I found this year's ladybug nursery

Every year it shows up in a different place. I never know quite where it will be or if it will "be" at all. Discovering the place where the previous year's ladybugs laid their eggs to hatch and transform the following spring is a mystery I've come to enjoy solving.

The first year the ladybugs set up a nursery, it was within and under the canopy of the cherry tree and "the thicket". Another year, I found the newly transformed ladybugs in the pots of lavender crawling around enjoying the blooms. Last year they were housed in a thick stand of dandelions against the deck.

Today, I discovered that this year the nursery is in a patch of spring grasses and wild geraniums I let grow until late last week when I went in with the weed whacker and took the height down to about 4-5" so it wasn't such a jungle. I'm glad I didn't go in and cut everything off to the ground or I would have destroyed the ladybug nursery without knowing it until it was too late. Whew!

The larvae above is probably not far from transforming like its "sibling" below

The same day I cut the spring grasses, I also trimmed up the two fan palms. Part of my routine when I trim off the fronds is to cut the fans at the base and toss the thick woody stem in the green waste can. Then I lay the fans out on the ground on top of weeds or grasses that I want to discourage from growing. Over time the palm fronds dry and slowly deterioriate into nutrients for the soil.

When I was trimming the palms last week, there were a few ladybugs in the palm fronds, but they were more mature ladybugs and I didn't see any larvae so I had to rule out the palms as the place for this year's nursery. Today when I did find it, it was because I'd put one of the palm fans on some of the grass I had cut. The newly-transformed ladybugs and yet-to-transform ladybug larvae were all over the solitary fan frond basking in the spring sunshine. Their hatching spot must have been around the bases of the clumps of spring grass I had cut back.

Before they into cute little beetles, ladybug larvae look pretty scary

Ladybugs and ladybug larvae eat a lot of aphids. They will choose a nursery location that will have a good food source for when the eggs hatch.  Shortly after I stopped using pesticides in my garden was when the ladybugs started showing up and setting up their nursery each year.

You'd think since I stopped using pesticides (even spray soaps) that my garden (particularly my roses) would be overrun with aphids, right?  Wrong. The opposite has happened. I have less aphids and more ladybugs, ladybug larvae, birds and preying mantis! The aphids I do find on my roses (especially in the spring when the new growth comes out) are quickly gobbled up by a host of predators.

The garden kitty loves finding little nests and hidey-holes around the garden

I will admit that in order to enjoy this wonderful beneficial miracle I have to let my garden be a little on the shaggy side. Autumn clean-up is minimal too so I don't disturb eggs that have been laid by ladybugs or preying mantis. But for me, the reward is so great, I don't mind. The "natural look" reminds me of the mountain meadows I loved as a child. And I get to marvel at the wonders of nature all over again just like I did back then.
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It's hard to believe but it's already that time

I moved the chaise lounge from the deck down into the garden today. It was time. The sun is too warm and intense for me to bask in it like I do in January. It's hard to believe that it's already time to transition from basking in the sun as it reflects off the bright white deck to lounging in the dappled sunshine as it glints through the leaves of "the thicket".

I dragged the chaise lounge down the stairs and lugged it past the palm tree, hitting the encroaching fan fronds as I passed by. The garden kitty supervised my work as she scampered only a few feet away wondering what in the world I was doing now.

The chaise lounge and I passed under the lemon tree that is laden with beautiful yellow fruit (so many lemons I'm afraid we can't possibly use them all). Beyond the lemon tree, I bullied the chair across the flagstone clearing to the spot where it will sit for the next six months--under the wisteria.

As if to welcome me and my chaise back, the wisteria is blooming one solitary bunch of aromatic blossoms looking very much like a bunch of grapes hanging just over the spot where I will spend many afternoons and evenings until autumn comes. On warm afternoons, I'll be watching hummingbirds flit around the lemon tree that is in perpetual bloom. In the evenings as dusk envelopes the garden, I'll sit wrapped in a cozy throw as I try to spy a grey fox just passing through.

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The lilacs are blooming...

The lilacs are blooming... the air is heavy with their heady perfume. 

The cherry tree is blooming... the song of the house finches floats through its branches on the spring breeze.

The violet is blooming... tender little violets with a fragrance so graceful and sweet.

All are reminders of precious people and places... bookmarks in my heart leading to pages holding the highlighted passages of my life's story.

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I think it's almost time to decommission the winter bird feeders

In February, our local Wild Birds Unlimited store had a special on a fun Valentine feeder. If you bought it at regular price, you got 5 lbs. of peanuts in the shell for free. I decided to splurge since I've been wanting one of these coil feeders for a while now to feed the California Scrub Jays that frequent our garden.

The feeder has been out for over a month now. Usually it stays full for a look time and I've only had to refill it once a week. That was until something else discovered it...

I suspect that the squirrels have finally figured out how to dine at the peanut buffet as easily as the jays have been, because when I replenish the peanuts they are almost all gone by the next day except for a few in the bottom. I have also noticed peanut shell debris around the base of the feeder which is atypical for the jays who prefer to extract a peanut and then fly up into the branches of the neighboring trees to dine on the contents. Squirrels prefer to eat and litter right at the feeder.

It's okay. The timing is good. I don't have very many more peanuts left--probably enough to fill the heart one last time. The daytime temps are warm enough now (it's 72F/22C today) that the bugs are coming out along with the green leaves. It's time for all the birds to do their job of eating the bugs in my garden as they've done for the past decade. I'm already seeing tiny bushtits flitting among the branches of my rosebushes feeding on newly hatched aphids (they will keep my roses aphid-free as they always do).

And the scrub jays will transition from the peanuts I've been giving them as a winter treat back to eating small reptiles, small animals and larger insects. They're a great way to control things like grasshoppers, cockroaches, snakes, lizards, frogs and rodents.

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Spring and new beginnings

Surrounded by new beginnings both in the garden and out, I find myself pondering life's miracles both big and small--births, transitions, new beginnings, the rites of passage that are part of living.

Saturated with reminders of new life and renewal, the season of spring is hopeful. Even after the harshest winter, new life does come and days do become brighter.

Just like the oxalis that I allow to grow and bloom in waves of buttercups so the drabness of winter doesn't completely envelope my garden views, the "weeds" of life can often bring beauty if viewed differently.

Sometimes it seems like life's winters are too harsh for there to be any hope of a brighter future. But right under the surface of the trial, like daffodil bulbs nestled deep in the dark soil, blessings are waiting to come.

Daffodil bulbs need the stress of winter to bring forth their delightful spring beauty. Human beings need trials to become who we are meant to become.

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Lucy and her Carmex

I usually don't post videos (opting for photos instead), but I really wanted to share this one.

Our weird kitty Lucy LOVES Carmex lip balm. Every night before we go to bed she jumps up next to me and wants me to get out a completely spent tube of Carmex I keep in my nightstand. All she wants to do is sniff it and rub on it like it's catnip.

The other night she got a bit vigorous with her rubbing... and ended up regretting it.


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