The closest stop sign is over a mile away and the first traffic light is 5+ miles down the road. A visit to the grocery store is almost 30 miles round trip. It's quiet here; just the sound of toads and coyotes at night. It seems very still, but when you look close there's always something happening. Read on about a few things we've noticed over the past few years.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's a bug eat bug world....

Here's a pic of a praying mantis I found up by my front door the other day.  I've seen quite a few lately, all varying in size.  This one is the California praying mantis.  Mantises are exclusively predatory feasting on insects. They ambush their prey, waiting for it to stray too near. The mantis then lashes out at remarkable speed. Prey items are caught and held securely with grasping, spiked forelegs.  What I like the most about these creatures is watching their heads swivel when I slowly wave my finger side to side in front of's neat to watch them as they watch my finger move.  Of course, any harmless bug that eats other bugs is always a favorite in my book.
I found this green mantis is sitting on the bed of my truck today.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mountain Lion!

Late one afternoon I came home, walked to my mailbox to retrieve my mail and suddenly realized I could hear my chickens making much more noise than
usual. They sounded strange and my instincts told me something was annoying them.  The first thought was a coyote.  My experience with coyotes has been that they usually take off as soon as they see a human.  Not thinking (boy is that descriptive) I started to walk towards the coop.  The coop is located a few hundred feet from the main house, not in direct line of sight.  I started talking to the chickens, trying to calm them down and warn them and the "coyote" that I was on my way up to check things out.  As I approached the coop I could see the chickens in a panic.  They were flying around, making lots of panicky clucking noises, not being themselves at all.  As I got closer I couldn't see what all the fuss was about, I continued talking to them and suddenly I froze in my tracks!  I was standing outside on one side of the coop and the lion was sitting outside on the other side of the coop.  The only thing separating us was some chicken wire and a couple of stressed out chickens.  While it was only line of sight about 8 feet away, the lion only had about a 12 foot walk around the coop to come get me!  At first I thought to myself, that's one large dog!  And who's dog is it way out here on my property?  All of a sudden it registered that it wasn't a mutt, it was a lion!  And I was standing there, alone, empty handed. 

The lion was gazing sedately into the coop staring at the chickens.  While of course I was shocked at what I was looking at it struck me immediately that this lion was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen.   It had a beautiful tawny colored coat.  It's fur looked smooth and soft, it's face was sweet and relaxed.  Well, I quickly came to my senses and realized I might become dinner if I didn't do something fast.  I raised my hands above my head, started jumping up and down screamed for the lion to leave.  "Get out of here! Leave!"  The lion slowly swiveled it's head and eyes off the chickens and over to me. It took one casual look at me and then it looked right back at the chickens.  It could care less what I was doing - I was no threat at all. 

This lion must have been about 90 lbs.  The males range in weight from 130 to 150 and the females from 65 to 90.  It must have been a female or an immature male.  Nose to tail they males can reach 8 ft, females can reach 7 ft.  I slowly edged away, never turning my back on it.  While we live in very rural terrain, I never expected to see a lion so close.  It's something I'll never forget. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Aligator Lizard

A few months ago I looked down in the yard and thought I saw a small snake.  I took a closer look and noticed this snake had legs!  I couldn't believe the size of this lizard so I grabbed my measuring tape and camera.  He measured in at 14 inches. 

He was a bit lethargic, not reacting to me getting close until I was about to poke him to see if he was still alive and suddenly he took off like a bolt of lightening.  I looked for pics on the internet and figured out that he is a California Aligator Lizard.  Here's some facts I found out about him:  Alligator lizards sport a flat, wedge-shaped head.  The legs are small, thin, and end in five fine toes.  Their scales are large for lizards which is what gives them the name of Aligator Lizards. Their color is pale to medium brown with darker crossbands. They shed in one piece, like a snake.  Generally they eat snails, other lizards, eggs or small birds.  I did find out that they can be fearless in self defense and will bite.  Pretty cool........

Friday, September 10, 2010

Our biggest fear............

Only a few years ago our biggest fear was swept through our property.  Fortunately, no one was hurt and no property was lost.  The firefighters did a terrific job.  In this last picture, the brush is still smoldering.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Human Tooth

I found this about 8 feet off the back patio.  Walking along, looked down and there I found a human molar.  I know it's human because it has a silver filling.  Kind of creepy!  How long has it been there?  Who does it belong to? 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Taranutula Hawks - hunting for supper

No one likes a bee or a wasp ruining their picnic, but this is one wasp I find interesting.   The guy on the right is a tarantula hawk (aka T-hawk) a member of the wasp family.  I'd seen a few buzzing around the house a few times and I'd always steer clear - they are quite a bit larger than your normal wasp, more like the size of a small humming bird.  I hadn't paid them much mind til I spotted one in a book and read up on them.  I don't care much for tarantulas (aka Trannys) for a variety of reasons.  Now don't be getting your feathers ruffled and go telling me how harmless Trannys are and what good they do us.  I don't like them - period. 
Well anyhow, T-hawks sting the Trannys and drag the comatose prey back to their nests to feed their own larvae.  When I arrived home one evening I spotted two T-hawks tumbling around in the dirt fighting each other near the outside of my garage.  The Tranny had already been stung because it laid nearby in a complete stillness.  Finally one T-hawk limped off in a shameful defeat and the victor drug it's delicious dinner home for the kiddies.   I took the pic up top myself to prove it.   By the way, this Tranny measured about 4 inches across to give you an idea of the size of both these guys.  Now each time a T-hawk buzzes by I watch where it doubt hunting for the next family feast.