Author Archives: Shelly

Lottie: 2 month update

No longer sequestered to the spare bathroom, Lottie is nosy and curious… and keeps up on what’s going on throughout the household 24/7. She has had all her shots and has been spayed, and is very active, healthy and happy.  Although she has access to the great outdoors, and loves to stalk birds and hunt for gophers, she stays inside more often lately, following Shelly around like a dog. She plays well with the other pets (for the most part), and likes to bathe and snuggle with them. A former TP shredder, she still loves to bite paper and cardboard. This box is super-fun! It was so cute when she discovered the fish in the TV tank.

Sharing the heating pad with Rose. Her little tummy looks like a parker house roll where they shaved her. Interesting how her feet are white like Rose, but all of her pads are black instead of pink.

Feline happy ending

This tiny little kitten survived more than three week living in the rose bushes in the median…in the middle of a busy parking lot. Obviously dumped there, it never ventured far. After sitting on the curb trying to catch it with a can of cat food for hours, we set a live trap and captured it. Starving and traumatized… it stayed in our spare bathroom for a week before we could hold it. She checked out at the vet a few days later and we decided to keep her and name her Lottie for her harrowing adventure. Three weeks later, she is super lovey dovey, purring instead of hissing and growling and she is silky soft and healthy. She is slowly getting introduced to the rest of the house and our other pets…and has already wormed her way into our heart. She has a wonderful life ahead of her as an indoor/outdoor cat in the country. Stay tuned for more Lottie adventures…

2018 Monterey County Fair Winners

It’s always fun to enter things in the county fair and see what everyone else is doing… here are this year’s winners.


The succulent side table won First Place AND Best of Show!!  It was our first year entering the Compost Challenge… took 1st place and won $50 prize money. The scarecrow competition was pretty tough in the ‘Shake your tail feathers’ theme catagory… but we took home 2nd place.

Chicken yard upgrade

Since allowing our hens to free range resulted in a hawk getting a free chicken dinner, we now keep our girls locked up tight. Chickens are very industrious and will turn their yard into dry bare dirt in no time. I wanted to encourage more biological activity (aka bugs and stuff). So we’ve put in some 2.x 4s topped with wire. Separating the chickens from the ground will build the soil instead of letting it erode. Underneath is compost and grass seed. It’s starting to come up nicely and the girls are keeping it freshly trimmed and fertilized. On the lower level, we’ve added oak leaf mulch (which is abundant around here), to create a nice deep litter level. I tossed some diatomaceous earth and ashes in with the dirt in the corners where they like to take a dust bath to help with mites and fleas. Happy hens lay delicious eggs!

Around the grounds: March

The raised vegetable bed is doing fabulous with all the winter rain. Harvesting this month: Swiss chard, cilantro, lettuce, kale and green onions. Colorful aeoniums are spilling out of the milk can lamp post. A pair of ducks have moved in across the way, enjoying ‘Lake Perkarsky”. This cozy little lake only happens during years with above average rainfall. Such a pretty little red centipede!  Found it snuggled up under a piece of driftwood. The chicken shed is being engulfed in succulents.

Forcing bulbs

Every fall I order bulbs to force for the holidays and spring. This season’s selection was Ziva Paperwhites (a classic for Thanksgiving and Xmas), and Narcissus. Silver Chimes are my absolute favorite, and then I usually pick another variety to try out. Paperwhites can be potted up in October, but the narcissus bulbs go into the garage refrigerator (where there aren’t any fruits or vegies to give off gas that can affect bloom) for about 6 weeks. Then they are potted up and placed outside in a cold, shady spot until the leaves are about 4 inches tall.

Then I sprinkle a big pinch of grass seed on the top and cover with bird cages (to keep the birds from eating the seed). Be sure to keep moist until the grass germinates.

The results are fresh looking, fragrant flowers that look so natural inside or out. When the flowers fade, the bulbs can be planted outside, where they will re-bloom year after year.

Chicken coop upgrade

Last January, we added a new coop behind the chicken shed. It is a nice covered shelter with 2×4 roosts up off the floor. This made room for more chicks and provided an easy way to collect eggs and chicken manure for our compost pile.

The four new hens have just started laying and we obviously need another nest box. The girls were making such a racket trying to share this spot! So I added another hole that opens into the inside cupboard, by cutting a board and adding some trim. Complete with a divider and plastic tub of hay ready to go. The new girls (4 out 6) love the new coop and roost in here every night. But the older hens still like to sleep in the original nest box where we brooded the new chicks last summer. The tarp on the floor catches the chicken manure for the compost pile.They started using the third nest box right away. It’s so easy to collect the eggs from the inside cupboard. Every hen lays a specific size, shape and color, so it’s easy to tell the difference.

Baby owls for Christmas

Since our owl nest box overflowed with litter in 2011, we stared cleaning it out every year beginning for the babies of 2012. It became a tradition to empty it out every year at Thanksgiving, after the young owls had moved on, in preparation for use in the spring. This last year on 11/24/16, we got a surprise. When we started lowering the box, an owl flew out!  We thought it was roosting in there because of the cooler weather.  But when the box tilted we heard two cracks against the side. Shocked to see eggs inside, we put it right back up…. and waited to see what happened. The eggs were due to hatch at Christmas time.The mating behavior continued through early December and the female owl stayed in the nest box every night. Since they normally lay 3 to 5 eggs, we hoped that even if the two were damaged, it would be OK. The female was nervous after that… leaving the box and making noises in the palm tree when we weed whipped below. The weather since then has been rainy and cold… frosty even. After receiving 6 inches of rain in the last week or so, I was finally able to sit out and listen last night.  It’s official!  There are definitely baby owls in there. The female flew out to hunt with her mate, leaving the young alone for awhile. I could hear at least 2 or 3 baby owls screeching inside.

As to why they are breeding during the winter, I have a theory. Our last brood of young owls left last June. We also have a neighbor with owl boxes that had several babies during that time, so there were lots of owls looking for new territory.  In late July, there was another couple of owls that were trying take over the nest box and our resident pair were very upset! There was fighting like I’ve never seen before. Screeching (even during the day) and going after each other like crazy! I think that this may be a new couple, and they wanted to breed and make the box their own as soon as possible. Be sure to stay tuned…

Our barn owl history with stories/pictures  More owl posts

Around the grounds: August

Harvest time in the garden.

A fresh layer of gorilla hair (shredded redwood bark) really spruces up the place. I like that it stays in place better than chips on a slope.

Naked ladies (Belladonna Amaryllis) everywhere.

Big beautiful Meyer Lemons year round. Billbergia Bromelaid in bloom.

Blue ribbon winners

Checking out the exhibits at the fair every year is always so interesting. This was my first year with entries in the Santa Cruz County Fair… and brought home eight first place ribbons!  County fairs are always a fun competition and a chance to meet other plant lovers.

Around the grounds: July

The morning sun lights up the lanterns out front.

I like to pot up a six pack or two of coleus every summer – such beautiful colors! Lots and lots of Meyer Lemons on our little tree. Zinnias galore in felt bag planters, where they are safe from deer and gophers. These come in handy as flowers to dress up succulents on the tables of Moss Landing Cafe. Owl feathers can be found almost daily this time of year… barn owl molting season. Our Deodar Cedar trees put out a few cones as usual in early spring. But now there are lots of new small cones too… that’s very weird.

Snow Tower Echium

Echium pininana alba, also known as Echium ‘Snow Tower’ is a rare white form of the Tree Echium. This perennial/biennial is a huge source of nectar for bees and butterflies. It has grown over 10 feet tall and has been blooming for months. It will drop seeds in the fall, and the new plants will emerge and grow to bloom the following year.

Succulent dish racks

I’ve always loved pretty dishes and hate to hide them away in the cupboard. This is a nice way to enjoy them every day. The salvaged dish racks are lined with moss and filled with potting soil and dishes. The succulents that I’ve chosen for these will stay compact and are meant to look like bubbles overflowing the sides. The silverware adds the finishing touch (and support for flowers).

Around the grounds: June

This huge aeonium flower stalk is amazing! Already trimmed off a couple dozen stems of blooms for table vases, and it’s still going strong. Love the way the lower leaves are turning color.Nasturtiums climb over everything with their perky (and also edible) flowers. This cactus used to be a 4″ tall in a pot on my windowsill over 20 years ago. Epiphyllum mixed with burro tail succulents love the shade of this oak tree.

June berries

Our berry bushes (mix of blackberries, raspberries and olallieberries) have produced like never before this year. The new vines that will bear fruit next year have had to be cut back so I can get in there to pick them… a bowl like this every 2 or 3 days!  I can’t make pies fast enough, and there’s already bags in the freezer for those fruitless winter months.