am perhaps not the best person to present alternate garden ideas to people who like a tidy landscape. But sometimes it takes another voice at the right moment, and on the whole even if I'm one of those voices that came before so that someone is ready to hear the right voice, that's ok by me.

In any case, there's a lot of good stuff on the grounded design blog: a series on unhelpful myths about native plants (ie, "you can't use them in formal arrangements" or "they don't need watering"-- great until you put a wetland species in the middle of your dry border); another series about landscaping with perennials, including how you actually get them to the point of looking good; for the gawker, there's also a gallery of stupid landscaper tricks. I suspect I'll be poking around at the backlog of this for a while, because I keep turning up things I'm finding interesting and potentially useful.

My main take-away from the talk, though, was the idea of design principles that take a space from scanning as "forest floor, unplanned" to "somebody put this here." Admittedly, I didn't greatly care for most of his examples, but the ideas are fairly sound. Pick a "look" and then, instead of trying to slide in everything in the plant community you're being inspired by, pick two or three main plants to work with, and then plant masses of them. Make it look like you meant it, not just like you're collecting a plant here and another one there. This, of course, could apply to any planting design, but I'm presently using it in my maze design, and trying to curb my meadow-ish border plans so I don't end up with more swamp milkweed squashed between the giant aster of giantness and the mad beebalm, as the front garden seems to have this year. (In fact, the swamp milkweed hasn't even come up yet, poor thing.)

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