News From the Garden

It’s funny that I kind of lost interest in this blog until I started gardening, and now I want to blog about it all the time.  To (mis)quote Anne of Green Gables, “If you only knew how much I want to blog about my garden and don’t, you’d give me some kind of credit!”

But anyway,  much has been happening in the garden lately.  First of all, a little house sparrow family made a nest on one of the columns of my porch, and the babies fledged a few days ago.  I walked out one day, and there they were!

For a few days, every time I went outside, they’d be hanging out somewhere in the garden.  I got kind of fond of the little dudes.  I even had heart palpitations when I found them hiding among the rocks of the pond; I was so afraid they’d fall into the water!

I got to know the crew a bit during the time that they were hanging out, and I really came to admire the critters.  The eldest was very adept at flying already, while the middle one was pretty good but couldn’t gain a lot of height, and the youngest couldn’t do more than flit around a few feet at a time.  He was also the least skittish; a few times I was able to pet him, and he even hopped onto my hand once.  What was sweet was that, while the parents were too scared to come attack The Big Scary Beast Who Kept Messing With Their Baby, the eldest sibling would bravely stay near the two younger ones, and would keep a watchful eye on me.  The parents would be fussing their fool heads off in the tree above, but the eldest sibling wouldn’t go any further away than the fence at my eye level:

"I am staying at your eye level so I can peck your eyes out if you try to hurt my baby brother, yo."

The youngest kid even started coming out of hiding when I’d come out and call to them.  One day, the other two were hanging out under my herb wheelbarrow, and I couldn’t find the youngest.  I started to get worried that maybe he’d been eaten by a stray cat, or drowned in the pond, or something like that.  But when I started talking to the siblings, asking where the youngest was, he hopped out from behind the morning glory cage and chirping:

"Here I am! Right here! I'm not dead! I was just back here chillin'."

So, yeah, I got attached to the little buggers.  A few days after they showed up in the garden, they had all learned to fly well enough that they moved up into the tree.  I still see them flying around once in a while, or one of them will land on the fence and watch me work in the garden, but gone are the days of hanging out with them so close.  *sigh*  Here’s a video I took of them hanging out together, being cute:

Those aren’t the only babies in my garden, though!  Yesterday, my pond exploded:

See all those little black dots? Tadpoles.

At first I thought they were baby Mosquitofish, because one of my females was about to lay eggs when I bought her (or so the store employees told me), so I just assumed that these were her offspring.  But then a friend of mine, who knows a lot more about pond life than I do, told me they were tadpoles.  Admittedly, they look a lot like tadpoles, and that did cross my mind when I first saw them.  But I never imagined it was possible.  Because, I mean, the big mystery is: HOW IN THE HECK DID THEY GET THERE?  My two tadpoles, whom I named Chicken and Fish, still had their tails as of last week (although, admittedly, Chicken’s was all but gone), so they are obviously too young to have parented these little dudes.  But how in the heck did they get there?  My friend told me that some toads probably found their way to my pond, but I was doubtful.  I live a block from two major highways, in a neighborhood with no water (other than my new pond) and very little plant life of any kind.  Every yard is separated by privacy fences.  And the closest body of water is two miles away (across major highways in every direction).  I just didn’t think it was possible for a toad, much less multiple toads, to have crossed highways, dug under multiple fences, and found their way to my humble little spot of water.  But oh, they did.  And I found one of the suckers hanging out in my pond today:

Way too old to be Chicken or Fish, unless toads can get progeria.

I will never cease to be amazed by the amazing journey this little dudette made to come lay her eggs here, but hey, she’s welcome to stay.  She can help keep the insect population down to a dull roar.  Maybe someday I’ll write a children’s book about her adventure.

My koi babies are thriving as well!  I’ve given them names and gotten to know their little personalities.  I named the yellow-and-white one Sushi, the orange-and-white one Ceviche, and, as I mentioned in my last blog entry, the blue ones with the orange spot on their tail and head are named Yin and Yang, respectively.  I had originally had their names switched, but swapped names when I got to know their personalities a little better.  Yang (who was originally Yin) is a fiery little dude.  Within days of being placed in my pond, he and Ceviche formed a bond and started boldly darting around the pond together, hanging out in areas of open pond, even coming to the surface, even in daylight.  Yin, on the other hand, is much less energetic and less bold.  He mostly stays under the lotus pot, or occasionally will hang out under one of the rocky crags or a cluster of lotus leaves.  When he does come out, he pokes out his head first, looks around, the slowly ventures out.  The slightest change in environment will send him darting back under the pot.  He finds safety in numbers, and will only venture around the pond by sticking close to Yang and Ceviche.  I have never seen him out by himself.  Sushi, on the other hand, is a loner.  Whereas the other three have chosen beneath the lotus pot as their home, Sushi chooses to live underneath the iris pot all by himself.  He swims by himself, plays by himself, and only joins the others when I feed them.  He’s my little lone wolf.  He’s also super fast.  I’ve tried multiple times to take pictures of him because he’s so beautiful, but this is the best I’ve been able to get:

It's hard to tell, but he's kind of in the center of the picture, between the lotus pot and its lily pads. Ceviche is hanging out just above and to the right of him. It was feeding time.

But just for reference, this is the closest image I could find of a koi that looks like him:

Except, you know, this dude's an adult.

I also realized that I know literally nothing about koi, which officially makes me one of those irresponsible people who buys animals without knowing anything about them.  I should have known better, but the employees at the store acted like it was no big deal and super easy to keep them and blahblahblah–but then again, how many pet store employees act that way about birds?  Why didn’t I even think about that?  So now I’m trying to catch up and learn as much about them as I can.  For instance, I learned that Sushi and Ceviche’s coloration is called “hariwake”, and Yin and Yang’s coloration is called “kage showa”.  I learned that they can live up to 50 years (!!) (apparently, I like to keep animals who can outlive me).  I learned that I can feed them snacks of worms, fruits, and vegetables (FUN!!!).  I learned that they don’t tolerate hot water, so I’m going to have to find a way to shade my pond before summer hits.  I learned that they don’t tolerate cold water (below 50 degrees), either, so I’ll have to get a pond heater before next winter.  Plus, I learned that they are easily victimized due to their bright colors, so some kind of shade or screen will also be necessary to prevent predators from seeing them and eating them.  What have I gotten myself into?!  Now I know how people feel when they get a bird without doing their research first.  BUT!  I will do whatever it takes to make my babies happy, comfortable, and enriched.  I was planning on building a bigger pond in the backyard when the landlord builds the fence back there, anyway, so they’ll have a bigger, deeper home to go to when they start to outgrow this smaller pond.  In the meantime, we’re just going to have to make the best of this little pond that we have!

Here’s a video I shot of the Three Stooges hanging out together.  As per usual, Sushi was nowhere to be found:

 

Another new development in Gardenland is that I got a Venus Fly Trap the other day when I was at the Great Outdoors.  I had wanted to get some carnivorous plants to go around the pond to help with insect control, but then was scared off by reading how difficult they are to keep alive in this part of the world.  But when I saw them in the green house, so cute and only $6, I thought, what the heck, I’ll just get one and see how it does.  I have a rainwater collection barrel, so I can give it that water and hopefully not kill it.  Well, two weeks into this experiment, so far so good!

This little bugger eats bugs as fast as it can, and hasn’t been all that much work.  I just spritz it with a little rain water every other day or so and it seems happy as a clam.  We’ll see how it fares as the summer heat sets in, but so far this experiment has been a success.

That’s about it from my garden.  The monarch butterflies have arrived, and have been inspecting my wares.  It remains to be seen whether they make any of my butterfly-friendly plants their home.  I hope they do!  How cool would that be?!

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