Category Archives: Mother & Father Nature

She adds laughter to my days

Picture of the Moment

My wise old grandmotherMy wise old grandmother taught me to add laughter to each day, even if I had to laugh at myself sometimes.

Little Queen Olivia adds laughter to each and every day with her antics and yoga lessons.

Little Queen Olivia

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Not where you’d expect it

Picture of the Moment

I think snails are fascinating creatures.

Some of my fascination might have something to do with that Fibonacci spiral that they carry on their backs.

This one seems to be quite comfortable on the spines of Echinocactus grusonii, the golden barrel cactus. Not where you’d expect this little one to be.

Snail on the spines of Echinocactus grusonii, the golden barrel cactus

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One of my favorite garden visitors

Did you know?

I love it when a mantis visits my garden.

Mantis

Mantises are an order of insects containing over 2,400 species in about 430 genera in 15 families, distributed worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. They have triangular heads with bulging eyes supported on flexible necks, elongated bodies, may or may not have wings, but all have greatly enlarged forelegs that are adapted for catching and gripping prey. Their upright posture with forearms folded has led to the common name “praying mantis.”

The closest relatives of mantises are the termites and cockroaches. Mantises are sometimes confused with stick insects, other elongated insects such as grasshoppers, or other unrelated insects with raptorial forelegs such as mantisflies.

Mantises are mostly ambush predators, but a few ground-dwelling species actively pursue their prey. They live for about a year. Females sometimes practice sexual cannibalism, eating their mates after copulation, meaning that they might not live as long as females.

Mantises were considered to have supernatural powers by early civilizations, including Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, and Assyria. A cultural trope popular in cartoons imagines the female mantis as a femme fatale.

Mantises are among the insects most commonly kept as pets.

If you haven’t seen a mantis devouring a murder hornet, check out this video:

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Get those cooties off me!

Picture of the Moment

One of my roommates in 1974 at Texas A&M University was from Waller, Texas, which is about half way between Houston and College Station.

I lost track of him when I moved to San Diego in April 1993. I moved with the intent of distancing myself from old family and friends. No more need to keep up with the Joneses.

In 2011, I was exploring the border area in South San Diego when I came upon San Diego Beach Rides. I rented a horse ride for the beach. Pretty cool.

When I got back, I told the owner that he looked like my college roommate from 1974. He said, “Oh, I’m from Texas.” That, of course, started a conversation. Turns out that he wasn’t my roommate, but he was my roommate’s younger brother.

I was able to get connected again to my old roommate who was living in Littleton CO. Small world. Unfortunately, as with all but two of my old friends and family in Texas, our politics didn’t mesh, so I disconnected again.

This horse picture is from October 4, 2011, at San Diego Beach Rides. It’s the horse that I rode. I guess it wanted to get those Russel cooties off. After I pet Little Queen Olivia, she proceeds to do the same thing.

San Diego Beach Rides

Little Queen Olivia

Still sad

For the past 17 days, every morning when I get up I check on my mommy mourning dove on her nest. Sadly, yesterday morning this is what I saw:

Mourning dove nest

I have been a birder for 60 years, so I know that there is a Great Horned Owl out here in the East San Diego County boondocks. It lives in the bushes and trees about a 100 yards north of me. Been there for 2 years and 10 months.

When I was outside to pull weeds yesterday morning, I heard Mr. G. H. Owl calling to me from about 50 yards to the south. Who? Who? Who? I think I know WHO got my mourning dove babies.

I am completely powerless against police brutality, racism, the Twitler Crime Family, et al., but I really thought I could help mommy mourning dove safely raise her young.

Still sad.

Mourning doves

And then there were three

Picture of the Moment

Sixteen days ago, I got up with the sun (5:30 a.m.) and pulled a ton of weeds along the fence between my property and the open space preserve. I left a huge pile of weeds, figuring I would haul them to the trash later. I took a shower and a nap.

When I went out to the gardens to get my daily snapshots of flowers, I leaned in close near a hanging basket and something hit me in the head and flew away. I didn’t see what it was, but I did see this in the hanging basket:

mourning dove eggs

That was not there six hours earlier. Mommy, presumably with help from daddy, found my pile of weeds, built a nest a few feet away, and deposited two eggs in only four or five hours. Fortunately, after me disturbing mommy (presumably), she came back to take care of those eggs:

momma mourning dove on nest

Research indicates that it takes about 14 days for mourning dove eggs to hatch and another 15 days for the little ones to leave the nest and go exploring the world.

I got a picture of a little bird on Day 13.

Mourning dove

And on Day 14, today!, I got a picture of two little birds!

Mourning doves

And then there were three. I’m so happy! Now our goal is to help mommy protect these two little ones for the next couple of weeks so they can fly away, fly away.

Hoping I can’t go into one of my gardens for about a month

Picture of the Moment

I got up at 5:30 this morning to go pull weeds and clear dead brush along the fence. Nothing unusual about that.

I just went out to take pictures of the cactus flowers that are blooming. I leaned in close with my 90mm macro lens and suddenly something hit me in the head and went flying away.

The last time I was hit in the head by something flying was 1968 under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin. That time was a flying bat (if you’ve never seen the bats take to the skies at dusk at the Congress Avenue bridge, go!).

This time, it was a momma mourning dove. Interestingly, she and her nest were not there at 6:00 this morning. In a mere six hours she (and daddy?) built a nest out of brush laying in a pile nearby, and she laid two eggs in it.

mourning dove eggs

I’m so happy because the last time I had baby birds was annually from 1968-1973 in my wise old grandmother’s yard. I had built a bird house using a Boy Scout handbook and attached it high in our ash tree. A family of screech owls moved in. They are known to use the same nesting site annually, and they did.

Research indicates that it takes 14 days for mourning dove eggs to hatch and another 15 days for the little ones to take off on their own.

Fortunately, I have most of the weeds pulled in this area, and the rest can wait for a month. The presence of momma and, hopefully, two little ones means that any future pictures from my retaining wall gardens will have to be taken through the window in my home office using my 600mm lens. Can’t wait to see how those turn out.

It takes me 4 minutes to walk from the sunny retaining wall gardens back to the home office. By the time I got back inside and looked out the window, momma bird was back on the nest.

momma mourning dove on nest

Thank you, bees and hummingbirds

I live in my own little world

I thought I would share some pictures from my gardens this past week to cheer us up in these dystopian times we seem to be living in.

Of course, cactus are my specialty, and this is cactus-blooming season. I have included the name of the plant if I know it. The ones that are unnamed probably are species of Mammillaria, Rebutia, Sulcorebutia, and Notocactus since I know I have some of those in my gardens.

One
Ferocactus wislizeni

Two

Three
Notocactus uebelmannianus

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

White flowers never have been my favorite colored flowers, so it’s obvious that I did not know the color of the flowers on this plant when I bought it. However, the flowers are gigantic and beautiful nonetheless.

Trichocereus grandiflorus (Thai hybrid)
Trichocereus grandiflorus

There is a microclimate on my property in the corner where the garage attaches to the house. Temperatures are about 10-20°F lower than elsewhere. It’s so cool and shaded from our hot East San Diego County boondocks sun that I can grow geraniums, begonias, fuchsias, and ferns in that corner. Here are a couple of my geraniums that are starting to bloom.

Geranium

Geranium

I love mass plantings of flowering plants but at this stage of my life, I have decided to live without the room required for mass plantings. However, I do have fifteen Aloe striata planted in a row in front of a fence. They are awesome when they bloom with a billion orange flowers on top of tall stalks (inflorescences).

Succulent garden

My Aloe striatas  started throwing up inflorescences in early March. It takes a couple of weeks for them to reach height and start blooming. Then it takes three or four weeks for all the flowers to bloom and green dohickeys (fruit) to show up, providing that the bees and hummingbirds have been doing their jobs.

Aloe striata Thank you, bees and hummingbirds.