Thursday, July 11, 2013

This could have been the beginning of a horror movie

This morning I helped with a bird banding demo for a teachers workshop being held at a nearby Conservation Area. Chick in Charge and I went to visit the site on Tuesday to speak with the supervisor and choose a place to set up our nets. When we picked an area around bird feeders, we were warned that deer could be a problem. Chick in Charge decided to circumvent that problem by placing one of us (the volunteers) just outside the feeding area to deter the deer.

The Supervisor met with us this morning to fill the bird feeders while we set the nets up. Her appearance with a big bucket of seed was like a beacon to the deer. There were at least 3 hovering just outside the feeder area. The deer remained after she left, and even moved in closer. We decided to place both of the interns outside the feeders to deter the hungry deer.

Thankfully the demonstration passed without incident. Sensing our wrap up, the deer began amassing just outside the feeder area.  It was a little unsettling to watch this small herd of deer walk slowly towards us with no fear. I could picture their eyes turning red, baring their teeth as they tightened the circle around us hapless two leggeds. How could we stand a chance against those hooves? And our nets! How were we going to protect those oh-so-expensive nets from the destruction of these feral deer?? Hmm, I think I've read too many urban fantasy books.

But all kidding aside, see that aluminum pole on the right side of the picture? Yeah, there's a very expensive mist net on it. I was rooting through the supply box, looking for flagging tape when I looked up to see that.
You're not fooling anyone. I see you.
Now begone!

The supervisor appeared to watch the process of shutting nets and keep an eye on the deer. Not long after we shut down our second net, one of the deer walked up and started licking one of the aluminum poles. The supervisor clapped her hands and the offending deer bounced away
Why are you licking our pole? That doesn't resemble a salt lick. Shoo!
Thankfully deer aren't too much of a problem at our other banding sites. Our main offenders are insects and I'm the one usually trying to extract the cicadas, dragonflies, and junebugs. Bumblebees and wasps are a different story. While I've overcome my trepidation of bees, I still run the other way when a stinger hits the nets.

There's rarely a dull moment with mist netting. If the flyers aren't keeping you busy, the nature around the nets keep things interesting.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lost Keys. Part 3

It has been awhile since I've had a key incident (entries here and here). Sure, I've had a few episodes of misplacing my keys, but not a big one, not like last night. I went to the park to take pictures and enjoy the evening.  The park was crowded last night and the area I initially wanted to sit was occupied, so I sat at a different bench. Not long after I sat down, a bench closer to the pond opened up and I moved again.  Not long after I relocated, some girls began feeding bread to the ducks nearby.  I moved for a 3rd time, this time sitting in the grass near the action.

The ducks were fighting over the bread, and I sat for a long time photographing the feeding frenzy. There was one duck in particular that was good at stealing bread right before it landed in the bill of another duck. He was chased by his victims, and at one point, he was surrounded by 4 hungry ducks. I went between watching the activity and taking pictures.

When the girls ran out of bread, the ducks settled down to sleep. Twilight had set in and it was getting dark. I packed up and looked to the grass next to me, thinking my keys would be next to my camera bag, but  they weren't there. I stood up and checked my pockets. Nothing. I checked every pocket in the camera bag and came up empty handed. I was beginning to worry but wasn't panicking...yet.  I retraced my steps, slowly searching the grass and revisiting the benches. There were 2 older ladies sitting at the bench I was on before I moved to the grass. I thought about asking if they had found my keys, but decided against bothering them.  Instead, I called Danno.

"OMG I can't find my keys. They must have fallen out of my pocket. I haven't checked my car yet. Let me call you back." I rattled.

" Uhhh ok." He replied.

I went back to the car, looking under the vehicle and at the ground as I walked. Still nothing. I called Danno back and told him I still had not found my keys. After hanging up, I sat down at the first bench and took all the items out of my camera bag. I looked through the pockets again and still no keys. I finally approached the women.

"Have you by chance found a set of keys here? I was sitting here a while ago and I can't find my keys." I said.

Both ladies immediately stood up and asked their questions on top of each other.

"Where were you sitting last?"

"Have you retraced your steps?"

I answered both questions and thanked them for their time. But they weren't done with me yet. They walked with me as I again retraced my steps. I felt guilty that they were helping me search. The women didn't even know me. But they were so friendly and I immediately felt at ease with them. I told them each place I had sat and where I had looked, and as we walked, they both retold their horror stories of lost keys.

I stopped where I was photographing the ducks and put my bag down.  "This was the last place I was sitting." I said.

"Did you search absolutely every place in that bag?"

I looked down at the bag and realized I didn't check the back outer pocket. I completely missed it. The pocket lacked the telltale bulge of keys, but figuring I had nothing left to lose, I unzipped it...and found my keys.

I pulled them out and dangled the keys in front of the ladies.

There were cries of joy as we engulfed in a group hug. I thanked them repeatedly and they both exclaimed they were so happy I found them.  After chatting for a few moments they returned to their bench and I tried to call Danno to tell him that I found my keys. But it was too late. Not long after I found my lost keys, he showed up.

Sorry honey.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dime Store

A few weeks ago I went to the dime store on a mission and ended up taking a trip down memory lane. In the last few years I have grown disenchanted with purses and started carrying around wallets instead. I was looking for a new wallet and knew the store (probably the only dime store here in this part of town) had hard covered wallets with pretty designs. I quickly found what I was looking for and decided to explore the store. I had gone in there in the past, but usually with a purpose and left no time for browsing.

Growing up, we frequented a Ben Franklin close to our house. While our mom went off shopping in the back of the store, my sister and I went down the candy aisle, and with small plastic baskets in hand, picked Garbage Pail Kids and Baseball Cards, Blow Pops, Tootsie Rolls and whatever other candies caught our fancy.

Back to the present time, I let the little Colleen go wild in the dime store that day. I went to the candy aisle and the not only did the assault of bright colors and sugar smell trigger memories, but the candy brands as well. Runts, Nerds, Dum Dum suckers, Blow Pops, Sugar Daddy, Slopoke, Bit O' Honey, Spree, Sour Patch Kids, Laffy Taffy, Now and Later, Dubble Bubble and Fruit Stripe gum.

 So much gum and tootsie roll flavors
Pop Rocks!
Candy Cigarettes (now called "Candy Sticks")
As we got older, our visits became less frequent until we no longer shopped in the dime store. I grew up and the candy from childhood got tucked within the many layers of memories. I will confess that I did purchase candy that day. After all, there is nothing wrong with indulging the child within once in awhile. I'm glad this dime store has been able to hold its own against the ever growing number of big chain retail stores. From the number of kids in the candy aisle that day, I'm sure this place is providing memories for this generation. May the dime store live on.      

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How quickly they grow. Another entry in the Great Seed Experiment of 2013.

The Great Seed Experiment of 2013 continues. I had a few setbacks with the flowers in late March. While the Black-eyed Susan and Purple Coneflowers were being transplanted into bigger pots, the Butterfly Weed and Common Milkweed were dying and the Bee Balm was growing crookedly. Hoping natural light would save some of those struggling plants, I started leaving them outside during the day in early April.

I continued to lose Common Milkweed but the sunlight slowed down the death of the Butterfly Weed. The damage seemed to be done with the Bee Balm. The plants continued to grow crookedly despite the natural sunlight and support. I lost one pot. But I refused to give up on the pretty purple flowers.
While the older plants may have died off or continued to grow crookedly, new growth sprouted in all of the pots. In fact, I think I need to transplant these babies.

I came to the conclusion that the Common and Butterfly (both of the genus Asclepias) Weeds did poorly with grow lights and needed sunshine. I lost all but 2 of my Common Milkweed and a half dozen Butterfly Weed remain. But they have markedly improved since being transferred outside.
Butterfly Weed

Common Milkweed

My Black-eyed Susan are beginning to bloom!
The Coneflowers growing, but at a slower rate and have not flowered. I don't know if this is normal or not.

Time to get transplanting.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Willow Ptarmigan; A bird with my kind of personality.

After Seattle, we headed up to Nome for a bird tour. We spent Monday through Friday with this group and birded about 12 - 13 hours each day. They were long days, mostly spent in the car, but the scenery was unbelievable. With the exception of Nome and the outlying villages, there were absolutely no signs of civilization. No cell phone towers, telephone wires, or airplanes. There were very few people and no noticeable pollution. The air was crisp and fragrant. You could hear rushing water, the crunch of lichen under your feet and the wind as it whipped down the mountains and across the tundra.

The only way to reach Nome is by air, boat or snowmobile/dogsled trails. There are only 3 major roads, each over 50 miles, that lead to the Kougarok River and the villages of Teller and Council. We traveled one of the roads each day.

Anytime I go on a bird trip, I find a favorite bird. My favorite bird in South Texas was the Green Jay. During the Arizona trip it was the Lazuli Bunting. Outside of Nome I fell in love with the Willow Ptarmigan. The Willow Ptarmigan was a very aggressive bird who fearlessly defended his turf. My first witness to this behavior was during our first outing. We had 3 leaders who drove separate cars. Each day the group was divided to fit in the cars and no one sat in the same vehicle twice. The man in charge of the tour drove a white van and on our first day, he drove in front of the car we were in. We watched a Ptarmigan chase after that white van. No exaggeration. This bird was running alongside and behind the bumper. On that same day, we stopped once to look at some songbirds and a Willow Ptarmigan did not like us on his turf.
He just took notice of our trespassing.
He warns us with his clucks and barking rattles. Several field guides describe their barking as if the bird is saying "Go back go back go back." If you want to hear what the Willow Ptarmigan sounds like, here's a link (you can really hear the "Go back" at the end of the recording). And I heard it firsthand that day. That bird rattled and barked "Gobackgobackgoback." ** He was very unhappy with us.
When we refuse his demand that we go back, the Ptarmigan fluffs his feathers to show us he means business. He begins to charge in our direction.
We're in big trouble.
But he stops short at the last minute. We were let go with a warning.

Countless times during that trip, we had a male chase the cars and on one occasion had a Ptarmigan turn around in mid-flight to fly at the windshield of our van.

I felt an incredible kinship to this feisty bird. When I told Danno, he laughed and told me that he wasn't surprised. Apparently I am crabby like the bird, and I have been known to say "Go away" to people on occasion.**

I have no idea what he's talking about.

** I originally typed that the Ptarmigan says "go away", when in fact he says "go back".  I'm the one who supposedly says "go away".

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Gum Wall

There is an unusual landmark in Seattle located in an alley behind the Pike Place Market.
 Your eyes are not deceiving you. It is called the Gum Wall. This was my 3rd visit to the Emerald City and the first I've heard of this place. Geocacher casually mentioned it when we all went to the Pike Place Market. There was a mental screeching of brakes when I paused to consider this unusual attraction.

"There's a gum wall?" I asked.

"Yeah. It's in Post Alley. There's a hidden geocache." He replied.

"I've got to see this!"

After shopping in the Market, we were led to this interesting, albeit slightly disgusting, landmark.
I learned the origins of the Gum Wall through the internet. Patrons waiting in line for tickets to the theater often passed the time by sticking gum and coins to the wall. Theater employees scraped the gum laden walls, but gave up in 1999. The collection has been growing ever since.
I'm not sure if the theater is still open, but the windows are clear, which leads me to believe this is an active business.

People are creative with their used up gum. Gums shaped into hearts, flags and names. Sometimes there are objects within the sticky grasp of used gum. Movie tickets, gum wrappers, pennies, notes and receipts. This recent addition to the wall made me smile.

I feel bad for the business across the street.
Yea, good luck with that.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Roaming Gnome.

Meet Norman the Gnome. He hitched a ride in my suitcase up to Nome.

He knew I was going on a birdwatching tour and wanted to tag along. He met a few of the birders who were immediately charmed by his sparkling personality. One of the guides eagerly showed him a small flock of Red-necked Phalaropes.

And one of the birdwatchers was nice enough to allow him a head view to find Savannah Sparrows hidden in the shrubs.

For 4 days, he rode along, taking in the sights of the beautiful tundra while we bird watched.

He hoped to go fishing in town, but was disappointed to find that it wasn't allowed.

But he went to the beach and the local History Museum instead.

He felt fortunate for the opportunity to travel. How many gnomes can say they've been to Nome?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ants Alive!

Today I came to the realization that I've come a long way in dealing with the creepy crawlies while checking nest boxes. When I first began checking nest boxes oh-so-long ago, I would FREAK OUT when I stuck my hand in a box to blindly feel around for eggs or chicks (because Eurasian Tree Sparrows cram the nest box to the top with grasses and that's the only way to see what's going on inside) and pull back a hand full of ants.

For the last 3 weeks I've been battling an ant infestation in one of the boxes. Today when I checked the box, the chicks were gone so I decided to pull the nest out. There was a mass exodus of ants. They spilled out and were all over my hands and arms, the top and sides of the nest box, the pole.

  These pictures were taken about a minute after the initial stream of ants exiting the box.

See those little white things that look like grains of rice? Those are eggs.

I left the lid off for a few minutes and continued to watch while flicking ants off my face, neck, arms and legs. And you know what? I didn't freak out! Although I did shiver each time I felt an ant crawling on me.

The next 2 boxes were also infested with ants. Wonder if the rest of the breeding season is going to be nothing but ant colonies in the boxes.  It's a good thing I no longer squeal and jump up and down like a girl with these ants. Ick.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Learner's Permit

For the last few years my yard has played host to a family of Robins. My three-year streak of having a Robin's nest around the house was broken this year because the birds chose an evergreen tree in my neighbor's yard. But the parents and fledgling decided to use my backyard as their day spot.  For the last 2 weeks, I have listened to the young Robin try out his new voice, watched him make short, low-to-the-ground flights across the yard, hop around in the flower beds, snooze on the edge of a flower pot, perch on the birdbath and in the lower branches of the dogwood tree. I wake up to his youthful squawks every morning and hear him throughout the day when I'm home. I love his voice and watching him learn about life outside the nest.

Yesterday morning I witnessed a very awkward flight. When I saw him on the birdbath near the patio, I grabbed my camera and slowly approached the sliding glass doors to take a few pictures. But he saw my movement and jumped up in an initially pretty good flight, but he didn't know where to go. He unsteadily flew around the bird feeders, hovered around the birdbath before heading towards the roof. But his flight was too low and slow and consequently bonked his head on the gutter before hovering over the BBQ grill and deciding to land on the birdbath hardware that was screwed into the side of the house.

That little excursion tired the little fella out because he paused for a short nap.

But his nap wasn't long because he started squawking. Was he demanding food, or just talking? In either case he seemed to be content to perch on his emergency landing spot.

Look at his little mohawk!

After watching him for awhile, I told Danno of the clumsy flight spectacle I witnessed. He simply replied, "Well, he just has his learner's permit. He's still learning."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Birdwatching in Arizona, Final Entry: Back off, I'm a cactus in disguise! My love affair with cacti.

 As my closest friends and readers know, I love cacti. While the primary goal of our trip to Arizona was for birdwatching, I was looking forward to being among my cacti friends. I fell in love with the Saguaros (pronounced s-WAR- oh.) in Tucson. They were everywhere; out in the desert, on hillsides, roadsides, and in neighborhoods (although I imagine they were landscaped in).  I  know I am anthropomorphizing when I say this, but they were like a community of silent sentinels, guarding over their little spot in the desert.

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) is the largest cactus in the United States.  This plant can live 150 - 200 years, but will not be mature enough to bloom until they are at least 30 - 40 years old. To say saguaro is a slow growing plant is somewhat of an understatement. But growth rate is linked to yearly rainfall.  In the Tucson Mountains, located just west of Tucson, the annual rainfall averages 14 inches, a saguaro takes about 10 years to attain 1¼ - ½ inches in height and 30 years to reach 2 feet. Saguaros begin to flower at about 8 feet tall, which takes about 55 years. The saguaros found in Saguaro National Park, located in Tucson, only take 40 years to bloom. The rainfall in that National Park averages 16 inches each year.  The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Ajo, Arizona, receives only 9 inches of annual rainfall and takes 75 years for the Saguaro to bloom. But when all is said and done growing, a saguaro will reach 40 - 60 feet in height.

A saguaro can produce up to 40 million seeds, but as with all forms of organic life, it is only considered successful if one plant grows to replace its parent. The saguaro creates white flowers on top in the spring with peak bloom time being mid-May through mid-June. Nighttime blooming, the strong fragrance emitted during the twilight hours and the copious amounts of pollen and nectar produced make the saguaro flowers especially enticing to bats. In fact, bats are the primary pollinators and seed dispersers of the saguaro. The flowers bear fruit during the summer months, up to 2000 seeds per fruit, and White-winged Doves, rodents, javelinas, and coyotes eat the fruit and distribute the seed.

A seedling requires summer rain in order to sprout followed by 2 - 3 years of seasonal rain to survive.  These tiny cacti usually grow under a canopy of plants that shelters them from the elements and hides them from foraging rodents, rabbits and birds. Saguaro in general cannot tolerate more than a day of freezing temperatures and will not grow in regions that receive less than 2 inches of summer rain. This explains why a "forest" of saguaro appear to all be the same size. Some scientists believe that a good crop of saguaro may only come a few times in the time span of 100 years.

During a year of good rainfall, an adult saguaro can weigh 3200 - 4800 pounds. Ribs, located under the green, waxy exterior, can expand and contract depending on water intake. The main root (the tap root) will extend down over 2 feet. The plant's remaining roots are fairly close to the surface, 4 - 6 inches deep but will radiate out as far from the plant as it is tall.  During a rainy season, the saguaro will send out new roots, known as rain roots, and collect as much water as possible.

As with the rest of the plant, the arms of a saguaro are slow growing, taking at least 5 years to grow 6 inches. The arms store water, provide extra surface area for photosynthesis, and acts as a good nesting place for some bird species, especially cactus wrens.

Cactus wren between the 2 arms that are in front.

Closeup of a Cactus Wren nest.

The bulky part of the saguaro protects the plant from extreme temperatures. The heat absorbed during the day is stored within the interior tissue and radiates the heat out slowly during the night. This also protects the plant during the rare times the temperatures drop to freezing during the night.  What an amazing plant. How could someone not love the saguaro?

This is the last of my Arizona entries, but stay tuned; I will be headed to Seattle and Nome Alaska in a few weeks.

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    Birdwatching in Arizona, Part 3: Southeast Arizona; A birdwatcher's paradise.

    We spent the first 2 days in Tucson before moving out into the smaller towns outside of the big city. Our first stop was Portal, a tiny town consisting of a library, post office, library, fire station, doctor's office, and a compound consisting of a general store, restaurant and small motel. This was the first place I encountered backyard birdwatching; a practice where homeowners open their backyard for public viewing. The usual practice was that there would be a sign in the front yard welcoming birdwatchers to the yard and a container with a sign asking for donations ("seed money").  There would be multiple hummingbird and seed feeders set up and chairs set up under a tent, or in shade. In some places, there were even signs for parking:

    The next set of backyard feeders open to the public was in Sierra Vista.  The first place we stopped was on a large piece of property in Miller's Canyon. This place had a Bed and Breakfast, fruit and vegetable gardens, and poultry.  The owners had a stadium seating set up with 4 benches, and cushioned seating under a large awning. The seating overlooked several hummingbird feeders with each feeder hanging under a small number or letter. We visited 2 backyard feeding stations in Sierra Vista.

    One yard opened for public viewing was a home/Bed and Breakfast. In addition to the store bought bird feeders were several small feeders made from every day household items. This was also a great place for photographing the customers.

    Male and Female Black-headed Grosbeaks

    Bullocks Oriole enjoying grape jelly from a can. Note the oranges nailed to the tree.

    Female Black-headed Grosbeak (left) and Scott's Oriole.

    Pine Siskin.

    Bewick's Wren.

    I'm curious if this is the only area in the States with the practice of private residents opening their yard to the public.  I've bird watched in Alaska, Florida, South Texas, West Texas and I've never seen anything like this.  Even a non-birdwatching person would find it relaxing to watch the bird activity and observe the beauty of the yard.

    Tuesday, May 7, 2013

    Birdwatching in Arizona, Part 2: It's raining caterpillars.

    We made a stop in the San Pedro Riparian Area one morning. It was an oasis in the desert, and, I recently learned, a beautiful place in danger of being developed. The habitat outside the river was grassland/scrubland but the area immediately surrounding the water was lush with trees and large bushes. It was so pretty. We decided to hang out by the water for awhile to bird watch and gaze at  the water. It was while we walked along the bank that I noticed the tent caterpillars, LOTS of them. The longer we walked, the more caterpillars we noticed. They were EVERYWHERE. On the ground, tree trunks, in shrubs and yes, falling from the sky (well from tree branches).

    While walking, I noticed tiny dark brown specks on the ground. Initially I thought the specks were just part of the composition of the soil, but when we sat down, I discovered the flecks were actually caterpillar frass (frass is a fancy word for poop). The frass was almost as abundant as the caterpillars. When we sat down, the caterpillars commenced crawling on our legs, hands and my backpack. Later in the day Trillium found a caterpillar in her pants.

    It was hard to find a place to sit with all the frass laying around.

     You never know what else you're going to find while bird watching.

    Sunday, May 5, 2013

    Birdwatching in Arizona, Part One: Airports and Airplanes

    Trillium and I took a birdwatching trip last week to southeast Arizona. I keep a journal while on vacation, and this is the first entry of a handful of installments for the blog. I'm not going verbatim from my entries, rather I'm paraphrasing, summarizing, and highlighting the good parts.

    Travel day is usually a long one and it's a day where I usually have some sort of mini-adventure or encounter with an odd person.  My adventure began on the departing flight from my home city. For the first time in years, I actually had a good seat. I was in row 16 instead of the usual row 29 or 30 in the back of the plane. When I arrived to my designated chair, there was a man sitting in my spot. I immediately knew, but to be polite, I made a point of looking at my boarding pass to see if he would take the hint. When I told him he was sitting in my seat, he stared at me blankly, almost as if he was willing me to disappear. Apparently subtlety was not the way to go with this guy. When I told him my seat was 16D and he was sitting in it, he grumbled he wanted the aisle seat before moving to the center spot. Too bad. I've done my time sitting in bad seats and was not willing to sacrifice the aisle seat to someone who was purposely sitting in the wrong chair. I snuck a peak when he pulled his boarding pass out and found he was supposed to be sitting in 17E, the middle seat in the row behind us. Lots of nerve there pal. Cheater seat guy was also a seat space hog. His arms and legs extended beyond his allotted space so that he was crowding both me and the guy sitting next to the window.

    Not long after takeoff, the man sitting in front of me leaned his chair back, giving me that hemmed in feeling. Between cheater seat guy and the lean back man, I felt like Elaine from Seinfeld where she was trapped in the crowded, broken down subway. Like her, I was inwardly screaming "Move. MOVE!!!" The lady sitting across from me repeatedly made the sign of the cross during take off and landing, and even a few times during the flight. I understand she was nervous, and found comfort in prayer. I silently pray in public from time to time too, and while I do not judge anyone who prays out loud, I thought she went overboard with the nonstop cross signing. How much of that was sincere prayer, and how much of that was for attention?

    My destination was the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. I've been in that airport a few times and always groan because it is such a big airport. I exited from gate C2 and had to walk clear down to gate C28 for my connecting flight to Tucson. I sped walked down to gate C12, passed the trams that led to other gates, down a flight of stairs and had to thread my way through a crowd to C28. While walking, I noticed there was a Starbucks at least every 5 - 7 gates. Seriously. Not sure how wise it was of the DFW airport to allow that many Starbucks in the terminals, especially with the air traffic control furloughs (now since resolved) and the resulting delays. I can't imagine those delays are pleasant for the airplane personnel, who are in an enclosed space with a bunch of impatient, hyper-caffeinated passengers. But I digress.

    The other interesting scene in the DFW airport was of a disabled passenger golf cart driving through the crowd that came to a stop. I overheard the driver tell a woman on the cart that he was going to drop her off at her gate (I'm guessing she tried to jump off while he was moving). She had the nerve to tell him he was driving too slow. The cart had DISABLED ONLY in large blue letters all over the cart. She was the youngest person on that cart and she certainly did not look handicapped. Maybe there was more to that story, but her audacity to criticize certainly surprised me.

    I met up with Trillium at gate C28 and we sat across the aisle from each other during the flight to Tucson. We landed without incident and began our birdwatching adventures.

    To be continued...

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    Beep Beep

    Danno went to Vegas last weekend. This is not unusual as we do take separate trips on occasion. He usually goes to Las Vegas alone because I HATE Vegas. HATE HATE HATE it. And he does not accompany me on the camping/birdwatching trips that I usually take with Trillium.  We're both comfortable with this travel arrangement, and we do take vacations together.

    The trouble I have with Danno going out of town is that something annoying or stressful inevitably happens to me while he's gone. There was one year I could not go on family vacation because I had a new job. That was the year his 2 year old goldfish decided to die; slowly. I was stressed with the new job and it was difficult watching his fish die, and watching the other fish in the tank nibbling on the sick fish on occasion. Danno told me to go ahead and euthanize the dying fish and I was a blubbering mess putting that poor thing out of its misery.

    Then there was the year my new computer gave me the blue screen of death. I wanted to restart the computer, but when I accidentally hit "hibernate" instead of "restart", I got the blue screen and it would not start. I called the service hotline, and when they could not help me, I freaked out. Freaked out. I think I was on the phone with Dan almost as much as I was with the service center. This story does have a happy ending; I had a service tech that did not want to give up on my computer. My original call was nearly an hour of failed troubleshooting, but the tech told me he was going to do a little research and call me back. He called the next day with the fix for my computer woes. Needless to say, that was a 48 hour roller coaster ride of emotion.

    Danno left Thursday morning and the first few days was filled with the usual routine of work, housework, relaxing in the evening and sleeping. The trouble began late Saturday night. I went to bed early because I had to get up 4am the next morning. Sometime after midnight, one of the smoke alarms in the house began the low battery warning beeps. I decided I would look at the smoke alarm after work. However, in my sleepy state, I failed to remember that we had 6 smoke alarms and 2 carbon monoxide alarms. I think the number of smoke alarms we have is overkill, but the house alarm company installed all of them.

    When I returned home, I went to the alarm in the hallway and found it took 123A batteries, which we did not have. Beep beep. I replaced the batteries in the basement alarm, but the sound persisted. Beep beep.  I went upstairs and looked at the carbon monxide alarm and replaced those batteries. Beep beep. Which one of those damn things was low on battery power? Beep beep. By now the beeps were beginning to grate on my nerves and I was throwing old batteries on the floor.  I walked through the house, pausing under each alarm, but each one of them was silent. But somewhere in the house, the beeps persisted. The only 2 alarms that were untouched was the basement carbon monoxide detector and the hallway smoke alarm that needed the 123A batteries.  I went downstairs to remove and examine the carbon monoxide detector. Unlike the detector in the hallway, this one was wired to the ceiling and did not seem to have batteries .

    Frustration continued to mount. It was late in the afternoon and I was tired. I did not want to get back in my car and go to the store for batteries, but it looked like that was my only choice. I went to the supermarket, and much to my chagrin, they did not have the 123A batteries I needed. With a big sigh, I got back into my car and drove to Office Max. Luckily they had what I needed and I headed back home. I replaced the batteries in the hall alarm, and guess what? Beep beep. What.The.Hell.? I got online and researched the carbon monoxide detector that appeared not to need batteries. My original observation was correct, the detector was indeed wired to the ceiling. What alarm did I miss?

    Beep beep. Every 30 seconds, all night long. Beep beep. Frustration turned into resignation. Danno would be home the following evening. I could put up with the beeps until then, right? Beep beep. By Sunday night, I was able to more-or-less tune out the noise. I went to work early Monday morning and didn't return home until mid-afternoon. Beep beep. Danno texted me and told me his flight was delayed and he wasn't sure when he would be returning home. That was fine. I could now deal with the persistent noise.

    Danno returned home close to midnight. He went into one of the spare rooms and silence descended within 2 minutes.

    "Wait, there was an alarm in there? I didn't even think to check in there!" I exclaimed.

    "Uhhh yeah. " He replied.


    "I noticed there were batteries all over the floor. I'm kinda glad I wasn't here."

    If you were here Danno, this would not have happened. I swear the electronic devices don't act up until he is gone. I'm convinced the electronics smell my fear and act on it when they know a solution to their trouble will not be immediate. They know who the boss is, and it surely isn't me.

    Wednesday, April 17, 2013

    The Return of the Superman Curl

    For the last 12 - 13 years, I have had long hair. Obviously in the beginning it wasn't long, but when all was said and done, my hair reached the mid point of my upper arm. Growing it out was awkward, and because I have naturally curly hair, I sometimes had curls sticking out from odd angles. I had one curl in particular that very similar to the c-shaped curl that went down the center of Superman's forehead. My curl was-more-or-less in the same location and usually in my eyes. Danno nicknamed it "The Superman Curl".

    I haven't been happy with my hair for the last year and the unhappiness grew with each passing month.  My hair was a magnet for feathers, food bits and whatever else was floating in the air. No lie, last week a butterfly got caught within my mangled mane. If I wore it down, hair got somehow caught in my bra strap, and if I wore it up, the hair would get tangled or wrapped tightly within the scrunchie that I sometimes had to trim the hair out. When I slept at night, I often woke up because I had shifted to some position that caused my hair to pull down on my head, extending my neck.

    I was also becoming rather unhappy with the increasing silver that was popping up uninvited on my scalp. Seriously. My mom pretty much had salt and pepper hair by the time she was 40, and I'm going to be the big Four-O later this summer. My hair is rapidly heading in the same direction, and I just can't deal with it.

    I scheduled an appointment with my cousin-in-law (if the person is a cousin by marriage, does that make them your cousin-in-law?) who is a hairdresser, for a cut and color. I saw her last Saturday and it was an adventure for me. Beyond the occasional trim, I have not had my hair cut in over 12 years. She gathered my hair up in one hand and with scissors in the other hand, asked me if I was absolutely sure I wanted to cut it off. Yes. Are you really sure? Yes, yes and yes. She then told me she has been witness to cutters remorse, where the person receiving the cut regretted giving her permission to chop the long hair.  Nope, not me. I had no second thoughts or regrets after she made the initial cut.

    We discussed hair colors and she pasted my hair with a smelly white concoction and left me to percolate for about 35 minutes before returning to wash and then fine tune the haircut. When all was said and done, my hair was "medium brown" and curled just above my shoulders.

    I didn't realize just how miserable I was with my hair's appearance until I looked at the new me in the mirror. I knew I was unhappy, but the depth of that emotion surprised me sitting there in that chair Saturday afternoon.

    I returned home and after Danno made the appropriate oohhs and ahhs, he paused and looked at my forehead before saying "Your Superman curl is back."

    Welcome back Superman curl; your presence has been long overdue.

    Thursday, April 11, 2013

    Crocheting has brought out my obsessive tendencies

    Last July I started crocheting but didn't really get into the craft until my sis-in-law and I went on a yarn crawl. I started small, only making dish cloths. Patterns initially intimidated me and it took a few weeks before I took the plunge into making things other than dish cloths. When I finished my first pattern (a cowl with an attached scarf), my confidence grew, and before long, I was making purses, scarves, hats, mittens, coasters, gift bags, baby afghans, flower embellishments, yarn animals and ornaments.

    Once I found Ravelry, FaveCrafts and the websites of yarn companies, I began amassing patterns and even made copies of patterns from library books.  So much creativity and so many colors. 'Wow, look at that beautiful scarf. I wonder if I can make that' and 'that baby hat is adorable!' and 'I LOVE the design of that afghan'. Click, click, click. Saved in Ravelry.  The change purse fat with dimes shrinking in size with each copy made.

    And the yarn. My goodness the yarn. When I first began crocheting, I swore to myself that I would only buy what was needed and initially it wasn't difficult to stick to that promise. I was still getting acquainted with the various weights and types of yarn, and still in the process of learning which brands I liked, and which to avoid purchasing. But when the after-Christmas clearance sales hit, my self control melted like ice cream under a hot sun. My weaknesses were Lion Brand, Caron and Michael's own brand, Loops and Threads. 3 skeins of Lion Brand for $5? Sweet! Loops and Threads $2 each? Wow!  Pretty soon I had a large bin, before adding a huge bag, then another bag. Recently I added 2 baskets to the containers holding yarn. 

    I've finally decided get organized. Rather than have my yarn spread out in boxes and bags,  I'm going to buy shelves and store that growing stash of yarn in the spare bedroom closet.  The patterns I've printed and copied are already in binders (yes, binders), and unless I'm going to make a particular object, I'm going to refrain from printing the multitude of patterns in my Ravelry library.

    And here we thought my obsessive tendencies was only concentrated on the birds.

    Sunday, April 7, 2013

    Transplanting and the outdoor nursery

    I know by now you're all sick of hearing about my baby plants, but here's another entry. Hooray! Some of my native flowers-to-be have grown big enough to be transplanted into larger pots and sit outside during warm sunny days. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny, albeit windy, day. My plan for the day was to transplant the biggest plants and build a squirrel-resistant enclosure to protect my plants while they make the transition from indoor to outdoor life.

    Turns out some of my plants were way overdue for a new container. Yikes!

    After a trip to the hardware store, I gathered the plants to be transplanted and went outside. I took almost all of the Bee Balm and Black-Eyed Susans as well as a few of the Purple Coneflowers. Did I mention it was windy outside? Taking the Bee Balm outside was a mistake. The wind had those plants nearly touching the ground. I quickly transplanted the Bee Balm and set them inside the garage before moving on the shorter plants.

    Before I started hobbling my enclosure together, I noticed I already had one premade squirrel container. Several years ago, Danno bought a small fire pit to burn leaves and branches. He used it once and was not comfortable with the strength of the fire so we stopped using it. The pit has sat unused, collecting moss and growing weeds, until today.

    It's a tight fit, but my Rudbeckia and Echinacea plants have a new daytime nursery, at least for a while.

    The enclosure took a bit of work, but after many scratches and swear words, I finished before the end of the afternoon.

    I hope it holds up OK. I know it will be able to withstand a windy day, but I'm hoping it can hold its own against hungry squirrels.  Several years ago, my father-in-law made several smaller  squirrel-proof enclosures that could protect one plant, and he offered to lend them to me. I'm going to take him up on his offer.

    You know you're going to get another plant entry sometime in the foreseeable future, right?