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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fooling Around

I read somewhere that it takes 15 or 20 minutes for coffee to get someone started in the morning.  Since we make ours with half-decaf, half-regular,  it doesn’t seem unreasonable for me to take 30 to 50 minutes to vacate the twilight zone.

Sunday morning, before the coffee even finished brewing, Dearly Beloved looked out the sunroom window and casually announced:  Look.  There are two squirrels copulating on that oak limb.”  

He continued his narration without any encouragement from me.  “Now he’s run  off and she’s up there cleaning herself.”  

TMIBC.  Too much information before coffee.

A similar scene took place in plain sight later that afternoon.  DB figured it was the male practicing free love.  It made me curious, so I looked up some information on the mating habits of grey squirrels and learned that it was the same female probably, different male.  What a bunch of bastards those tree rats are.   Sheesh!

The female is fertile for less than a day, however, she puts out a scent that calls male squirrels in the neighborhood, thus filling her dance card all day.

We may as well forget Groundhog Day.  It doesn’t matter how much more winter weather we have because my plantings will be screwed right along with those squirrel hussies.  Let’s see. . . the gestation period is about 45 days, and it takes mommas about seven to 10 weeks to wean them.  Yup. That means the little bastards will hit the ground to start digging and chewing about the same time all my warm weather plants are starting to really look good.

Furthermore, the females will be about ready to put out the word, er. . . scent again.  The obnoxious little bastards mate twice a year.   Wonder what we can do to counteract that sex scent next time, assuming we can’t lock all the fertile ones under the house for the day.

For awhile, I thought I had the solution.  Remember smudge pots?   There are to be zillions of them sitting in road construction warehouses everywhere, a dime a dozen, right?

Wrong.  The smelly old kerosene ones might work, but they’re pricey.  The new ones burn lamp or citronella oil.  Not enough stink.

Speaking of stink, I admire the Kentucky legislator who’s raising one in her state. Have you read about Rep. Mary Lou Marzian?  After the KY legislature passed another pro-birth measure, this one making any woman seeking an abortion to have counseling 24 hours prior, Rep. Marzian came up with legislation which could help prevent unwanted pregnancies and unwelcome sexual advances.  Her bill, HB396,  would require men seeking erectile dysfunction-type drugs to have at least two visits with their doctors as well as a permission slip from their wives.   Only married men would be able to obtain the drug and they would have to swear on a Bible to use it only with their wives.

Rep. Marzian is a medical professional and knows that the drugs cause risks for men and she wants to protect them from themselves.  Headaches, runny nose, body aches, vision problems, dizziness. . . .  If her bill passes, those pill users would have their permission slip-signing wives right there to nurse them back to health.  It would reduce medical costs, something any legislator should embrace, right?

As for the problems in our garden,  if Monsanto and Dupont and all those GMO-loving companies want to produce a corn containing birth control for tree rats,  I’ll see to it that ours are the best fed critters on the block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O Sister, Where Art Thou?

My brother tells me he has found Mary Lee, the great white shark.   I  haven’t heard much about her lately and was beginning to worry.

Not that I believe everything he tells me.  He also told me that he’d found BigFoot, which turned out to be a sweet bear family whose feet, frankly, are much smaller than his.

As for the whereabouts of Mary Lee,  this looks pretty authentic, don’t you think?  If so, she’s right in my brother’s Outer Banks stomping grounds.

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Mary Lee, if you’re out there, you go, Girl!!

My brother may be Big Foot.

Get A Room!

When my friend Beanie took two of her grandchildren to the Washington Zoo in the fall, she was expecting that she might hear questions from them about some of the 1800 animals in the zoo.

But she WASN’T expecting to run into this Aldabra tortoise scene right by the entrance.

Get a room?  I carry it with me!

Hard to tell him to get a room when he already has a house on his back.

Looks like that makes her a two-story.

(Many thanks to Beanie for the picture.)

supermario

I Don’t Give a Fig. Usually.

Last night I dreamed, not of Mandalay, but of the fig tree outside our bedroom window.

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More specifically, I dreamed of a monster squirrel in the fig tree.  He had an orange material wrapped tightly around part of his tail, ninja-style, and when I tried to scare him away, he shook it haughtily at me as if it were a snake rattler.

Yes, I really did dream that.

We planted the fig tree in that location to shield our bedroom bay window from the southeastern sun exposure in summer without having to keep the blinds closed.  We pruned it to grow as a single-trunk tree rather than a bush.  Having it there also offered complete privacy I thought,  yet looking at the photo now, I realize there is exposure on one side.  Gulp. Thank goodness I noticed before I got an urge to do any naked frolicking .  (Of course,  I could simply open the window and grab a few fig leaves should the urge overtake me.)  

Because of the slope of the land, I’m able to stand on the deck and pick figs from the near branches.  Still, it is growing rapidly in its tree form shape, so more and more are beyond my reach.

It’s visible from the sunroom, also, so only a short distance for me to run out screaming and waving a broom whenever I see birds or squirrels messing around in there.  Not long ago,  I tapped on the window to shoo away a squirrel headed for one of the few remaining figs, only to watch in horror as a cardinal swooped in and took a big bite of the fig  before the squirrel could grab it.

This was the summer I was determined to get figs and, thanks to my vigilance, I did exactly that.  I picked enough to make three batches of low-sugar fig preserves for toast and for my favorite– fig, arugula, and prosciutto pizzas.

It hasn’t been easy and frankly,  I became way too obsessed with those figs, taking on a persona somewhere between Mrs. Danvers and the Incredible Hulk where the fig tree was concerned.

One day as I was raking magnolia leaves along the back fence, I glanced toward the house doing my regular fig tree perusal, when I noticed DB standing under it with a pair of  pruning loppers in hand.

“HEY!” I yelled, “What are you doing with those loppers?”

As usual, he had those darned earbuds blasting music into his ears and couldn’t hear a thing. I yelled again, looking around frantically for something to toss his way and catch his attention.  Nothing caught my eye. . . except the rake in my hand.

No way could I throw it that far, so I started to run toward DB.    Still oblivious to my maniacal rants, he blithely cut away one a branch of the tree and reached for another.  I kept running.

He glanced up to see the mother of his children raging toward him, weapon in hand.

“What are you DOING???”  I screamed.

Looking non-perturbed, he popped out an earbud and said, “I was just cutting off these low-hanging branches so we wouldn’t have to duck or walk around them.” 

“But I can only REACH the low ones to pick the figs!”  I told him.

Oh.  Okay, I won’t cut any more,”  he answered agreeably and reach down to pick up the branch he’d already cut.  What could I say?  I turned to go back to my raking.

“Hey,” he called, and I turned to see a quizzical look on his face.  “Exactly WHAT were you planning to do with that rake?”  

To this day, I’m not sure.  I’m pretty sure I had a bead on his backside,  but I don’t remember which end of the rake I was aiming or exactly what I intended to do with the rake.  It was all a bit unsettling.

I put my remaining canning jars away for the season.  After that, whenever I saw a squirrel or a bird in the fig tree, I simply shrugged.

But if that ninja turtle ever shows up, forget the loppers, I’m handing DB the axe.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Owl on the Prowl

Perhaps it has been Dearly Beloved’s attempts to recreate the dry rub ribs from The Rendezvous that has put us to thinking lately about our years in Memphis.  We loved our house there and our street was a wonderful mix of interesting neighbors.

We have, luckily, friends and relatives in that area with whom we’ve stayed in touch.  Lately, our conversations have centered around the same subject:  OWLS.  Not just owls in general, but the strange attack owls of East Memphis.

After seeing my brother’s owl photos on BroJoe’s World, my friend Sharon sent me pictures of the owls nesting behind her house.

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My cousin lives in that same area, and when I asked her had she seen the birds, she sent a news article which told of some pretty strange happenings around there.

An early-morning jogger had reported that he was attacked from behind–slammed in the head by an owl.  It hit him again–also without warning–a few minutes later.  The bloodied guy reported, “It had the wingspan of a Buick.”  

A couple of weeks later, that same runner was smacked again. His hasn’t been the only report; early morning joggers never know when they’re going to be struck.  One victim said that the owl took his cap and i-Pod.   Even the county district attorney said that she’d been attacked.

A driver reported that an owl hit his BMW.  The man stood nearby, wondering what he should do.  The owl lay dazed for a while, then flew away.

Because the owl is silent and glides into its victims from behind, there is no warning.  No one is certain whether it’s only one owl on the prowl or more.

Pretty darned creepy!

My friend sent one more photo.  Look carefully.

Image 5

An owlet!   Could that explain the thuggish behavior going on there?

Whooo knows?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Hopes

Yes, I know I whine about squirrels a good bit, like I think people in other areas don’t have similar problems.  Oh no, those folks have my sympathy, especially Natalie, my Canadian blogger friend who says they’re in the walls of her house.  Gulp.  Even Britain has squirrel problems.  Our squirrels somehow showed up over there and liked it, so now they’re considered a serious nuisance.  I wonder if some devious American took a couple over in retaliation for the starlings which are nuisances over here.

Hmmm.  Or maybe the starlings were retaliation for the squirrels.  Truce!

Having said all that, I’d like to point out that the scientific name for them is Sciurus Carolinensis.   Must translate to “scourge of Carolina.”

Remember the latest damnsquirrel episode that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago?  The one where a cheeky little tree rat climbed up onto the table on our second story deck and yanked out the boxwood twig I was attempting to root?   I figured that the “something” I saw him surreptitiously stick in the small planter was an acorn.  Was he hiding it for food or planting a mighty oak where he thought none of the other squirrels would venture.

Hard to tell what a sneaky squirrel is thinking.

Today I noticed something growing in the planter.  It sure as heck wasn’t my boxwood twig.  It wasn’t an oak seedling either. Mr. Squirrel wanted bigger nuts.

Image 4

The pecan he’d stuck in there had bigger plans, too, which didn’t include being lunch for a squirrel.  In just a couple of weeks, it had already rooted into a seedling of six inches or so.  There are no pecan trees on our street, so Mr. S. had to go some distance to procure the nut, probably traveling via our squirrel-chewed cable line.

I brought it in to show to Dearly Beloved.

“Are you going to plant it?  he asked.

I don’t know.

“You almost have to, don’t you?”  

I reckon.

Image 5

I’m wondering if I’ve fallen into the squirrel’s trap because it wanted a pecan tree.  All the pictures of nut-eating squirrels show them munching on acorns.  Maybe this one wanted something bigger and better.

I’ve read that without predators, the little turds can live 20 years or so.  Heck, he might even get some pecans from it.  Hmmm.  Now that I think of it, I might not.

It’s now planted in a deeper pot so the root can uncurl.  Although I have no idea where I’d plant it, I’m going to see how it grows.   As DB says, they’re messy trees, but they’re beautiful.  Nothing is better than the shade of a Southern pecan tree.

Provided there’s not some jackass squirrel up there, dropping nuts on your head.

 –   –   –   –   –   –   –

If I’m pushed, I’d also have to admit I don’t like people with allergies. They just annoy me. There seems to be something far too self-centred about it. ‘No thanks, I’m allergic.’ Why not just say ‘No thanks’? I wasn’t asking for your medical history, I was just passing around the nuts. Trying to be friendly, that’s all.
Jack Dee

 

The Damnsquirrel Chronicles: The Invasion Continues

Sometimes I feel a little guilty about the mean things I say about squirrels.  Friends send me pictures of them in oh-so-cute situations.   Am I charmed by such?   Not a chance.  Image 1I’ve also received books on how to get rid of them,  articles on critter control, and videos of contraptions to stump or terrorize them.   One video showed a pricey bird feeder which begins to spin if a squirrel climbs on.  If I had one, the tree rat would spin off and land on my back, or I’d get plastered with squirrel vomit.

These things happen; don’t fool yourself.  Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean the little bastards aren’t out to get me.

Look in the neighboring yards and you’ll realize that all the squirrel action is in ours.  They’re running through my azalea beds, digging up the lawn, or chasing each other up the oak tree for gawd knows what deviate purpose.  The goodies we put out to attract birds have transformed our yard into a 5-star rodent restaurant.  It isn’t unusual to see more squirrels than birds hanging around.  Not the plan when we put out all those feeders!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve pulled up all my strawberry plants and have no plans to set out tomatoes this year.  I’ve given up on planting colorful pots of annuals because the squirrels climb onto the pots and yank the plants out like they heard a rumor I hid a sack of peanuts in the bottom.

I’ve resorted to putting anything that might be of interest to them on a table on our second story deck.  My pitiful collection currently consists of a lone tomato plant in a clay pot and a single twig of boxwood that I’m rooting.  Bless pat, I looked out yesterday and damned if one of those varmints wasn’t sitting on the table with the boxwood twig in his paws.  Why, why, why?  Was he using it as a toothpick?  The holes in my tomato plant soil must be precursors of a coming oak tree crop which will root-wrestle my tomato plant into oblivion.

And get this: I came home to find a cable repairman at the back of our lot recently.  When I asked, “Are you improving our service?”  he shook his head.

“I can’t fix this.  They’ll have to send a crew out to put up at least ten feet of new wire.  The squirrels have chewed this one worse than any I’ve ever seen and I’ve been doing it for ten years.

Nothing is sacred around here.  Not on the ground, not in the air.

It isn’t that I hate the damnsquirrels, but I do feel myself sliding in that direction.

Have you watched this amazing video?  

Just so you know, I still rooted for the squirrel.

* * * * * * * * *

“Aunt Prune was holding one of the squirrels in her hand. ‘And once a day, we have ta clean their little private parts with a Q-tip, so they’ll learn ta clean themselves.’
That was a visual I didn’t need”
― Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures