Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mystery Guest

Wasps? Early Sunday evening (not quite dusk) I went out to pick some basil for a meal of tomatoes and buffalo cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I stopped to admire the leek blossoms (aka seed heads), and spied this amorous couple. I ran back in for my camera. The light was a little low, and my hand wasn't very steady, but you get the idea. What are they?

One last Hollyhock:

A late bloomer. Quietly, over against the west wall, face down, hiding modestly in the leaves... some lovely blossoms the color of pink grapefruit. I held back the foliage to get a good look at them.


The hard-necked garlic came, but isn't in yet. Soft-necks backordered still. Laura, formerly of Plants of the Southwest, shrugged. As long as you get them in by October you're fine. (Early? Middle? End?)

This variety is named "Music Pink" - Hmm...


I thought all of the roughly 6 or 8 carnation plants had bloomed, but this past weekend noticed a delicate baby pink one. That's pretty impressive since Gloria's tiny little summer savory exploded into a very handsome small bush and has all but crowded them out for the last month or so.

Spider Who are You?

Spider: Recently we spotted a striking, unfamiliar spider in the sprawling summer savory. Messy web-configuration. Black and yellow with bits of chartreuse. Seems to be harvesting the bees who have recently been attracted by same. At last count, there were two little mummies dangling in her open-air larder.

Equinox whooshing past...

Sleepwalking into the new season:
I don't think anyone even mentioned that it was the equinox. Nobody said, "Happy First Day of Fall!" That seems sad and just plain wrong. Another small danger beacon flashing, a warning that humans in the wealthy industrialized nations are rapidly losing their connections to the planet.

Equinox. I have to look up the images every time, to picture what is happening--distressing since I took a year of astronomy as a freshman. I can picture the cover of the textbook. And remember thinking it was amazing. It has to do with the earth being tilted on its axis, then rotating in a long orbit around the sun right? [Add photo] So we have two days a year when it beats directly on the equator. Equal day and night. And with it, the start of a new season: longer days in for South America and Australia and most of Africa, shorter ones for Iceland and North America, Europe, Russia, Asia. [What is the distribution of folk living above and below the equator? Are we "top-heavy"?]

Equal day and night: I didn't feel very balanced. But I continue feeling intoxicated by the weather, and by all the drama just outside our front door.

The list of observations/ developments/ adventures
over the last 10 is as long as ever...

Weeds - suddenly, everywhere I look the ground is covered with an unseasonable spring green haze: the wild mustard is making a break for it. [Not pictured. I can't bear to record the onslaught...]

Praying Mantises
- At Linda and Teresa's the other night, they spotted a female praying mantis locked in mortal combat with a hefty, olive-brown grasshopper. Yeesh. Godzilla vs. King Kong in slow motion and in miniature. Hard to know who to cheer for... Eventually, Ms Mantis was able to bite through a chink in Mr. Grasshopper's neck armor. It was pretty grisly. We were hungry, so we stopped watching and retreated back into the house. [Is that ironic? Her attempt at a meal made me squeamish, mine seemed "normal"? Another reminder re. why I have been a vegetarian for so many years.]
Re. our Mating Pair, we have been keeping an eye out, hoping to spot the egg case. We found several videos on YouTube, of egg cases and the youngsters hatching. Amazing. [Find links and post them]. I'm not sure we pursued the topic thoroughly enough to find out roughly how long the interval might be between insemination/ fertilization and egg-laying, or between egg-laying and hatching, or what kinds of plants they prefer for depositing the egg case.

Ristra - G made a cute little ristra out of her red chilis. Very handsome. (Hey, that looks like the real thing!)

The uranium enriched sweet potato: we cut and ate it in a curry Friday night. It was 'like the real thing' too! grin. What else is under there?! The literature says to wait until after the first frost kills the vines. (We are sitting on our hands, I'll tell you that.) Gloria is already talking about trying some white potatoes next year.

Planting Bulbs:
Our big effort this past weekend was planting daffodils and small irises Sunday afternoon. G bought a big bag of each at the budget box store... so 80 irises, 90 daffies. Planted all the irises, and 2/3rds of the daffies. "There's a lot of hope out there..."

Gloria's fall bed: She thinks these are broccoli and cauliflower babies. I laid down on the ground next to them to take their picture. There are so many different vantage points in this life, aren't there?

Raised bed: Sunday afternoon G chopped out the yellow pear plant. It was looking wilty. Hard to believe that the entire bed was completely buried by just 2 plants! The Mexican midget variety (little cherry reds) still left takes up 2/3rd by itself. On the whole, we have felt overwhelmed by our tomato friends this season. But, note to self, they are less intimidating if given plenty of room. We had a couple of volunteers from my blue tub urban tomatoes of last season. They came along 6 weeks later than TJohansen's 'hothouse' wonders. We stuck these mystery plants in the ground near the west wall and more or less ignored them. They ended up being a weird yellow pear/ cherry mix--waxy yellow and round, and very tasty. Another note to self: none of our cages were big or sturdy enough. I put stakes and rope in this weekend, to help these guys stand back up. [One last photo--the coxcomb--is something of a non sequitur. Just didn't know where to put it this week. But couldn't leave it out. We continue to gape at it... it is such a strange, lush, exotic being--we'll give it 'the last word...']

Thursday, September 17, 2009

60 gallons plus!

We bought ourselves a water harvesting barrel... a real luxury. And as these things go, I figured we had missed monsoon season--that it wouldn't really be of use until 2010. But starting last night, and continuing today, we have been getting rain/rain/rain! Glorious rain. Surprising rain. Rain and clouds -- the penultimate contrast to every other day. Puddles?! Mudholes. Slickers. Spring-loaded umbrellas. Windshield wipers slapping. Hair curling humidity. Yummm! My desert rat girlfriend had nightmares... she was trying to find travel crates for our pets and load everyone into a canoe to escape the flood. Can you see four cats and 2 dogs bobbing along, not tipping the craft?!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ancient Human Activities: harvesting fruit, dancing and making art

Picked raspberries at Heidi's Raspberry Farm today!

Then went downtown to Robinson Park to see the gigantic puppet parade. We Art the People. Off Center Arts. Wish I had taken some pictures, but I was too excited by the whole experience to be bothered with snapping.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mating Mantis Mania

Over Labor Day Weekend, while watering, Gloria spotted a praying mantis in the butterfly bush. She called for me to come quickly. And as we looked more carefully and chased it around with various cameras, we gradually realized this was a female carrying her sex partner on her back--copulating. Their sexual liaison bordered on grotesque, since the male had inserted a section of his entire abdomen into hers. Coitus with a fire hose. This reminded us of the Green Porn video short (didn't she say the female sometimes eats the male afterwards?!)

It turns out their joining was not particularly hurried. We continued to check on them (and they--in roughly the same position) for more than an hour before we lost interest. In the meanwhile, I spotted a second individual on the same bush. Another green (the 2nd photo here). Are the sexes color coded? Was this second mantis a jealous male? A juvenile bothering mom at an inopportune time? A female hoping to catch some action after big Bertha was satisfied?

And if we were seeing copulation, what might happen next? Will she lay eggs? Where? When? (How might we recognize them?) And roughly what is their life span?

Hummingbirds. Dirty Dishes.

Early in the summer [what date?], we put up a hummingbird feeder under the trees along the front of the house. We lamented that there were only a couple of birds who condescended to come by... then late in the summer when the band from Mexico came north, there was a lot more activity, including lots of aerial dog-fighting.

Last week, G found that feeders were in the summer sale pile at the home fix-it store, so she got a second one. It is terribly cute--looks like a flying saucer. She hung it right outside the kitchen window. It has been very popular, almost from the moment she put it up. Though they hover and stare in the window. They aren't sure they trust us... they hover in this oddly confrontational fashion, tail/rudders flipping side to side. As much as I have enjoyed the first feeder, this kitchen window viewing platform is fabulous! You can even spot them from our little dining room table sometimes (across the room).

I will try to get a photo showing these flitting fairy wonders before they all start winging south. Linda and Teresa, who live closer to the university, have had scores and scores of hummers all summer. Over dinner last night, they said they thought the numbers had dwindled noticeably. They also think that they are now seeing transients. Shy skittish birds stopping off for a quick bite on their journey. Linda saw her first specimen with a black hood. The same variety who was our only regular customer in north valley for most of the summer. Before the Mexican Reds blasted into town (late July? early August?). Anecdotal evidence on all of our parts of course. But interesting.

Color and spice

Status update: The Carnations
Wonder how long it has been from seed to splendor? The carnation starts Linda gave me in Dixie cups at the start of the summer are now at their lovely, pungent peak! Sprays of red, salmon pink and cream.

Plant them here/ plant them there...
They have done much better in the pot than their sisters in the flower bed behind them. Those were smaller and slower to bloom, though a week or so ago we had the first--a white. I have been a little bit disappointed in that the individual blooms don't last very long, and the stems tend to droop down, making it harder to admire the blossoms. That being said, I am enjoying them mightily.

Sweet Potatoes

Oh Yummy Onions!