Our olive tree "Miss Olive" produced her first olive

First olive

Tucked into my favorite part of the garden with bearded and native Pacific Coast iris growing at her feet, "Miss Olive" has been slowly growing and growing. She's an OLEA europeaea of the Manzanillo variety ("the olive of Seville"), so we've known that she needed to be at least 7-10 years old before she will begin to produce fruit.

"Miss Olive"

Ever since I read the The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France by Carol Drinkwater, I've dreamed of growing and harvesting my own olives to make citrus-infused olive oils. When I read the book aloud to Hubby while on a road trip, he too shared that vision. We went to our local nursery, picked out Miss Olive and brought her home to become a part of our gardens. Because Miss Olive is adopted, we've never known how old she really is in order to chart when to expect olives.

Each spring since she got settled in, she's produced tiny little blossoms. I've watched them throughout each summer to see if any turn into fruit, mostly expecting that none of them will.

This year was the same.

But today when I was making the rounds checking on the garden before the rains blew in from the west, I walked past Miss Olive and a small black orb dangling in my peripheral vision caught my attention. I could hardly believe it, but it was indeed an olive!

Now we can finally officially begin to chart Miss Olive's progress toward her peak production years when she's 30-70 years old. By then, she will produce an average of 88 lbs. of olives a year (in good years as much as 150-200 lbs.). Manzanillo olives are traditionally a table olive because they produce less oil per olive and aren't economical for mass production. But the oil from a Manzanillo olive is of a fine quality and will be wonderful for our own personal production and use.

I guess it's time to start saving for the olive oil press I've had my eye on for a few years now.

First olive 2
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The buddleia provides a rest stop for a migrating butterfly

Tattered wings on Painted Lady butterfly

A very large buddleia (butterfly bush) grows in the front garden with its upper branches as high as the house. Every year around August, I give it a haircut and it responds by putting on an encore show of lovely sweet blooms late in October or early November.

This year the blooms provided a meal for a Painted Lady butterfly. The sweet nectar must have been a welcome rest stop snack for this tattered and tired lady as she was flying by during her autumn migration. Painted Lady butterflies migrate in the spring and again in the autumn.

When I see one of these beauties in its post-summer migration south I wonder where it must have spent the summer months. Did this lady enjoy breezy summer afternoons flitting over meadows of wildflowers in the Sierra Nevadas so dear to my heart?

I hope she did.
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I discovered I have my very own "Charlotte" spider in my garden

Banded garden spider

Years ago, on a drizzly autumn day in November we encountered a very fancy looking largish spider out in the garden. We'd never seen one before. We took photos of it. And then we spent the next several years wondering what kind of spider it was.

While out in the garden on Monday, I finally encountered another one. With her backend measuring about 1/2 inch in length she was hard to miss as she moved through some weeds that I had just cut down. I didn't have my camera with me, but studied her for quite some time so I could go inside later and use the internet to finally make a positive indentification.

Thanks to www.InsectIdentification.org I finally identified her species. She's a banded garden spider!

Today, I was back out in the garden working in the same general area and spotted another one (or maybe the same one). This time I went in and got my camera. I'm glad I did.

Here's some interesting facts I found out about this elusive spider:
  • Banded garden spiders (Argiope trifasciata) start to appear during the Autumn when temperatures start dropping
  • They are orb-weavers that produce large conspicuous webs amongst shrubbery and vegetation
  • They can weave a web 2 feet in diameter
  • Just like Charlotte's web in Charlotte's Web, the banded garden spider's web is very concentric--the quintessential spider's web
  • And also like in Charlotte's Web, banded garden "spiderlings" get around by "ballooning"--being carried on breezes that catch the silken threads the spiders produce
  • Banded garden spiders are a great predator to have in your garden because their webs catch lots of flying insects that you don't want
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The autumnal red of leaves turning

Liquid amber red

What is it about the autumnal red of leaves turning?

Hubby and I were driving to the nursery to look at pots yesterday. We rounded a bend in the road to see a stand of trees with the topmost leaves brilliant and bright red. It made us both gasp in a bit. My finger pointed reflexively at them, and I could feel that Hubby had unconsciously lifted his foot off the accelerator to slow just a bit as we drove by.

Why does the red of autumnal leaves make us do that... make us act like little children again?
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