A crimson of happiness

I just made Crimson a noun but Shakespeare messed with words all the time – ‘brevity is the soul of wit‘.  For the first time in 15 years our dwarf crimson crape has fully matured and she is beautiful.

Doesn’t she just make you happy?  Our neighbors love her.

Meet Shrimpy Shrimp, as I call our shrimp plant.  Shouldn’t all our plants be named?  The early botanists made a marvelous job with the Latin monikers.  This is her much more gracious formal name – Justicia Brandegeeana.  She seems to dance with hot pink petticoats.  Justicia is a native of Mexico and seems to love our garden as you can see from the shot below in front of our other pink crape.

I deliberately clothed the garden in pink at the front – it just looks so pretty together including the Ti plant which is to the right of the tree.  He is a Hawaiian native – aloha!

Even our dragons live in luxury on the porch with velveteen pink cushions.  This is a spotted Gecko, unnamed, as there are literally hundreds all over the garden.  You can name him if you like?

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Furry Tails from the Woods

A rather well fed feral cat…

This is our outside feral cat, Katniss.  Yes, she of the wooden palace…  She is a solitary little soul and I often wonder if she is lonely or am I anthropomorphizing?  At 7.30 am she is usually waiting for her breakfast and 6 pm for suppertime.  Although she is one claw short of a paw, she has finally figured out that the new wooden house in our garden is for her to shelter in.  Monsoon season is here and she has been inside the house, peeping out, looking for her human.

On a tangential note, our street has had a variety of feral cats; some fools have rescued them and others have disappeared.  One particular black and white tom cat, named Adolpho in our street, was quite a character.  He looked like he was wearing a scruffy leather jacket and smoking a tote.  One of my neighbors noticed that there was a poster of him in the street.  He was well known in every street and each had a different name for him – Bud, Tank etc.  A text chain started and we all sadly found out that he had been killed on the road.  RIP Bud, Tank or Adolpho.

Back to my black and white beauty, Katniss – a few weeks ago she was asking for food more often than usual.  I accused her of being pregnant but she just stared at me with those round green eyes.  Then Teddy and I figured out what she was doing.  I had noticed a very small mother raccoon, slightly smaller than Katniss, who had swollen teats.  Presumably her kits were nearby or under the deck.  Katniss was leaving some of her meals for the raccoon and just sitting happily with her.  Do cats make friends with other species; apparently so?  It was so lovely to watch them.

We didn’t want to encourage the raccoon to join the family so we cut back on the food.  Life went back to normal until Griff, our surviving feral tomcat, gray with pretty crossed eyes, started lurking around and made Katniss very skittish.  I chased him but he was quite determined to get Katniss’s meals.  To tempt her to another part of the garden I put out some human salmon – just a spoonful.  Before Katniss could find it, the little raccoon sniffed out some delicious food from heaven.  She was tucking in when Katniss appeared, outraged!!  She went straight up to the raccoon and hissed in her face.  The raccoon was cowering but she had never tasted anything quite so wonderful and she had to keep eating it.  Then Katniss biffed her on the head with her paw but nothing worked.  Laughingly, I went out to give Katniss a different plate but she was sulking by then because the delicious human salmon was in the raccoon’s tummy.

I haven’t seen the little raccoon for a while but she has probably moved on with her kits to a more prosperous garden, full of grubs and mice.  Every so often I open the window with the net down so that she and Toffee, our old inside feral cat, can sniff each other.  Toffee is also solitary and loves to watch Katniss from the top of her condominium.

My new camera gives some lovely detail to Toffee’s beautiful little face with her hooded owl eyes. She is 15 and a half years old, born in Cairo, Egypt.

Meet our new garden guests…

Mother Gray Fox and pup

These are our new residents who use our deck as an AirB&B.  The first time I saw them, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  What were they?  Since then I have swallowed Wikipedia and discovered that they are Gray Foxes.  They are indigenous to the Americas (with a range from Canada to Venezuela) unlike the red foxes which were introduced from Europe to hunt.  Red foxes are now predominant in the eastern states but our gray foxes are not at risk.

Felicia

Felicia, the mama, is sharing a burrow with the armadillos – I wondered why it was so big…  From our nighttime camera we can see 2 adults and 4 puppies.  Since the pair are monogamous we assume it is a breeding pair with their litter.  I believe that they have recently moved into our area from other green belt areas that houses are being built on.  We live in a protected forest environment and back onto a reserve (behind that fence).

Look at those brushes!

Felicia is about the size of a cat with longer legs.  Their coat is exquisitely patterned and lush.  I have had so much fun watching them play and hunt.  Mama is mostly silent but quietly mewed at the pups when she returned with a baby squirrel from a hunting trip.  They ran out from the deck, one went straight to her teats but she slapped him off to encourage them to eat solid food.  They first appeared in the Americas in the Pliocene Era, about 3 and a half million years ago.  Gray foxes are the most basic type of canine species and are related to Fennec Foxes.

Like cats, Felicia can hiss and climb trees to hunt or escape predators.  She comes down backwards like a cat.  I found a large dead wood rat on the deck – do you think it was rent for the deck burrow?? They are crepuscular in nature so that is why we have some shots in daylight but mostly they are nocturnal.  Now we finally know why our squirrels are called fox squirrels – they have exactly the same gray with amber coloring.

They have provided much needed balm to my fragile soul over the last few weeks but also terrified Katniss our outside feral.  She finally came back after a couple of weeks, very skinny, so I have been feeding her up.  The foxes still come and go, so she has fixed her timetable to adjust.  The foxes are not a threat to her but she doesn’t perceive that.  I guess they all scent where they have been.

My psychiatrist suggested that I should write another post after the last one about suicide and here we are!  I have taken two months off work and am beginning to feel better.  My apologies for my absence around my friend’s posts – I need to relax.  These little foxes have made 2018 a marvelous year, especially since so few people have seen these little critters in our area.  I hope you enjoy watching the video of the pups playing in my plants – so cute!!!

 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Valentina

Valentina

Can you see Valentina sitting on our fence beside the crape blossom? She is a young American black vulture who was investigating our back yard. I don’t really know that she is female or called Valentina but she has an exotic black cloak on and mysterious brown eyes. We live in a forest in near Houston, Texas and regularly see all kinds of critters including Black and Turkey Vultures. In some areas Black Vultures, which are a protected species, are becoming very common but we have plenty of carrion for them to eat given the lack of driving skills…

vulture on fence

You can get a really good look at her in the shot above. They are large birds and I guess she was about 3 feet tall with very big white feet. They are a successful species because they eat live prey alongside carrion. When Mrs. Stripe used to laze about on the deck, I would tease her that the circling vultures would eat her if she didn’t move. I don’t really understand why people think they are ugly – I thought she was rather beautiful in an Addams family way. She was quite curious about us but tentative.

vulture on deck

Spring in Houston

Miss Mercer

This wonderful lady, Thelma Mercer, and her husband gifted this 14 acre arboretum to the people of Houston. There is some staff but mostly volunteers who work in intolerable conditions to create an oasis in this helter-skelter city. Originally, the land would have been in the countryside and the main road, like many others around here, is called FM (Farm to Market) 1960. Since then, the international airport has been built just a few miles away and the miracle is that you are completely oblivious. The arboretum includes indigenous forest and a major waterway, Spring Creek, which eventually flows into Lake Houston.

conifers and tulips

Doesn’t the white of the tulips pop against the dark conifers? It would make a lovely wedding backdrop.

Every season they chose a different color palette throughout the garden which changes dramatically. This spring it was predominantly maroon and yellow – a feast for our senses. In the decade we have been visiting I have noticed changes in who walks through the park. There are always wedding, pregnancy, Quinceañera and other professional photography shoots. Then there are the poorer immigrant families from Central America, Africa and the Far East who can visit a beautiful location for free. Many of them may have been farmers and perhaps this brings back a feeling of home.

The smell of these magnolias permeated the whole garden.

The smell of these magnolias permeated the whole garden.

It just soothes my troubled soul to be among such natural beauty.

Autumn beckons

rust&green

It is the birthing of a new season and the dying of the old. Both exist together as they do with every species. This tree fern has a whiskered texture as the leaves prepare to feed the ground below. Summer is in decay, humidity and heat dissipating likewise the cicada chirps. Autumn is sprinkling it’s magical orange fairy dust as the nights close in.

sweetgum

The Sweet Gum leaves are not ready to surrender to old age and the invasive Tallow bewitches us with it’s exquisite oriental leaves in every season.

tallow

Yet, the seasonal food is naturally colored for autumn and contrasts so prettily with the ancient rock and lichen.

3pumpkins&rock