Country critters

9. July 2012 03:39
We returned from an outing this afternoon and found the king snake next to the front of the house.  Hopefully he will continue to hang around and help reduce the gopher population. It only took a couple days after I got the one invading the garden area before new gopher mounds popped up. This week it was behind the kitchen near the valves for the drip system. As usual, I had no luck finding the runway. He had popped up in spots which had been dug up for the irrigation pipes.
I wonder if the invasion of mice in our attic last week was field mice fleeing the snake or if the fact that we have not seen any for a few days means that he has been eating well.

First Zucchini for Dinner

9. July 2012 03:29

At least we had our first zucchini make it to the dinner table.  It looks like helping mother nature a bit with the pollination has made a difference.  Most of the female flowers were just rotting away after the flower faded.  A couple almost happened like the one pictured on the right side. Collecting pollen from the male flowers and saving in the fridge for a day or so to use when the female flower opened has gotten us a couple nice zucchinis with perhaps another one or two that will be ready soon.

The peas and green beans are still not cooperating.  We have harvested enough lettuce leaves for a few salads.  Our weather has been pretty cool with the morning fog sticking around a long time.  Perhaps the warmer temperatures promised for the coming week will make a difference.


He can fly

4. July 2012 17:25

Yesterday our red rump chick made his inaugural flight.  When I brought the chick out of the cage for his lunch, he slipped out of my hands to explore.  Instead of running around the table, he took a couple steps and took off.  He fluttered against the window a couple feet away, then did a U-turn and was almost to the door when I did a mid-air catch.

Getting him to eat is now a challenge.  He has pretty much rejected the feeding syringe but is only starting to feed himself. He did not like the spoon much better than the syringe.  It seems his current preferred method is to lick the goo off my fingers. It is a messy process.  Hopefully this phase does not last too long.

In the past week he has also learned to get up on the perch and sit on a finger.  But he is still having issues when it comes to turning around on the perch or getting off it gracefully. 

Homemade Bread

2. July 2012 04:46

I had tried making bread several times with results that were better suited for construction or door stops than for eating.  Typically this effort was the result of frustration after visiting the grocery store. My preferred bread not being restocked and I could not find another kind that I liked. 

In the fall 2010 I reached that state again, but this time decided to try it using a bread machine.  While the machines make funny shaped loaves, but had positive reviews for the quality of the bread. I purchased one of the least expensive models and a couple of cookbooks on making bread with a bread machine. And I was very surprised that after a little experimenting, it actually worked as advertised!

Since then we have been enjoying a lot of home made bread and almost no store bought.  It has been mostly "hearty" multi-grain bread with lots of healthy extras that is delicious toasted with preserves in the morning.  But it has been a bit too heavy for sandwich use.  Finally I got up the nerve to try a sandwich bread.  Much to my amazement it turned out perfectly.  The pictured light whole wheat loaf had a softer texture and sliced nicely for sandwiches.  Hopefully the experiment will be repeatable.  Maybe one of these days I will try making my own hamburgers and hotdog rolls.

Not much of a harvest for July 4th

2. July 2012 04:12

When I ordered the seeds for the garden I had dreams of fresh corn, green beans, tomatoes and other veggies being ready to eat by Juny 4th.  However, the weather and other circumstances did not cooperate, so they were planted at least a  month too late to make this coming week's holiday feast. 

The zucchini is not over producing like most zucchini plants tend to do.  It does not seem to have many male flowers needed for pollination and those few it does have tend to open when there are no female flowers open.  Bees seem to be scarce as well, so I am trying to collect pollen for use a day or so later as well as experimenting with use of pollen from another type of squash.

Meawnwhile, the baby bok choi are starting to flower before I realized they could be harvested.  I had never grown bok choi before and did not realize that the outer leaves which flared out giving the plants a flat appearance were actually hiding the pale stem structure I had knew from the grocery store produce shelves.

I can't tell what the potatoes are doing underground, but they are certainly pushing out a lot of green leaves above ground.  Likewise the green beans and peas are taking their time getting to the flowering stage. The lettuce, spinach and carrots did not germinate well.  It is time to plant additional seeds to create later crops.  The garden is not growing quite the way it was designed on paper. However, for a starter garden it looks like it is going well. I am happy to see that at least some of the plants appear to be doing what the catalog pictured -- just off to a bit of a late start.

Gopher Grief - Part Two

1. July 2012 01:33

Well, it was unlikely that the gopher incursion into the garden area would be a one time incident.  Sure enough, the next morning there was a new mound by the pots along the fence.  And like the first one, the tunnels had been backfilled adequately so that there was no hope of finding the runway and setting traps.

Again, on the third day, yet another mound appeared at the end of one of the raised beds, not too distant from where the other two had been.  This gopher was very good about blocking the exits after he had excavated under the garden.

Our next door neighbor Charlie tried to help.  He has been on an all out anti-gopher campaign and is determined to have a little lawn and some flowers by his house. Last I heard, he had close to two hundred gophers since the spring.  The dead gophers are handed over to Pacific Wildlife rescue to feed the owls, eagles, hawks and similar critters they have in their care.  Since the gophers have no respect for property lines, Charlie has extended his trapping to neighboring property to get the critters before they travel their underground freeway into his lawn.  He hosed down all of the mounds and open tunnels he could see on our property.  Usually,  a day or so later, it will be easy to see where the gophers are active.  Not so in this case.  The gopher went into stealth mode and did not disturb anything above ground.

And so things stayed for a couple days.  Then, this morning as I was walking around checking on how things were growing, the ground collasped opening up clean access to the gopher runway. I put out the trap and hoped I guessed correctly from which direction the gopher would be returning.  Later in the day, I found the trap sprung and one less gopher to be undermining things.

Of course one of his many relatives will likely move into his vacated tunnels in a day or so.  This won't be the last time.

It's a boy and he has wings

30. June 2012 18:26

At four weeks old the red rump chick finally has the red feathers for which the species was given common name.  There is still a lot of the gray down on his back mixed in and hiding the red.

He also discovered he had wings and started exericising them when we took a trip down the the LA area.  Perhaps it was because of the motion of the car as we started up that he flapped to regain his balance and realized that he had wings.  And every so often since then he has been exercising those wings.

A few days later, at four months old, the chick was well covered with feathers and looked like a three quarters scale version of the adults.  He is spending his days in a larger enclosure so he can work on learning to climb, perch and use those wings while he also starts learning how to shell seeds and feed himself. 

More photos of baby bird are at

Gopher Grief

22. June 2012 03:45

The garden has been coming along nicely.  Since I am still waiting for something to harvest, I found other tasks to perform.  The past couple days I worked on getting the paths around and between the beds cleared of sprouting weeds and leveling them off.

This morning after making an inspection of how things were growing, I headed down the hill to the shed.  Not more than ten or fifteen minutes later, on my return, I noticed a new gopher mound on the side of the hill next to the garden.  As I came up futher, I discovered that the critter had not stopped there.  He had dug under the garden bed and created a huge mound on the other side.   

Obviously the gopher was not impressed by my hard work smoothing the path. And the little beast was smart enough to backfill his tunnels far enough so I could not find the runway for setting a trap.  Of course, he is probably pretty miffed we put the hardware cloth between his domain and the tender veggies growing above. I cleaned up the mess and the path is level again.  Odds are this is only the first assult on the garden from below.

A Bird in the Hand

20. June 2012 04:33

Baby bird (red rump parakeet) has been growing fast enough you can almost see it happen. The chick has gone from just a touch of white fuzz, to a coat of gray down to the beginnings of real feathers.  At three weeks old the pinfeathers are starting to show and he has figured out a few things about the way the his world works.  Meal time is still messy, but gradually more of the food is going into the chick than is landing on the outside.  Once the baby has had his fill, the frantic attacks on the feeding syringe stop and he heads for the hand to relax a while.

More photos of baby bird are at

Garden Tool

13. June 2012 07:01

Several of the sources mentioned the value of keeping a garden journal to document what one planted and how it did. So it was a no-brainer that I would be frequently taking the camera to the garden. I am realizing that I should have the camera handy any time I am near the garden or wandering around our property. Otherwise there will be either a missed photo op of a passing critter or else a dash through the house to fetch the camera and a trail of muddy footprints.

One example of the latter situation was my enounter with the California King snake. I had been working on getting the drip system in the garden working and went over to the house to turn on the water. There, by the side of the house, was a snake. Not the usual gopher snakes I had seen around previously. But a more colorful brown and cream striped one, about 30 inches long. Apparently the snake was as surprised to see me as I was it. While I dashed off into the house to grab the camera, it headed in the other direction for cover. Fortunately it did not go too far. A while later I went to get the mail and found it near the mailbox. This time the camera was close and I got a few photos before it disappeared down a gopher hole. (A week later, my husband found a snakeskin in that gopher hole. From the faint pattern of stripes and size, it probably belonged to my acquaintance from the previous week. )

Addtitional photos at

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