Dead of Winter – not as dead as it looks

Okay, I get it - Winter is Here!

Okay, I get it – Winter is Here!

The last few mornings I’ve noticed, stuff is just DEAD in my yard. The lawn is browner than summer, the trees are naked and sad, and over that last cold spell, alot of the shrubby greenery just up and took and crap.

One day these were green and had those incredible purple-blue flowers, and then WHOOSH! Gone!

One day these plants were green and had those incredible purple-blue flowers, and then WHOOSH! Gone!

This stuff Whipple gave me takes a beating from the frost, but as long as I give it a drink once or twice a week, it fluffs itself up when the sun comes out.

This stuff Whipple gave me takes a beating from the frost, but as long as I give it a drink once or twice a week, it fluffs itself up when the sun comes out.

 

Hummer still comes around now and then, during the warm afternoons, but his fave flowers are so gone, you’d hardly know they were ever there. Luckily my rosemary bushes are still blooming, but nowadays Hummer gets a lot of his nutrition by following Sapsucker around our old almond tree.

If you look really hard, toward the center of the picture, you will see Sapsucker, his back facing down left and his beak pointed up right along the left side of a big branch.

If you look really hard, toward the center of the picture, you will see Sapsucker, his back facing down left and his beak pointed up right along the left side of a big branch.

The sap is running in the old almond tree, and Sapsucker comes along almost every afternoon to work and work, making holes from which he can drink the sugary elixir.

I don't know if it's been the same bird, but somebody has been working this old tree continuously since before we came.

I don’t know if it’s been the same bird, but somebody has been working this old tree continuously since before we came.

He works and works, peck peck peck, I can hear him from my front porch a good 100 feet away. The holes he makes stay forever, putting out sap until they harden over.  During dry times, we find huge sap balls, all over the tree. We’ve gathered them not only because they look pretty, but because when rain comes, they wash off, and make a giant sappy mess under the tree. Ants infest. So, we try to get as much of it as we can, and then we scrape it up off the ground when the rain comes and throw it in the compost pile.

Here's the pay-off - liquid Gold! I've tasted almond sap, it's pretty good.

Here’s the pay-off – liquid Gold! I’ve tasted almond sap, it’s pretty good.

No, we never really get any nuts – between the squirrels and the jays and all the other nut lovers, we are lucky to get a handful. They are really nice nuts though, so we kept the tree. We keep it clean, so there’s no “mummies” full of disease. And, we notice, this tree is a major food source for lots of animals. When Sapsucker comes around, he is quickly joined by Hummer, along with a few other tiny birds, like Vireo, who flutter around Sapsucker’s head as he works. Sapsucker is a funny, slow bird, but when he gets riled up, he lets out a pathetic little cry, and then tries to shoo the interloper away. Hummer is kind of mean, he almost always wins. Vireo wins by being annoying – Sapsucker tries to chase him, but Vireo heads right for the hole Sapsucker just left.  Sapsucker usually gets irritated and leaves. I hate to see him work so hard, but he must get something for it, because he’s back the very next day. I’ve seen him lick those holes with his long slithery tongue, and the other day I think I saw him take a bite of one of the big gooey sap balls.

It’s funny, in the morning, everything is coated with frost, it looks so dead. But by mid-afternoon, little birds are scuttering all around my house, the smell of rosemary is drifting around the yard.  So, before we know it, I predict I will be bitching about the pollen from the almond blossoms.  It’s so good to be able to depend on something. 

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