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My Backyard

Pomegranate Pain

I checked on my pomegranate tree a couple of weeks ago and the fruit never looked like it was ready. Denis said not to worry because the squirrels were all hibernating and the fruit would be safe. And I know the longer any fruit stays on the tree, the sweeter it will taste. But this morning, I saw a squirrel in the back yard. Hmmm… not hibernating… not carrying nuts… so what’s that in his mouth?? It’s big and red and it’s not Santa Claus.

That  mangy, rat-faced, no-good, low-life, beady-eyed, scum-sucking, pomegranate-eating squirrel is ruining my life. I threw a tennis ball at him and missed but it got his attention. He dropped the pomegranate (what was left of it) and flew like a reindeer up the back hill and he was gone. I decided I’d better take all the pomegranates off the tree so that rodent can’t get any more. See this picture?

The one on the lower right was the one he dropped and it was just a shell with nothing left inside. The other ones were still on the tree! I planted this tree because pomegranates are super healthy and eating them will make you live longer. So my  mangy, rat-faced, no-good, low-life, beady-eyed, scum-sucking squirrel is probably going to live even longer than he normally would, thanks to me. Life is not fair.

Beauty and the Beast

Is he looking at me or not? This praying mantis was hanging out on the side of a hummingbird feeder all day. When I got close, he kept tilting his head around  and I never knew when he was looking at me. See those little black dots inside the big green orbs on the corners of his head? I think they were moving around. So we had a staring contest. But I don’t know who won because I don’t know if he was really looking. But he was still there when I left so I guess he won.

Oh, this guy showed up, too. It was not nearly as much fun taking his picture and I promise I did not get as close. It was a zoom lens! This was our 4th scorpion since living here in the southern California hills. At least it’s the 4th one we’ve seen. I’m pretty sure there are more out there. It was scary. I need taller boots. And bigger cojones.

A Prisoner in Paradise

Have you seen the pictures I posted of my beautiful home? It’s paradise. The day I saw it for the first time, seven years ago, I knew in less than five minutes that this was my dream home. It has the most beautiful backyard and beyond it is a huge hill that wraps around the yard. For someone like me who enjoys nature and the outdoors, it’s truly a dream place to live.

I remember the first time I saw a deer on the back hill, of course I grabbed my camera and have been taking deer pictures ever since. And when I saw my first coyote, I was a little anxious but still excited. Then came the bobcat…. okay, I kept my distance.

The first time I saw a rattlesnake, it was a shock but I knew they existed in Southern California. I just didn’t expect to see them every year.  They come out in the morning to warm up on concrete or stone and we have a stone walkway so I stay away in the morning hours. Now this year, the skunks showed up. Yes, that’s plural. A family of skunks has been coming around, in fact last night I was outside after dinner and a skunk walked right past me! If my back had been turned I might not have seen him and could have walked right into him. And then what?

So I avoid going outside in the mornings for snakes, and in the early evening for skunks.  But I do have a window of freedom from late morning into the afternoon (the hottest part of the day). Beyond that I’m a prisoner in paradise.

Here’s what the gardener found this week…

The truth is, I would still choose this house again. I just need to get some tall boots… and maybe a skunk suit so I can blend…

Problem Solved.

I regret it had to come to this. But here are the harsh details: I planted a white peach tree because white peaches are a delicacy and these were going to be organic, too. My tree was getting bigger and this year, it produced more peaches than ever. I was so excited to see all the blossoms in the spring and could hardly wait to pick my first peach. Imagine my dismay when the peaches finally came and I would walk out  to see 5 or 10 peaches on the ground every day, most of them with just as bite taken out, and they were still hard and nowhere near ready to pick. But they were ready enough for the squirrels.

One day in particular, there were 24 unripe, damaged peaches on the ground. So of the 200 or so produced by the tree, we got to eat five. The other ones that I was forced to pick early finally softened but they weren’t sweet. And the ones I held out for until they were a bit soft, mostly had bruises and brown spots anyway.

I can’t say I didn’t try. I used a hot pepper spray, stuffed beach balls into the tree, tied dangling CDs from the branches, traps, plastic hawks, and a rubber snake. Nothing worked. And the tree became a source of stress and anxiety of what was coming next year. So it’s gone. The gardener dug it up today. Watching him carry it away was sad. You win, you mangy, rat-faced, no-good, low-life, beady-eyed, scum-sucking, peach-eating squirrel. But don’t be a stranger… my pomegranates are coming next.

No peach pie for me

I love to bake. And I love peach pie. So it’s a natural that I would make an awesome peach pie from the juicy peaches on my tree. I have fought off the mangy, rat-faced, no-good, low-life, beady-eyed, scum-sucking, peach-eating squirrel for weeks with my plastic snake, putting beach balls in the tree, tying cd’s to the branches to spin in the wind, I put my plastic hawk next to the tree, and a trap underneath with peach bait inside. All for nothing. The squirrel never gave up, finding new and inventive ways to steal my peaches.

Even though he had already taken most of the fruit off my tree, I was happy to get what I could. I managed to pick a few last week but it was too early and they weren’t sweet at all. So I decided to wait, watching them every day, squeezing to see if they were ready, happy that the squirrel was leaving some good ones for me. In fact there were a couple of branches with rows of peaches… just enough for my pie.

Besides the 15 peaches here, there were still a few on the rest of the tree. I checked them all on Saturday and decided my luck wouldn’t last forever so I would just pick them all on Sunday, ready or not, and make my pie. Sunday morning, I got a basket and headed for the tree ready to pick them all, starting with those long branches with 15 peaches. This is what I found…

WHAT!?! It can’t be! They were all here yesterday. I thought I had the wrong branch and pulled down the other branches – nothing. Every single peach was gone, even the other ones down below. There’s no way one squirrel could eat that much in one day. What did he do? Sound a battle horn to call every squirrel in the neighborhood to come to my house? “Hey, squirrel homies! The peaches are ready now! Let’s move!” Somebody give me a shovel. I’m digging up the tree. If I can’t have it, nobody else will either. I suppose it will leave a big hole in the ground and that could be a hazard. Gee, I hope nothing falls into the hole. What if he couldn’t get out?  What if a net accidentally fell on top of him? Yes, I need a shovel… and some champagne.

How much is a lassoo?

It looks like we have another youngster in the family. But that means more mouths to feed. I just heard that some deer got into our next door neighbor’s backyard and ALL of their roses are gone, even the leaves! As cute as this little guy is… are those the biggest, cutest ears ever?! … oops, I got sidetracked with the cuteness… but I’m back. As cute as he is, if he gets inside my fence and eats all the flowers I will be very upset. But if he eats all my peaches, it’s payback time! I will lassoo him by the neck and drag his sorry ass back to his parents. How much is a lassoo anyway? I’ll use a rope – I don’t care. Aaaaaah, but look at that adorable, innocent face….. I take it all back. Here, have a peach.

This has never happened

We had the most amazing thing happen yesterday. Denis and I were having tea in the backyard around 3:00, wondering if we might see the young deer again and all of a sudden a hawk swooped down and landed on a tree branch just 5 feet off the ground. He was right next to us! Maybe 25 feet away in a birch tree. The green leaves in the foreground are to top of a hydrangea bush. Before we saw him we heard his wings as he flew down. We sat motionless, afraid to even move an arm, knowing he’d fly away as fast as he landed. And I didn’t have my camera! “I have to try,” I said to Denis, “because the camera is just inside the door.” So I very slowly slid out of my chair and moved towards the door. I opened the door and it creaked a little and I was afraid to look back, knowing the noise would scare him away. But he stayed. I got my camera and slowly came back outside, in disbelief that he was still there and so close.  I was so thrilled to get this photo. He stayed for about 5 minutes and then his giant wings opened up and he was gone.

It’s a boy!

Did you see my posting on May 16th when the baby deer got into the backyard? Well, mom and baby came around again today (not in the yard – just on the hill behind the house) and guess what? Its a boy! I wish I had a better picture but as soon as he saw me, he ran to momma! But you know I’ll be staking out the hill for more photos of this beautiful boy when his antlers start to grow. The way he was looking at me, I wonder what he was thinking… “Aren’t you the broad who was chasing me around the yard? Try and catch me now, lady!”  Or maybe he was thinking, “What’s to eat? I ate all the flowers up here so…  got any tomatoes?”

Skunks need glasses

If it weren’t for the vile, putrefying stench, skunks are actually rather cute. But as afraid as I am of coming across a rattle snake, I was really scared when this skunk just walked up next to me in the backyard. It also happened a couple of weeks ago when a skunk walked right past me like I was invisible. They must have bad eyesight because this time it was around 7:00 pm and still light outside. I had just finished clipping some roses when this guy waddled out and acted like he was alone in the universe. I heard some rustling behind him and noticed another skunk behind some shrubs. I decided not to stay around. Not knowing what would prompt them to spray and not needing to find out, I slowly backed away into the house. I got my camera and took this picture from inside the house. He still didn’t notice me hanging out the window (maybe skunks need glasses!) but I was prepared to slam that window shut if he got too close. I wonder what would have happened if my rabbit showed up at the same time. Could they coexist? I wish I could pet all the little fuzzy animals that show up and bring them inside for a snack… except for the mangy, rat-faced, no-good, low-life, beady-eyed, scum-sucking, fruit-eating squirrel.

How did he get in?

How did he get into our backyard? We were stunned this week to find a baby deer in the backyard. We’ve seen adults and babies behind our house up on a hill but never inside the gated yard. The poor thing was so scared he was trying to get out but the gate was closed. He kept trying to jump over an 8-foot chain link fence but he wound up jumping into it instead. As soon as we saw him, we all went out to help. We opened the gate and calmly tried to get him away from the fence he was jumping into but instead of going to the open gate, he panicked and raced, and I mean raced, across the yard in the opposite direction. I’m pretty sure he was going about 50 mph! He headed for another 8-foot  fence, this one was wood and covered with ivy (in the photo) and he was getting ready to jump. This time we panicked because on the other side of the fence was a long drop to the neighbor’s concrete walk. We raced towards him to stop him, which scared him even more, so he raced back across the yard, flew over a 5-foot wall like he had wings, found the open gate, and disappeared up the hill. We were all relieved to help him get home but sad that he was so scared and didn’t realize we were trying to help. We still have no idea how he got in. I hope he’s back with his mom but I’ll be looking out for him, hoping to see this beautiful animal again on the hill, where he belongs. It was quite an ordeal for all of us.