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!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


This is something I wrote after I retired eight years ago but never thought to use. I guess it's worth posting.

I was once talking with the director of my department at work, a woman whom I greatly admired.  She used the word blossom to describe the pleasure of seeing people grow in their jobs.  This made me stop and think about the word, “blossom” and how beautifully it describes the process of reaching our full potential.
Life takes us all on different journeys and at different speeds.  As a result, we all blossom at various times.  Some of us shine in high school.  Some may be the Belle of the Ball in college, or Super-mom for a time or even excel in their careers.  Yet, there are those of us who are conventional our entire lives until we reach our later years.  That’s when we blossom!  We begin to become creative.  We branch out and form new bonds with others.  We broaden our horizons and embrace our place in the universe.  We contribute our time, energy and intelligence to causes that mean something to us.  This is a joyous time of life, when we know and accept ourselves just as we are.  Moreover, we love and accept others just as they are.
This is a stage of life worth waiting for. This is the stage when we no longer mourn the things we are not and finally celebrate the wonderful things that we are...when we finally open up and blossom.   

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

I recently went to a Halloween party for the first time in thirty years. A guy from my SF Writer's group had the bunch of us over and I had a great time. I didn't have a costume so I just wore my Garfield shirt.

I am really impressed with all the clever cookies that I've been seeing online Here are a few of my favorites.
                       The Walking Ginger-Dead?
                      Fang-tastically & Dentally Delicious!
                             Evil lurks everywhere!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Four years a blogger and still not quite doing it right!

It was four years ago today that I posted my first blog. I was quite enthusiastic and titled it, "Hallalujah I'm a Blogger!" I didn't have any followers at the time so there were no welcoming comments, but I was undeterred. I wasn't savvy enough to realize that the way to acquire followers was to find other blogs you like and become their followers. It took me a while to "get on board" with other blogs.

Over the years, four or five of my favorite bloggers have died and more than a dozen have stopped blogging or just faded away. Every once in a while, I see I have a new follower but discover there's no link to get back to their blog. I've also signed on as a blog's follower on impulse and discovered that it's not what I hoped it would be. It's hit or miss, like paging through a magazine looking for an interesting article to read. It seems that the best place to find good blogs to follow is on your favorite blogger's list of followers.

I noticed that the groundhog/woodchuck above has a Dragon voice recognition system. I tried working with a Dragon when I was going through a particularly bad spell of arthritic hands. I found it incredibly frustrating, and correcting the errors it made was more trouble than it was worth. It truth, the bigger problem is my arthritic brain!

So anyway, here's to year number five. May it be more productive and interesting than the previous four!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The glass is greener

Once I was talking with a nurse who was the wife of a Baptist minister. She had recently returned from a women's group trip to Russia. She told me that she had been raised in a church that forbid drinking alcohol but all her life she had the notion that if she ever tasted alcohol, she would love it.

She said that every place the group went on the tour, they were served alcoholic beverages. Out of curiosity, she finally decided to try it. So she sampled everything they were served and, she announced happily, "I hated all of it!"
Borrowed image

Personally, I don't like booze either. Back in my dating days, I tried beer and couldn't believe anyone actually liked it. I moved on to sweet "lady" drinks like a sloe gin fizz, Tom Collins or Bacardi cocktail. Nothing really struck my fancy. I much preferred soft drinks and they were cheaper. I also hated the feeling of being tipsy--the lack of control made me feel uneasy and vulnerable.

I came to realize that I didn't much like hanging out with drunk people either. At the risk of offending those who enjoy the light-hearted camaraderie of drinking with friends, it made me feel out-of-sorts. I hated having a conversation with a boozy-breathed, cloying, erstwhile "buddy" knowing that they probably didn't mean what they were saying and wouldn't even remember it the next day. Basically, I felt like I was being used and at the same time, I felt like an outsider.

After I was put on medications that restricted drinking alcohol, I had a valid excuse for declining whatever was being served. I figure that since I quit smoking in 1972 because of sore throats, I've probably saved a small fortune on booze and smokes. It may seem like those who like to drink and party have more fun, but I find going out to eat and a movie is more my speed.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Living vicariously

My three lovely daughters took a 5-day trip out to the state of Washington recently. They went to visit an uncle and aunt and cousins they haven't seen since the 70's. They visited Yakima and did the tourist thing in Seattle. As always, Brenda provided me with lots of good pictures.

A few months ago, I posted about chewing gum blobs all over the sidewalks. Several folks commented that there was a wall in Seattle covered with chewed gum. Well, here's Bren's photo at that very spot!

Here they are enjoying their lunch at the top of the Space Needle. Left to right-Brenda, Cindy and Paula.
This is the Fremont Troll, a big tourist attraction under a freeway bridge.
And, here is a shot out the window of the Lutsen Resort up near Duluth last weekend. Sue and I stayed at Bren's house and watched the family's five dogs while they were up there.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A peep from Ms Sparrow

I guess I've been sorta burnt-out on blogging lately. I'm approaching the 4th anniversary of "Ms Sparrow" and I'm still ambivalent about what she stands for. (Like, is she the sort who ends a sentence with a preposition?) Anyway, I blame my inner critic who won't let me get away with anything! I will be back.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Still bothered after all these years

I first published this back in February of 2009. It still haunts me.
"I was reading a friend's blog today and she writes about being troubled by a worrisome incident in her past that she was powerless to do anything about.

This reminded me of an incident in a grocery store some years ago. I think about it every once in a while and it continues to bother me.

I had pushed my cart half-way down an aisle when a family of four was coming toward me. The father, a 40-ish beer-bellied type was pushing the cart. When our carts came side-by-side, the man was barking orders to a boy of around 10 on what grocery items to grab and put in the cart. The boy darted back and forth frantically while the man kept harassing him and calling him names.

The scariest part was that close behind the guy were huddled a thin, pale woman and teenage girl. They cowered close together with expressionless faces. The disturbing scene screamed ABUSE. I was angered and appalled that this was going on right in front of me. I desperately wanted to do something. I stood there watching for a moment while I debated whether to ask the woman if she needed help but she avoided making eye contact with me. I was terribly conflicted but afraid of making the bad situation worse. I looked around and other carts were now coming down the aisle and those shoppers were trying to ignore the whole situation. Reluctantly, I moved on and I have felt guilty ever since.

I always wonder what happened to that poor woman and her kids. I stew about what I should have done--alert the store manager? Intervene no matter what? Call the police?

I try to comfort myself that maybe the management saw the incident on security cameras and stepped in to help. But to this day, I wonder what would have happened if I had been more courageous."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Out, Damned Spots!

Yesterday, I went over to Target to get a new ink cartridge for my printer. As I'm walking up to the store, the sidewalks and entrance are dotted with chewing gum. Once again, I'm wondering...WHO THE  HECK DOES THAT?
                                        (Borrowed image)
I can understand that occasionally someone might have gum accidentally fall out of their mouth, but obviously, the slack-jawed slobs in question chose to spit their gum out right in that spot. What is the thinking behind it? Are they afraid they might run into their old 3rd grade school teacher and be caught chewing gum and humiliated into spitting it out in her hand? Is it that they have spaced-out the fact they have gum in their mouth until they get to the entrance? Or, do they see all the other dirty gum blobs and take that as a invitation to disgorge the contents of their mouth? In addition, it seems likely that most of them are women!

You might see cigarette butts amongst the stains and blotches, but the butts are biodegradable. Those ugly gum spots resist the elements for a long time. The cleaning guy at the clinic where I volunteer says that to clean up the gum pressed into concrete, he has to get down and spray it with something to freeze it, then scrape it off. It's hard work and not entirely effective.

It seems that this has been a problem for a century so it is not going away, but maybe it's time to bring back those old-fashioned signs that say "No Spitting". Of course, human nature being what it is, everyone thinks it doesn't mean them.

                        SOME CHEWING GUM STATISTICS
Average # of sticks of gum a person chews each year is 300.
Annual chewing gum sales is $2 billion.
Total number of US chewing gum companies is 30.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


My three great-granddaughters are here with me this week so we're on the go. It's lots of fun doing different things but also time-consuming.

We're off to have a picnic later today. We're also going to get out to the Minnesota Zoo and the Minneapolis Institute of Art this week. And then they have a list of kids movies they want to see. A trip to Snuffy's Malt Shop is a tradition whenever they are here too. And of course, swimming is high on their list of things to do.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bad day for the Twin Cities

We had really bad storms move through the Twin Cities on Thursday and Friday nights. They were powerful storms with destructive lightning that caused a number of fires and straight-line winds that toppled hundreds of trees and caused wide-spread power outages. There are big sections of the area that have been without power for several days and won't get it back for several more days.

The terrible winds whipped up fierce sheets of rain that tore off lots of branches and along with them the birds and squirrels sheltered in them. The wooded lot is a shambles with broken branches everywhere. I keep looking out there to see if there are any survivors of the storm but nothing is stirring. I threw some birdseed down in there. This usually produces a several squirrels to come running. Today there is nothing.

The Wildlife Rehab Center is swamped with birds and animals rescued from downed trees. Sadly, there are many that cannot be rescued.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Toddler Property Laws

You may have seen these before, but they are so laughably accurate it makes me smile.

1) If I like it, it's mine.
2) If it's in my hand, it's mine.
3) If I can take it from you, it's mine.
4) If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
5) If it's mine, it must never appear in any way to be yours.
6) If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7) If it looks like mine, it's mine.
8) If I saw it first, it's mine.
9) If you play with it and put it down, it's mine.
1) If it's broken, it's yours.

As a mother of four, a grandma and a great-grandma, I can attest that these are still true!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Meeting the Rhode Island neighbor

I had to take the car in for an oil change this morning. Coming back up the street, I saw that my neighbor lady was working on a flower bed next to the curb. Also digging around in the flower bed were two industrious chickens.
                                    (Borrowed image)
I knew there were chickens living over there on the other side of the wooded lot because I could sometimes hear them clucking. I really wanted to meet them, so I stopped the car and jumped out to get a closer look. The owner, Catherine, was happy to share her love of the little assistant gardeners. The soil she had turned over was being meticulously inspected at close range by the pair. One was a Rhode Island Red and the other name I forget, but it was a pretty golden color with black specks on the head and shoulders.

After a few minutes, the golden bird suddenly turned around and started marching back to the coop behind the house. Catherine said, "I think she's probably going to lay an egg." Sure enough, several moments later, the successful hen started cackling loudly as if announcing her accomplishment. ( She said that with her three hens she gets two or three eggs a day.)

We finally had a sunny day today. A doe crossed the lawn past our patio this afternoon and the four bachelor turkeys came by. Breeding season is over so their heads are no longer bright red and their snoods have shrunk. Most noticeably, they don't gobble anymore. I haven't seen any of the seven female turkeys for over a month. They are safely hidden away somewhere. Maybe they're all mommies by now.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Another old post

This is a rerun of a posting from back in 2008. I didn't have any followers at the time and I was clueless about how to get some. So anyway...

Danger, Sparrow, Danger!

I've been getting some recorded telemarketing calls lately. They start out, "Do not be alarmed!" (They go on to offer some credit card insurance.)

This is so devious. How better to get you to listen to the message than to imply there is danger!

I don't know about you, but I don't have nearly enough danger in my daily life. My adrenalin level remains pretty constant. The most hazardous thing I ever do is back the car out of my tiny garage--and I have the dents to prove it.

The only wild animals I encounter are the opossums that I feed on my patio. There are also voles, squirrels and a few raccoons that come around, as well, but the 'possums are the stars. This is because they are newcomers.

Possums are common to the South, like armadillos. Because of Global Warming, however, they have been working their way north over time. And now, I am privileged to have my very own tribe.

Their arrival each evening is an eagerly anticipated event. The three cats and I sit inside the patio door and watch them eat the jelly or peanut butter sandwiches, meat scraps, fruit and whatever. The possums ignore us even though we're only a foot away.

I never know which ones will show up, but they always come separately. The first one was a big light-colored one with pretty pink ears that I promptly named Petunia. Next came Tank (a solidly-built little fella), then Elvis (a young one with small black ears). Last night, a new one appeared with a torn ear and 2-tone tail, so he became Rocky. The gender assignments are arbitrary, of course, and naming them is pure self-indulgence.
Now that the snows have come, I'm worried about where they've holed up for the winter. The poor things are not well-adapted to Minnesota with their naked tails and sparse coats. I worry about them--and so I feed them.

After, they face real danger every day!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

More on turtles

Knatolee whose charming blog is over at forwarded this posting to me about a place that rescues injured turtles. It's wonderful to know there are places and people like this! Check it out at:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Of turtlenecks and turtles

Only two days ago the sun was shining and I rashly decided I could safely start packing away the winter clothes and bring out the summer things. Thankfully, I hesitated because it's been cold and rainy ever since.

I am loathe to shed my turtlenecks shirts too soon. I have been wearing them every winter since 1980 when I started having trouble with chronic stiff neck pain. As long as I have my turtlenecks, I'm OK. Of course, this has seriously limited my wardrobe. Everything I wear must be compatible with a high necked shirt. I manage by having a wide assortment of turtleneck shirts that I turned into "shells" by cutting out the sleeves. I also have many long-sleeved turtlenecks in a variety of colors.

If I start wearing low-necked shirts too early in the year, I pay for it with neck pain. I do daily exercises to keep the neck muscles limber so I can pass the peripheral-vision test for my driver's license. 
                       ( Not one of the neck exercises that I do!)

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center where I volunteer has an area for turtles (actually tortoises) that have been injured. Broken shells can be repaired with splints and adhesives. Many turtles are struck by cars when crossing the road.                                        
The really sad fact is that it is sometimes deliberate. A University researcher recently conducted a study by placing a fake tortoise on a busy road and counting the number of cars that ran over it. One out of fifty drivers went out of their way to hit it. But just having a broken shell doesn't kill a turtle and they may crawl off to die of infection or shock.

There is now an alarming decline in the number of tortoises and frogs. There is a corresponding increase in the number of people. It all makes me terribly sad.

Maybe some sunshine and summer shirts will improve my mood!

Friday, May 10, 2013

An offbeat salute to Mother's Day

I clipped this cartoon from the newspaper many years ago because it made me laugh. Dick Guindon's cartoons appeared regularly in the Minneapolis Star Tribune until he retired in 2005. I still miss them.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The end of the story

Last spring, I posted about the widower Canadian goose who faithfully returned to the spot where his mate was killed by a car seven years ago.  This morning, I drove past that spot and saw he was lying dead beside the road near where she died.

There's really nothing uplifting that can be said about it except that millions of new little Canadian geese are being hatched at this time of year. It's still the sad ending to a sad story.
                     (Rock on, all you lovely geese parents!)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Feeding Baby Birds

I had my first four-hour shift in the Avian Nursery last night at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. The nursery is in a large, very warm room lined with incubators for the smallest baby birds that are coming in every day.
In one of the artificial nests are four tiny house finches who were brought into the center last week. A family had been cleaning their yard and took down a Christmas wreath and threw it into a bonfire. Only then did they see that a mother bird had built a nest in it with the four baby birds. They were quickly rescued and brought into the center. If their enthusiastic cheeps and appetites are any indication, they will do very well.

They are kept in an incubator inside a plastic box half the size of a shoe box. Inside the box is a hand-knitted nest and inside that nest is very soft bathroom tissue rolled into a cone into which the birds are nestled. They are fed a special formula with a syringe every 15 minutes from morning until night.  The older birds are fed every half hour. When they are ready to fledge, they're moved to large outdoor cages before they're released.

The Avian Nursery is only 10% filled now, but in the coming weeks, it will be filled to capacity as more and more little birds are orphaned and abandoned--or mistakenly believed to be.
                                   (Beautiful, they ain't!)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Just another stupid Sunday

I'm really mad at myself today. I've been volunteering at a Specialty Clinic for Regions Hospital for five years. They had a Volunteer Recognition brunch today at noon at a very nice restaurant I could never afford. (A New Orleans Jazz Brunch, no less!) I had been looking forward to it for weeks and then spaced it out until 1:00. I've been torturing myself all day for being so stupid.

Sometimes I blame these lapses on having worked so many years in an office job that required constant multitasking. I find it hard to focus on one thing. I'm still mentally working on several things at any one time so I never make much progress. Of course, a lot of people my age call it "a senior moment" or Halfs-heimers"
or "Olds-heimers"--or even "a brain fart"! Whatever the cause, I'm terribly disappointed.
I've been having a turkey or two coming by for a handout every once in a while. They don't hang around. Jan who blogs at Revising Life informs me that a bunch of turkeys is called a gang or a rafter. I feel kinda silly for never looking it up myself.

I also got a comment about working with Wildlife Rehab from Susan who blogs at My Mother's Apron Strings. She says, "We took a Canadian Goose that lived on our pond to one in Connecticut--she had a dislocated wing (probably from a snapping turtle).  After two days, she escaped and walked twelve miles back to our pond. It took her two weeks but she wasn't about to be kept away from her new goslings!"
Isn't that an amazing story? It really warms my heart.
                                 (Borrowed image)

Here's a salute to all the wonderful men and women who rush in whenever there's a catastrophe. They are true heroes! (My granddaughter is married to a policeman and my grandson is married to an EMT.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Keeping busy is good for you!

When folks tell you that you're just as busy after you retire as you were before, they aren't kidding! You feel like you have lots of free time so you gradually take on more things to do until suddenly you start feeling overloaded. But then, you just carry on.
Last Wednesday, the entire turkey troup suddenly showed up in the wooded lot looking for food. I raced out with the goodies and they roosted overnight in the big cottonwood tree. They left the next morning and haven't been back since. I was so very happy and relieved to see they were all together and doing fine. They really brightened up a boring winter and gave me a lot of joy--not to mention blogging topics!

I have signed up to volunteer with the local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. They work with sick and injured birds and animals to return them to the wild. I have orientation training next week and it appears I'll be working with baby birds. Maybe I'll even wind up with young turkeys or wood ducks!  
                 (Borrowed from Google images, as always!)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Life without turkeys

I haven't seen my turkey troup for a full week. They disappeared into thin air and I miss them.

The odd thing is that they left the day after I finished reading "Illumination in the Flatwoods" by Joe Hutto. Hutto is a naturalist who spent a year living with a flock of imprinted turkeys. He hatched them and lovingly "mothered" them all day, every day until they grew up and moved on.

I first learned about Hutto's experience from a PBS Nature series documentary called "My Life as a Turkey". I totally identified with his affection for the big birds and their fascinating day-to-day experiences in the Florida Flatwoods.
I'm so thankful that I had the benefit of his knowledge when they left. He relates how abruptly the flock's behavior can suddenly change. I'm trying to hold onto the belief that they just had the urge to move on.

I don't mind not having to keep up with feeding them at dawn and dusk each day, but I worry that they might not be getting enough to eat wherever they are. I also worry that something awful happened to scare them away.

So, I keep waiting for them to come back. Whenever I go outside, I look for their tracks in the new-fallen snow. And I miss them.
(I debated whether my turkeys form a troup or a troop. I looked it up and troop refers to soldiers or Scouts and troup refers to a group of entertainers, so actually neither term applies.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My vendetta against the wild cucumber

( I wrote this several years ago. The wooded lot has changed since then. Several large trees have fallen opening it up to more sunlight so the wild cucumber isn't as bad as it had been.)

One balmy summer morning, I noticed that there were large-leafed weeds snaking up the trees and shrubs outside my bedroom window.  On days to follow, I could see the vegetation was rapidly spreading higher and wider.

I was becoming more and more alarmed as it threatened to spoil the view and invade my private little woods.  When I began to recognize trees and shrubs along the highways completely enshrouded by this same vine, I feared it was taking over the city!
I live in a modest townhouse that is blessed with a lovely wooded lot next door.  Because my bedroom window overlooks the glorious green property, I have always taken a proprietary interest in it.  As a result, I was overcome with indignation at this weedy interloper.  I resolved to do battle with it.

The wooded lot is lower than my lot and is separated by a four-foot high retaining wall.  As I walked around and entered from the street, I found it was cool and shady under the trees.  It was also swarming with hungry mosquitoes that were delighted to see me. Amidst the shafts of light streaming down through the leafy canopy of black walnut, box elder and cottonwood trees, I could see hundreds of small yellow-green plants with palmate shaped leaves growing profusely in all directions.  The larger plants had totally engulfed other weeds and shrubs, apparently hogging the available sunlight.  The mosquitoes lost their menace as I realized the extent of the invasion.

I advanced on the “enemy” and began pulling up as many small plants as I could.  I grabbed great handfuls of the fuzzy, sticky vines and flung them at the mosquitoes.  However, I soon realized the futility of this approach.  I switched my vengeance to the larger, more insolent weeds that were climbing the trees and advancing over the retaining wall.  I was surprised at how effortlessly the pernicious vines were uprooted.  I was able to draw up long strands of it into balls that were easily tossed aside.  I was making great swaths through the most heavily infested areas, but gradually I became exhausted and gave up for the day.  My socks were full of cockleburs; I was hot, sweaty and covered with mosquito bites, but I had definitely launched a worthy attack.

Around that time, I happened to read a magazine article about a noxious weed imported from Japan called kudzu.  It was originally thought to be an excellent ground cover, but it spread so wildly that it had become a serious problem in the South.  I was certain that I was the first Minnesotan clever enough to discover kudzu in our northern climate.  I phoned the University of Minnesota Extension Office about it and learned they would have a team of horticulture experts available to the public on Saturday morning at a location in my area.  I could hardly wait!

Saturday morning, I eagerly rushed outside to pull up some representative samples of the nasty vines and tucked them into a Cub Foods plastic bag.  I drove over to the Extension Office with my prize.  There were three experts seated at long tables to field questions from gardeners, weekend lawn warriors and frustrated weed haters like myself.  I stood in line clutching my bag until it was my turn.  I stepped forward, dramatically presenting my array of droopy sprigs and told the horticulturist my suspicions about a kudzu invasion.  To her credit, she took this news with a straight face.
After looking over the samples and consulting several books, she informed me that I had Wild Cucumber (Sicyos Angulatus).  The name originates from its resemblance to domesticated cucumber plants to which it is distantly related.  Although it’s not widespread, it is a native plant found in southeastern and southwestern Minnesota and along the Wisconsin border.

I was quite disappointed to learn it was a mundane weed.  It was not as prolific as I feared either.  It is found only in woods, along streams and roads and in damp, shady places where it can grow up to 25 feet.  The UM expert told me that the most effective way of eradicating it was simply pulling it up, mowing or hoeing.

Armed with this knowledge, I went back home to fight the good fight.  I made frequent forays into the woodsy lot over the summer pulling more of the weeds and concentrating on those producing seed pods.  If the plants are uprooted before the seeds are produced, the annuals can’t seed back the following year.  By the end of the summer, I was smug in the belief that I had won the war against the enemy. 

The following summer I was visiting my daughter, a suburban soccer mom, whose hobby is landscape-gardening a large back yard.  She took me out to see her newest plantings.  As she led me toward a “cute little plant” she found near some woods, I was first shocked and then amused to find my daughter was raising a young Wild Cucumber.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday funnies

Once in a while, you see a cartoon that makes you laugh out loud. Van Amerongen's Ballard Street always has a quirky assortment of older folks who never fail to amuse. Here is another funny one.