Category Archives: Photos

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

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

Out & About in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Out & About

I went camping for three days last weekend in Anza-Borrego Desert in Southern California, perhaps the best ever camping trip I have been on.

Out of several hundred Ferocactus cylindraceus plants I saw in the desert, I found these two that clearly show spiraling flowers, rather unusual in cacti.

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Go, Fibonacci, go!

When I moved out here in the East San Diego County boondocks at 682′ elevation in July 2017, I started landscaping with my favorite plants. Keep in mind that, at that time, I had 62 years of experience growing my favorite plants.

Well, two of my favorite plants, Agave attenuata and aeoniums, don’t like it out here. Agave attenuata simply doesn’t like it when it gets below 40°F, of which we have had several weeks, and aeoniums don’t like it when it gets too hot, of which we have had several weeks of 100°F+.Grow dammit!

After trying to will them to live and look nice, I gave up in October 2019, and I’ve been replacing all of them with cacti, mostly Ferocactus.

One of my purposes in going desert camping was to get a good look at Ferocactus cylindraceus since it’s native to Southern California just 80 miles from me. I am officially in love (but don’t tell my husband).

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

I found the tallest ferocactus I had ever seen, standing six feet and six inches tall, four inches taller than me.

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

I’m the one in red.
Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Additionally, I found the clumpiest clump (with seven heads!) and the tallest clump.

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

And, to top things off, I found the desert rains and a desert rainbow!

Rainbow in Anza-Borrego Desert

Out & About—California Living Museum in Bakersfield, California

Out & About

When I was in Bakersfield, California, on February 11-12, 2020, high on my list of places to visit was the California Living Museum, or CALM for short. It specializes in California native fauna and flora.

California Living Museum logo

California Living Museum logo

Although the California Living Museum is only 14 acres with 250 animals representing 80 species, I can highly recommend it.

Keep in mind that I have been a member of zoos, arboretums, aquariums, and animal sanctuaries since I was 13 when my wise old grandmother got me a membership to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. After that it was the San Antonio Zoo and the Houston Zoo. Also keep in mind that I have been a member of the San Diego Zoo since May 1993.

When I was searching for things to do in Bakersfield and found the California Living Museum, I immediately compared it to the San Diego Zoo at 99 acres, 3,700 animals, and 650 species, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park at 1,800 acres, 3,500+ animals, and 400+ species.

I had convinced myself that I would be disappointed, but I just cannot bear to miss a zoo, arboretum, or sanctuary, so off I went, thinking that since it specialized in California native flora and fauna, maybe I would see something that I had never seen before. At $10, the price was right, too!

I spent four hours at CALM, which breaks down to $2.50 per hour. That’s entertainment that doesn’t break the bank!

Following are some of my best pictures of CALM.

Seeing a saguaro (Carnegia gigantea) in the parking lot gave me great hope
and it only got better.California Living Museum

California Living Museum

California Living Museum

Barrel cactus
Barrel cactus

Northern Mojave Rattlesnake
Northern Mojave Rattlesnake

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake

Sidewinder
Sidewinder

Sonoran Gopher Snake
Sonoran Gopher Snake

Chuckwalla
Chuckwalla

Desert Iguana
Desert Iguana

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise

Desert Bighorn SheepDesert Bighorn Sheep

CoyoteCoyote

Mountain Lion
Mountain lion

Mountain lion

Nelson’s Antelope Squirrel
Nelson's Antelope Squirrel

Roadrunner
Roadrunner

Turkey
Turkey

Western Scrub Jay
Western Scrub Jay

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

California Living Museum

Did you notice that I got a picture of both a coyote and a roadrunner?

Coyote and roadrunner