Little Brown Jobs

House Wren_ManitouLake-CO_LAH_4169Would you like your bedroom to be infested with spiders? I can’t count the nights I’ve spent wide awake in bed. staring at a suspicious black blob on the ceiling (I’m rather nearsighted without my glasses). Was it a spider? Should I turn on the light? It might move if I take my eyes off it to find my glasses. What if it is a spider? Is it going to fall on me in the middle of the night?

You can tell I don’t appreciate spiders in my bedroom. It’s a good thing, then, that I’m not a House Wren.

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Beautiful Begonias

Begonia 'Kismet'Alive and green. At this time of year, all I want is a plant that’s alive and green. I’m desperate for an actual leaf (not a conifer’s needle). Flowers would be nice too.

January is a hard time for gardeners. Planning and ordering seeds and plants, spiffing up the garden tools and flower pots—it’s all necessary, but almost none of it involves actual plants. Sometimes you just want to touch a leaf, admire a flower.  It’s for January that I grow so many houseplants.

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Invasion of the Yellowjackets

I’m sitting quietly at my desk as an unidentified insect makes an orbit around my head, buzzing aggressively. What in the…? It changes direction, aiming directly for my eyes. I want to flail at the bug, but realize that may not be a good idea, so I jump out of my chair and out of the way. Buzzzzzzz…. It finally lands on the wall and I get a good look. Yikes! It’s a yellowjacket!

Moments later, there are two wasps circling my screen, then three, and four. It seems that every yellowjacket in the neighborhood has somehow found a passage into my house, and they’re ganging up on me.

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Argh, Ants

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I was ready to declare war. Our kitchen counters were crawling with ants. Not the cute little “sugar ants” we used to get in California. These were huge, black ants that delivered a painful bite when they got their mandibles into you.

I admit it was my fault they invaded our house. They arrived from the surrounding forest, attracted by the sugar water in the hummingbird feeders hanging from the eaves over our balcony. I moved the feeders and changed the way I hung them, and the ants went looking around for another source of dessert. I have no idea how they got through our walls.

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Bird Quiz #1: Answer

quiz-1c1To refresh your memory, here again is the photo for Bird Quiz #1. Read no further if you still want to have a shot at identifying these birds.
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I had been actively birding only a week or two when I took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. There I saw and photographed a bird just like the bottom bird in the photo. I thumbed through all the pictures of sparrows in my brand new field guide, but couldn’t ID the bird. I filed the photo under “to be identified” and forgot about it.

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Winter is for Houseplants

philodendron_home_lah_2724-1Are you missing succulent green foliage, fragrant flowers, and that humus-y smell of living soil? It may be too cold to garden outside, but it’s a great time to focus on houseplants.

My indoor plants tend to be a bit neglected over the summer. Wintertime is a different matter. I fuss over them, washing the leaves, moving root bound plants into bigger pots, refreshing compacted potting mix, and just generally tidying up. This is the time of year I notice which plants have thrived, which survived, and which really need to go to that great compost pile in the sky.

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Moving Back In

rosemary_blkforest_lah_7190Last night WeatherBug was blinking a frost alert—the first of the season—and sure enough, there was ice on our birdbath this morning. I hate to admit it, but summer is over. I don’t mind the end of the cucumbers; they were overly prolific this year. And the carrots are safe underground for months to come. What I miss are the fresh herbs that we’re still enjoying. So, they’re moving back in with us.

Fresh herbs are pricy at the market, and they don’t keep very long. Yet, herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow. Since our garden is quite a ways from the kitchen, I have several pots of basil, thyme, sage, oregano, and rosemary right outside the kitchen door. With the weather cooling off, it’s time to bring them inside.

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Grass Spiders

grass-spider_dbg-co_lah_8972I was rinsing my hands under the faucet downstairs when a huge, aggressive monster suddenly scurried across the bowl of the sink. I screamed. Slamming the faucet lever down, I backed away from the counter, shaking, dripping on the tile floor.

Then I snuck forward for another view. Yup, a huge brownish spider, at least two feet inches across (including the legs) was staring up at me with multiple menacing eyes. Shudder.

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There’s a Mouse in the House

field-mouse-colospgs-24feb08-lah-006

Eew! What was that horrible smell? Even with chronic congestion associated with my being allergic to nearly everything, I could tell something had died. Following my nose, I wandered downstairs, then into the corner of the basement with the seldom-used utility sink. As I got closer, I realized the deep sink was completely full of dirty water  that lapped at the faucet and threatened to spill over the counter and onto the floor. I hastily ran upstairs to alert my handyman husband.

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Being a Good Landlord

wren-box_blkforest_20100401_lah_1227I splurged on two nest boxes this week. I hadn’t meant to—they’re not in the budget—but I reasoned that attracting birds with bird houses was ultimately cheaper than buying ever more bird seed (although I’m sure I’ll do that too).

I recently made my early spring rounds to check out the accommodations I’m offering my feathered visitors. As landlord, I take responsibility for making sure the boxes are safe and clean. I remove any nesting materials from last year, to reduce the chance of parasites infesting the new family. I inspect the boxes for worn out joints, loose screws, and rotting wood. And I make sure they have some sort of predator guard around the entrance hole.

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