Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Best-Laid {egg} Plans

Last week I noticed an unusual amount of activity on the front porch.  Despite the fact that I'd filled the ferns with balled-up paper and frequently rotated them to discourage nesting, a pair of very persistent house finches had, indeed, made a nest in one.

This was a short-lived inconvenience for us, because after only a day the fern had been knocked over and the egg smashed on our steps.  Was it an animal or snake?  I don't know.  I didn't hear them for a few days, and then I heard house finches singing around the other side of the house.  I hope they were able to make another nest in a better location!

We've nearly finished our little outdoor fireplace area by the pond. 

 It's nothing fancy, but the citronella torches help keep the mosquitoes away and we love seeing all the creatures that are drawn to the water.

Here's a white-tailed deer just across the pond.

We see the little muskrat almost every day.

Turtles...always turtles.


We've had an absolute explosion of southern toads.  You really can't go outside without stumbling over one.

More often heard than seen, this grey tree frog is resting up for his nighttime performance.

Finally, we have "the goz."  I used to see them multiple times a day, but now that they're older and ranging further from the pond I don't see them nearly as much.  I just got a glimpse of them the other day and see that they've nearly shed their neck and face fuzz and taken on the tradition colors of adult geese.

Closer to the house we have the lazy anole lizards, always out in the sun.

In the front yard, I noticed a squirrel who seemed to be...drinking?...from one of our trees.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was the tree that, last year, had been leaking the yeasty-smelling fluid.  It's still leaking.

This is slime flux and there's nothing we can do.  It's a bacterial infection and that bacteria causes a pressure build-up within the tree, which is relieved by these foul-smelling leaks.  We just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.  I would hate to lose another tree.

Our gardenias are nearly done for the year! 

 I'd guess we had another week, but many of the blooms are starting to take on that tea-stain tint that occurs right before the buds drop.  I've been filling the house with bouquets and just as quickly changing them out, because the buds only last a day or so inside.

I know it seems like I have completely stopped baking, and I've definitely slowed a little bit, but I still bake on a regular basis.  I just bought some almond meal and am planning on trying my hand at making macarons this week, if I have time.  I do have a very simple recipe to share today, from the Annie's Eats site.  Greek yogurt, pureed strawberries, some lemon zest, and a dash of vanilla...

...freeze in some cheapo popsicle molds, and you've got a really tasty and healthy treat (although Todd recommends adding a little bit of sugar to give it some extra sweetness).

Recipe here.  Easy and perfect for summer.  Have a great week!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sleeping Beauties

We've had some pretty dramatic torrential rains lately.  Can you see how brown the pond is, with the sediment churned up by the storms?

But then the sun came out, and flowers started bursting into bloom.  First, the tiny white buds on our nandina bushes started to open.

Now, nandina are members of the bamboo family and, as such, spread like crazy.  They're considered a bit of a weed here, but I've found that if you keep a few in their place and carefully trimmed, they look quite nice.  I like the flowers, but I love the beautiful red berries in the winter.

Right next to the cluster of nandina bushes is the largest of our gardenias.  I tried to plant gardenias in Indiana but the winters were too harsh for them to thrive.  It's so strange to walk outside here and see 7 or 8 gardenia bushes much taller than I am!  They are drooping with blooms now and the smell is heavenly.

I've let them get a little out of control and they're pushing through railing and blocking stairs and walkways in the back yard.  After the blooms are spent, I'll give them a hard pruning.  Right now, though, I think it looks quite romantic!

After the hard rain, a carolina wren came to rest on our back deck.  Actually, they hang out there constantly, driving the cats crazy with their loud singing and tantalizing proximity.

Rest, clean, stretch, sing, and repeat!

Of course, I've been tracking the progress of our goslings.  The babies are getting a bit gangly...

...but the 'big boys' now have feathers!  Can you see the blue ones at the wings and the black ones at the tail?

They eat...a lot.

They rest...a lot.

Kind of reminds me of Borga, who spends the day resting and dreaming in daddy's beat-up chair in preparation for a night of panting adoringly by his feet.  Priorities!  :)

Have a great week!

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Goz, Take II

Early mornings here have been full of the familiar gobble, gobble sounds of our turkeys, although I haven't actually seen one for a few months.  Sometimes the sound comes from across the pond and sometimes from the woods, but wherever they are, they're definitely active and happy!  We've had a pretty regular visitor in our treetops, too.  The barred owls are back!  Not every night, but many nights we hear them calling.  They were so loud last week that Todd and I walked outside to listen.  There were at least three owls calling - one in the yard, one in the woods, and one across the pond.  We located the back yard tree where one owl was roosting and stood right underneath.  It was too dark to see him, but we could hear him, right about our heads, hooting in rounds with the others.  I'm glad that we have so many around.

Another group of welcome visitors are "the goz."  The first group of hatchlings - aka "the big boys" - have really grown.  They're boisterous and great fun, feeding around my feet while the parents give soft warning hisses, but never bother me. 

The youngest hatchlings are growing rapidly too.  They're still the bright yellow of the very young, but have gotten much more adept at moving easily and gathering tender shoots.

Some of our visitors are a little less celebrated by one of us.  Todd, as always, maintains his anti-snake stance.  I like them, but do keep my distance.  However, I startled a 6-foot black snake last week when I went out onto the front porch to pick up a package.  I didn't notice him slithering out of a fern, but once inside, his movements caught my eye through the glass.

He looks vicious...

...but black snakes aren't venomous.  They're wonderful to have around because they eat pests like rats, squirrels, and chipmunks.  This snake could've easily bitten me, but they're very shy and rarely bite unless stepped on or threatened. 

Poor Todd didn't see it this way, especially when the snake slid up the door frame and draped itself over the door knob and house number frame.

We left him alone and he disappeared into the night.  Problem solved!

Hope you all have some welcomed visitors of your own soon, although maybe not of the serpent variety.  Have a great week! 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Oh, Deer...More Creatures!

A second goose has been nesting on the pond.  That means...more goslings.  Squeal!  I call them "the goz" and get a great deal of joy out of my daily sightings. 

Our first group of hatchlings are getting so big.

I see them every day, poking around down by our fireplace...

...and all around the water's edge.

Their parents stay close.

I love to see them single-file in the water...

...with a protective goose at the beginning and end of the gosling line.

Our deer pack has been coming around quite a bit.

We've also seen a little muskrat on a regular basis.  He reminds me so much of the sweet little beaver family we used to enjoy watching.

Southern toads are taking over!  You almost can't go outside without one hopping around by your feet.

Their familiar calls add to the cacophony we hear at night. 

We've been hard at work on the fence so that the kittens will have an outdoor place to prowl around.  The fence is up and the bottom gaps have been filled in with bricks, but we still need to complete the doors and painting.  Still, they've gotten a little sample.

While working there yesterday, I discovered a praying mantis ootheca!

It's much smaller than the ones I'm used to seeing.  The ones in Indiana were more rounded and bulky.

The Indiana mantids were Chinese mantids, and we have South Carolina mantids here, which are much smaller.  It makes sense that their egg cases would be smaller too.  I saw a few mantids here last year.  I'm happy to see the egg case and will keep an eye out for this new generation of helpers!

Have a great week!