Friday, September 23, 2005

Evening Hummingbird?

Several years ago as we were approaching the house coming back from dinner, there was something hovering around the flowers in the front of the house. It was late dusk. We thought at first that it was a hummingbird because it was the same size, moved just like one, and was feeding on the flowers. But it was practically night. If the porch light had not been on, we probably would have never seen it. But we still would have heard it because it sounded just like a hummingbird too.

I tried to get a closer look. It did not seem to be too concerned with me as I got closer. It continued to rapidly flutter around feeding on the impatiens that I had planted in the front flower beds.
It wasn't a hummingbird after all. It was a moth! I had never seen anything like it. SSB and JD had crept up behind me to get a look at this strange creature. It didn't seem too concerned about them either.

I was listening to public radio this morning and learned the name of this particular wonder: the white lined sphinx moth. It is common in my area.

These are pictures I pulled off the internet. They show the hovering manuevers. In the second you can even see the rotating wings that help the moth maintain it's position in front of the flower.
I was amazed at the mobility this moth had. It flew FAST!! And these pictures show how really beautiful this moth is too. The insect expert that was talking about them said that they are most active in late summer to early fall. They are found in Central America and the West Indies into most of the US and southern Canada. They are also found in Eurasia and Africa. So the next time you are out at dusk and you see something flitting around your garden, you just might have a white lined sphinx moth visitor.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

End of Summer Blowout

It was a good thing that I took that picture of my sunflowers when I did! We had a bad storm rip through here last night and this is what that plant looks like today. Oh well, they were beautiful while they lasted!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Here are some of the last of my sunflowers. I think that these by far are the best.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Cats at Large

Ever since I moved into this house I have had a problem with cats. The first year there were so many cats that you could barely drive down the street. They would actually lay in the street. They wouldn't move. They'd just look at you like, "Yeah? What are you going to do about it?" There were times I fantasized about just running them over. Sigh! I could NEVER do it though. It's just not in me. Besides, it's not the cats' fault. It's the owners fault.

I do not know where this whole myth got started about cats shriveling up and dying a horrible death if they are not allowed to roam free through the countryside. My dog would love nothing more than for me to let him loose on society too. Does that mean I should be allowed to do it? I suppose that dogs became more contained as societies became more and more congested due to the fact that they were more dangerous to people. But cats are dangerous in their own right. They can spread diseases, attack animals that are contained- such as dogs and other cats, and they kill billions of birds and other small animals a year. Even if the cat is well fed. Even if the cat is sweet and playful. Cats kill. They have evolved into what some may argue is one of nature's perfect killing machines.

Those birds that were in my last post are just some of the animals at risk to cats at large. I have a friend that I lecture all the time about her cat on the loose. She will tell me sad stories about how he killed a chipmunk or a cardinal (apparently two of his favorite prey items). She will also tell me how her neighbor complains about her cat being in her yard. I tell her that she will get no sympathy from me. I remind her that he should not even be running around. There is a leash ordinace in this city- and that includes CATS!

So, this morning, my son comes running into the house yelling about a cat in my garden. There have been two male cats coming to my yard on a regular basis to hunt. There were three. The third was REALLY annoying because he would howl, for hours! I'm not sure what happened to him. I haven't seen him in awhile. I think his owners moved.

These cats were responsible for two bunny deaths in our yard. You know those cute little bunnies that I posted about. They are also responsible for spraying my house (yeah, YUCK! My house smells like cat piss, and now MY cat is trying to mark over the smell. Thanks, ya jerks!), digging in my garden, shitting in my garden (that's just such a lovely little surprise when you are weeding), and worse yet- they have even killed a few birds.

SSB leaps into action. He ran outside to try and catch it. It was the grey-striped cat. Our neighbor drove his car over (???, uh, weird to us too) and started asking us all sorts of silly questions about the cat. Then he told us who he thought the cat belong too. Hey, thanks! That's actually helpful!

Well, we lost that cat. Just as we were trying to put him in the cat carrier- he got away. Darn!

But, the day was not lost. Within 10 minutes it's buddy- a big black cat came into our yard. This one is especially annoying because he refuses to be chased off. He'll run off, but then come back as soon as you turn to walk away. I had to spray him with the hose several times one day just to get him to leave. He REALLY NEEDED to spray all my bushes apparently. Well, not TODAY SUCKA!! We got him. SSB sustained several nasty scratches and punctures in the process, but he's in the cat carrier right now munching on some cat food.

I called the police to let them know what was going on. I gave them the address that the neighbor gave me. I let them know that I wasn't sure that this really was the owner of the cat that got away, though. They are filing a complaint, and I'm bringing the cat in to the Humane Society tomorrow. Don't fear! It's a no-kill shelter.

I know that this is not the end to my cat problems. I implore all of you out there that let your cats run free and you don't have a barn or grain shed that they are in charge of- keep them contained! For the love of your neighbors and more importantly, for the love of those cute little songbirds!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Morning Garden Visitors

Here are a couple of garden visitors that decided to come check me out this morning. I almost got a picture of a curious chickadee, but couldn't get the camera to focus in time. Darn!

I have lots of finches and cardinals that visit my garden every morning. They like to eat the sunflower seeds on the plants as well as the ones that I put in the feeder every morning. Maybe they recognize me as a food source. Maybe they are facinated with my technology. Maybe they just think that I'm trying to take their food. Whatever it was, I had birds following me all while I was out this morning.

Except the usually aggressively bold blue jays. They were no where to be found or heard this morning. Hmmm...I wonder what is up with that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My Little Retreat

This is the gazebo that we put up this spring. It was so hard to find just the right one. I already had the area laid out in a circle, so I needed one that was circular. I didn't want to block out the sun, so I wanted one that was sparse. I wanted something cheap but sturdy. And I was really interested in something that looked like wrought iron. I love curves and floral-like patterns (duh, huh?). This gazebo was it! I got it from Target. It was easy to put together. It would be easy to take apart if I wanted to put it away for the winter- I'm still deciding. I might just hit it really hard with WD-40 before the snow flies and then get out there whenever it warms up to do the same. I did put an extra coat of enamel on this to protect it a little better, and so far it has been working just fine! We have had some VERY BAD wind storms (we are in the plains area, and we get winds that knock over trees) but this has withstood no problem.

I was so happy to see this become the little getaway area that I was hoping that it would be. I started the morning glory sometime around the first of July. I will definitely use these next year, but I will start them a lot earlier. I can go out here in the morning and have some coffee or tea. Only ocassionally do I need to clean the chairs of bird droppings. I love the birds, but can't they find other things to crap on?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Gourds Galore

Do you think that I should cut these vines back? My husband keeps talking about it, and it probably is a very good idea considering that these vines are determined to take over the entire westside of the flower garden, but I just can't bring myself to do it.

I think today is the day though. This thing is just getting out of control. Maybe I'll send him in to do the dirty deed. He will be merciless. Look out gourds!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

There's Still Life Out There

This is the first year that I have grown dahlias. I like them enough, but for the work that is required, I don't know if they are worth it. This is a Thomas Edison. This is the first flower from the three of these that I planted that didn't come out deformed in some way. I really like the color and the solidity of the plant and flower. I'll dig these up and try it again, but I don't hold out much hope for success next year.
These rudbeckia I started from seed this year. Mid-late June as a matter of fact. I didn't even get these out of the pots that I started them in. I was really surprised to see these bloom this year, but oh so glad that they did! I love these so much! I hope that they fair well through the winter. If not, I would still plant them again next year. They were easy to start from seed and bloomed just fine the same year.
Yea! More echinacea! As you can see, they are just starting to fade out. There is a little browning along the edges, but they are still beautiful. The goldfinches are loving these. I have about ten to fifteen visiting every morning. There are also two to four cardinals and a few sparrows that visit too. I can hear the blue jays in the morning with their "squeaky pump" song, but I don't see them visit the garden. I try to make sure that I have water in the bath for the birds. There are usually several birds trying to squeeze in a bath every morning too. I guess birds are a lot like us in that way.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ligularia Abounds

For quite a few years I tried to grow ligularia and every year I killed it. Finally two years ago, I managed to get it to live by planting in the shade and giving it a LOT of watering all summer long.

Well, this variety I plopped in the ground last year and never paid any more attention to it (I went overseas, so I really wasn't around to do anything with it). This year, I almost pulled it up as a weed because I had forgotten that I had planted it at all. Luckily, I noticed that there were three of these weeds in some sort of order so I figured I'd just wait to see what they would do.

I really wish I could find the tag for these because they do so well without all the extra care that my other ligularia have required. Ifany of you have any ideas, please let me know.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Sea of Echincea

Here are some pictures from my garden. As you can see my echinacea is still going strong. The butterflies just love them! I have more butterflies in my garden this year than any other year. You might be able to see a few in this picture.
Here is a wider shot of this large bed of echinacea. I like the cottagy look that it gives my house. I definitely was going for an older look for this very old house (it was built in 1877- that is really old for Wisconsin!).

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Oh My Gourd!

This is one gourd plant taking over a whole bed of my garden! My son got gourds to decorate for Halloween a few years back. Ever since then, gourds have been popping up all over my garden. Sometimes I let them grow. When I decided to let this one grow, I guess I miscalculated a little on how big it would get.

It has plenty of gourds! I think about every two feet of this vine has a gourd on it. We will have plenty for Halloween this year!

I put one of these gourds in the fire bowl the other night. My husband, afraid that the heat from the fire would make the gourd explode, pulled it out and threw it on the ground near the bowl. The dog fussed and fussed until we threw the burnt gourd over to him. HE ATE THE WHOLE THING!! He acted like it was the best thing he ever ate. He's SOOO WEIRD!!!