nature


You might remember last September when I wrote about visiting the garden of Bamboo Charlie (nee Charles Ray Walker) after I learned of his sudden demise. If not, you can read and see about it here.

Bamboo Charlie was homeless by choice and a beloved fixture in that area near the Boyle Heights Sears, carving out a quirky paradise on a slice of land near the east bank of the LA River. After I learned about him when his story made the LA Times, I failed to go see him when he was alive and so was heartbroken to only be able to visit his place after he was gone. It was a magical place.

One of the things I did when Susan and I visited was take a mature chili pepper from one of the many plants he had cultivated and put it in my pocket. When I got home, I harvested the seeds and planted them.

They sprouted and grew pretty quickly and even blossomed when pretty much everything else around the house was battening down for winter, but I wasn’t sure if the bees had pollinated any of the plant’s flowers. I should never doubt bees getting the job done because when taking out the trash yesterday, I glanced its way and was surprised to find two peppers have begun growing from where blooms had been, like so:

bcpeppers

It’s a small tribute, but I’m happy to see Charlie’s legacy live on. Heretofore they are called The Red Hot Charlie Peppers.

I’ve heard seen my share of terrestrial wildlife while mountain biking in the Verdugos — lizards, toads, bobcats, coyotes, deer, a coast horned lizard, garter snakes. On this pre-gluttony Thanksgiving Day ride I added a baby rattlesnake to the list. Found, as seen below in the center of the frame, sunning itself on the asphalt section of the trail just below Tongva Peak (click it for the bigger picture):

It started moving off trail as soon as I stopped to admire it. Not having time to get my phone camera out, I simply pointed the handlebar-mounted GoPro cam at it to capture it before it disappeared in the scrub.

Here’s the timelapse vid of the bottom-to-top-to-bottom ride (my standard 5.75-mile route going up the Beaudry North and Verdugo motorways about 2,200 feet to Tongva Peak and then back down via the Verdugo and Beaudry South motorways):

One of the most splendiferous bonuses of having a backyard to walk out into is those times when I do so in the midst of a visit by any number of creatures. Though some are more welcome than others (I’m holding my nose and looking at you skunks), all are wondrous reminders that even at our most city-fied and urbanized, nature finds a way.

This morning’s encounter involved a very healthy and huge juvenile red-tailed hawk who I found perched high in the tallest of our twin palms.

It obliged me just long enough to run inside and return with my camera to get the following sloppy series as it made its exit northward to less paparazzi-rich environs (click them for the bigger pictures):

There’s actually a couple other gourds out in the backyard still growing — one barely a pound in weight and the other probably about six or seven (and shaped awesome/ominously like a skull) — but they’re still mostly green and probably still will be by Halloween so I left them alone to continue to do their thing, and instead harvested the three that have orange’d up the most:

The most consistent thing is that we went five for five. We planted five seeds back on July 4 and each one ultimately produced one pumpkin — along with an hellacious amount of flowering vines. The least consistent thing was their size. I’m not knocking that… hell, I’m thrilled that we got something for our trouble. It’s just curious the differences.

Above (click it for the bigger picture), from the left: 3 pounds 11.25 ounces, 11 pounds even, and 1 pound 10.75 ounces

Special note: We call the smallest one on the right our “special needs” pumpkin because she leans over no matter which way you set her down (a product of growing up somewhat strangled between competing vines from the other two pumpkins.

It was Patchy done brought this alligator lizard inside. Out of the corner of my eye I spied her playing with it under a dining room chair, to which I sounded the “Ahhhhhck!” which is the universal cat distress call for “Stop it and drop it!”

And she did.

The lizard, though freshly minus its tail, was ultra mobile and scurried under the serving table. Moving rapidly into the kitchen I managed to stop it at the last moment from running under the pantry by covering it with a large wooden salad bowl. Sliding a piece of cardboard between the bowl and the floor I turned it upright and sure enough there was the lizard looking none to pleased.

So we recessed outside to the Lizard Relaxation & Rehabilitation Center — otherwise known as Buster the tortoise’s hutch — and I snapped the above photograph of it relaxing and rehabbing.

The next time I checked on it, it had already checked out. Not as in “died.” As in “exited.”

So our pumpkin patch has had a lotta false starts. There’ve been tons of blooms and lots of pollination resulting in plenty of pumpkins that started strong only to stop growing after a couple/three days and die. As such, we only have three pumpkins that have made it out of that danger zone, but hey… at least we have something to show for the effort, yes?

Of those three one that’s barely softball sized is too well wrapped up in the vines to get a scale in there without risking damage (I’d guess it’s somewhere between 1 and 2 pounds). The other two are both large and accessible enough to warrant me getting their weigh on today — the smaller of the duo on our kitchen scale, and the larger one on our bathroom scale (after it tilted the kitchen scale).

The pumpkin on the right, at 4.425 pounds actually got off to the quickest start, but has since slowed its progress, whereas the pumpkin on the left at 14.4 pounds (nice!) quickly surpassed the early bird and keeps on growing (click to biggify):

How cool would it be if this dynamic duo ended up as our very own homegrown jack o’lanterns this Halloween!?

When I planted seeds July 4 there was serious doubt as to whether they were pumpkin or butternut squash. Well, two months later the over-achiever of the patch (at about four inches in diameter) pretty much proves they’re the former:

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