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interior courtyard design
gargoyle through the tulips

The 100th Acre Wood

( ...or,
who else has been seen hanging around the treehouse...? )

outside the house
inside out

Which is a topologically more complex question than it would be for most houses, because, you see, I live in a doughnut.

... a big, square doughnut, but as long as we ignore minor details like vertices and the like, it's topologically still a doughnut, built around a two-storey interior courtyard.

Okay, it's true, the interior courtyard is a little bigger than a hundredth of an acre, but it's not much bigger, and you have to admit it's a catchy title.

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When some of your outside is on the inside, it does create some transportation issues; for starters, the courtyard biome has a relatively high bird content, but tends to be lower when it comes to larger land animals like elk.

Most years, I'll see two bird families grow up in the courtyard, one in late spring, the other in mid-summer, but this year (summer 2001) it's been a popular spot for young bird couples, with two nests full of chicks going at a time.

blue eggs in the robins nest

feed me too, the sequel

Of course, in the great tradition of McDonald's and Burger King, as soon as one pair of birds had settled on the spot they wanted, the other decided its nest had to be right next to the first.

This led to more than a few disagreements at first between the respective mommy birds, and when the second batch of eggs hatched, the mother of the first batch kept ignoring her own chicks in favor of "guarding" the other nest and trying to keep the other mommy bird from feeding her young.

After two or three days of my stepping out there and chasing off mommy bird number one, she pretty much lost interest in the other nest and got back to taking care of her own kids.

If you're not a bird, you'd probably think that all the birds have pretty much similar personalities and behaviors, but they do show a lot of individuality; out of this family of four, two were pretty much independent from the moment they jumped out of the nest, but the other two were much less adventurous and kept following the others around and trying to get a close to them as possible without actually breaking the skin.

the gang of four

They spent a couple of days jumping around inside the courtyard and eventually the more adventurous pair flew off. At first, the other two started to follow, but then they changed their minds and spent the next few days mostly huddled up against one or another of my exterior doors. But then--no matter how common this might be for human children, this was the first time I'd seen birds do it--they managed to fly back into the courtyard and moved back into the nest.

They were a little bigger by then, and the two of them barely fit into the nest that had held all four the previous week, but as big as they were, their mother would still fly back in every once in a while with a mouthful of moths or worms or whatever else was in season that hour. After a few days, they did finally decide that they'd really found themselves this time and, in pursuit of whatever career path they'd settled upon, they decided to give that whole flying thing another try. Hope they're doing well and don't show up unexpectedly with a bunch of credit card bills when mommy's busy with the next batch of birds.

feed me!

By the way, if you are a bird and happen to be reading this, you probably should give the local TV news a call, because a Web-Surfing Bird would be just the thing they'd like to profile for their cute/human-interest slot just before the closing credits.

On the outside part of the outside, the wildlife is a little more varied; rabbits are probably the dominant life form around here, but there are more well-camouflaged grounddwellers like this snake.

snake in the south gardens
tiny herd And, of course, elk and deer, in this case near the very end of my property (as you can see, despite my best attempt to move out into the middle o' nowhere, somewhere has still managed to catch up with me).
Naturally, with all the birds, there must be some bees around, too. lunch for a bumblebee Bumblebees, I'm told, are making a comeback; some of them are almost as big as my thumb.

Here's a shot from the amazing Year of the Fungus, when whole patches of my yard were getting covered with mats of this stuff which looked and felt like leftover linguini without sauce after you've covered it up and stored it in the fridge for a couple of days. Weird-looking stuff that would wrap its rubbery tendrils around the stems and leaves of any of the other plants in the area.

No sign of it since, so I guess that's one science fiction/horror movie I won't be making anytime soon....

creeping fungus
visit from mister toad
(Oh, I'm the one on the right in this picture.)
the undersea world of Snuffles Cousteau

One of the unfortunate side effects of somewhere sneaking up on me, is that the wildlife has gotten even less interesting or varied. Unfortunately, too, most of the more interesting creatures that used to hang around here are ones I don't have pictures of either.

So, as we continue on today's episode of "wild household," we'll just have to head on inside. At least there's a little more room and, as you can perhaps guess from the picture on the left, a lot of the inside-the-house wildlife stays put longer. That might make them a little less wild, but on the other hand, they're definitely easier to photograph.

On the interior of the house (which is, er, just outside the middle "outside" part) I've got a little more space to work with, about a fifth of an acre. Sounds awfully small when you phrase it that way, but I'm only one person and even a fifth of an acre starts to seem big when you're vacuuming it, at least when you're limited to the carpet attachments that I have.

Here's one of my favorite houseplants--it started out as a little piece in one of those inch-and-a-half-square plastic pots bought at a hardware store. Once a year, it grows these pods that are about the size and shape of large pears and then they suddenly open up and look like this. This year, they opened up about two days before halloween.

Originally, I hadn't known what kind of plant it was, but soon after I'd confessed my ignorance of matters herbaceous above, Bev added this helpful note in the guestbook:

Your mystery plant is a stapelia, otherwise known as a carrion-flower (take a sniff!). I have some of those, one with 2" leopard-spotted flowers and another with 4" reddish hairy flowers. I've never been able to start the seeds, but I have a black thumb.

we wish you a Stanley new year

Wait, maybe I spoke too soon about the indoor wildlife being less wild....

flying turtles overhead
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the base of the tree