Saturday, February 1, 2014

A salute to the squirrels!

We've been having historic low temperatures for a long stretch along with lots of snow. There doesn't seem to be any relief in sight either. I am always amazed to see the squirrels racing around in the trees like it's a spring day when it's 20 below 0. I put out an assortment of food every day for as many as eight squirrels and the flock of sparrows who show up for a handout.
                                     (Borrowed image)
With all the snow and bitter cold, there is very little going on outdoors. I'm so grateful for the uplifting energy and spirit of those little furred and feathered creatures who brighten my day.
                      (Borrowed image. Eastern Gray Squirrel)
                      Our area is home to three kinds of squirrels.
                          (Borrowed image of Fox Squirrel)
They're more caramel-colored. After the bad storm we had last June, the Gray Squirrels disappeared and some Fox Squirrels moved in. It seems like there was a "Wooded Lot War" and the Gray Squirrels took over again.

                        (Borrowed image of Red Squirrel)
.There are also several little hyperactive Red Squirrels that sneak over to snack on the food too. They're half as big as the other squirrels but very active and noisy.                                    

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Batting 1000

I'm figuratively batting 1000 going into 2014. This is my official 500th post and I recently did my 500th workout at Curves. I'm not sure I can claim that as a single accomplishment, but I take my victories where I can get them.

Here is my first, ever-so-optimistic post from 2008:

"Hallelujah, I'm a Blogger!
I chose the title Ms. Sparrow because I have a lot of affection for house sparrows, a much under-appreciated bird. They congregate in small trees or shrubs in the evening where they twitter away as though chatting about their day--sorta like a homey tavern where people gather after work. There is something about driving past a boisterous and busy sparrow tree that invariably makes me smile.

Sparrows were originally imported from England where they are now declining in numbers. More's the pity. They are industrious, resourceful and chirpy. They will settle in urban areas and for many inner-city children, they are the only representative of the bird family besides pigeons. That's a lot of responsibility for such a little bird.

Sparrows are common, drab and always around. This is a trait I am content to share."

                                      (Borrowed image)
This winter, instead of a flock of turkeys, I'm feeding a flock of sparrows plus an assortment of other birds and lively squirrels.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. The sneak attack was 72 years ago and killed 2400 Americans  in a bombing that sank the battleship Arizona. I was a little over a year old at the time. The news stories today reminded me of my encounter with the father of a sailor who died in the attack.

When I was eleven years old, my family was living in a tiny town in Minnesota called Dovray. My dad was the contractor on a Norwegian Lutheran church being built in that farming community of 100 people. The town was really behind the times in 1950. My younger siblings all went to school in the one-room school house down the hill. (I've often felt envy that they had that experience while I had to make a one-hour long bus ride over to Westbrook for 7th grade.)

There was a general store called Smestad's Mercantile a block away. I was sophisticated enough that I knew how old-fashioned the store was compared to other places we had lived. It was just like the general stores I saw in old cowboy movies. On one side of the store the old man and his wife sold "dry goods" like flannel shirts and four-buckle overshoes. On the other side they sold groceries from a counter just inside the door.
                                     (Borrowed image)
There were open cardboard boxes of cookies and sheets of saltine crackers standing by the counter. The customer could take a brown paper bag and fill the bag to be weighed and priced. With no air conditioning and sealed packaging, the cookies and crackers were often stale. I don't remember if I was in Smestad's for cookies that day but I remember standing by the counter as he told me that his boy had been at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. 
                                      (Borrowed image)
He was terribly sad and I was very confused. I'm not at all sure that I responded appropriately. Being a kid, with the off-kilter sense of time kids have, ten years seemed so very long ago that I wondered why he was talking about it.

Now that I am 73, I realize how very recent his loss was and how much he was still hurting from that dreadful day.   

Monday, December 2, 2013

Back in the wooded lot...

I  haven't posted about the wooded lot for a while. Things were pretty quiet for a long time but now that it's turned cold, the birds and beasties are coming around. The main attraction seems to be the pan of water I set out every day. The squirrels, a large variety of birds and the four turkey boys come around to quench their thirst.

I recently started getting deer coming at night for a drink. I had a lot of family visiting over the Thanksgiving weekend and my grandson and three great-grands were delighted when three deer showed up outside my bedroom window in the early evening. There is a light on the side of the building so they were clearly visible.

                                          (Borrowed image)
So far I've only been putting out birdseed and bread or fruit scraps. With the loss of the bread thrift store where we were buying a trunk-full of stale bread for $5, I'm not sure how I'll feed them over the winter. I really hope I'll locate another resource somewhere soon.
                                        (Borrowed image)
Once we get some snow, the animals won't need the water anymore. Right now, with everything so dry there is a constant stream of birds and animals drinking at the water pan. I'm using the bottom tray from a large flower pot.

Sometimes I can hardly believe how very lucky I am to have all this wonderful wildlife right outside my window! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving for the immigrant Americans

Our American Thanksgiving Day is Thursday. It's probably much like Harvest Festivals in other parts of the world except we celebrate with many foods native to this country. The traditional dishes are turkey, squash, pumpkin (especially in pie), corn and cranberries along with potatoes and bread stuffing.

The holiday is based on the tale about the original European settlers suffering hardship and being provided with a big dinner by the Native American Indians in 1621. Why the Indians would have been so kind to the Puritan immigrants is a mystery. They celebrate Thanksgiving incorporating some native dishes like wild rice.

                       (Photo borrowed from Wikipedia)
As it turns out, we won't be getting together until Saturday this year. For the first time in many years, I'll have all four of my kids here, plus four grandkids and three great-grands. That's a total of sixteen people in my not-all-that-big unit.
       ( Thanksgiving 2010 in my small dining room. I'm not sure                 how many dogs we'll have this year.)

Another tradition that has been added over the years is the President officially pardoning a live turkey in a ceremony at the White House. A turkey farm in Badger, Minnesota has been rearing a separate "presidential flock" to provide the official turkey to go to Washington. The final three candidates are all toms that have been groomed to be "calm and unflappable" and able to sit still. The winner will be presented to President Obama and pardoned from being Thanksgiving dinner. The plan is that it will then live out its life in a zoo or sanctuary.
                            (Borrowed from google)

Monday, November 18, 2013

The day JFK was assassinated (11/22/63)

On that fall day of the assassination, it was overcast and windy in Worthington, Minnesota. My oldest child was four and a half. The youngest was four months old. We lived in a trailer court on the edge of town in a two-bedroom mobile home. At 40' by 10', it was really crowded with our family of six, a dog and a cat. I was 23 years old.

The Mickey Mouse Club came on TV every afternoon at 4:00. When I turned on the TV for the kids to watch, there was only "snow". The TV antenna was positioned on a pole standing inside a cement block and braced by the trailer hitch at the front end of the trailer. The wind had spun it around it so it wasn’t picking up a signal from the TV station in Sioux Falls fifty miles away. Since this happened often, I ran outside to turn it so it would pick up the signal. I ran back inside to see if the picture was coming in. It was, but it wasn’t the Mickey Mouse Club. It was Walter Cronkite saying the president would be “lying in state".  I was confused and stunned as the terrible details were slowly revealed over the next hours and into the night. As the reports were repeated over and over, the reality slowly sank in. 

I had the TV on constantly for the next several days watching the continuous coverage in black and white. In the confines of the small mobile home, I was never far from the TV set so I was watching when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald live in front of millions of people.

I remember being very sad and feeling disconnected from the events so far away, and yet transpiring right in front of me on TV.
           This was taken in the mobile home the following year. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bimbo wipes out Sara Lee

Today. we went out to the "used bread" store on Silver Lake Road to stock up on our favorite English Muffin Toasting Bread. The stuff is perfect for breakfast toast, French toast, grilled cheese sandwiches and BLT's. Since we use it almost exclusively, we like to keep plenty on hand. The price at the local grocery stores is close to $4.00--the price at the outlet store is half that much.
                     (They're small loaves so they don't last long.)
When we got to the Sara Lee Bakery Outlet, there was a handwritten sign on the door that the tiny store will be closing on December 14th. We picked up six loaves of the wonderful stuff and asked the lady at the cash register it they were just moving to a new location. She said that a Mexican Corporation called Bimbo Baking had bought out Sara Lee and they were closing all the outlet stores. (Bimbo also bought out Hostess when they went bankrupt and the famous Twinkies were off the market for a while.)

This is the store where we buy big bags of outdated bread to feed the wildlife in the wooded lot. But more than that, it's the store where charities buy bread to make sandwiches for homeless people. It's the store where many elderly and folks on food stamps go to extend their food budget. I can well imagine that there are customers of that store who have had to rely on it for a large part of their diet.

I don't know who will step in and make up for the loss of the last remaining bakery outlets in the Twin Cities. It will be a hardship on a lot of people--and even worse, this comes at the same time that Food Stamp benefits are being reduced. It seems like the poor just can't catch a break!