Critter’s Salad Bar

by on September 11, 2020 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

By Kathy Blavatt

On a warm day in Spring day after a night of rain, I trudged through dense greenery in my back yard. I heard a bit of noise a couple of feet away and realized I was standing next to a skunk. The skunk was busy happily digging and could care less that I was beside him.

A week later, while examining my passionfruit plant, I found a baby opossum below the vines. The awkward youth looked at me, then slowly walked away.

Interestingly, my thick viny passion fruit plant that produces much green fruit slightly bigger than golf balls goes missing long before they change to burgundy-red sweet ripen fruit. I  think that opossum may have made the large lush plant his home and snack bar. I suspect he has quite a belly on him these days!

Other years, I have had some very bold raccoons making their grocery runs through my yard.

It is these kinds of experiences that make me feel like I am living in the country.

To top things off, my husband told me he saw an amazing piece of aerodynamics as a parrot divebombed my apple tree plucking the fruit without slowing as he headed straight back up into the sky.

Hummingbirds love my garden because of the many varieties of flowers that bloom year-round. Often, I can’t help but smile as they buzz in the air around me while I am gardening or watering. I guess my backyard smorgasbord is open for business. I hope my eat-and-run guests leave me a bit of my fruit!

My “Garden of Eating” also welcomes the winged pollinators who buzz from flower to flower, gorging on nectar and pollen.

Honeybees, native bees, and their relations hornets and wasps are out and force enjoying my many flowering plants when conditions are right.

Bee hive in front yard. Bees making a hive in the water meter.

In the past, I had swarms of bees making hives in my trees and water meters. With the help of a beekeeper friend I had some of the hives taken to an organic farm in Fallbrook, Alpine, and other places. My beekeeper friend is now retired, and the bees haven’t made hives in my yard for several years.

Blue bee in my garden in September 2013

Unbelievably, a few years back, I had a brood of “blue” bees (that looked much like honey bees, but blue stripes) that were feasting in my front yard.

I had never heard of “blue bees”. I looked them up on the web and found there are several kinds of blue bees. “Blue bee varieties include blue orchard bee (the kind in my yard) or Osmia lignaria, which is prized for its efficiency pollinating fruit trees and is one of the few native pollinators that is managed in agriculture.” Blue orchard bees are a dark solid metallic blue.

Blue bees enthralled me. Seeing them in my yard was fascinating!

After seeing the blue bees, I started looking closely at the native bees and other garden varieties. I had never really noticed the many smaller bees, green-colored bees, and a variety of species. I continued plant native and non-native flowering plants, so I have flower blossoms throughout the year to attract bees and other pollinators.

The beekeeper gave me few helpful tips about being around bees and avoiding being stung are to wear colored light clothing, move slowly, don’t swat at bees, and don’t breathe hard in their direction because they will sometimes follow your breath.

Hot weather season brings flies into the garden and the house. I get a little perturbed when flies eat my fruit in my kitchen. Pointing a small fan at the food usually stops them. Outside in the garden, I am happy when they pollinate my mango tree blossoms and other plants.

Spiders and mites are forever in lives. The problem comes when you get an infestation of them. Mites made headlines a few years back when they were killing bees. I have noticed many more in the last few years. A landscape friend suggested intense spraying of water on plants, trees, and fences helps reduce the number of them and some of the spiders. It is best to do the hosing down in the morning so the leaves can dry. It is important to be careful. A strong hosing down will sometimes knock off flower buds and fruit or create mildew on susceptible plants .

San Diego does have some venomous spiders, so be actively looking for them and wear gloves when possible. At the start of the COVID pandemic, my husband Ray was bit by what we think was a spider and hospitalized for twelve days.

It is vital to see a doctor quickly if the bite swells and reddens. Unfortunately, this wasn’t easy during the start of the COVID outbreak.

After Ray had recouped, we took a well-needed vacation to “Two Harbors” on Catalina Island.

View of the landscape at Two Harbors— Isthmus Cove and Catalina Harbor.

Two Harbors was like stepping back into time. The landscape is primarily native plants with old eucalyptus and King Palms close to the old buildings.

Cactus and Quail on Catalina

Hiking along the island’s coast is sensational. Snorkeling in the clear blue water among the many fish and kelp is lovely and refeshing.

We walked a  very memorable 17-mile hike on a coastal trail to “Little Harbor”. As we walked over a mound, we came almost face to face with a large bison (buffalo). When he realized we were there, he literally jumped into high in the air, turning and landing away from us and walked away. He continued eating the native brush in the fields along the path.

Bison along the trail.

Later, when we trekked into the Little Harbor campground, we read a sign that told visitors to stay 125 feet away from the bison, and that bison can jump 6 feet in the air!

Between the spider bite, the encounter with the bison, and all the other current craziness in the world, we’re having a very memorable year so far! It makes me happy to just sit quietly in my garden, enjoy the flowers, ocean breeze and think about Two Harbors!

Historical photo of Two Harbors view of “Isthmus Cove.”

 

 

 

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Avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman September 11, 2020 at 2:42 pm

Blue bees! Spider-bite hospitalizations! Possums in the passion fruit! No leaping lizards, only Catalina bison. (How the heck did he get there?) Thanks to Kathy for her garden column with great photographs and charming illustration on the nineteenth anniversary of 9/11 in Year 2020.
I really appreciate it.

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