Luckily my work before we left paid off - having refreshed my mulch, the weeds are minimal (at least in the flower beds) and overall things look pretty decent still, despite my lack of attention. Watering has again become critical, though, as we have had almost no rain in weeks and the hot weather is upon us.
When I did my first real walkabout yesterday, I found two normally shy coinhabitants in the garden who "agreed" to be photographed: a tree frog, who froze in a gymnastic pose hoping that I wouldn't notice him against the green leaves, and an anole, looking a little ragged...or should I say rugged?...as he paused to survey this giant interloper in his territory.
I noticed earlier this spring that the tree frogs were almost silent. I was worried that they might be experiencing a population decline, but they got noisier when we had a brief period of regular rain, so I've thankfully shelved my other, more ominous theories in exchange for a dry weather explanation. It makes seeing this green and gold beauty (you should see the shining lines along his hind legs!) doubly pleasurable.
Bad news, though, when we got back - another of our longleaf pines had succumbed to the stress of the recent storms and drought. My friend and tree expert, Cleve, was kind enough to come out and take a look; he saw no reason for the other longleafs in the yard to follow suit, so he recommended simply taking out the one that had died. And keeping my fingers crossed. (That's my addition to his recommendation.) I've got a company scheduled to remove the dead tree in the next 2-3 weeks. In the interim, I just have to hope there isn't a hurricane to bring it down...while I try to ignore the sound of the powderpost beetles having a feast as they begin the recycling process on the dead wood. It's amazing how loud their feeding sounds - I can hear them from 20 or 30 feet away.
On the positive side, I DID see a red-bellied woodpecker feeding on the trunk this afternoon! In some ways I wish I could leave the dead snag standing, as snags are important feeding and nesting sites, but this particular one could easily take out our roof if it falls, so pragmatism has to prevail.