Category Archives: Nature

December So Far

Downy Female

Basically, the only thing interesting on this gloomy, warmish December day is my nearly falling on my keister, due to a surprising amount of ice build up on the railroad track, while walking the dog. Of course he chose that moment in time to lunge ahead and enhance my flailing about. I quickly looked around to see if anybody had observed my antics, as this was the main intersection of our small town, and got several smiles from cars going by, one guffaw from the guy staring out the bank window and a singular thumbs up from the old dude in the city pickup across the street. That’s the thing about being new in a very small town, do something stupid and it will be talked about by just about everyone, there’s not that many of them to begin with, and people will know you in no time.

Hairy Male

Part of the fun of living large in a small town is getting invited to a thank you for volunteering/Christmas party at the Senior Living Center, better known as South Grove. The wife and I did some mandatory volunteer work there, the first week we hit town. Mostly it was helping the wife’s Mom, who lives at South Grove, with the annual cookie sale. That wasn’t too bad, we got fed lunch and all the cookies we could handle. The not so happy part came after that and, well, that’s a story for another time. Anyway, since we volunteered so good, we got told to show up at 6pm to get fed, appreciated and entertained.

The dining room, where the event was held, was pretty full of people when we got there and I did not get to choose my seating, a fact the I would come to very much regret as the evening wore on. The food wasn’t bad and we met new people and chatted with them, having to explain, briefly but concisely, what led us to Grove City, long story, and which house did we buy again? It is collectively known as the Dean Smith house and/or the place with the cow painted on the garage door.

Downy Male

About the time we were starting to repeat ourselves, the entertainment showed up and proceeded to take about a decade and a half of our very valuable time, singing every lame, old, obscure song they could remember to do. Small town entertainment at its most Minnesotan. About 3/4’s of the way through, I must have looked somewhat discontent as the lead singer was belting out Feliz Navidad, badly. He suddenly stopped the song and informed the audience that, yes, he couldn’t speak or even sing in Spanish, but by the look on my face, he could tell I was bilingual, fluent in South of the border speak, and it was making him nervous. I have always loved being the butt of jokes and this time was no different. People for the next 10 minutes would crane their necks to get a look at the Mexican that was sitting next to my wife. It was about this time, not sitting next to an exit looked to be a unfortunate oversight on my part. Next up was Harry Belafonte’s Banana boat song and so on. It eventually came to an end, like glaciers eventually do, but I still have the song, Fine Time To Leave Me Lucille, waking me up in the in the middle of the night and intruding into my happy thoughts at odd times of the day and I’m not real happy about that.

A plague of Sparrows

On the house versus us front, we finally have the cat smell, which started off at toxic levels, eradicated. I was not sure that day would ever come. I also have the living room floor sanded to the point where we put down an old victorian floral rug that fits the room perfectly. And more importantly, we have all the leaks, washing machine valve, kitchen sink, upstairs toilet, and upstairs shower, fixed. Finally, no more dripping. I can’t quite imagine how the rental people were able to pay the water bill from all the rapid dripping that was going on. The only thing I couldn’t fix myself was the boiler going out the first week we lived here, on a Saturday night, naturally. This not being our first rodeo with that kinda thing, we had a plan B in our back pocket and lived in warmth until the boiler fix it guy showed up on Monday morning. The best part is he showed me how to fix the thing, under the “teach a man to fish” clause, and basically worked himself out of a job.

We were feeling so good as to how things were going, that we invited the wife’s mother over tohave lunch with us and watch the Vikings lose, which they did. Just like old times. The best part is Mom in law brought rhubarb pie, under the “a good guest always brings a gift to the party” clause. Sweet Pea just loves Grandma and spent the majority of the time leaning on her and being a general nuisance, which is pretty much his job description.

All in all the transition from Kansas to Minnesota has not been too bad. But, it hasn’t gone below zero yet, like I remember the first weeks of December did, back in the old days. The wife has already informed me that she’s not gonna drive if there is snow on the highway. We’ll see how long that lasts when she runs out of frozen yogurt. Hard time’s a comin’.

Small Towning it

I put a bird feeder up, and made sure that I could see it from my seat at the dining room table, just like the setup I had in our Kansas house. It’s the little things that make a home, don’t cha know. It took about a whole 10 minutes before a Nuthatch showed up and it’s been Chickadee and Nuthatch central ever since. My intention with the bird feeder was to provide an alternate lunch for a certain Downy Woodpecker that’s been rat ta tap tapping on my house. Today Woody finally shows up but really couldn’t puzzle out how to get food out of the feeder. Pecking everywhere on the clear plastic tube, but never in the opening where the seed was. I stood at the window shouting at him “No you idiot! Quit pecking at the clear part, look for the hole, you moron!”

I wasn’t the only one watching this spectacle. The neighborhood Finches were hanging around, with their beaks agape, marveling at a bird that couldn’t find food at a feeder. Picture Helen Keller stuck on a sneeze guard, groping around for the buffet. Finches have notoriously short attention spans and after a full minute of watching this, swooped in, kicking Downey Dunce right off the feeder, who promptly went back to chewing on my house.

Small town living, they said, would be “different” than living in the remote wilds of Kansas. Since we had a stone house in Kansas and couldn’t see our neighbors, if a stupid woodpecker tried pecking at our stones, I don’t think I would have heard it, ‘cause our walls were 2 feet thick. But if I did, I’d dust him right off the house with my kitchen 12 gauge. Not saying I don’t have that same 12 gauge installed in our kitchen here, but the Grove Citians (we live in Grove City, pop 637) frown on that kind of thing in the frozen and civilized North. Comes under the Minnesota Nice rules, which ironically is another dang reason why we can’t have nice things.
All of which has got me singing “All I want for Christmas is a pellet gun, a pellet gun, a pellet gun. All I want for Christmas is something silent and sneaky, so I can wish a retarded woodpecker a Merry Christmas.” Yeah, I was reaching on that last verse, but I’ve always been a function over form kinda guy.

Portents in the Sky

I noticed an unusual cloud formation yesterday afternoon. The weather nerds had been claiming basketball sized hail, biblical rains and tornadic winds, like they always do, and as it almost always does, the sure to cause damage to life and limb weather missed us by a country mile. I wandered out to get a better look at the clouds and brought my camera, ‘cause if you don’t have pictures, it didn’t happen. Pro Tip garnered from numerous internet forums.

We have a whole passel of buzzards that like to hang around our place, and this year a breeding pair of Red Tailed Hawks has set up shop somewhere in our forest. That’s what the 1st Realtors claimed our place had. A forest. Only trees in the whole area, the one realtor chick claimed. The way they talked, I was wondering if I could maybe interest one of them big companies that clear-cut entire mountains to make a bid on our “forest” and we could skip the whole selling the place and live in high style with the…

Yeah, maybe not. Which is what I told them when they came back and wanted to list our place.

So, I was wandering down the driveway, looking at this cloud and next thing I know, I’ve got 7 buzzards floating directly over my head at a somewhat alarmingly low altitude, with the Red Tail Hawk just above them, screeching “Hey Dude!” For a moment there, I was wondering if the wife was going to collect that hefty chunk of life insurance I had taken out for moments very similar to this. Nope, turns out, the buzzards along with their new little buddy, “Gilligan” the hawk, were out for their usual afternoon patrol. They had launched off our silo and hadn’t quite hit a thermal to lift them high in the sky. Or, they were just being neighborly and saying “Howdy” before heading out for a snack.

I’m not quite sure how the hawk fits in with these guys. They eat old dead stuff and he likes live things that he has processed himself. None of them would sit still enough for a decent photo. I don’t really blame them, as I find it hard to sit still when I’m hungry too.

Gonna miss the friendly neighbors when we move. No, not enough to stay, well maybe if the Weyerhaeuser Company comes through with the big timber contract, but probably not. We don’t have chiggers in Minnesota and the catfish that everybody raves about down here, gets buried in the garden up there, where it belongs.