This morning, planting some basil seed in a tub under eaves, I found this tiny wasp nest on the top of the soil. There are several active nests under the eaves and we leave them — this one, partly constructed, must have fallen; sometimes I see two wasps jostling as one defends a nest so perhaps that’s what happened. These aren’t the aggressive vespula wasps, the yellow jackets, that can be kind of annoying, especially during outdoor meals, when they land on the salmon or chicken or whatever else we’re eating, and don’t mind stinging if we try to wave them away. These are polistes wasps of some sort and every year they build their beautiful umbrellas of brood cells, attached by a petiole, all this created with wood scrapings, plant fiber, and saliva. Kind of miraculous. If you watch them long enough, you’ll see them scouring nearby rose bushes for tiny caterpillars and beetle larvae, even the scale insects off the branches of the lemon tree, to feed their own larvae. They themselves feed on nectar. Stay still and watch. The world is an extraordinary place.


“Where shall we our breakfast take?”

Some surprises today as I watered and picked a salad for our dinner:

our supper

The first was where the tree frog was taking its rest, out of the direct sun. (You can see its back and lower legs just below the nest on the right.) What on earth was it doing tucked in behind two small paper wasp nests?

a frog's breakfast

See how grey it is? And no wasps, though they were certainly there yesterday. I was curious to know if frogs eat wasps and it turns out they do. I’m not sure this one ate the caretakers of these nests but maybe it made its breakfast of the pupae. I know it might seem odd to allow nests in an area where we spend a lot of time but these particular wasps are not very threatening. In early summer, while we drank our morning coffee very near this wall, they’d pass us as they built their nest and never once showed any interest in us. Not like yellow-jackets which are kind of annoying this summer (their populations are cyclical and this year there are a lot of them). The paper wasps feed on nectar but they bring back insects to feed their brood. Aphids, caterpillars, and even the scale insects off the leaves of my Meyer lemon. And the nests themselves are architecturally beautiful — the cells are so uniform and clean and the paper itself is a marvel.

Yesterday this frog jumped out of this pot while I was watering the tomatoes. And it was deep green!


There was a cloud passing as I watered and when I looked up, I saw these ravens circling:

three ravens

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that they’ve arrived just a day after we were visited by a doe — I think the same doe who has been coming many mornings with her twins. But yesterday she only had one fawn. There are all kinds of reasons for a fawn to die young, the local coyote family being one…And maybe the ravens are hanging around for their share, “downe in yonder green field.” I love the Child ballads and found myself humming this one as I finished the watering.

There were three rauens sat on a tree,

They were as blacke as they might be.

With a downe, derrie, derrie, derrie, downe, downe.

The one of them said to his mate,
Where shall we our breakfast take?

Downe in yonder greene field,

There lies a Knight slain under his shield.

                              — Child 26