From the monthly archives:

August 2009

American Robins

by Lorraine on August 19, 2009

One of the many benefits and pleasures of my garden, is seeing the large variety of birds that have used it for feeding, fighting, making love and splashing around.  And I mean “splashing around“.

The other day, when I went out to pick up my Sunday paper, I noticed that the birdbath appeared to have had a  lot of action.   Water was splashed everywhere and the dish was almost empty.   Was there  a wild party going on that I just interrupted as I came out my door?

Lately it has seemed to me that things have been pretty quiet in the neighborhood.   Usually there are the ubiquitous Mockingbirds that drive us all crazy with the constant vocalization going on and on and on…all night, making you wish you could just reach out and smother the annoying bird.

Yeah, yeah, they are pretty, but there are very irritating   However, I’m getting off track here.   I’m talking about another type of bird, one that I haven’t seen here before.  Although they aren’t uncommon for California.   Just absent from my neighborhood

It seems that the individuals who had emptied the pool, were Robins.   Earlier in the year, I had seen one…a very big dude.   He seemed reserved, quiet and conservative in his attitude & usually I would see him looking for worms in my neighbor’s lawn.

He or she, hung around the neighborhood but other than that, was relatively absent from the action.   That has changed.

One bird has morphed into an entire family.   I’m talking about Mom & Dad and their four teenagers.   And they are all big birds.   They are hilarious to watch as the commandeer the birdbath, no other birds can get near it now as long as they control the situation and it appears that they don’t intend to give up their turf anytime soon.

Things are Quiet

Things are Quiet

It’s like they have pontoons and they create waves of water, sloshing over the sides of the birdbath, emptying it until there’s barely and water left in it.   I think they do this so that they can keep other birds away and they have been quite successful at it.

Although I did see one of the Mockingbirds attempt to come in for a slurp, looking very tiny against the bigger birds.   It was as though he was the skinny guy on the beach getting sand kicked in his face by the big muscular guy.

Remember those ads for Charles Atlas?   Well the Mockingbird was getting water kicked into his face instead of sand and needless to say, he was shoved out of the way and hasn’t been back.   He’s probably wishing one of my cats would get all of them.

Scene of the Action

Scene of the Action

All of this activity is making Chico, Biscuit and Sparkle crazy with lust.   They sit on the table in my kitchen, staring powerlessly out the window at the Robins, who of course…are oblivious to the dreams and aspirations of three hungry cats.

If I could capture of good photo of the daily party going on, I would.   But it’s too difficult of a shot because I’d have to get it from inside my house, looking out one of the windows.   But if there’s an opportunity for a good picture, I’ll attempt to get one.   They are really fun and entertaining to watch as they play & splash in the water.


Extra Help in the Garden

by Lorraine on August 17, 2009

It took some time but I finally came to the conclusion that I couldn’t maintain my garden on my own.   I have an extremely busy life and believe or not, I do have a job that I find is necessary to “work at”, in order to pay my bills.

Now the ideal situation for me would to have unlimited income that would allow my to do exactly whatever I want and who wouldn’t?   Especially these days.  But that’s not realistic, however I will keep entering the Publishers Clearing House contest in the hopes that I will be the BIG WINNER!

Due to the fact that I am self-employed, a great deal of my time is spent marketing and networking in the community but it’s a necessary part of my profession.   I’m a bit tired of doing it and it keeps me away from the things that I really enjoy, however it is what it is.

Such as being in the garden.   Where else?   Well, maybe on a trail somewhere in a wilderness…that’s always good.

I’m digressing it bit here but I finally realized that I need help with taking care of the garden.   And in spite of the common belief that a native garden should do just fine without any attention, that is totally incorrect.   It’s like a marriage.   If you neglect it, it will get ugly and then you will have to unwind and repair the results of your neglect.

Then the next thing you know, in order to save your relationship, you and your garden will be in counseling, working out your issues and learning to trust one another again.  

I’m only kidding…

Enter Rigo.   I’ve know him for over 12 years.   He’s seen my through my various unemployed periods, boyfriends that didn’t work out and the parade of cats that I’ve had over the years.

He helped with some of the planting and heavy work when my friend Deena and I were first designing the plan for the garden.   I have to laugh when I recall how the three of us at dusk in pouring rain,  were  heaving huge mounds of mulch into the garden from a giant pile that was in the street in front of my house.

The water was starting to pool behind the mulch and we had to get it out of the street or there would have been a big mass of water saturated mulch that would have undoubtedly offended my neighbors.   Leaving it there wasn’t an option, otherwise it would have been too heavy for us to shovel into the garden later on,so we were frantically shoveling and tossing it into the garden

And most of the time, we managed to miss colliding with one another as we ran back and forth.   Most of it ended up in the areas where we intended it to go and not on one another.

After the garden was completed, there really wasn’t much for him to do anymore.   Other than occasionally digging up shoots from a Holly bush (That still persist…I hate that thing!) or cleaning up the back yard.   But he’s always been available to help whenever I’ve needed him.   And I need him now.

I will continue to spend time in my garden because that’s what I love to do.   But sometimes I’ve let things go a bit because I’m just too busy with my daily life.   Rigo is going to step in and for a least once a month, take care of it and keep things looking neat.

If you thought that maintenance isn’t necessary for native plants, you’re wrong.   There is usually something to be done but most of the time it’s dedicated by the Seasons and it’s still easier than a traditional landscape.


A Summer Evening in the Garden

by Lorraine on August 12, 2009

I miss my garden, I miss time in it, I miss the subtle connection with it and it’s personality.   Of course it has one, every garden does and that includes mine as well.  But I’ve been swept up in too many obligations that have kept me away from it too long which is never good for me or the garden.

I’ve allowed myself to be too busy and occupied with other matters.   You know the important things such as our occupations and such….they are important.   But I’d rather be outside in my garden and not be working so hard at my profession.  It’s only in our relationship with nature that we can renew ourselves and I learned that many years ago.

It’s a great antidote for whatever struggles you are going through.   It certainly never makes judgements on your behaviour and it’s always there, ready to embrace you in it’s mountains, seas, deserts and many other manifestations.

All we need to do, is to slow down and pay attention to our surroundings.   And be grateful for those singular moments of connection with the universe and nature.

And it can happen right in your garden….

Gardens have a way of “righting” our life when we are overwhelmed and not paying attention to the simple things that bring us so much pleasure.   This evening the garden looks tranquil and peaceful in it’s summer attire.

Sure, it’s not as pretty right now as it was in the Spring.   But native gardens are always beautiful in my mind, even when they are looking a bit brown and dried out.   Although we are now in the midst of summer, there is still something blooming, such as the Fuchsias and Seaside Daisies.

And there is always the fabulous Island Poppy.   This plant is now about 7′ tall and 6′ wide and has a continuous bloom of delicate yellow flowers on it.

Spending a few moments in the garden this evening, has brought perspective back into my life and I am thinking about possibilities.

Possibilities for the garden and for my own life as well.

And there are possibilities for you, too.   Go outside and spend some time in your garden or start planning one of your own.

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Boulder Creek Trail in the Sespe

by Lorraine on August 11, 2009

Instead of writing something about my garden, I’m going to share some pictures  and comments about my last Forest Service event where we worked on a trail, overlooking the Cuyama Valley at about 7,000 foot elevation.   Usually these events are at a lower elevation and typically they involve brush clearance, trimming overhanging branches on the sides of the trail and water bar repairs.

But this event would be different, because we were higher in the mountains that meant less brush to cut and cache and instead we needed to find and clean the trail that was covered in pine duff.   There was so much of it, that you couldn’t even see it and needless to say, anyone trying to find it could easily get lost and end up meandering around the mountain, completely confused as to which was to go.

Looking North

Looking North

It was a beautiful day and we had a good size crew that volunteered to lend a hand with the project.   That meant it was going to be an easy day with all of the extra people who would be helping out.   I spent most of my time re-working the tread and enjoying the sound of the wind through the Big- Cone Douglas Firs (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa) that covered the mountain top.  And I was secretly glad that I wouldn’t be working so hard on this project, unlike many of the others that completely beat you up and do you in!

Big-Cone Douglas Fir Pine Cone

Big-Cone Douglas Fir Pine Cone

There was one huge tree that had fallen across the trail and needed to be cut in half to open up it up once again.   One of my fellow workers is certified to handle a crossbow saw, you know one of those old-fashioned looking ones that the lumber jacks would have used a 100 years ago?   We counted the rings on the downed tree and it was well over 150 years old and made you wonder what life was like on the mountain at the time when the tree was a sapling.  It’s sad to see them fall but eventually everything dies and when they do, they renew the soil and create an environment for animals to find food and refuge, creating new life in the process and on it goes….

Yours Truly

Yours Truly

There was one tree that was so large and magnificent in it’s death that I took several photos of it, trying to capture it’s essence and beauty.   Obviously it had lain next to the trail for many, many years.   It was bleached out and the bark had long since disappeared from it’s branches and somehow it reminded me of a skeleton of an ancient ship.  Spooky and beautiful at the same time with it’s lovely lines and gnarled wood and branches.

End of Life

End of Life

By the end of the day,  we were able to complete most of the work on the trail and I was surprised as to how much we had accomplished, considering the amount of work that needed to be done.   But having a larger group of volunteers than we usually have, made the difference.  Although there is still a section that leads to a stream that we were unable to get to.   But that will be for the next time we work on this trail, possbily in the Fall.

The sky was beautiful and I loved the way it looked when you gazed up into the branches of the trees.  Being in the wilderness makes you feel so much more connected to the nature and helps you to forget all of the things that you’re concerned about or nag at you during your day.   Being outside, working hard, tends to force you to forget all of the junk that occupies your time and distracts you from enjoying your life. 

Branches & Sky

Branches & Sky

At the end of they day, we loaded up the gear into the trucks and headed back down out of the mountains to Ojai and the Forest Service office.   We had a great group of people and it seemed that everyone had a good time and enjoyed their day on the mountain and we all bid goodby to one another and returned to our civilized lives, daily obligations and responsibilites but with a feeling of satisfaction, knowing we had done something positive.

Working the Tread

Working the Tread