Survival

I have a favorite little squirrel. It’s rather ugly. This winter it looked so scrawny and its fur so patchy that I thought it was diseased. There’s a big, bald knob on its spine.

It fattened up over the winter – a rare occurrence when most animals are living on their reserves.

Eventually it lingered on the maple tree long enough for me to get a good look. A parchment-colored scar runs along its neck. The fur along its back is thin where other scars run like seams on a badly-patched stuffed animal.

I think it’s the young squirrel that a neighborhood cat attacked and carried off. The cat must have kept it alive to play with it.

It’s still more skittish than other squirrels, but occasionally it feels safe enough to hang by its back feet from the feeder. Or explore the deck, as in the hastily-snapped photo below.

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Inclement Weather Days (aka Wildlife-watching)

Snow, ice and bitter cold meant I spent almost two days with only the briefest of excursions outside. One was to refill the feeders and throw a few handfulls of sunflower seeds on the ground.

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Snow on nose, squirrel looks for food in the storm.

Starlings discovered them the second day.  Ugh, starlings! They arrived in a raucous crowd, bumping each other and the glass sliding door. They left red-orange droppings all over the deck and yard.

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The last of the invaders to leave.

Finally the sun came out and, despite freezing temperatures, melted the snow from the dark pavers.

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Sunny days bring more squirrels.

Cranky Birdies

Except during the snowstorm, the birdfeeder has been a hub of frantic activity. Sparrows, juncos, cardinals, and (my favorite) chickadees have flitted in and out.

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As the last round of snow melts, the birds are landing on the clearing deck.

However, certain birds will not tolerate others feeding at their suet block. Nuthatches jab at neighboring diners; downy woodpeckers intimidate far larger birds. And, in a dramatic moment I wished I’d captured on film, a redheaded woodpecker managed to catch the leg of a sparrow and fling it aside.

I’m glad pterodactyls are extinct.

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Redheaded murder-bird is focused on food, so sparrow is safe… for now.


A personal note: February has been rough in and around La Casa de Tontería. My parents both hadsurgeries last week, but I didn’t make the trek because I have the Creeping Crud. I called in sick one day when I had a fever, but otherwise have slogged onward. I owe some readers a January progress report. Expect it when I post it!

Odds and Ends of House Upkeep

Usually winter is my relaxing season because, despite an increase in paperwork and often-hectic holiday preparations, the pace of life slows. There is little yard maintenance, the local roads have less traffic, and there are no mosquitoes.

Early snowfall, however, created its own problems. I had to get the birdfeeders squirrel-feeders set up early, so I grabbed two bags of the very limited selection at a soon-to-close retailer. The wildlife do not like it. It has too much corn, judging by the slowly-growing pile of kernels beneath the feeder. At least the suet is a hit, as well as easy to stock up; a local grocer carries it in the seasonal aisle. Continue reading

Cold snap!

It’s just the first week of November, but an arctic blast has brought a taste of winter. The Detroit Metro forecasters anticipate January-like weather next week.

It was already a bit colder at the end of October.* Neighbors with hunting cabins “Up North” found themselves asking nearby friends to turn on the heaters or turn off the water.  The autumnal gardens are suddenly cut short and sad-looking with withered vines and dead mums (short for “chrysanthemums,” not “mothers” – not to paint too macabre a picture, my readers!).

Here at La Casa de Tontería (aka The House of Nonsense), this prognostication brought on a winterizing rush. Of course, the scramble coincided with the deadlines for finalizing quality-control reports at The Young Human Factory.** Because all stressors must coordinate!

  • Could I make another pass at the lawn? No. The mower was emptied and put into storage, along with rakes and the leaf-shute (a plastic folding device that facilitates dumping leaves into paper garden waste bags).
  • The annual capping of the outdoor faucets and closing of the crawlspace vents were done post haste. (During the old shed tear down, the construction worker found the “lost” caps that fit tighter. Hurrah!)
  • Birds and beasts were confused to find the birdbath closed for the season, although the first snowfall means the squirrel  bird feeder is now serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper.

* The shed’s stain and seal must wait until spring!

** Somehow I – and my colleagues – survived. Some Young Humans may be in slightly-altered condition by Monday, after their producers see the reports.

 

If your day seems bad…

… consider that it’s better than this critter’s.

It came to the worksite while the worker was still smoothing the cement slab. Hours later, at dusk, it was still roaming between the fence-line and the stack of new shed parts. Like a drunk trying to find the front door, it went in circles and nearly ran into me in its fruitless quest.

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Chipmunk is very confused. This block is usually near the entrance to its home.

Cicada

This is only the second time I’ve seen a living cicada. The harsh overhead light made it look darker. It was a beautiful iridescent dark blue in the body and was slooooowly crawling across the cement.

The sound of cicadas is the sound of summer, so how apropos to see one on the last weekend of summer.  Tomorrow is autumn.6F4061C8-314C-4B97-9823-FAE4B07CF086

Curious Human Things

One of the squirrels was foraging in the front yard when I returned home yesterday. Although it scrambled onto an oak when I drew near, it didn’t go far. It watched me get the mail.

As soon as I went inside, it scurried to the box and studied the obviously important mystery of whether it contained food. The following photo came after it had failed to open the mailbox.

Fortunately.

If the fuzzy critters ever figure it out – or worse, Amazon or Alibaba – they’ll be shipping themselves all over the world!

 

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A Nostalgic Walk

Earlier this month, I returned to my hometown. Besides visiting my parents and a dear friend, I went walking along the roads that seemed so very long when I was a child.

Some things hadn’t changed, such as cattails and Queen Anne’s Lace growing in the ditches. The cloud banks were still as bright in the wide open sky. The redwinged blackbirds trilled harshly in the cedars.

 

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Cattails on the edge of a hayfield.

 

But more than one field was being taken over by young trees or sumac. The old small farmers aren’t being replaced, and there are far fewer heads of cattle or horses. There’s still beauty there, but all the familiar landmarks are falling to Time.

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The beginnings of a softwood forest invade a neglected field.

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As a little girl, I looked forward to watching the calves frolicking near this barn. They always looked so NEW because their white patches were so bright.

My little buddy

I told family members that all summer long I have been very careful to chase a toad out of the way before doing any yard work involving machines. A few years ago, I had two large toads coexisting in the backyard, and they were easy to spot.  But this year’s toad is tiny.

Finally I was able to get a comparison shot to show how small – and this after a summer of growth!

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As I prepared to remove this dandelion, the toad hopped out from hiding.