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Somehow, to me the title of this post sounds like a fine title for a children’s book.   It would be a sort of “Goodnight Moon,” only about birds.

A few days ago I was gazing out my bathroom window at the Hosta Dell, as I am wont to do.   It is a view that particularly pleases me.  These shots were taken several years ago, but it looks much like this now, although the hostas have really filled in.

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Note the bird house on the left post of the pergola.   That is a wren house, and there is a pair of wrens that has “owned” it for several years.

Part of the reason I like to look out the bathroom window is I can watch and listen to the goings on without having my presence disturb the tenants.   It is quite amusing. The redbud on the other side of the fence is the vantage point where the male wren proclaims his territory.   The pergola and shrubs nearby are great hunting grounds for all sorts of bugs, as is the Hosta Dell itself.

A few days ago I heard all sorts of commotion going on out there, so I took a peek and discovered that the rock ridge has attracted a resident, an Eastern Chipmunk.   Although I have no idea what the sex of this rodent is, I shall refer to it as “he” for the purposes of this story.

Said chipmunk was over near the fence where there are rail road ties that keep the gravel of the rock garden from migrating under the fence and into the front yard.   The ties are pretty old and decrepit, and have lots of rot in the center, places where maple seeds and other edibles tend to collect.   So he was investigating the possibilities for breakfast and suffering through a proper dressing down from the Papa wren, who was bouncing along the top of the fence and generally making his displeasure known in no uncertain terms.

This intrigued me, as I could not see what danger a chipmunk could possibly pose to the wren family.   My amazement grew as I observed the wren take a couple of dive bomb runs at the chipmunk’s head.   He took cover in a crack in the railroad tie, and I settled in to watch the proceedings.   The wren was not deceived by the disappearance of the chipmunk, and sat on the fence proclaiming “You’re not fooling anyone, you know!”  Eventually the chipmunk stuck his head out and began looking for maple seeds, an activity I heartily endorse.  The more he eats the less there will be sprouting in my garden.  I wish he would eat cherry pits.

The wren was having none of it, however, and once again flew down intrepidly and pecked the hapless chipmunk on the head.   He gave up on breakfast and dashed across the rock garden to his front door, pursued by the wren.

For the life of me, I could not understand what was the big deal about the chipmunk.  It wasn’t a cat, or anything I perceived as predatory.   Curious, I repaired to Google and looked up chipmunks.   Suddenly it all became clear.   The chipmunk, eater of seeds and other vegetarian sorts of things, is not so innocent.   It turns out they are opportunistic predators and will eat bird eggs and fledglings if they are convenient.   They have been observed to climb trees to get to nests of eggs.

Suddenly the wren’s attitude did not seem quite so odd.   The wren is a very small bird, and the fledglings would make a tasty morsel for  a hungry chipmunk.

Wrens ARE very small, and one year I observed a blue jay attempting to eat a freshly fledged wrenlet.   It was only because I intervened and liberated the chick from the jaws of death (literally) that his nefarious plan was foiled.

I suppose this post could be entitled “Wrens do not like much of anybody” as pretty much everyone is a potential predator when you are that small.  I have been keeping my eye on the wrens for a couple of weeks.  I have been listening to the chicks get louder and more demanding as the days go by, and I was hoping to catch the fledging.

Today was the magic day:  They fledged this afternoon.   No wonder it was so loud in that bird box.   The proud wren parents managed to raise up FIVE little wrens.   I discovered them in the snowball bush at the far end of the stroll garden (far from where the chipmunk lives!).   All five of them were grouped in a nice organized troop on one branch.  Of course I did not have my camera, so I ran to get it.

Mama wren is no dummy.   She saw me looking at her kids and knew the jig was up.   By the time I got back to the location with the camera, she had started marshaling them in a different direction.   There were still three in the snowball bush, but they were moving away fast, urgently directed towards safety by their mama.   However, I did manage to get a great shot of one of them in the snowball bush.

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One of his siblings had ensconced itself in the clematis.

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Another one was in the beach plum bush, but that picture was very blurry due to the fact that the wind was blowing and the little bird was not still enough for a good shot in the shadows.

But another one of the chicks got very excited by the whole thing and flew over the fence into the forsythia by the pond.   Immediately the parents went ballistic, telling it that it was too far away and it should just get it’s little butt back over to the group.   Obediently, he returned from his foray and perched on the fence, where I got a delightful portrait.   “What are you looking at?”  he seems to be saying.  “My mother told me not to associate with strangers, you should go away.”

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The mother wren seconded his sentiments, emphatically.   So I left them to it.

In other news, the second round of robin babies have hit the ground.   I had a new heuchera to plant, and I had sat the pot out under the pergola to await my attentions while I gave a couple of massages.   When I returned to my chore, I reached down to grab the pot and discovered that while I was gone it had been graced with an inhabitant.  Again, I ran off for the camera.   Can you see it?

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How about now?

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That bird child was the noisiest little bugger!   I scooped him up to put him on the spirea bush while I dealt with transplanting the heuchera, and the screeching that the little bird put up was impressive.

“I’m being molested, kidnapped, help! help! help!”  was the burden of his extremely loud complaints.

I expected his parents to come to his aid, but what I did not expect was every male robin in the yard.  They ALL came over and started yelling at me.   There were at least five male robins, a female (probably the baby’s mother).  Even more surprising was that  a gold finch and both wrens gave me what for right along with the robins.  Avian solidarity, I guess.

I put my head down and planted my plant, and then got the heck out of Dodge while my eyes were still in my head.

Life at The Havens is never dull!

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Just this morning I posted this:

Out there is where the pipe vine grows. I planted it as a food supply for the pipevine swallowtail, in the fond hope that one would happen upon it and start a colony, but so far they have not shown up. I may be located too far from their usual habitat. But I love the vine anyway. Right now it is covered with little “dutchmen’s pipes”.

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Well, I am happy to be proved wrong.

I was just out on the other side of the fence transplanting a spiderwort that had volunteered in the Stroll Garden.   While I was out there I took it upon myself to remove an oak tree that was volunteering as well as the ten thousandth mulberry, also volunteering.

I was making my way through the jungle toward the burn pile with my trophies when I noticed a caterpillar dining on the pipevine.    Of course, I had to take a picture so I could identify it.

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Yes children!   That is the larva of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly.   There are other places on the vine showing evidence of happy diners.   I could not be more excited.

It just proves my point once again:   IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME.

HUZZAH!

 

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For as far back as I can remember, and by some reports farther back than that, I have been a sucker for growing things.

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That picture was taken when I was three.   We were planting peas and what I was doing was pulling the soil into the furrow.

The story goes that one fine day when I was closing in on my third birthday, it came nigh on to meal time and my mother put out the dinner call.   Needless to say, my one year old brother was johnny on the spot, having been put into his high chair willy nilly.   My older sister showed up fairly promptly, as did my father.   But there was an unoccupied chair at the table, and the question arose:   “Where is Ellie?”

Another call made from the back porch, and again, no response.   A posse was formed and the search for the miscreant began.   It wasn’t long before the forces of the law discovered the fugitive’s whereabouts.   I was crouched at the edge of the bean patch, delightedly engrossed in the show that was going on there.   Urged by the warm Southern California sun, the bean seeds were emerging from the soil, literally popping from the u-shaped form to erect with their little dicotyledons deployed to catch the rays and begin their job of growing.

My mother reports that I was laughing and cheering each victorious seedling, heedless of hunger or parental calls.  After a suitable celebration, we all went inside to eat.

My fascination has not abated.   I still like to watch the beans unfold.   I like to see the plants in my garden thrive.   Today I went out on a safari through my urban jungle to see what was going on.

The poppies are blooming in the stroll garden.

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Personally, I think they bear a closer look.

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I proceeded out to the pond to see if I could spy a dragon fly.   They were still asleep, it being quite early in cloudy and cool morning.   The water lilies were not open yet either, but there was a pond denizen in evidence.

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Out there is where the pipe vine grows.   I planted it as a food supply for  the pipevine swallowtail, in the fond hope that one would happen upon it and start a colony, but so far they have not shown up.  I may be located too far from their usual habitat.   But I love the vine anyway.   Right now it is covered with little “dutchmen’s pipes”.

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You might wonder why I entitled this post “Hosta love” since I haven’t mentioned them yet.   Well, I’m getting there.   Just be patient.

I have quite the collection of hostas.   They are actually fairly trouble free plants, and the huge variety of color and form make them a wonderful thing to fill dark corners.  I started out with just a few varieties in a garden on the north side of the house.  In addition to hostas, this garden contains hellebores, a couple of bleeding hearts and sundry filler plants.

This beauty is located there, and she is the perfect exemplar of what I love about the genus.

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Here is a broad shot of the area I call the Hosta Dell, that gives you an idea of what a beautiful garden you can create using hostas as the main focus.

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That is where you can find this variety.

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And this one too.   It may be the star of the show, but the two Heucheras behind it make a pretty fine back up section.

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I am very sorry to report that I have neglected to mark and remember all the varietal names of the hostas I own.   I started out with good intentions, but I was derailed by certain events that I had no control over, namely the blue jays’ penchant for stealing plant tags for nest material.  I always have good intentions of making maps with labeled plant locations, but then I move a plant or one dies and gets replaced (or not), and the mapping falls by the wayside, so to speak.  So I really couldn’t tell you these particular lovlies actual names.   Sorry.

Of course, all is not perfection in the gardens of The Havens.   I have a rose I need to move off the root cellar so that we can cover the area with more dirt in preparation for the solar panel installation.   The garden I wish to transplant the rose into was choked with weeds yesterday.   I have it 80% cleaned out, but the north end of the Hosta Dell is sadly in need of attention too.

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I guess I’d better stop procrastinating and get out there and get to work!

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In the past I have mentioned that The Havens is a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat.  If you search the blog for “Habitat” you will find several posts on the subject.

I made a pretty comprehensive post about the vegetable garden a while back. Things have not changed a lot back there since that post, although we are in the process of removing the perimeter of grass that surrounds the beds. Right now this involves covering the area with carpet in an attempt to smother the grass. This is varyingly successful depending on the quality of the carpet used. But at least it is being discouraged. Eventually we will remove some dirt and put in weed barrier and something to walk on. Bark seems to work pretty well, as does pea gravel.  This is still to be decided.

I am excited to report that we have a screech owl hunting here. I have not figured out where it sleeps yet, but there are lots of trees with holes on the place so I’m sure it has a nice bedroom. However, it likes to sit on top of the frame that holds the swing out by the pond. I found one of its pellets the other day, all full of mouse fur and beautiful green beetle wing covers. The latter surprised me a bit, as I was not aware the screech owls eat beetles. But I did a little research and found out that not only do they eat baby rabbits (Yay!), they also eat other mammals, crayfish, insects, earth worms, small birds, and a whole lot of other stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily think that an owl eats.

In other news, we have been blessed (and I use that term advisedly) with another new addition to the habitat.   Apparently The Havens has been certified habitable by the local groundhogs (Marmota monax).  This species has  colonized the yard more than once.   The last time there was a ground hog living here the garden fence got another layer of security added, so I’m not too upset that we have a new colonist in residence.   So far she has stayed out of the vegetable garden.   Honestly, there is PLENTY for her and her family to eat around here without decimating the garden.  I noticed that she seems to like sweet cicely pretty well.

Anyway, I mentioned the extra level of security for the vegetable garden fence.  The previous ground hog had discovered that it could tunnel under the fence and access all that succulent produce within.   We acquired a live trap, and placed it strategically in front of the hole.

“Fools!” the groundhog muttered, as it dug a new hole a few feet down the fence.

We got another live trap and stationed it by the second hole.    It was just as easy to dig a third access hole…

We cogitated about the situation for a while, did a little on-line research, and then Jim went off to the farm supply emporium and acquired some chicken wire.  Attaching it securely to the outside of the fence about 18 inches up, at ground level he bent it outward and allowed it to extend out along the ground so that there was a strip of chicken wire about 18″ out onto the grass.   He got some landscape “staples” and secured the wire to the ground.

The groundhog thought about the situation for about 30 seconds and found a spot where the wire wasn’t really tight to the ground and wiggled its way under the chicken wire to its favorite hole under the fence.   This is where it made its strategic error.

Apparently beguiled and distracted by the crunching of  my fine lettuce, it did not notice us approaching the garden until the gate opened.

“Yaaaaaah!” is a pretty good approximation of its reaction to our sudden advent, especially since we happened to have Ruby with us.   Ruby chased the groundhog to its hole and then sped around through the gate to behind the fence to continue the pursuit.   The panicked rodent did not leave the same way it entered and found that the chicken wire was a lot more secure than it had seemed at first blush.  Tangled up in the chicken wire, it was having a huge groundhog heart attack since Ruby was bouncing around as it flailed its way out from under the wire.    Off it went to its tunnel, with Ruby in hot pursuit.

Jim addressed the loose wire situation, tightening it up and adding several more anchors.   The groundhog crouched in its burrow, apparently a victim of PTSD.  During the night, it moved away, never to return.  I guess the neighborhood was just too stressful for it.

Anyway, the new groundhog doesn’t care about the garden (so far).   It has lovely accommodations on the root cellar mound, and one of its progeny or its mate is busy digging an extensive burrow inside the barn.   We are not really too happy about the barn situation, as it is tunneling under the slab of concrete that makes Jim’s shop floor, and making a hell of a mess inside the rest of the barn with its dirt pile.   I have visions of the barn falling into the hole it is digging down there.

Anyway, neither of our tenants is going to be all that happy about their living situations, because we have plans for both areas.  We are planning to improve the barn substantially.   When that happens I sincerely hope that no groundhogs get entombed beneath the new concrete slab floor that is going to be poured.   But if they are, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Also, we have acquired solar panels, and we are going to install them this summer.   This is a long involved project that begins with the moving of the dirt pile that we have established back near the root cellar.   That root cellar never had enough dirt on it, and because of that it has never been stable in temperature, being too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer.   So we intend to have a dirt worker come along with equipment and move our dirt pile onto the root cellar.   Unfortunately, this is going to seriously discommode the groundhogs living there but they are not an endangered species and I can live with that.

Pretty enterprising mammal, though.   I was investigating the burrow the other day, and I discovered that the ground had found a piece of reflectix insulation that was in the barn and had hauled it all the way out to the root cellar and was attempting to drag the whole sheet down into its burrow.   I guess even groundhogs know the value of insulating their home!

So, there you are.   The Havens wildlife habitat is still a destination.

 

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I hardly know where to start with this post.

I am now certified as having satisfactorily completed my continuing education project.   That involved the commitment of a couple of grand to pay for the class in Neuromuscular Reprogramming that I just finished at the beginning of May.  It also required me to travel to California for a weekend each month for four months.   It was grueling, and gave me a new respect for the business Road Warriors who travel all the time.   Very few of my flights occurred without delays of some sort.

The class was well worth my time.   Neuromuscular Reprogramming is a technique of body work that achieves absolutely amazing results.   I am exultant and my clients are very pleased.   One of the side effects has been a huge increase in my business.   There isn’t a day of the week that I don’t have at least four massages scheduled.   Pretty good for the bottom line.

The side effect of that is that Jim has decided to retire from the work force as of June 28.   He won’t be able to start collecting Social Security until September, but that simply does not matter due to the increase in my income.   He will thoroughly enjoy being home for the summer and able to do his own projects.

One of those projects will be installing our new solar panels, which arrived this week.   I can hardly wait for them to be on line and watch the electric bill shrink to nothing while our carbon footprint diminishes as well.

The flower gardens are quite beautiful right now.   This is a view of the path in the Hosta Dell.   Don’t look too closely or you might notice all the weeds that took the opportunity to ensconce themselves while I was running back and forth to California.

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Of course, the vegetable garden has been a big project. We’ve been eating wonderful salads out of it for over a month, and it recently presented us with over 6 pounds of snow peas, which we blanched this morning and have in the freezer. I also picked a pile of spinach, which is already in the freezer.

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There is a sink full of broccoli raab that needs to be dealt with.  I will get around to that this afternoon, after I plant the veronica and the pink iris that one of my friends brought be yesterday.

So by now I’m sure you are wondering why I would title this “Labyrinth News.”

Simply this.   Back in November a most delightful woman named Twylla Alexander paid me and my labyrinth a visit.  She blogged about it here.  Her vision was to visit a personal labyrinth constructed by a woman in each of the fifty states.   I think she only has two states left to visit!   That is quite the journey, and during the course of it she has connected the owners of all the labyrinths she visited via email.

Now we are all agog over the near completion of her project, and hoping that we will be able to have a little cyber party to celebrate her accomplishment.   Well, and ours, of course!   And so, I make this post and I am hoping that it is possible for folks to upload pictures into the comments section.   I invite someone to attempt to do this.  If it works, then I will make a dedicated “Labyrinth Party Post” for us all to use.

Watch this space….

 

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