Peacock Update

180912_ProudPeacock

[ Proud as a peacock ]

September 12 – Yes, the peacocks are still with us! And since the birds are finally staying closer to us, I decided I would try to talk more often to them when they were near us. My number one question was, “When are you going to let me take some good pictures of you and listen to your throat sounds that everybody says all peacocks do?” Then I would say something like, “You need to be like the cat which always likes to be petted? I would even sing to you if you would answer!” Then I would kind of sing to them in little verses I made up as I went along.

For the first several days the birds were here, we never heard that typical call they make. And then finally we did – it was pretty loud, but it didn’t bother us because it was all new to us. We were standing out by the feeder box and then heard some really loud “music” as the two birds seemed to be trying to win the “concert’ they were providing for us. When I spouted out, “Urrr-arrrrr” (I was laughing so much that I could hardly come up with anything), the birds didn’t seem to mind. After all, how many of their relatives enjoyed a concert from a former teacher? (history, English, and Social Studies, BUT NOT MUSIC!)

180912_PeacockDriveway

[ Preening on the driveway ]

When I looked out the kitchen window later that week, I was both surprised and shocked and concerned! The peacocks were back near the garden, and we didn’t want them to go inside and ruin the crop of beautiful tomatoes. First, I opened the gate near the shed, then started my inspection, not yet knowing if those birds had managed to get into the garden.

Uh-oh, just as I was walking past one of the rows, I could see a peacock looking around way down at the end! Quickly I started walking towards him. I knew I couldn’t catch him because they can walk pretty rapidly and even run or fly the short distances in the garden. After following the smaller bird from row to row, I saw the larger one pecking through a big pile of tossed-out veggies right at the top of the compost heap!

Oh, for my camera! I could have taken several pics before the bird even realized I was in the area. When he did, off he went as fast as he could through the rows until he came to the big metal gate, where he flew right out of the area. His friend followed right after, I closed the gate near the shed, and went back to the house to tell Dale the story. One thing really surprised me. I knew from the beginning that the chin and neck areas were a very beautiful blue, but much more so as we are closer to the birds.

Since we were in church the next day, we had no idea of where the birds might be. Couldn’t see them anywhere after we got home. But the next day there they were, right in the driveway, enjoying themselves and finally trusting us enough that they came closer to us as we stood just inside the garage door. How I did enjoy my conversation with those big peacocks. When I talked to them in my made-up-language, using whatever words came to mind, they didn’t even move away. So why not try to feed them?

180912_Eating

[ Score me some cheerios, bub! ]

An hour later they had eaten some stale potato chips, a cupful or more of Cheerios, bread, and a can of whole kernel corn. When I asked Dale to get my camera for me, I continued “singing and talking” while I took a number of pictures. That number grew quickly because I wanted to be sure that I had at least several of the birds. A number of times, as soon as I was taking a picture, the bird moved! I am not the world’s best photographer, but I tried!

For the first time, we heard some high-pitched sounds coming from those birds. Three or four days had gone by, and they finally decided that we would be their friend, not an enemy. How they did gobble up the food, even though it were one bit at a time.

The peacocks were up early the next day, standing in front of the garage door, just waiting for the Good Samaritans who lived in the house to open the door and toss out the food. Well, who can resist a request like that! After their usual diet, they wandered all over the place until they were ready to jump up into the feed box for a rest.

180912_PeacocksCat

[ Cat investigating the bird population ]

But not for long. Since I had planned to mow several acres of lawn, I asked Dale if he would get the mower ready so I could start that big job after I had done the hand mowing. As I pushed the mower for an hour or so, those two birds followed me pretty closely, enjoying the bugs along the way. Then as the day became hotter and hotter, up to 90, the peacocks decided to rest in the shade. However, as I mowed later with the riding mower, they soon became my followers, as they walked behind me finding such succulent and tasty food as only bugs can supply. By the end of the day, it seemed that those peacocks had adopted us and had decided to stay.

So where are they now? Preening those long, long feathers as they have been doing for hours today. Looking on is Cat, who likes to be counted as the head of the show. After all, she did arrive on the scene a number of years ago and has been happy ever since! – CHRIS

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The New Visitors

180830_PeacockDroopy

[ A peacock – in OUR yard? ]

August 30 – Just a week ago, we had heard that our neighbor had been given two PEACOCKS as the former owners complained about the noises they made at any time of day or night. In order to keep the peace, the owner donated the birds to our friend. (His neighbors also heard the strong shrill sound made by the peacocks!)

We had heard the story before we saw the birds, so when they showed up at OUR house, we knew who owned them! When it was time to go back home that evening, the peacocks decided they would rather stay here to find out what’s going on in this “neck of the woods!”

As we closed the garage door for the night, we really wondered if we would see the birds around somewhere in the morning. Guess what? Not only were the peacocks still at our address, but they didn’t race away when they saw us as we opened the garage door for the day.

180830_PeacockShade

[ Staying in the shadows ]

All day long they stayed, investigating things they might have missed the day before, or checking out where they might find food. I tried to take some pictures, but it seemed as if they were mostly in the shadows made by the branches on the three maple trees. Oh, well, I was still pretty well pleased that I had anything to show what had come to visit with us! The bigger bird even flew up into the big box that holds food in the winter.

I don’t know where they spent the night, but I wasn’t too surprised to find them over in the field by the barn. Not once did they come close to the garage! Our grandsons and their friend drove over in the afternoon, and I quickly asked Rob if he would take a pic for me. Sure he would. However, the peacocks were so far away behind the barn, that it was a bit hard to tell which bird was in the picture. At least Rob tried!

180830_PeacocksBarn

[ Peacocks on the roof ]

That night I tried to get near enough to the birds to take at least a halfway-good picture. No luck! When I would get a little closer, the birds would hurry away. After all, they didn’t know me any better than I knew them! However, I did hope to find some way of talking to them. Everything came to the fore as I tried so hard! I remembered hearing someone say once or twice that you can communicate with birds and animals if you are patient and keep talking to them in a kindly way.

So what did I say? In a sweet voice? “Hello, there peacocks, you sweet birds who don’t really know where you live. C’mon over to see me! I’ve never seen such a beautiful blue color before, and I think that makes you pretty special. If you would come over I would pet you, but right now I would be satisfied if you would just get close enough that I could take your pictures.”

180830_PeacocksCheerios

[ Peacocks like Cheerios? Who knew! ]

Nice promise, but I didn’t have a speck of faith that either of the peacocks would agree with my request. However, the next day brought a real surprise. Those birds were still back by the garden when I opened the garage door. I wondered if I put some food on the driveway, they might come up to see what was going on. I chose to use Cheerios. I tossed them out so bits and pieces were everywhere and if the birds wanted to eat them, they’d have no trouble. But neither bird came up until after we had gone back inside.

Glancing out the window I could see them heading in our direction. Hooray, they were eating the cereal as if it were going out of style. Their bills went through the food until it was just about eaten up. Well, if they liked the cereal, maybe they would like some out-of-date potato chips? They must have been hungry, because they cleaned that up, too.

One last bit, as they must be getting filled up, so down to the basement I went to get a can of whole kernel corn! No guessing allowed this time. After eating up about half that corn, they were done except to get out to the birds’ water dish to wash it all down! Now that they were satisfied, the larger peacock flew up into the bird feeder box and settled down for a little rest after his hard work. The smaller one just moved over to the cool cement under the feeding box and settled in for a quiet day.  (more tomorrow…) – CHRIS

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Animals of the Neighborhood

August 29 – In the past I have written a number of blogs dealing with our relationship with animals or birds. Living here in the country, we have many opportunities to check out the birds and to watch how their days go by. It’s always interesting to watch the humming birds as they enjoy a quick drink from the feeder on the front porch. It’s great to find the visitors to our bird feeder from time to time. (Right now, they aren’t checking out the treats because Dale doesn’t put any out through the summer. They will probably be back in September.)

We still find squirrels, coons, and possums hunting for special treats but they won’t find any until fall either. Dale watched a brave young squirrel hurrying along on the front lawn just today as it hoped to find a good piece of food fit for a squirrel.

180829_CatSheet

[ Restful cat ]

We have also enjoyed our friendship with a couple of the neighbor’s tame birds. You may remember the stories I wrote about the big white rooster who came down the road and checked out our cat. Speaking of the cat, she had lived in the barn getting rid of the rats. She lived way up as far as she could go, and came down through a hole in the wall, which led to the roof of the shed.

Once our dog died, she came to take that place in our hearts, but it took awhile for her to settle in. Another interesting note; from the first day we would leave saucers of milk and cheese for her to enjoy, but she let us know very quickly that she would eat nothing but dry cat food! Too many rats up in the barn. Yuck!

Anyway, back to the rooster! He had no problem meeting the cat for the first time, and decided to stay. All day they walked around together, until as it began to grow dark, the bird decided he had better go home. He left us as he walked and flew back to his home with the man who lives about a quarter of a mile up the road.

180829_BeadyEyedDuck

[ The duck with the beady eyes ]

Then there’s the story of the duck with beady eyes, and a quack that didn’t come from his throat until after he had been with us for awhile. You may have read that blog, too. In the end, our neighbor came down to the house to pick up the Quacker. Armed with two nets, he just scooped up the bird, hurried to his vehicle and took the bird back home.

Dale and I have enjoyed contact with various birds, but the two that are right now resting out in the yard by the bird feeder, are really more than special. And to find out more about them? You’ll just have to come back tomorrow! – CHRIS

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A Bird on the Ground

August 24 – The other day as I was walking around in the backyard, and enjoying the cooler weather – notice the ER at the end of cooler? We have been in the nineties now for a couple weeks, and have finally decided that the air conditioning is the way to go. However, we still try to get outside for awhile each day even if it is really HOT out there.

Suddenly the cat came out of nowhere and walked quickly to the place where a young robin sat, partly hidden by longer grass in some areas. Then I saw two robins flying all along the fence near the bird. They had a language all their own, “Please help me! Your cat has found our baby!” Another quick movement by the baby bird, moving away from the cat, and I continued to keep her out of the area.

Several more move, with the cat trying to see the bird close-up, and the parents flying all over the place to save it, while I used a small branch of a nearby tree to keep the cat away. Finally we moved over to the fence and the little hill where the small bird had found a place to hide to save her life from the cat.

180824 DogBird

[ Our dog was more bird-friendly! ]

Of course, and Dale agreed to this, if the cat had come close enough to provide nourishment for itself, we doubt it would ever even try. While we still had a dog, we found the cat which was not yet OUR cat up in the barn, way above the floor. After the dog had died, the cat came down now and again when she saw us, but it took a long time for her to decide that maybe we would be happy to fill in the place left by the dog. Eventually, she finally decided that maybe we could make a home for her, and she stayed.

She is no longer an outside cat, although she really likes to pretend she is. That’s why we both think that she would never harm a bird. Or for that matter a snake or puppy or even a cat. She is just happy that she has a family now and never planned on harming the bird.

180824 Barn

[ Where the cat used to live ]

In the first place, and this is strange, the cat has had so many opportunities to stalk and catch a bird that it took us awhile to figure out that she had a strange diet before coming down to visit with us. She must have eaten many times her weight in rats and mice, as what else could she do for food, as she lived up in that attic!

When she decided to stay with us, we tried to feed her bits of meat that we had bought just for her, along with milk but do you think she would even try it? Not at all. After about five years of living with us, she still eats nothing but dry cat food!

So I guess we are all thankful that at least the little bird may now grow up to be an adult one. – CHRIS

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Hey, What’s up, Doc?

August 14 – I had a real surprise recently as I was reading on the porch. As I looked up to rest my eyes, I could see a bunny rabbit standing by the mock orange, looking straight at me, with his ears stuck up in the air as far as he could reach. He did not move one inch, but just checked me out to see if I had any plans that included him. About five minutes later, he was in the same position, ears raised. I was reminded of what had happened to me when I was a teen.

180814 Bunny

[ Bunny on the watch ]

As I remember, my dad had been plowing the land right next to us down the hill. Unfortunately, he had run into a bunny nest where two tiny ones escaped the plow and were still alive. Pa always loved animals and this latest problem touched his heart. Down from the tractor he climbed and hurried into the house to find me. He asked if I would like to keep and feed those two babies. He already knew that the answer would be, “Yes!”

For the next few weeks, I walked to the homes of all of our neighbors introducing them to the rabbits. Unfortunately one of them died, leaving me with Bunny to love and care for. When the chill began to settle down in about October, I had to ask Pa if it would be OK for me to keep Bunny inside so he wouldn’t freeze. Yes, I could, but I would have to clean up after him, get his food, and keep him inside the animal cage.

How we all enjoyed petting Bunny and feeding him. We always felt sorry for him because he was not allowed to leave his cage. Well, not early on, but by the time he had lived inside for a couple months, we were pretty sure that he would be happy with his little bit of world inside. When we couldn’t find him near, I would call, “Minni, minni, minni,” and he would come hopping to see what we wanted!

One place he really liked to hide in was in the back of our big old Philco radio. Nice and warm there. Then came Christmas, and we were not surprised when Bunny decided to climb up the Christmas tree! Lots of beautiful things up there, but I was really afraid he would smash something. Maybe he knew what would be the result of that, because he never knocked anything down.

180814 Rabbit pinAnother year and it was time for me to go off to college in Massachusetts. Bunny would be missed, but would be treated well. Because I was so far away from home, we had only one time that we could go home during the school year, and that was at Christmas. I could hardly wait till I was back home to spend some happy days with the family — including Bunny as he soon made up with the one who had loved him for so long. But soon it was time to go back to college. Someone from home would write a note to me letting me know how Bunny was doing. Finally towards the end of the school year, I received a note that brought tears.

While Pa was checking the front door to make sure all was well, Bunny must have had the bright idea that he would like to be outside like other rabbits. Off he went, and I’m sure he preferred being out than in. Nobody ever heard from him again. Until that next summer…

One day I was walking down the hill to the creek when I saw a rabbit standing almost at attention! Hoping, but not expecting, I stopped in the path where a rabbit stood with ears up as he looked me over. What did I do? What would you expect! Bending over, I stood right by him. “Minni, minni, minni,” I said softly. Know what? Bunny hopped just a little closer to me, and took a last good look before he hopped away forever. – CHRIS

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Squirrels? Check. Birds? Check. Tomatoes? Check.

July 31 – How good it is to live out in the country where the crops grow well (with exceptions like not enough rain. I think we are about ten inches behind the usual amount already, with many more dry days ahead!) So we have to give the garden stuff more water through the hoses, but at least we DO have more than enough vegetables and can share with others.

180731_Tomatoes

[ All kinds of tomatoes ]

But this post is going to consist only of a few little birds and animals that have decided to share our garden produce with us—but THEY come first! Since the possums, some birds, and box turtles enjoy ripping off ripe tomatoes, eating what they want, and then leaving the rest to rot, I have started a new practice.

I now have chosen to pick almost-ripe tomatoes, along with a few others that were squashed together on the plant. Then I put them in a box on the kitchen counter, with the bigger ones almost ready to eat. Shall I feel bad when I take big bites from the latest tomato sandwich? No, of course, not! There’s always plenty more for those tomato lovers to eat!

Even though we don’t put out food for the birds at this time of year, some squirrels keep returning to look for some they buried when there was still an abundance on the feeder. As Dale and I watch their antics through the big front window, we especially enjoy the chasing and running around that goes on when those animals want to have a little fun, along with finding walnuts that some of their relatives have forgotten where they buried the nuts. I thought that food would be more enjoyable if we worked for it, but then, I’m not a squirrel who enjoys finding these treasures. If that little guy finds that we are checking out what he’s doing, he flies off at full speed ahead to one of many safe places. We can hear him chattering away as he runs.

180731_HummingbirdFOod

[ Hummingbird food ]

Now to the humming birds. When David brought us some gifts for Father’s Day for Dale and my birthday, he brought out some very interesting things. When Dale took down the feeder to fill it with the a special Pennington Premium humming bird food (even enriched with vitamins and minerals!) we thought the tiny birds would be trying their best to be first at the feeder! We were wrong. Not one bird showed up until about four days later.

Ever since, we have watched the action around the feeder. One bird flies in, hoping to be number one before another arrives to take its place, but that one too is sent away from the feeder. In the old days we would have three or four birds sipping the sweet nectar at the same time, but maybe the ones who come now are part of a family which doesn’t get along well. Weeks ago, when the bright little bird was doing a pretty good job of courting. he would fly over to the mock orange bush and begin to fly in arcs, up and down, and around then return to the feeder. This went on until we wondered how his tiny body could fly and fly around the area.

180731_WrensNext

[ Wren’s nest in the cactus ]

We surely have enjoyed watching our friend, the Carolina Wren, with her nest right near one of Dale’s biggest cacti. When I checked the area, all ready to take a picture, I jumped up and out of the place. Since then, maybe two weeks ago, we have seen the wren flying from one place on the porch to another, hoping, I guess, that we will let her back into her nest. Strange thing. That nest area covers about three feet from where the actual nest is, to the escape route to the end of the flower table. As we sit out on the porch in the evening, we see the bird moving from tree to tree and then back down to the railing near the nest. – CHRIS

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The Impossumbile Possum

July 28 – Earlier this summer our son David came out on Friday evening for a visit while his wife, Darlene, was in Branson visiting their daughter Beckie for the week-end. After doing a few alterations and improvements on our computer, we had supper, which included mashed potatoes and corn and green peas.

180728_BiblePuzzle

[ Bible puzzle ]

A little later, Dave asked if we’d like to play a game he had invented, which of course we did. It was a Bible game that took a number of minutes, and one that he said the kids in his Sabbath School class at church enjoyed. Eventually he said he needed to head for home, in Shawnee, KS, and went out to get into his vehicle.

We went along to say goodbye, through the garage, and as we did so, we heard a sound over behind the benches and tables along one wall. “Aha”, we thought, “there must be a possum in here.” I went over and looked behind a bench, and there was the white face of a possum looking up at me. Dave interrupted his departure and came over to see the possum too, and with a long stick he poked and prodded the creature, hoping to encourage a swift departure. It did not depart, and after a while Dave said he must be on his way and we said goodbye and closed the garage door. Possum would just have to stay locked up for the night.

In the morning I checked things out and noticed that a tray of brushes on my work bench had been knocked off onto the floor. In the afternoon I checked all over the garage and could not find that opossum. The next day there were more items lying on the floor, but I still could not find that possum! Chris checked the garage too, with the same results.

180728_EarlyRototilling

[ Early season rototilling ]

The day passed, I did some rototilling in the garden, took a tire off the riding mower to have it pumped up with the farm pump since our pump would not handle a completely flat tire, etc. That evening, just before bedtime, I went out to the garage again, and there right on the top of our car sat the possum.

I walked over and grabbed it by the tail and lifted it down and carried it hanging upside down into the house to show Chris. She quickly got out her camera and took several pictures. I patted it on the back, and it turned its head sideways and opened its mouth threateningly and growled a bit but then scrabbled helplessly on the smooth floor, trying to get away. Of course I held firmly onto that tail. There aren’t many wild creatures that can be handled this way, without much danger to the captor.

180728_Possum

[ Possum by the tail ]

Chris went and opened the back door and I put the possum outside. Surprisingly, possum wanted to come back in the house for some reason, so we had to quickly close the door and wait. Possum just sat there for a while, then finally trotted off and disappeared into the night. I must remember to close that garage door before dark! – DALE

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Insectoids On the Loose

July 22 – The other day when we were ready to come in to eat supper, Dale went out to the garage and found that he couldn’t close the door by pressing on the button on the wall. After several tries, he decided he would ask our grandson Kevin to see if he could solve the problem. With Dale’s sore back, he surely didn’t want to try the job! After an hour or so with Kevin trying everything he could to find out the problem, he suggested that maybe, since the door was still under a warranty his grandpa should call the man who installed it. His business is about 50 miles from us, and since he couldn’t come till a couple days later, Dale had to push the door up and down before we left to drive anywhere!

180722_MudDauber

Mud-dauber wasp

On Monday last week, the repairman phoned to say he would be coming very shortly. Well, THAT was an experience that we will not soon forget! Why?

While the man was checking for the problem we might have, he had some idea of how to repair the door, but he didn’t tell us until he had just about finished the job. He moved a few things out of the motor track so he could see what might be at the end of it, and found that his surmising was useful. Way back at the end of the track, a very big mud dauber wasp had recently built a nest and was master of the area! Not for long, however, as the nest was knocked about, with pieces landing on the driveway. (Pieces that the cat checked out very carefully before taking a look or two at the mud!)

So at last we can raise and lower the door without any help from anyone! However, when we learned how much we owed, we found that we had to pay around eighty dollars out of our own funds, since the problem was not with the equipment, but with the wasp!

To add one more item on this story, later that week I was getting ready to go outside and do some gardening work. I got on my work clothes and was just ready to put on my cap when I noticed, that inside the cap, there was another big mud dauber nest! I quickly changed my mind, and put on another cap.

180722_BlisterBeetlesFI

Blister beetle

On another buggy topic, I wonder how many of you have ever heard of the blister beetle family? I can tell you for sure that these insects really do enjoy trying to find a human being in what they consider THEIR territory.

Well, they’re wrong about that! The ones that I am writing about do not own any of the fence or vines that grow up around it. Instead we are the ones who planted many clematis, knowing that the fence would be beautiful all the way up and down the hill, when it was time to enjoy the flowers.

Through the years we have never had so many of the plants taken over by the blister beetles. One late afternoon last week I noticed that one of the clematis vines had lost almost of its healthy greenery, and was now brown and unsightly. Although I carefully checked out the few leaves and stems that were not affected, I couldn’t figure out what had made the mess.

180722_BlisterBeetles

Blister beetles eating our clematis

Sitting back on the tailgate of the truck, I asked Dale if he could figure out what had done the damage. Well, just the NEXT day the entire fence row of clematis looked pretty sad. As the black blister beetles chomped their way along eating and eating, they left behind a sad clematis here and there, but so many plants were just ruined, with the beetles eating up the greenery on both sides of the fence. I plan to steer clear of that area until those pests give up. – CHRIS

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David, Weeder-of-Tomatoes

July 15 – Since I had lots of work to do in the garden last Sunday, I was up early, had breakfast, and was just waiting to go out to start, the phone rang. Guess who? David said he would drive the 50 miles from his home in Kansas to do what he could to help his old (er) parents get the garden all cleaned up.

180715_GrandmaC

[ Grandma Christoph ]

When I tried to talk him out of the job, he very plainly announced that he would be here within the hour! “Mom, did you ever do anything to help Gramma Christoph when she needed you?” Well, sure we did, and I’m sure David remembers those many times we drove the few miles from our house to hers back in Pennsylvania, since both he and Biz, his sister, knew that when Dale and I went down to help Gramma, they would be right there with us. So, what could I say?

Since Dale hasn’t been able to keep up with the hoeing and weeding of our garden due to his recent back issues, lots of weeds had grown since I last hoed and raked the onions, calico beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash. So, I never said another word except that I was thankful I had a caring son!

180715 Bamboo

[ Tall bamboo ]

While we were waiting for him to arrive, I donned my long ragged black jeans, and a beat-up light jacket to keep the ravenous chiggers from enjoying a meal from my legs and arms. On went my big hat to keep my head protected from the bright sun, and I was ready to go. The task at hand? Our big patch of bamboo had been growing outside its planned boundary, some of it right in the lawn, and I wanted it to look as if somebody could keep it looking neat.

Some of the stalks, of course, were much higher than my head, but fortunately I could bend down and cut them off with no trouble except that I often was so mixed up with those canes that I had to be sure I followed my plan of keeping a straight line. As I walked around the corner from the first bamboo, I continued to find lots more that needed to be cut. In some places the canes were light tan and all the leaves were gone. If you have never cut bamboo, you don’t know that the canes can give you some pretty bad scratches, on your hands and arms, even if you do wear a jacket for protection.

Finally, I came to the end of the work on one side of the path, but there were so many bamboo stalks across the path and into the field, that I had lots more to do on that job! When we can finally get rid of the burning pile, I will be more than glad. It is so full of all kinds of stalks like yucca, tree branches, and now bamboo, that it should burn up quickly. Of course, I will NOT be the one to take care of that fire. Plenty of strong relatives in the neighborhood, and I know they can do a great job.

180715 Chris Tomatoes

[ And tall tomatoes! ]

I had almost finished the bamboo job when Dale called out, “David’s here! David’s ready to work!” After David called out, “Hi, Mom!” he started working like a Trojan, moving quickly from one tall caged tomato plant to another. Where do “kids” get their energy? First time this year that the branches were all tucked into the cages. I’m always afraid that if I try to do that job, most of the branches will break somewhere along the line. But Dale and David? They just weave those branches in and out of the cages, and soon there are none lying on the ground.

OK, now for the hoeing. Taking a hoe from the shed, he started off with a bang, asking Dale if he should hoe a whole line of tomatoes on one side and then come back up the row to finish the job before moving on to other plants? Dale says that he should hoe all around each plant before moving on to the next. Sometimes I just stood by watching, wondering why I couldn’t work that fast! (Well, I know why, but I hate to admit it!) Before long, all five rows of nine plants each had been cleaned up, with very few weeds to be found anywhere near the plants.

Then it was time for me to pick the tomatoes. Usually I wait until they are rich and red and ripe, but as I moved down the row with a plastic ice cream bucket, I found that there were many (TOO many) half eaten ones lying on the ground or half eaten on the plants. I decided right then that I would pick ones that weren’t quite ripe. I could keep them in the house until they were. No point in Dale’s planting the seeds, having the plants grow strong and sturdy under the grow light in the basement, and finally in the tomato patch, only to be stolen from the tomato plant!

180715 TomatoOne

[ One slice per sandwich ]

I hated to pick unripe ones, but I knew I had to do something to save the others from the box turtles or the possums. The big ones were huge and the plastic buckets of the small Pearlie Pink were soon filled. Other kinds this year are Jersey Devil, Delicious, Mortgage Lifter, and the small Sun Gold. I always chuckle when I think of that Mortgage Lifter or the Jersey Devil! Out on the counter in the kitchen, those unripe tomatoes have now ripened nicely, with some of them so large that ONE slice is enough for a sandwich. Lately both Dale and I have had two of those tasty tomato sandwich treats for supper, and have enjoyed every bite. – CHRIS

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The Birds and the Beetles

180704_JapaneseBeetles2

[ Japanese beetle invasion ]

July 4 – Just came in from the front porch where I had been enjoying the coolness of early evening, a real change from the heat all day today. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of weather we are expecting for the entire week ahead. We try to keep a clean surface out on the porch and sweep it often these days because of the Japanese beetles which come in flocks as they pile up all over the branches of the trees they like to devour.

A few days ago as I was carrying some fallen tree branches back to the burning pile, I noticed a couple of flower bushes that the beetles had taken over completely! Not just a few here and there, but so many that they were piled on top of each other. In some spots there was no greenery at all. Just for fun (?) I knocked the beetles off, but they were soon back to get the last of the leaves. Several kinds of trees suffered a big loss as the beetles were racing around trying to get the biggest haul. The Nanking bush cherries, Siberian elm, sour cherries (picked bushels of them last year, but not this year), plum, pear, and others.

I thought of them when I went out to the porch several times this week. The surface has been covered with chewed up leaves as they have fallen because of the work of the beetles. Very strange this year as there are more of those horrible things settling in for a good picnic. I can hardly remember that we had a problem with them last year, or any other year. Back in Pennsylvania, yes, but not here in Missouri.

180704_WrenNest

[ Wren’s nest ]

Dale’s plants, mostly succulents, don’t seem to be bothered by the beetles, so make a good showing with flowers and new little plants making a start. A while ago, he told me that a Carolina wren had made a nest inside the area. So, out came my camera, and I checked quietly to see what I could find. Nothing but a bunch of untidy sticks and straw, but I knew that had to be the nest. The wren paid me back for my curiosity because just as I took the first picture, it flew out of the nest and ended up on the railing of the porch! After I recovered, I took a couple more pictures.

150609_FrontPorch

[ Bird of Scrap ]

At the end of the porch the humming birds enjoy the nectar as they try to decide which one gets to enjoy the food first! They are a noisy little group and fly off to the mock orange bushes until they want another drink.

For awhile we had no visitors because we had switched to a commercial mixture that our son, David, bought for us. Since these particular birds had never before sampled such a treat, they just didn’t sip any. However, there’s no doubt they are enjoying it now. Our son-in-law Harvey made us a bird some years ago from pieces of cast-off metal. A strange head and beak and feet that are fastened to the porch railing draw attention to an unusual bird.

180704_WindChime

[ Top of our new wind chimes]

Down at the other end, we have some wind chimes that we have had just about forever. At one time we had so many of the chimes that the space above the railing was just filled with pipes of various kinds, but each with a song of its own. Finally, we decided to give them to our grandson Rob. David bought us a very special chime about a week ago. In the daytime the head of the wind chimes gathers up a good supply of solar rays. Since the chimes stored up that heat during the day, it makes a beautiful light after darkness has arrived. It is a mixture of white and purple light.

Now back out on the porch again, where the wren was trying to distract me from that nest. Our chairs are sitting pretty close to the table of plants that hold that nest! As I sat reading, before darkness came on, I could sit quietly so as not to disturb that bird. It flew back and forth from the big metal bird to the corner of the porch railing, then up to a branch hanging down from those of the elm tree, and back to the place where he felt safe as he guarded that nest. No sound at all on the porch until the wren called out to me, “Please go inside! I am guarding a very special little one, and I want it to grow up without a problem!”

180704_WIndChimesV

[ Wind Chime at night ]

I thought it would never happen, but I decided to go quietly to the screen door and tell Dale the story before inviting him to go back out to the porch with me. While we sat in the darkness except for the solar powered light, we could hear the sounds made by the wren and watch it fly here and there on the plant table. I was more than happy that the whole story turned out as it did as I wanted Dale to enjoy watching. Even the cat, after asking for some attention, noticed that we were watching something different. However, when she started to sniff around the nest area, we told her to stop that behavior. She did too as she obviously did not want to be banished to the inside of the house while we were listening to and watching the bird.

We have so often enjoyed birds and animals as they move around on our eighteen acres. Usually happy and contented, they give us thoughts of “Pippa Passes” by Robert Browning, thoughts that I have quoted in at least one other blog. In reading the poem in a season other than spring, I had to change a bit, but the thoughts and the blessings are still the same!

180704_PippaPasses
PIPPA PASSES
The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his heaven—
All’s right with the world!

As I checked on the poem, I found that there is even a city in Kentucky with that name– Pippa Passes. It was named in honor of Alice Lloyd College, with a population of about 640.

Sometimes I wish that I weren’t interested in so many ideas, and thoughts, and writing, and learning, but the whole process surely is fun! – CHRIS

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