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My Backyard

I Hate Squirrels

I know they have to eat but why my tangerines?!? And my apples? It’s not fair! I scared this little rodent and he dropped the tangerine but didn’t run. He stood over it, staring at me, daring me to take it away. “Go ahead,” he’s thinking. “Take it. There’s more where that came from. And oh… thanks for planting those easy-peel ones!”

So far the squirrels have devastated my apple, pomegranate, and peach trees, and the tangerines are next. Why can’t they develop a taste for weeds? Why can’t I learn to use a sling shot? Where are the coyotes when you need them? Oh, wait…  one showed up about 20 minutes later – in our backyard!!! Missed a nice lunch by 20 minutes.


The Praying Mantis Incident

Praying MantisI found a praying mantis in my backyard last week and took some pictures, fascinated by its size and a head that turns 180 degrees, but it was still kind of pretty except for all those tiny razor blades on its front legs. But as big as it was, it moved slowly so I had no fear… not until the “incident.” After I took my pictures, I stayed in the backyard for an hour or so, then went inside and cooked dinner.

After dinner my husband went out with some friends and I drove to the mall. It was dark. As I was pulling in to a parking spot, I felt something on my left hand, grabbing my finger and biting or sticking me with something. I panicked because it was dark and I couldn’t see what it was. I shook my left hand but I still couldn’t see what it was. A spider? A scorpion? I jumped out of the car while it was still running and the interior light came on and I saw it… a praying mantis on my steering wheel. And it was huge! I didn’t know what to do.

I grabbed a kleenex from my purse but he looked bigger than the kleenex. I knew I had to act. I was trying to work up my nerve to grab him with the tissue when he suddenly dropped to the floor where there was no light. I ran around to get a flashlight out of my glove box, came back and shone the light but he was gone. But where?  Somewhere in my car. Even if I found him I wouldn’t know what to do. Maybe it was time to sell the car.

I called my husband and said I will not get back in the car so he came and let me drive his car home and he drove mine (my hero ❤️). Once in our garage with lots of light, he was unable to find the intruder. I cut some leaves off a shrub and placed them inside my car overnight hoping it would coax him out but the next morning he was still missing. Maybe he got out? Maybe he’s waiting for me to drive again so he can crawl on the back of my neck while I’m on the freeway. Click these pictures I found online to get a good look!

For the next couple of days we kept checking with flashlights and we never saw him. I was too scared to drive anywhere. By the third day we still didn’t see him but we did hear something… a scratching noise coming from inside the air conditioning vent right by the steering wheel. (It’s coming from inside the car!) The good news: We found him. The bad news: He can’t get out. He’s been there for days. Or maybe he CAN get out and is just resting. What if he crawls out while I’m driving? We took the car to three mechanics who said there’s nothing they can do without taking the whole dashboard apart so I should just let him die in there. I looked up how long a praying mantis can live without food – TWO WEEKS!

He must have hitched a ride on me when I was outside. But why didn’t he go after my salad? I spent ten minutes making a salad, and then ten minutes eating it. Where was he then? On my back? He must have been on me for two hours while I cooked and ate dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, and drove to the mall. I would like to go out today but it’s hot and I would need to run the air conditioning. What if he tries to get out while I’m driving and see I those bulging zombie eyes looking at me through the vent? I’d like to sell the car, with a praying mantis discount of course. Otherwise, to drive I need to arm myself… maybe drive with a fly swatter or an oven glove or a box of cats???


Mothra

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Look what showed up on the outside of my kitchen window this morning. It actually cast a shadow on the counter! It’s six inches long! And beautiful. I had to get close to take this photo and he didn’t move at all. Then the gardener showed up and was using a loud blower close by and still he didn’t move. It looked like it was soft and fuzzy and I wanted to touch it but didn’t.

As pretty as it was, I think if it flew past my face I’d freak out. If it collided with one of my hummingbirds, the bird would lose. I wish I could keep it as a pet. Do you think I could train it to attack a squirrel?


The Tomato Fiasco

Remember that crazy tomato plant that just popped up 3 years ago, uninvited, in my rose garden? The one that produced over 8,000 delicious big cherry tomatoes? Well it came back this year and was going along beautifully, and quickly. I could tell it was going to be huge.

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I even got a few sweet, delicious, red, vine-ripened, organic tomatoes… until THEY showed up.

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The nasty squirrels started coming by every day and they and ate every red tomato – not only that – they ate the green ones too so there was no chance of any tomatoes for us. This was a lot of squirrels. They brought their families, probably renting  motorhomes and minivans to bus everybody in. The battle was no longer worth fighting. It was time to end it, like a bad breakup. If I can’t have you, nobody will. About 3 weeks ago, I went out at night and took out the plant, including the roots so it could never come back.

The next morning, the squirrels were pissed, running around like the world was going to end.

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They even came up to the window to express their anger, knowing I had just ruined their entire summer. Too bad, you mangy, rat-faced, no-good, low-life, beady-eyed, scum-sucking, tomato-stealing squirrels  because the tomato plant is gone. And don’t come looking for it again because it’s never coming back.

That was 3 weeks ago. Look what I found this morning.

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Twenty-three tomato plants just popped up in 3 different locations. What now?????


A pie pan, a spoon, and a gun

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I was making dinner tonight around 6:00 and heard a bunch of coyotes howling outside. So what’s new, right? I went out to make sure they weren’t in the yard again and it sounded like they were behind the next door neighbor’s house. I went back to my broiled salmon with rice and broccoli.

We have a tradition here that we walk every evening after dinner and we do it in the back yard. It’s a big yard and we have a path we use for our regular 20-minute after-dinner walk. After dinner we were getting ready to head outside when I saw this coyote on the hill behind our house. He was walking past, stopped to stare me down, and kept going.

It was time for our walk. We’ve both agreed that we will never use excuses not to walk after dinner and today was not going to be an exception. No excuses. That doesn’t mean no fear. I’m still haunted by the dozen or so coyotes that invaded our back yard a few weeks ago. We needed to feel safe with something that makes noise. The neighbors use an air horn to combat the coyotes but we don’t have one. So Denis got a metal pie pan and a wooden spoon to bang it with.

That was okay for one or two coyotes but what if the whole troop comes back? I got my gun. I put it in my pocket just in case and we went walking… with a pie pan, a spoon, and a gun. It’s just life in California.


It’s baaack!

Remember in the summer of 2012 when a tomato plant started growing in my rose garden? And by the time it was done, I had picked over 8,000 tomatoes? Well it’s back! If you’re new here, listen to this: I did not plant it. I did not feed it. I don’t know where it came from. It just started growing in between my roses and never stopped. The following year it didn’t come back so I thought that was it. Then about 3 months ago we noticed it coming up between the roses but it looked pretty small and we didn’t expect it to survive. Here’s what we discovered back in December…

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Now, less than four months later, it’s grown into the roses on both sides and well over the top of the fence. It’s  ten feet across and taller than I am. Look at this photo taken today…

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And it’s already loaded with tomatoes…

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It’s crazy! But here’s something even more crazy: It’s in a different spot! I know my roses and it’s about five feet over from where it grew the first time. And it’s growing incredibly fast. As if that’s not enough, these tomatoes were the best I’ve ever tasted. They are large cherry tomatoes, organic of course, and as sweet a tomato as I’ve ever had. I’ll keep posting the progress of this crazy tomato plant and counting the ones I pick, not counting the ones eaten by the mangy rat-faced, no-good, low-life, beady-eyed, scum-sucking, tomato-stealing squirrels! 


Oops, you’re back early.

We went on a road trip! It was so much fun. We drove all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia and I learned a lot on this trip. I learned that sitting in a car for eight hours is not that hard. The hard part is getting out. My first few steps out of the car, I looked like someone recovering from a bad fall… who was just learning how to walk again. But that aside, we really had fun.  Denis and I were together 24/7 and we were still friends when we got back.

What I missed most of all was my cooking, and my beautiful house. We came back a day early and the first thing I did was go out to the backyard to see my garden. I wasn’t surprised to see a  squirrel but he was definitely surprised to see me. He froze for a moment and stared at me thinking, “Oops, you’re back early. And yes, I have one of your apples in my mouth. Goodbye.” He didn’t run. He flew across the yard so fast all I could catch was his tail flying by faster than we drove on our trip.

He ran up a tree, looked back once (I’m pretty sure he thumbed his nose) and disappeared. Seeing him made me realize I needed to check my pomegranate tree because the fruit will be ripe soon and I don’t want this mangy, rat-faced, no-good, low-life, beady-eyed, scum-sucking, apple-stealing squirrel to get my pomegranates. Too late.

I know squirrel teeth marks when I see them. But the pomegranates were still green! So now I was forced to pick all the green ones off the tree and try to ripen them in a window. There were only two that even started to turn red but he hollowed them both out. It’s too painful. I decided to remove the tree and buy my pomegranates at the store. I can plant some flowers there and at least there will be something nice to look at… until the deer show up.


Are you mocking me?

I don’t like this squirrel’s attitude. After investing money is a plastic hawk, it still wasn’t enough to scare off this mangy, rat-faced, no-good, low-life, beady-eyed, scum-sucking, apple-stealing squirrel. I placed the hawk there couple of weeks ago and apparently, it’s just an inconvenience. Now instead of running along the stone wall, the furry rodents have to detour around the bird and scale down the side to get to my apples.

Now I think he’s mocking me. What he doesn’t know is that last Sunday, four coyotes walked by the same spot. The hawk may be fake but those coyotes are real. And hungry. Instead of  sitting there watching the hawk’s back, you’d better watch your own. I saw a bobcat around too. “Here, kittty, kitty, kitty……”


Who needs fireworks?

Who needs fireworks when they have this in their backyard? I was so lucky to get this shot! I saw the mom and baby walk by and went out with my camera (like I always do when anything moves back there) and I started taking pictures. Then the baby saw me and took off but the mom stayed, probably because she’s more used to seeing me. I was about to go back in the house, assuming the mom would follow the baby but then I saw the baby walking back to the mom. I still didn’t know what was coming. I was just prepared to take some photos of them together.

And then THIS happened! Wow! It was lunch time, baby! I was so excited to be a spectator at this beautiful event, I could hardly hold the camera still. What a joy that they came to our house today. Tomorrow’s 4th of July fireworks will never compare.