Tag Archive | leopard tortoise in the garden

Coming When Called

So much to be grateful for today! Almost everything. Among the experiences I’m grateful for today is a new trick from an old tortoise. Well, not that old. Biko is actually just coming of age, hitting maturity at around the same time a human would (one would hope), twenty-two years old. I’ve been a constant in his life since he was one, though he’s never paid me much attention. But we’ve been working on our communication skills these past few years, and though he doesn’t like me to pet him, he will come when I call if he’s within sight of me, usually.

This year has been an especially good training year because of the drought: there’s not as much wild forage for him, so I’ve been able finally to train him with food. At least once a day I make sure to call to him when I see him approaching, grab a handful of lettuce, and stamp my feet. He will turn and come to me for the greens. This morning, I had just picked some lettuce I wanted to give him, but hadn’t seen him yet. I was finishing up some organizing on the west side of the house. Intermittently over about ten minutes, I called and stamped, three or four times. Then as I had my back turned, I heard his footsteps crunch on the gravel. He had come!

It could have been coincidence, but it felt like a real communication coup. Biko has been the shy, independent one from the beginning. I almost named him Bashful. But to get any tortoise to come from afar when summoned feels like an accomplishment. It gives me hope that he might come home if he ever escaped. It was a miracle his brother Desmond Turtu was found: I live in anxiety of another infrastructure failure or some oversight letting Biko get away. I’m grateful for even the illusion of his coming when called.

Simple Delights

I’m grateful today that Stellar had strength and stamina to walk all the way to the canyon this morning; that he has survived to see the cottonwoods leaf out again; that even though he’s lame and deaf and got cataracts, his sniffer still works great; and that he had such a good day we could take another walk this evening.

I’m grateful for a couple of quick cool showers, the first after I worked all morning in the yarden in brutal heat, and the second at the end of the day; I’m grateful I set up my shower so that the water flows directly out to the base of the birch tree and from there along a row of chokecherry and mountain ash, so I can shower without guilt even during drought; indeed, if I were to curtail showers I’d threaten the health of the ecosystem. I’m grateful for the water itself that flows from the high mountains, for the infrastructure to channel and hold and transport it and for the people through the years who made this possible.

I’m grateful the clouds moved in late afternoon and cooled off the yard and house, even though there was no rain; grateful that tomorrow’s high is forecast to be a temperate 90º instead of today’s 98º in the shade. Grateful also, of course, for nutritious food, including morning glory muffins that Garden Buddy brought the other day, and for cardamom cake that Deb couldn’t eat, for lettuce and peas from the garden, avocados and mushrooms from the store, and for a cheese sandwich at lunch, among other gustatory delights. And I’m grateful for other simple delights as well, such as Doe’s reactions to Biko, who stalked her a bit like he stalks the dog, and made her jump and leap a couple of times, which made me laugh when I recovered from being startled. I just love watching the expressions of the deer as they watch me and my pets move through our mutual yard.

I’m also grateful tonight that I noticed the dog food still cooking on the stove an hour after I meant to turn it off, that I didn’t go to bed with it still cooking, and that remarkably it wasn’t burnt. Through a particular lens, there is always something to be grateful for in any situation: it could always be worse.

Lilacs

I’m grateful this time of year for lilacs, for their various colors, their feeding of bees, their intoxicating scent. Some years I can smell them from the other side of the house in late afternoon. Not this year, tough, their blooms are sparse. Maybe the buds froze in the last frost, or maybe the pre-buds were damaged by The Big Freeze last fall, the one that killed the almond tree, and it looks like the peach tree may not make it, either. Grateful that the lilacs survived! I make a point to walk that side of the house several times a day even when I don’t need to, just so I can stop and inhale deeply of the flowers: my head tingles from the inside, like a jump into Suzi’s pond invigorates the skin. I feel cleansed breathing lilac air.

I’m also grateful for the dainty, brilliant carpet of the tiniest penstemon, Penstemon caespitosus, the mat penstemon.
And I’m grateful for this handsome beast who’s lived here for the past 20 years, roaming the yard freely during summer, snoozing his way through winters. Biko is a captive-hatched leopard tortoise I got when he was one year old and didn’t quite fill the palm of my hand. Biko is the Keeper of Slow Time here at Mirador, the pace of his life inspiring to me.

Cultivating Joy in a Dark Spring

How is it that with all this extra time on my hands I still can’t unclutter my house? Oh yeah… the garden is waking up.

First to bloom in early March, purple dwarf iris.
As the purples fade, these new Iris reticulata ‘Eye Catcher’ bloom for the first time.
Then the first native bees take advantage of grape hyacinths…
… including Muscaria azureum, a delightful surprise this year, which only grows to a couple of inches tall.
Here they are just sprouting from bulbs planted last fall in my Blue Bed.
The first butterflies come to these early spring bulbs.
And also the first bumblebees!
Last week European pasqueflowers began opening, attracting an early digger bee…
… and one happy spider with a not-so-lucky little sweat bee.
This one fares better on a little yellow tulip.
This tulip is an accidental hybrid between Tulipa tarda, the ground-hugging wild tulip, and a tall coral-colored cultivar I planted many years ago. Told I should name it after myself, I just did: Tulipa ritala.
Meanwhile, Stellar wobbles along on his last legs, filling my heart and breaking it at the same time.

I simply don’t have words to convey the maelstrom of emotions that swirl within like March winds this spring. Above all there is gratitude for the many blessings this life has given me so far. I’m grateful to be an introvert who works from home anyway. I’m grateful that I have a reasonably healthy body, though my immune system is not robust and neither is my right lung, which never quite fills all the way. I consider myself to be fairly high risk, and so I’m grateful I have friends willing to shop for me and deliver necessities. I’m grateful I’ve worked hard for nearly thirty years to create this beautiful refuge, which now offers solace and peace amid global turmoil, and I’ll be grateful when I am again able to share it with people.

Other emotions may be less healthy but are also valid: rage at the rampant greed and graft manifesting at the highest levels of government during this pandemic when all humans should be working together to stave off despair and death; disgust at the ignorant response by trump cult believers that is causing so many more Americans to sicken and die; despair that the dying petroleum industry and the politicians that subsidize and profit from it take advantage of our distraction to rape and pillage even more egregiously our fragile planet. If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention: Broaden your information horizons.

Meanwhile, the Say’s phoebes are back shoring up at least two nests around the house. A day after they first fluttered into the yard, I took last year’s nest off the top of the ladder leaning against the north wall, and lay it down so I could use it this summer if I needed to. The next day I felt so bad that I gathered scrap wood, tools, and screws to build a little shelf in the same spot where I could replace the nest. But once I stood there with all the materials I realized it would be way too complicated, so I propped up the ladder against a joist to provide corner stability, and tucked the old nest securely back into place. It’s one small thing I can do…

Like Biko emerging from hibernation, I take advantage of every sunny day to appreciate the rich beauty of this particular spring.

Catching Up

Thankful for the physical well-being and energy I’ve had this summer that has enabled me to keep up with the garden (though not with sharing its joy online!). Above, a selection of late-summer delights, starting with a plumtini, just a martini shaken with a very ripe plum, yum!

Thankful for half a dozen perfect strawberries gleaned from as many plants. Maybe next summer they’ll do better, but each fruit was certainly a burst of flavor as bright as its color.

Thankful for last month’s Harvest micro-moon rising directly behind Castle Rock
Thankful for snapdragons, bumblebees, and … colors everywhere!
Thankful for mother’s little helper Biko, eating aphid infested kale or broken tomatoes as needed to supplement his primary diet of bindweed, prickly lettuce, bad grasses and other weeds. Now semi-retired for the year, he spends a few hours outside some warm days and otherwise slumbers in his laundry room nook.

The past months have been a whirlwind of harvesting, pickling, canning, freezing, cutting back, drying, fermenting and other fun fall festivities. I’ve been spinning through each day drenched in gratitude, swimming in astonishing colors, savoring and storing for winter the flavors of summer.

It’s almost impossible to believe I am the same person as that awkward little girl in the DC suburbs who spent every free minute curled up in an armchair reading books. How did I come to be here? Living close to the land in this fertile valley for almost half my life now has allowed me to approach some understanding of my true nature, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.