Backyard adventures

Backyard adventures

I didn’t actually grow up in an apartment in the city, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had access to personal green space and so my instinct is to stay indoors when I’m at home. My house sits on a very nice piece of a land, though, so on Saturday, after an hour or so of trying and failing to find something to do in the living room, I decided to grab my camera and go outside.

My pair of backyard ibises have been joined by a new couple, so there are now four of these goofy birds that roam my yard looking for grubs, and I heard them honking noisily so I thought I’d get the group in action. By the time I came out, though, they were gone. Since I was already outside, though, I decided to make the best of it. After a few weeks of rain my gardens are looking quite lush. I don’t know squat about flowers, so if anybody can identify any of these species, let me know.

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Palm trees always make me think of the opening scene in Apocalypse Now.
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These grow high up on a tree that spills over onto my neighbor’s yard. When the flowers aren’t in bloom the tree is quite scraggly.
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I can’t imagine the evolutionary advantage to growing tiny flowers in the middle of the stem, but they do look lovely. Maybe plants prize beauty over practicality as much as any oter species.
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This is actually a potted plant on my balcony. I’m sure they guy who sold it to me told me what it was, but I either wasn’t paying attention or forgot. The flowers only bloom in the morning. When I brought it home I didn’t even realize it had flowers.
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I like the ant crawling on this thing.

Earlier this year I bought some chickens for a downtown chicken factory. They were adorable and I loved them, but in one brutal weekend they all caught bird flu and died.  In September I got around to buying new chicks, these from a farm a little more connected to nature. “Local chickens,” as they are known, are hardier than factory chickens, and I couldn’t have a second chicken plague sweep through my property in a year.

My local chickens, though, weren’t sexed, so instead of six hens I got three roosters and three hens. They’re young enough that they all still get along, but the Internet warns me that probably two of the roosters will have to go away eventually.

Anyway, my local chickens (all of them have names and personalities, by the way) are much more curious than the factory chickens, and explore all over the yard. This time I found them as far from their coop as they could go, hanging out under that purple-flower tree. I took some chicken glamor shots of them. If they were ever in a band, these could be their publicity stills.

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Left to right: Lemon Drop (vocals), Stripe (bass), P.B. (lead guitar), Chain Mail (rhythm guitar), Strawberry Shortcake (keyboards), Slimer (piano), Hey-Hey (dancer)

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I learned this summer (or rather, someone who knows about this stuff pointed out to me) that I have four coffee trees growing in my backyard. Apparently, if I really wanted to, I could harvest them, dry them, roast them, and make a cup of coffee or something. It probably wouldn’t take good, since I am doing nothing to maintain or nourish the trees.

A palm tree grows beside my coffee plants. From far away palm trees look nice, but up close I find them, or at least their bases, a bit gross. See:

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I always appreciate an inviting walkway, and I found a couple not far from the coffee trees.

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Before retreating back into my living room (so much time in the sun! it’s scary out there!) I came across this little shoot growing near yet another palm, and I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get a good shot of it. This is the best I could come up with.

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Old photos

Old photos

I dug through my photo collections yesterday trying to find a particular shot that I may or may have not taken on a trip to Uzbekistan last year. I was unsuccessful, either because I didn’t take the picture, or I did but it wasn’t as good as I remembered it being.

It doesn’t matter. Once I was in my Photos app there was no reason not to keep looking. (On the contrary, there were lots of reasons to stop what I was doing and address my actual current life.)

I have a huge stack of old photo albums that I still carry with me and lug from house to house and country to country. I used to display them in a low bookshelf that has also been dragged all around the world since my parents gave it to me back in the early 1990s. For a while the pictures shared the shelf with knick-knacks and souvenirs. On the bottom shelf was a shoebox full of unsorted pictures that I promised I would someday put into proper albums. I still have that shoebox, and I still promise myself that I’ll do sort them someday.

Eventually the bookshelf overfilled, and first the knick knacks and then the box of pictures were removed to make room for more albums. (I also made it a point to start buying albums that were slim, because there just wasn’t much space on the shelves.)

Continue reading “Old photos”

Lake Mburo wanderings

Lake Mburo wanderings

I went to Lake Mburo about a month ago. I’ve shared most of the best pictures somewhere by now—either here or Instagram (or on my own screensaver, which I realize that nobody but me can see but which is somehow satisfying anyway). Here are the last of the ones I wanted to put out, though.

I’m actually heading out on another road trip this weekend, on a loop of southwest Uganda (no gorilla trekking, though—I’ll save that for another trip). But in the meantime, a last look back on my lazy weekend at Lake Mburo National Park.

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The view from the top of Rwakobo Rock is stunning, and the drop-off not as scary as it looks.
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Uganda has a ridiculous number of birds. I forgot the actual statistic, but it’s something like half of all the bird species in Africa. I’m trying to get to know them all. I want to say this one is an African Pied Wagtail, but I could be wrong.
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This, I am pretty sure, is a starling. Starlings tend to have cool names: there is a Splendid Starling and a Superb Starling, but this one is (again, I think) a Rüppell’s Long-Tailed Starling. Bonus point for the umlaut.
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This is not a bird at all.
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A rather majestic cow.
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Mornings were misty when I was there.
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The road is long but inviting.
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It does sometimes feel like walking through a dream. It becomes easy to confuse zebras with unicorns.
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These teenagers just stood in the road, looking all annoyed at us for trying to get through.
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The only reason why they aren’t texting and taking selfies is that they don’t have thumbs.

Babies of Lake Mburo

Babies of Lake Mburo

You don’t go to Lake Mburo National Park because it’s the most exciting park in Uganda—you go there because it’s the closest to downtown Kampala, and because the park is surrounded by cattle-grazing land instead of cultivated farms, meaning that the animals on the park pay zero respect to the official boundaries, which means that you don’t even necessarily need to leave your hotel in order to look at zebras, kudus, or other wild animals.

Because I made it that far, though, I did go into the park, albeit on a very lazy loop that barely scratched the surface of what this park has to offer. Most of the best of my pictures already went up on Instagram, but there were a few others that I liked that I didn’t upload. For example, these pictures of babies (and some mommas, too):

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This baby zebra did a double take when it saw me taking a picture.
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It paused long enough for me to be sure that it was posing.
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This baby waterbuck was either about to have or just waking up from a nap. It didn’t seem to notice me at all.
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Momma waterbuck noticed me, though, and though she didn’t seem afraid, she did keep an eye on me. I took a few pictures of her, too, in case appealing to her vanity would help.
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Mama Warthog was way less chill. One look at me and she sent her piglets scampering to the nearest bush.
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Love the little tails in the air.