a blog about plants, cats and other lovely creatures

Saturday, December 25, 2010

a thought for the holidays

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people. We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers... The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors... The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother... Remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports... Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth, befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
words attributed to Chief Seattle

Thursday, December 9, 2010

squirrel feeder

This is Silky Soul being creative.
One week ago we finally put the feeder up on the tree that we see from the window and balcony. The squirrels haven't found it yet. It is waiting for them filled with walnuts, chestnuts, beechnuts and sunflower seeds.

I learned how to make a squirrel feeder, what to put in it and why it is necessary to feed them, from a lady who runs a squirrel sanctuary. Every year some baby squirrels fall out of the nest, or adult squirrels get injured by cars or predators. The sanctuary receives squirrels from all over the country and makes sure they get all the care they need in order to get well again. Squirrels that recover from the injuries are then released into the nearby woods. Others, that would not be able to survive at large, stay and live a happy life at the sanctuary. The sanctuary updates photos and stories on their Facebook page. You can see how the feeder works here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

more squirrels!

By now I have three. Here is Agáta, the black one, that sat and apparently just meditated the other morning just a few meters away from my window on a branch of a pine tree. This picture was taken from the window.

I went outside to take a live look at her and found another black squirrel on the spruce tree!

So this is where another squirrel box went.
Agáta no.2 came to say thank you in person.

Thanks to Silky Soul who can climb trees...

If you wonder what squirrels actually do in these boxes, take a look…

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

furry acrobat

Last weekend Silky Soul and I decided to put up a box for “our” squirrel. The squirrel story is starting to turn into a sort of community project. Now many neighbors know what I am after, so one tall neighbor volunteered to climb up a ladder lent by another neighbor who is also offering old walnuts and dried mushrooms from the previous year to feed the squirrel. Another elderly lady is watching the squirrel from her window “for me” and reports on her every move.

The moment we went out to put up the box, the squirrel was right in front of the entrance door and rewarded us in advance by this acrobatic performance.

Silky Soul was self-possessed enough to capture it.

I call the squirrel Agáta.

As we were hanging the box to the tree (it is an old linden tree and we decided against using screws), another, red squirrel ran up the tree, took a quick look and disappeared.

It is actually a bird box, not a squirrel den but the squirrels are supposed to like it too. I am curious. We later found the other squirrel on a spruce tree on the other side of our house, next to a busy intersection. Thanks to Silky Soul again, we are fortunate enough to have this picture of him. I call him Adam. We already have another box ready to go up this tree.

I am very excited to actually have two squirrels! Our next plan is to make a squirrel (bird-proof) feeder to help them overwinter. Don't worry about the birds, they already have many bird feeders around.
I am thankful to Silky Soul and my neighbors who are helping me to make my plans come true. I wouldn't be able to do it on my own.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

what it takes to make a transition

Satish Kumar, editor of Resurgence, speaks about the Transition Town movement and the difference between being a pilgrim and being a tourist on the Earth... we are in charge of our environment...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

what can a gardenless gardener do...

At first, I started fulfilling my gardening dreams by filling up my balcony with plants. Ten came the window boxes. Then I was sorry I had nowhere to expand. I thought about all the lucky people who had gardens. I thought that perhaps one day in a very distant future, I would be able to afford a house with a garden. A dream… And then a thought came – why wait for years to fulfill a dream when there may be other ways to make it come true? And so I started digging up grass in front of the entrance to our apartment block and planting some flowers there.

The neighbors warned me that people or dogs would destroy the plants. I kept on planting, fulfilling my dream. Nobody destroyed anything.

On the contrary, every time I was doing something on this small plot, people would stop by and comment on how they liked it and what difference it made.

People who would not normally talk to me started to greet me from far. I know many people in my neighborhood now.

Although it was not my aim, I expanded from working on my own dream to reach out to other people, too.

And then I started noticing subtler changes. The flowers attract insects. Dead plants attract earthworms, insects attract lizards, earthworms and lizards attract birds and hedgehogs. With all these birds hanging around the house in the middle of winter, I put up a bird feeder on one of the pine trees and started feeding them, and a squirrel came to the feeder for nuts. This year we see her often on this linden tree next to the southern wall of our building. I hope that she has a nest there.

Now in the fall I am noticing that she likes the softer ground on the flower beds to hide her nuts for the winter.

flower beds at present, way past their prime time (entrance to the house from the east)

I started noticing how very much alive this little piece of urban land around our house is. With the increasing tendency of humans to cover every piece of ground by concrete, I am discovering these precious signs of nature right here outside my window, surrounded by buildings and parking lots. It is important to me that I do not harm but try to help preserve this fragile ecosystem. It is a small thing but it is comforting to know that I can do something for the environment and I don’t even need to leave my home.

our building surrounded by trees – view from the south

our building from the west

At the moment I’m busy getting ideas on how to help the useful insects overwinter. You can buy a fancy insect hotel for your insect helpers…

or you can make one yourself with pretty much anything you can find… I have made a very simple insect house using a plastic bottle, some birch twigs and leaves for my balcony.

I plan to create something that looks a little less like junk for the flowerbeds outside, maybe something similar to this which I am going to put on my window sill (lying, so that it forms a "roof").

The next exciting project Silky Soul and I have in mind is a squirrel feeder. Squirrels are such lovely creatures, I believe they make everyone smile. In our country they are protected by law as endangered species. And you can imagine what show that would be for the cats to watch from the balcony! So now on my walks I collect anything she might like in her feeder in the winter time, such as acorns, beechnuts and maple seeds, and I'm drying apples and plums for her. I will keep you posted on this project… In the meantime, why not consider building your own insect hotel to ease this coming winter for your little insect buddies. You will surely appreciate their help with aphids and slugs next gardening season! And if you have some maple leaves left over and all the roses in your garden are already faded away, you can get even more creative

Even autumn can be fun…

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

rainy days

fall in our part of the world

rain, cold, wind...

few blossoms...

no more time to ripen...

increased appreciation of central heating...

...and comfortable arm-chairs

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

cats' bliss

Just a few days after my post about our cat balcony I found this wonderful catio that has been created recently in the Netherlands. These cats live in bliss with Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen.

I have asked Yolanda if I may share her pictures on my blog and she kindly gave permission, saying, "The more people know about how to keep cats safe and how to find them when they've gone missing, the better."

The "feliary" as Yolanda calls it, was built after one of their cats got lost and her owners put an incredible effort into the search for her. It is the most thrilling detective story I've read recently.

Beautiful way of combining love of cats and gardening...
Something to aspire to!

Friday, September 3, 2010

cat balcony

In the spring, I promised to show pictures of our balcony after the work on the house was finished. So, to start with where I left, this was the sad state of the balcony in May:

…and then in August:

Since I moved in, the challenge of this balcony has been to create a place where I could enjoy a little bit of gardening and where my cats could enjoy a little bit of outdoors. In such limited space these two activities sometimes exclude one another, and so far we have come to this compromise.

For the cats’ safety, the balcony had to be secured with a net. It is unfortunate that I cannot easily get to the plants in boxes outside the net to tend to them better, to pick faded blossoms and prune them but this is one of the compromises that just had to be made.

I didn’t want to feel like a prisoner behind bars and this solution with an olive green net protecting the upper part of the balcony works quite nicely. As there are green trees in the view, visitors sometimes never even notice what they’re looking through. There is a “cat window” in the lower part of the balcony, and that is secured with a solid wire.

Recently I have come across the term “catio” and have admired the many ways people try to make sure their cats have as much fun as possible under given circumstances. Of course, the best thing for a cat would be to run free in a garden. The best thing for a gardener would be to have a garden. We urban dwellers have to make do with what life offers us. Actually, that’s one of the best things I have learned from cats: they always seem to be quite happy with just what they have at hand, as if knowing too well that it could always be worse.

This is my youngest cat Josefínka, she came to us from a cat shelter already grown-up, supposedly very timid; she had sufferred unknown eye injury as a little kitten. She would make a good Halloween cat, only we don’t have Halloween. She has some issues related to the injury, and is being treated by homeopathy which seems to be working well.

Tadeášek is the embodiment of love. I got him from a shelter as a little kitten; he started to follow me everywhere and has never stopped since. He is the most vocal of them; quite unusually for a cat he can sing, ring, croak and bark, too.

Štěpánka is my first, and she is the smartest. Mind you, she can catch a bird through the net. She likes her personal space and is the only one that doesn’t sleep in bed but whenever I am down feeling sick, she comes to lie in my feet and heals me in her own feline way. A friend of mine found her in the street as a kitten. I never had a cat before; I actually wasn't sure that I liked cats.

Now on to the plants: The balcony has much shade, and so my favorites include hosta, ferns, coleus, heuchera and astilbe for the pots, and fuchsias and begonias for the boxes. The fuchsias and begonias overwinter inside the building in the hallway which has the right temperature but not enough light. This year they had to stay there much longer than usual because of the work being done on the balcony, and they never fully recovered from the abuse.

The space is limited but we all try to enjoy all that it has to offer, constantly rearranging the pots, plants and pebbles to suit our taste, some of us intentionally, others while chasing each other, but always delighted with the results.