Never Fear ~~ just gopher snakes. They are welcome here, where we are plagued by the blasted rodents, that have been known to take down 5′ tall sunflowers and small trees. In the last 26 years, we have seen only a few gopher snakes… about 3 or 4 feet long and very skinny. But in the span of 2 weeks recently, our cats have drawn our attention to HUGE gopher snakes! This one climbed the fence to avoid our cats, who were on both sides. Couldn’t believe it pulled itself up on the fence, and stayed there for quite some time. We think that the first one is bigger than the second one we saw, although it was in the same area. What amazed us was that they climbed so high off the ground, over 12 feet into the trees!
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.
Getting a huge root-bound Giant Bird of Paradise out of its pot was not an easy task. Back on September 13th, we pulled and tugged and rolled it around and around. When it finally came out, in the bottom of the concave mass of roots were two salamanders. Poor things were probably shaken up! Then we noticed what looked like a mass of eggs. We thought that they usually laid their eggs in water, and because the pot hadn’t been watered in awhile, it was barely damp. We cut off the bottom third of the root ball that held the salamanders and eggs and put it back in the pot, topped it off with a layer of leaves and a saucer to weigh it down, watered it.. and hoped for the best. A couple of weeks later, about ten teeny, tiny baby salamanders could be seen in the bottom of the pot. Recently, these three below have made an appearance on top of the leaves under the saucer. They have grown quite a bit and still are only about an inch long.
The Fuji apple tree did very well this year, bearing tons of fruit, which we’re just starting to pick. Used a lot of gray water to irrigate it this year because of the drought. Planted scented geraniums underneath it a couple of years ago to deter the codling moths, and it looks like only 10-20% worm damage. The wormy apples end up going to the deer, so it’s all good.
It’s not often that our grape vine produces grapes. Most likely because it’s in a big pot and our cool summer weather. This past summer has been the warmest in years… due to the ocean temperatures that have been running higher than normal. The wasps discovered the fermenting fruit and are determined to finish it off. Keeping them busy (and maybe drunk?) has helped deter them away from our patio table.
Buddy Boy the cat catches lizards constantly. As a result, most of the lizards around here have really short tails. They fall off pretty easily when you grab them, and I’ve found tail tips, still writhing around on the patio. He prefers alligator lizards over the smaller, typical fence variety (maybe because their tails are tougher?). So it was easy to guess who must have brought this one inside through the cat door. It was climbing the screen, looking for a way out, while the coast was clear. We escorted him safely back out to the wild.
The carnivorous plant tank in the greenhouse is doing well. It houses Venus Fly Traps, Sundews, and Pitcher Plants. The light is on a timer and surprised a tree frog who found a new hiding place during the night between the glass and the reflective backing.
It occurs every five to ten years, and we are in the middle of it.. the dreaded California oak moth cycle. The moths appeared and fluttered around the trees in June, laying their eggs. The moths died and the worms hatched, but they haven’t been noticeable until lately. A continuous crunching sound can now be heard as these insects slowly but surely defoliate all the oak trees in the area. And of course where there is eating… there are droppings. Caterpillar droppings (aka frass) has been accumulating at amazing rates under the trees. It’s fertilizer for the trees (and they’re gonna need it to recover), but it’s a big mess otherwise. The seat cushions and tables in the greenhouse courtyard were covered with it, and the fountain was full of frass soup. Cleaning it every day didn’t help! We know that the moths have been part of the ecology of the oak woodland for thousands of years, and we have another year of defoliation to go… but we didn’t want it raining down on us anymore!
So a cover went up over the courtyard, wood panels covered in plastic… slightly slanted to the back, away from the courtyard. The plastic hanging down in the back keeps it from blowing back in and sitting under it sounds like it’s sprinkling outside. The next morning… frass free!!
Every night at dusk, the buzzing begins. Dozens and dozens of junebugs ascend from their hiding spots. Up they go, bumping into everything as they fly higher and higher. One after another, they bounce with a ‘tink’ ‘tink’ against the rain gutters as they congregate somewhere above the roof. We wonder what they do up there in the dark… mating, maybe? They become ‘prey’ for the young owls that are learning how to hunt this time of year, and owl pellets have been found chock full of junebug wings. It’s always late June or early July when they show up, probably due to the mild summers here on the central coast of California. In the memories of my youth in the hot San Joaquin valley, they were seen hanging and hissing on the screen door.