Around the Yard at The End of July

I just bought a new iPhone XR and wanted to try out the camera so I took a quick walk around the yard this evening. The no-see-ums were brutal so it was a quick photo shoot. Not all photos were taken with the new camera.

My caladiums are doing well. The white-leafed variety is not looking so good, but the red looks nice. Did you know they come back each year after winter?

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Caladium with red leaves

My bromeliad is shooting off some new little babies. I already started two new plants from this one and it looks like I will have more.

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Bromeliad with “babies”

The hot house hydrangea, which I planted in the garden, is doing very well! It is in the shade most of the day and I think that helps a lot. I just cut off the dead blooms to find new flowers hidden among the greenery.

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The hydrangea shrub is doing well!

The swallowtail butterfly has been busy laying her eggs on my fennel plant and I counted 40 worms, in all stages, crawling on the stems and chowing down on the flowers. The cardinals have grabbed some, but many remain. I hope some of them survive to become butterflies.

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This worm will become a Swallowtail butterfly if it survives the cardinal attacks

Along the back hedge I spotted this pretty white flower which looks quite exotic. I believe it is an invasive species (it’s Florida, what else is new?) called the Japanese Honeysuckle. On the other side of the house I have the invasive Brazilian Pepper plant growing like mad.

Florida invasive species Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese Honeysuckle?

The frogs were napping in their usual spot on top of my front door light. They make an awful mess, pooping all over the place. At night they travel over the window, front door and walls catching bugs.

If you look closely you can see the head of the third frog in the lower left of the photo. They are literally piled on top of each other. I believe this is an invasive species of frog which has killed off the beautiful green tree-frogs that used to be plentiful in Florida. I don’t know if these are Cuban tree frogs, but our outdoor security camera captured a possum climb the wall and snatch a frog off the light in the back yard! I also find dead frogs in the yard, so something is after them. The University of Florida has a page about frogs comparing the unwanted invaders with the cute green tree frogs which I never see these days.

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Frogs on my front light

Of course my two cats followed me all around the yard. They love having my company outdoors and since it’s usually too hot, I don’t do much outside with them. Below is Skittle who is always interested when I am pulling weeds.

Skittle the cat
Skittle

Beautiful Fontana is my older cat but she loves to be outside as well. Both cats spend most of their day sleeping outdoors even though it is extremely hot this time of year. I am home, and always let them in to cool off and fill their bellies, but they usually go right back out.

Fontana
Fontana

So that is my yard at the end of July. When we get through the next two months I will feel better. Nights will become cooler and I look forward to having a fan in the window at night. Aside from cutting the grass, not much is getting done in the yard. My vegetable garden is producing nothing much and my citrus trees are doing very poorly. I keep the bird bath filled and enjoy watching the birds that come to eat bugs and take baths.

My Favorite Black Cat Photos of Skittle and Fontana

I take a lot of photos of my two black cats, Skittle and Fontana. Fontana has been living with me since 2010 when she and Richie (a crazy male cat who is now deceased) were adopted from a shelter in New Hampshire. Richie met an untimely end when he was killed by a fisher cat one early morning. Fisher cats are stocky, muscular beasts that hunt mostly at night so I kept my cats inside overnight.  Richie always wanted to go out very early in the morning to hunt and unfortunately a fisher cat was out hunting too.

You can see photos of Richie at my New England blog.  He had unique blotches of white on his face.

Fontana the Beauty

Whereas Richie was a hunter extraordinaire, Fontana was always one to sit and watch wildlife with big eyes and not try to kill everything that moves. She spent one night in my old house playing with a mouse in the kitchen, which she let get away to bother us another day.

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Fontana’s black coat

Fontana was, and is, a beautiful, medium long hair cat. Her fur was jet black, but now that she has spent lots of time outside in the Florida sun, she has turned chocolate brown.  Yup, she’s fading.

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Fontana’s fur has faded to brown in the Florida sun

Then, Along Came Skittle

Skittle became part of the family shortly after Richie had gone. My son and I went to the local shelter where a room held some free roaming kitties. The shelter manager told me to go in and visit with those cats and as I opened the door a little black cat bolted out into the main part of the shelter. We had to round her up and put her back.   My son decided that was the cat he wanted.  Of course, the troublemaker!

Her shelter name was “Love Bug” but before we left the parking lot my son said, “Lets call her Skittle”.   The name is perfect and she still does the “skittle out the door” maneuver very well.

Skittle is the kind of cat that makes her needs known one way or another. She drinks out of cups, knocks things off counters and tables, and races through the house to get attention. As soon as I go into the bathroom she is up on the counter wanting to drink from the faucet. She stays outside almost all day long, even in the terrible Florida heat. I am home and can let her in, but she prefers outdoors. She seems to be happier in this climate away from the snowy New England winters.

Cats are known to choose to sleep in some strange places.  Usually they choose a place that will bother the owner the most.  Right on a book that one is attempting to read, or on the desktop when one is trying to work.   The fact that Skittle thought the indoor woodpile would be a comfy place for a nap really confused me.  But she saw that I was using that wood to stoke the wood stove and probably decided she would be in the way.  It’s how her little mind works.

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I have some great photos of skittle, but none as funny as when she plopped her head down onto the fruit in my fruit bowl and made herself comfortable.  Did she think I would want some fruit and having her head in the way would annoy me?  Probably.


In my New Hampshire home, Skittle had perfected the art of letting me know she was ready to come inside. She stood on the deck railing and pawed at the window in the kitchen making as much noise as possible.  If the railing had snow or ice she would simply climb to the top of the screen on the sliding glass door and hang there hoping to annoy me enough to open the door.

When winter ended in NH and I began to go outside to do my gardening, Skittle was always somewhere close by.  She loved to have my company in the yard.  The photo below is one of my very favorites and was taken on one of those gardening days.  It captures her typical look which seems to be saying, “Come on, what’s next?  Lets get to it.”  Skittle is always ready for an adventure.

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If I didn’t get around to mowing the grass as much as I should, the cats didn’t mind. They both like to “hide” in the greenery.

One of their favorite things to do was to walk with me in the woods behind the house.  I had a big backyard forest area with rocks, water and downed trees to climb.  I miss being outside with them.  In Florida, I don’t go out much and there are no fun places to explore in my yard.

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Fontana in the grass

Just like siblings, cats can have radically different personalities. Anyone who doesn’t like cats probably hasn’t met a cat with the “right” personality match for them. Fontana and Skittle are very different from each other.

Skittle will sleep on my bed at night, but Fontana doesn’t.

Fontana will jump into my lap, but not Skittle.

Skittle comes when I call her, like a dog. Fontana usually ignores my calls.

Skittle catches lizards and then meows, while the poor thing dangles from her mouth, until I come see. Fontana ignores the lizards.

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Fontana is a beauty

The cats are weird, funny, sweet or annoying and they’ve wormed their way into our hearts, as all pets do.

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Window with a view

The Croton is Flowering, Cats, and Other Happenings This Saturday Morning

flowering croton
Flowers on the Croton

Before I left on my trip north, I checked (and watered) all my plants and discovered that my croton is flowering! Pretty fluffy little off-white flowers are shooting off the tops of the big-leaved stems. Long ago I may have seen croton flowers, but if so, I had forgotten that they have flowers.

It’s Saturday morning already. I lost a few days this week it seems.

All my mornings begin with me making coffee for myself. While the coffee brews I take care of the cats. My two black cats simply want to go outside. I change their water and make sure there is food in the bowl.

Then I deal with Earflap aka Mr. Mites aka Bitey. He is the stray who adopted us a few months ago. He manages to fill his litter box every night, so I empty that. He gets special canned food, so I serve him breakfast. The porch door stays shut overnight so the raccoons won’t come in and eat his dry food, so I open it and give him his freedom. Usually he goes back to sleep on the chair inside the porch.

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Earflap the stray cat

Two days ago I walked into the garage at 8AM and it wasn’t sweltering. I put the door up and a wonderful breeze hit me. As I walked into the driveway I stretched my arms and breathed in the air – something I haven’t done in months. Trying to breathe outside here in summer is like slowly drowning. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit but the humidity here is stifling – 24 hours a day.

With the breeze blowing for the past three days, the heat seems less and it gives me hope that cool nights are in the future. Daytime temperatures seldom stay cool, but overnight it can get nice. I’m thinking about gardening, and considering having a yard sale. Continue reading “The Croton is Flowering, Cats, and Other Happenings This Saturday Morning”

Dilemma: Bugs, Birds, Bears, and Cats

grasshopper eating a sunflowerThis is my garden dilemma:  I have a grasshopper infestation.  I need a natural way to get rid of the bugs, as I am an organic gardener.

Attract birds that will eat them, is my first thought, but I have cats that go outside.  If I feed birds in summer it’s only the hummingbirds.  My cats would never be able to catch one of them.  In fact, neither of my cats are big hunters, but I imagine that birds get nervous when they look down and see cats in the yard, so they move on.

If the birds do end up eating the grasshoppers, they will be down near ground level.   The grasshoppers are feasting on the leaves of many of my garden plants.  If I put out feeders, I feel like I am inviting birds to their death, because of the cats.

Summer bird-feeding can also attract black bears in my area.   Continue reading “Dilemma: Bugs, Birds, Bears, and Cats”