Enter the Muskrats

The town our friends live in has a really nice park, with an amazing playground that even the resident teen is happy to visit, so we declared it our meeting place while the plague is on. Apart from the playground it also has a pond with a muskrat family. Unfortunately I only had my phone with me, I promise to do better the next time. They’re neozoons in Europe, but cute.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Degupdate: A New Sand Bath

We decided to get them a different sand bath on our recent trip to Ikea, because the big round plate was less than ideal. I hoped that a higher rim would prevent “spills” but it merely slightly reduces them. Anyway, the degus really like it. They need sand baths to keep clean and prevent/get rid of parasites and they obviously also quite enjoy them. They also like digging a lot.

I decided to shoot a short video, because it’s just over-cute.

Here’s some more pics. Estelle almost dares to take treats from me, and she is now ok with putting her front paws against my leg. She will come out more quickly, at least as long as the rest of the room is quiet.

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Estelle, being unsure, deciding to wait for Candy to take the treats and bury them. Given that Estelle is the larger of the two, I’m pretty sure she gets her share of treats.

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Estelle, trying the bath

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Candy, stealing all the treats.

Starling

I had an extremely bad year bird-watching wise so far. There are definitively a lot fewer birds around than there used to be.

For example, only a few starlings came by to harvest all the surplus aronias. And only one was visible enough to take a picture. Normally, at this time of year, the tree should be stripped bare by starlings and thrushes heading south.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I have not seen a single golden finch, greenfinch, or siskin the whole year. Neither have I seen any fieldfares, or thrushes, and just a few blackbirds, very sparsely. Chaffinch song is usually a constant presence the whole summer – and this year I cannot remember hearing it even once, despite chaffinch being supposedly the most common bird of central Europe.. And in the last month or two tits and sparrows  – the consants of my garden the whole year – have disappeared too. Redstarts are still here, but wagtails never showed up.

I fear this is a real environmental problem and a local sign of a global catastrophy.

Mowing Pictures – Part 1 – Butterflies

I made these last month and then I forgot to post them. Well, the pictures are not that good, they were made with my phone. But I still think they are worth posting.

When my neighbor has finally mown the meadows surrounding my house, he left a bit unmown just in front of the gate into my garden. He always does. I do not know why maybe he is afraid that he will damage the geodesic leveling pole that is positioned there. Regardless of his reasons, I have to mow that piece with a scythe, and this year I have made a few pictures of the various critters and flowers that live there whilst doing so.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

All the Pretty Little Flowers 3: The Downstairs

Poor PZ is still mowing his lawn. Around here Mr regularly sighs “I need to mow the lawn and then we do something else. I like that. I think we will make some hay later in summer in preparation of the degus. For now it’s a pretty wilderness.

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Though we should not use that area for feed as there are many raspberries starting their career there right now.

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All the Pretty Little Flowers 2: The Slopes

As you may recall, our house is built on pretty steep terrain. The ground floor windows in the front are the first floor in the back. From there you have another treeish metres height difference to the garden. last year we had the stairs remodelled, since the old ones were rapidly becoming accidents waiting to happen. The slopes on either side are still steep and this year we started to stabilise the left hand side so we can put a lamppost on top.

The small area created at the top has been sown with “butterfly meadow” and “wildflower mix”. You can buy these seed mixes easily in Germany as many people are trying to bee more friendly. I also always toss a few handful on the rest of the area, which remains in pretty disarray.

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The dark side of the pumpkin patch. That area is more or less permanently in shade and this year we just didn’t have the nerve to look for something that would thrive there after the slugs ate the first round of plants. Suggestions welcome. But you can see the structure well.

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The pumpkin/squash/courgette patch. they are coming along nicely with several promising plants already. Only I never know what is what. You can also see the bane of my gardening existence: Horsetail. A plant that survived the dinosaurs. Common gardening advice is “nuke it from orbit”. It spreads through rhizomes that are also very fragile and will snap quickly so you’ll never get them all out. But you can make some wonderful fertilizer out of it: put the plants into a bucket with water and let it rot. Stinks like hell, but 100% organic, free and efficient.

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All the Pretty Little Flowers 1: The frontyard

Pz has been raging and ranting about lawns and lawnmowers and I wholeheartedly agree. It also prompted me to do a bit of bragging about the sheer beauty of not having a lawn. Let’s start with the front yard, which was carefully weeded when we bought the house. Here’s another aspect of those lawn and front yard regulations: To keep them up to “standards” you need time to do it or money to hire somebody else to do it. I quickly reduced weeding to an absolute minimum. Nobody touches a dandelion in MY front yard. One thing that happened quickly was that wild strawberries overtook most of the ground. They do many things at once:

First, they protect the ground from drying out.

Second, they provide flowers for pollinators.

Third, they taste so good.

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In spring I built a plant tower in an empty space that had previously been occupied by some useless evergreen bush that got thankfully eaten by caterpillars. I also planted some regular strawberries there.

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Guarded by my little dragons

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M

If you want to make bees happy, plant lavender. It will also make you happy. Lavender is low maintenance, just cut off the dry stalks in autumn and ok with dry weather. I don’t know if it can survive Minnesota winters.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Probably no German frontyard is complete without a hydrangea. They are lovely, but high maintenance (needing much water, cutting, right ground) and absolutely no good for insects. Like most plants here they are a leftover from the previous owner. I figure that with so many bee friendly plants around I can afford a couple that only look nice.

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I have no idea about most of the plants that grow here. They were already well established when we moved in. Some of them have already bloomed long ago. I basically get flowers from March to October.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Also one corner has been taken over by some wildflowers. I like them, the insects like them. We’re good.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Oh, and btw, the next door neighbour has a lawn (I’m not criticising her, she’s 90 and still living all alone). It’s a sad brown area right now and the grass always creeps into my yard which means that I have to do the weeding there.

Mushroom Hunt Pictures – A Bumblebee

I find it interesting that not only is the pollen on this flower pink, but that also the bumblebee apparently collected enough of it to have pink pollen sacks on her legs.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Wednesday Wings: Haven’t you grown?!!!

It’s been a while since I posted an update on our adorable Nile geese.

The first pics are from two weeks ago.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

They have almost their parents’ colouring and size, only the heads are still darker. Sadly, 7 gosducklings turned into 4, but nature is a cruel place where often adorable baby birds turn into a fox’s next meal.

On Monday we met again, and one of them was just as interested in me, as I was in it.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

There was no aggression in its behaviour, just pure curiosity in that strange creature with a box for a face.

Mushroom Hunt Pictures – Ant Venturer

Deep into the woods, an ant did venture.

Over the mossy hills, seeking adventure.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


Edit: I bloody well wish that when I click “delete permanently” in order to re-upload badly cropped picture WordPress really deleted it. As it is, it does not allow me to re-upload a picture unless I also rename it – otherwise, it just un-deletes the wrong version over and over again. The button “delete permanently” is thus without real function. AAARGH.