Friday, May 29, 2009

Baby Stick Bugs

Four days after our cruise, we took the kids to Disneyland, to take advantage of the Victoria Day (May 18) holiday in Canada. When we returned home, I got a very nice surprise.

Do you remember the stick bugs my sister Rose bought me for my birthday back in October? Here they are again:
Stick bugs
In mid-March, the female (the bigger one) started dropping eggs. I think there are now about 25 on paper towel on the bottom of the cage, which I am keeping moist by pouring water on it a couple of times per week. At first I was quite anxious, watching the eggs every day, until I read at the library that stick bug eggs can take anywhere from 6 months to 18 months to hatch, depending on the species.

Well, when we returned from Disneyland, there were 3 small babies in the cage. They grow fast, here is one of them at what is probably 1 week old:
Baby stick bug
According to my records, it was only 9 1/2 weeks for the hatching. So now I'm back to watching the cage anxiously again.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Garden Glimpses : Late May 2009

One of the great things about gardening is that every day, there is something new to discover. Lately I have been too busy during the week, so doing major gardening (mostly weeding) sessions on Saturdays. But I try to get outside every couple of days to at least walk about and see what is new. This evening did not disappoint.

A number of plants have seeded themselves among our stone-faced steps and gravel pathway which connects the lower yard to the upper yard. I pull the ones which look out of place or are too weedy, but have left some where they fit in nicely. This one found a very cozy and natural-looking spot:
Flower on the pathway
I plan to relocate these weedy daisies when they are finished flowering, but even these "common" flowers add some charm to the pathway:
Daisies on the pathway
This tricolour honeysuckle is filling in nicely against our cedar fence, and it loaded with blooms this year:
Tricolour honeysuckle
I discovered that the rhodo which is tucked in the corner against the shed, now almost hidden behind the Italian Plum tree, is just coming into bloom:
Rhododendrum flower
I found the first bloom of the year on my white iris, a treasured gift from my friend Irene:
Beautiful white iris
The first flower has appeared on my tomato plants. I have 2 "sweet 100" and 2 "sweet 1000" tomatoes this year. So if all goes well, I guess I can expect approx 2,200 fruits:
First tomato flower
My climbing hydrangea, which started as a tiny shoot less than 5 years ago, and now completely covers its concrete retaining wall, has finally shown 2 flower heads (umbels, I guess?) this year. Not that I was anxious about flowers, since the twisty vines in winter and the lush foliage in summer is more than enough to earn its spot in the garden:
Climbing hydrangea flower
I don't have the name of this orange flower handy, but its yellow relative grows as a native weed in this area, some of it just beyond my fence on the ravine side. I sure do like this cheery orange version, though:
Pretty orange flower
The smoke tree is getting ready to smoke:
Smoke tree about to start smoking
There were lots of fruits to discover also, such as these Bartlett pears. I am amused by how they grow "upside down" until they get heavy enough for the fruit to drop to the orientation I'm used to seeing pears in:
Tiny pears growing upside down
The espalier trees always perform well with fruiting, mainly due to all other growth being so restricted, the tree has nowhere else to expend its energies other than into producing fruit. This is one of our espaliered apples:
Espalier apple tree with fruit
...and espaliered asian pears:
Espaliered asian pears
I try to thin the espalier fruits to only 1 per clump, and even then that may be too dense, I should probably thin more aggressively, and try for one fruit every 4 inches.

I started grapes against the shed a couple of years ago, and they are really filling in nicely this year:
Grape vines growing on shed
And for the first time ever, I see lots of tiny grapes forming:
Closeup of tiny grapes forming
The Italian plum tree, which bore 5 fruits last year, seems to have dozens of tiny fruits, hiding among the leaves (and hard to photograph well):
Tiny italian plums
But the biggest and most exciting surprise tonight, which prompted me to call my husband and kids out to see for themselves, was our peach tree. Do you remember how we just got the peach tree last year, and it played dead for a long while after it was planted? Then this year, it showed that single flower? Well, that single flower has produced a tiny, fuzzy peach! It is so small, you still need to use your imagination on this one, but it is for sure a little peach!!:
The first tiny peach on my peach tree

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pacific Coastal Cruise and Orca Photos

I have so many garden photos to post, but have been too busy lately. One of the reasons is that I just returned from a 5 night cruise on Holland America's Statendam, roundtrip from Vancouver BC, May 5 - 10, stopping in Port Angeles WA, Seattle WA, Victoria BC, and Port Alberni BC.

The weather started out a bit overcast and lightly rainy, but ended up brilliantly sunny. Here are a few photo highlights from the trip (as always, click the image for a slightly larger view - which I have significantly reduced from the 4 MB images taken by our camera)...

I liked this sky, and the distant Celebrity cruise ship:
Cruise ship
For anyone who sailed on Celebrity's Mercury ship into Port Angeles with us on May 6, here is a photo of your arrival just after ours:
Celebrity Mercury cruise ship
It is a bit busy, but I liked this imagery of the ramp being delivered to us by forklift:
Cruise ship welcome in Port Angeles
The early morning approach to Port Alberni was really awesome, the ship making its way 30 miles through a narrow channel (fjord) shrouded in fog:
Foggy early morning passage to Port Alberni
But the highlight for me was the visit to Victoria, where we took a 3 hour Zodiak whale watching expedition. I have wanted to take one of these whale watching tours ever since I visited Victoria some 20 years ago, and saw a brochure (but at the time, it didn't work out to join a tour). The tour was everything I had imagined or hoped it to be. It started out with a visit to a local hangout for harbour seals:
Harbour seal hangout
Then a hangout for sea lions (Stellar, California, and Elephant sea lions):
Sea lion hangout
Sea lions on rocky shore
Even sightings of bald eagles, turkey vultures circling, and this family of Canada Geese:
Family of Canada Geese
And even a pass by a lighthouse under repair, which reminds me of the "leaky condo" repairs we see in our area:
Lighthouse in leaky condo repairs
But the main event was to track and observe a small family of "transient" (mostly seal hunting, as opposed to the "resident" fish hunting ones) Orca whales. There were 3 whales in the family:
Orca Whale Family
We were told that the mother ("T10" or "Langara") was born in 1963, so she is not much older than me... She is the one with the notched fin:
T10 Orca Mother
Her son ("T10B" or "Siwash") was born in 1983, and is absolutely stunning, with his tall dorsal fin:
Male Orca Whale
On one occasion, we got so close that I needed to back out the lens, I didn't capture him fully in my view. Here is the front of him; you can see that he is eyeing us as he surfaces:
Male Orca Eyeing Us
...and then his dorsal fin retreating into the water:
Male Orca Fin
The other child ("T10C" or "Bones") was born in 1999, and is not known to be male or female yet.
This is my absolute favourite photo, showing the whales surfacing within close range of another whale watching Zodiac:
Whale Watching Boat and Orca
Wow, it was an exciting 3 hours.
Our return to Victoria's inner harbour rewarded us with a nice view of the Empress Hotel:
Empress Hotel in Victoria, from the Inner Harbour
...and the Legislative Buildings (home of the BC Government):
Legislative Buildings in Victoria BC
But neither of those could compare with our close sightings of the Orcas.
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