Not At The Library! (gasp!)

Pssst!  

I was in the Audio Book corner of our neighborhood library not long ago when a deep male voice behind me rasped,  “Hey, Baby, looking for fun?”

My insides threatened to jump out of my body so I froze for a minute before turning around.  At my age, I needed to make sure that my sphincter muscles were in control after the way he had startled me.   Whenever anyone calls me Baby, well. . . there is a history.

When I was a seventh grader, in the junior high library one day, a ninth grade jock-type yelled “Hey Baby!” in my direction.  I turned around in sheer terror.  I didn’t think it to be a flirtation for even a second.  Because it was during a ninth-grade study hall, I thought he was calling me out because I was the only seventh grader in the room and he wanted the room at large to frown at the youngster/interloper.  Or maybe he wanted to borrow a pencil.

Neither.

He was calling beyond me to the scarlet-lipped brunette wearing a Dixie-cup bra beneath her very snug sweater at the next table.   I’m guessed that he wasn’t looking for a pencil, although he was definitely eyeing the points in that sweater.   I blushed painfully for even having the thought that he might have been calling me.

Not to worry about any tragic effects of my misunderstanding, for it did not affect my psyche.  Granted, I am still talking about it some 60 years later, but I’m fine.  Really. I’m fine.

This latest Psst!  certainly wasn’t because I was the youngest one in the library.   It wasn’t a dirty old man either. . .  just our warped sense of humor next-door neighbor, Beau.  He was there to select a couple of  audio books for a trip that he and The Little Woman were taking soon.

Sometimes I think I spend half my time at the library, much of it outside on the grounds.  I tend the reading garden in one area and for the last few months, I’ve been developing a fairy garden outside the floor-to-ceiling window of the children’s department.  Because the library sits near a very busy street, the fairy garden is for viewing from inside, not actually playing in it.

It sounded like a simple enough task.  I could use natural materials like sticks and moss and make it a wooded, magic place for any fairies looking for a home.  The library fairy garden project was perfect for the child in me.  (She stands near the thin woman in there, too.)

I was so, so wrong.  Now, I dread even going to the library.  The problem isn’t men; it’s the DAMNSQUIRRELS!  Seriously!!!  I’m not paranoid; sometimes they really ARE after you!

For instance, Dearly Beloved put a fairy door and two windows at the base of the large oak there.   Although the squirrels could come down any section of that tree,  they always scramble up and down over the fairy entrance, making certain they take out a window, if not more.

The carefully painted acorn mailbox perched on a twig did not even last a day before one of them snapped off the acorn for lunch.  They left the twig. The little painted mushrooms encircling the mossy magic fairy ring have been upended so many times that I could have grown crops there more easily.   The moss?  Ruined.  Again.  Again.  Again.  There’s none there at present.

Because the fairy garden gets such rough treatment, I hesitate to ask for any funds for accessories, the natural materials I’ve been using aren’t holding up.   Because they’re so easy to upend, I’ve even resorted to gluing things like the mushrooms to a weighted surface–a piece of old brick and things like chunks of roofing tiles, then I bury the “weights.”   Homeland Security would be proud.  But even that isn’t squirrel-proof.

I’m including a few pictures to give an idea of what I’m up against.  If you have any suggestions that don’t involve squirrel corpses, let’s hear them!

The sand in the sandbox and around the duck pond . . . well, gawd only knows what goes on in there, but the sand constantly needs to be replaced.  The idea was for the duck pond to look like a lake, not a Tupperware bowl, with sand all around it.  The sandbox on the playground should be full. . . and the fence, as well as the fairy door on the tree behind,  should be standing straight.  That swing hanging in the brown basket used to have mazus groundcover beneath, to protect tender little fairy feet.  Oh. . . and see those blue mushrooms?  They look random, but they were part of the border of the magic fairy circle that was filled with green moss.  There are red mushrooms, too–they’ve all been upended.  (If you want to know what color scarf to knit your favorite squirrel, go with red.)  

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Here is the basketball goal with a found shingle “court.”   It came from the library roof; I hope it isn’t causing a leak.   The orange thing is a hammock, with a tree limb fairy house behind it.  I haven’t seen any squirrels in the hammock yet.

FullSizeRender FullSizeRenderFullSizeRenderThe soda shop floor needs sweeping.  If I left a squirrel-sized broom out there, do you suppose. . . ?

Of course not.  They’re the ones that made the mess.

I don’t want to end this on a complaining note because there is, at least, an upside:

At least the little bastards don’t call me Baby.

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No child but must remember laying his head in the grass, staring into the infinitesimal forest and seeing it grow populous with fairy armies. ~Robert Louis Stevenson, Essays in The Art of Writing

 

Paradise Lost

The activity  at our bird feeders has declined.  Maybe our feathered friends read that the ozone level is at Extreme (even as the legislature is trying to lower ground air standards.)

It might also be that our yard has become a cafeteria for area hawks.

There was evidence of several killings last week–grey fluff, long feathers.  Over the weekend, we visited our son and daughter-in-law in Virginia Beach and when we returned Monday, a gruesome mess on our covered porch indicated that Victim No. 4 fought hard.

CSI believes the victims to be mourning doves.   (Talk about having something to mourn!) Those birds don’t even feed at the bird feeders.  Instead, they peck around the ground underneath, which makes for a slow takeoff.  Easy pickings for a hawk diving at 120 mph or so.

One day I went outside to fill the bird baths and saw piles of grey fluff.  A few feet beyond lay, like a dropped toy, a baby squirrel.   It had its new furry coat and a fat tummy.  Panda-like cute.  Although it looked untouched, it was still quite dead.

I called the undertaker (a/k/a Dearly Beloved)and we held a graveside service under the doublefile viburnum tree.   Despite my dislike of those darned critters, this little squirrel wrenched my heart.   It had been lying out in the open, so how  could it have fallen from a nest?  Somewhere in the trees, a momma squirrel had to be grieving for the loss of her fat little baby.

My life suddenly became more complicated.  I watch to keep the squirrels away from the bird feeders as usual, but now I also keep an eye out for any lurking hawks.  You know how a hawk sits in a tree and twists its head gracefully to look in any direction?  Out-hawking a hawk at my age isn’t easy because of all the cellophane creaking and cracking in my neck

Yeah, yeah, I know all that stuff about the laws of nature and I have one thing to say about that:  NIMBY!

Not in my back yard.

You’d think that I’d get a little help from Scout the Wonder Dog.  Hah!

A couple of months ago, my dear blog friend Mountain Woman sent Scout a present:  three soft toys.   A squirrel, a shark, and a skunk.  Really nice, huh?

In that same package, she included surprises for me:

IMG_2368Sure, she’s nice, but she’s also wicked.  I did not have a squirrel pillow or squirrel candle holders on my wish list.

Scout unpacked the box and immediately adopted the squirrel as her new favorite toy.

Scout and her surprise packageWhenever she goes outside, she drops it in  the vicinity of the bird feeders, as if  telling all the tree rats, “Come on down.  I don’t care about you; I have a squirrel of my own.”  They could form a conga line around her and she would simply yawn.

Yesterday the yard was invaded by crows.  Sheesh!

DB looks out over our backyard and, as long as the grass is cut, he sees only our little paradise.  I look out with swiveling head, ready to beat on the windows or run out screaming and waving the broom.   Do I think I am Mother Nature?

So far, the coyotes and wolves in the neighborhood have been held off by the fence.  Peter Rabbit still squeezes through the latticed brick, although if I point to it and accompany Scout outside, she will actually chase Peter.

I am going to take a deep breath and enjoy the whole garden scene.  After all, what else could show up?

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(Here is YouTube link to the manufacturer of this feeder, should you have Godfather envy and want one, too.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Sense A Lack of Appreciation

No, I did not miss Squirrel Appreciation Day yesterday.  Someone made certain I knew of it. . .  the same person who sent me this birthday card:

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Thanks, Beanie.

There’s a DAY for that?  Who the heck came up with that idiotic notion?

Huffington Post says:

Christy Hargrove from Asheville, North Carolina started Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21, 2001. Christy is a wildlife rehabilitator in North Carolina, and is affiliated with the Western North Carolina Nature Center.

Holy crap!  One of my own kind!!!  It sounds so SOUTH Carolina-ish!

Here’s the thing, Christy. . . In Asheville, you have forested mountains.  Now that’s a good place for the tree rats to live.  Here, I have flower beds and not a mountain in sight.

ROAD TRIP to Asheville!  Wonder if I’ll need to rent a truck.

Wayside Gardens, a wonderful source for plants of all kinds, also sent notification of Squirrel Appreciation Day.  In fact, they included an article by listing all the reasons we should have such a celebration.   Read it and weep.  I’ll give you the gist of it.

Gag me with a peanut, it had to be a real stretch for the author to come up with any pluses.  Squirrels aerate the soil?  In my world, it’s called, digging up my darned flower bulbs.  Squirrels  add nutrients to the soil when they break off branches and stems.  Again, in my garden it is described as the little bastards are ruining my trees.  Oh, here’s a good one:  they sometimes forget where they buried their nuts, thus planting new trees.  Yeah.  That answers the question of why are all those freakin’ oak seedlings coming up in my rose bed?  

Here’s something interesting, according to the article:  Their four front teeth never stop growing, lengthening about six inches a year so they aren’t worn down from all that chewing.  That explains why my dogwood trees look like teething rings for the little bastards.

We’re having a snowy/sleety/freezing rainy weekend here.  The birds have flocked to our feeders, tanking up, but amazingly, we haven’t seen a single squirrel all day!

Now THAT’S something I can appreciate.

 

Little Prairie On the House

In early spring, my Dearly Beloved and I were full of plans for our garden.  I was going to whip the flower borders and beds into shape and he was going to have the perfect lawn this summer.  I don’t know his methods, but on several different occasions he’d head for the hardware store, then spend countless hours applying whatever he’d bought with his spreader.

His efforts were rewarded.  Soon, he was mowing the lawn two or three times a week.

Then came the record heat and drought.  His beautiful lawn began to look more like an over-grazed pasture in August.  The perfect grass disappeared altogether as rival gangs of violets and clovers battled for dominance, although there is plenty of grassless red clay soil for another skirmish, another day.

I worked on my flower beds, mainly watering them, even as the heat toasted the hosta leaves to a crisp brown and some of my flower buds didn’t even bother opening.  It’s been less than rewarding, although most plants are still alive.

By the time the pansies fizzled out in the hay rack planter on the deck railing, I was reluctant to spend money on more new plants to fry, so I bought 12 from the Reduced rack at Lowe’s– the shelf where neglected plants are sent to die.  I bought 12, hoping that perhaps half of them would make it.

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All of them showed their gratitude for my mercy mission by flourishing. Now I’m hoping that the hummingbirds might find some tasty morsels in the $12 assortment.

As I’ve explained before, even though we live in a ranch style house, our sloped lot means that our deck is second story.  I’ll show you a photo.  (Pretend you don’t notice the hose and junk lying around.)

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There is a sidewalk at the bottom of the steps which encircles my rose garden.  Beyond the roses is the used-to-be lawn.  My point in telling you all of this is that when DB was spreading all those seeds, my little planter up there should have been off limits to any straying seeds, right?

So one would think.

Take a look at the back of the planter from the deck.

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That’s how the grass down there in the prairie is supposed to look.

Poor DB!  I wonder if he’d feel better if I let him mow the back of my planter.

There’s one good thing about snow, it makes your lawn
look as nice as your neighbor’s.
– Clyde Moore

Temporary Insanity

Last week the weather forecasters in our neck of the woods predicted that we would be getting T-E-N inches of snow.  Ten inches of snow in this part of North Carolina has lower odds than a $10,000 scratch-off lottery ticket.

The city sent out a letter letting us know that they were slagging streets, salting sidewalks, putting transit personnel on 12-hour shifts, and advising us to prepare to hunker down.  Schools were closed before the first flake fell.

I went about my hunkering preparations by making sure there was plenty of wine, toilet paper, and bread.  Yup.  We were good to go stay.

Then I looked outside at our tacky assortment of suet holders and bird feeders.  Practically empty!!!  Worse, so was our supply cabinet.

There were no lines at the hardware store because everyone else was at the grocery store at the other end of the shopping center buying bread and milk.  I selected a variety of suet and two different kinds of bird seed, then walked around the display to see what else might be helpful.  On the bottom shelf was a large bag holding peanuts in the shell, dried corn kernels, and an assortment of other nuts and grains.  My mind waged an argument inside my head:  don’t do it!  vs. but it’s going to be 10 inches!   The but it’s going to be 10 inches! side sent out images of a backyard littered with furry frozen you-know-whats.  I shoved the bag into my cart.

God help me, I was buying squirrel food.

Next morning,  the ground was white all right, but it was less than half an inch and already beginning to melt.  I looked out at the feeding station and saw the birds waiting while a squirrel suctioned a bird feeder like his name was Dyson.  The clay saucer of squirrel food remained untouched.  I rushed outside, screaming and clapping my hands, and the offender jumped off and sauntered up the pine tree, but only a few feet, leaving no doubt that it was only a temporary detour.

Sure enough, I had barely sat down again when he swaggered down the tree, flexed his muscles under his fur jacket, popped his knuckles, then made a gymnastics leap (I’d give it a 9.4) onto the bird feeder.  He latched on immediately, like a suckling pig.

The sympathy truce is over.  There will be no refilling of the squirrel feeding station.  This is war.

I’d like to pass the rest of the food bag on to that squirrelly weather forecaster.

 

 

 

 

 

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Blog Post. . . .

E-mail is perfect for talking gardening with friends.  I never tire of seeing pictures of their gardens.  I haven’t sent any of mine this year.  I should, lest folks think the duct taped cherry tree is the highlight of our yard.

My British friend and I write frequently of gardens, books, and grandchildren.  She is the friend of the Burns Night Supper,  who lives in a village which holds flower festivals in late summer.

Lately we have been talking Delphiniums and roses.  I recently bought a Delphinium plant, which probably won’t make it through the summer in our hot, sticky climate.  (In the South, larkspur is planted as a substitute.)  Her Delphiniums, though, are profuse and beautiful.

Want to see enchantment?

Image Yes, that is a thatched roof on her house.   And look at that lovely rose!

One of her Delphinium flower beds.Image 1She sent this next picture to show how she was coaxing a rose up a contorted willow tree that she doesn’t particularly like. Image 2I didn’t see anything unsightly about the willow tree, unless she was referring to that headless branch, and said so.  She wrote back that she’d talked to her pruner about those branch stumps he kept leaving to no avail, so she tries to hide the stumps under Paul’s Himalayan Musk Rose plantings.   (Like me, she is married to her tree man.)

That should explain why I was searching through her old e-mails.  I looked up Paul’s Himalayan Rose and although the listing doesn’t specifically mention “covers duct tape” in its attributes, I think it is something worth considering.  Bonus:  the instructions say,  “No pruning!”

(I should mention that my Dearly Beloved is  a very good pruner.  With proper supervision, of course.)

Not long ago, I mentioned to my friend that I wanted to make a little fairy garden in one corner of the back yard and she responded that she was working on a fairy den in her own garden.  Here, for instance, are her fairy wind chimes.  Image

As her grandchildren are all girls and mine are all boys, I supposed that we didn’t imagine fairy gardens in the same way.

Then she sent this video. ( No, this isn’t her pruner, nor mine.)  Take a look at this hedge!

 Fairies are invisible and inaudible like angels. But their magic sparkles in nature. ~Lynn Holland

Don’t. Even. Ask.

The Evidence:

1.  Cherry tree.

2.  Chain saw.

3.  Duct tape.

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George Washington?  Chain Saw Massacre?

I told you. . . best not to ask.

“I’m telling you, the gorgeous of the world can actually look pretty intimidating when they scowl. Imagine a snow-white swan with a scary tattoo holding a chain saw. There’s just no way to really prepare for that.”

― Jim Benton, Okay, So Maybe I Do Have Superpowers