Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Squirrel Angst

My Squirrel Angst

I know I often complain about the squirrel antics in my backyard but I had a squirrel experience today that shook me up. My husband and I were out walking this afternoon and saw two young squirrels coming down from a tree. I stopped for a few seconds to say, “Oh, look at the tiny squirrels!” Then I said to the closest one, “You are adorable!” After that we moved on up the street. And so did that little squirrel. It followed us, running between our feet and looking up longingly. After telling it gently that it needed to go back to its tree, we walked on. But the squirrel came with us. We were walking carefully so as not to step on it. It pawed at our shoes and the bottom of our jeans and tried to climb up. It wanted to follow us across the street but we turned back so it would stay on the sidewalk.

By this time, my heart was aching. Surely this poor critter was looking for its mother. What might have happened to her? Was it hungry? Sad? Was it imprinting? I knew relatively nothing about a baby squirrel’s needs. We had nothing to carry it in to transport it to an animal center or vet so we couldn’t take it with us. We tried to lead it back to the tree we saw it climbing down from but it stopped following. It must have gotten the message that we were not going to be its parents.

When we got back home, I tried calling several animal shelters and natural centers for advice but it was after hours and I only got their voice mail. I hope the squirrel took after its smart adult counterparts and found its way back to its tree home to climb up to its nest and be safe. I think I will look at my backyard squirrels differently from now on and perhaps be less critical as I remember my squirrel angst for one of the new generation.

If you run into this situation, here is how to handle it:

Squirrel nests:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Pea Plant Grows Indoors

A Pea Plant Grows Indoors

I buy as much organic food as I can. I figure I’m supporting responsible farming, Mother Earth, and my family’s health. I try to plant my garden responsibly each year so that when it’s harvest time, our veggies are the best they can be.

But it wasn’t planting time yet when I discovered a green pea that gotten lost in the shuffle of the vegetable bin. It started to grow on its own so I put it in some dirt, in a small pot on the windowsill, just to see what would happen. At first it remained the same, a tiny bit of green peeking up from its gritty bed. But then it started to grow. And once it began, it continued sending up a delicate shoot toward the sun. Then leaves sprouted and viney tendrils began reaching for anything they could grab onto. And then a pea pod appeared with one beautiful, plump pea inside! How exciting! We had our own sugar snap pea plant. It makes me eager to get into the dirt and get the garden ready.

I am always amazed at how food grows. A seed gives no hint of what it will eventually look like but holds all of its potential wrapped inside that tiny package. Sometimes, like the pea, you can see its final form but it first must grow into the plant to take root and nourish its development. The cycle assures the survival of the plant. 

And not so far from our own survival as a species. We can see our roots in our children from the genetic resemblances to the acquired characteristics. All of nature passes along what keeps things going in our evolutionary process. Parents to children to grandchildren and beyond. Pretty wonderful, I think.

Here is how to grow your own delicious snap peas:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Periwinkle Flowers Again

Periwinkle Flowers Again

Our periwinkle (vinca) has blossomed again, as it does each year. It is a groundcover that takes its mission seriously. Given no interference, it tends to take over, which can be a good thing depending on where it is planted. It sends out vines and, well, covers the ground. It is green even in the winter months, a bright spot when everything seems dark and dreary. What a treat to see it peek out as the snow melts, reminding us of greener times to come.

And now, when spring is confused, sending us cold days alternating with warm days, it thumbs its leaves at the weather and sends up tiny, exquisite purple, blue, pink or white flowers. That is only the start of the options. These plants are adaptable. They like semi-shade but will grow in deeper shade or sun. They are exuberant, growing wherever they are placed and head out for other parts of the garden if not contained. Some homeowners use periwinkle instead of grass for their lawns – no mowing required.

I like vinca’s feistiness. It seems to know its destiny to grow and goes right at it. Wouldn’t it be great if we were all so confident in our own providence? We would all flower from within, allowing the world to see our potential as we embrace it ourselves. There is so much to learn from nature; periwinkle is one reminder of our own possibilities.

How to get started planting vinca:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Getting Ready to Plant

Getting Ready to Plant

I bought a container of organic strawberries from California last week. They were huge, ripe and delicious! We were still in winter coats while gardens out West were thriving. I can’t wait to dig in my own garden. I’m getting ready to plant!

We didn’t get to eat homegrown strawberries last spring though the squirrels did. I saw them haul off the fruit just before it was ripe enough for people to eat. They do that with the peaches, too. At least we had a bumper crop of tomatoes that were scrumptious. We planted four different kinds and feasted on red, yellow, and mottled varieties. Each had its own taste and texture but every one was a treat. That we had a crop at all was a surprise.

Last year we set up a small greenhouse that had a way of breaking loose from its boundaries despite the spikes we used to hold it down. It flipped over uprooting our peas and beans but the tomato plants were least affected. We couldn’t figure out if an animal pushed it over or some of the neighborhood kids were having fun but it isn’t going back up this season. We’re considering pulling out the ol’ posthole digger and getting serious. We don’t have a large plot so it shouldn’t be too hard to set up posts, connect them with screening, and keep the greenhouse stable. Hah!

I hope that we succeed. There is nothing quite as wonderful as eating what you have grown yourself. But if anyone has a foolproof/easy plan that you want to share, please feel free to do so. We’re probably not the only ones who could use some help.

Free plans for making a greenhouse:

And if you want to grow strawberries, here’s some advice: