Monday, March 30, 2009

More signs of spring

The robins don't come to the feeders but they definitely like my yard. It seems too cold for worms, though, so I wonder what the robins eat.

The "naturalizing" daffodils are starting to bloom.

So are the ones I planted on the south side of the house.

I swear I ordered pink daffodils to go with the pink and white theme of this bed, but that doesn't look pink to me.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Birds

Sometimes the best bird feeding days are not in the dead of winter, but in late spring when the "snow birds" return but there isn't much food available. The most obvious (and obnoxious) returnees are the grackles and starlings. They act like bullies and hog the feeders.

But the starlings cleaning out the suet feeders is a sure sign of spring.

(These are not the best of pics because I took them through the window, plus the dryer vent was expelling visible vapor not too far away.)

I rarely see more than one pair of cardinals at a time, so I presume it's the same pair.

They must have my yard staked out as their territory.

There are always plenty of sparrows and house finches. Some people consider them the "wrong kind" of bird, but they need to eat, too. And reproduce; I just wish they would not do it in my bluebird boxes.

Juncos are a winter staple.

I think this one is an Oregon junco; in real life, it looks rufous-colored. The Midwest is not their regular stomping grounds, but according to my Peterson's, it is not unusual to see them at feeders as far east as the Atlantic seaboard during migration, either blown off course or with broken GPSs.

The list of those that escaped my camera lens today includes a yellow(!) goldfinch at the window(!) feeder. We gaped at each other for a few seconds before we each came back to life. My camera was in the other room, and of course by the time I fetched it, the bird was gone. Another quickie was the hawk that swooped in, which caused a sudden scattering of grackles. I actually had my camera in hand, but it had not only gone to sleep, but shut down. The hawk left before I could react. Ditto a redwing blackbird.

(I have pics of mourning doves and female goldfinches, but they are too fuzzy to bother posting.)

We had our share of four-legged visitors as well.

This squirrel was actually one of two raiders. I tried to get a photo of the two squirrels, feasting on separate feeders, but squirrel #1 saw me and hopped down. Then squirrel #2 noticed squirrel #1 and gave chase. Once again, my tortoise-paced reflexes missed capturing the action.

A shy bunny hopped by briefly.

Rabbits usually feed at dawn and dusk, but it is one cold and blustery day. (In fact, it is snowing right now.) I'm sure he was hoping for a quick bite, but when the current nuclear feeding flock suddenly dispersed, he disappeared along with them. Smart bunny.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

In like a lion, out like a lion

It is almost April, but you would not know it from the weather. Cold, windy, and tomorrow it may snow. I'm done with winter. Bring on the spring!

To get myself in the mood, I drove north to Huntertown Gardens, a fruit and vegetable "stand" where they also sell garden seeds and plants. I was in search of onion sets, which I found, along with ear corn and a neighbor. It was this neighbor who gave me some extra onion sets several years ago and I noticed they came from Huntertown Gardens. I had never heard of them, and it took me many years to actually seek them out. It seems like a bit of a drive, but I've driven further for good produce. And I hear they get Red Havens from Michigan. Mmmmm!

That little purchase jumpstarted me to get online and make some more purchases, from Lee Valley, Gardener's Supply, and Gardens Alive. (Gotta spread the wealth.) I'll post more about those purchases as they arrive. Suffice to say, my backyard is going to be transformed.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fat Friendly Fraze

Squirrel acrobatics:

Me: Help! Thief!

FFF: You talkin to me?

FFF: Don't make me come down there!

FFF: Are you going to behave?

FFF: You can run but you can't hide.

FFF: This is your last chance.


FFF: How did you like them apples?

FFF: Hope you learned your lesson.

FFF: All is forgiven.

FFF: Speaking of apples, the ones you threw out for the robins are delicious.

And, finally, the first yellow of spring:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wait mode

I think my neighbors down the street have the right idea. They leave town for the month of March, and when they return in April, spring is here and it is time to start gardening. The rest of us just sit around and mope and gaze out the window, wondering when the grass will green up.

The heating contractors never returned my phone call about readjusting the baffles in the heat ducts, so I manned up and put on my overalls and crawled under the house and adjusted them myself. Now the West Wing is within a couple of degrees of the rest of the house.

For the past several years, I have been using my bonuses to fund home improvements, and I had big plans this year until the stupid economy intervened. I did get a bonus (and no, my employer is not getting a bailout from Uncle Sam, so I am not returning any of it), but it is not enough for what I had in mind. And frankly, I was not looking forward to the next phase of reconstruction. So I might just concentrate on finishing up what was started last year - the West Wing needs some new furniture and the yard needs some trees - and leave it at that. Maybe. We'll see.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Mud season

Yesterday I slogged around the yard a bit, working on a lasagna bed for my snap peas. A while back I had thrown a bunch of yard debris into the pea fence contraption, but decided that would not suffice. So I removed all the trimmings and replaced it with a layer of newspaper, topped with peat moss and compost. If I can figure out a relatively easy way to shred the yard waste, I will add that as well. And I'm wondering where and how I could get some fresh manure.

Days like these, I miss having a pickup truck. It's a good time to buy a vehicle, IF you have a stable job, but I can't quite convince myself that I would be happy replacing my CRV. I like the front wheel drive and realtime 4WD and its ease of parking and halfway decent gas mileage. But it can't pull a camper and is fairly useless for transporting mulch and manure. Maybe if I test drive a truck, it will help me make up my mind.

Winters like these make me wish I had a chipper/shredder. With all the downed branches, I could have made my own mulch. The city gives away mulch and compost, but you still need some way to haul it. My neighbor across the street offered to let me use his truck, but that was when he owned a small beat-up Toyota. Now he has a shiny new Dodge Dakota that I don't think would fit through my gate. I'd hate to scratch it up when he has been nice enough to snow blow my driveway a time or two.

And I'd like to spruce up the kitchen and buy some new furniture for the West Wing and the yard needs a few trees. *sigh*

Then there's HipHop.

When I adopted him, the shelter said he was a she, and the vet could not tell, but he acts very he-like. Lately, he has been pestering the dog and spraying her and consequently the carpet as well. If I lock Betsy away during bunny hour, things seem better, so I'm guessing Betsy is bringing in rabbit scents from outside, which is setting off the rabbit. I may look into having him neutered, if I can find a vet who knows something about rabbits. Otherwise, I'm going to shift bunny hour to a later time, after Betsy has gone off to bed. My carpets need a break.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

In like a lion

It is fairly sunny today, but that wind is brisk. I spent some time outside doing the usual - poop scooping and bird feeding - and came in rosy cheeked and snotty nosed.

Before abandoning the yard to the weather, I took a stroll around the estate, chatting up the few brave souls that were peeking out of the ground: shoots of iris, daylily, and daffodil on the south side of the house. I advised them to wait a while.

A grackle came to visit the feeders, and a pair of chickadees scolded me for letting the cracked corn run low. I looked for them in the neighbor's pear tree, but they were in a viburnum about six feet from me. Of course, by the time I went in to get my camera, they had fled the scene.

The forecast is not springlike this week, so I guess we'll just hunker down under an afghan with the seed catalogs.