El Café Nocturno

As I headed to work early last week, I found the trash bin tipped toward the porch and the lid on the ground beside it. The garbage inside seemed undisturbed.

I blamed the wind and the lightness of the new bin.

Then I found discarded sauce containers lying on the porch, licked clean. Drat! It’s a varmint.

But what critter leaves everything neat? A fastidious raccoon? A picky possum? Whatever it is, its raids occur almost nightly – even when the bin is empty.

My trash previously went unmolested. Perhaps my neighbors secured their more-bountiful cans, and the raider needed a new food source.

But I suspect the main reason is the bin’s “winter home” beside the porch. It’s convenient for me because I can reach it even during a blizzard.

Unfortunately, it also appeals to four-legged stinkers. Sheltered from rain and snow, a varmint can rummage without having to climb up or noisily knock over the bin. With a clear view of surroundings and handy trees for escapes, it lacks only cushions and piped music.

Obviously, Café nocturno must be shut down. Most likely, with a bungee cord hooked on opposite handles.


Why I Can Never Have an Electric Car

It’s not just the sticker price.

It’s not just that the car would be exposed to the elements because there’s no garage. And my plot is too small to build even a carport.

(My previous car died after just 11 years, due to rainwater collecting in the dashboard after the drainage hole was plugged by debris.)

The main reason is WILDLIFE.

I look back with amusement at the moment I learned that increased road-noise wasn’t exactly a mechanical problem. Nest-building chipmunks had removed the sound-dampening insulation from the car’s side-panels. I doubt I could reconcile myself to the smell of roasted rodent or the risk of a car aflame so close to my house.

Would an electric car work as a giant bug-zapper?

Every few years, wasps attempt to nest in the space near the door-hinges. That’s to say nothing of the spiders.

When my car was new, a yellow spider took up residence for the winter. When the car warmed to an agreeable temperature (for a spider), it moseyed up the corner of the windshield near me. It would hang out near where the glass meets the roof – you know, right outside my vision – like an arachnid version of the Sword of Damocles.

I smooshed its great-great-great-great-great-grandchild about a week ago.

Changeable Autumn

If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. – saying attributed to various famous people

This week was so cold, the furnace kept turning on. (It’s set at 14 Celsius, 58 Fahrenheit.) My hometown, north and inland, had its first snowstorm. Here at La Casa de Tontería (aka The House of Nonsense), this weekend’s temperature will be in the low 70s (21-22C).

Statue of Little Girl, near Belle River. Even on an overcast day, it’s beautiful.

I love this time of year. It smells and sounds different. The sunlight has become more golden than green as the leaves have changed and fallen. I open the windows more often than in the summer because the temperature, as Goldilocks would say, is “just right.” *

Little Boy statue, not far away. He’s surrounded by variegated-leaf hosta.

*Except in the afternoon on beautiful and warm weekends, when various people burn leaves until the smoke hangs heavy over the entire neighborhood. This is a local custom which I do not understand.

Evening Squirrels

A second batch of “babies” have left their mother’s care, but not each other. They gather, play, and snuggle in my yard. They found an old drey in the maple; at least three of them had an instinct to improve it with thatch from my lawn. They don’t all fit, but even biggest one has chosen overnight spots on nearby limbs.

Caterpillar of the Apocalypse!

Woolly Bear Caterpillar with fallen cedar bits as a comparison. The little guy doesn’t look impressive in the photo (and its russet middle doesn’t show well). That’s a ruse….

Must be dead, I thought when I found it on the driveway. Even at noon, the 21F/-6C temperature was much too cold for caterpillars.

After lunch, I prepared to go back to work. The woolly-bully was closer to the car. If I squinted, its tiny feet seemed to be moving! Slllooowwwwly, though. It’s also curling a little in on itself, as woolly bears do when threatened.

When I came home at sunset, it was motionless as I took the photo. I had no doubt it was still alive. I didn’t want to accidentally squish it under the tires or scrape it up with a shovel of snow, so I tried to flip it onto an oak leaf. It “stuck” because its amazing grippy feet were clinging to the tiny grooves in the cement. Gently, I rolled it onto a leaf and put it in the flowerbed.  

Today it was gone.

A charming custom in Eastern and Midwestern USA is to look for woolly bears (“woolly-bullies” where I grew up) in the autumn. The length of its black bands was said to predict the length and severity of winter. If that were the case, what apocalypse is foretold by it hightailing in the dead of winter?!?

Wet Squirrels

I tried unsuccessfully to get a photo of the squirrels today. Torrential rain started before dawn and returned throughout the morning. In the early afternoon, a break in the clouds passed overhead.

Squirrels came onto the deck to feed on fallen maple buds. Their fur was fluffed because of the chill but rainwater clumped it together. Their sodden faces seemed more rat-like than usual and their bellies sported spikes of fur. They looked like a punk band after a rough night.

Unfortunately, they were more skittish than usual, so I didn’t dare move closer to the windows.


I’m thankful for truck drivers who drive at a steady pace on the interstate highways, so strings of cars can follow in their tracks through the sloppy snow. I am also thankful for road-graders. But most of all, I am thankful that I survived a white-knuckled drive through a snowstorm and arrived safely at my destination.

Morning in my childhood home.

The whitish area at the top of the shot is ice forming. The darker area is slush. You can see trails through the slush where ducks meandered eastward.

Fall Already?

For the last two weeks, the maple in the back yard has been dropping leaves. It’s accelerating now. Sadly, I can’t see the colors through the greenery below, but the fallen leaves are spectacularly red and yellow this year.

Peak color is two weeks off, by my reckoning, but storms are coming later this week. Saturday was warm, sunny, and breezy – in other words, a perfect autumn day.

Decked out for Fall.

I ran errands in the morning and swung by Marine City, where I spent a couple hours just enjoying the sights. My favorite coffee shop has already started serving pumpkin spice latte (with nondairy creamer!). It was a nice treat made sweeter by meeting an older couple who chatted with me outdoors for a while.

Afterwards, I came home and tore up the garden.

The neighborhood varmints ate half my zucchini. Literally. They ate the bottom half and left the tops to rot on the vine. Imagine reaching to pick a beautiful squash and feeling it squish between your fingers because inside the skin is nothing but rotten mush. Curse you, cute but destructive rodents! I picked whatever was intact, no matter the size or color.

The delicata, a winter squash, had withered from the roots outward, giving no more nourishment. Normally I’d leave them out to harden, but I couldn’t chance the squirrels. The cherry tomatoes were various shades of green, but gardening friends assured me that if I put them in a paper bag and let them sit, they’ll ripen in a few days.

I spent several hours pulling vines, pulling weeds they’d been hiding, and cutting off the remains of flowering plants. Everything was stuffed into three bags for the community compost.

This week I’ll do the more onerous tasks: transplanting flowers, digging up and resetting pavers, and landscaping the now-empty ground around the shed.

Bluegill Nests

Visiting my hometown for Independence Day but unable to visit my friends, I spent some time doing the daily activities of my childhood. One of my favorites was checking the number of fish spawning in the shallows where I used to splash and play with my brothers.

It’s been many years since the swimming area was so full of nests. Sharp-eyed readers may notice empty shells of the invasive apple snail.  Some catastrophic event seems to have killed them, which might be a reason for the fish’s return.