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.

Palm trees always make me think of the opening scene in Apocalypse Now.
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.
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.
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.
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.


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


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:


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


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.


Rwakobo sunset

Rwakobo sunset

I had hoped to get to Rwakobo Rock at Lake Mburo with enough time to decompress and be excited about taking a night safari (which is apparently a thing), but the road from Bwindi took a lot longer than expected, so by the time I reached my destination all I wanted to do was sit on the rock and relax until I fell asleep.

The last time I came, though, was during a dry spell and the air was filled with dust and haze. This time, after several weeks of heavy rains, the air was clear and the sunset was gorgeous, so I was able to take the photos I couldn’t take before. Continue reading “Rwakobo sunset”

The road to Bwindi

This seems ridiculous, but I’ve come all the way out to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and I am not going gorilla trekking. Why not? Because it is more than I wanted to pay right now, and (more importantly) I am not in any kind of shape to go into an impenetrable forest.

Also, I am a horrible judge of distance and didn’t realize it would take all day to get out here.

There are other things to do here besides look at gorillas, so today I will do some of that. Honestly, though I’d be content enough to just sit and look at these mountains with a glass of wine.

I took these pictures on the road, so they’re a bit fuzzy, but by the time I got to my hotel it was dark and I was too tired to explore. I will say, though, I’ve been all over the world, and this corner of Uganda might be the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. Certainly, it’s on the short list. Continue reading “The road to Bwindi”

Queen Elizabeth National Park 

Once upon a time, Queen Elizabeth visited this spot in Uganda, and the entire park was promptly renamed for her.

The park is in western Uganda, nestled against the Congolese border. As one of the jewels of East Africa, it is beautifully maintained and very user friendly, with better infrastructure than most of Kampala.

I came out with a driver I hired in the capital, and then signed up for a boat ride between Lake Albert and Lake Edward. In less than a day, without really needing to walk anywhere, I saw all the stuff I’m sharing, plus lots more. Continue reading “Queen Elizabeth National Park “

Fort Portal, monkeys, little birds

Fort Portal, monkeys, little birds

Puttering around western Uganda this week, currently sipping coffee on my balcony near Fort Portal, a charming little city that serves as the capital of the Tororo Kingdom and the gateway to some of Uganda’s most famous wildlife preserves. For today, though, I didn’t venture far: up to the crater lakes that partly ring the city. Not much wildlife this close to the city, unless you count goats and cows. Still, the views were stunning. Continue reading “Fort Portal, monkeys, little birds”

Night garden

Night garden

I considered going in, certain that I would find fairies or gnomes or somesuch, but then I couldn’t be certain of their welcoming me at this late hour, empty-handed as I was, so I went on my way, my thoughts tinged with regret but comforted all the same by the soft glow of the moon and the knowledge that I had done the right thing.

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.

The view from the top of Rwakobo Rock is stunning, and the drop-off not as scary as it looks.
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.
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.
This is not a bird at all.
A rather majestic cow.
Mornings were misty when I was there.
The road is long but inviting.
It does sometimes feel like walking through a dream. It becomes easy to confuse zebras with unicorns.
These teenagers just stood in the road, looking all annoyed at us for trying to get through.
The only reason why they aren’t texting and taking selfies is that they don’t have thumbs.