Friday, July 31, 2009

Don't You Wish You Were an Insomniac?

Look at all the stuff you miss while you are sleeping!

Critters eating my tomatoes! I went out yesterday and picked a colander full of almost-but-not-quite-ripe tomats. This is what was left after I shared the bounty with Kent, who was kind enough to let me put a 4 x 4 raised bed in his sunny site.

Purple Princes, who are living up to their name, and Brandywines, who are almost the same colour, just a little different in shape. The Tiny Tims and Sweet Millions are red, there's a yellow pear tomato in there somewhere, a couple of green pepper and a few burgundy bush beans.

I wanted to leave the tomatoes on the vine until they were really ripe, but as soon as they get a day or two from "really ripe" some critter eats them. Anybody have a double-barreled shotgun? I've about had it with this thief.

But the spectacular thing you are missing while you sleep is this sound and the show that goes with it.

Great Horned Owls Chicks Calling Mom

I was sleepless at 1:00 am a few nights ago and heard that sound, to the right, to the left.... I knew it was a bird but wondered what sort of bird it was, and worried (as I do about everything) that a young bird had fallen from the nest and was calling to its mama. But two? There were obviously two screamers, as the second's rasping call would begin before the first one quit.

I got my bird glass and went out on the porch. Heck, didn't need the glass. Circling under the street lamp directly across from our site was a HUGE buff-and brown bird, with a two-foot or more wingspan. I immediately thought red-tailed hawk but dismissed the idea almost as fast. The bird dropped to the pavement, fluttered a bit, and took off again, something in its talons. Into the dark it went.

The screeching grew louder and more frantic. Yes, two juvenile Great Horned Owls, yelling, "Here Mama! Here Mama! Bring it to me!" One from the big willow by the community garden, the other across in the tenting row.

In a minute she was back, first to perch on the fence post directly beneath the light, where she sat for a moment and then extended her wings out to the side and held them there. In a flash she dove up beyond the light, whisked back in again and was gone. (Obviously not this one, but imagine one like this under the street lamp on Landry, adjacent to the tenting row at 1:00 am, and be suitably impressed!)

The Great Horned Owl mama was hunting for her hungry young'uns in the streetlight. Was she grabbing suicidal mice who had chosen that moment to dash across the road, eating moths, or perhaps catching bats? Hard to say, we have some enormous moths here. I found one whose wing span covered my entire hand last summer.

This show has happened several nights. I have only gotten up twice to watch her pirouette beneath the streetlight, but if you haven't seen her it's worth a few moments of lost sleep.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Under Cover of Darkness

I should have been sound asleep, but like the cat, I am often nocturnal. Unfortunately, unlike the cat, I can rarely sleep during the daytime. What do you call someone who doesn't sleep besides tired?

Anyway, at the usual 1:00 am there was a scramble of little feet on my pots, little toenails scrabbling across plastic. I had left the spray bottle of home made Tabasco and soap Critter Off! in the garden, because though I'd planned to spray after turning the compost, I forgot.

In the middle of the night I paid the price of absent-mindedness. The park is full of people. While I was not shy about getting up and going out to shoo away critters when I was still sleeping in my (highly alluring) sweat pants and monster-sized T-shirt, I did not feel like getting up in my abbreviated summer jammies and causing alarm and dismay among any passersby. I gritted my teeth and listened for the munching of watermelon leaves. I dozed off and on listening for munching.

All night long a parade of critters came to call. When I did finally sleep I had a nightmare that my entire garden had been eaten to bare stems. That's scarier than dreaming of monsters!

I need a camera which takes pictures in the dark! Some of the critters had teeny feet, some were bigger. But as dawn was breaking there was a set of feet which were much bigger. I remembered Cat's belief that we have a resident weasel. Fine by me, the weasel is a carnivore and the hurried scrambling away of small feet that took place when those larger feet hit the pots cheered me up immensely. I never heard a squeak, so I'm not sure the weasel (or whatever) caught its meal, but I heard no more little feet.

I was almost afraid to look this morning, but to my surprise (and relief) not a leaf appeared nibbled, no new bare stems, no missing marble-sized melons (there are now three). I guess the cayenne spray lingers longer than I had anticipated. Yay! But you can bet I'll be out spraying tonight.

There's a new set of pictures in the Flickr album, mostly the 4 x 4's in the community garden but also a couple of the "Hen and Chicks" blooms in my garden. I didn't know they bloomed until last year, but they have beautiful flowers!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Non-Toxic Mosquito Spray

I was horrified last night when I was closing up for the night to find that there were about 100 mosquitoes on my kitchen ceiling and walls. Yikes!

What to do? I have no bug spray in the house and really wouldn't want to use a toxic spray in my kitchen anyway.

But I grabbed my spray bottle, put in 1/2 cup of water, added 1/4 tsp of dish soap and three drops of peppermint oil. I shook it a bit and started spraying.

The mist hit the 'skeeters and they sort of did a little tizzy dance, curled up and fell down dead. It took about three seconds. Yowzers. In two minutes my kitchen was free of mosquitoes, and smelled really nice to boot.

There were three or four lingerers this morning which must have been hiding in the curtains or behind the dishwasher. I sprayed them and they turned toes up and died.

No more skeeters. :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I have grown quite aggravated at whatever critter has been eating my garden. Other people are dealing with aphids and white flies. I have no aphids and only a few scattered white flies; But I do appear to have a cow visiting my teeny patch. Well, a small cow... but one who adores watermelon vines and bean plants!

My first two watermelon plants were eaten off right down to the stem. The second set have grown and produced a half dozen marble-sized watermelons. Still a long way to go but it's a start towards that watermelon I am longing for!

That is until the hungry hungry whatever came and began eating on them again. It stripped half the leaves and ate all but one watermelon in two nights. The only watermelon left is one I put a flowerpot on.

And my bush beans! Several plants eaten right down to the stem!

This calls for war! The live trap was baited, with a slice of watermelon and some ripe cherries. No luck. The "cow" prefers fresh, organic, thanks, not yer "boughten" stuff.

War is ramped up. As the shadows fell yesterday I mixed up two teaspoons of Louisiana Tabasco (aka known as Texas mouthwash), three drops of dishwash soap and a cup of water in a spray bottle and liberally sprayed/doused my melons and beans. I got caught in the spray drift at one point, gasp! cough, snort! Potent stuff! Good!

About 1:00 am I was awakened by the now familiar sound of little feet scrambling over the loose pots at the base of the watermelon SIP. There was a pause, the sound of nibbling (I have very acute hearing) and then....

Ah-choo! Ah-choo! AHHHHHH-CHOO!

Then Hisssssssssss....... Apparently a comment on the quality of my greenery! LOL

This morning, a bean leaf nibbled, but no further depredations thanks. Tonight I will repeat the spraying until "Mr. Hungry" gets the message and moves to the orchard next door.