Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pygmy Encounter

Sitta pygmaea
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

While responding to an e-mail a few minutes ago I heard an all too familiar 'thunk' against the upstairs window behind me. Aware of what had just happened I ran downstairs to find this juvenile Pygmy Nuthatch, upside down and barely conscious, lying on the front porch.

I quickly picked it up, worried about sending it into deeper shock, as I looked for a safe place to put it, where hopefully, it might regain its senses. The stunned bird kept looking back up at the window, beak wide open as if in disbelief, or maybe trying to comprehend what had just occurred, and yet it seemed indifferent to my handling of it.

By the time I took this picture of the nuthatch, perched on my left fore and index fingers, it seemed to be regaining a bit of cognizance and equilibrium. It could stand up again, and grip fingers

I walked it out to the big rock birdbath, and, as I was trying to gently set it down near the water, it gave me one last look, and then flew confidently off to the upper branches of a nearby Jeffrey Pine.

A happy ending, this time, but we've lost more than a few birds to window collisions.

This near-tragic incident was also a rare opportunity to get very close to a juvenile Pygmy Nuthatch, so do yourself a favor. Enlarge the picture and enjoy the depth in that dark little eye, and the intricate beauty in those still developing feathers.

How fortunate we are to live in a world populated with so many beautiful creatures, and how fragile the whole thing is.

Canon S5IS - Manual Mode - Super Macro - f/2.7 - 1/60 sec - ISO 80

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Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

This picture was taken in the garden at 10:14 yesterday morning. With all the recent news about diminishing Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) populations it's very good to have so many in our garden this year. They're here in good numbers but it seems to me they arrived a bit late.

Canon S5IS - Manual Mode - f/6.3 - 1/160 sec - ISO 80

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Introducing Our New Rooster...

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
A day or two before the Xeriscape Garden Tour our native-plant co-conspirator, Orchid Black, e-mailed us that Jordanne, at Path To Freedom, had a young Bantam Golden Laced Cochin rooster who needed a home.
Here's what Jordanne had to say about this little fellow who we've named Boris Minor.
"This little guy is very special roo...which is why I've hung onto him for so long. I wanted to place him in a good home, personally, as I would love to hear about him from time to time.
I'm attached to him - this is his story:
When he was a week old chick, he was dying and was pretty much on his way out... gasping for air and his crop was filling with fluid. He was weak and was being picked on and couldn't stand up and wasn't eating. He would fall over or just stand with his eyes closed, his little beak just gasping and gasping and gasping....
It was pretty awful to see.
I was doing everything I could do. I would hold him upside down and squeeze out the contents of his crop. Generally, I wrung him out like a wet rag and all this nasty smelling stuff would come out and he would gag and fall over. I would give him nutri-drench, electrolytes, collidial silver and egg yolk for protein. Finally, I did resort to a low-grade antibiotic (terramycin) to see if it would save him. I usually don't do that but he was struggling to live and I wanted to give him a chance. It didn't work. So I kept trying different stuff as I would hold him and cradle him and try to give him comfort throughout the day. I was beginning to accept he wouldn't make it.
Finally, out of frustration because nothing was working and because we were feeling very upset watching him struggle to live, my sister decided one night that she'd give him a whole dropperful of vodka.... her reasoning was that if he was going to die, she'd rather him not feel anything.... be drunk, actually. None of us actually learned the art of putting a chick out of its misery. I just can't do it any physical way.
So this little chick quite practically fell over and looked like it had fallen asleep (or passed out?) and we felt better. If it was going to drown to death, it wouldn't feel it. But imagine our surprise that morning when he was up and running around and being very chicky. His crop was completely clear and he has thrived since.
He's very special and sweet and loves to be held. I think he knows that he wasn't going to make it and loves humans."
Jordanne Dervaes
Well how could I resist a rooster like that, and a new drinkin' buddy to boot??
So, we named him 'Boris', a good ol' Russian name because he was nursed back to health with love & vodka, and 'Minor' because of his somewhat dimunitive stature (and also, partly because my beer brewing buddy Craig is making a lifetime project of not restoring his ancient Morris Minor Station Wagon).

Anyway, for the time being we are keeping Boris Minor in a separate enclosure from our big hens, giving them a chance to become accustomed to each other.

His pen is sheltered from the heat and rain, out in the main chicken yard, where all the birds peck & scratch throughout the day, and when it gets dark he's got his own safe perch where he spends the night.

Boris seems quite healthy now and crows with great confidence in the early morning hours even though he still sounds more like a baby lamb bleating than a rooster.

He is rather feisty with the hens when they confront him at his wire fence though, he puffs himself all up as if to let them know who's boss around here.

I have a feeling that, once he's matured, and learned to cope with our 14 hens, we'll be re-naming him Boris Major.
But right now he still whistles, coos, & chortles in his cheery sing-song way and seems to enjoy being held and hand-fed little delicacies like fresh tender greens from the garden.
Boris has big shoes to fill if he's going to take the place of 'Arnold The Roosternator' who died last December. Arnold was already quite old when we got him so he only lasted for a couple of years with us. I guess those fourteen hens got the best of him, but what a way to go!


JULY 24TH, 2007
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
Jordanne- I promise I'll never give Boris another shot of vodka, unless of course, he keels over and acts like he's dying, which doesn't seem likely at this point.
You, and Anais too, did a great job raising the rooster and we'll do our best to give him a good home.
But I'm guessing he'll have his Banty feathers ruffled by these gals for awhile.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Earth Home Garden Today

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rose Sage

Salvia pachyphylla
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

A favorite Big Bear Native is Rose Sage (Salvia pachyphylla) and the two photos I made this morning show the color variations this super-fragrant wild sage displays in our garden.

The plant pictured above, with the more intensely rose-colored bracts, is growing in the part of our garden with the poorest rockiest soil & very fast drainage, while the flower below is growing in deep silt-laden soil which retains water longer. You'll notice that the flower above is more mature, with measurable elongation to the stem between the bracts, and it has already lost most of its violet petals, however the paler colored ones, like below, don't usually gain much more color as they age.

I wonder if soil & water variations, sun exposure, or some combination of those, contribute to the difference in coloration, and, although I'll probably never understand that with certainty, I monitor the way they bloom in different parts of the yard anyway, just out of natural curiosity.

Salvia pachyphylla, also known as Mountain Desert Sage, is an extremely cold-hardy perennial shrub which is found in well-drained granitic areas of Southern California, at elevations between 5,000 & 10,000 feet, where it grows to a height of 2 feet or more. Rose Sage can also be used as a culinary sage, and, while it does have a very strong flavor, it's quite delicious if used sparingly. We've used it with good results in bread, as a rub on meat, and in bean soups.

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
The Big Bear Xeriscape Garden Tour last Saturday was very successful with approximately 407 people (the number who signed in at the beginning of the tour) visiting our garden and seven others throughout the day.
Once again, generously volunteering her time and expertise, our friend Orchid Black came up from Pasadena to sell nearly $500 worth of native plants on our deck for the benefit of Hunter's Nursery who carries the plants in support of the Big Bear Lake DWP/Sierra Club efforts to promote Xeriscape & Native Plant gardening/landscaping in Big Bear Valley.
Thank you Orchid, we couldn't have done it without you!
The local chapter of The Sierra Club also took in a total of over $1,000 from cash donations, sales of canvas shopping bags, and raffle tickets.
We meant to take pictures Saturday, but Orchid, Peggy, and I were all so busy talking with people that it just didn't happen.
Also, our friend and neighbor Cheri Williams added much to the ambiance in our garden throughout the day with her soulful folk/blues singing and guitar-playing. Cheri performed for nearly five hours and still went home smiling, with blisters on her fingers.
Thank You Cheri!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Today's New Blossom

Lilium humboldtii
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

The first of our Humboldt Lilies bloomed this morning just in time for the Big Bear Xeriscape Garden Tour on Saturday.

Lilium humboldtii is native to these San Bernardino Mountains and is on the Forest Service 'watch list'.

We have several of these growing at Earth Home Garden. The original plant grew from a bulb we dug up in a friends native-plant garden and the rest have come up from seed.

The photo was taken at 3:07 this afternoon with our Canon S2IS digital camera.

Foliage setting/Macro mode/ f 2.7 at 1/60th second.

Slightly cropped, otherwise unaltered.

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